Yampa River Placed On Call for First Time Ever

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Low-water blues: Flows of only 19 cos have lead to the Yampa being placed on call for the first time ever. Photo courtesy Kent Vertrees (Friends of the Yampa)

Drought conditions in Colorado have resulted in the Yampa River being placed on call for the first time ever.

According to a story by Eleanor Hasenbeck in the Steamboat Pilot & Today, due to low water conditions in the lower stretch of the river near Dinosaur National Monument, the Colorado Division of Water Resources placed a call on the river Tuesday. The call applies to water users upstream from the river’s lowest diversion point, which essentially places the entire river on call.

“We are now faced again with the Yampa River being extremely low at its lower end, and we are unable to both protect the Endangered Fishes Recovery Program reservoir water and allow all water users to continue to divert water,” Erin Light, the area division engineer, wrote in an email to water users in the Yampa River Basin on Wednesday morning.

The Division of Water Resources places a call on a stream when water rights owners do not receive the amount of water they have a legal right to. When a call is in place, some water users are forced to reduce or stop their use in order to send enough water downstream to fulfill the older water right.

A call was placed on the river on Aug. 22, but its implementation was delayed.

At the time off the call, flows at Deerlodge Park were just 19.3 cfs. While the Green was kicking in 1,500 cfs due to releases from the Flaming Gorge Dam, the Yampa stem is in dire straits.

“A lot of water users are being affected,” Light said in the story. “There are certain drainages where water users don’t have any measuring device at all, and that’s what we started shutting off (Tuesday).”

These users — the ones who aren’t measuring how much water they’re diverting — were the first to be shut off. On the main stem of the river, these devices are required to ensure that released reservoir water makes it to the user who purchased it.

“It’s a day of reckoning,” said Doug Monger, a Routt County commissioner and the county’s representative on the Colorado River District board of directors. “We need to get into the current century somehow. We haven’t had measuring devices on our ditches. It’s a free river. You just use all you want. There’s a whole new accountability coming down with the drought and the 19-year lowest cycle of (the Colorado) river right now.”

Monger said right now the Colorado River has the lowest amount of water flowing downstream in recorded history.

Low water in the Colorado is important to water managers in the Yampa River Basin because the Yampa is one of the Colorado River’s major tributaries. This year, about 52 percent of the water flowing out of the state of Colorado into Lake Powell came from the Yampa, White and Green river basins.

On a 10-year rolling acreage, the state of Colorado must send a set amount of water to Lake Powell for use by Arizona, California, Nevada and portions of Utah and New Mexico under the Colorado River Compact of 1922. If Colorado does not meet its obligation, a compact call would be administered.

No precedent exists for a compact call, so it is unclear how water managers would decide whose water would be curtailed statewide.

On the Yampa, any user who has a water right decreed after Sept. 16, 1951, will be curtailed.

 

Read full story here: https://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/yampa-river-is-placed-on-call-for-1st-time-ever/