Legislators coming to Steamboat to hear what locals say about Colorado’s future water supply | CraigDailyPress.com

Legislators coming to Steamboat to hear what locals say about Colorado’s future water supply

Tom Ross

— Nearing the end of an uncommonly wet summer, residents of Northwest Colorado who have something to say about the long-term future of the state's water supply can tell it straight to some of the most influential members of the Colorado Legislature on Tuesday.

That's when the members of the Interim Water Resources Review Committee convene at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs to gather the views of residents stretched up and down the Yampa and White rivers from Oak Creek to Rangely.

But first, people who want their comments to be as persuasive as possible might want to read the draft water plan submitted by the water experts, farmers and ranchers, conservationists and recreational water users taking part in the Yampa/White/Green Roundtable. That's the group charged by Gov. John Hickenlooper, along with their counterparts in all the major river basins of the state, to contribute their visions for the future of water regionally to be included in a statewide river plan due on the the governor's desk by December 2015.

Reading the draft plan will give people planning to attend Tuesday's meeting a preview of where local activists are headed.

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, of Steamboat Springs, as a member of the Water Resources Review Committee urged the people of Northwest Colorado to impress upon her colleagues their connection to the region's rivers and streams.

"I think what the committee needs to hear from locals is really what the river means to them and what they see in that plan," she said.

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There are concerns in the combined Yampa/White/Green basin that its remaining unappropriated water is coveted by cities and river basins on the Front Range. Mitsch Bush senses it, too.

"We've always had a target on our back, and right now, in this process, I really think we do," she said. "That's why it's important that people attend this meeting."

The legislative committee was created by a new law passed last year by the Legislature, Senate Bill 115.

State Rep. Randy Fischer, of Fort Collins, who chairs the committee along with state Sen. Gail Schwartz, said in a prepared statement that because different interest groups bring different values to the conversation, there is no pat answer on how to meet all of the competing needs for water in the future.

"The (committee) recognizes that the Colorado Water Plan will identify difficult choices and tradeoffs that will need to be made in order to plan for and create a sustainable water future," Fischer wrote in a prepared statement. "SB-115 envisions a public process that lays out these choices and tradeoffs facing Colorado and seeks to find a way through public input to navigate the difficult issues that lie ahead."

Other legislators expected to attend include state Reps. Edward Vigil, Don Coram and Jerry Sonnenberg, with Sens. Mary Hodge, Matt Jones, Ellen Roberts and Greg Brophy.

Mitsch Bush said people attending the meeting will have the opportunity to stand at the microphone and give their views, which will be recorded into a record of the meeting. However, they also will be able to share their viewpoints with a committee member in a more informal group, when breakout groups form with a legislator at each table.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1