Plant control measure elicits remote testimony

Kelly Sloan
Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Community leaders, elected officials and elementary school students testified in support of a proposed measure to control invasive plants that consume water.

The testimony was delivered at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction on the inaugural day remote testimony was allowed before the Colorado Legislature.

State Rep. Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose, introduced a measure establishing a five-year grant program to control invasive phreatophytes — deep-rooted plants such as the tamarisk that  draw large amounts of water from the water table.

Bonnie Petersen, executive director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, testified in favor of a measure she called a good starting point. “We think Rep. Coram is right on the mark with HB 1006,” she said. “We believe that making reductions in invasive species should be a cornerstone of Colorado’s water plan.”

Petersen said reducing tamarisk and other invasive species would not only save water, but also improve water quality.

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese also testified in support of the bill, adding, “the riverfront is an economic driver for Mesa County.”

“Tamarisk contributes to salinity in our soil, which is a detriment to our agricultural industry, and increases the risk of fire, which is a burden on public safety for the county,” Pugliese said.

Pugliese also thanked the House committee for the opportunity to testify remotely “so that as commissioners, we can represent our constituents while saving taxpayer money.”

The bill was one of the first at the Legislature to draw remote testimony. A measure enacted last year allows for testimony to be given from locations outside Denver, a measure strongly supported by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

CMU is one of the two locations where remote testimony may be offered. The other location is Otero Junior College in La Junta.

Students from New Emerson Elementary School in Grand Junction also testified at CMU. Students completed a project earlier in the school year on riparian areas that included a look at how invasive species such as tamarisk affect local ecosystems.

“We came because we wanted to impact a local riparian ecosystem, the Colorado River,” said Royce Bair, one of the students, He said the students found out tamarisk can consume 200 gallons of water a day.

Averie Waite and Elese Stone talked about how tamarisk grows and why it grows so quickly. “Each tamarisk tree produces 500,000 seeds per year,” Stone said.

Stone said the students were grateful to testify remotely before the panel. “It was a good opportunity to testify. Other kids don’t get that chance.”