Historic river accord gets governor's blessing

by Alex MillerSummit Daily News
Given the level of acrimony that's characterized water negotiations between Denver and the Western Slope in the past, it's perhaps nothing short of miraculous that a deal of this scope and size was reached at all. Even Trout Unlimited — a conservation and advocacy group that looks to protect rivers for recreational use — is enthusiastic about the proposal.

“We think the agreement is a great deal that does a lot of good for the Colorado River and is sort of a model for the way we ought to be dealing with water issues in this state going forward,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited's Colorado water project. But, he added, there are “some holes.” One of those is the fact that the agreement did not include the Northern Water Conservancy Project — a provider of water in northeastern Colorado and, as Peternell said, the largest diverter of Colorado River Basin water.

The other hole is concern over the Moffat project and how Denver Water might mitigate that diversion.

“The language of the deal is that they're not going to address it, and that still needs to happen,” Peternell said.

Trout Unlimited's stance on mitigation, he said, is threefold: One is that the base flows in the Fraser River need to be protected so that, during non-peak flow periods the water temperature doesn't increase so much that it harms fish. The next is that peak flows — when most of the diversion is slated to take place — is kept high enough to preserve some of the ecological benefits of that fast-running water. And third is that Denver Water should fund continued monitoring of stream conditions in the future to assess and mitigate any impacts.

“The Colorado Wildlife Commission is in the process of reviewing a proposed mitigation package for Moffat, and we encourage them to take a strong stance,” Peternell said.