Colorado Water Congress 2012 Annual Convention: State lawmakers oppose public trust measures on fall ballot

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“If we don’t defeat these initiatives, those uneducated about water will take control and irrigated agriculture will cease to be important,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, D-Sterling…

The [Colorado Water Congress] has opposed two initiatives by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay and his attorney Phil Doe of Littleton. Those measures seek to supplant constitutional provisions that form the basis for Colorado’s prior appropriation doctrine and replace it with a public trust doctrine. The CWC has hired attorney Steve Leonhardt to fight the ballot initiatives during the early stages and has received support of other water groups, such as the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, in its effort. The CWC plans to appeal the state title board’s approval of ballot measures 3 and 45 because they include multiple subjects in violation of Colorado law, Leonhardt said…

Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, said more education of the state’s population about water issues is needed to defeat such ballot measures.

More coverage of the CWC annual convention from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The good news is that Colorado is coming out of the recession. It’s slow. It’s hard, but it’s there,” said Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, chairwoman of the Joint Budget Committee. The state has siphoned $200 million in mineral severance funds meant for water projects to bolster the general fund since 2008.

This has the potential to damage water availability in the future as more projects are backlogged. “We need something to show our grandchildren about our investment in water in Colorado,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village…

“Without water, we have limited jobs and growth,” [State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg] said. “We have water leaving the state beyond our compact obligations. Water storage has to be a priority.”

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news: Statewide — 74% of average, Arkansas Basin jumps back into average range (barely) at 90%

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via The Fence Post:

“We’ve had some snow recently that’s helped us rebound a bit, but we’re still a ways behind … and nowhere near where we were a year ago,” [State Climatologist Nolan Doesken] said, reflecting back to the winter and spring of 2011, when snowpack numbers were well above normal. As Doesken explained, most of the snowfall in the mountains doesn’t come until March and April. Last year, it wasn’t until the second week of April that the heavy snowfall came, he said during his presentation Wednesday. But the persisting La Niña weather patterns make it tough for forecasters to predict big snows this spring, he added. La Niña patterns traditionally result in dry weather, even bringing on drought in some areas — as it did in Texas this past year…

While much of the state has seen some improvement during the month of January, the South Platte River has taken a step backward, with its snowpack 19 percent below average Wednesday after it was 15 percent below average on Jan. 1…

While some farmers can depend on that stored water to irrigate their crops later this year, dry weather could cause problems for dryland wheat farmers and others who plant crops that don’t use irrigation.

CWCB: La Veta scores $372,000 to shore up North Lake Reservoir

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

La Veta serves about 800 residents and uses 209 acre-feet of water annually, on average. Its two reservoirs hold a combined 350 acre-feet. The town, located southwest of Walsenburg, already has a hefty debt from replacing water mains, so the 3 percent, 30-year loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board is very welcome, [Rob Saint Peter] said…

The North Lake reservoir was built in the 1940s and holds about 80 acre-feet, but is deeper than the South Lake reservoir that holds 270 acre-feet. The state engineer put restrictions on North Lake that have kept it drawn down by 2 1/2 feet…

The CWCB also heard updates:

– On a $1.18 million loan to the Two Rivers Water Co. for rehabilitation of Orlando Reservoir.

– On a $9 million loan to Penrose for the purchase and storage of water rights from the Goodwin Ranch.

– On a $1.3 million renovation of the Las Animas Consolidated Ditch extension diversion on the Arkansas River. Xcel Energy owns most of the water rights, but the CWCB provided a $260,000 loan to the remaining shareholders of two ditch companies to complete the roller-compacted concrete intake.

More CWCB coverage here.

Animas-La Plata Project: Colorado and Reclamation are getting close to a deal for storage in Lake Nighthorse

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Columbus Republic:

Colorado’s Legislature has authorized paying $36 million to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for its share of 10,460 acre-feet of water, plus interest on construction costs. But the interest has been building, and the $36 million likely won’t cover everything Colorado owes.

The tribes had proposed that Colorado allow its share of water to revert back to the tribes, which weren’t assessed for construction. The tribes would then sell the water back to the state at what they say would be a much lower price than what the state would pay the bureau…

However, after two years of talking with tribal representatives, the Colorado Water Conservation Board has directed its staff to move forward on contract talks with the Bureau of Reclamation, board director Jennifer Gimbel said.

Gimbel said the board took the tribes’ proposal “very seriously.” However some board members questioned whether outside parties would challenge the proposal in court. Though legislators have already approved $36 million for project water, some board members also questioned how willing legislators would be in future years to spend on Animas-La Plata project water.

If you’re interested in Native American issues in the Colorado River Basin please think about attending Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Speakers Series Monday night. The theme for the shindig is, “Unheard Voices of the Colorado River Basin: Bringing Mexico and Native American Tribes to the Table.” It should be a hoot, every presentation in the series so far has been.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.