BuRec Reopens Lower Blue River below Green Mountain Dam (CO)

Posted: 07/08/2002
by Jason Robertson

The access to the Lower Blue below Green Mountain Dam is going to RE-OPEN on a LIMITED basis beginning this FRIDAY JULY 5th, 2002.

Paddlers in the Steamboat Springs and Summit County areas have long enjoyed this late season Class III stretch of river, as water is released from the Green Mountain Reservoir for irrigation purposes. The stretch of river includes steep, dramatic canyon scenery with no roads or trails adjacent to the river.

However, access to the river downstream of the dam has been restricted since the September 11th events, while the reservoir itself has been re-opened to motorized boats and recreation. The managing agencies (COE, BLM and Grand County Sheriff's Dept.) have been turning away river users in the name of continued security after the terrorist events.

Happily, Kara Lamb, with U. S. Bureau of Reclamation's Public Information office in Eastern Colorado, reported to American Whitewater volunteers that this access to the Lower Blue below the Green Mountain Dam is being opened as part of a pilot program within Reclamation's security program. That means, the access will be during daylight hours ONLY.

Hours of open access will be Friday-Sunday, 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. The conditional access will be strictly enforced. All people, cars, equipment and etc. must be removed from the area prior to 7 p.m., closing, each day. Stuff that remains may be towed or removed at the owner's expense.

This success is the result of several months of wrangling between the local fishing and boating communities and the Bu Rec. Volunteers including American Whitewater member Patrick Tooley and AW's former Presidents Ric Alesch and Jay Kenney spent many hours trying to solve the closure and address the BuRec's security concerns. Their efforts included writing to Congressman Mark Udall (< a href="#udall">Letter attached below.

This agreement to reopen access to the river will be greatly appreciated by the Steamboat Springs area boating community.

If you have the opportunity to run this river in the next few months, please thank any Bu Rec staff that you happen to meet for re-opening this Colorado gem. Likewise, thank Pat, Ric, and Jay for their continuing efforts to protect your access to Colorado's rivers and streams!


ACCESS POINTS

The access road to the the Blue River branches off Hwy 9, between the town of Kremmling and Silverthorne, CO. After turning off Hwy 9, the county road goes across the top of the dam to a "T" intersection. A left turn will take you to lake access points and related commercial services. A right turn takes you 1/8 mile down a paved road, along a steep hillside, adjacent to the dam that you just crossed. The road ends 500 feet off the river in a parking area related to an abandoned company town and facilities related to hydro power generation.

From the parking area, one walks with their raft or kayak further downstream through a grassy meadow, then hikes down a VERY steep dirt hillside to get to the river. The approach down the hillside is very treacherous and loose. At this point, you are probably 1/4 downstream of the actual dam face.

The take out is at the first county road/bridge and includes parking for probably 20-25 vehicles. Parking at the put in can easily accomodate that amount of vehicles, as well.


RESOURCES

Reservoir and access map at: www.coloradodreams.com/heenmap.htm

American Whitewater River Page: www.americanwhitewater.org/rivers/id/363/


BACKGROUND

In April 2002, Kara Lamb wrote boater Dave Gardner:

I understand your frustration about the extended closure at Green Mountain. The Bureau of Reclamation, who built, owns and operates the facilities there, has many responsibilities, as you said. They include providing continued security of the facilities and the many benefits associated with them: water storage, delivery, power generation--not to mention the safety and security of people living downstream or nearby our facilities--just to name a few. That explains why security has been a top priority.

That said, I also recognize that the continued closure of access to the Lower Blue seems unnecessary. Truthfully, I have not been provided any details of why that area is still closed. All I am told is that our decision to keep it closed is based on information provided to Reclamation and the Department of the Interior from other government agencies. The decision is made in Washington D.C. by our Commissioner along with our Regional Director in Billings, MT.


LETTER TO CONGRESSMAN MARK UDALL

May 14, 2002

Honorable Mark Udall
1333 West 120th Ave.
Suite #210
Westminster, CO 80234

Dear Congresman Udall:

I write on behalf of the Colorado White Water Association (CWWA), Colorado Trout Unlimited (CTU) and American Whitewater, all of whom have joined in an effort to re-open the Blue River below Green Mountain Dam.

The Blue River between Green Mountain Dam and Spring Creek Road is one of Colorado's premier trout fisheries. This four-mile stretch of the Blue River, which runs primarily through Forest Service land, is hugely popular with kayakers, canoeists and the fishing community. The only way for boaters to access this section of the Blue River is below the Green Mountain Dam. This is also the only access for anglers, since private property near Spring Creek Road precludes accessing the Blue River there. Anglers and boaters have accessed the Blue River below Green Mountain Dam for decades. The access point is so popular, in fact, that CWWA has specifically earmarked monies to improve this access point, given the heavy use this access point receives.

Last fall, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation closed the access point below Green Mountain Dam following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. On March 26, 2002, Kara Lamb, the Public Information Officer for the Eastern Colorado Area Office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, posted an e-mail on a river access website, stating that the access point below Green Mountain Dam will be closed for the rest of the year.

On March 27th, I spoke with Ms. Lamb by telephone. Ms. Lamb was very cordial and professional, and explained that the decision to close the access to the Blue River below the dam was the result of general security concerns following the September terrorist attacks. Ms. Lamb explained that certain Department of Interior and Department of Reclamation employees (unknown to me) evaluated each government facility and determined whether access should be restricted. Ms. Lamb also told me that citizens did not (and probably do not) have a voice in the decision making process, but told me I could contact Brian Person and MaryAnn Bach, who are the area and regional directors of the Department of the Interior, respectively. While all of us appreciate the government's legitimate security concerns following last year's terrorist attacks, we are unconvinced that the closure of the Green Mountain Access is based on legitimate security concerns and believe there must be a solution to allow some public access to this stretch of river.

Here are the questions the Bureau's action raises.

1. By what process was the dam and access point evaluated and determined to present a security issue? I note that Colorado is peppered with dams, all of which presumably were similarly evaluated, yet both Chatfield Reservoir and Cherry Creek Reservoir, for example remain open to the public. Each, on account of their very large downstream populations and development, surely presents a greater security issue than the Blue Mountain Reservoir. Elsewhere in the United States, on rivers run by commercial operators or concessionaires, there have been no similar closures. The Ocoee (TN), the Colorado (AZ) and the Gauley (W VA), to name only three of the largest and most visible, all remain open to both commercial and private boating.

2. On what schedule will the dam's security status be evaluated and re-evaluated?

3. Without significantly compromising the security of the installation, what accommodations can the Bureau make to permit access to the river? We believe that simple and reasonable measures can be put in place to allow continued access to the river. Without limitation, those measures could include limited access on certain days and between certain hours with additional security personnel in place for those limited periods of time. Alternatively, boaters and anglers could be required to park away from the most sensitive areas, with strictly enforced time limits at or near the put-in.

We ask you to intercede on our behalf and on behalf of the boating and fishing public. We are certain that the interested parties can design an access point below Green Mountain Dam that will address the governments legitimate security concerns, while at the same time preserving this traditional access point for the Blue River With your assistance, I believe we can develop a win-win result for everyone. We are happy to participate as a working group to develop and design an improved access point, one that takes into account the government=s legitimate security concerns, while at the same time allowing Colorado's citizens to enjoy this very special river.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Very truly yours,

Patrick D. Tooley

PDT/tmd Cc:
Jay P.K. Kenney, President Colorado White Water Association
David Nickum, Executive Director, Colorado Trout Unlimited