Garfield County: Instream flow rights sought for six streams #ColoradoRiver


From the Glenwood Springs Independent (John Colson):

The state is looking at six streams, said Jeff Baessler, deputy section chief of the Stream and Lake Protection Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). Those six, he said, include upper East Divide Creek, Beaver Creek, the Dry Fork of Roan Creek, the Left Fork of Carr Creek and the East Fork of Parachute Creek. The streams are situated generally in the central to western portions of the county, and one, a section of East Divide Creek, wanders into Mesa County, Baessler said. The flow of water in all six streams is to be supplemented by varying sizes of water rights, as permitted by 1973 legislation intended to “correlate the activities of mankind with some reasonable preservation of the natural environment,” and giving the CWCB the power and authority to do so…

In order to designate a stream for minimum-in-stream augmentation, Baessler said, three conditions must be met.

First, it must be shown that there is a “natural environment” supported by the flowing stream, typically identified by the presence of a cold-water fishery, but not exclusively, and that the “natural environment” under study will be preserved by the water that is available for in-stream designation. Proponents of minimum-flow designation must also show that doing so would cause no injury to other water rights on the same stream…

Roy Smith, who works on wild and scenic designations as well as minimum-streamflow matters for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), told the commissioners that a majority of Garfield County streams already have minimum-flow rights in place. And two creeks now under consideration — East Fork Parachute Creek and Left Fork Carr Creek, “are basically in pristine condition, and we are interested in maintaining that condition.”[…]

The rights being sought by the state, said Jay Skinner of the Division of Parks and Wildlife, are relatively small, ranging from a high of 7.2 cubic feet per second (cfs) in Lower East Divide Creek in the summer, to 0.15 cfs in Upper East Divide Creek in the winter. Similar, if not quite so extreme differences in flow are being sought for the other streams, he explained.

In response to a question from Commissioner John Martin, Skinner explained that even in cases where ranchers or other users have been using water without the proper water-court decrees, the state is generally willing to let that infraction slide.

“Well, I’m telling you, you’ve got some folks using ingenuity in their survival up there,” Martin continued, noting that one rancher is filling his stock ponds with water from streams in which he holds no rights. “And they do carry guns up there, too,” Martin added with a grin, getting a laugh from around the room, including from the state agents at the table.

More instream flow coverage here and here.

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