Kathleen Curry has been a rancher in Gunnison since January 1998. She and her husband, Greg, own Tomichi Creek Natural Beef.
She was manager for 6-1/2 years of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. During the 2002 drought she negotiated with the Uncompahgre Valley water users to keep water from being cut off to everyone above the Black Canyon.
"The Upper Gunnison is really vulnerable," she said, regarding the junior water rights for those users. "When I got to office I worked a lot on the Conservancy Act."
Curry has been a water rights specialist with Wright Water Engineers. As a physical scientist, Curry worked for the state in its in-stream flow program and with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
She was elected and served three two-year terms as a state representative for District 61 in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
"I think we need a less partisan approach. I thought things were going pretty well in the last session until the last week. There was a controversy about civil unions and the bill that had gone through the Senate had passed," Curry said. "The house margin was really close. It was 33 Republican and 32 Democrat, 65 total. The second to the last day, the speaker of the house recessed the house so they didn't have to bring that bill up for a vote. The votes were there to pass it." When the speaker recessed, that left more than 20 other bills that would also not be voted on. "One of them was the water projects bill which usually is not a controversial bill . . . . But we were in the middle of a drought in May, and one of the pieces of the projects bill is to fund satellite monitoring or guages on all the streams and for the deputy water commissioners to administer water. So here we are without any funding to run everyone's water rates on the Western Slope. That affects 'ag' people statewide."
That partisanship prompted her to run for state representative again. "I think they should have been getting their work done," Curry said. "Gov. Hickenlooper, to his credit, called a special session." The water projects bill did then pass.
"The integrity of the legislative branch was jeopardized when there was gamesmanship going on. Our job in the three branches of government is to bring a bill to a vote. If it gets 33 or more votes it passes. But instead they used process on several occasions . . . to skirt what they should be doing.
"If I do get elected, I wouldn't be in a position to be worried about primaries and election year politics," Curry, an independent, said. "I would be in a position to just worry about the legislation proposed."
Curry feels being an independent "is a good fit in the district. There are so many independent thinkers in House District 61." In the last quarter, the secretary of state found 54 percent of the newly registered voters are independent.
"The district itself, when you look at all the registered voters, is 42 percent independent or unaffiliated," Curry said.
Curry describes herself as "left of where conservative people supposedly want us all to be" on social issues. Regarding fiscal issues, she says that over time she "became more out of step with where her Democratic leadership hoped she would be." When it wasn't a good fit fiscally, she switched from being a Democrat to an independent. Curry ran amendments to the budget to try to cap salaries, not to hire new employees and to try to balance the budget. "On every single amendment, the Democrats and I voted opposite."
When Curry served in the legislature in 2005, she worked on oil and gas legislation. At the time, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had seven members. Five of the seven were from industry. She, Gov. Ritter and others worked to re-configure the oil and gas commission to have nine members. Three are from industry and the others are from local government, wildlife, public health, the environment and water quality. "There is now a different representation on the regulatory body at the state level," Curry said. "At that time there was no mandate that the environment or public health had to be taken into account when wells were being permitted," Curry said. She felt it was important to have a process where conditions could be placed on well permits.
Her signature issues in the legislature were water and oil and gas. She believes the next legislative session will see bills concerning the amount of control local governments can have over oil and gas development. Curry says the industry believes if every county has different regulations it will be a burden for them. "But I will fight for local control," Curry said. "I think there has to be a fundamental standard that goes across the board with all the counties, something they can recognize whether they are operating on the eastern plains or operating in Delta County. But there is no way you can apply the same standard in Ft. Morgan that you would apply to rugged terrain in the North Fork. It's not a sensible approach to this, and I do think it needs to be case specific."
Curry voted against House Bill 1365 which changed three front range power plants from coal to natural gas. Curry has been asked whether she would try to overturn the bill. "I would be interested in rolling that back if that would make sense for the industry. If the industry said, 'We're not that far in implementation. Why don't we revisit this,' I would be more than happy to do that," Curry said. "I think there is room to put the brakes on one, if not two, of the plants without costing the rate payers too much."
Federal water standards are getting stricter, and for Curry they are an unfunded mandate. "The standards get stricter. The dollars are drying up. The state doesn't have the money, and the towns are getting stuck with the bill," Curry said. "The best I could offer is to make sure the Water Quality Control Commission doesn't overreach when it takes the federal standards and then puts them into Colorado law. And then as a state, we should be more aggressive in obtaining dollars, even allocating some state severance tax money for that purpose. Traditionally, all money has gone to supply and not water quality. I think it's time to start revisiting that combination."
Regarding the Food Cottage Act, Curry believes Sen. Gail Schwartz had "absolutely the right approach." Curry would like to add on to what has been accomplished. John Salazar, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture in Colorado, has contacted Curry about submitting a bill in the next legislature if she is elected. The bill would help beef processors. She knows from her own beef company what an obstacle the cost of processing is. Salazar would like to see small regional processing centers and shift away from USDA inspections to state inspections. The goal would be to reduce the cost. The big cost of processing an animal is the full-time inspector at the federal rate. "How can we make beef that is raised in Colorado more accessible and more affordable at the local level. We can build off where Sen. Schwartz was headed and start addressing the obstacles on the beef side," Curry said.blog comments powered by Disqus