Yampa River streamflow drops to below average

Yampa River at Steamboat Springs gage March 1 through September 4, 2017.

From The Craig Daily Press:

With the Yampa River flowing well below normal during most of the week preceding Labor Day, the city of Steamboat Springs has closed down commercial tubing in the river where it flows through the city and is asking the public to voluntarily follow suit by refraining from private tubing, paddling SUPs, swimming and fishing…

It’s not unusual for commercial tubing to be suspended by the first week in September, but the United States Geological Survey was reporting earlier this week that the river had dropped significantly below 100 cubic feet per second, the median flow for the date. Ironically, the stiff rain showers that cooled Steamboat the night of Aug 31 had temporarily boosted river flows by Sept. 1…

City of Steamboat Water Resources Manager Kelly Romero-Heaney said commercial tubing would not be restored unless river flows return to 85 cfs. But the boost in flows from the rainfall of Aug. 31 is expected to be short-lived; the National Weather Service forecast for the upper Yampa River Valley called for a 20-percent chance of isolated storms the afternoon of Sept. 1, followed by sunny to mostly sunny skies through Sept. 7

The city and the Colorado Water Trust had been collaborating since earlier this summer on boosting the flows in the Yampa with water procured from the Upper Yampa Water Conservation District’s Stagecoach Reservoir, and that effort will resume.

Romero-Heaney said efforts to boost the Yampa’s flows will likely continue until early October, when the managers of Lake Catamount, downstream from Stagecoach, begin releasing water as they draws down the reservoir in anticipation of spring runoff in 2018…

The USGS reported at midday Friday that the Yampa was flowing at 97 cubic feet per second, just below median for the date. The lowest Sept. 1 river flow measured at the Fifth Street Bridge, was the 24 cfs, reported in 1934.

Clear Creek: August wet weather leads to longer rafting season

Clear Creek rafting via MyColoradoLife.com

From The Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Local rafting businesses agree they’ve already experienced a busy and prolonged rafting season in the county, and several rafting companies were still operating in mid-August. However, some have closed for the season.

Suzen Raymond, owner of Mile-Hi Rafting, pulled her boats out of the water the week of Aug. 14.

“We’ve quit rafting because the water just got too low for us to raft,” Raymond said, “but overall the season was a really good rafting season for us.”

Raymond predicts that her business may see a 10 percent jump over last year.

“It’s a pretty good spike for us every year,” Raymond said. “We traditionally run up a little bit, except, of course, in the drought years.”

According to the Colorado Outfitters Association, late-season rafting is still going strong across the state including on the upper Colorado River and Arkansas River.

Brandon Gonski, general manager at AVA Rafting, said the business is already experiencing a longer season on both rivers.

“Clear Creek tends to end a little earlier, but (as of) Aug. 23, we’re pretty excited that we’ve stayed open this year this late,” Gonski said…

Gonski said his company has also seen a good year, which he said could be in part attributed to the prolonged season. While the end of the season differs for every company, AVA ended its season last year on Aug. 16.

#Colorado outdoor recreation and tourism industries have respectively raked in $28 billion and $19.7 billion

From The Denver Post (Danika Worthington):

Two reports out this week found that the outdoor-recreation and tourism industries, which often lend each other a hand, accounted for $28 billion and $19.7 billion, respectively, in consumer spending last year.

And experts in both industries don’t expect growth to taper off soon.

Neither the Outdoor Industry Association nor the Colorado Tourism Office could say exactly how often tourism and outdoor recreation intersect. But evidence suggests that the two industries are mutually beneficial.

Of the travelers who visit Colorado in the summer, 52 percent take scenic drives, 46 percent visit a state or national park, and 32 percent hike or backpack, said Cathy Ritter, Colorado’s tourism boss.

Similarly, Vail’s GoPro Mountain Games brings in 3,300 athletes and 67,000 spectators annually, generating $7.2 million in economic impact, according to the Outdoor Industry Association’s report, out Tuesday.

That’s not to say the tourism and outdoor-recreation industries rely on each other exclusively. The OIA report found that 71 percent of Colorado’s 5.7 million residents participate in outdoor recreation…

Outdoor recreation and tourism last year brought in $2 billion and $1.2 billion in state and local taxes, respectively. The state tourism report found that each Colorado resident would have to pay an additional $216 to replace the taxes that visitors kick in each year.

Outdoor recreation, such as camping, motorcycling and trail sports, directly creates 229,000 jobs and nearly $10 billion in wages and salaries, OIA executive director Amy Roberts said.

Tourism directly created 165,000 jobs that supply $5.8 billion in wages, according to the tourism office. In comparison, oil, gas and mining accounts for 58,000 Colorado jobs, the OIA report pointed out without citing total wages.

Since the recession, Colorado has logged a 37 percent increase in total visitation, compared with a 17 percent increase across the U.S. The $19.7 billion in tourism consumer spending is a new high for the state.

And both Ritter and Roberts expect their industries to grow — outdoor recreation aided by friendly policies, businesses relocating to the state and a strong independent retail sector, and tourism buoyed by the national “Come to Life” marketing campaign that helped grow Colorado’s share of the U.S. tourism market to 3.1 percent from 2.8 percent in a year.

Steamboat Springs: Lodging tax dollars to Yampa River?

The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

The city received 14 different proposals for how to best spend a reserve fund of lodging tax money that has been accruing in recent years. They range from a plan to use the money to keep the Yampa River flowing at a healthy pace in the summer to adding several public restrooms around town.

The money, which comes from a 1 percent tax tourists pay on their nightly stays, must be spent on something aimed at drawing more tourists to town. Projects must also enhance the city’s “environmental desirability.”

A committee appointed by the Steamboat Springs City Council will spend this week grading all of the proposals and coming up with a recommendation.

It will then be up to the City Council to decide which project is most worthy, or whether the money should be spent at this time at all…

Yampa River Flow Endowment, Friends of the Yampa, $1 million

Anyone who uses the Yampa River in the summer would benefit from Friends of the Yampa’s idea for how to spend the reserve lodging tax money.

The fish would also thank the group too if they could.

The river advocacy group thinks the money could be well spent on water releases from Stagecoach Reservoir that help keep the Yampa River flowing at a healthy level during the summer.

The Colorado Water Trust has partnered with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District in recent years on such water releases.
The releases help maintain a healthy river and ecosystem during low water years and times of drought.

“A healthy Yampa River is paramount to Steamboat Springs’ tourism industry,” Friends of the Yampa wrote in its application.

“Fly fishing shops, tubing outfitters, restaurants, breweries and river property owners depend on healthy river flows.

The application is a collaborative effort that also includes the Water Trust, The Nature Conservancy and some local business owners.

Unique agreement supports the longest rafting season on Colorado’s Arkansas River —

Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

Here’s the release from the Arkansas River Outfitters Association via PR Newswire:

A successful water management agreement on the Arkansas River exemplifies Colorado’s dedication to its natural resources and the visitor experiences they support, according to the Arkansas River Outfitters Association (AROA).

The Arkansas River Voluntary Flow Management Program helps ensure there is water for whitewater rafting on the river well into August. The cooperative agreement among water users is unique in that it includes recreation in water management decisions.

AROA is part of the agreement with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and other agencies that not only supports summer flows for whitewater rafting, but also manages water year-round for a healthy fishery.

The program, which started in 1990, is a model management technique for all other rivers in the American West. It allows whitewater rafting outfitters to offer the longest boating season in Colorado, AROA Executive Director Bob Hamel said.

“The water program recognizes that recreation is part of our lifestyle, and that its economic impact is important,” Hamel said.

Whitewater rafting generated $179.8 million in spending among the state’s commercial users last year, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

The Arkansas River is America’s most popular whitewater rafting destination, hosting nearly a quarter of a million visitors last season and attracting kayakers and private rafters from around the world. The river hosts more than 40 percent of the state’s commercial rafting market, in part due to the longer season, but also because its 100-plus miles of whitewater rapids offer something for nearly everyone.

Technical boating, mild family float trips, multi-day camping and inn-to-inn rafting, plus standup paddle boarding and kayaking, are popular trips among families and friends of all ages.

With the mountain towns of Salida, Buena Vista and Cañon City nearby, visitors lengthen their stays and plan additional outdoor fun like horseback riding, ATV tours and hiking the area’s concentration of 14,000-foot peaks.

More than 100 miles of the Arkansas River was designated Gold Medal in 2014, meaning anglers can expect trophy trout fishing on a long, contiguous river segment that constitutes nearly a third of the state’s Gold Medal miles.

For information about current water levels and booking a Colorado whitewater rafting adventure, contact an Arkansas River outfitter at http://www.ArkansasRiverOutfitters.org.

#Runoff news: Low-head dam hazards

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Alicia Stice):

In the past 10 years, more than 15 people have drowned on the river from various accidents. Lopez’s death was the first in years involving a low-head dam.

These [weirs] dot rivers across the country, including in Fort Collins, where there is one low-head dam every 1.5 to 2 miles along much of the Poudre.

In Colorado, there is no agency in charge of overseeing safety at these dams. Instead, the Division of Water Resources has a team charged with overseeing the risks associated with large dams at sites such as Horsetooth Reservoir that could pose a hazard if they failed, Colorado Division of Water Resources Dam Safety Chief Bill McCormick said.

“I think these are some of the most dangerous type of structures we have in the country because most people are unaware of the dangers,” said Bruce Tschantz, a Knoxville, Tennessee, water resources engineer who has studied low-head dams extensively. “People tend to overestimate their ability to overcome the current and underestimate the dangers.”

General currents upstream and downstream from a low-head dam. Graphic via Bruce a. Tschantz

In much of the country, low-head dams have been in place for more than 100 years to serve now defunct mills. In Colorado, many of these dams are still active, diverting water into irrigation ditches for agricultural use. While the structures are old, the danger is relatively new.

“The problem of safety around them is more a recent phenomenon as people are using the rivers more,” McCormick said.

The dams slow water upstream and divert it away from the main channel. The water that flows over them creates a rapid on the downriver side that mimics the hydraulics of a washing machine. The water can force victims underwater and spin them around, making it nearly impossible to swim back up to the surface.

“These structures are often very deceiving,” said Kenneth Smith, Indiana Department of Natural Resources assistant director…

Simple engineering solutions can make low-head dams built today much safer by breaking up the flow of water as it moves over the dam. Solutions could include a set of concrete stairs or large rocks on the downstream side of the structure. In many cases, those solutions could be added to existing dams, but that can be costly, and it can be difficult to track down the owners of these century-old structures.

Poudre Fire Authority has been in discussions about what might be done to make sure people know about the dangers of the dams, including the possibility of installing signs along the river warning people of where they are.

10th Annual Ridgway RiverFest this Saturday, June 24, 2017

From email from the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnershiip Coalition:

10th Annual Ridgway RiverFest 20 years in the making

In 1997, when the town of Ridway applied for its first grant to restore the Uncompahgre River in town limits, a group of visionaries imagined the area becoming a river recreation attraction for the community. Little did they know that the restored length of river and the 11-acre park on its west bank would become the site of a major watershed celebration, attracting about 500 people each year for 10-plus years.

The town is celebrating the 10th annual Ridgway RiverFest, a free community festival at Rollans Park (next to the Highway 62 bridge), on Saturday, June 24.

The first riverside celebration was organized by the town government in July 2003 when a Great Outdoors Colorado grant was awarded to the town for major river restoration. But, the official Ridgway River Festival was started by a local nonprofit, the Mosaic Community Project, in 2008. The nonprofit was formed by local mothers hoping to establish a charter elementary school in Ridgway. Though they were unsuccessful, they had lots of energy and wanted to give back to the community so they raised funds through various events and awarded grants to service projects proposed by local students.

The group funded the installation of a bench by local artist Lisa Issenberg next to the river, and a bike rack by Jeff Skoloda by the pedestrian bridge in Rollans Park. The river festival became its signature event from 2008 to 2013. In addition to a watershed education area and nonprofit booths, the festivals featured live music, food vendors, Colorado beers and margaritas, including frozen ones created by Glenda the Blenda bike. The bike had been created by the Mosaic Community Project as a way of raising funds at local events.

Since 2008 until today, the festival has also featured on-river activities and races including hard shell and inflatable boats as well as standup paddleboards. The highlight is the “Junk of the Unc” where competitors race on home-made river-crafts made of all kinds of repurposed materials.

In 2011, the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, a local group that aims to protect and restore local water resources through collaborative projects, joined in the festival organization. The group was created in 2007 to bring stakeholders together to monitor and improve the water quality in the Uncompahgre River and surrounding watershed, and became a nonprofit in 2013.

The partnership took over the organization of the entire festival in 2014. About half the proceeds from sponsorships, silent auction purchases and drink sales at the festival pay for the entertainment and other expenses, and the other half of the proceeds funds future water monitoring, mine remediation and other related projects.

Part-time staff and volunteer board members have kept it going by enlisting the support of dozens of volunteers and nearly a hundred sponsors each year. Ouray Mountain Rescue Team and local resident Chris Haaland have kept the river races going every year and still volunteer their time to ensure the river activities are safe and fun.

While the same popular festival activities like live music from bluesman Kipori Woods and friends are repeated each year, some special additions have been made to the 10th annual event. The silent auction area, which was initiated a few years ago, has been dubbed the River Rat Marketplace and will offer more great deals than ever on donated products, services and certificates from nearly 50 companies. A Ute flute player will join Ute elder Roland McCook to share their traditional culture. Youth areas will include a River Fairy Forest with four activity stations and a bug science demonstration. Plus, a commemorative mural will be colored by the community, and drinks will be served in reusable, collectible festival cups.

The 10th Annual Ridgway RiverFest will be Saturday, June 24, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For the festival schedule and information, visit http://ridgwayriverfest.org.

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south