Last week, Governor Polis signed into law two bipartisan bills that will help us in our mission to restore water to Colorado’s rivers in need. We couldn’t be more excited about HB 20-1037—a bill that provides direction for instream flow augmentation plans—and HB 20-1157—a bill that expands a program for temporary loans of water to the environment. Each of these bills was two years in the making, and ended up better for it. Water users from across the state weighed in on how these changes could work in tandem to both complement historical water uses, particularly agricultural, and to improve environmental conditions.
So, how will these bills work to restore water to rivers in need? We refer to HB 20-1037, as the the instream flow augmentation bill. This bill will facilitate court-approved plans under which water users can add water back into hard working, heavily used rivers under the auspices of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). Water added back to the river will be protected as “instream flow,” or water that is designated for environmental purposes, but other water users can continue to divert water from the river for consumptive uses like agriculture and municipal delivery just as they always have. It’s a brand new concept using augmentation plans for instream flow—and required this clarification of old law. With this change, we can now move forward on our long-time goal of connecting the Cache la Poudre river from Fort Collins to Greeley.
HB 20-1157 is what we call the instream flow loan bill. It will add tools to a loan program that the CWCB has managed for some time. Until this bill, a water user could only loan their water right to the CWCB to be used for instream flow use in 3 out of 10 years. This legislation increases that to 5 out of 10 years. Additionally, in the past, only one ten-year loan period was allowed, but now that loan period can be extended for two additional ten-year periods. In sum, a water user can now loan their water to the CWCB for up to fifteen out of thirty years. There are many more details under this program, but what the legislation boils down to is a big benefit to aquatic environments and flexibility for water users who want to engage in this program, often for compensation.
We are proud to have worked with project partners including Cache la Poudre Water Users, the cities of Thornton, Fort Collins and Greeley, Northern Colorado Water Conservation District, the CWCB and Colorado Parks and Wildlife as proponents of the instream flow augmentation bill. It was our first foray into original legislative work, and a big success. And, we are thankful to The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Colorado for spearheading the legislative effort for the instream flow loan bill. Now, we can’t wait to do what the Water Trust does best—use these tools for projects that will restore water to our rivers. First stop, the Cache la Poudre River with the instream flow augmentation bill. Onward!
FromInside Climate News (Marianne Lavelle, Phil McKenna):
Deep in the 2,000-page final rule rescinding greenhouse gas standards for passenger vehicles, the Trump administration makes a striking admission: Less efficient cars will mean a future of about 10,000 fewer auto industry jobs per year.
That single statistic—especially jarring just days after the COVID-19 crisis caused the biggest spike in jobless claims in U.S. history—captures why the auto industry isn’t exactly celebrating the Trump administration’s most consequential retreat yet from climate action.
Instead, the industry’s leading trade group responded cautiously that it would review the decision, adding that transformation to address climate change is inevitable.
“Looking to the future, we need policies that support a customer-friendly shift toward… electrified and other highly efficient technologies,” John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, said in a statement.
For the Trump administration, though, the trade-offs of aiding such a transition weren’t worth it, even if it meant more jobs. The analysis by Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration concluded that with more stringent standards forcing added production of fuel-saving electric and hybrid technology vehicles, there would have been a need for more workers—or higher “net labor utilization.”. But the proposed loosening of standards, resulting in a 1 percent reduction in annual employment, could save the automakers $15 billion, the agencies said.
That money “can be invested by manufacturers into other areas, or passed on to consumers,” the agencies concluded. They justified the move on the basis that it would result in cheaper and safer vehicles, although the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board identified significant weaknesses in that analysis, and the conclusion runs counter to the findings of a National Academies of Science study in 2015.
In the end, the EPA and the transportation safety administration settled on a fuel economy increase of 1.5 percent per year from 2021 to 2026, ratcheting down the 5 percent annual increase that had been required under the standards adopted under President Barack Obama.
Trump Retained Incentives for Reducing Vehicle HFCs
While rolling back overall emission standards, the rule does retain incentives for auto manufacturers to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemical refrigerants and highly potent greenhouse gases that are used in vehicle air conditioning systems.
HFC-134a, the chemical historically used in most automobile air conditioning systems, is 3,710 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Replacing the super-pollutant with other, more climate friendly alternatives in automobiles and other industries is widely seen as a highly effective, low cost way to address climate change.
HFC emissions in 2018 accounted for 6.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light duty trucks over a 20-year period, according to an assessment of EPA data for InsideClimate News by the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD).
New vehicles, however, are increasingly using more climate-friendly alternatives, driven by existing EPA incentives that allow manufacturers to count reductions in HFC use toward their larger greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. More than 60 percent of all 2018 model year automobiles sold in the U.S. used hydrofluoroolefin (HFO)-1234yf, a more climate-friendly chemical refrigerant, according to the EPA.
A prior draft of the EPA rollback called for eliminating the incentive for car makers to switch to more climate-friendly chemical refrigerants. Auto manufacturers and the chemical industry pushed back, noting in public comments to the agency that they had already invested billions of dollars in alternative refrigerants and other incentivized emissions-reduction technologies.
“They got enormous pushback that was across the board from automakers, the chemical industry, environmental groups and states saying, ‘Don’t touch the AC credits,’ so they decided not to,” said Kristen Taddonio, a senior climate and energy advisor at the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. “I think the thing that remains to be seen is how much automakers will need to use these credits now that the [greenhouse gas] standards are lower.”
Trump’s New Rule ‘Driving Us Over a Climate Cliff’
When the Obama administration finalized its standards, it calculated they would prevent more than 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases—more than one year’s worth of total U.S. carbon emissions—over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in model years 2012 through 2025. That made it the single largest step that any nation had taken to address global warming.
The automakers agreed to the new standards as part of the $80 billion federal bailout that saved the industry from the brink of collapse. But by the time that Trump was elected, the automakers were seeking more flexibility to continue selling their most profitable vehicles—pick-up trucks and gas guzzling SUVs. They reached out to Trump days after his election in 2016, signaling they were looking for relief.
But carmakers did not want to upend the policy as drastically as the Trump administration sought to do. Significantly, some automakers urged the Trump administration repeatedly to reach an agreement with California that would maintain a single nationwide standard on greenhouse gas emissions (as the Obama administration had put into place) and would avoid protracted litigation, since California had authority under law to set its own standard.
Instead, the Trump administration has moved to rescind California’s authority and set a looser standard nationwide. “Our final rule puts in place a sensible one national program that strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This rule supports our economy, and the safety of American families.”
Reporting by The New York Times and others indicates that the Trump administration was responding to a concerted campaign by the oil industry to rollback fuel economy.
Margo Oge, who headed the EPA’s transportation office from 1994 to 2012 and was involved in writing the Obama administration rules, said that the Trump administration’s move puts the U.S. dramatically out of step with the rest of the world.
“Globally the goal posts for fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emissions have moved significantly in the last two years, with major markets moving forward as the U.S. is moving backwards,” she said, noting the European Union’s new car standard of 76 miles per gallon for 2030 and aggressive campaign to produce electric vehicles. “And, adding insult to injury, even EPA’s own analysis found that the new rule will result in a loss of thousands of auto industry jobs,” she said.
States and environmental groups have pledged to take the Trump administration to court over the rollback, and litigation already is underway with California. The issue may take years to reach the Supreme Court, and the auto industry, as it braces for the unknown impact of the COVID-19 economic slowdown, faces the regulatory uncertainty it sought to avoid.
“Of all the bad things President Trump has done to the environment, this is the worst,” said Dan Becker, director of the Center for Auto Safety’s Safe Climate Campaign. “Amid a spiraling health crisis and economic turmoil, Trump is recklessly driving us over a climate cliff.”
The release from Ruedi Reservoir will increase Friday afternoon by 25 cfs. The flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir will change from 135 cfs to 160 cfs where it will remain for the near future.
For any concerns regarding Ruedi Reservoir operations please contact either Brittany or Elizabeth Jones at (406) 247-7611 or (406) 247-7618.
Friday, April 03 2020, 1400 hrs
Increase the reservoir release by approximately 25 cfs (carried out by High Country Hydro, Inc. personnel). After this change, the flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir is expected to increase from 135 cfs to approximately 160 cfs, with a gage height of 1.76 feet.
As COVID-19 continues to roil Colorado and the world, experts are suggesting that the pandemic may teach all of us to work together better. If that’s the case, then a collaborative water system for the Front Range may be a harbinger of things to come, according to a new study.
Released March 10, just days after Colorado reported its first cases of COVID-19, the study indicates that if Front Range cities band together to build a large-scale water reuse and delivery system, water sufficient to serve 100,000 homes could be developed.
It would rely on moving water between cities and farms, building new pipelines, as well as storing water underground and in off-channel reservoirs, and could be done without tapping new sources on the West Slope.
Such a project, if built, would cost $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion, according to the study, a price that is in line with other water delivery systems now being developed.
That cost includes 50 years of operations and maintenance and assumes the water would likely need to be heavily treated.
The study comes as the Front Range faces the most acute water shortages in the state, with a gap between water supply and demand for municipal and industrial users of as much as 540,000 acre-feet projected by 2050, according to a recent analysis by the state. Farmers could face a gap nearly twice that large, particularly in dry years.
Lisa Darling, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, helped oversee the study. She said once Colorado recovers from COVID-19, she hopes communities will be able to use it as a roadmap toward future water supplies. (Editor’s note: Darling is president of Water Education Colorado, the non-partisan nonprofit that sponsors Fresh Water News.)
“It shows that it’s feasible, and it will allow people to see exactly what it might look like,” she said.
The South Platte Regional Opportunities Water Group (SPROWG), a group that includes dozens of Front Range water districts, sponsored the work. The study analyzed different alternatives for capturing water in the South Platte River as it approaches the Nebraska border, an area where flows are typically more abundant than they are closer to metro Denver, where the river is heavily used and its waters largely claimed by existing users.
Because the river’s supplies in average years are already spoken for, any new water would be developed by capturing some during flood years and, in other years, reusing water already diverted from other basins via new water treatment plants and pipelines, making that water supply go farther.
Funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and several cities, including Denver and Aurora, the study was geared to help taxpayers from metro Denver to Brighton to Greeley and beyond determine whether they want such a project, how it would be configured, and who would benefit and shoulder the cost.
“The price tag sounds like a lot, but it is comparable to other projects in the South Platte Basin,” said Mary Presecan, a consultant with Leonard Rice Engineers and one of the study’s authors.
Water sold through the Loveland-based Colorado-Big Thompson Project is selling for $78,000 to $92,000 an acre-foot, Presecan said, while the SPROWG study analysis shows water developed through this new partnership would cost from $44,000 to $58,000 an acre-foot. An acre-foot equals nearly 326,000 gallons, enough water to serve on average two urban homes for one year.
In addition to water for fast-growing small communities, the study examined providing water to farmers on the Eastern Plains. These farmers control some of the oldest, most senior water rights in the region, but the water is increasingly being sold to thirsty cities, threatening local economies and the livelihoods of farmers left behind, and ultimately reducing the state’s ability to grow food.
A collaborative reuse project could provide additional water to water-short farms, as much as 35,000 acre-feet a year, allowing them to maintain their agricultural production.
“If there is an opportunity to be part of a regional partnership and address the ag gaps, we are all for it,” said Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, a sponsor of the study.
“SPROWG is a concept where we are starting at a high level and drilling down. Can we bring the whole [South Platte River] Basin together to figure out if this can work,” Frank said.
Early on, the study drew fire from West Slope interests and environmental groups, who feared it would inevitably lead to bigger efforts to tap the drought-stressed Colorado River and could harm the South Platte River.
But feedback from dozens of meetings with citizens, environmentalists, taxpayers and water officials during the past year led the study’s authors to conclude that the project can be structured in such a way to provide environmental benefits, as well as water for cities and farms.
“This is a collaborative way, and an innovative way to conjunctively manage and use a variety of water sources for multiple beneficiaries,” said Matt Lindburg, a consultant with Brown and Caldwell and one of the study’s authors.
State water officials, such as Gail Schwartz, who represents the Colorado River Basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said she believed the regional, collaborative premise underlying the early work could be utilized elsewhere.
“It’s a great model for collaborative thinking,” she said, at the CWCB’s March board meeting in Lakewood. “I think it could work for other parts of the state too.”
Whether the pandemic will bench the work on this new South Platte water delivery planning isn’t clear yet.
But Frank is optimistic work will continue. “The pandemic could slow us down, but it definitely won’t stop us. Now the next step will be determining [which communities] are really serious about coming together and taking this to the next level,” he said.
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at email@example.com or @jerd_smith.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife:
As the final winter frosts begin to thaw, reservoirs are opening to boating and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officials are busy ramping up inspection stations for the upcoming season. Boat inspections for aquatic nuisance species (ANS) are mandatory in Colorado and required for motorized or trailered watercraft entering the state and prior to launching on most public waters within the state.
ANS boat inspections and COVID-19
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, many local and federal waters are postponing opening to boating and ANS inspections at this time. Waters operated by CPW are continuing to open and provide recreation opportunities as weather permits. Boaters are reminded not to travel long distances to go boating or fishing while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect Colorado. Recreate at local reservoirs in compliance with the Stay-At-Home order from Gov. Jared Polis.
Boaters are reminded to stay at least six feet away from inspection station staff at all times.
Do not congregate in groups larger than 10 individuals and practice good social distancing in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Local health orders may further limit group size; please be aware of local requirements.
Boaters should wait until the inspector calls them up to the station.
Boaters should stay in their vehicles, set the parking brake, turn their vehicles off, and remain in the vehicles unless instructed by an inspector to get out and assist with the inspection.
If you have a green seal receipt, please keep your window closed and show it to the inspector through the window glass. CPW reminds everyone to get a green seal and receipt after boating to speed up the next inspection.
CPW is diligently working to keep state parks’s waters open for boating so the public can enjoy the health benefits associated with being outside. However, visitors must enjoy parks responsibly during the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s important for everyone to follow the recommendations from CDPHE for easy, everyday actions to protect yourself and those around you.
Up-to-date information about how CPW is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is available on our website.
Reminder: Get your ANS stamp
An ANS stamp is required prior to boating in Colorado. The stamp helps CPW fund ANS inspections, monitoring, education, and other activities across the state.
Colorado boat owners who operate motorboats and sailboats on lakes and reservoirs must purchase a $25 ANS stamp annually. The cost of the stamp for out-of-state motorboats and sailboats is $50. Boaters from out of state can purchase online at http://www.cpwshop.com.
Colorado is one of just a few states in the country that doesn’t have an infestation of adult mussels in any of its waters,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species program manager for CPW. “That’s directly attributable to our mandatory inspection and decontamination program that’s been in place for over a decade now.”
There have been 281 watercraft infested with zebra or quagga mussels intercepted in the state since the program’s inception. Last year, inspectors intercepted 86 infested watercraft, a huge increase from 51 in 2018 and 26 in 2017.
“CPW is very confident in the statewide inspection and decontamination system to protect our waters. However, this program relies on the compliance of the boating community,” said Reid DeWalt, Assistant Director for Aquatic, Terrestrial and Natural Resources for CPW. “Boaters need to know the rules and follow them if we are going to be effective at keeping zebra and quagga mussels out of the nation’s headwaters.”
Aquatic nuisance species, such as zebra and quagga mussels, pose a serious threat to natural resources, recreation and the water infrastructure of the state. Mussel infestations cause a variety of major problems. Because mussels consume plankton, they disrupt the food web and out-compete sport fish and native fish. Mussels clog infrastructure, including reservoir dams, outlet structures and distribution systems that carry water for irrigation, municipal and industrial uses. Mussels also infest boats and damage engines.
Mussels have caused billions of dollars in damage, especially in the upper Midwest. Nearby states where mussel infestations exist include Utah, Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Invasive mussels could have devastating ecological, economic, and recreational impacts if infestations were to establish here.
“Keeping Colorado’s waters free of invasive species is critical to maintaining efficient water delivery and infrastructure systems, and providing high-quality fishing and boating opportunities for our residents and visitors,” Brown said. “The success of the ANS Program is due to the dedicated inspection and decontamination staff across the state. We are grateful to those individuals that are working on the front lines to provide recreation and protect our waters.”
A complete list of Colorado inspection sites and hours of operation, along with information about the ANS stamp, can be found on CPW’s boating page. Always check with your destination reservoir before going to verify hours of operation.
FromThe Denver Post (John Aguilar) via The Greeley Tribune:
Colorado health officials are finalizing guidelines to help doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis make the excruciating choices about how to prioritize care for COVID-19 patients should the pandemic overwhelm the capacity of the state’s hospital system.
Julie Lonborg, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association, said the state’s medical network is currently “not anywhere near capacity” but the growing numbers of coronavirus cases in the state — the latest tally Tuesday was 2,966 cases and 509 people hospitalized with COVID-19 — could quickly change that situation.
“We have to get ready for it to be a lot of patients all at once,” Lonborg said.
That kind of surge could lead to the nightmare scenarios that have most notably played out in northern Italy, where doctors have been forced to decide which critical patients get scarce equipment and staffing to keep them alive.
“There may be dire circumstances where our resources are unable or are insufficient to provide optimal care to everyone,” said Dr. Darlene Tad-y, a physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora who serves on the Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee, or GEEERC. “Should we reach that moment, I hope community members will feel we have done our due diligence in using the utmost sense of fairness and ethics in what we write.”
The 19-member GEEERC is in the midst of finalizing recommendations for how to put in play the Colorado Crisis Standards of Care Plan, a set of emergency protocols meant to help caregivers manage a health crisis when “demands related to patient care and public health needs radically exceed available resources.”
“This is statewide guidance on how to do triage in the most ethically defensible way,” said Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
It’s expected that the group will forward its report to the governor’s office in the next week to 10 days.
At the core of the guidelines is the acknowledgment that when things get desperate — like there’s a shortage of hospital beds, ventilators or medical staff — “there may be circumstances in which resources should be diverted from patients with a lower likelihood of benefit to those with a greater likelihood to benefit,” according to the 2018 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s All Hazards Internal Emergency Response and Recovery Plan.
But how those patient care priorities are determined is critical, said Julie Reiskin, executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.
“We don’t want assumptions made about quality of life — that because someone has an underlying condition or a disability they have less to offer,” she said. “We don’t want them to use a disability characteristic that is not relevant to the pandemic (to deny care). It has to be scientifically based and not based on the assumption or belief about the value of someone’s life.”
Tad-y, the CU doctor who sits on GEEERC, said Colorado’s approach to critical care is not to look at categories of people but at an individual’s overall health condition and their likelihood to survive coronavirus.
“Primarily, we’re looking at the clinical status of our patients as it relates specifically to this illness,” she said.