Another component of the CWP strategy for responding to the pressures on Colorado's fisheries is to require new water development to proceed only if it will conserve, protect or restore the rivers that would otherwise be adversely affected. The CWP targets development projects based on the opportunities that exist to strengthen the conservation ideals of affected communities and to broaden the coalition of interests that recognize benefits from healthy rivers. These communities and interests, it is hoped, will work together with the CWP on the future flow protection and restoration agendas.
Working with TU's grassroots volunteers and other interested parties, the CWP engages in the federal environmental analysis and permitting process for large water development projects that would deplete important coldwater streams. Currently, the CWP is participating in the analysis and permitting for several new proposals to increase trans-basin diversions from the headwaters of the Colorado and Fraser Rivers to Denver and the Front Range. Building on the principles in the "Facing Our Future" report that we co-authored in 2005, the CWP is pushing the project proponents to incorporate mitigation measures that will protect stream flows, and coldwater fisheries, in the affected rivers.
The CWP also uses the water court system to fight water development projects with adverse fishery impacts. The CWP has stopped major new dams and hydroelectric projects that would completely dewater important stream reaches as well as smaller projects that would injure trout fisheries. In 2005 the CWP defeated a proposal, known as the AB Lateral Hydropower Project, to divert enormous quantities of water from the Gunnison River to a hydropower plant to be located on the Uncompahgre River. The project would have decimated two rivers at once, flooding the Uncompahgre and draining the Gunnison just above the Black Canyon National Park and its gold medal trout fishery. While the tools Colorado law provides to oppose water rights claims for such projects are somewhat limited, CWP successes over the past several years demonstrate that these tools can be very powerful when invoked selectively.
In its effort to defend stream flows and fishery habitat, the CWP is also involved in efforts to establish a meaningful water quality standard for temperature. While Colorado's water quality agency is constrained by law from regulating the adverse effects on rivers due to low flows, the agency can force polluters to address unnaturally high temperatures which often occur as a result of human activity. With the adoption of a standard, we will seek to have several key rivers and streams listed as temperature impaired. Once listed as impaired, a river is subject to requirements to reduce temperatures to protective levels. High temperature can be alleviated through creation of bank shade, narrowing and deepening channels, or adding stream flow.
Colorado Water Project Reports: