U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, spoke to the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday about land-use policy issues facing the 3rd Congressional District.

Photo by Tom Ross

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, spoke to the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday about land-use policy issues facing the 3rd Congressional District.

US Rep. Tipton reintroduces hydropower, fire treatment bills to Congress

On other issues

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said:

■ It’s a source of frustration for him that the Transportation Security Administration has pulled full-body scanners from airport security lines at Yampa Valley and Eagle Vail airports at the same time that it spent $50 million on new uniforms.

■ He remains firm in his position that the federal government should be returning to local government the payment in lieu of taxes monies that rural Western states receive to offset lost property taxes on large tracts of public lands.

■ He and U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, have a meeting planned with Colorado EAGLE-Net this summer to learn more about why that intergovernmental entity has not fulfilled its mandate to extend broadband communications to Colorado’s smallest cities and towns.

— U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton told the Routt County Board of Commissioners and 10 of his constituents Tuesday that he’s optimistic regarding two bills he has reintroduced to Congress seeking to remove regulatory hurdles for small-scale hydropower generation and give local governments more of a say in mitigating the fire danger of dying forests in their areas.

Tipton — whose 3rd Congressional District encompasses most of Colorado’s Western Slope, including Routt and Moffat counties — said the Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act, which passed the House of Representatives in 2012 but never was taken up by the Senate, would create jobs while streamlining approvals for an abundant form of alternative energy.

“We’ve got a lot of bipartisan support,” Tipton said Tuesday. “It’s a good jobs bill and a good clean-energy bill, as well.”

Some environmental groups opposed the 2012 version of the bill saying it allowed for an end run on the federal environmental review process.

Tipton said Tuesday that the bill would allow small water districts, for example, to generate as much as 5 megawatts of power with limited environmental impact by placing hydropower plants in existing water pipes, conduits and ditches.

“Just in our state, if we use our full potential, we can generate as much electricity as Glen Canyon Dam (backing up Lake Powell) just out of our ditches,” Tipton said.

He did not discuss during Tuesday’s meeting the method for delivering the electricity to the nation’s power grid.

The second piece of legislation, known as the Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act, would allow county commissioners in Colorado to collaborate with the governor’s office on identification of fire-danger areas in the national forests surrounding their jurisdictions and seek to treat those problem areas — which threaten watersheds, power lines and schools — through timber removal. Tipton said the wildfires that scorched areas of the Front Range and burned many homes outside Fort Collins and Colorado Springs last summer confirmed that it’s more cost effective to spend money on addressing dangerous fire conditions in advance than it is after a fire has burned.

“It’s going to save a lot of money,” Tipton said. “We spent a little over $2 billion last year on wildland fires, and $1.2 billion of that in the last cycle was actually emergency funding.”

Asked by Commissioner Steve Ivancie to comment on how the forest mitigation efforts would be funded, Tipton said it would come from “resources that are already there. There won’t be a mandate on Routt County that you’d have to spend so much money.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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