By State Senator Randy Baumgardner and State Representative Bob Rankin
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | Last Tuesday, Oct. 11, we were honored to join the staff of the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District and Konnie Billgren, the Executive Director of the Rangely Chamber of Commerce, for a face to face meeting to discuss the Conservancy District’s proposed water storage project on the White River at Wolf Creek. Following the meeting we had a tour of the existing Kenney Reservoir, and got to see the site for the proposed new Wolf Creek Reservoir. The opportunity to see this site in person, under the knowledgeable guidance of the dedicated staff of the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, was important to us, and helped give us each a clearer picture and better understanding of the project. Our main takeaway from the meeting and subsequent tour was that the proposed Wolf Creek Reservoir project is a gem in the making for Colorado. In light of the Governor’s water plan for the state, and his recent announcement that he wants to ensure that the we improve efficiencies and streamline the regulatory process for completing water projects in Colorado, it was highly encouraging to us to see a plan and a project like this in the works. Following our visit, we are confident that the Wolf Creek Reservoir can be an example and set the standard for how such projects can work, and we also both feel strongly that, for this reason, the Wolf Creek Reservoir should be made a priority within the state’s water plan. More specifically, this project will bring a number of important regional benefits: it will provide the Town of Rangely with the quality and quantity of water necessary to serve their needs and address the growing water crisis that they are facing; it will assist in conservation efforts, providing possible opportunities for enhancing endangered fish species recovery; and, crucially, it will provide diversification to the local and regional economy through the tremendous recreational options it affords—offering growth and economic opportunity to an area that has been hit hard due to the drop in oil and gas prices, and other external and political factors that have ravaged the local energy industry. We will, of course, continue to work together at the State Capitol to address some of the political issues facing our energy sector; but in the meantime, seeing a project of this magnitude and importance begin to spring to life in this part of our state is extremely encouraging to us, as we are sure it is to the residents of Rangley and the whole area. This project has great potential to offer incredible returns to both Rio Blanco and Moffat Counties. The recreational opportunities alone will certainly enhance the quality of life for the region as well as diversify the local economy, as it will draw people not only from around the region and the rest of the state, but from neighboring states as well. We both believe that it is time for the state and the various stakeholders involved to get behind making this project a reality. This is a perfect example of how the state can prioritize helping western Colorado. In particular, we would ask the Governor to put his support behind it, and to use this as an opportunity to prove his commitment to speeding up the permitting process. This project is a real potential gem for the state of Colorado, and certainly an incredible opportunity for the northwest region, and we are proud to be champions of it.