Iliff: FEMA dough on the way for emergency repairs to waterlines

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Bryson Brug):

At Iliff’s town board meeting Wednesday night the board got some long awaited good news. Jim Raymond, a representative of FEMA, and Dennis Freeman, a representative of Highline Electric, were on hand to give the board updates on the funds for the town’s much needed water line repairs.

According to Raymond the emergency work, which involved putting in a temporary pipeline and weatherizing it, has already been completed. He explained that a check for 90 percent of the cost of the emergency repair will be sent to the town, while he wants to get the request through a cursory review before the permanent work can begin. But he stressed that this was the first request they received for 2016 and as fast as it is moving, the permanent work, which involves putting in the permanent pipe and increasing the size of the overall water mains, will be done by the spring runoff.

He also explained that FEMA paying for 90 percent is not the normal rate. Normally they would cover 75 percent of the price and the town would be responsible for the other 25 percent. Raymond explained that FEMA understands that with the size of the job, 25 percent is still more than the town can pay, which is why they are covering 90 percent.

“This is the right thing to do to help out,” Raymond said.

The Great Divide: film screening & panel discussion, January 19 — @ConservationCO

Click here for all the inside skinny. Here’ an excerpt from the website:

Tens of millions of people and billions of dollars in agricultural production all depend on rivers born in Colorado’s mountains. In a time of rising demand and limited supply, there is a vital need for all citizens to better understand this critical resource, and to participate in decisions affecting it.

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Conservation Colorado, Trout Unlimited, Brendle Group and the Sierra Club are hosting an evening designed to meet that need. Join us January 19th to hear from organizations and individuals working to address Colorado’s water issues, to learn more about the new State Water Plan, to engage in meaningful dialogue and of course watch The Great Divide.

The Great Divide is a feature length documentary film from Emmy award winning Havey Productions, in association with Colorado Humanities. It highlights the timeless influence of water in both connecting and dividing Colorado – an arid state in an arid region. The film advocates for fostering cooperation and crossing “the great divide” that represents our stance on water issues.

Click here to register.

thegreatdividefilmhaveyproductions

#Snowpack news: Rio Grande and South Platte basins turn green (average range)

Governor Hickenlooper’s State of the State of #Colorado

Governor John Hickenlooper 2016 State of State Address via KJCT8.com
Governor John Hickenlooper 2016 State of State Address via KJCT8.com

From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

Gov. John Hickenlooper Thursday used his annual State of the State speech to chide lawmakers for failing to compromise last session on the state’s most pressing issues: the state’s budget, which he believes will have to be cut in 2016-17, changes to a hospital provider fee that could free up $1 billion over five years for transportation and education, and reforms to a state construction defects law that developers say prevents them from building affordable condominiums.

Last year’s partisan gridlock was due largely to split control of the General Assembly. It’s the same for this year — Republicans have a one-vote majority in the state Senate, and Democrats hold a three-vote advantage in the state House.

While democracy “wasn’t designed to be argument-free,” it also “isn’t designed to be combative to its own detriment,” Hickenlooper said. “Our conflicts aren’t serving us,” either at the state Capitol or in Washington, D.C. “We used to take pride in compromise… but in today’s politics we revel in getting our way without giving an inch, and stopping the other guy from getting anything done.”

Coloradans excel at working together after a tragedy, but that shouldn’t be the only reason lawmakers compromise on the state’s biggest challenges, Hickenlooper said…

Hickenlooper also brought up the state water plan, which was finalized in November, stating that the time has come to put it to work. He didn’t identify any specific ideas to implement it, although he promised there would be legislation to give the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the plan’s author, “greater flexibility in funding our most important water projects.”

Becker said Hickenlooper should have endorsed the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would add two new reservoirs along the Poudre River in Larimer County. Will the governor support “the biggest privately-funded water storage plan in the state?” Becker asked.

Sonnenberg was “thrilled” with the governor’s remarks on water. The two have begun discussing the plan, water storage and related issues. “I’m pleased we’re moving forward with some aspects of the water plan,” Sonnenberg added.

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

During his State of the State address Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper outlined efforts to avoid future catastrophic incidents such as the Gold King Mine spill.

“When we recognize a threat to our natural environment, we need to take action,” Hickenlooper told a joint session of the Colorado House and Senate during remarks that lasted just over 40 minutes. “Last summer’s Gold King Mine spill showed us what can happen when abandoned mines with environmental or safety issues are not properly remediated.”

[…]

In Colorado, Hickenlooper said his administration is developing a statewide inventory of leaking mines to prioritize cleanup efforts. But the governor said Congress needs to act to minimize liability concerns associated with reclamation. Proposals in Congress would create a “good Samaritan” program, allowing private entities and state and local governments to clean up inactive mines without liability fears.

“Tackling watershed contamination presents a challenge because of federal laws that prevent cleanup efforts that fail to meet anything less than these national standards,” Hickenlooper said.

Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, applauded the governor for underscoring the mine issue.

“We need to address that and be looking at those areas where those old mines might be dammed up, where there might be a spill like that,” Brown said. “Hopefully we can do it in an economical way. I think there’s a lot of science showing that there may be some new techniques to clean up water that won’t be as expensive as a Superfund.”

Click here to read the Governor’s address.

From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

State of the State speeches highlight water resources

Arizona

Governor Doug Ducey (R) drew a contrast between California’s drought emergency and Arizona’s forward-thinking water policies that helped keep hydrological deprivation at bay. The reality is a bit more complex. Yes, Arizona passed a groundwater act more than three decades ago that was ahead of its time. And the state does store surplus Colorado River water underground, in case of a shortage. But outside the designated groundwater management areas, aquifers are largely unregulated. Streamflows and water tables have dropped in the state’s southeast corner.

In his speech, Ducey also promoted a “water augmentation council” that he appointed in December to investigate new sources of water. Brackish groundwater is expected to be an option when the council’s report is filed July 1…

Colorado

After approving the state’s first water plan in November, Governor John Hickenlooper (D) turned in his speech to implementation. He also spoke about developing a mine-drainage inventory in the wake of the Gold King mine spill of last August…

Idaho

Governor Butch Otter (R) praised a water-sharing agreement signed by farmers who irrigate with groundwater from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, a declining resource. Groundwater users agreed to cut withdrawals by more than 10 percent…

Kansas

More than two years ago, Governor Sam Brownback, returning home after two full terms in the U.S. Senate, called for Kansas officials to develop a 50-year water vision. The western third of the state relies on the declining Ogallala Aquifer to sustain its farm economy, while reservoirs in the eastern half are filling with sediment, cutting their capacity.

Brown used his State of the State speech to highlight some of the water successes during his tenure. But despite widespread acclaim for the locally driven conservative plans he championed, few districts have endorsed them.

Arkansas Basin roundtable meeting recap

Basin roundtable boundaries
Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Current funds not certain, but state plan calls for more

With funding for current water projects drying up, Arkansas Basin Roundtable members are curious about where the flood of future money will come from.

By 2020, the Colorado Water Plan calls for investigating options to provide $100 million annually for water projects over a 30-year period. Several members questioned how that could be done, but others were worried about more immediate funding.

The roundtable studied the state water plan at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

“The Legislature always wants to take water funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “It’s easy if we don’t say anything.”

The Water Supply Reserve Account, which funds roundtable projects, is expected to receive less money this year because it is funded through mineral severance taxes. The falling price of oil and gas is expected to reduce those revenues by 25-30 percent in Colorado this year, Brent Newman of the CWCB staff said.

“At the state level, they can take the whole ball of wax,” warned Don Ament, a former lawmaker and state commissioner of agriculture, who is now a consultant. He said past raids on CWCB funding have been slow to be repaid.

Lawmakers in past years have raided the CWCB’s funds to meet shortfalls in other budget areas. That could happen again if budget pressures tighten.

Alan Hamel, the Arkansas River basin’s representative to the CWCB, said the board intends to implement the state water plan by requiring all funding requests for water projects to be tied to some part of the plan.

“We want to know where it fits into the Colorado Water Plan,” Hamel said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Funding is slowly being deposited in an effort to determine the best way to stop flooding on Fountain Creek.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable this week approved $41,800 for the next phase of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District’s investigation into flood control.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board must still approve the request at its March meeting.

“We proved that water rights would not be injured,” Larry Small, the executive director of the district told the roundtable Wednesday.

In 2014, Small ran into flak from the roundtable when he proposed a large project to investigate what type of flood control project — either a dam or series of detention ponds — would be most effective.

Although water rights protection was one of the tasks of that grant request, the roundtable insisted answering the question of whether flood storage would injure downstream users.

The district hired engineer Duane Helton last year and completed a study showing it was possible to measure the amount of water temporarily impounded and replace it with water stored elsewhere.

The next phase of the project will prepare graphics to visualize the effects of implementing flood control measures for 10-, 50-. 100- and 500-year floods, Small said. That will allow more evaluation of alternatives than the earlier conceptual study of a 100-year flood by the U.S. Geological Survey.

There are still a series of other steps that must be completed before construction of flood control facilities can begin. The Fountain Creek district wants to fully evaluate the effective-ness of structures before deciding which course to pursue.

There is also the matter of funding.

Under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System, Colorado Springs Utilities is obligated to make $50 million in payments for flood control over five years when water is delivered through the pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

Those payments should begin this year, Small believes. However, Utilities has taken the position that water must be delivered to customers before payments begin.

Colorado Springs did not make the payment Friday, so the district will determine at its meeting next Friday which course of action to pursue, Small said.

Webinar: History of Water Development in the West, January 21 — Audubon Rockies

historywaterdevinrockiesaudobonrockies012016

Click here to register. From email from Audubon Rockies:

Water law, customs, traditions and attitudes can seem both complex and incomprehensible, unless you know where they come from. The West is an arid country where irrigation is vital for agriculture and diversions necessary for community water supplies. All the inhabitants of the West, from the prehistoric people to the modern Americans have used similar techniques for irrigation, storage and distribution. It’s the cultural matrix that has varied widely, and often been conflicted. How we govern and use water has evolved over time and continues to do so. Old traditions and laws based on earlier values are often in conflict with newer needs and ways of thinking. Having a knowledge of this rich history and how our water ways were, and are being forged is important if we hope to resolve conflicts and create solutions that work for all of us, including the birds!

Presented by the renowned Ken Neubecker, Associate Director, Colorado River Basin Program for American Rivers.