Basalt looking for help from feds in seeking Ruedi Reservoir relief
Basalt officials are getting tough with the federal agency that oversees Ruedi Reservoir in an effort to influence the flows on the Fryingpan River and protect the town’s multimillion-dollar fishing economy.
The Town Council made demands that it hopes are addressed tonight by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation when it holds its annual Ruedi Reservoir operations meeting in Basalt. That public meeting is scheduled from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Basalt Town Hall.
The Town Council raised issues that have concerned anglers and environmentalists for years – too low of flows during winter and too high of flows during some parts of summer.
In a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation, the town asked that release rates from the Ruedi dam be kept higher than 39 cubic feet per second, which is typical during winters.
“The Town requests that Reclamation address the issue of increasing winter release rates to conserve the trout fishery and to maintain fishing access to the Fryingpan River according to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Operating Principles and the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act,” the letter said.
The town also asked that the Bureau give greater advance notice regarding the timing and duration of periods when flows exceed 250 cfs during summers.
“Flow rates in excess of 250 cfs limit safe fishing access to this reach of the Fryingpan River,” the letter said. “Reservoir release rates greater than 300 cfs may have a negative impact on the trout fishery due to scouring of the Fryingpan River bed material.”
The letter concluded by charging that the town believes western Colorado water users in general and Ruedi Reservoir in particular are being unfairly penalized by the Bureau’s use of Ruedi to make up for operational shortages at Green Mountain Reservoir.
That reservoir, located in Summit County, cannot release all the water it stores because low levels may contribute to landslides affecting the nearby town of Heeney. The Bureau has decided that 20,000 acre-feet of water must be kept in Green Mountain. To make up for that unavailable water, Ruedi Reservoir will supply 10,000 acre-feet.
The town wants to know if those releases are authorized and how they will affect recreational use of the Fryingpan and Ruedi Reservoir.
To place pressure on the Bureau to supply answers, the Town Council invited representatives from Colorado’s U.S. congressional delegation to attend tonight’s meeting. Staff members were invited from the offices of Sen. Ben Campbell and Sen. Wayne Allard as well as Rep. Mark Udall and Rep. Scott McInnis.
Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens said all staffs indicated they would attend or would follow up by acquiring minutes of the meeting.
The council decided at a meeting May 13 that they might as well take the tougher stance to try to force greater cooperation from the Bureau. Stevens said there was nothing to lose since the Bureau currently “doesn’t pay attention.”
“It’s time to go to the next level of engagement,” Stevens said.
Councilwoman Anne Freedman agreed that the town should explore every level of political and legal pressure to assure the town’s interests aren’t ignored.
“The politeness thing is getting old. It’s not working,” said Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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