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|James Eklund’s “False Information” about the Colorado Water Plan
by Gary Wockner
March 12, 2015, reprinted from the Washington Park ProfileThe Colorado Water Plan is an important process and document for all Coloradans to pay attention to. Unfortunately, James Eklund, in charge of the plan and director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (WCB) appointed by Governor Hickenlooper, has made several serious false statements about the process and the current draft of the plan in his column in the March 2015 Washington Park Profile.
First, Eklund states that the process that created the draft of the Colorado Water Plan was “grassroots,” when nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that the people who created the plan are self-appointed and purposely kept opposing anti-dam and anti-river-destruction voices from participating in the effort. A river conservation group I represent was purposely excluded from the South Platte Roundtable which wrote the plan for our basin, and a coalition that I formed – which included 18 national, regional, and local environmental groups which oppose new dams and diversions – had absolutely no (ZERO) representation on any of the state’s roundtables which wrote the plan.
Second, Eklund states that the draft of the plan represents “consensus” of everyone who wrote it, when again, nothing could be further from the truth. The plan is a “compilation,” not consensus. Eklund and the WCB combined all the regional/basin plans together and put them in the draft statewide plan – when not only is there no “consensus” about the final product, but those regional/basin plans are in dramatic disagreement.
Third, and following from above, Mr. Eklund says there was “agreement from water interests statewide.” So-Not-True. For example, the basin plan from the South Platte and Denver Metro areas calls for dramatic new, large dams and diversions from the state’s rivers, including the Colorado River, while the West Slope basin plan calls for no new or only very small diversions. Further yet, the 18 conservation groups noted above and representing over 100,000 members in Colorado, put public comments in a letter and a video calling for “no new diversions at all,” but our comments were completely ignored in the draft plan.
Fourth, Eklund insinuates the 13,000 public comments he received about the plan agree with what’s in the plan draft. Again, not true. About 12,500 of those comments came from members of the state’s many conservation groups who called for no new or only limited new dams and diversions on the state’s rivers and a much greater focus on higher levels of urban conservation, recycling water, and protecting our rivers. Mr. Eklund has been fond of saying the process has been the biggest public input effort in the state’s history, but he completely neglects to say that roughly 90 percent of that input came from conservation-minded citizens whose views are not represented by what’s in the draft plan.
Finally, Eklund says everyone has agreed to “accelerate” dam/diversion projects and “shorten the federal regulatory process.” Completely untrue. Thousands of public comments said nothing of or agreed to no such thing. Further, the federal regulatory process was enacted in the 1960s and ‘70s to ensure the public trust and the protection of America’s natural resources for past, present, and future generations. Nothing is more important than making sure America’s environmental laws – which are some of the best of any country on Earth, including the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act – are adhered to as a fundamental bedrock of our democracy and responsibility to all the human and non-human creatures we share this amazing state with now and in the future. This democratic and environmental-protection process should never be accelerated to fast-track river destruction in Colorado.
The thousands of members of organizations I represent appreciate Mr. Eklund’s service to our state on the Colorado Water Plan and we are happy to continue working with him as this plan develops throughout 2015. However, we would also appreciate – and will make sure – that Eklund is accurate in how he represents the process and the plan so that the public’s trust is ensured as this important effort moves forward.
Gary Wockner, PhD, Executive Director, Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado