Steamboat Springs Yampa River tubing outfitter Pete Van De Carr was hoping for rain Friday on the cusp of what he said is historically the busiest weekend of the summer for his Backdoor Sports business in downtown Steamboat Springs.
The river on Friday morning dropped below the 85 cubic feet per second threshold required for commercial tubing operators in town to rent tubes to locals and visitors hoping to cool off by floating the river. By midafternoon, the river was down to 78 cfs.
“If it rains tonight, we’ll be up and running,” Van De Carr said about the chances for Saturday tubing.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction is calling for a chance of thunderstorms through Tuesday.
The 85 cfs threshold is dictated by the Yampa River Management Plan. A voluntary fishing ban remains in effect for the town stretch of the Yampa River. Private tubing, kayaking and swimming also are included in the voluntary ban that takes effect when the river’s flow dips below 85 cfs.
Van De Carr says he supports closing the river during low flows to protect its ecosystems, but he acknowledged that many families visiting Steamboat will be disappointed if they can’t get on the river this weekend.
“An 80-year-old grandma can do it as well as 2-year-old junior,” Van De Carr said about tubing. “It’s such an awesome family event, and they come back year after year to do this.”
About 120 soccer teams from across the region and around the country have converged on Steamboat for the 28th annual Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament. Last year’s tournament helped boost local lodging properties to 83 percent capacity for the weekend.
It was only a week ago that tubing was again permitted on the Yampa River, which has experienced historically low flows this summer resulting from a paltry — and now nonexistent — high-country snowpack and continued drought conditions. Additional water releases from Stagecoach Reservoir helped boost flows in the river, and a couple of powerful monsoon storms late last week combined to push the river’s flows above 100 cfs.
Efforts are being made to keep the river at healthy levels.
The Colorado Water Trust agreed June 25 to pay $140,000 to the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District to lease 4,000 acre-feet of water from Stagecoach Reservoir. That water began flowing out of the reservoir June 28 and is expected to contribute about 26 cfs to the Yampa through September.
There also is a proposal to release water from Lake Catamount.
The Catamount Homeowners Association has offered to donate 500 acre-feet of water from the lake, but it needs the city of Steamboat to move its 500 acre-feet of emergency reserves currently located at Stagecoach downstream to Lake Catamount.
Steamboat Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said Friday the agreement needs to be put onto paper, and City Council members would make the decision during their meeting Tuesday.
“We feel like it’s a win-win for everyone to do this,” Hinsvark said.