CWCB: HB10-1051 Conservation Data Collection DRAFT Guidelines Available for Public Comment


From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly adopted House Bill 10-1051, an Act Concerning Additional Information Regarding Covered Entities’ Water Efficiency Plans. The Bill requires covered entities to annually report water use and water conservation data to the CWCB to be used for statewide water supply planning. The Bill also directs the CWCB to adopt guidelines regarding the reporting of water use and water conservation by covered entities, and to report to the Legislature regarding the Guidelines.

For the past 10 months the CWCB, with the invaluable support and detailed input from two advisory groups representing a diverse group of stakeholders, including many municipal water providers around the State, has been working on a draft set of Guidelines Regarding the Reporting of Water Use and Conservation Data by Covered Entities. The process has also developed a set of accompanying documents to support the Guidelines and their implementation.

The Draft Guidelines Regarding the Reporting of Water Use and Conservation Data by Covered Entities and Appendices are posted on the CWCB website and are available for public comment. The public comment period will run for 45 days and end at 5:00pm on October 29, 2011. We encourage the public to review the Guidelines and documents and provide the CWCB with comments. Please direct any questions or comments to Veva Deheza, Section Chief, Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning, at 303-866-3441 ext. 3226.

More CWCB coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1286 (Clarify State Engineer Nontributary Rule Authority) passes state Senate

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

House Bill 1286 tells the courts to give deference to state water regulators, who adopted maps last year to show when gas and oil wells need to be given greater scrutiny to make sure they don’t injure the water rights of nearby landowners. Farmers and ranchers have sued the state over the rules, saying they are a giveaway to the gas industry. HB 1286 passed 35-0, and the bill is now on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1300 — Conservation Easement Tax Credit Dispute Resolution

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Under HB1300, easement donors whose claims are being disputed by the Colorado Department of Revenue could forego hearings before the Department of Revenue and take their cases straight to court in a jurisdiction close to home. The bill includes a provision that would remove the surety bond requirement that is presently necessary to take a conservation easement case to court. The prohibitive sum of those bonds has been a barrier to challenging easements in dispute for some landowners in the past…

One aim of HB1300 would be resolution of easement challenges that are pending. To that end, it calls for suspending interest and penalties against donors who willingly participate in resolution of their cases through district court. The bill’s primary sponsors are Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, and Sens. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, and Jeanne Nicholson, D-Black Hawk. Its first hearing will be in the House Committee on Finance.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2010 Colorado gubernatorial election transition: What should Colorado’s water strategy look like under a Hickenlooper administration?

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Water policy is surfacing as the top issue for the incoming administration. The governor has appointed John Stulp to a top-level water position and has repeatedly mentioned water as a priority. Mr. Stulp’s role will be to shape water policy. From email from Mr. Stulp via the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

As the new IBCC director, I am looking forward to a lively discussion regarding the report the IBCC sent to former Governor Ritter and Governor Hickenlooper. As part of my new charge, I’m seeking to engage not only the roundtables, a process that is underway, but also a wider set of the water community on this emerging framework. My goal is to have enough information on this framework that we can have a productive conversation at the March 3rd Statewide Roundtable Summit to improve the document with a geographically and politically diverse group of people in the room.

I have asked CWCB staff and the IBCC facilitator Heather Bergman, in support of the IBCC, to coordinate a public input process. You are officially invited to provide feedback in one or more of the following ways:

Facilitated Public Forums for detailed feedback on the Framework on both the West and East Slopes

o Feb. 4th 3:30-5:30 at the Warwick Denver Hotel, 1776 Grant Street, Denver, CO 80203

o Feb. 25th 1-4 , Glenwood Springs, CO (exact location for this meeting will be sent out next week)

Written Feedback Survey and Comment Opportunity, available at the Statewide Roundtable Summit webpage in the additional information section on the right side of the page. Additional comment emails or attachments may be sent to, but all are encouraged to take the survey. Surveys and written public feedback are due February 24th.

The March 3rd Statewide Roundtable Summit at the Doubletree Hotel Denver – North, 8773 Yates Drive, Westminster, CO 80031. Participants in the Summit are expected to participate in one of the above forums first. Registration is $25 for non-roundtable members to cover conference costs. Please register by clicking here.

In order to download a copy of the report, or hear IBCC members’ discussion with Governor Ritter, please visit the Statewide Roundtable Summit webpage.

Please let Jacob Bornstein know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns…

I look forward to learning from all of you,

John Stulp

Special Policy Advisor to the Governor / IBCC Director

I expect that Trout Unlimited will heed the call to help shape the framework since Drew Peternell has already offered an opinion in a recent Boulder Daily Camera guest column. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

In an age of water limits, can Colorado meet its water needs for agriculture, industry, and growing cities while also protecting its rivers and quality of life?

Yes – but only with creative solutions and strong leadership. Gov. Hickenlooper has a golden opportunity to move Colorado away from reliance on costly and destructive large dams and pipelines toward a smart water future built on low-impact alternatives such as conservation and reuse, small-scale storage, and innovative sharing arrangements between cities and farms.

We urge the new governor to seize the moment.

Governor Hickenlooper is the keynote speaker at Friday’s Wayne Aspinall Awards Luncheon to close out the Colorado Water Congress’ Annual Convention.

More 2010 Colorado election coverage here.

Water-smart home option now available to Colorado home buyers

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From the Associated Press via

New homes in Colorado are getting a small change in 2011 — builders are now required to offer options to save water. The law taking effect Saturday requires builders to offer the option of “water-smart homes” that include options such as low-flow toilets.

More coverage from Tim Hoover writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

House Bill 1358, sponsored by Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, and Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, would require builders of single-family, detached homes to offer customers the option of water-conserving toilets, faucets and showerheads. The bill even specifies what kinds of fixtures qualify, noting for example that “toilets shall use no more than one and 2 8/100ths of a gallon per flush.” And if builders offer upgrades for appliances and landscaping, they also will have to offer homebuyers water-thrifty dishwashers and Xeriscaping.

More conservation coverage here.

Governor Ritter Creates Mediation Process for River Access Disputes

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Here’s the release from Governor Ritter’s office (Myung Oak Kim/Todd Hartman):

Gov. Bill Ritter today issued a report outlining a series of proposals for resolving disputes between landowners and rafters in Colorado. He also signed an executive order creating the River Access Mediation Commission to provide a way for some of the most contentious conflicts between boaters and property owners to be addressed.

“I’m pleased to announce this report, and the formation of a mediation commission, so we can move forward in resolving these issues fairly and thoughtfully,” Gov. Ritter said. “I believe a mediation commission can work its way through these matters in a civil, reasoned way where all parties’ views are respected and considered in developing a resolution that could alleviate the need for litigation.”

The Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force was a 17-member group created in July to help craft ways to sort out conflicts on Colorado rivers on a stretch-by-stretch basis as those disputes arise. Gov. Ritter created the task force through executive order as part of an agreement with stakeholders to set aside numerous conflicting ballot measures on the issue.

The task force report includes eight unanimous recommendations to the Governor on ways to limit disputes between various parties. The recommendations include creation of the River Access Mediation Commission to address the thorniest disagreements. Participation by disputing parties would be voluntary, and the commission would not have the power of arbitration. The report can be accessed on the website of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources at

“I commend the hard work of the task force in developing this report, and extend my thanks for its effort in working through difficult issues that required members to find common ground,” Gov. Ritter said. “The report includes a host of recommendations with great potential to reduce friction between rafters and landowners. I look forward to sharing the recommendations with Governor-Elect John Hickenlooper, and urge him, along with the State Legislature, to thoughtfully review the report.”

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Durango Herald:

The bill was prompted by disputes between landowners who don’t want boaters using waterways flowing through their property and boaters who say the state’s waters belong to the public. The conflict came to a head on western Colorado’s Taylor River last year when a developer told commercial rafters they could no longer float through his property.

“I believe a mediation commission can work its way through these matters in a civil, reasoned way where all the parties’ views are respected and considered in developing a resolution that could alleviate the need for litigation,” Ritter said in a statement.

More whitewater coverage here. More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

River Access Dispute Task Force meeting recap

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From The Mountain Mail (Audrey Gilpin):

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area was presented as a “success story,” with park manager Rob White highlighting the citizens task force and river management plan as a way of monitoring river use and mitigating disputes among landowners, non-commercial boaters and private boaters. Comprised of anglers, private and commercial boaters, water users, environmental interests, property owners and local government representatives, White said the Arkansas headwaters task force creates a “communication tool” and management of the Arkansas River that’s “all about compromise,” White said…

The long-standing dispute about whether a “right to float” in Colorado exists or ought to exist, however, is not what the task force was charged to decipher. Mike King, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said the task force is trying to find adequate processes and tools to mitigate disputes. Arkansas River Canyon landowner Tim Canterbury said he’d “hate” to see any standard go statewide. “We have a unique situation on the Arkansas River. Can you legislate respect?” he said…

Task force members will attempt to find “solutions” in dealing with problems identified during the meeting including criminal trespass, obstructions in the river such as diversions, fences and structures; issues with commercial and non-commercial boaters, volume of boaters and impact to natural resources. The Governor’s group will meet from 1-5 p.m. Oct. 13 in Glenwood Springs followed by a public input meeting from 5-7 p.m. The task force is to submit a final report to the governor no later than Dec. 31, identifying a framework for a “dispute resolution process for conflicts between rafters and landowners.”

More whitewater coverage here.

River Access Dispute Task Force meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

“We are going to try to get neighbors to meet with neighbors without having to have legislation,” said Bob Hamel, a member of the task force who also is Colorado River Outfitters Association president and owner of Arkansas River Tours in Cotopaxi. “We (outfitters) are not going to give up floating on any rivers in Colorado and it’s not about signing agreements, because every situation is unique.”[…]

Nathrop rancher Frank McMurry told the task force about his concerns from a private landowner’s perspective. He said he and other landowners feelvulnerable to lawsuits. “I own the last piece of private property before you go into Browns Canyon, and the carrying capacity is 300 rafts. With seven people in a raft, that is 2,100 rafters a day and that is not counting the private boaters,” McMurry said. “My property has become an attractive nuisance and rafters have caused a big part of that,” McMurry said. He described finding private boaters on his property who had set up a volleyball net and were playing volleyball. Another time, a group of private boaters had stopped to chase some of his heifers at a time when two bulls were with the cattle. “What if one of them was hurt by a bull? Who is liable for that? I think the state should afford us liability (insurance) as property owners,” McMurry said.

The public still can weigh in on the issue. Written input or comments may be provided to Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force via e-mail at, via mail at Colorado Department of Natural Resources, attention Kim Burgess, 1313 Sherman St., Room 718, Denver, CO 80203. For information, log onto the website

More whitewater coverage here.

Governor Ritter’s River Access Dispute Task Force to meet in Salida tomorrow

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The 17-member Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force will meet from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District officers, 339 E. Rainbow Blvd. (U.S. 50). Public input is set from 5 to 7 p.m. The task force was created to help craft a dispute-resolution process to resolve future conflicts between boaters and private landowners on Colorado waterways. It met earlier this month for the first time, and additional meetings are planned in October and November…

Written input or comments may be provided to the Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force. Written comments will be compiled and delivered to Task Force members for their consideration.

By e-mail:

By mail: Colorado Department of Natural Resources, 1313 Sherman Street, Room 718, Denver, CO 80203. Attention: Kim Burgess.

More whitewater coverage here.

Governor Ritter names river access dispute resolution task force

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Here’s the release from Governor Ritter’s office (Theo Stein/Evan Dreyer):

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced he has appointed 17 members to the River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force. The Task Force was created to help craft a dispute-resolution process to resolve future conflicts between river users and private landowners on Colorado waterways.

The Task Force appointments follow heated debate that occurred earlier this year over proposed legislation, a specific dispute along the Taylor River and the introduction of several ballot measures which have since been withdrawn.

The Governor appointed the following 14 members to serve as voting members of the Task Force. The terms expire at the pleasure of the Governor:

– Robert A. Hamel of Howard
– Greg Felt of Salida
– G. David Costlow of Fort Collins
– Thomas J. Klienschnitz of Grand Junction
– Leslie A. Tyson of Denver
– Jay P.K. Kenny of Denver
– Lee L. Spann of Gunnison
– James R. Ford of Pagosa Springs
– John G. Leede of Greenwood Village
– Charles B. White of Denver
– Jay Fetcher of Clark
– Paul C. Crane of Boulder
– Sen. Dan Gibbs of Silverthorne
-Undersheriff Richard D. Besecker of Gunnison

He also appointed three members to serve as non-voting members of the Task Force, also with terms expiring at the please of the Governor:

– Rebecca Swanson of Denver, to serve as a co-chair of the Task Force from the Governor’s Office

– Patrick D. Tooley of Denver, to serve as a non-voting ex-officio member and as a legal advisor to the Task Force

– Carolyn F. Burr of Denver, to serve as a non-voting ex-officio member and as a legal advisor to the Task Force

The executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, or a selected designee, will also serve as a co-chair. The charge of the Task Force is to develop a framework for resolving conflicts among landowners, anglers, commercial rafters, and the boating public on a stretch-by-stretch basis as disputes arise. The group will:

– Hold two public meetings in different parts of the state to gather stakeholder input.

-Hold at least four other open meetings to evaluate the public input and consider options for a dispute-resolution process.

– Prepare a final report with recommendations for the Governor and Legislature by Dec. 31.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone). From the article:

The task force was created to help craft a dispute-resolution process to resolve future conflicts between river users and private landowners on Colorado waterways. During this year’s legislative session, a bill seeking to clarify whether rafters are entitled to float through rivers on private land failed to settle the question. The issue sprang from a dispute between a landowner along the Taylor River on the Western Slope and commercial rafters who for years had traversed the stretch through the land that the developer recently had acquired. The developer had threatened to halt passage through his property. A compromise was struck, avoiding about two dozen proposed ballot initiatives on the subject. The task force’s objective is to develop a framework for resolving conflicts between landowners, commercial rafters, anglers and the boating public on a stretch-by-stretch basis as disputes arise.

More whitewater coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Scott McInnis is standing behind his position that the lifting of Justice Hobbs’ writings was just a big mistake

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Update: Rolly Fischer is on the video record now. Channel 7’s John Ferrugia interviewed him yesterday. Here’s the link to their video page. I could not determine how to deep link. From the article:

Ferrugia asked, “Rolly, is Scott McInnis lying to us?”

“Yes,” said Fischer.

Meanwhile The Denver Post’s Karen Crummy is reporting that Colorado Republican leaders are preparing for the eventuality that McInnis might drop out of the goveror’s race. From the article:

The name rising to the top of the list was University of Colorado president Bruce Benson, the 1994 Republican nominee for governor. Benson said he was dedicated to his current job. “We’ve made great strides at the university and have a great team of people,” he said. But asked whether he was open to being a candidate again, he said, “You never say no.”

Others being considered include former Congressman Tom Tancredo and state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, who had been running against McInnis in the primary but dropped out of the race in November.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Foes have characterized McInnis’ faux pas as plagiarism and called for him to leave the governor’s race, something McInnis said he won’t do. “There obviously was a mistake made, and the research associates did not have sufficient attributions,” McInnis told The Pueblo Chieftain…

McInnis identified the researcher who plucked the writings from Hobbs as Rolly Fischer, who worked at the Colorado River Conservation Board. “(Fischer) thought it was in the public domain and you could use that,” McInnis said. McInnis said Fischer “is sick about” the plagiarism allegations…

The candidate admitted some personal responsibility for the gaffe. “One: (Fischer) should ha ve attributed it,” McInnis said. “Two: In the process, I need to go through the research material.”[…]

Dave Dill, Pueblo County Republican chairman, echoed McInnis’ position on Carroll’s remarks. “Obviously, McInnis is running pretty strong, in fundraising and in the campaign in general,” Dill said. “Democrats are fearing he’ll take the primary. If he is indeed the front-runner, (Democrats) would be happy to have him out of the race. They are afraid.”

The Fort Collins Coloradoan editorial board is calling on McInnis to bow out of the race. They write:

McInnis should bow out of the governor’s race. Prolonging his campaign in light of news about the plagiarism would not serve his party and does not serve Coloradans. Quite often, during election season, candidates do try to discredit their opponents by revealing unflattering facts or situations about them. These “stunts” do little to educate voters and appeal to the lowest common denominator. But McInnis is flat wrong in believing that this revelation is only significant or news because he is a candidate for governor. Honesty and integrity matter as much for the dog catcher as for the governor, not to mention a former U.S. congressman. McInnis apologized for the mistake, but he didn’t assume responsibility. And there is a difference.

On Wednesday The Denver Post editorial board also indicated that McInnis should quit the governor’s race. Here’s an excerpt:

The plagiarism and other issues have cumulatively so damaged McInnis’ credibility that we do not believe he can be an effective governor. Even though McInnis acknowledged he made a mistake, he still spent part of Tuesday blaming a research assistant for the failure to credit the work. If you put your name on something and take money for it — a lot of money in this case — it is your responsibility to make rock-solid sure it is bona fide, original work that will stand up to scrutiny. The state’s chief executive must be someone Coloradans can believe in as the state suffers a stretch of tight budgets and a struggling economy. If Scott McInnis cannot be trusted to turn in what amounts to an overpaid term paper — without plagiarizing someone else’s work — there is no way he can be relied upon to guide Colorado through these complicated times.

Meanwhile, Ed Quillen sizes up the situation in a way that simplifies everything, in his column in today’s Denver Post. He writes:

At least McInnis had the good sense to steal from a good source, Gregory J. Hobbs, a water lawyer who has served on our state Supreme Court since 1996…

… Hobbs writes with clarity, grace and knowledge about Colorado water. And as the late Steve Frazee (a Salida novelist who died in 1992) once advised me: “Your writing is influenced by what you read. Consciously or unconsciously, you’ll imitate. So you should always read the best — Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dickens, Homer.” Except McInnis apparently wasn’t reading Hobbs on water, because the candidate has blamed his “research adviser,” Rolly Fischer of Glenwood Springs, for lifting the material.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Rafting rift settlement leaves questions about the ‘right to float’

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From the Associated Press via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Colorado’s governor on Tuesday announced that a group of river rafters and a real estate developer who didn’t want paddlers floating by his property reached a four-year agreement…

The developer’s move [to close a certain reach of the Taylor River] prompted an intense debate over who owns riverways in Colorado, where tourists flock in summers to ride some of the West’s best freshwater rapids. The developer said that rafting trips would disturb a fishing preserve…

A state lawmaker from Gunnison tried and failed to protect rafting rights in a bill considered last session. After the bill failed, both sides vowed to seek ballot initiatives to put the question to voters, and 24 separate questions have been proposed. The four-year agreement announced Tuesday calls for both sides to agree to recall those proposals. Ritter hailed the decision to withdraw the flurry of ballot proposals “courageous.”

However, the “right to float” question isn’t settled. The agreement applies only to the stretch of the Taylor River in dispute, leaving unanswered the question of whether property owners with public rivers on their land can prevent paddlers, even if the rafters don’t stop on privately owned banks. “I do believe it needs to be addressed,” [Matt Brown, an owner of Scenic River Tours] said of permanent floating rights…

Ritter said he’s set up a panel of landowners, commercial and recreational river users and even police to propose a statewide procedure for settling river disputes. The report is due by the end of the year, in time for lawmakers to consider permanent rafting rules next session.

More whitewater coverage here.

Rafting rift settlement

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Here’s the release from Governor Ritter’s office:

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today an agreement has been reached between commercial rafting outfitters and private property owners along the Taylor River. The compromise clears the way for sponsors of 24 competing ballot measures to withdraw their respective proposals from the November ballot, averting an expensive and divisive election fight.

The Governor had asked two outfitters, Three Rivers and Scenic River Tours, and the owners of the Jackson-Shaw property, in May to find a mutually agreeable solution to their dispute.

Gov. Ritter thanked the parties for their hard work and willingness to find common ground. “To reach this accord, both sides had to make difficult concessions, and I appreciate their willingness to do so,” the Governor said. “Today’s agreement marks an important step toward opening a dialogue between landowners and rafters. My hope is that this dialogue will then lead to a fair and efficient dispute-resolution process for the future.

“Colorado’s rivers are essential to all Coloradans, not only for the vital drinking and agricultural water they carry, but also to our overall economy and quality of life,” said Gov. Ritter, who is an avid fly-fisherman. “Anglers, rafters and private landowners may all have separate and unique interests, but they all share a common Colorado interest that is bound together by doing what’s best for our children and the future of our state.

“I also applaud the decision of the sponsors to withdraw their ballot initiatives,” Gov. Ritter added. “The decision of these parties to withdraw these ballot measures was courageous and puts the interests of all Coloradans above their individual interests.”

Said Lewis Shaw, chairman and CEO of Jackson-Shaw Co., which owns the Wilder on the Taylor fishing reserve: “We are pleased to announce a resolution to the dispute on the Taylor River involving commercial rafting and private fishing property. Gov. Ritter has offered much-appreciated guidance to both parties to reach this settlement privately, avoiding possible contentious legislative initiatives or impositions. The agreement permits rafting companies Three Rivers and Scenic River Tours structured access through the private Wilder Ranch property while respecting each parties’ positions for their mutual enjoyment of this beautiful natural resource.”/p>

“Over the years, Colorado’s property owners and rafters around the state, working on a case-by-case basis, have found ways to accommodate each other,” said John Leede, president of the Creekside Coalition, which represents about 600 riparian landowners across Colorado. “We believe this long-standing approach has served Colorado well by balancing the needs of various interests. Our ballot issues were introduced to protect against legislative and ballot proposals from the commercial rafting community that we believed were one sided and would have disrupted the delicate balance between rafters, fisherman and property owners across the state. We are appreciative of the Governor’s leadership in resolving this issue and we will continue to participate constructively in future discussions around these issues.”

The withdrawal of the ballot measures also clears the way for the creation of a task force that will propose a dispute-resolution process to address future conflicts on Colorado rivers.

Gov. Ritter will convene a task force of stakeholders to develop a proposal for resolving conflicts among landowners, anglers and the boating public. The task force will be charged with developing a framework for resolving disputes on Colorado rivers on a stretch-by-stretch basis as those disputes arise. This approach recognizes that disputes vary from place to place and that a one-size-fits-all strategy is unlikely to succeed.

The task force will be led by the Department of Natural Resources and the Governor’s Office. The task force will include representatives from landowners, commercial and recreational river users, local government officials and law enforcement, which has historically been tasked with intervening in such disputes.

The task force will be asked to deliver a report outlining its proposal to the Governor by Dec. 31.

More HB 10-1188 (State Representative Kathleen Curry’s bill to clarify navigation rights) coverage for background on the rift here. More background on the proposed ballot issues for this fall’s elections here.

El Jebel: Taylor River rafting rift sufaces at the Colorado River District’s ‘State of the River’ meeting

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From the Aspen Daily News (David Frey):

State Rep. Kathleen Curry said she “didn’t get it right” in trying to craft a right-to-float bill on Colorado rivers, but strong emotions on both sides of the issue suggest crafting any kind of bill to address the issue will be tricky. “It creates a situation with not a lot of room or even motivation for middle ground,” said Curry, speaking at a State of the River conference hosted by the Colorado River Water Conservation District on Tuesday night…

“We met a great deal of opposition, really from all sides,” Curry said. “I didn’t get it right. We thought we had basically gone down a path of trying to create a compromise.” With no legislation passed, 20 proposed ballot initiatives are pending to resolve the issue on the November ballot. Sixteen were proposed by landowners. Four were proposed by river outfitters. Two of those include language for anglers. Two don’t…

Glenwood Springs water attorney Scott Balcomb argued that if the state wants access through landowners’ properties, it should pay for rights of way, much as governments do for roads. “I’m not against the boating industry. You can tell,” Balcomb said, pointing to a boating logo on his shirt. “I am for respecting the constitutional rights of landowners and getting it done in a proper organized way. Both sides of this controversy badly need to know what the rules are so that the incidents that Ken brought out stop.”[…]

Sitting in the audience, Frying Pan Anglers’ Warrick Mobray said he understood both sides of the argument. As an angler, he wants floating rights. As a landowner, he wants protections. The two sides should sit down and hammer out a compromise, Mobray said, but he admitted, that’s not very likely. “Both sides are nuts,” he said…

Water experts said Tuesday night that Ruedi Reservoir will fill completely, thanks to spring showers which have helped maintain the snowpack.

Meanwhile, here’s an update on the agreement between Wilder on the Taylor and the two outfitters that will allow them to run the river this season, from Seth Mensing writing for the Crested Butte News. From the article:

The offer: follow six rules ranging from timing of the trips to respecting water levels in the Taylor, and take a few trips through the property this summer. Then the two sides can take time to talk about the future…

…Gunnison Rep. Kathleen Curry, who championed the bill in the state house, said she probably will not pursue a similar bill next year, if she is re-elected. “I don’t plan to run legislation next year because … the issue was so contentious the personal toll this bill took was too high. I don’t see the point in working on a ‘compromise’ proposal just to have it killed next year in the legislature by the big money landowner interests,” she says. “If both sides were willing to agree to a solution and then stick by their word when the time came, then I think it would be worth pursuing this issue further. But, based on what happened this year, I have little hope for that.”

Now, outside of ongoing mediation, Shaw is saying he won’t press trespass charges against either Three Rivers or Scenic River Tours if the rafters limit the timing and number of trips, cover Wilder’s liability in the event of an injury and keep their angling flies out of the water. In a statement Shaw said, “While mediation between Jackson-Shaw and the two Taylor River rafting companies continues, Jackson-Shaw recognizes that Three Rivers and Scenic are at the threshold of their commercial rafting season and that it will take time to finalize any formal agreement. Accordingly, as a show of good faith, Jackson-Shaw has decided to give Three Rivers and Scenic permission to float through Wilder on the Taylor this summer.”

As long as boaters have been running the Taylor freely, they have had to take out and portage around a bridge on the Wilder property. Shaw’s offer gives them the permission to continue doing that. The two rafting companies will have to decide how to share the four commercial trips that will be allowed through the property each day, with two going through between 9:30 and 11 a.m., followed by the others between 1:30 and 3 p.m. And even inside the three-month window, Shaw says the rafters shouldn’t float through Wilder when the water level is below 200 cubic feet per second below the Taylor Dam…

According to the release, scheduling conflicts have delayed a second mediation meeting at the Judicial Arbiters Group in Denver, which was started at Governor Bill Ritter’s request. The two groups will meet again May 26. “So long as Three Rivers and Scenic are willing to accept Jackson-Shaw’s permission and follow these simple terms, Jackson-Shaw will allow the rafting companies to conduct rafting trips through the property this summer,” Shaw concluded. “Acceptance by these two rafting companies of these terms will not prevent mediation from continuing. However, it will give the two companies some certainty as the rafting season begins.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here. More whitewater coverage here.

Taylor River: Rafting rift leads to agreement for this season

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From the Associated Press (Steven K. Paulson) via the Summit Daily News:

Property owners have declared a temporary truce in a dispute with commercial rafters and will allow rafting on their property this summer. Jackson-Shaw, the company that owns the Wilder on the Taylor fishing reserve, said Friday it will grant the two Taylor River rafting companies, Three Rivers Outfitting and Scenic River Tours, permission to float through its property this summer…

Lewis Shaw, chairman of the company, said it will take time to work out a permanent agreement and he wanted to give rafters a chance to begin their season. “While mediation between Jackson-Shaw and the two Taylor River rafting companies continues, Jackson-Shaw recognizes that Three Rivers and Scenic are at the threshold of their commercial rafting season and that it will take time to finalize any formal agreement. Accordingly, as a show of good faith, Jackson-Shaw has decided to give Three Rivers and Scenic permission to float through Wilder on the Taylor this summer,” Shaw said.

Bob Hamel, chairman of the Colorado River Outfitters Association, said it was a nice gesture but rafters believe they don’t need Shaw’s permission to raft the river. Rafting companies were already going ahead with their new season, he said. “Jackson-Shaw is not entitled to grant permission. The permission is in the Forest Service permit. I think this is premature because we’re still in negotiations,” Hamel said.

Mediation between the two rafting companies and Jackson-Shaw began on April 22 and remains ongoing. Both sides have agreed to keep the details of their negotiations secret. Shaw imposed several conditions, including limits on rafting between May 15 and Aug. 15 if there is sufficient water. The companies will be allowed four trips each day between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. so fishermen can also enjoy their sport. Rafters will be allowed on the property to carry their rafts across a bridge…

Rep. Kathleen Curry, an unaffiliated state representative from Gunnison, said she believes voters will side with rafters, who have exercised their rights to use Colorado rivers for decades and have become a symbol of Colorado’s outdoor life. Eric Anderson, who represents a coalition of property owners, including fishermen who barred rafting this year on their property, said he believes fishermen will win in the court of public opinion because their property rights are being threatened.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams). From the article:

The company that prompted one of the more hotly contested bills of the legislative session – House Bill 1188 dealing with commercial river rafting – announced Friday it would allow two outfitters to float the Taylor River through its property this summer. Officials for Jackson-Shaw, owner of the Wilder on the Taylor fishing reserve, said they will continue mediation efforts with Three Rivers Outfitting and Scenic River Tours while allowing the two companies to continue navigating the river through the private property…

Jackson-Shaw won’t allow rafters to fish the Taylor through the preserve, but they can portage a bridge (go around on land) as long they are “respectful” of the property, and the boaters must also limit the number of trips and stick to certain times and dates. “We believe that these rules are reasonable and will allow the rafting companies to meet demand, operate profitable businesses, and conduct far more commercial trips through the property this summer than last summer,” Jackson-Shaw Chairman and CEO Lewis Shaw said in a release.

Gov. Bill Ritter Thursday said he will work with landowner groups and the commercial rafting industry to resolve differences and avoid a looming ballot measure on the contentious issue.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here. More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right) dies in conference committee

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

“What we tried to do with this bill was relate the statutes with reality,” said Rep. Kathleen Curry, the unaffiliated Gunnison legislator who introduced the bill with Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton. “What unraveled the legislative process was the fear of litigation and how the courts would interpret (it). We had a bill that looked reasonable when you read the bill, but the opposition felt like … the courts would make a broader finding and open up everything.”

When Curry introduced the measure in January, it was designed to allow rafters to float down Colorado rivers through private land, touching the riverbed and banks only in cases of emergencies.

But when it reached the Senate, lawmakers there said the idea constituted a taking of private property. As a result, that chamber turned it into a study, but sent it to a nongovernmental organization made up of landowners and water companies, not recreational river users.

Curry said without the bill, a slew of ballot questions may be placed before voters this fall to decide the matter one way or the other. There are 16 pro-landowner measures pending, and four designed to open private land to all rafting.

Regardless of what gets on the ballot in November, Curry predicted the uneasy peace that has existed between rafting companies and landowners will end, and a heated war will erupt this summer between the two sides. She said she already is hearing reports of rafters cutting down fences that property owners have erected to stop them from traversing rivers that cross their land.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

HB 10-1358 (Water-smart Homes) and HB 10-1051 (Water Efficiency Plans Annual Reports) both head to Governor Ritter’s desk for his signature

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From the Summit County Voice (Bob Berwyn):

House Bill 1358 is a pro-active piece of legislation that simply requires homebuilders to give buyers the up-front option for various water-saving options, including low-flow toilets and faucets, high-efficiency washing machines, as well as low-water-use landscaping. House Bill 1051 would help water planners collect more accurate information about water efficiency efforts.

Both the measures appear to enjoy widespread support and have bipartisan backing in the State Legislature, although the homebuilding industry opposes HB 1358′s mandatory requirement that buyers be notified of water-wise options for appliances and landscaping. New homes incorporating water-smart appliances and fixtures could easily use 20 percent less water, said Becky Long, water caucus organizer for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. If, by 2050, 100,000 new homes are built using water-smart measures, it could save up to 2 billion gallons of water, Long said, explaining that the latest generation of low-flow toilets and other water-saving appliances and fixtures are far improved over earlier models.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right) dies in conference committee

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From The Denver Post (Jessica Fender):

The six-lawmaker panel deadlocked when members couldn’t settle on rules regarding how, when or whether river enthusiasts should be able to float through private property. The lack of a legislative resolution probably means voters will be asked to settle the fight on the November ballot. Twenty ballot initiatives on the subject are currently waiting in the wings, though that number will certainly be culled before Election Day. Rep. Kathleen Curry, sponsor of House Bill 1188, said none of the initiatives fully address complicated issues such as portage and trespassing that are likely to be glossed over by campaigns on both sides. “We are unable to reach an agreement, but that doesn’t mean the issue goes away,” said Curry, I-Gunnison. “Tensions are up back home, but I couldn’t help them.”[…]

Meanwhile, private mediation on the conflict that brought the bill to the fore continues, according to lobbyist Mike Feeley, who represents land developer Jackson-Shaw. The Texas company purchased both sides of the bank along a 2-mile stretch of the Taylor River and plans an exclusive vacation community. It threatened to bar two Almont rafting outfitters from floating through the property. At Gov. Bill Ritter’s direction, the rafting and land-development companies have started to negotiate a compromise.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: State Water Quality Control Division nukes Cotter plan for Schwartzwalder mine mitigation

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From the Associated Press via

Cotter Corp. has submitted a plan to state mining regulators to reduce uranium levels in Ralston Creek from the closed Schwartzwalder Mine. The water flows into a reservoir that supplies some of Denver’s drinking water. The Water Quality Control Division of the state health department told mining regulators in a memo Monday that Cotter’s plan doesn’t reduce uranium in the water to acceptable levels…

The state Office of Mined Land Reclamation expects to decide by May 19 whether to approve or reject Cotter’s plan or seek more information.

Meanwhile here’s a look at HB 10-1348 and how it will impact Cotter’s plans for their mill in Cañon City from Marjorie Childress writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

A controversial plan to open an old uranium mine on Mt. Taylor near Grants, New Mexico, faces an obstacle in the new law passed by the Colorado legislature that forbids increased operations at uranium mills until the mill companies clean up sites contaminated in the past. The Cotter Uranium Mill, just a little over a mile south of Cañon City is owned by the same company that owns the Mt. Taylor mine and is the designated recipient of future Mt. Taylor uranium ore. Under the new law, which Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has yet to sign, Cotter would not be able to accept the ore, at least not any time soon. “This is not unexpected,” John Hamrick, vice president of milling at Cotter, told the Cañon City Daily Record. “This bill will prevent us from processing the Mount Taylor ore.”

Click through and read the whole article — there is a lot of good detail.

More HB 10-1348 coverage from Matthew Beaudin writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The bill will essentially require companies to clean as they go, curtailing the toxic sites that dot the Western landscape and the towering cleanup costs that saddled taxpayers. (Colorado alone has shelled out more than $1 billion to cleanup the industry.) Last week, the Senate voted 24-9 in favor of the bill and the house later readopted the bill resoundingly, 60-3. Now, it waits for Ritter to vault it into law…

Hilary White, Sheep Mountain Alliance’s executive director, helped work on the measure and said Ritter will sign the bill “shortly.”[…]

Taxpayers have spent more than $950 million to clean up toxic pollution at past uranium milling operations located primarily on Colorado’s Western Slope, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. “It means that the bad actors in the uranium industry will not be allowed to operate if they are in violation of contaminating the environment,” White said. “It’s been shown time and time again that uranium companies just walk away from their messes.”[…]

Jeffrey Parsons, a senior attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, which supports the bill, said there’s no guarantee Cotter will be able to get ore from Mount Taylor, which is considered sacred land by as many as 30 Indian tribes. White said the measure will also increase bonding obligations for operators in hopes of stanching the costs of future cleanup. All told, the Naturita mill site cost $67 million to clean up and the Uravan site, designated a Superfund site, cost $120 million to clean, White said. Also according to Sheep Mountain, Energy Fuels, the company planning to build a mill in Paradox Valley, plans to put up $12 million in bonding. Bonding in general, she said, was “less than adequate.” “The industry is a mess and needs to be cleaned up,” she said.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): What are the impacts to riparian areas and fish populations?

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From Steamboat Today (Michael J. Mitchell):

The sustainability of one of Colorado’s most sensitive natural resources, our waterways, is being pitted against the demand for recreation and commerce. Floating, while it may seem to be non-consumptive, has impacts on the habitats where it occurs. There is bank damage at put in/take outs, toilets next to rivers, bank side parking lots, trails along rivers, overfishing and trash to name just a few. These impacts add up, resulting in real biological consequences. The impact is not limited to fish; fish-eating bald eagles, water dependent river otters, migratory waterfowl and other riparian dependent species will also be affected if constant boat traffic is present.

The unregulated floating of Colorado rivers is proposed for one of the most precious wildlife habitats in our state; the thin vegetated line along waterways known as riparian habitat. Our riparian habitat represents just 3 percent of the land area but it is essential to sustain 75 percent of our wildlife species. If we were to consider such a major change within one of our National Forests or other federal lands we would be required by law to evaluate the environmental consequences through professional assessments and impact statements. Why would we want less for Colorado’s rivers?

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

HB 10-1197 (Reduce Conservation Easement Cap Amount): Governor Ritter inks the deal

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday signed House Bill 1197, which sets a statewide limit of $26 million on conservation easement tax credits. The Department of Revenue estimates the bill will save $37 million in the popular tax credit program.

More HB 10-1197 coverage here. More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here. More conservation easement coverage here and here.

Taylor River rafting rift negotiations recap

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From The Crested Butte News (Seth Mensing):

Meetings between Three Rivers Outfitters, Scenic River Tours and the Wilder resumed Thursday, April 22 at the request of Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and are still ongoing with a possible agreement that would let boaters and anglers share a two-mile stretch of the river. That is the stick and carrot keeping both sides going. Three Rivers and Scenic River, which are the only two commercial companies running the Taylor, have said that banning them from a two-mile section of water will lead them to financial ruin. But according to Forest Service records obtained by Dick Bratton, a partner with the Gunnison law firm Bratton, Hill, Wilderson & Lock, which is representing the developers of the exclusive Wilder on the Taylor subdivision, Three Rivers only took 62 clients on the disputed section of river last year.

And Brad Roberts, co-owner of Harmel’s Resort just upstream from the Wilder property, isn’t shy about placing the blame for the dispute squarely on the shoulders of Scenic River Tours. “Scenic River Tours has this obnoxious trespassing thing,” Roberts says.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here. More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Governor Ritter signs SB 10-174 (Promote Geothermal Energy Development)

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Here’s the release from the Governor’s office (Megan Castle/Evan Dreyer):


Gov. Ritter was joined today by Sen. Gail Schwartz and local officials at the dedication of the new Touber Building, named after former Salida Mayor Edward Touber. The City of Salida and Chaffee County will use this historic building for office space.

“The Touber Building is a shining example of the success that can happen when local and state governments and public and private entities pool their collective financial and creative resources,” said Gov. Ritter. “I know the struggles of Chaffee County, along with the rest of the state and the nation, have not been easy. Partnering together to build a complex like this that will house both city and county community services helps from a financial standpoint. Also, it is a 21st century solution towards building sustainable communities. The state was honored to partner with you on this solution.”

Immediately following the Touber Building dedication ceremony, Gov. Ritter signed Senate Bill [10-174] (pdf), sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz and Reps. Christine Scanlan and Tom Massey, which promotes geothermal energy in Colorado.

“Senate Bill 174 will help Colorado to begin to realize the potential of geothermal energy,” Gov. Ritter said. “Geothermal is a great clean renewable energy source, that can be a base load provider and help to bring the benefits of the New Energy Economy to rural Colorado.”

“Geothermal energy will diversify Colorado’s energy portfolio. This bill will improve cooperation between the federal, state, and local governments, strengthen Colorado’s energy sector, and create jobs for Coloradans,” Sen. Schwartz said. “I would like to thank Chaffee County for their efforts on this bill and the broader water community for the work on protecting existing geothermal water rights and those in the future.”

“Geothermal is an exciting clean energy movement with the potential to exceed even solar and wind in supplying the US’s electricity needs in the future. In fact, the state Capitol will be moving towards using it next year for the building’s energy needs,” said Rep. Scanlan. “I am pleased that we have made a commitment to strengthen this energy sector.”

For a complete list of Gov. Ritter’s 2010 legislation decisions, visit or click here.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado natural resources and health regulators don’t yet agree with Cotter for proposed remediation at the Schwartzwalder Mine

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Denver Water and environmentalists on Wednesday demanded an aggressive cleanup to protect public health. They say drinking water is safe because water treatment plants remove uranium. State natural resources and health regulators are reviewing a cleanup proposal that Cotter submitted eight days ago. Cotter’s proposed options include:

• Rerouting Ralston Creek through pipes around the mine. This could harm aquatic life but prevent contamination from reaching Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir.

• Creating an artificial wetland that gradually could filter out uranium. Critics said this could be too slow.

• Installing a barrier to filter the uranium from water before it gets to the creek or groundwater.

• Digging out toxic soil 20 feet deep at the mine and hauling it to a disposal site. That remedy may depend on whether groundwater links to the mine, more than 2,000 feet deep…

“If we can demonstrate there’s no communication between the mine pool and the groundwater that results in a measurable impact, then we may not have to do anything with the mine pool,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We all agree there’s a problem. We’re working to address it.”[…]

“If (Cotter’s proposal) is determined to be deficient, (state regulators) will ask for the deficiencies to be corrected,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Theo Stein said. State inspectors documented contamination in 2007, records show. They negotiated with Cotter, which argued that the mine was not a facility subject to state law. The law was changed in 2008 to include uranium mines. In 2009, regulators rejected Cotter’s initial cleanup plan as inadequate…

Denver Water officials are waiting for results from water tests done last week at Ralston Creek and Ralston Reservoir, spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “The faster the parties can agree on a plan, the better it will be for everyone,” she said.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) clears preliminary vote in the state senate

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

The state Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would require Cotter uranium mill to clean up its pollution before taking on new jobs. Proponents of the bill contend Cotter has been poisoning the environment for decades and done little about it, while representatives of the company have said the proposed legislation would be a poison pill for its operation…

The House already has passed the bill, and a final vote on it in the Senate could come as soon as today.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.

HB 10-1051 (Water Efficiency Plans Annual Reports) passes out of state senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee

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From The Durango Herald (State Senator Bruce Whitehead):

Senate Bill 1051 was heard in the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee last week. This is a bill I have mentioned before that requires large water providers to report annually on water use. The data collected from this bill will be used to improve water-conservation efforts. After much work and discussions with the Colorado Water Congress, Colorado Water Conservation Board, conservation groups and municipal water providers, we were able to craft a bill that was acceptable to the various organizations. The bill passed out of committee unanimously.

More HB 10-1051 coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) passes out of state Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee

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From The Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee passed the bill out on a vote of six to one. Matt Garrington, of Environment Colorado, one of the groups supporting the bill, said it could be taken to the floor as early as Monday.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): Bill heads to house/senate conference committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

On Friday, the House voted to refer HB1188 as amended in the Senate to a conference committee with representatives from both chambers. The bill as originally passed by the House sought to allow commercial rafters to float through private property. In the Senate, it first was amended to open rivers through private property to anyone who wanted to use them — including anglers and individual, noncommercial rafters — and then amended to become a study by the Colorado Water Congress with no action to be taken this session by the Legislature. The Colorado Water Congress is the pre-eminent lobby in the state on issues pertaining to water use. Those changes on Friday faced a vote of the House, where the bill was referred to a conference committee.

More coverage from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

When House Bill 1188 cleared the Colorado House in mid-February, it allowed rafters to cross private property but limited how often people can make contact with land. When the Senate debated the bill in March, however, the measure was reduced to a study, and then by a nongovernmental panel that focuses on water issues rather than recreation or landowner rights. As a result, its chief sponsor, unaffiliated Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, got the House to vote 41-21 Friday to send it to a conference committee of three representatives and three senators. There she hopes a compromise can be drafted. There are 24 proposed ballot questions addressing the issue, and Gov. Bill Ritter even got involved in trying to negotiate a compromise. At issue is the right to float on publicly owned water versus concerns over private property rights.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Curry asked Friday that the bill go to a conference committee to continue the discussion. The House granted her request on a 41-21 vote. The Senate had adjourned for the day and must agree before a conference committee could begin.

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, urged the House to follow the Senate’s lead and turn the bill into a study. “They had the sense to say, you know what, this is much bigger than what we can deal with right now,” Sonnenberg said.

Curry introduced the bill because of a dispute between a rafting company and a developer in her district. The two sides are trying to negotiate a settlement. “Even if they reach an agreement, the problem still persists throughout the state, and the ballot initiative process is out of our reach,” Curry said in a letter to her colleagues Tuesday.

More coverage from The Pulse- of Colorado Farm Bureau (Garin Vorthmann):

Representative Kathleen Curry, the House sponsor of the measure, did not support the Senate version of the bill which directed the Colorado Water Congress to facilitate a study regarding the issue of rafting through private property and to report back to the legislature in November. Rep. Curry asked for permission to have a conference committee established, which will be made up of 3 members from the House of Representatives and 3 members from the Senate. The committee will then be charged with trying to draft a compromise between the two versions of the bill.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here. More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 makes it through state senate committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

A Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that would require the Cotter uranium mill to clean up its mess before it could take in new materials. Cotter officials had told the panel if the bill passes, it would limit the mill’s ability to mitigate existing pollution. The bill’s proponents said better mitigation steps should have been taken to date if its operators didn’t want the Legislature to step in. The committee advanced the measure with a 10-1 vote.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): Rafting companies and developer agree to try mediation at the behest of Governor Ritter

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From the Crested Butte News (Seth Mensing):

The trick will be to find a way a two-mile section of the Taylor River can be shared by two disparate groups of rafting and fishing clientele who expect something completely different from their respective river experiences.

Mark Schumacher, owner of Three Rivers Tours, representatives from Scenic River Tours and the Colorado River Outfitters’ Association, along with attorney Lori Potter, will sit down with developer Lewis Shaw and his lawyers Thursday, April 22 to make another attempt finding that common ground, with the help of the Judicial Arbiter Group Inc., a team of retired trial and appellate court judges who mediate such disputes.

Schumacher says the mediation is non-binding and either party can walk away at anytime. If that happens without a resolution, his company’s future on the middle section of the Taylor River will rest largely on the passage of House Bill 1188, the Commercial Rafting Viability Act, which was introduced by Gunnison Rep. Kathleen Curry in the last legislative session, or with a November ballot measure.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

State Representative Sal Pace may introduce another basin mitigation bill

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Last month, Pace queried the IBCC about what efforts it has undertaken to assure districts of origin aren’t harmed in water transfers. Last week, Eric Hecox, section chief for water supply planning of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, answered.

Hecox’s letter cited two examples of how the IBCC is addressing the transfer issue. One was a discussion of issues surrounding movement of water between basins and between uses. The other was a transfer committee of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which produced a report on the concerns associated with transfers of water from agricultural to urban uses, particularly in municipalities outside the basin. “The work of the Interbasin Compact Committee and Basin Roundtables is creating trust between parties and identifying solutions to our state’s water supply challenges,” Hecox’s letter stated.

“I was disappointed in their response,” [state Rep. Sal Pace] said. “They’re nowhere close, by their own admission, to brokering substantial mitigation for water transfers…

Pace said the roundtables’ work on transfer mitigation was the key to his bill’s defeat, because lawmakers had the impression that the matter was in hand. If it’s not, he said, another run at legislation may be in order next session. “I would consider bringing the bill back because so many legislators thought work was being done, that we now know clearly isn’t,” Pace said.

More IBCC — Basin roundtable coverage here. More HB 1-=1159 coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): Colorado Water Congress’ role

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Here’s an opinion piece penned by Charles White running in The Denver Post. Mr. White maintains that the CWC is the right organization to help shepherd the bill. From the article:

The Colorado Senate made the right decision in referring the contentious proposal to establish a “right to float” on the state’s waterways to the Colorado Water Congress. This was not, as suggested by The Post, a “punt” of the issues. Rather, it was a realistic recognition that more work is needed to address the serious flaws in the original bill. Under House Bill 1188…

The Colorado Water Congress is ideally suited to address each of these issues. Since 1957, it has brought divergent interest groups together to study, negotiate, and propose legislation on a wide variety of topics related to Colorado water. The CWC would convene a broadly representative panel to make recommendations for new legislation that could have much broader public support. This common-sense solution to the current impasse deserves The Post’s endorsement.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

SB 10-027 (Fine illegal surface water diversions): Governor Ritter signs the bill just in time for irrigation season

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Here’s the release from the Governor’s office:


Gov. Ritter signed the following bills into law today:

HB10-1044 Neighborhood youth org requirements
HB10-1107 Urban Renewal Area Ag Lands
HB10-1135 Define domestic violence child custody
HB10-1233 Relocation of stalking statute
SB10-27 Fine illegal surface water diversions

More SB 10-027 coverage here. More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB 10-1250 (Water Conservation Bd Construction Fund): La Plata-Archuleta Water District update

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The water district, created in 2004, wants to provide drinking water in a 400-square-mile area in southeastern La Plata County and southwestern Archuleta County. La Plata County would be developed first. But before it can move ahead, residents must agree to tax themselves to pay for planning, capital improvements, construction, maintenance and administration. If they approve ballot Issue A, voters are authorizing a levy on the market value of their property of 5 mills (half a penny), expected to raise $5.1 million in 2011. The levy could vary in future years but may never exceed 5 mills. The 5-mill levy would cost the owner of a $200,000 house $7 a month.

[Board president Dick Lunceford] and Amy Kraft with Harris Water Engineering, the district’s consulting engineer, told commissioners they’ll soon begin discussing technical issues with county planners and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe on whose reservation much of the area to be serviced lies. They’ll also be evaluating the project’s overall viability in light of possible drops in revenue, Kraft and Lunceford said. BP is the largest gas producer and the largest source of property-tax revenue for the district. But as gas production eventually falls off, so will revenue. For now, however, a 5-mill property tax levy – applied to the $1.2 billion of assessed value in the district – will produce the $5.1 million annually that the district anticipates, Lunceford said…

The district has several water sources in mind, Lunceford said. For starters, it owns a total of about 22 cubic feet a second from the Piedra, Pine, Animas and Florida rivers. It also is interested in buying 500 to 1,000 acre-feet from the state if Colorado exercises its right to Animas-La Plata Project water. The district has its eye on leasing 200 to 300 acre-feet from the Pine River Irrigation District. The district will need an estimated 2,750 acre-feet to serve about 5,000 customers in the two counties over the next 20 years…

Eventually, a joint water-treatment plant with Bayfield is anticipated, Lunceford said. But whether it would be constructed before a treatment plant at the base of Lake Nighthorse, the A-LP reservoir, depends on which water source comes on line first, he said. If the A-LP is developed first, distribution lines would be extended to Florida Mesa. If the joint project with Bayfield comes about first, Gem Village and points south and west would be the first area to receive district water.

Meanwhile State Senator Bruce Whitehead is pushing the state of Colorado to buy water from the Animas-La Plata project, according to a report from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

The proposed sale – financed by state natural-gas and oil tax money – raises the question of why the state should buy the same water that the tribes can get for free. “I might have the same question,” said Scott McElroy, an attorney for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

The answer lies in control of the water. “It comes down to whether you would rather own the water or do long-term leases,” Whitehead said. Whitehead was the executive director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District until last year, when he filled a vacancy in the state Senate. The district has pushed the state for years to buy rights in the Animas-La Plata Project.

The Southern Ute tribe also welcomes state participation, McElroy said. But if the state doesn’t buy in, the tribe is willing to talk with local water districts about supplying water, McElroy said at a Colorado Water Conservation Board meeting on March 29…

The new La Plata Archuleta Water District wants to buy up to 1,400 acre-feet from the state. The La Plata West Water Authority also has told the state water board it is interested in buying water out of the state’s future share. The La Plata Archuleta district has not talked to either Ute tribe about leasing water, said Steve Harris, the district’s consulting engineer. The district would need the lease to be permanent, Harris said. “But if they were reasonable terms, of course, we’d be willing to talk,” Harris said…

The federal government built the reservoir [Lake Nighthorse] primarily to settle American Indian water rights claims. Both the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes get 33,050 acre-feet, enough to turn the tribes into two of the biggest water owners in the Four Corners. Smaller amounts go to the Navajo Nation and water districts in Colorado and New Mexico. The state of Colorado has an option to buy 10,460 acre-feet, half of which could be consumed in any year. It’s roughly enough water for a city the size of Durango. If Colorado does not buy the water, it would go to each Ute tribe in equal parts…

On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will consider an amendment to House Bill 10-1250 to spend $36 million over three years to buy the water from the federal government…

The last two years, the Legislature has raided most of Colorado’s water funds in order to balance the budget. An improved forecast for gas and oil tax money has given state officials the confidence that they will have enough money to complete the Animas-La Plata deal.

Ballots for the election will be mailed to residents in the district on Thursday, according to a report from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Votes must be cast by May 4. Voters may mail their Issue A ballot or hand-carry it to the office of Harris Engineering, the district’s consulting engineer.

Voters are asked to approve a 5 mill (half a penny) property-tax increase to raise $5.1 million in 2011, and future mill levy increases cannot exceed 5 mills annually. Approval of Issue A also would remove the La Plata Archuleta Water District’s revenue limit set by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights Amendment – allowing it to spend such proceeds and any other revenue such as from grants.

The mill levy could be adjusted annually by the district’s board of directors. [ed. This is the TABOR exemption — the mill levy adjustment does not require taxpayer approval.]

More infrastructure coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Governor Ritter wades into rafting rift rapids

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Ritter has met with rafting interests and landowners hoping to broker a compromise “so this doesn’t become some kind of ballot Armageddon.” Since the Senate amended [HB 10-1188] last month, it has been a fixture on the House calendar with no action…

Since a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in the late 1970s that allowed rafters passage through private lands, outfitters and landowners have coexisted mostly harmoniously, Ritter said Monday. But the Western Slope acrimony and resulting bill created a rift. “The controversy that was normally dormant came to the surface,” Ritter said.

The governor said his office has intervened because the specter of numerous ballot initiatives further muddying the water over who can travel Colorado’s rivers and where looms large. To date, 12 proposed initiatives swirling around those questions have been filed with the state for possible placement on the November ballot. Talks between both sides of the issue have been productive at times, and broken down at others, Ritter said. It’s likely a conference committee of the Legislature will soon hear the bill in its amended form, but ideally, Ritter would like to see rafters and landowners calm the waters themselves.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

SB 10-181 (Municipal Authority To Lease Land) passes the state senate

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow Walsenburg, Rocky Ford and about 150 other statutory towns and cities to lease the land they own with water rights. Until now, only home-rule municipalities have had that authority. In Walsenburg’s case, a prospective tenant already is on the doorstep. A wind farm proposed by Denver-based Viento Claro Energy may be built by Torch Renewable Energy on 2,300 acres of land in Huerfano County owned by the city of Walsenburg. Viento Claro has proposed to pay Walsenburg about $11 million in royalties over 25 years for the site.

More SB 10-181 coverage here. More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Rafting rift update

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From The Denver Post (Jessica Fender):

Gov. Bill Ritter thought the situation could be resolved in a better way when he directed Schumacher, a neighboring outfitter and a Jackson-Shaw representative to develop a use agreement that allowed the two rafting companies to continue their operations, said spokesman Evan Dreyer. “The two sides have a very specific conflict,” Dreyer said. “Seems like they should be able to find some common ground and reach a compromise that doesn’t require a new state law.”

Eric Anderson, a spokesman for a group of landowners fighting the bill and the initiative, said the Schumacher-Shaw matchup upset a balance between river rafters and private landowners that had been working for years.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

SB 10-052 (Alter Designated Groundwater Basin Area): Governor Ritter signs the bill

Colorado designated groundwater basins.

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

Under the bill, the Ground Water Commission, which manages the eight designated basins along the Eastern Plains and the Front Range, could revise a basin’s boundaries to remove previously-included areas only if the area does not include wells for which final permits have been issued. The bill includes an exception for current legal cases winding through the courts, a nod to the 2006 Gallegos v. Colorado Ground Water Commission case where the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a surface water rights holder who has senior water rights can challenge the permit of a ground water well in a designated basin if the senior water rights holder can prove their surface water rights are being affected. That case, affecting water rights in the Upper Spring Creek Basin in northern Larimer County near the Colorado-Wyoming border, has not reached final resolution.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): Colorado Water Congress’ Doug Kemper says the bill is, ‘is a failure to use the network’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The head of the [Colorado Water Congress] said this has been a “failure” in water negotiations. While emotions run high over the bill, it is actually an example of how the connections often promoted by the CWC broke down in this case, said Doug Kemper, CWC executive director, at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum at The Abbey this week. “HB1188 is a failure to use the network,” he said…

The House in February passed a version that gave both commercial rafters the right to float through property around obstacles. The Senate last month passed a different version of the bill, saying current law is unclear and ordering a study of the issue by the Colorado Water Congress to be completed by Oct. 31. The House has yet to reconsider the bill…

The original bill, drafted by Rep. Kathleen Curry, Unaffiliated-Gunnison, had warning flags for the water community, particularly in referring to English common law and the right of navigability, Kemper said. “The CWC came out opposed to the bill,” Kemper said. “Our concern was the word navigable has a meaning at the federal level that starts bringing in federal regulations. “We also wanted to make sure water rights operations were not impacted either with diversion structures or permitting on projects.”

In Colorado, the rafting issue is clouded by a state Supreme Court ruling that said there was no right to float across private property and a subsequent ruling by a state attorney general that said rafters made no criminal trespass if they float through private property, provided they do not touch the banks or bed of the stream…

Kemper said the various ballot titles might boil down to “two or three on each side,” and said regardless of which path the Legislature takes, some are likely to reach the ballot. “It’s coming down to rafters vs. property interests, and if that happens, it’s a failure of the network,” Kemper said. Kemper, who worked for the City of Aurora as it developed water interests in the Arkansas River basin, said the flow agreements and formation of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area show where cooperation can lead. “There has been too much hard work in the Arkansas Valley between rafting interests and the water rights holders for this to become a wedge,” Kemper said.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The subject [agriculture to urban tranfers and HB 10-1159] was revisited this week at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, an annual convention that brings together water interests up and down the river.

“The Colorado Water Congress had not taken a position on the bill. It died on a Friday and we were due to consider it the next Monday,” said Doug Kemper, director of the CWC, in remarks to open the forum. Kemper explained the CWC, a powerful lobby for state water interests, was divided about the bill, with some members making the argument that the IBCC was already working on mitigation issues.

“I think it’s something we need to look at,” said Jeris Danielson, a former state engineer who is now a water consultant. Among his clients is Aaron Million, who wants to build a pipeline from Flaming Gorge to Colorado’s Front Range. “That whole issue has to be examined.” Danielson has frequently advocated transmountain diversions as an answer to what he terms: “That giant sucking chest wound we call Denver.”

Denver will need an additional 700,000 acre-feet of water by 2050, and addressing that gap was the main reason the IBCC was formed in 2005 by the Legislature. Its work has been slow — some say glacial — with most of its time spent building trust and honing data. Members have shifted from making political statements early on to conducting tabletop exercises of which strategies — conservation, ag dry-up or imports — might work best to meet the gap. In January, at the CWC convention, Gov. Bill Ritter also pressed the IBCC to work faster and meet more often toward developing compacts within the state. “The days of Denver taking the water and saying, ‘see you,’ are over,” Danielson said. “But the Front Range will get the water. We need to make it palatable for everyone involved.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Rafting rift makes the national news

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From The Wall Street Journal (Stephanie Simon):

That blissful setting is fairly well destroyed, [Steve Roberts] contends, when dozens of rubber rafts come bumping past, crammed with tourists of a less contemplative sort. “They come bebopping right on through…going over the dam I built for the fish, yelling ‘Whee!’ ” Mr. Roberts says. “I’ve got 60 boats a day doing that. My guests are unhappy.”

Too bad, the rafting community responds. The state constitution declares Colorado’s river water a public resource. Private landowners can reasonably lay claim to the structural frame of a river—the bottom, the banks, perhaps even the boulders. “But that doesn’t mean they own the water,” says Duke Bradford, who owns two commercial rafting companies. “You can’t privatize a river.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here. More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

HB 10-1204 (Plumbing Code Water Conservation Standards)

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From Governor Ritter’s Office:

“House Bill 1204 is an important step in conserving Colorado’s water and ensuring that we are moving forward with sustainable water standards for the future,” said Gov. Ritter. “Conservation is a critical component in managing one of our state’s most precious resources – water. Our state’s livelihood depends upon a reliable water source, from recreation to agriculture to business to our families, and we must be prudent with our use of it.” Conservation standards under [HB 10-1204], sponsored by Rep. John Soper and Sen. Lois Tochrop, include water efficiency fixtures and installation guidelines that meet or exceed national standards. The bill also encourages the use of locally produced materials.

More conservation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 — Cotter has spent $15 million on cleanup since the plant shut down in 2006

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

John Hamrick, vice president of milling, said the company has spent between $10 and $15 million on clean-up efforts since the mill shut down operations in 2006. However, continuous efforts were taking place at the mill while operations were under way, he said…

Cotter’s staff and local contractors are working on putting the first layer of the final closure on the secondary tailings impoundment. Slightly contaminated soil from the old ponds area is being used to fill the layer, Hamrick said. The company also is conducting several efforts to protect groundwater. About 18 months ago, Cotter received a notice of violation stating a plume of contaminated groundwater had been identified beneath the Shadow Hills Golf Course, just north of the plant. Cotter has been working to identify the source of that plume since it received the NOV, Hamrick said. The company has drilled several wells on the line between the two properties and tested the groundwater there. All the wells came out clean, Hamrick said. “We’re regrouping on that,” he said…

A soil conservation service, or SCS, hydraulic barrier was built in 1989 and has a pump that brings groundwater back on site for evaporation and prevents it from adding to the contamination plume in Lincoln Park. Just below that dam is the Permeable Reactive Treatment Wall, or PRTW, which catches any water that manages to bypass the SCS. Hamrick said on average, the PRTW catches 0.1 gallon of water per hour. Hamrick said irrigation in Lincoln Park has begun to dilute areas of the Lincoln Park plume. The company is planning this year to begin work on the plume just below the SCS where irrigation is not happening.

Clean up on site this year in addition to topping off the secondary impoundment will include the removal of the wooden CCD tanks and multiple ore pads. The 12 tanks are scheduled to be removed by the end of the summer. Along with the wood portion of the tanks, the company will remove the concrete foundations and excavate the soil underneath to determine leakage of the tanks. Materials from the tanks will be disposed of in the impoundments.

Cotter already has removed four feet of soil at the front gate ore pad and will continue that excavation.

The company also will remove an ore pad from 1958, breaking up the concrete and excavating the soil.

There also are piles of ore from the Western Slope that was not processed before the mill shut down in 2006. Cotter plans to sell the ore and then excavate that pad, as well.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado legislative roundup

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The $7 billion bill to fund the state government passed the House on Thursday on a 40-25 vote. Rep. Ellen Roberts of Durango was one of three Republicans to vote for the measure. The bill now goes to the Senate…

The ninth bill in Gov. Bill Ritter’s tax package cleared the Legislature. House Bill 1197 caps the conservation easement tax credit program at $26 million a year. That’s an estimated $37 million less than the state would have given out in tax credits to preserve land from urban development. The Senate passed the bill 22-13 on Monday, and the House agreed with changes Thursday and repassed the bill on a 38-26 vote…

A bill to crack down on uranium mill pollution won strong support from the House in a voice vote Thursday. House Bill 1348, by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, requires faster cleanup of pollution at uranium mills. The bill is targeted to Colorado’s only uranium mill, in Cañon City. A second mill could be built in Montrose County. It would not be affected by HB 1348 unless it attempted to expand without cleaning any pollution it might create.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone). From the article:

The House gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill that would hold the Cotter Corp. uranium mill near Canon City more accountable for pollution and notification of residents in polluted areas. Next, HB1348, sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, faces a full vote of the House…

Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Colorado Springs, on Thursday said Cotter has polluted millions of gallons of groundwater. “Uranium companies need to be responsible and clean up their mess,” she said.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 third reading tomorrow in the State House

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

No one spoke in opposition to HB 1348, which will have its third and final reading on the House floor Friday, and two Republicans – Reps. Marsha Looper and Tom Massey – spoke in favor of the bill, which has bipartisan sponsorship and widespread support in the Arkansas River Valley and along the southern Front Range.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

SB 10-181 (Municipal Authority To Lease Land) passes Senate Local Government and Energy Committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

[SB 10-181] (pdf) would allow Walsenburg and about 150 other statutory cities and towns in Colorado to lease the land that they own with water rights. Under current law, only home-rule municipalities have that authority. In Walsenburg’s case, the benefits of SB181 are on its doorstep. A proposed 100-tower wind farm has offered to lease 2,300 acres of land in Huerfano County owned by the city of Walsenburg. The wind farm proposed by Denver-based Viento Claro Energy would be built by Torch Renewable Energy. Viento Claro is eyeing a $23 million investment on the land owned by Walsenburg and adjacent property owners. If Walsenburg were allowed to lease the land to Viento Claro, the city would realize about $11 million in royalties over a 25-year span, according to Viento Claro…

Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, and Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, are sponsoring the bill…

And it’s not just Walsenburg that would benefit, according to the city attorney, Dan Hyatt, who also represents the city of Rocky Ford. Hyatt said Rocky Ford — another statutory city — also has land with water rights that could generate long-term revenue if it were allowed to lease it. “The potential benefit of this bill is immense,” said Geoff Wilson of the Colorado Municipal League. Next, the bill will be placed on the consent calendar in the Senate for preliminary approval.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB 10-1051 (Water Efficiency Plans Annual Reports) and HB 10-1358 (Water-smart Homes)

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From The Denver Post (Yesenia Robles):

[HB 10-1051] (pdf), sponsored by Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, and Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, requires water providers to annually report water usage instead of doing so every seven years. “We’re just getting a little more specific, and of course making it more frequent. A lot of things happen over seven years,” Whitehead said. Whitehead said the purpose of having more recent and specific information funneled to the Water Conservation Board is to keep track of the conservation efforts of many water providers and to find gaps in the efforts. Some water providers expressed concerns about the costs of reporting the information. Whitehead said the information is already gathered, so financial impacts should be minimal.

The other bill, [HB 10-1358] (pdf), will require all home builders to offer water-efficient appliances and fixtures, including washing machines and shower heads, as options for home buyers. Johnston and Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, who sponsor the bill, said now is not the time to make it a requirement to use those appliances. They said they expect that in the long run most people will make that choice — if they have it — when they realize the savings on their water bills.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — coalbed methane: Governor Ritter signs SB 10-165 giving operators more time to score the necessary paperwork

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From the Associated Press via the Grand Junction Free Press:

Gov. Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 165 extending the deadline. State Engineer Dick Wolfe has said he needs the bill to keep his office from being overwhelmed with paperwork.

SB 165 also gives companies limited permission to use produced water from their gas wells.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here. More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): State senate morphs bill into a study

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Here’s a long recap of the issues around HB 10-1188, from Forrest Whitman writing for the Weekly Register-Call/ Gilpin County News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Last summer Greg Felt said he’d rather die than give up his right to float. Felt is one passionate boater! He laments that despite the fact the state licenses river guides and the federal government issues permits on individual rivers, boaters still paddle under the legal cloud of civil trespass. Last summer he asked, “Do boaters have to become lawyers?” Greg tells some hair-raising tales, including being “sighted in” by a rifleman (who didn’t shoot). For now he’s going to keep floating, he says, no matter what. Said he, it’s “float or die”…

Law gets worked out anew in each generation and river law is no exception. The Curry bill now being debated in the CO State Senate is just one more part of that working out. [Colorado’s first Territorial Governor, Willaim Gilpin] had great faith in the wisdom of “the Great Coloradoan people” to figure out these questions. If we ever do guarantee a right to float, old William Gilpin will be smiling down from the golden dome in Denver. He, at least, knew those boaters on Clear Creek have a right to be there.

More coverage from the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

In six years at the state Legislature, Rep. Kathleen Curry said she has never been involved in a more controversial bill than her “right to float” bill, which the state Senate last week punted to a study committee…

The bill [is] back [in] the House now, and Curry must decide what her next step is. She could go to a conference committee and attempt to convince some of her fellow legislators to move away from the study provision. She was not optimistic that she would end up with the support she needs to pass the bill without the study provision, however…

The amendment “turned the bill into a study, which is a waste of time,” Curry said, noting that studies of the issue have occurred before…

Rachel Nance, a legislative coordinator with the Colorado Association of Realtors, said her group was also concerned about infringing on private property rights. They felt that the proposal went too far, and that the status quo, which allows boaters to float down the middle of a river, but requires them to obtain permission to step on the banks on private land, is good enough, she said.

…the issue is not confined to the Taylor River, [Bob Hamel, head of the Colorado River Outfitters Association] said, noting a similar threat going into this summer on the Yampa River made by a landowner to a commercial float fishing company, and a long line of similar incidents for the past 30 years. “The problem is it keeps resurfacing,” Hamel said. Curry agrees. The state’s rafting industry “is wondering who is going to be next,” she said.

With Curry and the rafting industry opposed to the study provision, forces are gathering for a November ballot question on a right to float law. Should that happen, the ballot language would likely be less friendly to landowners than the compromise bill Curry had carried. For example, a ballot question would likely include private boaters, which Curry’s bill excluded, and would likely include the portage provision. The deadline to file language initiating a ballot question is Friday. “If you think it’s big fanfare now … just wait until we go on TV,” Hamel said.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): State Senate morphs bill into a study

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Before a political end-around coordinated by Senate President Brandon Shaffer and others last Friday, HB 1188, the so-called “River Outfitters Navigation Bill,” had the potential to firmly establish the rights of Colorado’s professional and private boaters to continue floating on rivers that pass through both public and private property. The bill passed in the Senate on Monday, but not before it had been gutted by an amendment effectively reducing it to a privately funded six-month study by the Colorado Water Congress — a group that has already gone on record in opposition to the legislation originally drafted by Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison…

According to Curry, boaters can float through private property without criminal trespass charges if they don’t drop anchor or touch the banks. Boaters lack the same protection for civil trespass complaints. And current law provides no guidance on what to do if a river is blocked by an obstacle such as a fallen tree or, as in the case of the Jackson-Shaw property, a poorly designed bridge.

Above it all, however, Shaw is somehow under the impression that he now owns the river that Russell and others have been floating for decades. “It is my firm opinion any individual or group or company rafting through our private property is committing an act similar to someone walking across your front lawn on a short cut to the grocery store. It may be convenient, but it is nonetheless illegal,” states the letter signed by company president Lewis W. Shaw II. “I encourage you to select counsel who can look freshly at the specific circumstance of private property and rafting in Colorado without merely arranging ideas to confirm a previously espoused opinion.”[…]

Given the vast quantity of private property lining the banks of float-friendly rivers throughout Colorado, Schumacher’s concerns are legitimate. At least one small, underfunded rafting company facing civil trespassing suits already has been put out of business by lawyers representing Shaw and other out-of-state landowners in Colorado — the same lawyers currently sitting on the Colorado Water Congress. Bear in mind that episode occurred shortly after a similar “blue ribbon” panel had been appointed to study the same matter for two years a decade ago. Until the state’s muddled right-to-float laws are clarified on both the civil and criminal sides, others realistically face the same fate…

Contributing to the problem is the antiquated bridge on the Shaw property that becomes dangerously low for boats to pass under when the Taylor runs high. In Shaw’s view, the portage necessary to avoid the hazard constitutes a further violation. Just the same, the developer — who has invested a small fortune in other upgrades — has yet to make good on a promise to replace the bridge and bring it up to code. Amendments allowing short portages around hazardous obstacles in the river and expanding HB 1188’s reach to include private boaters had been approved before last Friday’s tactical death sentence. Those amendments helped establish a solid bill that provided firm legal footing for practices that have been established in Colorado for almost half a century, while the Senate’s final version did nothing more than offer weak politicians an escape clause until the next election.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.