A shortsighted decision by Pitkin BOCC | AspenTimes.com

A shortsighted decision by Pitkin BOCC

I was disappointed to read of the Pitkin County commissioners’ opposition to the Colorado River Water Conservation District tax question (7A), which would increase the district’s tax revenues by around $5 million annually. While the commissioners’ concerns with the details of the issue are legitimate, they pale in comparison to the threats posed to Western Slope water by everything from climate change to the growing populations of both Front Range and southwestern urban centers.

If the river district cannot act to conserve and protect Western Slope water interests, concerns with the details of how river district resources are allocated will be irrelevant. Tax questions are always a hard sell and need to be approached critically, but water is key to the continued health and prosperity of the Western Slope and cooperative regional action — and funding — to protect that resource should be something that we can all support.

Having been deeply involved with local water issues for many years, I am acutely aware of the occasional conflicts between local Roaring Fork Valley interests and those of the river district. The river district has made progress towards an environmentally sensitive and sustainability-based approach to water issues and that progress should be applauded. Rather than simply rejecting the district’s tax question, why not condition the county’s endorsement on the river district’s commitment to engage the public and local governments in a meaningful conversation about the specifics of the district’s spending priorities once the tax issue is passed?

The river district will continue to be the most important regional voice for Western Slope water resources with or without the passage of 7A. Rejecting 7A without public dialogue or meaningful discussion with the district is shortsighted and will not serve the region well in the long run.

Mark Fuller