Proposal to purchase Ruedi water promises to be ‘contentious’ issue |

Proposal to purchase Ruedi water promises to be ‘contentious’ issue

Bill Graham of Grand Junction fishes the Fryingpan River near Basalt on Saturday afternoon. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

A new application to purchase 5,000 acre-feet of water from Ruedi Reservoir has the potential to please environmentalists, but anger anglers and boaters.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District is trying to secure the water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to fulfill its mission is to provide water for Western Slope users. The river district wants to preserve that water for future municipal and industrial uses in the growing Western Slope, according to spokesman Dave Merritt. After securing the water, it would sell it to users.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Ruedi Reservoir, is reviewing the request and seeking public comment under the strict guidelines of the National Environmental Protect Act.

“We’re fully aware this is a contentious issue,” said Tara Moberg, a resource specialist with the Bureau of Reclamation.

The water purchase has a potential adverse effect on fishing in the Fryingpan River, which the Colorado Division of Wildlife classifies as “Gold Medal” waters for the amount and size of trout it harbors. The river district’s water purchase could lead to more water releases from Ruedi in late summer ” when users demand it. In theory, the river level could be pushed past the 250 cubic feet per second level the bureau tries to maintain for optimal fishing.

The purchase could also affect the Aspen Yacht Club during the later part of the summer. The club needs the water to be at a certain level to use its facilities. Ruedi holds 102,369 acre-feet of water. The yacht club needs 93,000 acre-feet or more.

This year, the reservoir is expected to fill by late June or early July and remain full until late September, so all boat ramps will be fully operational. If the river district’s deal is accepted, the water level could drop quicker in future years.

But the request also has environmental advantages. Merritt said the river district anticipates demand will grow by 300 acre-feet per year for the 5,000 acre-feet it wants to acquire. Therefore, it would have as much as 4,700 acre-feet available for other uses in 2006. It doesn’t anticipate selling all the water it acquires until the year 2021.

Rather than just let that water sit in Ruedi, the water district is proposing to draw an environmental benefit from it. Releasing the water during winters could maintain higher flows on the Fryingpan River, Merritt said.

The Bureau of Reclamation tries to maintain a minimum streamflow of 39 cfs on the river during winter. Environmentalists and anglers fear that level is too low too support good habit. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is monitoring conditions to test the theory.

Details of the river district’s proposed purchase are available at then the link at “Eastern Colorado Area Office, Colorado River Water Conservation District Ruedi Round II Contract EA, scoping document.”

The Bureau of Reclamation is accepting written comments on the proposal until May 30. Comments can be mailed to Tara Moberg, Bureau of Reclamation, Eastern Colorado Area Office, 11056 West County Road 18E, Loveland, CO 80537, e-mailed to, or faxed to (970) 663-3212.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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