Environment:: Some good news for endangered Colorado River fish

Recovery stakeholders find permanent sources of water to sustain needed late summer and autumn flows


Endangered Colorado River Fish will benefit from permanent sources of water earmarked for a collaborative recovery effort. Click on the image to visit the recovery project website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Four endangered native fish species in the Upper Colorado River may have a little better chance a long-term survival, as stakeholders in a collaborative recovery program found permanent sources of water needed to protect aquatic habitat for the the fish.

Water previously provided from Williams Fork and Wolford reservoirs to benefit endangered fish recovery has been replaced with permanent sources at a cost of about $25 million. The water will come from Ruedi Reservoir (5,412.5 acre-feet) and  from Granby Reservoir (5,412.5 acre-feet). The releases from Granby Reservoir will also benefit flow conditions and water quality upstream of endangered fish habitat.

At issue are late summer and fall flows to sustain habitat for the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail chub and razorback sucker. All four species were pushed to brink of extinction by reckless water diversions and other human activities. A long-running recovery effort has been inching forward year by year, with populations recovering slightly in some areas, and continuing to struggle elsewhere, with unrelenting pressure on water resources,

“East and west slope Colorado River water users came together to cooperatively resolve environmental commitments so that both protection and development of water can continue in Western Colorado,” said Tom Chart, recovery program director.

The longer term agreement dedicating water to endangered fish recovery ensures that traditional non-consumptive water uses and future water development in the upper Colorado River Basin will continue in compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act.

East and West Slope water providers collaborated to analyze and compare a wide range of alternatives to meet the late summer and early fall flow obligations. A Steering Committee made up of a broad coalition of water providers identified options for providing a permanent water source.

Final contracts for these permanent sources were completed in time to release water to support river flows during the summer and fall of 2013.

“Under the Recovery Program, water for endangered fish is provided in accordance with state water law and interstate water compacts. The 10825 agreements are consistent with this approach”, said Tom Pitts, water user representative to the Recovery Program.

The list of collaborators is long and includes the federal Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Colorado, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and numerous east and west slope water users.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is a cooperative partnership of local, state and federal agencies, water organizations, power customers and environmental groups established in 1988 to recover the endangered fishes while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts.

For more information, call 303-969-7322, or visit www.ColoradoRiverRecovery.org  & www.facebook.com/ColoradoRiverRecovery

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