Group to explore Yampa River use |

Group to explore Yampa River use

Tyler Baskfield

— Endangered fish swimming in the Yampa River have mucked up the future of water use issues. Area organizations are getting together to decide the best way to allow for water use and comply with the Endangered Species Act in the future.

The Yampa River Basin Partnership is holding a kick off meeting in their quest to develop a “programmatic biological opinion” for the Yampa River Basin and its upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

The purpose of a biological opinion is to clarify how the Endangered Species Act compliance will be met, how the recovery program will be used to provide reasonable and prudent alternatives for water depletion in the Yampa Basin and what future depletions will be covered by the Recovery Program for Endangered Species Act compliance.

The meeting will take place at 10 a.m. Monday in Steamboat Springs but the exact location has not yet been confirmed.

Gerry Roehm, Yampa River coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and host of the meeting, believes the process will be based on models of water usage from the Yampa through the year 2045.

“The Colorado Water Conservation Board has drafted models that allow us to project what is likely to happen in the future with water development for the Yampa,” said Roehm. “We want to accommodate additional water development and prevent the endangered species from being jeopardized and eventually get them to recover.”

Some options being looked at include leasing water rights and constructing storage for water to help augment the flow of the Yampa which is critical for the fish, according to Roehm.

“We need to augment flows especially during late summer and early fall. This is an especially critical time for the fish,” said Roehm.

The Colorado River Basin has had a similar program under development for the past two years and is near completion.

The Yampa Basin Management Plan will be a resource used in the development of the “programmatic opinion.” The partnership has participated substantially in the development of the Basin Management Plan an outline of the report is available for comment at this time and it will be finalized early this fall.

According to Roehm, the plan is a way to bring all different types of information together.

“It is an attempt to bring all various research elements together and create a broad conclusion on the need of both the fish and water development in the future,” said Roehm.

The Yampa River Basin Partnership will discuss the process for development of the “programmatic biological opinion,” time frame, information needs, expectations, issues that have to be addresses in the biological opinion process. The meeting will be open to the public.

While Roehm doesn’t see a extreme affect from the process on most people he does believe it is important for people to take interest.

“I don’t foresee any significant impact on the people of Craig or the people of Moffat County,” said Roehm. “Those who have a stake in this should voice their opinion, we’re encouraging the public to participate.”