Colorado Bets on New Funding for Water Plan — @AudubonRockies

Common Mergansers. Photo: Lynn Cleveland/Audubon Photography Awards

From Audubon Rockies (Abby Burk):

The four-year-old Colorado Water Plan—the Centennial State’s proactive response to drought, flood, unpredictable water supplies, climate change, and a booming population that is likely to rise from 5.7 million today to nearly 9 million Coloradans in the next 30 years—is now guaranteed some of the annual $100 million needed to implement the plan. This month, Colorado voters narrowly approved Proposition DD to legalize sports betting (and a 10% tax on these casino revenues) which will result in an estimated $12 million to $29 million annually, the majority of which will go toward the Water Plan.

While we likely won’t see $29 million for the first several years, DD revenues bring Colorado’s first dedicated funding source to Water Plan implementation. The sports-betting tax money will flow into a new fund overseen by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Revenues from DD are a drop in the bucket that renew every year, and represent a much-needed down payment toward the full $100 million per year for the Water Plan.

Revenues from DD could be used for a variety of Water Plan purposes including: stream and watershed management improvements, urban water conservation and efficiency, improved irrigation infrastructure for farms and ranches, and storage projects. At this point, it is not clear how the state will spend these dollars given the various priorities and the considerable funding gap. The language in DD was vague and will need refinement, and transparency. Stakeholders will likely explore options with the legislature to guide how DD funds are spent on Water Plan implementation.

Audubon will engage to advocate for spending that supports healthy rivers for the birds and people that depend on them—as we support a fully funded Water Plan. But even with the revenues DD will provide, additional dollars, heightened public awareness, and action will be critical to ensure healthy rivers—and the sustainable water future they enable for Colorado’s birds, economies, communities, recreation, agricultural heritage, and quality of life.

Audubon is proud to have supplied nearly 20 percent of the nearly 30,000 public comments that informed Colorado’s inaugural Water Plan, and Audubon will be there every step of the way through Water Plan implementation. Colorado cannot thrive unless its rivers do too.

Everything we love about Colorado is connected to water. We need your help in raising awareness about water and healthy rivers throughout Colorado. Spread the word. Join us as Audubon works across the state for a water-secure future for people and the environment.

Snowpack news: #SouthPlatte Basin best in state = 141%

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

From the Associated Press via Aspen Public Radio (November 10, 2019 before the current measurements):

The early season snowstorms that hit the Rocky Mountain region this fall have boosted snowpack levels between two and three times the average.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows snow water equivalent above 150% and 200% of average throughout Idaho, northern Colorado and western Montana. Those levels are also scattered across Wyoming and parts of northern Utah.

The highest snowpack levels are in northern Colorado, with some areas reporting three times the normal snowpack for early November and ski resorts opening earlier than usual…

Even with the snow, most of Colorado and Utah and part of Wyoming is experiencing dry or drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

From 9News.com (Becky Ditchfield):

A good snowpack early in the season is always good news. Current numbers are well above average for northern, central and southeastern parts of the state, while southwest parts of the state sit below average.

Early season snow helped ski resorts like Breckenridge open Friday morning. A record 48 inches of snow fell there during the month of October…

The health of our snowpack will become more apparent later in December and into January. For now, we can celebrate the great start to snow season in the northern and central mountains, and hope for a few more snow storms in southwest parts of the state.

Westwide basin-filled map November 12, 2019 via the NRCS.

Chaffee County applies for new #Colorado state fire resiliency grant — Ark Valley Voice

From the Ark Valley Voice (Jan Wondra):

Chaffee County’s proactive steps to address our community’s wildfire challenges is getting noticed. Because of the work of Envision Chaffee County, combined with the resulting 1A Ballot question known as Chaffee Common Ground, Chaffee County has been asked to participate in a very large and brand new statewide grant program that, if awarded, would super-size the county’s efforts toward fire resilience, forest health action and watershed protection.

A pre-grant joint proposal of Chaffee and Lake counties was submitted and the counties were invited to formally submit their joint grant proposal to the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative (RMRI). The full proposal was completed Nov. 3. Only eight communities are competing for funding from the three focal areas for the grant: two are in Southwest Colorado, four in Central Colorado and two along the I-70 Corridor. One of the other communities is Durango, which experienced severe fire during the summer of 2018.

Now the county is moving to the next stage of the grant process, with a Nov. 13 presentation in Golden to about 40 representatives of the various agencies and entities involved in the grant award. The comprehensive grant review board includes a mix of agencies. Among them: representatives of the forest service, water resources, the energy and power grids, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The team from Chaffee County will include Commissioner Greg Felt, U.S. Forest Service District Manger Jim Pitts, and Cindy Williams representing the Central Colorado Conservancy. According to Williams, Chaffee is the only county showing up represented by a cohesive group including a County Commissioner, the forestry agency and the private non-profit sector.

Think of it as a sprint toward resiliency – with the state, as well as other Colorado communities and counties taking notice.

“This probably wouldn’t have happened if Chaffee County hadn’t passed the funding for forest health,” said Williams. “This is the first time we’ve been invited to do something like this. We understand that the likely thing is that three of the eight applications will be selected. We’re not sure how much money is available, we think somewhere between one and four million a year for the county. But as a 10 year plan we’re presenting for $40 million over ten years, not just for Chaffee, but we are working together with Lake County on this grant proposal. Together we’re the Arkansas River watershed.”

Paired historical and current photographs of the Cheesman Reservoir landscape (near Denver CO) illustrating the general increase in forest density and loss of openings that occurred from the late 1890’s to 2000. These types of paired photos can help us to give scientists a broad idea of how forests have changed over time (photos from 2000 by M. Kaufmann) via the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Colorado Ag Celebrates Proposition DD — AgInfo.net

Longs Peak

From AgInfo.net (Maura Bennett):

Download the report

The Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemens’ Association and most agriculture organizations are celebrating the measure approved by voters to allow sports betting in the state. But it’s not a cure-all for what ails us.
The Farm Bureau’s Shawn Martini says it was a given they would support Proposition DD, as it is a way to guarantee future funding for the state’s Water Plan. The Water Plan – a blueprint for ensuring stable water supplies in the years and decades to come.

Martini: “And thus far it has not been funded anywhere close to what it needs. That initial figure of about 100 million dollars a year we need to fully fund the state’s water plan. While this doesn’t get us up to a 100 million a year, it at least provides us a dedicated revenue stream of maybe even up to 30 million a year to help continue to implement and build the projects that are a key part of the state’s water plan.”

Martini says they are waiting to see how much the state legislature will add to the Water Plan funding on a yearly basis. But with the passage of Prop. DD there is now a dedicated stream of funding that will allow the state to begin to chip away at the backlog of projects that need to be done to fulfill the state’s future water supply.

DD will legalize sports betting in Colorado and create a 10 percent tax on casinos’ house winnings that would largely benefit the Water Plan. Colorado’s 33 casinos will be able to offer in-person and online wagering on professional, collegiate, motor and Olympic sports beginning in May 2020.