Yampa/White basin roundtable concerned about Western Slope plans

Janelle O'Dea
Members of the Yampa/White River Basin roundtable met on Wednesday in Craig to discuss Western Slope water basin plans.
Janelle O’Dea

— It’s a good thing the Yampa/White/Green River Basin Roundtable can agree, because Western Slope basin roundtables have yet to agree on much.

The discourse between Western Slope roundtables was the main topic of discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting.

A few members of the Yampa roundtable will appear at a Feb. 2 meeting in Montrose where all of the Western Slope basin roundtables will meet. Wednesday’s Yampa roundtable meeting served as a chance for the entire group to talk before the Western Slope roundtables meet.

The Colorado Water for 21st Century Act established nine basin roundtables. Each roundtable develops basin-wide water needs assessments to determine the needs of its own basin. Eventually, the separate basin plans will fold into the Colorado Water Plan.

After a presentation from Hal Simpson, a representative from engineering firm CDM Smith, the roundtable launched into a discussion about how the Western Slope roundtables can come together to develop a plan suitable for itself and the state of Colorado.

Simpson presented a study done by CDM Smith that gives the roundtable a better idea of how different identified projects and processes will affect the basin under different circumstances.

For example, Simpson said the Milk Creek reservoir meets demands under all scenarios to provide water to the “area known as the Oxbows,” according to the firm’s study.

T. Wright Dickinson, at-large representative for the Green River Basin, said he’s happy that the roundtable’s years of time weren’t wasted and they were able to identify where water shortages are.

The Gunnison basin roundtable developed a conceptual agreement made up of seven points, and the Yampa roundtable spent a significant portion of the meeting deciding if they also aligned with the seven points.

Dan Birch, representing the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said he had mixed feelings about the Gunnison basin plan.

“I think sitting down and going through the document would really be fruitful,” Birch said. “There are things in there I didn’t particularly like, and I think there needs to be discussion around some of those points.”

All of the Yampa roundtable members agreed that the Western Slope needs a unified position to present to the state. The challenge comes when basins try to meet their needs as well as fall in line with the state’s water plan.

One of Craig’s at-large representatives, Jeff Devere, said before carrying out any further discussion on the Western Slope position, he hopes the roundtable spends time defining vague terms and clarifying confusing language.

“Nobody knows what the words mean, so we need to sit down and have a semantic analysis so when I say something, everybody understands what that means,” Devere said. Several members around the table nodded in agreement with his conviction.

The main issue between Western Slope basins lies with a neighborly gesture. A “compact call” can require Colorado to send water to other states in need of water, and all basins are concerned about how such a call would affect them.

The Yampa roundtable is no exception.

“What we’re worried about in our basin is how will a compact call will be handled?” Birch asked. “I think we need to start coming up with solutions to a compact call which end up being something else besides the statewide appropriations (process).”

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.

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