Telluride: City council gives a thumbs up to the proposed instream flow right for the San Miguel River

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From The Telluride Watch (Karen James):

As the Colorado Water Conservation Board prepares to decide whether or not to file for an instream water right on the lower San Miguel River at a meeting in Denver later this month, the Town of Telluride has added its voice to that of San Miguel County’s and others in support of the filing.

“The health of the San Miguel River is important to the Telluride community in terms of economic and environmental factors. The outdoor recreation industry in this area is quite dependent upon flows within the river system necessary to sustain fishing, whitewater and related activities. The health of the river ecosystem is intrinsically tied to wildlife habitat, wetland and riparian values that truly define this beautiful part of Colorado,” states a letter to the CWCB and approved by the council when it met on Tuesday.

If approved, the instream flow would establish minimum flows in a 16.5-mile stretch of the river located in Montrose County reaching from Calamity Draw west of Naturita to the Dolores River confluence, primarily to prevent three dwindling species of native fish there from being listed for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The CWCB considered filing for the appropriation this time last year, but delayed its decision at the request of the San Miguel County BOCC and other entities in order to allow downstream water users time to figure out off-stem water storage to meet their future needs and to file for any additional water rights they might require.

“We wanted to try and guarantee that the instream flow is what it should be,” said Fraser of the town government’s support. “Some people may not agree, but we are doing what we think is right for the community and the region.”[…]

And speaking of the San Miguel River, council would also like to see sections of the waterway that have been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System actually protected as such.

In a letter to the US Bureau of Land Management Uncompahgre Field Office, which is currently seeking public comment concerning 11 segments of the San Miguel that were determined to be eligible for the designation following an exhaustive inventory process throughout the 675,000-acre Uncompahgre Planning Area, the town underscored its support for “prompt, extensive and reliable protection,” for every eligible segment in the river, and those segments and tributaries within proximity to the Telluride community, in particular.

“The San Miguel River system as a whole, and certainly those segments and tributaries identified, are inclusive of outstandingly remarkable values in terms of natural flows, river health, riparian habitat, recreational opportunities and scenery,” reads a letter to the agency approved by council on Tuesday.

Accordingly, the town believes that the majority of those stream segments found eligible for protection would be best preserved with designations as suitable for protection.

More San Miguel watershed coverage here and here.

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