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

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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

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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

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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

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    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.