Credit creativity and collaboration from all parties for good Yampa River flows in drought.
During the 2002 drought 10 years ago, the Yampa River nearly went dry. This year, with those memories of river closures for recreation, threatened fish populations from low dissolved oxygen and high water temperatures, and a fear of a call on the river from senior agricultural or industrial water rights, groups from all sides came together and worked out a mitigation plan which released water from Stagecoach Reservoir to benefit all.
This elevated flow in the Yampa was negotiated with help from the Colorado Water Trust, the Upper Yampa Conservancy District, the City of Steamboat Springs and local agriculture, energy and recreation companies, along with environmentalists. If it wasn’t for everyone working together, the river could have been ankle-deep with fish kills while taking huge hits on the recreational and agricultural economies that sustain northwest Colorado.
Upstream reservoirs are needed for all uses, and the example from the Yampa during this 2012 drought is one that we can all hold high as a creative and collaborative effort.
The fact is that the Yampa River is the longest river remaining in the entire Colorado River basin that still retains an unmanaged runoff. As a wild river, with small storage from a half dozen reservoirs that don’t impact spring runoff or impound large amounts of late season water for specific releases, the Yampa still functions today as it has since before the area was settled.
Due to its remoteness in northwest Colorado and less stress from a large population, the Yampa has been spared the dewatering and control that all other major rivers in the upper Colorado River system have witnessed. This allows the Yampa to retain endangered aquatic and terrestrial habitats while providing all Americans with a chance to experience and enjoy the last wild river on the Colorado Plateau. This is something that we should respect and hold in high regard.
The wild Yampa River is a recreational, agricultural and environmental treasure. Unfortunately, Gorsett’s somewhat fear-mongering, anti-environmentalist letter represents a fringe opinion that isn’t held by most Americans and certainly doesn’t represent the feelings of those of us in northwest Colorado whose livelihoods and lifestyles depend on a wild Yampa River.
Everyone is allowed an opinion of course, but Gossett should wake up and tune into today’s world. Instead of tilting at windmills, he should open his eyes and see the amazing collaboration, partnerships and dedicated individuals who are working hard to find complex solutions for the difficult problems of water management in an arid, desert environment.
Yampa/White/Green Basin Roundtable