Future of river on the table

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— The last of four meetings in Northwest Colorado called to explore ways in which the state can meet its future water needs will take place Wednesday afternoon and evening at Howelsen Hill's Olympian Hall. The public is welcome at all of the sessions.

The meeting is part of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, a process prompted in August 2003 when water experts projected that Colorado's water demands will increase by 630,000 acre-feet of water per year.

Kent Vertrees of Steamboat Springs, who serves on the SWSI roundtable for this region, said members of the public who attend can expect to learn more about different alternatives for meeting the state's future needs They also can learn about the gap between current water supplies and future demand in different watersheds around the state.

The statewide process is being sponsored by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Wednesday's meeting will focus on the area of Northwest Colorado most dependent on the Yampa, White and Green rivers.

Vertrees said previous roundtable meetings in Craig drew only sparse public participation. He's hopeful that people in Steamboat who are concerned about the future of the region's rivers and water will be interested in attending.

"SWSI has definitely taken conservation and recreation into account, but I don't think it has been given the same weight in the process as agricultural, municipal and industrial uses," Vertrees said.

Northwest Colorado does not face a "gap" between current supplies and its anticipated needs in 2030, Vertrees said. However, it's possible to anticipate that the Yampa and White rivers increasingly will be looked at for their potential to offset future water storage projects around the state.

The discussion of tentative alternatives that could help meet the demand for water is scheduled to take place from 2:15 to 4 p.m. It will be followed by a discussion of implementation methods.

After a dinner break, a presentation describing the SWSI process will take place from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m., followed by public comments.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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