For many citizens of Basalt, Pitkin County, and beyond, the Roaring Fork is our home river. The river's seasonal flows, special places and diversity of uses help define the character of our valley and our way of life.
With the population of Colorado set to double in the next 35 years, western slope water is facing increasing demands on a diminishing resource. On average, 47,000 acre feet of the upper Roaring Fork annual flow is diverted through to the Front Range. Conditional water rights could allow for a substantial additional diversion from the river. The ecological integrity and recreational viability of the Roaring Fork depend upon the sustained seasonal flows of water through the river’s course. Several stream reaches on the Upper Roaring Fork are already depleted in late summer. These de-watered zones regularly occur below the Twin Lakes diversion at Lost Man, through the City of Aspen, and below Wingo Junction and into Basalt.
Much of the Roaring Fork’s low and moderate flows are long since spoken for and wrangled over. Future water diversion projects are likely to target un-allocated river flows. These seasonal flows are critical to the Roaring Fork’s ecology and recreation, and they are at risk.
In consideration of increasing demand on our water resources, and the potential impacts of climate change, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers has advanced a community plan to implement a Recreational In-Channel Diversion (RICD). The RICD is a water right that confers to Pitkin County the right to call water down the Roaring Fork to the whitewater park site, located just upstream from the Roaring Fork's confluence with the Fryingpan River. Read the full decree here.
In order to call water, Pitkin County was required to install in-stream diversion structures (wave features) that put the water to beneficial use. In the case of this RICD, that beneficial use is recreation (wave surfing) at the whitewater park.
Of course, there are many other important benefits to the RICD keeping water in the river. This project represents much more than a kayak play park. It secures a future that keeps seasonal flows in the Roaring Fork, maintains healthy river ecology, adds to our diverse recreational resources, and creates an opportunity for citizens of Basalt, Pitkin County, and the entire Roaring Fork community to discuss and plan new ways to enjoy our beloved river.
MUCH MORE THAN A KAYAK PARK!
The RICD creates many benefits for the Roaring Fork river and all who love it.