The new Eagle River Watershed Plan is now available for review and input before it undergoes public adoption hearings sometime around October.
The new draft plan updates the 1996 watershed plan and now includes the Colorado River. It was presented to Eagle County Commissioners at their regular Tuesday meeting. The public may find the plan on line at www.eaglecounty.us/Planning/.
"We wanted to make this plan accessible to your average person," said Eagle County Senior Planner Cliff Simonton. "It deals with a lot of technical and scientific stuff, and we tried to present it in a way that clearly outlines what our goals and priorities are for the watershed."
The update was done by a "partnership advisory team" that included all stakeholders of the watershed as well as the Eagle River Watershed Council and the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. The plan outlines goals, concerns and priorities intended to help guide future development and use of water and land.
"There are some good conversations in here that have been presented in an accessible way," said Commissioner Jon Stavney. "I think it goes beyond the scope of what the county and municipalities can do in some areas, though."
Advisory team members, including Simonton and Tambi Katieb with the ERWC, agreed that there are numerous "tough questions that need to be discussed."
Some of those questions have to do with technical and legal agreement on what some terms and phrases truly mean. One example is the county's required setback of buildings from a riparian area. Stavney pointed out the vague definition of "riparian area" and also how a setback of 50 or 75 feet might be adequate in one area but not another.
The team said the plan is intended more as a guide than a blanket of black-and-white rules.
"This plan is about collaboration," Katieb said. "This is not a regulatory plan. It doesn't trump Colorado law - it doesn't trump water rights. It provides guidance so you can look at something in a more balanced way and make an informed decision with these things in mind."
Still, there will surely be discussion and revisions to the plan between now and October.
Meanwhile, the ERWC is launching a study of the Colorado River with Colorado State University. The mission is to collect a baseline of scientific data that has been missing on that stretch of river so far.
"Ideally we would have that information before coming out with the new watershed plan but we can take it into consideration as the data becomes available," Simonton said.