Study: Fishing on Fryingpan River pumps $4M into valley economy

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Devin Pool of Aspen fishes a stretch of the lower Fryingpan River last summer. Fishing will be difficult if not impossible in the short term because of high releases from Ruedi Reservoir dam.
Aspen Times file photo |


What: Presentation of economic study

When: Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Basalt Regional Library

Who: Free and open to the public

Fishing on the lower Fryingpan River and Ruedi Reservoir pumps $4 million annually into the Roaring Fork Valley economy, according to a study commissioned by the nonprofit Roaring Fork Conservancy.

The study also showed that managing the water level so it stays above 40 cubic feet per second in the winter and below roughly 250 cfs in the late summer is critical to the economy.

The conservancy commissioned the study to show the importance of maintaining healthy rivers and streams in the Roaring Fork Valley watershed, according to Heather Lewin, watershed action director for the conservancy.

“It’s often hard to put a monetary value on ecological health,” she said.

The study was released this week, and the results will be shared in depth at a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Basalt Regional Library. The conservancy teamed with Colorado State University on the study. The spending habits of anglers from outside Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties were ascertained from a survey.

As expected, the study showed that spending by anglers was critical for Basalt.

“On average, 44 percent of expenditures associated with fishing on the Fryingpan River occur in downtown Basalt, corresponding to ($1.69 million) in economic impact (and) 17 jobs,” said a summary of the report.

Total expenditures by anglers on the lower Fryingpan River — direct spending on everything from fishing guides to beer, food and lodging — was $3.3 million.

Anglers spent an average of $101 per day, the study showed. That included those who take deluxe trips by hiring a guide and staying at The Little Nell hotel and those who go on the cheap.

The total impact climbed another $500,000 when indirect spending and the “induced effect” were factored in, according to the study. Anglers are responsible for indirect spending such as a fly shop hiring an accountant, said Lewin. Induced effect spending occurs when a fishing guide buys a burger and a beer at a local restaurant.

Most of the spending by anglers happens in June, July and August. That’s traditionally been crunch time for Basalt businesses.

Roughly 350 anglers on the Fryingpan and 175 anglers on Ruedi were surveyed in 2014 for the economic study, Lewin said. The report didn’t look at millions of dollars pumped into the economy by sailors and boaters on the reservoir.

Fishing’s importance to the valley’s economy is climbing, despite the recession that hit in 2008. A similar economic study was commissioned by the Roaring Fork Conservancy in 2002. It showed an economic impact of about $2.74 million for the entire valley from fishing on the lower Fryingpan and Ruedi Reservoir, according to newspaper accounts at the time.

Lewin said the study also established that spending would likely climb if the water flows were consistently managed at favorable levels in the winter and late summer for fishing. The water level typically doesn’t go below 40 cfs during winters. When it does, it allows the buildup of anchor ice, which affects the quality of fishing.

Late-summer water releases from Ruedi Reservoir occasionally exceed levels where anglers can safely wade. That ranges from 250 to 350 cfs depending on the person and their comfort zone.

The study was funded with contributions from Eagle County, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams, Basalt and private donors.

“We are thrilled to begin to quantify the monetary value of fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Rick Lofaro, executive director of Roaring Fork Conservancy, in a prepared statement. “The ecological value is apparent to the many visitors who experience the Fryingpan Valley each year. This study puts a dollar value on protecting and maintaining high water quality and quantity and the thriving Gold Medal waters in the Fryingpan. We will use the information generated from this study to help inform decision making and management going forward.”


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