2015 Colorado legislation: HB15-1178 (Emergency Well Pumping Damaging High Groundwater) sails through Senate Ag committee #coleg

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

State House Bill 15-1178 won unanimous approval from the state Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Thursday.

As introduced, HB 1178 would put $500,000 in general funds (income and sales tax revenue) into an emergency dewatering account that would pay for emergency pumping of wells in Gilcrest and LaSalle. The Ag Committee amended the bill to allow emergency pumping in Sterling, as well, and to put $165,000 immediately into the dewatering account. Another $290,000 would be available beginning July 1 to continue pumping. The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, told this reporter that Gilcrest will get priority in the pumping because the situation there is more critical.

The bill’s Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, told the committee Weld County is already clearing ditches from Gilcrest to the South Platte River, and pumping started earlier this week. Co-sponsor Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said that water levels are rising to the point that the water is coming up through water treatment facilities and damaging liners, which becomes a water contamination issue…

There’s another bill in play to help with the flooding problem, but it was changed substantially this week by its Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton. That led to a little bit of sniping by Sonnenberg, the bill’s other co-sponsor, during Thursday’s hearing.

As introduced, House Bill 15-1013 requires the Colorado Water Conservation Board to conduct a study that would test alternative methods for lowering the water table along the South Platte near the Gilcrest/LaSalle and Sterling areas. The bill sets up application and approval criteria for the pilot projects, which would last four years. A second section of the bill authorizes the state engineer to review an augmentation plan submitted to water court if that plan includes construction of a recharge structure (ponds or ditches).

However, at Hodge’s request, the Senate on Thursday removed that second section, which did not go over well with Sonnenberg. The bill got final approval from the Senate Friday, and now goes back to the House. Should the House reject the Senate amendment, the bill would go to a conference committee. Sonnenberg said that if that happens, he will work to restore the bill to its original version.

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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