Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Witte said he believes the vast majority of seep water affected by the new rules is in southeast Colorado “because there are big ditch companies out there with large canals that cross dry arroyos.” Witte explained water from the big ditches seeped into arroyos through time and people claimed rights to that water instead of allowing it to return to the river. Because seep rights are more recent or junior rights, failure to administer them under the priority system has deprived senior rights holders of their water – particularly in the Upper Arkansas River Basin, Witte said. “I’m absolutely convinced we’re doing the right thing,” Witte said, adding he sees no basis for distinguishing between ditch seepage and natural springs.

On a separate topic, Witte said water storage in the basin is down about 15 percent because of dry fall weather. He said an environmental impact statement process is under way for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Fort Collins: Proposed floodplain rules update

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The latest proposal from city stormwater officials for upgrading the regulations — allowing non-residential development in the floodplain as long as it has “no adverse impact” on other properties — might be the solution sought by riverside property owners who hope to develop their land, she said. Or it may create a regulatory environment in which development would become cost prohibitive because of the need for engineering studies to show no harm would come from a project, she said. Mitigation efforts needed to prevent water from one property going to another during a flood event, such as channeling the river, could be too costly except for the largest and wealthiest developers, she said.

More Stormwater coverage here.

2010 Colorado election gubernatorial transition: Governor Hickenlooper’s first official tour recap

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I’m feeling sorry for the new governor. Chasing across the valleys, crossing pass after pass, bracing against twists and turns up and down canyons and gazing out the window at timeless vistas, it must be tough to get psyched for your first official tour of Colorado. Here’s a report from NewsFirst5.com. From the article:

As part of his state wide tour, Governor Hickenlooper made his first official trip to Southern Colorado Sunday with stops in Pueblo and Colorado Springs. He says bringing more growth into the state economy is going to be a tricky task. “The whole state has to be more pro-business, but this is Colorado so we have to hold ourselves to the highest standards of protecting our land and water, making sure we hold our businesses to the highest ethical standards.” he says, “But as we do that we want to be more pro-business.”

More coverage from the Associated Press via CBS Denver:

Hickenlooper began in Edwards in Eagle County. He told the audience made up of hundreds that he wanted their ideas. “This can only really work if we get more people involved, not usual suspects but different suspects,” said Hickenlooper.

More coverage from the Longmont Times-Call:

Gov. John Hickenlooper is to discuss economic development and job creation Monday afternoon with northern Colorado business leaders, community members and local officials.

The Loveland meeting, which is open to the public, will conclude a four-day tour that Hickenlooper began Friday to promote what the governor calls his “bottom-up economic development plan.” Hickenlooper has proposed local creation of economic development plans for each of Colorado’s 64 counties. Those county plans would then be rolled into 14 regional plans, which collectively would amount to a statewide economic development plan.

Monday’s meeting is set for 3 p.m. in the McKee Community Building at The Ranch, 5280 Arena Circle, Loveland.

Here’s a look at Governor Hickenlooper’s vision for the Department of Natural Resources, from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

“We’re going to have to focus on making sure that Colorado is open for business and we’re working well with folks in the tourism industry and the oil and gas industry,” he said. The Department of Natural Resource’s, or DNR, 11 divisions oversee state parks, forestry, wildlife, water resources, oil and gas, state land, mining, minerals and enforcement of the state’s natural resources rules and regulations, including new rules created governing in situ leach uranium mining in Northern Colorado.

Under Gov. Bill Ritter, King helped oversee the creation of legislatively mandated oil and gas rules hailed by environmentalists but detested by the energy industry, which said the rules would send jobs to other states. King, who continues as DNR executive director after assuming that position eight months ago in the Ritter administration, said the department’s primary focus is on jobs and economic development. The DNR, he said, will work with state tourism officials to figure out how to use state parks to generate more tourism revenue.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Costilla County Commissioner Crestina Martinez said residents in her county have only one company that offers both voice and data services. She noted that some people don’t even like to travel over La Veta Pass because its a black hole for service of any kind.

While a fairly solid agricultural economy helped the valley stave off the worst of the recession this year, according to a recent state report, local officials emphasized the problem of connecting some products — such as locally grown food and livestock — to niche markets.

More coverage from John Schroyer writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article

His [Hickenlooper’s] aim, he said, is simple — create jobs. After pointing out that the state is flat broke, and Coloradans aren’t in the mood for a tax hike, he repeated what has become his political mantra. “There’s no other solution than to be more pro-business.” He heard from dozens of area residents Sunday, ranging from self-described “interested citizens” to local CEO’s, government officials, attorneys, activists, teachers, and even a filmmaker.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Will the General Assembly tackle the vise grip of TABOR, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23?

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Here are some recommendations from former and current state budget wonks, from The Denver Post:

STRUCTURAL CHANGES: Colorado has some of the easiest requirements in the nation for citizen-initiated constitutional changes. This has led to problematic additions to the Constitution that have had unexpected and drastic consequences.

• Ask the voters to reform the state’s initiative process to make it more difficult for people to put changes to the state’s constitution on the ballot. The panel’s suggested changes are in line with 2008’s Referendum O. With no real supportive campaign, the measure failed 52 percent to 48 percent.

• Ask voters to revise the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to preserve the essential elements that were used to sell it to voters in 1992. The panel agreed that TABOR should be distilled to its basic tenet: no new or increased taxes without a vote of the people.

A revision would include keeping the requirement that voters have to approve tax rate hikes, any new taxes, and bonded indebtedness. The idea is to preserve voter approval while ridding our constitution of artificial restraints, such as the hard revenue cap, that prevent governments from keeping funds raised from existing taxes to provide core services.

• Ask voters to revise Amendment 23 (guarantees minimum levels of funding for K-12) that was passed as a response to TABOR and legislatively enacted permanent tax cuts.

Despite Amendment 23, the K-12 education budget is not protected. The majority of panelists supported amending the provision that directs 0.33 percent of state income tax to the state education fund as follows: reduce the amount to 0.25 percent and redirect the funds into the State Land Board Trust Fund, which is designated for education support in the Constitution. The interest from the collected funds would be used to support K-12 and could not be raided for other uses.

The Gallagher amendment was passed in 1982 as a way to maintain a constant ratio between property tax revenues coming from residential and business parcels. However, TABOR’s prohibition on assessment-rate increases without a popular vote has distorted the intent of Gallagher. One of the results has been a vast and unsustainable shift in responsibility for K-12 funding away from the local level to the state. Thus, funding for K-12 now takes up the lion’s share of the general fund.

• Ask voters to repeal Gallagher but freeze the assessment rate on residential properties at the current 7.96 percent. The ratio between the state and the local districts would remain constant, and there would be no increase in property tax rates, yet revenues could increase with increased values.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Pueblo: Stormwater seminar January 27

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The city will host a seminar on stormwater discharges from 8 to 11 a.m. Jan. 27 at the Pueblo Convention Center. The seminar intends to answer questions from the business sector, contractors and developers about the city’s stormwater system, and cover ordinances, best management practices and maintaining construction sites and private homes. “If it’s not stormwater, it does not belong in the system. Rainwater and snowmelt are two examples of stormwater,

More stormwater coverage here.

La Niña update

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

“The solid record of La Niña strength only goes back about 50 years and this latest event appears to be one of the strongest ones over this time period,” said Climatologist Bill Patzert of [NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory]. “It is already impacting weather and climate all around the planet.”

“Although exacerbated by precipitation from a tropical cyclone, rainfalls of historic proportion in eastern Queensland, Australia have led to levels of flooding usually only seen once in a century,” said David Adamec, Oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “The copious rainfall is a direct result of La Niña’s effect on the Pacific trade winds and has made tropical Australia particularly rainy this year.”

Fort Morgan flooding discussion

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Residents of the Eighth Avenue area near Main Street blame flooding in the last two years at least partially on the downtown improvement project completed in the summer of 2009. The project has moved a flooding problem from downtown to Eighth, some residents said at a meeting called by city officials Wednesday to discuss the flooding and try to reassure residents that they were working on a solution.

And while city engineer Brad Curtis acknowledged that runoff from the downtown area “didn`t help” the long-standing flooding situation on Eighth, Scott Bryan of the city council pointed out that the area had not seen in a long time rainstorms like it has seen the last two years. Bryan, who owns a cleaning and service business, said that flooding problems in Fort Morgan are not isolated to Eighth. He said he and his workers pump out 50 to 60 houses after every big storm. He has had the business since 1995, he said, and has not seen anything to compare with the storms of the last two years.

More stormwater coverage here.

USFS: Gunnison District to host two presentations about the Mt. Emmons Mine

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

[U.S. Energy Corp] The company wants to undertake geologic studies, using test pits and shallow holes, to analyze the soils and geology in the area, which has molybdenum.

The first meeting will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in the South Ballroom (Room 215) at the Western State College Student Center in Gunnison. (Park in the north parking lot.) Another meeting will be from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, Mountaineer Conference Center, in Crested Butte.

The U.S. Forest Service wants to present more information on what is proposed for the baseline studies and the agency’s role in the projects and proposals, said Gunnison District Ranger John Murphy. “It’s important for folks to know the sideboards of our authority, as well as to provide them an opportunity to discuss the proposed work with resource specialists,” he said.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Bureau of Land Management’s Southwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council meeting January 28

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

The open meeting will be from 9 a.m. to noon ,” with a public comment period at 11 a.m. ,” on Jan. 28 at the Holiday Inn Express Jordan Room, 1391 S. Townsend Ave. The Southwest Colorado RAC subgroup is composed of area residents representing diverse interests within the Uncompahgre Field Office. The seven-member subgroup will provide recommendations to the BLM Southwest Colorado RAC regarding development and implementation of the public lands within the field office.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.

2010 Colorado election gubernatorial transtion: State of the state address recap

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

The new Democratic governor at times sounded like a Republican, calling for a “regulatory impact statement” on bills to keep the Legislature from bothering businesses with more paperwork.

At other times, though, he had Democrats cheering by pledging to defend two of former Gov. Bill Ritter’s proudest accomplishments: the conversion of coal power plants to natural gas and the expansion of government-provided health care for low-income families.

But, befitting of the bipartisan tone Hickenlooper tried to strike in his first address to the Legislature, he received the loudest ovation from both sides of the aisle for his challenge to legislators to cooperate.

“A lot of people don’t think the state can operate in a nonpartisan way for the benefit of Colorado,” he said. “We don’t agree.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.