A plea to river lovers | SkyHiNews.com

A plea to river lovers

Joy Elliott
Water enthusiast, resident and business owner in Grand County

Calling all fisherman, river rafting enthusiasts, and all other parties that enjoy, love, and utilize the river for recreational activities. We are beckoning you all for comments to help protect our rivers, and their resources, specifically the Fraser and Colorado Rivers.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission is responsible for establishing the State of Colorado’s official position on the mitigation needed to address the impacts of the Moffat Firming Project. Our opinions, comments, and views are very important in making sure that all sides are heard.

The Moffat Firming Project proposes to divert another 20 percent of the Fraser River during it’s high flow period to the other side of the divide, to Denver, and other areas of the front range.

Unfortunately, that water is being used primarily for irrigation purposes, not for drinking water. That water is being used to sustain Kentucky blue grass and other non-native grasses in a very dry, high desert environment. What a huge waste of our natural resources.

Because Denver and surrounding areas receive low amounts of precipitation, especially in the last decade or so, all of their cities and districts should be concentrating on water conservation. Watering the concrete is not a valid use of our mountain streams. This would make all of us better Americans.

Denver’s Environmental Impact Statement claims that removing the river’s high flows will have no impact. In reality, it has a huge impact on declines in sculpin populations and stonefly and macroinvertebrates populations.

Without these spring flows, the excessive sediment collection builds up on the river bottoms, making it difficult for trout populations to get food. The river becomes constricted.

With these decreased flows, the oxygen-robbing algae blooms suck the life out of the river. Look at the impacts of that on Grand Lake water clarity in the last decade. The river will then exceed the state standards of high stream temperatures. Whirling disease and the proliferation of other invasive species decreases the quality and quantity of life in the trout populations.

The wildlife Commission needs to know that there will be impacts, huge impacts, on our lifeline – the rivers of Grand County – and all other mountain rivers that have increased their diversions to sustain the increasing populations to Denver and the front range.

If it was for drinking water, the fight would be diminished for sustainability of life. But, that is not the case. Maybe someday, our goals to conserve water, have healthy wetlands, healthy rivers, and a healthy way of life for all of us, no matter what side of the divide you live on, will be important to all of us. I thank the commission for their efforts in standing up for Colorado’s rivers.

Here are some of my suggestions for mitigation for these water issues. Longer periods of higher stream temperatures, and lack of flushing flows are both issues that need to be addressed through mitigation. In the years of 1999-2004, the river levels were dismal. Very few water restrictions were in place, and fires were raging on the front range. The upper Colorado was warm, flows heightened at 1200 c.f.s.- 2,500 c.f.s., and ran most of the summer at 500 c.f.s. or lower. These levels were detrimental to the state of the Colorado headwaters, and the Fraser was listed as the third most endangered river for 2005. We should have a robust stream monitoring program paid for by diverters. For those who use an excessive amount of water for irrigating plants, trees, many non-native, and unfortunately concrete sidewalks, those customers should pay higher amounts for excessive water use. We should also have a comprehensive, adaptive plan that can change as our rivers do. A solution might be an escrow fund that covers costs of future unseen impacts. Both the headwaters of the Colorado and the entire Fraser River have huge impacts on streams further down the water pathways. They are closely related in how these projects affect our future water sources.

We have until May 26 to write comments, concerns, and letters to the Wildlife Commission to let them know that there will be impacts, and they will be deadly. What mitigation will be required to “Save the Fraser River”?

Write to: Colorado Wildlife Commission, c/o Public Involvement Unit, Colorado Division of Wildlife. 6060 Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80216; or email: Wildlife.com@state.co.us