Steamboat Springs A longtime leader in regional water circles — one of the biggest “water buffaloes” around, so to speak — will promote Western Slope interests at a time of increasing thirst and demand from the Front Range.
Steamboat Springs attorney Tom Sharp has been named the new president of the Colorado River District’s board of directors. Sharp is the board’s former vice president, has served as a director of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District since 1977 and has held numerous prominent, water-related positions in Northwest Colorado.
The Colorado River District manages water resources across the Colorado River system. Its board includes representatives from 15 Western Slope counties.
Sharp said much of his time leading the district will be spent in continuing negotiations with Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, two Front Range entities that are seeking to increase their usage of water from the Colorado River system to fill potential new storage capacity on the Front Range.
Negotiations with both entities involve differing interpretations of existing agreements with Western Slope interests.
Sharp said negotiations with the Northern Colorado district “have not gone very far to date,” but an agreement, in principle, was reached with Denver Water in September.
“Denver Water has agreed that it will not seek to acquire any new water right on the West Slope, including the Yampa River, beyond its existing supplies except with the cooperation from the (Colorado) River District and the county commissioners of the affected counties,” Sharp said Wednesday in his Fourth Street office. “What we’re principally going to be spending time on this year is finalizing the nuts and bolts of that agreement.”
So-called “headwater counties,” including Grand, Summit, Eagle and Pitkin, have more at stake in those negotiations than Routt and Moffat counties, Sharp said. But it’s all one big bathtub on the Western Slope, where taking water from one place means more demands in another.
In December, the Colorado Water Conservation Board released a report that said statewide water use could double by 2050.
Colorado River District spokesman Jim Pokrandt said Sharp is more than qualified to guide the district through the challenging times ahead.
“Tom is certainly an experienced water leader,” Pokrandt said. “He’s a veteran of serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Water and Power Authority over the years. … It’s not his first time around the rodeo.”
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com