Making the Fish Wait Another Year for Long-Term Sustainability Protection
12.17.09 - 11:10 am

WATER … It was a very well attended special commissioner meeting in Norwood last week. Every major rancher from Wright’s Mesa and Redvale who had properties in San Miguel County was there, as well as two county commissioners from Montrose County, our new state Senator Bruce Whitehead, and several West End ranchers from Montrose County. They were all very concerned. A number of unanswered questions remained in their minds about the state’s push to provide in-stream flows on the lowest stretch of the San Miguel River, from Calamity Draw below Naturita to the river’s confluence with the Dolores River … A good representation of Telluride citizens concerned about the long-term sustainability of the river system and its native fish population also were in attendance. Unfortunately, very few of the citizens who attended actually spoke up at the meeting, and just a few voices dominated much of the discussion … But, as one of the decision-makers, I felt we heard sufficient testimony from those most directly affected by the proposed in-stream flow (ISF) that enough questions remained for existing water right holders to justify a second year’s delay in the state’s filing of a significant ISF right. Every rancher I talked with before and after the meeting felt unequivocally that the state’s junior ISF right would hurt them economically – many felt the injury might even include putting them out of business … Hilary White and Jennifer Russell spoke out strongly for not delaying the process any longer in order to be sure that we could protect native fish and the health of the river itself immediately – before any other water developers might try to file senior rights on the stream. After the meeting, I talked to several others who had wanted to express a similar opinion. And it’s certainly a concern for the board – Commissioner Joan May wanted the county to weigh into the state process with a letter in support of an ISF filing sooner than January of 2011 – a position for which, however, she did not gain majority support … All three of us support the ISF filing – not only for the state’s attempt to stave off federal Endangered Species Act listing of several species of native fish that do inhabit the lower stretches of the San Miguel (with all the ESA’s attendant federal usurpation of regulatory control) but also because rivers and river inhabitants deserve their fair share of this important natural resource and human exploitation should not take ALL the water in the river. Still, because of the (as yet) unanswered concerns of lower basin ranchers (and ski company representatives in the upper basin as well), Chair Elaine Fischer and I felt obliged to support a second delay. But only, as Elaine emphasized, if real progress is made in the next year in answering those concerns. The 2-1 motion in the end was to support an ISF filing in January of 2011, not before that date … That, of course, is just a recommendation. It’s the Colorado Water Conservation Board meeting in January of 2010 where that decision will be made – to file or not file an ISF on the lower stretch of the San Miguel. San Miguel County’s letter asking for a second one-year delay will join similar letters from Montrose County (where the actual ISF reach of the San Miguel River is located) and the Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD), both supporting a one-year delay. What will give teeth to this delay, in my mind, is the promise by SWCD in this next year to fund the hiring of a reputable water engineer to start researching off-stem storage opportunities in the San Miguel Watershed, both the upper and the lower basin … In my mind, increased basin storage is the key to this complex water issue. With increased storage – off-stem (not on our free-flowing main stem) and only where ecologically defensible, there should be enough water in the basin to support the proposed ISF for the river AND any future development options of existing water rights holders that a junior water right held by the state might trump … A win-win in water? That’s almost unheard of under Colorado’s complex water law system. But (perhaps naively) I continue to believe that such an outcome is possible in the San Miguel Basin if ranchers and environmentalists, Montrose and San Miguel County work together. And I’m going to spend the next year trying to help make that happen … Any citizen interested in this issue please email me at my county addy <commish3@sanmiguelcounty.org> and I’ll be happy to set up a work group listserve to keep constituents apprised of our progress with the Intergovernmental Water Task Force that local governments have set up to address this issue.


WEEKLY QUOTA … “John Muir once declared that he was better off than the magnate E.H. Harriman. ‘I have all the money I want,’ Muir explained, ‘and he hasn’t.’” – Clifton Fadiman


ADDICTION … Five trillion cigarettes are sold in world the yearly. In China alone, 350 million are addicted. Now that developing nations have smartened up and started imposing stiff taxes and sanctions on nicotine products, the tobacco corporations are working "developing nations" – Africa, Asia, etc. Hard sells that equal an average yearly consumption of 830 cigarettes per person on the planet … (Thanks to Ed Werner for this alert).


THE TALKING GOURD


The Hibiscus Says


To be this lovely

and this exposed

is to last

only a day or so.


- Wendy Videlock

Grand Junction

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