Denver, Colo: Calendar year 2013 was an important one for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program (Recovery Program). Water previously provided from Williams Fork and Wolford reservoirs to benefit endangered fish recovery was replaced with permanent sources.
“East and west slope Colorado River water users came together to cooperatively resolve environmental commitments so that both protection and development of water can continue in Western Colorado,” said Tom Chart, Recovery Program Director.”
When agreements expired between water users and the Recovery Program to annually supply 10,825 acre-feet of water from a pool stored for endangered fish species, permanent replacement sources of water needed to be identified. East and west slope water users mutually agreed to provide replacement water. The capital cost of the water is estimated at approximately $25 million. The longer term agreement dedicating water to endangered fish recovery ensures that traditional non-consumptive water uses and future water development in the upper Colorado River Basin will continue in compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act.
East and West Slope water providers collaborated to analyze and compare a wide range of alternatives to meet the late summer and early fall flow obligations. A Steering Committee made up of a broad coalition of water providers identified options for providing a permanent water source. After examining 25 different possibilities, water users selected permanent storage supported by commitments from both sides of the Continental Divide for 5,412.5 acre-feet from Ruedi Reservoir and 5,412.5 acre-feet from Granby Reservoir. The releases from Granby Reservoir will also benefit flow conditions and water quality upstream of endangered fish habitat.
Final contracts for these permanent sources were completed in time to release water to support river flows during the summer and fall of 2013.
“Under the Recovery Program, water for endangered fish is provided in accordance with state water law and interstate water compacts. The 10825 agreements are consistent with this approach”, said Tom Pitts, water user representative to the Recovery Program.
The list of collaborators is long and includes the federal Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Colorado, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and numerous east and west slope water users.
The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is a cooperative partnership of local, state and federal agencies, water organizations, power customers and environmental groups established in 1988 to recover the endangered fishes while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts.