2013 Colorado legislation: A look at the week ahead from the Fort Collins Coloradoan #coleg


From the Associated Press via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:


Last year’s devastating fire season has prompted lawmakers to think about establishing a state firefighting fleet. Under the bill, a new division would have the power to buy or lease firefighting aircraft. The bill faces its first test in a Senate committee on Thursday.


Democratic efforts to put new limits on oil and gas drillers continue this week. A House committee hears two of them Thursday, including a bill to allow local governments to charge for drill-site inspections. Another bill would commission a study of whether Front Range drilling operations can harm human health.

From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe) via the Loveland Reporter Herald:

Drilling for oil and gas has nearly doubled on the Front Range since 2006, sparking local concerns and seven legislative bills — with more possible. Some bills focus on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the agency overseeing oil and gas development. The measures seek to boost inspections, increase spill reporting, raise fines and limit industry influence. Others seek to buttress the role of local government in overseeing oil and gas development…

In 2013, the two largest operators in the region, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy, are poised to spend more than $3.2 billion on Front Range oil and gas development and drill about 650 wells. The discretionary portion of the state’s budget, by comparison, is about $8.2 billion. For Hickenlooper, who supports oil and gas development and maintains that the state has sole control over regulating drilling, the Democrat-sponsored and -supported bills create a dilemma. “I am very sympathetic to communities that are seeing a changing landscape and are worried about an industrial activity within a thousand feet of their homes,” Hickenlooper said in an interview. “But what are you going to do, take away everyone’s mineral rights?”[…]

In 2012, Colorado oil production reached a 51-year high — 48 million barrels — and Anadarko and Noble are projecting drilling about 1,600 wells in the next five years. In February, ConocoPhillips announced that it had found a “sweet spot” in the Arapahoe-Adams County area and is planning to drill 38 wells this year. Almost all the activity has been in Weld County, but local officials in neighboring areas are struggling, as drilling spreads, to meet their residents’ concerns over health, safety and property values. “As a local official, you feel your hands are tied,” said Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City. “That’s why you are seeing these bills in the legislature.”

A lack of confidence in state regulators is also fueling much of the debate…

“The people rose up and did this because they are not getting satisfaction from their government,” Kaye Fissinger, a spokeswoman for the citizens group Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, testified at a hearing. “They were not getting satisfaction from the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission,” Fissinger said.

The administration is trying to find common ground with legislators on some of the bills, Matt Lepore, the executive director of the oil-and-gas commission, said in an e-mail.

But bills requiring an $8.2 million increase in oil and gas inspectors and blocking anyone paid by the industry from serving on the commission — which has three industry-designated seats — are problems, administration officials said. “You want to think very carefully before you change the commission’s mission,” Hickenlooper said…

“It will be interesting to see what the governor does,” said Peter Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, an environmental group supporting the bills.

“Representatives are bringing their constituents’ concerns about a state agency they do not see as being responsive,” Maysmith said. “This is democracy playing out.”

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Forecast news: Eight to twelve inches of snow forecast for some of the mountains, Monday into Tuesday #codrought #cowx

From the National Weather Service Pueblo office:

Active weather over Colorado beginning late Monday through Tuesday. A strong area of low pressure will bring snow to the mountains beginning Monday night, continuing through Tuesday afternoon. Thunderstorms will be possible Monday night across the San Luis Valley, I-25 corridor, and the eastern plains north of Highway 50. After a strong cold frontal passage early Tuesday, snow showers will be possible in those areas Tuesday afternoon. Blizzard conditions are possible across the Palmer Divide beginning early Tuesday morning.

From the National Weather Service Grand Junction office:

Another minor disturbance, indicated by the brown line over northern Nevada, will move across Colorado and Utah this afternoon bringing another chance for some rainshowers and thunderstorms. The closed low just off the Pacific Northwest coast will start dropping southeast today along with a strong cold front causing inclement weather Monday through Wednesday. Snow will overspread the area late Monday night through Wednesday with all mountainous terrain seeing snow accumulations with some valleys also possibly seeing some snow. Also, the pressure gradient will tighten up causing winds of 35 to 40 mph with gusts possibly reaching 60 mph over the eastern Uintas and northwestern Colorado. These winds mixed with snowfall may create blizzard conditions so a blizzard watch has been issued for those areas. Most mountainous terrain have winter weather watches in place valid from Monday evening through Tuesday evening. Snow accumulations of 8 to 12 inches are possible with locally higher amounts expected.

Say hello to the Summit County Citizens Voice


Click here to read an article about the Summit County Citizens Voice written by the purveyor, Bob Berwyn. He does a terrific job up in Summit County. Here’s an excerpt:

We also try to offer sustained and in-depth coverage of Colorado water issues, important any time, but absolutely critical in years of drought, when the outlook for summer water supplies is uncertain. Already, key players in the Colorado water stage are jockeying and juggling, trying to make a meager supply last through a long, hot summer. This past week, we reported on a Colorado River deal that will enable more storage in the Colorado River headwaters region.

Another story about the Colorado snowpack used charts and graphs to help illustrate the state’s ongoing drought conditions. Although parts of the high country did get some decent snows in March, it wasn’t nearly enough to alleviate overall drought conditions. In a typical winter, March accounts for 20 percent of the seasonal snow accumulation, but this year’s March snowfall was well below normal at most SNOTEL sites, with the exception of the South Platte and Colorado River basins. Read the story here.

I follow the Summit Voice on Twitter and have linked to them hundreds of times over the years since the venture began.

USGS: Progress Toward Establishing a National Assessment of Water Availability and Use



Here’s Circular 1384 from the United States Geological Service. Here’s the introduction to the report (Alley, W.M./Evenson, E.J./Barber, N.L./Bruce, B.W./Dennehy, K.F./Freeman, M.C./Freeman, W.O./Fischer, J.M./Hughes, W.B./Kennen, J.G./Kiang, J.E./Maloney, K.O./Musgrove, MaryLynn/Ralston, Barbara/Tessler, Steven/Verdin, J.P):

Executive Summary

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11) was passed into law on March 30, 2009. Subtitle F, also known as the SECURE Water Act, calls for the establishment of a “national water availability and use assessment program” within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). A major driver for this recommendation was that national water availability and use have not been comprehensively assessed since 1978.

This report fulfills a requirement to report to Congress on progress in implementing the national water availability and use assessment program, also referred to as the National Water Census. The SECURE Water Act authorized $20 million for each of fiscal years (FY) 2009 through 2023 for assessment of national water availability and use. The first appropriation for this effort was $4 million in FY 2011, followed by an appropriation of $6 million in FY 2012.

The National Water Census synthesizes and reports information at the regional and national scales, with an emphasis on compiling and reporting the information in a way that is useful to states and others responsible for water management and natural-resource issues. The USGS works with Federal and non-Federal agencies, universities, and other organizations to ensure that the information can be aggregated with other types of water-availability and socioeconomic information, such as data on food and energy production. To maximize the utility of the information, the USGS coordinates the design and development of the effort through the Federal Advisory Committee on Water Information.

A National Water Census is a complex undertaking, particularly because there are major gaps in the information needed to conduct such an assessment. To maximize progress, the USGS engaged stakeholders in a discussion of priorities and leveraged existing studies and program activities to enhance efforts toward the development of a National Water Census.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The census is being developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and will provide additional tools for water planners to use in making projections. The survey will look at competing demands for water resources and supply scenarios.

Water planning of this type already is occurring in water-short areas.

The Bureau of Reclamation last year completed an assessment on the Colorado River. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has developed decision-support systems for the Colorado River and Rio Grande basins and is working on similar models for the South Platte and Arkansas river basins.

More USGS coverage here and here.

Arkansas River Basin: Two Rivers acquires Sunset Metropolitan District land, plans reservoirs near Avondale


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

An El Paso County water district could be used to fund a plan to build reservoirs on the Arkansas River in Pueblo County. Two Rivers Water and Farming Co. has acquired all of the land inside the Sunset Metropolitan District near Colorado Springs and plans to use the district’s bonding capacity to build reservoirs on the Arkansas River near Avondale. Two Rivers plans to amend the Sunset district’s service plan to focus on rotational farm fallowing in the Arkansas River Basin, CEO John McKowen said in a press release last week.

The plan includes changing the district’s name to Farm-City Metropolitan District and using the district’s bonding capacity to finance water infrastructure projects that support rotational farm fallowing, he said. The district has a bonding capacity of $130 million, with no bonds currently outstanding. It was originally formed to provide water to a housing development. “The district’s service plan will be amended so farmers can build and comanage the water infrastructure that supports farmers,” McKowen said.

Collaborative rotational farm fallowing agreements between farmers and municipalities make surplus urban water available for irrigation and conversely make irrigation water available for urban use during droughts without permanently drying up farmland.

Two Rivers is in discussions with the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs Utilities and others to develop 25,000 acre-feet of new storage. Two Rivers expects to acquire properties on which it will construct gravel pit reservoirs and lease a portion of the water storage space to municipalities in exchange for being provided longterm leases of excess municipal water to be used for irrigation. Two Rivers anticipates restoring as much as 25,000 acres of farmland in Pueblo County, planting a mix of high yield and higher value vegetable and fodder crops.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.