Theo Stein: ‘Water is a private right in Colorado, so the state cannot propose specific concepts’

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From the Circle of Blue Water News (Brett Walton):

Colorado’s potential water demand from a proposed water pipeline originating in Wyoming is 50 percent more than the amount proposed for delivery, according to documents submitted yesterday to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…

Meanwhile, Colorado officials are taking a hands-off approach. “Water is a private right in Colorado, so the state cannot propose specific concepts. A developer needs to come along to put forward those ideas,” Theo Stein of the Colorado Water Conservation Board told Circle of Blue.

Million’s pipeline is one of two proposals for developing the water in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition, led by Frank Jaeger of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, is a group of municipal suppliers also looking to deliver water to users in both states.

The Army Corps will hold meetings through late 2010 to gauge stakeholder opinion. A draft environmental impact statement will be available in 2012 and a final report is tentatively scheduled to be released in 2014.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

SB 10-052: Alter Designated Groundwater Basin Area

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From The Sterling Journal Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

[SB 10-052: Concerning the Ability of the Groundwater Commision to
Alter the Boundaries of a Designated Groundwater Basin] is sponsored by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison. Brophy said this week that SB 52 is designed to provide assurance for people who own large capacity ground water wells that those wells cannot be pulled out of the designated basin area. Under SB 52, the Ground Water Commission, which manages the eight designated basins along the Eastern Plains and the Front Range, could revise the basin’s boundaries to remove previously included areas only if the area does not include wells that have had final permits issued. Brophy said that in 40 years since the boundaries were designated, no one has challenged either the maps or the engineering. Without changes in the law, “the risk is a [surface] water user would sue and pull your well out and shut it down.” If SB 52 is signed into law, “you will know the wells are safe and the banks who lend you money for the wells will know they are safe,” Brophy said.

Michael Shimmin, a Boulder water rights attorney who represents water management districts within one of the basin areas and the ground water commission, testified Thursday that there are more than 7,000 high capacity wells in the eight basins. They provide irrigation for agricultural uses and serve industrial or municipal uses. Ground water is the only water source available and there is no meaningful connection to surface water, Shimmin said. The need for SB 52 is based on whether the decision to create these designated basins was ever final. Shimmin said that in 2006 the Colorado Supreme Court interpreted state law to say that they were never final — the commission could always come back and either add to or subtract from the boundaries. That case, Gallegos v. Colorado Ground Water Commission, is currently awaiting a final outcome in court. The bill exempts any lawsuit that was in place as of Jan. 1, 2010 and would exempt the Gallegos case, according to Shimmin.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

South Platte River Basin: Redhill Forest to drill new supply wells

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From The Fairplay Flume (Mike Potter):

The subdivision has looked at buying water from the town of Fairplay. Now it is looking at drilling permanent wells away from the subdivision that would provide clean water, and a site has been found. Curt Sayer, president of the Redhill Forest Property Owners Mutual Water and Cattle Association, said that two test wells were drilled near the Middle Fork of the South Platte River near Colorado Highway 9 that could provide water free of radium. “The new water plant is going to be a sweetheart plant,” he said. “We’re not going to have to remove any radioactive materials, making it far less expensive to operate than our old water plant.” The current plant costs around $180,000 per year to operate. The new facility would cost an estimated $50,000 per year to operate. In August 2008, The Flume reported that there were 580 lots in the subdivision and 150 of them were getting water. At that time there were 80 homes built in the subdivision, half of which were occupied full-time.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

SB 10-078: Facilitate reuse of municipal effluent

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“There’s no way to know what this might do and what mischief it could cause,” attorney Peter Nichols told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “It looks like they could avoid court. This has the potential to change the place of use or the timing of use.”

The bill [SB78: Concerning the Use of Reusable Effluent That Has Been
Discharged Bact to a Water Body From a Domestic Wastewater Facility After Being Put To Beneficial Use] is sponsored by Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, and would allow cities that can measure the return flows from transmountain or fully consumable native water to reuse them — either by exchange or other means — without a trip to water court. Cities already have the right to reuse water “to extinction” when it is brought into the basin or when the consumptive use of crops on agricultural land is removed for municipal use. The cities, however, have to gain water court approval for how that water is used. This gives other water right owners the opportunity to assess whether the plan to reuse the return flows would injure their own ability to take water. The bill, as it is now written, places the responsibility of monitoring the measurement of return flows on the state engineer and does not mention water quality.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Cracks in the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority?

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

At the group’s Jan. 20 meeting, Cherokee Metropolitan District general manager Kip Petersen said Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District’s filing for an exchange plan for water in the Lower Arkansas Valley and a letter sent to Aaron Million expressing interest in his project came as surprises to him. Million, a Colorado entrepreneur, is working on a privately studied, built and funded project to pipe water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah and Wyoming to areas along the Front Range. The exchange plan filing came as a surprise to several members of the authority and some thought it could hurt the group’s negotiations with projects it is looking at to potentially provide the area with renewable water. “I’m pretty sure that’s hurt our credibility with the Super Ditch people,” Petersen said.

More Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority coverage here.

Grand Junction: NWF climate change forum recap

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

“In the longer term, would I want my kids to get into the river outfitting business? No, because eventually we’re not going to have the water, we’re not going to have the experience to give our guests,” said Murphy, manager of Rock Gardens Rafting. From rafting, to skiing, to hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching, Colorado’s recreation industries face a changing future because of a changing climate, speakers said Thursday night at a Glenwood Springs forum presented by the National Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups.

More climate change coverage here and here.

State Senator Bruce Whitehead plans to introduce legislation to increase reporting requirements for conservation measures

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Ben Fornell):

As a man whose resume over the past 25 years is almost exclusively focused on water issues, the state senator from Southwest Colorado has several conservation measures on his mind. One bill he has agreed to sponsor will increase reporting requirements for water conservation measures, creating a system that will make the data more accessible to the public. “Conservation is important to Colorado and the use of its water,” Whitehead said.

More conservation coverage here.

R.I.P. Charlie Meyers

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I missed this remembrance of Charlie Meyers from Charles Gauvin: President and CEO, Trout Unlimited. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

One of Charlie’s last wishes was unexpected gift – he asked that donations in his name be given to Colorado Trout Unlimited. Even in death, Charlie Meyers still put conservation first.

Snowpack news: Nearly 3 feet of new snow sitting on the San Juans

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Both U.S. 160 on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass and Colorado 17 over Cumbres and La Manga were closed all day. U.S. 285 south of Antonito at the New Mexico state line was also closed at the start of the day, although it would later reopen…

By Friday morning, 31 inches of snow had fallen at Creede. “Mama said there’d be days like this,” Town Manager Clyde Dooley said. Work crews were plowing there by 3:30 a.m., attacking drifts that had piled as high as 39 inches in spots. By 2 p.m. the town of South Fork had roughly 20 inches of snow on the ground…

While tough on drivers, the snowfall boosted the mountains’ snowpack. The Natural Resource Conservation Service’s gauges in the upper Rio Grande basin reported snow-water equivalent at 103 percent of average, up by 20 points from just a week ago. Gauges in the Sangre de Cristos reported the snow-water equivalent at 92 percent of average, up from 78 percent last week.

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict). From the article:

“We’ve received 11.2 inches (of snow) for all the storms that have happened in the whole week,” said local weather observer Jim Andrus. “It has been pretty impressive.” The winter weather has given the area a head start on moisture for the year, providing 1.31 inches of liquid precipitation, 130 percent of normal for the month, according to Andrus.

I can’t help posting this line from the Cortez Journal: “If you have deer near your home, chances are you also have mountain lions.” You see, it’s winter down there and the deer have been in the old orchards lazing around eating well and now the lions are eating well.

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Shane Benjamin):

The snow began flying Monday evening and continued for four consecutive days with periodic interruptions. A total of three storms passed through the region with 12- to 18-hour breaks between each one. As of Friday morning, Durango had received 35 inches over the preceding four days. As of Friday afternoon, Pagosa Springs reported 31.3 inches, Durango West II subdivision 39.7 inches, and Wolf Creek Pass 48 inches. The 35 inches is also Durango’s total for January, which is more than twice the average January snowfall of 16.9 inches…

Four of the five major mountain passes in Southwest Colorado – Coal Bank, Molas, Red Mountain and Wolf Creek – closed Thursday night and remained closed Friday evening. Lizard Head pass closed Thursday night and reopened Friday night. Cumbres and La Manga passes also were closed, preventing drivers from taking an alternate route through New Mexico.

Southern Delivery System: Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District green lights project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The approval by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District came after two hours of discussion by the board on the adequacy of stormwater controls in Colorado Springs after a city council decision last month to disband the stormwater enterprise. “I would be embarrassed to be in a city of your size to let a politician or two misinform the public,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, who was elected chairman of the district board Friday. “You’re letting a few people in the community drive you in the wrong direction.” Chostner was referring to Doug Bruce, sponsor of Issue 300 — a November ballot proposal that led to the demise of the stormwater enterprise…

Richard Skorman, a former Colorado Springs City Councilman and an aide to former Sen. Ken Salazar when the Fountain Creek Crown Jewel project was launched, was even more blunt. “I want to apologize to Pueblo and our neighbors in Southern Colorado. I’m ashamed of what we’ve done,” Skorman said. “If it was June of 1999 (immediately after a large flood), the vote would have been 2-1 in favor of the stormwater enterprise.”

The Fountain Creek board voted unanimously to approve five separate requests from Colorado Springs Utilities, attaching conditions from its advisory committees. The technical advisory committee asked for detailed site development plans for the parts of the project that will be built in the Fountain Creek flood plain. The committee also wants the district to monitor the adaptive management plan required for the project by the Bureau of Reclamation. Colorado Springs plans to tunnel up to 30 feet deep under Interstate 25, railroad tracks and Fountain Creek when it crosses the creek with its pipeline just south of Pikes Peak International Raceway, said Keith Riley, permits manager for SDS. The citizens advisory committee also asked the board to include Condition 23 of the Pueblo County 1041 permit, which requires stormwater management in Colorado Springs. Utilities officials pledged to abide by the condition, but questioned why the district wants to duplicate Pueblo County’s effort. “Serving two masters is problematic,” said John Fredell, SDS project director.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

HB 10-1159: Mitigation for water exports

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In [HB 10-1159 Concerning the Water Court’s Authority to Consider Conditions in Decrees to Address the Effects of a Water Export Across Water Division Boundaries], Pace seeks to require mitigation agreements between communities giving up water (often rural) and those that are taking it through transport (generally urban). The agreements proposed by Pace would address both economic and ecological factors. If the water districts involved in a transfer could not reach an agreement, a judge in water court would set the terms. “It’s a carrot-and-stick approach that I’m proposing,” Pace said. “The carrot is the ability for urban and rural areas to work together collectively on mitigation agreements. The stick would be the provision for judges to apply mitigation when a compromise can’t be reached.”

Pace’s bill also calls for community meetings where citizens could express their positions on transfer agreements, something that doesn’t happen now. “The only individuals who have any standing in water court now are those with senior water rights who can show (economic) injury,” Pace said. “This bill would for the first time give communities a voice.”

More 2010 Colorado Legislation coverage here.