The Colorado Water Conservation Board [CWCB] held a joint meeting with Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Councils to discuss water rights. The meeting was apart of a two-day CWCB board meeting held at the Sky Ute Casino Resort Wednesday, July 15 through Thursday, July 16.
Representatives from the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribes discussed water concerns and the lack of funding that has been affecting water both reservations.
Due to budget cuts the Bureau of Indian Affairs lacks personnel and equipment necessary to maintain ditches for irrigation, Frost said.
Councilman Melvin J. Baker mentioned that since the reservation is checkerboard, the deficiencies with the irrigation ditches are not only effecting tribal members, but non-tribal farmers as well.
“That’s the most important thing, the water,” Southern Ute Chairman Clement J. Frost said.
The board mentioned to Tribal Council that if it became necessary, there are low interest loans available for water projects around the state.
Another concern brought up during the meeting Thursday was tribal input. Both tribal councils urged the board to consult with tribes more often when making decisions.
“[The tribe] encourages dialogue in regards to our water rights.” Frost said. “Let’s not be adversaries … but work together.”
“We’re wanting to have the connections with you,” Director James Eklund said. “We can do better, we have an obligation to reach out to the tribes early in the process.”
Ute Mountain Ute Council Lady Blackhawk-Rentz said that a true consultation with the tribes includes all tribal council members.
Blackhawk-Rentz then asked the board to think about the concerns of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe when discussing the Dolores River.
“The Dolores River is our only source of water right now,” Priscilla Blackhawk-Rentz said. “We are dependent on it.”
Frost closed out the meeting thanking the board for coming to hear the issues affecting both tribes.
“We appreciate you coming here to the [Southern Ute] Reservation,” he said. “Tribal members are an important part of the citizens of the state of Colorado.”