Rio Grande Roundtable meeting recap

Mountain Home Reservoir via The Applegate Group

From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Proposed water projects in the San Luis Valley literally span from one end of the Valley to the other — dam improvements at Mountain Home Reservoir southeast of Fort Garland to a pipeline at the Mineral County Fairgrounds in Creede.

Both projects are receiving funding through the Valley-wide water organization the Rio Grande Roundtable, which heard requests for funding on Tuesday for five future projects and approved funding requests for two projects that had already made presentations to the roundtable, including the Mineral County project.

The roundtable board approved a request for $9,190 for the Mineral County project, which involves piping water from a recently replaced historic ditch head gate under reclaimed (capped and vegetated) mining-contaminated soil to the Mineral County Fairgrounds. Zeke Ward, who presented the request, said piping the water was more economical and would require less maintenance than a new ditch, which would have to be lined.

Ward said there are many benefits to the project including preserving a historic water right and benefitting the environment. He said it is not a big project but is important in getting water from the headgate to the land that needs to be irrigated.

Ward said the approximately $9,200 from the roundtable funds would be matched by about $1,500.

A much larger project that was approved on Tuesday was a funding request for $64,480 in basin-allocated funds for a three-year water education proposal. The Rio Grande Watershed Conservation & Education Initiative, directed by Bethany Howell, is taking the lead on educational and outreach efforts that range from web site content to video vignettes. For example, six video vignettes on water topics are proposed to be completed in the next three years. The funding will also be used to update and maintain a web site, produce newsletters and produce educational articles.

The other projects that were presented on Tuesday were previews, with the actions on funding them to occur at the next meeting in January.

The Trinchera Irrigation Company is seeking $50,000 from funds allocated to the Rio Grande Roundtable and $822,438 from statewide funds towards a $993,863 project to make necessary dam repairs at Mountain Home Reservoir. The roundtable has supported feasibility and design phases on this project in the past, consultant Nicole Langley reminded the roundtable board when she gave the presentation on Tuesday on behalf of the Trinchera Irrigation Company. The current funding request will go towards implementation of those designs.

Langley said the 1905-constructed Mountain Home Reservoir has provided irrigation and recreational uses for a long time and is still functioning, but the state engineer has some safety concerns about the current gate valves. One is in poor condition and the other two have never been used and have deteriorated over time.

Another important aspect of Mountain Home Reservoir operating to its full capacity, Langley added, is that it is also a state wildlife area under an agreement with the Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

She added that the Trinchera Irrigation Company is seeking other support such as Louis Bacon Moore Foundation and Great Outdoors Colorado via the Town of Blanca.

Two of the projects involve funds for conservation easements. One of the conservation easements is proposed on the Lazy EA Ranch along Pinos Creek near Del Norte. The total cost of the easement will be $202,951, and Colorado Open Lands is seeking $36,213 from the Rio Grande Roundtable, with other funding including $101,000 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), $15,000 from Colorado Open Lands and approximately $50,738 from the landowner match, depending on the land appraisal. The plan is to get the conservation easement in place by next September, Judy Lopez told the Roundtable board.

Lopez, who is a conservation project manager with Colorado Open Lands, explained that a conservation easement on this piece of property is important for protecting it from development. She said there is just a narrow band left along the river corridor for farming and ranching. Encompassing 80 acres of flood-irrigated pasture, the property is used for hay production, is a corridor for wildlife and encompasses wetlands.

The land was originally homesteaded in 1849 and has a water right of 1.4 cubic feet per second.

RiGHT (Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust) is seeking funding for another conservation easement, this one on the Paulson Ranch in the Monte Vista area near Swede Lane and the Rio Grande. There are other conservation easements in the area, RiGHT Director Nancy Butler explained, making this conservation easement a good fit. The 180 acres that would be under conservation easement encompass senior water rights, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher habitat and wetlands.

RiGHT is seeking $18,000 from the basin-allocated funds and $157,000 from statewide water funds administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The total project is estimated at $405,000, with $100,000 to be sought from the Gates Family Foundation and $130,000 in landowner contribution, depending on the final appraisal.

Another project, seeking $46,000 from the basin-allocated funds and $300,000 from the statewide pot, as part of a half-million-dollar total project, is the “Conconco to the Confluence” project upgrading the Richfield diversion and diversions on the Conejos. This project will help correct some of the sedimentation problems. Nathan Coombs, SLV Water Conservancy District director, said sedimentation at the Richfield diversion, for example, is a big problem because the area is so flat. Irrigators are not able to use their water rights, he explained.

This project will also correct inconsistent measurements at the Conconco gage, which is not currently functioning properly, a problem not only for irrigators but also for Rio Grande Compact compliance.

Probably the most “dynamic” project presented on Tuesday was a project presented by Kevin Terry, Trout Unlimited, to use dynamite to fell trees around the Spruce Lakes in the Weminuche Wilderness area. Terry explained that two reservoirs, seven miles in from the Continental Divide, are clogging up with dead spruce trees, with more trees near the lakes threatening to cause further problems.

This is a problem not only for the water rights associated with the reservoirs but also for fish habitat.

Terry said since the lakes are in an area designated as wilderness, the tools that are permitted to be used there are limited. So far the efforts used to remove the dead trees have included large horses pulling the logs out of the reservoirs and using handsaws to cut down dead trees.

Trout Unlimited is working with the Forest Service and the owners of the reservoirs on what may be a more efficient and innovative manner of taking down the trees that threaten the lakes. They will use explosives to fell about 430 trees near the reservoirs. When it is finished, it will look like winds took down the trees, Terry explained.

The project will cost about $84,000, with the request for basin allocated funds being about $65,500. Half of the cost is for the explosives themselves, Terry explained.

Eagle River Watershed Council restoration projects update

The Eagle River roils with spring runoff in June 2011 near Edwards, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

From the Eagle River Watershed Council via The Vail Daily:

The Eagle River Watershed Council recently completed two riparian habitat restoration projects in collaboration with Vail Resorts’ EpicPromise. The Watershed Council worked with more than 160 volunteers from Vail Resorts to complete projects that restored and enhanced degraded riparian areas, which can cause diminished in-stream water quality and reduced wildlife habitat.

At the Edwards Eagle River Restoration Site, more than 100 EpicPromise volunteers helped install nearly 5,000 willow transplants along areas of the Eagle River that have experienced degradation due to undirected social trails and bushwhacking. Educational signage was also installed reminding riverside residents not to disturb these critical riparian plants by trampling them. The new willow plantings will help create wildlife habitat and improve water quality.

The Watershed Council used the help of more than 50 Vail Resorts volunteers for a second project, which was funded by the Colorado River District and the Forrest & Frances Lattner Foundation. The volunteers helped the Watershed Council improve a stretch of habitat along the Eagle River just outside of Eagle-Vail by planting 200 native trees and shrubs.

This area was selected for restoration because of significant impacts associated with storm water runoff from a recreational bike path, U.S. Highway 6 and Interstate 70. The establishment of a healthy riparian area will improve water quality by filtering sediment and pollutants that would have otherwise entered the Eagle River.

More information on other volunteer opportunities with Eagle River Watershed Council can be found in the organization’s monthly newsletter or online at

The Taos Land Trust scores $575,000: “It was a beautiful series of serendipitous events” — Kristina Ortez de Jones

From The Taos News (Cody Hooks):

In a partnership between the Coca-Cola Company and the nonprofit National Recreation and Park Association, the land trust was awarded a $575,000 grant to make those visions a reality.

The “timely … and transformational” money will mostly be put toward the revival of the wetland associated with the Río Fernando, according to Taos Land Trust Executive Director Kristina Ortez de Jones.

Some of the funds will also be used to rebuild the Vigil y Romo Acequia on the property so that mountain streams can again irrigate the land, opening opportunities for experiments in community gardening and other agricultural projects.

“The Río Fernando Park is emblematic of the values held by all Taoseños with its seven acres of wetlands and 13 acres of now-fallow land that will be brought back to life with this important award,” Ortez de Jones said. The Romo property and future park are adjacent to Fred Baca Park.

“It was a beautiful series of serendipitous events,” she said of getting the award. “We are grateful for the opportunity to create a public space that meets our community’s need for open space, locally grown food and pathways for walking and bike-riding.”

The land trust purchased the Romo property in December 2015 and moved into the house-turned-office this past April. Since then, a quarter-mile trail was built on the property — laying the physical and mental foundations for the Río Fernando Park that will now come into shape a lot faster thanks to the grant, explained Ortez de Jones.

The beginning of the wetland restoration, she said, will start with “safely and deliberately removing those introduced species,” like Russian olive and Siberian elm. At the same time, the land trust will reintroduce native plants that can help maintain and mitigate the flow of the river through the wetland.

The stream has been channelized, such that water rushes through the stream bed, making it harder for wetland life to really flourish. In some places, the river may need re-engineering to improve the banks.

In the long run, the land trust wants the Río Fernando to be a functional wetland — slowing down and cleaning water. As climate change forces water users to take a hard look at the availability, timing and quality of water in the future, wetlands have come to be seen as an important tool.

At the same time as the land trust works to restore the wetland to peak conditions, the organization will use that momentum to continue planning for more trails and access to public spaces.

“We’ve asked neighbors, the community — What is missing in terms of public spaces and places? What should we do here? Overwhelmingly, people felt this place should be a park. People really want trails,” said Ortez de Jones.

Yet not all parks are created equal. “You have to look at this through the lens of access. You have to make an effort to get to our parks in Taos. And who doesn’t have access to those public places … the immigrant community, people without cars. A lot of people don’t have access,” she said.

The money for the land trust is part of Coca-Cola’s corporate effort to fund water-related projects in important watersheds around the country. Coca Cola’s money has also funded stream and wetland restoration in the Valle Vidal in the Carson National Forest.

Moffat Collection System Project will impact forest surrounding existing Gross Reservoir

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to rule early next year on what would be the biggest public works project in Boulder County history, exceeding the original construction of the Gross Reservoir Dam, which was completed in 1954.

The tree removal plan outlined in Denver Water’s FERC application states that all trees and their associated debris on about 430 acres along 12.5 miles of shoreline will have to be removed in the course of the expansion, which is envisioned as being completed by 2025.

Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said the agency has estimated that “the density of the forest ranges from approximately 150 to 1,800 trees per acre. Based on these initial plans, we estimate up to 650,000 trees will need to be removed in the area surrounding Gross Reservoir.”

In a recent interview, Denver Water President Jim Lochhead vowed that every aspect of the project’s completion is being designed and executed with an eye toward mitigation of its impacts on the high country environment and those who depend on it for their recreation or call it home.

“We recognize that this is a major construction project and it has adverse impacts to the community,” said Lochhead, whose utility serves 1.4 million in Denver and many of its suburbs — but not Boulder County.

“We are trying to understand exactly what those impacts are, and see what the needs of the community are, and do everything we can to help address them.”

Referencing project manager Jeff Martin, Lochhead said, “Whether it’s traffic, hauling on the roads, whether it’s noise associated with the quarry, whether it’s the tree removal issues, it’s Jeff’s job to make sure it goes in a way that we’re doing the best that we can by the local community.”

Martin said: “We recognize the brutal aspects of the project. We don’t want to hide from those. That’s not our objective.”

Stressing that Denver Water intends to factor the concerns of reservoir neighbors into its planning of what’s officially known as the Moffat Collection System Project, Martin said, “We look forward to getting that feedback, seeing how we can make it into the most palatable project we can, and turn it into, maybe not reducing all the impacts, but for the greater good, reducing them as much as we can.”


A 48-page plan for the required tree removal prepared by Denver Water describes a mix of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and Rocky Mountain juniper.

According to data the agency compiled in 2005, most of the trees at that time were 20 to 50 feet high, with a breast-high diameter ranging from 4 to 14 inches.

“Because of the topography, e.g., very steep slopes, rock outcrops, etc., several more complex tree removal (logging) systems will need to be used, and some temporary roads will need to be constructed to remove the trees,” the plan states.

It estimates that 50,000 tons of forest biomass are expected to be produced during the required clearing for the expansion of Gross Reservoir, which is to see its dam raised by 131 feet, expanding the reservoir’s capacity by 77,000 acre feet to a total storage capacity of 118,811 acre feet.

While noting that, “Traditionally, most of the slash would have been piled and burned in place,” the plan acknowledges that, “Today, burning large quantities of forest residue, in close proximity to residential areas, is problematic in the extreme.”

Allen Owen, Boulder District forester for the Colorado State Forest Service — a contracted forest resource management partner to Denver Water through the Forests to Faucets program — said he had been unaware of the number of trees Denver Water is planning to pull out of the Gross Reservoir area, or that it will involve the leveling of all growth on 430 acres of shoreline.

He doubts it would actually reach the 650,000 figure.

“That would mean 1,500 trees per acre over the entire 430-acre unit, and I know that’s not the case,” he said. “The stand densities vary all around the perimeter of the shoreline. There are areas that are nothing but solid rock, with no vegetation on it, to units that may have those number of trees. But there are not that many trees over the entire 430 acres. The number seems high.”

Owen expects state foresters will be involved in plotting how the trees’ removal proceeds.

“It’s something way beyond the ability of the Colorado State Forest Service,” he said. “I would consider that a big logging job, on very steep slopes, with very poor access. It is going to be very difficult, at best.”

Martin discussed three different potential scenarios, including removal by truck, burning and burial of felled lumber, or some combination of those strategies.

In cases where trees are located on small rock bluffs, Denver Water’s current removal plan notes, “the use of helicopter may be necessary.”

Denver Water believes new emerging technologies may pose options for removal that weren’t contemplated when its plan was authored.

“One of the things we’ve committed to is developing a process with public input … going out and getting some public input and some stakeholder input and that includes the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado state forester and Boulder County, and developing some concepts … and then seeing what fits best for the community from there, and then moving forward with the plan,” Martin said…

Denver Water points to steps it is taking to mitigate the effects of construction wherever possible, and also emphasizes measures that it contends offers some in Boulder County a benefit. Lochhead and Martin touted the provision of a 5,000-square-foot environmental pool in the expanded reservoir, to be available for replenishing South Boulder Creek for the benefit of both Boulder and Lafayette at times when it is running dangerously low.

“That’s kind of a neat partnership there,” Lochhead said.

That does not mean that Boulder supports the Gross Reservoir expansion — but nor does it oppose it.

“Boulder has a neutral position on the overall expansion,” said Boulder’s source water administrator, Joanna Bloom.

“If the project somehow falls apart, then Boulder will continue to try to establish the streamflows on South Boulder Creek through other means,” Bloom said…

Boulder County’s stance on the expansion is more complicated.

The county filed extensive comments on both the draft and final environmental impact statements in the Army Corps of Engineers’ review process, and doesn’t agree that the EIS adequately addressed “the myriad of impacts” that would result for Boulder County and its citizens.

On March 23, the county filed an unopposed motion to intervene in the FERC approval process. One of the points the county addressed at length in that intervention relates to tree removal — and its arguments are based on the presumption of a far more modest, but still significant, removal of trees, at a total of 200,000.

“County roads (Flagstaff Road, Magnolia Road and others) are windy with low volume residential traffic and would be inappropriate for use by trucks hauling trees,” the county argued.

“In addition, it may not be possible to safely navigate SH 72 with trucks full of trees. These heavily laden trucks will cause damage to the roads and present safety concerns for road users.”

Moreover, the county contends Denver Water’s project must come through its land use review process, while the utility maintains that the county’s role is superseded by the FERC review process.

Until that conflict is resolved, the county is tempering its remarks, pro or con, on the Gross Reservoir project, so that it will not be seen as having prejudged any application Denver Water might make in the future through the county’s land review process.

Martin recalled that Denver Water worked extensively with Boulder County in 2012 exploring a potential intergovernmental agreement to facilitate the reservoir expansion.

While such a pact was ultimately rejected by Boulder County commissioners by a 3-0 vote, Martin said, “What we did receive was a lot of information from Boulder County and the public on how we need to shape the project in order to meet the needs of both the community and Boulder County.”

However, independent of the environmentalists’ planned federal lawsuit, there might be a need for another judge to sort out the critical question of whether Denver Water’s plans for tree removal and many other aspects of its reservoir expansion must pass through the county’s land use review process.

“I would say that it is likely that it will take litigation, because neither party is willing to give up its position,” said Conrad Lattes, assistant county attorney for Boulder County. “We need some neutral third party to decide this for us.”

However, on a warm and sunny day back before the chill of approaching winter descended on Colorado’s high country, Denver Water’s brass were flush with optimism.

Martin said that for Denver Water, it’s not just about getting the project done.

“We’re also looking at the social responsibility,” he said, “making sure that when it’s said and done, that we did it in the right way; that we could look back and say we did everything within reason and practicality to make this really the most environmentally, socially responsible project we can.”

Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

The latest “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the Eagle River Watershed Council

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Cutthroat Trout Habitat Restoration Project

Thanks to the very hard work of our volunteers, the U.S. Forest Service, and National Forest Foundation, the Watershed Council was able to complete our cutthroat trout habitat restoration project on Shrine Pass before the snow began to stick. Over 3 miles of a closed Forest Service road, which was contributing sediment to Turkey and Lime Creeks and degrading spawning habitat, was scarified (making it impassible to 4-wheel drive traffic) and reseeded with a native seed mix and erosion control fabric to return it to its natural state.

In total, three miles of stream bank, 10 acres of watershed, and 20 acres of wildlife habitat were enhanced. These efforts will establish a healthy riparian buffer which will improve instream water quality by filtering sediment and pollutants that would otherwise enter Turkey and Lime Creeks.

@COParksWildlife: Grunt work of biologists includes assessing habitat, documenting what is there, and what is not, to guide wildlife management into the future

A team of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service biologists, staff and volunteers fanned out along rugged Newlin Creek and four tributaries on Oct. 25, 2017, to search of cutthroat trout rescued from the South Prong of Hayden Creek during a 2016 wildlife. Photo credit Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Conservation work often involves grueling slogs through dense forests

WETMORE, Colo. – On a recent cold October morning, a team of 20 aquatic biologists, other staff and volunteers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service fanned out across five drainages in the rugged foothills of the Wet Mountains.

They split into six teams and bushwhacked up and down six miles, give or take, of the remote upper reaches of Newlin Creek and its four tributaries, following the creek beds as they snaked along treacherous cliffs, through jumbles of huge boulders and under fallen trees between Locke and Stull mountains.

The teams hiked for hours as the sun turned the day into short-sleeve weather, taxing some of the crew clad in rubber wading outfits and lugging 30-pound Electrofisher units on their backs.

The Electrofishers were needed to test the waters of each tributary for the presence of fish, especially any of the genetically unique cutthroat trout that had been rescued from the massive 2016 Hayden Creek wildfire.

At the time, CPW biologists ducked behind fire lines and rescued 194 of these fish from the South Prong of Hayden Creek. Of the total, 158 were taken to a CPW hatchery near Gunnison and placed in isolation. The other 36 were released in Newlin Creek in hopes they would reproduce naturally.

Hundreds more of these genetically unique fish were left behind in Hayden Creek with hopes they would survive. But monsoon rains later inundated the stream with debris, ash and sediment, leaving little hope the remaining cutthroats survived.

That knowledge gave special importance to the Newlin fish survey. Anywhere that trickles of water pooled enough to offer fish habitat, the CPW/USFS teams stopped and utilized the electrofishing units in hopes of catching a few of the 36 fish that were released.

They repeated the process dozens of times as they thrashed through the brush, scrambled over rocks, under felled trees and past caves and piles of bones from predator kills. At the end of a 10-hour marathon fish survey, the results were less than what they had hoped for: biologists were unsuccessful in locating any of the introduced fish.

But Josh Nehring, senior aquatic biologist for CPW’s Southeast Region, said the day was far from a wasted effort. In fact, it was a pretty typical day in the life of CPW biologists who are on the front lines of the agency’s efforts to perpetuate the wildlife of Colorado.

“We came to see if we can find any of the Hayden cutthroat,” Nehring said. “We wanted to see how they were doing. And we wanted to assess Newlin Creek for potentially re-introducing more of those fish here in the future.”

As with greenback cutthroat trout found in Bear Creek in Colorado Springs, CPW’s goal is to reintroduce native fish their historic landscape. And if Hayden Creek is unable to support fish in coming years as it recovers from the wildfire, CPW biologists need to find other creeks where they might thrive.

“Newlin Creek is a fairly small stream that we’ve had cutthroat in for a number of years,” Nehring said. “We presumed the upper portions of Newlin were fishless, but we needed to know definitively and assess the quality of the habitat. That’s why today’s fish survey was important. Now we know exactly what we’ve got in Newlin, if we decide we want to put more fish in it someday.”

Similar surveys on creeks, lakes and rivers go on year-round by CPW biologists and interns as they take study the state’s fish, assess the health of the various populations and decide whether to stock the waters. It’s the rarely seen conservation grunt work that pays off in gold-medal streams and lakes and attracts anglers from around the world to Colorado.

And it doesn’t matter if a grueling day of slogging through dense forests doesn’t result in big numbers of fish. Assessing the habitat and documenting what is there, and what is not, will help guide wildlife management and conservation into the future.

“Our mission is to perpetuate the wildlife of the state and conserve the native populations,” Nehring said. “That’s what days like today are about. These native fish were here before man was. If man hadn’t introduced rainbow trout, brown trout or brook trout – all these non-native fish – and altered their habitat, all these streams would be full of cutthroat.

“Unfortunately, they all out-compete the native cutthroat and some of them can mate with them diluting the uniqueness of these fish. I think it’s our duty to protect the cutthroat and make sure they are around for future generations.”

In coming months, Nehring and his team will assess other streams – hiking miles in the heat and cold – to search for new homes for the Hayden Creek cutthroat so they can get out of the hatchery and back in the wild where they belong.

Watch the fish survey work:

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

#Colorado Pike minnow and #ColoradoRiver health #COriver

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Once dismissed as a “trash fish,” the Colorado pikeminnow has come to be regarded by Western Slope water officials as a powerful ally, one they hope retains its usefulness even when the magic of an endangered-species listing is gone.

And the listing could be gone relatively soon, once officials figure out how to deal with an infestation of walleye, an invasive predator that makes mincemeat out of pikeminnow juveniles.

The pikeminnow, along with the other three endangered fish species of the upper Colorado River, has been useful to western Colorado in that federal and state officials have worked diligently under a 30-year-old recovery program to ensure that there is enough water in the river to keep the fish alive.

“We’ve got the benefit of that,” said Mark Harris, general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association, one of the last diverters of water as the Colorado approaches Utah through the 15-mile reach of the Grand Valley, a critical pikeminnow spawning ground…

If the pikeminnow, however, is removed from the list of endangered species — and it was on the first list drawn up half a century ago — that means the recovery program could also go. It is set to expire in 2023.

During its three decades, the program has been used to keep water in the river while accommodating more than 2,000 diversions from the main stem of the river and its tributaries, including 1,225 in Colorado alone, all with no lawsuits.

Should the fish be delisted and the recovery program go away, the approach it inspired should remain, said Patrick McCarthy, deputy director of the Colorado River program for The Nature Conservancy.

When the fish is taken off the endangered list, “We just declare victory and keep working,” McCarthy said.

What victory looks like, though, isn’t clear, said Harry Crockett, who represents Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the recovery project’s biology committee.

“What happens after delisting is a really good question and one the recovery program is wrestling with right now,” Crockett said. “Who does all these things after the fish are no longer listed and there’s no longer a recovery program?”

Not the least of those questions concerns money. The recovery program has cost $380 million since it was established in 1989, the bulk of the costs being picked up by sales of hydroelectricity generated from dams along the Colorado system ($96 million,) the Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal contributions ($189 million,) Colorado, $24 million and a variety of other sources.

The key issue, though, is species recovery, Crockett said.

“It’s important to us to recover the fish,” he said. “We are not resigned to having these fish on the list.”

The Colorado water plan wasn’t predicated on the continued endangered status of four of the river’s fish species, said James Eklund, who headed the Colorado Water Conservation Board during the plan’s drafting.

“I’d hope the plan would still be relevant” should the fish recover, Eklund said. “The goal of any listed species should be delisting after having been recovered, I would think.”

Whether endangered fish are an ally of Western Slope water interests ought not be a question, said Greg Walcher, a Grand Valley fruit grower and former chief of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

“There is no scenario under which having species in danger of extinction is better than having fully recovered healthy populations,” Walcher said in an email. “There will always be plenty of reasons to oppose further Front Range water diversions, and to ensure Colorado’s water entitlement is not threatened by downstream states, federal regulations, or transmountain diversions. But water issues should be decided based on Colorado and interstate water law, not the distraction of federal species regulation.”