Jan 252007
Authors: Vimal Patel

A bill that would secure $1 million in funding for water research at CSU over two years moved forward Wednesday with the help of local legislators.

The legislation – passed unanimously by the House Finance Committee – would bring in $500,000 each year for two years to the university’s Water Resources Research Institute, which trains water technology managers and experts.

“I thought this was a good way I could show my support for CSU and a good way to bring money to CSU without taking it away from other universities,” said bill sponsor Randy Fischer, a Fort Collins Democrat.

The funding comes from a state severance tax levied upon those who extract mineral resources from the state, such as oil and gas companies.

Rep. John Kefalas, a co-sponsor of the bill, also heaped glowing praise on the measure.

“It will benefit Fort Collins, CSU and our state of Colorado,” he said. “It brings money to the community.”

The WRRI is the statewide leader on several water issues, including legislation, climate and droughts.

“They’re doing the studies that impact everyday life,” said Patty Rettig, archivist for the CSU Water Resources Archives, which partners with the WRRI. “This is the only one being recognized as being the coordinator for research statewide.”

Every state has its water resources archive. Colorado’s is located at CSU.

Although encouraged by the bipartisan support the bill nabbed, backers warn that it’s got a long way to go before the funding is secure.

The legislation still has to hurdle through the Appropriations Committee and Senate and get the governor’s signature before becoming a law.

Although Fischer doesn’t expect any human opposition to the funding, he does anticipate at least one potential roadblock in the future: the possible depletion of the severance fund.

Some say the fund is running out, and if it does, then funding for the WRRI is in jeopardy, Fischer said. But the state’s fiscal situation will be examined more closely in March, and legislators will have a better understanding of the funding picture then.

The legislation was amended today to extend funding for only two years from five originally, but Fischer was OK with that because of the lack of reliability on the severance tax fund.

If the bill is shot down during the process, then the amount of research the institute conducts would be severely gutted, Fischer said.

But what was most encouraging, he said, was that members of the finance committee recommended more funding for the bill.

“I’m hoping that when it gets to the appropriations process, we may be able to increase funding,” Fischer said.

Another boon to CSU is that the current bill allows up to $100,000 per year to be spent on administrative needs of the institute, including travel expenses, employee salaries, outreach and the like. Previous funding hasn’t included administrative costs.

“In order to be able to transfer the technology that comes out of the research, that’s expensive,” Fischer said.

“We don’t want to just do research and have it sit on the shelf. We want to take the next step of sending it out into the field. This is the step that we need to take to make sure the research is not just academic, but that it’s put to practical use.”

Managing Editor Vimal Patel can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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