State might mediate water rep selection

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The Steamboat Springs City Council has asked for a mediator to help decide who should be appointed to a regional Round Table about water issues.

The request came after the city received a letter from Russell George, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, stating his office or the Colorado Municipal League would provide mediation to help Routt County's four municipalities make an appointment.

This summer, the county's municipalities were asked to come to a consensus about who should serve as Routt County's municipal representative on the newly formed Yampa and White River Basin Round Table, which will discuss statewide water issues.

The city unanimously recommended Councilman Ken Brenner. The towns of Oak Creek, Yampa and Hayden nominated Routt County Farm Bureau President Dan Craig.

Craig is a rancher who lives a half-mile north of Phippsburg and is a member of the Colorado Farm Bureau Water Task Force. He has worked on municipal water issues since the 1940s.

The two names were sent to the Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the Round Table. Because the goal of the Round Table is to build consensus on water issues at the regional and state levels, the department wanted the municipalities to be in agreement about their nomination.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Brenner said he would withdraw his name from the position if Craig did, too. The four towns then could come together and agree on another candidate.

Brenner said that although Craig would be a good representative for the region's agriculture interests, he questioned whether he was the best municipal representative and the person the state intended when it created the position on the Round Table.

"I would encourage the council to go through a collaborative process. The intent was to work with other municipalities to find someone all of us could agree on. Sometimes, we don't come to a conclusion the very first time," Brenner said.

The council turned down Brenner's offer and decided to ask for mediation instead.

Council Pres-ident Paul Strong urged the city to work with the different communities, saying that in the past few years, issues such as the city's recreational water rights request and support of Emerald Mountain has driven the communities apart. He said that population does not play a role in the decision and that the city is one of four deciding bodies.

"There is a history in this county of the outlying areas (thinking) that Steamboat tells them what to do," Strong said. "I think we should be willing to listen to their suggestions."

On Thursday, Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Car-go" Rodeman said the town has yet to receive a letter asking Oak Creek to enter into mediation. She said the town would not be in support of looking for another candidate.

"Dan is the best person for the job. Why should the best candidate for the job (step down) just because Ken got outvoted?" she said. "Dan's been dealing in water before any of us were born. He has no political aspirations, no agenda other than to protect the valley's water."

The municipal representative would serve five years and join 17 other people from Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties as part of Round Table discussions about the Yampa and White River Basin and its role in state water issues.

A state House bill that passed during the most recent legislative session mandated the Round Table discussions. They are intended to foster discussions within and between river basins about water-management issues and to create locally driven collaborative solutions to the state's water-supply needs.

Two members from the Yampa and White River Basin Round Table will be selected to represent the basin-area officials' views and interests on a statewide interbasin compact committee.

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