An Education in Water Issues

by jhwygirl

A friend forwards me the nearly-daily updates from the Ravalli County Planning Department, headed up by Karen Hughes, a former planner with the Missoula County Office of Planning and Grants. They are seemingly (no, actually, as I hear it) working overtime to provide the public with as much information as possible with regards to the variety of projects they are working on down there….and not just information in the sense of seeking public involvement in the regulatory process, but education in the sense that they are bringing in experts in various fields – law, land use, water – to explain the underlying issues that the public brings up along the way.

Coming up tomorrow night, a Groundwater Forum is being held at 7 p.m. in the Hamilton City Hall. The form is free and open to the public. This link provides more information along with a list of speakers.

The issue of groundwater availability comes up repeatedly with subdivision development. To shed some light on the issue, the Ravalli Planning Department has arranged for several groundwater availability experts and agency representative to conduct presentations and answer questions.

Upcoming, the Bitterroot Water Forum is sponsoring a panel discussion on water quality data in the Bitterroot watershed on January 29th at 7 p.m. at the Victor High School multi-purpose room.

Since Missoula is also part of the Bitteroot watershed, I thought these might be of interest to some.

Back in December, in an effort to educate the public and dispel the cries of “takings” with regards to the impending streamside setbacks they, too, are working on, the Ravalli Planning Department held a forum with Michelle Bryan Mudd, director for the Land Use Clinic at the University of Montana School of Law.

That event was extremely well attended, and my friend down there (who supports both the county-wide zoning project and the streamside setback committee’s work) tells me that the public found the presentation very informing, and naysayers to streamside setbacks and zoning left with a sense of understanding the breadth of regulatory authority available to local authorities – and it went a long way in encouraging people to work with the process, rather than obstruct it.

When faced with a “Just say no” public, it appears that doing some background education can go a long way. Time will tell, ultimately, I guess.

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