Steamboat Springs — Streamflows in the Yampa River are trending upward with the first release of additional water from Stagecoach Reservoir on Thursday morning. The release is part of a negotiated deal between the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and other entities trying to protect the Yampa from historically low flows this summer.
Despite the release of additional water, flows still are below the levels needed for recreation on the Yampa. The voluntary closure of the Yampa River through downtown Steamboat remains in effect. Commercial tubing operations are not permitted when flows dip below 85 cubic feet per second. The Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs was flowing at 59 cubic feet per second Friday afternoon, but periods of rain Friday could boost the streamflow higher.
Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District General Manager Kevin McBride said about 26 cfs of the Yampa’s flow can be attributed to the release from the reservoir. Before the release, flows on the Yampa had gotten as low as 40 cfs Thursday.
McBride said it appeared most of the water being released from Stagecoach was making it to Steamboat and was not being diverted by upstream water rights holders.
“I think everyone is being very judicious,” McBride said.
The 4,000 acre-feet of cold water being released throughout the next couple of months recently was purchased by the Colorado Water Trust for about $35 per acre-foot, or about $140,000.
The agreement marks the first-ever implementation of a 2003 state statute designed to protect Colorado’s rivers in times of drought.
“From the health of the river system, I think it’s a good thing,” said Tim Kirkpatrick, owner of Steamboat Flyfisher.
He doesn’t think the release will lead to a reopening of the town stretch of the Yampa anytime soon, but Kirkpatrick says the fish seem happier since the release.
“It’s definitely helped out the Sarvis Creek State Wildlife Area,” Kirkpatrick said.