Agreement signing
The crowd of water leaders present at the Eagle signing of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

It’s not the signing of the Declaration of Independence but this is a great moment in Colorado’s history—the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, an agreement that Denver Water reached with 39 Western Slope water providers, local governments and ski resort operators received its first signatures yesterday. Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company gathered and signed the agreement.

“It’s precedent setting,” said Rick Sackbauer, Chairman of the Board of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. “For generations and generations and generations to come this is absolutely huge.”

After five years of mediated negotiations and decades of tension, the agreement proposed in April 2011, focuses on cooperation—bringing traditional water foes together as partners for responsible water development benefiting both Denver Water and the Western Slope. The Cooperative Agreement outlines various actions for Denver Water and Western Slope entities to benefit both water supply and the environment. Read the draft agreement here.

Now that water leaders in Eagle have signed, 36 others will begin to sign onto the agreement—although when that will happen is anybody’s guess. “It’s important enough to begin the wave of signatures,” said Jim Pokrandt, Communications Specialist with the Colorado River District.

There are a couple issues that have yet to be resolved with the agreement– the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir and the Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon. These two issues require agreement by the Bureau of Reclamation, the State Engineer’s office and the State Attorney General’s office, which could take awhile. Read Coyote Gulch’s coverage from the Grand Junction Sentinel for more.

Still, all stakeholders are committed to the agreement. “The agreement’s not up for discussion but it’s like, OK we have these great ideas, how do we make it work?” Pokrandt said.  The River District and Grand County entities plan on waiting and signing on once they’re certain that everything is done to their satisfaction, as others will surely do.

The Eagle signatures are a monumental start, said Pokrandt. “This certainly breaks the floodgates and is great progress in these talks.”

“It is precedent setting,” said Sackbauer. “We, as people that use water in the Colorado River Basin, have a plan and believe me, there was a lot of blood, sweat, tears and brilliance in it.”

Watch full coverage of the 2/21 meeting here or watch CBS Denver’s coverage.


4 thoughts on “A New Era of Cooperation– Eagle Signs the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

  1. Aside from my comments in this posting, I might add that this agreement serves as a model for the entire state as Colorado grapples with how to find an adequate water supply for a population that is predicted to double to 10 million people by 2050.

    The hallmarks of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement are cooperation, balance and benefits for both sides of the Continental Divide. It recognizes the interdependency of the West Slope and the Front Range.

    The Inter-Basin Compact Committee and the Roundtables, assisted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, are talking through many thorny issues related to the 2050 water supply gap. The March 1 Roundtables Summit will be another step in this process. It is very important work: to find cooperative, balanced solutions for water supply. At this point it is all theoretical, but will hopefully lead to real-world agreements.

    Meanwhile, the real world rages around us. Various water development projects are proposed for permitting and Aaron Million continues to press for his Flaming Gorge Pumpback Project. The Colorado Constitution says the right to appropriate water shall never be denied.

    The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement is a product of the real world. Hopefully, it is a lesson to those of us working hard in the theoretical one that Colorado can come together on water policy and mutually beneficial decision-making.

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