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River District revises key policies

DONNAGRAY
eagle county correspondent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” In a state that is struggling with a dwindling supply of water, a growing population and increasing water demands, the Colorado River Water Conservation District must strike a balance between increasingly disparate needs in guiding the future water allocations on the West Slope and demands from the Front Range.

On Tuesday, directors of the district met in Glenwood Springs and considered substantive changes to some of its key policies. The river district, formed in 1937 and headquartered in Glenwood Springs, is charged with protecting water as well as holding and developing water rights for western Colorado.

The policy revisions will be adopted at the district’s quarterly meeting in July.

Among the policies considered by the board were for water quality and recreational water uses.

While the river district supports minimal water quality regulation, it opposes regulations that put an undue burden on ranchers and farmers.

“There is some level where we have traditionally supported legislative and regulatory efforts to protect water quality efforts,” said river district manager Eric Kuhn. “We’ve probably been a leader in this.”

And the district, in its policy, recognizes that different communities may have differing water needs. “The district recognizes that levels of regulatory effort … may vary from region to region,” said external affairs manager Chris Treese.

Specifically, the policy opposes nonpoint source water pollution regulations for ranchers and farmers. Nonpoint source pollution comes from more than a single source.

“The concern has been that agriculture (could be) blanketed with requirements to meet water quality standards … to the same extent as wastewater treatment plants,” Treese said.

The board of directors also wrestled with new language for its recreational water use policy. Recreational in-channel diversions (RICDs) for such uses as whitewater kayaking parks, were a hot topic in the 2006 legislative session. Senate Bill 37 defined RICDs and passed because of compromise among people on both sides of the issue. It sets a standard for and limits the size of water appropriations for that use.

Directors said they wanted to be clear in the language of the policy that while they don’t encourage anyone to come forward with an application for an RICD water right, they do encourage such applications to be balanced.

“The big issue is trying to protect the constituents of future water developments down road and (not having) RICDs negatively impacting them,” said Arn Menconi, director and county commissioner for Eagle County.

Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 16605

dgray@postindependent.com


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