6KPVI: Carbon County votes yes on natural resources referendum
A referendum to preserve Carbon County’s natural resources for generations to come is in the hands of the commissioners after voters cast 21,014 yes votes Tuesday in favor of Water Quality, Working Farms, and Wildlife Habitat Protection.
There were 4,394 no votes.
The non-binding referendum on Tuesday’s ballot asked voters to protect drinking water sources, the water quality of rivers, lakes and streams; working farms; wildlife habitats and natural areas. It allows the county to borrow up to $10 million over 20 years toward those goals.
Dan Kunkle, with Carbon County Citizens for Water, Farms and Land, called the 82.71% approval overwhelming.
“It was a big success,” he said Wednesday. “Thanks to everyone who made this happen.”
He said the grassroots campaign crisscrossed the county and conducted a media campaign.
“We’ve been saying for the last nine months people of Carbon County love their natural resources,” Kunkle said.
But the referendum still needs the approval of county Commissioners Rocky Ahner, Chris Lukasevich and Wayne E. Nothstein. Lukasevich issued a statement Wednesday in which he said voters have issued “a clear mandate to make the necessary financial investment to preserve it proactively.”
He said the next step is to consider “composition of an advisory board and consulting with the board’s financial adviser on seeking bond counsel for an eventual bond issuance.”
Kunkle, calling it a “resounding mandate,” is optimistic about what the commissioners will do.
“They had the foresight to think of this and put it on the ballot,” he said. “I’m hopeful they will establish the program.”
Funds would help the Agricultural Preservation Board, the county, municipalities and nonprofit land preservation groups buy land to protect water quality, working farms and wildlife habitat. The funds could only be used for those purposes and would leverage additional funds from federal, state and private sources. This will mean that the $10 million invested would result in $20 million or more for protecting water, farms and land in the county.
It would cost the average Carbon County property owner an additional $1.80 per month or $22 a year in taxes.