White Jankowski Lawyers

Instream flows protect Upper Colorado River fish habitat

May 16, 2013

A broad-based stakeholder initiative to preserve natural resource values in the Upper Colorado River achieved a milestone when a state water court decreed three instream flow water rights to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.  The year-round water rights range in flows from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 900 cfs and cover approximately 70 miles of the Colorado River from the Blue River to the Eagle River.

Together, these instream flow rights will help ensure that the Colorado River’s minimum flows “preserve the environment to a reasonable degree.”  These instream flow rights will directly benefit fish species, including wild trout. 

An annual survey conducted on this stretch of river between 2010 and 2012 revealed upwards of 700 greater-than-14-inch brown and rainbow trout per mile for each survey each year.  

Mottled sculpin are also present in this stretch of the river.  Although these small fish are not a threatened species, they are sensitive to adverse environmental changes.  As biological indicators, their presence indicates a healthy stream system.

“This is good news for a stretch of river that is beloved by generations of anglers,” commented Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited.  “It’s an example of what can be accomplished when working together.”