Moffat Collection System Project: CDOW public meetings January 18 and 20

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife (Randy Hampton). Here’s an excerpt:

Members of the Colorado Wildlife Commission will be hosting two public meetings next week to hear concerns about the impact of Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Collection System Project on fish and aquatic resources.

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, the public is invited to a meeting being hosted by Wildlife Commissioners Dorothea Farris and Dennis Buechler at the Inn at Silver Creek in Granby.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, Wildlife Commissioners Bob Streeter and David Brougham will solicit public comment at the Boulder Senior Center East. This meeting was previously scheduled to occur at The Ranch in Larimer County, but has been moved to the Boulder Senior Center East for the public’s convenience.

Denver Water proposes to meet projected future water needs by developing 18,000 acre-feet per year of new, annual firm yield water that would be delivered to its Front Range delivery system. Denver Water’s preferred project to meet this need is to raise Gross Reservoir in Boulder County to store an additional 72,000 acre-feet of water diverted from the Fraser and Williams Fork river systems. The proposed project would increase Gross Reservoir from its current storage capacity of 41,811 acre-feet to approximately 114,000 acre-feet.

As proponent of the project, Denver Water is developing a mitigation plan that is scheduled to be presented to the Wildlife Commission at its March meeting in Denver. The project must receive a federal permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, state statute does give the Colorado Wildlife Commission the opportunity to review the mitigation plans and work with the proponents to ensure that the plans address project impacts. The Division’s goal is to identify habitat management actions that will ensure a functioning river that supports fish and wildlife given anticipated future flow conditions. Restoring the river to a past condition is beyond the scope of the project approval process and Wildlife Commission authority.

Ken Kehmeier and Sherman Hebein, senior aquatic biologists for the DOW’s Northeast and Northwest Regions, will provide a presentation on the project and lend their expertise to the discussion.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: The Steamboat ski area exceeds 200 inches

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From Steamboat Today (Jack Weinstein):

The ski area didn’t reach the 200-inch milestone last season until March 8, and the 2009-10 season total was 261.75 inches. As of Sunday afternoon, the ski area was reporting 209.5 inches of snow at mid-mountain, with a base of 69 inches.

Aurora: No 2011 water rate hike

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From The Denver Post:

The last time the utility provider didn’t raise its rates was 2001, said Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water. The decision to keep rates the same was made, in part, by cost savings on the massive Prairie Waters treatment facility, which finished ahead of schedule and more than $100 million under budget, he said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: The General Assembly will start work on Wednesday

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Bump and update: Here’s a report on last week’s meeting between Republican legislators and business groups, from Randy Woock writing for The Trinidad Times. From the article:

The roundtable discussion, hosted by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry in downtown Denver, was described by State Senate Majority Leader Mike Kopp as an opportunity for industry leaders to share their ideas on how best to minimize government hindrances to their operations. “We’re concerned about job growth in our state…we want to have more businesses hiring more people and more people investing more capital,” Kopp said. “Republicans in the Senate have put out there an aspirational goal: achieving a 15 percent reduction in the compliance costs for regulated businesses…we want to drive down the costs for regulated businesses of doing business, operating here in the State of Colorado because we recognize (that) the more you have on the bottom line, the more likely you are to hire that next employee or to extend your operation.”[…]

Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, pointed to the economic impacts of the oil and gas industry, in addition to voicing concerns about industry taxes and federal and local oversight. “We are aware, as everyone is, of the potential $1 billion budget deficit (faced by the state government), and we must ensure that Colorado remain a business friendly, low tax state; any discussion of tax reform, we want to make sure that we’re at the table,” Schuller said. “Oil and gas companies pay over 90 percent (of severance taxes in Colorado)…Colorado has world-class oil and gas reserves, but we cannot take investment here for granted, and the last two years have really shown that.” Adding, “We’ve seen companies flee Colorado for reserves in other states, not because those reserves are any better, but because the perception was that Colorado was closing down for business. And the tax environment and the regulatory environment are the two key pieces of that.”

The massive slowdown of industry activity in Las Animas County actually began in Fall 2008 due to a drop in commodity prices months before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) controversial regulatory overhaul was completed and approved by the state in Spring 2009. As reported by the Canadian industry group, The Fraser Institute, in its 2010 Global Petroleum Survey, energy executives rank Colorado 61 out of 81 worldwide locations for favorable energy investments, up from its rank of 52 in 2008…

Schuller also expressed concern last Wednesday about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) impending study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water resources, stating that the industry preferred “state primacy” for regulatory enforcement. “Sometimes to have the smallest, most efficient government, you need to strongly place authority in the state’s hands, and we would like to see that with the (COGCC)…the federal government is showing interest in regulating hydraulic fracturing — something that is regulated at every step at that level,” she said. “We see the same thing with air regulations, that we’ve been having encroaching, growing potential for EPA to increase (oversight).”

Schuller also named as a “potential threat” oversight at the local levels of government. “Local governments want to become mini-Oil and Gas Conservation Commissions through their planning process…they’re taking increasing authority over oil and gas development, and this is a huge concern,” she said. “If a company is going to invest in Colorado, they need to have the certainty that they have one set of rules to operate under.”[…]

Pioneer Natural Resources, the largest employer in Las Animas County at 460 reported employees, was not present at last Wednesday’s roundtable discussion, but the company was contacted by The Times Independent for its desired changes to Colorado’s oil and gas regulations…

Regarding water issues in the state, Pioneer requested that the various regulatory bodies tasked with oversight on industry impacts to water resources — such as the State Engineer’s Office, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the COGCC — collaborate to “seek innovative solutions to wed the state water issues and needs with the capability of the industry to produce water.”

Adding, “Break down administrative and regulatory barriers to viewing [coalbed methane] water as a resource, rather than as a waste product.” The company also suggested that since CBM had been “the target of additional regulations related to gas seep monitoring” that applied only to CBM-based operations, “The need for some of the rules, and the fairness of requiring natural gas operators to shoulder the cost of studies unrelated to CBM development (e.g. coal mine gas seep surveys), needs to be re-evaluated.”

Pioneer also requested that industry be involved “proposed permit revisions and draft policy changes,” using as examples the COGCC pit-fencing draft policy and discharge permits on the Apishapa watershed. “Reach out to all landowners, not just landowners who complain,” Sheffield stated. “Formalize the complaint process where definitive steps and procedures are followed to assess the complaint validity and ensure the complaint has a solid scientific base; then only proceed on modifying polices, rules, and laws for complaints based on sound science and data.”

Using pit closure rules as an example, Pioneer also requested that the COGCC and other state agencies review its regulations and policies in order to, “See that the paperwork and preliminary field costs associated with the rule/policy do not exceed the actual costs of implementing the proposed rule…(and) conduct an objective, third-party cost-benefit analysis of new proposed rules and regulations.”

From the Colorado Statesman (Marianne Goodland):

Water issues won’t be on his plate in the 2011 session, [House Minority Leader Sal Pace] said.

Here’s a recap of last week’s sit-down between Republican legislators and, “business groups, ” to discuss, “regulatory reform and [review] the Independence Institute’s proposals on how to solve the state’s budget woes,” from Marianne Goodland writing for the Colorado Statesman. From the article:

The contractors, represented by Mike Gifford of the Association of General Contractors, asked for changes in four areas: retention of payments for public projects, which affects cash flow; storm water regulations; sales and use tax expansion, much of it by local governments; and contractor licensing and registration, a problem that requires contractors to be licensed by multiple local governments and the state. “We need a common system of license and registration,” Gifford pleaded.

More coverage from Marianne Goodland writing for The Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

[First-time legislator Rep. Jon Becker…who represents House District 63], like any legislator, can carry five bills in the session, and he`s looking at a bill to reduce the size of government by combining departments. He`s also interested in legislation on water storage, and is looking for funds from the Division of Wildlife that would go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

“Getting these departments to play well together on this issue will be the hard part,” he said, but the state is way behind in dealing with water storage issues. And he believes that using DOW money for water storage matches its mission. “I don`t want to hurt hunters, [or have people think he`s taking DOW money for agricultural purposes] but as long as we benefit wildlife with water storage, that can be another purpose” of those dollars, he said. The bill carries a sunset provision that will end the transfer in 10 years, which he says will be standard in his bills…

[Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg,…of HD 65 has been tapped to play several leadership roles in the 2011 session. Sonnenberg is the new chair of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. also plans to carry a sunset review bill that applies to weather modification in water conservation districts.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2010 Colorado gubernatorial election transition: Governor Hickenlooper’s prepared remarks

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Here are the prepared remarks via The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

We will measure everything we do and make changes where change makes sense. We will protect our land and water and preserve the natural beauty that helps define Colorado.

Nothing about storage?

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Roaring Fork River basin: ‘Front Range Water Supply Planning Update’ authors seek to inform on transmountain diversions

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Here’s a look at the report prepared for the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, from Scott Condon writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

The study was commissioned by the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, which represents local governments on watershed issues. The study was conducted by G. Moss Driscoll, a Colorado attorney with experience in water law, environmental law and natural resource management. Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, said the study was designed to educate Roaring Fork Valley government officials and residents about how water issues could affect them in the future. It wasn’t intended to drive a wedge deeper in the relationship between the valley and Front Range water rights owners. To the contrary, he said, the study, “opened lines of communication.” “There are people in Colorado Springs who know what’s on our minds. That wasn’t the case a year ago,” Fuller said.

The study provides a thorough inventory of who owns what when it comes to the Roaring Fork watershed’s liquid gold and it describes the infrastructure associated with each of the three major diversion projects. For example, the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion system diverts water from numerous creeks east of Aspen into Grizzly Reservoir, then sends the water east via two tunnels. The major shareholders and recipients of the water in that system are Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Pueblo West and Aurora. The system yields an annual average of 40,589 acre feet, the study said. Fuller said he learned from the study that the Front Range cities that own the system have conditional water rights that could be converted into regular rights, meaning more water gets diverted. One example would be getting court approval to extend their diversion season. “They basically don’t have to ask our permission” to exercise those conditional rights, Fuller said.

In other cases, greater diversions would be difficult, in practical terms, Fuller said. The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is approved for additional diversion structures, but constructing them would require local government approvals. The Front Range cities understand the political and public relations challenges they face from adding diversions or developing new water resources, Fuller said. He is of the opinion that water supply and demand issues will be negotiated on a broad scale in an amicable way but he acknowledged that other observers believe the historically contentious issue of West Slope water supply and Front Range use will lead to a sort of “World War III” before settled.

He hopes that the Front Range Water Supply Planning Update will be used by officials in governments and entities in the Roaring Fork Valley to inform themselves on the big issues coming in the future. The more officials know, the better they can represent the valley and protect water resources, he said.

From the executive summary:

Three major transmountain diversions currently operate in the Roaring Fork Watershed – the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project (“Fry-Ark Project” or “Fry-Ark”), the Busk-Ivanhoe System, and the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System (“Twin Lakes System”) (see inset). At present, these three systems collectively divert over forty percent of the flow in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers for use in the Arkansas and South Platte basins. Although these diversions have been in operation for decades, each of the projects are still incomplete, with undeveloped conditional water rights, excess diversion capacity, and even major structural components that could yet be built.

According to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s most recent estimates, the Arkansas and South Platte basins are facing a combined shortfall in water supply of at least 130,000 acre- feet of water (and potentially as great as 470,000 acre-feet) by 2050, due to the influx of another 3.2 to 4.5 million new residents by that time.3 To meet this projected gap, Front Range water providers are scrambling to secure additional sources of water. For many of them, the options for new water supplies are limited: most of the rivers on the East Slope are already over-appropriated; groundwater supplies are declining in some areas due to excessive well pumping; and in recent decades, the costs and uncertainty surrounding new transmountain diversions have prevented many such projects from being built.

For many Front Range water providers, firming up existing transmountain water rights and maximizing the diversion capacity of existing infrastructure is likely to represent one of the most cost-effective, publicly acceptable means of developing additional water supplies. Local interests in the Roaring Fork Watershed should therefore expect Front Range water providers to eventually attempt to firm up undeveloped water rights and excess diversion capacity associated with the Fry-Ark Project, Busk-Ivanhoe System, and Twin Lakes System. In fact, such efforts may already be underway on the East Slope.

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Water Quality Control Commission affirms the state Water Quality Control Division’s decision for 401 certification for the project

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

The Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut had appealed the 401 certification. They claimed that SDS failed to comply with all applicable state water quality requirements, among other assertions. They asked the commission to set aside the certification or send it back for further review.

Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, a strong proponent of SDS, hailed Monday’s vote, saying the attempt to overturn the 401 certification was rooted in politics. “I think it highlights again that Bill Thiebaut is all about political grandstanding than actually prosecuting or spending his time on issues,” Rivera said…

The 401 certification was a prerequisite to the 404 permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the last major approval Utilities needed for SDS.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.