Brief by Central Staff
Outdoor Recreation – December 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine
What we had here was a failure to communicate
Like the national forests, the Arkansas River is a realm of multiple uses, and sometimes those uses conflict.
That happened last spring, when upstream tourism and downstream irrigation needed the river at the same time. Upstream wanted low water, and downstream needed high water.
The upstream tourism was the annual Caddisfly Festival in May. The caddisfly, which hatches in May, feeds a lot of brown trout, and the hungry fish are quite susceptible to anglers’ flies then.
The Chaffee County Visitor Bureau, local chambers of commerce, and the Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited joined to promote the Caddisfly Festival, with radio stations reporting the progress of the hatch upstream from Florence to Buena Vista.
Anglers have responded in increasing numbers, giving the area an attraction during a slow time of year, but this year, they weren’t happy campers.
The river was running too high for good fishing because it had been a dry winter. Downstream irrigation reservoirs were low and needed to be filled for the farmers’ crops.
Enter the Upper Arkansas Watershed Council, which put the various interests around a table.
“Most of the problem was just a lack of communication,” said Red Dils of the Watershed Council.
No formal agreements were signed after the day-long discussion. The irrigators agreed that whenever it was possible, they would limit their releases during the caddisfly hatch, and look into water exchanges elsewhere on the river system to reduce the flow then.
The Caddisfly Festival organizers agreed to include statements in their promotional literature, explaining that there was no guarantee of good fishing in May, since river levels could be high then.
The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area administration will try to maintain communication in the future. For more information on the Watershed Council, call Jeff Keidel at 719-395-6035.