FRASER — The Fraser River may get a small hydrological boost this summer.
The Winter Park Ranch Water and Sanitation District has successfully negotiated a short-term water rights lease with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the State Engineer’s Office. The Colorado Water Conservation Board officially ratified the lease on Tuesday, June 16. The lease is seen as a tool to help boost local streamflows in St. Louis Creek and the Fraser River at a time when a significant portion of the river’s water is diverted to the Front Range via the Moffat Tunnel, which impacts fish and flows to the Colorado River. But through a 2003 Colorado statute, water rights can be loaned or leased to improve the volume of water flowing through rivers and streams. Winter Park Ranch saw the statue as an opportunity to benefit its home river.
“As a water provider, Winter Park Ranch feels responsible for stewarding the river that provides water to our community,” said District Manager Kirk Klancke in a press statement. Klancke, has long been a Fraser River water advocate and is president of the Colorado River Headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Through the 2003 statute, districts can loan or lease their rights to existing streams with water shortages for three years in a 10-year period. During each of those three years, they can only be used for up to 120 days. Winter Park Ranch’s lease came just in time to supplement the Fraser River as high summer temperatures and dwindling snowpack cause it to slow.
“I would encourage other water users or managers to consider their water rights and if those rights might be appropriate for instream flow use,” Klancke said. “Our river can use all the help it can get.”