Letter: Vote ‘no’ on 7A in the Colorado River District

If you live in the boundary of the Colorado River District, as nearly 400,000 West Slope residents do, your ballot will include a question — 7A — to double the property tax rate for the district. 

First, the ballot question, and uses of the money, are completely vague. No actual projects are identified in the question, resulting in a blank check given to the directors of the district. No one knows how the money will be spent.

Second, the district makes the case that their budget has been hit hard by the coronavirus economic lockdown. We certainly appreciate the district’s financial needs in these difficult times, but their circumstance is no different than almost all property taxpayers in the district. We’ve all had to tighten our belts.

Third, the district has recently launched a public relations blitz about how they work to “keep water on the West Slope.” This is simply not true. Multiple dam and diversion projects, which will divert more Western Slope water to the Front Range, are supported by the district. Those projects include new diversions by Denver Water, Northern Water, Colorado Springs and Aurora.

Fourth, the district has voiced support for a large new dam and diversion on the White River in Rio Blanco County — to further irrigate land and serve water for fracking in the county — as one of the projects this new tax money could fund. The district has also voiced support for more dams in Pitkin County. The West Slope needs to learn to live within its current water budget, not further damming, draining and destroying Western Slope rivers that are increasingly the drivers of the new recreation economy supporting western Colorado. The 2019 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan revealed that hunting, fishing, skiing, sightseeing, photography, tourism, etc. — all of which depend upon water in our rivers — contributes $62 billion to our Colorado economy and creates 511,000 jobs. 

Finally, the Colorado River system is already stretched to the brink. We’re now in a 20-plus year drought that’s going to require that all of Colorado — including the Western Slope — use less water, not more.

We appreciate the work of the Colorado River District, but 7A is half-baked, vague and fails to really protect Western Slope water or the rivers in western Colorado. Vote no on 7A this year and encourage the district to refine its needs to better reflect protecting the Western Slope’s environment, rivers and economy.

John Fielder
Summit County

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