Governor Hickenlooper delivers the State of the State Address #COdrought #COflood

Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference
Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

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

Gov. John Hickenlooper today delivered his fourth State of the State address and talked about jobs and the economic health of Colorado, as well as successful efforts to create a solid budget for the state, build reserves and eliminate bureaucracy.

He also spoke about the challenges faced by Coloradans in the past year, from fires to floods to shootings.

“We know there are people out there feeling the impact of the national economy’s downturns. And we are doing everything within our power to change that,” Hickenlooper said. “But make no mistake—the state of Colorado has not only endured, it also has thrived. My fellow Coloradans, despite every unforeseen test, despite everything that was thrown at us, the state of our state is strong.” Continue reading

Craig: Water and sewer rates climb in 2014

Yampa River east of Maybell March 2008
Yampa River east of Maybell March 2008

From the Craig Daily Press (Erin Fenner):

Craig City Council did its first reading of an ordinance Dec. 10 that would permit the city to raise water rates by about 6 percent and wastewater rates by about 12 percent.

The average water-use fee for residents is approximately $55 per month and $20 for wastewater, Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said.

Charter Communications req­uires the city to perform an annual review of their rates, Ferree said. Red Oak Consulting studied the rates, but the city worked to push the rates up less than what was suggested by the study, he said.

“We’ve been raising rates consistently, especially ever since we put in the water treatment plant,” Mayor Terry Carwile said.

The city has to make sure they’re keeping up with changing regulations and keeping a sufficient reserve for their water and wastewater fund, he said.

The rise in water and wastewater rates is because of new environmental regulations, paying back loans on the new water treatment plant and because of the increasing cost of treatment chemicals, Ferree said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Sterling: ‘The plant is doing what it was built to do’ — Jim Allen

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant
Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

…Allen said they have yet to receive any reports of discolored water, and there is no evidence of issues with lines breaking due to the new water. He said he didn’t believe a problem last week with the service line to Pizza Hut was due to the water treatment system, although he acknowledged it would be hard to prove either way. But, he said, when the problem arose and city crews dug up the line, they found it was an old lead service line, which they usually replace anyway with newer materials.

Allen was reluctant to talk about the probability of those problems — he said he doesn’t like to discuss things he doesn’t want to happen — but he was happy to report that the uranium levels in the water, which prompted the need for the new treatment plant, are falling. The membranes (in the reverse osmosis system) are working, he said.

He said that the newly treated water likely has not fully replaced the “old” water in the system, as it has to cycle through the storage tanks and into the water service. The timeline on that depends on the volume of water in storage and usage.

The water is safe to drink, he reiterated.

“The plant is doing what it was built to do,” he said.

Snowpack news: Roaring fork at 109% of normal

2014 Water Course: What Citizens Need to Know about the Colorado Water Plan — CMU #COWaterPlan

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Click here to go to the website for the pitch. Here’s the agenda:

Session 1: Physical Realities of Colorado Water Supply and Demand (Feb 3)

  • Featuring Dr. Gigi Richard and representatives from the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables.
  • Session 2: Laws, Compacts and Agreements for Meeting Future Water Needs (February 10)

  • Featuring attorneys Aaron Clay, John McClow and Peter Fleming.
  • Session 3: The Colorado Water Plan: Process and Perspectives (February 17)

  • Featuring Mike King, Executive Director of the CO Department of Natural Resources & a panel with perspectives from the South Platte River Basin, the Colorado River Basin, Trout Unlimited and agriculture.
  • More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    John Entsminger named to replace Pat Mulroy at the Southern Nevada Water Authority #ColoradoRiver

    Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives
    Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

    From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

    John Entsminger, current deputy general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, will take over the top job at the valley’s largest water utility when Mulroy departs on Feb. 6.

    The commission’s vote sets the stage for Entsminger, 42, to also take her place as general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the region’s wholesale water supplier.

    “I think the board did the right thing,” Mulroy said Tuesday morning. “This is a very difficult time on the (Colorado) River. John understands the complexities. I think John will do a fantastic job.”

    Entsminger went to work for the water district and the authority straight out of law school at the University of Colorado in June 1999. He was eventually promoted to deputy general counsel for both agencies, and he served as lead negotiator on a series of national and international agreements that secured more water for Nevada from the Colorado River.

    Mulroy named him to her executive team as deputy general manager in early 2010. When she announced her retirement last year, she quickly identified him as the best choice to replace her.

    Entsminger sees his selection for the top job as an endorsement of the good work the district and the authority have done over the past two decades, especially on the Colorado, where he believes Southern Nevada has gained more at the negotiating table than any other region.

    “I’m honored by the trust the board is placing in me,” he said.

    Asked how his approach to water policy might differ from Mulroy’s, he said: “Philosophically Pat and I are very much aligned. The question going forward is which projects do we need to secure the water supply for the community.”

    From the Las Vegas Sun (Conor Shine):

    Fifteen years after he was hired out of law school to join the Las Vegas Valley Water District’s legal department, John Entsminger has been chosen to take the agency’s top job, replacing Pat Mulroy, who will retire next month after 25 years as general manager.

    Entsminger, a senior deputy general manager at the district since 2010, was the lone candidate to replace Mulroy. Since announcing her retirement in September, Mulroy had openly endorsed Entsminger as her preferred successor…

    Entsminger’s hiring won’t be final until terms of a contract are negotiated and approved by the board. The board must also ratify its appointment at a meeting later this month due to procedural concerns about whether the meeting was properly noticed to the public.

    A separate vote is scheduled Jan. 16 to confirm Entsminger as general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Water District’s parent organization. The two agencies are separate entities with their own staffs, budgets and governance, but Mulroy has held the top job at both since the SNWA was formed in 1999, a practice that is expected to continue with Entsminger…

    Entsminger joined the Water District’s legal department in 1999 after graduating from the University of Colorado Law School and has spent his entire career with the district. His early work covered everything from human resources to purchasing contracts. Eventually he found himself dealing with complex Colorado River water laws.

    He continued to ascend through the agency, working on a landmark 2007 water shortage agreement brokered among Colorado River states and serving as one of the lead negotiators in a water-sharing treaty with Mexico signed in 2012.

    Entsminger will take over the Water District and Water Authority at a time when the role of the agencies is changing. With the valley’s water infrastructure nearly complete, minus the under-construction third intake straw at Lake Mead, their focus will shift from construction and expansion toward managing a shrinking supply of water from the Colorado River.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Drought news: No #COdrought along the northern Front Range #COflood

    US Drought Monitor January 7, 2014
    US Drought Monitor January 7, 2014

    From the The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    With snowpack and reservoir levels across the northern part of the state at or above their average levels for the start of January, climatologists say Coloradans can point to one major event as the source of drought relief — the devastating fall floods.

    “Our area is completely out of drought and that was largely due to rains that we had in September,” said Wendy Ryan, the assistant state climatologist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center. “We also got just a year’s worth of precipitation in just a few days.”

    Unlike recent Januaries, none of the reservoirs that provide water to Fort Collins or Northern Colorado hold below-average water levels.

    Mountain snowpack — the amount of water held in Colorado’s high-altitude snow — is more than double what it was in January 2013, when Colorado suffered through a dry, warm winter and a record-breaking hot summer.

    Northern Water’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which typically supplies Fort Collins Utilities with half of its water supply, has an excess of 100,000 acre feet of water thanks to the September floods, said Donnie Dustin, a water resources manager. With the blessing of a wet March and April, Fort Collins will likely have no water restrictions this year, he added.

    For farmers east of Fort Collins, soils on the eastern plains retained much of their September water, which has some feeling optimistic about their upcoming growing season…

    The water conservancy district that manages Horsetooth Reservoir, Northern Water, is cautiously optimistic about the early winter snowpack, said spokesman Brian Werner. Although snowpack levels in the Colorado and South Platte river basins are double what they were last year, the long-term water outlook depends on the spring, he said.

    “I guess we don’t want to get too overconfident at this point,” Werner added…

    …the floods hit at the best time possible, said Ryan.

    “The timing of the September event was really good,” she said. “Drought is highly dependent on what time of year you are in.”

    By September, the summer heat had dissipated, and most of the rainwater soaked into the ground instead of evaporating. With a cold winter hitting Colorado, the frozen ground will hold that water until the spring thaw, Ryan said. That’s a good sign for the spring, but that water won’t be enough to prevent a drought.

    “If we get into the point where it gets warm really early into the spring and we don’t get spring moisture, that could put us back into drought pretty quickly,” Ryan added.

    While Northern Colorado reaps the benefits of last fall’s rains and early snow, southeastern Colorado is suffering through a relentless “exceptional drought”— the most severe level on the U.S. Drought Monitor scale.

    “The exceptional drought presence in Crowley and Otero (Counties) has been completely missed by the storms,” Ryan said.

    On Christmas Day, dust storms roared through the bone-dry town of Lamar.

    “It’s going to take them a long time to dig out of the drought that they are in,” Ryan said.

    From the High Country News (Cally Carswell):

    What’s happening around El Nido – the sinking – is, in technical terms, known as “subsidence,” and it’s common in the San Joaquin Valley. Subsidence is caused by farms that pump large amounts of water from aquifers to wet their crops. Their thirst for groundwater tends to grow in drought years, when water supplies in above-ground canals are constrained. (“That’s possible,” explains Legal Planet blogger Richard Frank, “because California, unlike other Western states, has no statewide system of groundwater regulation.”) Ironically, reports the USGS, groundwater mining and the rapid subsidence it causes now threatens to crumble aboveground water infrastructure, quite literally.

    Absent rapid delivery of major groundwater regulation reforms — and don’t hold your breath for those — this year is shaping up to be another in which drought begets subsidence in California, among other undesirable things. Last year was the driest in the state’s recorded history. Now, California’s statewide snowpack holds only 17 percent of the water, or “snow water equivalent,” that it typically does on this date. For California, this will mark the third consecutive drought year. And each year hurts a little more than the last. As the Modesto Bee recently reported: “In 2013, State Water Project allocations were at 35 percent of requested deliveries. The initial allocation for 2014 is 5 percent, the lowest on record.”

    ‘The problem is getting all this back online before the start of the growing season’ — Ron Carleton #COflood

    New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call
    New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods — photo via the Longmont Times-Call

    From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

    “The problem is getting all this back online before the start of the growing season,” deputy state agriculture commissioner Ron Carleton said of the irrigation network that was blown apart by the raging waters. “And there’s not a lot of time left.”

    Federal agriculture agencies say they expect to award emergency aid to eligible Colorado applicants in a month or two, possibly longer.

    U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency spokeswoman Isabel Benemelis said enough money should eventually be available for each of the 236 farmers and ranchers who have applied for the agency’s most popular vehicle for disaster aid, the Emergency Conservation Program…

    Water flooded 18,033 acres of hay and alfalfa, 8,646 acres of corn and 500 acres of sugar beets. CSU estimated 100 percent of the beets, 29 percent to 40 percent of the corn and 14 percent to 19 percent of the alfalfa was ruined.

    CSU estimated total crop losses ranging from $3.4 million to $5.5 million . The tally doesn’t include damage to fences, irrigation systems, farm buildings and machinery, and losses logged by small food-crop farmers…

    the bill is huge for damage to irrigation ditches, dams and headgates. The system nourishes tens of thousands of acres of cropland that weren’t directly hit by the flood.

    The state has estimated $62 million in damage to farming ditches.

    If repairs aren’t completed by early March — and some surely won’t make the deadline — large swaths of land may go without water needed to make a crop, several state and local authorities said.

    “Our biggest fear at this point is that there’s going to be plenty of water this spring, but are we going to be able to get it to the fields?” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which serves 120 ditch companies in northeast Colorado.

    Werner said most ditch companies are owned by groups of farmers who depend on them, and most of those partnerships have little or no money above their normally minimal operating costs.

    “They’ve never had to take on this kind of situation,” he said.

    Ken Bohl, superintendent of two ditch companies in Fort Morgan and Orchard, expected to pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars to get his systems restored.

    Now nearly 70 percent done with repairs, Bohl said he could hardly remember what aid his office manager had asked state and federal agencies for this fall. He said he needed to act quickly and couldn’t wait for government response.

    Though the state is now offering some loans and grants to ditch companies, federal sources have not, unless the projects were linked to municipalities or other public shareholders.

    “We’re the last on the totem pole to receive funds,” Bohl said, “if they have enough.”

    From The Greeley Tribune:

    To help flood-ravaged communities restore damaged or destroyed parks, trails and open spaces, Great Outdoors Colorado will provide up to $5 million in emergency grant funds.

    Communities in the 11 counties declared federal disaster areas after the flooding in mid September will be eligible to apply for the special GOCO grants starting next week.

    The grants, which are funded by GOCO’s portion of Colorado Lottery revenues, will be awarded in April.

    “The state has done an excellent job of quickly repairing damaged roads and infrastructure and finding new housing for those who were displaced,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, GOCO executive director. “But these communities have told us they will not be made completely whole until their parks, trails and open spaces that people use daily or weekly are restored as well.”

    She added, “Communities are particularly concerned because citizens are trying to access and use the recreation areas despite the damage and sometimes unsafe conditions.”

    GOCO’s flood recovery initiative is designed to be flexible so as to fit communities’ various needs, such as matching Federal Emergency Management Agency funding or to pay for items FEMA cannot, said Jim Smith, GOCO board chairman. FEMA can only pay to replace what was lost without any modifications.

    Grantees also can use funds to employ youth corps or use volunteers to perform repair work, Smith said.

    “Repairing trails damaged in the floods is another important step to reconnecting communities,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “These trails link all of us to Colorado’s unbeatable natural beauty and help promote the kind of active, outdoor spirit that helps make our state great. We appreciate GOCO’s efforts to further help local communities recover and rebuild.”

    Priority will be given to communities with the highest percentage of loss and those that have the least financial ability to match FEMA funding or make repairs on their own.

    FEMA provides up to 75 percent while the state is giving 12.5 percent, leaving communities to raise the remaining 12.5 percent.

    Because the funding will not be enough to meet all the needs, GOCO is looking for partners to help these communities. Outdoor companies, led by ActiveBoulder and the Outdoor Industry Association, and other corporate partners have already stepped up and raised $100,000 for the Fund to Restore Colorado’s Trails, Waterways and Parks to help communities.

    Application review will begin Feb. 7 and the board will award grants April 3.

    More information about the initiative and applications for GOCO grants are available at http://www.goco.org/flood.