Ken Carlson wants to be an “honest broker” in a controversial world — Fort Collins Coloradoan

Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg
Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg

From the Fort Collins Colordoan (Sarah Jane Kyle):

Ken Carlson wants to be an “honest broker” in a controversial world.

The CSU professor of civil and environmental engineering studies the water used, produced and extracted from oil and gas sites in Colorado. His main goal is to give people information — not opinions.

“For every study that says the world’s coming to an end, there’s a study someone can produce that says everything’s great,” Carlson, 54, said. “We try hard to operate in the middle.”

Carlson, who has been with Colorado State University for 16 years, runs the school’s Center for Energy Water Sustainability. CEWS recently launched Colorado Water Watch, a real-time monitoring system for water quality at oil and gas wells.

The free and public website uses anomaly detection software to monitor five wells, including one control site at the Agricultural Research Development & Education Center, which is just across Interstate 25 from the Anheuser-Busch brewery and at least three miles away from oil and gas activity. The remaining wells are by active Noble Energy oil and gas sites in Weld County.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Water Roundtable skeptical about Front Range diversion — the Sky-Hi Daily News

Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs
Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Brittany Markert):

With the release of the Colorado Water Plan’s first draft on Dec. 10, more than 150 residents and western Colorado water experts gathered in Grand Junction on Dec. 18 for a West Slope Basin Roundtable meeting. Members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, of surrounding basin roundtables, and Interbasin Compact Committee members were present…

“It is focused on filling the projected gap for cities and towns due to a predicted increase in population to about 10 million by 2050,” said Hannah Holm, Colorado Mesa University’s Water Center coordinator.

At the West Slope Basin Roundtable meeting on Dec. 18, a variety of issues were discussed including agricultural water rights, municipal water rights and how to locate alternative water sources.

“We all need to be thinking about what’s next,” said Russell George, a representative of the Colorado River Basin on Interbasin Compact Committee.

The Interbasin Compact Committee “was formed to mediate differences between the state’s river basins on water policy issues,” Holm said. “George was also a major force behind the 2005 legislation that established the basin roundtables of water providers and stakeholders charged with bottom-up water planning in each of the state’s major river basins.”

Another focus of the gathering was to ensure the plan meets the needs of Colorado as a whole, along with downstream needs of the Western Slope.

“An ongoing point of contention is whether any new transmountain diversions from the West Slope will be used to meet growing demands in Front Range cities,” Holm said. “A recently developed framework document for how to discuss any such project was released this past summer.

“It’s a huge step that the Eastern Slope entities agreed they couldn’t expect to take a firm yield of water every year from any new project,” she added. “Nonetheless, West Slope parties remain very wary of such projects, and one of the purposes of the meeting in Grand Junction was to move towards developing a common West Slope negotiating position.” [ed. emphasis mine]

When it comes to Colorado’s water situation, Holm explained that once the water plan is finished, it will need to be regularly revised due to the state’s ever-changing landscape of yearly rainfall and population growth.


At last week’s meeting, Eric Kuhn, general manager of Colorado River District, noted the necessity of managing development within the state to prevent excess use of resources.

“The higher level of development, the chances of running into problems are greater,” he said.

Western Colorado representatives also believe there isn’t enough water to give to Colorado’s Eastern Slope for its increased water consumption due to obligations to downstream states, Holm noted. Representatives from the Yampa Basin are concerned about having access to water to meet their own growing needs “as well as statewide needs and downstream obligations.”

Despite conflicting needs, all representatives agreed that water conservation is a must, particularly in Front Range cities.

Another meeting to discuss the Colorado Water Plan is planned, but a date has not yet been set. Topics to be discussed include how to address future Western Slope water needs, conservation and reuse.

“This plan is a work in progress,” said Bruce Whitehead, an Interbasin Compact Committee member. “It’s open to changes and something the Interbasin Compact Committee agreed to. More future discussions need to take place.”

For more information about the Colorado Water Plan, visit

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

“We’ve accomplished a hell of a lot” — John Salazar

John Salazar via Colorado Proud
John Salazar via Colorado Proud

From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels):

Outgoing agricultural commissioner John Salazar could barely contain his pride as he pointed out the John Fielder photographs, the file cards containing decades of cattle brands and the conference rooms named for Colorado rivers.

“Mira,” he said, pointing to the quilt hanging on the landing between the first and second floors of the new agriculture headquarters in Broomfield.

“Mira,” he said, showing off former Gov. Roy Romer’s picture on a wall of photographs. “I bet you didn’t know he used to be the agricultural commissioner.”

Look at this. Look at that. Mira.

John Salazar spoke little English before going to school and he still sprinkles Spanish into some of his sentences. Look at that stunning picture of the Rio Grande headwaters. A closer inspection reveals it was shot by Salazar himself.

“That’s what I’m going home to,” Salazar said.

Salazar opted against a second term as Colorado’s agricultural commissioner so he can return to the San Luis Valley and his family. A replacement has yet to be named. Asked if his wife, Mary Lou, was thrilled to have him home full time, Salazar laughed. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe you should call and ask her.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper wasn’t that surprised by Salazar’s decision. “His heart is on the ranch,” Hickenlooper said, calling Salazar the “patriot of the prairie.”

“And you want someone to run that agency who would rather be ranching. You want people who understand the ups and downs of farming in Colorado, somebody who knows that life.”

Holding office

John Salazar knows that life. The 61-year-old grew up with seven siblings on a ranch that has been in his family for six generations.

Salazar served on the Governor’s Economic Development Advisory Board during Romer’s tenure, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Forum. He also served on the Colorado Agricultural Commission from 1999 to 2002.

He and his younger brother, Ken, made national news in 2004 when they were both elected to Congress. John, a state lawmaker from Manassa, won a seat in the U.S. House, while Ken, the attorney general, won an open seat in the U.S. Senate.

Their humble beginnings provided for a great story line. The Salazars’ parents, Henry and Emma, had stressed an education above all else — John used to check out a slew of books every week from the Manassa library. The ranch didn’t have electricity until 1981; the children studied by oil lamps.

“Send a farmer to Congress,” was John Salazar’s slogan, and voters did just that in three elections. But his political fortunes changed in 2010, a tough year for Democrats. Republicans turned the slogan around, saying, “Send a congressman to the farm.”

By that time, Ken Salazar was serving as President Barack Obama’s secretary of the Interior.

After John Salazar lost to Republican state Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, Hickenlooper, who had just been elected governor, asked the outgoing congressman to serve as the agriculture commissioner.

Salazar said when he discussed the position with the governor-elect in 2010, he asked for the autonomy to run the department “as I saw fit.”

“The governor has been awesome,” Salazar said. “You know what I love about him? While he may not be a farmer or a rancher or know a whole lot about about agriculture, he knows the importance of it.”

State Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, said he thinks Salazar has been a better agricultural commissioner than he was a congressman.

“As the commissioner he did what he thought was right and he did really well,” said Brown, who raises sheep. “He understood our issues.”

Coming out on top

But the Colorado Department of Agriculture is more than ranches and farms, as it points out on its website. “If you’ve ever bought groceries, adopted a dog, or fertilized your lawn, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has served you.”

The department measures grocery store scales to ensure they are accurate. It inspects dog groomers and breeding operations. It oversees the Colorado State Fair and conducts pesticide inspections.

The biggest disaster under Salazar’s tenure came in 2011 when more than 25 people died eating Colorado cantaloupe improperly processed by Jensen Farms, sparking one of the deadliest American food-illness outbreaks in 100 years.

In the wake of the outbreak, Rocky Ford cantaloupe growers implemented changes, creating the Rocky Ford Growers Association where members must agree to twice-a-year safety audits conducted by inspectors in the state Agriculture Department.

“We came back stronger than ever,” Salazar said.

Despite historic fires, floods and droughts, the export of agricultural products, which was $869 million in 2009, is forecast at $2.25 billion this fiscal year. Colorado ships 66 percent of all fresh-market potatoes sent to Mexico.

“We’ve accomplished a hell of a lot,” Salazar said, and then corrected himself. “Say we’ve accomplished a heck of a lot.”

Born: July 1953 in Alamosa, the third eldest of Henry and Emma Salazar’s eight children

Raised: On the family ranch 14 miles north of the New Mexico border

Family: He and his wife, Mary Lou, have three grown sons: Esteban, Miguel and Jesus, and three grandchildren

Residence: Manassa

First political election: Won a seat in the Colorado House in 2002

Congress: First elected to the U.S. House in 2004, the same year that his younger brother Ken was elected to the U.S. Senate; served three terms.

Colorado: Tapped by Gov. John Hickenlooper to serve as the state agricultural commissioner in 2011