MEEKER | A recently formed citizens’ group calling itself the White River Alliance has been participating in many of the county algae task force meetings. Several of the founding Alliance members and others met this past Saturday at Welders’ Outfitting just above the confluence of Marvine Creek with the White River.
These founders approved bylaws for the organization and confirmed and elected the initial officers and board directors for the group. Shawn Welder is president, Lois Williams is treasurer and Reed Kelley is secretary. Three additional elected directors, Deirdre Macnab, Bob Regulski and Roy Wedding comprise the rest of the initial board. Three additional directors may be named later.
According to their bylaws, the Alliance’s purpose is to promote citizen engagement surrounding the protection and conservation of the White River watershed, largely in Rio Blanco County, and to encourage awareness of the value of the river, and to protect its water for drinking, wildlife, and area farming, ranching and recreation. Any person or organization who subscribes to their purpose and pays annual dues currently set at $25 may become a voting Alliance member.
The Alliance bylaws also established an annual meeting of the full membership in January when officers and other board directors are to be elected going forward.
The primary focus that stimulated the formation of the group is the algae bloom that the White River has been experiencing the last five or six years. Dr. Bob Dorsett, an advisor to the Alliance, told the group Saturday that the river through the Town of Meeker was already showing green from bank to bank due to beginning algae growth. Dorsett fears the growth could be made worse than ever this summer on account of very low stream flows. The river is reported to have reached a runoff high of less than 2,000 cubic feet per second back on May 11, which is very early for the run-off peak.
Alliance president Welder says the group’s intent is to be ambassadors for the river and the watershed. The letter he delivered to the county’s Algae Technical Advisory Group in March meeting described the organization as wanting to be inclusive of all folks concerned about the river while emphasizing the need to look at historical information and to be proactive in the pursuit of actions to improve the health of the river.
Welder said, “The Alliance’s intention is to use a community-based approach in moving forward with promoting improved management practices.” He reported that members of the group have been spending time ‘in the river,’ looking, for example, at the macroinvertebrate populations and finding that there are robust and healthy insect “fish food” populations above where heavy aerial spraying for insects as well as intensive agricultural uses, fertilizer use, fish feeding and river manipulation activities have happened, but with drastic drop-off of these populations below that point.
Among other matters Saturday, the group discussed urging longtime White River Valley residents to take advantage of the short “History of the White River” Survey which the Conservation Districts now have available on their website as part of the river algae study (http://www.whiterivercd.com/white-river-algae-working-group.html) to help define the river situation. Landowners near the river are also asked to take a separate landowner/manager survey. Contact Tristan Nielsen at the Districts’ offices 970-878-9838.
Welder said the group is urging that consideration be given to discontinuing the aerial spraying of the chemicals malathion and permethrin—insect “adulticides” which have been used in recent years—and instead looking at the alternative of using Bti, a bacterium effective as a larvicide for mosquitoes.
“We’re comparing our experiences here,” he said, “with those of the Gunnison River Basin’s, where they have banned the use of these chemicals to the great improvement of river health. We also want to push for the consideration of improved management practices involving instream and pond manipulations, fish stocking, sediment transport and nutrient load, feed stations and the need for riverbank vegetation. We believe there’s enough information at hand to do some things now.”
Anyone interested in being a part of the White River Alliance can contact Welder at 970-314-5923 or at email@example.com , or mail a check for the dues made out to the White River Alliance to Lois Williams at P.O. Box 183, Meeker 81641.