Colorado River Basin: ‘Agriculture and recreation depend on healthy instream flows’ — State Sen. Steve King


Here’s a guest column about the Colorado River written by State Senator Steve King, running in the Grand Junction Free Press. Here’s an excerpt:

The only thing certain when dealing with water issues in the west is there are a wide variety of competing voices and opinions. For the most part, the [Colorado River Water Conservancy District] has made sure Western Slope interests aren’t neglected when competing with those of our Front Range neighbors; simply put, the CRCD has acted as a fair broker.

They have worked to build consensus among different parties on a multitude of issues during their existence. Time and again the CRCD has made sure the West Slope was not on the losing end of proposals to store and divert water to the Front Range. Specifically, the CRCD has helped resolve many disagreements between Denver Water and Western Slope water users.

More than ever, the West Slope is relying on the CRCD to do its job fairly and accurately as it addresses the many challenges ahead. As the ski industry can attest, this year’s snowpack was very low, adding pressure to our already strained river basin. All reports project 2012 as a dry year for Colorado; these reports, coupled with projections of future population growth in the west, make sensible water policy that much more important.

It’s no secret the strain on the Colorado will only become more severe as time goes on. We need proactive and innovative solutions to plan for possible future water scarcity now — failure to do so could result in the inability to maintain our current quality of life, as we prepare to meet the challenges of western population growth.

Increasingly, there have been proposals for enormous water diversion projects to satisfy the needs of the Front Range and Southern California. It is not only in the best interest of the Western Slope, but of Colorado in general, to actively pursue and advocate for conservation, flexible transfers, and water-sharing agreements first. Big diversion projects are too expensive and can best be summarized as robbing Peter to pay Paul, with the West Slope playing the role of Peter.

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

[Katie Steele] was one of several community leaders who spoke Wednesday, July 25, at Hawthorne Park in honor of Colorado River Day. The event was held to commemorate the day in 1921 when federal legislation was passed to rename the river from the “Grand” to the “Colorado.”

Grand Junction was one of five cities within four of the seven Colorado River basin states where residents gathered to celebrate the river’s contribution to the West’s economy and culture. Community leaders also talked about the need for Washington policymakers to consider the river’s economic impact on the region when making decisions regarding the river’s future.

About 50 people attended the midday event where Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, former GJ Mayor Tom Kenyon, and GJ councilman Bennett Boeschenstein spoke about water concerns as drought and expanding populations strain a dwindling resource. Tom Kleinschnitz, president of Adventure Bound River Expeditions also spoke to the group, representing those whose businesses depend directly on the Colorado River.

Boeschenstein spoke about the Greenbelt movement begun in the 1970s where local visionaries like retired Judge William Ela, and the late Jim Robb imagined a cleaned-up riverfront, as well as a trail where people could walk and enjoy the scenery along the river…

The event was co-sponsored by Colorado Environmental Coalition in Grand Junction and Protect The Flows, an organization formed about a year ago to represent the interests of more than 500 businesses across the seven river basin states who rely on the Colorado River for economic viability.

According to Protect the Flows, the Colorado River is a $26 billion recreation resource that employs a quarter-million Americans.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

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