Upper Colorado River Receives Legal Flow Protection

posted December 6, 2011
by Nathan Fey

article photo 1

Colorado - On November 30th, 2011 the State of Colorado filed for three separate water rights applications in Colorado Water Court, with the intent to preserve streamflows critical to the health of the Colorado River. These instream flow (ISF) rights are the first time flows in Gore Canyon, Pumphouse, Statebridge, and Dotsero have recieved legal protection.

These ISF are a unique appropriation in that they were recommended by the consensus of a diverse stakeholder group, including American Whitewater, under a local management plan designed to help protect resources of “outstanding remarkable value” that have been identified by the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service.

This ISF is also unique because it involves the mainstem of the Colorado River, the relative size of that river, the current level of water supply development, the level of use for recreational purposes, and the river’s overall importance to the State.

Gore Canyon and Pumphouse

The first segment of the Colorado River now protected by ISF rights extends from the confluence with the Blue River to the confluence with the Piney River. For approximately 23.7 miles, flows of of 500 cfs (September 16 – May 14), 600 cfs (May 15 – July 31), and 750 cfs (August 1 – September 15) will be protected through Gore Canyon to State Bridge, including the popular Pumphouse run.

State Bridge to Burns

The second segment of the Colorado extends from the confluence with the Piney River to the confluence with Cabin Creek - a distance of approximately 20.8 miles. Flows of 525 cfs (September 16 – May 14), 650 cfs (May 15 – July 31), and 800 cfs (August 1 – September 15), will be protected.

Burns to Dotsero

The third segment of the Colorado no protected by minimum ISF rights, extends from the confluence with Cabin Creek to a point immediately upstream of the confluence with the Eagle River at Dotsero. Flows of 650 cfs (September 16 – May 14), 900 cfs (May 15 – June 15), and 800 cfs (June 16 – September 15), will be protected in this 25.0 mile segment.

These instream flow water rights, exclusive to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) do not propose or require diversion structures or storage. A minimum stream flow does not require removal or control of water by some structure or device. A minimum stream flow between two points on a stream or river usually signifies the complete absence of a structure or device.

The ISF water rights are not intended to deprive the people of the state of Colorado of the beneficial use of those waters available by law and interstate compact. It is the intent of the CWCB that this ISF provide protection of the natural environment only to the extent authorized by state statute as against adjudications of water rights made after the date of this filing.
 

Colorado Stewardship Director
Nathan Fey
1601 Longs Peak Ave.
Longmont, CO 80501
Phone: 303-859-8601


Associated Projects

  • Gore Canyon Whitewater Park (CO)
    AW is working with Grand County, CO to establish a new whitewater park on the Upper Colorado River. We have worked to identify the best location, and build support for the proposed project.
  • Upper Colorado River (CO)
    American Whitewater is working with various stakeholders to develop a resource management plan for the BLM, as an alternative to "Wild and Scenic River" management.

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