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URGENT: Make sure Colorado's Water Plan protects rivers!

Posted: 09/01/2015
by Nathan Fey

Whether you are a resident or a visitor, you undoubtedly love to paddle in Colorado. So how do we preserve the rivers that we know and love? When it comes to the future of recreation and river health, the Colorado Water Plan is the focus. This plan offers a strategic vision:  a productive economy that supports vibrant and sustainable cities, productive agriculture, a strong environment, and a robust recreation industry. This plan is being developed with your input and the work of basin roundtables, local governments, water providers, and other stakeholders, including American Whitewater. It represents a set of collaboratively developed policies and desired actions that all Coloradans and their elected officials can support and to which they can adhere.
Comments on the final draft of the Colorado Water Plan will be accepted through September 17, 2015.  

Your input will help determine if Colorado sets its sights on the fundamental values of protecting healthy watersheds, rivers and streams. The quality and quantity of our water supply, both now and in the future, are critical to supporting and protecting Colorado’s river-based recreation, ecosystems, fish and wildlife habitats, and environment as a whole.  Whether you are a resident or visitor, you know Colorado has experienced severe drought followed by severe flooding, just in the past year. The variability in our water supply underscores the already pressing need for strategic decisions about conservation and responsible use to ensure a secure water future for years to come - for fish and wildlife, recreation, and people.  Colorado’s Water Plan can establish key conservation, water management and mitigation strategies that can be utilized to meet our future water needs and protect our environment, but not without your input. If left unchecked, the Colorado Water Plan will fast-track new dams, pipelines, and development projects that will impact recreation and environmental health.
You can provide input two ways:

General Comments:
To submit general comments or input to be considered in the development of Colorado's Water Plan, please complete this form.  Upon completion of your form, it will be emailed to the Colorado Water Conservation Board at for consideration.  You will be asked to list which river basin your input corresponds to, and which constituent group your input most closely aligns with (presumably, recreation).  Please note that all input submitted through this form will be considered publicly at a CWCB Board meeting.  Depending on the date of submission, input has or will be reviewed at the next scheduled CWCB Board meeting.  A formal CWCB response to your input will also be included in the Board packet corresponding to the date of form submission and will be posted online here.  Please email if you have any questions regarding input submitted.

Recreation-Environment Specific Comments:
When you have specific comments on how the plan addresses recreation and the environment, we have linked to the State’s Guide for Submitting Input Related to the Environment and Recreation in order to help our members provide effective input to be incorporated into Colorado’s Water Plan.  In most instances this document directs constituents to formally submit information to their Basin Roundtable by email so that the input can be incorporated into that basin's Basin Implementation Plan.  If you would like your input to be considered during the Basin Implementation Plan process, it is suggested that you contact your local Basin Roundtable for information on related timelines.  Contact information for the Basin Roundtables can be accessed via that basin's webpage on the CWCB Basin Roundtable webpage.  Please also copy when you email input to your Roundtable.  

I. Provide Input on Water Demand by Sector
Colorado’s Water Plan will illustrate Colorado’s significant municipal, industrial, agricultural, environmental, and recreational water needs.  You can provide your Basin Roundtable with information about environmental and recreational water needs that can help ensure recreation and the environment are not being under-valued.
Input on this item will inform Section 3. Water Demand by Sector of the Draft Colorado’s Water Plan Framework.

Suggested talking points:
    - Recreational water needs are currently overlooked and under-evaluated in the CWP. We ask that the State show leadership in assigning Roundtables a specific set of metrics for development, and that the state partner with stakeholders like American Whitewater to assess demands for recreation - both in defining flows that support recreational opportunities, and in developing a quantitative baseline for assessing the impact or enhancement to recreational opportunities from any future actions.  Currently, only the Yampa and Colorado river basins are pursuing this metric (boatable days), and it is critical that as future inter-basin exchanges or projects are evaluated across the state, that a common metric for evaluating any change to recreation be implemented statewide.
    - Without a common (state-wide) assessment of recreation demands or a recreation-specific set of terms, both descriptive and evaluative, the CWP will not be a sufficient tool for outlining our states water future.
    - Stronger leadership from the state to direct the Basin Roundtables to undertake specific assessments of Boatable days, can make any inter-basin or statewide discussions about river-health and recreation more productive and effective. - simply by assuring that the west slope and east slope are speaking the same language when it comes to recreational needs.

II. Provide Input on Nonconsumptive Goals and Measurable Outcomes
American Whitewater helped identify several potential goals and measurable outcomes that are included in the State’s Nonconsumptive Toolbox. Non-Consumptive refer to uses that do not remove water from the river - specifically the  environment or recreation. We encourage you to provide your Basin Roundtable with any input on existing goals and outcomes for in-stream needs, or work with your Basin Roundtable to identify additional goals and outcomes for recreational and environmental needs in your Basin Implementation Plan. 
You can also provide information to the CWCB about goals and outcomes that cross basin lines (ex. Arkansas and Colorado Rivers) that may be necessary to protect Colorado’s environment and recreation economy.

Please recommend these for inclusion in Colorado’s Water Plan regardless of whether they appear in individual BIPs. 

Input on this item will inform Chapter 2. Overview of Each Basin of the Draft Colorado’s Water Plan Framework. 

III. Provide Input on Nonconsumptive Projects and Methods 
In 2010, thousands of existing and planned environmental and recreational projects and methods were identified. About half of the environmental and recreation focus area streams have planned or existing protections.

- You can help your Basin Roundtable to identify additional planned rec and enviro projects or methods, or provide the CWCB with information that identifies rec and enviro gaps (needs that are not expected to be met in the future). This information will be provided to the appropriate Basin Roundtable(s). We encourage you to share this information directly with the Basin Roundtables(s) as well.

- Identify new or amended local and/or state policies that need to be in place to ensure that Colorado can fill its Enviro and recreational gap.  

- Provide Basin Roundtables and the CWCB with suggestions for how to continue to identify and refine environmental and recreational gaps and identify projects and methods to meet those gaps for updated versions of the BIPs and Colorado’s Water Plan. 
Input on this item will inform Section 5.5. Meeting the Consumptive & Nonconsumptive Gaps and Section 5.9 Environmental & Recreational Projects and Methods of the Draft Colorado’s Water Plan Framework. 

IV. Provide Input on Watershed Health/Management
Background: Colorado’s Water Plan will draw much of this information from the Basin Implementation Plans. There is tremendous opportunity for multi-purpose projects that protect critical infrastructure, water quality, human health and safety, and the environment.

AW believes that Stream Management Plans will be how the Colorado Water Plan has impact on our rivers.  If our SMP’s ( Stream Management Plans) do not include recreational flow needs, or assess boatable days, these plans will not sufficiently protect recreation or river health.  American Whitewater has developed a tool that can be easily integrated into SMPS anywhere in the state, and we would encourage the public to advocate for the inclusion of this tool into every Basin Plan and Stream Management Plan.  Boatable days are not prescriptive.  This metric helps us quantitatively asses the enhancements or impacts that future projects may have on recreational opportunities, and needs to become a widely accepted metric in water management discussions.
V. Provide Input on the Framework on More Efficient Water Project Permitting Processes
Background: Colorado’s Water Plan will seek greater efficiency and effectiveness in the project permitting process so that important issues are “front-loaded” for discussion and resolution.

This is an opportunity to inform your Basin Roundtable and/or the CWCB of ideas on how water project permitting processes can be made more efficient without undermining environmental protections. AW would suggest that the Water Plan help front-load the evaluation of  flow-dependent recreational needs (defined boatable flows) and on evaluating the shift in the number of opportunities (boatable days) under any proposed project and permit.  Incorporating recreation-specific metrics has been effective in finding the best path forward for proposed projects, and ensures that existing recreation has a seat at the table when final decisions are being made.
How Your Input will be Used: Input on this item will inform Section 5.10 Framework on More Efficient Water Project Permitting Processes of the Framework.

VI. Provide Input on Funding and Financing
Colorado’s Water Plan will indicate how the CWP can be implemented from a funding perspective and demonstrate that doing so would be beneficial for the vibrancy of the state. If additional funds beyond current resources are needed, Colorado’s Water Plan will also demonstrate how such funds could be acquired. Please note that Appendix E within the Nonconsumptive Toolbox includes a table of the most prominent or commonly accessed funding sources for nonconsumptive projects and methods in Colorado. In addition, included within Appendix C of the No and Low Regrets Action Plan is a list of potential funding options for meeting consumptive and nonconsumptive needs.

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

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