Aspen’s state Senator Entz wants ‘logging for water’ to be studied

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A legislative bill that would authorize the study of two eye-catching ways to battle the drought have been introduced by Pitkin County’s new state senator.

Sen. Lewis Entz, R-Hooper, was the prime sponsor of a bill that would authorize $500,000 to study the idea of sucking water from the Colorado River at the state’s border with Utah. The water would be transported back for use within Colorado.

The idea has been dubbed “The Big Straw.” Entz’s bill would authorize up to $500,000 to study the idea. The study would be completed by Nov. 15, 2003.

The Big Straw has been criticized as prohibitively expensive by some observers. Entz countered yesterday that the idea cannot be properly discussed if technical feasibility and projected cost aren’t known.

His bill would also authorize up to $190,000 to study how timber management in national forests affects water yield. Entz said he has been told that U.S. Forest Service studies have shown that greater amounts of timber harvesting allows more water to reach streams, thus increasing potential use.

That information hasn’t been released to the public because logging isn’t popular, Entz claimed. He wants a study that would make it to the public’s hands.

The bill would also make as much as $3 million available for a comprehensive study of Colorado’s water needs and supplies for the next 30 years. The report, which would be finished by November 2004, would advise what additional water diversion and storage projects should be pursued first, according to wording of the bill.

While Entz was the primary sponsor, the bill had five co-sponsors, including Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, who represents the Roaring Fork Valley portions of Eagle and Garfield counties.

Entz said he believes the bill has an excellent chance for approval.

Gov. Bill Owens endorsed Entz’ bill on Friday when he identified seven of about 30 bills on water issues that he would like to see the Legislature concentrate on.

In addition, those proposed studies are wrapped in with annual appropriations for the Colorado Water Conservation Board. About $34 million in projects are proposed, using existing state funding sources.

The bill passed the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee on a 6-1 vote. It will go before the Appropriations Committee for a key hearing Tuesday, then likely advance to the full senate, said Entz.

Assuming it’s approved, the bill will be sent to the Colorado House for debate.

Entz, a farmer from the San Luis Valley, is a veteran lawmaker but he didn’t represent Aspen and Pitkin County until this session started Jan. 8. Redistricting changed the boundaries of the 5th senate district to include Pitkin County.

Entz said he hasn’t heard much from his new constituents. He welcomes calls at the Capitol at 303-866-4866.

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