Community Agriculture Alliance: Where the rubber meets the road: A look Ahead for the Yampa River
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
As the new communications and marketing manager at the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and a rookie to the Colorado water world, I can tell you with absolute certainty that trying to follow all of the developments on water in the West is more than a full-time job. Keeping up with it all is a team effort.
Perhaps that’s why so many organizations and working groups focus on water resources, and the Conservancy District is expanding its staff and involvement of its board of directors. Even if you work in the field, you may only catch bits and pieces, and we’ve yet to see anyone put all the pieces together in a way that solves the long-standing debate over water in the Colorado River Basin.
These issues are undoubtedly complicated, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make progress. In fact, the collaboration of many organizations in the Yampa River Basin has created an unprecedented flurry of opportunity for the Yampa in the coming year.
A couple of months ago, you may recall an introduction of the Integrated Water Management Plan in this very article. A month before that, you may recall a big party at Mountain Tap to kick off the Yampa River Fund. You may have also heard that the Colorado Department of Water Resources Division 6 engineer issued orders this fall to install headgates and measuring devices before diverting water in the Yampa River Basin in the 2020 irrigation season. These are all little bits of information that you may or may not have started to piece together.
Add in the Diversion Infrastructure Improvement Project, a grant program created by the Conservancy District in partnership with agencies like the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Trout Unlimited, and you can see that 2020 is shaping up to be a very poignant one for the Yampa River.
So exactly how do all of these things meld together to impact the Yampa and consequently, the Colorado River Basin? The Integrated Water Management Plan is one of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable’s solutions to implementing the Colorado Water Plan.
A science-based technical committee of the plan is contracting with engineers to assess 40 to 50 diversion infrastructures in our basin. Improving diversion structures could potentially increase irrigation efficiency and enhance fish habitat and recreational opportunities. Installing measuring devices at diversion structures helps monitor water use and protect the water rights of users should the river go on call as it did for the very first time in 2018.
However, these improvements can be costly. That’s where funding sources, like portions of the Yampa River Fund and the Conservancy District’s Diversion Infrastructure Improvement Project that offer funding for installation of headgates and measuring devices come into play. That’s where the rubber meets the road.
When we all work together, we can make things happen.
If you are interested in learning more about the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District’s Diversion Infrastructure Improvement Project, please visit our website at upperyampawater.com or contact Holly Kirkpatrick at 970-871-1035.
Holly Kirkpatrick is the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District’s communications and marketing manager.
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