Yampa River users’ input sought through surveys

American Whitewater working to assess flow rates

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The American Whitewater survey about flow rates and recreation on the Yampa River is available on its website, www.americanwhitewater.org. Scroll down to the article “AW Launches Flow Study for Yampa River” to view a summary of the study and take the survey.

— Regional water groups are partnering with American Whitewater to conduct an online survey of Yampa River users to gather input about flow rates needed for recreation on the river.

Survey results will be part of an extensive multiyear assessment of demands on the Yampa and could be used in future discussions of water policy and resource management.

“This recreational flow survey is definitely something that’s pretty exciting for us,” said Kent Vertrees, a recreational representative on the Yampa/White River Basin Roundtable. “It’s just one of the components of the environmental and recreational nonconsumptive needs (assessments) of our basin.”

The roundtable is a group of regional water experts and river users that works with state officials to guide long-term water policy. Vertrees said the Yampa/White group has reviewed energy, municipal and agricultural needs on Northwest Colorado’s primary waterway and also is focusing on recreation.

“Those folks who know the rivers — the Yampa, White and Green — please, take this survey,” Vertrees said. “The more people, the better.”

The survey will be online for the next few weeks at www.americanwhitewater.org. American Whitewater is a national nonprofit organization that works to preserve and enhance whitewater resources.

“We have developed this survey so individuals can help American Whitewater represent recreational interests in deciding what the future of the Yampa and White rivers will look like,” states an American Whitewater article posted online with the survey link. “Our goal is to utilize information from the survey to help us quantify flow preferences for whitewater boating, which will identify the range of flows necessary to provide whitewater recreation experiences, from technical low-water to challenging high-water trips.”

Vertrees acknowledged a concern that some survey res­ponders might think fudging numbers could help increase or reduce future flow rates.

“We, of course, want people to be honest and trustworthy in their survey — do not lie about certain flows,” Vertrees said. “This needs to be an honest and trustworthy report.”

He said the survey is not a mechanism for potential changes to the city’s recreational in-channel diversion water right, but rather simply another source of data for an overall, state-required assessment of river use.

“This has nothing to do with the recreational water right or establishing water rights in the future,” Vertrees said. “This is basically a study that the roundtable is doing to comply with what the state asked us to do, way back in 2005.”

Flow rates vary widely along the Yampa, according to factors including season and location.

At Cross Mountain Canyon in western Moffat County, for example, Vertrees said flows can range from expert-level rates of as much as 4,000 cubic feet per second, to advanced boating experiences at 2,500 cf/s and easier boating at 1,000 cf/s.

Vertrees said survey responses are requested from boaters who use all parts of the Yampa River system, from the Steamboat Springs town stretch to Utah.

“We want people to put numbers in based on their own experience,” he said.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

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