It's winter, so less than usual is going on in terms of volunteer opportunities in our local TU Chapter. We're still fishing and tying flies, but don't have any of our "on the ground and in the river" proects currently in progress.
In the spring of 2019, we're planning another willow harvesting and planting project along Ranch Creek near Tabernash. Tentative dates are Saturday, May 4, 2019 for harvesting and May 18 for planting. Stay tuned for details and sign-up information.
Of course, everyone is always welcome at our monthly board meetings. We normally meet the second Wednesday of each month at Fraser's Crooked Creek Saloon at 6 PM in the back room. Click here for our calendar of events. You'll need to contribute to the beer fund.
If you'd like to be an active participant in our chapter's activities, contact a board member from our list here.
Highest Recent Big Thompson Diversion
Northern Water's diversion year ending October 31, 2018 show the largest water diversion from Grand County via the Colorado Big Thompson project since 2012. About 225,000 acre feet of water was sent from Grand County to the Front Range. Northern's reservoir levels are close to average for this time of the year. These heavy water withdrawls contribute to low flows in our rivers and the declining levels in Lake Powell (see article below). To learn more, go to Northern's website by clicking here.
Low Flows Impact Lake Powell
With a rapidly growing population and years combining record-setting heat and drought, water flows in the Colorado are down dramatically. One of the results of that unfortunate combination is a huge drop in water levels in Lakes Powell and Mead. In an average year, Lake Powell receives 10.8 million acre feet of water from the Colorado. In 2018, it was a frighteningly low 4.62 million acre feet. To learn more, read Water Education Colorado's October 25, 2018 article from Nelson Harvey by clicking here.
Kirk Klancke Interview on Public Radio October 3, 2018
The president of our local Trout Unlimited Chapter, Kirk Klancke, was interviewed for a feature story on Denver's Colorado Public Radio. Kirk and others discussed the importance of conservation in their voting decisions. You can read the text of the interview and see photos or listen to the audio by clicking here.
Colorado Headwaters Connectivity Project
A project is underway to reconnect portions of the Upper Colorado at the Windy Gap Reservoir and nearby areas. The Windy Gap Dam area of the Colorado and Fraser rivers in the vicinity have suffered over the years from the impacts of the dam, weirs and the Granby Diversion. The combined impact of the present structures has been to prevent the normal movement of fish and other aquatic life in the area. Another result has been the "armoring" of the river bed below Windy Gap Dam, resulting in what amounts to a dead zone below the dam.
On August 15, 2018, a Public Scoping Open House for the Colorado River Headwaters Connectivity Project was held in Granby. The meeting was well-publicized and open to everyone. About 15 interested people attended the informative meeting. Most attendees were stakeholders with a serious interest in the proposed process. At the meeting, they had an opportunity to share their thoughts about the proposed Windy Gap by-pass and other issues impacting connectivity on the upper Colorado River. TU strongly supports the proposed Windy Gap By-Pass and improvements to the Fraser River and is one of the sponsors of the project. Although there were questions and concerns expressed, everyone in the room seemed enthusiastic about the proposal. There was some concern about "the Devil being in the details" but the tone of the crowd was optimistic.
This was the first in a series of expected local meetings about the Colorado River Headwaters Connectivity Project. If you were unable to be at the meeting, you can still express your thoughts. There will be future opportunities for comment as the plan evolves as well.
An in-depth article about the meeting, including a history of the Windy Gap project, was published in the August 24, 2018 Winter Park Times. To read the entire article, click here for a link to the paper online.
For more information about the meeting, click here.
In a concerning development, Save The Colorado has come out against reconnecting this portion of the upper Colorado. They've announced a lawsuit intended to stop these proposed improvements to the health of the river. Their opinion appears to be that anything allowing diversion of water from the Colorado is unacceptable, even if that water is owned by an entity with a clearly established right to that water. Trout Unlimited (and everyone at the Scoping Meeting) knows that the some of the river's water is owned by the diverters and that water will be diverted. TU and most others believe that conversation with the entities who own the water will ultimately be better for the river than litigation we believe is doomed to fail. At TU, we'd love to have more water in our rivers but we acknowledge reality: A substantial portion of the water has been sold and will be diverted. Our goal is to work with the diverters, government entities, irrigators and other stakeholders to make the best of the real-world situation. Projects like this will quickly have a positive impact on the health of the river. Never-ending litigation won't help the river. We're disappointed that we need to work to save the Colorado from Save The Colorado and other non-local groups.
Where Can I Fish Map
Our TU Chapter is currently working on a detailed map of legitimate fishing access points here in Grand County. It will include both descriptions and GPS information to help you stay on legally accessible water and stay out of trouble. We expect to have the map on this website and in print at local fishing-related businesses by the spring of 2019.
Denver Post Article Discusses Water
We have worked for years to get Denver Water's attention and now it looks like they are paying attention. Hot, dry conditions across the west during the summer of 2018 kept water in the focus of many states. Denver Water discusses their response in this article from late August.
To read the article, click here.
Colorado Water Bought By Investment Firm
If you think water's not going to continue to be an important issue in the west, think again. A New York City based company is buying up agricultural water rights in western Colorado for investment purposes. Learn more about it on the Water Education Colorado website by clicking here.
August 1 Water Diversion Study Concerns
Two West Slope water districts have split with Front Range water districts over the third phase of a risk study focused on bolstering water levels in Lake Powell. Some Western Slope participants have expressed their concern about Front Range water diverters interest in censoring results of science-based studies. Follow this link to Aspen Journalism's full article.
Banquet 2018 Results & Photos
The July 23, 2018 TU Banquet was a great success, thanks to YOU! Our once a year fundraising, educational and social event was a big hit! Photos are available by clicking here. All photos are available for free download. If you have additional photos you'd like to share, send them to your webmaster by clicking here.
Final results of our fundraising tally will be available here soon, but our initial impression is that we raised a substantial amount of money to continue our efforts to save the Fraser, Upper Colorado, support science-based environmental decisions and help fight to preserve our cold water fishery and environment. The Board of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited expresses our sincere thanks to everyone who attended the Banquet, donated auction items or helped us in any way! You play a critical role in our success!
High Summer Water Temperatures Threaten Fish
Ski season is now here, but everyone knows the summer of 2018 was extremely hot and dry here in Colorado. That made it a killer summer for our fish. Literally...
Finally by late August daytime highs decreased and we had both a bit of rain and some releases of water. That combination helped to lower our stream temperatures a bit, but the fundamental reality remains that high water temps put trout at serious risk. Warm water holds less oxygen and trout have trouble getting enough oxygen in water over 65 degrees. They can suffocate when water temps get into the 70's. Playing, catching and releasing a fish in warm water is often a death sentence for that fish.
You all know the satisfaction and importance of "catch and release" fishing, but local summer water temperatures resulting from our changing climate have been so high that fishing after about 1 PM on most of our rivers has become "catch and kill". Record high air temperatures and low water flow levels combined with no release of water from reservoirs into our rivers by diverters have resulted in dangerously high summer water temperatures in our streams.
As fishermen and women who must also be stewards or our environment.
Here is what we can do all summer long. Fish with a thermometer. If water temperatures are above 65 stop fishing or, at the very least, follow the suggestions to the right. Often, that means we shouldn't fish after 1 PM on most of our rivers and last summer the Department of Wildlife began posting notices to that effect.
Trout Unlimited is routinely in talks with water diverters and we hope to negotiate water releases whenever they are needed in the future. Our warming climate plays a role in stream temperatures, but in our area, the primary challenge is caused by water diversion. We're encouraging Denver and other diverters to implement watering restrictions and to begin releasing water into our rivers when its needed most. Denver Water is not obligated to make releases until they have all their permits, but releasing water at critical times would be good for our environment and would simply be a good public relations move for them.
Over half the water from our rivers in the Fraser Valley was diverted during one of the warmest and driest years on record. The result is a spike in water temperatures in our rivers. In this dangerous time for our rivers, TU is encouraging Denver to put manditory watering restrictions in place. During the summer of 2018, there were no restrictions on watering in Denver. We're also encouraging Denver to release water into our rivers when it's especially important to our environment. We encourage you to ask Denver Water and other diverters about this.
Drought Plan For Grand County
Our Trout Unlimited Chapter wants to help us here in Grand County to set the example in being water-wise. We want to be able to hold our area up as a shining example of responsible use. We'll be working with local town and county officials to create sensible, responsible recommendations and encourage smart water usage in our communities.