U.S. Geological Survey hydrologic technician Kevin Murphy measures the Yampa River gauge height in October 2008 at the measuring site located at the Fifth Street Bridge. The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted to expand the number of water-quality monitoring sites on the upper Yampa for 2012.

Photo by Matt Stensland

U.S. Geological Survey hydrologic technician Kevin Murphy measures the Yampa River gauge height in October 2008 at the measuring site located at the Fifth Street Bridge. The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted to expand the number of water-quality monitoring sites on the upper Yampa for 2012.

Water-quality tests on Yampa River expand to 5 sites

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The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $9,071 and join four other local governmental agencies to bolster the number of water-quality monitoring sites on the upper Yampa River for 2012.

“We’ve all felt that we have good clean water in the valley, but it’s critical that the city and county started this process so that we can measure any material degradation” in the quality of the water flowing through the Yampa, Board of Commissioners Chairman Doug Monger said.

The program is being undertaken in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, which will contribute the majority of the $50,000 cost of monitoring the new stations. It will cover all field and analytical work.

Joining the county and Steamboat Springs in the local funding are the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, Mount Werner Water District and Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District. Like the county, the city and the Conservancy District will contribute $9,071. Mount Werner Water and Morrison Creek Water each will contribute $2,268.

The new water-quality monitoring sites are in addition to the water-quality measuring site maintained by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment at the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat since 2007. Now, samples at five sites will be tested for chemical content, nutrients, E. coli and alkalinity, among other properties.

Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said Routt County had budgeted for an expenditure of $12,000 for the expanded water-quality monitoring sites. However, the U.S. Geological Survey recently agreed to reduce local project costs by increasing its project match to $18,250, or 37 percent of the $50,000 project cost. That will save all of the participating entities on their own contributions.

Zopf added that he expects to receive recommendations in the near future from the U.S. Geological Survey about a program to monitor water quality in aquifers in the valley, which could lead to monitoring groundwater quality, as well as surface-water quality.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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