Colorado Gambles on Proposition DD, to Legalize Sports Betting — Westword #COWaterPlan

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From Westword (Connor McCormick-Cavanaugh):

With bipartisan support, the bill soon made it through the full House and Senate; Governor Jared Polis signed it at the end of May. Now voters will have the final say on Proposition DD in November — not because the legislature thinks that the people should have the right to decide whether sports betting is allowed in Colorado, but because the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment known as TABOR, requires that any proposed new taxes be authorized by the people, and there will be a tax on these bets.

In this case, though, the tax won’t be paid by all the people of Colorado. Instead, it will come from a 10 percent tax on the revenues generated by sports bettors at casinos and through mobile-app companies authorized to allow such bets. But the vast majority of the tax money collected will go to the state’s water plan.

If DD passes, that plan will be one of the big winners in the push for legalized sports betting…

“You can’t send a measure to voters that is just a blank check to government,” says Brian Jackson of the Environmental Defense Fund. “It has got to go somewhere.”

In August 2018, Jackson met with Garnett at a cafe near the Capitol, where he made his pitch that most of the tax money should be allocated to the state’s water plan, which had gone largely unfunded since it was completed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and approved by Governor John Hickenlooper in November 2015.

“Garnett was looking for something that had bipartisan support, something that had statewide appeal, something that needed money. And we fit all those,” Jackson recalls.

Early in Hickenlooper’s tenure, his administration had recognized that if the state didn’t change its approach to water, it would be looking at a shortage in the future; the Colorado Water Plan was created to ensure that the state would have water for decades to come. It focuses on river health, drinking water, agriculture and recreation, and is designed to both keep up with Colorado’s population boom and balance the needs of the more heavily populated Front Range and Western Slope.

The plan also created a mechanism for funding water projects. For example, if municipalities along the Front Range are considering a water-reuse project, they can apply for funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, explains Jackson: “The more water you reuse, the less you pull from the Western Slope or from other river sources. But it costs money. This is the type of activity that could benefit from dedicated resources.”

The kind of dedicated resources that would come from a sports-betting tax.

While the state has put some money into the plan, Jackson estimates that it would need something in the range of $100 million a year to make a true, long-lasting impact. Right now, he says, “it changes year to year. In the last four years, it’s been as low as $5 million and as high as $15 million.” He thinks that sports betting could pour another $5 million to $15 million into the plan every year to start, and maybe more once the market matures.

Garnett recognized that water was a concern for both sides of the legislature, and making the Colorado Water Plan the beneficiary of much of the sports-betting tax could be a winning proposition for Democrats and Republicans alike.

“We actually know where the revenue is going,” points out Representative Patrick Neville, a Republican who sponsored the bill with Garnett. “This can’t be a honey pot for politicians to steal money from.”

The bill’s sponsors cautioned lawmakers that sports betting wouldn’t be the entire solution for the state’s water woes, but every drop helps.

“It’s not sufficient to satisfy all of the water demand and projects across the state,” says Gaspar Perricone, a lobbyist for Freestone Strategies who worked on the bill. “It’s a good down payment.”

January through August 2019 was wettest on record for U.S. — @NOAA

Students in Sam Ng’s Field Observation of Severe Weather class hit the road every spring to observe storm structures, like this mesocyclone in Imperial, Nebraska. Photo by Sam Ng via Metropolitan State University of Denver

From NOAA:

Nation sizzled during summer 2019

While the contiguous U.S. was breaking records with its wettest first eight months of the year, it also roasted through a warmer-than-average summer, with Alaska sweating through its second-hottest summer on record.

Here are more highlights from NOAA’s latest monthly U.S. climate report:

Climate by the numbers
August 2019

The average temperature for August across the contiguous U.S. was 73.9 degrees F (1.8 degrees above the 20th-century average), which ties with 1955 for the 13th warmest August on record. After being scorched in July, Alaska had an average temperature that ranked August in the upper third of the historical record. Near- and below-average temperatures were present across much of the central and northern Plains as well as across the Great Lakes.

The average precipitation for August in the contiguous U.S. was 2.74 inches (0.12 inch above average), which puts the month in the middle third of the 125-year record. Wetter-than-normal conditions were found from the northern Plains to the Gulf Coast. Nebraska and Kansas both had their wettest August on record.

Year to date | Meteorological summer

The average U.S. temperature for the year to date (January through August) was 54.3 degrees F, 0.4 degrees above the 20th-century average, ranking in the middle third of the January–August record.

The contiguous U.S. had its wettest January-to-August on record. Above- to much-above-average precipitation stretched from coast-to-coast, with average rainfall for the contiguous U.S. of 24.59, which is 3.88 inches above average.

For meteorological summer (June 1 through August 31), the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 72.4 degrees F, which is 1.0 degree above the average. Summer 2019 also ranked in the upper third of the historical temperature record.

During the meteorological summer, precipitation was 8.83 inches—0.51 inch above average—which ranks in the upper third of the record.

More notable climate events

The wet streak continues: Average precipitation across the contiguous U.S. for the 12-month period September 2018–August 2019 was 37.55 inches, 7.61 inches above average. This ranks as the fourth wettest among all 12-month periods on record.

Alaska’s hot, dry summer: Anchorage, King Salmon and Talkeetna had their hottest and driest summer on record.

Sizzling Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas each had their second-warmest August on record, while Utah had its fourth warmest. Much of the Southwest had record and near-record hot daytime high temperatures in August.

Fort Lewis College: Water Law in a Nutshell, October 28, 2019

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

Water Law in a Nutshell
Presented by Mr. Aaron Clay, Attorney at Law and former 26-year Water Referee for the Colorado Water Court, Division 4

Monday, October 28, 2019
8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Fort Lewis College, Vallecito Room

Continuing Education Credits Available: Realtors CE: 8 hours | Attorneys: 8 hours CLE

This seminar will cover all aspects of the law related to water rights and ditch rights as applied in Colorado. Subject matter includes the appropriation, perfection, use, limitations, attributes, abandonment and enforcement of various types of water rights. Additional subject matter will include special rules for groundwater, public rights in appropriated water, interstate compacts and more.

Don’t miss this rare and unique opportunity with Aaron Clay in Durango! From his 26 years as a water referee at the Colorado Water Court, Clay brings his wealth of knowledge that earned him a reputation as one of the top experts in water law to this eight hour “Water in a Nutshell” course.

Registration fee is $125.00, which includes lunch and materials. Pre-registration is required!

Aaron Clay – Bio

Aaron Clay was raised in Hotchkiss, Colo. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 1975 (Boettcher Scholar, BA in Physics/Education) and the University of Colorado School of Law in 1979 (Order of the Coif.) He practiced law in Delta from 1980 to 2018. His practice was a general practice, with emphasis on real estate, water, business planning, and estate planning. He was the Water Referee for Colorado Water Court, Division 4 (Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and San Miguel River Basins) from 1982 to 2008.

Among his clients were Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District, North Fork Water Conservancy District, Grand Mesa Water Users Association, and numerous other ditch companies and water users.

Aaron has taught a course titled Water Law in a Nutshell for several years, for realtors, closers, attorneys, and others.

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) Board meeting recap

Kansas River Basin including the Republican River watershed. Map credit: By Kmusser – Self-made, based on USGS data., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4390886

From the Republican River Water Conservation District (Deb Daniel) via The Julesberg Advocate:

At the beginning of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) Board meeting last week, the Board welcomed 2 new Board members. Rod Lenz, RRWCD Board President, swore in Brooke Campbell, from Cheyenne Wells, who will be representing the East Cheyenne Ground Water Management District and Jim Hadachek, also from Cheyenne Wells, who will be representing Cheyenne County on the RRWCD Board.

On August 2, 2019, House Bill 19-1029 went into effect. The bill modified the boundary of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) to include the southern portion of Kit Carson County and an area in the northern portion of Cheyenne County. All counties and groundwater management districts in the RRWCD are represented on the Board of Directors

The change in the boundary brought approximately 332 wells and the associated irrigated acreage into the RRWCD. The annual diversions from these wells has always been included in the groundwater model which tracks the use of water within each state, from which the depletions to the river are calculated, but because they were not been included in the RRWCD boundary, they have not paid the Water Use Fee as have the well owners that are located in the current RRWCD boundary.

For 2019, the RRWCD Board voted to charge a pro-rated rate of $6.00 per irrigated acre to the wells in this area instead of the $14.50 that is assessed on irrigated acres in the RRWCD. All irrigated acres will have the same assessment in 2020.

Effective immediately, the Board approved allowing all acres in the RRWCD be eligible for the EQIP program, which is administered through the NRCS. Anyone interested in more information on the EQIP program should contact your local NRCS office.

Former Senator Greg Brophy gave a presentation on House Bill 19-1327, which is now Proposition DD, to put sports betting on the ballot. The goal of this legislation is to provide a stable funding source to implement the Colorado Water Plan.

The RRWCD approved conservation grant applications from Marks Butte, Frenchman, Sandhills and Central Yuma Groundwater Management Districts (Big 4 GWMDS). The Big 4 GWMDs requested that the grant funds be forwarded to the Colorado Master Irrigator program.

The Board also approved the conservation grant application by W-Y GWMD, requesting funds that will assist in covering costs for implementing conservation efforts in their district.

The RRWCD endorsed an agreement for well owners in the northern portion of the district who have augmentation plans to the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District or to Sedgwick Water District.

Well owners located in the South Fork Focus Zone who enter into a new CREP contract are now eligible for an additional one-time payment of $200 per irrigated acre retired. The two million dollars of funding for the supplemental contract is provided by the State of Colorado.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Deb Daniel, RRWCD General Manager (970)332-3552.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update

From High Plains Public Radio (Abigail Beckman):

Chris Woodka is with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. He said part of the reason we’re seeing more water systems violate water standards is that federal and state standards have changed. They are now accounting for even more minute quantities of contaminants.

He said water from wells can be especially affected because, “shallow wells in the alluvial aquifer are high in organic contaminants, nitrate and selenium.”

“Deeper wells often have elevated levels of radioactive materials,” he said. “And nearly all of the communities east of Pueblo take water from wells.”

Some communities have responded by using water filters. Las Animas and La Junta have both installed large reverse osmosis membrane systems to remove contaminants from the water supply. Woodka said that has improved the taste and appearance.

But, he said, even after filtration, radium and uranium can still remain in the water at low levels.

And then there’s the cost.

“Those communities still face tremendous expense in disposing of the waste from the treatment processes,” Woodka said, “which can only be reduced by adding more clean water.” And extra water, let alone clean water, is hard to come by in a drought-prone state like Colorado. But there is one possible solution that’s been in the works for decades.

It’s called the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation describes the conduit as a “bulk water supply pipeline designed to meet existing and future municipal and industrial water demands in the Lower Arkansas River Basin.”

It would include about 230 miles of buried pipeline, a water treatment facility, and water storage tanks. Water would be routed to six counties – Pueblo, Otero, Crowley, Bent, Kiowa and Prowers – and would serve an estimated 50,000 people.

The project was first approved in 1962. Some work was completed in the early 1980’s, but the actual conduit has yet to come to completion. Woodka said that’s mainly because of cost.

“[These] communities could never afford to build [the conduit] themselves.” Woodka explained.

Congress passed a law in 2009 that reduced the amount of money local governments would have to pitch in for the project. Woodka said that finally made the construction of the conduit feasible.

But it’s still a $500 million project.

“The main problem that we’ve run into,” said Woodka, ”has been getting adequate federal appropriations to start building it. He said they are working on ways to lower the overall costs of the project.”

Woodka said lawmakers at the state and national level have been “extremely active” in promoting this project on both sides of the political spectrum…

[Republican State Senator Larry Crowder] said the key now is for residents to get involved.

“We’re getting the cities involved, we’re getting the people in the cities involved to send letters to Senator Gardner, Senator Bennet and Congressmen Buck and Tipton,” he said, “to make sure that they are aware of how the people feel about it.”