Glenwood to research water rights for whitewater park | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood to research water rights for whitewater park

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over.

The famous Mark Twain quote could ring true if the Glenwood Springs City Council decides in mid-January to seek water rights for the city’s new whitewater park.

At a closed-door meeting to seek legal advice Monday morning, the City Council asked city staff to research a potential water rights filing and make a recommendation next month, according to City Councilman Dave Merritt and Mayor Bruce Christensen.

A filing is expected to attract significant interest and a number of statements of opposition.

The city is looking at applying for a recreational in-channel diversion that could help protect flows at the whitewater park. The right could be useful many years down the road as other interests place demands on flows on the Colorado River.

In one of many possibilities, the prospect of water-intensive oil shale development could threaten flows at the whitewater park by buying out agricultural operations that draw water through Glenwood Springs, said Jason Carey, an engineer who designed the park and runs http://www.riverrestoration.org.

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In times of a shortage, Glenwood Springs could use the right to “call” water in the river from any other water users who hold a newer water right.

City Council members decided there was no additional benefit to filing for the diversion before 2009 after a suggestion last week to the contrary.

“It matters what day you do it, not what year,” Merritt said. “The state engineer tabulates water rights based upon how many days they’re filed after January 1, 1852.”

Merritt, who’s worked as a water engineer in the Colorado River system for around 30 years, said a filing would probably attract a lot of statements of opposition. But many times groups file a notice of opposition just to get involved in the process and make sure their rights are protected, rather than to seriously oppose a water rights filing.

Irrigation in the Grand Valley and trans-basin diversions upstream ” including enormous amounts of water diverted to the Front Range ” are two of the interests that hold some of the older water rights affecting Glenwood Springs.

The whitewater park was constructed in March after around seven years of effort. It’s cost almost $1 million, and around $600,000 is budgeted next year for construction of more parking, restrooms and a spectator area.

pfowler@postindependent.com

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