Grand Lake granted ‘narrative standard’ for water clarity |

Grand Lake granted ‘narrative standard’ for water clarity

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission deferred setting a numerical clarity standard for Grand Lake until January 2014, choosing instead to grant a narrative standard for the interim. A depth of 13.12 feet, or 4 meters, of water clarity from July through September, a standard sought by West Slope water advocates, would have been the first lake clarity standard in the state of Colorado. Even though Colorados water quality commission rejected the 4 meter standard at an Upper Colorado River District hearing Monday in Grand Junction, Lane Wyatt of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments called the commissions decision groundbreaking. Grand Lake got a foot in door, he said. One that will result in changes. Rather than a set a value, the commission chose to use language to define a goal for the lake. It entails seeking the highest level of clarity in Grand Lake thats attainable, consistent with the exercise of established water rights and the protection of the aquatic life use. With that action, according to Water Quality Control Commission administrator Paul Frohardt, the hope is stakeholders work together to try and determine the causes of the limitations on clarity that are occurring now, as well as exploring options for actions taken to improve clarity. And over time, as those efforts evolve, he said, the narrative standard can be redefined as a numerical standard. Until that is achieved, however, Wyatts and others concern is the new standards inexactness.For example, a speed limit set for 65 is 65; its not no driving in a reckless manner, otherwise, how do you figure that one out? he said. Water Quality commissioners arrived at their decision Tuesday upon hearing testimony from stakeholders, namely the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Grand County, The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and Grand Lake lakeshore residents. Its the first time a clarity standard thats based specifically on a goal of clarity has been set for any body of water in Colorado, based on the unique Grand Lake quality as a resource, Frohardt said.Yet in spite of its precedence, some feel the standard came up short for the lake itself. It is certainly not the outcome that we desired, said Grand Lake shoreline homeowner John Stahl, a retired engineer who helped initiate attempts to establish a clarity standard for Colorados largest natural lake. Grand County and lakeshore groups were prompted to seek the standard because of increased algae levels in the lake, which reduce lake transparency. Armed with data on the correlation between pumping practices of the Colorado Big-Thompson Project managed by Northern and reduced water clarity in the lake, lake advocates have been seeking the standard for a year. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Division of Wildlife supported the 4-meter proposal. Northern opposed it.Mondays presentation of data, analyses, testimony and rebuttal upon rebuttal was the final hearing on the matter this go-round. It does put more of a burden on the staff at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to develop this narrative standard, and defers any decision about numeric standards for a long while, Stahl said. Stahl and shoreline homeowners Pat Raney, Steve Paul and John Brooks each provided testimony advocating a healthier lake. “This standard itself is not enforceable, but hopefully it will lead to something enforceable, said Grand County Water Quality Specialist Katherine Morris. The good thing is, this is going to focus more attention on clarity as an issue in Grand Lake, Morris said.Morris sentiments were echoed by Wyatt. The narrative standard puts the state in a better position to try and do something about it, he said. Grand Lake didnt get 4 meters, but we may end up in the same place as far as what comes out of it. Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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