Rio Grande Basin Roundtable July 14 meeting

ALAMOSA — On July 14, the Inter Basin Compact Committee Basin Roundtables met at 2 p.m. and revisited projects and plans discussed at their previous meeting. Among these were a funding request for the Conejos River Partnership Project (CRPP), a Basin Implementation Plan (BIP) Update (BIP), and the 2019 Forest Health Report (FHR). This meeting also had exciting guests, Virginia Sargent & Conor J. May. These Colorado University—Boulder students presented a ‘History of Water Export Threats in the SLV.’ This presentation is extremely relevant, as groups are still working to export the Valley’s water at whatever cost.

Emma Reesor, Executive Director of the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP), presented the CRPP Funding Request. Her team has researched priorities to improve the river, developing a plan to tackle these main issues: Diversion infrastructure inventory, channel instability and riparian restoration, and aquatic connectivity. A motion was passed to grant Reesor’s funding request and the motion passed unanimously.

Daniel Boyes, project coordinator for the RGHRP, spearheaded the BIP update; which members would vote on via email, at a later date. The main priority has been the Projects List, in which the status of old and existing projects are updated. This is a critical step to the overall restoration project, so pending projects can be prioritized. The team aims to have all projects updated by the end of July.

The 2019 FHR was led by Adam Moore, Supervisory Forester of Communication & Communities. His presentation covered recent projects, forest health statistics, and updates on insect activity and disease progression. Colorado citizens’ high outdoor recreation rate – 92% in 2019 – helps the State Forest Service maintain healthy forests and provide the community with lots of jobs. Moore emphasized forest health matters, acknowledging Colorado is ‘the nation’s water tower.’ Thanks to melting snow packs, Colorado helps meet the water needs of 19 states. Additionally, forest health helps to minimize air pollution, recycle water, generate oxygen, control soil erosion, and increase soil fertility.

In the last 20 years, over 50 percent of Colorado forests have been impacted by wildfire, insects or disease. Notable pests in the Valley include the Spruce Beetle and the Wester Spruce Budworm. In good news, last year’s avalanches and snowmelt created an environment incompatible for the insects; resulting in less insect activity. In more good news, the Forest Service’s website now has a feature permitting visitors to interact with this information. One can view a map of the San Luis Valley and examine insect activity in the region. One can even compare activity by county.

Moore ended by reminding everyone: partnerships maximize our impact. He gave a shoutout to the Shared Stewardship Initiative and the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative.

The CU students gave a thorough, yet brief presentation on the SLV’s history of water exportation. The presentation covered the hydrology structures relevant to water laws. Then, the pair walked through the legal history of water exportation legislation; beginning in the early 1900s and going all the way up to 2015.

As stated, this is relevant today, as at this very July 14 meeting; General Manager, Cleave Simpson warned the group Renewable Water Resources has amped up their campaign to privatize the SLV’s water. Simpson warned of misinformed advertisements and an entire website, all built of falsehoods regarding the supposed excess of water under the SLV.

The group also announced the 2020 Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium – July 28, 2020 – will be held virtually. See Adams State University’s press release for more information.

The meeting ended with a grim update from Colorado Division of Water Resources (DWR) Craig Cotton, who warned of severely low water levels in every single stream, creek and river in the region. While the rest of the year is forecast as dry and hot, Cotton urged everyone to hope for rain. Just after the meeting ended, a rain shower came through.

The next roundtable meeting with be Aug. 11, at 2 p.m. Location TBD.


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