Groups try again to secure water for recreation: Proposed legislation would create ‘recreation in-channel values reach’ — @AspenJournalism

A kayaker runs the 6-foot drop of Slaughterhouse Falls on the Roaring Fork River in June 2021. River recreation and conservation groups are pushing a bill that aims to establish a recreational in-channel values reach designation, which would create a legal mechanism to lease water for river recreation. CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM

Click the link to read the article on Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

By giving up the push for a legal mechanism to secure a water right, some in Colorado’s recreation community are hoping proposed legislation will result in more water in streams for the benefit of boaters.

A new bill would allow certain public entities to create a “recreation in-channel values reach” (RIVR), a stretch of river up to 400 yards long, which is important to boaters, anglers and waders. Holders of this RIVR segment could then lease water, which would be sent downstream to boost flows in the segment.

“We are seeing it as a tool to move water to a place where it’s going to benefit the community and it provides the tool to be able to legally do that,” said Hattie Johnson, the southern Rockies stewardship director at American Whitewater.

The proposal is an attempt to carve out a spot for — and recognize the importance of — Colorado’s outdoor-recreation economy in the hierarchy of water uses, which prioritizes the oldest water rights, usually belonging to agriculture and cities.

Coyote Gulch along the Yampa River Core Trail July 21, 2021.

The new bill would allow a municipality — for example, Steamboat Springs, where officials have in recent years closed a stretch of the Yampa River through town when summer temperatures are too high and flows too low — to buy and release upstream water to boost the troubled reach. It could allow communities to avoid fishing closures during late summer or to make sure flows are adequate for a boating festival.

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