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Water group to lobby in county’s interest

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – Colorado’s drought is likely to prompt plenty of water-related legislation in the coming session, and members of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) said they plan to protect Western Slope interests during those debates.

“The Front Range is very thirsty right now,” Taylor Hawes, co-director of the NWCCOG’s Water Quality/Quantity Committee, told the Summit County Commissioners Monday. “Everybody’s looking to the Western Slope to solve these problems right now. (We need to) make sure we’re very allied on the Western front.”

Hawes and NWCCOG co-director Lane Wyatt addressed the commissioners during Monday’s worksession, telling county officials to think of the NWCCOG water quality employees “as an extension of your staff.”

Summit County government pays the NWCCOG Water Quality/Quantity Committee $20,000 a year to represent its interests in some water-related issues. NWCCOG members include Summit, Eagle, Grand, Jackson and Pitkin counties, as well as 20 municipalities within those counties.

Hawes and Wyatt outlined Monday the water committee’s goals for 2003. Chief among them is lobbying for Western Slope interests during the 2003 Colorado Legislative session.

“We have to balance it so that we keep Colorado an attractive place to live, but find ways to use less water,” Hawes said.

Among their plans are to meet with Denver newspaper staff to educate them on Western Slope water issues, ensuring that that side of the story is included in stories about water problems. Wyatt said the papers now “show a lot of infighting” among Front Range communities, but fail to show the concerns of mountain areas.

County Commissioner Tom Long said the 2003 Legislature should be closely watched.

“This winter’s legislation is going to be a bear,” he said. “We’ve got to kind of look out for ourselves and try to make sure unmitigated Eastern Slope growth doesn’t come at the Western Slope’s expense.”

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com


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