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Local news roundup with the Colorado Sun - 07/07/2022

The Colorado River in Colorado.
Rennett Stowe
CC BY 2.0
The Colorado River in Colorado.

Every Thursday, KUNC's Samantha Coetzee speaks with our colleagues over at the Colorado Sun about the local stories they're following.

Today she spoke with environment writer Michael Booth about Colorado water cutbacks, abortion protections, and the Rainbow Gathering in Routt County.

Interview Highlights:
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Samantha Coetzee: As we’ve been reporting, Colorado may need to cut back on its agricultural water use. Now officials are testing just how much of the state's water is used for agriculture. Can you tell us about that?

Michael Booth: Let's look at it this way. When you pass a speed limit sign, you can tap the brakes right away. But you really have no idea what happened unless you looked at your speedometer. How fast were you going? How much did you slow down? So, Chris Outcault reports that Colorado is trying to do the same thing when it comes to our precious water resources.

We're here in the 22nd year of a massive historic drought. And federal officials, as we've been talking about in the show, are warning that seven states that rely on the Colorado River basin will have to cut 2 to 4 million acre-feet of water next year. We've always thought the Colorado uses about 80% of our 85% of our water for agriculture, used growing hay, corn and other crops. But if we started paying farmers and ranchers to stop using all the raw water, right, how much water would they really save?

So there are some very fancy instruments on an antenna tower in pastures near Kremlin. They're now supposed to tell us exactly that, and exactly how much they measure down to the molecule, Chris reports. The experiments could also tell local ranchers who agree to give up the water what might happen if they get their water back the next year. Will the grass grow again like it used to? How many years going to dry up and still grow back again? So lots of unanswered questions, but now at least they know where to start.

Coetzee: Governor Jared Polis recently announced that Colorado won’t be cooperating in any investigations into people who come here for abortion access. Can you tell us more about that?

Booth: Sandra Fish reports for us that the governor wanted to make it very clear that the machinery of state government will not be participating in other states' efforts to punish women or their providers for receiving abortions. Remember that Colorado passed a law this year guaranteeing abortion rights in the state, but many other states are moving fast to ban abortion entirely, and some of them are making threats to try and restrict women from receiving any abortion services in other states where it's still legal.

Nobody knows yet exactly how that might look, but it's very clear that some states will be very aggressive about it. They could try to prosecute an abortion provider in Colorado when a woman from their state travels here for services. Or they could ask Colorado for help to investigate someone who crossed the state lines. It's even more unclear how practices will work out when pills that cause abortion are provided through the mail across state lines. Or if a Colorado doctor on telehealth, for example, provided medical advice on how to use those pills.

So Gov. Polis said he wanted to make it clear no Colorado agencies or law enforcement will help another state go after a woman who seeks an abortion. They also directed medical boards to protect the records and privileges of Colorado providers who perform legal services here.

Coetzee: And finally, we’ve been covering it in the weeks leading up to it, but you sent a reporter to the Rainbow Gathering up in Routt County. Can you tell us about what he saw?

Booth: Jason Blevins and Matt Stone had an interesting time up there. Some of the fireworks sounds you were hearing this weekend may actually have been nonstop drumming from the Rainbow Family gathering, which was on the northern edge of Colorado this year. About 10,000 rainbow family nomads came to the National Forest there leading up to the 4th of July. It was the 50th annual gathering of this loose-knit, controversial group of campers and philosophers.

They came back to their Colorado origins for this historic marker at 50 years, and it's all illegal. Of course, you can't get a permit for 10,000 people to camp with the National Forest. And even if you could, no one in this group claims the power to actually apply for the permit. They say it's not their thing.

So the whole thing becomes like one of those hidden picture tests for viewers. You might see a beautiful effort of getting along and protecting natural resources. Another person [may be] looking to see meadows and see trampled grass and a very long journey back to forest health. So local and federal authorities can't stop the Rainbow Family. They can only hope to contain it.

One busy kitchen volunteer said it was pretty wild to think none of this was here a few days ago and none of it will be here in a few days. But that's the question, isn't it, with all the signs really be gone in a few days. We'll try to report back on it soon and see what it really looks like up there.

As the host of Morning Edition at KUNC, I have the privilege of delivering you the news in two ways — from behind the mic and behind the scenes. In addition to hosting Morning Edition, I’ll report on pressing news of the day and arts and culture on the Front Range.
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