by Richard Fox, President, Colorado Watershed Assembly
Governor Bill Owens signed a bill this past summer that creates the Colorado Watershed Protection Fund and adds this Fund to the Colorado Tax Refund Checkoff Program. Last year the six groups in this program raised over $1,900,000. The bill was initiated by the Colorado Watershed Assembly (CWA) which serves as the state and regional voice for more than 40 collaborative based watershed protection organizations in the state of Colorado. The Assembly was looking for ways to create new funding sources for watershed coordinators and their group’s matching funding needs. The newly formed Colorado Watershed Protection Fund will be used to finance a new competitive grant program to protect and restore watersheds, rivers and streams.
Since each watershed group has its own public outreach program, it is anticipated that publicity for the new fund will be extensive and donations will be brisk. Last year the five main groups in the program raised approximately $280,000 to $590,000 each, all without any substantial fund raising costs. The Bill gives the Assembly the opportunity to work more closely with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Water Quality Commission which are the state agencies that will receive and distribute the funding.
Historically, the Water Conservation Board has handled issues dealing with water quantity and the Commission has direct responsibility for water quality issues. The Assembly is now legislatively mandated to work with both agencies to administer the moneys generated by the Fund and to create the criteria for the new competitive grant program.
This is a major victory for Colorado’s watershed groups as well as the watersheds, rivers and streams in the state. The watershed groups can look forward to better funding, more political influence and an expanded statewide role in protecting our irreplaceable natural resources.