Fri Sep 1st, 2017
Lindsay Box | Council Affairs
The Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribal leadership met with the Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, for the 2nd annual Governor’s Ute Summit. Since 2015, Governor Hickenlooper has scheduled the annual meeting with the two tribes. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has maintained positive relationships with many state and local governments, and those positive intergovernmental relationships benefit the Tribe.
Chairman Clement J. Frost began the morning-long meeting discussing the vacancy on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe retained a complex mosaic of water rights after the Southern Ute Reservation was established. Through a series of settlements, the Tribe’s water rights were better established and protected throughout the State. During the meeting with Governor Hickenlooper, the Tribe’s representatives wanted to discuss a vacancy on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the possibility of a tribal appointee serving on the Board.
Chairman Frost and tribal representatives also briefed Governor Hickenlooper on the Tribe’s Clean Water Act application for treatment in the same manner as a state for purposes of setting water quality standards. In 2015 the Tribe submitted its application and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently processing the application. During two public comment periods (one in January and another in June 2017), local farmers and ranchers voiced concerns that (1) the Tribe might regulate agricultural run-off, and (2) the Tribe’s process for establishing its water quality standards might not allow for public review and comment of the proposed standards. Tribal Council members assured Governor Hickenlooper that agricultural run-off could not be regulated under this Clean Water Act program and that the Tribe’s process for establishing its water quality standards will include an opportunity for public review and comment.
In April, a severed natural gas line caused a home explosion in Firestone, CO. The catastrophic event triggered the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to implement new regulations for oil and gas operators within the State of Colorado requiring inventory and maintenance on current and forthcoming lines. The Tribe has operations on both private and trust lands, however the COGCC regulations do not apply to operations on trust land. To demonstrate its commitment to operating safely, the Tribe’s exploration and production company, Red Willow Production Company, voluntarily provided the inventories of its lines within the Southern Ute Reservation boundaries.
The Southern Ute Tribal Council also briefly presented on the grand opening of the Oxford Solar Farm.
Presentations to Governor Hickenlooper were also made by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal leadership. The recent news of the Ute Council Tree cutting in Delta was a point of great frustration for both tribes. Tribal officials had been made aware the historical and culturally significant tree was in bad health. Recently, both tribes talked to the Delta Historical Society and agreed to develop a plan at the upcoming Tri-Ute meeting. The plan would be shared with local authorities in Delta. The request was not honored and the Ute Council tree was cut down on Friday, August 25. Tribal leadership expressed their heartbreak with Governor Hickenlooper, who echoed their concern.
Governor Hickenlooper also updated the Ute tribes on the issues and projects throughout the State of Colorado adding, “The State of Colorado is committed to the collaboration.” Currently, the State is working with the Ute tribes to develop a new fourth grade curriculum to accurately educate students throughout Colorado on the Ute people.
The visit with Governor Hickenlooper concluded after a tour of the Oxford Solar Farm.