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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.
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.