Colorado River: Two Deaths and a $9 Billion Economy

Colorado River

Two deaths were discovered in the Colorado River which is estimated to be central to a $9 billion economy.  The crash occurred nearly a month after board members, investors, business leaders, and the public decided how best to distribute Colorado’s endangered rivers.

On Saturday evening, after 6 pm, the Mesa County Sheriff received multiple calls telling of a plummeted aircraft. The helicopter was identified by Allen Kenitzer of the Federal Aviation Administration as a Xenon Gyroplane. Investigators are looking into the cause of the crash.

According to Mesa County’s Sheriff’s Office, two adults were aboard the helicopter and both were declared dead when emergency response arrived at the scene. Their names have not been released. However, the victims have been identified by the Mesa County Coroner, and notification has gone out to their next of kin.

The aircraft apparently departed from Grand Junction Regional Airport in the earlier part of the day. The crash occurred 20 miles northwest of the airport. It has not been determined where the helicopter was headed.

The crash was witnessed by fishermen and duck hunters according to early reports. Witnesses managed to pull one of the victims from the rubble. Witnesses were unharmed by the crash, per released details from Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. The helicopter which crashed outside of Loma left many without power. Grand Valley Power confirmed the loss of power.

The crash that resulted in two deaths occurred nearly a month after a plan was proposed for Colorado River’s $9 billion economy. Business leaders stood before the Glenwood Springs’s Colorado Water Conservation Board making their case for what is proven to be a “river-based economy.” That economy is dependent upon healthy rivers. It provides upwards of 80,000 jobs in Colorado state.

The Colorado River has experienced decades of overindulgence in addition to a 15-year drought. As a result, Colorado’s waterways have been affected. Reservoir levels, for example, have decreased by 35 percent in a span of 12 years. The Colorado Rivers average flows are 50 percent what they used to be in two centuries past.

Colorado is preparing for its inaugural statewide water plan. The plan will ascertain how the water is regulated statewide now and into the future. Proposals are being made on how to distribute diminishing water supplies. The nine-year old discussion on its distribution incited water providers, environmentalists, farmers, and other stakeholders to deliberation. The groups consist of investors in the eight major river basins of Colorado and of metro-Denver.

Currently, a burgeoning disparity between water supply and demand exists. More water is needed. According to July’s draft plans, the South Platte, an East Slope Basin, has to concede to new Colorado River supply options to foster eventual water demands. Transmountain diversion may be employed to direct more water to the east from the west to achieve this.

However, the plans could place the $9 billion economy in jeopardy. Colorado’s real estate, outdoor recreation, and tourism industry members oppose the plan. Between camping, snow sports, wildlife watching, and trail activities, the healthy rivers bring in over $6.9 million. The members fear it would also threaten jobs that the rivers provide.

The two deaths discovered in the Colorado River in no way threaten its $9 billion economy. The accident, however, sheds light on a prevalent issue the state is determined to eradicate. If not for the recreation the river provides, attempted rescue efforts made by the witnesses may not have been possible.

By Charice Long

Sources:
NBC News
ABC News
High Country News

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