Smith says ‘race is all about water’
Editor’s note: This is the second of five profiles of the candidates competing in the Aug. 10 Republican primary in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District race. The district covers a majority of the Western Slope.By Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondentU.S. Rep. Scott McInnis has declined to endorse any of the Republicans running in the Aug. 10 primary.”But there’s no doubt where his wife stands on this race,” said Matt Smith, a Grand Junction entrant in the primary.Lori McInnis is Smith’s sister. The two grew up in Meeker on a farm that has been in their family for more than 100 years.Smith understands McInnis’ decision not to endorse him. He believes the congressman wants to be able to back whichever Republican wins on Aug. 10.Still, Smith hopes to convince voters that they’d be wise to keep the seat in the Smith-McInnis family for at least one important reason that’s only a faucet away.Protecting the Western Slope’s water from grabs by the Front Range and other states always was a top priority for McInnis, first while he was in the state House of Representatives, and then while serving in Washington. Smith has been driven by the same issue.”As far as I am concerned, that is the biggest distinction between the Republican candidates, is the water issue.”This race is all about water,” he said.Smith said he has introduced three basin-of-origin bills in the Statehouse. These aim to protect the interests of water-rich areas. He’s also worked to protect water quality and maintain stream flows, he said.Water issues arise at the federal level as well, including operation of federal reservoirs, completion of the Animas-La Plata project near Durango, and decisions that affect the availability of water on public lands, Smith said.But where Smith is proudest to declare himself the protector of the Western Slope’s water is on Referendum A.That measure, rejected by Colorado voters last year, would have funded $2 billion in unspecified water projects. Smith vehemently opposed it, fearing it was a “blank check” that would have allowed for unchecked diversion of Western Slope water to more populated areas.One of Smith’s opponents, state Rep. Gregg Rippy, R-Glenwood Springs, cast a key vote that got Referendum A out of committee, clearing the way for it to be placed on the ballot. He then opposed the measure.Another opponent, Greg Walcher, supported it. He was head of the state Department of Natural Resources at the time.When it comes to water, “I’ve been on the side of rural Colorado, and some of my opponents have been on the side of the cities,” Smith said.Other than Smith, he said, Democratic 3rd District candidate John Salazar is probably the strongest advocate of district water interests among those vying to replace McInnis. Salazar also opposed Referendum A.Walcher campaign manager John Marshall took issue with Smith’s characterization of Walcher on water. He said Walcher has “a long list of tangible accomplishments” regarding water, including participation in obtaining an agreement with California regarding Colorado River water use, and working on Animas-La Plata.He said Smith is trying to get elected to Congress on a single issue.”Matt’s been beating on the same drum, which is Referendum A, for 10 months now,” he said.But Smith said 3rd District voters always could trust McInnis to look after the 3rd District’s water.”They shouldn’t have to wonder now,” Smith said.Resource issues are a focal point for Smith. He has carved out a legislative specialty in energy policy. In 2001 he chaired the Energy Council, a group of 10 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces and the nation of Venezuela. He also has served two terms on the National Conference of State Legislators Energy and Electrical Utilities Committee.Smith delivered a national energy strategy statement to the White House, and has worked to promote coal gasification, and technology to capture energy from ocean waves.Smith said zero-emission coal technology would supply the United States for 1,000 years.He vows to be a fervent proponent of a strong national energy plan. It’s important that the United States come up with clean, reliable energy resources, Smith said. Otherwise, the economy is vulnerable when energy prices rise, he said. Regarding public land resources, Smith said he believes strongly in the multiple-use philosophy, and striking a balance between resource development and environmental protection.”I do believe there are proper ways to conduct work within the environment and I certainly have a great knowledge in working on a lot of environmental permits through the projects I have worked on,” he said.He said a system is needed within the Endangered Species Act for removing species when they’ve been recovered.”We need to include humans as part of the equation in the Endangered Species Act,” he added.He supports the direction forest timber management is headed since McInnis succeeded in getting legislation passed aimed at streamlining logging and fuels reduction projects.”I think Scott has made a tremendous step forward in his Healthy Forest Act. I think we’ve gained some ground. I do believe there’s more work to be done. We’ve got a real crisis in the forest habitat today,” Smith said.Beetle and disease outbreaks are killing even more trees than the act can address, he said. Logging has been erratic, and the nation needs to take a better long-term approach to forest management, aiming for sustainability just as wildlife managers try to maintain sustainable herds, Smith said.
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