Guest column: Grand County can’t solve water issues alone
In Mr. Newton’s letter in the Sept. 11 Sky-Hi News, he stated that the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group (UCRWG) did not participate in the drafting of the Grand County Drought Management Plan. This is wrong since our board president, Andy Miller, did attend the meetings and distributed the draft version to our board for review. In fact, we are in agreement that the document is a good effort and a needed policy for how the county is to proceed in drought conditions.
However, the county plan represents the efforts of 15,000 plus Grand County citizens and businesses to do their part to preserve and protect our water supply and aquatic resources.
Now compare that to the fact that 15,000 people are probably what you find in one neighborhood on the Front Range. Multiply that by hundreds of neighborhoods drawing on the water from Grand County and the reality sets in that whatever we do up here regarding drought management is but a grain of sand on the beach.
Unless Denver Water and Northern initiate conservation measures proportionate to their population to what we are doing in Grand County, all our efforts will be for naught.
Mr. Newton also makes a rather brash statement that our recommendation for an impact fee to pay for the damages caused by the massive amounts of water being removed from Grand County is illegal. Impact fees are well established in Colorado state law. Our county, in fact, uses impact fees as part of their 1041 permitting process.
An impact fee has no connection to water rights as he implies. Furthermore, compensation for natural resource damages from projects sponsored by both private and government entities have extensive precedence. Just ask BP about the $83 billion in damages they paid after their Deepwater Horizon spill.
We hear much about the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) and all it will do for the county. The truth is the CRCA has no provisions to cover the cost of the conservatively estimated $100 million it will take to restore the over 300 miles of impaired streams and lakes in Grand County.
Unless someone can come up with another idea to generate that kind of money, then Grand County stands to lose probably the most important resource upon which we rely. UCRWG is working diligently to require east slope water users pay to restore Grand County aquatic resources, the quality of which they also depend upon. Finding realistic amounts of funds to restore our watershed is a course of action our group believes is something upon which we can all agree.
Andy Miller and Ken Fucik are members of the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group Board of Directors.
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