A Grand Junction Daily Sentinel article about an August 25 Colorado Water Congress meeting reported that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez “told the Congress that he would not let one area of the state -- specifically the Front Range -- seize the rest of the state's water resources.” But it failed to note Beauprez's support of Referendum A in 2003, a proposal that could have had precisely that result.
An article by reporter Mike Saccone in The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction about an August 25 Colorado Water Congress meeting reported that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez “told the Congress that he would not let one area of the state -- specifically the Front Range -- seize the rest of the state's water resources.” But the August 26 article failed to note Beauprez's support of Referendum A in 2003, a proposal that, according to its opponents, could have had precisely that result. Other newspaper reports noted that at the Water Congress meeting, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter pointed out that Beauprez supported the measure.
The 2003 state-issued ballot guide known as the Colorado Blue Book stated that Referendum A would have “allow[ed] the Colorado Water Conservation Board to borrow up to $2 billion for public and private water projects by issuing bonds.” A November 6, 2003, Denver Post article reported that “Referendum A pitted regions of the state against each other, based on whether they stood to gain or lose water with new, unspecified dams and reservoirs. But the proposal, passed by the legislature and pushed by the governor, did not carry a single one of Colorado's 64 counties.” Referendum A was opposed by 67.1 percent of Colorado voters.
As Ritter noted at the Water Congress meeting, Beauprez was an active supporter of Referendum A. An October 13, 2003, Associated Press article reported that “Gov. Bill Owens [R] led a rally of about 100 people, joined by GOP Rep. Bob Beauprez and members of the Colorado AFL-CIO, the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry -- all backing” Referendum A. An August 16 article in The Durango Herald about Ritter's and Beauprez's positions on water policy also noted that while “Beauprez supported 2003's Referendum A ... Ritter opposed Ref. A, instead favoring conservation, reuse, sharing water with farmers and building new storage for water that already is on the Front Range.”
The August 26 Daily Sentinel article quoted part of Ritter's comments to the Water Congress on Referendum A but omitted his statement that while he opposed the measure, Beauprez supported it. The Daily Sentinel reported only that Ritter said, “It's just great news to me that we're having a different discussion now that [sic] the one when Referendum A was on the ballot.”
By contrast, an August 25 article by Denver Post staff writer Kim McGuire reported:
There was very little discussion at the forum about Referendum A, a 2003 ballot question sought to set up a $2 billion financing program for new or improved dams and reservoirs.
The issue was one of the most highly charged water battles in recent years, pitting West Slope and Front Range interests.
Ritter reminded the audience that his opponent supported Referendum A, while he opposed it because “it looked like it could be a big grab.”
McGuire's article was distributed by the Associated Press and was posted on a number of Colorado newspaper websites, including The Daily Sentinel's site.
An August 26 Pueblo Chieftain article on the Water Congress debate noted that Ritter “point[ed] out he opposed Referendum A in 2003 ... while Beauprez supported the measure” :
Ritter made this clear by pointing out he opposed Referendum A in 2003, a plan to provide $2 billion for unspecified state water projects, while Beauprez supported the measure.
“The conversation about water changed after Referendum A was defeated,” Ritter said. “It's now focused on sustainability. Yes, there has to be more storage, but the plan needs to be strategic. If we bond a project, we need to talk to voters about that strategy.”
The arguments of Referendum A's opponents were documented when the issue was pending. According to an August 2003 U.S. Water News article, Referendum A drew “strong opposition from Western Colorado residents who fear[ed] it could be a conduit to send their water to the thirsty Front Range. Others are wary because it does not specify projects that would be financed by the referendum.”
A September 7, 2003, article in the Rocky Mountain News reported that then-state Rep. Matt Smith (R-Grand Junction) “said approving Referendum A would be like handing a blank check to state authorities to build water projects that could dip into Western Slope water to benefit Front Range developments.”
Similarly, in an August 3, 2003, Denver Post op-ed piece, then-U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Grand Junction) wrote: “Referendum A will create a $2 billion pot of money, with the imprimatur of the state of Colorado, that can be used to hire the best water lawyers and engineers to buy water rights and divert water from the Western Slope and rural areas.”
From the August 26 Daily Sentinel article by Mike Saccone:
Earlier this year, Beauprez voted to approve an offshore drilling bill that contained provisions that could lead to more rapid oil shale development. The provisions decrease the royalties oil shale developers must pay to local and state governments.
That said, Beauprez told the Congress that he would not let one area of the state -- specifically the Front Range -- seize the rest of the state's water resources.
“I'll be governor for all of Colorado -- not just for some of it at the expense of part of it,” Beauprez said. “We don't have to steal anybody's water.”
Ritter, whose comments focused more on the Front Range's water demand, said with the population between Fort Collins and Pueblo expected to grow by 2 million over the next several decades, water could become even scarcer.
Praising Denver's water conservation efforts during the 2002 drought, Ritter said combining similar efforts across the state with water reuse could support the state's impending population growth.
Ritter told the congress that he wished the state had more seriously broached the issue of reuse and conservations [sic] sooner.
“It's just great news to me that we're having a different discussion now that [sic] the one when Referendum A was on the ballot,” Ritter said.