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Water testing on Yampa River could lead to more regulations after reclassification

— City officials in Steamboat Springs say some high water temperature readings taken in the Yampa River just west of Hayden in recent years could soon lead to a big change in how a 57-mile stretch of the river is regulated by the state.

The stretch of the Yampa that runs from the confluence of Oak Creek south of Steamboat to the Moffat County border is poised to be listed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as an impaired waterbody.

City officials are concerned that the listing could eventually lead to some costly, multi-million upgrades to such things as the wastewater treatment plants that discharge water into the river.



They are questioning the methodology used to arrive at the listing and are hoping a proposal to monitor the health of the river in more areas will help municipalities along the river avoid costly new regulations.

“Given the variability of altitude, temperature, and aquatic life throughout the 57-mile segment, the City questions whether the standard applied to such a long reach is appropriate,” city officials recently wrote in a memo to the Steamboat Springs City Council.



Kelly Heany, the city’s water resources manager, said the Water Quality Control Commission will consider whether to list the Yampa as an impaired waterbody at its Dec. 14 meeting.

“It could potentially have a costly impact n the wastewater treatment plants in Hayden, Milner and ours,” Heaney said.

She said the added regulations could call for such things as the installation of expensive cooling towers at these wastewater treatment facilities.

The classification could also add more regulations to construction de-watering permits, industrial discharge permits and stormwater permits.

Heaney will attend the Dec. 14 hearing to outline the city’s plans and the extensive efforts it has undertaken already to protect the water quality of the Yampa.

Heaney said the city does not have enough temperature data from the entire stretch of the Yampa to oppose the listing on the impaired waterbody list.

So city officials are proposing to invest more in monitoring the quality of the Yampa at more locations to better understand what impacts the temperature changes.

Heaney said she feels there currently isn’t enough data and information to warrant the costly regulations that could be put in place by the river’s listing on the impaired waterbed list.

If the Yampa is listed as an impaired waterbody, the new monitoring efforts could help the city get it off the list.

“We don’t want to be chasing a water body impairment that may not be a waterbody impairment,” Heaney said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


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