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Defending Colorado’s Water Quality

Posted by Jeff Florence on March 24, 2016 in Action Needed!, Habitat, Leadership, Legislation and Advocacy, Press/PR, Reclamation, Trout, Water Quality

Middle Fork South Platte

A trout’s most fundamental need is cold, clean water. Protecting that resource is a key part of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s mission and it has led us to engage in rulemaking efforts before the Water Quality Control Commission. This June, the Commission will be revising its “basic standards” for statewide water quality protection. One of the key standards for protecting trout is water temperature.
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Unfortunately, the staff of the Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) has proposed changes in the temperature standards that could put many fisheries at risk. They are looking to weaken temperature standards both in terms of transition periods between summer and winter, and based on elevation as a transition from high to lower quality trout waters. The seasonal shift could leave streams with no meaningful temperature standards during four months of the year which happen to be trout spawning and egg incubation periods – the most sensitive life stages. While the elevation-based approach could weaken standards for rivers at elevations seen on great trout rivers like the Colorado at State Bridge, the South Platte at Deckers, and the Poudre Canyon.

In partnership with other conservation groups, Trout Unlimited has brought on water quality expert Ashley Rust as a consultant to provide technical support. Her work has already demonstrated flaws in the data selection and analysis used for the WQCD’s proposal. We are working closely with scientists at Colorado Parks and Wildlife as well, who share TU’s concerns.

The concept of addressing transitional points both seasonally and on streams moving from colder to warmer natural conditions make sense – but whereas Colorado’s original temperature standards were the product of a multi-year collaborative process and rigorous data analysis, this proposal has been rushed by the WQCD at the 11th hour, and that has led to a proposal that is not based on strong science and which will not protect trout. TU will continue to fight this effort throughout the hearing process.

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