Rights, wrongs challenge river management
Unfortunately, our Montezuma County commissioners, who don't live on the Dolores River, are too busy with other pressing matters to learn about rivers, weather and floods, and don't feel that they will be held accountable for the consequences of their decisions.
In 1911 and again 80 years ago, old-timers experienced what our wonderful Dolores River can do, when unexpected and impossible-to-plan-for weather changed the best and the worst laid plans. Hopefully the county commissioners have televisions, and they were as horrified as I was by the tragic results of storm-driven river flooding in northern Colorado.
Flood-overwhelmed septic systems are not the only things that can damage the river, the properties along it and the people dependent on it. Human-made structures in the path of a flood can be as devastating or more so. Let's not compare trees to gazebos.
We won't and shouldn't cut down all the trees along the river, because they are part of the river's beauty and health and help to protect the banks in high-water situations. But we can limit the potential damage posed by poorly designed or dangerously placed human-made structures.
Limiting the density and type of development along a river and maintaining an unimpeded flood plain is one of the best-proven ways to protect river health and the health and safety of those affected by it.
Maybe Boulder, Lyons and the rest of Boulder County are crying out to short- sighted officials who choose to satisfy the individual rights of a few, instead of seeing the bigger picture of everyone's rights.
Can our commissioners, in good conscience, believe that their own rights agenda justifies protecting the rights of a small, very vocal group of larger property owners, while ignoring the wrongs done to the majority of us?
Would they really consider scrapping more than a year's work put in by members of the Dolores River Working Group, the majority of whom lived on the river, without even studying the group's recommendations?
The months of learning, debating and consensus-building, resulted in a plan designed to protect our precious river and those dependent on it. That is a well-documented fact. Are our current commissioners willing to ignore the wisdom of the earlier county commissioners, who adopted the Dolores River Valley Plan after hearing the voice of the people? Are they intent on ignoring the unanimous advice of their own Planning and Zoning Board, who took the time to study and review the DRVP?
Are they intent on eliminating the essence, if not the entirety of the DRVP without even reading it, or researching the science of flood plains and rivers?
They were put in place by all of the people in Montezuma County, not just a few "squeaky wheel" big property owners, who are more involved with their own personal and financial interests than with the welfare of the rest of us.
Is it clear to the commissioners that all the people in the county are stakeholders in the river?
We need to be proactive and concerned about the long-term consequences of undermining the work of the Dolores River Working Group to satisfy the personal agendas of a few well-funded large property owners, some of whom stand to profit considerably if the DRVP is altered.
We also need to be proactive in order to avoid the possible damages to the entire Montezuma County population endangered by wholesale and indiscriminate alteration of the Land Use Code to instead just slap violators on the wrist, instead of enforcing the regulations.
This county is not a landocracy that can be governed by pandering to the larger landowners, rather than seeing the greater good of the county residents.
Some of our elected county commissioners have been extremely vocal about government regulations and creeping socialism. Some have been angered to lividity, when planning and zoning commissioners disagreed publicly with their pre-intended direction. Is that the way open-minded and thinking people act?
We are all their constituents: those who need clean water to drink, the farmers and ranchers who are dependent on good and unaffected water, but also the hunters, the anglers and the tourists who support our local economy.
We are the majority and need to remind the commissioners that we elected them, and they are responsible to all of us.
Our commissioners will have to accept the responsibility for their actions, the results of which may just come back to haunt all of us, if they prove to be wrong.
Joel Kantor is a retired dentist who has owned his property on the Dolores River for almost 18 years. He and his wife have lived in their home on the river, full time, for almost 15 years. Reach him at (970) 882-2642.