Loveland to work with CDOT on US 34 repairs — the Loveland Reporter-Herald

The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post
The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Saja Hindi):

For the Colorado Department of Transportation to be able to move forward with its first phase of construction on permanent repairs to U.S. 34, the agency will have to come to an agreement with the city of Loveland.

Part of the construction work for repairs after the 2013 flood will require crews to use some of the Loveland-owned properties, right-of-ways and easements in the Big Thompson Canyon.

Loveland City Council members will vote at their meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday on whether to allow CDOT to move forward with its work before the two entities come to a formal intergovernmental agreement in the next 90 days.

The meeting will take place in the Council Chambers in the municipal building at 500 E. Third St.

City Manager Bill Cahill said this will also be another chance for Loveland residents to ask any questions they may have about the permanent repairs on U.S. 34.

Cahill said although the city’s most commonly-known property in the canyon is Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park, it also owns land to the east and west of the park.

The first phase of the U.S. 34 reconstruction will first require rock blasting for a new roadway alignment at the horseshoe curve, west of Viestenz-Smith, where the city owns land.

“The Agreement will permit CDOT to move forward with construction prior to a final agreement on the value of the required Loveland right of way,” a City Council memo states.

Additional city property that CDOT will need to use as well as compensation to the city will be discussed at the July 5 City Council meeting.

Staff members have been working with CDOT officials for the past year on the best road alignment possibilities, according to the council memo.

“One key goal for road reconstruction is to create a safer and more resilient roadway alignment that works in harmony with the Big Thompson River. Eliminating the horseshoe curve west of the Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park (“VSMP”) is one of the greatest opportunities to accomplish this goal,” it stated.

The new alignment will cross through the Rosedale property, west of Viestenz-Smith, which the city owns.

Additionally, CDOT will need to move excess rock out of the canyon during the three-year reconstruction period, Cahill said, and is looking for a staging area and site to dispose of the rock spoils on the east edge of Round Mountain, south of U.S. 34 and Viestenz-Smith

Cahill said as more of the permanent plans are made for the roadway, there could be more possibilities near the city-owned properties for recreational opportunities along the river, falling in line with a longterm vision for the Big Thompson Canyon among Larimer County, its municipalities and CDOT.

For more information, go to http://cityofloveland.org.

Check out the new floodplain maps for Pueblo County May 24

Pueblo 1921 photo via http://http://www.telcomhistory.org/
Pueblo 1921 photo via http://http://www.telcomhistory.org/

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Preliminary flood maps for the city of Pueblo and Pueblo County will be available for public review at a meeting from 1:30-3:30 p.m. May 24 at the city’s human resources conference room, 301 West B St.

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be on hand to discuss the maps, which will be used to determine flood insurance rates for Pueblo County property owners.

The meetings will look at changes in flood maps, explain flood hazards and review ordinances regarding the flood plains.

The preliminary maps reflect revised engineering in the last 10 years and are still subject to appeal. The Arkansas River, Fountain Creek, Lake Minnequa and several larger tributaries were included in the mapping.

The maps are available for public viewing on the city and county websites: http://pueblo.us/458/Stormwater-Utility and http://county.pueblo.org.

Pueblo County Children’s Water Festival recap

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

You could sit all day and stare at the Pueblo Dam and not have a clue about why it’s there, who built it and what it’s for.

Or, if you’re lucky enough to be a fourth- or fifth-grader in Pueblo County, you could spend a day filled with fun activities and learn everything from water safety to the water cycle — including the Pueblo Dam and the kitchen sink.

The Children’s Water Festival began in 1999 and continues each year since, except for 2015, in early May at Colorado State University-Pueblo. About 1,800 fourth- or fifth-graders attend each year from Pueblo City Schools (D60), Pueblo County School District 70 and private schools.

In 2015, the festival was canceled, ironically, because of weather. It was wet and cold the entire month of May, but the big concern was the possibility of thunderstorms. The 2016 program was geared for fifth-graders, who had missed their chance as fourth-graders last year.

“The kids have always enjoyed it,” said Linda Hopkins, a retired employee of the Bureau of Reclamation, who helped coordinate the festival for many years.

She explained that the Pueblo event was patterned after the Nebraska Groundwater Festival, which started in Grand Island, Neb., in 1988.

Internally, Reclamation decided a Pueblo festival would be a good idea in 1999. By then, there were a few other water festivals for children in some other parts of Colorado.

Reclamation in 1999 was involved in one of its most controversial periods in Pueblo since it built Pueblo Dam in the 1970s. The dam was being reinforced to improve its stability, a move that some interpreted as a precursor to enlargement that could benefit large municipal users such as Colorado Springs and Aurora.

“Part of it was to get the bureau’s name out there in a positive way, but mostly it was to expose the kids to water information,” Hopkins recalled. The idea was that the children would take the information home and discuss it with parents or other family members.

Local water providers were immediately supportive, and continue to contribute resources and people each year. The festival has operated smoothly, organizing squadrons of teachers, students and parents armed only with coolers of sack lunches and a big appetite for a six-hour course of water games, lessons and contests.

This year’s festival, held last Tuesday at CSU-Pueblo, was sponsored by Reclamation, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Pueblo West and the St. Charles Mesa Water Conservancy District. CSU-Pueblo makes the entire campus available for activities.

“We have a closeout meeting after the festival each year, then start meeting in September or October to plan the next year,” said Toni Gonzales, of the Southeastern district.

The presenters range from high school students to water professionals. With the exception of the Mad Science demonstration — a crowd-pleasing experience that goes beyond water — all of the presenters are volunteers.

“I came to one of these when I was in fourth grade,” said Tony Valenzuela, a member of the Future Farmers of America and Pueblo County High School student.

On Tuesday, he was demonstrating how to set irrigation siphon tubes. The process involves coaxing water through a 4-foot metal tube by capping one end and firmly jiggling it. Farmers use the skill to flood irrigate crops planted in furrows.

“Our family used to farm,” Valenzuela said.

Erik Duran, fire inspector for the Pueblo Fire Department, went over a math lesson with the visual aids of 1-gallon and 5-gallon water cans and a pumper truck that can hold up to 3,000 gallons.

“That hose can pump 1,500 gallons per minute, so how long would it take to empty the tank?” Duran said.

“Two minutes!” the students responded, but you could tell they were thinking: “How long before we get to shoot the hose at those targets?”

Nearby, other students were solving a simpler equation as workers from Pueblo Water demonstrated in real time what happens when a pipe leaks under pressure. Water was shooting out in a 20-foot plume and the goal appeared to be finding out the minimum time running through water (while screaming) in order to soak the maximum amount of clothing.

About three seconds, apparently.

If you go to a water festival, chances are good you’ll get wet.

On the stage of Hoag Hall, Pueblo County High School students gave a theatrical demonstration of the hydrologic cycle, including the popular song: “Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Runoff.”

Well, it was mostly popular because the high school students invited all the teachers in the auditorium to join them onstage in an impromptu line dance.

Other outside displays demonstrated the water cycle, how to stay safe while boating or forest health. Inside, students in one room conducted a mock water court, applying Colorado’s water law to a manufactured dispute. In another, Water Wizards from competing schools answered some tough questions that ranged from global to local in scope.

Tough?

Such as: “How many gallons are used to produce the typical Pueblo lunch (hamburgers, French fries and a soda).”

That’s downright cruel to a kid who hasn’t eaten lunch yet and can look forward only to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the cooler. Still, one young lady had the gumption to answer: 1,500 gallons?

Correct, or roughly half a fire truck.

Water festivals are becoming more popular. Trinidad hosted its first in 2012, at the height of a drought. Salida and Colorado Springs are looking at starting their own.

After 17 years, Pueblo’s version continues to give kids a chance to soak up water knowledge.

#Snowpack #Runoff news: Spring inflows expected to be below avg. #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Westwide SNOTEL May 16, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL May 16, 2016 via the NRCS.

From the Middle Colorado Watershed Council (Dan Ben-Horin) via the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent:

Now that winter is mostly behind us, it’s time to look at our snowpack and make some estimates of what spring runoff may actually look like. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has forecasted an increased chance for above average precipitation for the entire Upper Colorado River Basin, which is expected given the existing El Niño conditions.

Last year, Miracle May gave our reservoirs a giant boost. Whether that will happen again is still difficult to determine. Recent rains have been a welcome occurrence for the drought-starved Southwestern U.S.: As of May 1, the Colorado snowpack was 111 percent of average. The CPC further reports no signs of any drought development over the next three months and has recommended the removal of the official drought status in the southeastern part of the state.

Over the next month and a half, the Colorado River Water Conservation District will be holding its annual State of the River meetings throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin. Meetings will be held here in Garfield County, as well as in Summit, Mesa, Grand, Eagle and Delta counties. These meetings provide an opportunity for water experts to sketch out how this winter’s snowpack will translate to spring runoff volume and reservoir levels both locally and downstream. With these meetings still a few weeks away, here are some predictions for the larger reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

• Blue Mesa Reservoir: The March flow into Blue Mesa was at 177 percent of average, but forecast inflows over the next three months are all projected to be lower than average, with volumes of 71 percent, 73 percent and 82 percent of average for April, May and June, respectively.

• Flaming Gorge Reservoir: Flaming Gorge saw an inflow at 83 percent of average for the month of March, and inflows for the months of April, May and June are all forecast to be below average, with volumes projected to be 82 percent, 71 percent and 77 percent respectively.

• Navajo Reservoir: March inflow into Navajo was at 90 percent of average. Inflows for the next three months are projected to be below average, with April, May and June forecasted inflow volumes of 70 percent, 79 percent and 72 percent of average, respectively.

• Fontenelle Reservoir: March inflows at Fontenelle on the Green River in southwestern Wyoming totaled 50,000 acre-feet (AF), or 95 percent of the historic average. Daily inflow averages are on the rise with the beginning of spring runoff, with a seven-day average of 1,330 cubic feet per second as of April 14. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center predicts spring inflows all to be below average. April, May and June forecasted inflow volumes are 82 percent, 67 percent and 84 percent of average respectively.

• Lake Powell: In March, the flow into Lake Powell totaled 553,000 acre-feet, or 83 percent of average. The reservoir elevation is close to the projected seasonal low, and will soon begin increasing as spring runoff enters the reservoir. The April to July 2016 water supply forecast for Lake Powell projects that the most probable inflow volume will be 5.3 million AF, or 74 percent of average. There is much variability in the forecast water supply for the season, with predictions ranging from 3.85 million AF (54 percent of average) to 7.65 million AF (107 percent of average).

While much of the forecasted inflows in the Upper Colorado River Basin are below average, there is still much uncertainty about what the next few months will actually produce. These data come from a report from the Bureau of Reclamation from mid-April, and we are now in a cycle of above normal precipitation. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this cycle continues well into the spring, swelling our rivers with some much-needed relief for the Southwestern U.S., and putting our Gore-Tex jackets to good use.

Dan Ben-Horin is a watershed specialist with the Middle Colorado Watershed Council. His column, Your Watershed, appears on the second Sunday of each month. The council works to evaluate, protect and enhance the health of the Middle Colorado River Watershed through the cooperative effort of watershed stakeholders. To learn more, go to http://www.midcowatershed.org.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Dust storms that can accelerate snowpack runoff hit the Rio Grande basin at about an average level this year, although recent snowstorms may have delayed their impact.

“This year is about average,” said Jeff Derry, who heads the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton. “We’ve had about six dust events and all of them, except for one, were pretty moderate.”

Dust layers can ramp up runoff when they emerge at the surface of the snowpack by decreasing the snow’s ability to reflect sunlight.

But Derry said that emergence has been delayed by snowstorms and cloudy skies at the end of April and the beginning of May.

Knowing the extent of dust in the snowpack is important for water managers in the basin trying to stay in compliance with the Rio Grande Compact, which divvies the river’s water between Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Without that knowledge, water managers could wrongly interpret the timing and amount of runoff and curtail water users in an attempt to comply with the compact.

“For us — boots on the ground — this is a very big decision-making tool to help us understand why we’re above or below average flows for that day,” Nathan Coombs, who heads the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, said.

Information about when the dust is about to accelerate runoff also is important to reservoir operators, said Travis Smith.

Smith serves on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and is head of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, which owns the Rio Grande Reservoir southwest of Creede.

“We want to know as a reservoir operator when the next big inflow is going to happen,” he said.

The center has charted dust storms in the state’s high country for the past 10 years.
Derry said the source of the dust stems from northern Arizona, southern Utah and the Four Corners area where grazing, off-road vehicles, drought and, to a lesser extent, oil and gas development have combined to destabilize the soil.

This year the northern part of the state has gone largely untouched by the dust storms that have hit the San Juans.

Derry said a disparity between the San Juans and the northern part of the state is not uncommon, given the former’s proximity to the source of the dust storms.

“They usually hit the San Juans first,” he said. “They usually hit the San Juans the hardest.”

Dust streaming across Four Corners April 29, 2009 via MODIS
Dust streaming across Four Corners April 29, 2009 via MODIS

Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting recap: Colorado Climate Plan review

Statewide annual average temperature 1900-2012 via Western Water Assessment
Statewide annual average temperature 1900-2012 via Western Water Assessment

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado’s Water Plan was crafted with hundreds of meetings and thousands of comments on a grand public scale with the type of unbridled enthusiasm usually reserved for a Broncos game.
Well, OK. Maybe a Rockies game.

By contrast, the Colorado Climate Plan was like an after-school pickup game for scientists, attempting to lay some sort of public policy groundwork for a series of unpredictable events. Even so, water is still the star.

“Water is one of the most vulnerable sectors,” Taryn Finnessey, of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable last week. “Streamflow decreases and the peak runoff shifts. The frostfree season is longer and there are more frequent wildfires. We are seeing these things already.”

She presented the evidence of warming: Colorado’s average temperature has increased 2 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the last 30 years; 2.5 degrees in the last 50. The average temperature will increase 2.5-5 degrees by 2050. A 2-degree increase would make Denver more like Pueblo; 4 degrees more like Lamar; and 6 degrees more like Albuquerque.

“After 2050, we can’t predict,” she said.

Future precipitation is uncertain. Colorado is an inland area, with mountains and at mid-latitude — the trifecta for uncertainty. Less snow? More rain? No one can tell. But both extreme floods and droughts already are becoming more common.

The historic record — you don’t need to consider man-made consequences to review it — can be determined by tree-ring data. It goes back 1,000 years in the Colorado River basin, and 500-700 years in the South Platte, Arkansas and Rio Grande basins.

There have been, in every basin, decades-long droughts that occasionally have chased away civilizations.

Armed with the facts, the roundtable members were asked, by Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, if they believed climate change was real and posed a threat. About 75 percent of the people in the room raised their hands.

“So, we’ve still got some work to do,” Winner said.

That’s true statewide as well. Only 19 percent of the state’s population does not believe global warming is happening, according to recent polls.

Just 60 percent say it is a threat to the state.

Beyond water, there are other sectors of the state that are preparing for climate change.

The Colorado Climate Plan, directed by the state Legislature in 2013, deals with public health, energy, agriculture, tourism and recreation as areas that could be affected in one way or another by markedly warmer or drier weather. And one surprising area: Transportation.

The plan outlines how wear and tear on roads, runways and other transportation structures is expected to increase as temperatures warm and storm events become more severe. Colorado witnessed this already in the 2013 floods in the South Platte basin, where road replacement became the major cost after the floodwaters receded.

Those types of impacts are expected to become more common.

There are also the on-the-ground impacts of more severe snowstorms, rain events and dust.

For instance, during the 2010-13 drought in the Arkansas Valley, the National Weather Service added dust storms to their roster of weather warnings. While Colorado’s Water Plan sets specific targets or goals to manage water use, the Colorado Climate Plan deals in broader “policies and strategies to mitigate and adapt.”

The report acknowledges that Colorado, by itself, could do little to curb global effects of emissions from power plants or automobiles, but should help cut those emissions.

Sort of like a fan in the stands cheering for the home team?

But the plan does point the way for Colorado to get in the ballpark.

coloradoclimateplancover092015

Extension offers fact sheet on how to harvest rainwater under new Colorado rules

Photo via the Colorado Independent
Photo via the Colorado Independent

From Colorado State University (Jim Beers):

Colorado’s longtime ban on residential rain barrels has come to an end. Now most homeowners in the state are allowed to collect precipitation for later outdoor use.

Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed House Bill 1005, which allows a maximum of two rain barrels — with a combined capacity of 110 gallons — are allowed at each household. The measure is to take effect on Aug. 10.

Rainwater collection, also called rainwater “harvesting,” is the process of capturing, storing and directing rainwater runoff and putting it to use. Water from roof gutter downspouts that is directed onto landscaped areas is not regarded as rainwater harvesting under this legislation.

The Colorado Legislature passed the bill last month after previously rejecting the measure in past sessions over concerns that household rain barrels would take water from the supply available to agriculture and other water-rights holders.

But a study conducted by the Colorado Stormwater Center, housed within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University, showed otherwise. Nearly all of the water would be absorbed in the ground by the downspout or in the ground in the garden, the CSU analysis indicated.

“We do not think any changes to the water cycle could be accurately quantified or measured,” said Chris Olson, a researcher and program manager at the Stormwater Center. “The water is going to be infiltrated or evaporated. The only difference is the timing, a day, maybe two, before the rain barrel is emptied.”

Colorado has been the only state with an outright ban on residential rain barrels and one of just four states that restrict rainwater harvesting.

Water law experts say rain barrels are only technically illegal, because proving they injure the water rights of other users is nearly impossible.

Collection systems

Collected rainwater may be used to irrigate outdoor lawns, plants or gardens. Untreated rainwater collected from roofs is not safe to drink.

Any container capable of collecting the rain shedding from a roof or patio can be used as a rainwater harvesting system. To comply with Colorado water law, the container must be equipped with a sealable lid. Rainwater collection systems vary from simple and inexpensive to complex and costly.

Typically, rooftop rainwater collection systems are simple — gutters, downspouts, and storage containers. Inexpensive rainwater storage systems commonly make use of an above-ground container such as a barrel or plastic tank with a lid to reduce evaporation and bar access for mosquitoes to breed. More sophisticated systems have “first flush” diverters that are recommended to exclude capture of the initial rain that might carry impurities from the roof.

Rain barrel use under HB 1005

There are several restrictions that are important to follow in order to use rain barrels legally in Colorado. These restrictions differ depending on your residential situation.

Under House Bill 1005, rain barrels can only be installed at single-family households and multi-family households with four or fewer units. A maximum of two rain barrels can be used at each household and the combined storage of the two rain barrels cannot exceed 110 gallons. Rain barrels can only be used to capture rainwater from rooftop downspouts and the captured rainwater must be used to water outdoor lawns, plants and/or gardens on the same property from which the rainwater was captured. Rain barrel water cannot be used for drinking or other indoor water uses.

“The capture and use of rainwater using rain barrels does not constitute a water right,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute, part of CSU’s Office of Engagement. “HB 1005 includes language that could result in the State Engineer curtailing the use of individual rain barrels if a water-right holder can prove that those rain barrels have impacted their ability to receive the water that they are entitled to by virtue of their water right.”

Colorado State University Extension has created a fact sheet with additional details on rainwater harvesting.

From The Greeley Tribune (Samantha Fox):

It’s now legal for residents to collect rain water and use it to water their gardens — something most probably haven’t thought twice about.

Before Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a rain barrel bill into law Thursday, only well owners were able to utilize rain barrels legally. A similar bill died in the Legislature last year, but with the governor’s signature on House Bill 1005, anyone can collect rainwater in two 55-gallon barrels.

The bill is only a small aspect to the larger picture of water rights in Colorado — which rain barrel owners are not guaranteed.

The bill’s passage also means — at least for now — a pause on discussion around major changes to Colorado’s water laws. There have only been grumblings and some failed attempts to put water laws to a vote, but the slight change of legalizing of rain barrels is one that puts the conversation to rest — for now.

“For the first time we really have a situation in place where we can account for and make sure water rights are protected,” said Marc Arnusch, a farmer in Keenesburg.

Colorado’s water laws, in short give water rights to people on a first-come, first-served basis. The priority goes to senior water holders — those who got rights to use the water first. The trickle-down system puts junior rights holders are the lowest on the totem pole when it comes to using and taking water sources. But if the junior water rights holder takes more then their share, the senior holder can hold them responsible for damages to the supply.

That’s where the rain barrel discussion fits in. Even with rain water coming from clouds, Colorado’s water supplies rely on runoff water from storms. Rain barrel collections could reduce the amount of runoff water, but only when a large amount of water is collected from rain barrel owners.

Hesitation during the discussion of the bill was to protect the rights of the junior water rights holder. Legislators wanted to make sure junior holders weren’t held responsible for less available water due to a diversion into rain barrels.

Colorado State University researchers studied the effect rain barrels collections might have on downstream water from the rain and found there would be little, if any, change. This also plays into how many rain barrels will, realistically, be used. Arnusch said urban residents will most likely use the barrels, and Northern Water’s Brian Werner said a good utilization of the barrels would be if 10-15 percent of Colorado residents actually used the barrels. But even that might take time.

The CSU study didn’t convince everyone, though. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, was one of three in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy committee to vote against the bill. His disagreement came from a lack of solutions to make sure the barrels wouldn’t take water away from those who own it and how to keep the rights in check. There was talk of a statute that would hold rain barrel owners responsible if there was a deficit from water rights owners, but there was no consensus, as the CSU study said there would be little, if any noticeable change in runoff water.

Even though the study said there wouldn’t be much of a change, statutes to hold barrel owners responsible in case of a reduction were rejected.

“If there isn’t an impact, why would they be worried about a statue?” Sonnenberg said in March.

But there was a checks and balance system put in place in which state officials can check to see — if rain barrels prevent water owners from getting their full share — how that can be fixed and changed. Werner said the chance for a revisit, along with the results from the CSU study was a large reason why the bill passed this year, unlike past sessions.

“If everyone were to (buy barrels) there are the checks and balances in there so somebody can go back there and look on a regular basis to see if there is, indeed, an impact,” Werner said.

The impact comes down to whether there will be enough water when rain barrels are used. With water rights remaining as they are, Arnusch said the bill is a step in the right direction to keep the water rights structure as is.

The biggest overhaul talks have been about switching to a public trust doctrine system. Arnusch is on the Ground Water Commission for the Colorado Division of Water Resources and said talks about the public trust doctrine system would still be priority-based, but the priority would go to wherever need is seen, rather than water ownership. That could mean years with less agricultural priority, which is why farmers and ranchers oppose the system.

“If the public trust doctrine were to go into effect in Colorado, that would be just a catastrophe for agriculture,” he said.

While a change to the public trust doctrine isn’t favorable to agriculture, Arnusch said it’s still important to evaluate and make reasonable changes within the existing water use system. Rain barrels were one of those changes. Now, the micro-storage options have a place in Colorado’s complex priority system, he said.

But there is a difference between the use of rain barrels and who owns that water.

“At the end of the day, a rooftop doesn’t entitle you to a water right,” Arnusch said.

Weld County considers new rules regulating water pipelines — The Greeley Tribune

Weld County courthouse via Wikipedia
Weld County courthouse via Wikipedia

From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

The new water line regulations would require mostly anyone trying to move water through or out of Weld County to go through the use by special review — or USR — process.

This process gives the county commissioners and surrounding residents a say in the development. The commissioners can give conditional permission — forcing the builder to alter their plans. Usually, officials require more landscaping or other mitigation. The USR process also requires two public hearings — one in front of the planning commission and one in front of the county commissioners. Here, residents get three minutes each to air their grievances.

Because Weld doesn’t require a USR permit now, no one gets to weigh in on the projects. Residents, and perhaps even county officials, can get left in the dark.

“We just need to stay up to speed with the things coming in,” County Commissioner Mike Freeman said. “It comes back to protecting our surface owners.”

It will be the first discussion of at least three before the board can pass the rules. Officials can update or change the rules at any point before they’re passed.

Under the current proposed regulations, some organizations would be exempt from the permitting process.

Only companies or agencies building pipelines 16 inches or thicker will have to apply, said Weld County Attorney Bruce Barker.

“The intent is primarily to deal with the aspects of placing and siting a big water pipeline,” he said.

Weld agencies — such as cities and water districts — get some slack as long as the water is staying in the county.

The rules are gentler now than they were in the early stages, Barker said. County officials had stakeholder meetings with those agencies, and representatives let them know that although Colorado water regulations seem like they can handle a one-size-fits-all approach, they can’t.

“Major concerns in places like the Arkansas Valley don’t really apply here,” Barker said.

There aren’t the same level of power struggles over the water, so commissioners are pumping the breaks on the harsh language against moving water out of the county.

Before, the language had Greeley water officials worried.

“We’re always concerned with things that could affect us,” said Greeley Water and Sewer Director Burt Knight. “We’ve got a connection into Windsor, and Windsor extends outside of Weld County.”

They also have pipelines into other counties in case of natural disasters. The infrastructure is already in place so one can back the other up if water supplies get damaged.

“We’re OK with where they’re heading,” Knight said. “They were receptive to some of our comments.”

Indeed they were.

“There are some municipalities in Weld that get big water pipelines into the county,” Barker said. “Those are exempted.”

Greeley is exempt, but other towns trying to use Greeley’s water aren’t.

The city of Thornton started buying farms in the Eaton and Ault areas decades ago.

“Their goal was and still is to go ahead and dry those properties up,” Barker said.

It’s called buy and dry. Organizations buy farmland with water rights, go to water court and get the use changed. Then they use it for something else — such as municipal water.

Thornton’s water would come out of Weld and get pumped south to the city.

They’re gearing up to apply for the USR later this year, Barker said.

Oil and gas pipelines will see similar regulations, Barker said. But because county officials are already working on USR requirements for that industry, pipeline rules will get wrapped up in those laws.