2019 #COleg: HB19-1327 (Authorize And Tax Sports Betting Refer Under Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights) is a “good bet” — @EnvDefenseFund

Burned forests shed soot and burned debris that darken the snow surface and accerlerate snowmelt for years following fire. Photo credit: Nathan Chellman/DRI

From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):

The Colorado Legislature approved a bill [May 3, 2019] for a measure to legalize sports betting and dedicate a 10% tax on net profits to protect and conserve our state’s water. The measure will go to voters for approval this fall.

The bill enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support, clearing the House in a 58-6 vote and the Senate in a 27-8 vote. Environmental Defense Fund was a key member of a large, diverse coalition of supporters of the bill, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Water, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.

Colorado is one of several states considering a sports betting tax since a Supreme Court decision last year gave states such authority.

“Colorado leaders are making a safe bet to ensure a more resilient future for our thriving communities, agriculture, businesses, recreation and wildlife. We are hopeful voters will recognize the urgent need to protect our most precious resource, water, and that this measure will be a slam dunk at the ballot box this fall.”

From the Environmental Defense Fund (Brian Jackson):

Here’s a pop quiz: What are two finite resources in the West?

If you answered money and water, you win. This is especially true when it comes to money for water in the state of Colorado, where hurdles for raising new funds are particularly high.

It’s a rare opportunity when new money bubbles up for water projects in the Centennial State. But that is exactly what is happening as a result of a bill approved this week with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature.

The bill, HB 1327, proposes to raise new money to protect and conserve water in Colorado by legalizing sports betting and imposing a 10% tax on its revenue. But legislative approval isn’t the final play. State legislators are handing off the measure to voters for a final decision at the ballot box this fall.

Down payment on much larger need

The measure could raise roughly $10 million to $20 million a year – a down payment on the $100 million that Colorado’s Water Plan is estimated to need annually for the next 30 years to secure the state’s water into the future. Colorado’s population is projected to double by 2050. But at current usage rates, the state’s water supply will not keep up unless Colorado establishes a dedicated public funding source to protect it.

Since the water plan was developed in 2015, Environmental Defense Fund and partners have been looking for creative ways to fund and implement it. Nearly a year ago, a Supreme Court ruling authorized states to legalize sports betting. Since then, 40 states and the District of Columbia have proposed or enacted laws to legalize, study or regulate sports betting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Deep bench

EDF has been a key player on a large, diverse team of supporters of the Colorado measure, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado River District, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver Water, Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates.

Revenue would go to a Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund governed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to support a variety of water projects, including conservation, river health, storage, water education and outreach.

Funds from the measure would make an immediate impact across the state. For instance, in Durango, $500,000 would fund the first phase of restoration of the watershed damaged in the 416 fire, which burned 54,000 acres of mostly Forest Service lands last year. Steamboat Springs could begin a $4 million floodplain restoration. Both projects would protect vulnerable water supplies.

@ASU awarded NASA grant for study on Colorado River water management

Dust streaming across Four Corners April 29, 2009 via MODIS

Here’s the release from Arizona State University (Karin Valentine):

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Arizona State University has received a $1 million grant from NASA’s Earth Science Division to provide long-range scenarios for water management for the Colorado River Basin.

“Water management is a pressing issue for Arizona,” said Enrique Vivoni, principal investigator of the project and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “This grant will assist in helping local, state and federal entities with their drought contingency planning.”

Arizona depends heavily on the Colorado River Basin, the drainage area of the Colorado River that includes parts of seven states in the U.S. and the country of Mexico and supplies the majority of the state’s current renewable water.

With this grant, the team will provide a comprehensive evaluation of climate and land-use changes and how these impact the Colorado River Basin. Data collection for the study will involve Earth-observing satellites as well as ground data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other entities.

The Colorado River is one of the most engineered watersheds in the world with three major tributaries and 10 major regulating reservoirs. In the U.S. and Mexico, the river supplies more than 40 million people with renewable water in nine states, 22 Native American nations and 22 national parks and refuges. It is also used to irrigate 5.5 million acres of agricultural land and to produce 4,180 MWh of hydroelectric power.

This crucial water resource is currently under threat from rising demands linked to population growth and economic activities, as well as declining amounts of available streamflow and reservoir storage.

“The focus on a major freshwater source in the Colorado River Basin and how it impacts stakeholders highlights how and where we want to target NASA Earth observations and science to meet our freshwater management challenges,” said Bradley Doorn of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Earth Science Division. “We are focusing on advancing the use of satellite observations and hydrologic modeling to monitor and assess local and regional water quality and quantity for improving water resource decisions.”

For this grant, ASU has partnered with Central Arizona Project (CAP), Arizona’s largest resource for renewable water supplies. CAP brings water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona via aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines.

Mohammed Mahmoud, a senior policy analyst at CAP and co-investigator on the grant team, will provide expertise on the Colorado River management system.

“The work produced by this project will be beneficial not only to CAP, but to many of our partners in the Colorado River Basin,” said Mahmoud. “We are fortunate to have been a selected recipient of this grant. This is a testament to the quality and importance of the work in the submitted proposal, which was made possible by our continued partnership with professor Vivoni and his team at ASU.”

In addition to Vivoni and Mahmoud, the interdisciplinary team includes ASU co-investigators Theodore Bohn of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Dave White of the School of Community Resources and Development and director of the Decision Center for a Desert City, Giuseppe Mascaro of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and graduate students Kristen Whitney of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Zhaocheng Wang of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

“If you don’t own a water right or rely on water for your paycheck, [water management] is usually an afterthought…Until it isn’t” — Nicole Seltzer

From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Nicole Seltzer):

Boring. Arcane. Those are words I hear when I ask people their opinions on water management. If you don’t own a water right or rely on water for your paycheck, it’s usually an afterthought in the grand scheme of things.

Until it isn’t.

Until there isn’t enough water in the river to bring in tourism dollars. Until low river levels mean ranchers without senior water rights must stop irrigating hay fields. Until water levels in Nevada’s Lake Powell go low enough to require all Colorado water users to send more water downstream. These realities are at the forefront for only a small percentage of people, but the rest of us will notice the ripple effects eventually.

One of the reasons I moved to Routt County a few years ago was the slow pace of change. Having witnessed 15 years of Front Range growth, I was ready to celebrate the value of maintaining the status quo. The Yampa River is healthy and hard working, and most water users don’t face imminent threats. But we can’t let the lack of an emergency blind us to a slow accumulation of changes that require good planning.

That’s why I am involved in helping the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable develop the first Integrated Water Management Plan for the Yampa River basin. The planning effort takes advantage of state grant dollars available for water planning. A coalition of Basin Roundtable members, local water agencies and NGO partners has raised over $500,000 to make progress on roundtable goals and build relationships with water users.

This plan will combine top-down and bottom-up tactics. The roundtable is currently hiring segment coordinators to meet with water users and other stakeholders to understand the opportunities they see and the challenges they face. They will also hire science and engineering experts to characterize existing conditions and identify future trends.

The outcome of the plan will be a prioritized list of actions that users can take to protect existing and future water uses and support healthy river ecosystems in the face of growing populations, changing land uses and climate uncertainty. The roundtable has its own grants to help fund implementation of those actions and will identify federal, state and local partners that can contribute as well.

The plan is just starting to take shape, and there will be ample opportunity for involvement. You can learn more at yampawhitegreen.com.

Nicole Seltzer is the science and policy manager for River Network, a national nonprofit that empowers and unites people and communities to protect and restore rivers. She lives in Oak Creek and now owns more irrigation boots than high heels.

Lower Dolores River will come alive with rapids for at least 10 days — The Cortez Journal

Ponderosa Gorge, Dolores River. Photo credit RiverSearch.com.

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga) via The Durango Herald:

A 10-day whitewater boating release is planned for the Dolores River below McPhee dam and reservoir, managers said this week.

The recreational water flows will be let out from Tuesday to May 30 and are scheduled to accommodate boaters over Memorial Day weekend.

“Timing the release early for the three-day holiday was a big interest for the boating community,” said Mike Preston, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

Beginning Tuesday, the managed “spill” will increase at a rate of 400 cubic feet per second per day to achieve a 1,200 cfs flow by the morning of May 24. The high flow will be maintained through May 27, then ramp down to 800 cfs through noon May 30. A gradual ramp down over a few days will follow.

However, the managed release is expected to continue after May 30, but to what extent has not yet been determined, water officials said.

Winter snowpack that reached 140% of normal is enough to fill McPhee Reservoir and provide the boating release below the dam. Recent cooler and rainy weather in Southwest Colorado has slowed the snowpack runoff, creating uncertainty about the final timing…

The inflow rate will depend on hard-to-predict temperatures and potential rain in the coming weeks. McPhee is expected to reach full capacity by mid-June, said district engineer Ken Curtis, and all irrigators will get a full supply for the season…

The 97-mile stretch of the Dolores River below the dam from Bradfield Bridge to Bedrock is revered by boaters for its challenging rapids and remote, red-rock canyon wilderness.

The three- to five-day Slick Rock-to-Bedrock section through winding Slick Rock Canyon offers a pristine river running experience. The 18-mile, one-day Ponderosa Gorge has convenient access and fills with locals and tourists when the river runs. No permit is required to boat the Dolores River.

Dolores River near Bedrock

The expert Snaggletooth Rapid is especially notorious for drenching boaters and occasionally flipping boats. A road along the river accessed from Dove Creek is a popular spot to spend the day watching boaters negotiate the wild hydraulics created by the rapid’s “fangs.”

[…]

Also this week, temperature suppression flows of 100 cfs were released from the dam to benefit the downstream native fishery. The strategy is to delay the spawning of the bluehead and flannelmouth suckers and roundtail chub until after the whitewater release.

Southeastern #Colorado farmers loving wet spring — The Pueblo Chieftain

Dan Hobbs farm planting sour cherry trees Avondale via Greg Hobbs.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

Winter snow and spring rain have chased drought conditions out of nearly all of Colorado and farmers are reveling in it by planting “every available acre,” as one Avondale farmer put it.

“It’s terrific. I’m putting in 14-hour days just trying to make use of all the water we’re getting right now,” said Dan Hobbs of Hobbs & Meyer Farms.

The federal US Drought Monitor shows the state virtually clear of any signs of drought except for a small strip in Southeastern Colorado, which is marked as [Abnormally Dry D0].

“This year, we’re chasing water instead,” Hobbs said. “My neighbors are planting every available acre they can find.”

Hobbs said one change he’s made is shifting to some historically durable varieties of wheat and barley, which are more resistant to grasshoppers.

The region has had three summers of bad grasshopper infestations, although Hobbs is expecting that to back off this year.

“Old-timers will tell you hoppers come in three-year cycles and that seems about right,” he said.

More snow and rain have had some drawbacks.

According to Aginfo.net, corn has been slower to emerge because of the cool and damp, and pasture land has been wet enough to keep farmers out of the fields on some days.

San Luis Valley potato growers reported a halt in planting earlier this spring because of wet conditions.

Statewide, the winter wheat is thriving, with 77 of the crop rated as excellent.

@USBR: Interior and states sign historic drought agreements to protect #ColoradoRiver #DCP #COriver #aridification

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke/Patti Aaron):

The Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and representatives from all seven Colorado River Basin states gathered today and signed completed drought contingency plans for the Upper and Lower Colorado River basins. These completed plans are designed to reduce risks from ongoing drought and protect the single most important water resource in the western United States.

“This is an historic accomplishment for the Colorado River Basin. Adopting consensus-based drought contingency plans represents the best path toward safeguarding the single most important water resource in the western United States,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “These agreements represent tremendous collaboration, coordination and compromise from each basin state, American Indian tribes, and even the nation of Mexico.”

In addition to the voluntary reductions and other measures to which the basin states agreed, Mexico has also agreed to participate in additional measures to protect the Colorado River Basin. Under a 2017 agreement, Minute 323 to the 1944 U.S. – Mexico Water Treaty, Mexico agreed to implement a Binational Water Scarcity Contingency Plan but only after the United States adopted the DCP.

The Colorado River, with its system of reservoirs and water conveyance infrastructure, supplies water for more than 40 million people and nearly 5.5 million acres of farmland across the western United States and Mexico. The reservoirs along the river have performed well—ensuring reliable and consistent water deliveries through even the driest years. But, after 20 years of drought, those reservoirs are showing increasing strain; Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two largest reservoirs on the system and in the United States, are only 39% and 41% full respectively. And, while the basin experienced above-average snowpack in 2019, the total system storage across the basin began the water year at just 47% full.

“The urgency for action in the basin is real, and I applaud all of the parties across the seven states and Mexico for coming together and reaching agreement to protect the Colorado River,” said Burman. “I’m glad to finally say that ‘done’ is done.”

From The Arizona Republic (Ian James):

The Colorado River just got a boost that’s likely to prevent its depleted reservoirs from bottoming out, at least for the next several years.

Representatives of seven Western states and the federal government signed a landmark deal on Monday laying out potential cuts in water deliveries through 2026 to reduce the risks of the river’s reservoirs hitting critically low levels.

Yet even as they celebrated the deal’s completion on a terrace overlooking Hoover Dam and drought-stricken Lake Mead, state and federal water officials acknowledged that tougher negotiations lie ahead. Their task starting next year will be to work out new rules to re-balance the chronically overused river for years to come.

Figuring out how to do that will be complicated because the Colorado River, which supplies water for vast farmlands and more than 40 million people, is managed under a nearly century-old system of allocations that draws out more than what flows in from rain and snow in an average year.

The river’s reservoirs have fallen since 2000 during one of the driest periods in centuries, and global warming is cranking up the pressures by contributing to the declines in the river’s flow.

“Look at all we have accomplished by working together,” said federal Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, who signed the agreements alongside the states’ representatives. “All the states should be commended for finding a path forward.”

She called the deal historic and said it adds an important new chapter to the rules that govern the river.

“But our work is not done,” Burman said. “We know we have even greater challenges ahead.”

Federal and state officials began talking about the need for a drought deal in 2013, and the negotiations got underway in 2015.

The set of agreements includes two separate but interrelated drought contingency plans: one for states in the river’s Upper Basin — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico — and the other for the Lower Basin states — Arizona, Nevada and California.

The drought plans are designed to prop up the levels of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the nation’s largest reservoirs, between 2020 and 2026. Lake Powell is now 40% full, and Lake Mead sits 41% full.

During the talks on the agreement last year, Lake Mead had appeared headed for a first-ever declaration of a shortage by the federal government. But this winter left the Rocky Mountains blanketed with heavy snow, unleashing a bounty of runoff that’s expected to avert a shortage for another year.

“One good year is helpful,” Burman said. “But it doesn’t fix a 19-year drought and it doesn’t do anything to predict for us what’s going to happen next.”

The audience of water managers and government officials broke into applause after the signing and posed for photos with the Hoover Dam, its low water levels starkly outlined, in the background.

Missing from the celebration was the largest single user of the Colorado River, California’ Imperial Irrigation District, which is suing to challenge the deal.

A new reality driven by global warming

Water managers and supporters of the deal have praised the Lower Basin’s Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, as “bridge solution” to get the region through the next several years until 2026 while reducing the risks of a crash. But they also stress that it’s merely a stopgap measure — a temporary fix on top of the existing 2007 guidelines for managing shortages — and that it will provide a short window of time to start to plan bigger steps.

“We’re in a moment where we’re going to take a pause and recognize the progress we’ve made. But I think it needs to be a short pause so that we get working on the renegotiation of the guidelines,” said Kevin Moran, who leads the Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado River program. “I think it’s in everyone’s interest that we move those conversations as quickly as possible forward.”

[…]

When water officials finished negotiating the last set of rules for dealing with a potential shortage in 2007, they had expected those rules to work through 2026. But only halfway through that period, they realized the measures weren’t nearly strong enough. And that forced them to negotiate the new set of drought agreements to finish off the period…

Adapting that system to a hotter planet, Moran said, will require posing tougher questions and looking at ways of boosting conservation and managing demand for water across the Colorado River Basin.

“The modeling looking forward would say we probably ought to be planning for somewhere between 15 and 35% additional reduction in flows driven by climate change,” Moran said. He said climate models present an outlook that is “very dire” and demands action…

A shortage is unlikely next year

Cynthia Campbell, a water adviser for Phoenix, said the challenges that lie ahead for negotiators are sobering.

“They know that they have a daunting task ahead of them, beginning in 2020, to try to come up with new operating rules that are going to keep us sustainable further into the 21st century,” Campbell said. “When they come back, Arizona is certainly going to be on the business end of cuts.”

There’s no way around that, she said, because the state holds the junior-most position in the water priority system. Under the framework that emerges from the next round of negotiations, she said, the state will probably face bigger reductions during a shortage than under the newly signed drought plan.

The latest projections by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation show that in 2020 it’s unlikely a shortage will be declared at Lake Mead. The reservoir’s level now stands at 1,088 feet above sea level, about 13 feet higher than the threshold that would trigger a shortage declaration…

Critics: Arizona plan is not sustainable

Arizona water officials have called the state’s internal plan a landmark consensus agreement that effectively “shares the pain” and will address the water shortfall for the next several years.

But Arizona’s plan has also drawn criticism.

Some experts and environmentalists are concerned about the plan’s promotion of more groundwater pumping in parts of the state. They say using state money to drill more wells in Pinal County will only lead to declining aquifers. They also argue the state missed an opportunity to do more to encourage conservation.

“It is positive that the Colorado River basin states are looking at cutting back on river water use, but it is unfortunate that our state has chosen to augment the river water with more groundwater pumping,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Sadly, the Arizona plan is not sustainable and is designed to keep Arizona doing more of the same — unsustainable and thirsty agriculture and more and more sprawl development.”

She said looking past 2026, all the states should consider the river’s long-term water deficit, the effects of climate change, and how to do more for conservation while considering the health of the river.

“It is way past time for a Colorado River sustainability plan that centers on a healthy river that flows all the way to the sea and that provides for people, plants, and animals along the way,” Bahr said. “There is not time for patting ourselves on the back. We need to do more, now.”

In the meantime, even as the drought has eased across the West with the wet winter, concerns remain that the 19-year run of mostly dry years could continue. Earlier this month, a group of experts in a state advisory group recommended to Gov. Doug Ducey that a declaration of drought in Arizona should remain in effect.

Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, called the Drought Contingency Plan “a huge incremental step forward.”

“It sets us up to have good conversations about what we need to do to deal with the projections of our drier future, climate change forcing reductions in flow, etcetera,” Buschatzke said. Discussions on the next round of plans should start soon in Arizona, he said, because “keeping the momentum going is really important.”

Update: May 21, 2019

From Inkstain (John Fleck):

Now that we have a DCP, what does this mean in practice?

According to the most recent Bureau of Reclamation 24-month study, Lake Mead is projected to end 2019 at elevation ~1,085 feet above sea level. Prior to the DCP, Lower Basin water users (Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California) got a full allocation of water as long as Lake Mead’s elevation was above 1,075. Under the DCP, a new shortage tier has been added between elevations 1,090 and 1,075. The result is that, for the first time in the history of Colorado River management, there will now be mandatory water use reductions on the Colorado River.

What does this mean in practice? I ran down a quick summary this morning of the relevant data, comparing recent use with the cuts mandated under the DCP. It shows that, at this first tier of shortage, permitted use is less than the voluntary cuts water users have been making since 2015:

In other words, all of the states are already using less water than contemplated in this first tier of DCP reductions.

CU asks city to consider different CU Boulder South flood mitigation plan — CU Boulder News

Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

From CU Boulder Today:

CU Boulder today asked the Boulder City Council to consider a flood mitigation option that would support both the community’s life safety needs and the university’s need to use a reasonable amount of its CU Boulder South property in the future to meet its mission to serve Colorado.

In a letter to council members (PDF), the university recommended that Boulder refrain from further investing in Variant I – 500, a flood mitigation option that would curtail the university’s future ability to develop its CU Boulder South property. Located at U.S. 36 and Table Mesa Drive, the 308-acre parcel of university-owned land is under consideration for annexation into the Boulder city limits.

CU Boulder has recommended that the city seriously consider another plan—Variant II – 500—which was previously recommended by the city’s Water Resource Advisory Board and experts hired by the city.

If the university and city reach agreement on annexation terms, CU Boulder would use the property in the future to develop limited academic buildings and housing for faculty, staff, upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students. Other planned uses include recreation fields, expanded hiking and biking trails and other value-added features for the Boulder and university communities.

In all, CU Boulder is seeking to develop just 129 acres of the site designated as public use in the most recent Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan update, while 30 acres would be used for recreation fields. The university would donate 80 acres to the city for flood mitigation, with the balance remaining undeveloped.

Arriving at a mutually acceptable flood mitigation plan for the land is key to the agreement between the university and the city after years of ongoing discussions. In order to make progress in the negotiation process, city officials in November asked CU to submit an annexation application ahead of schedule. CU complied by filing an annexation application on Feb. 4.

The next day, city officials decided to move forward with a flood mitigation plan known as Variant I – 500, the only proposed flood mitigation plan among several considered by the city that the university repeatedly has said it cannot accept.

If the city moves forward with Variant 1 – 500, the university would not be able to develop the entire 129 acres allocated for public use on its own property, said Frances Draper, CU Boulder’s vice chancellor for strategic relations and communications.

“The university is dedicated to working with the city, and local residents whose homes are in the floodplain to achieve safety,” Draper said. “At the same time, we must be good stewards of the university’s resources for the benefit of the state of Colorado, to educate students and engage in research. The university has offered significant community benefits while striking a good balance to achieve effective use of this site to serve the needs of students in the coming decades.”

Despite its objection to the city’s intent to pursue Variant I – 500, CU worked to create a path forward in its annexation application by offering three options that would make it possible for CU to work with the city’s chosen flood mitigation plan.

However, in a March 28 response, the city made it clear none of CU Boulder’s alternatives would be feasible, precipitating the university’s response for a study session and further discussions.