In the summer of 2012, the Yampa River saw critically low flows due to drought, threatening the health of the river and forcing the City of Steamboat Springs to close the river to all fishing and recreation. Colorado Water Trust engaged in an emergency response effort with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to address the needs of the river.
As the first ever short-term lease of water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Instream Flow Program, this project leased water from Stagecoach Reservoir to support streamflow, aquatic habitat, and temperature mitigation. The released water also indirectly benefits hydropower generation, and recreation. The success of that first short-term lease led to annual efforts to boost flows in the Yampa by releasing water out of Stagecoach using various legal tools. In 2021, a new 10-year contract was signed to release water to the river that included a lease to Instream Flow that can used in 5 out of 10 years. The Instream Flow lease can also be renewed twice, allowing environmental releases to bolster flows in the Yampa River for up to 15 out of 30 years if needed. At times, the water from this project accounts for over half of the water in the Yampa River from Stagecoach through the City of Steamboat Springs.
Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, The City of Steamboat Springs, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Catamount Metropolitan District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Southwestern Energy, Yampa Valley Community Foundation, Yampa River Fund, and the Town of Hayden