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Gov. Hickenlooper Signs Bill To Fight Invasive, Thirsty Plants

Governor John Hickenlooper
Laura Palmisano

On his tour of the Western Slope this week, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to create a grant program to help communities fight invasive plants that threaten riparian areas in Colorado.

House Bill 1006 creates the Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program.

Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill at a ceremony in Montrose on Tuesday.

"Phreatophytes are those trees and bushes...like Russian olive or tamarisk that just suck up water," said Hickenlooper. 

He said these invasive plants can go through hundreds of gallons of water a day.

"It’s almost like they are a swamp cooler for nobody’s benefit," Hickenlooper said.

The measure sets aside $2 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board construction fund. It will provide grants for phreatophyte management projects. 

"I truly believe the eradication of phreatophytes is the first tool in the Colorado Water Plan."

Republican Representative Don Coram of Montrose sponsored the bill. 

He called the invasive plants "water thieves" that menace riparian areas.

"I truly believe the eradication of phreatophytes is the first tool in the Colorado Water Plan," Coram said at the signing ceremony. 

Coram said these plants are a problem in his district and across the state.

"If you travel the Colorado River [and] the Dolores River for example, it’s a thicket in many areas that you can’t even walk through, but it’s also a water quality issue because the tree sucks up the water and it drops salt so nothing else really [can] grow," he said. 

The water conservation board will oversee the program and distribute grants for projects. The program is set to end in 2018.  

Laura joined KVNF in 2014. She was the news director for two years and now works as a freelance reporter covering Colorado's Western Slope. Laura is an award-winning journalist with work recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, Colorado Broadcasters Association, and RTDNA. In 2015, she was a fellow for the Institute for Justice & Journalism. Her fellowship project, a three-part series on the Karen refugee community in Delta, Colorado, received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.
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