#Colorado outdoor recreation and tourism industries have respectively raked in $28 billion and $19.7 billion

From The Denver Post (Danika Worthington):

Two reports out this week found that the outdoor-recreation and tourism industries, which often lend each other a hand, accounted for $28 billion and $19.7 billion, respectively, in consumer spending last year.

And experts in both industries don’t expect growth to taper off soon.

Neither the Outdoor Industry Association nor the Colorado Tourism Office could say exactly how often tourism and outdoor recreation intersect. But evidence suggests that the two industries are mutually beneficial.

Of the travelers who visit Colorado in the summer, 52 percent take scenic drives, 46 percent visit a state or national park, and 32 percent hike or backpack, said Cathy Ritter, Colorado’s tourism boss.

Similarly, Vail’s GoPro Mountain Games brings in 3,300 athletes and 67,000 spectators annually, generating $7.2 million in economic impact, according to the Outdoor Industry Association’s report, out Tuesday.

That’s not to say the tourism and outdoor-recreation industries rely on each other exclusively. The OIA report found that 71 percent of Colorado’s 5.7 million residents participate in outdoor recreation…

Outdoor recreation and tourism last year brought in $2 billion and $1.2 billion in state and local taxes, respectively. The state tourism report found that each Colorado resident would have to pay an additional $216 to replace the taxes that visitors kick in each year.

Outdoor recreation, such as camping, motorcycling and trail sports, directly creates 229,000 jobs and nearly $10 billion in wages and salaries, OIA executive director Amy Roberts said.

Tourism directly created 165,000 jobs that supply $5.8 billion in wages, according to the tourism office. In comparison, oil, gas and mining accounts for 58,000 Colorado jobs, the OIA report pointed out without citing total wages.

Since the recession, Colorado has logged a 37 percent increase in total visitation, compared with a 17 percent increase across the U.S. The $19.7 billion in tourism consumer spending is a new high for the state.

And both Ritter and Roberts expect their industries to grow — outdoor recreation aided by friendly policies, businesses relocating to the state and a strong independent retail sector, and tourism buoyed by the national “Come to Life” marketing campaign that helped grow Colorado’s share of the U.S. tourism market to 3.1 percent from 2.8 percent in a year.

@USBR: Releases Draft Environmental Assessment for Phase II of Piping Cattleman’s Ditches

Credit: Cattleman’s Ditches Pipeline Project II Montrose County, Colorado EIS via USBR.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Liff, Jenny Ward):

The Bureau of Reclamation has released a draft environmental assessment on Phase II of the Cattleman’s Ditches Piping Project located in Montrose County, Colorado. The project would replace approximately 6.1 miles of open irrigation ditch with 5.1 miles of buried water pipeline. The purpose of the project is to reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html or a copy can be requested by contacting Reclamation.

Reclamation will consider all comments received by September 15, 2017. Submit comments by email to jward@usbr.gov or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501.

Longmont: Wastewater infrastructure ain’t cheap

Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

Longmont’s city staff is recommending raising the city’s sewer rate charges by 3 percent next year, followed by 2 percent increases in both 2019 and 2020.

The City Council is to discuss the possible rate hikes during a Tuesday night study-session review of Longmont’s wastewater utility and that utility’s financial projections and needs.

The Department of Public Works and Natural Resources staff said in a memo to the council that the proposed rate hikes “will allow the utility to maintain its target debt service coverage and appropriately fund operational costs” of Longmont’s sewage collection and treatment system.

“The wastewater utility continues to experience cost increases that affect the utility’s financial outlook,” the staff wrote in that memo. “While staffing levels have been significantly decreased in the utility since 2000, resulting in annual cost reductions in excess of $2 million each year, operating costs have still increased by an average of 2.8 percent each year between 2006 and 2016.”

Major drivers of those costs included regulatory requirements that necessitated large capital expenses at Longmont’s wastewater treatment plant, the staff said, as well as flood-recovery and repair costs for the sewage collection system, the city staff said.

The staff also cited a need for “deployment of new metering technologies,” as well as climbing construction costs after the 2008 recession and what it said was an “aging wastewater infrastructure reaching the end of its life cycle.”

In order to pay for capital improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and infrastructure, Longmont sold a total of $52 million in sewer bonds issued in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

Debt repayments from the wastewater utility’s budget fund have increased by $3.1 million a year because of those bond sales, the staff said, and the bond requirements include being able to maintain enough budget money to cover at least 110 percent of that debt.

As part of its adoption of Longmont’s 2017 budget, the City Council approved an average 3 percent increase in customers’ sewer fees that took effect this year…

Staff reductions, achieved after Longmont completed a 2000 water-wastewater strategic plan, “helped stabilize rates and provided more money for capital needs while service levels were maintained or improved,” the staff wrote.

However, “while staff has continued to maintain service levels, major cost drivers in the form of regulatory requirements, natural disasters, new technologies, increasing construction costs and aging infrastructure have impacted the utility.”

The City Council cannot make official rate-increase decisions during a study session but can direct the city staff whether to proceed with preparing a rate hike for formal council votes later this summer or fall.

Steamboat Springs: Lodging tax dollars to Yampa River?

The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

The city received 14 different proposals for how to best spend a reserve fund of lodging tax money that has been accruing in recent years. They range from a plan to use the money to keep the Yampa River flowing at a healthy pace in the summer to adding several public restrooms around town.

The money, which comes from a 1 percent tax tourists pay on their nightly stays, must be spent on something aimed at drawing more tourists to town. Projects must also enhance the city’s “environmental desirability.”

A committee appointed by the Steamboat Springs City Council will spend this week grading all of the proposals and coming up with a recommendation.

It will then be up to the City Council to decide which project is most worthy, or whether the money should be spent at this time at all…

Yampa River Flow Endowment, Friends of the Yampa, $1 million

Anyone who uses the Yampa River in the summer would benefit from Friends of the Yampa’s idea for how to spend the reserve lodging tax money.

The fish would also thank the group too if they could.

The river advocacy group thinks the money could be well spent on water releases from Stagecoach Reservoir that help keep the Yampa River flowing at a healthy level during the summer.

The Colorado Water Trust has partnered with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District in recent years on such water releases.
The releases help maintain a healthy river and ecosystem during low water years and times of drought.

“A healthy Yampa River is paramount to Steamboat Springs’ tourism industry,” Friends of the Yampa wrote in its application.

“Fly fishing shops, tubing outfitters, restaurants, breweries and river property owners depend on healthy river flows.

The application is a collaborative effort that also includes the Water Trust, The Nature Conservancy and some local business owners.

Water Information Program: August 2017 newsletter

Credit The Pagosa Daily Post.

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

Progress on the San Juan River Headwaters Project

San Juan Water Conservancy District announced it has changed the name of the “Dry Gulch Project” to the “San Juan River Headwaters Project”. The project has changed from a 35,000 AF reservoir to an 11,000 AF reservoir. The original cost estimate for the reservoir was in excess of $400 Million, it has now been reduced to that of a reservoir that will cost less than $100 Million. “The reduced cost is substantially due to changing from filling and re-filling by means of an electric pump station to the use of a syphon, which also has the advantage of having less operation expense and a longer useful life at lower maintenance”, said Rod Proffitt, President of San Juan Water Conservancy District

San Juan Water Conservancy District was awarded a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board at its meeting in Pagosa Springs this past May. *Please note the correction of the previous amount stated. The existing mill levy for San Juan Water Conservancy District (“the District”) is .316 of a mill (not $316.000 at stated in previous newsletter), which raises approximately $67,000 per year on property assessed within the District. If this measure is approved, the mill levy will be exactly what it was when the District was first formed in 1987 – One (1) mill. The issue will be on the ballot this November.

Rod Proffitt also stated that the San Juan Water Conservancy District is working with a number of stakeholders in Archuleta County to apply for funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to do a watershed management plan for the Upper San Juan River above Navajo Reservoir.

“The San Juan River is facing continuing demands on its water as the area’s population grows and existing uses adjust to changing conditions. The plan will ensure the river continues to benefit the natural habitat of the watershed, the non-consumptive uses of the river like tubing, fishing, and rafting” noted Proffitt.

Ditching checks and balances on the Clean Water Act rule

westernriverlaw

The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has approved a funding bill that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw an existing Clean Water Act rule “without regard to any provision of statute or regulation that establishes a requirement for such withdrawal.”  This rule, known as Waters of the United States or WOTUS, was adopted by the Obama Administration EPA to clarify which waters are subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction.  The House Appropriations Bill is extraordinary, because if approved it would allow the Trump EPA to eliminate this rule without going through the usually required process, including public comment on the EPA’s proposal.

Let’s back up a step.  Like many agencies, EPA has the authority to write rules that carry the force of law, because Congress provided that authority.  Long before EPA was ever created, however, Congress set up some basic requirements that agencies ordinarily must follow in adopting rules.  These requirements include publishing…

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