Letter: Water planning takes wisdom | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Water planning takes wisdom

After reading the article in the May 29 Aspen Daily News (“Keeping water in the Crystal”), I felt the need to clarify a few comments. Using language such as “a growing number of irrigators,” “informed and advised,” “vetted” and “willing irrigators” paints a picture that more than a few irrigators subscribe to the plan.

The Crystal River Management Plan is a scientific and technical document regarding ecosystem functions within the river and watershed. That said, few if any irrigators are qualified or willing to support or refute the data. I believe the plan is well-done but, as mentioned, technical in nature, and to his credit, Seth Mason did simplify some data to color graphs most can understand.

In the article, I am quoted as saying, “It’s a good time to strike while the iron is hot,” and I have said that in several water meetings within the past year. A few years ago, our governor asked for a statewide water plan, and that plan is now in his hands. During the last legislative session, there was much discussion regarding water issues statewide, and that is the reason to “strike while the iron is hot.”

Water issues in Colorado and the arid West have always made for lively discussions. Our issues, unique to the Crystal River, will be no different. Over the past several months, I have handed out several documents to inform and educate those interested in water in the West. Smart people from Kansas to California are working hard to find balance among agricultural, municipal, recreation and environmental water users; I support this endeavor.

This plan or some other plan, if adopted by local irrigators, will take time. Trust among stakeholders must be developed. Clarification and changes to current water law to protect and facilitate alternative transfer methods must be in place. How do we place a value on water? The value of an acre of irrigated corn in Sterling is different from a meadow in Carbondale, just like Aspen real estate is valued differently from Baggs, Wyoming. These questions and many others must be answered before any agreement will be reached, and now is the time to have our lively discussion.

Colorado water-management laws, interstate compacts and trans-basin compacts — such as Colorado Big Thompson, Windy Gap, Animas and LaPlata — have taken anywhere from 10 to 60 years to develop. If Mother Nature blesses us with the time, for my grandchildren’s sake I hope we use it wisely, and for that reason I will be at the meeting.

Bill McKee

Crystal River Valley

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