May 12, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310
Colorado River District “River Killer Tax” Will Be Actively Opposed
Colorado River: On May 8, Aspen Journalism reported (story here) that the Colorado River District is proposing to put a new property tax on all property in the District covering a vast swath of Western Colorado. The tax — which would double the current mill levy by the District — would fund new dam and diversion proposals and other water projects identified in the news story as “White River Storage Project; maintaining flows secured by the Shoshone call; and the Windy Gap Reservoir connectivity channel”.
The “White River Storage Project” is extremely controversial and would potentially build a huge reservoir on or near the free-flowing White River in Rio Blanco County to divert more water out of the river. In fact, the State of Colorado is currently “opposing” the water right for the project in Colorado Water Court, and some West Slope residents are also opposing it.
Local Rio Blanco rancher Deirdre Macnab expressed concern, “Why would the respected Colorado River District continue to pursue a reservoir project that is being opposed in the courts for lack of purpose by the Colorado State attorney office and division water engineer?”
In addition to funding proposed new river-draining dam projects, the tax is also being strongly questioned due to the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus. Summit County nature photographer, John Fielder, said, “It would be one thing to ask voters to raise their property taxes to make their lives more manageable during economic hard times, entirely another to have them spend the money on another new dam boondoggle, in this case one that would permanently damage the ecological integrity of Colorado’s extraordinarily beautiful White River. If the Colorado River Water Conservation District wants voters to fund projects that enhance the good work that CRWCD already does, sobeit, but to spend it on speculative water projects that have no clear benefit to any of us would be incredibly unwise at this time.”
A variety of voices on the West Slope are speaking out against the tax proposal, including Jerry Mallet, President of Colorado Headwaters which works to protect headwaters streams in the Colorado River District. Mallet said, “The Colorado River District’s proposed mill levy in November is not worth the time or the funding. Any new high elevation dams do more harm to the environment, wetlands and watersheds than benefits. Lower dams along the major streams also result in unnecessary environmental damage and expense that far outweigh any returns.”
The Colorado River District is the same entity that in December of 2019 proposed raising electric rates across Colorado and the Southwest U.S. to try and save Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona which is at risk due to decreased river flows caused by climate change (see story here). Further, just a few days ago, a major scientific journal published a new study widely reported in the media indicating that the Colorado River basin was in the midst of a “Megadrought” also partly caused by climate change (see story here).
“The Colorado River system is already one of the most dammed and depleted on the planet, and there’s simply not enough water to operate the water supply system as it currently exists,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Colorado. “Our climate-science-backed policy is ‘No New Dams and Diversions’ and therefore we will actively oppose this “river killer tax” if it proposes to fund any new dams and diversions in Western Colorado.”