Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

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Here's a look at land politics in the West and the opportunities here for Progressives from David Sirota (via Mr. Sirota writes: "...the politics of property rights, hunter/angler access and energy development - let's call it Land Politics - has the potential to scramble the traditional Republican coalition in places like the Great American West, if progressives plot a course to advantage of the changing political topography." More from the article:

Here in Colorado, Land Politics (in the sense I'm talking about) has a lot to do with the conflict between those who own surface rights to land and those who own the mineral rights (aka. subsurface drilling/mining rights) to the same land. Typically, this pits people who live in houses versus oil/gas/mining companies that own the mineral rights to that land and thus - because of lax laws - are allowed to plant their giant oil drilling operations right in people's front yard or backyard. Back in 2005, Republican legislators joined with energy industry lobbyists to kill legislation that would have forced oil and gas companies to pay more when they harm private property during energy exploration. They rejected the bill in the face of the Rocky Mountain News' expose on how land owners are often poorly compensated when oil/gas companies drill under their land - and how ordinary citizens' property rights are abused...

A similar dynamic is playing out in the Republican stronghold of Wyoming - another state in political flux due to the death of Republican Sen. Craig Thomas and the surprisingly strong candidacy of Democrat Gary Trauner in 2004. There, we find this Associated Press story today:

"Newly appointed U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R) says he would support buying back oil and gas leases to prevent further energy development in the Wyoming Range...Barrasso said he would support limiting development if property rights could be upheld. 'It would be nice if there was a way to buy back those leases or work in a way that respected those private property rights but still protected an area that needs to be protected long term,' he said...Barrasso has taken a similar stance on other environmental issues on which Thomas was working. Shortly before his death, Thomas introduced the Snake Headwaters Legacy Act of 2007. The act would protect 443 miles on 14 streams from water quality degradation and dam building."

Barrasso is not even close to an environmentalist, but he is a politician - and he is pretty clearly responding to the same sort of tensions between landowers and energy companies we see in Greeley and throughout the West. The question is how much of what he is supporting is rhetoric and how much is real? And more politically interesting, how will Wyoming Democrats use the issue and their stance as defenders of the little guy to continue their solid state legislative work driving a wedge between industry-allied Republican Party elites and the Republican voters who would like to see their property rights, tourist economy and landscape preserved/strengthened?

By the way, welcome to Denver Mr. Sirota.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:35:40 AM    

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Head on up to Elkhead Reservoir State Park next Wednesday for the re-dedication of the reservoir. Here's an article about the celebration from The Craig Daily Press. They write:

The Colorado River Water Conservation District, in cooperation with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, is sponsoring the event. The Kiwanis Club will kick off the gathering with a barbecue fundraiser beginning at 4:30 p.m. The dedication takes place at 6 p.m. and will feature guest speakers Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Carol DeAngelis with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Tom Iseman with the Nature Conservancy, Bill Trampe and Dan Birch with the Colorado River District. The event will take place at the boat ramp on the west side of the reservoir. Music will be provided by the Yampa Valley Boys. City of Craig officials will be in attendance, as well as representatives from Colorado State Parks.

The expansion project doubled the size of the reservoir at a cost of $31 million. The Colorado River District funded $17.8 million of the dam expansion and managed the project. The recovery program funded the remaining $13.2 million, with a portion of the additional water being used to augment flows in the Yampa River to benefit the endangered fish. As the largest tributary to the Green River, the Yampa has been designated as critical habitat for the rare fish downstream from Craig.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:16:22 AM    

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