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PLAN TO CORRAL WATER HAS MANY AWASH IN SKEPTICISM

SHARE PLAN TO CORRAL WATER HAS MANY AWASH IN SKEPTICISM

A plan by a group of investors to pay Colorado, Wyoming and Utah farmers not to grow crops every third year so their excess water could be sold to California and Arizona is raising eyebrows among state water officials.

Resource Conservation Group Inc., based in Golden, Colo., unveiled its proposal in November to members of the Upper Colorado River Commission's technical committee, according to Eric Kuhn, assistant secretary-engineer for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.Kuhn said nothing has been presented yet in writing, but based on the oral presentation, the project could have a serious impact on irrigators in the area between Grand Junction and Cortez.

The concept differs from a plan a couple of years ago called the Galloway proposal, which wanted to charge states down-river that were using unclaimed water that flowed naturally to them.

"That concept failed," Kuhn said, "because there was no reason for Lower Basin states to pay for something they already were getting for free."

But the Resource Conservation Group Inc. proposal has the new wrinkle of buying existing water rights from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah farmers, which it claims would add 500,000 acre-feet of water a year to states downstream.

Kuhn dislikes the proposal because "I see it as a front on their part. I think they're going to tell us, the policy-makers, they're only going to ask farmers for water from one out of three years, but when they talk to a farmer he'll say, `Well, if I sell you one year, I might as well sell you all my rights and retire.'

"I think they're doing that to overcome the social problems associated with drying up large amounts of agricultural land - which would seriously impact small family farms in this area."