Grand County Stream Management Plan should be part of Windy Gap EIS |

Grand County Stream Management Plan should be part of Windy Gap EIS

There was a race this year that Grand County lost.

There were two documents being completed – the Windy Gap Firming Project Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and the Grand County Stream Management Plan.

The latter, we hoped, would inform the other.

Unfortunately, a draft of the EIS was completed before the stream management plan and no one is waiting around for the straggler to cross the finish line.

Next week, Grand County residents will be asked to comment on the contents of the Windy Gap Firming Project (EIS).

Our comments and concerns will be examined as the next draft of the EIS is completed.

There is a 60-day window for public comment, which closes on Oct. 28. Grand County commissioners have already asked for a 45-day extension.

They have asked for this extension, because, before we can know what to ask for, we need to know what is truly at stake.

Which is why the first thing we should ask for is more time – an extension of the comment period on the draft EIS until the Grand County Stream Management Plan is complete and residents have had time to make informed comments and requests after considering the data from both documents.

By the end of this year, Grand County will have spent $1 million on the Stream Management Plan and we should not let that money go to waste.

There is no reason the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District should rush to slam the door to public comment.

The stream management plan was ordered on the behest of the county commissioners to quantify streamflow needs for the Colorado River in Grand County. The final plan will identify problem reaches of the river and present scientifically valid solutions to protect instream flow, habitat and wildlife.

The plan is expected to be complete by the end of 2008.

The Grand County Stream Management Plan should be incorporated into the final Windy Gap Firming Project EIS.

When it is all said and done, the grace with which this process is carried out could set a new standard of how future water decisions are made – not just on the Western Slope, but across the state.

We hope that Northern Water and Grand County can work as partners in this process. Waiting the requested 45 days is a sign that the Western Slope is a welcome voice at the negotiating table.

The third and final part of this editorial discussing the Windy Gap Firming Project draft EIS will run in the Tuesday edition of the Sky-Hi Daily News.

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