Flow of ideas facilitates basis for new river board | AspenTimes.com

Flow of ideas facilitates basis for new river board

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The debate was at times contentious, and took twice as long as expected, but the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners at last agreed Tuesday on the size, makeup and general goals of a new advisory board to oversee the new Healthy Rivers and Streams Fund.

It is to be a seven-member, appointed board. Five of those appointed must live in Pitkin County while the other two must be from within the Roaring Fork River watershed.

The members will serve four-year terms that will be staggered to begin with so that the entire board does not change over at one time, and the in-country members will be appointed to represent each of the five commissioner districts, if possible.

All of this could change since the BOCC directed county attorney John Ely to draw up policy documents based on this week’s debate, and present them at a future work session.

The board, at this point in its formation, is to meet once a month to start with, and is to make recommendations to the commissioners on how to spend roughly $1 million in annual revenues from a 1 cent sales tax approved by Pitkin County voters in November 2008.

According to the wording of the ballot question, the county is to spend the money on maintaining and improving water quality and quantity within the Roaring Fork River watershed; to buy, modify, lease or otherwise manage water rights; work to assure minimum stream flows in local waterways; and other actions.

At the Tuesday work session, commissioner Michael Owsley strongly objected to the idea of appointing board members from outside Pitkin County.

“The money originates here,” he told the others on the board. “That money must be accountable here.”

Others on the board, and the county staff, maintained that the sales tax is based largely on money spent by non-county residents, and that going outside the county but staying within the Roaring Fork River drainage might bring “the best talent possible” to the board.

Commissioner Rachel Richards said 65 percent of the county’s own employees live outside the county, but advise the commissioners on spending and other critical issues.

“I don’t question their loyalty to Pitkin County,” she told Owsley.

The debate got hung up on other points, such as a rule that members can not be members of other county advisory boards or employees of any county in the region or any municipality (they can be members of nonprofit boards, however), among other requirements and limitations.

County Manager Hilary Fletcher directed the triad of staffers who will work with the new board ” planning director Cindy Houben, Open Space and Trails director Dale Will and Ely ” to come up with a preliminary training budget for the board members, to help them get up to speed on the complicated water laws governing Colorado and the Colorado River Basin.


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