Thanks to the great work by Trout Unlimited, partners, and members and supporters throughout the state, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) rejected the proposed temperature standards from the Water Quality Control Division (WQCD). These changes would have allowed higher elevation streams to reach 63 degrees- 3 degrees over the chronic limit for sensitive coldwater species. For middle elevation streams (the most common streams), the limit would have been raised to 65 degrees, just about the chronic limit for most trout species in Colorado.
The potentially higher temperature standards would have also occurred during the months of April to November- the months of Rainbow and Brown spawning seasons when the fish are more sensitive and susceptible to changes in their environment.
But our fish can chill out.
Groups all over the state worked together to protect our state's water quality and our trout's quality of life. CTU hired water quality expert, Ashley Rust, as a consultant to provide technical support. Her work demonstrated flaws in the data selection and analysis used for the WQCD’s proposal. TU also worked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife scientists along with other organizations including Sierra Club, Colorado Wildlife Federation, CPW and EPA.
Typical allies of the Division also helped in the rebuttal of the proposed changes. "I heard a Commissioner express concern with the fact that so many of the Division's traditional allies joined as parties to oppose the Division," said Mely Whiting, TU Counsel. "I don't recall the last time so many organizations participated in a Commission hearing. It makes a huge difference!"
The members of CTU also stepped up big time and sent over 200 emails to the Commission stating their argument against the changes. Along with chapter presidents signing a letter to the commission, members helped collect data through a citizen science campaign as well as offered their own testimonies to the issue from various vantage points.
"Big thanks to John Woodling, who's testimony was a turning point in the hearing," said Whiting. "To Robin (Knox) who in 5 minutes conveyed a lifetime of experience- I loved the example of all the poor fish huddling in a small pool in the Yampa to avoid the hot water in response to the Division's callous assertion that if it's too hot, fish can just swim away. Big thanks to Dennis Buechler, who very softly and meekly brought in the impacts of these decisions on small businesses."
But the fight for our trout and water quality isn't over yet. The Division will most likely come back next year with changes along the same principal but on a basin-by-basin standard as opposed to the statewide changes proposed this year.
However, with the great work done by TU, partners, and the members throughout the state, we will all be ready to defend Colorado's trout and water moving forward.