Upper Colorado River makes list of endangered rivers | SkyHiNews.com

Upper Colorado River makes list of endangered rivers

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

The Upper Colorado River has secured a spot on America’s Most Endangered Rivers list, released today by American Rivers.

The threat of two new water diversion projects that could “sap the life from the Upper Colorado” was a main reason the river was chosen for the report’s No. 6 spot.

“The most endangered river listings get the attention of media and policy-makers,” said Randy Scholfield, spokesperson of Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project. “It does help to highlight some of the threats facing these rivers and helps them get the grassroots support they need.”

The Upper Colorado considered in the listing flows from about Granby to Dotsero.

“There are many more rivers that could be on the list than make the list,” said David Moryc, senior director of the Rivers Protection Program of American Rivers.

Each year, he said, as many as 50 or 60 rivers are nominated for the listing, which highlights the threats of the “nation’s greatest rivers.”

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The Upper Colorado fit the organization’s criteria for being the subject of major public decisions pending in 2010, specifically the Moffat Firming Project proposed by the Denver Water Board and the Windy Gap Firming Project proposed by the Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Water Conservancy District. The Upper Colorado, especially the stretch from Granby to Kremmling, can lack healthy peak flows and baseline flows.

To Kent Neubecker, past president of Trout Unlimited, the upper Colorado is “on the brink of ecological collapse.”

Without river protections from cumulative impacts outlined in draft Environmental Impact Statements, advocates fear the river could suffer from further detriment despite on-the-side negotiations for enhancement being conducted by river stakeholders.

“They didn’t consider the accumulative impacts at all like they were supposed to,” Neubecker said of those reports pending Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval. Instead they were saying “that the flows in the river right now are the way they always have been since the beginning of time. We have to be honest with ourselves and everyone on how we use the river.”

Neubecker hopes the American Rivers listing can help inform Front Range water users, some of which have little idea “about the connection between what comes out of their faucets and the river resource,” he said.

American Rivers Endangered listing urges river users to consider both the agricultural and domestic needs while also meeting the needs of healthy rivers and wildlife.

It also calls for individuals and families to each make a difference by embracing conservation.

American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder also advocates “green infrastructure” solutions, or improved wetlands, headwater streams and flood plains.

This is the first time the Upper Colorado has been listed on the Most Endangered Rivers list, although the Fraser River, which feeds into the Upper Colorado, was listed in 2005 for water diversion and inter-basin transfer issues.

The Colorado River downstream, mainly in Arizona, was listed in 1992 and in 2004.

For the 2010 edition of the list, the Upper Deleware river was listed the most endangered river in the U.S., a river that is the drinking water source for 17 million people.

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