The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District asks U.S. Representative Polis for a delay on the ‘Hidden Gems’ wilderness legislation

A picture named hiddengemswildernessproposal

Update: I corrected the headline to read “Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.” Thanks to reader Diane for the information.

From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

The two-year delay, according to a water district letter to Polis, would allow the water district more time to research the potential impacts of a wilderness designation and identify areas where wilderness could hinder the water district’s efforts. “Since wilderness designation creates the highest level of restriction for human activities, including those aimed at protection and restoration of the land and its natural functions, once this designation is created, it is unlikely ever to be undone,” wrote Linn Brooks, assistant general manager of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, to Polis on July 27. “We believe that it is well worth taking this extra time to understand the consequences of such an action.”

Concern with restoration efforts has been heightened in recent years following the Hayman Fire, widespread beetle kill and the emergence of watershed issues related to climate change — all of which have effected peak runoff flows and base flows, presenting a serious threat to the water quality and quantity, according to Brooks.

Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the water district, said wilderness designations have provisions that claim that things such as firefighting and watershed management are still allowed, but she said those provisions look good on paper but rarely get practiced. The water district’s letter says that administrative-process requirements, such as watershed restoration, are “so much greater for activities that take place in wilderness that managers will generally choose to spend their limited funds outside of wilderness where they can accomplish projects with less cost, time and exposure to litigation.”

More Hidden Gems coverage here.

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