By cvlopez | firstname.lastname@example.org
THERE was no mistaking where public sentiment landed in Douglas County and elsewhere as the commissioners there debated the idea of investing in Renewable Water Resources and its scheme to pump 22,000 acre-feet of water per year from the San Luis Valley aquifers to the Front Range community.
The Alamosa Citizen reviewed 138 different communications sent to the Douglas County Commissioners or communications between the commissioners and Douglas County staff, and just two of the emails or other communications to the commissioners indicated support of Douglas County’s involvement with RWR.
Instead, the commissioners were told overwhelmingly to back away through correspondences from their own constituents from Parker to Castle Rock who clearly articulated their concerns with message like: “I strongly urge a ‘no’ vote on the proposed RWR water deal with Alamosa,” and “I am appalled that our commissioners, Abe Laydon and George Teal would even consider this proposal by ‘Renewable’ Water Resources …”
“Hello George! I am reaching out to request that you please reconsider your support for the SLV Renewable Water Resources (RWR) project,” began an April 25 email to Commissioner George Teal from a fellow Douglas County Republican. The communication to Teal went on to say, “If the County had the expertise and resources to make the RWR a success, the County would have a package of public documents and analyses showcasing the economic value and benefit of the RWR project. Instead, following the Washington Democrat playbook, the County Commissioners are using executive sessions, confidential documents and confidential meetings.”
Another email read simply: “Act smart, not greedy. Make the right choice and leave the water there.”
The pushback was constant and clear throughout Douglas County’s review of the RWR proposal. And the opposition wasn’t just from residents and organizations from the San Luis Valley, although the commissioners heard plenty from Valley residents too.
“Please see the attached letter asking questions that I’d like answered before you spend $10 million of Douglas County’s ARPA money. Remember, these funds belong to the citizens of Douglas County, not the Commissioners – Commissioners who have received significant political contributions from RWR!,” wrote another Douglas County resident.
One email to Laydon read, “Mr. Laydon, I understand you have not made your stance on RWR clear, and I want to tell you as a concerned constituent of Douglas County I assert you must respond in the negative to this proposal. Removing water from the San Luis Valley that is simply not there to give, to support more urban sprawl is irresponsible to the criminal degree. There is no way this is a development/water initiative that will look good decades from now. It is unsustainable and while Colorado has made a habit of making unsustainable decisions regarding water in the past, it is in no way excusable to continue supporting this project with our hard earned tax dollars. Vote NO on RWR!!.”
The Alamosa Citizen requested the communications and others through the Colorado Open Records Act. The first batch received cost the digital publisher $120 to cover Douglas County’s time to complete the public records request. Additional correspondences related to Douglas County’s review of the RWR proposal have been requested and will cost Alamosa Citizen another $1,395 for Douglas County to complete the CORA request.
The communications also show the concern Douglas County had for a planned protest, which became the basis for why Laydon and Teal pushed for cancellation of a scheduled Douglas County Live Town Hall meeting in the San Luis Valley on March 26.
Subject: San Luis Valley Water Transfer Plan
Date: Friday, March 4, 2022 8:49:21 AM
I read about the San Luis Valley water transfer plan last Sunday in the Denver Post and my first reaction was how could Commissioner Teal not recuse himself from the decision? Any important county decision that has the chance to make your good friend rich is exactly when you should recuse yourself.
It also sounds like this water transfer plan has very little chance of succeeding. Previous plans to transfer money out of the valley have all failed. This plan has no statewide support or support from the locals in the San Luis Valley whose lives and economy rely on that water. It sounds like it will have a tough time getting past the state water board as well.
The only thing this plan has going for it is making Commissioner Teal’s friend rich. Trusting someone because you’ve been friends with them for a long time is not a valid business rationale. Does the plan make financial sense for the county? Is it supported by the locals in the San Luis Valley? Is it supported by our state leaders? Is it likely to succeed? All questions are answered with a NO.
The Platte Valley Water Partnership seems to make much more sense and it’s directed by a local water provider, Parker Water & Sanitation District, that has a proven track record of securing and delivering water to the people of Douglas County at a reasonable price. That’s where your focus should be.
Parker, CO 80138
Subject: San Luis Valley Water
Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2022 10:06:45 AM
Dear Commissioners Teal, Laydon, and Thomas;
Please listen to your constituents and drop the proposed plan to purchase water from the valley to bring to Douglas County. This is the wrong approach. Its risky and shortsighted. Don’t involve us in this plan. We can do better.
RELATED STORY: In the San Luis Valley, the RWR plan is as popular as a skunk in the kitchen. Read more about that HERE.
During a work session on March 8, commissioners Laydon and Teal said the planned March 26 meeting was being turned into a “circus” and a “protest” by Valley residents although they didn’t indicate any specific protests at the time that concerned them. A review of their communications show it was a protest being promoted by the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council on its website that had Laydon and Teal uninterested then in a public meeting being planned for Ski Hi Regional Events Center in Monte Vista.
Lora Thomas, the Douglas County Commissioner who expressed opposition to RWR early in Douglas County’s review of the plan, said she was OK with canceling the meeting but would attend if the other two commissioners had decided to attend.
It was during the March 8 meeting, as the commissioners discussed the atmosphere in the Valley for water exportation, that Teal said, “I’ve been communicated to in the last week of individuals who would support this, who would participate in the RWR plan in the Valley, they feel like, quite frankly I think it’s appropriate, we were just talking about Russian and Ukraine, because they feel like they are being silenced, they feel like they are being intimidated, and if they were to express their actual opinions, they would have consequences.”
Teal’s Russia-Ukraine analogy and the decision to cancel the San Luis Valley meeting brought more heat and dissatisfaction from residents of Douglas County.
Wrote one constituent, “TEAL, did you actually say that you liken the Ukrainian people fighting for the freedom to the SLV water decision?? If this is true, that is one of the most ridiculous and out of line comments coming from one of our commissioners!! Unbelievable…how much longer with your term?” signed Doug Cty resident.
Another wrote, “Subject: To Mr Landon and Teal. Your cancellation of the March 26th meeting shows you are cowards, and your comparison of this to Ukraine is shameful. Each of you should quit. I pledge to fund your opposition and fight to not have you rape the San Luis valleys water. Cowards for not being able to stand up to PUBLIC dialog. You shoe how weak and how deeply your corruption runs. If you can not handle objective opposition, get out. You are cowards.”
In the end Douglas County decided not to spend any of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money on the Renewable Water Resources plan, but it wasn’t a decision driven by the outrage and concern from their constituents or anyone else in Colorado.
Teal and Laydon have said they remain interested in the Renewable Water Resources plan to pump water out of the San Luis Valley if RWR, led by former Colorado governor Bill Owens and his then-chief of staff Sean Tonner, can address the problems raised by an attorney hired by Douglas County. The two commissioners have directed the county’s staff to continue to work with RWR and Owens’ group.
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