‘But the train is going down the track pretty fast here’ — Doug Monger #COWaterPlan

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

If December 2015 sounds like it’s in the distant future, consider that the first deadline for the combined Yampa, White and Green river basins to produce their initial draft is July. A final draft plan is due by December, allowing another full year before the final plan must be on the governor’s desk. So the work is underway, and the clock is ticking on a plan that will affect future generations of Coloradans.

“The deadlines are a little disconcerting for us,” Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger told an audience of about 100 people Thursday night in Steamboat Springs. “We’ve been in the process for eight years. We’ve plotted out sections of rivers and streams and what characteristics they have. But the train is going down the track pretty fast here.”

When Monger uses the pronoun “we,” he is referring to government leaders and citizens serving on the Yampa, White and Green River Basin Roundtable. He also is a member of the roundtable and recently filled a seat on the board of directors of the Colorado River District.

Steamboat Springs attorney Tom Sharp previously was on that board.

This week’s meeting was one of several more to come seeking public input about the complex challenge of how to provide enough water in an era of declining precipitation and reservoir levels across the semi-arid West even as population projections are on the rise…

Gallagher said it’s not unlikely that basins will identify what he called “low regret water projects” that will boost available water supply in the future as Colorado learns to do more with less water.

It’s also likely that a variety of basins will be covetous of unappropriated water in the Yampa River Basin.

“The real questions is how we would cover a shortfall if we don’t have enough water supply,” even with new water projects and processes in place, Gallagher said.

He observed that in recent years, Colorado’s urban corridor has addressed shortfalls by purchasing water transfers from agricultural rights holders. The resulting reduction in ag land under production is sure to become a topic of discussion between now and December 2015, he said…

And that is the the challenge that faces Colorado together with Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California and parts of New Mexico and Arizona in the next few years.

“We have a burden and the necessity to develop the water,” Monger said. “Not only are we a highly at-risk (basin) because we are probably the least populated, but we’re the last to settle. We’re the last in appropriations. We have very few pre (1922) compact rights versus a lot of the other areas” of Colorado.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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