A morning tour of property owned by Renewable Water Resources, a tour of an irrigated farm, a meeting with elected officials and a community meeting at the Ski-Hi Regional Events Center in Monte Vista is how Douglas County commissioners plan to spend March 26 in the San Luis Valley.
The three Douglas County commissioners – Abe Laydon, George Teal and Lora Thomas – have scheduled the visit to help them decide if they should invest in Bill Owens’ Renewable Water Resources plan and pump groundwater from the Valley to the Denver suburb.
Laydon called it an opportunity to “listen and learn” when the commissioners discussed the visit and tentative agenda on Monday.
Thomas, who has been outspoken in her opposition to the RWR plan because of its impact on the Rio Grande Basin and the Valley communities, said it was important to show respect when Douglas County officials arrive at the end of March.
As for Teal, who supports the RWR plan, he is hoping to find compromise among the Valley’s elected officials to what otherwise has been what he called a lot of unfactual rhetoric coming from Valley residents toward the Renewable Water Resources plan, he said.
“Nine out 10 words we’ve heard is ‘You’re going to dry us to the bone,’” Teal said of the four meetings Douglas County has held so far to study the RWR plan, “while 10 percent has been ‘We’re only taking a little bit and we’re giving something back.’”
By meeting with local elected officials, “hopefully we can get to a workable deal that reasonable people can come to,” Teal said.
He said presentations and comments made to the Douglas County commissioners have been “very contrary to the facts of this case.” He thinks elected officials in the Valley will be more sensible in the conversations.
“What I was hoping for with the elected official lunch is being able to have elected officials talk beyond the simple rhetoric and maybe, yeah, come up with a compromise that could be an element in the town hall,” Teal said to his fellow commissioners as they discussed their visit.
Renewable Water Resources has approached Douglas County about partnering in its water exportation proposal as a way to bring water to the Front Range bedroom community noted for its golf courses and sprawling housing developments. Owens, the former governor of Colorado, is pushing the water exportation plan. Teal was heavily backed by RWR-affiliated money in his 2020 run for Douglas County commissioner.
The RWR plan continues to be met by opposition among Colorado elected officials. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weisner has voiced concerns and opposition to the plan, and so now has Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
Polis, through a spokesperson, told Colorado Politics that he is opposed to the Renewable Water Resources plan. In a statement to Colorado Politics, the spokesman said Polis is “against any inter-basin transfer without local support of impacted communities. This is a proposed inter-basin transfer with deep concerns and opposition in the San Luis Valley and the governor is opposed.”
Visit our water archives to read more on the Rio Grande and Renewable Water Resources: https://www.alamosacitizen.com/slv-water-archives/.