McInnis: Water measure lacks basin-of-origin protections
I strongly support new water storage. It is critical to Colorado’s future. But I oppose Referendum A (the $2 billion water bonding issue on the fall ballot) because of a few simple facts. When you add them up, these facts represent significant risk for the Western Slope and rural Colorado, and our essential needs for a sufficient quantity and quality of water, a strong economy, and the preservation of the environment. The governor of Colorado has been fair to rural Colorado and has worked on the referendum in good faith. I trust the governor’s word, but I cannot help but be concerned about what could happen when he leaves office – we will be at the mercy of individuals unknown.Let me outline the facts that lead me to conclude that Referendum A is not a balanced approach right for the whole state of Colorado:-The authority to bond water projects in Colorado already exists, and thirsty cities on the Front Range already have the financial resources to pay for water. Financing sources are not the problem. Affordability, getting necessary permits and approvals for projects, and conflicts related to mitigation remain the big problems.-Referendum A will create a $2 billion pot of money, with the imprimatur of the state of Colorado, that can be used to hire the best water lawyers and engineers to buy water rights and divert water from the Western Slope and rural areas. -Much of Colorado’s political power lies where the population resides, in the cities and metro areas, which means that when push comes to shove, the votes are with the cities. -There is no ironclad mitigation in Referendum A for the basin of origin (like the Western Slope or other rural areas in Colorado) for out-of-basin water transfers – zip, zero. If it is not in writing, it is left up to future power struggles, and the cities have the advantage there. -Most can agree that one’s personal word is not binding on those who follow. An issue as important as mitigation must be cemented in the law, with sufficient clarity and detail, so those who follow understand and will live by that promise. -There is an inherent conflict between those who represent the cities and population centers and those who represent rural areas. Referendum A doesn’t appear to end that conflict. Recognizing that it is the job of those who represent the cities to provide their constituents with what the rural areas have, water, they have a fiduciary duty to obtain that water under the best deal possible. But this duty is what causes alarm. Metropolitan planners are doing a “good job” for the city when they can divert more, at the least possible cost – their gain is rural Colorado’s loss and Coloradans cannot expect them to voluntarily mitigate or be “fair” in a water diversion project unless they are bound to do so. -Colorado is one state and one family. Any solution to the state’s water challenges must work for the whole family, both the population centers and the rural areas. It must be balanced and must contain assurances that provide security to the entire state. Let me be clear, I believe concrete and binding mitigation for basins of origin benefits the whole state of Colorado – protecting the character and beauty of the Western Slope and rural areas of Colorado is a value the whole state can appreciate. Moreover, I am not interested in perpetuating past conflicts between rural areas and cities. I believe that solutions to Colorado’s water challenges will require balanced approaches that recognize and respect all parts of Colorado. After considering the facts, though, I have concluded that Referendum A is fundamentally flawed, and I cannot support an initiative that does not provide binding assurances and protections for each and every part of Colorado.Republican Scott McInnis of Grand Junction represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes the Western Slope.
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