Designers busy enhancing Arkansas River features through Cañon City

Cañon City via DowntownCanonCity.com.

From The Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

The plan focuses on the whitewater park between First and Fourth streets, which is a small part of the overall Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan, which also meshes with the Centennial Park Master Plan.

The overall goal is river beautification by removing concrete debris and other hazardous materials from the site and then recreational and habitat enhancements, said Nathan Werner, a designer and engineer with S2O Design.

“For recreation, we are creating structures that give the river more character to create more eddies and pools for in-stream users,” he said. “Random boulders and jetties create this recreational enhancement, but they also create fish habitat.”

Right now the river is largely just uniform with not a lot of velocity breaks, Werner said, so designers are creating a more diverse river.

The estimated cost of this multi-user, multi-use project is about $700,000, half of which is expected to be funded through a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, said Will Colon, who spearheaded the fundraising and creation of the Whitewater Kayak & Recreation Park. The park, built at a cost of about $450,000, also includes a feature near Black Bridge. The annual Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival since 2010 helps to fund improvements on the river…

Construction is expected to begin in the fall and winter of 2018, making the area usable in the spring of 2019.

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.