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PNS Daily Newscast - September 25, 2020 

Democrats reported to be preparing a smaller pandemic relief package; vote-by-mail awaits a court decision in Montana.

2020Talks - September 25, 2020 

Senators respond to President Donald Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. And, former military and national security officials endorse Joe Biden.

CO River: Balancing Demands, Protecting Recreation

May 16, 2011

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - 'Tis the season - for river recreation, that is. And the Interior Department is working with seven Western states to make sure the Colorado River is protected for multiple uses. Their goal is to balance the sometimes competing needs for water - between agriculture, tourism and recreation interests on the Western Slope and drinking water demands for Front Range metropolitan areas like Denver.

Nathan Fey is director of the American Whitewater Colorado River Stewardship program. He says that balance is important, because a robust Colorado is a huge draw for tourists.

"Recreation relies on variability in flows, and it relies on river health. People who raft the upper Colorado, for example, they don't really want the Disneyland experience."

Fey says commercial rafting alone is a $150-million industry annually in Colorado - stretching over nine months of the year. The Interior Department study will analyze water use in the basin and develop a long-term conservation and resource use strategy.

Fishing is another major source of tourism. Guide Jeff Dysart, general manager of Alpine Angling and Roaring Fork Anglers, says fly fishers come from as far away as South Africa to pursue Colorado trout. He does not want to see another winter like this past year, when the river slowed to a trickle due to repairs at the Shoshone hydroplant.

"There were places on the river where I could see 20 or 30 yards of river bed that was high and dry. I have no doubt that, with the reduced flows, we lost a year-class of spawning. The eggs and the baby fish froze to death."

Fey would love to see the Colorado receive the protections afforded by Wild and Scenic River designation - but he also knows that isn't a realistic goal, given Colorado's history.

"A Wild and Scenic designation, if there was a federal water right associated with that, would be so junior under Colorado water law that it would really fail to do anything to protect in-stream flows."

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO