“The idea that we can build it and the water will come needs to be reversed” — Reed Dils #COWaterPlan

Sprawl
Sprawl

It seems that every time someone considers land-use planning on a statewide basis it becomes radioactive quickly. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

It’s probably wise to expect a little pain when you grab the bull by the horns. So, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable this week wrestled the question of new development, land use policies and local control to the ground, only to find that it jumped back up to torment. The roundtable looked at a white-paper approach to explain the need for water planning in land use decisions by local authorities.

“The idea that we can build it and the water will come needs to be reversed,” said Reed Dils, a retired outfitter who served on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District in recent years.

In a continuation of a discussion that began at the September roundtable meeting, the group batted at the issue.

The group is leaning toward recommending that local land-use authorities receive more education about how water will be provided to developments they approve.

The spectrum of local control is broad however. Counties make frontend decisions based on the availability of water, but sometimes there is little follow-through on whether the plans were carried out. It can mean that a development with a supposedly firm water supply fails to develop at the proper pace and residents resort to hauling water. Several examples were cited during the meeting.

“Who ultimately has the responsibility for maintaining accountability after 20 years and 15 iterations of county commissioners?” said Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities.

“I think if you want local control, you’re going to have to figure out how they’re going to get water,” said SeEtta Moss, the roundtable’s environmental representative from Canon City.

Local planners also have the ability to stretch their water supplies with policies that encourage high-density or cluster development or landscape irrigation limits, said Dave Taussig, a water attorney from Lincoln County.

At the other end of the spectrum is a sort of veto power counties can use to shape projects through 1974 HB1041, which gives counties authority to regulate statewide projects.

That could needlessly hinder otherwise beneficial projects, some members said.

Some roundtable members thought the amendment to the water plan might be confusing. Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, said well permits, water administration by the state and planning processes already in place provide protection for water rights.

“We’re back to Square One,” Scanga said.

“We’re looking at the question of do we have enough water for future growth.”

In the end, the roundtable delayed any action on this particular plank of the water plan.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.