Crystal River among most endangered rivers in the country

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Crystal River, Pitkin County, Colorado.

Danielle Kreutter | May 17, 2012 | KREX News Room | Shared as an educational material

PITKIN COUNTY, Colo.- Conservationists hope a new designation of “endangered river” may halt plans to build reservoirs in the Crystal River.

Some water rights officials want to create a 4,000 acre reservoir on the river.

Supporters of keeping the river the way it is met Tuesday to hear an announcement recognizing it as one of the top 10 most endangered rivers in the country.

Some conservationists say the designation is a wake up call.

“One of ten rivers?” said Dorothea Farris of the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association. “Do you know how many thousands of rivers exist in the nation, and a lot of them are threatened? To be one of the most threatened is a designation that we have to get rid of.”

The Colorado River District has created a proposal to place a dam and reservoirs on the main channel of the Crystal River. The goal is to fill needs for hydropower generation or increased irrigation abilities, but some people don’t think that’s necessary.

“The problem is that the project as proposed doesn’t really accomplish much of any of that,” said John Ely, a Pitkin County attorney.

American Rivers placed the Crystal River on their list of endangered rivers with the hope of making policy makers aware of the potential threat.

“An endangered river doesn’t mean it’s like this polluted dead river … the purpose of the listing is to prevent that from happening,” said Matt Rice of American Rivers.

Many agencies have come out in support of the river conservation, saying “inappropriate development” could have significant impacts economically, as it would reduce recreation opportunities drastically, and damage surrounding wildlife.

“There for years has been water rights that would allow a dam to be built at the narrows … that would flood this entire wetland,” said Farris.

A trial for the continuation of water rights and the proposal of the reservoirs project will be held in August 2013. Conservationists say they hope the new designation helps change policy makers’ minds.

American Rivers, Pitkin County, Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association and the Roaring Fork Conservancy will hold a Crystal River event on May 29 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Dos Gringos Burritos on 588 Highway 133 in Carbondale.

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