City debates water board

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— Are the Yampa River's C and D kayaking holes world-class water features?

The city of Steamboat Springs and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are attempting to answer that question. The two sides faced each other in court Tuesday -- Day 2 of a scheduled seven-day trial about the city's recreational water right application.

In December 2003, the city filed for a recreational water right on the C and D kayaking holes. Recreational water rights ensure a minimum stream flow in a waterway for recreational uses. The application is called a RICD, or recreational in-channel diversion, application.

The board opposes the city's water right application because it says the application fails to meet two requirements.

In her opening statement Monday, Susan Schneider, an attorney representing the water board, said the city is reaching too far by defining the boating park features as world-class structures.

The city's witnesses included Kent Vertrees, a manager at Blue Sky West, a company that rents tubes and rafts. Vertrees said his company is dependent on the boating park, which is another name for kayaking holes C and D.

The holes provide the best action on the river, he said.

"The C and D holes are the highlight of the trip," Vertrees said about tubing the Yampa River.

Vertrees said the boating park draws spectators who take photographs of their friends as they float, and it's also the area many people check out before renting a tube or raft.

"The features that we have are world-class," he said.

Schneider asked Vertrees several questions about the class rating and price of Blue Sky West's rafting and tubing trips. She pointed out that the higher-priced trips are of higher class ratings than the trips that take people through the boating park.

Vertrees said that world-class boating experiences don't come with a certain rating.

"A world-class feature can be on all sorts of flows," he said.

Also testifying was Steamboat Springs City Council member Ken Brenner, who is representing the council during the trial.

Brenner said that with the city's ski area and other elements, Steamboat carries with it a world-class culture.

"It's a culture that you can't just create," Brenner said.

Schneider asked Brenner why the city did not include the words "world class" in a document related to the water features.

Brenner said the idea of world class is inherent when it comes to the boating park.

"Anything other than that would make no sense," he said.

The trial continues today in District Water Court.

To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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