From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Kevin Duggan):
This was the third annual forum, but a first for me. I was asked to participate in the event by its sponsor — the Poudre Runs Through It, a local study/action work group associated with the Colorado Water Institute, which is an affiliate of Colorado State University.
My role was to moderate a panel discussion on how to “get to yes” on major water projects and initiatives. Three of the four panel members participated in long and tough negotiations that eventually hammered out significant operating agreements on projects affecting the Colorado and Platte rivers.
The other panelist was Pete Taylor, a sociology professor from CSU whose research includes studying environmental and agricultural water issues.
I found the discussion interesting, and I hope the roughly 240 people who attended the forum did, too.
I’ve heard mixed reviews: Some folks told me the panel tied in well with past forum discussions.
Others told me they wanted to hear more about the controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, and Glade Reservoir. NISP would draw from the Poudre and store water in Glade, which would be built northwest of Fort Collins.
NISP has been tied up in a federal Environmental Impact Statement process for many years.
Supporters say the project is critical for meeting the needs of growing cities. Some opponents say they will do whatever it takes to kill the project. And so it goes.
Certain words came up frequently during the course of the panel conversation: Collaboration, consensus, commitment, understanding, trust.
The speakers noted that during the course of a negotiation, it is important for participants to understand the perspectives of others at the table.
For example, water supply interests wanting more storage have to understand environmentalists want to keep enough water in rivers to ensure healthy ecosystems.
At the same time, environmentalists have to understand that agricultural interests need to have water flow their way to keep in business. You get the picture.
Achieving understanding between people with deeply different points of view is not easy, the speakers said. Neither is building trust that the entities represented by those people will do what they say they will do as part of an agreement.
But it must be done. And all parties involved have to be committed to reaching some kind of consensus, even if they don’t agree on every element.
Would such an approach work on the Poudre? I don’t know. When it comes to NISP and other projects proposed for the river, the parties seem pretty far apart.
The first step toward finding solutions is talking about them, and that is what the Poudre Runs Through It is trying to do.