Politicians attend conference in Vail
August 3, 2015
VAIL — What do you get when you put 350 lawmakers from 13 Western states in a room?
You get stuff done, is what you get.
The Council of State Governments West spent last week in Vail hammering out issues they have in common, which is most issues.
Colorado State Sen. Nancy Todd is this year's Council of State Governments chairman. There's no mention of her party affiliation on her campaign website, although we learned that she's a Mother of the Year, and the Aurora Chamber of Commerce's Woman of the Year.
That's what makes the Council of State Governments West work, Todd said.
"It's so bipartisan that every committee is chaired and vice-chaired by someone from different states and different parties," she said.
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We really are all in this together, said Carlee Brown, a water policy advisor with the Western Governors Association.
"Crisis breeds opportunity," Brown said. "The drought in the Pacific coast states is a huge crisis, and an equally huge opportunity."
The California drought forced Western states to pay attention to how much water rolls down the river, and whether they're entitled to keep some of it.
Most of them are.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is proposing some aggressive storage projects, but Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has him beat. Mead wants 10 new water storage facilities in 10 years.
"The federal government is spending its time throwing up obstacles," said Wyoming State Sen. Larry Hicks.
Rep. Dell Raybould said Idaho has seen a huge drop in their aquifer in the last 50 years.
"Water shortages will stem from draining those aquifers, as surely as the surface users are having problems now," Raybould said.
Besides Wyoming, Utah lawmakers this year passed a bill to fund water projects. New Mexico did the same thing last year. A couple weeks ago, Oregon lawmakers agreed to spend $40 million on water projects. In Idaho, they're also looking at existing reservoirs for additional storage, along with new facilities.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.