Huge win for the Upper Ark and Recreational Flows! - Mountain Buzz

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Old 03-24-2006   #1
Mike Harvey's Avatar
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 807
Huge win for the Upper Ark and Recreational Flows!

On Wednesday the CWCB unanimously agreed to a compromise for Chaffee County's RICD filing on the Arkansas River. What that means in nothing less than a big transition in the quest for recreational flows in the State. In the past every community has been fought on their RICD filing by the State all the way up the courts, costing communities hundreds of thousands of dollars and taking years.

What has happened for Salida and BV is that the State is saying, we accept your water right filing (with a fat report full of conditions which I will get into) and it will be decreed in April. This is incredible news. Our communities could not afford to fight the State indefinitely but on a larger scale it means that for the first time the State is saying that they recognize the value of a recreational water right without the courts having to shove it down their throats.

Here are some of the key details:

Chaffee County gets 1500cfs at the Wellsville gauge, for thirty days that can float between the end of May and the end of June. During that thirty days we can call for up to 1800cfs for eight days (say around FIBArk or something). Then the river goes to 700cfs on July 1-August 15, 250cfs from August 15-November and back up to 250cfs on March 15 until run-off. This last part is only a slight variation from the original flow program.

There is a condition for a recovery year (year after a drought) when the right can go all the way down to 1000cfs in June but that is a floating number between 1000cfs and 1500cfs depending on how bad the drought is.

Maybe one of the best things that will come out of this is a five year flow agreement which for those people that have been close to the voluntary flow agreement in the past is huge. Basically without getting too complicated, the voluntary flow agreement is the "operational" flow agreement that gives the Arkansas water late in the year. The RICD can not replace this agreement because the water right will be junior. Early in the game the powers that be used the removal of the flow agreement as the proverbial stick to try and intimidate our community out of this idea. As it stands not only will the flow agreement live on but it has been strengthened.

At the end of the day we have come out of this undertaking with a strong protection in place for both the present and the future flows on the Upper Arkansas. However maybe the most important part (without being too presumptuous) is the fact that other communities have been given a precedent that providing for recreational flows for their communities does not automatically mean years of expensive litigation with the State.

Huge props to everyone who made this happen; particularly our county commissioner Jerry Mallett and the good people at Porzak, Browning and Bushong in Boulder. Steve Bushong and Fritz Holleman in particular.

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