Water Is What We Fight
Over in the West
by Art Goodtimes
Sep 23, 2010 | 1549 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IN-STREAM FLOW … It appears we have a New West/Old West battle shaping up in the San Miguel Watershed over the proposal from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to file an in-stream flow (ISF) right at the very bottom of the river, just above where it meets the Dolores River. That’s in Montrose County, but the filing has huge implications for folks living in both San Miguel and Montrose counties. As with most water issues, it’s incredibly complicated, and Colorado water law is as convoluted as any in the country … But boil it down, and it’s also very simple. Do we file a right to protect native fish and other riparian values now, before galloping development in the basin uses up all the water in the river? Or, do we try and figure out all the future developments we humans want in the basin and make those future uses a priority – before we give the river and the fish any rights to some of the flow? … Again, if you want to simplify the issue, you could say it another way – do we let local ranchers and existing water users protect their rights to control their own future and any changed uses they may want to put their valuable water rights to? Or, do we give up local control and let the state dictate minimum flows and exercise veto power on any basin development, from here on out … Another very simple perspective – do we file on an ISF so that the Feds don’t come in and declare the native fish in the river as endangered with all the possible federal restrictions and meddling that such a designation would bring? Or, do we risk that outcome as we plan for a big development future for our burgeoning populations? … Okay, you get the idea. You can simplify this issue, but to do so is to capture only a piece of the puzzle. There are many conflicting perspectives, philosophies and values involved here … But one thing is also true. Filing an ISF doesn’t bring any new water into the river. So, in an era when climate change is drying up our part of the world and the Arctic sea ice is melting at a record rate, this “battle” isn’t the real answer to the problem of decreasing water in the river. Even if one side “wins” an ISF, there are hundreds of thousands of acre feet of “conditional” water rights that would have priority over this ISF, if they were ever developed … Truth is, much of Colorado’s water allowed under the multi-state Colorado River compact flows out of state in the spring run-off. No one wants to see a Hoover Dam on the San Miguel (even if such a thing were possible – which it isn’t), but the possibility of small off-stem storage facilities that could capture some of that spring flow and release it slowly over the summer, fall and winter, when it’s most needed by the fish and everyone else, is what’s really needed. To do that, New West and Old West, enviros and ranchers, East End and West End folks are going to need to come to the table and come up with the appropriate sites and necessary funding to make this happen … Yes, we can go to “war” on the ISF that’s being proposed and one side can “win” and the other side “lose”. But if we can’t get over our differences and work together on water in our basin, we’re all going to be losers. The river and its fish included.

PEACE WALK … Thanks for those who honored the ninth anniversary of 9/11 by joining our monthly peace walk down Telluride’s main street … Telluride Councilmember David Oyster led the march with the American flag, which was most appropriate since we not only were acting for peace but also remembering the American dead, as well as all those killed in wars around the world … Telluride Councilmember Chris Myer was also with us, as were many of the Telluride group he leads, This Republic Can … It’s sad that we are entering another year of never-ending wars.

KAREN CHAMBERLAIN … Many Telluriders knew this charming, quiet, brilliant writer and poet who spent most of her life in the Roaring Fork Valley. Her book, Desert of the Heart, is a Southwest classic. Her poetry won her national and state awards … But most important of all, she was a beautiful soul whose spirit infused this wild landscape of ours with a kindness and generosity of inestimable value. Her passing is cause for sadness, but also for joy – as we remember that lovely smile and the big desert heart behind it … I’ve found myself hugging everyone I can this week, as I used to hug Karen, thinking of her and how precious we are to each other.



- for Karen Chamberlain

All night I say your name. There is
comfort in the syllables, as if by
speaking your name I bring you here

into the kitchen where the white
scent of Bartlett shimmers above
the stove and I find myself talking

to you as I add honey, knowing you
would love it, its ambrosia twining
with lemon juice, how the two tastes

lace into each other and find their
way to dance together in the same clear jar.
You understood. You, with your hush,

the soft flesh of your cheeks, how
you preserved what was sweetest
blood plums, cresthavens and wild

apricots and in your poems wrestled
with what bristles: snakes, bindweed.
You made celebration of Mormon tea.

How I hate the past tense. The sky tonight
is clear and no moon shines through.
I carry pear skins to the compost pile

and hum in Sanskrit to you. And the darkness
feels like a mantle. And your name
feels like a prayer. And the honeyed pear

jam sits on the counter to cool. And no
last line for the poem will do.

-Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
San Miguel County Poet Laureate
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