Colorado Water Agreement Hailed as Game Changer

April 29, 2011
By Kirk Siegler

Under Colorado’s complex water laws, Denver is legally entitled to the Colorado River water without all of the concessions in the agreement, and that’s partly why this proposal is being hailed as so historic. 

“In my experience of forty years of living on the west slope, this is a complete paradigm shift in the way the two sides have worked with each other,” said Kirk Klanke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited in Frasier.

He added: “It’s always been us versus them, and this is a collaborative effort.”

But Klanke said  this proposed settlement doesn’t address all the concerns facing the Upper Colorado River, including diversions planned during high run off that he worries could negatively impact how much sediment is flushed downstream. 

And then there’s the plan by another powerful Front Range agency, Northern Water, which like Denver Water, has also proposed to increase the amount of water it diverts to the eastern plains. 

But Northern spokesman Brian Werner said expect a similar settlement to become public soon between his agency and western slope interests.

East Slope-West Slope water agreement aims for ‘peace in our time’

April 28, 2011
Sky-Hi Daily News
By Tonya Bina

Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado Headwaters chapter in Fraser, praised West Slope stakeholders for their push for river protections.

“They realized that a healthy river is the basis for healthy communities and local economies,” he said. “They realized that if we don’t save our rivers, we’ll lose the heart and soul of this magnificent place.”

But the overall outlook of Colorado’s Trout Unlimited is cautious.

“Some have called this deal a ‘global solution,’ but it certainly isn’t global in scope, as it does not address the future impacts of the pending Moffat and Windy Gap expansion projects,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, in statements released on Wednesday. “Nor does it involve the single largest user of Upper Colorado River water —the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.”

Historic river accord gets governor’s blessing

April 28, 2011
by Alex Miller
Summit Daily News
Given the level of acrimony that’s characterized water negotiations between Denver and the Western Slope in the past, it’s perhaps nothing short of miraculous that a deal of this scope and size was reached at all. Even Trout Unlimited — a conservation and advocacy group that looks to protect rivers for recreational use — is enthusiastic about the proposal.

“We think the agreement is a great deal that does a lot of good for the Colorado River and is sort of a model for the way we ought to be dealing with water issues in this state going forward,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado water project. But, he added, there are “some holes.” One of those is the fact that the agreement did not include the Northern Water Conservancy Project — a provider of water in northeastern Colorado and, as Peternell said, the largest diverter of Colorado River Basin water.

The other hole is concern over the Moffat project and how Denver Water might mitigate that diversion.

“The language of the deal is that they’re not going to address it, and that still needs to happen,” Peternell said.

Trout Unlimited’s stance on mitigation, he said, is threefold: One is that the base flows in the Fraser River need to be protected so that, during non-peak flow periods the water temperature doesn’t increase so much that it harms fish. The next is that peak flows — when most of the diversion is slated to take place — is kept high enough to preserve some of the ecological benefits of that fast-running water. And third is that Denver Water should fund continued monitoring of stream conditions in the future to assess and mitigate any impacts.

“The Colorado Wildlife Commission is in the process of reviewing a proposed mitigation package for Moffat, and we encourage them to take a strong stance,” Peternell said.

Colorado: Proposed water deal could end decades of fighting

April 28, 2011
Summit Voice
By Bob Berwyn

Conservation groups did not have a seat at the table during the negotiations, which were dominated by traditional water interests, but Trout Unlimted director David Nickum said the agreement is encouraging.

He praised several innovative provisions in the deal, including a Denver Water pledge that future West Slope water diversions must be approved by the host counties, and a “Learning by Doing” management plan to monitor and evaluate restoration efforts.

“While recognizing that much work remains, we join in celebrating what this agreement does accomplish:  putting new resources to work to improve the health of the Upper Colorado River, and offering a new model for greater cooperation between the Front Range and Western Slope,” said Nickum.

“Denver Water brought a great deal of creativity and collaboration to this deal,” added Mely Whiting, counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project. “It deserves credit for a good-faith effort to meet the concerns of West Slope communities.”

TU leaders said the collaborative agreement offers a template for tackling other complex Colorado River water issues.

“The Colorado River faces a host of challenges, from population growth to climate uncertainty,” said Whiting. “Solving them won’t be easy. This settlement provides some hope that all sides can work together to do the right thing for the river.”

While praising the settlement, TU emphasized that significant outstanding issues remain unresolved.

“Some have called this deal a ‘global solution,’ but it certainly isn’t global in scope, as it does not address the future impacts of the pending Moffat and Windy Gap expansion projects,” said Nickum. “Nor does it involve the single largest user of Upper Colorado River water—the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.”

Kumbaya on the Colorado River?

April 28, 2011
Summit County Citizens Voice
By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Gov. John Hickenlooper will join West Slope officials and water managers from both sides of the Continental Divide this Thursday (April 28) to announce a water deal that could — if adopted — end decades of bickering over Colorado’s most precious resource. Read about the announcement at the Colorado River Water Conservation District website.

Whether or not the deal can improve those conditions remains to be seen, and it’s also unclear as to who will decide what constitutes a healthy ecosystem — especially since conservation groups apparently did not have a full-fledged seat at the table during the negotiations.

It’s also unclear what would happen — if, as most reputable studies predict — there is less water in the Colorado River Basin due to climate change in the coming decades. Most research suggests drought will become more intense and widespread in the Southwest, which could increase demand for Colorado River water from the states lower in the basin, including Arizona, and especially California.

Nevertheless, stakeholders like Trout Unlimited have expressed cautious optimism. Based on what they know about the deal, they say it’s a solid first step toward collaborative water management, which to many people is better than fighting.

Western Slope water deal surfaces

April 25, 2011

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

The most important parts of the deal are “that it looks at the Colorado River Basin from the headwaters to the state line as a whole,” said Colorado River District general manager Eric Kuhn, who represented Western Slope communities. “It looks to future solutions rather than past problems.”

Environmental advocates are responding favorably — albeit with reservations.

“The deal’s great, innovative, the way of the future,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “But it doesn’t deal with the impacts of Denver’s Moffat Tunnel project. We want to make sure the stream-flow impacts of that project are fully mitigated. If it is permitted, that project should not be allowed to damage fisheries.”

Read more: Western Slope water deal surfaces – The Denver Post

Denver fires up anglers with, yes, carp

April 20, 2011

By Scott Willoughby
The Denver Post

If you tried, you couldn’t come up with a sorrier-looking puss to put on a poster than a carp.

And, oh, has it been tried.

“It’s the classic ‘lemonade’ story,” Denver Trout Unlimited chapter president Todd Fehr said of the “lemons” that dominate Denver’s hometown fishery along the South Platte River. “The Pro-Am Carp Slam started because that’s what we had to work with. And the thing is just quirky enough to have taken off.”

The irony of using the lowly regarded carp to promote and preserve the would-be habitat of the regal trout is not lost on Fehr. But after years of frustration over the lack of a productive local trout fishery in metro Denver, DTU member Tim Emery suggested in 2007 that the group might try to take advantage of the abundant bugle-mouthed fish that reside in the neighborhood.

Read more: Denver fires up anglers with, yes, carp – The Denver Post