Click the link to read the article on the Gunnison Country Times website (Bella Biondini). Here’s an excerpt:
On [June 14, 2022] the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission designated the headwaters of the Taylor River and lower Soap Creek as “Outstanding Waters,” a label that will protect the water quality of the stream reaches for future generations. During its June rulemaking hearing, the state commission voted to protect 25 of the 26 stream segments proposed — encompassing 520 river miles throughout the Animas, Gunnison, San Juan, San Miguel and the Upper Dolores basins. The proposal, three years in the making, was created by the Southwest Colorado Outstanding Waters Coalition, a group of stakeholders and organizations from across the state, to conserve the segments’ exceptionally high water quality and the benefits they provide for wildlife and communities throughout southwestern Colorado.
Through the Clean Water Act, the state can designate a waterway as “outstanding” to protect it from actions that would permanently degrade the water quality such as mining, road development and oil and gas extractions.
The commission reviews each river basin across the state for new designations every three years. The process to nominate a stream is rigorous, and includes year-round water sampling, data analysis and evaluation and widespread public outreach. A stream must meet three main criteria to qualify as outstanding. First it must have either exceptional recreational or ecological significance. Examples include Gold Medal fisheries as well as waters within national parks and monuments. Nominees must also need additional protections from the state to maintain existing quality, and meet water quality standards that support aquatic life, recreation and domestic water supply use — requiring measurements of pH levels, dissolved oxygen, E. coli, metals and other trace elements.