Upper Colorado River an ‘Ecosystem on the Brink,’ says Trout Unlimited
Trout Unlimited, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and a broad group of conservation organizations are coming out opposed to the diversion of more water from a tributary of the upper Colorado River, saying it poses a serious risk to the ecological health of the river system. “Multiple water diversions have pushed the Fraser River to the brink of collapse,” said Kirk Klancke, President of the Colorado Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited, based in Grand County. “This is a river on life support.” At present, Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel and other diversions take about 60 percent of the Fraser’s stream flow. The Moffat pipeline carries most of it under the Continental Divide to supply water for the Denver metro area. Under a proposed expansion of the Moffat tunnel pipeline, Denver would take more of the river’s native flows. In 2005, the Fraser was listed asone ofthe most endangered rivers in America by American Rivers, a national conservation group. The statement from Trout Unlimited and the Colorado Environmental Coalition came in response to the Friday release of the draft environmental impact statement for the Moffat Tunnel proposal-the first step in a public review of the project by the Army Corps of Engineers. “We are looking forward to digging deeper into the DEIS, and are hopeful that we can have a substantive conversation with Denver Water in the coming months about how we can ensure our resources are protected,” said Becky Long of Colorado Environmental Coalition. Looking ahead, the conservation groups identified several broad environmental goals that they hope are included in the project’s mitigation plan, including: • Adequate baseline flows in the Fraser throughout the yearto sustain fisheries and recreation. • Sustained peak flows at key times of the year to mimic a natural flow regime and ensure the health and resilience of the river ecosystem. • Aggressive urban water conservation and efficiency measures to save more water, such as incentives for homeowners to replace Kentucky bluegrass with drought-tolerant landscaping. • Ongoing monitoring of the river’s health and a mitigation plan with the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. “We have already met with Denver Water’s staff, and they seem open to discussing some of these concepts,” said Mely Whiting, Legal Counsel for Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “We hope the Denver Water Board seizes this opportunity to create a legacy, where water development and environmental protections can go hand in hand.””Front Range residents must recognize the connection between our water use and the health of our rivers and streams, fisheries and wildlife habitat,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We can’t continue to take and take from these rivers without accounting for our impacts. The glass is not even half full-it’s almost drained dry.”
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