You, water and the “Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act” — Steamboat Today #COWaterPlan

Yampa River
Yampa River

From Steamboat Today (Bill Badaracca):

Steamboat Springs — Water is critical to Colorado’s future and every Coloradan has a stake in our water future. At first it may seem that the various water interests are competing with one another. But, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that these interests are interconnected and interdependent. We all are connected by water. We drink it, wash with it, eat the food it grows, use the energy it helps extract, enjoy the environment it supports and share in the wealth it brings to Colorado’s economy.

As Colorado’s population continues to grow into the 21st century, the demands on its water supply will continue to increase. Current projections of these demands indicate that there will be a gap in the water supply. The “water supply gap” represents the short fall between the projected demand for water in the future and the actual supply available to meet that demand. The size of the gap will depend on how well we are able to cooperate to use our water supply effectively.

To address the water supply gap, Governor Hickenlooper issued an executive order in May of 2013 directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to develop a statewide water plan for the future water needs for Colorado. The statewide water plan will be finalized no later than Dec. 10, 2015.

The executive order is constructed to be inclusive of a wide range of organizations and the general public in the development of the statewide water plan. You can learn more about the statewide plan and how you can get involved in the process by visiting the statewide water plan web site, http://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cowaterplan.

To broaden the water planning process, the Colorado Legislature passed House Bill 05-1177, known as the “Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act,” in 2005. The purpose of this legislation was to create a locally driven process where the decision-making power rests with those living in the state’s eight major river basins.

Two new entities to help study future water needs and develop a statewide water plan for the future water needs of Coloradans were created by this legislation. The Inter Basin Compact Committee and the basin roundtables are the two entities that this legislation created.

There are nine basin roundtables, one for each of Colorado’s eight major river basins and one for the Denver Metro Area. The basin roundtables are designed to facilitate locally driven discussions and solutions on water issues that affect each basin.

Each basin roundtable is required to develop a basin-wide water needs assessment, consisting of four parts:

1) The evaluation of the basin’s consumptive water needs for municipalities, industry, energy extraction and agriculture;

2) The evaluation of the non-consumptive water needs to maintain a healthy environment and meet the recreational needs of the basin;

3) To evaluate the available surface and ground water supplies and to identify any un-appropriated water within the basin; and

4) To propose solutions to meet the identified current and future needs within the basin and to achieve a sustainable water supply to meet those needs over time.

The Inter Basin Compact Committee (IBCC) was established to broaden the range of stakeholders actively engaged in the state’s water policy decisions and to encourage dialogue and cooperation between the stakeholders. The IBCC’s role in the development of a statewide plan is multi-faceted.

One facet of the IBCC’s role is to provide a forum to develop and disseminate information to create a statewide perspective on Colorado’s water future. The IBCC also serves as a forum to address the socio-economic, recreation and environmental impacts of water development and management along with the potential impacts of Colorado to use its entitlements and still meet its Interstate Compact requirements.

The IBCC is charged with providing information and resources to each basin roundtable to help enable them to develop their individual basin wide plans. The IBCC is also charged with helping guide the process of negotiating inter-basin compacts and agreements.

The basin roundtables and the IBCC have been at work since 2005 in developing the individual basin plans that will serve as a foundation for the statewide plan. 2014 will be a critical time for the public’s voice to be heard as the first draft of the statewide water plan is due to be submitted to the Governor’s office on Dec. 10, 2014.

As the individual basin planning process enters the new year, everyone is encouraged to participate in the planning process. You can learn more about the planning process and how your voice can be heard by visiting the CWCB web site, http://www.cwcb.state.co.us.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

El Paso County stormwater needs top $200 million according the CH2MHill study

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From the McClatchey Tribune (Debbie Kelley) via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Nearly $200 million worth of stormwater system work is needed in unincorporated El Paso County — almost double the amount that county officials had estimated, according to an independent assessment released this week. The study emphasizes the need for teamwork in solving watershed issues, said Andre Brackin, county engineer.

“We’re only scratching the surface here,” Brackin said. “We’ve ignored drainage for decades, and now we’re dealing with multiple projects costing millions. The city and the county don’t do drainage maintenance very well. That’s the bigger issue. We need a regional approach of working together.”

Englewood-headquartered engineering firm CH2MHill examined 275 substandard bridges, culverts, water channels, storm drains and runoff storage facilities from a list the Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force compiled based on input from county staff. El Paso County commissioners received an executive summary of the findings. A final report will be issued Tuesday.

The company did a similar study of 288 stormwater projects within Colorado Springs boundaries after Mayor Steve Bach questioned the city and county’s estimated costs of repair.

CH2MHill validated 216 projects the county put forth. Several of the initial 275 projects were removed because they were duplicated on the city’s list, completed or not important enough. Other projects were added.

Ten have been identified as high priority, meaning there are pressing public health or safety issues or structural deficiencies.

On that list:

Security Creek Channel, which runs for 1 mile along U.S. 85-87 between Security and Widefield. The channel is not sufficient to contain a 100-year flood.

Fishers Canyon Channel, west of Interstate 25 near B Street. Banks are eroding, and water threatens residents.

Siferd Boulevard Culvert in the Park Vista area near Austin Bluffs and North Academy boulevards. Water flows across the roadway because there is no dedicated crossing for it.

The updated cost for the 216 projects is $190.6 million, up from the $102.9 million the county had calculated for 268 projects.

Of the total projects, 146 are within the Fountain Creek Watershed, which has regional impacts, said Mark Rosser, senior project manager with CH2MHill. Many extend into both city and county jurisdictions, he said, including Fountain Creek near the U.S. 24 bypass, Fountain Creek near the Spring Creek Confluence and Fountain Creek at Circle Drive.

The needs assessment does not take into account the areas of the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, which experienced flooding this year as a result of the fires.

Commissioners said they thought the information was “a good start” toward figuring out how to best handle increasing problems with stormwater control.

“Stormwater is just not sexy,” said Commissioner Amy Lathen. “People wonder why we’re talking about drainage because they don’t have a problem at their home. The whole idea is to control the energy of that water flowing through our region.”

It’s important for people who live on higher ground to understand the consequences of not dealing with stormwater issues, said Commissioner Darryl Glenn, and that there is a return on the investment.

“When you’re trying to convince people upstream why they need to buy into this, if you’re not tying in the importance, it’s going to fall on deaf ears,” he said.

Colorado Springs City Councilman Val Snider, a member of the regional stormwater task force who attended Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting, said regional needs have been discussed all along.

“It’s good to have things validated, and this shows great examples of the ways the city and county can address regional stormwater needs on a regional basis,” he said. “We need to combine the two studies and figure out the best way to plan to address those needs. Once we get that in line, we can figure out the funding.”

The task force was formed in 2012 out of a group of engineers, business leaders, community activists and elected city and county officials to find a way to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of backlogged projects. The task force intends to release a final recommendation in February on how the community should proceed.

Several funding mechanisms have been proposed, including a plan by Bach to extend existing bond debt for another 20 years, which would not raise taxes or fees and would pay for flood control projects and road and bridge repairs.

Bach will meet with city and county leaders, task force members and mayors of neighboring towns on Jan. 16 to discuss options.

Another idea is to form a regional stormwater authority similar to the voter-approved Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which uses tax money to fund road and bridge maintenance and construction.

More stormwater coverage here.