Water Lease Could Wet the Yampa River

Stagecoach Reservoir.

Yesterday, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District‘s Board of Directors reached an agreement, approving a water lease with the Colorado Water Trust and Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Instream Flow Program. As a Water Trust/Upper Yampa press release says:

CWT is leasing 4,000 acre feet of storage water owned by Upper Yampa in Stagecoach Reservoir, an on-stream reservoir on the Yampa River, to make strategic releases for hydropower and for streamflow benefits below the reservoir.

“We’re incredibly excited about moving this lease forward.  Getting the agreement in place and into the state approval process was the first and biggest step,” said Colorado Water Trust staff attorney Zach Smith.

The agreement comes at a needed time. “We know that this lease only provides a fraction of what the Yampa needs,” Smith said. “Flows on the Yampa through Steamboat fell below 50 cfs today, yet the mean flow for this day of the year at that gauge is 1140 cfs.  That story is similar around the state.  Obviously, we can’t provide that much water, but we can do our best working within the temporary instream flow statute and with the water available on the market to give it a boost.  Upper Yampa and CWCB have been tremendous partners in thoughtfully and carefully expediting this process.”

An article on the lease from Steamboat Today reports:

If the Trust were to release the water steadily, it is estimated it would generate a flow of about 26.5 cubic feet per second from July 1 through the middle of September — perhaps not enough to restore recreation in the form of tubing on the town stretch of the river, but enough to protect the resource.

Local officials closed the Yampa to commercial tubing last week, and issued a voluntary closure for fishing, swimming, kayaking and private tubing– low flows aren’t just putting the river in danger, they’re also affecting the economy, according to an article in the Denver Post.

The Upper Yampa District is committed to coping with the challenging water situation as best as possible, and they have been working with the Water Trust, the Water Conservation Board, the City of Steamboat Springs, and other local partners to utilize the available water to meet multiple needs.  The Colorado Water Trust  is working to remarket the leased water to a downstream water user; delivering the water downstream could wet a longer reach of the Yampa River.

The Trust announced in April that it was willing to spend up to $400,000 to help keep water in as many as 20 rivers statewide.

Read more about the CWT new water leasing program and let us know how your local rivers are looking and how this hot dry season is impacting you.

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