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KSJD Newscast - September 16th, 2015

  • Colorado Water Conservation Board awards instream flow water right on the Dolores River to benefit native fish.
  • Fish surveys after mine waste spill into the Animas River show good and bad news.
  • Colorado Senator calls for funding for a water treatment plant in the Gold King Mine area.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has awarded an instream flow water right on the Dolores River between Gateway and Uravan in southwestern Colorado. During a meeting in Montrose Tuesday, the CWCB voted unanimously for the instream flow, which is for up to 900 cubic feet per second during spring and lesser base flows in the winter. Instream flows, as their name indicates, are designed to leave water in streams and lakes to benefit wildlife, fish, and habitat. They are junior to previously existing water rights. Conservation groups hailed the decision, saying it will help keep three native fish species in the Dolores from being listed as threatened or endangered. Some water districts including the Southwestern Water Conservation District had opposed the move, saying it would hinder development.

In another river-related story, a recent survey of trout populations in the Animas River found good news and bad news. Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports that it conducted an electrofishing survey in two river segments in Durango and one stretch in Silverton in recent weeks to assess fish health after last month’s Gold King Mine waste spill. The good news was that the surveys found no acute effects on fish from the spill, and total fish biomass – a measurement of the total weight of fish per surface acre – increased in both sections of the river. The bad news was that much of that increase came from routine stocking. CPW says the number of large fish remains low and there is little evidence of natural reproduction by trout, such as young fry. Biologists say the Animas River in Durango is harmed by the ongoing flow of tainted water from upstream mines; run-off from golf courses, lawns, and city streets; and drought.

And in a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works  regarding the Gold King Mine disaster, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet called for funding for a water treatment plant in the Gold King Mine area as well as reform of the 1872 Mining Law.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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