2011 Colorado legislation update

A picture named washingtonmineillinoisgulc.jpg

Here’s the legislative update for this week from The Pulse — of the Colorado Farm Bureau (Brent Boydston). From the article:

HB1123 – Rep. Coram’s Bill to prohibit transfers from severance related funds to the general fund passed the House Ag Committee and moves on to the House Committee of the Whole. CFB is in support of this measure.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news

A picture named snowpackcolorado03042011

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

“We have a number of snow measuring sites in the northern part of the state that have more than 100 inches of snow,” [Chris Pacheco assistant snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver] said Friday. “The northern (river) basins are doing really well. We attribute much of that to La Niña.”[…]

He said the Yampa and White River basins’ snowpack, at 124 percent of average, is the highest March 1 snowpack since 1997, when the basin was measured at 142 percent of average. The Tower snowpack measuring site, just northeast of Steamboat Springs at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass, has some of the highest snowpack in the region. Pacheco’s agency is reporting that the snow depth on Buffalo Pass had settled down to 133 inches Friday from a high of 144 inches Feb. 26. When the Natural Resources Conservation Service uses the term “snowpack,” it’s really referring to the amount of water stored in the snow, and the 45.9 inches at the Tower site represents 120 percent of average for the date…

The prediction of 120 to 150 percent streamflows in the rivers in Northwest Colorado is a measurement of the total flow for a four- to five-month period in summer, and not an indication of peak flows, he explained. In Routt County, the Elk River snow measuring site close to Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area has a snow depth of 65 inches and the water content is just more than 21 inches, or 129 percent of average. At Crosho Lake, on the edge of the Flat Tops in South Routt, the snow is 51 inches deep and contains 14.6 inches of water. That is 138 percent of average.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Delta Montrose Electrical Association and Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association’s power lease application scoping meeting March 9

A picture named microhydroelectricplant.jpg

From the Montrose Daily Press:

The hydropower project would generate electricity by using existing irrigation flows in the South Canal, and generate revenue for the water users association, as well as help DMEA meet legislatively mandated requirements for renewable energy sources. Wednesday’s meeting includes project description and a chance to ask questions. Input can be provided at the meeting, or by e-mail or letter after it. Input can include questions regarding the proposal, significant issues, and information that could help in review of the proposal.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Conservation: How should we manage the remaining undeveloped supplies of water in Colorado?

A picture named telluridevalleyfloororg.jpg

Should we be planning more than 50 years in the future? When mining collapsed in Colorado agriculture and then tourism helped sustain the economy. Bart Miller, Drew Peternell and Becky Long are betting that Coloradans can understand the need for these sustainable wedges in Colorado’s economic mix. Here’s their guest column running in the Summit Daily News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

As Western Slope streams are diverted east, so goes the economic livelihood of many mountain towns and businesses that depend on tourism and recreation.

Many Coloradans live here, and most visitors come here because of our state’s outstanding outdoor resources and opportunities, from trout fishing to rafting — it’s what makes our state special. Recreation is a multi-billion dollar business in Colorado. We degrade our rivers and streams at the risk of undermining not only our economy but also the high quality of life we enjoy as Coloradans.

Colorado’s rivers and streams are at a dangerous tipping point, and we can no longer take their health for granted in water planning.

Our balanced water plan rests on four solid legs: expanded water conservation, water reuse projects, more water sharing between the agricultural and municipal sectors, and “acceptable planned projects,” our name for proposed water supply projects that can meet “smart” guidelines for protecting rivers and the environment.

Conservation is often the cheapest and fastest way to create a new water source. While Denver and other cities have made great strides in promoting conservation, there is much more than could be done. Consider that half of Denver’s water use still goes toward outdoor landscaping. By offering incentives for homeowners to modestly reduce turf and water use, Front Range communities can significantly reduce the need for new water sources.

More conservation coverage here.

Basin Roundtable Summit: An interview with John Stulp

A picture named ibccroundtable.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“For the last five years, we’ve [Basin roundtables, IBCC, CWCB] been doing a slow dance, but I think the governor’s message is that time is of the essence, and we need to push forward,” said John Stulp, water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper. “We’re understanding each other better than we did five years ago…

“One of the big unanswered questions is how to finance projects and if there is a place for the private sector in developing them,” Stulp said. “There probably is a role for the private sector, especially because there increasingly is no federal safety net as there has been in the past.”

Finding the real costs of water should be an issue for the state, Stulp said in addressing some comments about the ability of even large communities to pay for water projects, but that should also come with better explanations to the public about why water projects are needed.

Meanwhile, Chris Woodka takes a look at the real costs of water in this report from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Has anyone thought beyond the reports to find ways of convincing the public about how we’re going to fund projects in the future?” asked Reed Dils, of Buena Vista, and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

“We’ve talked about the concept of full-cost pricing, that people may be paying less for water than it’s worth,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. He explained that money from local communities is often leveraged against funding from other sources, so the capital costs are not onerous…

“Don’t forget that the country is spending only 7.5 percent of its income on food,” said T. Wright Dickinson, a rancher from Northwestern Colorado. He said the cost of food is held low, although farmers’ costs are rising.

There was also a question about the relationship of water and power. Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Conservation District, noted that most water projects in Colorado have been built using gravity flow, but more energy intensive projects like Southern Delivery System in Colorado Springs and Prairie Waters in Aurora are being built to pump back uphill.

More analysis of the IBCC Strategy from Alissa Johnson writing for The Crested Butte News. From the article:

…the IBCC, created by the 2005 Water for the 21st Century Act, is determined to change the nature of the fight, turning disagreement into cooperative discussion. In a December report to then-Governor Ritter and Governor-elect Hickenlooper, the IBCC outlined a four-part approach to creating a statewide framework for solving Colorado’s water gap. On February 28, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District Board (UGRWCD) presented the report to the public on behalf of the Gunnison Basin Round Table. Representatives took that public input to the IBCC at the Statewide Roundtable Summit in Westminster, Colo. on Thursday, March 3. It marked the beginning of a long process, one that goes beyond individual basins to look at the health and vitality of Colorado as a whole…

The IBCC’s recommendations are simple in concept: complete already identified projects and processes (IPPs), find new water supplies, rethink agricultural water transfers—the old “buy and dry” philosophy that removes agricultural lands from irrigation—and implement greater water conservation. But there is nothing simple in the recommendations’ implementation. As the IBCC report outlines, each approach must be enacted simultaneously, and even then success isn’t guaranteed. UGRWCD general counsel John McClow explained that calculating the impacts of IPPs is a complex process. “The methodology for calculating these numbers is to begin with county demand, supply and IPPs,” McClow said. “It then expands to the basin [level], then to statewide, so the math is difficult to follow because of rounding and because the projected success rates for IPPs differ among the basins. In addition, the success rate varies in terms of its impact.”

For example, 100 percent successful implementation of Gunnison Basin IPPs would have far less impact than in the Metro Basin. The increase in demand for the Gunnison Basin is projected to be 16,000 to 23,000 acre-feet per year (AFY), while Metro Basin new demand is projected to be 180,000 to 280,000 AFY…

Part of the challenge in addressing water issues comes from the need to meet statewide demand when water rights are managed locally. Trans-mountain diversion of water is sensitive enough, but add to that the component of conservation and it gets even trickier. “When you have a drought, everyone is willing to get on board to get through the rough spot,” said UGRWCD board secretary George Sibley, “but when we are asking people to start conserving in order to enable more water to be freed up to feed more people moving into state, there’s a little less willingness to do that.” But for Sibley, the issue at hand shouldn’t be conservation—it should be demand reduction, and it should include support from the state. “Conservation is where you need people to use less of something,” says Sibley. “Demand reduction is something else, and you won’t find it mentioned much at all in this document. Demand reduction is when you say we aren’t going to let people form bad habits that need to be conserved. We will… develop good habits with the water that’s available, from the start.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Proposed Lake Nighthorse recreation plan update

A picture named lakenighthorsesummer2010

From the Durango Telegraph (Leslie Swanson):

Smoothing out as many wrinkles as possible is the goal of Lake Nighthorse recreation planners. Public acceptance is, they say, a key component of the plan’s success. To that end, they have made participation in the decision-making process available through open houses, public forums, design workshops and a website where people can post comments and see everyone else’s as well. A review of public opinions expressed so far reveals that most people are willing to compromise on motors. Of all the comments received by DHM Design, the reservoir’s primary planning entity, 22 voted for no motors at all, 37 supported unrestricted motorized sports, and 38 were OK with some form of engine, as long as they are limited in horsepower, area and/or schedule. An electric-only restriction on motors was very popular among the latter group.

Joy Lujan, of the National Park Service, has been facilitating the public planning process. She explained that they are approaching a resolution by dealing with the individual components of anti-motor sentiments: primarily noise, pollution and wakes. By designating separate areas, restricting engine decibels, banning fueling stations and inspecting boats for invasive mussels, the lake’s planners believe that they can resolve anti-motor issues. The two ends of the sporting spectrum can4 peacefully co-exist, they claim, but no gas motors at all? That’s looking like a no-go.

Here is where the water gets choppy: With all the outreach and open access of the current planning process, one large and lasting decision appears to have been made with very little public input – construction of the boat ramp. Paid for by a Wallop-Breaux grant of $3 million from the State of Colorado, the ramp came with a contingency: it must allow use by gas-powered boats within three years of completion or the Bureau of Reclamation has to return the money. At a public forum last November, a bureau representative stated that repayment was not likely, in effect making motorized boating a done deal regardless of opposition. Such mandates tend to stir discontent and mistrust, and the boat ramp has caused significant local agitation.

Mark Chiarito, of the Bureau of Rec, expressed desire to resolve the confusion and offered the following explanation about the decision to construct the boat ramp: “In order to open the reservoir to public use in a timely manner, the Bureau of Reclamation and the State agreed on the need to solicit interest from other nonfederal entities to provide recreation at Lake Nighthorse. Hence, the current community planning process is being conducted and the boat ramp needs to be considered as a valid existing facility for inclusion in the recreation master plan.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Proposed MOU between the Archuleta County Board of Commissioners and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District scrapped by county

A picture named sanjuan.jpg

From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

Commissioner John Ranson expressed that, while he was disappointed that the time and effort given to the MoU did not pay off, he believes the withdrawal of the agreement was the right move. “I think it’s exactly the right thing they should have done,” Bunch said in a Wednesday interview. “It gets things back on the basis it should have been on since day one … We are two separate managerial agencies that need to take care of our business.”

A rift between the BoCC and PAWSD began in the fall of 2009, when the BoCC began requesting financial documents from PAWSD, expressing concerns over PAWSD’s spending, Dry Gulch Reservoir assumptions, service plan and more. The rift then deepened last March, when the BoCC began requesting that PAWSD provide the county with an annual report.

The two boards met in a public meeting in March 2010, where the idea of an agreement or memorandum of understanding between the two boards was mentioned by PAWSD Attorney Jim Collins.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.