Commercial tubing on low-flowing Yampa River suspended by Steamboat Springs for Labor Day
September 3, 2017
With the Yampa River flowing well below normal during most of the week preceding Labor Day, the city of Steamboat Springs has closed down commercial tubing in the river where it flows through the city and is asking the public to voluntarily follow suit by refraining from private tubing, paddling SUPs, swimming and fishing.
“It is best to avoid river recreation during low streamflows like the river is currently experiencing,” the city advised in a news release. “Low streamflows can lead to warm water temperatures and (as a result) low dissolved oxygen levels.”
Trout, a cold-water species, are particularly sensitive to the warm river temperature, and even with catch-and-release regulations in place in the town stretch of the Yampa, the fish can be particularly sensitive to being caught and released when river flows are low.
It’s not unusual for commercial tubing to be suspended by the first week in September, but the United States Geological Survey was reporting earlier this week that the river had dropped significantly below 100 cubic feet per second, the median flow for the date. Ironically, the stiff rain showers that cooled Steamboat the night of Aug 31 had temporarily boosted river flows by Sept. 1.
City of Steamboat Water Resources Manager Kelly Romero-Heaney said commercial tubing would not be restored unless river flows return to 85 cfs. But the boost in flows from the rainfall of Aug. 31 is expected to be short-lived; the National Weather Service forecast for the upper Yampa River Valley called for a 20-percent chance of isolated storms the afternoon of Sept. 1, followed by sunny to mostly sunny skies through Sept. 7
The city and the Colorado Water Trust had been collaborating since earlier this summer on boosting the flows in the Yampa with water procured from the Upper Yampa Water Conservation District’s Stagecoach Reservoir, and that effort will resume.
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Romero-Heaney said efforts to boost the Yampa’s flows will likely continue until early October, when the managers of Lake Catamount, downstream from Stagecoach, begin releasing water as they draws down the reservoir in anticipation of spring runoff in 2018.
“The Colorado Water Trust and the city of Steamboat Springs have collaborated to have their respective contracted water released from Stagecoach Reservoir at a rate of 21 cfs,” Heaney said. “This includes the remaining water in the Colorado Water Trust’s contract that was funded with support from The Nature Conservancy and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.”
The USGS reported at midday Friday that the Yampa was flowing at 97 cubic feet per second, just below median for the date. The lowest Sept. 1 river flow measured at the Fifth Street Bridge, was the 24 cfs, reported in 1934.