Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I hope you’re sitting down today to a feast with friends and family.

Mrs. Gulch has been busy baking pies using the sugar pumpkins she grew with all that treated Denver water over the summer.

The water in Boulder’s distribution system wins award

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

The city of Boulder’s water treatment facilities at Betasso and Boulder Reservoir have earned the Partnership for Safe Water Director’s Award for their commitment to water quality and consumer safety. Boulder joins the ranks of seven other Colorado water treatment facilities that have received the award for optimizing water treatment facility performance.

More water treatment coverage here.

Two Rivers is hoping to develop enough storage to benefit ag operations and municipalites that have water to store

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

John McKowen, CEO of Two Rivers Water Co., says farms owned and controlled by the company will only become more valuable as Two Rivers develops storage that could also benefit municipalities. A report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City shows a 12.6 percent increase in farmland value in mountain states over the past year, and that confirms the Two Rivers business model, McKowen said. “Soaring population growth worldwide coupled with Two Rivers’ plans to develop irrigated farmland at below-market rates make this an excellent time to execute on our business model,” said John McKowen, CEO of Two Rivers Water Co., in a press release.

Two Rivers Water has purchased or controls 4,700 acres of irrigated farmland under the Huerfano-Cucharas Ditch and Orlando Reservoir system. The company expects to have 3,000 acres in production for the spring 2012 growing season.

The company also plans to redevelop Cucharas and Orlando reservoirs in Huerfano County, providing storage on both the Cucharas and Huerfano rivers. While its agriculture rights are junior, the company is able to store during winter months in order to stretch its water supply, President Gary Barber told the Colorado Water Conservation Board last week.

Here’s the release from Two Rivers Water Company via PRNewswire.com:

Two Rivers Water Company Chairman and CEO John McKowen said that a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City showing a 12.6% increase in mountain states farmland values over the past year confirms Two River’s unique business model that combines operating irrigated farmland with its wholesale water business. In addition, Two Rivers has enduring economic advantages inside its two river basins which allow it to solely develop high yield irrigated farmland at half the cost of comparable farmland in its operating area. The report for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City can be found here

“Soaring population growth worldwide coupled with Two Rivers’ plans to develop irrigated farmland at below-market rates make this an excellent time to execute on our business model,” McKowen said. In 2011, Two Rivers Water acquired or placed under its control 4,700 gross acres of irrigated farmland and expects to have 3,000 acres in production for the spring 2012 growing season. “We’ll be planting organic corn and alfalfa which provide excellent gross revenue and profit margins in this economic environment,” McKowen said. “Yields should exceed 200+ bushels of corn or 6 ton of alfalfa per acre.”

Two Rivers also has the capability to provide water to municipalities currently suffering from water shortages in southeastern Colorado. Two Rivers controls 70,000 acre-feet of storage capacity in reservoirs and expects to develop more than 50,000 acre-feet of average annual stream diversion and aquifer production in the next 3 to 5 years. Two Rivers can support its farming operations without permanently drying up prime farmland by providing water to municipalities by fallowing its fields on a rotating basis.

In addition, McKowen noted that Americans are experiencing an accelerated debasing of the U.S. Dollar as the Federal Reserve continues policies intended to make U.S. exports more competitive in world markets. Investors can protect against US Dollar debasement and provide for good current income by investing in high quality irrigated farmland. Two Rivers provides an opportunity for investors to participate in farmland who do not have the capital or skill set to invest directly in the asset themselves.

New USFS permit rules: Ski industry claims a ‘taking’ of water rights, the Forest Service wants to keep water rights with the land

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From The Vail Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

[Boulder-based attorney Glenn Porzak] said the change would prevent ski areas from selling water rights they developed and perfected — and this violates a basic principle of Colorado water law.

He used several specific examples to illustrate impacts of the change.

The clause could prevent a ski area like Arapahoe Basin from selling unneeded water in an offsite Reservoir (Clinton Gulch) to another ski area, he explained.

Or, one of the Vail Resorts-owned areas in Summit County might decide it doesn’t need all the water rights it has acquired over the years for snowmaking. Instead, the area might want to sell those water rights to be used for irrigation on private base area lands. Once again, the language could prevent such a transfer, he said.

More water law coverage here and here.

Udall Bill Would Help Farmers, Ranchers Hand Down Lands Intact Through Conservation Easements

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From U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s blog:

Last week, Mark Udall reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to help rural families avoid the pressure to sell, break up or develop their property, keeping farms and ranches intact and in the family when handing it down to the next generation. The American Family Farm and Ranchland Protection Act would help families permanently protect their lands for agricultural and conservation use by changing the estate tax code to incentivize permanently conserving the land under easement.

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that permanently limits certain development on the land while allowing farming and ranching to continue. Under current law, if a property is placed in a conservation easement, 40 percent of the value of the land can be exempted from the taxable estate, but the amount is capped at $500,000 – despite rising land prices. For example, if an estate included a property in a conservation easement worth $2 million, $500,000 could be exempted from the taxable estate, but if the property were worth $1 million, only $400,000 could be exempted. Udall’s bill would raise the exclusion rate to 50 percent of the total value and cap it to $5 million, giving families tax relief when they choose to preserve portions of their lands for agricultural and conservation use.

“Colorado’s farmers and ranchers are the custodians of our rural and natural heritage, but outdated exemptions in estate tax law are sometimes forcing the loss of valuable agricultural lands,” Udall said. “My bill would make a simple fix to our tax code to help make it more consistent and fair, while encouraging more robust conservation of our open spaces. More important, it will encourage families to permanently protect the natural value of their lands through conservation easements so that they can be handed down to the next generation.”

The bill has broad local support, including from the American Farm Bureau, U.S. Cattlemen Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Land Trust Alliance and the Nature Conservancy. Udall introduced similar legislation last year.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain.

More conservation easements coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update: Over $100 million in contracts for construction of the project have been awarded by Colorado Springs Utilities

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Approximately 75 contractors and vendors with operations in Southern Colorado are working on SDS. More than 30 of these companies are from Pueblo County, and about $50 million in contracts have been committed to Pueblo County contractors so far,” said Janet Rummel, spokeswoman for Colorado Springs Utilities.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.