YAMPA RIVER INTEGRATED WATER MANAGEMENT PLAN
Summer 2020 Updates
- Our engineering team has completed 45 assessments of diversion structures on the Bear, Yampa and Elk Rivers. Gena Hinkmeyer and Jerry Albers, our Segment Coordinators, did extensive interviews with the structure owners to understand how well it meets the water users' needs and whether there are opportunities for improvements or modifications that would benefit the water users, fisheries, recreational river use and river ecological health. By this fall, each participating structure owner will receive an engineering report that documents current conditions and recommendations for improvement. The IWMP Committee will use these results to better understand where there are opportunities for projects that could benefit multiple interests.
- Our environmental team has started a remote assessment of the Yampa and Elk rivers' ecological health. Using prior studies, existing fisheries, flow and water quality data, and a combination of aerial and satellite imagery, we will identify river reaches of high and low ecological function. The IWMP Committee will use this information to help prioritize locations where future data collection would be beneficial, and where there are opportunities for projects that could benefit multiple interests.
- Our outreach team had hoped to host field days across the basin to visit unique examples of multi-purpose projects. We're now waiting until 2021 to host in-person events, and instead are working with Steamboat Springs marketing firm HIVE180 to develop two videos to feature restoration on Elkhead Creek and upgrading diversions on the Bear River. The first of these will be out by late July.
- Initial interviews with dozens of environmental, recreational, agricultural and municipal/industrial stakeholders were completed between Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. Our outreach team is working with a facilitator to analyze this information for themes and insights that will help the IWMP Committee make recommendations on focus areas for 2021 field work.
WHAT IS THE INTEGRATED WATER MANAGEMENT PLAN?
The Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable is leading the development of an Integrated Water Management Plan (IWMP). The process will combine community input with science and engineering assessments to identify actions to protect existing and future water uses and support healthy river ecosystems in the face of growing populations, changing land uses, and climate uncertainty.
This is a community effort, led by people who live and work in the Yampa Valley, and care about the river and its future. Our team is holding extensive conversations with water users and community members to supplement science and engineering work and inform recommendations.
WHO IS INVOLVED:
A committee of volunteers selected by and reporting to the Basin Roundtable coordinates the project. Committee members have experience in water management, agriculture, fisheries and recreation. The project also relies on hired community engagement, river science and engineering professionals. To help keep the process moving forward the IWMP Committee created two Sub-Committees, the Technical Sub-Committee and the Stakeholder Sub-Committee. All meetings are open to interested members of the public.
DO YOU NEED TO Contact our Segment Coordinators?
Irrigators from Milner to Deerlodge and Elkhead Creek
Irrigators from the Yampa River headwaters to Milner, and the Elk River Basin
WHAT WILL IT ACCOMPLISH?
The project’s 2018 Scope of Work outlines its goals and tasks. We’re charting a path forward. Between 2019 and 2022, we’ll hear from stakeholders and complete science and engineering assessments. The result will be a ranked list of issues that stakeholders want to tackle, as well as plans and funding options to implement priority actions.
Through surveys and interviews, our team will collect ideas from a variety of stakeholders to identify priority reaches for improved river health and recreation, as well as ideas to better meet water users’ needs.
Assess Conditions and Identify Gaps
Inventories of water use, river flows, riverside land condition, fishery health and water quality will characterize current conditions and identify knowledge gaps.
Perform Field Work
We’ll collect data on important variables in priority reaches, including diversion infrastructure to understand how well it is meeting water users’ needs and identify opportunities for improvement.
Assess Conditions, Prioritize Issues and Develop Action Plans
We’ll blend data on ecosystem conditions and water user needs to assess future risk to priority issues like fisheries, irrigation and drinking water, and riverside habitat. We’ll evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of solutions, and develop action and funding plans for implementation.
QUESTIONS FOR STAKEHOLDERS INCLUDE
- What are your concerns about water use and land condition in the river corridor? Are there opportunities for improvement?
- How well is your infrastructure meeting your diversion and irrigation needs?
- Do you have ideas to increase flexibility of water administration that are within Colorado water law?
RIVER RECREATION & HEALTHY RIVERS:
- Based on your knowledge of boater safety, public access, fishery health, etc., which river sections are a priority to assess?
- Are there opportunities to implement recreation projects or protect riverside
habitat that will have a positive impact on our communities?
MUNICIPAL & INDUSTRIAL WATER USE:
- What improvements in your water delivery system would be beneficial if funds and technical assistance were available?
- How could current and future water shortages in the Yampa basin be met?
In August of 2018, water users in the Yampa Valley grappled with an historic event. For the first time, a call was made on the Yampa mainstem and water use in the Yampa Basin was under the administration of the Colorado Division of Water Resources. As a result of the call, 65 percent of water users were required to either cut back their use or stop altogether. At the same time, the Basin Roundtable conducted extensive outreach to water managers and water users throughout the basin to understand how they could best implement the goals in the Basin Implementation Plan. Colorado’s Water Plan calls for 80% of locally prioritized rivers to be covered by Stream Management Plans by 2030. The 2018 call on the Yampa River was the first but likely not the last. The IWMP provides a roadmap to collaboratively identify and support actions that help implement the Basin Roundtable’s goals, identify projects and strategies to best meet the needs of water users and the environment, while also meeting the call made by Colorado’s Water Plan.