R.I.P. Diane Hoppe

Diane Hoppe at CFWE President's Award Reception 2012
Diane Hoppe at CFWE President’s Award Reception 2012

Diane was a friend of Coyote Gulch. She was always friendly, encouraging, informative, and generally interested in those around her, and in the water issues facing Colorado.

The first time I had the opportunity to talk at length with Diane the conversation drifted towards storage.

“Everyone wants gravel pits,” she said.

I said to myself, “Diane knows the South Platte River.”

She will be missed.

Here’s the announcement from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

With a heavy heart we regret to inform you that Colorado has lost a truly remarkable woman in Diane Hoppe, who passed away on Saturday, February 27.

Diane, a native of Colorado, was raised in Sterling. She spent almost 30 years in both the public and private sectors stewarding Colorado’s natural and agricultural resources.

“Representative Hoppe’s contribution to the State of Colorado was substantial and the loss of her leadership and friendship will be felt by many statewide,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Diane’s list of accomplishments is inspiring, and here are a few of the many. Diane served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1999 through 2006 and chaired the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee, the Water Interim Committee, and the Water Resources Review Committee, and served as Minority Whip. She was a founding member of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and served as President from 2002 through 2007. Governor John Hickenlooper appointed Diane to the Colorado Water Conservation Board as the South Platte Basin representative in 2012, and she was elected chair of the Board in 2015. Diane received many honors during her lifetime including the Colorado Water Congress 2013 Wayne N. Aspinall Award for Outstanding Water Leader.

Diane Hoppe’s spirit will forever be remembered and will serve as an inspiration to the many lives she touched.

Here’s a column she penned about the Colorado Water Plan and its importance to the state.

WaterNews: March 2016 is hot off the presses from @DenverWater

Strontia Springs Reservoir started spilling on May 2, 2015.
Strontia Springs Reservoir started spilling on May 2, 2015.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Count after count, statistics show Colorado’s population is booming. And with all those new people, the pressures on our water system are bigger than ever.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, but as a water provider, we need to be prepared for a number of different scenarios,” said Greg Fisher, Denver Water manager of demand planning.

Denver Water plans not just for population growth, but also for climate change, economic variability, changes in environmental attitudes, changes in water-use patterns, government regulations, new industries, droughts and more.

Last year was a perfect example of why it’s so difficult to predict future water consumption. We recorded the lowest demand for water since 1970, despite a population increase of 400,000 people. We also saw wild weather swings, with record-high precipitation for a watering season that also happened to end with the warmest September in our records.

With half a million more people expected in the metro area by 2040, our planners are taking an “all-in” approach that includes conservation, water reuse and development of new water supplies.

2016 #coleg: Colorado’s fight over land and water rights hits the Statehouse — The Colorado Independent

Kerry Donovan from her State Senate website
Kerry Donovan from her State Senate website

From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

Millions of Coloradans and tourists agree they love public lands, which take up more than a third of the state. Thousands of residents depend on national parks, forests, monuments and grasslands for their livelihood.

Underpinning any discussion of public lands, no matter how innocuous, is a squabble over who manages them: federal or state agencies.

In the past several years, those clashes have led to armed standoffs in Nevada and Oregon, including the recent months-long occupation at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

Fights over land management have provoked legislation from conservative Colorado lawmakers seeking to put federal lands under state control. Most of the state’s environmentalists prefer federal management, arguing it protects public lands from rampant development, including oil and gas drilling and mining.

But Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat, would like Coloradans to step back from the debate over who manages the land and celebrate what that land means to Coloradans. She’s the sponsor of a bill that would dub the third Saturday in May Colorado “Public Lands Day,” to celebrate the contributions Colorado’s national lands have made to the state’s economy and quality of life.

Public Lands Day would not be a state holiday, according to the bill. Schools would be expected to recognize it, even though it’s on a Saturday. Donovan told The Colorado Independent that she hoped schools would set up field trips or volunteer days when students would help repair trails, for example.
Colorado’s public lands “are the defining feature of our state,” Donovan told the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee during the bill’s hearing last month.

But the measure also skirts the federal-versus-state control controversy over public lands, by design.

Last year, Colorado lawmakers enamored of state control over public lands attempted a bill that would begin the process of taking control away from the federal government. The bill, co-sponsored by Sterling Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, would have commissioned a study on how to do that. The measure died when one Republican, Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa, voted it down with Senate Democrats.

Crowder is the Senate’s most moderate Republican, and comes from a swing district in southern Colorado where he is up for re-election in the fall.

Donovan’s success in putting together a public lands bill without getting into the public lands controversy helped earn her a rare unanimous vote from the Senate state affairs committee Monday. The measure now awaits further action from the Senate.

There’s at least one more public lands issue on the horizon at the state House: a bill that would remind federal agencies that Colorado controls the water rights tied to public lands.

In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service demanded that ski areas, in exchange for renewing their leases on public lands, turn over water rights to the federal government. The ski areas sued and the Forest Service lost on procedural grounds. The Court ordered the agency to go back to the drawing board, although in the end the Forest Service came up with the exact same rule.

The agency claimed it wanted the water rights in order to protect them from being sold as a valuable asset when ski areas went bankrupt, although that’s never happened in Colorado.

Lawmakers quickly jumped to action three years ago, attempting a succession of bills that would say “hands off!” to the Forest Service and to the Bureau of Land Management, which witnesses said was trying to do the same with water rights on public lands leased for grazing cattle.

Those efforts have failed, despite bipartisan support from rural lawmakers in both parties.

In December, the U.S. Forest Service finally backed off on the requirement that ski areas turn over their water rights.

But Colorado lawmakers still want a bill that would ensure no further water-rights grabs from either the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. This year, such a measure has a better than average chance of passing.

Rep. Jon Becker, a Fort Morgan Republican, has teamed up with Democratic Rep. KC Becker, whose district includes Boulder and rural mountain counties such as Grand, Gilpin and Jackson. The bill Becker and Becker are proposing asserts to the two federal agencies that Colorado water is a property right and as such is governed by Colorado water law, even on lands owned by the federal government.

The measure also sets up a requirement that the federal government go through the same state process to acquire water rights like anyone else in Colorado, in effect putting the federal government on the same footing as any municipal water provider, farmer or rancher who wants to acquire water rights.

And given Colorado’s prior appropriation doctrine that says water rights belong to those who first lay claim to them, the feds would be at the end of a long line of water users.

The House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee will hear the bill on March 7.

2016 #coleg: Colorado Rain Barrel Bill Inches Forward, Earns House GOP Support — KUNC

Photo via the Colorado Independent
Photo via the Colorado Independent

From KUNC (Bente Birkeland):

Colorado is on the road to becoming the final state in the country to legalize rain barrels, after Democrats reached an agreement with several Republicans who opposed previous versions of the measure.

“It is a water right and what you have done with this, you have protected that water right,” said Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who had voted against a rain barrel bill last session.

Now he said he can back it – and other Republicans are also on board with HB 16-1005 [.pdf].

“I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking for this bill, even though it may seem a trivial issue, it’s not to somebody who is very cognizant of Colorado water law,” said Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale). “And I would not have voted for it without the amendments.”

Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) sponsored one of the amendments. It clarifies that having a rain barrel is not a water right. It would also give the state engineer the ability to curtail rain barrel usage.

Another amendment would require the state engineer to write a report to the House and Senate agriculture committees if rain barrels are found to negatively impact downstream water users.

#ColoradoRiver: Happy 80th Hoover (Boulder) Dam #COriver