From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The city of Pueblo, along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, made the request of the Colorado Water Conservation Board earlier this year. The state agency is the only body that can legally hold water in streams for the benefit of habitat conservation, and typically makes decisions about protected streams at its November meeting…
“This is an area that truly deserves consideration, if you think about what the fishery between Pueblo Dam and Fountain Creek has become,” Hamel said. “I think Pueblo is seeing the recreation benefits.” While mountain streams typically get the instream designation, there are portions of the mainstem of the Colorado River that have been protected, Hamel said. Pueblo’s attempt to secure a water right of 100 cubic feet per second on the 10-mile stretch of river was rejected by the CWCB on a 7-2 vote in 2006…
The city, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and 22 partners have invested millions of dollars for improvements to the river through the Legacy Project. The effort will continue to provide more fish habitat with the placement of boulder clusters in the river next winter. The city also obtained an recreation in-channel diversion in a 2006 water court decree…
The water right would have a 2013 priority date, if accepted by the CWCB. The state agency has to file its application for a water right in court, which would give other water users the opportunity to protect their rights.
The CWCB also is considering five other instream flow rights in the Arkansas River basin. Two are on Beaver Creek in Fremont County. Others are Baker Creek and Bonnet Creek in Huerfano County and on the headwaters of the Apishapa River in Las Animas County.
Meanwhile the Colorado Water Trust is hoping to secure some water is this water short year. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The Colorado Water Trust for the first time will lease water under 2003 state legislation to put into the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s in-stream flow program. The group is calling it a pilot program. The CWCB, a state agency, is the only body that can hold water rights strictly for habitat or environmental purposes. Under the Colorado Constitution, water must be put to a beneficial use or it returns to the pool available to other water-right holders. The 2003 statute allows short-term leases for habitat outside of court action that could take years to complete. “We intend to put this statute to work to make a difference both to water users facing what could be an uncertain summer if conditions don’t improve and to the state’s rivers,” said Amy Beatie, executive director of the water trust…
Four reaches of rivers in the Arkansas River basin are part of the program: The Lake Fork of the Arkansas River near Leadville; Greenhorn Creek, which flows through Rye and Colorado City, above Graneros Creek; Texas Creek west of Canon City; The Huerfano River above Stanley Creek northwest of Walsenburg.
In the Rio Grande basin, portions of Saguache Creek and La Jara Creek have been identified.
More coverage of the Colorado Water Trust program from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
The Colorado Water Trust this week issued a notice seeking people interested in the voluntary leases. Trust leaders have been working on protecting tributaries to the Colorado, Eagle, Fraser and Gunnison rivers and may be able to devote as much as $400,000 to fund leases. The Nature Conservancy also is exploring possibilities on the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins and the Dolores River down from McPhee Reservoir in western Colorado. “This is not about taking water away from people. This is about keeping our rivers whole — and sharing water between people and the environment,” said Nature Conservancy state director Tim Sullivan.
“There are values associated with the flows in rivers — recreation, riparian benefits, water quality” — not fully captured in Colorado’s prior appropriation use-it-or-lose-it system of allocating water, Sullivan said. “Drying up rivers is not a good way for us to manage our water in the West.”
During the severe 2002 drought, some streams and rivers were so warm and depleted that state wildlife crews trudged with buckets to rescue fish from isolated pools.
State agencies have been working since 1973 to ensure minimum “in-stream flows” to prevent irreversible environmental degradation. The Colorado Water Conservation Board, working through state water courts, has established minimum flows — from half a cubic foot per second to 300 cfs — on 1,581 segments of rivers and streams covering 9,120 miles.
Private-sector funding could boost the government efforts.
“We appreciate the help for our partners and think this can result in additional protection this year,” said Linda Bassi, the CWCB’s chief for in-stream flow. “This is something that potentially could do a lot.”
More CWCB coverage here.