An Issue Of Diligence
Today’s guest blog for our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series is from John Ely, an attorney working for Pitkin County, Colorado:
In 1958, the Colorado River District received a decree for water rights for a project known as West Divide. This project was to burden the Crystal River of Colorado with a series of dams and miles of water diversions, pipelines, conduits, and canals.
Because the project was not physically constructed, the water rights the District obtained were conditional, not perfected. They were conditioned on the diligent pursuit of completion of the West Divide Project and the use of the water rights associated with the project.
Under Colorado law, every six years, the District must demonstrate its diligence. For the District, diligence means working toward damming and diverting the Crystal, one of a diminishing number of free-flowing rivers in Colorado.
The citizens of the Crystal River Valley were always aware of the proposed project. Some citizens thought the project farfetched because of its size and grandiose plan. But this year, that awareness has grown to an alarmed concern because in these days of water shortages the destiny of the Crystal River is in doubt.
This concern is shared by the greater community of Pitkin County. The Crystal Valley citizens and Pitkin County are now showing their diligence to steadfastly oppose the plan to dam the Crystal.
Every six years since 1958 the District has been awarded a diligence decree unchallenged. This year, the size of the project was reduced to placate the anticipated resistance from the Crystal Valley citizens and Pitkin County.
However, the locals are not surrendering this gem of the Rockies. The citizens of the Crystal Valley and Pitkin County are now engaged in a fight to defeat the dams of the West Divide Project that would determine the fate of a river, the life of an ecosystem, and the soul of the entire valley.
Environmental preservation efforts are sometimes a war of attrition. Forces are always present to dam, divert, extract, and sever resources, beauty, and balance from the land. This may be the case, but the difference in the Crystal River Valley is diligence. If what you see in our valley is of value, stand up for it, be on guard for it, and diligently fight to preserve it.