Colorado to nearly double winter flows in Fryingpan River to aid fish

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) will spend nearly $229,000 this year to boost winter flows in the Fryingpan River, a move the board hopes will aid fish habitat in the gold medal fishery.

The CWCB will lease the water from the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District, which will release it from Ruedi Reservoir, above Basalt.

Linda Bassi, chief of the CWCB’s Stream and Lake Protection Section, said the lease is important because studies indicate that preserving such habitat is critical to the health of the stream and its fish.

The one-year renewable lease is for 3,500 acre feet of water. One acre foot of water is enough to serve two to four urban households for one year.

The water lease, approved July 18, is designed to prevent the formation of “anchor ice”—submerged ice that attaches to streambeds that can kill trout and the bugs they feed on—in a 15-mile stretch of a Gold Medal fishery below Ruedi Reservoir.

The river district said the lease is noteworthy, in part, because it will occur during a slow time in the water year.

“We thought this was an interesting use in the winter when water typically is not used as much,” said Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs at the Colorado River District. The district holds 11,413.5 acre-feet of water in Ruedi Reservoir which can be leased or sold to various users.

Background

The state’s instream flow program, created in 1973, authorizes the CWCB to appropriate water “to preserve the natural environment to a reasonable degree.” The CWCB’s Construction Fund sets aside $1 million each year to pay for such acquisitions.

The CWCB has an existing winter instream flow right on the Fryingpan from just below Ruedi to its juncture with the Roaring Fork of 39 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs). The new lease will nearly double that amount, adding an additional 31 cfs.

The CWCB is working with the Roaring Fork Conservancy to monitor flows and determine when releases are necessary.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article misidentified the Fryingpan River.

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