Guest opinion: Keep Colorado Water Plan momentum going
Since I live on the banks of the Upper Colorado River and operate a float fishing business along it, I pay a lot of attention to river issues. Although subjects pertaining to the Colorado River get my special attention, any impact to any river in Colorado or even the West are of interest to me, since rivers and streams represent an interconnected web of life. What affects one will surely impact another eventually.
In the past, people tended to view rivers as standalone entities. They saw them through the narrow keyhole of whatever river segment happened to flow past their view. I grew up in a small mill town in Massachusetts, and back there rivers used to be seen as mere conduits to flush away the effluent of the Industrial Revolution.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way from that mentality. People are generally more aware now than they were a hundred years ago about the connection between healthy waterways and a good quality of life. In the Western United States, where water is in much shorter supply than it is in the East, this acknowledgment is even more important. Every drop of water is likely to be used multiple times for many purposes on its trip from the high mountain snowpacks of the Rockies to their ultimate evaporation in some distant Southwest desert or to an even more distant ocean.
In Colorado, this more enlightened view has become manifest in our new statewide water plan, which Gov. John Hickenlooper announced late last year. The plan prioritizes conservation measures, sets robust statewide water conservation targets for cities and industry, proposes annual funding for healthy rivers, and creates ongoing, unprecedented financial support for river assessments and restoration. It represents the culmination of many years effort by parties working together, most of whom in the past worked against one another’s interests. For that reason alone, the State Water Plan represents a landmark document.
Specifically, the plan recommends that Colorado invest in unprecedented stream protection and restoration, starting with stream management plans for many of our rivers and streams. The importance of preserving and restoring the environmental resiliency of our waterways cannot be overstated. According to this year’s Colorado College Conservation in the West poll results, 77 percent of voters in Colorado believe that the Colorado River and its tributaries are at risk. Keeping Western Slope rivers healthy and flowing is unquestionably one of the most important ideals to protect the economic, environmental, and social well-being of our state.
Now that the plan is complete, we must not let it sit idly on the shelf. We have to keep the momentum going, and direct our efforts at funding the plan’s components. We need to make sure that we invest in environmental and recreational projects which benefit the Colorado River and its tributaries as proposed by the plan.
Finally, legislators should work with the governor to meet these goals. After all, keeping rivers healthy is a clear bipartisan goal, since rivers have no political party affiliation.
Fishing outfitter Jack Bombardier, owner of Confluence Casting of Gypsum, lives about 13 miles up the Colorado River from Dotsero.
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