FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information contact: Mely Whiting, (720) 470-4758
SHOSHONE AGREEMENT DOES NOT PROTECT HEADWATER FISHERIES
Boulder, CO – While an agreement announced yesterday by major operators on the Colorado River benefits irrigators, rafters and some populations of endangered fish, it falls short of protecting gold medal trout fisheries in the headwaters of the Colorado River, according to Trout Unlimited.
“The Shoshone Agreement is not specifically designed to protect trout fisheries, but it has the effect of doing so at least through Labor Day because in order to keep rafting flows in the most important river reaches, there have to be releases from upstream reservoirs, high up in trout country,” said Mely Whiting, an attorney with Trout Unlimited. “But what happens after Labor Day is a serious question mark for the trout.”
According to the agreement, Colorado River flows at Palisade have to be kept at 810 cfs until October 31. But Whiting said there is nothing to prevent that requirement from being met by releasing water from reservoirs lower down in the system, which would reduce the flows at the headwaters.
Of particular concern is the 22-mile reach between Windy Gap reservoir and Kremmling, which, but for the goodwill of local irrigators, would have gone completely dry last September. Irrigators within this reach of the river irrigate well into October. In a dry spell, a reduction of releases from Granby and Williams Fork reservoir after Labor Day could cause the same problems that were experienced last year.
Whiting also said that since the agreement ends on October 31, it provides no protections for wintertime flows, which are critical to fish survival rates. When the senior Shoshone call is on, large trans-mountain diverters at the headwaters of the Colorado River, including the Colorado Big-Thompson and Moffat Tunnel, have to release water from their reservoirs to replace the water they are taking over the Divide. Without those replacements, flow in the headwaters of the Colorado could be dramatically reduced, with potential impacts to the fisheries.
“This agreement is a positive first step in addressing the impacts of Shoshone’s outage but it does not go far enough to protect some of Colorado’s most important headwaters fisheries. While we congratulate Denver Water, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River Water Conservancy District, and other key participants for this first step, we strongly urge them to return to the table to discuss wintertime operations so as to prevent negative impacts to our treasured cold-water fisheries,” said Whiting.