2012 Colorado legislation: Resolution to keep funds earmarked for water infrastructure from being raided passes the interim water resources committee at the state legislature

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From the Cortez Journal (State Senator Ellen Roberts):

Any legislator can carry a bill relating to water policy outside of those approved by the committee, but the value of having the committee’s approval at the start of the next session is that the subject matter of the bill has already been discussed and debated, with a supermajority of committee members voting to advance the idea on to the full legislature in January.

My being a member of the water committee was valuable for hearing the current water issues and concerns as presented by experts on various topics affecting our state water policies. I’m pleased to report that a resolution that I presented to the committee, which restates and reinforces the need to respect existing law regarding adequate funding to support Colorado’s water infrastructure, passed by a wide margin and will be introduced as a committee resolution this winter.

Too often, the funds for water infrastructure have been shifted to other uses in the budget and, like the energy impact funds for local communities, the legislature needs to apply the necessary fiscal discipline and foresight to use the funding for its original purposes. To do otherwise is another unfortunate example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

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

[Governor] Hickenlooper’s budget for next year, released Tuesday, gives rural lawmakers a few glimmers of hope. He proposes leaving $10 million in an account filled by taxes on gas and oil production so the state can resume making grants to local governments affected by gas drilling…

The state Department of Local Affairs stopped making grants in 2009 and instead shoveled the gas and oil severance tax money into the ailing general fund budget.

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, sponsored bills this spring to halt the practice. Both bills died in a committee in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Roberts called the $10 million that Hickenlooper has left for local grants a step in the right direction, “although only a baby step at this point.” “Still, I’d like to commend him for recognizing that those funds are by current law supposed to go to local communities and are important for putting people to work in the areas of the state where unemployment is very high,” Roberts said in an email interview…

Hickenlooper said he had no choice but to go after the money again. Otherwise, his proposed education cuts of $175 million would have to be even larger. “Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to make sure all the severance taxes go back into that grant program for the Department of Local Affairs,’ Hickenlooper said. “That’s how the old school politics worked. Give out these grants in the right places, and things went well.”

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Part two of the Clean Water America Alliance’s series ‘Hydraulic Fracturing: Fresh Facts & Facts & Critical Choices’ November 17

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Here’s the announcement from the CWA:

Join us Thursday, November 17, at 2:00 p.m. ET for the webcast series Hydraulic Fracturing: Fresh Facts & Critical Choices to explore the potential footprint on ecosystems as well as safeguards state regulators are using and developing to protect ground water. Kevin Heatley with Biohabitats, Inc., will discuss the significant landscape impact that can occur from drilling and fracturing operations and associated infrastructure systems on forests, wildlife, and habitat. Ground Water Protection Council’s Mike Paque will describe efforts of state regulators to protect watersheds and improve public transparency through the establishment of a national registry on fracturing fluids.

The Clean Water America Alliance and the American Water Resources Association are partnering to produce the three part webinar series. “The “Shale Rush,” prompted by technology breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing over the last decade has raised significant questions about the footprint on the environment, impact to public health, and the roles of various government agencies” explains Alliance President BenGrumbles. “Water is a particular concern with potential issues down under, downstream, or downwind. Especially now, as U.S. EPA seeks to develop rules on “fracking,” the water sector will want to develop a more in-depth and objective understanding on all aspects and consequences from objective sources.” Grumbles and Michael Campana (President of AWRA), will facilitate the expert panels and audience questions to shed more light on the fracking issue. Webcast registration is $50 per site, per event, or $100 for all three one-hour sessions, or $75 for members. Visit www.CleanWaterAmericaAlliance.org to register.

The next and last webcast in the series is December 1. It will discuss safeguards and concerns of natural gas recovery from deep shale formations as well as an update on EPA activities. Dr. Donald Siegel of Syracuse University will discuss the extent of potential natural gas supplies in shale in the United States, and how drilling and recovery can be done safely without impacts to humans or ecosystems if adequate safeguards are employed throughout the process. Dr. Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress will discuss possible impacts on humans and ecosystems if proper techniques for drilling and sealing of wells and recovery and storage/disposal of fracturing fluids and formation water are not in place if accidents occur at any stage of the process. A representative of the U.S. EPA will discuss pending studies and research-related activities of the agency.

The first webcast was November 1 and is available by video with registration. It presented an overview of fracking. Christopher Harto of Argonne National Laboratories, Washington, DC, described the generic process with a focus on correct procedures for drilling and installation of wells, injection of fracking fluids, recovery of natural gas, and methods for disposal of recovered fracking fluids and formation water. Carol Collier of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) discussed the proliferation of deep natural gas recovery wells in the DRBC, the opportunities and challenges present for residents of the DRBC, and potential positive and negative impacts of proliferation on the management of water and ecological resources in the DRBC.

For more information, contact Lorraine Loken at 202.533.1819, lloken@CWAA.org.

Meanwhile the EPA plans to have their study of hydraulic fracturing completed in 2014, according to The New York Times Green blog.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The November 2011 Colorado Water 2012 newsletter is hot off the press

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Here’s the link to the newsletter.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

The CWCB was in Telluride last week to gather input on the effects of drought on tourism and recreation

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Benjamin Preston):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board hosted an informational meeting Wednesday about its Drought Assessment for Recreation and Tourism, or DART. CWCB designed the program to fill gaps in the state’s drought impact data — which had been focused more on agriculture — and provide county-specific assessments.

“This is the first time anyone has done an assessment like this in the U.S.,” said Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, a CWCB official who traveled to Telluride to reach out to potential survey coordinators and participants. She called the I-70 corridor a threshold region and said the area south of it needs more detailed drought impact analysis. “Anything below I-70 seems to be more susceptible to drought.”

Hutchins-Cabibi sought more survey participants affected by drought, finding representatives from the Telluride Foundation, Mountain Studies Institute and other organizations around town at Wednesday’s meeting. But Hutchins-Cabibi said she needed as many participants as possible to make the survey more accurate. Honed in on the San Juan, San Miguel and Dolores River watersheds, DART’s Southwest Colorado component will evaluate a region of the state where tourism is particularly prone to the effects of drought.

A preliminary list of industries DART will evaluate includes skiing, wildlife viewing, hunting, fishing, camping, golf, boating and rafting. Meeting attendees offered a number of other suggested industries from which to seek input; everything from dog sledding and horseback riding to dude ranch operation. Cooperation with the Colorado Department of Corrections — which maintains fisheries in Cañon City — was also suggested.

While DART’s main collaborators are CWCB, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado State University, the study incorporates a long list of other participants: Colorado State Parks; the Colorado Division of Wildlife; the Colorado Tourism Office; the National Park Service; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management; the U.S. Forest Service; Ft. Lewis College; the University of Colorado; area tribal communities; Telluride, Silverton and Durango Mountain Resorts ski areas; and the River Rafting Association.

More CWCB coverage here.

Reclamation Seeks Non-Federal Applicants for Fiscal Year 2012 WaterSMART Basin Studies

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking eligible non-federal entities interested in participating in the 2012 Basin Studies under the WaterSMART Program. Eligible partners include states, tribes, water districts, cities and other local governmental entities with water delivery or management authority located in the 17 Western States.

Applicants must submit a letter of interest to their respective Reclamation regional office by November 30, 2011. To determine the Reclamation region in which a particular basin is located, please visit www.usbr.gov/main/regions.html.

Each Basin Study should include four main components:

– Projections of water supply and demand within the basin, including the risks of climate change.
– Analysis of how existing water and power infrastructure and operations will perform in response to changing water realities.
– Development of appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies to improve operations and infrastructure to meet future water demands.
– A trade-off analysis of the options identified, findings and recommendations as appropriate.

The non-federal partners must contribute at least 50 percent of the total study cost in non-federal funding or in-kind services. Basin Studies are not financial assistance and Reclamation’s share of the study costs may only be used to support work done by Reclamation or its contractors.

Proposed letters of interest for Basin Studies will be reviewed by Reclamation regional office staff. Those selected for consideration will then work with Reclamation technical experts to develop a joint study proposal for evaluation and prioritization by a Reclamation review committee.

The WaterSMART Program addresses increasing water supply challenges, including chronic water shortages due to population growth, climate variability and change and growing competition for finite water supplies. Through the Basin Studies, Reclamation will work cooperatively with state and local partners in the 17 Western States to evaluate future water supply and demand imbalances, assess the risks and impacts of climate change on water resources and develop potential mitigation and adaptation strategies to meet future demands.

For specific information on the WaterSMART Basin Studies, please visit www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/bsp. For information on the WaterSMART Program, please visit www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/.

More Reclamation coverage here.

Colorado Springs Utilities unveils $87 million budget increase, the Southern Delivery System causes 12% increase in water rates

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (John Schroyer):

Utilities’ budget is projected to jump by 8.6 percent in 2012, an increase made possible by a 12 percent increase in water rates, a 5 percent increase in natural gas rates, and about a 1 percent increase in electricity rates.

Roughly three-quarters of the $87 million will be devoted to SDS work, and the remainder will go to other projects, such as the installation of new emissions-cleaning technology at Drake Power Plant, said Utilities Finance and Planning Chief Bill Cherrier.

The 187-page budget, which the Utilities Board is analyzing, also predicts that water, electricity and natural gas usage will remain flat throughout 2012. Hence the need for the rate increases. The budget likely will be approved by the board, comprised of City Council members, in December without any substantive changes…

Utilities plans to spend $333 million on coal and natural gas to power both Drake and other power plants, and will spend $310 million on capital projects, such as SDS. “That’s more than 60 percent of our budget,” Cherrier pointed out.

Water rates will continue to increase by 12 percent every year until SDS is completed, which is slated for 2016. After that, Cherrier said, rates should even out, and may even decrease. Utilities board and city council member Tim Leigh suggested Colorado Springs may even become a water broker for other Front Range municipalities once SDS is finished. “Not everyone has a pipeline to the Arkansas River,” Leigh said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.