Interbasin Compact Committee meeting recap

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IBCC Director, John Stulp, started things off with a budget warning. Colorado is blessed with a balanced budget amendment. However, in times of revenue shortfalls the tough work of balancing the budget is exacerbated by the vise grip of TABOR, Amendment 23 and the Gallagher Amendment.

Most of the morning was spent bringing Mr. Stulp up to date on the water goings on around the state.

During introductions John Porter (Southwestern Water Conservation District) commented on the early days when the state was implementing HB 05-1177. Water wonks asked, “Do we really want to participate?” Porter then told the group that around that time he was talking to a Denver water lawyer who said, “If you can pump over one hill you can pump over another.” That’s when I decided,” to participate, he said.

The strategy for operating during a compact call has dominated the conversation in Mesa Verde country lately, he added.

Mark Pifher (Aurora Water) said that around the Metro Roundtable, “The sentiment is that we’ve reached a point in the roundtable process where we need,” more defined goals and timelines along with clarification of the roles of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Interbasin Compact Committee.

Jay Winner spun his own version of the relationship joking, “The IBCC and CWCB have been dating for five years and while we were dating we had to be nice to each other. Well, we got married.”

Mr. Stulp asked the group what they were hearing around home about the letter sent to Governor Ritter and Governor-elect Hickenlooper in December.

Dan Birch told him, “I thought the letter was received pretty well.” He added, “If everyone likes it as much as they dislike it then maybe were closing in on something.”

Melinda Kassen said, “After four and a half years of mind-numbing activity…The letter got everyone’s attention.” She asked, “What comes next, who’s going to do the work, how will the environment be protected?”

During a working lunch the IBCC hammered out the agenda for the March 3 Roundtable Summit.

At the afternoon session CWCB staff went through the Statewide Water Supply Plan 2010 Update. Both Kassen and Taylor Hawes reminded the committee that conservation measures could be implemented quickly. “We’re in a really good spot to move forward on a parallel track,” [implementing conservation measures along with projects on the shelf and developing new supplies] Hawes said.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Front Range and urban members want to put the report into action within a year, so they can start finding new water supplies for rapidly growing cities. Western Slope members said their neighbors are going to need a long time to get comfortable with the plan and the possibility of new water pipelines from the relatively wet mountains to the parched eastern half of the state. It’s a tricky balance, IBCC members said: Go too fast, and Western Slope people will rebel. Go too slow, and the whole thing will devolve into a talk-fest…

They have a massive problem to solve. Five million people are expected to move to Colorado by 2050, doubling the state’s population. There’s only enough water for one-third to two-thirds of the newcomers unless farms and ranches are dried up around the state.

The IBCC’s report includes a number of controversial ideas, including a fee for large transfers of farm water to cities, statewide water efficiency codes for new construction and landscaping, and greater state involvement in building new projects.

“If anybody thinks they don’t have a target on their back, they’re wrong,” said Mike Shimmin, an IBCC member from the South Platte Basin. “When 5 million people come, things are going to happen. The question is, does it happen randomly, or does it happen with some plan behind it.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.