Polis, Ganahl talk water, transportation at forum

Charles Ashby
The Daily Sentinel
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left at the Colorado Mesa University Gubernatorial Candidate Forum with Heidi Ganahl, right Tuesday evening on the CMU campus.
Christopher Tomlinson/Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

The Colorado River Compact, transportation through Glenwood Canyon and job opportunities and economic development on the Western Slope.

These were only a few of the questions asked Tuesday of the two candidates who are running for governor, Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Heidi Ganahl.

At a live-streamed forum of the race sponsored by The Daily Sentinel, Colorado Public Radio and Colorado Mesa University, the two candidates said they would do everything possible to make sure the state maintains control over its water.

While Ganahl said more storage is the issue, Polis said he would oppose more diversions of water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, and call for more conservation and the use of technology to save water, including for the agricultural community.

Polis said the practice of buy-and-dry — outside business groups that purchase Colorado land and the water rights that come with it — needs to end, while Ganahl said much of that is because of Chinese interests, saying Polis has done nothing to stop it.

“With the hotter and dryer climate we know we need to step up and do more, so in addition to making sure we put Colorado first in fighting for all of our rights under our interstate compacts, including the Colorado River Compact … (with) best practices in ag,” Polis said.

“We’ve got to store the water that’s rightly ours,” Ganahl added. “And we’ve got to have a governor who won’t cede control to the federal government, but will hold firm and stand strong against the federal government and the other states who want to take the water.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis at the Colorado Mesa University Candidate Forum with Heidi Ganahl Tuesday evening on the CMU campus.| Christopher Tomlinson/Grand Junction Sentinel
Christopher Tomlinson/Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

On transportation, neither candidates directly addressed a question on whether it was time to find a more permanent solution to ensuring that there is an alternative route on the main east-west corridor on Interstate 70, which often is closed because of fires or mudslides, impacting traffic and the supply chain.

Polis said the state has been more focused on transportation funding in recent years, and is working to put more state dollars into roads and bridges. Ganahl said she would put a recent measure passed by the Colorado Legislature to draw more funding for transportation before the voters, giving them a specific list of projects that would be done.

That’s reminiscent of a ballot measure pushed by former GOP Gov. Bill Owens in the late 1990s that called for transportation bonds to pay for road funding, most of the money from which went to massive road expansion projects in the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas.

The candidates also were asked about energy jobs, homelessness, fentynal and wolf reintroduction.

On energy jobs, specifically about coal miners in northwest Colorado, Ganahl said those jobs have been “decimated” under Polis’ administration, adding Colorado should be developing more of its natural gas supplies.

Polis said his administration has long worked to help coal miners and others impacted by fewer drilling jobs with help in transitioning them into other emerging energy industries, such as renewable energy projects.

“Colorado has the second-largest natural gas reserve in the country, and we produce the cleanest energy here … so if we want clean air, clean land, clean water, let’s produce it here and get our energy industry back on track,” Ganahl said.

“We need to make sure that we ween ourselves off of natural gas to power our own grid because that’s the reason that Xcel and other (utility) providers have told us that rates are going to go up because the cost of natural gas has increased,” the governor countered. “We want to make sure we chart our energy independence. We’re blessed with great solar and wind resources.”

Heidi Ganahl at the Colorado Mesa University Gubernatorial Candidate Forum with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Tuesday evening on the CMU campus.| Christopher Tomlinson/Grand Junction Sentinel
Christopher Tomlinson/Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

The two candidates sparred at times, with Ganahl launching repeated attacks at Polis, saying he is the state’s biggest problem, while Polis chastised Ganahl when she accused him of not answering her questions.

“Jared didn’t answer the question as usual about whether he would roll back our sanctuary status …,” Ganahl said, after a question about re-introducing wolves in the state.

“The question was about wolves,” Polis countered.

“And you also didn’t answer the question about whether you talked to Kim Kardashian to get advice on crime…,” Ganahl said.

“That’s because the question was about wolves,” Polis responded.

This story is being republished by the Post Independent with permission from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

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