Even if the state could afford to build every water project on the books today, funds would still fall well short of future water needs.
That was one of the points raised Wednesday by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., during the keynote address at the Colorado Water Congress gathering in Steamboat Springs.
Gardner, a Yuma native, represents the state’s fourth district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and three subcommittees including energy and power, environment and economy, and oversight and investigations.
State Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, introduced her friend and former colleague in the state legislature.
Gardner conceded Wednesday he knew little about water issues during his upbringing in Yuma.
However, since serving five years in the legislature and now a term in Congress, Gardner is considered in some circles to be one of the foremost authorities on how job creation ties into the water and energy industries.
“Gardner started in the House of Representatives and was a success right from the start,” White said. “He is a man of integrity, a proven and capable leader, defender of agriculture and rural values, friend of the water committee, and supporter of our energy economy.”
Gardner believes Colorado’s water infrastructure can play an important role in bolstering the state’s economy, but only after the size and influence of the federal government is reduced.
“The federal government hires 250,000 people whose sole job is to write regulations,” Gardner said. “It is my goal and it should be all of our goals to help Coloradans maintain the ability to make their own decisions when it comes to water policy.
“And it can only be done when we have a federal government that realizes instead of taking the lead away from the state and away from the state’s water suppliers and users, it should follow their lead.”
Gardner said he helped pass H.R. 2018, or The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, in July.
The legislation preserves the authority of each state to make determinations on its own water quality standards and limits Environmental Protection Agency controls that undermine state and local water authorities concerning water management.
“I know that some people oppose this legislation,” Gardner said. “But I just happen to believe that Coloradans know best when it comes to their water.”
In an effort to take the fate of the economy out of the hands of the federal government, Gardner asked the audience to take part in the “One More Job” initiative that he launched last week.
“Improving the nation’s economy isn’t going to happen by following leadership in Washington, but by learning from job creators in Colorado and across this country,” Gardner said.
As part of the proposal, Gardner said he is accepting suggestions from his constituents to learn what lawmakers in Washington, D.C. need to change to the regulatory environment and the tax structure to allow businesses to hire more employees.
He is accepting suggestions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If just a fraction of the businesses in Colorado could afford to create just one more job, that would result in thousands of jobs throughout the state and start growing the economy,” Gardner said.
Gardner believes the water industry plays a pivotal role in reshaping the state’s economy because it’s not just the agricultural industry that relies on water to thrive. Every business needs water, he said.
Gardner pledged to fight for Colorado by abiding to his three-prong strategy that focuses on water storage, water conservation and creating critical partnerships when necessary, without sacrificing Colorado as the leader when it comes to its own water and economy.
“Because of limited storage, good Colorado water is flowing out of the state,” Gardner said. “This water could have been and should have been stored right here, growing our farms and our businesses.
“And, as (State Rep.) Jerry Sonnenberg said, ‘We didn’t even get a thank you note from Nebraska.’”
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