Healthy Rivers board tackles RICD education
ASPEN, COLO. (July 15, 2021) – The Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners has formally recognized July 2021 as Pitkin County’s inaugural “RICD Appreciation Month.” The proclamation, made at the request of the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Board, is meant to increase public awareness of the RICD mechanism which protects the instream flows of many rivers throughout the state of Colorado.
Legislated into Colorado water law in 2001, RICD, stands for Recreational In-channel Diversion. RICDs are non-consumptive water rights that protect the in-stream flow necessary to provide a reasonable recreational experience in or on a river. RICDs require control structures, otherwise known as wave features, be built within the streambed to produce a recreational experience.
Pitkin County Healthy Rivers began the complicated process of securing a RICD water right in 2009. The goal was to prevent further dewatering of several stressed reaches along the Upper Roaring Fork River. In order to gain these protections, Pitkin County was required to install two wave features that put the protected water to beneficial use.
The county elected to build the waves just upstream of the Roaring Fork’s confluence with the Fryingpan River in Basalt. The location near, but above, the confluence was ideal because it brought maximal Roaring Fork flow protections as far downstream as possible. Since the Fryingpan adds to the flow of the Roaring Fork, locating the waves at or below the confluence would have lessened the RICD’s flow protections for the stressed upper reaches of the Roaring Fork. The selected site also offered an opportunity to turn a highly degraded section of river into a community amenity.
The two wave features, known today as the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Whitewater Park, opened to the public in spring of 2017. Colorado water court granted an “absolute” decree for the Pitkin County RICD on November 23, 2020. It has priority over all water rights filed after December 30, 2010 – a major boon for an overallocated river facing droughts of increasing frequency and intensity.
The Pitkin County RICD protects up to 1,350 cfs between June 11 and June 25 (when mother nature obliges). That’s a great boating flow – up and down the Roaring Fork – and enough water to trigger the annual sediment flush so critical to aquatic life. During July, and most of August, the RICD safeguards up to 380 cfs – what may turn out to be the Upper Roaring Fork’s last drops of vitality during dry and hot summers.
“Our RICD protects a huge chunk of the hydrograph,” said Pitkin County Healthy Rivers board member Andre Wille. “We’re talking about June’s flushing flows and July and August water that is absolutely critical to river health. Without the RICD protection, you can bet that water would go elsewhere.”
Protecting river flow also has considerable economic upside. According to Hattie Johnson, Southern Rockies Stewardship Director with American Whitewater, “River recreation provides Colorado with nearly $19B in economic output, $2.7B in tax revenue, and provides 131,000 jobs. Ensuring protection for healthy river flows is necessary to sustain the outdoor recreation industry. RICDs like the one in Pitkin County, and others around the state, help protect river recreation of all types.”
Despite RICDs playing the lead role in many river stewardship success stories, RICD awareness and education has always been a challenge - one that extends well beyond the Roaring Fork Valley. As it turns out, there is a statewide disconnect between how people think of RICDs – as whitewater parks – and what they actually protect – natural river flows.
“RICDs are hard to wrap your head around,” said Johnson. “Many people enjoy the whitewater parks but don’t understand how they are a tool towards flow protection. The protection RICDs offer goes so far beyond the parks.”
There are currently 21 RICDs protecting river flows throughout Colorado, each with far reaching ecological, economic, and recreational benefits that extend upstream, and often downstream, of the whitewater parks.
It was with RICD education in mind that Pitkin County commissioners proclaimed July 2021 the county’s inaugural RICD Appreciation Month.
“Recreational In-Channel Diversions can have a big impact when it comes to protecting rivers and ensuring recreational options are available to the public. I would love to see more RICDs happen around the state,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman. “The more Coloradans who understand what RICDs are, the better for our rivers, and the better for our communities.”
RICD Appreciation Month is part of Pitkin County Healthy Rivers’ “Paddle with Purpose” campaign encouraging river users to be active participants in river stewardship. Learn how you can lend your voice to the effort at https://www.pitkincountyrivers.com/ricd-water-right.html.
About Pitkin County Healthy Rivers
The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers program was approved by voters in 2008 to protect, defend, and enhance the rivers of the Roaring Fork watershed. It is funded by a 0.1 percent sales tax on goods purchased within Pitkin County. The seven-member Healthy Rivers Citizen Advisory Board is appointed by the Board of County Commissioners to assist in administering the Healthy Rivers Fund.
Pitkin County Attorney's Office & Healthy Rivers Program
River board promotes citizen stewardship
ASPEN, COLO. (June 24, 2021) – Pitkin County Healthy Rivers, whose mission is to maintain and improve water quality and quantity within the Roaring Fork watershed, today announced a new campaign called “Paddle with Purpose,” encouraging river users and enthusiasts to be active participants in river stewardship.
There is no better place to illustrate the power of recreationalists to protect a river than the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Whitewater Park in Basalt. The whitewater park was born out of Pitkin County’s pursuit of a Recreational In-Channel Diversion (RICD) water right to protect the future flows of the Upper Roaring Fork River. Colorado has a number of RICD based whitewater parks but perhaps none more critical to the future health of a river.
Both the ecological integrity, and recreational viability, of the Roaring Fork depend upon sustained seasonal flows. Yet, by the early 2000’s several stream reaches on the Upper Roaring Fork were commonly depleted by late summer. On average, 47,000 acre-feet of the upper Roaring Fork’s annual flow is diverted to the Front Range. Conditional water rights could allow the development of additional diversions and droughts have become increasingly frequent and extreme.
In an effort to limit further dewatering of the river, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers began pursuing a RICD water right in 2010. The RICD gives the county legal standing to shepherd runoff from the Roaring Fork headwaters down to the whitewater park in Basalt, just above the confluence with the Fryingpan River. Keeping these flows in the river is critical to maintaining a healthy river ecology along the entire Upper Roaring Fork.
In order to use the RICD to call water, Pitkin County was required to install two in-stream diversion structures (wave features) that put the water to “beneficial use.” In this case, that beneficial use is recreation (wave surfing) at the whitewater park. The wave features were constructed and opened to the public in 2017. The park has been growing a diverse user base ever since.
“It’s not just playboaters who use it. The wave features create opportunities for many different users depending on river flows,” said Healthy Rivers board member Andre Wille. “In addition to kayaking, it creates a great fishing hole, it’s great for boogie boarding, a nice spot to cool off on a hot summer day or to just hang out and watch the river flow.”
Wille added, “It’s great to see the community embrace the park. Many folks don’t realize how critical that is to realizing the RICD’s river health benefits.”
Recently, the project achieved its most important milestone. Colorado water court issued the absolute decree recognizing the RICD water right has been perfected, or made real, on November 22, 2020 with a priority date of December 30, 2010. As with any water right, the county must continue to prove the water flowing through the diversion is put to beneficial use. In the RICDs case, that requires documenting use of the whitewater park.
RICD education, and encouraging use of the park, is where the Paddle with Purpose campaign comes in. The campaign seeks to demystify the term “RICD” by helping river enthusiasts understand how their whitewater park visits contribute to the Roaring Fork’s aquatic and riparian health.
“With an acronym like RICD, it’s easy to lose track of what the whitewater park is all about. It’s the one spot in our watershed where putting your paddle in the water literally helps protect the ecology of an entire river,” said Healthy Rivers Board member Wendy Huber.
Anyone can help protect Roaring Fork flows by sharing photos or videos of their Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Whitewater Park experience to #RICDfundial on Facebook or Instagram.
“Whether you enjoy surfing the waves, or a peaceful moment by the water, we’d love to see your pictures,” said Huber. “It’s a meaningful way to stand-up for your river.”
About Pitkin County Healthy Rivers The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers program was approved by voters in 2008 to protect, defend, and enhance the rivers of the Roaring Fork watershed. It is funded by a 0.1 percent sales tax on goods purchased within Pitkin County. The seven-member Healthy Rivers Citizen Advisory Board is appointed by the Board of County Commissioners to assist in administering the Healthy Rivers Fund.
Pitkin County Attorney's Office & Healthy Rivers Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2020
Pitkin County awards four Healthy Rivers grants
On Tuesday, June 16th, the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners authorized four Healthy Rivers grants totaling $105,855. The successful grant applicants participated in Pitkin County Heathy Rivers’ spring grant cycle. The river board reviewed a total of five grant applications in April, recommending funding for four.
The largest grant, $50,000, was awarded to the Town of Carbondale to aid in completion of planning and design for the Crystal River and Riverfront Park Restoration and Enhancement Project. Healthy Rivers contributed $5,000 to that effort in 2018 which helped the project partners collect community input and advance to 60% design. The additional funding will help ensure the design reaches shovel readiness. According to Healthy Rivers Board Chair Andre Wille, “This project has been many years in the making and we’re excited to help move it towards implementation. The completed plan will be a giant leap towards realizing the community’s vision for a healthier relationship with the Crystal River.” For more information on the project, visit: yourcrystalriver.com
American Whitewater applied for, and was granted, $19,355 to do a formal study of stream flows necessary to support recreational use on the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers. The study will create a quantifiable data source for modeling the impacts of future water supply projects and climate change on recreational opportunities in the watershed. This data will add to the Roaring Fork watershed community toolkit for illustrating the importance of maintaining in-stream flows. County Commissioner Greg Poschman stated, “This is really worthwhile information gathering and an essential component of review of a river anywhere. The Roaring Fork and Crystal River both need this.”
Water Education Colorado (WECO), Colorado Watershed Assembly, and the Colorado Riparian Assembly teamed up on a successful $7,500 sponsorship ask in support of the 2020 Sustaining Colorado’s Watershed Conference. Healthy Rivers Board Member Bill Jochems states, “We’ve sponsored and attended this annual conference since 2018. Its organizers do an amazing job of expanding watershed education and collaboration throughout the state.” The event has historically been hosted in Avon, CO each October. This year’s edition may take on an alternative form due to COVID-19 considerations. For more information please visit: https://www.watereducationcolorado.org/programs-events/conferences/
The Roaring Fork Conservancy was awarded $29,000 for curriculum enhancement, teacher training, and program delivery at the River Center. Healthy Rivers Board Member Lisa Tasker states, “The fields of river and watershed education are constantly evolving. We are thrilled to support the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s new interactive tools and curriculum development.” The river board has provided funding for a number of Roaring Fork Conservancy planning, education, and programming initiatives over the years.
Since its 2010 inception, the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Grant Program has awarded nearly $750,000 to a mix of research, planning, education, restoration, and infrastructure projects in the Roaring Fork Watershed.
The program offers a spring and fall grant cycle each year. Spring applications are due March 31st and reviewed in April. Fall applications are due August 31st and reviewed in September. The program has approximately $150,000 in total grant funding available in 2020. The amount of available grant funding dollars varies by year.
For a complete history of Pitkin County Healthy Rivers grant funding, please visit: https://www.pitkincountyrivers.com/grants.html
Pitkin County Attorney's Office & Healthy Rivers Program