ROUGH WATERS FOR CRYSTAL WILD & SCENIC
Despite setback, citizen group still dedicated to protecting the river
There is a citizen movement working to protect the crystal river with a Wild and scenic (W&s) designation. WW has provided staff support to Crystal valley residents working on the effort, which would give the river our country’s highest level of protection. The main goal of this citizen group is to ensure that no dams or out-of-basin diversions are built on the crystal. They have spent several years working to draft a bill specifically tailored to the crystal and edited to reflect the concerns of the community.
Although many locals strongly support W&s designation for their cherished river, a vocal contingent emerged in Marble against federal protection. Members of that camp did not necessarily disagree that the crystal river deserves protection and ought to remain “as is.” instead they objected to the basic idea of federal protection. This despite spe-cific provisions added to the draft bill to address concerns and ensure a Wild and scenic designation had no impacts on private property, water rights, or the jurisdiction of local governments. Ultimately, the town of Marble and the county it sits in, gunnison, were not prepared (at least for now) to buck this vocal minority. This summer, both the town and county voted against W&s designation.
Nearly every W&s bill has been tailor-written to address local concerns and the crystal would be no exception. We will continue to educate local citizens about the law and support the coalition pursuing designation. If Marble and gunnison keep opposing the measure, an alternative path is to pursue Wild and scenic designation on the stretch of the crystal that runs through Pitkin county.
While this would reduce by half the mileage originally conceived for designation, it would still ensure that the most vulnerable parts of the river near redstone (those proposed for major dams in the past) are protected in perpetuity.