Interbasin Compact Committee water transfer meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’ve been given a pop quiz,” Chips Barry, former director of Denver Water told the Interbasin Compact Committee. “If the reaction to Denver’s [Moffat Collection System Project] and Northern’s [Northern Integrated Supply Project] proposals are any indication, the IBCC has not fixed anything yet. We’ve got a ways to go.”[…]

Now, Denver faces the same sort of opposition to the enlargement that it experienced with Two Forks, even though it has done more than it was asked on the other two points. “We don’t oppose (Gross Reservoir enlargement),” said Drew Peternell, of Western Resource Advocates, who attended the IBCC meeting. “We want to see more documentation for conservation and reuse to make sure everything that can be done is being done.”

Barry, however, said the Gross Reservoir enlargement has every aspect the IBCC has talked about, with increased water and cash payments for Grand County concerns on the Western Slope and environmental flows on Boulder Creek in the South Platte. “We’ve done everything that we’ve been talking about,” Barry said. Barry acknowledged that basin roundtables and the IBCC have served to make Denver aware of concerns in the state, but said if the IBCC is going to succeed, it needs to address wider concerns. “If we take care of agriculture and recreation, what’s left?” Barry said. “There needs to be an economic test for the area from which the water was moved.”[…]

Other members of the IBCC see more sharing of water as the best solution for preserving agriculture while meeting the needs of cities. The roundtable’s central task Thursday was to begin talking about how “fairness” in water transfers can be measured. The IBCC began last year looking at factoring agricultural demands in with municipal demands to determine the future of the state…

While it was suggested that the amount of irrigated acreage could be a standard, [Jeris] Danielson suggested more profitable crops could be grown — cantaloupes and peppers rather than alfalfa and corn, for example — allowing water to become an additional “crop.”

Peter Nichols, a water lawyer appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to the IBCC, said there has to be more bargaining in the process. “There has to be a willingness to give up something to get something,” Nichols said. He cited the example of the Palo Verde Irrigation District in Blythe, Calif., which he visited with a group of farmers in 2007 as a step in forming the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch. The Metro District paid more for the water than it was worth to lease from farmers as a way of mitigating economic impacts. “As a result, Blythe is thriving,” Nichols said…

IBCC Director Alex Davis also answered concerns raised by state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, about how the IBCC is dealing with the question of water transfer mitigation. Pace said his legislation on empowering conservancy districts to work out mitigation plans was killed because some claimed the IBCC was already doing the work. “Mitigation is a narrow question that applies to the basin of origin. We need to meet all of the environmental and economic needs of each basin,” Davis said. “If we’re successful, we’ll answer those questions.”

More IBCC — Basin Roundtables coverage here.

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