Larry Henderson: Leave our waters alone
September 2, 2014
To the editor:
Thanks for the update in the Saturday Morning Press concerning Elkhead Reservoir. I think this next fiasco concerning the Yampa River shows a lack of knowledge within our wildlife department regarding what actually goes on in Northwest Colorado. My thanks to Burt Clements and the bass guys for hanging in there and fighting this crap. Hopefully our city and county officials will step to the plate, represent Moffat County and oppose this issue. I doubt state officials will do the right thing. This whole situation has gotten so far out of hand, I doubt if anyone involved knows right from wrong anymore, and the Yampa River suffers.
A few years back, Elkhead Reservoir was enlarged and improved, turning it into a first-class recreational facility. The fishing is excellent and the area well managed. Camping and boating facilities are heavily used. Water resources for downstream users are more secure. These gains are enjoyed by Northwest Colorado residents, benefiting both Craig and Moffat County. However, this latest proposal by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to drain the reservoir and kill the aquatic population at Elkhead would effectively reverse all the gains just mentioned. Not to mention how other wildlife/livestock/residents would be affected. I'd like to see the public informed on the scientific background behind the proposal, and I'd like to see some common sense applied as well.
As a longtime resident and user of the Yampa River, I can see changes that have nothing to do with "introduced species." The river riffles and gravel bars in our area are no longer clean and healthy. Sediment lies deep covering the river bottom and has been like that for several years. The result being loss or near destruction of numerous insect hatches important to the river's aquatic environment. Scupins are gone, the whitefish (indicator of clean, healthy streams) are gone and restricted to the Steamboat area, where I've heard they are greatly reduced. Finally, the Yampa River rainbow trout unique to this river are gone. Only rainbow species stocked in the upper Yampa keep trout populations going. These conditions started long before blame was applied to "introduced species."
Water flows downhill, so it seems logical that if these changes have happened in the Craig/Steamboat area, it has been compounded in lower parts of the Yampa River. Throw in Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River, and economic and residential development in the Yampa Valley with corresponding increased water usage, the writing is on the wall. We sure as hell won't return the river to how it existed 50 years ago. We are lucky that floating and exploring along the lower Yampa corridor has not been affected. However, some expert guru behind a desk, with a lawyer sipping a latte, will worry more about "what if a rafter spills a honey bucket?" versus the real issue at hand. Any doubt that I'm angry and frustrated?
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Moffat County resident