BIG WIN: State Water Court Upholds Instream Flow for the Dolores

By April 9, 2018 Rivers
The Dolores River

We’re celebrating! The Colorado state water court has upheld the instream water right instituted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the Dolores River in 2015. The standard was primarily intended to protect three struggling native fish populations, but will benefit a wide variety of other wildlife, recreation and economies dependent on a healthy river.

Sadly, the Southwest Water Conservation District (SWCD) used our tax payer dollars to challenge the new standard. We’ll continue our work to both fight for permanent protections for our rivers as well as to advocate for transparency, accountability, and the value of conserving water in the river for fish and wildlife.

Durango Herald Article

See our full press release with partners below.


News Release

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Conservation Groups Celebrate Water Decision for Dolores River

State Water Court Affirms Instream Flow

(April 6, 2018)– Western Resource Advocates, Conservation Colorado Education Fund, and San Juan Citizens Alliance celebrated a state water court decision today granting a Colorado Water Conservation Board instream flow water right on the Dolores River to protect fish and wildlife in Western Colorado.

“We are pleased with the state water court’s decision to secure water for fish and wildlife on the Dolores River in Western Colorado’s red rock 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, recreation and critical for local economies. This decision will benefit, fishermen, boaters, and wildlife lovers and will help keep water flowing in the Dolores for generations to come.”

The court ruling secures up to 900 cubic feet per second of water during spring peak flows, as well as essential winter flows. 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 is near the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway between Gateway and Uravan, Colorado.

“We thank the Colorado Water Conservation Board, for continuing to support instream flows to meet conservation needs,” said Kristin Green, Water Advocate, at Conservation Colorado Education Fund. “The instream flow water program is an essential instrument with benefits to agriculture water users and wildlife alike and ensures that water will continue 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 establishing this instream flow water right,” said Jimbo Buickerood, Lands and Forest Protection Program Manager 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.

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Western Resource Advocates works to protect the West’s land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance with nature.. WRA’s team of scientists, lawyers, and economists craft and implement innovative solutions to the most complex natural resource challenges in the region. For more information visit www.westernresourceadvocates.org and follow us on Twitter @WRADV.

Conservation Colorado protects Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. Go to www.conservationco.org.

San Juan Citizens Alliance advocates for clean air, pure water, and healthy lands – the foundations of resilient communities, ecosystems and economies in the San Juan Basin. Go to www.sanjuancitizens.org

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