Foundation for Water Education leads tour in Routt and Moffat counties this month

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— More than 50 people from across Colorado — among them elected officials and educators — will be in Routt and Moffat counties June 11 to 13 to learn about water supply issues in the Yampa River Basin. The timing of the host for the 2014 Yampa River Basin Tour, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, could not have been better.

The Yampa and Elk rivers should begin descending from their seasonal peak next week, Fish Creek Falls will be showing off in a big way and the sheer abundance of water flowing through the basin will be impossible to overlook.

The members of the Yampa/White/Green river basin roundtable also are crunching facts this month and next as they strive to meet a deadline to turn in a preliminary water plan that will be incorporated into a new statewide water plan.

Among the the factors they are trying to take into consideration are the difficult calculations on how much water the municipal, agricultural, energy sectors along with non-consumptive uses like recreation and the natural environment will need 50 years into the future.

Roundtable member Geoff Blakeslee said Wednesday that if there’s one thing he wants to impress on the guests of the water tour, it’s that this basin has its own needs for water.

And as the member of the roundtable representing the need to set aside some water to foster a healthy environment, he said, “We want to protect the environmental attributes we'll all appreciate.”

His special areas of concern, Blakeslee said, are making sure the non-consumptive water uses of recreation and the environment are not harmed in the new statewide plan.

“When people want water for human consumption, the first thing to go by the way is environmental and recreation needs,” he said.

The tour begins at mid-day June 11 with optional activities including a guided rafting trip along the Morgan Bottom section of the Yampa River, a fly-fishing clinic with Steamboat Flyfisher and a tour of Twentymile Coal Mine’s restoration project.

Thursday begins with a series of addresses at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort including an introduction to the Yampa River Basin with a history of water development here, native hydrology and riparian issues. Speakers include the Foundation’s Program Manager Kristin Maharg, local water attorney Tom Sharp, and John Sanderson, a fresh water ecologist with the Nature Conservancy.

Also Thursday morning, Kevin McBride, of the Upper Yampa WAter Conservancy District, and Brian Romig, of the Colorado Division of Water Resources, will talk about multiple uses of water, water administration and measurement.

Following a lunch at Moffat County’s Elkhead Reservoir and State Park, Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe; Jackie Brown, of the Routt County Conservation District; Tom Chart, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servicel; and Dan Birch, of the Colorado River District, will all speak.

Registered participants can find the complete itinerary here.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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