April 2, 2016--Lawsuit filed on Dolores River standard (Durango Herald)

The Southwestern Water Conservancy District has filed a legal challenge in water court against a new minimum flow requirement for the Lower Dolores River established by the state last year. In September, the Colorado Water Conservation Board agreed to establish minimum in-stream flows up to 900 cubic feet per second in spring on the Dolores River between the confluence of the San Miguel River and Gateway. The new flow standards on the 34-mile stretch are intended to help river health, including three species of native fish: the flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker and roundtail chub. Local water boards objected to the new standard, arguing that the flows were too high, and they could not be met in drought conditions. In addition, there was fear that water stored in the upstream McPhee Reservoir could be used to meet the standard. But the conservation board denied their appeal, and the minimum-flow plan for the Lower Dolores River was approved. In December, the conservation district responded by filing a lawsuit in Colorado’s Division 4 water court in Montrose to try and overturn or modify the flow allocation. The district’s lawsuit claims CWCB’s action on the Lower Dolores River exceeds the in-stream flow’s statutory standard of “minimum stream flows to preserve the natural environment” and it does not protect “present uses” of the water. It further states that the new in-stream flow is inconsistent with CWCB’s statutory responsibility to develop water for beneficial and future use for state residents, and that the new standard is inconsistent with CWCB’s appropriation of an in-stream flow regime on the San Miguel River. John Porter, SWCD board president, says it’s time to rethink the in-stream flow program so that some of it is reserved for future growth. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.