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Wave of the future?

NICOLE FORMOSAsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Denverite Tom Conley fishes a section of the Blue river between the I-70 overpass and U.S. Highway 9 near the Silverthorne Factory Outlet Stores pedestrian bridge crossing the river. Silverthorne town officials are looking into the feasibility of making that section of river a kayak park.
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SILVERTHORNE – Even though plans for a new whitewater park in Silverthorne are in their infancy, the possibility of higher water releases into the Blue River to accommodate the proposed “park and play” wave has local kayak and raft companies grinning at the prospect. “It would be huge,” said Mark Olson, manager of Colorado Kayak Supply. “The venue they could create in Silverthorne could be enormous.”The town of Silverthorne has filed for a recreational in-channel diversion (RICD) with the state water court that would allow 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) to be released from the Dillon Dam during big holiday weekends – Labor Day, Fourth of July and Memorial Day – and 100 cfs from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. May through September. “Six hundred cfs just brings a smile to my face,” said Christian Campton, owner of Frisco based Kodi Rafting. “Anytime a river is boatable or you put in a play park, the economic impact that goes to the community is significant.”Campton asserted that local boaters who generally travel to the Arkansas Valley or Golden to paddle, would instead stick around in their own community.Both Campton and Olson said they saw a boost in business last Labor Day when Denver Water timed its release with the holiday weekend.

Water for the Lower Blue comes from the Dillon Reservoir, which is owned by Denver Water and supplies water to Front Range residents. Flows into the Lower Blue have been hovering at about 50 cfs.Bill Linfield, director of public works for Silverthorne, says the process of gaining water rights is lengthy and even if the RICD is approved, Silverthorne’s success depends on a cooperative effort with Denver Water.Every year, Denver Water releases water to Green Mountain Reservoir to replenish water released to senior water rights holders on the Colorado River.”Basically, what we’re asking Denver Water to do is to manage the reservoir releases coming out to try to meet those flows we’re asking for,” Linfield said.For instance, Denver Water could store up water, enabling it to release higher flows during big weekends, instead of a more constant flow over a longer period of time.The town of Dillon, Summit County and Denver Water have all filed objections to Silverthorne’s application, but Linfield said the filings are a procedural step for those who want to be involved in the negotiations.Dillon town manager Jack Benson agrees.

“We have water rights in Old Dillon Reservoir and we want the ability to use those water rights when it comes time to do that,” Benson said.When flows are increased out of the dam, it drops the reservoir level, which has the potential to affect other popular Summit County summertime activities, such as sailing.But, Dillon Marina manager Bob Evans says Silverthorne’s application is “not that big of a deal.”The park is proposed in a stretch of the Blue River that is designated with the highly-touted Gold Medal Status, which is awarded to waters with high densities of big fish.Linfield said the work to prepare for the park – narrowing the channel and using rock structures to create pools – will benefit the fishery, especially because it’s so similar to 2003’s Blue River Restoration Project.That project aimed to improve fish habitat in the stretch of river between the dam and the I-70 overpass.

The town of Breckenridge has had a whitewater park for five years, but it has received little activity, primarily because of low flows in the Upper Blue. The town of Frisco also budgeted $30,000 in 2005 for a whitewater facility in Ten Mile Creek behind Fiesta Jalisco Restaurant right off exit 203. The town is in the very early, conceptual stages of planning for its proposed park.Linfield and Olson both feel there’s adequate demand for all three towns to potentially have play parks. “What would happen is people would go to the one that’s best,” Olson said, adding the hole with the best features would likely attract the most paddlers, while beginners would use the other parks.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at nformosa@summitdaily.com


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