Not a question of 'if'

Official: city will see watershed law again

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— A controversial watershed ordinance is not going away, a city official said Tuesday.

Steamboat Springs City Manager Alan Lanning began the first meeting of the Watershed Protection Committee by putting to rest any doubts about the future of the ordinance - which has drawn significant criticism from rural landowners.

"This is not a question of whether or not this will go before the council again," Lanning said. "They will see another ordinance."

Boulder water attorney Glenn Porzak said the ordinance, which he drafted with Steamboat Springs city attorney Tony Lettunich, is similar to watershed protection laws in nearly 40 communities across Colorado and is intended to keep pollutants out of Steamboat's municipal water supply. But to do so, the ordinance would increase regulations on future agriculture-related activities in rural areas outside of city limits but within five miles of city water sources.

Ranchers and rural landowners have said the regulations are excessive and often overlap with existing environmental regulations set by state and federal agencies.

The City Council first proposed the ordinance in December, but tabled it because of public outcry and demands for a thorough review. The watershed committee was formed to conduct that review.

On Tuesday in Centennial Hall, members of the committee expressed concerns about what problems the city is trying to solve with the ordinance.

"If you want buy-in from people out in the valley, they have to understand what the problem is," said local attorney Michael Holloran, who lives and owns land in an area off Colorado Highway 131 that could be affected by such an ordinance.

"I don't understand yet what the pollutants are," said Marsha Daughenbaugh of the Commun-ity Agriculture Alliance. "I kind of feel this decision is already made by the City Council."

Porzak disagreed and said the ordinance is meant to be proactive rather than reactive.

"Once a pollutant is injected into the system, it's a whole lot more expensive to clean it up than to prevent it in the first place," he said. "You've got to cast a wide net to catch these sort of things. Then the trick is to carve out exceptions."

Lanning said the committee's first meeting resulted in good "rule setting" for future discussions.

"We have a pretty good idea of what everybody is going to bring to the table," Lanning said.

The committee next meets March 27.

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