“This is a victory for the San Juan River,” Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said in a news release issued Friday. “The original application could have been devastating to fish habitat and the river ecosystem, but now we have a settlement that balances the districts’ need for water with the health of the San Juan.”
Trout Unlimited twice appealed the district court’s decision to award water rights for the project on the grounds that the districts were being too speculative in their predictions of population growth. In both instances, the Colorado Supreme Court sided with the environmental group and denied the project’s water rights.
As part of the deal, the water districts have agreed to draw no more than 11,000 acre-feet per year with a 10-year average of no more than 9,300 acre-feet per year. The districts also must maintain water levels in the San Juan equal to twice the flow required by the Colorado Water Conservancy Board’s in-stream flow requirements.
In-stream flow water rights are water rights held by the water conservancy board, mandating minimum water levels in the state’s waterways to prevent environmental degradation.