Vail Daily letter: Protecting our water
Ryan Summerlin August 21, 2014
If you don’t have water, you can’t grow grass. If you can’t grow grass, you can’t raise cattle, and if you can’t raise cattle, you can’t sell beef. As a rancher, this is one of my greatest concerns. What keeps other small and large business owners in our part of the state awake at night might be the snowpack, how the fish are doing, or how the rapids are running. Water is the lifeblood of our economy in Senate District 5, and as state senator, any plan that diverts water from our mountain streams and rivers out of their basins won’t have my support. That’s why I’m looking to be your voice in the room next year when we’re discussing the state water plan.
Colorado is one of four Western states that does not have a water plan, but we are quickly moving towards one. In July, the roundtables submitted documents that enumerate their ideas and plans for the specific water resources in the various river basins. These plans over the next months will be compared and contrasted and compiled into one document. Once the final Colorado Water Plan is printed, it will be critical that the basins that make up Senate District 5 have a strong voice to express and protect the needs of the area.
This isn’t an issue I’ve had to pick up during the campaign. Working my family’s ranch made me grow up around water-use discussions. When I served on the Eagle River Watershed Council and worked with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District while on Vail Town Council, I had to have tough conversations that affected industries throughout the region. When I’ve been in your neighborhoods, I’ve heard your call for sending a message to the Front Range that there isn’t any more water to give without sacrificing our economy.
In Senate District 5, the drumbeat has long been to keep water in the basin where it was born. The Western Slope bears the burden to deliver water across the border to the downstream states. It cannot also bear the burden to support population growth in arid areas with additional diversion that sends water to the Front Range. We value agriculture; buy-and-dry, the practice of buying agricultural water rights to support development, is not a practice the people of Senate District 5 believe in, and it’s one of the reasons I’m asking to represent you in the state Senate — to draw a line at any attempt to take more of one of our critical resources.
I ask for your vote for state Senate this fall so that I can go to the Capitol and play a strong hand for us. From the little trickles of cold water bouncing down the steep slopes of the Rockies to the impressive flows of the Arkansas, Colorado and Gunnison, we have much that needs protecting. Healthy streams give rise to healthy communities and our rafting, fishing, agriculture and our skiing are critical to our economy. Water defines much of our life in these basins. You can be sure that I will protect our quality of life as your state senator.