Go With the Flow and Support Instream Flows!
Fish need water- and we’re working to assure that they have room to swim.
An instream flow is a legal water right to protect a quantified minimum amount of water in a stream. Because it is a water right that is decreed in time, instream flow rights don’t take priority over irrigation, municipal, and/or other rights established earlier in time, but can protect minimum flows for fisheries against future appropriations. These flows are important to provide water for riparian ecosystems, wildlife, and fisheries. They benefit other aspects of our local community as well. By living in a community that values outdoor recreation and relies on tourism, instream flow appropriations inherently contribute to a healthy economy while promoting the overall scenic beauty of the Gunnison Valley.
Over the past few years, High Country Conservation Advocates’ water program has worked collaboratively to appropriate instream flow protections on Oh-Be-Joyful Creek and the Slate River. In 2015/16 we partnered with Western Resource Advocates to successfully protect an appropriation on Schaefer Creek through the water court process. HCCA is continuing to pursue new appropriations moving forward. In 2016, we partnered with American Rivers to propose instream flow protections for Coal Creek and Brush Creek in and around the town of Crested Butte. Going forward in our water program, we plan to proposed two new instream flow proposals in our basin each year.
2017 Instream Flow Proposal: Dutchman Creek
In January 2017, HCCA submitted our newest instream flow proposal for Dutchman Creek. Dutchman Creek is a small creek in Saguache County that originates at the Continental Divide and travels through United States Forest Service lands until it joins Owens Creek seven miles downstream. Not only is Dutchman Creek home to a healthy brookie population, but it’s also a popular creek for recreationalists. Dutchman Creek has a trail for hiking, biking, hunting and fishing access adjacent to the healthy riparian area. What it does not have is an existing instream flow protection. That’s why this January HCCA teamed up with Western Resource Advocates and local consultants to propose an instream flow recommendation that would protect Dutchman Creek’s natural environment. We’ll keep our members posted as we work with the Natural Streams and Lakes Protection Unit to develop this proposal in the coming year.
2016 Instream Flow Proposals Update
While developing new proposals we’ve also been busy moving forward proposals for Brush Creek and Coal Creek. Last year together we generated over 700 local comments in support of protecting these creeks that are near and dear to our community. In the words of one supporter, “What Brush Creek has to offer with its fishing, recreation and overall beauty is hard to match”. Coal Creek is our drinking water source and a central feature of downtown Crested Butte. In 2016 our colleagues at the Natural Streams and Lakes Protection Unit helped us to refine and move these recommendations forward. At the January 2017 Water Congress, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) voted to move forward with appropriating additional instream flow rights on both of these creeks. On to the final step in the process!