2010 Colorado elections transition: Mike King to stay on at the Department of Natural Resources

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Here’s the release from Partners for Colorado:

Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper announced today Mike King will remain Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources.

King was appointed to the position by Gov. Bill Ritter in May 2010 after serving as Deputy Director for more than three years.

“Colorado is known for our spectacular natural beauty, abundant wildlife and unparalleled recreational opportunities,” Hickenlooper said. “Striking the right balance between resource development and conservation is what good stewardship of our natural resources is all about. Mike King has the collaborative skills needed to bring disparate interests together to responsibly manage these resources.”

King, a native of Montrose and an avid hunter and angler, became the Assistant Director for Lands, Minerals and Energy Policy in January 2006 and was appointed as Deputy Director at the Department of Natural Resources in September 2006.

He previously worked in the Policy and Regulation Section at the Colorado Division of Wildlife in various capacities for six years and was an Assistant Attorney General from 1993 to 1999.

“As a native Coloradan I have a deep respect for everything that makes our state great,” King said. “From the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains, Colorado is a land with incredible vistas. I am honored at this appointment and look forward to fulfilling Gov.-elect Hickenlooper’s promise to responsibly balance conservation and development of our natural resources.”

King, who lives in Parker, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado, a law degree from the University of Denver and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver Graduate School of Public Affairs.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

2010 Colorado election transition: John Stulp to be chief water wonk, John Salazar chief farmer

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Here’s the release from Partners for Colorado:

John Stulp, who has been the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture since 2006, has been named special policy adviser on water to newly elected Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Former Congressman John Salazar of Manassa has been named the new agricultural commissioner by Hickenlooper.

In his new position, Stulp, a Prowers County farmer and rancher, will be chairman of the Interbasin Compact Committee and will continue to work with the state’s agricultural community, developing policies and solutions on how water is managed statewide.

The Interbasin Compact Committee was established by the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act to bring representatives of the state’s river basins together to address statewide water issues. The 27-member committee encourages dialogue on water, broadens the range of those actively participating in the state’s water decisions and creates a locally driven process where the decision-making power rests with those living in the state’s river basins.

“John Stulp’s service to Colorado’s ranchers, farmers and universities is remarkable,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “And a cornerstone of that service is his deep understanding of our water resources and the need to manage them carefully and effectively. Most importantly, John understands an age-old truth in the West: whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. John’s task will be to replace the fighting with collaboration.”

Salazar is a sixth generation southern Colorado farmer and rancher and was a three-time Congressman representing the state’s third district. Prior to that, he served two years in the Colorado House. While in Congress, he served on the House Agriculture Committee and played a key role in passing the 2008 Farm Bill.

“I look forward to working with Gov.-elect Hickenlooper and serving the people of Colorado as the Commissioner of Agriculture for the next four years. I am excited about the great possibilities of expanding our energy opportunities along with marketing value-added products and promoting the second-largest economy in Colorado,” Salazar said in a news release.

Hickenlooper takes office next week.

From email from Environment Colorado (Pam Kiely):

Environment Colorado applauds selection of Mike King to direct Department of Natural Resources

The following statement is by Environment Colorado Program Director Pam Kiely regarding the selection of Mike King to direct the Department of Natural Resources

“Mike King is an exceptional choice to continue to lead Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. With the management of our state’s natural resources one of the most vital roles, it is a smart decision to keep putting Mike’s talent and experience to good use for Colorado.

“Mike is a proven leader, with a track record of success tackling some of the state’s toughest issues over his lengthy tenure at DNR. From helping manage a landmark process to balance strong protection of our land, water, wildlife and public health with traditional resource extraction, to overseeing the creation of critical uranium regulations to protect groundwater from toxic pollution, Mike has made profound progress for our environment while earning the respect and trust of stakeholders across the board.

“Serving first as Deputy Director and then Executive Director in not one, but two previous administrations, Mike has proven to have what it takes to bring people together from across the state and across constituency groups to craft smart solutions for Colorado.

“Environment Colorado applauds Governor-elect Hickenlooper for another strong choice. We look forward to continuing our work with Director King to protect and enhance Colorado’s natural environment, and help safeguard Colorado’s future.”

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper on Wednesday named San Luis Valley native and former Rep. John Salazar Colorado’s next commissioner of agriculture. Salazar said he will stay in the role for a full term in lieu of running again for Congress. “It’s not a political job — it’s an agricultural job,” Salazar said. “I’ve always loved agriculture, and it’s great being home in Colorado. I believe I can do a good job for agriculture in the state.” Salazar said his vision for the office includes promoting value-added agricultural products like organics and all-natural foods, forging partnerships between the clean-energy sector and farmers and ranchers, and cultivating international markets for Colorado’s agricultural products. Cuba is among the nations where he hopes to peddle the state’s wares.

More coverage from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

One of the considerations for Salazar accepting Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper’s offer to head up the state agricultural department was the agreement that he could set up a field office in the San Luis Valley and work part of the week out of Denver and the remainder “from home” in the Valley. Concluding three terms in the nation’s capital as U.S. representative for the 3rd Congressional District, Salazar said he had been looking forward to spending more time on the family ranch when he was approached by Hickenlooper to serve in his new cabinet. “I wanted to stay home for a couple of months, but it’s not going to happen,” Salazar said on Wednesday. “It was a tough decision. I love the Valley. I just love it here so much.”

In announcing Salazar’s role in the new administration on Wednesday, Hickenlooper pointed out why Salazar was the perfect candidate for the post. “A thriving agriculture sector is critical to Colorado’s economic recovery,” Hickenlooper said. “Farmers and ranchers are also leading the way as business innovators. Their prosperity helps build a foundation for all of Colorado. And no one has been a more passionate champion for agriculture and rural communities than John Salazar. We are fortunate to have his leadership at the helm of the Department of Agriculture.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project update

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Chandler Peter, the Army Corps’ coordinator for the study, said Tuesday he expects the study to be complete sometime in late 2011, making it more than a year late. He said he can’t predict precisely when the study will be released. “It’s just because there are things that pop up that you don’t anticipate,” Peter said. “One thing leads to another.”

Specifically, the draft study is being held up by difficulties in reconciling a hydrological analysis of NISP with corresponding analyses for the proposed Halligan and Seaman reservoir expansion projects. “We’ve been trying to pull those together and look at that with one voice,” Peter said. “That’s more complex than we anticipated.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: First new uranium mill in the U.S. in 25 years gets the go ahead from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Warren Smith):

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Approves Radioactive Materials License for Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill
DENVER—The Radiation Program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today announced approval of a radioactive materials license for the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in western Montrose County, Colo. The license is required before Energy Fuels Resources Corp. can construct a 500-tons-per-day uranium/vanadium mill approximately 12 miles west of Naturita, Colo., in the Paradox Valley. The facility will be the first new conventional uranium mill built in the United States in more than 25 years.

“Energy Fuels has demonstrated it can build and operate the mill in a manner that is protective of both human health and the environment,” said Steve Tarlton, Radiation Program manager. “Our comprehensive review considered short- and long-term impacts of the proposed mill, including radiological and nonradiological impacts to water, air and wildlife, as well as economic, social and transportation-related impacts.”

The department conducted significant outreach in 2009 and 2010 related to the radioactive materials license, and shared information with local government officials and several state agencies. The department conducted or participated in eight public meetings in Montrose and San Miguel counties, and submitted more than 400 technical questions to Energy Fuels during the 14-month-long application review process. The Montrose County Commissioners submitted comments on the Environmental Report. The department also considered hundreds of comment letters, e-mails, and cards from stakeholders in the development of the 432-page license decision.
In approving the license, the department imposed a number of conditions on Energy Fuels. Before construction can begin, the company must do the following:

• Obtain all applicable permits and other authorizations of local, state and federal agencies with authority over health, safety and environmental protection.

• Obtain Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approval of final design and construction plans, including plans for quality assurance and quality control. Before the mill can receive any radioactive material,

• Radiation and worker protection procedures and equipment must be in place; along with personnel trained in using them;

• The company must conduct at least two emergency response exercises involving two different incident scenarios, involving off-site response agencies in one or both of the drills;

• Environmental monitoring procedures and equipment must be in place, along with personnel trained in using them. Routine operations require,

• Worker training and monitoring;

• Environmental monitoring;

• Site security;

• Documentation and reporting;

• Facility maintenance;

• Material control;

• Emergency or spill response.

Energy Fuels must remain in compliance with financial assurance requirements, including an approved financial warranty for decommissioning for $11,070,890, and a long-term care fund in the amount of $827,590 deposited in the state treasury.

Throughout the term of the license, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment may impose additional requirements and conditions regarding the receipt, possession, use and transfer of radioactive material to minimize risks to public health and safety or property, and to prevent loss or theft of material.

The department’s Decision Analysis and Environmental Impact Analysis, which includes a copy of the license, is available online at: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/rad/rml/energyfuels/index.htm.

For more information about the license, please see the attached Energy Fuels Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill Radioactive Materials License Approval Fact Sheet.

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

…[The] Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Radiation Program announced today its approval of a radioactive materials license for the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in western Montrose County…

Radiation program manager Steve Tarlton said in a press release that “short- and long-term impacts, including radiological and nonradiological impacts to water, air and wildlife, as well as economic, social and transportation-related impacts,” were considered in making the decision.

More Pinon Ridge Mill coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Drought tolerant corn

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DuPont may get some customers on the eastern plains the way things are going. Here’s a report from The Wall Street Journal (Ian Berry):

The offering, from DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred, includes five conventionally bred hybrid seeds that the company has been testing in areas of the western U.S. corn belt since 2008. It offers, on average, a 5% yield advantage over existing products, Pioneer officials said in a conference call.

Drought tolerance is seen as the next frontier for seed genetics, which in recent years have largely focused on pest-control. DuPont’s new product, released under the Optimum AQUAmax brand name, will be available throughout the U.S., but marketing will be focused on states that typically have drier weather, including Kansas, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

More coverage from the Des Moines Register (Philip Brasher):

Pioneer, a unit of DuPont, is in a race with other seed giants to get corn varieties to the market that could grow in drier areas or need less irrigation. Monsanto Co. is providing an update tomorrow on its biotech corn varieties that are in development. They include drought-tolerant products. Pioneer also is working on a biotech variety, but it won’t be ready until the middle of the decade at the earliest, officials said.

More climate change coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

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Update: From the Associated Press via the Summit Daily News:

Colorado’s overall snowpack was 136 percent of average on Jan. 1, the highest reading for that date since 1997. The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service says a series of storms last month benefited southern Colorado, where the snowpack had been below normal. It’s now at about 140 percent of average in several basins in southwest Colorado.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Both Summit County weather stations reported above normal snowfall for December, with the year-to-date readings (October – December) about 25 percent above average in Breckenridge, according weather watcher Rick Bly. The three-month total snowfall is 69.8 inches, ranking it as the 14th snowiest start to the winter season in 120 years. For December 2010, Bly measured 32.5 inches of snow on his backyard gauge, about 45 percent above the average 22.4 inches. That total left December 2010 just one spot shy of cracking the top-20 snowiest Decembers in the 120-year record…

At the Denver Water office in Dillon, the official snow reading was 23 inches for December, with measurable precipitation on 13 days…

The moisture-laden pineapple connection that brought mid-month snows zeroed in on the central part of the state, where the Gunnison Basin snowpack is now at 155 percent of average. Even the Upper Rio Grande Basin, in south-central Colorado, is now at a 106 percent of normal after lagging near 60 percent for much of the autumn. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan Basin, in the Four Corners area, is up to 136 percent of average and the Colorado Basin is at 143 percent.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

Reservoir storage is at or slightly above normal across most of the state and combined with the good start to the snowpack, that provides optimism for the state’s water providers. Statewide, the snowpack is 36 percent above the long-term average. For the South Platte River basin, it is 26 18 percent above average and for the Colorado River, it is nearly 50 42 percent above average. [ed. note: Things can change quickly in Colorado. Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for today’s snowpack update map from the NRCS.]

“This is a welcome start to the year for Colorado’s water users, and we’re hoping these conditions remain with us for the next few months,” Allen Green said in a news release. He is the state conservationist with the NRCS in Denver…

In southern Colorado, the snowpack was 57 percent of average on Dec. 16. But the weather pattern shifted, and those averages increased to 140 percent of average by Dec. 31. At one automated site on Coal Bank Pass north of Durango, storms delivered 78 inches of snow which resulted in an additional 6.7 inches of water.

Colorado Water Trust’s Breem Ditch instream flow deal

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Here’s a look at the Colorado Water Trust’s Breem Ditch deal for instream flows in Washington Gulch from Zach Smith writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

One example starts with a ranch outside the high-mountain resort town of Crested Butte in western Colorado. The aging owner wanted to sell his land for subdivision and his water right along with it. The water right diverted water for irrigation from Washington Gulch, a tributary of the Slate River and eventually the Gunnison River. It was valuable because it was the most senior; during the irrigation season it could shut off other diverters upstream. And once the water reached the headgate, it took every last drop, leaving the Gulch’s stone skeleton to bleach in the sun. It was all perfectly legal, and acutely devastating. A nearby water district, looking to shore up its supply, began negotiating to purchase the water right. But the developer who had bought it wanted more money for it from the water district. It was at this point that the Colorado Water Trust got involved in the transaction…

Using this innovative tool [CWCB Instream Flow Program], the Colorado Water Trust works in the water market as a broker, making deals to acquire water from willing sellers or lessors to send water back into rivers. Seeing an opportunity in the Washington Gulch transaction, the Trust and the Board proposed funding the price difference if the water district would divert the water 2.5 miles farther downstream than the rancher had, past Washington Gulch’s confluence with the Slate, as well as grant the Board an instream flow right for the river stretch between the old point of diversion and a proposed new one. In simpler terms, the Trust asked that the water district use the natural path of the stream itself as its water delivery system. All parties agreed, and now the deal is off to water court for approval.

What did this all mean? The developer got the price he asked for. The water district got the water it needed. What’s new is that Washington Gulch will have a protected instream flow with the most senior priority on the stream. When the stream level drops, the board will place the call, and Washington Gulch and parts of the Slate will run wet. It is all legal, and wonderfully healing.

Here’s the CWT release.

More Breem Ditch coverage here. More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Lower Arkansas Valley: New rules to prevent increased consumptive use update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“One of the main reasons we started down this course was to get something done in a proactive way rather than responding to a crisis,” Wolfe said. “For legal and technical reasons, we decided to develop the rules now rather than wait until we had a situation like in 1985, when Kansas sued Colorado.” The state is mainly concerned about more than 100 sprinkler systems, now being used by about 70 farmers, throughout the Lower Arkansas Valley, east of Pueblo.

Of those, about 40 farmers have signed up for a plan by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District that the district fought to include in the rules during two years of meetings prior to their adoption. “What we are trying to do is give the softest landing possible for the farmers,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “I don’t agree with the rules, but this way the farmers can do what they do best, which is to farm, and we do what we do best, the paperwork.”

The district has received grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the engineering necessary to set up the compliance plans and developed a fee structure for participants that reduces the individual cost of complying with the new rules. The district has hired an engineering consultant to crunch the numbers. “In the future, I hope that there are 1,000 of these, because sprinklers help the farmers, mainly in saving labor costs,” Winner said…

Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer, estimated there are between 65-70 farmers with 100-120 systems irrigating with sprinklers fed by ponds. Sprinklers and drip systems dating back to 1999 are covered by the rules. There are very few drip irrigation systems fed by surface sources. Either a group compliance plan or detailed engineering reports are needed in the valley’s major agricultural areas east of Pueblo, the focus of concern in complying with the Arkansas River Compact. General permits for improvements will suffice in other areas of the Arkansas River basin, which lets the state know where improvements have been made.

More Ark Valley consumptive use rules coverage here and here.