Routt County Commissioners hear pitch to join water quality committee |

Routt County Commissioners hear pitch to join water quality committee

Bill Hibbard trys his luck fishing along the snowy banks of the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Routt County Board of Commissioners heard a proposal Monday to join the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments’ Water Quality and Quantity Committee, a group that local municipalities like Steamboat Springs and Yampa are already a part of.

The county will officially shift to being a member of the council of governments in July, after commissioners opted to leave the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado last year.

The water committee, commonly referred to as QQ, is a group of 40 local governments that essentially serve as the council’s water policy arm, focusing on rule making at the state and federal level as well as water-related legislation at the capital.

The committee does have a separate membership and dues structure in addition to dues the county pays to the council of governments. Eagle, Grand, Summit and Pitkin counties pay about $22,000 a year while Gunnison pays about $6,000.

“We are defiantly open to negotiation,” said Torie Jarvis, director of QQ, indicating that Routt County’s dues would probably be somewhere in the middle. “We just want you all as members.”

Jarvis said they focus in four areas: water issues at the legislature, rule making at various levels, ongoing policy making with stakeholder groups and extra technical and legal support for members.

The group has been around since the 1970s and is chaired by other commissioners of member counties, Jarvis said. It has often been a valuable resource for smaller jurisdictions and rural water and sanitation districts to participate in proceedings with the state’s Water Quality and Control Commission, she said.

When it comes to taking a position on legislation, Jarvis said the group doesn’t operate on a simple majority, instead wanting to have a broader consensus. One of the most significant concerns with AGNC that, in part, led to Routt leaving the group was that lobbying efforts often didn’t seem to align with the county’s goals.

“Consensus is really important,” Jarvis said. “If somebody has a problem, we’ll pull back to a neutral position and make sure we address it.”

Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Executive Director Jon Stavney added that membership also allows the county access to expertise on water issues that in a way extends the county’s own staff.

Routt County Environmental Health Director Scott Cowman noted that could be helpful as the county deals with replacing wastewater treatment facilities in Phippsburg and Milner.

Commissioners didn’t give a clear indication of their interest on Monday, with Commissioner Tim Corrigan saying he felt Routt County doesn’t deal with trans-mountain water diversions or large subdivisions in unincorporated areas like some of the other member counties.

But Commissioner Beth Melton said they have also talked about their own lack of expertise on the issue since the departure of former Commissioner Doug Monger at the start of last year. Monger still represents Routt County on the board of the Colorado River District.

“Somebody needs to understand water around here, so I can see the value just in that,” Melton said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.