Click here to go to the download page at Colorado College. Here’s an excerpt:
The Colorado River Basin, covering a major portion of the eight-state Rockies region and extending into Mexico, has been the unified focus for all parts to the State of the Rockies Project during summer 2011 and the 2011-12 academic year and again for summer 2012 and 2012-13 attention. This basin encompasses portions of seven states in the American Southwest and continues into Mexico, supplying water to households, communities, businesses and farms, as well as natural ecosystems. Roughly 40 million people rely on the river for water, energy, food, and healthy ecosystems. Climate studies indicate the potential for inadequate water supplies throughout the 1,700-mile river system from the ori- gins of the Green River high in Wyoming’s Wind River Range to its historic outlet over the Colorado River Delta, emptying into the Sea of Cortez. Along its twisted path arise majestic mountains, deep canyons, tributaries, and a wealth of flora and fauna. The basin is indeed a natural treasure of world- class caliber, but heavily threatened. We have dedicated two years of focus on the Colorado River Basin in order to help assure that the next generation inherits a natural and economic system as spectacular, diverse, and bountiful as has existed in the past, but is in transition today. The changes currently underway and those needed for the future must have new voices, especially those of today’s youth, for they will live with the results.
The state Legislature would have final say over a state water plan being drawn up under last year’s executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper. A bill, [SB14-115], giving the state Legislature that authority was introduced this week and has sponsors from both parties in both houses. It also calls for public hearings at basin roundtables in order to provide more public input.
“We think the state Legislature makes the laws,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, in supporting the bill Thursday at the Colorado Water Congress annual convention.
The bill would give the Legislature final say over state water policy, claiming that move is necessary to protect the public interest.
The bill caused grumbling among the water community in the room, with many scoffing at Roberts’ suggestion that a legislative committee could draw in more public interest than the work of the basin roundtables that have involved hundreds of people since 2005.
“As I read it, it seems like it could circumvent the priority system and take away power from the state engineer,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Arkansas basin representative on the Interbasin Compact Committee.
“I’m sorry if there are hurt feelings,” Roberts said. “Water is our No. 1 resource. It built our state and is critical to building our state in the future. The executive order bypasses the Legislature’s authority.”
She was backed up by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, who is co-sponsoring the bill.
“You don’t have to be a water buffalo to have an opinion about water,” Schwartz said. “We have to have an inclusive process and reach out to as many people as possible.”
In a subsequent panel discussion, three members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board — Travis Smith, April Montgomery and Patricia Wells — defended the roundtable process. The CWCB is given primary responsibility for drafting the water plan under the executive order.
“We have to look at the work we’ve been doing and fit it into the plan,” Smith said.
The members, from different corners of the state, agreed that the plan must protect agricultural and environmental interests as well as meeting the needs of future population growth.
Mike King, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said the executive order already provides for legislative input into the plan.
“We will continue to work with the General Assembly,” King said.
The bill requires the Colorado water conservation board to hold a hearing on a draft state water plan within each basin roundtable, update the plan based on public comments, and present the draft plan to the water resources review committee. The committee must vote on whether to introduce legislation that would approve the plan. The plan does not embody state water policy unless the general assembly, acting by bill, approves the plan.
01/27/2014 Introduced In Senate – Assigned to Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy
More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.