Cooperative effort encouraged in developing a state water plan

Governor John Hickenlooper
Governor John Hickenlooper

Kelly Sloan , The Business Times

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper continues to advocate for a cooperative approach, including efforts to develop a statewide water plan.

Describing his role as that of a facilitator, Hickenlooper said the goal is to bring various parties and stakeholders together to hash out their differences and come up with a compromise.

Meeting with the board of directors of Club 20 during that group’s spring meeting in Grand Junction, Hickenlooper acknowledged that developing a state water plan is easier said than done. He compared it to his idea to start a brew pub or efforts last year in Colorado to reopen roads in flood-stricken areas by Dec. 1, a deadline many considered impossible.

“Everybody said it couldn’t be done, but when we got everyone in the same room and working together toward a common goal, we did it,” Hickenlooper said, noting that roads in Boulder County were re-opened two days ahead of schedule.

Hickenlooper said the primary job is to “keep Colorado’s water” and not reopen negotiations among western states over a water compact. Alluding to the potential effects of climate change, the state plan also shouldaddress worse-case scenarios. “The water plan process should prepare for what the future might bring and give us options.”

Responding to a question about water storage, the governor said it could be preferable to expand existing reservoirs rather than construct new projects. “If you raise existing reservoirs by 8 or 10 inches, that will result in increasing storage without going through the battles to create new reservoirs.”

In addition to his water plan, the governor discussed economic development and acknowledged the Western Slope lags behind the Front Range in economic recovery.

“I am aware that Grand Junction has not recovered its jobs from 2008,” he said. “Different parts of the state have had different economic trajectories.”

Hickenlooper said the state was funding a study to determine what public investments various communities have made and what the results have been.

One possible solution, he said, was to bring business groups in the region closer together.

“The Grand Junction chamber is strong and robust, and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership is strong and robust,” he said. “But they are not together.” He said that his sense was that “getting these resources harmonized will have dramatically increased results.”

The governor also fielded questions from board members, several of then about natural resources and energy production. Hickenlooper reiterated his support for hydraulic fracturing in oil and natural gas drilling.

The stand has cost him support from some environmental groups that traditionally back Democrats, he said. “Every time I stand up for fracking and oil and gas, I lose a block of donors and supporters.”

In response to a question about why hydroelectric power wasn’t included in a new state law increasing the proportion of electricity that must be generated by renewable sources, Hickenlooper said he’d “never gotten a clean answer as to why.”

The governor also presented an award to Mountainside Production Services in Palisade for becoming the 500th Colorado company to sign on to the by Colorado brand licensing program. The program promotes not only Colorado, but also the products made in the state, and offers the use of a new state logo to do so.