The Alliance and our partners have been working for years to secure these instream protections for the Dolores vital to the native fish and overall health of the river. This is a big win! We were disappointed that our local Southwest Water Conservation District, the organization that is supposed to represent our community’s water interests, opposed this instream flow for the Dolores. Thankfully, the state water board demonstrated their support with a unanimous vote.
See the full Press Release below.
Water Board Decision Protects Dolores River and Instream Flows
CWCB Seeks Water Rights for Environment on Dolores River
BOULDER, CO (September 16, 2015) – Yesterday afternoon the Colorado Water Conservation Board rendered a unanimous decision to seek a water right on the Dolores River to protect fish and wildlife, securing up to 900 cfs of water during spring peak flows, as well as essential winter base flows, on one reach in western Colorado’s Red Rock Country. This will help prevent three native fish in the Dolores River from becoming threatened or endangered species. The reach slated for the largest instream flow protection on the river to date is near the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway between Gateway and Uravan Colorado.
“We’re so pleased with the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s unanimous vote securing water for fish and wildlife on this magnificent river in Colorado’s Red Rock Canyon country,” said Rob Harris, Staff Attorney at Western Resource Advocates (WRA) and lead advocate for WRA as well as Conservation Colorado Education Fund (CCEF) and San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA). “Healthy rivers are important for wildlife and recreation. Fishermen, boaters, and wildlife lovers can celebrate this decision that will help keep water flowing in the Dolores for generations to come.”
The Board heard testimony opposing this water right that asked for water for unspecified future urban or agricultural water demands. The Board determined these requests for withholding water from this instream flow water right were speculative and unfounded. Now the Board will approach the state water court to secure the water right and it appears at this time that it should be a straightforward process.
“We thank the Colorado Water Conservation Board, for continuing to support instream flows to meet conservation needs,” said Kate Graham, Deputy Organizing Director at Conservation Colorado Education Fund. “The instream flow water program continues to provide balanced solutions that benefit everyone. This program is essential in ensuring that water continues to flow through Colorado’s rivers”
The Dolores River is a refuge for three native fishes that are struggling to survive (Flannelmouth Sucker, Bluehead Sucker, and Roundtail Chub). Without dedicated instream flows these native fish could require protective action under the federal Endangered Species Act. The river also anchors a remote desert oasis and offers plentiful recreation opportunities.
“We are proud of the part we’ve played defending this proposed instream flow water right,” said Jimbo Buickerood, Public Lands Coordinator at San Juan Citizens Alliance. “We believe this decision not only protects the beautiful Dolores River, but affirms the use of this vital tool to leave a legacy of healthy rivers throughout Colorado. We thank the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and our tireless partners in the conservation community who helped make today’s victory possible.”
Instream water rights help keep water in a river or lake. The rights dedicate minimum water flows between specific points to preserve or improve the natural environment. These can be used to protect fisheries, waterfowl, frogs/salamanders, unique geologic or hydrologic features and habitat for threatened or endangered fish. The rights can be monitored and enforced, thereby insuring long-term protections.