Results of Yampa River study unveiled today

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— Results from a city-funded Yampa River study that has implications for the future of multiple use of the river will be unveiled to the public today in a series of meetings at Centennial Hall.

The studies, which were undertaken by Boulder-based Aquatic and Wetlands Co., focus on both the chemical and biological health of the river. In addition, the consultants passed out about 1,300 surveys to river users with the help of the city's community service officers. Preliminary results from those surveys will also be available today.

The study was commissioned after the City Council decided this February to ban commercial tubing on the upper stretch of the Yampa. The council agreed to undertake the $50,000 study and $25,000 worth of river modifications comprised in part of placing boulders in the river to channelize it and create habitats with the intent of revisiting the issue after the tubing season. River users also contributed to the modifications, paying a total of $8,000 in user fees. The extent of the study was determined by Open Space Supervisor Mike Neumann, along with members of various river-user groups and the consultants.

"This will give us the factual basis to determine whether or not there are impacts occurring and what the relative health of the river is," Neumann said. "That then can serve as the basis for informed policy making."

Ecologists measured variables such as stream flow, the chemical composition of the river and the health of organisms in the river.

Nonetheless, the tubing controversy may remain unresolved.

The study will not necessarily tell the city whether the tubing operations are detrimental to the health of the river they may tell the city whether the river is suffering and offer some clues as to why that may be, said Celine Pliessnig, an ecologist with the consulting group.

"There are so many users," Pliessnig said. "How are you supposed to determine who's doing what?"

Councilman Ken Brenner agreed, noting that while the tubing decision was an important one that must be revisited, it is not the only policy decision the study could influence. The effects of storm water drainage and runoff from construction sites, in addition to stream flow issues, are all on the table for the city to consider, he said.

"Tubing may seem like a fairly insignificant thing compared to some of the implications," Brenner said.

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