Andrew Meeusen: The Yampa needs us
As Johnny Spillane so eloquently voiced in his op-ed, the beautiful river that supports anglers, as well as carries snow melt and rafters from high in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area to the Green River is in more danger each year.
This past November Colorado sent many conservation-minded decision makers to the Capitol, and it is their responsibility to do what is right for all of us who enjoy and depend on the water of the Western Slope. As the planet warms and our climate dries, the Yampa River feels the direct impact.
Watching the influx of residents and visitors to Routt County grow and the water levels drop, I sadly question my own longevity in Steamboat Springs as well. All that I do here is ultimately reliant on water. Recreationally, snowpack affects my snowboarding habit, my raft demands river flows and my need for a campfire is laughed at by what feels like regular fire bans.
My livelihood in the service industry ebbs and flows with the snowpack and subsequent spring runoff. When considering buying a home, it’s hard to shrug off research that claims there may not be enough snow for a resort in 80 more years if trends continue.
This past summer was the first time in history that there was not enough water in the Yampa to fulfill all of the water allotted to each water right holder. This lack of water also led to closures to help protect the species within the river as the water temperatures climbed with each hot summer day.
The high temperatures and low flows spell disaster for the fish, and residents, of this valley. We cannot let the Yampa become a trickle that needs closures and watch as the life in the river dies off.
People come from near and far just for the chance to explore all the Yampa has to offer. The state legislature is considering important water legislation, and we have the chance to make great strides to protect the lifeblood of our valley and community.
Don’t let the snow lull us into a false sense of security. We have seen past winters where the snowfall came to an abrupt end and our reservoirs across the state are already low. We have work to do to protect our rivers, but that is work we should all be willing to do.
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