Colorado candidates running for state and federal office are in Snowmass Village this week, talking about water. Seven candidates spoke on Wednesday including Representative Scott Tipton and his challenger, Abel Tapia. Senator Mark Udall also made an appearance, as did his opponent, Congressman Cory Gardner. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen was there and filed this report.
The political presence is high at this year’s event because the election is less than three months away and, according to the Colorado Water Congress, there are a lot of water issues on the table like environmental regulation and local control.
The Water Congress is an advocacy organization that gets involved with state and federal water issues, like water rights. The group’s annual summer conference brings together water managers, politicians and others involved in the resource. This week features candidates for a range of offices.
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck was the first to speak. Regarding water, the republican says he’s developed a great pride for Northern Colorado.
"The pride is seeing people come together, work together and seeing people turn a desert into a very productive agricultural area. The frustration is seeing the government screw everything up."
Buck is running for Colorado’s Fourth Congressional district and his irritation with the federal government’s lack of action was echoed by the other republican candidates at the conference.
Congressman Scott Tipton was up next. The republican touted his record including legislation signed into law last year that eliminates regulations on small-scale hydroelectric projects.
He spent much of his 10 minute talk criticizing regulations from the federal government. He highlighted the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, saying it gives the agency too much power.
"If the EPA can step in this room and start to tell the state of Colorado and the western United States how our water’s going to be handled, we’re going to be stripping our farming and ranching community of the ability to grow our crops," he said.
The only question came from Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards who asked Tipton about his position on climate change.
"I always like to be able to say with climate change, I grew up in the shadow of some of the greatest climate change this nation’s ever seen. It’s called the Rocky Mountains. I guarantee the climate will change, and it will continue to do so," said Tipton.
Cory Gardner of Yuma began his talk by denigrating Congress, where he currently represents Colorado’s fourth congressional district.
"It’s always great to be at the Colorado Water Congress, a congress that has a much higher approval rating than other congress’ that we know of!"
Gardner is challenging Senator Mark Udall in a close and expensive race. He spent most of his time stumping - discussing not just water, but his so-called “Four Corner Plan,” that includes economic growth.
"What we are going to do to get this country’s economy growing again. Where does it start? I believe it starts with simple things like regulatory reform and getting government out of the way and letting America work," he said.
Later in the day, democrat Abel Tapia stepped to the microphone. He is running against Congressman Tipton. The former engineer and Colorado state lottery director says he understands the challenges facing the Colorado River, which is over-utilized.
"I am committed to fighting to ensure that the Colorado and the Third Congressional District are protected, and get the water it deserves. I support a balanced water policy that takes into consideration the multiple users of our water - agriculture, municipalities and industrial."
Calling water Colorado’s “liquid gold,” Senator Mark Udall was the last to speak. He pointed to the need for solving a projected water shortage on the Colorado River.
"Let’s have ongoing, tough and ongoing conversations within Colorado and between the Upper Colorado Commission and the lower basin states. If we don’t do that we risk losing site of our shared economic dependence."
Climate change will exacerbate the problem of water shortages in Colorado and globally. He is concerned the majority of republicans in congress continue to deny climate science.
"Just last month, I tried to get a resolution passed that would put the senate on record acknowledging that climate change is a problem and poses a problem to the United States but enough members of the republican caucus objected and blocked it. But, Coloradoans know better," said Udall.
It was apparent the candidates were looking for votes ahead of the November fourth election. The conference in Snowmass wraps up on Friday.
Two other candidates who spoke yesterday were Cynthia Coffman and Don Quick. Both are running for Colorado Attorney General. Governor John Hickenlooper is scheduled to speak Thursday. His challenger, Bob Beauprez will speak on Friday.