Water rights a high priority for state official

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser met with Mesa County officials at a Grand Junction Economic Partnership roundtable discussion last Tuesday regarding ways the state office can better serve the Western Slope.

Weiser touched on the AG's role outside of Denver and protecting Colorado water was among the main points of focus.

"Most people don't really know what the AG does," he began.

During his visit, he asked Grand Junction leaders how the office can better serve and respond to the concerns and priorities of the Western Slope.

The Colorado Attorney General leads an office of 500 people out of Denver but, despite this, Weiser said he's committed to having a greater presence in Grand Junction and would be open to hiring representation in the community.

"I'm a believer that to serve the people of Colorado, I need to show up across the state," he said.

He remains committed to continuing to come back to the area whether it is for roundtable discussions like he had last week or the town hall he's hosting Monday at Colorado Mesa University.

"My understanding is rooted in the lived experiences of the people of Colorado," he added. "I want to have a deeper understanding of what's on people's minds."

Protecting the water rights of every Coloradan is a central issue.

Weiser told the roundtable he doesn't want to see a future in which Colorado doesn't have Palisade peaches because of water access rights.

He referenced Crowley County, where water rights were sold off and it devastated the community, and Weiser doesn't want to see a similar situation in this part of the state.

As far as water rights are concerned, Weiser said he doesn't want to see Coloradoans fighting with each other, nor does he want Colorado fighting with other states for the precious resource.

"This is going to be among the most important things we do," he said.

Another main concern of his, and lawmakers across the country, remains combating the opioid epidemic.

He had several responses in mind for Colorado to fight opioid addiction, including seeing more education for teenagers about the dangers of substance addiction, distributing Narcan to first responders as a means of treating overdoses, and seeing more drug treatment and rehabilitation centers.

"We need to build more drug treatment facilities," he said. "The number I've heard is we have about 30% of what we need."

He felt the lawsuit against drug manufacturers, which Colorado joined this year, could be the quickest way to fund new treatment facilities.

Weiser and state Rep. Matt Soper will be hosting a town hall at the Colorado Mesa University Center Monday beginning at 5:30 p.m. The event will be in CMU's University Center, Room 213, and parking will be provided in the parking garage off of 12th Street.