Rafters, rare fish will have water
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Entities have reached final agreement on a plan to keep enough water in the Colorado River to benefit rafting companies and endangered fish this summer.The Colorado River District on Wednesday announced the deal, which groups on both sides of the Continental Divide have been negotiating for weeks.The groups agreed to shoot for flows of 1,200 cubic feet per second in Glenwood Canyon through Labor Day and 810 cfs for endangered fish in the Grand Junction area through October.The agreement was made necessary when the Shoshone hydroelectric was shut down June 20 until Xcel Energy is able to complete repairs. The plant has a senior water right dating back to 1905, which traditionally has helped maintain adequate water flows for the Glenwood-area rafting industry throughout the summer. The plant is entitled to 1,250 cfs.Rafting industry representatives had said they would be forced to shut down for the season if the river’s flows fell below 1,000 cfs.With the Shoshone plant not calling for its water right, owners of junior water rights upstream can divert water for other uses without having to replace it. However, they have agreed to work voluntarily to maintain flows in the river, primarily for endangered fish but with the side benefit of aiding river runners.LogisticsWater will be provided by the river district from Wolford Mountain Reservoir, by Denver Water from Williams Fork Reservoir, and by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from Green Mountain and Granby reservoirs. Colorado Springs Utilities and the state Division of Water Resources also were involved in negotiations.In addition, irrigators in the Grand Valley agreed to participate in the management of their entitlements in Green Mountain Reservoir so senior irrigation demands and fish flows can be met throughout the season.Water releases will be directed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.Participating groups also are working to maintain flows for trout fisheries in the Upper Colorado River in Grand County in late August and early September.