Norwood held its first annual Water Day program for the community, an event designed to discuss water in Norwood, the history of it and also the current drought situation. Many local organizations with an investment in water were present to speak at Town Park in various segments. Others had booths available with information. Town trustee Candy Meehan, Water Day organizer, was the emcee.
While local water boards and others involved in working with water were on site, Norwood Fire Department was there to speak about wildland firefighting and structural fires.
Then, U.S. Forest Service representatives were present to give their concerns about drought.
District Ranger Megan Eno said the Norwood area is in D-4 drought, the darkest category on map, an exceptional drought. She described the conditions as “unique and terrifying.”
Eno spoke about range conditions on Forest Service lands. She said it’s the first year her office has had to look at range conditions and acknowledge less water and less forage for grazing species.
She said she’s speaking with grazing permit holders about how to run higher grazing numbers and still meet the Forest Service’s objectives.
She said there are just a few people working in her office, and the decisions are not made in Washington D.C. She welcomed permit holders to come and speak with her.
“Come and talk to us,” she said.
Also of the U.S Forest Service Norwood Ranger District, Eric Brantingham followed Eno and referenced the local Burn Canyon Fire in 2001, his introduction to Norwood. Norwood was in a seven-year drought then.
Brantingham added that Norwood has had only three good water years in the last 20 that he’s been in the area.
He’s been collecting fuels samples to analyze the fire danger. What he’s discovering now is “frightening” with regard to how dry the local timber is.
Eno said the good news is that the forest is remarkably resilient. Still, she said it may not go back to how locals remember it. She said humans must accept what’s happening.
“It’s our job as the species at the top of the food chain to adapt along with that,” she said.
To add some positivity, Eno said timber companies were doing a good job of clearing fuels. She said those companies clearing fallen trees helps to reduce wildfire risk.
Going forward, she’d like to work with local ditch companies to address leaky ditches in the area. She said the ditches run through some National Forest areas, and those ditches need real work.
“We need to do maintenance to keep water in the ditches and in our community,” she said. “There are programs at the state level that can do that work. Maybe we could even get it done this year.”
Later, longtime local Doc Williams, who works with water and landscaping, said 1977 was the worst drought he’s seen. He said the current situation may rival that, however.
San Miguel County Commissioner Kris Holstrom spoke in closing and thanked Meehan for her work in putting together Water Day. She said in spite of the seriousness of the drought issue, some positive things were happening in Norwood.
“We are going to be facing major challenges and seeing major changes,” Holstrom said. “We are going to have to work together to address them.”