Water among top concerns

Local group studies different area needs


In other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat

County Commission:

• Agreed to pay subcontractors hired by Western Slope Erectors about $10,700 for work the subcontractors did to make the County Shop temporarily viable to Road and Bridge Department vehicles. The shop burned down in November, and officials wanted a place to store vehicles during adverse weather.

The county paid Western Slope Erectors in installments based on progress. The county withheld the final payment of $14,500 because the company did not meet project requirements and had not paid its subcontractors.

Western Slope Erectors representatives cannot be reached by phone, mail or e-mail, County Attorney Kathleen Taylor said. She recommended the Commission pay what's owed to the subcontractors - all local companies - since Western Slope Erectors has no legal claim against the county for money due.

"These are our people," Taylor said. "They're Rangely and Steamboat people, they live in this valley and they'll probably do work for us again."

• Rescheduled a trial date for Elk Springs Recycle and Recovery for 9 a.m. Aug. 28. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is suing the facility for improperly managing contaminated water.

The facility will be prosecuted by the Colorado Attorney General's Office in Moffat County District Court starting July 28.

If the facility's owner, Phil Bethell, is found guilty in District Court, the Commission will hear evidence to decide if the county will revoke the facility's certificate of designation, thereby closing its operations.

The state and the county hold dual jurisdiction over certificates of designation, which manage waste disposal sites. The state can sue to challenge if a facility is complying with state regulations.

The Commission holds sole authority over suspension, revocation or additional operating conditions of a facility's certificate of designation, Taylor said.

• Approved a bid for Moffat County Ice Arena heaters from Shepherd & Sons totaling $15,949. The company will install an extra heater in the Ice Arena lobby area and convert existing straight tube heaters to u-tube heaters, which use energy more efficiently, said Tammy Seela, Parks and Recreation manager.

— Water will become an increasingly precious resource in the future, Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said.

The county should proactively plan for a future when water is stretched between public drinking, industry needs and agriculture, he said.

The state government agrees and has set up a system for eight river basins in Colorado to plan for each future need under the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act of 2005.

The act established a representative Basin Roundtable for all eight areas, including the Yampa/White/Green River Basin Roundtable covering Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties.

The local roundtable is in the process of following recreational and energy industry water needs assessments, said Eric Hecox, Interbasin Compact Committee manager out of Denver.

The Commission passed a motion Tuesday to accept a $201,377 grant from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to conduct an agriculture needs assessment through the local roundtable, as well.

The Commission will accept the money and hire a contractor to conduct the assessment, Hecox said.

Agriculture water needs are important to Moffat County, Gray said.

"As water becomes more and more vital and we look at energy issues, agriculture certainly needs to be at the table to find what our needs are, too," Gray said.

The Interbasin Compact is studying the plan's scope of work to determine if it meets the state's assessment plan criteria before submitting the check to Moffat County, Hecox said.

One criteria is that the plan must include studies on possible solutions to water shortages, not just study the need, Hecox said. The state does not want each assessment study to only stake claim to water rights.

"We've worked hard with applicants on this," Hecox said.

He added that the local agriculture needs assessment is a comprehensive plan that looks at needs and solutions.

Among the plan's seven tasks are to study existing and future agriculture water shortages, the impacts of climate change on agriculture water shortages, the energy industry's future water needs and ways the agriculture and industrial sectors can share water with recreational users.

At the Commission meeting, Gray equated this last task to rerouting canyon water used for rafting or other recreational purposes after it leaves the canyon.

"The same water can be used to satisfy various needs," he said.

Sharing water resources in universally beneficial ways is expected to be key in allowing Colorado to support its various future water needs, Hecox said.

Statewide, Hecox added, the vast majority of water needs assessments still are in the middle stages, so there have not been any new suggestions on water use.

The Basin Roundtable needs assessments are considered supplements to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative started in 2003. The Interbasin Compact Web site states thta locally based roundtables are an effort by the state to make sure water rights are designed through collaborative processes.

Once an assessment is done, a roundtable may request another state grant to pursue any action the assessment recommends.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com


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