The latest newsletter from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University is hot off the press #ColoradoRiver


Click here to read the newsletter.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Chatfield Reallocation Project update: ‘We seem to be getting there, finally’ — Randy Knutson


From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Weld County farmers working against the clock to acquire more water could finally be nearing the finish line in one of their endeavors.

This month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved forward with its plan to nearly double the size of Chatfield Reservoir south of Denver — a project that would store and deliver more water to farmers in the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, along with other water users. After conversations of the project started in the 1980s and permitting efforts began in the mid 2000s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact study of the Chatfield Reallocation Project earlier this month and will accept comments regarding its final EIS until Tuesday. Afterward, recommendations will be forwarded to the assistant secretary to the Corps of Engineers, who will make the final decision.

Central Water executive director Randy Ray and Randy Knutson — a Weld County farmer who serves on the board of directors for Central Water — both said the final decision on the project could be released as early as the start of 2014. “We seem to be getting there, finally,” Knutson said. “It’s a good thing.”

Central Water, which provides augmentation water to more than 100,000 acres of irrigated farm ground in the area, is one of 11 water-providers participating in the proposed Chatfield project. The $184 million Chatfield Reallocation Project would raise the Denver-area lake by as much as 12 feet, and, in doing so, would provide an additional 2,849 acre-feet of water annually to some of Central’s users.

But before additional water can be stored at Chatfield Reservoir, facilities at the state park must be relocated to higher ground and new wildlife habitats must be created, along with many other measures.

While farmers in Weld County and others have supported the project, some people have been against it, questioning if enough efforts are in place to mitigate the potential impacts to wildlife and recreation in the area.

Local farmers say they need to secure such water supplies, and quickly, because the cities around them are growing and are increasing their own water needs.

Central Water and the farmers within its boundaries have long been dependent on leasing excess water from local cities, but those supplies are becoming more limited, and expensive. Farmers need augmentation water to make up for depletions to the aquifer and surrounding surface flows caused by pumping water out of the ground.

In addition to battling cities for supplies, more augmentation water is needed since many of the groundwater wells in Central Water’s boundaries were either curtailed or shut down in 2006, when the state made augmentation requirements more stringent. Some farmers haven’t been able to use their wells since then because they haven’t had the necessary amount of augmentation water to do so.

More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here.

51st State Initiative (secession): ‘I don’t have time for things I don’t think are serious or have any credibility’ — Terry Hart


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham):

The push of some in Northern Colorado to secede from the state have invited southern communities to join, including Pueblo. Members of the 51st State Initiative met this week with commissioners from Huerfano and Las Animas counties.

The group asked for a meeting with Pueblo County commissioners as well, but they declined the invitation. “We’re not interested in meeting with them. Thanks, but no thanks,” Commission Chairman Terry Hart said. “I don’t see it as a serious political issue at all. I’m not in favor of it. We are tackling a number of incredibly serious issues right now. I don’t have time for things I don’t think are serious or have any credibility.”

Commissioners in Huerfano and Las Animas said they listened to the group’s presentation but are far from making a decision. “We understand the concerns Northern Colorado has about what’s been going on in the last several years. We’ve not taken any formal action. I don’t know if we want to at this point. We’ve just listened to the presentation and understand what’s it’s about,” said Max Vezzani, a Republican and Huerfano County commissioner.

Mack Louden, a Republican commissioner in Las Animas County, said the meeting was informative, but he still has questions. “Like with every new thing, you have to peel back the skin and see what’s underneath,” Louden said.

The drive behind the Northern Colorado secession is the turn in state politics and policy priorities that favors urban and metro Front Range communities, not rural Colorado. Actions and laws by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature on gun-control measures and renewable energy standard for rural electric cooperatives are issues in the movement.

Jeff Hare, a movement leader, said their idea was well-received in Huerfano and Las Animas counties. “The primary emphasis we’re talking about in the movement is restoring liberty; restoring it to the local level with emphasis on local control, and both of them liked that message and that idea. We have a lot of ideas and wanted to fill them in. Both (counties) were open to the idea and we’re interested in hearing from those folks in the community,” Hare said.

More coverage from Analisa Romano writing for The Greeley Tribune:

Lincoln County commissioners on Friday joined nine other northeastern Colorado counties in placing the 51st state initiative on this November’s election ballot.

Lincoln commissioners originally dropped the initiative earlier this year when those interested in the secession plan met in Akron , but Lincoln County Commission Chairman Ted Lyons said several dozen people representing all areas of the county turned out Friday to plead with commissioners to place the initiative on the ballot. “We don’t have a problem putting it on the ballot and giving the opportunity to vote for it one way or the other,” Lyons said.

He said more than anything it’s an opportunity to express discontent over what all of those involved in the 51st state initiative say is an urban attack on rural industries and lifestyles.

Lincoln Commissioner Greg King said he is not in favor of the 51st state, but he agrees rural needs and protests are falling on deaf ears at the state capitol. King said he prefers the Phillips County proposal, which aims to change representation in the state Legislature so that rural representatives can carry more weight with their votes.

Commissioner Doug Stone echoed some of Lyons’ comments. “I’m not very convinced we are ready to jump on the bandwagon right now, but we are putting it on the ballot to see how other people feel in Lincoln County.”

Elbert County commissioners on Wednesday joined the 51st state movement, meaning the effort is up to 11 counties total in Colorado that have placed the secession measure on their ballots, including Moffat County, which is in the northwestern corner of the state.

According to the Sky-Hi Daily News, Grand County commissioners will consider secession ballot language on Tuesday. Grand County sits on the western side of Boulder County.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said on Friday he has also heard rumblings that Mesa, Las Animas and Huerfano counties are considering a vote for 51st state ballot language next week.

“We’re going to end up with far more counties than we ever thought we would have,” Conway said.

Mesa County sits on Colorado’s western border and is not contiguous with Moffat County. Las Animas sits on Colorado’s southern border near the east corner, and Huerfano County borders it to the northwest.

Commissioners have until Sept. 6 to send ballot measures to their county clerks.

More 51st State Initiative coverage here.

Salida wastewater treatment plant tour


From The Mountain Mail (Casey Kelly):

City staff led residents through Salida’s largest capital improvement project to date, the Wastewater Treatment Plant, during an open house Thursday [August 15]. Salida Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Randy Sack led about 37 residents through the plant for the first tour of the day, explaining the process that raw sewage takes through the plant to become clean, disinfected water.

Raw sewage enters the facility in the pretreatment area of the plant’s west side. The sewage is run through a bar screen to separate inorganic and organic material and sent to the primary treatment area. In primary treatment, the waste is run through the plant’s clarifier to be separated. Heavy organic materials sink to the bottom and are sent to the anaerobic digester, while the liquids are sent to the secondary treatment area.

In the secondary treatment area, the sewage flows into the Integrated Fixed-film Activated Sludge (IFAS) system, which removes ammonia nitrogen and suspended solids with the help of bacteria in the IFAS system.

After the IFAS system, the water is run through a second clarifier to further separate the materials. Organic material is sent to the anaerobic digester, and liquids are sent to tertiary treatment.

In tertiary treatment, the liquids are run through disk filters to remove any remaining organic material, and the water is then passed under ultraviolet light to kill any remaining bacteria or viruses before flowing out into the Arkansas River.

Organic materials removed from the sewage during the process are taken to the anaerobic digester, where bacteria break down the material into gases, biosolids and water. The biosolids are removed and sent to processing, and the gas is captured and used to heat the facility.

In biosolid processing, the solids are laid out to dry, decompose and sanitize for 1 year. After a year, the facility offers the material free of charge to the public for use as fertilizer.

The new plant has improved the plant’s ability to filter out gases and solids from the water that is drained into the Arkansas River. The outgoing water now meets Environmental Protection Agency regulations that weren’t met prior to the plant’s upgrade.

For instance, the plant has seen a 99.9-percent reduction in ammonia nitrogen in outgoing water, from 27.6 milligrams per liter in 2012 to 0.008 milligrams per liter in July. The EPA maximum limit for ammonia nitrogen is 18 milligrams per liter. The plant has seen a 91-percent decrease in the amount of “suspended solids” in water sent from the plant into the river, from 40 milligrams per liter in 2012 to 3.5 milligrams per liter in July. The EPA maximum limit for suspended solids is 30 milligrams per liter.

More from the article:

Wastewater Treatment Plant finances

• Total cost of the project: $17.6 million.

• How it’s being financed: a $12.1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $1.35 million Department of Local Affairs grant (with matching funds from the city) and a $2.6 million USDA loan the city received in 2009.

• Terms/rates: 40-year term at an interest rate of 2.5 percent.

• How it’s being paid for: City Administrator Dara MacDonald said in April when the city adjusted sewer rates, it was done in anticipation of the facility upgrade and the debt service that would come along with it. She said then that revenue from the city’s sewer enterprise fund is projected to cover the cost of the annual payments, along with the plant’s operation and annual maintenance costs.

• Annual payments: The city is required to make a minimum payment of $480,405 each year, but it can make higher payments to lower the amount of total interest paid over the life of the loan. If the city makes only the minimum payments, it will pay $7.1 million in interest over the life of the loan.

City Finance Director Jan Schmidt suggested at a February city council meeting that the city make payments of $542,844, which assumed the previous higher interest rate, which would have the city paying off the loan 8 years earlier and saving nearly $2.5 million in interest. Council will decide each year during the annual budget process whether to pay the minimum or the higher annual payment. She said the city is scheduled to make its first annual payment of $542,844 in September.

More wastewater coverage here.

Public fish salvage begins at Barr Lake August 30


Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is announcing a public fish salvage at Barr Lake State Park beginning today, August 30. Due to high irrigation demand created by severe drought, the water level in Barr Lake will be drained to a conservation level of 442 acre feet to meet the needs of its intended agricultural use.

The public salvage is being announced in order to optimize use of the fishery resource as outlined:

–A valid Colorado fishing license is required in accordance with state statutes.

–A state parks pass is required ($7 Daily Pass or $70 Annual Pass).

–All legal fishing methods are allowed.

–Small boats such as kayaks or canoes can be launched –no large boats allowed.

–Bag, possession and size limits are suspended for Barr Lake only until this emergency public salvage is lifted.

The end date of the public salvage effort will be announced by Park Manager Michelle Seubert or district wildlife manager Joe Padia.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

CSU Professor Ellen Wohl Awarded American Geophysical Union 2013 Fellowship


Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

Colorado State University Geology Professor Ellen E. Wohl has been selected as a 2013 Fellow of the American Geophysical Union for her continued leadership in the geologic world. Only 0.1 percent of AGU members across the country are selected to join the prestigious ranks of Fellows each year, and this year features the highest number of female AGU Fellows ever selected.

With the primary qualification for the elite program being “a major breakthrough or discovery, paradigm shift, or sustained impact,” Wohl was selected for her ongoing, groundbreaking contributions to understanding the geomorphology, evolution, and restoration of mountain, bedrock, and tropical rivers. Wohl will be formally awarded with her Fellowship on Wednesday, Dec. 11, during the Honors Ceremony and Banquet held at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Wohl has been a professor in the renowned Department of Geosciences at CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources for 24 years, and has been invited to present her work at universities and symposiums around the world. Her primary interest area is fluvial geomorphology, with a focus on bedrock canyons and mountain rivers. Among her current research projects are long-term monitoring of in-stream wood and logjams in the mountainous headwaters of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the effects of logjams and beaver dams on channel complexity, productivity of the river ecosystems, and carbon storage.

“Professor Wohl is a leader in the geosciences field who has been driving innovative science through her collaborative research across Colorado and around the world,” said Joyce Berry, dean of CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. “The College is honored to have her as a member of our faculty, and our students’ academic and professional careers an enriched by her inspired teaching.”

Among her many career honors, Wohl is also a Geological Society of America Fellow and has received numerous awards, including the Gladys W. Cole Memorial Award from the Geological Society of America; Kirk Bryan Award, Geological Society of America; G.K. Gilbert Award, Association of American Geographers; and the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Interdisciplinary Water Education, Research, and Outreach, Colorado State University Water Center.

Reclamation: Nine Projects Selected to Share $1.1 Million for Desalination and Water Purification Research


Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor announced that nine entities will share more than $1.1 million in awards in support of laboratory and pilot scale research studies in the field of water desalination and purification. Through required cost shares of up to 75%, Reclamation’s funding will be leveraged to support a total of $3 million in research.

“Desalination and other advanced water treatment technologies have the potential to provide new water sources for communities,” Commissioner Connor said. “This research effort will examine innovative technologies that have the potential to reduce the cost of treating brackish water – helping to create new tools for addressing future water challenges.”

The funding was provided through Reclamation’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program. Through this program, Reclamation works in partnership with entities to develop more cost-effective and efficient ways to desalinate water.

The laboratory scale projects selected for funding this year are:

  • Membrane Structural and Transport Fundamentals for Augmenting Traditional Water Supplies; Pennsylvania State University, $95,467 – This project will look at developing detailed metrics to learn how current membranes could be improved for inland water treatment challenges. The purpose is to demonstrate the feasibility of low-energy membranes for inland water treatment applications and augmenting usable water supplies for inland states.
  • Evaluation of a Small Rural Community Zero Liquid Discharge Desalination System; Trussell Technologies Inc; $149,446 – Trussell Technologies of Pasadena, Calif., will perform a process evaluation study on a unique, zero liquid discharge desalination system specifically being used for a small, rural community. This research will aid in development of zero liquid discharge water treatment system for small rural communities at a reasonable cost and with a realistic operation strategy.
  • Energy-efficient and Sustainable, Microbial Electrolysis-Deionization System for Salt and Organics Removal; University of Tennessee, $150,000 – The University of Tennessee will investigate the capability of combining microbes and electrolysis to treat wastewater and produced water to augment water resources and water reuse for various uses. This combination of treatments can provide a sustainable treatment option while recovering energy and nutrients.
  • Barometric Evaporator Desalination Project; Sephton Water Technology, $29,836 – Sephton Water Technology, Inc. of Kensington, Calif., will test a prototype barometric evaporator at the existing pilot facility in Imperial County, Calif., which is currently testing the vertical tube evaporator technology. The goal of this project is to test the barometric evaporator prototype and apply the technology to provide steam generation for a vertical tube evaporator to treat water at the Salton Sea.
  • Autonomous Low Energy Consumption Cyclic Desalination Systems; University of California Los Angeles, $150,000 – University of California, Los Angeles has proposed a new technology concept of cyclic reverse osmosis in order to obtain a smaller and mobile unit to treat impaired and underutilized water sources. It is expected that the operational and configuration flexibilities of this technology will enable a wide variety of water sources over a wider range of salinities while using optimal energy.
  • Operation of Commercial Sized Solar Desalination Still; Suns River, $45,022 – Suns River, located in Many, La., will continue its research and work on a solar desalination still that has been tested at a small scale at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Facility last year. A larger scale solar still will be constructed to help further research already conducted and identify feasibility of the solar still to treat brackish groundwater in small rural areas.
  • Evaluation and Development of a New Type of Polymer-based Water Desalination Membrane; University of Colorado, $134,544 – The University of Colorado will investigate two aspects of a new thin film composite lyotropic liquid crystal polymer membrane system; scaling up the preparation of the new membrane material and design more economical and easily synthesized monomers. This new membrane is focused to work as a nanofiltration and reverse osmosis type polyamide membrane.
  • The pilot scale projects selected for funding are:

  • City of Corpus Christi Desalination Pilot Study; City of Corpus Christi, Texas, $200,000 – Corpus Christi has been dealing with drastic drought conditions over the last decade and this pilot project will aid in exploring a variety of options to optimize the pre-treatment process. The results will form the basis of design for a full-scale facility including operating parameters, cost information and product water quality to assess feasibility of a seawater and/or brackish groundwater supply.
  • Reverse Osmosis Concentrate Management through Halophyte Farming; University of Arizona, $148,053 – This project will continue building on some previous research done in the area of concentrate management via halophyte farming and using this salt resistant crop to manage concentrate produced from water desalination. The pilot project would be conducted at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Facility in Alamogordo, N.M., and will enable the construction of the agricultural research testing area at the facility.
  • Successful applicants were chosen through a competitive, merit-reviewed process. Entities that were eligible include individuals, institutions of higher education, commercial or industrial organizations, private entities, public entities or Indian Tribal governments. Entities, except institutions of higher learning, must cost-share at least 75% of the project cost.

    You can learn more about Advanced Water Treatment at:

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.

    Chatfield reallocation project update: Public comment period closes Tuesday, September 3


    From The Denver Post (Karen Groves):

    The deadline for public comment on potential changes to Chatfield Reservoir is near. A reallocation study aimed at expanding the reservoir has been an ongoing effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Colorado water providers, environmental organizations and other agencies for many years. By enlarging the reservoir, the recommended plan will ensure water supplies are secure for generations to come.

    According to the report, Colorado’s population is projected to be between 8.6 and 10.3 million by 2050. It’s calculated that the state will need between 600,000 and 1 million acre-feet per year of additional municipal and industrial water.

    “This proposed reallocation project will help enable water providers to utilize a surface water supply source to provide water to local users, mainly for municipal, industrial and agricultural needs,” the report states. The reallocation under consideration is 20,600 acre-feet, which will mean a 12-foot rise in the surface level of the reservoir.

    According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the public is encouraged to review the final feasibility report and Environmental Impact Statement and comment by Sept. 3. The 500-page report, which has grown to 3,208 pages, is available at local libraries and agencies. A final decision will be made by Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, probably by the beginning of 2014.

    According to Cheryl Moore with public affairs at the Omaha District of the Army Corps of Engineers, if approved, the design phase will take a year, followed by two years of construction.

    One concern from opponents of the plan has been the removal of the cottonwood forest and, with it, the reduction or demise of a bird population and wildlife viewing. Moore said some trees will be inundated and removed, but will be replanted.

    “Ultimately, we anticipate there will be a mosaic of trees for people to enjoy,” Moore said. She stressed that facilities will be replaced to ensure park users have the same experience.

    Since Chatfield State Park gets at least 1.6 million visitors a year, if the plan is approved, visitors will no doubt experience the effects of construction, but Moore said work will take place in phases and during the offseason. According to Scott Roush, park manager, the distance from the parking area during low water will be farther away. He said all facilities will be moved to a higher elevation. Visitors seeing the biggest changes are boaters and users of the swim beach on the west and south sides. “The facilities will be moved back and redeveloped,” Roush said.

    Hard copies of the report are at the Highlands Ranch Library, 9292 Ridgeline Blvd.; Columbine Library, 7706 W. Bowles Ave., Columbine (Littleton); Aurora Library, 14949 E. Alameda Parkway; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office, 9307 S. Wadsworth Blvd. in the Littleton area; and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, 1313 Sherman St., Denver.

    Written comments may be sent to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, Attn: Chatfield Reservoir, 1616 Capitol Ave., Omaha 68102-4901 or e-mail chatfield

    More Chatfield Reservoir coverage here and here.

    Drought news: The lower Yampa River Basin needs more rain #COdrought


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the latest drought map from the US Drought Monitor. Here’s an excerpt from their discussion:

    Past Week: Several cold fronts stalled across the Southeast during the past week, bringing slightly cooler temperatures and occasional precipitation to parts of the area. Moisture from what was briefly Tropical Storm Ivo off the coast of Baja California surged into the Southwest, resulting in moderate rains (0.5 – 1.5 inches, locally heavier) over a significant portion of the region. In the central part of the Nation, above-normal temperatures combined with rapidly worsening drought, resulting in widespread deterioration of conditions especially across the Midwest…

    Northern and Central Great Plains: As with the Midwest, the central and eastern portions of both the Dakotas and Nebraska are also experiencing problems with both excessive heat and drought. Temperatures have reached well into the 90s for many areas. Bismarck, ND, for example, topped out at 102 degrees F on August 20th. This breaks the old record of 100 degrees F set in 1976. PNP values for the past 60-days fell between the 10th and 25th percentiles across parts of eastern North Dakota and adjacent parts of Minnesota. PNP values between the 25th and 50th percentiles were common over much of the eastern Dakotas and portions of southeastern Nebraska (between Omaha and Lincoln). Based on factors such as these, widespread one-category downgrades were deemed necessary in this region.

    Conversely, good rains in August and decent stream flows in extreme southeastern South Dakota have resulted in much better crop conditions than the rest of the region in general. Moderate drought (D1) was improved to abnormal dryness (D0) in southern Clay and southern Union counties. Elsewhere in eastern South Dakota, Aberdeen may end up having its second driest August on record. So far this month, only 0.15-inch has fallen. The record of 0.06-inch was set back in 1947. Normal rainfall for August in Aberdeen is 2.43 inches.

    Southern Great Plains: Slightly above-normal temperatures, near to below-normal stream flows, and PNPs between the 25th and 75th percentiles warranted an expansion of abnormal dryness (D0) in southern Oklahoma. In Texas, lots of minor alterations were made to the drought depiction, both improvements and degradations.

    The West: Several relatively small changes (improvements) were made to the drought depiction across southern Wyoming, and both north-central and eastern Colorado. In northwestern Arizona, the area of extreme drought (D3) in Coconino county was reduced in size, while severe drought (D2) improved to moderate drought (D1) over much of north-central Arizona. These improvements were primarily based on several flood reports, given that rainfall data is sparse throughout this region.

    From the The Craig Daily Press (Bear Steadman):

    Still below the normal trend of 1.1 inches of precipitation, Northwest Colorado received .39 inches of rain so far in August, yet that is expected to increase during the weekend, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Grand Junction…

    NWS Meteorologist Travis Booth said that Northwest Colorado can also expect a return in monsoon activity Labor Day weekend. This should provide widespread rain showers that will lead into early next week. Although the rain will be beneficial, there is a concern that lightning strikes may spark fires in the area.

    This September, there is an increased probability of high temperatures rather than the normal trend of lower temperatures. The NWS said that there are “equal chances” for either above or lower precipitation levels in September but there are no clear signs to determine how much precipitation to expect. Furthermore, New Mexico and Arizona have a predicted above normal precipitation level next month; therefore there is a chance the weather will drift into Northwest Colorado.

    From the Cortez Journal (Tobie Baker):

    Tropical Storm Ivo stalled off the coast of the Baja Peninsula over the weekend, bringing some “nice local relief” in the form of rain to Cortez.

    “The storm brought a bunch of needed rain across the Southwest, and it did us a lot of good,” said cooperative weather observer Jim Andrus. According to Andrus, Ivo dumped nearly two inches of rain in Cortez from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday. He recorded a total of 1.95 inches over the two-day period, including 1.76 inches of rainfall on Sunday…

    “The weekend’s storm was just a single event,” Andrus said. “The drought is still here.”

    Andrus said drought conditions would persist until water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell return to normal. Both reservoirs remain well below normal levels. A National Weather Service cooperative weather observer for Cortez for the past 16 years, Andrus said Montezuma County has been experiencing a drought since 1997. While the drought has not been consistent, including three years of above-normal precipitation and two years of near-normal precipitation, Andrus said two-thirds of the past 15 years have experienced below normal levels of precipitation.

    From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

    The .13 inches of rain that fell on Steamboat Springs from Aug. 23 to 25 broke a nine-day run without precipitation, but it wasn’t enough to put the city and the surrounding mountains back on track for average August precipitation. With Sept. 1 just a week away, Steamboat has totaled .52 inches of moisture thus far this month, well short of the August average of 1.71 inches, according to the National Weather Service’s regional climate center.

    The Summer 2013 issue of ‘Ripple Effects’ from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education is hot off the presses


    Click here to read the newsletter.

    More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

    51st State Initiative (secession): Grand County commissioners find no groundswell of support in county


    From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Leia Larsen):

    The commissioners took public comment on the secession issue the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 27…

    Commissioners stressed the point of the meeting was to initiate discussion. Each commissioner said they would like to hear more public comment before voting on adding a secession measure to the ballot. “I’m sure every politician in history has promised their constituents they will listen,” said Commissioner Merrit Linke. “This is what listening looks like, that’s what we’re doing today.”[…]

    Several citizens expressed bitterness at being part of a voting district that includes Boulder, saying that the city’s liberal interests take precedence over the interests of rural Grand County. Other citizens said they felt a secession measure wasn’t the best solution to getting rural voices heard, and that even a symbolic measure was a waste of time and resources.

    Commissioners will vote on a ballot measure at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3, during their regular meeting open to the public. Commissioners said they’d need to see “groundswelling” support from county citizens to add it to the ballot. “What I’m hearing is about 50-50 from people in this room. What I need to see is an overwhelming flood of support to put this initiative on the ballot, and I’m not seeing that,” Linke said.

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Patrick Malone):

    Organizers of the secession push met with commissioners in the rural southern Colorado counties of Las Animas and Huerfano on Tuesday. “I came away from that with the feeling that they were very interested in being part of the discussion about the movement and possibly at some point bringing it to voters,” said Tom Gilley, a resident of Weld County and president of the 51st State Initiative organization.

    He said it’s too late to get the question on Nov. 5 ballots in southern counties, but his organization is spreading the word among rural government leaders who share the frustration that their concerns and way of life have taken a backseat to the policy priorities of the state’s more populous Front Range…

    Las Animas County Commissioner Mack Louden characterized Tuesday’s meeting as informational and said it could spawn future meetings with citizens to gauge their sentiment about a possible split from Colorado.

    Louden said severance tax to communities impacted by oil and gas development has not been awarded to rural areas such as Las Animas County at a rate that can mitigate the industry’s impact on roads, and he said in general, the state Legislature has been tone deaf to the priorities of rural portions of the state.

    “We want to take a look at it and think about it. You hate to do anything in haste,” Louden said. “There’s a lot of frustration in rural Colorado — east to west, north to south — about how we’re being treated. We own 90 percent of the land mass, but we represent a very small part of the population. All the votes are in Denver. They’ve figured that out and don’t worry too much about rural Colorado.

    “Right now (secession) looks very appealing on the surface. But once you start picking that scab down, you can get into some flesh that you don’t want to see.”

    Gilley said organizers of the secession movement are trying to schedule a meeting later this week with commissioners who represent counties in the southeast flank of the state. He said commissioners in Pueblo County — all of whom are Democrats, and two of whom are former state lawmakers — rejected an invitation to meet with organizers of the 51st state movement and vowed to actively campaign against secession.

    From The Denver Post (Carlos Illescas):

    Elbert County on Wednesday joined the growing list of counties that will have a “51st state” measure on the ballot in November. By a 3-0 vote, county commissioners approved asking voters whether they want Elbert County to pursue the movement.

    Elbert County Commissioner Robert Rowland said he has received more e-mails and calls on this issue than any other issue since he took office. “I think it reflects the frustrations of rural Colorado,” Rowland said. “They’re feeling helpless right now. Our people have a right to vote on this issue.”

    The ballot question echoes that of Weld County, which started the discussion on seceding from Colorado and forming a new state over concerns it had regarding inadequate representation it was getting from the state legislature.

    So far, voters in Weld, Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Logan, Washington, Yuma and Moffatt counties will have measures to break away from Colorado on the ballot in November.

    “It gives people the ability to send a message to our legislature,” Elbert County Commissioner Kurt Schlegel said. “One thing it has done is started a discussion on how we can better represent people of rural Colorado.”

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

    With about 900 signatures, petitions collected by individuals to put a question on the ballot on whether or not Morgan County supported creating North Colorado fell short of the 2,300 signatures required to put the issue on the ballot in November. That figure would make up about 15 percent of the registered voters in Morgan County, which is what the Board of Morgan County Commissioners had set as the number necessary to put the question on the ballot. The petitions only collected signatures from about 6 percent of the county voters by the deadline on Monday, and those must still be checked for authenticity. The board recently said that county officials would look through the signatures to make sure they were valid The commissioners had saved a place on the November ballot in case enough signatures were collected.

    Board members had made it clear in July that they would not make the decision to put the question on the ballot — that such a move would need to come from county residents…

    Not long after that, the Morgan County commissioners said they would not lead any secession movement within Morgan County. If a question was to be put on the ballot, it needed to be put there by county residents. They did attend a meeting on the idea in Akron in early July, but only to collect information, they said. About two weeks ago, the commissioners said that petitions with 2,300 valid signatures from registered voters would be required to put the question on the ballot and those signatures needed to be turned in by Aug. 26. That deadline was needed in order to validate the signatures in time to actually put a question on the ballot…

    However, the Morgan County commissioners are also cognizant of the cost to area residents if such a course is taken, she said. For example, there would be immediate challenges to water rights [ed. emphasis mine] if the region separated from the rest of Colorado, Teague noted. Local agricultural producers depend on those water rights to grow cattle and crops. Morgan County’s economy relies on that agricultural production.

    More 51st State Initiative coverage here.

    Fountain Creek: Pueblo County DA asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the July appeals court decision


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A dispute over water quality is heading to the state Supreme Court. District Attorney Jeff Chostner today is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a July 18 appeals court decision that Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes erred in ordering the state to redo its assessment of impacts of the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

    Reyes issued his decision last year, siding with former District Attorney Bill Thiebaut in finding that the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission ignored its own standards and accepted a “gut feeling” methodology in issuing a federal permit required for SDS.

    Attorney John Barth of Hygiene, who has represented both Chostner and Thiebaut in the case, argued that a scientific methodology, including a numeric standard is needed. He argued increased flows on Fountain Creek and changes in the flows of the Arkansas River through Pueblo could increase pollutants like selenium and sediment.

    Colorado Springs attorney David Robbins presented counterarguments that water quality issues would be addressed as they arose through an adaptive management plan outlined in the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for the project.

    During a deposition for a December 2010 hearing, the state employee who performed the analysis for the SDS impacts said he relied on a “gut feeling” in his assessment of impacts.

    In the brief that is being filed today, Barth argues that selenium levels through Pueblo will double or triple under SDS changes, yet the state determined there would be “no degradation.”

    At the December 2010 hearing, Robbins and Colorado Springs Utilities officials made the case that impacts from SDS won’t show up for years, so numeric standards now would not be applicable.

    Reyes ordered the commission to hold new hearings and develop a permit based on scientific standards. A panel of three appeals court judges rejected the Reyes decision, largely on procedural grounds because he did not do a “rigorous investigation” of claims.

    Meanwhile, monsoon rains have caused a good deal of damage to Colorado Springs’ stormwater facilities. Here’s a report from Bill Folsom writing for

    Emergency repairs are necessary to the Colorado Springs storm water system following last weeks unusually heavy rain storm. Storm drains have been exposed, there is damage to detention ponds, and erosion has compromised infrastructure.

    Storm water mangers have been running the numbers and calculate nearly four inches of rain fell in just hours on the far north side of the city. The amount equals what they call a 200 year storm. “We do not design for a 200 year storm. We’re up to 100 years,” said Colorado Springs Storm Water Manger, Tim Mitros, “So this was a rarity and our storm sewer system was just totally overwhelmed.” The price tag for the damage to the storm water system is approaching one million dollars.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    Check out the Colorado Water Wise Water Conservation Summit final program

    Developers opt out of water rights application for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill


    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    Opponents of a proposed uranium mill near Naturita crowed Friday that a judge dismissed the mill’s water-right claim, but the mill’s backers noted that it was they who sought the dismissal.

    The Sheep Mountain Alliance fired off a news release after Water Judge Steven Patrick dismissed Energy Fuel’s Inc.‘s petition for rights on the San Miguel River.

    Patrick dismissed the case, but he did so in a way that permits Energy Fuels to reapply for the water right if necessary. The environmental organization had sought to prevent the company from refiling for the water.

    The company failure to pursue the water rights “clearly indicates the lack of intent to follow through on the construction of the uranium mill.” Hilary Cooper, executive director of the alliance, said in the statement.

    “We decided that we did not need this water at this time,” Curtis Moore, Energy Fuels director of investor relations and public relations, wrote in an email. “Keep in mind that we have wells and a water right in the Dolores River basin that should meet most (or all) of our water needs.”

    More nuclear coverage here and here.

    The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – ‘Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand’ — Sept. 13


    From email from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

    The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar – “Shrinking in Supply, Growing in Demand” — takes place 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo. The cost is $30 and includes lunch. Student cost $10. Register at, by calling (970)-945-8522 or e-mailing

    The seminar is an easy, one-day presentation of the latest hot subjects that challenge the Colorado River and how science, politics and other actions seek to address them. The Colorado River District was created 76 years ago to protect Western Colorado water and stages the seminar to promote public education about critical challenges to the lifeblood river of the Southwest.

    Speakers include Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River District, who will give an overview to recent findings that promise the Colorado River faces greater challenges than ever from climate change and human use of the Colorado River. Other speakers will address a U.S. Geological Survey study that confirms warm springs are reducing snowpack, a forecast for drought and the latest Bureau of Reclamation ruling to reduce releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.

    The keynote speaker at lunch will be John Entsminger, the Senior Deputy General Manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Climate and reservoir levels most directly affect Las Vegas and its surrounding community and Entsminger will give a view of what that means.

    In the afternoon, the developers of Sterling Ranch in the southern Denver metro area will talk about how they want to build a community with water conservation as a first concern.

    The day concludes with a presentation by the new director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, James Eklund, about the Colorado Water Plan. Earlier this year, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered that a plan be given to him by 2015 that addresses measures to meet a looming water supply gap as Colorado grows to as many as 10 million people by 2050.

    A discussion of the plan and ways to meet the gap will take place in a panel discussion. Making up the panel will be the chairs or representatives of six Basin Roundtables – citizens groups in each basin created by the Colorado General Assembly in the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act.

    Agenda Topics
    Change: It is for Certain
    – Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn provides an overview of the trends that lead to the day’s subjects regarding snowpack, drought, Lake Powell equalization and the Colorado Water Plan

    It’s True: Spring is Killing our Rocky Mountain Snowpack, U.S Geological Survey confirms – lead study author Greg Pederson from Bozeman, Mont., will describe the findings that we have long suspected to be true

    A Dry Subject: Drought and a Look Ahead – Klaus Wolter of the NOAA Climate Diagnostics Center in Boulder, the Southwest’s preeminent forecaster, will describe conditions that are developing for snowfall this winter

    Level With Us: Whither Lake Powell – Malcolm Wilson, Chief, Water Resources Group, Upper Colorado Region of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will talk about the recent drought-induced decision to reduce water releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and what that means for now and into the future for the states depending on the Colorado River

    Lunch Keynote Speaker – John Entsminger, Senior Deputy General Manager at Southern Nevada Water Authority of Las Vegas, Nev., will present a Lower Basin view of Lake Powell, Lake Mead and Big River Issues

    Putting Conservation on the Table: the Sterling Ranch Story – Beorn Courtney, an engineer helping to plan Sterling Ranch in Douglas County, south of Denver, will describe how land use, clustering, landscaping, rain water capture and other efficiencies will be employed in this new community

    The Colorado Water Plan: a Call and Response – James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will discuss why Gov. Hickenlooper has ordered up a Colorado Water Plan on a tight deadline and what that means for water policy and the solving a looming water supply gap as Colorado continues to attract and give birth to new residents

    A Response from Both Sides of the Continental Divide: How Does This Play Out – A panel discussion among six representatives from the Basin Roundtables. Guests include Gary Barber of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable; Mark Koleber of the Metro Roundtable, Joe Frank of the South Platte Basin Roundtable; Tom Gray of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable; Michelle Pierce of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable; Mike Preston of the Southwest Basin Roundtable and Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado Basin Roundtable.

    More Colorado River District coverage here.

    Video: Can’t flush this

    Windsor rate payers are going to be asked to pony up $6.7 million for gravel pit storage


    From The Greeley Tribune (Jason Pohl):

    A major project that could put Windsor one step closer to water security is inching forward as town leaders explore funding options for the $6.7 million Kyger Gravel Pit redevelopment.

    The Windsor Town Board last week heard several staff presentations about the early renderings of the 2014 budget, which will be discussed in-depth later this year. The biggest item up for discussion was the Kyger project, which would transform a barren mining area on the outskirts of town near Weld County Road 13 into a 1,100-acre-foot reservoir that would revolutionize how Windsor handles its augmentation water supply.

    The funding mechanism is anything but simple, said Dean Moyer, Windsor’s director of finance. He explained that money would stem from a number of different funds, loans and parts of the 2013 and 2014 budgets including:

    » $4.5 million, 20-year loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The draw of borrowing the money is the low-interest rate and flexible repayment options, including early payoff, Moyer said. That would amount to roughly $250,000-$300,000 each year.

    » $750,000 from the 2013 water fund along with $200,000 from the non-potable water fund

    » $625,000 from both the park improvement fund and the capital improvement fund divided over 2013 and 2014

    The estimated cost of the project is about $6.3 million, but staff wants to ask for more to provide a contingency of about 12 percent, just in case.

    Each year, the town must resupply nearby rivers and ditches after drawing water from them throughout the year to irrigate area parks and open spaces. That resupply of water has to be stored somewhere in the meantime, and this has typically been Windsor Lake at Boardwalk Park. Earlier this year, those water levels were drastically low and almost jeopardized the summer recreation season, Town Manager Kelly Arnold said previously.

    Though the development would be a non-potable supply, it could pave the way toward even bigger development plans for the area, including a potential for a drinking water treatment facility on an adjacent lot, the board said at a past meeting.

    The town will submit a feasibility study to the CWCB this month and plans on officially purchasing the Kyger Reservoir infrastructure in December, Moyer said. Design work is slated to wrap up in June and construction could be done by January 2015.

    The reservoir could eventually be used for recreation purposes, but those conversations won’t be happening for about three years, Arnold said Monday.

    “We’ve got to get the intended purpose up and running first,” he said, adding that actually filling the reservoir with water will take plenty of time and planning. “Then we can talk about other benefits.”

    More infrastructure coverage here.

    Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin #ColoradoRiver #COdrought


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the August month to date precipitation map from the Colorado Climate Center. Click here to read the current drought assessment Click here to go to the archives.

    Drought news: ‘It’s time to stop the religious discussion about climate change’ — Pat Mulroy #COdrought


    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

    Across the Upper Colorado River Basin, and across Colorado, a generous monsoon season has made August nice and wet, with the exception of northwestern Colorado and adjacent areas of Utah and Wyoming. The Four Corners region and Colorado’s Eastern Plains, both areas where the drought has been particularly persistent and extreme, have received some of the highest rainfall totals.

    Little by little, this moisture is starting to put a dent in drought conditions, although there is still a lot of ground to make up from a very dry winter on the heels of a very dry 2012. Current stream flows are starting to get back up into the normal range, with the exception of the White River Basin in northwestern Colorado, which is experiencing very low flows. Cumulative stream flows for the 2013 water year, which started Oct. 1, 2012, remain significantly below average across the region. In southwestern Colorado, dry soils have soaked up a lot of the recent rain, blunting its impact on stream flows.

    Vegetation remains drier than average across most of the Upper Colorado River Basin, with the most extreme conditions in southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah. The northern and central Colorado mountains, on the other hand, are showing normal-to-wet vegetation moisture levels.

    Forecasters are anticipating that the next few weeks will bring more monsoon moisture to western Colorado and the rest of the Colorado River basin, but the 3-month forecast is totally up in the air for Colorado and the rest of the Southwest.

    Although conditions have been improving, the U.S. Drought Monitor still shows over 98% of Colorado under some level of drought classification, with similar conditions in surrounding states. Long-range forecasts are only moderately optimistic about any improvement.

    Meanwhile, reservoir levels, our best indicator of the long-term water supply-demand balance, continue to drop, as they normally do in August. Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest, and Lake Powell, the Upper Colorado River Basin’s largest, are both at about 45% of capacity, containing just over half their historical average August volumes.

    From Government Executive (Todd Woody):

    According to a new report from Ceres, the Boston-based nonprofit that promotes corporate sustainability, the price tag to modernize pipes, pumping stations and other water infrastructure in the US will reach $300 billion by 2030.

    But budget-stressed municipalities, which operate most of the water systems in the US, face a conundrum. Customers’ bills are based on how much water they use. But thanks to low-flow toilets and other water-efficient appliances, as well as successful efforts to promote conservation, revenues are dropping as customers use less water. That means less money to finance much-needed improvements to the water delivery system.

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Just what part of this drought and increased temperatures is natural and what part is a result of human-caused greenhouse effect, scientists cannot say with precision. Tree rings document decades-long droughts in the Colorado River Basin a millennium ago similar to the one now underway. But while climate models haven’t figured out how increased greenhouse gases will affect precipitation, they are clear about rising temperatures – which are almost certain to exact much higher tributes of water for everything from corn fields north of “Denver to residential lawns in Salt Lake City to fountains in Las Vegas. All depend on the Colorado River in some way.

    Mulroy long ago accepted the science of climate change. “It’s time to stop the religious discussion about climate change,” she said.

    She also called for greater federal involvement in drought planning and mitigation in advance of climate change. “We have an interesting attitude in this country,” she said. “We think we only have to pay once the destruction has occurred.”

    North Colorado secession: Rio Blanco County commissioners rightly question the disposition of water rights


    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Rio Blanco County commissioners on Monday said they share the concerns of rural counties wanting to secede from Colorado, but they fear if they pursued the idea it could jeopardize water rights in the county. County Commissioner Shawn Bolton said it’s his understanding that if a county such as Rio Blanco left the state, it might no longer be a part of the 1922 Colorado River Compact and the door could be opened to local water rights being taken away. “That’s a breaking point for me. The water is too critical,” Bolton said.

    Western Slope counties considering secession would be hit the hardest, he said. Most of the state’s surface water comes from the Western Slope.

    Despite the water concern, the commissioners said during their meeting and in an interview that they agree in principle with the movement among northeast Colorado counties and now Moffat County to secede. Like them, the Rio Blanco commissioners take issue with the actions of the state legislature earlier this year. “It was a pretty blatant attack on rural communities,” Commissioner Jeff Eskelson said.

    Particularly upsetting to Rio Blanco commissioners was the passage of a requirement that rural electric cooperatives get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources. That has implications for coal mining and coal-fired power generation in northwest Colorado and for electric customers’ bills. Commissioner Jon Hill said what made it worse is that legislators rejected the idea of considering sources such as hydropower as renewable.

    Eskelson said while secession might not be the answer, he likes an idea that’s circulating that would require one of the chambers of the state legislature to have one representative from each Colorado county. “To me that would give rural Colorado more of a voice,” he said.

    Bolton said Rio Blanco commissioners have been approached about the secession idea and have looked into it a bit but not gone further with it because the water issue raises such a red flag. He said the issue is far from clear, but he’s hearing water rights would remain in the state of Colorado and those in a 51st state couldn’t file for a historical use and keep them. “It’s a huge bunch of questions,” he said.

    The Colorado River Compact addresses allocation of river basin water between seven states within the basin. If a county seceded, it’s possible that it “wouldn’t even be at the table at that point,” Bolton said.

    Hill said that might be avoided if a county joined another state such as Utah or Wyoming that also has signed the compact.

    From The Denver Post (Matthew Patane):

    Not far over the county line, the first of thousands of natural gas wellheads and crude oil collection tanks that define Weld County and helped inflame the secession movement come into focus. County commissioners riled by laws to more tightly regulate the industry that pays many of the bills, the passage of stricter gun laws and worry over the quality of rural roads, floated the notion of secession at the end of the legislative session. They cited a disconnect between the wants and needs of rural areas of Colorado and the governing being done in Denver, and recruited other northeastern counties to the idea that something had to change. “The level of frustration and the level of disconnect that people feel is pretty high,” said Chad Auer, mayor of Firestone, in southwest Weld County. “I think there’s something to be said for why this process is taking place in the first place.”

    The vast Pawnee National Grassland consumes much of Weld’s northern reaches, along the Wyoming border, which keeps most of the county’s population in the southwestern half. Some of Weld’s towns — such as Roggen, Keenesburg, Ault — might be missed on a high-speed highway trip. Others closer to Interstate 25 — Firestone, Windsor, Severance — show signs of growth as new neighborhoods spring up around historic old towns within commuting distance of good jobs.

    But the county remains mostly rural, with Greeley, the county seat, an urban island in the sea of farmland.

    Although Weld is leading the movement for a 51st state, support for secession has not permeated the entire county.

    Many people said they unfamiliar with the 51st state movement or knew little about it. Others said attempts to secede from the state are the wrong move, even if there is a rural-urban divide.

    Greg Polese, 27, and Sam Harvey, 26, said they don’t support creating a 51st state and don’t think the urban-rural conflict is as divisive as others have suggested. Polese and Harvey work in Fort Collins, but moved to Severance for cheaper housing. On an issue they care about — the condition of roads — they had few complaints. Some of Weld’s roads could use maintenance, Harvey said, but every county has its share of poor roads that are fixed when they need to be.

    After agriculture, energy dominates Weld’s economy. Rigs and wellheads dot the countryside, often placed next to or in farmland and residential neighborhoods. Ongoing attempts to more strictly regulate oil and gas, especially chafes county politicians. Of the more than 51,000 oil and gas wells in Colorado, more than 20,000 are in Weld County, making it the top oil and gas county in the state. So far this year, 952 oil and gas wells were drilled in Colorado, 607 of which were in Weld, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

    “All your oil, gas and agriculture is up here. But when it comes time to vote, we don’t have representation down there.” said Gerald Haffner, 53, while attending the South East Weld County Fair & Rodeo in Keenesburg. Haffner, a Weld County telephone technician, said he would not vote for secession. Instead, he said, the counties should focus on gaining more representation at the state house. “Making us a new state, to me, is not the right answer,” Haffner said. “Fixing what we have is.”

    By the numbers

    Weld County

    2012 population 263,691

    2010 population 252,825

    Percent change 4.3 percent

    Median household income $55.825

    Persons below poverty level, percent 2007-11 13.8 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 66,594

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 3.1 percent

    Land area, in square miles 3,987.24

    People per square mile 63.4

    From the Boulder Daily Camera (John Aguilar) via the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    For Erie, the burgeoning secession movement in northeast Colorado is doubly troublesome as half the town lies in Boulder County while the other half is in Weld County, which last week referred to the November ballot a measure that will ask voters whether they want to break away from Colorado and form a new state, dubbed North Colorado…

    Erie Trustee Jonathan Hager doesn’t think the 51st state initiative will get very far — it would need the approval of the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress to become a reality — but he said it does raise some interesting issues about the town he represents and its peculiar geography. If Erie broke into two, Hager said, the Boulder County side would be at a distinct disadvantage in terms of municipal services and civic identity.

    “Everything we own as a municipality is on the Weld County side,” he said. “If the state was formed and Erie was forced to split up, maybe those of us on the Boulder County side would become part of Lafayette, or Longmont or Broomfield.”[…]

    Aside from the November vote, he said, both the U.S. Congress and the Colorado Legislature would have to agree on the formation of North Colorado — a very unlikely scenario given the fact that it would be a heavily Republican state. “Colorado would have to concur with the loss of territory and Congress would have to agree,” he said. “You’re not going to get broad agreement to create a new state that is dripping red.”[…]

    Feelings on a possible secession right down the middle of Erie ranged from intrigue to good riddance during a quick survey of townspeople this week. Theresa Williams, a Democrat who has lived on the Boulder County side of town for nearly 15 years in the Country Meadows neighborhood, said the whole notion of secession is “ridiculous.” “I think they’re throwing a temper tantrum because they don’t believe in sensible gun laws,” she said of those pushing for the measure. “I don’t think it will happen but if it does — bye.”

    From The Denver Post (Kiki Turner):

    Nestled between a Colorado Rockies poster and a calendar of pinup girls was a small green bumper sticker that read “No Farms, No Food.” The sticker stood out among hundreds of posters and pictures plastered on the walls of R.D’s Bar in Sedgwick, a town of roughly 180 people in extreme northeast Colorado. Three-year-old Jennifer Toyne swung on a bar stool while her father sipped a beer during a break from his 12-hour workday. “How many baby moo cows do you have?” Jason Toyne asked as his daughter climbed into his lap. Jennifer held up three small fingers, nails painted with sparkly polish.

    Like many people who live in Sedgwick County, Toyne has farmed all his life. And like many farmers, he worries the disconnect between government in Denver and the work being done in rural Colorado will be disastrous for his corn, sugar beet and soy bean operation. He’s concerned, especially, about the thirsty Front Range cities buying up water rights he would otherwise lease to irrigate his crops. “If farms don’t get water, there won’t be food,” his friend Kyle McConnell said. “But I guess people like having green lawns.”

    McConnell, who also farms in northeastern Colorado, is all for the proposed creation of a 51st state, but said “it’s not going to happen.” He’d settle for what he described as more equitable representation in the statehouse. “That would be a step.” McConnell said votes in the statehouse this session worked against rural areas financially and fundamentally. “They need to quit making laws for us when they don’t have a damn clue how we live,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand what it takes to farm. Our costs are astronomical.” McConnell estimates to earn $20,000, it takes an investment, on the high end, of $10 million in land and equipment .

    R.D’s co-owner Gena Kinoshita said in-town business costs also are rising, including the cost of water, which recently quadrupled. “We barely make it with what we have now,” said Kinoshita, whose bar is one of five businesses still open along Main Street, a dirt road marked with wooden street signs. Small farming towns like Sedgwick have languished over the years, she said.

    Bob Blach runs a New York Life office in Sterling, the Logan County seat, where people who don’t work in agriculture can find jobs at a state prison, a college or other government agencies. He said agricultural areas are withering, despite their importance. “We’re one of the largest industries in Colorado, and we don’t get any attention,” Blach said.

    A lack of representation, along with social issues like the approval of new gun laws and civil unions, helped fueled secession talk. But many said they the real trouble is rooted in differences between country and city living. “The mud, manure, the flies, in a weird way, we like it,” said 18-year-old Drew Carlson. “It’s just a part of home.” Home for the Carlsons is a 120-acre farm in Atwood, just south of Sterling. Atwood has no skyscrapers, only rounded tops of corn silos and metal roofs of grain elevators break the skyline.

    While the town is troubled by an occasional traffic jam, the clogs are caused by swine, not cars. “We take our pigs for a walk every morning,” said Drew, as she and her 6-year-old brother Beau ushered a herd of 250-pound hogs down a dirt road. The hogs were five times the size of Beau, but using only a flimsy pig whip, the boy directed the animals back to the family’s barn, where his 12-year-old brother, Cooper, concocted breakfast for dozens of animals. The Carlson children fed, watered, and walked their animals all before the sun had risen above the corn tassels in their farm fields.

    At the Logan County fair, Jay Hill was watching two of his sons show their steers. Most days, he works with beef cattle ranchers, selling semen to help improve their herds. He said the early-to-rise tendencies common among country kids, may be foreign to city folk. Hill said there has always been a chasm between urban and rural worlds, but despite the differences, each lifestyle depends on the other. “Urban doesn’t know rural, and rural doesn’t know urban. Nobody wants to look beyond their own front gate,” Hill said. “But it takes both. The country lifestyle wouldn’t succeed without the urban — who would we feed?”

    Kiki Turner: 303-954-1221,

    By the numbers

    Logan County

    2012 population 22,631

    2010 population 22,709

    Percent change -0.3 percent

    Median houshold income $42,324

    Persons below poverty level, percent 2007-11 15 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 5,286

    Non-farm percentage change from 2010 -1.1 percent

    Land area, in square miles 1,838. 55

    People per square mile 12.4

    Sedgwick County

    2012 population 2,383

    2010 population 2,379

    Percent change 0.2 percent

    Median household income $36,797

    Persons below poverty level, percent 1007-11 14.9 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 371

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 -9.55 percent

    Land area, in square miles 548.04

    People per square mile 4.3

    From The Denver Post (Matt Phillips):

    Rolling east on Colorado 86, housing tracts give way to cattle and horse ranches outside Castle Rock. A few miles farther, crossing into Elbert County, the landscape steadily becomes more rural. In Elizabeth, Elbert County’s largest town, there isn’t much talk about the 51st state initiative — if any talk at all.

    Larisa Coonce, 25, who works at a liquor store in town, said she hadn’t heard about the initiative. Coonce, though, said there is a disconnect between Elizabeth residents and urbanites in Denver. She said Elbert County residents take pride in being self-sufficient. “If we can’t make it, we don’t need it,” said Coonce, who also runs a baking business on the side called Reesa’s Pieces . The issue people are most vocal about, she said, is gun control.

    Kiowa , the county seat, is 7miles east. It’s a quintessential, small American town. At Patty Ann’s Cafe smiling waitresses greet customers and everybody gets a one-of-a-kind coffee mug. Conversations about children, grandchildren and good food float across the cafe.

    An August county commissioners’ meeting in Kiowa began with a prayer — “my heart is heavy with the many, many things that are wrong in our nation,” said a local pastor — and a hearty pledge of allegiance to the American flag.

    Commissioner Robert Rowland said that the 51st state initiative could be on Elbert County’s November ballot. But commissioners haven’t made any decisions about that or any other ballot initiatives. The bigger issue is Elbert County’s lack of cash. “At some point we will have to increase revenues in this county,” Rowland said.

    The oil and gas industry is poised to enter the region, according to residents, but there is dissension about how much — or how little — the industry should be regulated.

    Rick Blotter, a retired teacher who owns 60 acres in the county, said giving drillers unregulated access would have a negative environmental and economic impact. The money that comes in, he said, would be concentrated in the hands of a few landowners and wouldn’t benefit the entire county. “What does that do to the cost of living in that community — it goes up,” he said.

    Past Kiowa, the highway unravels across the rest of the county — a picturesque landscape of rolling plains dotted with livestock. The two-lane highway is pockmarked and weather-worn in places.

    Neighboring Lincoln County , too, is absent overt support for the 51st state initiative. In Limon , the county’s most populous town, people had only heard about it through news outlets.

    Brittin Keenan, 37, is a librarian at the Limon Memorial Library. She’s lived in the region for nine years and thinks Lincoln County, a large ranching region, is very conservative. But that doesn’t mean people want to form another state. “I haven’t heard of it (the initiative) here,” Keenan said. “The only reason I heard is I saw it on the news.”

    Keenan said gun rights are an issue for many people in the county. She doesn’t vote along party lines herself, but she implied that many people do and it’s partially because of that issue.

    Lincoln County administrator Roxie Devers said there are no plans for the county to throw its lot in with the 51st state initiative. “The commissioners have only had a handful of citizens approach them,” Devers said. “They’ll wait to see if it (the initiative) gets on the state ballot and people can vote on it that way.”

    By the numbers

    Lincoln County

    2012 population 5,453

    2010 population 5,467

    Percent change -0.3 percent

    Median household income $43,375

    Persons below poverty level, percent 1007-11 11.1 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 1,229

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 0.1 percent

    Land area, in square miles 2,577.63

    People per square mile 2.1

    Elbert County

    2012 population 23,383

    2010 population 23,086

    Percent change 1.3

    Median household income $79,367

    Persons below poverty level, percent 1007-11 5.8 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 1,933

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 -3.8 percent

    Land area, in square miles 1,850.85

    People per square mile 12.5

    From The Denver Post (Ally Marotti):

    Children often lose track of summer days biking and playing in Cheyenne Wells, but parents aren’t worried if they’re not home by dusk. There are no “Children At Play” signs, no speed bumps in the streets — Cheyenne Wells just doesn’t need them. “Kids go out to play ’til the lights go dark,” said Sherrie Nestor, as she simultaneously watched over her three grandsons and volunteered at the Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Museum.

    She pointed out people in historical pictures on the walls who still live in town, and consulted a 1972 phone book — change doesn’t come often in Cheyenne Wells.

    No matter where you are in the largest town in Cheyenne County, you can see the other end of town. Strangers only come through in big rigs to pick up oil or crops and are soon on their way, leaving down one of the roads that quickly turns to a dirt ribbon winding across the vast prairie. “Out here, it’s a different economy. Whatever happens up there (in Denver) doesn’t happen here,” said Marilynn Jacobson, a reporter at the town’s weekly paper, The Range Ledger. “We try to remain independent. We like our freedom and we like open spaces. And we like to feel safe.”

    The nearest grocery store is almost an hour away. The closest mall is in Colorado Springs.

    “The only thing you got out here besides good people is tumbleweeds, fence posts and barbed wire,” said local contractor Danny Donnelly.

    Most of the town’s 800 residents were born there, and if they do leave, they’re not gone long.

    The town shut down one rainy day in August for a funeral. Even the afternoon coffee crowd at Nan’s Convenience and Liquor Store — a mix ranging from retired farmers to oil drillers — was sparse that day.

    People know their neighbors in Cheyenne Wells. They know the town’s history, and it’s riddled with hard work.

    Most are up before the sun to work in the oil fields or farm. Many go straight to the local bar after work, oil smeared from head to toe as a trophy of the day’s accomplishments.

    But some feel Cheyenne County is forgotten among state lawmakers. “Rural life is not understood,” said Gerald Keefe, the city and county judge, former superintendent of the Kit Carson School District and a hospital board member.

    New laws require the town’s 10-bed Keefe Memorial Hospital — named for Gerald’s father — to hire more nurses, which would exceed budget. Keefe is fighting to keep the hospital operational, as the next nearest facility is in Burlington, about 40 miles north. “It’s like we’re in an episode of ‘Horton Hears a Who,’ ” Keefe said, suggesting people in the city forget the small town exists. “We are really here.”

    But 45 miles to the north, Interstate 70 slices through Kit Carson County, bringing visitors and business at a level unheard of in Cheyenne Wells.

    Burlington, the county seat, has fast food, hotel chains and roadside attractions, including a 108-year-old carousel. The Colorado Junior Rodeo finals drew 120 contestants and their families to town Aug. 9-11, said CJR president Cade Spitz. But at its core, Burlington is a rural farming community. “I’ve lived here all my life,” said Darwin “Dog” Stolz as he repaired windows one afternoon. A coach nicknamed him Dog, and now that’s how he’s listed in the phone book.

    Stolz said he loves small-town life, but most young people leave Burlington unless they help on family farms. “I told my kids, ‘I’m not a farmer, you’ve got to get out of here,’ ” said Stolz, whose two children live in Washington, D.C . “They’ll never come back. They got the night life there.”

    Ally Marotti: 303-954-1223, or

    By the numbers

    Kit Carson County

    2012 population 8,094

    2010 population 8,270

    Percent change -2.1 percent

    Median household income $43,194

    Persons below poverty level percent 2007-11 11.3 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 1,860

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 -6.3 percent

    Land area, in square miles 2,160.82

    People per square mile 3.8

    Cheyenne County

    2012 population 1,874

    2010 population 1,836

    Percent change 2.1 percent

    Median household income $47,188

    Persons below poverty level percent 2007-11 9 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 929

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 9.7 percent

    Land area, in square miles 1,778.28

    People per square mile 1

    From The Denver Post (Adrian D. Garcia):

    Political thoughts are usually far from the minds of residents of Morgan and Washington counties. With children to rear and crops to raise, fighting to have rural needs better met in the statehouse is not typically at the top of most people’s to-do list.

    Local elected officials will make the right decisions for the counties’ larger picture needs, said Dave Baugh as he sat eating a cheeseburger and fries at a tavern in Weldona, northwest of the Morgan County seat, Fort Morgan.

    Leaders are considering changes to the way the region is represented in the state Senate and House, as well as, discussing secession from Colorado. “(Seceding) seems like a good idea but I have enough stuff to worry about,” Baugh said as farmers nearby joked and discussed when they were next going to cut and bail hay. The tavern had two beers on tap, Coors Light and Bud Light. “It hasn’t hit close enough to home yet.”

    Baugh lives in Morgan County and drives to work at the oil and gas company DCP Midstream in Weld County. He said the bumps on Interstates 70 and 76 and Democratic led initiatives like SB 252 — that doubles the amount of renewable energy rural electric cooperatives must use to 20 percent by 2020 — haven’t yet dramatically altered his day-to-day life.

    But the mood of Washington County ranchers Don and Linda Cullip got hot as they ate strawberry ice cream at Cornerstone Coffee in Akron. They said they are passionate about seceding from the state. Linda said that’s partly because legislators in Denver don’t take into account what consequences new regulations and laws have on a farm. “They don’t really care what we need out here,” she said. “The people in the city don’t have a clue what life is like in rural areas. They just think that their hamburgers just show up at McDonald’s and they don’t realize it comes from cattle like ours.”

    Even though modern farming equipment is highly sophisticated and costs thousands of dollars, Don said, residents in metro areas view rural residents as dumb and behind the times.

    Fort Morgan’s Lee Mills, 82, said there are few options for young adults in the area, even with businesses like the Great Western sugar factory, Cargill Meat Solutions and Leprino Foods Company.

    About 665 20-somethings left Morgan County between 2000 and 2010. In the same period, nearly 245 people in their 20s left Washington County, according to data from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

    It’s hard to make a living wage and some have to “rely on food stamps especially if they have a family,” said Mills, who retired from concrete work in Denver and moved to Morgan County more than a decade ago.

    Life is easier for the older people, he said. “You get your social security and pension check and live laid back.”

    Adrian D. Garcia: 303-954-1729,, Twitter/ adriandgarcia

    By the numbers

    Washington County

    2012 population 4,766

    2010 population 4,814

    Percent change -1.0 percent

    Median household income $43,945

    Persons below poverty level percent 2007-11 2.19 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 488

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 2.5 percent

    Land area, in square miles 2,518.03

    People per square mile 1.9

    Morgan County

    2012 population 28,472

    2010 population 28,159

    Percent change 1.1 percent

    Median household income $42,792

    Persons below poverty level percent 2007-11 14.9 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 8,815

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 4.2 percent

    Land area, in square miles 1,280.43

    People per square mile 22

    From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

    If it’s attention the northeastern Colorado counties threatening secession wanted, they’ve got it. Weld County officials irked by action during the Democrat-dominated legislative session recruited 10 other counties to the idea of leaving the state to form their own.

    They said their interests were ill-represented by metro-centric lawmakers who ignored rural sensibilities when they voted for tighter gun laws and threatened the livelihood of farmers and ranchers with new renewable energy standards that may hike the cost of doing business. “They feel they have been ignored. That’s what this is all about,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who is running for governor against incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper. His district includes all or part of all 11 dissident counties. “People need to be heard.”

    But as elected officials publicly debated formation of North Colorado, circulated petitions and surveyed citizens deciding to put question the fall ballot in eight counties so far, the message was received — loud and clear — in Hickenlooper’s office. “If this talk of a 51st state is about politics designed to divide us, it’s destructive,” Hickenlooper said. “But if it is about sending a message, then I see our responsibility to lean in and do a better job of listening.”

    However, he said, the hurt being felt in rural counties is not due to background checks on gun sales, civil unions for gays or expanded renewable energy. “In fact, these are popular proposals across communities large and small,” Hickenlooper said. “The same is true of our efforts to protect water for agricultural issues, expand broadband into rural areas and promote tourism and economic diversity across the state.”

    The notion of breaking up with Colorado has evolved into an almost heroic calling for some supporters. “I would argue that this is not radical, but is something that our framers envisioned,” said Jeffrey Hare, a Weld County man who founded the 51st State Initiative Facebook page, which has attracted more than 11,000 likes.

    Critics, however, say the North Colorado proposal is short on detail and long on petulance. “I think some people in northern Colorado are frustrated that the party they are usually aligned with (the GOP) does not dominate the state legislature nor the governor’s office,” said long-time Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer. “It’s mostly about blowing off steam. A lot of sound and fury but not much else.”

    If the secession effort is successful, there will be a lot of expensive infrastructure to purchase from the state of Colorado, including a prison system and maybe even a state university — which presumably would be the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “There would be a whole host of things they would have to work through,” said said University of Colorado political science professor Kenneth Bickers.

    But if the counties do depart, North Colorado would pack a mighty economic punch. The secessionist counties contain much of Colorado’s breadbasket and a good chunk of its oil and gas production. Four of the top five ag-producing counties in the state, at least in terms of dollar value, could be within North Colorado’s borders. Weld County alone is the top producer of grain, beef cattle, dairy product and sugar beets.

    Weld is also home to more than 20,000 active oil and gas wells, the largest number of active wells of any county in the U.S. and producing 81 percent of the state’s oil and and 18 percent of Colorado’s natural gas. All that production helped contribute $1.6 billion to the state and local governments, school districts and special districts in 2012.

    The new state could also become a philosophical nirvana to those now chafing within the confines of the Centennial State. They could frame new laws and policies that discourage gun control and abortion while encouraging more tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

    The new state of North Colorado could even raise the speed limit if it wanted, Bickers said.

    “There are a whole lot of things and policies that could be adopted that would likely be more in tune with the preferences of people living in those counties,” he said.

    But the 51st state would lack political might as the least-populous state in the Union, with about 60 percent the population of Wyoming. And secession might not work out to break-even for the rogue counties — including Moffat, which this week said it will put a secession question on the ballot with the intention of joining Wyoming.

    Together, the counties collected $106 million in state and other government funding in 2009, the last time the figures were tabulated by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

    Those same counties — whose main commerce depends on an adequate and certain supply of water — would probably find access to that resource even more difficult to come by, said state Rep. Dave Young, a Democrat, whose district includes Greeley. “We depend on water that comes from other places other than Weld County,” Young said. “How much is it going to cost us to get that water?”

    From The Denver Post (Dana Coffield):

    Can it happen? Voters in secessionist counties may signal they wish to proceed with creating a 51st state, but completing the process will take some serious political might and will. The U.S. Constitution allows Congress to admit new states to the union. However, new states may be formed from within the boundaries of another state or by joining two or more states or parts of states only with consent of the concerned state legislatures and Congress.

    Prof. Richard Collins, a Constitutional law expert at the University of Colorado law school, said the last time a state consented to the loss of territory was when Maine split from Massachusetts in 1820 and slavery was at the heart of the conflict.

    Colorado’s consent would come by a bill voted on by both chambers of the legislature, or by citizen initiative — akin to what happened in 1998 when voters OK’d a constitutional amendment to allow the city of Broomfield to secede from Adams, Weld, Boulder and Jefferson counties to form its own county. “You can speculate on the state politics that would generate, but any way you slice it, it is hard to imagine state consent,” Collins said.

    Getting the blessing of the U.S. Congress presents its own political hurdles, chiefly changing the balance of party power with the addition of the two senators guaranteed all states by the U.S. Constitution. U.S. representatives are allocated based on population. Wyoming, with about 576,000 residents, has one. The 11 proposed North Colorado counties have about 375,000. “The problem in Congress would be opposition to giving a new state two senators certain to be conservative Republicans,” Collins said. “As we know, it is very easy to stop Congress from acting.”

    From The Denver Post (Katharina Buchholz):

    Greg Larson wants Gov. John Hickenlooper to think of him when he eats his popcorn. “We should get him some,” Larson said, “so he can think of us out here.” Larson, 40, farms 1,300 irrigated acres of feed corn, wheat, millet and popcorn in Logan, Phillips, Sedgwick and Yuma counties in Colorado’s northeastern corner. He doesn’t like that the rural renewable-energy bill, which mandates rural energy cooperatives to double their renewable energy use, will drive up his operating cost. But that doesn’t mean Larson supports secession from Colorado under the 51st state initiative, like some of his commissioners, who cite a recent tightening of energy and gun laws as reasons to attempt the split from Colorado. Surrounded by high corn stalks, Larson was checking one of his eight wells, where more than 800 gallons of water churn from the ground every minute. During the 4-month growing season, the wells run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    While there is no official estimate, David Churchwell of the Highline Electric Association, where Larson buys his power, said the increase could be significant. “It could cause someone to go out of business,” Churchwell said.

    But Larson, whose home is in Logan County, is also the vice-president of the local Republican River Conservation District and knows that lawsuits about excessive water use have been brought against the state by Kansas in the past. “All the money, all the legal fees, the time engineers put into it, we would lose all that,” Larson said. “They would come after our little state.”

    Steve Deaver, 52, supports secession. Deaver is the locksmith and gun dealer of Holyoke in Phillips County, a town with a population of about 2,300 located 13 miles from the Nebraska border. “The gun laws are the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Deaver said while his four grandsons fooled around on his front porch. Deaver said the laws were unnecessary, but also acknowledged that sleepy Holyoke wasn’t a place that had to deal with problems of gun violence. “The lifestyle out on the plains is so different in all capacities from the metropolitan lifestyle,” he said.

    Yuma County Commissioner Trent Bushner said his county put secession on the ballot after collecting 706 signatures, equalling about 15 percent of the county’s voters in the 2012 election. “We wanted to hear from our constituents to see if it stuck, and it did,” Bushner said.

    In neighboring Phillips County, frustrations were obvious during a recent county commissioners meeting. “I’m just ashamed to say that I live in this state,” commissioner Joe Kinnie said.

    County Administrator Randy Schafer would like to see every representative in the state House assigned to a Colorado county. The so-called Phillips Plan is similar to the system of representation in the U.S. Senate. “When we lost population, we also lost representation,” he said.

    In Phillips County, efficient agriculture practices produce high yields with few farmers.

    Larson said he has tripled his acreage in the last 16 years by renting land from neighbors who moved away. He said he will continue his farm — secession or not. “Farmers,” Larson said, “have learned how to deal with what’s put in front of them.”

    By the numbers

    Phillips County

    2012 population 4,367

    2010 population 4,442

    Percent change -1.7 percent

    Median household income $44.717

    Persons below poverty level, percent 2007-11 14.9 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 966

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 0.3 percent

    Land area, in square miles 687.93

    People per square mile 6.5

    Yuma County

    2012 population 10,119

    2010 population 10,043

    Percent change 0.8 percent

    Median household income $44,991

    Persons below poverty level, percent 1007-11 8 percent

    Private non-farm employment 2011 2,556

    Non-farm employment percentage change from 2010 -2.8 percent

    Land area, in square miles 2,364.41

    People per square mile 4.2

    More North Colorado Secession coverage here.

    An introduction to Castle Rock’s new treatment plant


    From (Will Ripley):

    The town’s renewable water plant, which went online earlier this year, currently supplies 35 percent of the town’s water. It will eventually expand to meet 75 percent of the town’s demands. “We hope eventually to be able to treat 12 million gallons a day through this plant,” [Mark Marlowe] said.

    While the thought of transforming treated toilet water to tap water may leave some with a bad taste in their mouth, Marlowe says high tech filters guarantee the water is clean and safe. In fact, he says most of today’s tap water is reused. Wastewater goes through a purification process before it is released downstream. “Everybody lives downstream of somebody,” Marlowe said.

    The town expects its $22 million investment in the new plant, combined with a commitment to water conservation, will help the town save to up to $100 million over the next 20 years.

    And perhaps more importantly, it’ll help conserve billions of gallons of our most precious resource.

    More water treatment coverage here.

    EPA: Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment Fifth Report to Congress

    Click here to read the report.

    More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here and here.

    Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County is setting the stage for 1041 hearings


    It looks like Pueblo County is about to get back in court with Colorado Springs, this time over compliance with the 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System (which is largely complete in the county). Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Stormwater, revegetation, roads and other details of a county permit for the Southern Delivery System will be discussed at a public meeting next month. The Pueblo County commissioners want to hear comments from the public and discuss the progress of the project with Colorado Springs Utilities, leaving open the possibility of 1041 permit compliance hearings at a later date. “What we envision is a chance for Colorado Springs to respond to questions,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the commission. “We definitely want the ability for public participation.”

    The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 20 in the commission meeting chambers at the Pueblo County Courthouse.

    Commissioners Monday reviewed issues surrounding SDS that have surfaced in recent months. They include issues of revegetation on Walker Ranches in northern Pueblo County.

    Also at issue is a dispute over the interpretation of Colorado Springs stormwater data by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Last month, water attorney Peter Nichols told the Lower Ark board storm flows have worsened and water quality deteriorated, while stormwater funding decreased from 2009-12. Mark Pifher, SDS permitting manager, responded that there is no correlation between the demise of the stormwater enterprise in 2009 and water quality or volume of flows. He disputed the trends that Nichols found.

    Commissioners plan to get more information from Nichols in advance of the Sept. 20 meeting.

    At Monday’s meeting, commissioners also looked at the possibility of prepayment on interest from the $50 million Colorado Springs pledged for Fountain Creek flood control.

    They also want to review the U.S. Geological Survey study that shows the effectiveness of dams throughout the Fountain Creek watershed.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    Drought news: ‘With prices going up, I see people getting out of having horses’ — Kent Whitmer #COdrought


    From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Leia Larsen):

    Prolonged drought conditions have caused hay prices to soar statewide, putting a pinch on ranchers and livestock owners. In the Mountains and Northwest Colorado region, U.S. Department of Agriculture hay reports show current prices have leapt by about 54 percent since five years ago, from $6.50 a bale to $10 a bale. But Colorado’s most recent hay report, released on Aug. 15, may signal modest improvement.

    “We’re seeing a weaker undertone to this market with monsoonal moisture coming in, and pasture conditions are improving,” said Randy Hammerstrom with the USDA-Colorado Agricultural Marketing Service.

    A weaker market undertone means hay prices could start trending downward, but Hammerstrom cautions prices changes won’t be dramatic. He also said variables make market forecasting difficult if not impossible.

    “I wouldn’t call it sharply lower,” he said. “There is still concern over inventory and lack of inventory, supplies are on the tight side.”

    Inventories remain tight after drought conditions from the last two years. Kent Whitmer, of Lazy T Rocking K Ranch in Kremmling, sells hay to livestock owners throughout Colorado and in nearby states. Before the drought struck, he sold his hay for around $5.50 a bale. He’s now up to $9 a bale, and said his same weed-free certified hay goes for as much as $15 a bale at feed stores. With a particularly heavy drought hitting the southwest region of the U.S., demand from states like Texas and Oklahoma has pushed hay prices even further as they gobble up Colorado supplies at a premium…

    “With prices going up, I see people getting out of having horses,” Whitmer said. “It’s a luxury — that’s the first thing to go before a car payment or mortgage for most people.”

    The Fountain Creek district approved a Colorado Springs Utilities’ SDS mitigation wetlands project on Friday


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs Utilities’ plan to improve a portion of Fountain Creek as part of mitigation for the Southern Delivery System got unanimous approval Friday from a board formed to improve Fountain Creek. Meeting in Pueblo, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District approved a new alignment for the creek and wetlands creation about 25 miles north of Pueblo near Pikes Peak International Raceway.

    Allison Mosser, a Utilities engineer, explained the project, which was listed as the No. 5 priority in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of projects that could improve Fountain Creek. The project also is among those listed in the district’s corridor master plan. The area is one of the worst on the creek in terms of erosion and sedimentation, she said.

    The alignment would mean moving some structures and reinforcing other parts of the bank on the property, which is owned by Utilities. A small part of the creek on the Hanna Ranch also is included, but all costs would be paid by Colorado Springs. Some native willows would be planted for bank stabilization and wetlands would be created or improved. Water for initial seeding of the wetlands would use water from rights owned by Colorado Springs at Clear Springs Ranch, Mosser said.

    The Bureau of Reclamation would have final authority over approval of the wetlands, because it holds the SDS permit.

    Construction would begin in November and take three months, while planting the wetlands would be completed later in the year.

    Monitoring the wetlands would continue for three to five years.

    More coverage of the Fountain Creek district meeting from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    A district formed to improve Fountain Creek will team with the U.S. Geological Survey to measure water quality changes caused by runoff from recent fires. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday approved a contract that will measure the impacts of the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and this year’s Black Forest Fire.

    The Black Forest Fire was the most destructive in Colorado history in terms of homes and vehicles destroyed, and could increase the concentration of certain elements.

    The total contract will be $18,000, with $6,000 in federal funds, and the other $12,000 contributed by the district and several El Paso County sources.

    Samples will be taken as storms occur. “We’ve already missed three or four opportunities,” said Larry Small, executive director of the district. Two sites on Monument Creek and four on Fountain Creek would be sampled. More than 100 constituents will be tested for contaminants like lead and E. coli.

    The USGS indicated last month that it has baseline data. “I think this is an important first step. We’ve been talking about impacts since the Waldo Canyon Fire last year,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart.

    Melissa Esquibel, a board member from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, questioned the value of the study, since it would not thoroughly identify sources and problems caused by subsequent storms.

    Hart said this study would provide evidence for more detailed studies later.

    Jane Rhodes said more studies are needed downstream to see if fires are impacting Pueblo County, because the study sites are in El Paso County.

    “We need to find out what’s in the water to protect our population,” added Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    September 10 is ‘Protect your groundwater day’


    Update: Coyote Gulch reader, Theresa C, let me know that I fat-fingered the date. The date is September 10. Sorry about that.

    Click here to go to the National Groundwater Association Website. Here’s the pitch:

    Simple ways everyone can act to protect groundwater

    Everyone can and should do something to protect groundwater. Why? We all have a stake in maintaining its quality and quantity:

  • For starters, 99 percent of all available freshwater comes from aquifers underground. Being a good steward of groundwater just makes sense.
  • Not only that, most surface water bodies are connected to groundwater so how you impact groundwater matters.
  • Furthermore, many public water systems draw all or part of their supply from groundwater, so protecting the resource protects the public water supply and impacts treatment costs.
  • If you own a well to provide water for your family, farm, or business, groundwater protection is doubly important. As a well owner, you are the manager of your own water system. Protecting groundwater will help reduce risks to your water supply.
  • Groundwater protection

    There are two fundamental categories of groundwater protection:

  • Keeping it safe from contamination
  • Using it wisely by not wasting it.
  • More groundwater coverage here.

    CWC summer meeting recap: Developing a Colorado state water plan


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The summer convention of the Colorado Water Congress last week had a holiday feel. It wasn’t an elegant table setting, but more like dumping a 5,000-piece puzzle on the floor and telling the kids to have at it. From the first day, development of a state water plan was at the top of everyone’s to-do list.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper, who ordered the plan in May, stopped by to give a pep talk on Wednesday evening. Hickenlooper acknowledged that he has put the plan on a fast track — he wants a plan in place by 2015 — but said it’s not an impossible task and encouraged water users to broaden their perspective of self-interest.

    There were presentations from other Western states that have developed water plans, and most have similarities to Colorado in the need for those plans: growth, drought, climate change and conflicts over competing uses within the states. Like Colorado, they are moving away from centralized planning and seeking regional input.


    IDAHO Year: 1976, revised 2012 Why: Protection against California plans to export Snake River water in 1963. It asserts sovereignty of water over federal actions or actions by other states.

    How it works: General guidance from the state that ultimately affects funding. There is a water bank that serves agriculture.

    MONTANA Year: 2013 (in process) Why: Coordination of regional water development.

    How it works: Basin advisory councils are attempting to sort out water needs for the next 20 years. Water rights through court adjudication are still the driver for water use within the state.

    NEW MEXICO Year: 1987, revised 2003 Why: Protection against Texas water claims.

    How it works: Voluntary steering committees by region, not tied to funding.

    No top-down dictates from state.

    OKLAHOMA Year: 1980, revised 2012 Why: Drought, in-state competition for water resources.

    How it works: Emphasis is on long-term funding for infrastructure, data collection, water management and regional (by river basin) planning efforts. One big issue is groundwater depletion.

    OREGON Year: 2009, completed 2012 Why: Growth, land use, climate change.

    How it works: The plan seeks to balance environmental needs with human uses. It includes 13 strategy areas, including funding of projects. It relies on monitoring conditions and actions with five-year updates.

    TEXAS Year: 1961, updated 2012 Why: Droughts and floods.

    How it works: State planning has shifted from a topdown process to regional input from water districts, counties and any city or town with at least 500 people. A ballot issue this year, Proposition 6, would inject $2 billion into state water funding.

    UTAH Year: 2001 Why: Planning for future growth.

    How it works: It seeks to integrate local, regional, state and federal decisions on developing projects.

    It also lists strategies for sharing water, conservation, reuse and storage.

    WYOMING Year: 2007 Why: To describe competing uses, future needs.

    How it works: It is a framework plan that describes how water is used in the state, based on numerous sources, including basin advisory groups. It identifies possible projects.

    More Statewide Water Plan coverage here.

    Parachute Creek spill: Benzene undetectable in the most recent samples #ColoradoRiver


    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    Test results show there’s no benzene contamination in Parachute Creek in western Colorado, near where an estimated 241 barrels of natural gas liquids spilled earlier this year, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That includes one test site, known as CS-6, which repeatedly tested positive for low levels of the carcinogen throughout the summer, the department said Friday. The Department oversees the cleanup activities. Test results for other sites along the creek have remained at “non-detect” levels for benzene, the department said.

    Cleanup efforts will wind down in the next few months, and the health department will do more monitoring, said Kate Lemon, a spokeswoman for the health department’s hazardous materials and waste management division. “We’re going to continue to monitor to ensure that there’s nothing that’s been overlooked, and that monitoring ultimately could take a couple of years,” Lemon said.

    “Everything has been very successful and the company has been compliant with our orders.”

    Benzene levels at the CS-6 site were at 9.2 parts per billion in mid-July, but dropped as cleanup equipment was installed and turned on. The three most recent test samples, on Aug. 8, 12, and 15, detected no traces of benzene, the department said, although it cautioned that levels may fluctuate with additional cleanup activities.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.

    Reclamation Selects Five Entities to Receive $485,423 to Establish or Expand Existing Watershed Groups


    Click here to read the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor announced today that five entities in Colorado, Idaho and Oregon will receive a total of $485,423 to establish or expand watershed groups. The selected entities will use the funding to address water quality, ecosystem and endangered species issues.
    “Collaboration is the key if we are going to meet the many water challenges we face across West,” said Commissioner Connor. “Reclamation’s Cooperative Watershed Management Program focuses on bringing diverse groups together within basins. These strong partnerships will ultimately help reduce and resolve future conflict.”

    The funding is made available through the Cooperative Watershed Management Program, part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s WaterSMART Initiative. This grant program supports the formation and development of locally led watershed groups and facilitates the development of multi-stakeholder watershed projects. The five entities selected for funding are:

  • Land Trust of the Treasure Valley in Idaho ($100,000) – The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley will establish the Boise River Enhancement Network in collaboration with Trout Unlimited, Ecosystem Sciences Foundation, Idaho Rivers United and the South Boise Water Company. The Network will address water quality issues, endangered species and loss of natural habitats in the lower Boise River watershed and will work with stakeholders to increase opportunities for public and private enhancement project collaboration.
  • Western Slope Conservation Center in Colorado ($100,000) – The Western Slope Conservation Center in Paonia is an established watershed group that will use funding to address issues in two adjacent drainages above and below the North Fork of the Gunnison River to improve stream stability, riparian habitat and ecosystem function in the watershed. The watershed has been experiencing water quality issues with E.coli exceeding state water standards, selenium in the North Fork of the Gunnison River and excessive amounts of salt flowing from the river into the Colorado River.
  • Friends of the Teton River, Inc. in Idaho ($89,379) – Friends of the Teton River located in Teton County will expand a current watershed group to form the Teton Advisory Council to develop a restoration plan that identifies, prioritizes and endorses a specific series of watershed restoration and water conservation activities to improve water quality and ecological resiliency of the Teton River watershed.
  • San Juan Resource Conservation and Development in Colorado ($96,415) – The San Juan Resource Conservation and Development in Durango will expand the membership of the Animas Watershed Partnership. The partners will address concerns with the temperature, sedimentation and E. coli levels in the Animas River as well as issues related to the endangered Southwest Willow Flycatcher.
  • Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District in Oregon ($99,629) – The Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District will use the funding to expand the Hood River Watershed group. The watershed group will address water supply and instream flows for threatened native fish such as the winter steelhead, Chinook salmon and coho salmon and other concerns in the watershed. The watershed group will address these issues by conducting analyses to identify and prioritize actions that partners can undertake to develop long term solutions within the basin.
  • A complete description of all projects is available at:

    Each entity will receive half of its funding this year and if sufficient progress is made as identified in its application, it will receive the remainder of its funding next year. No cost-share was required.

    Reclamation awarded $333,500 to eight entities in 2012 in the first year of grant funding for the Cooperative Management Program of the WaterSMART initiative. Since its establishment in 2010, WaterSMART has provided more than $161 million in competitively-awarded funding to non-federal partners, including tribes, water districts, municipalities, and universities through WaterSMART Grants and the Title XVI Program. Funding for WaterSMART is focused on improving water conservation and helping water and resource managers make wise decisions about water use.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.

    Drought news: NWS Pueblo — The Active Monsoon of 2013 #COdrought


    Click here to read the whole report and check out their graphics. Here’s an excerpt:

    The southwest monsoon came alive across Colorado in the beginning of July and has remained very active across the state through middle of August, bringing beneficial rains to much of south central and southeast Colorado. The much needed rainfall has brought some relief to the drought which has had it grip on the area over the past two years.

    Peru Creek: EPA has been testing treatment and settlement of the acid mine drainage during August


    From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

    Throughout August, [Martin McComb], the Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator, and his team have been diverting the main flow of heavy-metal-laden water coming from the mine away from the poisonous tailings piles. Environmental protection workers also set up a treatment system that raises the PH of the water in an effort to force some of the metals to drop out of it into a settlement pond before heading downstream. “It’s all about reducing the amount of pollution that flows into the creek,” McComb said. “We are dealing comprehensively with what’s on top of the ground as well as what’s below the ground.”[…]

    McComb’s EPA team is embarking on phase one of a six-phase cleanup project at the site. In addition to water treatment efforts, the group has spent the past month improving road conditions to allow dump trucks and other heavy machinery access to the site. The cleanup is expected to take three years and will involve numerous agencies, including the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service, the Blue River and Snake River watershed groups and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “It’s nice to see there are so many people involved in this project and in this watershed. I think it’s because it’s such a beautiful area, and near where so many people are living,” McComb said. “I hope we can make an impact — and think we already have.”

    Cleanup efforts taken under the project plan will be phased over the next several years and will address threats from acidic discharge that is draining from the mine and tailings along with other mine waste found on the surface.

    The bulk of the underground mine work will be conducted under the supervision of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety. This summer, contractors under the supervision of senior project manager Jeff Graves are digging out a collapsed portion of earth that flooded the culvert in the mine’s portal F, and are working to gain easier access into the underground portions of the mine. “They are really knowledgeable about underground work and have a lot of experience,” McComb said. “For us, it’s a good way to partner with people who are specialized and really know what they’re doing.”

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

    ‘Agriculture doesn’t deserve to be saved, but it does deserve the opportunity to survive’ — Terry Fankhauser


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Agriculture, lately treated like a damsel in distress by the state’s water community, became the belle of the ball at this week’s Colorado Water Congress summer convention.

    “I believe that agriculture is a cornerstone for the state’s economy, for the nation’s economy,” Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar said Thursday.

    “The state has always planned on developing water for growth. We have to start thinking about land use planning. When you put people in apartments you save water. Build up instead of out.” It was a strong statement in a dialog that has repeatedly referred to taking more water from agriculture as the default option to serve growth.

    But Salazar served up a plate of statistics too big to digest in a short time during a panel discussion on agriculture. Farming is a $40 billion industry in Colorado, providing 170,000 jobs. In 24 counties, one of every 10 workers is on a farm or ranch. About 47 percent of the state’s land is in agriculture. “When we lose ag land, it has consequences,” Salazar said.

    But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Others on the panel were passionate about keeping ground in farms. “It’s the heritage,” said Marsha Daughenbaugh, of the community Agricultural alliance that serves Northwest Colorado. She cited the 24 Centennial farms that will be honored at this year’s Colorado State Fair. “Think about everything they worked so damned hard to put together. We have a lot of young people who want to farm.”

    Terry Fankhauser, of the Colorado Cattleman’s Association, said fewer farmers with fewer resources are producing more food. “Agriculture doesn’t deserve to be saved, but it does deserve the opportunity to survive,” Fankhauser said.

    From Steamboat Today (Michael Schrantz):

    Dan Keppen, of the Family Farm Alliance, gave a presentation Wednesday about a white paper that seeks to calculate value of irrigated agriculture and show how siphoning off its water for industrial and municipal uses will have large consequences. “The Economic Importance of Western Irrigated Agriculture: Water Values, Analysis Methods, Resource Management Decisions” was prepared by resource economist Darryll Olsen for the Family Farm Alliance and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water.

    Olsen’s report states that the impact of irrigated agriculture in the West on personal income is $156 billion. The report also shows the gap between food production and projected demand increasing over time. The cost of food in the U.S. as a percent of disposable income has consistently dropped since 1945, the report states, and was only 6.7 percent in 2011. “If you start doing things that tweak with that curve … and all of a sudden that percentage starts to go up, it does huge things to our economy,” Keppen said. “It’s a security issue.”

    But while Olsen’s report shows the value of irrigated agriculture in the West, it’s not getting the same treatment as municipal and industrial uses of water, according to Keppen.

    A report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about the Colorado River Basin shows a loss of irrigated agriculture land by 2060. Between 2015 and 2060, the report states, irrigated acreage will shrink by 300,000 to 900,000 acres.

    Models used by government agencies assume that when municipal demand grows, agriculture shrinks, Keppen said.

    Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Ark District are still scuffling over stormwater and Fountain Creek


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs Utilities disagrees with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s interpretation of the city’s stormwater discharge data.

    Last month, Lower Ark attorney Peter Nichols said the data showed the volume of discharges had gone up and increased sedimentation and E. coli bacteria in Fountain Creek. Nichols said the data were taken from Colorado Springs state stormwater reports, and his comments were reported in a Chieftain story.

    In response to the story, Colorado Springs Utilities looked at the same data and believes there is no correlation of flows or increased contamination due to the dissolution of the stormwater enterprise. Mark Pifher, Southern Delivery System permitting manager for Utilities, made the comments in an Aug. 14 letter to the Lower Ark district. If anything, there is evidence that there is a downward trend of flow, sedimentation and contamination based on reports from a continuous gauge at Security. “Springs Utilities would like to reiterate that it takes stormwater control and water quality within the Fountain Creek basin very seriously,” Pifher wrote in the letter.

    He repeated the stance that Colorado Springs officials have taken that a stormwater enterprise or a certain level of funding for stormwater is not required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS.

    He added that a U.S. Geological Survey study shows there is more benefit to Pueblo from building stormwater retention ponds downstream from Colorado Springs than by building retention ponds within or upstream from Colorado Springs. Pifher said he wants to talk to the district about its conclusions.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    CWC 2013 Summer Meeting recap: Denver Water hopes to see low-flow appliance legislation next session


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The state’s biggest municipal water provider is pushing legislation to require more water-efficient appliances to be sold in Colorado. “Even to achieve medium levels of conservation, we must take action now,” Greg Fisher of Denver Water told the water resources review committee of the state Legislature Wednesday.

    Denver Water wants the state to mandate Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for water use in household appliances. It estimates 40,000 acre-feet of water — more than is used annually in Pueblo’s treated water system — could be saved each year. “It’s more practical to do this on a statewide basis,” Fisher said.

    The new law would not require replacing existing fixtures, but require conforming appliances in new construction or future sales. “There would be little impact to consumers,” Fisher said.

    More conservation coverage here.

    Gov. Hickenlooper names new executive director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment


    Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

    Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today Dr. Larry Wolk will be the next Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

    Wolk is a successful entrepreneur who has two decades of leadership experience in various aspects of public health and healthcare. He currently works as the CEO of the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) in Denver.

    In his new role, Wolk will also serve as the state’s Chief Medical Officer.

    “Larry has an impressive background and unique leadership skills,” Hickenlooper said. “He has a proven track record of creating change and tackling difficult issues. His experience in running large organizations, delivering results and balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders will serve the Department of Public Health and Environment and our state well. We are pleased he is joining our team and our efforts to make Colorado the healthiest and safest state in the country.”

    In addition to his work at CORHIO, Wolk is the founder and executive director of the Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics and he is a clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

    The Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics is one of the largest safety-net clinics in Colorado, providing more than 50,000 patients visits each year at more than 40 clinic sites. Wolk plans to continue his volunteer work with Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics after joining CDPHE.

    “I look forward to bringing to CDPHE leadership and perspective in public health and to protecting Colorado’s environmental health,” Wolk said. “My goal is to simplify the health care landscape for Coloradans and to support regulatory efforts aimed at keeping our air, water and ground safe.”

    Wolk earned a medical degree from the University of Vermont College of a Medicine and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He recently worked nearly five years as president and chief operating officer at Correctional Healthcare Companies, which provides services to corrections agencies in 27 states and employs more than 2,500 people.

    Wolk earlier worked as the senior medical director of both Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Colorado and Prudential Healthcare of Colorado, and he served in a regional and national role as senior health care executive at CIGNA HealthCare. He was the medical director of ambulatory pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center for five years.

    Wolk has worked the last year at CORHIO and will continue to serve as an adviser to the organization. CORHIO is dedicated to improving healthcare quality for all Coloradans through health information exchange. As the state designated entity for health information exchange, CORHIO collaborates with health care stakeholders including physicians, hospitals, clinics, public health, long-term care, laboratories, health plans and patients to improve care collaboration through secure systems and processes for sharing clinical information.

    Over the last two decades, Wolk has received many honors, including Colorado Pediatrician of the Year, National Philanthropy Day Volunteer of the Year, Denver Business Journal Healthcare Executive of the Year, a “Channel 7 Everyday Hero,” and he is a recipient of the University of Vermont’s Award for Service to Medicine and Community. Most recently, Wolk received the Lifetime Healthcare Achievement Award from the Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Outstanding Clinical Faculty Community Service Award from the University of Colorado. Wolk also served as an officer on the board of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and the Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education.

    Wolk will start work at CDPHE on Sept. 16.

    North Colorado secession: Yuma County voters get a chance to voice their opinion


    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Kit Carson County has joined the 51st state initiative, becoming the eighth county to place the measure on the ballot this fall.

    Meanwhile, Moffat County commissioners have jumped on the 51st state bandwagon, pledging to vote on a ballot measure on Tuesday. Moffat County covers the northwestern corner of Colorado, so Commissioner John Kinkaid said his county could either try to join with Wyoming or work with neighboring counties to connect with northeastern Colorado’s initiative. Kinkaid said he brought up the issue at a commissioners’ meeting because a number of his constituents requested it. “Obviously, it’s a hard, long road to get statehood for another state in the union, I get that,” Kinkaid said. “But … we feel disenfranchised over here in Moffat County.”

    Kinkaid cited many of the same pieces of legislation that Weld County and other northeastern county commissioners say brought them to the point of a secession movement. He cited a rural energy law passed this year, a mandate to switch fuel from coal to natural gas in 2010, new gun regulations and what he said were overbearing regulations on the county’s power plant, which is the largest in the state, as reasons for joining the movement.

    Kinkaid said he plans to reach out to neighboring counties and to commissioners initially involved in the movement. “We are not leaving Colorado — it’s the Denver area, the urban legislators, who have left Colorado,” he said.

    Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said he wouldn’t be surprised if Moffat County’s actions open up even more movement in western Colorado. “The disappointment and frustration with the Colorado General Assembly is not confined to just northeastern Colorado,” he said.

    Only Morgan County commissioners have not voted to officially join the 51st state initiative. They say they are waiting for a citizen-led petition — which may never come — before voting to place the initiative on the ballot.

    The deadline to submit ballot language for this fall’s election is Sept. 6.

    More North Colorado secession coverage here.

    The August 2013 CWCB Drought Update is hot off the presses #COdrought


    Click here to read the update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Taryn Finnessey)/Colorado Division of Water Resources (Tracy Kosloff). Here’s an excerpt:

    Following above average temperatures in July, August to-date has seen below average temperatures for most of the state. Some areas have seen temperatures 3-4 degrees below average, helping to keep down evapotranspiration rates. Strong July and August rains have also helped to keep municipal demand lower, while elevating drought conditions across large portions of the state. Reservoir storage, especially across southern Colorado, remains quite low and providers are hoping for a strong snow accumulation season to fill the deficit. Monsoonal moisture on the eastern plains has brought much needed relief to the agricultural community, but soil moisture remains low and a full recovery will take years.

  • After 63 consecutive weeks with 100% of the state classified as experiencing some level of drought, a small portion (1.5%) of Northern Colorado is no longer classified. The August 20, 2013 US Drought Monitorshows 98.5% of Colorado continues to experience some level of drought classification. Due to monsoonal moisture, conditions across the state have improved over the last month. D0 (abnormally dry) classification has expanded across the northern Front Range, while D1 (moderate) conditions decreased and now cover 32% of the state. D2 (severe) conditions comprise 37% and D3 (extreme) accounts for an additional 22%. 3% of the state, isolated to the Arkansas River Basin is experiencing D4 conditions (exceptional drought).
  • July precipitation was well above average statewide at 128% of normal, August to date precipitation is currently average at 100% of normal,statewide. This ranges from a low of 76% of average in the South Platte to 133% of average in the Upper Rio Grande. Since October 1, 2012 the state as a whole has received 83% of average precipitation, it is unlikely that any basin will reach average annual precipitation levels by the end of the water year on September 30th.
  • Seasonal summer demands have led to a slight decline in overall statewide storage, currently at 70% of average. The Rio Grande and the basins of Southwestern Colorado have the lowest storage levels at 40% of average, well below where the basins were this time last year. All but two basins (the Upper Colorado and the South Platte) have storage levels below where they were this time last year. The San Juan, Dolores, Animas and San Miguel basins show the most significant decline in storage with 37% lessthan this time last year.
  • Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values remain largely negative and some have dropped since last month. The Colorado Headwaters which sits at +0.04 due to reservoir storage, is the only positive value in the state. The August SWSI uses the observed streamflow measured during July rather than a forecasted flow. Many streamflows across the state remain below average.
  • The Climate Prediction Center drought outlook released August 15th and valid for August 15- November 2013 illustrates persistent drought across most of Colorado with some relief in the San Luis Valley and a likely elimination of drought conditions in the northern Front Range.
  • ENSO conditions remain neutral and ENSO-neutral is favored into the Northern Hemisphere through fall 2013.
  • More CWCB coverage here.

    Colorado Water Congress’ summer meeting: ‘Reasonable people can reach sound solutions’ — Gov. Hickenlooper

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    When talking about a plan for the future, Gov. John Hickenlooper used an example from the past to illustrate why he has a sense of urgency on this issue. “Because of a number of factors, we are looking at a municipal supply gap of 500,000 acre-feet,” Hickenlooper told the Colorado Water Congress Wednesday at its summer convention. “But it’s more than that. This affects our quality of life and economy.”

    The governor then launched into lessons he said he learned on a drought tour of the Eastern Plains last week. “Crowley County used to be alive. Corn, melons and families used to be grown there,” Hickenlooper said. “Without water, they can’t put down roots. Families with children can’t put down roots.”

    Most of the irrigation water rights once used in Crowley County were sold to Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Aurora in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

    In May, Hickenlooper signed an executive order for the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop a state water plan by 2015. “Water is essential to Colorado,” he said.

    The Colorado Water Congress, a confederation of state water interests, devoted much of its summer convention looking at activities within the state and the existing plans of other Western states.

    The goal of Colorado’s effort won’t be to turn water law on its ear, but to learn how basins can work together to meet common state problems, Hickenlooper said. “We plan to distill — I like using that word when talking about water — all of the activities of the basin roundtables into a strategy for action,” he said. “This is not a topdown process.”

    Hickenlooper asked each basin to broaden its perception of self-interest as a way of reaching solutions on such things as completing projects, developing new projects, sharing water between farms and cities, and conservation. “It’s time for the state to move past narrow self-interest,” Hickenlooper said. “Reasonable people can reach sound solutions. There don’t have to be winners and losers.”

    More coverage of the meeting from Michael Schrantz writing for Steamboat Today. Here’s an excerpt:

    Industrial and municipal uses are projected to grow, and when that happens, those users often look toward irrigated agriculture as a place from which to acquire new water sources.

    But as a presentation given Thursday morning by John Salazar, commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, showed, agriculture has a sizable economic impact in Colorado. Agriculture also contributes to the quality of life for Colorado and Front Range residents, as Gov. John Hickenlooper noted in a Wednesday speech. Salazar reiterated that Hickenlooper is committed to minimizing agriculture dry up.

    But the panel Salazar was participating in wasn’t about why to save agriculture or how to measure its economic impact. Five members of disparate groups, including Salazar, were gathered to talk about what the process of saving agriculture in Colorado will look like and how their constituencies can come together to see it happen.

    “I’ve made it my passion to try and fight and keep water on the land all of my life,” Salazar said. “I believe agriculture is really a cornerstone of Colorado’s economy and this nation’s economy.”

    To deal with Colorado’s projected population growth and resulting water demand, Salazar suggested conservation and land-use planning as topics to consider, citing reduced water use by people living in apartments relative to single-family homes as an example…

    Marsha Daughenbaugh, executive director of Community Agriculture Alliance, asked the audience how many of them were involved in production agriculture. And while a number of hands raised into the air, her next question about who of those in the room eat or wear clothes spoke to wide consequences of ignoring agriculture. “We need you to be aware of the pitfalls of not having production agriculture,” she said.

    Daughenbaugh spoke about the impacts of Routt County’s working landscape and cultural heritage tourism and agritourism…

    Doug Robotham, of The Nature Conservancy, said Carpenter Ranch near Hayden is “a great example of how agriculture and conservation can come together.” The Nature Conservancy owns Carpenter Ranch, but it holds conservation easements on many more acres in Routt County and across Colorado…

    Terry Fankhauser, of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, echoed the need for creativity and said there are efficiency gains being made in agriculture. “Agriculture doesn’t deserve to be saved,” Fankhauser said. “But agriculture does deserve the opportunity to survive.”

    More coverage of the meeting from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    The concept of a water bank has been kicked around for 12 years in the Arkansas River basin. It seems like a good way to provide water where and when it is needed without disrupting the legal stepladder of water rights.

    The only problem: It’s never been used. “It’s a tool that’s evolving,” state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass and chairman of the interim water resources review committee, said this week.

    A water bank for the Arkansas River basin was authorized by the state Legislature in 2001, and was operated by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. In 2006, legislation changed to broaden water banking to the entire state. The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District took over operation in 2010. “It was meant to be a Craigslist or eBay for water, but no transactions were made,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Ark district. The bank never got rolling largely because there was insufficient storage and water could not be delivered at the right place at the right time.

    Recent studies of groundwater movement make alluvial storage a possibility of overcoming those problems, Scanga said.

    The need for a water bank has been illustrated this year when the Pueblo Board of Water Works chose not to make spot leases available, he added. Because of the drought, wells were shut down or restricted. Businesses like cattle feed yards were left to scramble for water. Creating a water bank would provide another option. “I think it helps with optimizing use of water, but it won’t be a panacea for meeting the state’s entire gap,” Scanga said.

    More statewide water plan coverage here.

    Fountain Creek: Colorado Springs’ city council is looking at resurrecting their stormwater agency


    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

    Across the state, municipalities have created enterprise programs that collect fees for stormwater and drainage projects without first seeking voter approval, which is legal. Colorado Springs did, too, implementing a stormwater enterprise fee in 2005 without asking voters if they were willing to pay for such projects as channels, detention ponds and maintaining pipes and water basins.

    The program ended in 2009 after Colorado Springs voters approved Issue 300, which precluded enterprises from giving money to the city’s general fund.

    The city won’t do that again, council members said.

    Council members and commissioners met Wednesday to discuss stormwater funding. They agreed to “scrub” the city and county budgets to find money to pay for a backlog of stormwater projects estimated to cost more than $700 million.

    But operations and maintenance would cost $11 million a year, and they doubted the city and county budgets could come up with that kind of cash.

    Elected officials are sure they are headed toward a ballot question, but they don’t know what the question will be or who will be in charge of managing a stormwater program – the city, the county or a regional authority.

    The Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force has presented two funding options – an authority that collects fees or an authority that collects taxes – but the elected officials are not ready to commit to either option.

    “All options need to remain on the table and we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions,” said Councilman Merv Bennett…

    Additionally, Pueblo County commissioners are growing impatient over the absence of a plan by El Paso County and Colorado Springs to address stormwater projects, the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper reported earlier this week.

    Pueblo County commissioners have argued that Colorado Springs must complete some mitigation projects connected to the Southern Delivery System by 2016 to ensure that flows in Fountain Creek don’t exceed levels of 2009.

    However, there is strain between the counties, city and utilities over what the mitigation projects should be and who has ultimate authority under the existing permits…

    [Pam Maier] believes residents are ready to tax themselves to pay for the stormwater projects. “This town supports saving residents from suffering from floods and other disasters that occur when you don’t have a stormwater program in place,” she said.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.

    Drought news: Some improvement over Colorado #COdrought


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the current US Drought Monitor map. Click here to go the website.

    From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

    While Salida’s year-to-date precipitation remains below average, the monsoon season “looks promising” as the forecast calls for rain throughout the week, Steve Hodanish with the National Weather Service in Pueblo said Monday. To date Salida has received 6.76 inches of precipitation, 1.08 inches less than the January-August average of 7.84 inches.

    The monsoon season “has been pretty good for everyone,” Hodanish said. Most areas have received some rain.

    With the monsoonal rains, Salida’s July precipitation of 2.2 inches exceeded the month’s average by 0.4 inch. The monsoon season usually starts in Salida near the beginning of July.

    Precipitation from the monsoon season has kept the Arkansas River closer to average levels, which helps agricultural, municipal and recreational users, Terry Scanga, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District manager, said. As a whole, he said the season “has been very positive.”

    The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project came in higher than anticipated this year, Scanga said. Anyone in the district who requested water from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project this year got it, he said. That was possible mostly because of spring snows that happened this year, but the monsoonal rains helped to sustain the water.

    The monsoon season, caused by a high-pressure pattern that moves moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the area, usually runs to the start or middle of September, Hodanish said. Climate predictions show average precipitation through mid-September, “which is good,” he said.

    In September the monsoon season will end as a Pacific cold front brings dry air down, pushing out the monsoon pattern, Hodanish said.

    From The Washington Post (Darryl Fears):

    It is all but certain that human activity has caused a steady increase in global temperatures over the past 60 years, leading to warmer oceans and an acceleration in sea-level rise, according to findings in the most recent climate change report by an international panel of scientists.

    In a draft summary of the fifth climate assessment since its creation in 1988, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that continued greenhouse gas emissions “would cause further warming” and induce changes that could “occur in all regions of the globe . . . and include changes in land and ocean, in the water cycle, in the cryosphere, in sea level . . . and in ocean acidification.”

    Six years ago, in its last report, the IPCC concluded that there was a 90 percent certainty that human activity was responsible for most of Earth’s warming. The 2013 draft summary increased that certainty to 95 percent.

    “Human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global surface temperature from 1951-2010,” the report said. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level, and changed some climate extremes, in the second half of the 20th century.”

    Lochbuie: Voters will get a chance to recall their town trustees over water rate increases


    From The Denver Post (Adrian D. Garcia):

    Lochbuie Mayor Pro Tem Leon Sanders and town trustee Candy Veldhuizen could lose their seats six months before their terms expire because their votes in increase city water rates last year outraged some residents of the southern Weld County town.

    Sanders and Veldhuizen both voted to double Lochbuie’s base water rate to $40.07 from $20.01, the first rate hike in 12 years. In response, three community members formed a committee and circulated recall petitions that were certified in June.

    The recall election is being held in coordination with Adams and Weld counties general elections, according to Lochbuie Town Clerk Monica Mendoza.

    More 2013 Colorado November election coverage”>here.

    Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference recap: Gov. Hickenlooper talks about the state water plan


    From Steamboat Today (Michael Schrantz):

    As Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed the attendees, some had doubts about the state’s role in water plans, but Hickenlooper stressed there were ways to reach solutions to Colorado’s water worries. If you get parties to broaden their definitions of what’s in their own self-interest, Hickenlooper said, it’s easier to get to an alignment of self-interest. Using anecdotes from his time spent as mayor of Denver and experience with federal agencies as governor, Hickenlooper sought to persuade the crowd that his goals were attainable.

    “The truth is Colorado is facing a water crisis,” he said. The West is growing, he said, and Colorado is among the states with the highest population growth rates, of which the top five are Western states.

    “We know it’s essential not only to quality of life but our economy,” Hickenlooper said. “You know what it means because you all live it. You can feel it.”[…]

    “It’s not a top-down, imposed policy,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s not going to be one size fits all.” Instead, each basin will develop a plan that takes into account its resources and needs, he said, and the strategies will be compiled to form the Colorado water plan.

    Hickenlooper said that in his position as the chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, he’s trying to forge a regional plan.

    He said he’s under no illusion this will be easy but wants to do whatever he can to make sure the people who were in the audience are empowered to make a plan “that the entire state can invest itself in for decades to come.”

    More Statewide Water Plan coverage here.

    2013 Colorado legislation: HB13-1248 (Irrigation Water Leasing Municipal Pilot Projects) implementation


    Chris Woodka is at the Colorado Water Congress’ annual summer shindig up in Steamboat Springs. Yesterday the interim water resources review committee met and implementing last session’s HB13-1248 was part of the discussion. Here’s Mr. Woodka’s report:

    Lawmakers are hoping a bill that would expand opportunities for demonstrating projects that share water between farms and cities is implemented as quickly as possible. The interim water resources review committee Wednesday heard from the prime backers of SB-1248, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the Super Ditch, on the need for it.

    “I think this is about having a conversation about keeping agriculture vital in the Arkansas River basin,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark District.

    “Agricultural-municipal transfers have to become the preferred alternative, rather than continued buy-and-dry,” added Peter Nichols, attorney for both the Lower Ark and Super Ditch.

    At the heart of the bill is an attempt to streamline state procedures in order to allow transfers to occur on a short-term, limited basis, said Kevin Rein, deputy director for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Winner said the current structure of law and engineering hung up a pilot project to transfer 250 acre-feet (81 million gallons) last year over the timing of delivery of 23 gallons in the 74th month of return flows. The new law gave the Colorado Water Conservation Board authority to look at programs that could sidestep those types of issues in order to allow water users to work out details of such plans. Rein said the CWCB should develop criteria and guidelines by November.

    Legislators want the program to be implemented soon and smoothly. “My concern is that CWCB is on board to implement it in as timely fashion as possible and that we’re not going back to rehashing arguments made against HB1248 when we were passing it,” said Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, chairman of the House ag committee.

    The arguments included that it bypassed water court proceedings meant to prevent injury to other water users. The bill also has been criticized because it disallows transfers only from the Colorado River and Rio Grande basins, while ignoring more exports from the Arkansas River basin.

    “I want to make sure there is the opportunity for public input, comments and concerns,” Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, said. “There needs to be the opportunity for the public to weigh in.”

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    The U.S. Forest Service is evaluating its policies as it deals with the damage from two years of large wildfires in Colorado and other Western states. “The unfortunate side effect of fires is flood and mud,” Dan Jiron, regional forester for the Forest Service told the interim water resources review committee of the state Legislature Wednesday. He cited recent damage in Manitou Springs from last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire as an example.

    In Colorado, 60 percent of the water that affects the population comes off Forest Service lands. “We still have a very active fire season,” Jiron said. “Even though there were large fires earlier, we continue to fight fires every day. The Forest Service is looking at partnerships, as well as redirecting resources, to mitigate large fires and prevent future blazes, he said.

    About $500,000 already has gone into rehabilitation of the West Fork Complex near Creede, which has been difficult because much of the fire was in steep canyons in an inaccessible wilderness area. That’s part of $35 million in resources the Forest Service has put into firefighting and remedial work in Colorado.

    Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, questioned whether the Forest Service would look at changing policies in wilderness areas to allow more proactive thinning. “We were west of the West Fork Complex and it looked like an atomic bomb cloud,” she said.

    “It would not have been safe to put firefighters on the ground at West Fork,” Jiron said. While firefighters are sometimes deployed in wilderness areas, the steep slopes in the West Fork Complex were more of a factor than wilderness declaration. “A lot of Forest Service land is not in wilderness,” he said.

    Partnerships with timber companies, utilities, counties and water districts are providing more proactive protection in areas prone to fires, Jiron added. “It’s important how we pull together at a regional level to put resources in place, to be proactive and to protect communities,” committee chairwoman Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, said. “We are at a very important juncture. This is critical.”

    More HB13-1248 coverage here.

    North Colorado secession: ‘It’d be better if the Front Range just left Colorado’ — Tom Mathers


    From the Craig Daily Press (Erin Fenner):

    “It’d be better if the Front Range just left Colorado,” Mathers said. “If we had a governor that was actually a governor and not a mayor of Denver — of the Front Range — then this secession wouldn’t be happening.”

    Frank Moe, who is running for Mathers’ soon-to-be-open seat, said Moffat County has been neglected by the Democrat-dominated state Legislature. “The state left us,” he said, “not the other way around.”

    The 51st State Initiative made headlines when five counties in eastern Colorado approved putting the question of secession to voters.

    “The goal is to form a 51st state,” said Jeffrey Hare, executive director of the 51st State Initiative. “The net result would be a state that better reflects the values of those outside the Denver/Boulder corridor.”

    Kinkaid said Moffat County, under the referendum, would either join up with the 51st state or maybe become part of Wyoming. “It’s not just making a statement but initiating a process to change the way decisions are being made that affect the entire state,” he said.

    Another solution, he said, would be to give each county its own state senator. “It would be a stretch to give each county a senator, but it would be a compromise,” Kinkaid said.

    From KUNC (Grace Hood):

    The movement for forming a 51st state has been moving forward with seven counties so far in eastern Colorado having decided to put the question in front of local voters.

    The Denver Post reports that both Logan and Washington county commissioners voted Tuesday to put a secession question on the November ballot. They join Phillips, Cheyenne, Yuma and Sedgwick which have already passed ballot issues.

    Meantime, Weld County Commissioners voted Monday to put the question on the ballot.

    Kit Carson County Commissioners are expected to vote on the topic Wednesday.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Two more counties are officially on board for the 51st state ballot initiative, meaning just two of the nine counties involved have yet to vote. Logan and Washington county commissioners on Monday approved ballot language asking their residents if they would like to secede from Colorado and become their own state.

    Kit Carson County commissioners will vote on the measure on Wednesday, and Morgan County commissioners have said they will only place it on the ballot if 15 percent of their voters petition for it.

    Weld County commissioners on Monday unanimously voted to put the question on their ballot. “Now it’s in the people’s hands,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway at their meeting.

    Phillips County followed suit on Monday afternoon and voted in favor of the measure. Sedgwick, Cheyenne and Yuma counties voted to place the language on their ballots last week.

    Leaders in the nine northeastern counties say they feel disconnected and disenfranchised at the state Capitol. They say their rural way of life has been under attack and their voices have not been heard in the past several legislative sessions.

    If voters approve the initiative, it would go before the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

    Finishing their comments with a quote by Gandhi and one of Barack Obama’s campaign slogans, Weld County commissioners on Monday voted to place the 51st state initiative on the November ballot. “Si se puede — yes, we can,” said Weld County Commission Chairman Bill Garcia just before commissioners unanimously approved ballot language asking Weld residents if they would like to secede from Colorado and form a new state. Obama used that slogan in his presidential campaign.

    “Now it’s in the people’s hands,” Weld County commissioner Sean Conway said after reading a quote he found by spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi over the weekend — “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

    Echoing sentiments of a rural-urban disconnect at the state Capitol, commissioners said they received overwhelming support to secede from Colorado at public hearings in Fort Lupton, Longmont, Evans and Ault. “Frankly, I don’t think they share our vision, and they don’t share our morals,” Weld County Commissioner Doug Rademacher said of Denver-metro area lawmakers. Commissioners said legislation passed this year is harmful to the county’s agriculture and oil and gas industries.

    Weld was the fourth county involved in the 51st state initiative to vote in favor of the ballot language, followed closely by Phillips County commissioners, who voted in favor of the measure on Monday afternoon.

    Sedgwick, Cheyenne and Yuma counties have already placed the language on their ballots. Washington and Logan county commissioners are slated to vote on Tuesday and Kit Carson commissioners will vote on Wednesday. Morgan County commissioners are waiting for a citizen petition that includes 15 percent of their registered voters before moving forward with the initiative.

    Rademacher said he expects the initiative to pass 60 to 40 percent when it’s put to Weld County voters this fall.

    Weld County Clerk and Recorder Steve Moreno said adding the measure to the ballot won’t be an additional cost to the county because the county foots the bill for elections anyway. He said the cost depends on how many municipalities are holding local elections that year, in which case the county is reimbursed by entities coordinating with Weld.

    Commissioners voted on the ballot language in a resolution, but opened the floor for public comment anyway.

    “Some folks think that this is a fairly radical idea, they call secession very radical,” said Jeffrey Hare, who founded the 51st State Initiative Facebook page, which has garnered more than 11,000 likes. “I would argue that this is not radical, but it is something that our framers envisioned.”

    Only two other people spoke before commissioners voted, one in favor and one against the initiative. “I hope that there will be a resounding defeat of this absurd proposal,” said Vicki J. Anderson, a Greeley resident.

    Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said the board has been personally attacked since they introduced the initiative — they were called petulant, stupid crybabies, emotional and immature — and spoke directly in response to an editorial that ran in the Tribune, saying she disagrees that the initiative that is a waste of time and energy.

    Kirkmeyer said she feels she and the board made an effort to establish a dialogue with a number of state lawmakers and officials about the issues facing Weld and other rural counties, but their efforts were “to no avail.”

    Conway likened the secession proposal to an initiative in the mid-1970s to turn Weld into a home rule county, which gives commissioners local control over unincorporated areas instead of the state. He said residents called that initiative crazy, and it took three tries before it got on the ballot.

    As a home rule county now, Weld has no short- or long-term debt, no sales tax and a $100 million reserve fund, Conway said.

    “What did we learn from that example?” he said.

    From The Denver Post (By Monte Whaley/Katharina Buchholz) Sterling Journal-Advocate:

    The Logan County Commissioners voted today to join a growing list of northeastern Colorado counties getting serious about secession.

    Prior to their vote, the commissioners of Weld and Phillips counties voted Monday to place a question on the fall ballot asking voters if they wish to divorce Colorado and create a 51st state.

    Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway predicted secession will pass in his county on a 60-40 vote. He quoted Indian spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, who helped overthrow British rule, and warned others not to be dismissive of the movement. “‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,'” Conway said.

    Commissioners in 10 northeastern counties have been considering a breakaway since the end of the legislative session — a lawmaking season they said was the last straw after years of frustration over dealing with Denver-area lawmakers’ perceived indifference toward the concerns of rural Colorado.

    Bills were passed at the expense of farmers, oil and gas producers and gun owners, Weld Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said. “I know from meeting with people, they truly believe rural communities are now under attack,” Kirkmeyer said. “There are plenty who told us that we should vote Denver and Boulder off the island.”

    Yuma, Cheyenne and Sedgwick counties already have OK’d secession ballot questions. Washington county commissioners also were slated to vote on the issue today, and Kit Carson County will take it up Wednesday.

    Morgan County has set an Aug. 26 deadline for signatures to be submitted to place the question on the fall ballot. Lincoln County officials are taking a wait-and-see approach.

    Four public meetings with Weld County residents this summer convinced the commissioners secession is in order.

    “They want change,” commission Chairman Bill Garcia said. “They want to be heard. Policies being passed by the Legislature in Denver are having negative impacts on the lives of rural Coloradans.”

    If voters do go for it, forming a 51st state will face huge obstacles, including approval in the Legislature and Congress, said state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who is running for governor against Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

    Still, positive votes for the measure will send a message that rural Coloradans are tired of being overlooked, Brophy said. “It will tell the governor that he has a huge problem with people in the northern part of the state,” he said.

    Weld County resident Vicki Anderson told commissioners she also wants the question on the ballot, but only in hopes that “it is resoundingly defeated for this absurd notion.”

    From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Callie Jones):

    Come this November, Logan County voters will have a chance to give their input on whether or not several counties in northeastern Colorado should secede and form the nation’s 51st state. During their business meeting on Tuesday, the commissioners approved a resolution submitting to a vote of the registered electors in Logan County, the question of whether to pursue a 51st state.

    The question on the ballot will ask “shall the Board of County Commissioners of Logan County, in concert with the county commissioners of other Colorado counties, pursue becoming the 51st state of the United States of America?”

    Weld, Phillips, Sedgwick, Cheyenne and Yuma Counties have already OK’d secession ballot questions. Kit Carson will take up the issue today.

    Morgan County has set an Aug. 26 deadline for signatures to be submitted to place the question on the fall ballot and Lincoln County officials are taking a wait-and-see approach.

    Moffat County, in northwestern Colorado, is also looking at placing a question on the ballot.

    The resolution passed by the Logan County Commissioners states that “the citizens of several rural eastern Colorado counties have voiced extreme dissatisfaction with the current political landscape at the state level and the passage of laws that conflict with the interests, convictions and lifestyles of rural citizens.”

    It goes on to say that the commissioners have been “in communication with the county commissioners of at least nine other eastern Colorado counties who, in concert with each other and on behalf of their constituents, have discussed the creation of a 51st state.”

    According to the resolution, “public meetings have been held in several eastern Colorado counties to discuss the creation of a new state to more effectively represent the interests and convictions of rural Colorado, and there is strong public support for the opportunity for citizens to voice their wishes in the matter by submitting the question to the electorate.”

    The new state would need to be approved by the state legislature, the governor and the U.S. Congress.

    More North Colorado secession coverage here.

    ‘Glen Canyon Dam has fundamentally altered downstream ecosystems in the #ColoradoRiver’ — Bob Berwyn


    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn): in-depth three-year study done as part of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program offers a stark reminder of the changes wrought by drastically altering the river’s hydrological regime.
    The study used food webs to feeding relationships. According to a press release about the study, scientists can predict how plants and animals living in an ecosystem will respond to change by describing the structure of these webs.

    “Given the degraded state of the world’s rivers, insight into food webs is essential to conserving endangered animals, improving water quality, and managing productive fisheries,” said study oauthor Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall, an aquatic ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

    “Glen Canyon Dam has transformed the ecology of the Colorado River,” said lead author Dr. Wyatt Cross, of Montana State University. “Immediately downstream, cold, low-sediment waters have favored exotic plants and animals that haven’t co-evolved with native species. We now see reduced biodiversity and novel species interactions that have led to the instability of these river food webs.”

    Near Glen Canyon Dam, the researchers found food webs dominated by invasive New Zealand mud snails and non-native rainbow trout, with large mismatches in the food web and only a small percentage of available invertebrates eaten by fish. In contrast, downstream food webs had more native fish species, and fewer invertebrates that were more efficiently consumed by fish, including a federally-listed endangered species, the humpback chub.

    In March of 2008, the Department of Interior conducted an experiment that simulated pre-dam flood conditions, providing an opportunity to see how high flows affected food webs with very different characteristics.

    “Food web stability increased with distance from Glen Canyon Dam, with downstream sites near tributaries proving the most resistant. At these locations, the flood didn’t cause major changes in the structure of food webs or the productivity of species,” said Rosi-Marshall.

    Near the dam, the story was quite different.

    “These energy inefficient, simplified food webs experienced a major restructuring following the experimental flood,” said co-author Dr. Colden Baxter, an aquatic ecologist with Idaho State University. “New Zealand mudsnails were drastically reduced. And changes in algal communities led to a rise in midges and blackflies — favored foods of trout — resulting in a near tripling of non-native rainbow trout numbers,” he said.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin #ColoradoRiver


    No one is ready to declare Colorado’s drought over but things have improved over a lot of the state. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the water year 2013 precipitation as a percent of normal map of the Upper Colorado River Basin from the Colorado Climate Center. Click here to go to their webpage for the drought discussion. Click here for the current assessment.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.