CAPULIN – Water running down the Alamosa River finally will be officially protected as instream flow. On November 5, the Division 3 Water Court issued a final decree, formally confirming the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Alamosa Riverkeeper’s water rights to restore streamflows to a community’s river that has suffered from mining, dewatered reaches and aquifer depletions.

The partnership, which includes the Terrace Irrigation Company and the Colorado Water Trust, operated the release of water in 2014 under a temporary approval and many locals are already seeing benefits, from recently hooking a 22-inch German Brown trout to a new local bait and tackle shop opening in Capulin.

“The development of a fishery has already started to revitalize the local economy and reconnect the community to the river. The fish have brought renewal, recreation, and rediscovery of the community’s natural resources,” said Cindy Medina, Alamosa Riverkeeper. The flow restoration effort has fit neatly within a much broader clean-up and restoration effort. The Alamosa River Watershed Restoration Foundation sponsored the Alamosa Riverbank Stabilization Project to complete the riverbank stabilization below the Gunbarrel Road. And the U.S. Forest Service Streambank Restoration Project helped to reduce erosion and sediment delivery in the upper watershed.

All these projects were partially funded by the Summitville natural resources damage settlement. The $19 million water treatment plant, that was largely funded by the Obama Stimulus package and the state of Colorado, and the $220 million remediation work completed at the site were essential to returning the river to pre-Summitville conditions and re-establishing a fishery.

With the permanent, final decree in place, water can be stored during runoff in Terrace Reservoir and released later in the season and protected as the Alamosa River begins to run dry. The extended season of flow is expected to improve the health of the river.

“I am very excited the fish are returning to the Alamosa River. My tackle shop will accompany the fishing in the Alamosa River very well. The locals are very excited to see what the fishing conditions will be in the lower part of the river near town. I would like to thank Cindy Medina and the Alamosa Riverkeeper for their continuing efforts to sustain balance with economics, fish, wildlife, and vegetation in and around the Alamosa River and the Terrace Reservoir,” said Jose Trujillo, owner of Bernie’s Bait & Tackle Shop.

ABOUT COLORADO WATER TRUST: The Colorado Water Trust is a private, nonprofit organization that facilitates voluntary, market-based water rights transactions to restore and protect streamflows in Colorado to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems. It also works on physical solutions and provides technical assistance on other projects.

Valley Courier
Staff