THIS week Douglas County commissioners will hear from a broad coalition of environmentalists, conservationists and agricultural producers who will team up to explain the wide-ranging and far-reaching consequences of Renewable Water Resources’ water exportation proposal to the San Luis Valley’s natural habitats.
The point will be to show how the Valley’s lands serve a diverse and varied set of interests, from fishing and big-game hunting, to environmental stewardship and protection of wetland habitats, to farming and ranching, and how all those sets of interests are aligned and united in the fight against Renewable Water Resources.
“When environment and conservation partner with agriculture, it’s always a good direction,” said Chris Canaly, executive director of the San Luis Valley Ecosystems Council and one of the presenters at Wednesday’s meeting.
Marrying and illustrating how the San Luis Valley serves the hunter and fisherman as well as the bird watcher, trail walker, and mountain bike rider, and at the same time is an agricultural hub for the nation puts the Valley’s importance on full display, said Canaly.
“Public land advocates who also bring in bird-watching, hiking, family picnics, and people getting out into the outdoors and feeling some sensibility of awakening around what the environment brings to a person’s mental and physical well being is the most holistic approach to dealing with an issue,” Canaly said. “Especially since we also have to grow food, and use the water for healthy food, and locally-grown food – and by the way hunting and fishing are part of that.”
It’s the type of diverse coalition only the San Luis Valley, with its expansive range of offerings, could generate. If Douglas County wants to also battle those forces by partnering with RWR, well, that’ll be up to the three commissioners who themselves are divided.
Douglas County, in its consideration for investing in the Renewable Water Resources proposal, finds the opposition growing louder and louder, from the governor to Colorado’s two U.S. senators. It has received letters from county commissioners and city council members from the Valley, all united against water exportation.
Next up is Trout Unlimited, Orient Land Trust, SLV Ecosystems Council, Colorado Open Lands, Colorado Ag Water Alliance, and Colorado Farm Bureau to explain how the Valley’s natural environment works to benefit a wide-range of interests. Export more acre-feet of water from the Rio Grande Basin, and it all begins to unravel.
The presenters will talk about the innovative ways farmers, conservationists and environmentalists have been working to restore the Rio Grande Basin. They’ll talk about the quarter-million acres that have been put into land conservation trusts to tie the water to the land, and they’ll talk about the fault lines that exist in the corridor of the Valley where Renewable Water Resources proposes to establish a wellfield to pump water out of the Valley.
These are “deep dive” work sessions that Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon established to help him and his colleagues decide if they should invest in RWR, or if the damage to the Valley would be too great.
Commissioner George Teal appears to be on board with RWR, Commissioner Lora Thomas is against the plan, while Laydon says he continues to listen, looking for the proverbial “win-win” that can satisfy all sides.
On March 26 the commissioners are planning to make their own visit to the San Luis Valley. If they absorb the information that will be shared this week by the environmentalists, conservationists and farmers, they might have a greater understanding of the Valley when they visit in a few weeks.