From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):
A coalition of environmental groups that include Western Resource Advocates, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and Save the Colorado, object to spending taxpayer money to study the feasibility of the trans-mountain diversion of water.
“Our concern is that it adds credibility to the project,” CEC water coordinator Becky Long said.
Ken Neubecker is director of Western Rivers Institute, past president of Trout Unlimited, and a member of the task force. The state legislature set aside money for projects like the task force study to look at what needs to be done regarding water supply and Colorado’s future, Neubecker said.
“Any significant reduction from the Green River could potentially affect all users in the basin,” said Hannah Holm, coordinator of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University. The Water Center’s purpose is to “help communities in the upper Colorado River Basin understand how to be smart about water, do more with less to meet the needs going forward due to scarcity and tightened competition,” Holm said.
Additional water for projected shortages could come from purchase of agricultural rights, increased conservation, and alternative agricultural rights purchases — temporary arrangements with farmers so water could be obtained “without drying up the land forever,” Holm said.
The environmental coalition released a statement Wednesday protesting the vote: “While smaller, the proposal would still spend thousands of dollars in state funds to investigate a controversial and environmentally damaging project which thousands of Colorado citizens believe should not be funded at all.”
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Board Chairman Eric Wilkinson castigated the environmental groups for trying to “sabotage” the study, and asked them to work with the state toward finding solutions. “The CWCB has the dirty, ugly discussions. That’s its responsibility. . . . I’m tired of all the disinformation about what the CWCB does,” Wilkinson said. “This board is trying to move the state forward, and, by golly, we’re going to turn this state around.”[…]
The CWCB approved a $72,000 grant — cut from the original $250,000 proposal — to identify statewide issues or interests from the proposed project. It would establish a task force of roundtable members from throughout the state as well as environmental representatives. The grant primarily covers the cost of 12 facilitated meetings during the process. Wilkinson asked the board to consider keeping the remainder of the money available if more discussion is warranted, but the board for now approved only the initial study. Part of the purpose of the task force would be to create a framework for studying future large projects.
The proposal was reworked Tuesday night after several environmental groups attempted to kill the project, said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, who represented the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at the meeting.