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Guides say that releasing water from the reservoir in August creates an artificial flow—and a danger. “The Fryingpan itself would never have that much water in August were it not for the dam,” says Will Sands of Taylor Creek Flyfishing. At 150 to 250 cfs, the natural flows of August, clients can stand in the water. Flows of 400 and 600 cfs hurt fishing quality and challenge even sturdy young anglers. “At 800,” he says, “it’s kind of a whitewater tunnel.” Clients go elsewhere, impacting restaurants, lodges and other businesses in Basalt. In the Grand Valley, such notions are sure to ruffle feathers. “Sometimes fishing becomes more important than releasing water for senior water rights,” Richard “Dick” Proctor, manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association, notes dryly. The evolving, more complicated nature of Colorado River water can also be found among whitewater boaters. Some 50,000 boater days were recorded in 2010 in the area between

Kremmling and Glenwood Springs, a few of them in the steep chasm of Gore Canyon. In the 1970s, only a few brave kayakers ventured into the canyon. Then, rafters arrived, soon accompanied by paying customers. Technological upgrades and moxie combined to produce the change. Self-bailing boats allow greater maneuverability, and hand grips offer more stability for paddlers. Another factor, says Darryl Bangert, one of the canyon’s pioneering rafters, was simple brazenness. After a trip in 1985 in which he saw boaters in New Zealand and elsewhere, he returned with new ambitions. “I said, ‘What wussie boys we were in Colorado.’” In Gore Canyon, it’s still not a big business. Timberline Tours, an Eagle-based company, has about 100 customers per year for the $175 adventure—provided the water levels are right. They raft only when the river is running between 750 cfs and 1,250 cfs. And they take what they can get. But members on the Phone Call have been

East-West Peace Pact In what has been heralded as an historic peace accord, Denver Water and 34 West Slope entities have proposed a Colorado River Cooperative Agreement to settle longtime water disputes. What was previously referred to as “the global negotiations” lasted five years, required the help of a professional mediator, and was “painful all around,” according to David Little, Denver Water’s planning director. And yet, despite the expectation that they would not find common ground, as noted by Gov. John Hickenlooper at the April 28, 2011 press conference where the agreement was made public, the parties have reached what he called “more than a truce.” “For too long people who had so many interests in common saw each other almost as enemies. The relationships built here will have an enduring impact,” the governor said. Indeed, the proposed agreement represents a new way of doing business, says attorney David Taussig, who represents the Grand County Board of Commissioners. “It cements or changes a culture that future development on the Colorado River will be accomplished through cooperation rather than confrontation,” said Colorado River District general manager Eric Kuhn at the press conference. The agreement was spurred in part by Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Firming Project, a plan to add storage on the East Slope that would give the utility operational flexibility and enable it to add 18,000 acre feet to the annual yield of its Moffat Collection System, which diverts from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers as well as South Boulder Creek. This supply would buffer Denver Water’s northern service area, which it says is critically water-short in dry 16

By Jayla Poppleton

years. In the give-and-take of the agreement, West Slope signatories pledge not to oppose the proposed project, which wouldn’t be completed until 2017 and is still awaiting a federal permit to proceed. In exchange, Denver Water will work to improve the health of headwaters streams. This goes beyond any actions required to mitigate the Moffat Firming Project’s impacts by the federal permitting process. Because of the added flexibility the project will give the utility, Denver Water agrees to contribute up to 2,000 acre feet of water annually for release during low flow periods or for other environmental benefits in the Fraser and Colorado rivers. “It’s water that they could have otherwise diverted,” says Taussig. “We can put 5 or 6 cubic feet per second in the upper Fraser Basin. Up in those streams, 1 or 2 cfs can make a huge difference.” Denver Water will also give the county $4 million for improvement of aquatic habitat and other environmental enhancements. And Denver Water is committed to partnering with the Colorado River Basin entities in a process called Learning by Doing, or adaptive management, says Taussig. “We will all watch what happens and adapt to make the river better.” The agreement also resolves a decadesold disagreement in Summit County over how Denver Water is legally entitled to use water diverted through the Roberts Tunnel per the 1955 Blue River Decree. The Blue River Decree requires Denver Water to use its Blue River water, stored in Dillon Reservoir, within the utility’s combined service area. From the West Slope’s point of view, that stipulation referenced the service area as it was defined in 1955 when the decree was issued, effectively setting an

upper limit on how much water the utility could ultimately divert. Denver Water has countered that the decree allowed its service area to grow, and as the utility annexed new areas, expanding, as Little put it, “like an amoeba on steroids,” it has served an ever-growing customer base. Now, Denver Water agrees it will not expand its service again after receiving West Slope support in its effort to share water with South Metro communities through its WISE project. Those communities face a looming crisis if they don’t move beyond non-renewable groundwater as their primary water source. For water received through the WISE project—where re-useable water would be re-routed via Aurora’s Prairie Waters recycling project to the Rueter-Hess Reservoir in Parker—the South Metro communities will incur a 12.5 percent surcharge. The money will go into a fund, to be administered by the Colorado River District, with 20 percent stipulated for forest health and restoration projects in Grand and Summit counties and the rest for environmental and water supply projects along the Colorado River from the headwaters to the state line. In exchange, South Metro beneficiaries will agree not to go to the Colorado River mainstem basin upstream of its confluence with the Gunnison River for a transbasin diversion project. And Denver Water will only develop additional Colorado Basin water in cooperation with West Slope entities. Denver Water has also agreed to pursue more aggressive conservation measures and to use more of its re-useable water itself. In Colorado, diverted water can generally be used only once before it is allowed to return to the stream. In the case of water transported from another basin, however, water can legally be

Colorado foundation for Water Education

Profile for Water Education Colorado

Headwaters Summer 2011: The Mighty Colorado  

As the Colorado River flows through its seven-state, canyon carving traverse, it is tapped and retapped-- supporting acres of irrigated agri...

Headwaters Summer 2011: The Mighty Colorado  

As the Colorado River flows through its seven-state, canyon carving traverse, it is tapped and retapped-- supporting acres of irrigated agri...

Profile for cfwe