Grand County rivers may benefit from passage of instream flow legislation
April 11, 2008
The Colorado Legislature has given final approval to a bill that could benefit the Fraser and Colorado rivers.The legislation would allow water rights owners to leave their water in a stream or river without the risk of losing it, through special circumstances, said Kirk Klancke, Winter Park Ranch Water & Sanitation District manager.The way Colorado water law works, its called use-it or lose-it, he said. If you dont pull your water right out of the river, you lose it, which can be pretty devastating.It will encourage people who dont need all their water to leave it in the stream, and still count as a beneficial use. … Theres never been a water law that encouraged ranchers (or municipalities) to leave part of their water rights in the river.Its actually legislation that I have been asking for for a couple of years, Klancke said. One of the most important beneficial uses we have is to leave our water in the stream.If someone wants to leave a portion of their water in the river they will need to sign a lease to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.It has to have an environmentally positive impact, he said. You have to work out a contract with them.It would not be helpful to retain water in areas where rivers flow too high, Klancke said.Most West Slope rivers would benefit from the law, he said. This could help flush sediment, and lower stream temperatures by adding additional flows, he said.Right now, farmers, ranchers and others feel they have to pull all their irrigation out when it rains, even when they dont need that much water, he said.Klancke is president of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, which also testified and helped write the bill. In 2005, American Rivers named the Fraser River the third most endangered river in America because of the amount of water diverted out of it.After Klancke gave a speech about the river at a Trout Unlimited conference in Idaho, a film crew was hired to do a documentary about the river. The film will feature Klancke fishing while talking about river issues and environmental problems. The documentary is set to be released this spring, Klancke said.Trout Unlimited will use the film to educate the public.The ones that are diverting the water from us are the ones theyre going to focus on educating, he said.Trout Unlimited has spent a fortune on attorney and biologists looking after Grand Countys water issues, Klancke said. It wasnt too long ago that people knew the Fraser River was having trouble. He remembers when the Fraser River had lower temperatures and was healthier.It keeps me motivated. I know what these rivers are capable of being.