Showers provide some relief

Voluntary recreational closure remains in effect on Yampa River

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The cool weather and rain showers that came through the valley overnight Tuesday eased drought conditions, but not enough to change the city's voluntary closure of the Yampa River for recreational activities.

"I have a feeling the voluntary closure will more than likely take us into the fall," said Chris Wilson, city director of parks, open space and recreational services.

The city formally asked commercial tubing companies and the public to get out of the water Aug. 5. The request is intended to protect the river environment and is based on a combination of criteria spelled out in the Yampa River Management Plan. The criteria include high water temperatures, low flows and resulting low dissolved oxygen content in the Yampa. The voluntary ban applies to tubing and other flotation devices, dogs and swimming.

However, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has not asked for a voluntary fishing ban as it did in the summer of 2002, Wilson said. DOW personnel informally have endorsed the city's action.

Wilson said there are more layers of criteria and approval required before the state agency can suspend fishing privileges. And state and city officials are less concerned with the effects of fishing activity because anglers generally use deeper stretches of river, which are less susceptible to harm.

City Council President Paul Strong said he had a conversation with City Manager Paul Hughes about the possibility of seeking the release of city water from Fish Creek Reservoir in an effort to bolster flows in the town stretch of the river. Those conversations were very recent, and no conclusions were reached, Strong said.

Measurements taken at the Fifth Street Bridge show the Yampa crested 75 degrees Monday with flows of 35 cubic feet per second that were more than 100 cfs below the historical average. Tuesday night's rainfall boosted the flow to just more than 50 cfs and dropped the daily high temperature in the river to about 71 degrees, still too warm to be healthy for trout.

Despite the adverse conditions Tuesday, trout were visible at noon under an overcast sky on the town section of the Yampa, eagerly slurping mayflies off the surface of the water.

The city's river-management plan calls for commercial tubing operators to discontinue the activity when flows drop below 85 cfs. Further, the plan states that any time the maximum water temperature exceeds 75 degrees for two or more consecutive days, or when dissolved oxygen levels average less than 6 milligrams per liter during a 48-hour period, the city may close the river to some recreational uses.

The city did not need to impose the voluntary closure in 2003.

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