Water officials prepare public for trade-offs in river management plan

Nov 8, 2017

Stretches of the Roaring Fork are listed as impaired, as the river does not meet state-mandated minimum flows. Officials are working on a new management plan to improve the health of the river.
Credit Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Public Radio News

The City of Aspen and Pitkin County are in the final stages of drafting a management plan aimed at cleaning up the Roaring Fork River. Officials are preparing the public for some difficult trade-offs.

The state of Colorado lists stretches of the upper Roaring Fork as impaired. Studies show that insect life -- a strong indicator of river health -- is suffering because of low flows. Local governments are working on a plan to keep more water in the river and also guide decisions on how to allocate that scarce resource.  

April Long is heading up the project, which is a year in the works.

“Now we’re coming back to the public to ask them about trade-offs for certain scenarios that may play out in the way we manage water and manage the river and for its health,” Long said.

Long explained that the health of the river is only one consideration. Water from the Roaring Fork is necessary for recreation, irrigation, food production, snowmaking and drinking. When water is dedicated to certain uses, others might get short changed.

Officials are asking the public to really take stock of these trade-offs. There will be a presentation and discussion of river health Thursday at 5:30 at Aspen City Council Chambers. There’s also a online survey that asks people to consider their own values and priorities in relation to water consumption.