Letter: Rightly raised alarms over water conservation

Last Wednesday’s article in Sky-Hi News rightly raised alarms about the impacts of low flows in the Colorado River this year on the fish populations. As a result, anglers have been asked to voluntarily cease fishing by noon to reduce further stress to the fish. That represents a direct and indirect loss of value to our businesses which rely on these resources and to those of us who value fishing for recreation.

In its July 12 edition, the Summit Daily published an article that also noted that low stream flows are causing high water temperatures that are “endangering trout in rivers and streams across the state.” A senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife was quoted as saying “we are in the worst shape when it comes to conditions.” According to other sources in the article, requests for increased reservoir releases into the rivers were being requested as early as last spring.

Knowing that such a condition existed last spring and seeing what has been happening this summer, one has to ask why proactive measures have not been implemented to insure flows were maximized to protect natural resources that are such a large contributor to Colorado’s, and more importantly, our western slope, economy. A June 19 cover story in Colorado Politics touts our State Water Plan and the fact that conservation is a keystone of its strategy. Instituting water restrictions on the Front Range last spring could have reduced the need to divert water from the west slope this summer and allowed for releases that could have helped mitigate the damage we are now seeing. As a result, we are left in an untenable wait and see position to see how bad the damage will be and how long recovery could take.

While we can say that this is a function of our climate, we can also not ignore that this problem is exacerbated by the large volumes of water diverted annually from west slope rivers and streams to the Front Range. As a result of any lack of mitigative action, west slope communities are again being asked to suffer the loss of economic value while the Front Range continues to pump water across the divide to water lawns and golf courses.

Senate Document 80 guaranteed that our natural resources would be protected from the transmountain water projects. In the 1970s, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments’ 208 Water Plan called for an impact fee to mitigate for the damages being caused to our natural resources by water diversions. The Front Range benefits from $1 billion worth of water a year being pumped to feed their economies. With the Windy Gap Firming Project, impacts like we are now will only get worse. Isn’t it time the western slope starts demanding compensation (e.g impact fees) for the harm these water diversions are causing to the natural resources which are the lifeblood of our economies?

Ken Fucik, Grand Lake

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