Talk to address Yampa water use, recreation and environment | SteamboatToday.com

Talk to address Yampa water use, recreation and environment

Margaret Hair

— As part of a non-consumptive water use assessment for the Yampa River, local water expert Kent Vertrees is leading an effort to define the river’s recreational and environmental attributes.

“Really the goal would be to build a tool for the basin which could be utilized for future water supply decisions,” said Vertrees, a member of the Steamboat Springs Water Commission.

The assessment would identify critical river reaches for recreational and environmental needs, such as boating, fishing and maintaining water levels for life in the river.

“So let’s say we want to build a new reservoir upstream. They would look at this assessment and say that in 2008, we identified this incredible trout fishery at the base of the reservoir,” Vertrees said. “We think this is a high priority to maintain, we want to do our best to maintain that.”

Vertrees and Geoff Blakeslee of the Nature Conservancy will go over possible methods and outcomes for the non-consumptive use proposal and give a timeline of where it’s going in a ‘Soup Session’ lecture and discussion from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at Olympian Hall. Yampatika is presenting the event, which includes soup and dessert.

Blakeslee, a local representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said the assessment was originally proposed to the Yampa/White River Roundtable in October 2006 and is “still very much in the works.” Outside experts will help identify targets and provide analysis of the reaches picked out for their recreational or environmental attributes, he said.

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“Then we want to look at what condition these reaches are in and what kind of emerging trends are out there that could potentially affect these river reaches,” Blakeslee said, pointing out the proposed Yampa Pumpback, a potential project by a Front Range water district that would pump Yampa River water from reservoirs near Maybell across the Continental Divide, as one of those emerging trends.

“We want to understand if something like that were to happen, how future consumptive water uses would affect those reaches that we’re going to be identifying,” he said.

Vertrees said the assessment could be done within a year but might take longer than that. The Yampa River Basin study will serve as a template for similar assessments across the state, Vertrees said. Once it’s complete, the non-consumptive report would be used to tweak future consumptive projects.

“All of our non-consumptive needs are a part of the equation along with our consumptive needs,” Vertrees said.

The Yampatika talk is the second in a three-part lecture series. On March 20, Andy Cadenhead, supervisory forester for the U.S. Forest Service, will talk about how pine beetles are affecting the health of local forests.

– To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204

or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.

If you go

What: “Water in the West,” a Soup Session lecture and discussion presented by Yampatika

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Olympian Hall, Howelsen Hill Lodge

Cost: $12 includes soup and dessert

Call: 871-9151