Education and Outreach / Voters Guide to Water Issues / Pitkin County Commissioner Race

Pitkin County Commissioner Race - Candidate Responses

GREG POSCHMAN, DEMOCRAT
Pitkin County Commissioner - District 3 Candidate

1. Colorado State Water Plan and Basin Implementation Plans have increased awareness and questions about Colorado’s long-range water supply. What proactive approaches are you considering to ensure the future of clean, safe water supply in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/or your area of influence?

Securing water rights for our rivers are important, along with defending against claims or takings of western slope water through trans-mountain diversions. Pitkin County has been actively protecting western flowing rivers and as a commissioner, I am most interested in continuing these efforts through wetland restoration, ditch and irrigation efficiency measures and acquisition of water rights attached to conservation easements. Proactive measures we have employed during my terms on HRSB and the BOCC  include creating the first Recreational In Channel Diversion ( RICD) in the Roaring Fork river, to give the river park in Basalt priority over subsequent water filings. Our Healthy Rivers Board supports projects outside the county that will contribute to the wellbeing of our watershed, including projects in the municipalities and adjoining counties. As Pitkin County’s representative to the Ruedi Water and Power Authority ( RWAPA) I work with elected officials from around the region to manage distribution of Ruedi water to users in the watershed, and to protect the reservoir from the expensive, dangerous and ongoing aquatic nuisance species invasion. I support creation and maintenance of the Watershed Biodiversity Inventory and the GIS databases which give us the tools to understand, protect and enhance our water resources. In my next term I would like to engage the local river running and fishing communities in river resource preservation. It is easy to assume these resources are just naturally beautiful and wild, but they remain so only through the efforts of many people, of which I am one.

 

2. Water, recreation and agriculture have shown to be integral parts of the economy and values of Coloradans. How will you address the sustainability of these three integral elements of western Colorado’s character in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/ or your area of influence?

My first position with Pitkin County was on the new Healthy Rivers and Streams Board in 2008, and I have been attentive to water issues ever since.  As a county commissioner I am continually reminded of the demands we place on our water, and how limited those resources really are. Both humans and wildlife depend upon the rivers and riparian zones which comprise less than 1% of the land area. Our economy and our existence in the face of increasing drought and desertification, along with population growth will rely on our ability to manage water resources. Our county has been a model of proactive and innovative water resource study, management and conservation, whether it be through water conservation practices, defending water rights, battling trans-mountain diversions, smartly managing stormwater and effluent, mandating development setbacks, weed and invasive species management, habitat maintenance and restoration, and management of recreation, which, in recent years has created a huge impact on riparian areas. All indications point to future increased demands for recreation, from water sports to bike paths, so we must remain focused on the health of our rivers and streams. I have been very supportive of local agriculture, from my advocacy for local food production and fund raising for local farm-to-food pantry programs, to the county’s funding of HRSB’s activities to keep water in the streams,  and to seek the delicate balance between habitat protection, agriculture and recreation through improvements in management and oversight, irrigation, water supply, restoration, and water rights advocacy.

 

STEVE CHILD, DEMOCRAT
Pitkin County Commissioner - District 4 Candidate

1. Colorado State Water Plan and Basin Implementation Plans have increased awareness and questions about Colorado’s long-range water supply. What proactive approaches are you considering to ensure the future of clean, safe water supply in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/or your area of influence?

We really need a paradigm shift in how people view and use water. Based on climate change and population growth models, we each need to learn to get along with less water available for our personal and business use.

In order to protect, maintain, and restore our healthy streams and rivers, I will continue to support recommendations from the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Stream Board, the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan, and the Basin Implementation Plan for our watershed. I also would like to see a study done to explore the possibility of increasing the capacity of Grizzly Reservoir for storage for Roaring Fork valley water users. This would add resiliency to the domestic water available to the City of Aspen, and further bolster the late summer flows in the Salvation Ditch to Maroon Creek stretch of river.

To address the stream management issues and restore some water to the critically dry reach on the Crystal River near Carbondale, I would like to see a change in the way water is used by irrigators (such as myself), and administered by the Division of Water Resources. The informal “use it or lose it” philosophy runs contrary to the Colorado Constitution which prohibits the waste of water once it is diverted. Irrigators should be required to leave their water in streams when they don’t need it, without jeopardizing their water rights, just like well users do not have to constantly run their pumps to maintain their water right.  


2. Water, recreation and agriculture have shown to be integral parts of the economy and values of Coloradans. How will you address the sustainability of these three integral elements of western Colorado’s character in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/ or your area of influence?

I will continue to support Pitkin County’s successful efforts to protect and perfect water rights used here in the valley, such as the RISD (Recreational Instream Diversion) by Basalt, and fight against the misuse of water by users diverting water from our watershed to the East Slope, such as our recent efforts that stopped Aurora from using so much water from the upper Fryingpan River, and transferred that same amount of water into late season releases down the Roaring Fork from Grizzly Reservoir.              

I strongly support Pitkin County’s highly successful open space program which has acquired a substantial portfolio of irrigated farmland, and is using the associated water rights to maintain local agricultural production in our valley, as well as to enhance stream flows to maintain their ecological health.

I would like to see other Western Slope reservoirs besides Ruedi Reservoir used more often to supply late season water flows for the endangered fish in the 15-mile reach by Grand Junction. The greatly increased releases that we see from Ruedi hurt Basalt’s fishing industry which relies on the Fryingpan River, and shortens the boating and recreational season on the reservoir.

I would like to see more ability given to irrigators to leave water in our streams when they don’t need it, instead of diverting it (see discussion in previous question). Also, there should be more emphasis put on growing crops and lawn species which don’t require so much water, and on reducing waste from inefficient irrigation practices.

 

CHRIS COUNCIL
Pitkin County Commissioner - District 4 Candidate

1. Colorado State Water Plan and Basin Implementation Plans have increased awareness and questions about Colorado’s long-range water supply. What proactive approaches are you considering to ensure the future of clean, safe water supply in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/or your area of influence? 

Water is our most important natural resource, especially on the Western Slope where it is in limited supply and faces competing demands. Considering that roughly 80% of Colorado’s water is on the Western Slope and 80% of the state’s population lives on the Front Range, we need to protect our water rights and ensure sufficient in-stream flows to protect our native habitat.

I support ballot question 7A, which will help provide financial resources to the Colorado River District to ensure they are adequately funded to continue their critical mission.

From a policy standpoint, I believe our elected officials have been chosen to represent the needs of our constituents. Which I why I propose changing Pitkin County’s representation on the River District from our county attorney to an elected county commissioner. Not only would this provide greater accountability, it would also create a higher level of engagement from our elected officials.

To borrow a phrase that was shared with me recently, “water is about sociology as much as hydrology.” We need to engage all of the stakeholders as we work toward solutions: agriculture, recreation, environmental.

We need to continue to pursue “demand management” policies and maintain a strong voice at the state level, especially considering Pitkin County is an influential position of being a headwater county. We also need policies to protect the quality, not just quantity, of our water.

Ultimately, Pitkin County should develop a comprehensive water plan that will serve as a guiding document for future policy decisions.

 

2. Water, recreation and agriculture have shown to be integral parts of the economy and values of Coloradans. How will you address the sustainability of these three integral elements of western Colorado’s character in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/ or your area of influence? 

In addition to the policy proposals I outlined above, we need to look for opportunities to leave water in the river(s) whenever possible to ensure the long-term sustainability of our economy and community values.

The Crystal River has effectively become “de-watered” which will have long term consequences to the riparian habitat, in addition to our recreation economy. Pitkin County should continue to support local efforts to protect our in-stream flows whenever possible. Pitkin County should continue to raise questions about the City of Aspen’s water storage plans and ensure the amount requested is in fact truly needed.

Agriculture has a long history in our community and state and I fully support our ranchers and farmers who are vital part of our community. However, we need to begin to weigh water usage/irrigation with other aspects of our recreation economy. For example, we need to fully vet future agriculture projects on Pitkin County open space and consider the impact their irrigation uses may have on our rivers. Decisions should be made based on a holistic approach to understanding the ecological effects of dewatering our rivers.

Through Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers program we should utilize our resources efficiently as possible, through headgate construction, stream channel construction and riparian restoration projects.

None of these are easy answers and there is no one solution to ensuring the future of our water supply and our reliance on it. All stakeholders need to come together and decisions need to be made in a transparent and public arena.

 

 

JEFFREY EVANS 
Pitkin County Commissioner - District 5 Candidate

1. Colorado State Water Plan and Basin Implementation Plans have increased awareness and questions about Colorado’s long-range water supply. What proactive approaches are you considering to ensure the future of clean, safe water supply in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/or your area of influence?

As a candidate for Pitkin County commissioner in District 5, I have reason to focus on Crystal River Valley water interests, and will do so here. However, I recognize that political boundaries are less relevant in water issues than with many other public policy concerns.

Regarding management of existing water resources, the recommendations in the Crystal River Management Plan (04/2016) seem thorough, but an annual update of actions and outcomes is needed to inform the public and policy-makers.

For a number of years (1980s, perhaps?) cloud seeding was an annual budget item in Aspen and Pitkin County, with the usual caveat that there was no way to determine effectiveness. Enough time has passed to warrant reevaluation: "Application of scientific concepts and extensive scientific experimentation has proven that cloud seeding increases the amount of precipitation." http://weathermodification.com/

Water storage options could be expanded by techniques developed to preserve ice/snow packs in place, thereby extending spring runoffs deeper into the summer months. Concept examples range from small scale attempts to augment ski areas, to massive plans to slow glacial melt.

One promising idea on the glacial scale comes from the Arctic Ice Project (.org), which has developed reflective silica beads to reflect sunlight off of ice. Sadly, there is no immediate interest in the possible application to water conservation: “There is definitely potential, but we are currently focused on Arctic Ice.”

At this early stage in snow pack retention techniques, it will be my personal mission as a commissioner to follow developments.

 

2. Water, recreation and agriculture have shown to be integral parts of the economy and values of Coloradans. How will you address the sustainability of these three integral elements of western Colorado’s character in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/ or your area of influence?

There is an ongoing quandary between obtaining Wild and Scenic Rivers designation for a large portion of the Crystal River, and enforcing “augmentation” requirements for junior water users, primarily residential. The full potential for contradiction is unknown, but the recent Water Plan Grant for the Crystal River Basin Augmentation Study should provide everyone with better information for discussion.

The first goal is to assess need, and in that context, we find an unexpected statement in the grant application: “While the Crystal River water users are not facing a physical gap, they are facing a legal supply gap.” In other words, there is probably enough water, but not everyone using it necessarily has a legally protected right to do so during a drought.

Legal protection for junior water users may be inextricably tied to their augmentation plans.

The study will “…investigate augmentation demands, exchange potential, and reservoir storage and recharge in the Crystal River Basin.” However, "No on-channel, mainstem Crystal River storage [i.e. dam] will be sought, with the exception of alluvial aquifer storage," and the study “…will also update and re-evaluate small storage alternatives.”

My responsibility will be to represent Pitkin County and District 5 citizens, but I am not confident their views will be expressed in the language of “alluvial aquifer”, and “recharge”. I believe constituents do not want the Crystal to run dry, or see a dam on the river, but do want water to reliably flow from their plumbing.

I will support solutions which achieve those goals.

 

FRANCIE JACOBER, DEMOCRAT
Pitkin County Commissioner - District 5 Candidate

1. Colorado State Water Plan and Basin Implementation Plans have increased awareness and questions about Colorado’s long-range water supply. What proactive approaches are you considering to ensure the future of clean, safe water supply in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/or your area of influence? (250 word limit)

The first thing I need to do is actually get elected to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners. then I will research where I can best put my energy in terms of protecting our watersheds. I am currently on the Board at CVEPA (Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association) and support a Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River. I know I will work in whatever avenues are available to me to keep Western Slope water from being diverted. Front Range water conservation methods should be investigated and thoroughly implemented before any more water from the Western Slope is allocated.

 

2. Water, recreation and agriculture have shown to be integral parts of the economy and values of Coloradans. How will you address the sustainability of these three integral elements of western Colorado’s character in the Roaring Fork Watershed and/ or your area of influence? (250 word limit)

I hope to focus attention on the preservation of agricultural lands and the support of agricultural enterprises. Likewise, I will encourage continued open space designation for properties outside municipal limits as often as we can. I am an ardent believer that once we develop a piece of land, we can never get it back. It's lost forever, and instead of acting as a carbon sink with grasses and trees, it becomes a carbon emitter with fossil fuel consumption, increased car traffic and exhaust, and use of construction materials. Instead of acting as a water filter through wild dryland grasses which then feeds clean water into our watershed, the property becomes a consumer of water which may never return to the water tables. Of course, I am committed to protecting forever the Thompson Divide area and all of the recreational opportunities, ranching lands, and clean water resources it encompasses. 

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Roaring Fork Conservancy

PHONE: (970) 927-1290
EMAIL: info@roaringfork.org

MAILING ADDRESS:
PO Box 3349
Basalt, CO 81621

PHYSICAL ADDRESS:
22800 Two Rivers Road
Basalt, CO 81621

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