Pitkin County urged to seek water rights for instream flows

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A big part of Colorado’s economy – particularly on the west slope — is recreation. Here’s a look at reserving water rights for instream flows for recreation, from Janet Urquhart writing for The Aspen Times. From the article:

Pitkin County has discussed, but has not sought, an in-stream water right for a planned kayak park on the Roaring Fork River at Basalt. Glenwood Springs boasts what has become a hot spot in the state for kayaking and surfing at its wave on the Colorado River, but has not sought an in-stream water right to help preserve flows there. During a joint meeting of commissioners and members of the Glenwood Springs City Council Tuesday in Aspen, [Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards] urged Glenwood council members to consider seeking the recreational rights. Front Range water users don’t want additional water allotted to recreational uses, she warned. “They don’t want those diversions,” she said…

When Glenwood built its whitewater park, it reserved the right to apply for in-stream rights for recreation, but did not seek them, said Mayor Bruce Christensen. The city anticipated a fight with Front Range interests, feared securing the rights would be costly and figured senior rights on the Colorado downstream from Glenwood would help keep flows in the park secure, he explained. “Now that the park is created, it’s a logical next step,” Richards said…

Richards also warned against counting as permanent the water rights held by Excel Energy’s Shoshone hydroelectric plant on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. It commands important flows in the Colorado that benefit Glenwood’s various rafting and kayaking opportunities, but Shoshone has become a small part of Excel’s portfolio, she noted. “There are a lot of concerns about what we here take for granted as water flows through our area,” Richards said…

When the Shoshone plant was off line for repairs in 2007, a deal was reached to maintain a certain level of flows on the river through Glenwood Canyon to protect endangered fish and the rafting industry. At that time, Glenwood and Aspen approached [Xcel] about acquiring Shoshone water rights but the energy company wasn’t interested in selling them, Christensen said.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.

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