Opposition to Referendum A grows
SUMMIT COUNTY – Countywide opposition to Referendum A, a statewide ballot measure on tap for this November that addresses water conservation issues, is building.
The towns of Dillon and Breckenridge have signed on to a Board of County Commissioner (BOCC)-sponsored resolution opposing the referendum, which would allow the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to issue up to $2 billion worth of bonds to build new or improve existing facilities for water storage and conservation.
The BOCC plans to approve the resolution at its meeting Monday, and the towns of Frisco and Silverthorne plan to follow suit with resolutions at their town council meetings next week.
After discussion at a recent Mayors, Managers and Commissioners meeting, the BOCC drafted the resolution, which outlines a host of objections to the referendum. They range from a lack of explicit mitigation measures for any projects undertaken to the possible incursion of up to $4 billion in additional state debt.
While the CWCB can issue only $2 billion in bonds, the referendum allows for up to $4 billion in total repayment costs.
Paramount to the opposition’s efforts, however, is the issue of control. Many residents of Colorado’s Western Slope are wary of provisions in the referendum that place the decision-making process for what projects to fund in the hands of the CWCB and the governor.
“This is not a good bill,” Breckenridge Town Manager Tim Gagen said. “It seems like a power grab of Western Slope water.”
“It’s pretty much a control issue,” County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom added that the resolution against Referendum A demonstrated solidarity with other Western Slope communities that feel the measure may disproportionately benefit Front Range communities at their expense and have come out against it.
“This referendum is not beneficial to Western Slope water interests,” he said.
Supporters of the measure have pointed to the recent droughts throughout the state and highlighted the need to plan for future demands placed on the region by continued growth. They say the referendum would afford the state additional storage capacity and protect against periodic shortages.
But others say that while they might agree with the referendum in principle, as proposed, the measure provides for little Western Slope input and oversight.
Commissioner Tom Long, an outspoken critic of the measure, has pointed to what he calls a “blank check” for state officials and currently available drought solutions that he says are sufficient.
A variety of organizations, individuals and governmental bodies have voiced their opposition to the measure since it was introduced in the state legislature. In addition to State Attorney General Ken Salazar and U.S. Representative Mark Udall, Club 20 – a broad organization encompassing the counties, American Indian tribes and businesses of the Colorado West – has lobbied against the bill.
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