Maybe because it was nearing lunchtime, the conversation about the state water plan turned to food Wednesday as the Colorado Water Conservation Board digested the final draft of the document at its meeting in Ignacio.
“I think you may have bitten off more than you can chew,” John Mc-Clow, a board member from Gunnison told the board’s staff.
“We haven’t opened our mouth,” CWCB Executive Director James Eklund replied. “This is the menu. We should be hearing more through the public comment process.”
Although saying changes from the first draft of the plan showed progress, McClow noted there were 83 funding actions listed in the plan and more focus was needed.
The board was divided about how much detail the plan should mention about specific projects and the ways to fund those projects, outlined in Chapter 10 of the newly released Colorado Water Plan. The board had looked at 181 “critical” projects during a June 23 work session, but differed on whether the projects were endorsed or simply identified.
“I would like to have a little more time to look at the list again,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the board.
Board members April Montgomery (Southwestern Colorado) and Travis Smith (Rio Grande basin) wanted more detail in Chapter 10, but were also concerned that the plan promote recreation, forest health and agricultural values. Montgomery wanted more clarity about whether a project’s chances of being funded depended on it being listed as “critical.” Smith said there was little in the plan about how projects would be prioritized.
Board member Patricia Wells, Denver Water’s general counsel, disagreed on the need for more detail in the 500-page plan, saying no one would read a long, detailed list of projects. She was also critical that the plan put so much emphasis on urban conservation, rather than promoting the value of people living in cities.
“Eighty-six percent of the people live in urban areas…they are the economy,” Wells said. “The only mandate in here is that the people use less water…Residential outdoor water is 2 percent of the water use in Colorado, but it contributes to the quality of life…People are the Rodney Dangerfield of water use. I think we should give them a break.”
Her comments were largely offset by conservation groups that addressed the board. Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited and American Rivers speakers all praised the plan.
“Our impression is favorable,” said Drew Peternell of Trout Unlimited. He singled out stream management plans, which are cited as a way to meet environmental and recreational needs. “This will give us tools to identify what are the flow regimes we need to support nonconsumptive needs.”
Comments on the plan will be accepted through Sept. 17, and the final version of the plan will be submitted to Gov. John Hickenlooper in December.
The entire plan can be viewed at coloradowaterplan. com. Past documents and instructions for submitting comments also can be found on the site.