Grand County Commissioner James Newberry has been elected the new president of the Colorado River District Board of Directors for 2013.
The unanimous selection came at the Board's Jan. 15 quarterly meeting. Newberry had been serving as the Board's vice president.
As now a five-term member of the Grand County Board of County Commissioners and a nine-year member of the Colorado River District Board, Newberry has been in the forefront of issues involving protection of the Fraser and Colorado Rivers. In recent years, he, the county commissioners and the county administration have been instrumental in negotiating river enhancements in the development of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement involving Denver's Moffat System and the Windy Gap Firming Project.
"It is an honor to serve on a board that looks after the interests of individual counties such as Grand but also is an influential voice on the Colorado River system in all of Western Colorado and all of the Western United States through the Colorado River Compact," Newberry said of his Colorado River District involvement.
The Colorado River District was created by the Colorado Legislature in 1937 to protect Western Colorado water. It was forged on the negotiations that created the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, a major presence in Grand County. Of late, both the Grand County commissioners and the Colorado River District have invested considerable time and resources into negotiating the Denver Water and Windy Gap agreements. Both Denver and the Windy Gap partners on the northern Front Range are seeking approvals to take more Colorado River water from Grand County to the east during spring runoff.
In Colorado, the constitution provides a legal basis to divert water, no matter where it is and where it is going. Both Grand County and the Colorado River District have been seeking agreements for the projects that leave the rivers in net better condition than the status quo.
"I believe we have accomplished win-win agreements that will improve current conditions and give us opportunities to improve habitat, streamflows and recreation," Newberry said. "This is a much better way to create real progress than engaging in a long-term legal battle with uncertain outcomes."
Other mutual work of the Grand County commissioners and the River District has included finding a new supply of water for endangered fish in the Colorado River near Grand Junction. The solution still being finalized will provide a means to also improve river flows in Grand County.
Looking ahead, Newberry said the recently released Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study sounds a wake-up call to deal with water supply challenges not just in Colorado but in all of the Colorado River Basin.
"The biggest challenge we have in all the West is the water availability and how we address water needs down the road," Newberry said.
He also cited the need to focus on Gov. Hickenlooper's directive that the state of Colorado have a water plan by 2015 to meet a water supply gap that is predicted to be large by 2050 when Colorado's population is expected to as much as double to 10 million people. Newberry said the plan must be balanced among conservation, water reuse, sensible agricultural fallowing and water development.