Wildfire and water committees meeting regularly

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I’m up for re-election this year, but with no opponent, my life is simpler without an active campaign to mount. However, I’ve been busier than ever with one or the other interim committees that I sit on now meeting nearly every week in Denver and elsewhere around the state.

With a bipartisan team of sponsors in the House and Senate, I carried legislation last session bringing the legislature, specifically the water resources review committee, into the development of the state water plan. We’ve held public hearings on the development of the water plan in Gunnison, Glenwood Springs, Durango, Alamosa and Pueblo.

This week, we’ll travel to Steamboat Springs, Walden and Fort Collins for more public hearings. We wrap up our listening tour at the end of September with a public hearing in Denver and then, as a committee, we’ll summarize what we’ve heard from those attending the meetings as well as from those who provide written comments through the legislative committee’s website.

If you were unable to attend one of the meetings and want to provide written comments to the committee, you can do that online at www.colorado.gov/lcs/WRRC. You can also get more information from and provide comments to the Colorado Water Conservation Board — the state agency charged with formulating the water plan’s initial draft, with help from the river basin roundtables around the state.

One personal observation I’ll make, at this point, is that water conservation has been prominently raised by people attending the hearings as a serious concern at every Western Slope meeting. The topic loses steam and priority, though, the further east we travel. This, unfortunately, reinforces the challenge that exists in developing a statewide plan based on shared concerns and objectives.

So far at every public hearing, the need for more water storage is raised as the most common concern. Increasing the size of existing reservoirs is seen as the least expensive and impactful way to achieve more storage, yet there’s doubt expressed that it will be sufficient if Colorado indeed doubles in population size in the coming decades.

In addition to these hearings, the water committee is holding its regular schedule of meetings in anticipation of the 2015 session. At these meetings, we receive information from water experts and the public to determine if the committee wants to sponsor certain water legislation as committee bills. The impact of a committee bill is that, typically, it receives greater support from both sides of the political aisle due to being vetted in front of the committee, out of session; therefore, a bill has a better chance of being adopted by the full General Assembly in the next year.

The wildfire interim committee is also meeting regularly for the same purpose of hearing from experts and determining if we’ll support proposed legislation as a committee. Back home, I took the opportunity to join the U.S. Forest Service as it began a prescribed burn in my district to observe how such a burn is set and managed.

I also was given a demonstration on one of Colorado’s wildfire air fleet used for early detection of wildfire and this plane can assist in the management and containment of prescribed burns. Colorado’s now at the forefront in employing technology to assist us in finding wildfire before it moves to a catastrophic level.