by Jack Minor—
In the latest twist in the issue around Weld farmers requesting to pump groundwater to save their crops and help lower excessively high groundwater levels, a government official said farmers can pump all day long to keep groundwater out of their basementS, they just cannot use if for anything beneficial such as saving their crops.
At a meeting Tuesday afternoon with area farmers and water officials, John Stulp, the governor’s water advisor, was again told how the rising groundwater issue and pumping was a logical solution to the current economic disaster potentially facing the state.
Fritzler and other farmers have said the groundwater levels are so high area basements are being flooded and septic systems are failing. “I just don’t understand why we cannot see that a simple turning on of the wells would drop that water level, provide us with water for our crops and solve this problem.”
Stulp’s response stunned the farmers in participation. “There are ways you can de-water if it is causing you injury. You can run a well to de-water an area, but that water cannot be put to a beneficial use. It would have to go back to the river, it could not go through your cornfield, but you could get relief by de-watering.”
“We are suffering injury right now, our crops are dying,” Dennis Hoshiko, a local onion farmer, said.
The governor basically told Weld County farmers to suck it up and stop whining. In an interview with Fox 31 KDVR Denver he said, “The last three years have been the three best years in agriculture in the history of the state. Part of being a farmer and a rancher is you have to learn to take the bad with the good.”
Sean Conway, chair of the Weld County Commissioners, said the governor’s statement was “insensitive” and while they were not reflective of comments he has expressed to them in private meetings, it did show a disenfranchisement of agriculture by urban residents.
Secretary of Agriculture John Salazar on Monday said agriculture is what has led Colorado out of the recession.
“What is going to happen to the state’s economy now that the state is not able to produce the economic output in previous years? In Weld County it is a $1.5 billion dollar contribution to the state economy.” Conway said. “Is the governor going to say to the state’s residents, ‘you need to take the bad with the good’ when the unemployment rate rises, or when the feedlots close?”
“The comments seem to dictate that somehow agriculture is disenfranchised from the urban population. We all eat and benefit from agricultural success and output. This is not about us vs. them, we are all in this together.”
The governor indicated he would not grant a request to allow the farmers to pump a miniscule amount of water because he will not go against the prior-appropriation system even if it results in an economic disaster for the state.
Conway says he has heard reports that the cost to the county is upwards of $100 million dollars. “And that’s just the beginning of the ripple effect. This is a pending disaster of possibly epic proportions.”
Hoshiko, an 1861 senior water rights holder had his allotment curtailed by 50 percent yesterday and other farmers have indicated they are out of water at this time.
“Sometimes we try to make things more complicated than they are. At what point in time does common sense go out the window? I’m just amazed,” Conway said.