A 12-person team tasked with sorting out how local governments might be involved with regulating the oil and gas industry in Colorado began their work Friday with clear direction from Attorney General John Suthers. “The inspection authority can be shared and delegated, but the enforcement authority cannot,” Suthers said.
That may limit local efforts to impose new protective measures and issue citations but appears to leave room to craft new cooperative arrangements in the face of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s existing authority to promote and oversee oil and gas operations.
From email from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:
Today the Northern Water Board of Directors made 25,000 acre feet of water available for lease through the Regional Pool Program, a C-BT Project water leasing/renting mechanism, with bids due March 16. The board’s decision was based on the status of C-BT Project storage reserves, which were replenished in the previous two water years, and current crop irrigation demands.
Bid prices per acre foot must be greater than or equal to $9.50, a floor price the board selected based on the 2012 agricultural assessment.
A few days ago the Valley reached another milestone in its sub-district journey with Wolfe’s expectation letter telling the sub-district and its sponsoring district the Rio Grande Water Conservation District how much replacement water must be delivered this year — 5,000 acre feet.
Rio Grande Water Users Engineer Jim Slattery clarified the 5,000 acre feet is the amount of depletions a groundwater model determined must be replaced this year, but it does not begin to replenish the Valley’s greatly reduced aquifer.
Wolfe said the first sub-district must submit a plan to the state by April 15 that includes the specified water replacement amount, and the state will hold a public hearing in April before acting on the plan. The sub-district’s plan must be updated and approved annually…
The groundwater model Slattery and other engineers and scientists have spent countless hours developing is designed to help sub-districts determine how much water they need to replace, and until recently the model was not calibrated to a point where that number could be specified.
Wolfe said now that the groundwater model is refined enough to provide specific data about the kind of water replacements required in the Rio Grande Basin, the first sub-district and several other sub-districts in various stages of formation can move forward more rapidly.
In addition, Wolfe and a large advisory group can begin moving forward again on groundwater rules and regulations for the Rio Grande Basin. The well rules advisory group has not met since last August but will resume its meetings soon, Wolfe said.
His goal is to submit well regulations to the water court before the end of the year. How long between his promulgation of the rules to their implementation will depend on how many objections there are to the rules and whether or not a trial becomes necessary, he said. Wolfe said in similar regulation promulgations in other basins in the state, the time frame was about a year between the time the rules were submitted to the court and implemented.
More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.
Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office (Eric Brown/Megan Castle):
Gov. John Hickenlooper will meet with Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday, March 23, to discuss common efforts and issues related to eco-tourism and economic development. The three governors will meet in Wood River, Neb.
“The economies of Colorado and surrounding states are linked in many ways,” Hickenlooper said. “This meeting will be great opportunity to share ideas and find ways we can work together to boost tourism and economic development in our region.”
According to statistics gathered by the Colorado Tourism Office in 2010, Colorado attracted 51.6 million visitors made up by overnight leisure travelers and day trips. Visitors to Colorado spent $14.6 billion in 2010, an 8.4 percent increase over 2009. The tourism industry supports nearly 137,000 jobs and generates $750 million in local and state tax revenues, saving every Colorado household $395 in taxes they would have otherwise paid to maintain the same services.
In addition to discussing tourism efforts, the governors will view the world-renowned migration of the sandhill cranes, a significant eco-tourism attraction in Nebraska.
From mid-February to mid-April each year, visitors to the Platte River valley in south-central Nebraska can enjoy the migration of 90 percent of the world’s sandhill cranes. Approximately 500,000 sandhill cranes gather each year en route to their summer breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.
Farming and ranching is the second-largest contributor to our state’s economy. Most people just don’t realize that our rural communities are directly dependent on agriculture. At the turn of the century, our towns sprung up to support the emerging agricultural industry. As the agricultural industry grew, so did its supporting communities. Before long, the interdependency between local agriculture and its local community became so strong that if either failed, both would fail. This has proven especially true in Southeastern Colorado.
Agriculture is mostly made up of ranching, dry-land farming and irrigated land. It is the irrigated agriculture and the perennial supply of irrigation water that allows farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley to grow the crops for our food supply. The sale of these commodities such as corn, sorghum, wheat, alfalfa, onions, cantaloupes, watermelons, tomatoes, chiles and a slew of other crops bring millions of dollars into our rural communities annually. Water, especially irrigation water, has created wealth in private land and water rights ownership. Irrigated farmland is valued considerably higher because of the water and its production potential.
“This used to be a great repository for old tires and beer cans. There were also a lot of illegal ATVs tearing things up,” Lackey said last week, while looking from a city park at the restoration work in the river bed. “We hope this will be part of a new direction Trinidad takes.” Work is being done on a $120,000 project that will improve the fish habitat by adding groups of rocks that will help pool water in low flows and provide shelter in the higher water. The project also includes a trail, handicapped fishing features and removal of invasive species like tamarisks and Russian olives.
Contributors to the project include the city of Trinidad, Pioneer Natural Resources, Trout Unlimited, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and Purgatoire River Conservancy District, among many others. “We’re looking at this as a demonstration project,” said Jim Muzzulin, president of the local Trout Unlimited chapter. “It’s a real investment that will allow tourists and kids to go fishing in town. Every year they have the Santa Fe Trail Festival in this park, so Trout Unlimited can set up a booth and take them right down to the river to cast a line.”
The flows in the river are almost entirely controlled by releases from Trinidad Lake, about three miles upstream. During the winter months, water is stored. As snow melts, rains come or when farmers call for water out of storage, the flows pick up. The river bed is basically flat, and the higher flows scour it. Contractors have been hired to add small boulders at strategic points, reinforce banks and develop a more complex system for fish.