Steele to represent valley |

Steele to represent valley

State committee formed to discuss water issues

Brandon Johnson

Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele will represent local water interests to the state’s new Interbasin Compact Committee.

The 27-member compact committee will feature two representatives from nine river basins in Colorado as well as representatives appointed by the governor and the Legislature.

House Bill 1127, which Gov. Bill Owens signed into law earlier this summer, set up the compact committee. The bill also set up basin roundtables in the nine river basins to appoint members to the compact committee.

Moffat County is part of the Yampa/White River basin.

Steele will represent the Yampa/White basin along with Dan Birch of Steamboat Springs.

Steele and Birch were appointed to the compact committee Wednesday night by the Yampa/White roundtable at their meeting in Craig.

Steele is on the roundtable representing the Juniper Conservancy District, not as a county commissioner. Com–missioner Tom Gray represents the county on the roundtable.

Steele said he will bring a lot of experience to the committee as well as “knowledge of the basin and the different entities in the basin that are water users.”

He said he also has negotiating experience, both as a commissioner and as a representative to water boards in the past.

Birch said he brings a lot of experience with water issues to the committee, too.

Birch, a civil engineer who works for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, has spent the past 20 years dealing with water issues. He is the project manager for the Elkhead Reservoir Expansion Project.

By appointing Steele and Birch, the Yampa/White basin is ahead of the state’s other basins.

Eric Hecox of the Colorado Department of Natural Re—-sources said he hopes the other basins have their appointments finalized by next month so the committee can begin work on a charter.

The committee has until July 1 to finish the charter and present it to legislators. The charter will guide interbasin water decisions throughout Colorado.

If the committee can’t hammer out an agreement and have it signed before July 1, HB 1177 sunsets, Hecox said.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the roundtable appointed Steamboat Springs water lawyer Tom Sharp as its chairman. Steele and Rio Blanco County rancher David Smith were appointed as vice chairmen. Robert Weiss, a water rights owner in Steamboat Springs, was appointed the group’s secretary.

The roundtable’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18. in Steamboat Springs.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or

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