Felicia Muftic: This week, it’s the Republican’s turn
August 31, 2008
We have heard from the Democrats. Now, it is the Republicans’ turn to make their points.
We have and will be treated to a discourse on the big national and international issues of the day. Like shopping for clothes or cars, we will be trying on those positions to see how they fit our everyday lives here in Grand County.
All politics is local, the saying goes. However, the reverse can happen. Sometimes a local issue creeps into the national or regional dialogue. Such happened last month when John McCain gave everyone in Colorado a jolt when he was quoted in the Pueblo Chieftain that the Colorado River Water Compact should be renegotiated.
Both Republicans and Democrats came unglued. Here was a presidential candidate from Arizona advocating taking more water from the Upper Colorado Basin (that’s us in Grand County, folks, among others) to accommodate population growth in Arizona and California. He made that statement while probably forgetting that Colorado is a swing state this year with a chunk of electoral votes up for grabs.
Talk about back peddling fast. John McCain issued a statement via the Denver Post:
“Let me be clear that I do not advocate renegotiation of the compact. I support constructive, continuing operation and dialogue among the states and the water users in a manner that is fully consistent with the compact”. Say what? I wonder if a President McCain would be so sensitive to Colorado’s water interests after an election.
The truth is, we don’t have to have a renegotiation of the Compact to lose this tussle.
There are other ways to do it. Side agreements and amendments can be made without violating the compact. We send a surplus down the Colorado which is above the allocation to the lower basin states. There is serious discussion about capturing that surplus at the Colorado border and pumping it to the east slope via a pipeline through Wyoming and there is an even more expensive proposal to suck it up with a big straw pipeline to the continental divide to release it into our river basins. If the lower basin raids the surplus, those options and others may be off the table.
The Colorado River Water Compact of 1922 was ratified only after a promise by California in 1929 to agree to commit to a plan for how their 4.4 million acre feet would be allocated within California. That agreement was not signed until 2003, over 70 years later. In the several decades before 2003, California had been drawing extra water above and beyond their allocation from the Colorado. Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton (former Attorney General from Colorado) stood at the Hoover Dam on Oct.16, 2003 and proudly presented a ten page agreement whereby California finally honored the 1929 commitment to adopt steps to gradually reduce its use of Colorado River water over the next 14 years to its 4.4 million acre feet commitment. The purpose was to give Arizona and other lower basin states the commitment they needed to protect their authorized allocations, and of course, to protect us in the Upper Basin. I particularly take note that this agreement was of benefit to Arizona ‘s being able to claim their water authorized under the 1922 compact.
So what more does John McCain have in mind? The purpose of reopening the dialogue is not to have a coffee klatch. Assurances that he would not re- negotiate the compact does not mean Colorado is protected from other agreements concerning water surplus or other issues within or outside the 1922 compact.
During the same month John McCain stirred the water pot to a boil, a large group of Fraser Valley Lions members, some Rotary members, members of Trout Unlimited, public officials and interested citizens gathered in the Fraser Park to unveil a bronze statue of Dwight Eisenhower fly fishing in the Fraser . Many supported this project because it was a potential tourism , but also because it was a way to bring attention to saving an important tributary to the Colorado, the Fraser River, which some environmental groups have called the second most endangered river in America.
Locally, much has been done to preserve stream flow. Grand County’s purchasing surplus water from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy to fill Granby Reservoir has also been a boon to recreation and western slope stream flow interests. The prospect for successful negotiations and compromises in future seasons is better, now that precedent has been set.
I was cheered by the Sky Hi Daily News’ report of progress in the negotiations with Denver Water conducted by County Commissioner James Newberry and the efforts of Kirk Klancke of Winter Park Ranch Water and Sanitation. Denver Water may be our wolf at the door so far as transmountain diversion is concerned, but it looks like Denver Water is expressing willingness to help save the river.
The other wolf at the door comes from the Federal Government’s willingness to broker other agreements. They have done it in the past; they can do it in the future. So when you look at the issues of importance to you, protection of Roe v Wade, equal pay for equal work, privatization of social security, affordable health insurance, the war in Iraq, and tax and foreign policy, put the Upper Basin of the Colorado River into that mix and imagine a president of the US from the Lower Basin. It just might not fit the interests of Grand County.
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