The Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Colorado Trout Unlimited scores $5,400 to facilitate restoration plans for the Arkansas River

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Trout Unlimited this week awarded a $4,500 Embrace-A-Stream grant to its Collegiate Peaks chapter in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. The chapter, based in Salida and Buena Vista, proposes to conduct assessment and stakeholders meetings for the South Arkansas River to create a plan for conservation and restoration of the entire river corridor. This plan would act as the blueprint for future work conducted by the Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter and the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas by identifying projects that would improve fish habitat, stabilize banks, remove obstacles, restore native vegetation, and reduce negative impacts into the system. Many of these future projects would be in partnership with private landowners and utilize community volunteers.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Florence: City council approves $25,000 for the Florence Regional Water System Master Plan update

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Charlotte Burrous):

“The engineers have included two things I requested in here,” Mayor Paul Villagrana said. “One was a looping deck in the future and also looking to the possibility of repairing the South Water Reservoir plus raw water storage.” He said this is a good first step in providing the city a guide or a map for future water needs…

If this is approved, Richard Saxton, of The Engineering Company, will put the document together before August, said City Clerk Dori Williams. “So you’ll have your budgeting tool for 2012, 2013 and 2014 budgets,” she said.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1208 (Conservation Easements) gets a look-see from the state House Finance Committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

State Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, told the House Finance Committee that HB1208 aims to hold the state to its promise. “We made a deal with these people,” McKinley said. “We’re just going to have to go ahead and honor the deal.”[…]

McKinley said when the state began offering tax credits to leave land untouched, many in the land-rich but cash-poor agriculture community seized the opportunity. Because tax liabilities in the agriculture world are few, land donors parted with their tax credits for about 75 percent of their value to purchasers facing steep tax liabilities. When buyers redeemed those tax credits, the Department of Revenue rejected many because appraisers had overvalued the land by 500 to 1,000 times its true worth, in some cases. Buyers of the credits in turn sought to be made whole by the donors they had purchased the tax credits from, but often the proceeds of the easement sale had long been devoured by the expenses associated with agriculture — feed, seed and sustenance during droughts and blizzards that decimated crops and herds…

In short, HB1208 “simply says the credit will be allowed,” and the director will not contest or dig deeper into the appraised value of the conservation easement or its validity unless an appraiser associated with the credit has been found to commit fraud. The Department of Revenue has decried McKinley’s amnesty bill because landowners who recognize a prospect that could spare them the expense of squaring up with the state have been reluctant to participate in scheduled mediation sessions in hopes that the Legislature will whisk their problem away.

John Swartout, executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, testified against the bill “because it treats everybody the same.”

More coverage from Debi Brazzale writing for the La Junta Tribune Democrat. From the article:

McKinley says the department has been demanding interest, fees and penalties on easements that they now say were overvalued. Some landowners receiving the notices have been waiting years, in some cases, for the department, who say they are overwhelmed and lack resources to resolve the disputes.

Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, expressed dismay at the predicament the landowners find themselves in. “This seems absurd that these cases are dragging on and on while interest is accruing,” said Acree.

Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch said the department is doing what it is obligated to do on behalf of taxpayers. Couch said that $466 million has been granted to filers since 2001 when the conservation-easement program began and that 16,000 tax returns have been honored.

“We don’t believe we’re the bad guys,” said Couch. “Our job is to protect the taxpayers, and we have the responsibility to make sure that the credits that are claimed are due to the filer.”

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources enter into agreement to improve and coordinate exploration applications

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Here’s the release from the BLM and DNR (Vanessa Delgado/Todd Hartman):

The Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources have signed an agreement designed to assist geothermal energy development on state and federal lands and mineral holdings.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will allow more efficient and effective leasing, permitting and administration of geothermal resources in Colorado where federal ownership or administration is involved. The MOU should streamline geothermal work by fostering better cooperation and communication between the agencies.

“The Bureau supports renewable energy development on public lands to meet the nation’s energy needs,” said Helen Hankins, Bureau of Land Management Colorado State Director. “By working with the state, we want to make it easier to take advantage of opportunities for geothermal energy development.”

“We look forward to collaborating with our partners at the Bureau of Land Management to ensure Colorado can benefit from its geothermal energy potential,” said Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. “This work creates jobs, builds and diversifies local economies and harnesses a clean and reliable source of energy.”

The clean energy potential on America’s public lands is significant, which is why the Interior is investing $41 million through the President’s economic recovery plan to facilitate a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewable energy. The BLM currently manages more than 816 geothermal leases as of December 2010 in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah. Last November, BLM Colorado leased an 800-acre geothermal parcel in Buena Vista during its quarterly lease sale. This was the first of its kind for Colorado in 35 years. The BLM is also evaluating geothermal leasing in at least two other field offices in southwestern Colorado.

Colorado ranks extremely high nationally in geothermal potential. An MIT report written by a team of international experts calculated that Colorado has the largest quantity of geothermal heat of any U.S. state that could potentially be used to generate electricity in the depth range of 10- to 13,000 feet – a depth easily reached by oil drilling rigs. A separate study by the Idaho National Laboratory showed that Colorado ranks fourth in the nation in the number of hot-spring sites with good potential for geothermal electricity generation.

The MOU ensures an exchange of information and consultation between agencies when BLM and the Colorado State Land Board receive nominations to lease geothermal parcels, as well as when any other division within DNR seeks to convey rights to geothermal resources. The agreement also ensures that lessees will be notified of applicable state and federal laws and regulations related to water rights, rights-of-way issues and protection of existing geothermal features.

The BLM is responsible for leasing and developing geothermal resources on the federal mineral estates, including such resources beneath U.S. Forest Service lands. The Colorado State Land Board, a division of the DNR, manages three million acres of land and four million acres of mineral rights that the federal government gave to Colorado to generate revenue for public education and some of the state’s institutions.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

IBCC: Proceedings from the Statewide Roundtable Summit are available online

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From the executive summary:

On March 3, 2011, the Statewide Roundtable Summit drew participants from all corners of Colorado to discuss how to move forward with planning for the State’s water supply future. The Summit was designed by the Public Education, Participation and Outreach Workgroup of the IBCC as an opportunity to meet fellow water supply planning cohorts from around the state and continue connecting the activities and entities within the Basin Roundtable process. Lively dialogue at the Summit centered on the role of the roundtables and the IBCC Framework. Of the 275 people that registered for the Summit, 128 were from a Basin Roundtable or the Interbasin Compact Committee, representing about 40% of the roundtable community (see table below). Of the remainder of participants, 22 were supporting staff and consultants, and 125 were members of the interested public. The latter represented government agencies, water providers, engineering firms, non-profit organizations, congressional offices, and academic institutions…

Additional detail, including complete notes, can be found by going to the Statewide Roundtable Summit webpage.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Salida: New rates are designed to more adequately fund fixed costs

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From The Mountain Mail (Cailey McDermott):

Flat fees have two components – service water charge and service maintenance charge, [city finance director Jan Schmidt] said. Maintenance fees cover costs to repair water lines and meters. Those fixed costs haven’t changed, she said, so that fee wasn’t increased much. Maintenance fees increased by $3.23 or 9 percent…

“We increased the flat fees more because we felt the need for a more reliable revenue stream to match our fixed costs,” Schmidt said. She said residential multi-family homes, example 3, were “hit pretty hard” on the base rate because they would have to pay for both the residential water service charge and the second unit service charge. Their total bill will increase by $88.81…

Another increase customers will see when their first quarter bill arrives will be the automatic 5 percent increase that went into effect Jan 1. after a decision by the previous council.

More infrastructure coverage here.

H.R. 1, Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 would strip Clean Water Act Protections from streams in Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield and Park counties

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From an oped penned by Sharon Lance and Jo Evans running in the Boulder Daily Camera:

One of the riders that Coloradans should be most concerned about also strikes at the heart of the Clean Water Act. This rider blocks federal guidance and rulemaking that would restore protection for some wetlands and streams which were curtailed by two harmful and confusing Supreme Court decisions, Rapanos (2006) and SWANCC (2001). Taken together, these decisions and existing agency guidance have removed protections for at least 20 million acres of wetlands, especially prairie potholes and other seasonal wetlands that are essential to waterfowl populations throughout the country.

In Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield and Park counties, 40 percent to 60 percent of the stream miles feeding the drinking water supplies for 725,000 people are at risk of losing Clean Water Act protections from pollution. Preventing action on this issue denies protections for Colorado`s rivers, lakes and streams and denies clarity to landowners, conservationists and the regulated community.

The Colorado Department of Wildlife is holding a meeting in Meeker about the proposed Moffat Collection System Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project April 7

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Under consideration will be the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s proposal to divert additional water from the Upper Colorado Basin to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Longmont, and Denver Water’s plan to firm up the yield from its existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers. Denver and Northern are both proposing steps to address impacts to fish and wildlife on both sides of the Continental Divide. Both the mitigation and enhancement plans will be presented to the Commission at the meeting.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here. More Windy Gap coverage here.

Snowpack/Precipitation news: Northern Colorado irrigators and water suppliers are smiling, San Juan and Rio Grande not so much, Cameron pass has record snow

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

The Colorado, Yampa, White and South Platte rivers are among those favored by March’s La Niña weather patterns, which favored the northern mountains and left but a dusting on the southern mountains. The North Platte River is at the highest percent of average across the state, at 135 percent. The April 1 totals for the northern mountains are the highest for the time of year since the computation of basinwide totals began in 1968, a conservation service news release said…

In the Upper Colorado River Basin, snowpack rose again after three months of decline and remains above average. January’s measurements showed the basin was at 147 percent of average. In February and March, it dropped to 135 percent and 128 percent, respectively. But with March snowfall, the April 1 amounts are back to 130 percent of average and 172 percent of last year.

The Arkansas River Basin is at 103 percent of average, down from March’s 108 percent of average. January and February were at 105 and 103 percent of average, respectively. The basin currently sits at 99 percent of last year’s snowpack, compared to 110 percent last month. Percentages elsewhere in the southern mountains declined sharply in April 1 readings.

They’re now at the lowest readings of the year and are consistently below average in the Rio Grande and combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins.

Compared to northern Colorado, some smaller tributary basins in the Rio Grande Basin have dropped to nearly 50 percent of average, meaning the spring and summer water supply in the southern portion of the state — including the southern tributaries of the Arkansas River — is for below average runoff this year.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

…in a survey taken last week, John Fusaro of the USDA NRCS office in Fort Collins said the 105-inch average depth of snow was the highest recorded at Cameron Pass, and the water content at the survey field was the third-highest since record-keeping began in 1936. That feeds the Poudre River, which flows into the South Platte River east of Greeley. That helped the South Platte River basin to a 121 percent of average reading and more than 50 percent more than last year’s readings…

“About the only basins likely to see below-average runoff this year are the Rio Grande, the southern tributaries of the Arkansas River, and the southwestern basins,” [Allen Green, state conservationist with the NRCS] said in the news release. Those areas, along with rest of the state, have good reservoir storage that will help supplement expected lower supplies.

From the Associated Press via (Kim Nguyen):

The Natural Resources Conservation Service said the snowpack statewide on the first of April was 113 percent of average, down slightly from a month ago.

From The Mountain Mail (Shelley Mayer):

Failing to live up to its reputation as the snowiest month, March in Salida continued a seven-month dry period with a total of .13 inch of precipitation. Historical average for the month is .73 inch of moisture. Although scattered raindrops, snowflakes and graupel occurred several times, measurable precipitation was recorded twice – .05 inch March 8 and .08 inch March 13. Salida January-March precipitation was .62 inches, nearly an inch less than the historical average of 1.59 inches. From September through March, Salida totaled 1.61 inches of moisture compared to the historical average of 4.56 inches.