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`We could stop this’

Opponents of a proposal for long-term water releases from Ruedi Reservoir want to pack a meeting in Basalt May 10 to persuade the federal government to alter its plan.

“If we get enough people together we could stop this,” said Roy Palm, owner of Frying Pan Anglers. “We need to get every fisherman possible there.”

What he and others hope to stop is the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal to sign a long-term contract to provide releases from Ruedi to benefit the Colorado squawfish and other endangered fish.

The bureau has a temporary agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide water to help enhance habitat along a 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River in the western part of the state.

Water is released from Ruedi and other reservoirs in spring to simulate runoff flooding. Water is released again from Ruedi in late summer or early fall to offset diversion of river water for irrigation of agricultural lands.

The bureau is considering whether the agreement should be converted into a long-term deal good through 2012.

Anglers like Palm claim the deal could ruin the world-famous fishing on the Fryingpan. The releases wash out fish habitat as well as insect hatches, said Palm.

The Basalt Town Council has also expressed its concerns to the bureau about the potentially detrimental effect of the water releases on the town’s economy. The Town Council approved a letter this week that urges the bureau to limit the number of water releases and the amount of water released.

“Fishing access in the Fryingpan River is severely reduced when flows below Ruedi rise above 250 cubic feet per second,” the letter said. “Local sources tell us that flows between 100 and 150 cfs are ideal for both habitat and fisherman access.”

Releases that occur now boost the flow to above 250 cfs.

The town claimed in its letter that the higher flows and wild fluctuations in flows could destroy fish and insect habitat.

“The Town insists that the Bureau cap flow rates in the Fryingpan at 250 cfs or less during the height of the fishing season pending adequate mitigation of these impacts,” the letter said.

Council members decided that the letter should also seek a minimum flow of 100 cfs and surge protection – with no more than a 20 percent increase in flow during a 24-hour period.

“We assume that the Bureau does not want to damage one fishery to enhance another, despite the requirements of the Endangered Species Act,” Basalt’s letter said.

Anyone who wants to comment on the proposed long-term agreement for releases must submit written comments by Monday, April 17. They should be directed to: Will Pully, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 11056 W. County Rd., Loveland, CO 80537.

Bureau officials will travel to Basalt next month to collect further opinions. The meeting will be held May 10, but neither time nor location has been set.

The information received will help determine what type of environmental review is needed on the proposed long-term agreement.


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