Routt County Water Quality Committee
Focus of the Watershed Initiative
The Yampa watershed is located in northwestern Colorado. The focus of the group is the entire watershed within Routt County. The population of the focus area falls within the range of 5,000 to 25,000, with the majority of the population distributed in cities/towns. The largest city in the region is Steamboat Springs, with a population of around 9,000 permanent residents and 18,000 seasonal residents. The local economy is moderately strong and diversified. A significant percentage of the region's population is employed in natural resource jobs in the sectors of tourism and/or recreation, agriculture and/or ranching, and mining and/or energy production. The area is experiencing rapid growth in the resort community, yet retains a strong agricultural/mining base. The Routt County Water Quality Committee was formed in 1995 in response to concerns about rapid growth and environmental degradation. Establishment of the group was primarily the result of the efforts of the Routt County Department of Environmental Health. Since its formation, the group has been mostly concerned with issues of water quality related to nonpoint sources, the maintenance of fish and wildlife and/or endangered species, and land-use management as it affects water quality. The group feels there is little real data available to provide people with the information they need to protect the water quality because water quality is generally perceived to be good. From an "institutional" (or administrative) standpoint, the group is also concerned with inadequate funding/attention being given to a natural resource problem, the lack of local involvement in resource management, and ineffective management programs or laws as they relate to nonpoint sources of pollution. Specific short-term goals include: (1) establishing riparian and water body setbacks for new construction, (2) establishing local erosion and sediment control guidelines and regulations, and (3) implementing other provisions of regional plans. Over the longer term, the goals of the group are to protect and improve area water quality.
Structure and Functioning of the Watershed Initiative
The group is composed of citizens from all walks of life who have had concerns about the health of the Yampa and Elk Rivers and their tributaries. In addition, the group also includes members from: the US Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and county and city governments. Membership is not structured. The group is directed by a coordinator, funded by the Routt County Department of Environmental Health. The group utilizes subcommittees, including education and regulation. Meetings are held as necessary when needs or issues are raised. Issues are brought before the group by a combination of the issues that were identified as important at the inception of the group and by the issues presented by the Routt County Department of Environmental Health. The group utilizes a decision-making process that is largely ad hoc and at the discretion of the coordinator. The group has never had a budget. The Routt County Department of Environmental Health contributes in-kind services used for planning, coordination of meetings, and presentations. Accomplishments and Ongoing Activities The group has completed several conferences on nonpoint source issues. In addition, the group has planned or is in the progress of completing resource monitoring related to water quality and nutrients, and legal and policy research on erosion and sediment regulations. The group is most proud of assisting in the development and subsequent adoption of water body setbacks and regulations for new construction in Routt County. The group is also proud of studying and recommending local erosion and sediment control guidelines and regulations. Overall, the group considers itself to be moderately successful in addressing the natural resource problems of concern. Areas of strength of this watershed initiative appear to be the adequacy of the size, composition, and organizational structure of the group, and the perceived adequacy of the decision-making process. The meetings are well-attended and efficiently run, and state and local agencies have been moderately helpful. Areas of potential weakness might include a perceived lack of political will and lack of strong support from state and federal agencies. The group considers the following actions to be essential to their continued problem-solving effort: changes in federal or state law, on-the-ground protection of the physical landscape, generation of additional technical data or knowledge about the resource, and the generation of increased public awareness of the resource or potential resource problem(s). The group listed the following keys to success: (1) identification of issues, (2) involvement of all potentially affected parties, and (3) development of key action items and follow through.
Mr. Michael Zopf
Routt County Water Quality Committee Director
Routt County Department of Environmental Health
PO Box 770087
Steamboat Springs, CO 80477