Eagle River Watershed Council: Vote yes on 7A to protect rivers and Western Slope water | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Watershed Council: Vote yes on 7A to protect rivers and Western Slope water

Holly Loff
Eagle River Watershed Council

We urge everyone that cares about rivers, agriculture, drinking water and keeping water on the Western Slope to vote yes on 7A on this November’s ballot. Ballot measure 7A requests a small property tax increase to support the Colorado River Water Conservation District (the River District), which was created to protect our Western Slope water. 

The River District will use these funds to keep water on the Western Slope, protect water supplies for our farmers and ranchers, as well as drinking water for our communities, while also protecting fish, wildlife and recreation by maintaining streamflows and water quality — all of which protects our local economy.

The district has been a strong and effective voice on water matters affecting Western Colorado water users since 1937. With a growing population on the Front Range, which uses water from the Western Slope, and a growing population on this side of the divide as well, paired with climate change and associated and continuing drought, the River District’s role has never been more important. The River District’s budget has been declining annually due to several factors including the effects of the Gallagher Amendment impacts and revenue limitations from the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and, to a lesser degree, declining energy sector revenues.

Until recently, the River District operated a grant fund that has been utilized many times over in its 15-county district. In Eagle County the fund has supported water use efficiency, stream restoration, and water storage projects, including the expansion and reinforcement of LEDE Reservoir, irrigation improvement plans, and on-the-ground projects all over the county, including in McCoy, Burns and Wolcott and a riparian revegetation in EagleVail. If 7A is approved these funds will be restored and significantly increase at a time when the Western Slope needs it most.

Among the list of projects that an approved 7A would fund is the River District’s efforts to ensure the continuation of the very senior water rights associated with the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon. This 1909 non-consumptive water right provides certainty to water users on the Western Slope, as well as provides benefits for recreation, the environment and water quality.

The Shoshone Power Plant is owned and operated by Xcel Energy and when they are exercising their senior water right they command the flow in the Colorado River. This in effect “pulls” water from the headwaters through Glenwood Canyon and to points west — providing environmental and recreational benefits to all in between while limiting the amount of water that can be diverted to the Front Range.

The modest property tax increase from 7A works out to be just $1.90 per $100,000 in property value per year. Over the 15-county region that the River District represents the increase would raise $4.9 million per year, 86% of that (or $4.2 million) is earmarked for improving agriculture efficiency, upgrading infrastructure, protecting healthy rivers and water quality and improving the reliability and efficiency of water systems on the Western Slope. 

As your local advocate for protection and conservation of the Eagle River and Colorado River basins in Eagle County, Eagle River Watershed Council has first-hand knowledge of the overwhelming value that the River District brings to the Western Slope. Please join us in voting yes on 7A to protect Western Slope water values and uses.

Holly Loff is the Executive Director and Cliff Simonton the President of the Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit http://www.erwc.org.

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