Business Owners Speak Out for the River

A letter signed by hundreds of Upper Colorado business owners asking Gov. Hickenlooper to recognize the connection between the local economy and the health of the rivers.

November 07, 2011

Dear Governor Hickenlooper:

Tourism is the lifeblood of Colorado’s economy and the economies of small communities. Visitors travel across the country and across the world to fish our gold medal streams, raft and kayak our freeflowing rivers, ski picturesque mountain peaks, and hunt elk, moose and waterfowl found in abundance throughout the Colorado River basin. Outdoor recreation alone generates $10 billion annually throughout our state, supporting over 100,000 jobs and accounts for almost a half billion dollars in state tax revenues.

As members of Colorado’s business community, we are writing today to express our concern over two water projects that could have devastating longterm impacts on the recreation opportunities our industry, communities and families depend on for our livelihoods.

The Moffat Expansion and Windy Gap Firming Project together threaten to reduce the Colorado River to a fraction of its natural flow. The Moffat Expansion project will do the same to the Fraser River and tributaries. Measures offered by the project proponent are not enough to protect the rivers or to ensure the Upper Colorado River and its tributaries like the Fraser River continue sustaining and supporting robust populations of fish and wildlife into the future.

Without healthy rivers, fish and wildlife decline as do the anglers, hunters, rafters, skiers and hikers that invest millions into our communities through recreation. Whether we own a resort, fly shop, or real estate firm; our income is tied to the health of the Colorado River. As we saw in 20022003, years of dry streams can lead to a collapse in the demand for our products and services. Like everyone else, our businesses have been hit hard by the recent recession. While Colorado’s economy is showing slow signs of recovery, we cannot afford to lose what little progress we have made. We cannot afford unbalanced policy decisions that permanently alter the condition of our river. Without healthy rivers and recreation opportunities, our shops will be forced to close, local manufactures face layoffs, and thousands of employees will be without work.

As currently proposed, the Moffat Expansion and Windy Gap Firming Project will significantly reduce flows, increase water temperatures, and deposit tons of silt and sand that suffocates streambeds. The lack of safeguards that protect this important resource is not only dangerous for our environment; it is unacceptable to the men and women in our industry that depend on these rivers for our economic livelihoods. Killing the Upper Colorado River and Fraser River kills Colorado tourism and Colorado jobs.

Project proponents can take very concrete steps to protect the rivers. They can make sure diversions do not violate state stream temperature standards that protect fish. They can leave enough water in the rivers to flush sediment and silt. And they can commit sufficient funds to monitor the rivers’ health and for restoration work to help streams adjust to the lower flow conditions. None of the agreements and state actions taken to date provide for these basic, critical safeguards.

We have chosen to make our lives in this community, to grow our families and our businesses here, and today we are concerned that mismanaging one of our state’s greatest resources will lead to the eventual collapse of the streams and rivers our economies rely upon for future growth and success. As a leader who has a proven record for successfully seeking collaborative solutions to difficult problems like these, we ask that you take this opportunity to do everything in your power to ensure the Upper Colorado River, the Fraser River and their tributary streams remain healthy for our state’s fish, wildlife, recreation economy, and families.

[Download the full PDF to view the signatures]