Here is the scenario: 500 acre-feet of water is owned by the city of Steamboat Springs and is held in Stagecoach Reservoir for emergency use. The managing group at Lake Catamount (which is downstream of Stagecoach Reservoir) suggested transferring that water from Stagecoach to Catamount. The water is still available; it simply has a new location.
Catamount, in turn, would release that 500 acre-feet of city water into the Yampa River and pitch in an additional 500 acre-feet of its own for free. Doing the math at $35 per acre-foot, that’s $35,000 of water for free.
Earlier this year, the Colorado Water Trust purchased 4,000 acre-feet at $35 an acre-foot (total of $140,000) from the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District to be released from Stagecoach Reservoir to help maintain healthy in-stream flows in the Yampa River through downtown Steamboat Springs.
“What good are in-stream flows?” you may ask. Well, they fill the centerpiece of our community, the Yampa River. Almost any brochure depicting Steamboat Springs in the summer will certainly have a picture of the Yampa River. The health and beauty of the Yampa River depends on in-stream flows. As of Aug. 10, all river activity is suspended, voluntarily, on the Yampa River. Jobs are eliminated, and fishery, ecosystem, recreational opportunities and river-use taxes all are compromised.
Enter Steamboat Springs City Council members, not one of them with a greedy or selfish motive but perhaps focused on an agenda more spectacular than in-stream flows. With $35,000 of free resource looking them right between the eyes, the City Council opted to pass the buck to legal teams and bog the process down enough to make me want to turn Republican. The sky is most definitely falling in Steamboat (according to certain City Council members).
Our embattled city manager has been the only ally of in-stream flows to this point, and I applaud him for his efforts. Jon Roberts has been the only person in a position of influence with the foresight to deal with our drought. I can’t comment on other aspects of Roberts’ job performance, but remember that he orchestrated the $140,000 deal with the Colorado Water Trust. Four-thousand acre-feet of free (at least to the taxpayers of Steamboat) water!