Looking back on the threats to the Fraser and Colorado Rivers before our local chapter of Trout Unlimited was formed can be disheartening. Anyone following the story of these rivers knows that over half of their flows are being diverted to the other side of the Continental Divide with no legal obligation through water law to address the negative impacts. With so much water missing from the natural streamflow regime, our rivers have lost the force that allows them to flush sediment and the shallower streams were reaching temperatures that can kill trout. On top of these threats came the threat of increased diversions with practically no mitigation offered to address the decline in these rivers. In 2011 the Colorado Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to approve the increased diversions with only cursory mitigation. This became the official state position leaving our rivers in a very compromised position.
The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited was chartered in 2003. Their mission statement was to conserve, protect and restore the rivers in Grand County. In 2006 National Trout Unlimited sent an attorney named Mely Whitting to work with Grand County to get the mitigation both of these rivers needed to be healthy. National Trout Unlimited has spent over $1 million in Grand County since she arrived. The Headwaters Chapter has spent around $100K since they chartered. Grand County government has spent more than $2 million on scientific studies and on environmental attorneys that have led to the Grand County Stream Flow Management Plan. It takes a lot of money to save a river.
The result of all of us speaking up and Grand County and TU joining in has led to a new era in river health. An adaptive management group has been formed involving a partnership of water diverters and West Slope interests. The group is called :Learning by Doing” and they have a stream improvement project taking place now on the Fraser River with two other important projects for the Colorado River already funded. Rivers in Grand County have turned a corner are now getting healthier!
None of this would have happened without so many citizens in our County speaking up, Trout Unlimited stepping in and Grand County government investing in its rivers. On July 24th the citizens of Grand County have a chance to invest in the future of their rivers. To raise the funds for stream monitoring and to help fund Mely’s work, the Headwaters Chapter is holding its annual banquet. This is our biggest fundraiser, and because we are an all volunteer organization 100% of those funds will be used to improve the rivers in Grand County. For ticket information go to www.coheadwaters.org. If you can’t attend the banquet your donation is always welcome. Please help us help our rivers.
– Kirk Klancke
President, Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited