Residents fight for right to water

Recreational designation would help keep Yampa flowing

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A Colorado Supreme Court Decision sparked two residents to ask the city to step-up its research on acquiring recreational water rights.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court passed down a 3-3 decision to recognize recreational water rights, which would allow Golden, Vail and Breckenridge to fill their rivers for whitewater kayaking courses.

With the court's decision to recognize recreational water rights on the same ground as other water rights, former City Councilman Ken Brenner came before the City Council urging it put high priority on researching the purchase of recreational water rights.

"The river really is and always has been the major component to our reaction," Brenner said.

Brenner said if the city acquired recreational water rights it could keep a minimum in-stream flow in the Yampa as it runs through Steamboat, which would protect the river habitat and provide the water needed for kayaking, fishing and tubing.

Peter Van de Carr, owner of Backdoor Sports, also urged the council to look into acquiring recreational water rights for a section of the river that has seen thousands of dollars in improvements.

"The benefits are huge," Van de Carr said. "We just built a new (kayaking) feature right near the library and it has already become a state-renowned feature."

Recreational water rights would ensure that the Yampa River through Steamboat would have a minimum in-stream flow to allow for recreation uses. None of that water would be diverted out of the river and could be used farther down the river.

However, maintaining in-stream water flow would require taking water from the Stagecoach Reservoir or expanding the water storage capacity.

Brenner said he was told researching recreational water rights was a priority for the city staff this winter, but he has yet to hear anything.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich said plans are for him and the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Director Chris Wilson to meet with water experts in July and one of the discussion items will be recreational water rights.

The city has been waiting to hear the outcome of the Supreme Court decision, he said. He expected research could take longer than a month.


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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