49% of Steamboat residents: City’s care for Yampa River is ‘essential’ service | SteamboatToday.com

49% of Steamboat residents: City’s care for Yampa River is ‘essential’ service

The city's management of the health of the Yampa River near Steamboat Springs is rated "essential" by 49 percent of residents and "very important" to another 39 percent of those responding to a formal survey.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When it comes to city services, Steamboat Springs residents value the importance of managing the health of the Yampa River almost as much as they value snow removal, and that's saying something.

City of Steamboat Springs Water Resource Manager Kelly Romero-Heaney and Julie Baxter, a consultant working on a new Yampa River Health Assessment and Streamflow Plan, take it as a positive sign that 49 percent of respondents to the 2017 Community Survey ranked the river's health as “essential,” and another 39 percent deem it "very important" for a combined score of 88 percent.

In case you're curious, snow removal achieved a score of 92 percent.

Asked to rank the importance of city services, respondents to the survey ranked, "in order the most essential services were drinking water, ambulance or emergency medical services, fire services, snow removal and the health of the Yampa," Baxter said before a group of about 25 people at Townie's in Steamboat Springs Oct. 26, and she speculated there would be a good turnout for a larger community workshop Nov. 6.

The new plan will take a long look at the health of the river in a stretch from the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area upstream from the city limits, all the way down to the city's wastewater treatment plant. The plan is due to go to Steamboat Springs City Council for its consideration in May 2018.

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Also in the works in the coming months, City of Steamboat Parks, Open Space and Trails Manager Craig Robinson told the gathering that an update to the Yampa River Management Plan, a separate study of the Yampa's recreational and open space qualities, was also in the works in the coming months.

"Since that time, private tubing blew up," Robinson said.

Taking the Yampa's temperature

Baxter, who is a senior associate with Acclivity Associates in Denver, said her colleagues in the science fields will divide the river into segments and study everything from it flow regime (the variability of its flows over the course of a year), sediment water chemistry and suspended organic material.

One of the biggest mysteries her team has encountered as it begins to look at the health of the river is that water temperature is warmer than is typical for most mountain streams. It is difficult to identify the cause, she said, in light of the fact that the various tributaries are introducing colder water to the main stem of the water.

"I think sometimes we can lull ourselves into thinking the Yampa is healthy," Heaney said. "But there are a lot of unknowns. Temperature is an example."

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

If you go:

What: Yampa River Stream Management Plan Workshop

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6

Where: Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave.

Details: Pizza provided

Info: Kelly Romero-Heaney, kromeroheaney@steamboatsprings.net