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Water issues dominate Farm Bureau meeting

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Photo by Hank Lohmeyer John McClow, Gunnison Basin representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, standing, gave a presentation on the final draft of Colorado's Water Plan to about 70 members and guests during the annual meeting of the Delta Cou

Presentations on two important pending water issues were featured as the Delta County Farm and Livestock Bureau held its annual meeting and banquet at Bill Heddles Recreation Center on Nov. 6.

Area ag producer and Colorado Farm Bureau board member Hugh Sanburg updated members on the EPA's Waters of the U.S. rule. And attorney John McClow gave a presentation on Colorado's Water Plan, now in its final draft form.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Waters of the U.S. rule was to have taken effect earlier this year. However, opponents to the sweeping set of federal regulations, opponents that include many in Congress, succeeded in having a temporary injunction issued against the rule's implementation. The court-ordered temporary injunction will remain until issues have been resolved in court.

According to an article that appeared in the Washington Post last month, opponents to the rule see it as "a threat to state sovereignty because it asserts federal jurisdiction over wetlands and waters (and even some relatively dry land) that should be subject to state government control."

The article notes that land use issues have been found by the U.S. Supreme Court to be matters outside the jurisdiction of federal government.

The article also says, "In this [temporary injunction] case, the district court concluded that the states were likely to succeed on the merits as the EPA had adopted an 'exceptionally expansive' view of its own jurisdiction under the [Clean Water Act]."

The lawsuit which led to the temporary injunction was joined by 13 states, including Colorado.

Among the most onerous aspects of the EPA rule is a stipulation that allows private party lawsuits against ag producers for alleged violations. Sanburg noted that the proposed rule extends direct federal regulatory deep into private property rights and family farm ag operations.

Using computer-generated map layers as an illustration, Sanburg showed how the new rules taken to their allowed limits could impose direct EPA jurisdiction over private ag operations on a regional and even statewide scale.

Sanburg reminded the gathering of local Farm Bureau members that it is their annual dues that help carry the costs of advocating for family farm interests against threats like the Waters of the U.S. rule.

When Waters of the U.S. was first proposed earlier this year, the Delta County Commissioners went on record strongly opposing it.

A second presentation at the Farm Bureau meeting was by John McClow, an attorney who has done extensive work on behalf of Western Slope water interests and who serves on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. His presentation was on the final draft of Colorado's Water Plan.

Prescriptions in the plan for the state's all-basins water development, storage, transportation, conservation and use through the year 2050 will cost an estimated $20 billion, he said.

State lawmakers will try to come up with $100 million by 2020 to use as "seed money" to begin funding projects.

The plan includes 33 measurable action items for annual evaluation of progress.

Specific goals include closing the supply/demand gap of 560,000 acre feet between West Slope and Front Range by 2030, and conservation measures amounting to saving of 400,000 acre-feet by 2050.

The complete final draft document is 481 pages long, McClow said.

In other business:

• Four directors were elected. They are David Kuntz, Chan Fogg, Glenn Austin and Olen Lund.

• The Delta County Farm and Livestock Bureau achieved the highest percentage gains in new members and in new production members of any other Farm Bureau chapter in the state.

• The Delta County Farm and Livestock Bureau led the effort to raise over $34,000 to help with legal costs in the Powell Mesa chicken barn lawsuit that has apparently been resolved by the state Supreme Court in favor of Hostetlers and the county.

• The Delta County Farm and Livestock Bureau supported other ag issues and initiatives in the past year including purchase of numerous animals at the Junior Livestock Sale, and the organization also funded various ag education projects and programs.

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