Last week was a great week for Colorado River activism! First, July 25th was the first official “Colorado River Day.” On July 25th, 1921, Congress named it the Colorado River, so we celebrated the day.
Events were held in Denver, Las Vegas, Grand Junction, Phoenix, and San Diego. At these events, we celebrated the Day and helped support a unique combination of people and groups who agree on the importance of “conserving” the Colorado River.
Environmental conservationists joined arms with fiscal conservatives to send a message to the federal government and the governors in the Colorado River basin that we want them to focus on conservation and efficiency first to protect the Colorado River and to address projected shortages in Southwest U.S. water supplies.
On Colorado River Day, we also launched a public petition asking the federal and state governments to do just that — focus on conservation and efficiency first.
Just back in his office from the Flat Tops Wilderness Area after four days of research in the field, [Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife fisheries biologist Billy Atkinson] said a high priority is consulting with reservoir managers on the upper Yampa River to gather information about their plans to release water in the near term.
“As I’ve always said, and even with all this rain we’ve had lately, I want to see a week straight of improved dissolved oxygen levels and a good weather forecast” before contemplating a lifting of the ban, Atkinson said.
The voluntary fishing ban was imposed by Parks and Wildlife in conjunction with a city ban on tubing when the river dropped below 85 cubic feet per second. It is in effect from the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area upstream from Steamboat and downstream all the way to the city’s western limits.
“We haven’t had nearly as much rain as (Steamboat has). The most we’ve gotten at one time is a quarter inch,” [North Routt Rancher Doug Carlson] said. “The past 10 days, we’ve had just enough to stop us from doing any haying but really not enough to do us a whole lot of good.”
Routt County CSU Extension Agent Todd Hagenbuch said the weather forecast that calls for mostly sunny skies for the next six days tells him that a good part of the agricultural community will be out in the fields mowing and baling hay.
“It’s supposed to be partly sunny to mostly clear through Monday,” Hagenbuch said. “I think people are going to be putting up a lot of hay in the next few days. Some people have been getting their (mowed) hay turned just in time for it to get rained on again. Some folks are just waiting to cut it.”
Adding extra urgency to the desire to get the hay crop baled and stacked, Hagenbuch said, is the potential for regrowth in the mowed hay fields to allow cattle ranchers to get their livestock off stressed pastureland and set the cows to grazing in the fields.
During a two-week period in the beginning of July, drought conditions for parts of Routt County were upped to “exceptional,” a rating that state climatologist Nolan Doesken has said is reserved for “the worst of the worst.” According to the Palmer Drought Index, the area needed between 6 and 9 inches of rain to return to normal moisture levels.
Almost as soon as drought conditions were categorized as “exceptional,” monsoonal moisture started arriving in the region and resulted in more than 3 inches of rain in Steamboat Springs during July. After two weeks of “exceptional” drought conditions, the rating was lowered to “extreme.”
The Town of Buena Vista board of trustees heard the second of two presentations on the possible benefits and risks of adding fluoride to the town’s municipal water system during a regular meeting July 24.
The first presentation was from Julie Drake of the Chaffee County Oral Health Program, who spoke to the board June 26 about the dental health benefits of adding fluoride to the municipal water system. Local doctors Eric Gibb, Thomas White and Amy Varble, as well as local dentist Ryan Mueller, all cited the benefits of fluoridating municipal water systems.
Lepore, former state assistant attorney general, recently served as lead counsel for the commission, representing the agency in environmental protection, permitting and regulatory enforcement matters. Lepore, whose legal career spans nearly 20 years, also has worked for private firms.
“Matt is a longtime Coloradan whose love and appreciation of the outdoors and experience with legal and natural resource issues make him an ideal leader for the Commission,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “We expect Matt and the Commission to maintain the high standards that protect the environment and help Colorado’s economy to continue moving forward.”