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Western Colorado Water Purchases Are Stirring Up Worries About The Future Of Farming

Jun 2, 2020
Bethany Blitz / Aspen Journalism

For five years, Zay Lopez tended vegetables, hayfields and cornfields, chickens, and a small flock of sheep here on the western edge of Colorado's Grand Valley - farming made possible by water from the Colorado River.

Lopez has a passion for agriculture, and for a while, he carved out a niche with his business, The Produce Peddler, trucking veggies seven hours away to a farmers market in Pinedale, Wyoming.

Lopez also moonlights as a Realtor, with his finger on the pulse of the local real estate market. A few years ago, he noticed a strange new phenomenon. Much of the irrigated agricultural land sold in the valley - such as parcels just down the road from his farm - wasn't being bought by another farmer. Instead, his new neighbor was Water Asset Management, a New York City-based hedge fund with deep pockets.

Rae Solomon/KUNC

Protests remained peaceful in Denver until about midnight, when the arrival of armored police at the state’s Capitol stoked tensions among the small group of protesters still present despite the city’s 9 p.m. curfew. Clashes broke out as a few individuals lobbed glass and fireworks at encroaching police vehicles, which, in return, sent tear gas flying at the crowd.

Matt Bloom / KUNC

Today on Colorado Edition: We get a first-hand look at the protests that took place in Denver over the weekend. We also hear about the challenges of getting back to work under new coronavirus guidance and we learn about a legal project aimed at helping Coloradans who can’t pay their rent during the pandemic. Plus, we’ll learn more about how Eagle County is encouraging second homeowners to return to the community.

Logan Weaver / Unsplash

Weekend protests drew crowds across the country including in the Mountain West, from hundreds in Boise and Reno to thousands in Denver. Some city leaders now worry such gatherings could lead to new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Sunday that the city will be offering free tests to demonstrators. 

Matt Bloom / KUNC

Colorado lawmakers returned to work on Monday in a Capitol building with windows smashed and boarded up and graffiti being cleaned from its granite walls after four days of protests. Protesters planned to march again at the Capitol starting at 5 p.m.

Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Day and sports camps across the state opened on June 1 with specific coronavirus guidance from the state. But some Front Range cities, including Boulder and Denver, need more time to prepare.

The city of Boulder will start day camp on June 8 but with a different format due to COVID-19. The city normally runs seven camps; those will be consolidated into one camp hub at the South Boulder Recreation Center.

Adam Rayes / KUNC

Tensions between Denver Police and people protesting the death of George Floyd ratcheted up again Sunday night as clashes broke out. Protests were peaceful throughout the day but after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew police fired tear gas at protesters who were also throwing fireworks and other objects at them.

Matt Bloom/KUNC

Protesters marched through the streets of downtown Denver on Saturday, demanding justice for George Floyd, the black man who died in custody after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck. It was the third — and largest — day of demonstrations the city has seen amid a broader, national uproar over police brutality.

The demonstration began around noon outside the state capitol building. Protesters wore masks and waved signs. Many encouraged honking from cars passing by.

Erin O'Toole / KUNC

Today, on a special episode of Colorado Edition, we explore the question of who makes the decisions that protect the people during a public health crisis. And we’ll look at how tensions over that are playing out in one Colorado county, whose public health director recently announced his retirement in the midst of a pandemic.

Jackie Fortier / KUNC

Later this month Dr. Mark Wallace, the director of the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment will retire. He first joined the office in 1995 and became its director in 2000. Wallace joined Colorado Edition to discuss his career and what lies ahead.