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Local news roundup with the Colorado Sun - 8/9/22

Luke Runyon
KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Every Tuesday, we talk with the Colorado Sun to find out what stories are on their radar.

This week, KUNC's Beau Baker spoke with reporter Michael Booth.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Interview Highlights:

Beau Baker: Let's begin with the big bill in Congress to tackle climate change, the Inflation Reduction Act. The $750 billion package has a lot going for it, including some money for the Colorado River basin. What can you tell us, Michael?

Michael Booth: Well, from the reporting outlets like the Colorado Sun and KUNC, we know that we're facing a big water crash in the West. Federal officials have warned the seven states and 40 million people that rely on Colorado River basin water that this long drought that we're in means there will be 2 to 4 million fewer acre-feet of water available next year. And this starts right away. All the states need to figure out ways to keep more water in the river or put more back and really fast. The bottom line is it takes money and lots of it. Chris Alcott and I described it this way. It's not a problem that can be solved by state millions. It's got to be federal billions to buy or conserve that much water. Now that $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act is a big ship to tie your boat to. Western senators, including Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, fought hard to keep $4 billion in the act, which could get final passage later this week. That money is to be used exclusively for getting more water back in the Colorado River and a couple of other West wetter other western basins. States can use it to buy or rent agricultural water. They can fund programs to save more city water like low-flow toilets or long-term buybacks. Four billion is not enough to buy that much water outright, let alone for every year of a long-term drought that we continue to be in. But the senators are calling it at least a down payment on a big challenge. And conservation groups are pretty enthusiastic.

Beau: And Michael, do you think that would be targeted more toward lower basin users or upper basin, or would be a split?

Michael: I think it'll be evenly split. There are senators certainly looking out for that money who will make sure it gets shepherded through as many states as possible. But really, it's the way it's working out the negotiations. All the states need to cooperate on this, so it almost doesn't matter who gets it as long as water gets saved.

Beau: Magic mushrooms will be on the ballot this fall. Colorado could become the second state to decriminalize medical use. One of the Sun's contributors actually started microdosing psilocybin to treat anxiety and depression. What did they experience?

Michael: Chryss Cada for us wrote a long and intriguing piece for us about her own experience with the magic mushrooms that contain the hallucinogenic that we just mentioned, psilocybin. Outside of Denver, they are illegal, but a growing number of people seem to be using them under the guidance of counselors to address long-standing psychological needs. Chris is one of those people. She writes about microdosing in order to better cope with childhood tragedy and to stop her own unhealthy behavior that she felt she was subjecting her current family to. For her, the mushrooms work tremendously well as she describes experiences and the effects and remarkable detail. It's a powerful personal journey but will be relevant in November. Colorado will be voting on legalizing mushrooms statewide, and if passed, the measure would make growing and possession, and use legal.

Beau: It will be interesting to see what voters decide. Finally, former Weld County commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer is running for the new eighth district. She's got some controversy in her past for leading a campaign to get 11 northern Colorado counties to secede and form a new state. Over at the Sun, reporter Jesse Paul reexamined this part of Kirkmeyer's legacy. Michael, how does that factor into her race for the eighth District?

Michael: Well, these races that we know are going to be close and controversial. It's really important to look at the history of the candidates and figure out what's relevant, what's not. Jesse brings up a not-so-distant effort by Barbara Kirkmeyer and other northern Colorado officials who were upset in the early 20 tens that laws and policies imposed on them by Denver Metro officials, they said, were way out of touch with their needs. Kirkmeyer was Weld County commissioner at the time and is now the Republican nominee for that district. Back then, those northern state officials asked 11 counties if they wanted to secede and form their own state. They voted no, including Weld County. But now, some Democrats are using harsh words to paint Kirkmeyer's part in all that, calling it fringe or extreme. Or even labeling her a secessionist. She says she's proud of that effort, that it forced Metro Denver officials to finally listen more to the needs of rural areas and outstate areas like hers.

Beau: So it could be a boon for her chances, but also might hinder her with some voters.

Michael: Look for a lot more of this discussion in political ads coming near you.

Beau: Michael, thank you for speaking with us today and sharing some of the stories the Sun has been following.

Michael: We appreciate the time. Thanks.

As the Newscast Editor and Producer, I provide listeners with news and information critical to our region.