SB14-115: Sen. Roberts and allies back off legislative approval for the #COWaterPlan #COleg

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

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Roberts’ Senate Bill 115 would have required legislative approval of the Colorado Water Plan. But Roberts and her allies backed down Thursday and changed their bill to require public hearings and reports to the Legislature. The plan will no longer require legislative approval.

The Legislature has outsourced water policy for decades, starting in the 1930s, when it created the Colorado Water Conservation Board. In 2005, it set up a system of roundtables in each major river basin to begin working toward a state strategy.

Those roundtables have been working for eight years, and last year, Hickenlooper pushed the roundtables to come up with a state plan by the end of 2014…

…defenders of the roundtables say they have brought together all sorts of water users who used to be enemies, and more people than ever are now involved in crafting water policy.

“We need to realize that eight years of hard work has gone into the water plan already,” said Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, in a Wednesday interview.

McLachlan said he supports Roberts’ bill, but he doesn’t want the water plan to turn into a turf war between the Legislature and Hickenlooper…

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the scaled-down bill 6-1 Thursday.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

The #ColoradoRiver Basin Roundtable is soliciting input for the #COWaterPlan

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

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm/Angie Boyer):

Water is important to all of us. Some of us just drink it, some of us rely on it to grow food and livelihoods, and others of us raft, fish, kayak, surf, swim or ski, or build our businesses around people who do. Most of us appreciate the beauty of healthy streams and rivers.

Many of us also take the water we rely on and enjoy for granted. In May of last year, Governor Hickenlooper ordered his administration to develop a statewide water plan, and said that “Colorado’s water plan must reflect its water values.” This is a call to stop taking water for granted and start defining what our water values are.

What does our water future hold for us?

Governor Hickenlooper issued his order because the state of Colorado is facing the prospect of significant water supply challenges in the future. The gap between the state’s developed water supplies and growing urban demands could exceed 500,000 acre feet by 2050 (an acre foot is about enough for two to three families for a year at current usage rates). The biggest gap is anticipated on the Front Range, home to Colorado’s largest cities, but there’s a projected gap in the Colorado Basin as well.

The options for filling this gap all involve trade-offs. If cities buy more water from irrigated farms and ranches, it has negative impacts on rural communities. Taking more water from the Western Slope to the Front Range would be very expensive and could worsen environmental impacts from existing trans-mountain diversions. Conservation seems easy, but conserving enough to eliminate the need for other water sources could require the broad application of land-use and landscaping restrictions that may not be politically palatable.

In order to sort through these challenges, the governor has directed his administration to work with “basin roundtables” of stakeholders to help bring forth the perspectives and values of the citizens living in each of the state’s eight major river basins (plus an additional roundtable that focuses on the Denver Metropolitan area). These nine basin roundtables are in the process of developing “basin implementation plans” which will identify solutions to meet water needs both inside each basin and statewide. These individual basin plans will serve as input into Colorado’s Water Plan, which Governor Hickenlooper has ordered to be completed by December 2015.

LEARN MORE

What are your water values? What water uses and attributes do you want to see protected or enhanced? What project ideas do you have? The Colorado Basin Roundtable needs your input as it develops its basin plan. Working with SGM, the Roundtable has set up the following ways for you to learn more and provide input.

1. Visit the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan website at http://www.coloradobip.sgm-inc.com.

2. Answer a quick survey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColoBasinPlanValues.

3. Attend a meeting. Planning meetings are being held twice a week at the Community Center in Glenwood Springs and presentations are being given across the basin. Upcoming events include a Grand County Town Hall meeting Feb. 12, a seminar in Grand Junction Feb. 17, and a “Waterwise Wednesday” event in Avon Feb. 26. See the website above for an up-to-date schedule.

4. Facebook: You can find the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan page here: http://www.facebook.com/ColoradoBasinImplementationPlan or you can search “Colorado Basin Implementation Plan.”

5. Twitter: Follow the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/colobip.

6. Questions? If you have any questions or comments, please submit your inquiries to Angie Fowler at angief@sgm-inc.com

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

HB14-1026 would…[create] a new water right…exempt from the state’s…anti-speculation doctrine — Chieftain #COleg

squeezingmoney

The Pueblo Chieftain editorial staff is sounding the alarm about HB14-1026 and the anti-speculation doctrine:

Politically powerful The convergence of money and political influence, both natural offsprings of rising city and suburban populations, threatens to destroy Colorado’s farm communities — including towns up and down the Lower Arkansas Valley.

We raise the alarm to the latest threat, which is House Bill 1026. The bill has passed the Colorado House and been sent to the Senate, where it is assigned to the Agriculture Committee with no hearing date set yet. HB1026 would radically change Colorado water law by creating a new water right — the so-called “flex use” — that would be exempt from the state’s time-honored anti-speculation doctrine.

Since statehood, the doctrine has served Colorado well. It requires applicants for a water right change to identify upfront the specific beneficial use to which they intend to put the water. This protects Colorado water rights holders and the public from speculators who otherwise might buy up water rights, perhaps even corner a piece of the market, thus raking in huge profits at the expense of the rest of us.

In the face of this imminent threat, you’d think the Colorado Legislature would reject HB1026 out of hand. But that hasn’t happened yet.

The reason, we believe, is that urban lawmakers, who make up most of the Legislature, simply are insufficiently knowledgeable about Colorado water law — and the importance it grants to specific beneficial uses.

In the past, the Colorado Water Congress might have been expected to blow the whistle on such a radical proposal as HB1026. But the organization has changed. It has been taken over by a committee, mainly of Denver-area water lawyers, who represent lucrative urban markets.

The metro area’s political and economic dominance pose a real threat to rural Colorado. There’s no other excuse for HB1026, regardless of how hard the well-heeled lobbyists and lawyers in Denver try to sell it.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Drought news: Many Colorado eyes are watching the southwestern US drought #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado officials are worried that declining levels in reservoirs on the Colorado River could have an impact within the state.

“The storage in Lake Powell is going down, after 2012-13, two of the driest years on record,” said John McClow, a Gunnison attorney who represents the state on compact matters.

McClow gave an overview of the Colorado River Compact to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Thursday, saying that good snowpack could provide much-needed moisture to stop the decline of Lake Powell levels at least for a year. Under the compact, upper basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — have an obligation to deliver a certain amount of water to lower basin states — Arizona, California and Nevada. While the compact is open to interpretation, the upper basin state has never failed to deliver the required amount. But if the drought of the last decade continues, there is a danger that there could be a shortfall sometime in the next decade.

“That’s not a prediction, but a worst-case scenario,” McClow said.

To prepare for that, the upper basin states have held strategy meetings that would use either coordinate releases from Flaming Gorge, Navajo and Blue Mesa reservoirs to provide water to Lake Powell, as intended under congressional laws surrounding the compact, or curtail use within the states.

While the amount of water delivered remains a numbers game, the political reality could be that Congress would not turn off water to California or Las Vegas.

In 2007, all seven states agreed to a plan to share shortages. It requires balancing Lake Powell and Lake Mead. However, the two lakes’ combined storage is at its lowest point since 1968.

The water level in Lake Mead is approaching the point where it will drop below its second intake, which could trigger releases from Lake Powell.

Las Vegas is spending $800 million to tunnel under Lake Mead to build its third intake, but that won’t be completed until at least 2015.

If Lake Powell levels drop, Colorado and the other basin states could be affected by the loss of hydropower generation. While 5.8 million people receive power from Lake Powell, the revenues from that power also help fund endangered fish programs, McClow said.

‘Gaps in water supply exist now’ — Gary Barber #COWaterPlan

Projected supply gap for 2030 via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Projected supply gap for 2030 via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

You get what you plan for. That’s the message the Arkansas Basin Roundtable would like communities to heed as the state develops a water plan.

“Gaps in water supply exist now, both in El Paso County and in the Lower Arkansas Valley,” Gary Barber, chairman of the roundtable, said at the group’s monthly meeting Wednesday at the Salida Steam Plant.

The roundtable is developing its own input into a state water plan under tight guidelines imposed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

There has been friction from the state Legislature, where SB115 is causing ripples. Its sponsors claim lawmakers should have a greater say, while state officials argue that the roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee roundtables have studied the issues since 2005 and should have a lead position in developing the plan.

As it stands now, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will deliver a draft plan to the governor

“What you hear from talking to people is, ‘Why should I care?'” said Sandy White, who represents the Huerfano Conservancy District. “It’s always dangerous in rural Colorado to say, ‘I’m from the government and am here to help’…In selling the plan, we need to identify what it can do to help the water user.”

“Utilities like the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs have done planning for years, but how has agriculture planned?” replied Alan Hamel, the Arkansas River basin representative on the CWCB.

“I think we want to ask communities to contribute to the plan, even if their projects are several years down the road,” said Betty Konarski, who represents El Paso County interests on the roundtable.

The roundtable is stepping up its outreach efforts to get even more input from county commissioners or town councils. It plans to hold longer meetings in the next few months to allow more time to discuss the plan.

Meanwhile, the IBCC is working on ironing out differences between the basins.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Manager Jay Winner, who represents the Arkansas basin on the IBCC, said preserving agriculture and food security need to be planks in the state water plan.

“We need a balanced plan that serves all interests,” Winner said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.