2017 #coleg: SB17-036, on to conference committee

Groundwater movement via the USGS

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Sens. Ray Scott and Don Coram wanted to simply accept a change to their groundwater appeals bill Wednesday, but the rest of the Senate wouldn’t let them.

The two Republicans from Grand Junction and Montrose, respectively, told the Senate that a change the House made to their measure, SB36, was a minor one.

But Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and others in the Colorado Senate said it weakened it too much.

The bill was designed to prevent moneyed interests, such as developers, from retrying groundwater rights cases that have been determined by the Colorado Groundwater Commission.

Under current law, appeals from that commission to district courts can include evidence not presented to the commission, essentially retrying the cases.

The House altered it to allow that to happen only if the district judge determines that evidence was wrongly excluded or new evidence was discovered.

“What this (bill) now does is, it takes and allows any evidence that may not have been discovered,” Sonnenberg said. “(But) no discovery can fall under that category and can be used in an appeal, essentially creating a scenario where (water) speculators can then lawyer up, engineer up, as we were trying to address in this bill.”

On a 24-10 vote, the Senate rejected Coram’s and Scott’s request to accept the change, forcing them to send the bill to a special conference committee made up of three senators and three legislators from the House to work out that issue.

@ClimateReality: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power #BeInconvenient #ActOnClimate

The premier is July 28, 2017.

I will be speaking about the climate crisis on Monday, April 3, 2017, in Thornton. Click here for the details.

@Utah.gov: Rare Historical Photos of San Juan County (and Montezuma County, CO) Now Available Digitally

Golconda Placer Mine, The Afton Watkins Gardner Photograph Collection, ca. 1920s, Date 1893 via Utah.gov.

Click here to go to the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts website to check out the photos.

Why can’t I use the water in my own backyard? – News on TAP

Summit County eighth-graders are learning about water management — and asking the best questions.

Source: Why can’t I use the water in my own backyard? – News on TAP

A sneak peek at rain barrels of the future – News on TAP

Industrial design students think beyond convention to improve how customers collect the water in their own yards.

Source: A sneak peek at rain barrels of the future – News on TAP

Cutting down on problematic pipes – News on TAP

Denver Water’s five-year capital plan provides $76 million to repair and replace water mains.

Source: Cutting down on problematic pipes – News on TAP

Scientists Are Poised to Start a New Movement — @blkahn #marchforscience #ActOnClimate

Photo credit Dave Moskovitz.

Please consider attending my presentation “Climate Change is Water Change: Colorado Update” Monday night in Thornton. Click here for the inside skinny.

From Climate Central (Brian Kahn):

Raised fists, tricorn hats, banners proclaiming “we are the 99 percent” and Gadsden flags are among the countless symbols and slogans that have pervaded social movements in recent years.

They’re images and words that rattle around the brain and have the power to affect serious change — or be relegated to the footnotes of history.

Donald Trump’s election has spawned a new series of burgeoning movements. That includes one where lab coats and chants of “science, not silence” are the new Revolutionary War-era garb and cries of “don’t tread on me.”

The current political climate has spurred a growing cadre of scientists to emerge from their labs, offices and fieldwork sites to contest an administration that’s openly hostile to scientific inquiry — particularly when it comes to climate change — and coined the term “alternative facts.”

“We’ve tried to let our data do the talking for us and that has failed miserably,” Kim Cobb, a coral researcher at Georgia Tech, said.

Scientists staged a thousand-strong rally in Boston during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in late February. Much bigger protests are afoot with the March for Science and its 190 satellite marches planned for April 22. Scientists are also organizing support groups and many have said they are considering running for public office.

#Snowpack news: Good snowfall forecast

From The Longmont Times-Call (Charlie Brennan):

Coming in just under the wire, Boulder County could see its first measurable snow for the month of March on its last day. But maybe not.

March is typically the snowiest month of the year in the Boulder area, but snow has been a no-show this month, which has been far drier and more mild than average.

It’s going to change as the final hours of the month tick down, with up to 8 inches of snow possible in the area through Saturday.

A Pacific storm system already affecting the Great Basin and heading into the Four Corners region will be making its presence felt along the Front Range early Friday morning with a chance of showers developing after midnight.

The chance of rain increases to 70 percent during the day Friday, with the day’s high topping out around 44 degrees.

After rush hour Friday evening, the rain should be mixed with snow, and changing entirely to snow by the early morning hours, with Friday’s overnight low to be 30 degrees.

In his weather blog, Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch said “the changeover to snow in lower elevations is likely to occur around the time of the most steady and heavy precipitation late Friday afternoon and evening. A small shift by a few hours can have a big impact on snow amounts.”

All of eastern Colorado should get significant precipitation, Kelsch said, although a potential shift in the storm’s heaviest impact toward the south of Colorado Springs — and the timing of such a shift — could affect the outcome, in terms of how much falls and where.

The snow will make a bigger impact above 7,500 feet, where 10 to 20 inches could fall, with some portions of the Front Range seeing more than 2 feet.

In Boulder County, new snow accumulation of 4 to 8 wet and slushy inches is possible, but it is uncertain how much of that will be credited to March, and how much will fall after record keepers have flipped the calendar to April Fools’ Day.

That, Kelsch said, is because for official record-keeping purposes, the books will be closed on March at 6 p.m. Friday. Snow that falls at 6:01 p.m. Friday or later will be credited to April’s totals…

It is rare, but not unheard of, for Boulder to see no measurable snow in March. Kelsch said Boulder was shut out for measurable March snow most recently in 2012. With only a trace amount of rain that month, it remains Boulder’s most arid March on record.

#ColoradoRiver: Navajo Nation negotiated settlement bill introduced #COriver

Navajo Reservation map via NavajoApparel.com

From The Deseret News (Jason Romboy):

After 13 years of talks, a federal negotiations team review and the Navajo Nation Council’s approval, the state and tribe agreed to resolve the water rights claims through a negotiated settlement rather than the courts.

The bill authorizes the federal government to spend up to $198.3 million for Navajo water projects, including wells, pipelines and water treatment plants. Utah would pitch in $8 million. In exchange, the legislation would limit the legal exposure and litigation costs of the federal government and the state…

Navajo Nation Speaker of the House Lorenzo Bates said the legislation is a great step forward in bringing safe, clean drinking water to Utah Navajo communities.

The settlement is a win-win for the nation and the state, said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye…

The settlement would give the tribe 81,500 acre-feet annually of Utah’s unused share of water. The Navajo Nation could draw the water from aquifers, as well as the San Juan River and its tributaries. It also could divert water from Lake Powell, though it has no plans to do so, the Associated Press reported last year.

The Navajo communities in Utah currently use only a fraction of the water allocated in the settlement. But the agreement would allow for economic development and leasing of water to entities off the reservation, and the tribe wouldn’t lose any water it did not put to use, according to the settlement…

Gov. Gary Herbert said the agreement did not happen overnight.

“This deliberative process has led to a fair and equitable agreement which will benefit Utah, the Navajo Nation, the federal government and all water users in the Colorado River Basin alike,” Herbert said in a statement.

2017 #coleg: Funds for invasive species boat inspections diverted by the Colorado Supreme Court

Harvey Gap Reservoir via the Applegate Group.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A Colorado Supreme Court ruling last year eliminated severance tax revenues for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s aquatic nuisance species program, forcing the end of inspections at some sites, CPW says.

As a result, CPW has agreed to close Harvey Gap Reservoir northwest of Silt to watercraft normally requiring such an inspection, due to the agency’s inability to conduct inspections there for species such as invasive zebra and quagga mussels. Hand-launched vessels exempt from the inspections still will be allowed there, including rafts, kayaks, belly boats, float and inner tubes, canoes, windsurfer boards, paddle boards and sailboards.

Hand-launched boats with electric motors will be allowed there, but gas- or diesel-powered engines will be prohibited because they are more at risk of hosting invasive species. The boat ramp will remain closed and all boats must be carried from parking lots or roads.

Meanwhile, the Cortez Journal reports that Totten and Narraguinnep reservoirs in southwest Colorado will be closed to all boating because of concerns among authorities responsible for those sites about possible infestation due to a lack of inspections.

The funding situation also helped prompt CPW this year to pass new regulations subjecting all watercraft, including those exempt from inspection requirements, to a “clean, drain and dry” requirement between each launch. The agency also requires boat operators to pull water drain plugs and remove plants from boats and other equipment upon leaving the water and before leaving the parking area…

CPW says it has coordinated a successful mandatory statewide inspection and decontamination program since 2008, preventing an infestation in the state. The agency says that’s of not just statewide but national importance, because the other primary way mussels can spread is by downstream travel.

The agency says oil and gas severance tax revenues are a primary source of money for the aquatic nuisance species program, but those revenues were eliminated by last year’s court ruling.

In that ruling, the state’s high court overturned the Colorado Court of Appeals and sided with BP America Production Co., finding that a company’s cost of capital is a proper severance tax deduction when claiming deduction costs associated with natural gas transportation and processing.

The decision affected not only BP but other energy producers that have been able to seek refunds on tax payments, reportedly resulting in an impact of tens of millions of dollars to the state. It also means they’re able to pay less in taxes going forward.

CPW’s efforts to shore up its aquatic nuisance species program may be in for some help soon. On Thursday the state Senate unanimously gave final approval to Senate Bill 259, which among other actions would provide $2.45 million to the agency’s aquatic nuisance species fund on the parks and outdoor recreation side, and another $1.2 million to the program’s fund on the wildlife side.

The measure still awaits action in the House, where state Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, is its main sponsor.

Earlier this year, CPW also suggested to lawmakers that an aquatic nuisance species fee be assessed on boats, at an amount of $15 for nonmotorized boats, $25 for motorized boats for Colorado residents, and $50 for out-of-state motorized boats.

Meanwhile, CPW said in its release that it “has allocated internal funds and worked with a broad partnership group to raise funds for the 2017 boating season and find sustainable funding solutions.”

It says it has sought help from partners including municipal water providers, irrigation and water districts, federal and state agencies and counties that would share the risk if infestation occurred.

Those partners have provided nearly $1 million in assistance so far.

However, the existing funding shortfall means inspections may be reduced at some stations, and a few lower-risk waters that previously had inspections won’t have stations in operation this year unless the state and its partners are able to find new funding.

Harvey Gap Reservoir is owned by Farmers Irrigation Co. and the Silt Water Conservancy District operates and maintains the reservoir and associated irrigation water delivery infrastructure. CPW leases the reservoir surface and manages its fishery as well as area trails and day-use areas.

CPW restricted boat use at the reservoir at the request of the water district…

Local CPW spokesman Mike Porras said the funding situation remains fluid. He said in northeast Colorado some bodies of water were able to keep inspection stations after local water districts agreed to fund them for the short term. Porras recommends that before trying to go boating at any specific location, people call that location or check the agency’s website, http://www.cpw.state.co.us, to see what restrictions may apply.

Here’s a report about Vallecito Reservoir from Carole McWilliams writing in The Pine River Times. Here’s an excerpt:

Boating access at Vallecito and other Colorado lakes might be threatened by state budget issues.

Jim Schank from the Vallecito Sporting and Conservation Association told the Times, “There’s no money for zebra mussel inspections on lakes in the area.”

The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife has been in charge of inspections to prevent introduction of invasive zebra and quagga mussels into clean lakes. People bring boats that have been in infested water, such as Lake Powell, and the mussels can reproduce prolifically and clog pumps, pipes, and other structures.

The Sporting and Conservation Association took over operation of the Vallecito marina two summers ago after the previous private operator pulled out and no other private operator wanted to take it over…

Park and Wildlife “will match what we raise,” Schank said. “Right now it would be Friday to Sunday to have the boat ramp open. There are a lot of people here that rely on that.”

He urged people to contact state legislators about this.

Durango Parks and Wildlife Office spokesman Joe Lewandowski told the Times his department isn’t definite what sort of match DPW might provide…

DPW is working with irrigation, water, and recreation districts around the state to find a solution, Lewandowski said. “Vallecito isn’t the only lake affected. It’s lakes all over the state. … It’s a pretty major problem throughout the state. We’re as concerned about it as anybody else, to make sure recreation stays open.”

Pine River Irrigation District Superintendent Ken Beck told the Times that there have been a series of meetings with the Sporting and Conservation Association, DPW and other entities. “We’re trying to generate a fundraising campaign and let folks know that the money we received from CPW has dried up… It took 21 reservoirs out of funding for boat inspections.”

He continued, “Last year we had around $48,000 to fund recreation” at Vallecito. PRID budgets dam operation and maintenance functions separate from recreation. Beck noted that Vallecito is an irrigation project. In the past, PRID shareholders have made it clear they don’t want their assessments used to subsidize recreation.

The goal is to get $48,000 for this year if local fundraising can bring in $24,000, and hope DPW can match it, Beck said.

He is sending solicitation letters to individuals and entities that could be affected by a lack of boating access.

“We’ll continue to meet,” Beck said. “We’ll fund it and have the lake open. If we don’t receive anything, there will be significant impacts.”

“We have a clean reservoir now,” he said, but noted there have been boats at Vallecito that tested positive for the mussels. “We were able to decontaminate them before they went in the water. … It’s a lot easier to prevent infestation than to remediate. That could get really expensive.”

@CWCB_DNR board meeting recap: E. Slope v. W. Slope — @AspenJournalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:

A funding request for a Western Slope water study to figure out how to keep enough water in Lake Powell became a hot potato last week and was tossed back and forth across Colorado’s Continental Divide.

Officials from four Western Slope basin roundtables and two water-conservancy districts had asked the Colorado Water Conservation Board to contribute $40,000 toward the $100,000 cost of the second phase of a study looking into potential changes to regional water use during a severe drought.

But the chairs of three East Slope roundtables told the directors of the CWCB they didn’t feel comfortable with the first phase of the study or how the second phase was shaping up.

They recommended to the CWCB directors that they deny state money for the second phase, and if they did fund the study, to include a disclaimer saying it did not represent the views of the state.

The CWCB directors, meeting in Greeley last week, were suddenly caught between fractious basin roundtables, which have been praised in the past for their collaborative work on the 2015 Colorado Water Plan.

“There was a fuss,” Russ George, who represents the Colorado River basin on the CWCB, told the members of the Colorado basin roundtable in Glenwood Springs on Monday. “We’re of course sitting in periods of probably continuous shortages, continuous draw downs of the big reservoirs. I think everyone is as edgy as ever.

“It bothered us all to see that controversy just erupt,” George also said of the study request. “The touchiness still exists, even though we’ve made enormous progress in the last 10 and 12 years, as we all know, in working together and making decisions.”

After a flurry of last-minute negotiating, the CWCB directors voted Monday to approve the requested $40,000 in state funding, but also agreed to the East Slope’s request to include a disclaimer in the study’s scope of work: “This work product is solely that of the applicants and the applicants do not claim that it represents the views or interests of the state of Colorado.”

Patricia Wells, a CWCB director representing the city and county of Denver, and who is general counsel for Denver Water, said of the study, “This isn’t the state’s position on anything. And it really belongs to the West Slope roundtables to help them make some decisions.”


The Colorado, Gunnison, Southwest and Yampa/White/Green basin roundtables had recently all approved spending $10,000 from their allotments of state funds on what’s known as the “risk study,” and then sent a joint funding application for $40,000 to the CWCB directors, who must approve all roundtable grants.

And the four western roundtables were being supported by another $30,000 each from the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs and the Southwestern Water Conservation District in Durango.

Meanwhile, on the East Slope, the chairs of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables were united in their call for the CWCB to distance the state from the study.

“The East Slope roundtables strongly recommend that CWCB only be involved if it is part of an equal management partnership between all affected regions and the state,” a March 23 letter to the CWCB said.

The letter said the study should not be “biased toward any particular regional interests,” noting that “the discretion to define the modeling runs and their assumptions is retained by the Colorado River Water Conservation District,” which represents 15 West Slope counties.

The East Slope also said that the myriad of assumptions used in the study’s hydraulic modeling would “afford great latitude to reflect certain desires and points of view that in turn implicate state water policy and East Slope interests.”

After the vote, Barbara Biggs, the chair of the Metro roundtable, which includes Denver and neighboring cities, told the CWCB directors that the decision to fund the study, even with the disclaimer, may not satisfy everybody.

“I’ll be very honest,” Biggs said. “I suspect I will not be welcomed with hugs and kisses by all of the members of my roundtable. I think they were hoping for more.”

Of chief concern to both east and west interests is the potential for a new transmountain diversion that would move more water to the East Slope.

“This is not a water availability study, but there are real limits on how much Colorado River water Colorado can consume without causing an unacceptable risk to existing users,” said a March 23 letter to the CWCB signed by the four West Slope roundtable chairs and the directors of the two conservancy districts.


Underlying the tension over the second phase of the study are the results of the first phase, which cost $52,000 and included $32,000 in state money from the CWCB.

“Droughts similar to those in the recent past could cause Lake Powell to, within a few years, drop to levels that jeopardize Glen Canyon Dam’s ability to generate electricity, and create a risk that the Upper Colorado River Basin would be unable to meet its delivery obligations under the 2007 Interim Guidelines and potentially the Colorado River Compact,” the grant application to the CWCB said, summarizing the study’s phase one findings.

It also said “the higher the consumptive use in the Upper Basin going forward, the greater the risk to all water users.”

After last week’s CWCB vote on the study, Wells from Denver said the second phase of the study did not need to be collaborative, and that the West Slope could explore water management scenarios on its own.

But she cautioned about wielding the results of the study as a weapon.

“If the modeling is used externally as a weapon in negotiations, as proof of something to the other states in the Colorado basin, then it’s a problem,” Wells said. But if it is not used that way, she said, then “the East Slope won’t have to be worried, and they won’t have to try to tear it down.”

Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Post Independent, Aspen Times, Vail Daily and Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water in the upper Colorado River basin. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West — @ColoradoClimate #ColoradoRiver

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through March 27, 2017 via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.