Rivers are the gems of Colorado. Our rivers boast spectacular scenery that threatens to distract a paddler from the thrilling whitewater and captivating rapids that enhance the scenery. But water quality trumps all. I have traveled on rivers so polluted that when a drop touches your lips, you know something’s terribly wrong. I’ve paddled in over 30 other countries and have seen what pollution can do to rivers and communities. Clean water is a big reason I came home to live in Colorado.
Serious, intractable water pollution is blessedly rare in the United States, thanks to forward-thinking laws such as the Clean Water Act, established in 1972 under Republican leadership.
The idea of pollution returning to our rivers and to our society is frightening, and it’s a key reason I’m speaking out in support of the new Clean Water Rule. The rule is a common-sense clarification of the scope of the Clean Water Act released earlier this week by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. I’ve seen some misleading critiques of this rule from folks who should know better, so I’m speaking up on behalf of our rivers.
Specifically, this rule maintains pollution protections for streams and wetlands that feed into bigger lakes and rivers and ultimately end up in our drinking water supply. It’s a reasonable compromise that has garnered massive public support, with 87 percent of all public comments on the rule being positive.
More importantly, it will help communities by setting clear standards by which they can keep their rivers and streams clean. The new rule maintains the public-health standards that have kept our rivers and streams relatively healthy, and for those that have been polluted, it provides the force of law for clean-up efforts.
For rivers such as the Animas, which runs through our town, pollution issues are real as it flows into New Mexico, and we can only address them with solid rules like the one released this week.
Those clear standards are especially close to my heart for two reasons. First, I see many kids’ programs on rivers all over the state. It’s precious time for kids to set aside the screen time and get outdoors, catch frogs, build sandcastles or just play in the river. I want that possibility to continue, for the kids I work and play with, and for their children and grandchildren.
Even closer to home, rivers serve a special purpose for our family, and many families in our communities. Whether it’s tubing on the local creek or getting out on an epic rafting trip, rivers are the lifeblood of many families’ together time. Our family plans every family reunion on a river, and I hope it will continue that way for many years to come. The new rule ensures that we have the best chance of spending quality time on clean rivers, instead of battling to clean up damaging pollution.
In the first week of June, I went on an eight-day canoe trip with my nephew, all the way from Telluride to Moab. It means the world to me to take a trip like this and not have to worry about pollution and health threats. Having that sort of opportunity with clean water is a special thing to be cherished and protected, and this new rule is the key to keeping it that way.
Kent Ford of Durango is one of the most recognized paddlers in the world and an inductee in the Whitewater Hall of Fame. His background includes 20 years of international whitewater racing and coaching, combined with similar experience teaching recreational boating to children and adults of all levels and nationalities. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.