A Basalt-based conservation group is putting some science behind water problems on the Crystal River. A drought in 2012 made clear the need to improve the river’s health, when stream flows dropped to a trickle.
The problem with the Crystal River that runs through Redstone and Carbondale, is sometimes there’s not enough water and too much dirt. Heavy sedimentation can smother fish and aquatic insects. In 2012, American Rivers named the river one of the most endangered in the country.
The Roaring Fork Conservancy wants to do more than just raise awareness, so it created a management plan. Right now, the group’s gathering data about the riverbed. Heather Tattersall is with the Conservancy.
"So (we’re) making a computerized model of what the Crystal River looks like, as far as where there are pools, where it’s flat, where it’s deep. So we’ll be able to take that model of the river and say, ‘Ok, if we add this much water to it, how much fish habitat do we create? If we take water away from it, where does it get hurt?’"
Once the modeling is complete, the Conservancy may take steps like restoring the river bank or narrowing a river channel.
Farmers, ranchers, municipalities and neighborhoods divert water from the Crystal and the Conservancy is working closely with these stakeholders. Executive Director Rick Lofaro says they want to keep agricultural production intact, while raising water levels on the river.
"So we’re just trying to look at ways that we can improve the health the Crystal River and maintain the agricultural and open space vitality that the Crystal River has," he says.
The Conservancy has held two “Crystal River Conversation” events to keep the dialogue going about the river’s health. The latest meeting was Tuesday.