GarCo urges West Slope water summit — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #COWaterPlan

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

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

Garfield County proposes to host a summit among Western Slope water interests in an effort to present a “united voice” on the prospect of new transmountain diversions, and how that would be stated in the forthcoming Colorado Water Plan.

County Commission Chairman John Martin suggested the summit during a presentation Tuesday by Louis Meyer, author of the draft Colorado River Basin Implementation Plan that emerged from a series of basin roundtable meetings last year and has been presented as part of the larger statewide plan.

Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism
Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

Meyer said the seven-point conceptual framework put forward by the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) for inclusion in the water plan has taken the focus away from the work done by the nine basin roundtables.

He expressed grave concerns that the proposed framework for negotiating future projects to divert more water from the West Slope basins, primarily the Colorado, to the Front Range, is even ready for inclusion in the plan.

The proposed framework “lacks specificity, and is very ambiguous,” Meyer said. “And I don’t think the public has been adequately engaged in drafting these seven points.”

It was an opinion shared around the room for the most part Tuesday, during a county commissioners work session that was attended by numerous ranchers and those with recreational and conservation interests who have been part of the roundtable process.

“It’s time to get everyone together and put all of this on the table … and present a united voice from the Western Slope to the draft” water plan, Martin said, offering for Garfield County to host a summit meeting sometime in the coming weeks.

“It’s important that we all work together and to have some unified agreement, so that the governor will take heed,” Martin said…

Meyer said there are problems with each of the seven points in the IBCC proposal, namely that it assumes the Colorado River Basin has more water to give for the purpose of accommodating growth in the Front Range metro areas.

“In my travels, there is not any more water to develop in the Colorado Basin,” Meyer said, noting that existing diversions already result in low river flow issues and shortages for agriculture water users on the Western Slope.

The proposed use of “triggers” in wetter years to determine when water can be diverted, as well as measures to protect agriculture, the environment and recreation interests “sound good on paper,” Meyer said. But those points still need a lot of work, he said.

Some of those who attended the Tuesday meeting said the continued effort to keep new water diversions among the possibilities seems to throw out one of the key elements of the water plan, conservation.

“This whole thing grew out of our need to plan for the future,” said Barb Andre of Basalt.

“But I have a question about the word ‘need,’ and I don’t think we’re looking at the differences between wants and needs as much as we could,” she said. “It begins to look like the word ‘need’ is being misused here.”

Dave Merritt, who sits as Garfield County’s representative on the Colorado River Water Conservation District board, said the framework being proposed is just a concept that can still be negotiated.

He warned against making strong statements about whether the Front Range areas, and the state as a whole, should be allowed to grow or not by limiting water usage…

County Commissioner Mike Samson said the Front Range already gets enough West Slope water and needs to find other sources for its future water needs.

“I’ll reiterate what I’ve said before, we not only have no more water to give, they’ve taken too much already from the Western Slope and downstream states,” Samson said, also referring to it as a “needs versus wants” issue.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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