From The Watch (William Woody):
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1030 into law Saturday, near the rushing waters of the South Canal, east of Montrose, where new hydroelectric generation facilities are creating megawatts of power.
The law directs the Colorado Energy Office to work in conjunction with federal agencies to streamline its review of new hydroelectric projects, decrease waiting periods and allow applications to clear federal and state review in as little as 60 days (without violating state environmental regulations).
Republican State House District 58 Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who introduced the legislation along with Rep. Diana Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs), said he first brainstormed about the idea over coffee with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) at the Coffee Trader in Montrose last fall. The law mirrors the federal Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act approved by Congress last year (in conjunction with the Rural Jobs Act introduced by Tipton) and signed by President Barack Obama in August.
Hickenlooper said that although Democrats and Republicans “do not see eye to eye on everything,” this law is a great example of both sides working together to create jobs and boost the state’s renewable energy portfolio.
“This is an obvious opportunity to do something significant right now that has much more potential over the next five to ten years with these small hydro projects,” Hickenlooper said Saturday.
The law allows farmers and ranchers to offset energy consumption by adding hydroelectric generation to their existing irrigation infrastructure, which can take up more than 70 percent of their seasonal operating budget, said Ron Carleton, deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Coram said he and fellow lawmakers were acting as “advocates for agriculture” during the law’s development, and that the partnership between the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association is a model for other projects, moving forward.
UVWUA Board President George Etchart said water from the 105-year-old, 5.8-mile long Gunnison Tunnel now has dual roles – both producing electricity and feeding the crops of the Uncompahgre Valley. “The water in this valley is the lifeblood of the this valley,” he said…
A pair of generation stations created onto the South Canal last year by the Delta-Montrose Electric Association are currently generating about five-and-a-half megawatts of electricity, capable of powering about 3,000 homes in the Uncompahgre Valley. At Saturday’s bill-signing, water from the 105-year-old Gunnison Tunnel was moving at about 950 cubic feet per second. Peak flows both plants are expected to produce between seven and seven-and-a-half megawatts. Last year DMEA produced about 16,000 megawatt hours of electricity from the South Canal project…
The Gunnison brings water every year from the Gunnison river through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to an expansive canal system that feeds 76,000 acres of farmland throughout the Uncompahgre Valley.
The South Canal projects are estimated to remove 270,000 tons of carbon from the environment and produce about 27 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Along with the 3,000 homes powered, the DMEA reports the cost savings from the hydro power drops about $2 million back into the local economy through annual savings.
More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.