Yampa River contract awarded

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— The city has awarded an $18,586 Yampa River monitoring contract to Hydro-Environmental Solutions Inc. of Steamboat Springs.

The effort to gather baseline data on the river's health within the city limits was called for in the Yampa River Management Plan adopted last year.

"The monitoring program is the heart and soul of the river management plan," city trails and opens space coordinator Mike Neumann said. "If we aren't doing the monitoring, we have no way of objectively determining whether we're meeting the goals of the plan. Without monitoring, we can't know if conditions are improving or declining. I'm really pleased to find a qualified local candidate."

Hydrologist John Weinman started Hydro-Environmental Solutions early this year after ending a 10-year career with Steamboat-based environmental engineering firm MWH. His former employer works with clients on a global basis.

Weinman said he is excited to take on the work of monitoring conditions on the town stretch of the Yampa River. His one-year contract calls for him to, among other things, test the river water regularly for dissolved oxygen content and traces of metals. He will subcontract with a Denver firm, Chadwick Ecological Consultants, to sample macro invertebrate life in the river later this summer.

Neumann said the numbers and diversity of aquatic invertebrates, such as insects, residing near the base of the food chain, provide a good indication of the river's overall biological health.

Initial surveys done for the Yampa River Management Plan revealed that invertebrate life is much more abundant in the section of river above Fifth Street than it is downstream in the vicinity of the James Brown Sould Center of the Universe Bridge, for example.

Weinman's firm also will poll various types of recreational river users about their perceptions of the quality of experience they are having on the river. The contract was awarded too late this season to survey paddlers during high streamflows on the river. However, the survey will sample anglers and tubers this year and account for paddlers early next summer.

During a recent meeting of the city Rivers and Trails Committee, members suggested that people who enjoy the banks of the river without actually getting wet should be included in the user surveys, Neumann said.

Neumann said the city received four proposals from companies interested in doing the river monitoring and three were competitive, including the proposal from EDAW, the original consultant that worked on the management plan. However, Weinman's firm was the low bidder on the project and offered the advantage of always being on site, Neumann said. That offers the flexibility to conduct spot monitoring when river conditions warrant.

Weinman studied watershed sciences in the College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. He has developed areas of specialty in wildland hydrology, water quality and environmental investigation.

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