How can the Arkansas Valley keep agriculture along the Bessemer Ditch now the the Pueblo Board of Water Works is the largest water rights holder on the ditch?

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“There needs to be strong incentives to preserve agriculture,” [Mike Bartolo, a small farmer on the Bessemer Ditch] said. That could mean new crops, new ways of sharing water or new uses for crops, such as biofuels, he said…

Using the models, which broadly project effects under uncertain scenarios, Bartolo wants to find out if the crop mix on the Bessemer Ditch could be changed in the future to benefit Pueblo. “We’re looking at what happens when you change the crop mix. For instance, growing canola to make biodiesel for the Pueblo transportation system,” Bartolo said. “We’ve got to have alternatives to prevent buy-and-dry, and look at new partnerships. The city could look at the ag industry as getting a new Vestas plant. It could have that kind of economic impact.”

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

HB 10-1188 — Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right moves on for final reading

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From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The Colorado House approved House Bill 10-1188 on a voice vote Friday to clarify that commercial rafting companies have the right to float down a historically run stretch of river, even if they have incidental contact with rocks and the river banks, and that they have the right to portage across private property to avoid hazardous obstacles in the river. Third and final reading of the bill is expected to take place on Monday…

The House chamber was lively during the debate Friday on HB 10-1188, and several members made jokes, including a quip about people who portage frequently needing a “porta-potty” and a proposed amendment with a reference to the controversial abortion decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. The joke was relevant to the debate, however, as it begs the question of whether wading fishermen would have the same rights to a river as rowing boaters. The amendment, which was withdrawn when the laughter died down, said “if you have the opportunity to row, you have the opportunity to wade.”

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

SB 10-115: Facilities May Donate Unused Medications

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From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Senate Bill 115, which would allow facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals to donate unused — but still good — medications to nonprofit organizations such as Project CURE or Doctors Without Borders or to redispense the drugs to needy patients in Colorado.

[SB 10-115] (pdf), co-sponsored by Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, and Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, passed unanimously in the Senate and is awaiting a hearing in the House. If approved, the bill would allow a licensed health care facility to redispense or donate unused medications without getting permission from a patient’s family member. The law would allow the unused medications to be given to another patient in the facility or to be donated to a nonprofit serving disaster victims. All donations to a nonprofit, say the lawmakers, are to be reviewed by a licensed pharmacist. However, some drugs could not be redistributed, such as narcotics, medications removed from their original packaging and dispensed in child-resistant “amber” bottles, and medications that need refrigeration.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

La Junta area water providers plan further discussions around forming a regional water authority

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Dave Vickers):

Area water providers will meet Tuesday evening at Otero Junior College to take the discussion of forming a regional water authority to the next level. The meeting will run from 6 to 8 p.m. and be hosted by Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Bill Hancock, conservation program manager for LAVWCD, conducted a similar meeting in Lamar recently with water providers in that area. But there are 27 separate water providers in Otero County alone, necessitating a meeting of representatives from those companies on the west end of the Lower Arkansas Valley…

Significant changes have occurred in the Lower Arkansas Valley in the past year that will make a regional authority necessary if water systems are going to be improved. Not only do water users in the valley want improvements in the supply of water, they also know that quality of drinking water must be improved to meet safe standards. These changes have included federal funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit project, a pipeline to improve water quantity and quality in the Lower Arkansas Valley, and the emergence of the Super Ditch consortium, which has been developed to help farmers utilize their water rights to a higher degree without selling outright to thirsty cities along the Front Range.

But the third significant development has been the focus on CO-RADS, or radionuclides in the drinking water supplies. Most of the drinking water in Southeastern Colorado contains radionuclides, a byproduct of naturally occurring uranium deposits in the valley. Health officials now believe long-term exposure to uranium in drinking water might cause toxic effects to the kidney, and can lead to cancer. Tuesday night’s meeting will have experts from the state health department, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, LAVWCD and Otero County who can address the ongoing efforts to deal with CO-RADS and demands of the EPA.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Englewood, Littleton, Sheridan and Arapahoe County, Tri-Cities meeting recap

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From the Englewood Herald (Tom Munds):

Jeff Shoemaker, chairman of the foundation, talked about the work of the organization to representatives of Englewood, Littleton, Sheridan and Arapahoe County at the Feb. 5 Tri-Cities meeting. Since the foundation was formed in 1974, it has overseen an estimated $100 million in environmental, aquatic, recreational and open-space improvements along the South Platte rivers and its tributaries as they flow through portions of the Denver metro area. “We seek to improve and enhance the urban river environment all along the waterways,” Shoemaker said. “We estimate the $100 million in environmental improvements multiplies to almost $10 billion in economic development.”

He later explained that, if the banks of the South Platte and Cherry Creek had remained as they were 35 years ago, it is very unlikely those areas would have been chosen for the development stretching on the banks of the waterways from Invesco Field to Coors Field. He said the same it true farther south with the development of South Platte Park, the RiverPoint at Sheridan development and the new housing development on the site of the former Cinderella Twin Drive In.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Saint Vrain River: Rubicon gate installed on Oligarchy Ditch as part of the Saint Vrain Corridor Committee winter minimum streamflow program

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From Colorado Trout Unlimited:

We are pleased to announce that one of the rubicon gates is fully operational on the Oligarchy Ditch and the remaining two are partially installed on the Palmerton and Highland Ditches. The ditches should be fully operational by late Spring if all goes well. Maintaining consistent flows in the St. Vrain river is the first step in strengthening the health of the river and the fish and animal life that depend upon the St. Vrain.

More instream flow coverage here.

Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference and Trade Fair recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

He noted that the efforts of the ancients in both Peru and the Four Corners region were plagued by dry times and wet times, according to ice-core data. “Life in the Americas, including the Americas we live in, is flood and drought,” he said.

Hobbs’ slide show featured pictures of canals at Machu Picchu and the work of an archaeological crew that excavated the water collection systems that were found at Mesa Verde National Park. Moving to the state’s modern history, Hobbs noted that Hispanic settlers in San Luis, borrowing on centuries-old traditions from southern Spain, carved out the first irrigation ditch recognized by the state’s courts with an 1852 priority date…

“The priority system is a system of scarcity,” he said. “There’s no value to a senior right when you don’t enforce priority.”

More coverage from the Valley Courier (Julia Wilson):

“I think it went very, very well,” Lyons said. “I was busy making coffee and hauling garbage, but it looked like everybody enjoyed it, vendors and farmers.”[…]

There were around 70 vendors and between 300 and 350 people every day. “We did our head count based on how many lunches we served,” Lyons said. “We wanted it to be relaxed, so farmers could have plenty of time to visit and go enjoy the speakers. The educational part is very important.”

Northern plans to kick off their Regional Pool Program to expand leasing for Colorado Big-Thompson Project water

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From The Fence Post:

Allocation of RPP water may come as soon as Friday, Feb. 12, when the Northern Water Board of Directors will decide whether to implement the program this year and, if so, how much water to place up for bid. Uncertainty about 2010 runoff potential might prompt the Board to postpone a decision until its March 12 meeting. RPP water is C-BT water that wasn’t needed by C-BT water users the year before. The Board allocates a quota of C-BT water each year for allottees, or unit holders. When allottees don’t use all their quota water, they can preserve, or carry over, some of it. If more remains, it automatically goes into the RPP and in certain circumstances can be leased the following year…

People who want to stay informed about the RPP can sign up for updates by e-mailing, check for the latest RPP news or call the Northern Water Distribution Systems Department at (970) 292-2500.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Groundwater contamination primer

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Here’s a primer of sorts about the spread of groundwater pollution, from the Environmental News Network via Loretta Lohman at Nonpoint Source Colorado.

More groundwater coverage here and here.

HB 10-1006 killed in committee on Friday, HB 10-1327 marches on

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

The appropriations committee voted Friday morning to kill [HB 10-1006] (pdf), sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison. The bill would have moved funding from the Division of Wildlife, under the Department of Natural Resources, to fund four vacant water commissioner positions in the Division of Water Resources. HB 1006 came out of an interim committee last summer on water resources. It would have moved $409,000 from a severance tax fund in the Department of Natural Resources to fund 5.3 full-time equivalent employees in the Division of Water Resources. According to Curry, four of those positions would be field positions held by water commissioners who monitor water rights. The bill moved the Division of Wildlife into a different funding tier (Tier II), and moved the Division of Water Resources into Tier I, thereby freeing up the severance tax money. The House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources committee, however, previously amended the bill to put the DOW back into Tier I…

[State Representative Kathleen Curry] argued that the bill would cash fund the water commissioners and that the interim water committee had found another way to do it.

[State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg] argued for funding the positions. “The state engineer is charged with administering state waters,” he said. “When it comes to setting priorities we’ve found money for this priority. It’s important to have people watching the head gates, to make sure Denver gets the water it needs and farmers on the East and West slope get the water they’re entitled to.”
Without the water commissioners who monitor the head gates, Sonnenberg said, people will change the head gates and there will be no one to watch it. “This is law enforcement as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Meanwhile here’s the lowdown about HB 10-1327 from the same article:

Under [HB 10-1327] (pdf), which is sponsored by the Joint Budget Committee as part of its budget-balancing package, the CWCB would lose $19.6 million in its construction fund that gets money from federal mineral lease revenue. CWCB Director Jennifer Gimbel said this week anything that has already been approved and under contract would be okay. In 2009, the CWCB provided $1.494 million in loan funding for a pipeline project for the Fort Morgan Reservoir and Irrigation Company. The CWCB is scheduled in March and May to hear funding requests totaling $4 million for four projects, but that money is now gone, Gimbel said. The construction fund also covers other CWCB projects, such as maintaining a satellite monitoring system and funding a stream-gauging program to support more than 500 operated and maintained gauges through the state. According to a CWCB review of the projects, the gauges “are critical for administering thousands of water rights for municipal, industrial, agriculture, domestic, recreation and environmental uses,” as well as vital for state compact administration, dam safety, and flood monitoring and warning. Losing the funding for the gauges, about $250,000, would “cripple state and local efforts to utilize the state’s water resources,” and hamper collection of data used for assessment of climate change and to address future water shortage.

HB 1327 is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

I have to say that I have been enjoying Ms. Goodland’s legislative analyses since things got rolling on Capitol Hill.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.