Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary of water and science with the Department of the Interior, was in Palisade Wednesday to discuss water and infrastructure projects with local stakeholders.
“It’s very important for me to come out and learn about some of the projects in the different areas,” Trujillo said.
Trujillo said she wants to prioritize agriculture and maintain hydropower throughout the West. This part of Colorado has a long history of broad partnerships with a diverse range of beneficiaries, she said, which could help in the face of a drought.
“The folks in Colorado have a lot to teach us about dealing with all sorts of situations,” she said.
Trujillo said she’s focused on the need for infrastructure projects and modernizing aging infrastructure, especially in historic communities.
Orchard Mesa Irrigation District Manager Max Schmidt said one of the district’s buildings was built in 1910, and another is of a similar age, and they’re in need of upgrades.
“It’s sad that I’m 72 years old and I walk into the hydro and I’m the youngest thing there,” Schmidt said.
The first step toward those improvements is finding funding, Schmidt said.
Grand Valley Water Users Association General Manager Mark Harris said raising awareness is also an early step that needs to happen, as it has taken the association a number of years to make sure everyone knows problems with infrastructure and climate change are real, and that takes an effort from all the stakeholders.
The federal government can fill in gaps local efforts need filled, Trujillo said.
“Nobody’s going to suffer or win alone,” Harris said.
Trujillo said the federal government is a key partner in water and infrastructure, which is something she wants to expand on by helping think creatively to solve problems.
“We have to figure out a way of keeping these peaches coming,” Trujillo said.