R.I.P. Laurence ‘Campy’ Campton


From The Mountain Mail (Arlene Shovald):

“Dad had goals,” his son Chuck said. “He wanted to make it to the anniversary and Mom’s birthday. Her birthday was April 12 and we lost him April 13. He considered anything past the anniversary to be a bonus day. He was a blessing and a patriot.”

The Camptons were married March 28, 1937.

He was a veteran of World War II, and during the Battle of the Bulge he was taken prisoner of war in Germany and spent 91 days in confinement. He weighed about 90 pounds when he was released on their eighth wedding anniversary, March 28, 1945.

In the early years he was active with FIBArk, both as an organizer and a competitor. He won the down-river race in 1959 and shared his passion for the down-river event with son Chuck, who raced in the 1960s, and his grandson Christen, who raced in 2007. In 2011 Campy was named to the FIBArk Hall of Fame.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Commerce City delays vote on six month moratorium for oil and gas activities inside the city limits


From the Denver Business Journal:

Commerce City has delayed voting on a proposed six-month moratorium on oil and gas activities in the city until July 16.

Meanwhile, the council, which met Monday, asked the city staff to work on completing proposed land use code changes regulating energy development, a city statement said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Denver Water is keeping an eye on the Lower North Fork fire area potential runoff into Strontia Reservoir


From the High Timber Times (Gabrielle Porter):

Strontia Springs Reservoir, at the mouth of Waterton Canyon, is also just downstream from the area affected by the Lower North Fork Fire, and crews from the company went to the burn site April 5 to start examining streams’ water quality, said spokesman Joe Sloan. The crews are looking for ash and sediment from the more recent fire; ash can cause a bad taste or smell in drinking water. “Today’s the first day we’ve been allowed up onto the Denver Water property,” Sloan said April 5. “We always have a team of folks from our water labs … monitoring.”[…]

Sloan said he didn’t know how soon crews would know about any possible contamination.

More Denver Water coverage here and here.

Loveland: Annual waterway cleanup Saturday


From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Benes):

Volunteers will clean up areas of the Big Thompson River, Dry Creek, Big Barnes Ditch and many more ditches…

Last year, 381 volunteers removed about 93 cubic yards of trash and debris. The stormwater division counts on about 400 volunteers and hopes to reach that number this week, which is when a lot of volunteers sign up.

As part of the stormwater permit through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the division creates a number of programs like the waterway cleanup to provide for public participation and education.

More Big Thompson River watershed coverage here.

Snowpack news: Today’s Statewide High/Low graph from the NRCS shows an uptick from the recent weather system



From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

If the region doesn’t see significant moisture, 2012 could be remembered as the year that northeastern Colorado broke — by a long shot — any record-low precipitation numbers posted during the Dust Bowl and other years when drought has plagued the region.

As of Monday, 2012’s precipitation figures through April in Fort Collins were far below any recorded of the Dust Bowl years (Greeley’s precipitation data only dates back to the late 1960s, so there are no numbers from the 1930s available for comparison. Fort Collins is the closest city in which 1930s numbers are available).

This year’s numbers so far are also much worse than those recorded during the historic drought year of 2002, according to statistics provided by the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins.

At the current rate of moisture, 2012 looks to have less than 4 inches of precipitation by the end of the year in northeastern Colorado, which is less than half of what was recorded in 1934 and 1936 — the two driest years of the Dust Bowl — and in 2002.

Of course, there’s still plenty of time to rebound from the historically dry year the region has endured.

Interior Announces First Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project Construction Contract


Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamtion (Adam Fetcher/Pat Page)

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Bureau of Reclamation today has awarded a $10.75 million construction contract for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, setting the stage for construction to begin on the major water infrastructure project this summer. When completed, the project will provide a long-term, sustainable water supply to meet the critical needs of more than 43 Navajo chapters; the city of Gallup, New Mexico; and the Teepee Junction area of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
Once construction is underway, it is possible that the first water delivery to Navajo communities – where more than 40 percent of Navajo Nation households rely on hauling water to meet their daily need – could occur in two to three years.

“This construction contract award marks a major milestone for this high-priority infrastructure project as we work to implement the historic water rights settlement that will deliver clean drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people and offer certainty to water users across the west,” said Salazar. “In the short term, this project is expected to create hundreds of high-paying construction jobs; in the long-term, the permanent water supply will vastly improve the quality of life and offer greater economic security for the Navajo Nation.”

The project, one of 14 high-priority infrastructure projects identified by the Obama Administration to be expedited through the permitting and environmental review process, will include approximately 280 miles of pipeline, several pumping plants, and two water treatment plants.

Today’s contract, awarded to McMillen, LLC of Boise, Idaho, is for Reach 12A of the project which will consist of placing approximately four miles of 42-inch diameter water supply pipeline and appurtenant facilities located about eight miles north of Gallup in McKinley County. Construction of future reaches will be performed by four entities. Reclamation will construct a portion of the future reaches under its own authorities, and other portions will be constructed by the city of Gallup, Navajo Nation, and Indian Health Service under their own authorities in accordance with financial assistance agreements with Reclamation.

It is estimated that 400-450 jobs will be created on the multiple contracts to be awarded within the first year; increasing to an estimated 600-650 jobs at the peak of construction.

“Our steady progress over the past year has positioned us to break ground on this important project as early as this summer,” said Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor. “Given the strong need for clean water supplies, we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that the project moves forward in an efficient and transparent way.” Project participants include the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup, in conjunction with the state of New Mexico, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. Reclamation has continued to work closely with the project participants to complete the many requisite pre-construction activities since Secretary Salazar signed the Navajo Nation San Juan River Basin Water Rights Settlement agreement in December 2010.

Repayment contracts have been executed with the city of Gallup and the Jicarilla Apache Nation providing the terms and conditions by which those entities will repay their allocable portions of the project construction costs. Additionally, a cost-share agreement with the state of New Mexico was executed for the state’s share of the project’s construction costs.

Public Law 111-11, which authorized the project, requires construction of all features to be completed by Dec. 31, 2024. In order to meet the legislated deadline, construction of project reaches will occur simultaneously with priority on construction of initial facilities to convey water to areas within the Navajo Nation that have immediate needs. Those demands will be met in the short-term by delivery from existing groundwater wells.

The completed project will provide 37,376 acre-feet of water annually from the San Juan River Basin to more than 43 Navajo chapters, including Fort Defiance service area in Arizona, the city of Gallup and the Teepee Junction area of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. These areas rely on rapidly depleting groundwater of poor quality that is inadequate to meet current and future demands. The project will provide an adequate supply of water to support a future population of approximately 250,000 people by the year 2040.

Reclamation continues to cooperatively work with project participants and federal action agencies to identify areas where permitting and approval processes can be streamlined to facilitate project construction. The current status of the project is publicly available through the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard web site designed to enhance efficiency, accountability, and transparency of the federal permitting and review process for all 14 high-priority infrastructure projects.

More San Juan River basin coverage here and here.

Grand Junction: Colorado Mesa University to host ‘How low will they go?’ public meeting May 2


Here’s the announcement from Colorado Mesa University:

How could this year’s slim snowpack affect Mesa County water users?

Bureau of Reclamation 75 Years of Defending West Slope Water: History of the Colorado River District George Sibley

Statewide Water Planning: Facing Possible Shortages Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District

Local Perspectives: Larry Clever, Ute Water; Petrika Peters, Colorado Environmental Coalition; Mel Rettig, Rettig Farms.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

2012 Colorado November election: Initiatives 3 and 45 clear the single subject requirement for the ballot


From the Associated Press via The Coshocton Tribune:

The Colorado Supreme Court has approved the titles for two proposals that critics say would change the way Colorado has handled water rights since 1876. The court announced Monday that each proposal properly asks voters to consider only one issue.

Proponents want to amend the constitution to highlight a clause that spells out that unappropriated water in natural streams is public property. A related proposal would spell out in the constitution that water rights can be constricted to prohibit uses that would harm the public’s ownership in the water.

Update: Doug Kemper, Executive Director of the Colorado Water Congress, sent along the Colorado Supreme Court rulings attached to email:

Initiative 3
Initiative 45

From Kemper’s email:

The Court held that Initiative #3 and its Title contain a single subject because they relate to “the public’s rights in the waters of natural streams.” According to the Court, the other subsections are necessarily and properly connected to subsection (2) because they explain the proposed doctrine’s relationship to existing contract, property, and appropriative rights and provide how the new regime will be enacted and enforced. The Court also found that the Titles clearly expressed the initiative’s single subject.

In his dissent, Justice Hobbs agreed with us that Initiative #3 has at least three separate subjects: (1) subordinating existing water rights to a newly created dominant water estate; (2) subjecting the lands of the banks of streams to a newly created navigation servitude for commerce and public use; and (3) creating a new property right of access by the public to any natural stream in Colorado. Because of this, he would have overturned the Title Board’s action in setting the titles.

Similarly, the Supreme Court held that Initiative #45 contains a single subject, concluding that “public control of waters” is one subject and all of the initiative’s provisions properly and necessarily relate to that subject. The Court also held that the Titles fairly and clearly expressed the subject of Initiative #45, because a “yes” vote will expand public control of the state’s water while a “no” vote will reject the proposal’s revisions to the existing constitutional framework.

Again, Justice Hobbs rejected the majority’s opinion and agreed with us that Initiative #45 will enact at least three multiple discrete subjects. He found that it will subordinate existing water rights in Colorado created over the past 150 years to the newly-created public’s dominant estate in water; allow non-tributary groundwater to be appropriated by anyone without consent of the overlying landowner; and impose riparian water law on the State of Colorado and on water rights that have already been appropriated. Justice Hobbs would also have overturned the Title Board’s decision on Initiative #45 because it, too, contained multiple subjects.

We will be discussing our next steps related to the proposed ballot initiatives in the next few days. Please remember that, to our knowledge, no signatures have been collected as yet for either initiative. So today’s rulings do not mean that the initiatives will be on the ballot. Additional information related to the ballot initiatives will be forthcoming.

More coverage from Eric Brown writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

On Monday, the court approved titles to Initiatives 3 and 45. Those proposed pieces of legislation collectively seek to apply the public trust doctrine to Colorado water rights through a constitutional change, and would override the state’s current prior-appropriation system — law that states those who own older water rights have a higher priority in using them. Additionally, more than 130 years of case law that have helped define how water is used in Colorado would be thrown out the window if the initiatives are eventually voted into law, opponents say.

The Supreme Court said in its decision this week the proposals properly ask voters to consider only one issue. That’s been one source of debate in recent months regarding the proposals.

In a strong dissent, Justice Gregory J. Hobbs Jr. said: “Masquerading as a measure to protect the public’s control of water, it would prevent farmers, cities, families and businesses from making beneficial use of water rights that have vested in them over the past 150 years under Colorado’s statutes and Constitution.

Hobbs, one of the nation’s leading authorities on water law, added: “It would deprive Colorado of its interstate allocation of waters of the Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers by imposing a predominantly non-consumptive water regimen upon the State and its water users, resulting in the free flow of waters across our boundaries for the use of others, devastating Colorado’s economy and way of life.”

With the Supreme Court’s approval Monday, the initiatives could be on the ballot in November, if sponsors can get enough petition signatures.

Update: From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The ruling means the sponsors of the initiative may collect signatures to place the titles on the ballot. They must collect 86,000 signatures by July…

The initiatives are sponsored by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay and his Littleton attorney, Phil Doe. They seek to apply the public trust doctrine to Colorado water rights. Initiative 3 concerns “public rights in the waters of natural streams,” while Initiative 45 concerns “public control of waters.”[…]

Initiative 3 ignores the potential for the state to assume control of land alongside streams if a public right of use is applied, and ignores how common law measures have been interpreted in other states. Initiative 45 would subordinate water rights adjudicated in Colorado over the past 150 years, Hobbs wrote in the dissent. Passing the initiatives could create a “super water right” for environmental and recreation purposes, he said.

More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is still actively trying to score shares on the Bessemer Ditch


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Since 2009, the Pueblo water board has spent $59 million to purchase 5,541 shares, roughly 28 percent, of the Bessemer Ditch. The water board bought farms in 2010-11, but needed funds to pay for electric rate hikes in 2012. The board also wanted to hold the line on water rates “We still have an interest in purchasing shares and I’m sure there is interest in selling,” Hamel said. “But we did not budget any money to buy shares this year.”

The water board anticipates spending another $1 million for a change case in Division 2 Water Court, which most likely would be filed in 2013. The change would allow water to be moved from the ditch into the city’s water system. Contracts for the sales allow the water to remain in use on farms for the next 20 years. The change case will cover only those farms purchased by the water board, and will not apply to other water users along the ditch, Hamel said.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities plans to file appeal of Judge Victor Reyes’ decision about water quality permit


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We do plan to appeal the ruling,” said Janet Rummel, a spokeswoman for Utilities. “We will need to consult with the state on the timing, but anticipate it will be filed as soon as is practical.”

The city also would have the option of following Reyes’ order and seeking another set of guidelines from the Colorado Water Quality Control Division, presumably with another hearing before the commission. The state is evaluating which course to take…

Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut said SDS does not have a valid permit, but needs one for the project to continue. “In order for the SDS system to proceed, the owners need to obtain one from the state,” Thiebaut said. “Approval of a new 401 certification will require a comment period and opportunity for appeal. In the alternative, the defendants can appeal to a higher court…

Reyes ruled that the adaptive management plan Colorado Springs, the state and other agencies have agreed to is not a reasonable safeguard against contamination of Fountain Creek.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.