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Dolores River Dialogue to gather

The full Dolores River Dialogue (DRD) group will meet on Tuesday, July 2, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the offices of the Dolores Water Conservancy District, 60 South Cactus in Cortez.

The agenda will include an in-depth discussion of a watershed plan which the DRD steering committee has been working on since 2008 and more intensively for the last 18 months.

On June 19, the final watershed plan was sent to the state. The purpose of this agenda item is to update everyone about what the plan says, and to answer questions. This plan was funded through a grant from the state Department of Public Health and Environment and serves as a foundational document for potential future action to protect water quality. The plan will be available on the DRD website before this meeting.

The plan itself is accompanied by a series of appendices that the DRD steering committee decided to include so that the full, detailed picture of the watershed story could be told. They include a history and description of the DRD, a combined story of the development of water in the area and the accompanying background of conservation efforts and attitudes, and a beginning bank of stories from watershed stakeholders, namely, irrigators, agriculturists and boaters. More stories can be added to this "story bank" as time goes on. The watershed plan does not mandate any entity or individual to take an action. It is a ground-up, grass-roots plan only suggesting voluntary measures.

Through a separate effort, the meeting will also update everyone on the revision of The Lower Dolores River Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation Plan report. As part of this presentation, recent 2013 data from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife on trends in native fish populations will be given.

Last fall, the first report was released.

Since that time, input has been received from a number of stakeholders including from MVIC, DWCD, and local boaters

That input is guiding and shaping the next iteration of the document, which will be published in a few months by an implementation team, a broad spectrum of entities working to join together with their respective institutions to put in place management strategies for the river that adapt to the ever-changing river conditions, respect and honor Dolores Project water allocations, contracts and Colorado Water Law, ensure the persistence of native fish in the Lower Dolores River from below McPhee to the San Miguel River; and be cognizant of all river uses, values and work in ways that balance the needs of the many interest groups involved.

Some in the community may confuse the watershed plan with the implementation plan for native fish.

They are two different documents with two separate origins and "histories." This will be explained at the meeting.

A brief presentation also will be given on the 2013 drought forecast, an issue impacting the entire region.

Finally, the Lower Dolores Plan Working Group, through its legislative subcommittee, is still working in earnest on a National Conservation Area (NCA) proposal.

An NCA, if ever enacted by Congress, would serve as an alternative to the river being suitable for Wild and Scenic River Status (which it has been since the 1970s).

This effort is directly tied to The Lower Dolores River Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation Plan because it is from that effort that guidance will be generated about how fish and water flows will be addressed in the NCA proposal.

The NCA proposal has brought together, through the DRD consensus process, a broad spectrum of local officials, water and land managers, conservation groups, landowners and other stakeholders who all have an interest in protecting water supplies and managing the native fish to ensure their persistence in the Lower Dolores River (with the main focus being the stretch from below McPhee to the San Miguel).

Work on the NCA has been occurring since 2010 and progress will be reported on this complex endeavor at the upcoming DRD meeting.

Everyone is welcome, but those attending the meeting should RSVP by Friday, June 28 to Kathy Sherer (jksherer@q.com) or Marsha Porter-Norton at (970) 759-3110 to plan for seating, food and handouts. An RSVP is required as dinner will be served.

The website for the DRD is http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/drd/default.asp.

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