Water is top priority from Coram, Catlin — The Cortez Jounal

Colorado Capitol building
Colorado Capitol building

From The Cortez Journal (Jacob Klopfenstein) via The Pine River Times:

Speaking to an agriculture group this month in Cortez, state legislators Don Coram and Marc Catlin said they’re prepared to help farmer and ranchers from Colorado’s Capitol.

“The basis of this state and of this area is agriculture,” Catlin told members of the Southwest Colorado Livestock Association. “I’m a believer in that. I’ll do everything I can for agriculture.”

The livestock association held its annual meeting Feb. 11 at the Cortez Elks Lodge. Local, state and federal elected officials also spoke at the meeting, including Montezuma County commissioners and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.

Coram, R-Montrose, represents Senate District 6, which covers Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Dolores, Montezuma, La Plata, San Juan and Archuleta counties. He took over the seat from Republican Ellen Roberts, of Durango, who resigned in October.

Rep. Catlin, R-Montrose, took over Coram’s seat in House District 58, which covers Montrose, San Miguel, Dolores and Montezuma counties. He has experience as a water manager in Montrose County, he said.

Both Coram and Catlin said water on the Western Slope will be a major focus for their tenures in the legislature.

Coram introduced SB 36, a bill that would change the appeals process for groundwater court cases, in January. It passed the Senate on third reading Feb. 14 and will be referred to the House. The bill would disallow parties from introducing new evidence during an appeal that was not presented in the original case.

Coram said he has talked with some farming and ranching families that have spent lots of money paying water engineers and attorneys to resolve such cases.

The senator said legislators will have to work harder to store more water and keep it in Colorado. He said he will be traveling around the state to try to come up with funding solutions for water storage projects…

Catlin said there is a divide between how the western and eastern Colorado think about water. Agriculture operations on the Western Slope should be prioritized over cities and towns on the other side of the mountains when it comes to water, he said.

Agriculture doesn’t get enough attention from people in the state as other industries, such as tourism, Catlin added.

“Agriculture is the No. 2 industry in the state, and it sure doesn’t get much talk,” he said. “The only time they talk about us is when we have a crop failure and it’s going to affect main street.”

Coram also said he would advocate for hemp development. Currently outlawed at the federal level but legal in Colorado, hemp production is limited.

Coram touted the crop’s potential, saying it could become a viable crop and have a huge impact in Colorado.

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners establish water enterprise

mountmassivegolfcoursegolfcolorado

From The Leadville Herald (Ryan Fitzmaurice):

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners officially established a water enterprise during a regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3, allowing it to secure the county’s water deal with the Mount Massive Golf Course.

The two motions were pushed through Tuesday because it was Bruce Hix and Michael Bordogna’s last meeting as county commissioners, and there were worries about conflicts of interest related to the water enterprise for both incoming commissioners, Mark Glenn and Sarah Mudge.

The water enterprise serves as the legal mechanism from which the county can lease water to entities such as the golf course.

There are only two uses for which the county can lease water currently – to cover the evaporative loss of Hayden pond, and to help supply water the golf course.

Bordogna said the county expects there to be much greater use in the future due to further development in the county.

The county may return funds to the general fund from the enterprise, but may not take loans that are outside of current statutory loans to fund it.

The county will also be unable to levy taxes to create the water enterprise.

Rural fire districts receive fire fighting funds — @DouglasCountyCO

douglascounty

Here’s the release from Douglas County:

Five rural Douglas County fire protection districts that respond to incidents in the Pike National Forest area received needed funds to help them manage wildland fires, medical emergencies or structure fires.

These five fire districts were awarded $100,000 in federal funds by the Board of Douglas County Commissioners. The districts will use the money over the course of the year to update wildland fire equipment, purchase new rescue equipment, pay for training and improve their communication mechanisms.

“Volunteers and staff from these fire districts are often the first responders on an incident in the Pike National Forest,” said Douglas County Commissioner and Board Chair Roger Partridge. “Consistent with the Board of County Commissioners Public Safety priority, we work in partnership with these districts as we prepare for and respond to incidents within Douglas County. We recognize how important this funding is to their ability to protect and serve.”

Money was distributed to the five agencies, based on the number of calls they made during the year, at an average of $675 per call. Awards were as follows:

  • Jackson 105 Fire Protection District: $21,620 (32 calls)
  • Larkspur Fire Protection District: $4,745 (7 calls)
  • Mountain Communities Volunteer Fire Protection District: $29,045 (43 calls)
  • North Fork Fire Protection District: $22,295 (33 calls)
  • West Douglas Fire Protection District: $22,295 (33 calls)
  • Douglas County — like many other local governments that have non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries — receives a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) annually from the federal government to help offset losses in property taxes spent on the utilization of County services on non-taxable federal lands.

    Beginning in 2002, Douglas County designated a portion of its PILT money to provide supplemental funding for the five rural fire districts.

    Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin precip. A-OK so far #COriver

    Water Supply Forecast Colorado River Basin February 18, 2017. Credit Colorado River Forecast Center
    Water Supply Forecast Colorado River Basin February 18, 2017. Credit Colorado River Forecast Center

    From The Los Angeles Times (William Yardley):

    …there is one place where the precipitation has been particularly welcome and could be transformative: the Colorado River basin, which provides water to nearly 40 million people across seven states.

    “We’re in a really good spot as far as snow accumulations,” said Malcolm Wilson, who leads the Bureau of Reclamation’s water resources group in the upper Colorado River basin.

    Under federal guidelines that kick in when water flows reach certain volumes, the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the river basin’s largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, could release enough water from the former to raise the elevation of the latter by 20 feet or more — providing a remarkable shot in the arm for a lake that has been declining steadily during a devastating drought that started in 2000.

    The process — lowering one reservoir to lift another — is called equalization, and a few weeks ago, it was not even viewed as a viable option. Now, Wilson said, “It’s in the realm of possibility.”

    Even if that optimistic scenario does not play out — the region would need several more weeks of strong precipitation without a substantial warmup — there is still reason to savor a moment of relief on the Colorado…

    As of last month, the bureau was forecasting about a 50% chance that, for the first time, the river and its reservoirs would not be able to fulfill the water demands of states that rely on it, beginning in 2018.

    But this week, the bureau quietly updated that forecast, saying the chance was only about 34%. By the end of this year, it expects Lake Mead to be at least 3 feet above the threshold at which an official “shortage” would be declared.

    Not only that, the bureau said the likelihood of a shortage through 2021 is no greater than 33%. Just a few weeks ago, the chances of shortages in that time frame were about 60%.

    Rio Grande Reservoir outlet works project update

    Rio Grande Reservoir
    Rio Grande Reservoir

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

    The reservoir’s outlet experiences what Smith calls a “hydraulic jump” because of a design flaw that allows air to surge along the ceiling of the tunnel. “It’s kind of a coke bottle affect,” said Smith, who also represents the Rio Grande basin on the conservation board. That flaw has limited the amount of water that can be released from the reservoir during periods of high inflows to 1,200 cubic feet per second. Smith hopes the repairs will boost that figure to between 1,800 CFS and 2,000 CFS. State lawmakers initially approved other repairs to the reservoir as part of the $30 million Rio Grande Cooperative Project in 2012. The current proposal would add another $10 million to that initial approval, although lawmakers would decide how much of that amount is grant or a loan…

    Smith sees that cooperation between privately-owned irrigation reservoirs and other interests on the river as a model for advancing water projects.

    The reservoir’s main purpose is to deliver irrigation water to just 62,000 acres of farm ground in the north end of the San Luis Valley. With a capacity of 54,000 acre-feet, it is one of only three reservoirs with significant capacity upstream from where diversions begin to pull from the river for agriculture. That means it plays an important role in replacing depletions on lower reaches of the river caused by groundwater pumping on the valley floor.

    Pueblo West contracts for 6,000 acre-feet of storage in Lake Pueblo

    Pueblo West
    Pueblo West

    From The Pueblo West View (Kristen M. White):

    Pueblo West will have the right to store water in Pueblo Reservoir in the future, should the storage be needed, after the Metropolitan District agreed to enter into a subcontract with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

    The master plan contract is between the Bureau of Reclamation and the water district, and Pueblo West now has a subcontract with water district for its storage rights.

    The contract allows Pueblo West to begin paying for 10 acre feet, at the starting rate of $40.04 per acre foot of water, in 2017. But the contract gives Pueblo West the ability to store as much as 6,000 acre feet of water in the future should the storage ability be necessary.