[#COWaterPlan] “is either silent or pays short shrift to the issues of paramount importance to the West Slope” — Dan Birch #ColoradoRiver

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A Western Slope water official wants to make sure that even if a draft state water plan doesn’t solve conflicts over Colorado River basin issues, it at least fully acknowledges their existence.

Dan Birch, deputy general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, made the request in an Oct. 10 letter to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. He contended in the letter that in large part the draft plan language “is either silent or pays short shrift to the issues of paramount importance to the West Slope” as articulated in plans prepared by groups representing each river basin. The two largest of these are the related issues of a potential new transmountain diversion of Colorado River water to the Front Range, and the possible implications of such a diversion for complying with the Colorado River Compact, Birch wrote.

That compact governs allocation of the river’s water between its upper- and lower-basin states.

The CWCB is scheduled to act on the draft plan in November before passing the draft on to the governor’s office. Birch said about 80 percent of the draft language is complete and has been posted on the CWCB’s website.

In his letter, he wrote that the plan, “if it is to be true to the stated goal of being a ‘bottoms-up’ plan, needs to be true to the spirit and substance” of all the basin plans.

“The draft plan falls short of this goal, at least with respect to the West Slope basins,” he wrote.

In his letter, Birch wrote that at this stage, while all the draft basin plans around the state “share many common goals, there are vital components that simply cannot be reconciled. The issue of a new transmountain diversion is of course paramount among those differences. We believe that the plan must plainly and accurately recognize these conflicts.”

In an interview, Birch didn’t rule out the possibility that such conflicts might eventually be resolved, but said he just didn’t want them being “papered over.” “We might get there,” he said of a resolution, “but we’re not there now.”

Birch told the river district board at its meeting Tuesday that he thinks that his concerns have been well-received by the state and that some changes in the draft will be made by the time the CWCB takes action.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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