Yampa River advocate joins water conservancy board

Ken Brenner, president of Friends of the Yampa, appointed to position

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Ken Brenner

— Longtime Steamboat Springs water advocate Ken Brenner was named to the Board of Directors of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District this spring to fill the seat vacated by Dan Birch.

Chief District Judge Michael O’Hara appointed Brenner in April after Birch, an employee of the Colorado River Conservation District, moved to Glenwood Springs, where his office is. It was the third time Brenner had applied for the position.

“The last time I applied the judge was very flattering and urged me to apply again,” Brenner said. “I’ve attended as many water meetings at the state level as I could. I think water is one of the most critical issues not only for our long-term economic stability but for the overall health of the valley.”

Brenner also is president of the not-for-profit group Friends of the Yampa, which is pursuing grants for river improvement projects.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, who also is president of the Conservancy District board, said he expects Brenner to contribute to the board’s outreach efforts to determine how it can best support local government.

“Ken will be a good addition; he’ll bring a different perspective.” Monger said.

Brenner, a former Steamboat Springs City Council president, was a strong advocate in favor of the city’s establishment of a water right known as a recreational in-channel diversion, a water right designed to keep sufficient flows in the Steamboat Springs town stretch of the Yampa for floating sports.

The Conservancy District had opposed the RICD vigorously. Monger said the district’s opposition was based on the amount of water sought in the RICD, not the RICD in principle.

Brenner promotes keeping enough water in the Yampa to allow healthy plant and animal communities as well as protecting the recreation and related economic benefits of water sports.

“I am an advocate for nonconsumptive uses,” he said.

And Monger said the prevailing outlook on nonconsumptive uses of water environmental and recreational flows has been evolving during the past decade.

The old days of naming winners and loses in terms of consumptive and nonconsumptive uses of water have gone by the wayside, he said.

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