Community Ag Alliance: Moonlight with the area rivers roundtable | SteamboatToday.com

Community Ag Alliance: Moonlight with the area rivers roundtable

Community Ag Alliance

Water in the West has always been a divisive and fascinating subject. Far-reaching, wildly unpredictable and indelibly humbling, water is the one essential resource that has been harnessed to make life possible in an otherwise unforgiving landscape.

Over time, the number of people who can understand and discuss water issues has grown relative to the number of people western water issues impact, and the diversity of those interests. This is no different in the Yampa, White and Green River basins here in Northwest Colorado.

Many self-professed "water nerds," water professionals and interested citizens attend the bi-monthly meetings of the Yampa White Green Rivers Basin Roundtable (YWG BRT). This is one of nine in Colorado established in 2005 with the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act. All roundtables enjoy the assistance and support of the incredible Colorado Water Conservation Board staff.

The roundtables were created with the acknowledgement that water issues in Colorado were becoming increasingly complex, and the Act set in motion a framework for each basin to have a permanent forum in which to, "facilitate continued discussions within and between basins on water management issues, and to encourage locally driven collaborative solutions to water supply challenges … "

The YWG BRT has 30 members and a handful of liaisons representing consumptive water interests (users of water removed from the system — municipal, agricultural, industry) and non-consumptive interests (users of water remaining in the system — fish, recreation).

The group meets every other month, on the second Wednesday, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the VFW in Craig. Over 50 people from across Northwest Colorado begin with a delicious meal cooked by American Legion Post 62, and then proceed to "moonlight" as water advisors.

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The agenda provides a smorgasbord ranging from state policy to basin-specific studies and issues. A word cloud might display: native fish, boatable days, new reservoirs, paleohydrology and equitable apportionment.

Of all the many local work products built over these hundreds of hours, trust may be the most important, as it has enabled the open dialogue so treasured by Americans.

The YWG BRT members participate in local- and state-organized committees that meet regularly — Public Outreach and Education (PEPO), Basin Implementation Planning (BIP), Grants Committee, the West Slope Caucus, and the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), to name a few. As the names imply, these committees cover everything from public outreach within the basin to policy issues between basins.

The Grant Committee facilitates basin requests for a unique funding opportunity called the Water Supply Reserve Fund (WSRF). This fund was legislatively created in 2006 and codified in C.R.S. 39-29-109(I)(a)(III), directing the state treasurer to annually transfer $10 million from the Operation Account of the Severance Tax Trust Fund to the WSRF, when available. Eligibility, criteria and guidelines, and application information, as well as any other details, all can be found at yampawhitegreen.com. We welcome and encourage you to join us at any or all of our public meetings.

Jackie Brown is a water nerd, the chair of the Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable, and the water and natural resource policy advisor to Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.