The Yampa River has long been identified as one of the longest undammed and undeveloped rivers in the West. It is naive to think that outside water interests have overlooked that fact. The Yampa River Valley stands to benefit greatly from the "Colorado Water Heritage Act," which is being introduced to our state Legislature.
Irresponsible water transfers threaten Colorado's natural heritage and community values. The 2005 Colorado Legislature should pass legislation that helps conserve, protect, and restore Colorado rivers, our agricultural heritage, and recreational and economic opportunities.
The Legislature has an important role to play in the success of future water projects. Recent history shows that when all parties are at the table and when protections for local economies and the environment are in place, new projects can be built. Local communities should have a voice in the decision.
The Legislature must establish a collaborative approach to negotiations on specific water projects. This will allow parties to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation. If a proposed project does end up in water court, all future uses of the water in the community of origin, including hydropower, recreational and environmental uses, need to be considered when assessing any damage.
Conservation and reuse of existing water supplies should be carefully considered before importing water from another community.
Water is essential for economic development and a healthy environment for all of Colorado's communities.