President Obama’s proposed budget includes $1.1 billion to fund Reclamation water projects

President Obama at Hoover Dam
President Obama at Hoover Dam

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation:

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request released today identifies a total of $1.1 billion for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, continuing the President’s commitment to be prudent with taxpayer dollars while setting consistent spending priorities for Reclamation. The budget would provide robust investments in the safety, reliability and efficiency of America’s water infrastructure and in conservation, reuse and applied science to address the nation’s water supply challenges, especially in the West.
As the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and second-largest producer of hydroelectric power, Reclamation’s projects and programs are critical to driving and maintaining economic growth in the western States.

“President Obama’s budget for Reclamation reflects a strong commitment to our ongoing mission of effectively managing water and power in the West,” Commissioner Estevan López said. “Reclamation and its partners provide water and clean hydropower for communities across 17 states. With the resources provided in this budget blueprint, we can continue to be an engine of progress across multiple sectors of the western U.S. economy.”

The proposal for Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account of $805.2 million includes $367.4 million for resource management and development activities. This funding provides for planning, construction, water conservation activities, management of Reclamation lands—including recreation— and actions to address the impacts of Reclamation projects on fish and wildlife. The request also emphasizes reliable water delivery and power generation by requesting $437.7 million to fund operation, maintenance and rehabilitation activities at Reclamation facilities, including dam safety.

The budget emphasizes Reclamation’s core mission to address the water demands of a growing population in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner; and to assist states, tribes and local entities in solving water resource issues. It also emphasizes the operation and maintenance of Reclamation facilities in a safe, efficient, economic and reliable manner—ensuring systems and safety measures are in place to protect the public and Reclamation facilities.

Reclamation’s funding request addresses Administration, Interior, and Reclamation priorities. The budget supports water rights settlements to ensure sufficient resources to address the requirements of legislation passed by Congress to settle litigation. The request includes increases for specific Indian water rights settlements that support the goal of strengthening tribal nations.

The FY 2016 budget proposal also balances needs for climate variability adaptation, water conservation, improving infrastructure, sound science to support critical decision making and ecosystem restoration.

Reclamation’s challenges – The extreme and prolonged drought facing the West affects major U.S. river basins in virtually every western state. The effects of the current drought on California water, its agricultural economy and its communities are topics of nationwide concern and extensive media coverage. The Colorado River Basin—crucial for seven states and several Tribes, in addition to two countries—is also enduring historic drought. About 33 million people rely on the Colorado River for some, if not all, of their municipal needs.

Reclamation’s dams, water conveyances and power generating facilities are critical components of the Nation’s infrastructure. Protecting and extending the lives of these structures are among the many significant challenges facing Reclamation over the next several years and beyond. They present major hurdles to achieving progress on water supply confidence, sustainability and resiliency. Reclamation’s water and power projects and activities throughout the western United States are a foundation for essential and safe water supplies, provide renewable hydropower energy and sustain ecosystems that support fish and wildlife, recreation and rural economies. Climate variability and competing demands are increasingly affecting already-strained systems. The Bureau of Reclamation’s FY 2016 budget addresses these challenges and reflects a very deliberate approach to accommodating mission priorities.

WaterSMART Program – The President’s proposed budget for Reclamation calls for $58.1 million for the WaterSMART Program – Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow — to assist communities in optimizing the use of water supplies by improving water management. The WaterSMART Program components include: WaterSMART Grants funded at $23.4 million; the Basin Studies Program, $5.2 million; the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program, $20.0 million; the Water Conservation Field Service program, $4.2 million; the Cooperative Watershed Management program, $250,000; the Drought Response program $2.5 million; and the Resilient Infrastructure program, $2.5 million.

Strengthening tribal nations – To meet trust and treaty obligations, Reclamation’s budget request makes Indian water rights settlements among the highest priorities. The FY 2016 budget proposes $112.5 million for a new account entitled Indian Water Rights Settlements to ensure continuity in the construction of four of the authorized projects and to highlight and enhance transparency in handling these funds. The budget includes $89.7 million for the ongoing Navajo-Gallop Water Supply Project (Title X of Public Law 11-11) as well as $22.8 million to continue implementation of three settlements authorized in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. These settlements will deliver clean water to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, the Taos Pueblo of New Mexico, the Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonsi & Tesuque in New Mexico named in the Aamodt case and the Crow Tribe of Montana.

Specifics of the budget request include:

America’s Great Outdoors Initiative – Reclamation has a responsibility to focus on the protection and restoration of the aquatic and riparian environments affected by its operations. Highlights of Reclamation’s ecosystem restoration activities, many of which support Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery programs, include:

$16.7 million is for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program to provide long-term Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance for river operations.

$24.4 million for ESA recovery implementation programs, including $17.5 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $4.4 million for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Programs. $6.8 million of the $18.0 million Klamath Project supports wildlife refuge and environmental needs, the remainder supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural and tribal and facilities operations and maintenance activities.

$37.0 million for the California Bay-Delta Restoration, equal to the FY 2015 budget. The account focuses on the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and improving water management and supplies. The budget will support the co-equal goals of environmental restoration and improved water supply reliability, under the following program activities: $1.7 million for a Renewed Federal State Partnership, $7.2 million for Smarter Water Supply and Use, and $28.1 million for Habitat Restoration. These program activities are based on the Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta issued December 22, 2009.

$49.5 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations in the CVP service area of California.

Within California’s Central Valley Project (CVP), $11.9 million and an additional $1.5 million in the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund are for the Trinity River Restoration program.

$9.5 million, as part of the Middle Rio Grande Project budget, targeted to support environmental activities developed through an Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program.

$18.0 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the biological opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.

Other project highlights –

$123.0 million to operate, manage, and improve CVP. More than one-half of that amount provides for operation and maintenance of project facilities, including $20.3 million for the Replacements, Additions, and Extraordinary Maintenance program which provides for modernization, upgrade, and refurbishment of facilities throughout the Central Valley. The remainder supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies and environmental needs.

$36.5 million for rural water projects to undertake the design and construction of five projects and operation and maintenance of tribal features for two projects intended to deliver potable water supplies to specific rural communities and tribes located primarily in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.

$12.8 million for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will continue funding grants to implement conservation measures and monitor the effects of those measures on the river diversions. Funding is also included to continue construction on fish passage facilities at Cle Elum dam.

$88.1 million for the Dam Safety Program to continue dam safety risk management and risk reduction activities throughout Reclamation’s inventory of dams. Corrective actions are planned to start or will continue at a number of facilities. A focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam (California).

$26.2 million for site security to continue Reclamation’s ongoing site-security program, which includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.

The Bureau of Reclamation, throughout the 17 western states, is committed to helping meet the many water challenges of the West. A driving force behind bureau initiatives is resolution of water issues that will benefit future generations and providing leadership on the path to sustainable water supplies.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal January 2015 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal January 2015 via the Colorado Climate Center

Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center to read the latest briefing.

2015 Colorado legislation: HB15-1006 (Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program) makes it out of committee #coleg


Click here to read the bill.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

A House panel (House Committee on Agriculture, Livestock, & Natural Resources) unanimously approved a bill Monday to help local communities get rid of invasive species such as tamarisk and Russian olive trees because they drink up precious water.

While it may seem like that’s a good idea, not everyone was enamored with the measure, HB1006, as drafted, because it doesn’t go far enough.

It isn’t good enough just to get rid of the invasive plants, called phreatophytes. Native phreatophytes, such as cottonwoods and aspen, must be used to replace them to guard against erosion and maintain the animal habitat, those opponents said.

“Simply eradicating existing phreatophytes under the term ‘invasive’ implies that we’re going to have additional problems with flooding, with sedimentation, that we’re going to have some of the same problems that led us into the issues we have with tamarisk,” Jennifer Bolton, a lobbyist for the Audubon Society, told the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee.

But other supporters, including the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said the measure is tied to the state’s existing laws dealing with noxious plants.

As a result, the Colorado Department of Agriculture is required to consider the entire health of a watershed, and not merely taking out a few noxious weeds here and there.

Chris Treece, external affairs director for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said he’s not worried both of those things won’t occur.

“The clear purpose of this bill is to provide the resources to those who have the expertise, who have the programs set up, and would allow for the exercise of those programs,” Treece told the committee. “All of those programs … prioritize the proper removal, the proper weed control, the proper rehabilitation and restoration of the riparian area.”

Regardless, the committee tacked an amendment onto the bill to ensure that awarded grants include not only removing invasive species, but also encouraging the growth of native ones.

Coram also amended the bill to ensure that the funding for the grants — $5 million a year in each of the next five years — will come from severance tax revenues and not from the state’s general fund.

While some Western Slope lawmakers balked at that idea, given recent protestations against a proposal to use severance tax money to help offset any taxpayer refunds, Coram said these grants are for water projects, and that’s where some of the severance tax revenues are intended to be used.

The bill heads to the House Appropriations Committee for more debate.

More invasive species coverage here.

The Water Values podcast: How significant is the #ColoradoRiver to the economy?

Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention recap #COWaterPlan

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The game plan is in place.

The team has been conditioned.

It’s been a rough season.

The quarterback got beat up a little bit, but seems to be on a winning streak.

OK, it’s not football. But that is one way to get a first down as the state marches down the field to score with the Colorado Water Plan.

The goal line is still 10 months away, but at least no one has punted yet.

Much of the 2015 session of Colorado Water Congress last week in Denver was spent chewing over the details of the draft plan and discussing how it might actually be implemented.

At one point, Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director James Eklund — the “quarterback,” if Gov. John Hickenlooper is the coach — showed up with a deflated football, hoping it would not become emblematic of how the plan is put into place.

From the sidelines, others chipped in on coaching strategy during a panel about “A Plan of Action or a Paper Plan?”

“We’ve so far relied on the assumptions of the past and projections for the future,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “We need to think in a totally different way. How do we manage supplies so there is not a crisis in the first place?”

For Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the themes of the water plan are basic: uncertainty, legislative or regional gridlock and the difficulty in reaching a solution.

“We have to identify unacceptable outcomes,” Kuhn said. “It would be unacceptable not to have agriculture (for instance).”

But it was an environmental consultant who pointed out that managing the risk of uncertainty and making a decision are different processes.

“We have a system based on risk management,” said Dan Luecke, an environmental scientist who has been involved in state water issues for three decades. “When we face an uncertain future, we get less rational.”

While each of the panelists stressed cooperation moving forward, each clung to closely held past positions.

Lochhead argued for a streamlined regulatory process for water projects, but cautioned the audience not to bank on storage alone to solve water shortage problems. Conservation is also not a total answer: “Denver Water last year had its lowest consumption since 1967, with 500,000 more people.”

Luecke told CWC to take projects that import water from one basin to another completely off the table: “We can’t go elsewhere to get our water. Set that aside.”

Kuhn, whose district was part of a historic agreement with Denver Water over increased exports, argued for more agreement: “When we don’t have consensus in a fight locally, the feds are most likely to step in.”

Funding also was a big topic at the convention, with one workshop concentrating on public-private partnerships as a way to pay the bills, since federal and state sources are drying up.

“What we agree to fund may be a lot of money, but it has to be cheaper than the alternative,” Kuhn said.

Lochhead favored a fiscal approach.

“We should allow economics to work,” Lochhead said. “We have a dynamic (in which) everyone thinks about the worst possible things that could happen.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Snowpack news: Aspen’s January one of the driest ever


From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

Aspen’s January snowfall was the second lowest amount for the month since 1935, according to the record keepers at the Aspen Water Treatment Plant.

Only 5.26 inches of snow were recorded for the month, according to a report filed Monday by Laura Taylor.

“Average snowfall for this month is 25.74 inches,” Taylor wrote. “This minimal snowfall is the second lowest recorded here since January 1935. Back in 1961, the lowest snowfall for January was recorded at 5.0 inches.

The water treatment plant is on Doolittle Drive, near Castle Creek, at an elevation of 8,148 feet. Snowfall amounts at different locations around the Aspen metro area usually vary, but the water-treatment plant is the official National Weather Service station.

The station’s records show Aspen has received less than 10 inches of snow in January only five times since 1935 prior to this year. There were 5 inches in 1961, 6.5 inches in 1974, 9.9 inches in 1981, 9.25 inches in 1985-86 and 7.75 inches in 2002-03…

Joe Ramey, a forecaster and meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said precipitation was a mixed bag for western Colorado in January. Durango enjoyed one-half inch above average in total precipitation for the month, and Grand Junction also was above average, he said. Below-average precipitation was more common, he said.

“There’s been a big ridge just out to our west all of January,” Ramey said. “That ridge is really the culprit.”

That ridge of high pressure deflected storms to the north and to the south of the Aspen area. In the short term, Aspen could pick up a few inches of snow over the next few days from a series of weak disturbances, Ramey said. A wet spring is forecasted in the desert southwest and into the Colorado Rockies during March and into April.

“We’re hanging onto this wet spring” in the forecast, Ramey said.

Despite the lack of snowfall in January, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s automated weather station near the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River said the snowpack there was 109 percent of average Monday.

Don Brown of Yuma named Commissioner of Agriculture

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday named Don Brown of Yuma as Commissioner of Agriculture, effective Feb. 17. Brown replaces John Salazar, who retired earlier this month.

Brown, a third-generation farmer in Yuma County, manages his family’s extensive farm operations, which include yearling cattle, irrigated corn and dryland farming. He is active in water conservation, energy development and technology innovation issues within the agricultural industry.

Brown graduated from Yuma High School in 1973. He holds a degree in agriculture from Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, and received a vocational agriculture education degree with honors from Colorado State University.

He is active in the National Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, National Corn Growers and the Colorado Corn Growers Association. He has served as president of the Yuma County Cattlemen’s Association and state president of the Future Farmers of America…

As commissioner, Brown will lead the department’s daily operations, direct its 300 employees, and oversee the agency’s seven divisions: Animal Health; Brand Inspection; Colorado State Fair; Conservation Services; Inspection and Consumer Services; Markets; and Plant Industry.

In his first interview following the governor’s announcement, Brown told this reporter that as commissioner he will work to educate the general public about the role agriculture plays in their lives and to encourage young people to pursue agriculture as a career and way of life. “We take pride in providing safe food for everyone,” he said Thursday. But the public doesn’t understand something they haven’t been told about, so his job, and the department’s, is to explain how their food is produced and processed, and that the agriculture industry is interested in everything remaining safe.

He pointed out recent trends that show young people coming back to rural communities, whether to engage in farming or ranching or agribusiness pursuits. “People have to eat, and it becomes our responsibility to feed them. That naturally leads to young people being involved, whether in technology, agribusiness or rural education,” he explained. “We have to keep rural communities healthy.”

Brown also plans to be pro-active on water conservation issues. “We need to make the general public aware that the water we use, we don’t waste,” he said. Being pro-active on water means using it wisely, and most farmers and ranchers try to do that. Brown explained. It doesn’t mean not using it at all…

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee will be tasked with reviewing Brown’s nomination, and it will be up to Sonnenberg as its chair to marshal the confirmation through the Senate. Sonnenberg indicated he expects the confirmation to go smoothly and quickly.

From The Denver Post (Steve Raabe):

Gov. John Hickenlooper has appointed Yuma County farmer Don Brown as Colorado’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

Brown replaces John Salazar, who retired last month after serving in the role since 2011.

Brown is a business owner and third-generation farmer. He has been active in water conservation, energy development and technology innovation within the agriculture sector.

“Agriculture is a critical sector for our economy, contributing $40 billion and providing nearly 173,000 jobs annually,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Having Don at the helm, we know agriculture across Colorado will continue to grow.”

Brown will lead the department’s daily operations and direct its 300 employees.

“To be able to contribute to the industry which I have so greatly benefited from is incredibly rewarding,” Brown said. “I have lived the life of those who the commissioner is to serve and I am committed to doing all I can to see that the industry continues to grow and that farmers and ranchers have every opportunity to succeed.”

Brown graduated with a degree in agriculture from Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, and received a vocational agriculture education degree with honors from Colorado State University.