The recent announcement of those in opposition to the city's Recreational In-Channel Diversion water right application for the C-hole on the Yampa River should not take anyone by surprise.
This vision of keeping water in the river for recreational and environmental benefits is difficult for many to perceive. Throughout Colorado and in the Yampa Valley, the use of water has historically been off-stream and often consumptive in nature. Using water for agricultural, municipal and industrial needs has always come first and foremost, which has been necessary, allowing our community to develop into what it is today.
But times have changed; we now live in a world where kayaks and rafts are as important as the horse and coal. Our local recreation and tourism industry are equal to agriculture and mining as the Yampa Valley's top employers.
As more and more people move into this valley or choose to vacation here, in-stream river-based activities such as kayaking, rafting, fly-fishing and tubing will become an even more essential part of the local economy and the lifestyle choice of this community.
The city of Steamboat Springs recognizes this and by improving the river with features such as the C-hole and D-hole, and now by applying for this RICD, it is working hard to support the world-class recreational activities that drive our economy, lifestyle and the environment that exists in the Yampa Valley.
Maintaining adequate river flows by means of this RICD will make sure that, when it's available, water will be in the river to satisfy these improvements and the activities that require water for a satisfactory and reasonable experience. The most endearing part about it is that these flows are nonconsumptive, allowing for water to stay in the river, which benefits the health of the entire ecosystem and our community.
If this water right stands up in court, the recreational and subsequent environmental benefits of keeping water in the Yampa River will become equal to the agricultural, municipal and industrial water uses that now influence the flows of the Yampa River.
As the RICD process continues, it will become more and more important for those who believe in the city's RICD application to become more outspoken and organized.
The city has taken a giant step here and will need the support. The city's filing for the RICD is just one step toward defining the future of the Yampa River; a future where agriculture, municipal growth, industry, recreation and the environment coexist as equals, sharing what water we have to support a balanced and fruitful Yampa Valley economy.