Our View: The river runs through us

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— The Yampa River may be the most important, and most overlooked, natural resource in Steamboat Springs. It was therefore encouraging last week to hear the preliminary recommendations for a Yampa River Structures Master Plan commissioned by the city.

While we can already hear the grumblings from some residents questioning the necessity and cost of another consultant-funded study, we think this is a plan well worth its $68,000 price tag.

The six-mile "town stretch" of the Yampa River is a year-round playground for residents and tourists who seek solace and recreation in fishing, kayaking, tubing or just enjoying the peacefulness of naturally flowing fresh water. But what we often forget is that the Yampa River is a 250-mile network of life-sustaining ecosystems that stretches from its beginnings in the Flat Tops Wilderness to its confluence with the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument.

Here in Steamboat Springs, the river is an economic asset and important factor in our quality of life. The former will grow in importance as our downtown corridor is redeveloped into a premier shopping, dining and arts center. Yampa Street, with its river frontage, figures to play an important role in that transformation. Indeed, we're already seeing that vision come to fruition with projects such as Riverwalk.

This brings us to the Yampa River Structures Master Plan, not to be confused with the Yampa River Management Plan completed several years ago. While the management plan specifically addressed river recreation and conflicts between user groups, the structures plan focuses on river health as well as recreational components.

Ecological Resource Consultants presented a draft of the plan Thursday night to about three dozen interested community members and local officials at Centennial Hall. In essence, the plan calls for $3.8 million in improvements to the town stretch of the river. Those improvements include stabilizing areas affected by riverbank erosion, improving streamside vegetation, installing streamflow meters and repairing several whitewater boating features.

We're not ready to endorse nearly $4 million in river improvements, but we wholeheartedly support the idea of allocating resources to maintain the health of the river well into the future. As Steamboat Springs continues to grow up around the river that runs through it, the impacts of development and population increases are inevitable.

"You're going to see those impacts, whether it's increasing water temperatures or increased pollutant runoff from city streets," noted Craig Robinson, the city's open space supervisor.

The city already has taken steps to protect its share of the river, including filing a water right known as a recreational in-channel diversion. Taking additional steps to protect such a valuable natural resource is only logical.

We can't assign a dollar value to the Yampa River. We can, however, take action now to ensure it remains healthy and viable for generations to come. Our quality of life and, to an extent, our economic well-being depend on it.

Comments

tom bedell 6 years, 7 months ago

i have a couple points of concern. first, are all those beautiful cottonwoods lining the river going to fit in with the new development plans? second, heated driveways and sidewalks dump surprising ammounts of warm water into the Yampa, not too good for the ecosystem.

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andymanout 6 years, 7 months ago

Isolating and treating the water that washes over our buildings and streets into the river is a significant way to protect the Yampa from our presence.

Educating the public as to the effects of chemicles used on autos and water craft, that wash into the river, will ease the damage over the long haul.

This development could have provisions for this run off, at least along its length. When the riverwalk is built they could do so in a way that insures nothing can flow over it from our city streets into the Yampa. Perhaps even collect the run off and treat it prior to releasing it as irragation water.

Andyman Out.

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