Water jumping to forefront with local voters

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez discusses issues in Steamboat

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— A mantra of Colorado politics has a new verse.

Politicians in the centennial state almost always talk about three things on the campaign trail: education, transportation and health care.

Those three things became a standard recital throughout the fall 2005 campaigns for and against the voter-approved tax initiative Referendum C, which uses surplus tax refunds for education, transportation and health care.

During a visit to Steamboat Springs on Thursday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez added a fourth issue to the familiar trio: water.

"The only path we have given ourselves is to get (agricultural) water," Beauprez told a small crowd at the Egg & I restaurant on Anglers Drive, citing growing Front Range water needs and limited resources in the state. "We have refused to build (water) storage in Colorado."

Beauprez, a U.S. representative from Arvada, said changes need to occur in water appropriation and storage levels.

He also praised the work of state natural resources director Russell George, who is facilitating a series of roundtable water discussions across the state.

"For the first time in my life, we have people talking about water," said Beauprez, who grew up on a dairy farm north of Denver.

A candidate for governor talking about water in his "stump" remarks provides a glimpse into the campaigning that lies ahead -- and a glimpse into an issue quickly reaching the forefront of Colorado politics.

"You folks here in Routt County probably know a lot more about water than most," Beauprez said.

Inextricably tied to water use is energy development in western Colorado, which Beauprez also discussed Thursday morning.

The congressman recently voted for House Resolution 4761, an energy bill that would provide economic incentives for oil shale and natural gas developers in the Western U.S.

The House approved the bill June 29, with 86 percent of Republicans in support and 80 percent of Democrats in opposition.

The bill is in the Senate. Colorado's four Republican congressmen voted for the bill, and the state's three congressional Democrats voted against it.

"One of the biggest concerns we have as a society is our dependence on foreign (energy) sources," Beauprez said Thursday.

"This bill at least moves us in the direction of incentivizing the research of oil shale development and technology, along with domestic oil production and refineries."

Beauprez said the bill also promotes renewable energy research, and although he would have liked to see more focus on renewable energy in the bill, working in Congress is often give and take.

"This is a compromise process," he said.

Beauprez's opponent in the governor race, former Denver district attorney Bill Ritter, a Democrat, is scheduled to visit Steamboat on Saturday.

Democrat Bill Ritter, candidate for governor and former Denver district attorney, will meet with local residents from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday on the Routt County Courthouse lawn, at Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs.

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