Glenwood to explore filing for whitewater park water rights | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood to explore filing for whitewater park water rights

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Mayor Bruce Christensen has visions of another whitewater feature near Glenwood Springs’ new whitewater park, perhaps something akin to what Buttermilk or Highlands is to Aspen Mountain.

He sees expanding the park as a long-range possibility for the city if whitewater activities continue to grow in the U.S. and abroad. If that vision is ever to become a reality, or even if it doesn’t, establishing water rights for the whitewater park could help by securing water for the park’s famous gigantic waves in case other interests demand flows to the point where the park doesn’t produce a good wave.

The Glenwood Springs City Council decided Thursday to hold a closed-door meeting on Monday morning to seek legal advice about possibly filing for water rights for the park before the end of the year.

Jason Carey, an engineer who designed the whitewater park and runs http://www.riverrestoration.org, said establishing water rights probably wouldn’t be essential in the next few years, but it could be critical decades down the road. He said development of water-intensive oil shale extraction is just one example of something that could threaten the park’s flows.

“It’s so water-intensive that it could drive the industry to up the value of water and potentially buy out orchards and that type of thing that currently pull the water through Glenwood Springs,” he said.

He said many communities have filed for water rights before constructing a whitewater feature. Filing before the end of the year would result in a 2008 appropriation date, and waiting till 2009 means the filing wouldn’t have priority over any other 2009 applications, Carey said.

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The park, constructed in March, has cost almost a million dollars, and around $600,000 is slated for construction of on-shore amenities.

“I think it would be irresponsible not to look at the options of protecting that,” Christensen said.

Carey said a water rights filing in Glenwood Springs on the Colorado River wouldn’t escape interest and opposition.

Additional construction of on-shore amenities at the whitewater park like parking, restrooms and a spectator area isn’t scheduled until August. A $200,000 Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant application was rejected in the fall but there’s another opportunity to ask for the grant again in February or March.

Christensen said last year that the city decided not to apply for a GOCO grant previously because it was told it would have a better chance of getting the grant if it promised not to apply for water rights for the park. But GOCO denied that was the case, saying it refused a request from the Colorado River Water Conservation Board that it not fund projects that could involve filings for recreational water rights.

Christensen said Friday the city must take GOCO at its word and discussing filing for water rights for the park now has nothing to do with the latest GOCO grant application denial.

Around 2,500 competitors and spectators are expected to arrive in May 29-31.for the 2009 U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials competition that was awarded to Glenwood Springs. The whitewater park has received visitors and praise from around the country and appeared in almost all paddling magazines, in addition to Outdoor Adventure Magazine. Many believe the park will continue to add steam to the city’s economic engine and promote tourism.

Carey said the Mayor of Reno, Nev., estimates a whitewater park there generates $500,000 a year in free advertising for the city.

Ken Brenner, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for state Senate District 8, encouraged the City Council to establish water rights for the whitewater park. He compared events the park could host to the Alpine Ski World Cup race in Beaver Creek. He said millions are invested in the race each year but promoters know it’s well worth it because of the positive economic impact world-wide television coverage of the event brings.

“This park that you’ve constructed is really second to none,” Brenner said. “By moving forward you’re really protecting the investment you’ve made. … This is your legacy that you’re leaving in the future.”

pfowler@postindependent.com

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