How should Colorado balance consumptive and non-consumptive needs in the Yampa River Basin?

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Here’s a guest column written by Janet Sheridan that’s running in The Denver Post. From the article:

Recreationalists talk about the adventure and renewal found on the river: bald eagles soaring overhead, canyons opening before a camera, serenity and peace seeping into one’s soul; a river that drifts in calm ox-bows between Hayden and Craig, then plunges into heart-stopping rapids in the remote canyons of Dinosaur National Monument.

Outspoken recreational user Kent Vertrees understands we need to use the water of the Yampa, but asks, “Should we dam, de-water, and divert every big river in our state? Shouldn’t we retain the one natural system left?”

Conservationists like Luke Schafer of the Colorado Environmental Coalition want to preserve the river as habitat: “The Yampa is a wild Western river most Coloradans couldn’t find on a map. Yet it is a major migration corridor that nourishes the waterfowl gliding above it, the fish thriving within it, and the plants lining its banks.

“I see the Yampa as an artery that nurtures everything it touches,” Luke continues, “and I believe it’s an artery in good shape — no need of bypass surgery.”

More Yampa River coverage from Scott Scott Willoughby writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Buchanan and the clan of more than 20 river-runners arguably were more excited than most at the prospect of seeing the last free-flowing major tributary of the Colorado River system at flood stage. Coordinated by Steamboat-based Yampa River Awareness Project (YRAP) board members Tierney and Kent Vertrees, the group of advocates, educators, public officials and filmmakers had set out on a five-day mission to document the unique resources and values of the wild and free-flowing river in an effort to protect it.

Hydrology, wildlife, recreation and park experts among the group pointed out that the basin is not only capable of carrying so much water, but stood to benefit from it. In a river historically dependent upon a thorough spring flush, they say, such opportunities for natural change deserve to be preserved.
“It’s just that ‘wildness’ that gives the Yampa such a different character from other rivers in the Colorado basin,” Vertrees said. “And as the last major river in the system to really retain that wild character, it needs to be kept intact.”

Motivated by a string of proposed “water grabs” capable of altering the hydrograph, YRAP firmed its resolve in 2007 after the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District laid out plans for a prospective new reservoir pulling water from the Yampa River upstream of Dinosaur National Monument and pumping it back across the Continental Divide.

A similar diversion concept pumping Yampa water eastward through 250 miles of pipelines and tunnels was identified in the recently released Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) report to satisfy future Colorado water demand.

More Yampa River basin coverage here and here.

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