Thursday, April 23, 2009

Green River Water Flows Threatened by Developer Proposal

There is a proposal by a Colorado developer to divert 250,000 acre-feet of water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and a point upstream on the Green River in Wyoming. The developer proposes a pipeline which is drawing a lot of protest from Wyoming and Utah government officials and citizens alike.

The private water development group, Million Conservation Resource Group, headed by businessman Aaron Million, has filed for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Million hopes to build a 500-mile pipeline to divert to Colorado about 250,000 acre feet of water from the Flaming Gorge reservoir on the Colorado-Wyoming border and from a point upstream on the Green River.

Residents of southwest Wyoming protested the plan this week during a public meeting in Green River.

Million told the group that federal studies have shown there should be plenty of water to meet needs for hydropower, recreation and endangered species.

If not the project won't go forward, he said.

Here's one of the public's reactions as published...

Southwest Wyoming bureau, Casper Star Tribune
Thursday, April 16, 2009 2:06 AM MDT

GREEN RIVER -- Tap your own rivers in western Colorado if you need water and leave our Green River alone, southwest Wyoming residents emphatically told a Fort Collins entrepreneur Tuesday night.

Businessman Aaron Million attended the meeting. He hopes to build a 560-mile pipeline to move Wyoming's unallocated water from the Green River Basin to the Front Range.

"We want our river to be a river, not a pipeline to Colorado," Kemmerer resident Cal Lundgren said.

It was a sentiment echoed time and again during a meeting attended by an estimated 200-plus in the Green River High School gymnasium.

"I'm not happy with this project at all," Lundgren said. "This is a bad project that needs to be stopped."

The locals said the unique, privately funded water diversion project will have no real benefits for southwest Wyoming. They claimed it would hurt industry, curtail future growth, threaten a world-class fishery and impact the livelihoods of cities such as Green River and neighboring Rock Springs, which depend on the Green River for their very existence.

"Why does Wyoming have to suffer for (Colorado's) difficulties?" said Reid West of Rock Springs. "Why tear up all our ground for a pipeline to help Colorado? Why can't you take it out of the Ox Bow (in Colorado) instead? We don't trust your intentions."

Green River Mayor Hank Castillon said his city is opposed to the project.

He said drawing water from the river could hurt the city's long-standing, multimillion-dollar tourism and recreation efforts that have been constructed around the river as it traverses through the city.

"We need water for these projects, for industry, for growth ... and if you take water (from upriver) it will affect the city, it will affect recreation and our future growth," Castillon said.

Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo agreed.

"The effects on our socioeconomic quality of life is of great concern to us," he said, noting the trona, coal and gas industries rely on water from the river.

"People need to keep an eye on this one ... because it's not for us," he said.

Sweetwater County Commission Chairwoman Debby Boese said the county and its communities rely on a dependable supply of water from the Green River to attract and sustain agriculture, residential, recreational, commercial and industrial development.

"I hope you don't think this is a done deal ... but I think you do," Boese told Million. "We value the water like we value our lives. We have to get together and fight for our land. We may have to wage battle."

Follow I-80

The pipeline would draw water from intake points located on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and upstream on the Green River in Sweetwater County just below the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge and Fontenelle Dam, according to plans.

The pipeline's five proposed routes mostly run from the reservoir on the Wyoming-Utah border, then follow Interstate 80's southern transportation corridor across the Continental Divide to Laramie. From there, they head south along U.S. Highway 287 into Colorado.

Million envisions diverting about 250,000 acre feet of water per year from the reservoir to Colorado's bustling Front Range near Denver.

In Wyoming, about 25,000 acre feet of the water would be delivered annually to users in the Platte River Basin, with the rest being delivered to the South Platte River and Arkansas River basins in Colorado.

An acre foot is the amount of water needed to flood one acre of land with one foot of water. One or two families can consume an acre foot of water on average annually.

Flaming Gorge Reservoir is operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and begins a few miles south of the city of Green River.

The sprawling, 91-mile-long lake runs across the Wyoming/Utah border and is held back by the 45-year-old Flaming Gorge Dam.

The reservoir can store approximately 3.8 million acre feet of water, but the lake is far from full now, according to agency data. The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area attracts more than two million visitors annually.

Slightly reduced levels

Million said the funding is secure for the pipeline project. He estimated it could take five or more years to complete and cost as much as $3 billion.

The project is spearheaded by a private water development group, Million Conservation Resource Group, which has filed for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting.

Million's firm has retained Cheyenne lawyer Steve Freudenthal, Gov. Dave Freudenthal's brother, and former Wyoming state engineer Jeff Fassett to help develop the project.

Million admitted the project could lead to slightly reduced water levels in the river and reservoir over the next 40 years.

But he said BuRec and other modeling studies have shown there should be plenty of water to meet the Flaming Gorge Dam's original mission -- to create a reservoir to provide water for hydropower, recreation and federal endangered fish species -- while also helping to meet Colorado's future water supply needs.

"We're looking at (tapping) some surpluses above those needs ... which would allow those (hydropower, endangered species and recreation) issues to be met and this project to move forward," Million said.

"If the water is not there, this project will not move forward," Million told residents.

Million said he developed the idea as a graduate student at Colorado State University and put together the best "water team" he could find three years ago to plan the project.

"Their one directive was to find any fatal flaws ... or any snakebites to this project," he said, adding that thus far in the process, they haven't.

The project aims to tap the unappropriated water in the Colorado portion of the Green River for the pipeline. The water would be obtained under Colorado's rights under the existing Colorado River Compact.

Colorado law allows anyone to take unappropriated water and put it to use in the state. And the Colorado River Compact allows water to be diverted from one state to another as long as water allocations under the compact are met.

Million said there has been some interest from water users on the eastern side of Wyoming, including agricultural and municipal.

"Whether we move some of that water to Wyoming ... is up to Wyoming," he said.

Kokanee salmon

Of particular concern to sport fisherman Ron Carey of Green River is the project's potential effect on the kokanee salmon populations in Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

"We have a world-class kokanee fishery, which is really a unique deal here," Carey said.

Carey said the reservoir's kokanee populations could be threatened if the lake's current water levels were to be significantly altered.

He noted the trophy lake trout and brown trout that inhabit the reservoir depend on kokanee salmon as their main food source.

"Kokanee is a shore spawning fish that likes shallow water," Carey said. "They spawn in October through November and then swim upriver through the middle of May ... and they only spawn" when the fish are 3 to 4 years old.

"Between that October and May, the water level can't fall much or it will impact those kokanee ... and if we have four years of (low levels), there will be no kokanee left," he said.

"I don't know what this water is worth to Million, but I know what those kokanee are worth to me," Carey added.

Rena Brand, project manager for the Corps of Engineers in Littleton, Colo., said Million's permit application begins the agency's "highest level of review" of the proposed project: the more-detailed environmental impact statement, which is expected to take up to five years to complete.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Famed Spring Baetis Hatch Buoys Fisherman Numbers

Baetis numbers continue to rebound after the forest fire of a half-dozen years ago, and with the return of the famous Green River spring hatch comes the throngs of flyfishers to enjoyed the rejuvinated activity. Mid-April hatches have been very good, with the hatch coming off about 1:30-2:30 some days, and 3:00-4:00 others. The hatch hasn't been long, but it has been prolific. We were on the river April 17, 18 & 19th and our success was very good both from a drift boat/raft and wade fishing. In both circumstances, we had a lot of competition for space to fish. It was very tight from the boats, as due to the low releases (800cfs) in many places wade fishermen were strung across the entire river from bank-to-bank, including right smack in the middle of the river.

We caught decent numbers of trout on slender nymph imitations such as RS2, WD40 and sparsly tied PTs. But, by far the best success was had during the hatch with dries such as Griffith's Gnat, Thorax Blue Duns and especially Parachute Adams in 20-22 sizes and occasional 18 sizes. It seems the BWOs were fairly large in size, or maybe it was just an optical illusion compared alongside the accompanying midge hatch.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spring Forward, Green River Flyfishers!

Flows are now a steady 800 cfs as we enter March, down from the 1,100 cfs we saw in February. Flows will remain at the 800 cfs range until May, when the BOR raises the release to 4600 cfs for 10 days to simulate the spring runoff on the Green prior to the construction of Flaming Gorge Dam. Dates of the upped flows have not been determined yet. Next meeting with the BOR will occur April 15, and the proposed dates will be revealed then. Watch this blog for updates!

The water temperature is currently at 40 degrees, and is slowly raising as the day temperatures rise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trout Creek Flies Dennis Breer Dies in Accident

Tragically for those of you who may not have heard, Dennis Breer, founder and owner of Trout Creek Flies and Green River Outfitters, had a terrible accident while moving his beautiful but very large and heavy pigeon coop on November 6. Nobody is certain what caused it to fall, either high wind gusts or just slipping off the braces but we believe he was killed instantly. We are all so sorry, for he had so many followers and friends around the country. He will be deeply missed.

Here's an article reprint from yesterdays Salt Lake City Tribune:

The Utah fishing community is mourning Dennis "Denny" Breer, who died Thursday in an accident at his home in Dutch John near Flaming Gorge Dam in Daggett County..

Breer, 59, owned the popular Trout Creek Flies guide service and store in Dutch John, catering to anglers headed to the Green River.

An accomplished pigeon racer and breeder, Breer was attempting to move a large coop in his backyard when it fell on him Thursday morning.

"It is just absolutely tragic," said friend Emmett Heath. "This is going to affect the river a lot. No one had his knowledge of the river and the influence that he had with all the different powers [that manage the Green River]. Now, somebody else is going to have to fill the bill."

Few people attended more meetings regarding management of the Green River than Breer. He was not afraid to speak his mind when it came to protecting the resource..

"Rivers are a precious commodity . . .they aren't making any more of them. I want my granddaughter's children and their grandchildren to have the same opportunity to experience the Green River like I have. A lot of people take rivers for granted and we just can't do that," he told The Tribune.

By Brett Prettyman

Everett Heath and Dennis' wife, Grace, are continuing on with Dennis' work on the Green River, as Denny would want them to do. Please give them your support.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Flows back to summer levels, Colorado Cutts now stocked

As of July 7 the releases are now down to an average of 1500 cfs, and are projected to remain that level for the summer. In the past sumers the flows have reached the basement levels of 850-1000 cfs, but that doesn't appear to be the case for this summer...for now! We'll keep you posted.

Another new development on the Green is that Fish & Wildlife has started stocking the river with Cutthroat Trout, this time of the Colorado Cutt variety. In the past F&W successfully stocked the Green with the Snake River Cutt strain, and the Colorado Cutt version should do even better, as they are being stocked in their native environment -- geographically speaking. The Green River is part of the Colorado River drainage, so even though the origin of the Green is high up in the Wind River range in Wyoming the strain now being stocked should acclimate very well.

Another great thing about the recent stocking is that in addition to the catchable 10-12" fish stocked, it has been reported that some larger Colorado Cutthroat were also included in the stocking, some rumored to be large broodfish in the 20"+ range!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flows returning to normal spring/summertime flows

Our annual spring releases to simulate runoff prior to the construction of the dam are underway. The releases were at a high of 4600 cfs.

Starting June 15 flows are being reduced -500 cfs at 1:00 am daily until flows are at 1225 cfs on June 21, 2008. Current flows today are at 2160 cfs.

The water temperature is currently at 58 degrees, and is slowly rising as the day temperature soar.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

No Foolin' April 1st brings spring to the Green. Summer can't be far behind

Green River Drifters guides Bomar (Greg Tipton, pictured at right with Glen Brogren of Minneapolis) and Doug Roberts showed how great Spring fishing can be on the just have to know where the fish have been hanging out all winter!

The author was part of an annual "spring boyz frozen fishin' outing", this year to (where else) Utah's Green River. We fished the "A" section with three boats/guides and 6 flyfishermen, and the real estate addage, "location, location, location", proved true for flyfishing success. Doug had been on the river every single day throughout the winter, and that knowledge parlaid into the most fish for his boat and clients of the three.

RS2's were the overwhelming choice of the "takers" on this outing, while small bead head PTs and other baetis imitations also worked well. The conditions were also perfect for streamers, but the fish weren't interested at all. The :45 minutes of the day we unsuccessfully lobbed Wolly Buggers and Goldilox were the only lapse of action we had all day.

Most of the action was of the Rainbow variety, with a few more Brownies taken downstream as we got closer to Little Hole. Overall, the fish looked very fat and healthy for overwintering, so it looks like the spring should shape up nicely for good times on the Green...especially on the "A" section right now.

The start of spring runoff has stained Red Creek a bit, and the cooler spring has slowed the thawing of the big snow we had over the winter (largest accumulations of snow seen in these parts in years!). Right now, the lower part of the Green past Red Creek Rapids can be fished successfully with streamers now, but will undoubtedly become unfishable as we enter into full runoff.

The best fishing right now is between 11-2:00 pm, and on the weekdays you'll have the place to yourself. Weekends are starting to pick up somewhat...but with gas in the $3.50-$4.00 per gallon range, you probably won't experience "combat fishing" which can occur if the famous annual Green River Spring Baetis start showing up. Definitely worth a trip here...and a good idea to carpool to save gas this year!