Roaring Fork Watershed: State of the River

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Here’s a recap of the Colorado River District’s “State of the River” conference Tuesday dealing with the Roaring Fork Watershed, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Water is our greatest liquid asset,” said Dave Kanzer, an engineer with the Colorado River District, which is hosting meetings of watersheds along the Colorado River. “Our future is not controlled by the oil and gas as we feared last year. . . . Our economic assets are nothing without a reliable supply of water.” Through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and Twin Lakes Co., the Arkansas River basin brings over nearly 100,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Roaring Fork. While water managers on the eastern side of the Continental Divide fret about the ability of the Boustead Tunnel – which takes water from the Fryingpan River drainage into Turquoise Lake – to bring over trainloads of water every year, the Roaring Fork bemoans the loss of every drop. “The water that goes through the Boustead Tunnel is 100 percent consumptive,” Kanzer said. “That’s one drop we’ll never see again. . . . There is less water for use in the (Roaring Fork) basin.”[…]

The Roaring Fork is feeling pressure from other directions as well, Kanzer said in describing a new report that combines more than 50 studies of water quantity, quality and use in the basin. There are the diversions from the Roaring Fork mainly for use in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Aurora and agriculture. But the Roaring Fork also supplies a large chunk of water for meeting Colorado’s obligations under the 1922 Colorado River Compact, water for endangered fish on a stretch of river closer to Grand Junction and for its own growing needs. Kanzer acknowledged there have been benefits from the Fry-Ark Project as well. The major storage in the Roaring Fork basin, [Ruedi] Reservoir, was a part of the project, and in flood years the water taken off the river reduces flooding for towns like Basalt. But the Western Slope gets concerned when Arkansas River water managers start talking about enlarging Lake Pueblo, the largest reservoir in the Fry-Ark Project, he added.

The residents of Pitkin County were so alarmed, in fact, that they passed a 0.1 percent sales tax last year to protect water, said County Manager John Ely. He said the new fund was popular with voters because of the past success of county land-preservation and trail initiatives that have grown to be one of the largest parts of the county budget. Commissioner Rachel Richards said the county is in the process of appointing a seven-member panel to figure out how to best spend the $700,000-$1 million the tax is expected to raise each year…

“We have to change the mindset we have in Colorado that water left in the river is a waste,” said Ken Neubecker, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

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