Morning photo: Best of January!

Summit County Citizens Voice

Winter glory …


FRISCO — OK, so January was a bit of a bust as far as snow, and it looks to go down by the warmest January on record in Summit County by a long shot, so who’s down with global warming? Anyone?

I thought so, but despite the balmy temps, our snowpack help up pretty well, thanks mainly to the low sun angle this time of year. And that same sun angle made for spectacular winter scenes along the shore of Dillon Reservoir and elsewhere in the high country. These are some of the best images for the Summit Voice archive. For daily updates follow our Instagram feed, and visit our online gallery for an amazing selection of prints and greeting cards.

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View from the Grand Valley: Municipal and agricultural partnerships

Your Water Colorado Blog

15383182298_1fe06f11fe_o Part of Grand Junction as seen from the Colorado National Monument and sandwiched by the Book Cliffs on the northern horizon. Photo by Ed Fiske Photography

By Greg Trainor

“In times of change, the learners will inherit the earth while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” —Eric Hoffer

The search for pure water is a staple activity of Colorado municipalities. Historically and contemporaneously, this search has followed the trail directly to the door of agriculture. “Mountain water…at any price” was a directive of the City of Grand Junction in the late 1890s and resulted in the city acquiring, via its powers of eminent domain, the most paramount water right from ranchers along Grand Mesa’s Kannah Creek. Called the Paramount Water Right, it was only a sliver of each farm’s water right but the lesson was clear: When threatened with the…

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IBCC meeting recap

Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism
Seven-point draft conceptual agreement framework for negotiations on a future transmountain diversion screen shot December 18, 2014 via Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:

There is a cliche in Colorado that “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.” But in Colorado, especially this week, water is for meeting.

This week, about 500 water professionals, including engineers, attorneys and water district managers, many of whom would readily concede that they are “water wonks,” are meeting at the Hyatt hotel in the Denver Tech Center at the annual Colorado Water Congress.

And concurrent with this statewide gathering was also a meeting Wednesday of a high-level group of close to 30 influential veteran members of Colorado’s water community or, as they are often called, “water buffaloes.”

These buffaloes are members of a group called the Interbasin Compact Committee, or IBCC, which meets under the auspices of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a state agency charged with finalizing a statewide water plan by December that describes how Colorado can meet its future water needs.

Wednesday marked the IBCC’s 50th meeting since its first meeting in February 2006, and 10 of its members have served on the committee since the beginning.

The IBCC includes two representatives from each of the state’s nine regional river basin roundtables as well as several appointees by the governor and representatives from the state Legislature.

“We felt that if we didn’t have everybody in the conversation, somebody was going to get hurt,” said Russ George, a former state legislator who helped shape the law that created the roundtables and the IBCC and today sits on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

For about the past year or so, the members of the IBCC have been wrestling with a draft conceptual agreement or, as they agreed on Wednesday to call it, a “conceptual framework for discussion,” about a potential new transmountain diversion that would move more water from the Western Slope to the booming Front Range.

Released in June and debated and discussed since then in various regional roundtable meetings, the IBCC’s conceptual framework is an attempt to spell out how a new transbasin diversion might be made acceptable to community leaders on the Western Slope.

At Wednesday’s IBCC meeting, the representatives of the various roundtables told the larger group what the members of their various roundtables think about the IBCC’s draft conceptual framework.

The members of the South Platte, Arkansas and Denver Metro roundtables think there has been enough talk about a new transmountain diversion and it is time for action, while the members of the Colorado, Gunnison and Yampa/White roundtables still want more definitions of the terms being used in the conceptual framework.

“I think the South Platte wants to get to moving,” said Eric Wilkerson, general manager of Northern Water, which provides water to 880,000 people in eight Front Range counties.

“There needs to be a determination as early as possible if indeed a transbasin diversion is possible and, if so, under what conditions,” Wilkerson said. “That’s probably going to be the most difficult discussion that can be had. We all know that. We’ve spent 11 years trying to get to this point, and I think we’ve gotten to a good point now.”

Wilkerson said the South Platte roundtable members are comfortable with the existing language in the conceptual framework and their sentiment is, “Let’s get going.”

But Jeff Devere, a representative from the Yampa and White River basin roundtable, said folks in the northwest corner of Colorado aren’t quite as ready to move.

“The devil is in the details,” Devere said. “We need to refine and define the concepts.”

Devere also suggested a new transmountain diversion should be looked at in the same way as bypass surgery is viewed by doctors treating an ailing heart patient.

Before doctors agree to a bypass, Devere said, they want to see a patient go on a diet, which is akin to water conservation. They want the patient to get more exercise, which in Colorado water is akin to fallowing agriculture and improving water system efficiency.

And they want the patient to stop smoking and drinking alcohol, which is akin to putting limits on residential growth and development.

Devere told the IBCC members that the people may well agree someday to a new transbasin diversion or bypass, but they might also say, “If you haven’t dieted, exercised and stopped drinking and smoking, I don’t know that I can agree.”

Stan Cazier, a member of the IBCC and the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, said many members of the Colorado roundtable feel they’ve already sent enough water to the east.

“The Colorado River Basin is the basin that is the donor basin,” Cazier said. “We are already severely impacted by transbasin diversions. We’re not looking forward to any more and, obviously, we have major concerns about impacts on the environment and recreation and other items. We’re uncomfortable at this point in time without firming some of this stuff up.”

Several hours into Wednesday’s IBCC meeting, the members discussed the formation of five new subcommittees to tackle stubborn issues, including one to work on the language in the conceptual framework for discussion.

They also discussed the agenda for a March 12 statewide meeting of the nine basin roundtables as, after all, one long water meeting deserves another.

Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress Legislative Breakfast recap

Mountain pine beetles
Mountain pine beetles

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A state lawmaker took a chop at federal policy toward forests in a direct way Thursday at the opening session of the Colorado Water Congress.

“If the U.S. Forest Service were in housing, they would be considered a slumlord,” said state Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, explaining that sawmills in Montrose are short of timber while thousands of acres of beetle-killed trees are left standing.

His was one of several wake-up calls delivered at the legislative breakfast sponsored by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Among the other topics: Rainwater harvesting: State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Coram are backing HB1016 that attempts to update regulations for rainwater harvesting, now legal in certain cases in Colorado. “It’s an awareness issue,” Sonnenberg said, saying there is a downstream impact.

Phreatophytes: Sonnenberg and Coram also discussed how tamarisk, Russian olive and cottonwood trees sap water resources along streams. HB1006 would provide $5 million annually for five years for programs to remove these “water thieves,” as the lawmak­ers called them. “It goes beyond saving water. It’s a water quality issue,” Coram said.

Water Conservation: State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and state Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, talked about SB8, which would tie land-use planning more closely to water conservation. “We need to keep in mind that a lot of times, there’s not a marriage of water availability and land-use planning.”

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Most Republicans Say They Back Climate Action, Poll Finds — The New York Times

The Colorado Water Congress Wayne Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” award goes to Bill Trampe

Bill Trampe via the Colorado River District
Bill Trampe via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

This year’s winner is Bill Trampe. Here’s the bio from the Colorado River District:

“I’m looking out and see a whole lot of people who deserve it more than I do…I hope I can live up to it.” — Bill Trampe

Bill Trampe represents Gunnison County. He served as president of the Colorado River District Board in 2006 and 2007. Upon serving out his term limit, he was designated by the board in 2008 to continue key negotiator roles he had performed in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison reserved federal water rights case and the Colorado River Basin Proposal on water supply solutions.

Mr. Trampe is a lifelong cattle rancher who has coupled his everyday experiences in water with involvement in water organizations. Mr. Trampe has a strong interest in natural resource issues, quality of life issues and the sustainability of communities whose economies depend on water.

Mr. Trampe was a founding member of the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy and served on the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District Board.

Mr. Trampe is participating in the state’s Water for the 21st Century (HB1177) process, sitting on the Gunnison River Basin Roundtable.

Mr. Trampe’s current term expires January 2015.

In 2012 Mr. Trampe authored the paper “Risk Assessment Scenario for Portfolio Tool” to accompany the Gunnison Basin Roundtable’s formal comments on “Colorado’s Water Supply Future Portfolio and Trade-off Tool.” The planning tool examines different combinations of strategies or “portfolios” for meeting the state’s future municipal and industrial water needs. Mr. Trampe’s paper outlines the basic concepts the Gunnison Basin Roundtable members have concerning procedures or a process to employ risk management in order to avoid a Colorado River Compact curtailment.

Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention day 1 recap: “We have to be smarter” — @hickforco #CWC2015

Governor Hickenlooper and James Eklund at the roll out of the Colorado Water Plan December 11, 2014 via The Durango Herald
Governor Hickenlooper and James Eklund at the roll out of the Colorado Water Plan December 11, 2014 via The Durango Herald

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Use less.

That two-word description is one way to boil down the Colorado Water Plan, all 2,000 pages and 15,000 comments on it, the Colorado Water Congress learned Thursday.

“We have to be smarter. We’re not going to have enough to do everything we want,” Gov. John Hickenlooper admitted in response to a question about how to provide water for 2-3 million more people in the state in the next 20 years with expected drop in water supply. “We are in a state that’s growing, and that growth has to figure out a way to use a lot less water.”

At the same time, the governor was brimming with optimism when it comes to solutions to the urban water gap.

Several times during his “State of the State’s Water” address to about 500 people at the CWC annual conference, Hickenlooper recognized water innovators by having them stand and take a bow. They included former lawmakers Russ George and Diane Hoppe; the Fort Morgan Irrigation Co., which developed water sharing agreements with Public Service Co.; Molson Coors, for its work since 1990 to improve the Clear Creek watershed; and innovators Chris Klein and Franz Garsombke, founders of Rachio, who developed a way to control sprinklers by smartphone. Those examples are just part of an approach that will be needed to deal with the water crises of the future, he said.

“In the next 20 years, we will add 2-3 million more people, and we’ve got to face that headon,” Hickenlooper said. “We know the climate is changing, regardless of the reason, so we always have to keep in mind the possibility of drought.”

He also stressed the importance of preserving agriculture.

“We’ve got to support locally grown food,” Hickenlooper said. “The water plan puts us on an actionable path.”

The governor deflected tougher questions about the state budget — water officials are concerned about siphoning mineral severance funds to balance it — to Henry Sobanet, the state’s budget director.

Sobanet called the constitutional formulas that control revenue and spending “insane” and said the state is facing a “nutrient sandwich” (to put in terms water people understand) as costs for education and health care continue to hog a bigger share of the budget pie.

A shortfall of $148 million in other areas would result this year without adjustment, and health and education shares are expected to grow, he said.

While the Colorado economy has been surging above the national rate since the 2008 recession, mineral severance taxes are expected to fall because of low oil and gas prices. At the same time, the funds used for water projects and local impacts may be swept into the general fund.

James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, congratulated the group for helping develop the water plan.

“Many said the problem was too big to solve, but you saw its importance as too big to fail,” he said.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The population growth in Colorado and other Western states cannot continue unless water supply challenges are met, Gov. John Hickenlooper and state planners said Thursday in opening the Colorado Water Congress annual conference.

“That growth has to figure out a way to use a lot less water or the growth will stop,” Hickenlooper told hundreds of water professionals in response to a question by a water board member. “It’s pretty much, I mean, black and white. We find a way to use a lot less water per person or we don’t have more people coming here. There is no magic.”

After beginning his State of the State address last week by highlighting water limits, Hickenlooper used the gathering of the 400-member congress to amplify his push for a robust and unprecedented Colorado Water Plan.

The state faces a 163 billion gallon projected water shortfall by 2050 that, as today’s population of 5.3 million grows to 10 million and industry expands, threatens to leave 2.5 million people parched. A draft plan unveiled in December lacks specifics such as conservation targets and criteria for new state-supported supply projects.

But the 344-page draft lists potential projects costing $18 billion to $20 billion to be done by 2050.

Hickenlooper said state planners are taking a long-range perspective that leads to a look at larger projects — but he said that financing major projects likely must rely on private investment because of state fiscal difficulties and diminished federal capacity to build new dams and reservoirs.

Constructing new water storage systems “helps a little bit,” Hickenlooper said. “But in the bigger picture, it is not the whole answer.”

Dealing with problems such as south Denver suburbs’ heavy dependence on dwindling groundwater will be addressed in the final state plan, due Dec. 10, said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, who has led creation of the plan. Eklund said the state may seek help from a Stanford University water expert pioneering measurement and monitoring of underground water — in shallow aquifers along rivers such as the South Platte and Arkansas as well as portions of the deep aquifers south suburbs have tapped.

Emerging water-sharing infrastructure projects may help shift south suburbs off dwindling groundwater, in return for assurances they do not try to divert more water from the deteriorating Colorado river basin.

“The more we can put the south metro house in order, the better the entire state is,” Eklund said. “It is kind of the knot you untie that alleviates pressure.”