From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Woodland) via The Sterling Journal-Advocate:
Two bills that would begin work on the state’s water plan are moving through the legislature in the waning days of the 2016 session.
The first is an annual bill that funds water projects under the direction of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Among the projects listed in the 2016 measure:
• $200,000 to conduct a study on underground water storage along the Front Range. That study is contained in a bill that’s awaiting a final vote in the Senate. The measure, House Bill 16-1256, looks at water storage on the South Platte, and could include above-ground storage as well. James Eklund, who heads the Colorado Water Conservation Board, told lawmakers earlier this session that they could use existing data to do much of that study.
• $1 million to continue the statewide water supply initiative. Known as SWSI (pronounced SWAY-sea), the initiative, launched in 2010, developed a study that revealed the state would be short 1 million acre-feet of water by 2050. As part of the statewide water plan, the water conservation board pledged to update the 2010 study within the next year.
A second bill, Senate Bill 16-200, would create a position in the governor’s office to act as a liaison between local, state and federal agencies on water project permits for storage, hydroelectric facilities, diversions and more. The hope is the position would decrease the amount of time it takes to get state and federal permits. The position would be short-term, to end by September 2019.
The bill, which was introduced last week, won unanimous approval in the Senate Friday. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, is sponsoring it in the Senate; Rep. Ed Vigil of Alamosa, a Democrat who chairs the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, will be its House sponsor. The bill is supported by Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and several other state agencies, according to Sonnenberg.
Hickenlooper acknowledged the problems with permitting during a news conference Wednesday. He said the Obama administration is open to shortening some of the processes around infrastructure, including water. Some of it is red tape, Hickenlooper said, and some of it is relevant process. The question becomes whether there’s a way to separate out the red tape from appropriate processes, and whether the state needs another person to do that. [ed. emphasis mine]
While Hickenlooper said he is still trying to find ways to eliminate positions, he would defer to the water conservation board and the basin roundtable groups as to whether they have the resources to handle that on their own or if another person is needed to manage that.
It’s not just a time constraint, Hickenlooper said. When the permitting process is extended, the costs climb along with it.