Comment deadline for #COleg Water Resources Review committee for @COWaterPlan looms

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Under a bill approved by the Legislature in 2014 a year before the plan was implemented, the committee that reviews and suggests new legislation dealing with water issues is required to review specific elements of the plan.

Although it is not required to, the committee then can suggest bills altering that plan, but such measures would require the full approval of the Legislature and the governor.

The committee is scheduled to vote on final recommendations on the plan on Oct. 5.

The current plan, called for by Gov. John Hickenlooper back in 2013, sets a number of goals for water basins in the state to meet by 2050 in order to ensure there is enough water for a growing population, while still maintaining adequate in-stream flows for environmental and recreational purposes.

A new report released earlier this month updating how the plan is being implemented says those goals are being met.

MSU: Water Resources Review Committee, October 1 #COWaterPlan

State Rep. Randy Fischer: Having a voice in water planning #COWaterPlan

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From Steamboat Today (Randy Fischer):

“Water is essential to Colorado’s quality of life and economy, but our ability to maintain those values will be challenged by a growing population, increasing demands for water, and limited supplies of this precious resource.”

These words appear on the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website, describing the need for and purpose of the proposed Colorado Water Plan, which is to be drafted by the end of 2014 under an executive order signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013.

Our goal for the water plan is to provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need in the future while seeking to maintain such divergent values as healthy watersheds and environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities and viable and productive agriculture.

Colorado’s Water Plan will build on eight years of extremely valuable water supply planning work by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the Inter-Basin Compact Committee and the nine Basin Roundtables, one for each of the major watersheds in the state.

In 2014, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 14-115, which also recognized the need to engage the general public in the water planning process by gathering input through a series of public meetings in all the major river basins of Colorado. SB-115 directs the legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee to convene these meetings, gather public input and provide comment on the draft water plan by Nov. 1.

The next of these public meetings is scheduled for Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs. This meeting is for residents of the Yampa and White river basins. I invite and encourage all residents of Northwest Colorado, from Steamboat to Rangeley, to attend this important meeting.

The WRRC recognizes that water issues inherently involve competing values that cannot all be resolved through technological or technical fixes. Different groups bring different values to the conversation. There is no “right” way to balance these competing interests and values. Through SB-115, the WRRC is asking the public to help make Colorado’s Water Plan a better document that seeks to represent the values of all state residents.

The WRRC also recognizes that the Colorado Water Plan will identify difficult choices and tradeoffs that will need to be made to plan for and create a sustainable water future. SB-115 envisions a public process that lays out these choices and tradeoffs facing Colorado and seeks to find a way through public input to navigate the difficult issues that lie ahead.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

“Fish don’t have water rights, so it’s easy to lose sight of their needs” — Jan Scott #COWaterPlan

Durango
Durango

From The Durango Herald (Ann Butler):

Water is a complicated and controversial issue in Southwest Colorado, and more than 100 people showed up Wednesday night to share their thoughts and concerns with the Colorado General Assembly’s Water Resources Review Committee. It’s holding meetings around the state to collect comments about the Colorado Water Plan now being developed

“There is no group of people who appreciate a drop of water more than the people of Southwest Colorado,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, who sits on the Water Resources Committee. “If you ask people in Denver where they get their water, they’ll say their kitchen sink. Or they’ll say they get their food from the grocery store.”

Mike Preston is the chairman of the Southwest Basin Roundtable, which is putting together Southwest Colorado’s recommendations for this area’s section of the plan. He shared highlights and summaries from the group’s draft. And then attendees were off.

Among the most frequent comments:

Increasing storage is key because more of Colorado’s water is leaving the state than we are required to release based on compacts and agreements. Increasing storage on the Front Range as well as here was one suggested answer.

“But we have to balance storage with environmental concerns downriver,” said Jon Scott, who works with the Animas Watershed Partnership. “Fish don’t have water rights, so it’s easy to lose sight of their needs.”

Practicing conservation is essential for Coloradans and people in downriver states who use Colorado’s water.

“Individuals want to have nice green lawns,” said Jesse Lasater, who farms 500 acres in the Pine River Valley. “But it doesn’t make sense to take water away from the people who are putting food on the table for green lawns.”

Protecting water rights might be required. Water is a property right in Colorado. Pending federal regulations may threaten those rights. There were concerns that federal regulations and this new Colorado Water Plan might trump existing, and valuable, water rights.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Pueblo: The next Water Resources Review Committee public meeting is August 29 #COWaterPlan

Pueblo photo via Sangres.com
Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

From the Bent County Democrat (Randy Fischer):

“Water is essential to Colorado’s quality of life and economy, but our ability to maintain those values will be challenged by a growing population, increasing demands for water, and limited supplies of this precious resource.”

These words appear on the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website, describing the need for and purpose of the proposed Colorado Water Plan, which is to be drafted by the end of 2014 under an executive order signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013.

Our goal for the Water Plan is to provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need in the future while seeking to maintain such divergent values as healthy watersheds and environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.

Colorado’s Water Plan will build on eight years of extremely valuable water supply planning work by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the Inter-Basin Compact Committee and the nine Basin Roundtables, one for each of the major watersheds in the state.

In 2014, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 14-115, which also recognized the need to engage the general public in the water planning process by gathering input through a series of public meetings in all the major river basins of Colorado. SB-115 directs the legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC) to convene these meetings, gather public input, and provide comment on the draft Water Plan by Nov. 1.

The next of these public meetings is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 29, at 9 a.m. at the Rawlings Library, 100 East Abriendo Ave. in Pueblo. This hearing is for everyone who lives in the Arkansas River drainage, from Leadville to the Kansas border. I invite and encourage all residents of the Arkansas Basin to attend this important meeting.

The WRRC recognizes that water issues inherently involve competing values that cannot all be resolved through technological or technical fixes. Different groups bring different values to the conversation. There is no “right” way to balance these competing interests and values. Through SB-115, the WRRC is asking the public to help make Colorado’s Water Plan a better document that seeks to represent the values of all state residents.

The WRRC also recognizes that the Colorado Water Plan will identify difficult choices and tradeoffs that will need to be made to plan for and create a sustainable water future. SB-115 envisions a public process that lays out these choices and tradeoffs facing Colorado and seeks to find a way through public input to navigate the difficult issues that lie ahead.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: Interim Water Resources Committee public meeting recap #COleg

Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia
Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

Protection of the river ecology and preservation of recreation and agricultural interests was the consistent message heard by a panel of Colorado legislators who convened here Thursday to gather public comments on the new state water plan.

And the best way to ensure that is through better statewide water conservation practices and no more trans-mountain water diversions from the Western Slope to the Front Range, those who testified before the state Legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee concurred.

“What’s healthy for recreation is healthy for rivers and streams,” said Aimee Henderson, co-founder of the Upper Colorado Private Boaters, an affiliate of American Whitewater based in Glenwood Springs.

“Additional diversions are not an acceptable solution,” she said, adding there should be a statewide conservation agreement to decrease water consumption.

Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards, who sits on the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, one of nine roundtables that is weighing in on the water plan, said it’s important to “truly acknowledge the value of the environmental and recreation economy in the state.”

Tourism promoters across the state, whether on the Front Range or the Western Slope, almost always showcase some type of high country water recreation in their attempt to attract visitors, Richards noted…

The Thursday meeting at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library attracted about 100 people, many of whom are members of the Colorado Basin Roundtable or have been involved in those discussions over the past several months.

The meeting was the second of nine sponsored by the 10-member legislative committee as it holds hearings within each of the major river basins as part of process to develop the state water plan…

The Glenwood Springs meeting focused on concerns within the main stem of the Colorado River, including the Roaring Fork, Eagle and Blue river valleys.

Many of the comments echoed those contained in the draft Colorado Basin Implementation Plan, which emphasizes a high conservation standard statewide and discourages further water diversions.

The draft basin plan concludes that any more water diversions would severely damage the state’s recreation-based economy, agriculture and the environment, and would jeopardize upper basin users should there be an interstate compact call by down-river water users.

It also includes specific recommendations, such as preserving the Shoshone water right for Western Slope needs rather than allowing it to be sold to Front Range water interests, and encouraging small water projects in western Colorado to meet agricultural needs…

[Ken Neubecker] summarized the comments of one of nine separate tables that engaged in small-group discussions with members of the legislative committee before the floor was opened up to general testimony.

“If you’re going to take a new supply for the Front Range, it’s going to come from someone else who is already using it,” Neubecker said.

Suggestion that any new diversions would come with an agreement that they occur only during peak runoff years “simply condemns the Western Slope to a permanent drought condition,” he said. “We need to educate everyone, especially the Front Range, about where their water comes from.”

Another concern expressed at the hearing included that the water plan is only intended to address water needs through 2050, even as growth pressures are likely to continue beyond that time. Others who spoke said it’s important to factor climate change models and predictions into the water plan.

From the Pagosa Sun (Ellen Roberts):

The water committee has started its deep dive into conservation issues, especially as it relates to the transfer of water used in agricultural production to urban municipalities along the Front Range. This conversation was triggered by a controversial bill I carried last year. I’m determined that we’ll keep at this until we reach best practices that make sense and reflect the precious nature of water in our state.

I appreciate the active engagement of several of my constituents in bringing ideas and zeal to this topic and as I travel the state with the water committee as we hold hearings over the next two months on what should be in the state water plan, I’ll be sure that the topic of water conservation gets brought up and vetted in all areas of the state.

My principal concern with municipalities failing to do everything they can to conserve water is that the urban corridor on the Front Range, including, but certainly not limited to, Denver, seek to transfer more water from the Western Slope to satisfy their residents’ needs and desires. I don’t need to inform my constituents of the impacts this would have on our way of life, on our viable agricultural production, and on our environment.

Also breathing down our necks is the impact of a potential “call” on the Colorado River from downstream states legally entitled to a share of that water for their own uses. If such a call is made, we won’t be getting water shipped back from the Front Range to satisfy the call.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Carrots vs. sticks, and how can Colorado push deeper water conservation? — Allen Best

Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum
Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Having a conversation about conservation may be clever word play. Having that conservation is rather more difficult than saying it, as became evident in legislative committee hearing last week in Denver.

Nobody testifying before the committee opposed the idea of saving water as Colorado seeks to accommodate 10 million people at mid-century, up from today’s 5.3 million. In fact, it became clear that much is already being done.

But neither was there clear agreement about what the next steps should be and what role state government might have. State Sen. Ellen Roberts, whose bill last winter spurred the legislative hearing, summarized the testimony as recommending “local control, state conversation.”

Without specific mandates, per capita water use has declined dramatically since the late 1990s. Per capita residential use in Pueblo dropped from 185 gallons per capita daily to 120 this year. “We’ve changed, the culture changed,” said Paul Fanning, of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

Changes provoked by severe drought of 2002 has remained. Before the drought, people were giving turf 22 gallons per square foot in Denver. Now, it’s down to 16 gallons, said Chris Pipher, governmental affairs coordinator for Denver Water.

Municipalities use only 8 percent of water in Colorado, suggesting the state can easily reallocate or develop water for new residents. It’s not that simple. Water available for additional development in the Colorado River Basin is uncertain and highly contested in the case of new transmountain diversions. Rural, farming areas want to survive – while preserving the right for individuals to sell their water to cities, if they wish.

Roberts’ bill originally proposed sharp restrictions on lawn sizes when new subdivisions are built that use water obtained by drying up farms. That proposal didn’t survive.“I now know what it’s like to be between people and grass in Colorado,” said Steve Harris, of Durango, who originally came up with the idea.

The idea now on the table is to specify a ratio between indoor and outdoor use. The size of the dwelling wouldn’t matter. It’s currently at about 50-50, but in some places 60 percent of annual water at homes is used indoors. Some thing it can be pushed to 70 percent.

Why does this matter? Indoor water is typically flushed down drains and ultimately 85 to 90 percent is returned, after treatment, to streams and rivers. Water is being directly reused after treatment in several places in metropolitan Denver.

If that proportion is higher, that means less water is used outdoors.

Water budgets were also mentioned frequently. Boulder has already embraced the concept. The budget is the amount of water you are expected to use during a specific month. Each customer’s budget is based on the unique water needs and past use. Stay within your budget and you pay less for the water you use.

Two water districts in the southwest metropolitan Denver, Centennial and Highlands Ranch, also have adopted water budgets for customers.

“The water budget for outdoor irrigation provides enough water for healthy landscapes, but not so much that our resource is wasted,” the Centennial Water and Sanitation District website says. “Progressively higher tiered rates over the allotted budget serve to encourage conservation.

Several speakers made the point that it’s far easier to install water conservation when homes and other buildings are developed, instead of afterward. Rebecca Mitchell, of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, further offered that incorporating water conservation is much less expensive than developing new supply.

John Barnett, long-range planner for Greeley, noted that a 20 percent increase in density will yield a 10 percent decline in per-capita consumption.

But Greeley, like all other municipal representatives, pushed back at a “one size fits all” approach to conservation.

Joseph Stibrich, planning director for Aurora Water Department and the Metropolitan Roundtable representative at statewide negotiations, says one all-encompassing standards “does not work in Colorado as the ability to reach higher levels of conservation is dependent upon what has already been accomplished to date.”

Stibrich also spoke to the perceived drawbacks of conservation that goes too far in towns and cities: reduced tree canopy, increased “heat island” effects, increased stormwater runoff and accompanying water quality degradations, and reductions in property values.

A recurring theme was a call for “measurable outcomes.” Bruce Whitehead, director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District, said the conversation needs to lead to outcomes that are “meaningful and quantifiable.”

Drew Beckwith, of Western Resource Advocates, suggested one way that Colorado might allow local autonomy while move statewide conservation forward is to use funding as incentive. That’s what California does, he said.

April Washington, chairwoman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, lives in Norwood, and as a resident of the Western Slope, she said she feels there needs to be something that is a “little more forceful.”

Despite the absence of clear ideas of how future legislation may take shape, Whitehead said he was pleased with the conversation in Denver. “I heard loud and clear that he entities do have conservation measure sin place, but they are all using different methods,” Whitehead said in a later interview. “I can’t say enough about the work that Denver has done, and other communities, too.”

Whitehead continues to think the proposal coming out of Durango might work. It sets a goal of indoor use vs. outdoor use, clearly pushing local governments to deeper conservation, but letting them figure out how to do it.

Also of note:

Denver Water’s Chris Pipher called “bluegrass still the path of lease resistance.”

Chris Elliot, a developer of master planned communities in Arvada, Aurora and Golden, said that planning offices generally are very open to landscaping that requires less water use, but parks departments are old school, wanting to lavish water.

Brenda O’Brien of Green Co said the role of state government is to provide consistency.

State Rep. Don Coram, of Montrose, listened to Denver Water’s Jim Lochhead talk about Colorado River problems, and then responded: “We’ve heard a lot today about water budgets,” he said. “It’s time they lived within their budget, as far as I’m concerned,” taking swipe at California’s water use in excess of its compact allocation.

More conservation coverage here.

Water Plan Input, Round 2: The Legislature

Your Water Colorado Blog

Even if you live here, you have a chance to give input to Colorado’s Water Plan

Unless you’ve been living off-the-grid in a far corner of our beautiful state, you know that the Colorado Water Conservation Board is leading an effort to craft Colorado’s Water Plan.

 After almost a decade of work, nine Basin Roundtables have crafted individual plans that will offer solutions for how each basin’s future water needs will be addressed at the local level.  These ‘Basin Implementation Plans’ will then be incorporated into Colorado’s Water Plan, with a draft due in December 2014. There have been over 100 meetings held by the roundtables to educate about the plan and offer opportunities for input since Summer 2013.

Our esteemed lawmakers want to hear from you!

Now that the roundtables have submitted their draft plans, and are taking a breather to regroup, the State Legislature is picking up…

View original post 299 more words

The Conservation Community 2014 scorecard is hot off the presses

2014legislativescorecard07302014conservationcolorado
Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:

The scorecard highlights the priorities of the conservation community in the 2014 legislative session. You will find factual, nonpartisan information about how each member of the legislature voted on important issues that affect Colorado’s air, land, water and people. We invite you to examine the scores of your representative and your senator and to see how well their votes match up with your conservation values. We encourage you to call or write your legislators and let them know you follow their environmental scores. Phone numbers and email addresses of your elected officials can be found at http://conservationCO.org/legislator-directory/.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress webinar — today: The Story of SB-023 #COleg

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

From the Colorado Water Congress:

SB14-023, Transfer Water Efficiency Savings to Instream Use, more commonly known as the “Ag Efficiency Bill” gained both controversy and publicity during the 2014 legislative session. On July 16th from 12:00 to 1:30 pm, the Colorado Water Congress will offer an informational webinar providing factual overview of the bill’s contents, intention, and process.

The presentation will include an introduction from the bill sponsor, Senator Gail Schwartz, an overview of the bill from Kevin Rein, Deputy State Engineer, and a narration of the bill’s long journey with Bruce Whitehead of Southwestern Water Conservation District and Aaron Citron of the Environmental Defense Fund. This is a not-to-miss opportunity whether you want to learn the facts about SB14-023 or you just want to better understand how a bill becomes a law.

Click here to register.

2014 Colorado legislation SB14-195 funds phreatophyte study in the South Platte Basin #COleg

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Many farmers and others applauded the recent signing of a bill aimed at addressing a major water issue in the region — vegetation along the rivers, which consumes about 40 percent as much water as all cities in northern Colorado combined, studies show.

Signed into law this month, Senate Bill 195, co-sponsored by Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton, allows the Colorado Water Conservancy Board to use funds for a two-year-plus study on the South Platte River watershed where it was impacted by the 2013 flood. The study will attempt to determine the relationship between high groundwater and increases in non-beneficial water consumption of phreatophytes — particularly non-native tamarisk, salt cedars, Russian olives and other such plants along rivers. The bill also calls for developing a cost analysis for the removal of the unwanted phreatophytes in the South Platte Basin. The final report is expected to be presented to the General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2016.

“The amount of plants along the river … and the amount of water we lose because of them … just gets worse and worse every year for us,” said Frank Eckhardt, a LaSalle-area farmer and member of the South Platte Roundtable — a group made up of water officials and experts in the region who convene monthly to discuss ways of solving the region’s future water gaps.

Eckhardt is also chairman of the board for the Western Mutual and Farmers Independent irrigation companies, which, combined, deliver water to about 15,000 acres of farmland in the LaSalle/Gilcrest areas.

Eckhardt said his ditch companies removed some vegetation along their ditches and saw improvements in those water supplies.

The bill talks of the CWCB working with Colorado State University and the Colorado Department of Agriculture on its study, and also notes funding for the study and report could come from unused dollars in an existing $1 million state fund.

“Rather than spend $1 million to study the problem, there’s a lot of us who’d rather see that $1 million go toward more quickly removing some of those plants,” Eckhardt added. “Still, this was a good step.”

A broader study of the South Platte basin, conducted last year by the Colorado Water Institute, showed that phreatophytes continue to increase, resulting in large quantities of non-beneficial consumptive water use — perhaps as much as 250,000 acre feet per year, or 80 billion gallons. According to 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative study, all of the South Platte Basin’s municipalities used a little over 600,000 acre feet. That being the case, approval of the study comes as welcome news to many water users and water officials in the ag-intense South Platte River Basin, which includes all or portions of eight of the state’s top-10 ag-producing counties, in addition to many of the fastest growing cities in Colorado.

Many South Platte water users see invasive phreatophytes — deep-rooted plants that obtain water from permanent ground supplies or from the water table — as a major problem and potential threat to agriculture.

In all years, and especially in years like 2012 — one in which rainfall was at a record low, some farmers’ irrigation ditches were running dry and cities were having to watch their supplies closely — many agree some of that water could be going to a more beneficial use than quenching the thirst of vegetation along banks in the South Platte basin.

The Senate Bill 195 study won’t solve the problem, many acknowledge, but it represents another step in the right direction — although some still have questions about the bill.

“There’s still a lot of explanation needed regarding how the dollars will be spent, among other issues,” said Bob Streeter, a South Platte Roundtable member, and head of the roundtable’s phreatophyte committee. “We’re looking forward to having some of that explained to us.”

While Streeter acknowledges that phreatophytes are an issue, he, like others, questions how much water users would actually benefit in the long run if that vegetation was eradicated.

Streeter and others agree some kind of vegetation would be needed in place of the removed phreatophytes because root systems are necessary for keeping the river’s banks from eroding, and vegetation would be needed to provide habitats for wildlife in those areas and flood control.

The study isn’t the first step aimed at the phreatophytes issue. Most recently, the Colorado Youth Corps Association and Colorado Water Conservation Board, a division of the Department of Natural Resources, is funding invasive plant species mitigation projects throughout Colorado in an effort to preserve and protect the state’s water resources. Five projects in 2014 — funded through a $50,000 grant from the CWCB — will be conducted by Colorado Youth Conservation Association-accredited youth corps in conjunction with local project sponsors in four counties throughout the state.

The projects are designed to control a variety of invasive phreatophyte plants. The Weld County Youth Conservation Corps, for example, will receive $15,000 to remove invasive vegetation from riverbanks and sandbars of the South Platte River.

The CWCB, local governments and organizations also have put together other efforts to limit the amount of vegetation that now lines the banks across the state — some of which are plants that couldn’t be found along the river a century ago.

With more thorough studies required and millions of dollars needed to help reduce the number of phreatophytes along rivers, no one is expecting immediate action that would significantly help address the looming water gap.

However, despite the uncertainties, recent years — like 2012 — serve as a reminder that water shortages are likely to be an issue down the road as the population grows in northern Colorado, and all possible solutions need to be thrown on the table to avoid the expected water-supply gap.

The Statewide Water Supply Initiative study estimates the South Platte River Basin alone could face a municipal and industrial water-supply gap of between 36,000 and 190,000 acre feet by 2050.

More invasive specie coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: “SB23 was a fundamental change to Colorado Water Law” — Chris Treese #COleg #ColoradoRiver

Arkansas Basin Roundtable: “…we’re still beating our heads over rotational fallowing” — Gary Barber #COWaterPlan #COleg

Basin roundtable boundaries
Basin roundtable boundaries

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is compiling a reservoir of ideas that could go into making the Colorado Water Plan. The main difficulty will be putting them all to beneficial use: First in the Arkansas River basin’s implementation plan, then translating those into the state plan — all under conditions that still appear to be changing.

“It does appear to be a flood,” quipped Alan Hamel, who represents the basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Last month, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation (SB115) that instructs the CWCB to have hearings in each basin and for the draft plan to be presented to the Legislature’s interim committee on water resources.

Meanwhile, the roundtable has received 60 written comments, some with multiple suggestions, on what needs to be in its basin implementation plan. The group has no organized way of incorporating comments into the volumes of information already compiled. There has been little time for point-by-point discussions.

The CWCB will review basin plans in July.

And the state plan being developed is in a different format than the basin plan.

“How do we integrate all this?” asked Reed Dils, a retired Buena Vista outfitter and former CWCB member.

“The timeline was a tough, tight timeline even before the legislation,” Hamel added.

Hickenlooper ordered the CWCB to produce a draft plan by December. For the past few months, the roundtable has expanded its meeting time and talked extensively about its own basin plan, the product of nine years of meetings. Some of that time has been devoted to providing new members background on past actions of the roundtable.

“Dozens of people have presented information to us,” said Bud Elliott of Leadville, one of the original roundtable members. “The public has been well represented.”

Gary Barber, who chaired the roundtable for several years and is now under contract to help write the basin plan, said some findings of the roundtable have stalled.

“I tell you, five years later, we’re still beating our heads over rotational fallowing, based on the experience of Fowler,” he said at one point.

A deal by Super Ditch to supply water to Fowler under a state pilot program this year fell through when farmers pulled out. It’s the third year the group has tried, but failed, to demonstrate a new method for agricultural transfers that leaves ownership in the hands of farmers.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: Gov. Hickenlooper’s veto of SB14-023 rankles conservationists #COleg #ColoradoRiver

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

From the Colorado Independent (Tessa Cheek):

Governor John Hickenlooper is drawing backlash for vetoing a bill that conservationists say would have prompted farmers to update their irrigation systems and kept more water in Colorado’s Western Slope streams without asking anyone to forfeit water rights. Hickenlooper said that the final version of the bill, SB 23, lacked sufficient support from agricultural and water groups. Conservationists say Hickenlooper’s veto amounts to a “failure to lead.”

“This legislation was the result of thousands of hours of coalition work over several years,” said Sara Lu of the Clean Water Fund. “The governor had expressed support for the bill, at least through his staff, and then seemingly out of nowhere he turned around and vetoed it.”

This week, the Clean Water Fund has launched a “failure to lead,” campaign against Hickenlooper. The campaign includes massive ad buys at the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Aurora Daily Sentinel and will see banners proclaiming the governor’s “failure to lead” flown over a Rockies game at Coors field and the Western Governors Association Conference at the Broadmoor hotel. The group is also launching an online, social media-driven campaign, from the site http://failuretolead.org/ […]

The Colorado Farm Bureau applauded Hickenlooper’s decision to veto the bill in favor of launching a pilot program and continuing negotiations next year. They said the bill was just too big a shift in a century of Colorado water law for farmers to feel secure in their rights.

Sponsors of the bill emphasized that a farmer’s participation in the program would have been entirely optional. The measure was simply intended to allow farmers water-right wiggle room to better line drainage ditches, or install more efficient sprinklers, without experiencing a legal ratchet effect on their water rights, where if you use less water one season, you must use less forever.

“This was a major initiative to promote wise water use and it was a win-win for Western Slope agricultural users and the environment,” sponsor KC Becker of Boulder said in a release expressing her disappointment and confusion after the veto.
Pretty much everyone agrees the “use-it-or-lose-it” aspect of Colorado water law is a rigid and outdated principle that needs adjusting, but they don’t all agree SB 23 was the solution.

“It’s a great idea, no doubt about it,” said Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District, which opposed the bill. “Our board’s concern was that not all the unintended consequences were figured out. Basically, water court would still be involved and that’s expensive.”
Pokrandt worried what would happen if someone downstream wanted to use the extra water, or what kind of issues a farmer wanting to return to higher usage after a few seasons might face.

Hickenlooper shared this concern, saying in his veto letter, “important questions remain about how best to expand the state’s in-stream flow program without creating injury or cost to downstream users, principally in agriculture.”

Hickenlooper asked the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to team up with lawmakers to make a pilot program in anticipation of tackling the issue next session.

From Steamboat Today (Michael Schrantz):

The decision about what to do with Senate Bill 23 wasn’t easy, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wrote. “It was a close call.”

But, ultimately, those sentiments were delivered in a veto letter, and the bill that provided incentives for Western Slope water efficiency measures will have to be reworked and revisited in another legislative session.

The veto sparked immediate blowback from conservation organizations that criticized Hickenlooper’s actions as incompatible with his rhetoric on water issues in the state…

While it’s true the bill enjoyed the backing of multiple water organizations and the governor’s own administration testified in its support, Hickenlooper’s veto letter pointed out that the message was not unanimous.

“Our membership was somewhat split on this,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress, after the veto.

While the Colorado Water Congress worked with legislators for months and eventually supported the bill, the Colorado River Water District, which represents Western Slope counties, saw its opposition specifically cited in Hickenlooper’s veto letter.

Agricultural interests were similarly divided. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association supported the bill while the Colorado Farm Bureau opposed it.

Senate Bill 23 was intended to provide a process for water rights holders in certain divisions to implement agricultural efficiency measures without putting their rights at risk of abandonment. The efficiency savings would have been transferred to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for an instream use, while giving the original rights holders the option to get that water back in the future.

The Colorado River Water District praised the veto in a news release and stated that the approach taken by Senate Bill 23 was “too costly and likely ineffective.”

In his letter, Hickenlooper directed the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Water Conservation Board to work with legislators on a pilot concept ahead of the next session.

Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said it’s too early in the process to talk about what a pilot program might look like, but an approach will be developed in the coming months…

Colorado River Water District spokesman Chris Treese said the conversation about agricultural efficiency and instream flows will continue and that the organization plans to be involved in the pilot program discussion.

“Since we took a stand, we certainly want to be on forefront,” said Jim Pokrandt, of the Colorado River Water District.

Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, the House sponsor of Senate Bill 23, said any pilot program would require its own legislation in the next session.

“Of course, many ranchers, water districts, county governments, and others supported the bill as is,” Becker wrote in an email. “But if it takes a pilot to get it done, then that’s fine with me.”

The Colorado Water Congress will discuss the legislation in the upcoming weeks, Kemper said, and another year allows more time to get stakeholders on the same page.

“I don’t think it was an urgency, especially with weather this year,” he said, referencing the above-average snowpack in many basins…

“The only way anything good happens is through near unanimous consensus,” Pokrandt said.

From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels):

An environmental group has launched an aerial attack on Gov. John Hickenlooper for his veto of a water-efficiency bill by flying a “Failure to Lead” banner at public events, including a gathering of Western governors.

The director of Clean Water Fund — a group concerned with America’s water, global warming and a new-energy economy — says it’s coincidental that the “Failure to Lead” mantra echoes attacks leveled at the Democrat governor by the Republican candidates trying to unseat him in November.

Sara Lu, state director of the nonprofit group, said the issue has nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat.

“In his 2014 State of the State address, Gov. Hickenlooper said that any ‘conversation about water needed to start with conservation,’ ” she said. “Senate Bill 23 was his opportunity to show real leadership on water. His willingness to support the undoing of years of work by a significant coalition of Coloradans in order to maintain the status quo is a huge failure to lead on water, and we’re going to hold him accountable.”

“Failure to sign is not the same as failure to lead,” governor’s spokesman Eric Brown countered. “R ead the veto message. The governor is taking this on as an administration priority so we can lead the collaborative process that fell apart.”

A “#FailureToLead SB23” banner was flown Saturday over the Rockies-Dodgers game at Coors Field and over the Capitol Hill People’s Fair at Civic Center, and Monday over The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, where the Western Governors’ Association is meeting. It’s unclear whether the public understood that the banner referred to Hickenlooper or Senate Bill 23.

The measure provided incentives to Western Slope owners of water rights to make water-conservation improvements — such as using more-efficient sprinklers — and to leave the water-efficiency savings in the stream.

It was crafted over several years with the input and support of a diverse group of Colorado water stakeholders, including rural Coloradans, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Denver Water, the Colorado Water Congress and conservation groups. The administration testified in favor of the bill.

“Despite these efforts, there was a breakdown in consensus toward the end of the legislative session that divided the water community and, in our view, would make implementation of the policy more difficult,” Hickenlooper wrote in his veto message.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado River District Applauds Governor’s Veto #COleg #ColoradoRiver

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Chris Treese):

The Colorado River District applauds Governor Hickenlooper’s decision on June 5 to veto Senate Bill 14-023. As noted in the Governor’s veto message, we are certain it was a close and difficult decision. The River District, along with many other parties, requested a veto.

But the issue is not dead. With the veto, the challenge remains for supporters and opponents alike to reconvene to develop new alternatives that provide genuine incentives for irrigation efficiency while avoiding the unintended and adverse consequences of SB023. The River District is committed to this challenge.

The River District worked with Senator Schwartz and others for two years developing legislation to create irrigation efficiency incentives. We succeeded in addressing an important part of the issue in 2013 with the passage of Senate Bill 13-019, which addressed voluntary, consumptive water use savings. We continued our efforts over the summer last year and throughout the legislative session this winter to address the more complex issue of non-consumptive water savings. In the end, we opposed the final approach taken in SB023 as too costly and likely ineffective. The River District, however, is committed to addressing the challenge of providing meaningful incentives for efficient irrigation. The Governor’s proposal in his veto message to try one or more pilot projects may be one viable approach.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Montrose: Gov. Hickenlooper signs HB14-1030 (Hydroelectric Generation Incentive)

microhydroelectricplant

From The Watch (William Woody):

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1030 into law Saturday, near the rushing waters of the South Canal, east of Montrose, where new hydroelectric generation facilities are creating megawatts of power.

The law directs the Colorado Energy Office to work in conjunction with federal agencies to streamline its review of new hydroelectric projects, decrease waiting periods and allow applications to clear federal and state review in as little as 60 days (without violating state environmental regulations).

Republican State House District 58 Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who introduced the legislation along with Rep. Diana Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs), said he first brainstormed about the idea over coffee with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) at the Coffee Trader in Montrose last fall. The law mirrors the federal Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act approved by Congress last year (in conjunction with the Rural Jobs Act introduced by Tipton) and signed by President Barack Obama in August.

Hickenlooper said that although Democrats and Republicans “do not see eye to eye on everything,” this law is a great example of both sides working together to create jobs and boost the state’s renewable energy portfolio.

“This is an obvious opportunity to do something significant right now that has much more potential over the next five to ten years with these small hydro projects,” Hickenlooper said Saturday.

The law allows farmers and ranchers to offset energy consumption by adding hydroelectric generation to their existing irrigation infrastructure, which can take up more than 70 percent of their seasonal operating budget, said Ron Carleton, deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Coram said he and fellow lawmakers were acting as “advocates for agriculture” during the law’s development, and that the partnership between the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association is a model for other projects, moving forward.

UVWUA Board President George Etchart said water from the 105-year-old, 5.8-mile long Gunnison Tunnel now has dual roles – both producing electricity and feeding the crops of the Uncompahgre Valley. “The water in this valley is the lifeblood of the this valley,” he said…

A pair of generation stations created onto the South Canal last year by the Delta-Montrose Electric Association are currently generating about five-and-a-half megawatts of electricity, capable of powering about 3,000 homes in the Uncompahgre Valley. At Saturday’s bill-signing, water from the 105-year-old Gunnison Tunnel was moving at about 950 cubic feet per second. Peak flows both plants are expected to produce between seven and seven-and-a-half megawatts. Last year DMEA produced about 16,000 megawatt hours of electricity from the South Canal project…

The Gunnison brings water every year from the Gunnison river through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to an expansive canal system that feeds 76,000 acres of farmland throughout the Uncompahgre Valley.

The South Canal projects are estimated to remove 270,000 tons of carbon from the environment and produce about 27 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Along with the 3,000 homes powered, the DMEA reports the cost savings from the hydro power drops about $2 million back into the local economy through annual savings.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper wields veto pen, SB14-023 is history #COleg #COWaterPlan

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

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

Gov. John Hickenlooper today vetoed Senate Bill 14-023 because of unresolved concerns about its potential impact to water rights. At the same time, the Governor voiced support for a targeted pilot program that would encourage conservation of water resources and keep more water in streams and rivers for water quality purposes.

“This decision was not easy; it was a close call,” the governor wrote in a letter to the Colorado Senate. “That is because the bill’s goals are important for our water future and we appreciate and honor the thousands of hours that went into crafting this legislation. Despite these efforts, there was a breakdown in consensus toward the end of the legislative session that divided the water community and, in our view, would make implementation of the policy more difficult.”

The governor told lawmakers his veto is not designed to stop this legislation from ever becoming law; rather, it allows more time to work with stakeholders to address concerns and build broader consensus for experimentation involving the instream flow program.

“This bill already has a good cross section of support from various interests, including sportsmen, conservationists, and some in the agricultural community,” the governor wrote. “Unfortunately, and despite the best efforts of the bill’s sponsors, important questions remain about how best to expand the state’s instream flow program without creating injury or cost to downstream users, principally in agriculture.”

The governor directed the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to work with lawmakers on a pilot concept in preparation for the next legislative session that addresses concerns raised by opponents of SB 14-023.

“Making the topic of this legislation an administration priority next year would give us an opportunity to re-engage stakeholders who have concerns about SB 14-023, and build a broader base of support for passage next year,” the governor wrote. “If I am re-elected by Colorado’s voters to a second term, my administration will be committed to pursuing bipartisan resolution of this important issue.”

Click here to read a copy of the governor’s veto letter.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Bowing to pressure from agricultural users, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week vetoed a bill that would have encouraged voluntary conservation measures and given incentives for private investment in conservation.

Hickenlooper tried to downplay the veto by saying that he would pursue similar legislation if re-elected, but that’s not nearly enough in a state that is now in a perpetual struggle to find enough water to sustain the economy and a healthy environment. As usual, the environment got the short end of the stick.

From Conservation Colorado:

Governor Hickenlooper today vetoed Senate Bill 14-023 (SB 23), an important water conservation bill crafted over the course of a year in close partnership with diverse water interests, including the Governor’s own water policy experts. SB 23 had support from many rural Coloradans, major water providers, Colorado’s leading conservation organizations and Colorado Water Congress, the state’s leading voice for water policy.

The bill was designed to bring investment to rural western Colorado to incentivize the implementation of irrigation efficiency improvements that would ultimately benefit agricultural operations and Colorado’s rivers and streams. Under the bill’s provisions, ranchers, farmers and other agricultural water users in western Colorado could voluntarily implement irrigation and water efficiency measures and ensure that water they save can benefit Colorado’s rivers without risking abandonment of their water rights or harming other users. The result would have been increased private investment in upgrades to and modernization of irrigation infrastructure, healthier rivers and streams, and more resilient farms and ranches.

“SB 23 was a chance for Colorado to demonstrate leadership among all western states struggling with a limited water supply and the balance between all-important human uses of water and the needs of our rivers and streams,” said Russ Schnitzer, agriculture policy adviser, Trout Unlimited. “This sends a signal that despite the Governor’s expressed commitment to water conservation, he is willing to bow to those who oppose change in any form. With this veto, innovative, common sense water efficiency solutions benefitting Colorado farms and ranches have been cast aside in favor of perpetuating the status quo locked in 19th management concepts. As an organization, we are committed to forging win-win solutions for agriculture and conservation, and SB 23 was just that. For the Governor to veto such a tool after his own water policy experts testified in support and following passage by the General Assembly is baffling and disappointing.”

According to a 2013 Colorado College poll, the vast majority of Coloradans agree that using the state’s existing water resources more efficiently is a priority. In fact, low water levels in rivers is a major concern of Coloradans, second only to unemployment. In addition, water managers agree that Colorado’s growing population is driving an imbalance between water supply and demand, which is jeopardizing the $9 billion recreational economy and Colorado’s natural mountain environment.

“Faced with a dry future and growing water use, Colorado needs innovative, collaborative policies to reverse the imbalance between water supply and demand and the increasing strain on our rivers and streams,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director, Conservation Colorado. “This legislation is precisely the type of collaborative innovative policy Colorado century water needs, so the Governor’s action today is a disappointing set back. Given the opportunity to lead on conservation, the Governor instead chose to enforce the status quo. This flies in the face of his stated commitment to water conservation and ensuring water resources for Colorado’s fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation are protected in the developing state water plan.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado Takes Steps to Expand Geothermal Development — Energy.gov

Geothermal Electrical Generation concept -- via the British Geological Survey
Geothermal Electrical Generation concept — via the British Geological Survey

Here’s the release from Energy.gov:

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a geothermal bond bill May 30, providing $1.98 million in state funding and matching the Energy Department’s investment in geothermal energy exploration at Pagosa Springs. The project, which demonstrates Colorado’s strong support for geothermal energy development, leverages a $3.8 million award from the Department for evaluating and exploring the geothermal resource potential at Pagosa Springs.

Pagosa Springs has long been recognized as a potential target for geothermal energy development, based on surface evidence and assessments such as geophysical exploration conducted by the Colorado School of Mines. The Pagosa Verde project proposes a cost-effective, phased approach for locating and evaluating the viability of geothermal resources in the southern end of the Pagosa Springs area. The project will assess the potential for power production as well as direct use applications for residential, industrial and other purposes.

The collaborative framework at Pagosa Verde provides a replicable model of public-private partnership and grassroots support. The company has engaged the local community to garner support and promote future geothermal development that could create jobs and generate clean, renewable energy for the region. Landowners, city and county officials, utilities, and private investors worked with the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado Energy Office to demonstrate the value of this project and its vital role in bringing geothermal energy development to the state.

Learn more about how geothermal energy systems work through this new Energy 101 video.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

2014 Legislature was hip deep in water bills — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #COleg

Colorado Capitol building
Colorado Capitol building

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

The legislative session that just wrapped up featured more significant water bills than the Colorado General Assembly has considered for several years. They ranged from a proposal to limit lawn sizes in new developments relying on agricultural water to technical tweaks to Colorado’s complex system of administering water rights.

Promoting efficiency and flexibility were common themes in bills introduced, along with programs to help repair infrastructure damaged by last fall’s floods. Some were passed and some weren’t, and the water gossip network is buzzing with rumors that Gov. John Hickenlooper is being lobbied to veto some of the measures. Here’s a quick summary of some of the more high-profile bills that were considered and their fates.

Lawn limits: Senate Bill 14-017, in its original form, sought to limit the replacement of irrigated farmland with irrigated lawns. The bill would have prohibited approval of new subdivisions that buy agricultural water rights unless lawns are limited to 15 percent or less of the total area of the residential lots. The bill was passed after being converted into a study of ways to limit municipal outdoor water use.

Agricultural savings to benefit streams: Senate Bill 14-023 sought to remove “use it or lose it” disincentives for irrigation efficiency improvements that could benefit streams. The bill would allow irrigators west of the Continental Divide who reduce water diversions through increased efficiency to transfer or lend the rights to the “saved” water to the state to benefit streams. It would also ensure that those rights are not legally abandoned. This would apply only to water that was not consumed under pre-efficiency practices, but rather lost in transit, and would be allowed only if it wouldn’t damage someone else’s water right.

Senate Bill 14-023 had a similar intent but ran into trouble in the 2013 session. The 2014 measure won much broader support. It was crafted through an extensive process of stakeholder consultations between environmental and agricultural interests, and it was ultimately passed by both the House and Senate. The bill remains controversial, however, due to concerns that it could deprive upstream junior water users of access to water no longer needed by downstream senior users, as well as concern that it would increase the amount of time and money water users have to spend defending their interests in water court. As of this writing, the bill had not yet been signed by Hickenlooper, and rumors were swirling that he was being lobbied to veto it.

Phase out inefficient plumbing fixtures: Senate Bill 14-103 would phase out the sale of plumbing fixtures that don’t meet the “WaterSense” standards for efficiency developed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. It passed, but is still waiting for Hickenlooper’s signature. Opponents say the bill inappropriately calls for a “one-size-fits-all” approach to conservation, wouldn’t be effective and would limit consumer choice.

Flood Relief bills: These offered both money and regulatory streamlining. HB 14-1002 sought to appropriate $12 million for a new grant program to repair water infrastructure damaged by a natural disaster. After bumping the amount up to $17 million, the General Assembly passed the bill. HB 14-1005 sought to reduce legal hurdles for rebuilding irrigation diversions in cases where flooding changed the stream in such a way that the original diversion point would no longer work. The bill allows water-right holders to relocate a ditch headgate without filing for a change in water court, as would normally be required, as long as the change won’t damage someone else’s water right. The General Assembly passed the bill.

Flexible Water Markets: A bill seeking to make it easier for agricultural users to lease some of their water right to other users as an alternative to permanent “buy and dry” did not fare well. HB 14-1026 would have allowed irrigators who free up water through fallowing some land, deficit irrigation (giving crops less water than they really want) or planting less-thirsty crops to ask the state engineer for permission to change the use of that water without having to designate exactly what the new use will be. Water court wouldn’t have been involved unless there was an appeal. The bill passed the House, but got hung up in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy.

You can trace the history of bills through the Legislature and see whether the governor has acted on them at http://www.leg.state.co.us/.

Legislative flood disaster committee will continue to meet #COflood

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

From Greeley Tribune (T.M. Fasano):

The Flood Disaster Study Committee, which was created to recommend legislative responses to the flooding that impacted the Front Range last September, will continue to meet even after the charter for the committee ended at the conclusion of the 2014 Colorado legislative session last Wednesday.

The committee will look at spring run-off on areas impacted by the flood, as well as any other issue that might arise. Several flood relief bills were passed as a result of the bipartisan efforts of the committee.

Weld County representatives on the 12-member committee are Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley; Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley; and Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance. Young and Renfroe are co-chairmen of the committee.

Other representatives on the committee include Reps. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), Mike Foote (D-Lafayette), Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) and Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling); Sens. Matt Jones (D-Louisville), John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins), Jeanne Nicholson (D-Black Hawk), Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) and Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud).

“We’ll wait and see how the spring run-off goes and get the coalition of people back together and see if the legislators heard anything from their areas that still needs to be addressed,” Renfroe said. “I think we’ve had a couple of issues come up, so we may have one or two more meetings through the rest of this year to study the impacts and if there’s anything else that can be done next year.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com
Evans Colorado September 2013 via TheDenverChannel.com

Meanwhile, two Evans manufactured home parks have started their clean up efforts. Here’s a report from Analisa Romano writing for The Greeley Tribune:

T he owners of the two Evans mobile home parks devastated in the September flood have finally begun to clear the debris.

Cleanup efforts at Eastwood Village and Bella Vista mobile home parks follow a great deal of consternation from public health officials, who in February warned home-cleaning chemicals, trash, old food and mold left in the piles of flood debris would warm and putrefy with summer temperatures.

The park owners, faced with high cleanup costs and questions about how to legally remove damaged structures that didn’t belong to them, did not address those concerns until now.

Bella Vista at this point has removed a “significant” amount of debris and shouldn’t pose a health risk, said Mark Wallace, executive director of Weld County’s Department of Public Health and Environment.

Eastwood Village has removed less debris. Perry Glantz, an attorney representing Eastwood owner Keith Cowan, said Cowan has found a number of entities interested in the damaged homes — some to take to salvage yards and others to use the frames or other materials to build things like chicken coops or on-site construction offices.

Glantz said those entities will remove the structures themselves, meaning they may not be totally cleared from the Eastwood property for another 30-60 days.

Wallace said the county has personnel monitoring the sites weekly, but they have so far not been a problem, nor has the county received any complaints.

“At this point in time, we do not see any nuisance, and we see progress being made,” Wallace said.

While the Eastwood site is getting cleared for good, Bella Vista owner Jim Feehan said he is preparing for redevelopment.

He said he isn’t sure what will go there until he knows if he will receive some kind of disaster funding assistance. Feehan said his park will likely be more competitive for assistance if he doesn’t rebuild a park, but he said he hopes to know more within six months. Kristan Williams, Evans’ communications manager, said Bella Vista is better positioned for redevelopment because it is farther from the South Platte River.

But at Eastwood, which is closer to the river, rebuilding with new floodplain requirements adopted by the Evans City Council would be cost-prohibitive, Cowan has said. Glantz said Cowan’s lawsuit against the City of Evans for changing its floodplain rules is still underway, with a trial set for August.

“It’s just not realistic,” Glantz said of the multi-million dollar adjustments Cowan would have to make to keep his park. “They (the city) have taken his business, basically.”

Cowan is paying his staff to do surface cleanup and haul away trash, but has worked out individual deals with those interested in recovering the structures, Glantz said. He said Eastwood ultimately went through the state to get a certificate of abandonment to legally remove the demolished trailers, most of which were owned by those who lived in them.

Feehan, on the other hand, has gone through a hybrid process of either getting titles to the homes that were owned or getting an abandoned title. To obtain a title to an abandoned home, Feehan said he had to go through a multiple-month process of notifications, appraisals and bonds. For other homes, the owners gave him certificates of destruction or the title.

For Glenn Smithey, an Eastwood resident who completely lost his home, handing over the title was a matter of principal he said he couldn’t bear.

“I paid my trailer off the same day it went under,” Smithey said.

He said for that reason, he did not want to give Cowan the title to his home.

Smithey said he was originally told to clear his property himself, but he could not feasibly pay for its removal, and he had been warned not to go anywhere near the debris for health reasons.

Cowan eventually got an abandoned title to Smithey’s home so it could be removed.

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

John Morris was already considering a run for Evans mayor when the September flood literally shook the foundations of his home and those of his neighbors. Some might have looked at the devastation, including hundreds of displaced residents from obliterated mobile home parks and millions of dollars in damage done to the city’s infrastructure, and turned the other way. But Morris found the flood, with all of its devastation, also offered an opportunity for the city to redevelop in a way that helps residents for years to come.

“These are 50-year, 100-year decisions,” Morris said of redevelopment. “We need to make sure it’s right the first time.”

Now, the 52-year-old Nebraska native is taking charge of those decisions as the new Evans mayor. After about a month in the hot seat, Morris said things are going well.

Morris served as Evans’ mayor pro-tem for four years and is a former member of the city’s Planning Commission. He said having some experience, too, moved him to step up at a time when he knew Evans would need some experienced leadership.

Flood recovery continues to take center stage as one of Evans’ greatest challenges, Morris said. He said the city faces some big decisions on what to do with the flood-damaged wastewater treatment facility and city park.

New EPA standards and an anticipated growth in Evans residents means the city will have to decide whether to relocate the facility, Morris said, along with decisions on how to keep Evans’ enterprise funds, such as water rates, self-sufficient, and setting aside money for capital projects to sustain growth.

Water storage and acquisition — the Windy Gap and the Northern Integrated Supply Project — and how to contribute funding to those things, are also on Morris’ radar.

Morris owns his own business — EVCO Investigations, LLC, a criminal investigation and surveillance service — and has lived in Evans for 18 years with his wife. Morris has four kids, the youngest of whom attends Frontier Academy in Greeley. The others are grown and live in the Greeley and Denver areas.

Morris said Evans’ past mayor, Lyle Achziger, was a great mentor over the years.

“One of the hardest things I have probably ever done was tell Lyle goodbye,” Morris said. “I could only hope to be half of the mayor he was.”

2014 Colorado legislation: Governor signs SB14-115 in Salida #COleg #COWaterPlan

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Mountain Mail (J.D. Thomas):

Gov. John Hickenlooper visited Salida Thursday to sign into law a bill sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass). The governor signed the bill, named State Water Plan Public Review & General Assembly, at 9:42 a.m. at Salida SteamPlant.

According to a summary of the bill, the legislation requires the Colorado Water Conservation Board to hold a hearing within each basin roundtable on a draft to develop a state water plan, update the plan based on public comments and present the draft plan to the Water Resources Review Committee. The committee must vote on whether to introduce legislation that would approve the plan. A state water plan does not have the force of law unless the General Assembly approves the plan, the summary states.

Getting input from more interest groups, other than just agricultural and urban water interests, was the goal of the bill, said Hickenlooper. He said he welcomed environmental and recreational interests to be recognized in the state water plan.
Schwartz said the bill is meant to open the conversation between the eastern part of the state, which she said has 80 percent of the population, and the Western Slope, which has 80 percent of the water.

Rep. Don Coram (R-District 58), a co-sponsor of the bill, attended the signing. Other co-sponsors, Sen. Ellen S. Roberts (R-District 6) and Rep. Randolph Fischer (D-District 53), were unable to attend.

Hickenlooper said it was a treat to come back to Salida, and he welcomes any excuse to visit again. Visiting Salida was part of a tour of the southern part of the state, he said.

2014 Colorado legislation: Hydropower bill passes both houses #COleg

microhydroelectricplant
From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, and State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, set out during the legislative session that recently ended to pass legislation facilitating development of small hydro-power projects in Colorado by streamlining the approval process. Their bill drew bipartisan support, passing the House by a vote of 62-3 and the Senate by a vote of 26-7, and is due to be signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper later this month. The Colorado Energy Office is required to coordinate the required reviews of new hydro projects by multiple state agencies and establish deadlines to respond to the projects’ proponents. “This bill streamlines and coordinates the complex permitting process for small hydroelectric facilities that produce 10 megawatts of energy or less,” Mitsch Bush said. “It cuts red tape and will stimulate small, rural hydroelectric businesses and help create rural jobs.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: Busy year for water issues #COleg #COflood

Colorado Capitol building
Colorado Capitol building

From the Sterling Journal Advoacate (Marianne Goodland):

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) was the prime sponsor of three committee bills, on relocating headgates, a study of water-absorbing pheratophytes, and the civil liability bill for volunteers. All three went to the governor for signing. He has until June 6 to sign or veto the bills.

Several bills that would designate funding for cleanup and repairs also went to the governor in the last days of the session. House Bill 14-1002 would provide $11.8 million in grants to local governments for cleanup and repairs to water infrastructure, primarily wastewater treatment and drinking water facilities. The grants, which can be matched with federal funds, would be available for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 fiscal years.

Up to $40 million from revenue derived from the excise taxes on marijuana sales would go to schools damaged in the floods under HB 1287. The bill directs the Colorado Department of Education to contact all schools in the counties that were designated as disaster areas by the governor last year to assess damages and determine funding. In northeastern Colorado, Logan, Sedgwick, Washington and Morgan counties were declared disaster areas.

The first bill to reach the governor related to the floods was Senate Bill 14-007, which allowed county commissioners to transfer money from their general fund accounts, which come from property taxes, to road and bridge funds following a disaster declaration. The governor signed the bill on Feb. 9.

Volunteers and relief workers who assisted during the disaster also got some help from lawmakers. Sonnenberg was a prime co-sponsor on SB 1438, to grant flood volunteers the same immunity from civil liability as is granted to volunteer firefighters. He also was a sponsor of HB 1003, which gave nonresident disaster relief workers an exemption from state income tax for income earned in Colorado during the disaster. The state estimated the lost tax revenue at about $30,000 in 2014-15.

There were several controversial water bills in the 2014 session. One that made it to the governor is SB 23, which would allow for the voluntary transfer of water savings to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) for in-stream flow purposes west of the Continental Divide. The bill would create a new water right: “water efficiency savings,” defined as a portion of water rights used for agricultural irrigation or stock water purposes in water divisions 4, 5, 6 and 7, all west of the Continental Divide. Those “savings” would then be loaned to the CWCB for in-stream purposes, such as improving river habitat or recreational uses. The bill faced strong opposition from House Republicans in the waning days of the session, but May 5 it passed on a 35-30 vote and went on to the governor.

The governor signed SB 17 into law on April 11. As introduced, it would have limited the size of lawns in new residential developments that buy up agricultural water for irrigation purposes. However, the bill got furious opposition from housing developers, and it was instead turned into a study that would identify best practices to limit municipal outdoor water consumption.

A bill that would prohibit the sale of low-efficiency toilets, shower heads and faucets also awaits the governor’s signature. As of Jan. 1, 2016, new or renovated homes must use “Watersense”-designated plumbing fixtures, and the sale of traditional plumbing fixtures would be prohibited. The bill drew opposition from rural lawmakers, who argued that that Watersense fixtures wouldn’t work as well in rural communities due to low water pressure, and fears that sewage systems could be damaged. SB 103 passed along generally party-line votes in the House and Senate…

SB 25 was signed into law by Hickenlooper on Feb. 27. The bill allows more small communities, defined as less than 5,000 residents, to apply for grants for developing water and wastewater treatment facilities. Funds come from severance taxes that go into an existing Drinking Water Grant Program; however, the bill does not increase the amount of funding available. The grants have not been made for several years, due to lack of funding, but the state estimates dollars will be available beginning with the 2014-15 fiscal year. With the addition of more communities, however, there may be more competition for those dollars, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

On Feb. 19, Hickenlooper signed SB 26, which ended the requirements for certain annual reports from the state engineer. Those reports include the tabulation of water rights; however, the state engineer is required to maintain a database of those water rights, available on the Internet and upon request.

The other water committee bill that didn’t make it to the governor’s desk was HB 1026, which would allow for the creation of flexible water markets. But its sponsor, Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass Village) asked the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee to send it back to the interim committee for further discussion. Under the bill, an agricultural water rights holder who reduces consumptive water use can apply for a change in use for the unused water; that water can then be transferred to another party without designating its beneficial use. While HB 1026 was introduced on the first day of the session, the bill didn’t make it to a Senate committee hearing until April 30, due to ongoing opposition and discussions with various groups. Opponents, including Brophy, claimed the bill would violate the state’s prohibition against water speculation.

Two others bills made their way to the governor that dealt with water issues. HB 1052 increases the authority of groundwater management districts to levy fines and enforce well permits. The bill passed largely along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, and was signed by the governor on March 21.

Finally, in the last days of the 2014 session, lawmakers approved the annual Colorado Water Conservation Board grant projects list for 2014-15. HB 1333 appropriates $3.3 million from the CWCB for 12 projects. The projects include:

• $750,000 to develop a statewide competitive grant program to promote alternatives to “buy and dry” of agricultural water;

• $100,000 for drought mitigation strategies;

• $500,000 to continue collecting groundwater data along the South Platte River.

More 2014 Colorado Legislation coverage here.

Some of the 51st State guys are back, this time “One man one vote” is their target

powertothepeople

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

The same folks who tried to carve out a portion of Colorado to create a 51st state have ditched that effort for something new. While two Phillips County men have given up on the idea of seceding from the state, they announced plans Thursday to start collecting signatures to remake the Colorado House. Under their plan, instead of the 65 House districts being based on an equal number of residents, it would be reduced in size and require one representative from each of the state’s 64 counties. That way, each county in the state would have equal representation in the 100-member Colorado Legislature, they said.

“Many of the citizens and local officials out here are upset with how various legislation seemed to be ramrodded through with no concern for anybody else’s thoughts or views,” said Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer. “I don’t think any of us were enamored with secession, and thought it was extreme, so we began to look for another alternative. That’s what we’re seeking to put on the ballot.”

The other man, Phillips County Commissioner Joe Kinnie, said this alternative would ensure that the entire state, and not just the metropolitan areas of the Front Range, from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, have an equal say in the goings-on at the Legislature.

The two, who stress they are speaking as citizens and not in their official capacities, said things will only get worse for rural Colorado, the Western Slope included, as population continues to grow in the Front Range metropolitan corridor.

“Rural Colorado, we don’t have a voice,” Kinnie said. “There’s no equal representation. It seems every time we have a census, we get reapportioned and lose more and more of our legislators.”

They said the issue isn’t about the political makeup of the Legislature, which currently is controlled by the Democratic Party.

“It’s a representation issue,” Schafer said. “Regardless of the party, we want a voice. Every part of the state has unique needs and concerns, and we don’t get heard regardless of whether our representatives are Republican or Democrat. They cast us aside.”

The measure they are pushing is identical to a proposed constitutional amendment offered by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, during the legislative session that ended last week. That measure, HCR1001, was killed on a 7-4 party-line vote in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. All 11 members of that panel, including the four Republicans who favored the idea, represent urban parts of the state.

The effort grew from last year’s attempt to secede from the state primarily from northeast Colorado counties, which was sparked because of gun-control laws and new rural renewable energy standards that were approved during last year’s legislative session. Eleven counties, including Moffat, had a question on their ballots last year urging their county officials to pursue the 51st state idea. Of those, however, only five passed. As a result, backers of the idea started working on this alternative.

Schafer and Kinnie said they know they have a monumental task of collecting about 100,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. They actually only need at least 86,105 registered voters, but such efforts routinely shoot higher in case some signatures are declared invalid. The measure and the petitions to get the idea on the November ballot already have been approved by the Colorado Titling Board. The deadline to submit signed petitions to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is Aug. 4. Because of that short timetable, the two are seeking as much help as they can get from around the state because they have no money to pay for signature gatherers, and plan to reach out to anyone who will help circulate the petitions.

“This is entirely a grassroots effort,” Schafer said. “We only have until August, so we don’t have a lot of time.”

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: The recently concluded session had a big focus on water bills #COleg

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

The Colorado legislative session that just wrapped up featured more significant water bills that the Colorado General Assembly has considered for several years. They ranged from a proposal to limit lawn sizes in new developments relying on agricultural water to technical tweaks to Colorado’s complex system of administering water rights.

Promoting efficiency and flexibility were common themes in the introduced bills, along with programs to help repair infrastructure damaged by last fall’s floods. Some were passed and some weren’t, and the water gossip network is buzzing with rumors that Governor Hickenlooper is being lobbied to veto some of the measures that made it to his desk. Here’s a quick summary of some of the more high-profile bills that were considered and their fates.

LAW LIMITS NOT REQUIRED — YET

Senate Bill 14-017, in its original form, sought to limit the replacement of irrigated farmland with irrigated lawns. The bill would have prohibited approval of new subdivisions that buy agricultural water rights to serve their residents unless lawns are limited to 15 percent or less of the total area of the residential lots. The bill was passed after it was converted into a bill to require a study of ways to limit municipal outdoor water use.

APPLYING AG SAVINGS TO BENEFIT STREAMS WINS SUPPORT, THOUGH CONTROVERSIAL

Senate Bill 14-023 sought to remove “use it or lose it” disincentives for irrigation efficiency improvements that could benefit streams. The bill would allow irrigators west of the Continental Divide who reduce water diversions through increased efficiency to transfer or loan the rights to the “saved” water to the state to benefit streams. It would also ensure that those rights are not legally abandoned. This would only apply to water that was not consumed under pre-efficiency practices, but rather lost in transit, and would only be allowed if it wouldn’t damage someone else’s water right.

Senate Bill 14-023 had a similar intent to a proposal that ran into trouble in the 2013 legislature. The 2014 measure won much broader support. It was crafted through an extensive process of stakeholder consultations between environmental and agricultural interests, and it was ultimately passed by both the House and Senate. The bill remains controversial, however, due to concerns that it could deprive upstream junior water users of access to water no longer needed by downstream senior users, as well as concern that it would increase the amount of time and money water users have to spend defending their interests in water court. As of this writing, the bill had not yet been signed by Governor Hickenlooper, and rumors were swirling that he was being lobbied to veto the measure.

PHASE OUT OF INEFFICIENT PLUMBING FIXTURES PASSES, STILL OPPOSITION

Senate Bill 14-103 would phase out the sale of plumbing fixtures that don’t meet the “WaterSense” standards for efficiency developed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. It was passed by the General Assembly, but is still waiting for Governor Hickenlooper’s signature. Opponents of the measure say it inappropriately calls for a “one-size-fits-all” approach to conservation, wouldn’t be effective and would limit consumer choice.

FLOOD RELIEF BILLS PASS

Flood relief bills offered both funding and regulatory streamlining. HB 14-1002 sought to appropriate $12 million for a new grant program to repair water infrastructure damaged by a natural disaster. After bumping the amount up to $17 million, the General Assembly passed the bill. HB 14-1005 sought to reduce legal hurdles for rebuilding irrigation diversions in cases where flooding changed the stream in such a way that the original diversion point would no longer work. The bill allows water-right holders to relocate a ditch headgate without filing for a change in water court, as would normally be required, as long as the change won’t damage someone else’s water right. The General Assembly passed the bill.

FLEXIBLE WATER MARKETS MEASURE GETS STUCK

A bill seeking to make it easier for agricultural users to lease some of their water right to other users as an alternative to permanent “buy and dry” did not fare as well. HB 14-1026 would have allowed irrigators who free up water through fallowing some land, deficit irrigation (giving crops less water than they really want) or planting less thirsty crops to ask the state engineer for permission to change the use of that water without having to designate exactly what the new use will be. Water court wouldn’t have been involved unless there was an appeal. The bill passed the House, but got hung up in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy.

You can trace the history of bills through the legislature, and see whether the Governor has signed them yet, at http://www.leg.state.co.us.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: Colorado Water Congress SB14-023 webinar July 16 #COleg

2014 Colorado legislation: Sharp divisions over what the potential effects of SB14-023

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Depending on who’s doing the talking, a bill that won final approval in the Colorado Legislature on Monday either could take away some people’s water rights or do nothing of the kind.

The debate was over SB23, which was introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Snowmass Village Democrat whose district includes Delta County.

The bill is designed to allow ranchers to implement water conservation measures on nonconsumptive water and donate that water for in-stream flow use without losing rights to the water they still own.

Supporters of the measure, all Democrats, say it is entirely voluntary and is intended to increase stream flows to benefit aquatic life and the environment.

Republicans, however, said it will have the unintended consequence of stealing junior water rights from people downstream from those ranchers who implement such water-saving measures as lining their ditches.

They argued that the bill creates a new water right — a saved water right — and could lead to junior water users having no water in a stream, saying that once water is designated for in-stream flow, it can’t be used for anything else.

As a result, those junior water rights owners will have to go to court to protect their water rights, Republicans said.

“The argument that this has not created a new water right is just absolutely wrong,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “We’re creating a conserved water right, and the future of that conserved water right may be to absolutely eventually sell that conserved water right, which is somebody else’s water.”

The House Democratic sponsor of the measure, Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, said opponents are completely wrong about what it will do.

“There’s a lot that has been said about this bill that isn’t at all true,” Becker said. “This bill simply gives irrigators incentive to conserve water without running the risk of abandoning that water. It is a purely voluntary bill. It does not steal anyone’s water. It doesn’t do that.”

Still, some lawmakers had hoped to persuade the House to kill the bill and send the measure back to draft because not everyone in the water community agrees it is the right thing to do.

The Colorado Water Congress and the Colorado ranchers association, for example, supported the measure. Several other water users, such as Aurora Water and several water conservation groups, opposed it.

The bill, however, passed on a narrow 35-30 vote, with only two Democrats joining Republicans opposing it. The measure cleared the Senate in March on a 25-9 vote.

“The water community came to us and the environmental community also had their say, and they just didn’t agree,” said Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Glenwood Springs. “We tried to divert water 30 years ago and had these same problems of upstream juniors and downstream juniors and in-stream flow have been with us for a long time.”

The bill heads to Gov. John Hickenlooper for his signature. It is unknown if he will sign or veto it.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Drilling down on issue of water, agriculture & conservation — Allen Best #ColoradoRiver

Crop circles -- irrigated agriculture
Crop circles — irrigated agriculture

State vs. local mandates is the subject of this report from Allen Best writing for The Mountain Town News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

A lawyer now based in Durango, [Ellen Roberts] spent the early 1980s living in Grand Lake and running lifts at Winter Park. Pipelines from both towns divert enormous amounts of water, roughly 60 percent of water in eastern Grand County, to farms and cities from Denver to Fort Collins and eastward to Julesberg.

“I’m not trying to undo that—and never in a million years could we,” says Roberts. “But there’s concern on the Western Slope—legitimately—whether people on the Front Range understand that water doesn’t come from the tap. It comes from someplace else. My bill, S.B. 17, was an effort to begin that conversation about what is the best use of precious water. Because we live in high-desert like conditions, maybe we should be rethinking how we use our water.”

The idea was pitched to Roberts by Steve Harris, president of a water engineering company in Durango and a delegate to the statewide Interbasin Compact Committee. The IBCC, as the committee is called, has been meeting monthly in an effort to shape the state-wide water plan ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper…

“We appreciate that admonishment,” says Chris Treese, director of external affairs for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, who helped Roberts draft the proposal.

“I think we need to have more of a state-wide discussion about water conservation—and not just what we have done in the past, but rather the next step, the next frontier in conservation,” says Treese.

“We need to move beyond turning off your tap while brushing your teeth. While helpful, that’s very marginal in its benefit. If you’re going to make a difference, you have to go outdoors. That’s where the consumptive use is.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: Productive and collaborative session in 2014 #COleg

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Joe Hanel, the very effective and prolific journalist from The Durango Herald is morphing his career. He wrapped up his run at the Herald with two articles about the 2014 session. First up, he reports that Four Corners legislators felt like the recent session accomplished much. Here’s an excerpt:

“I feel so much better than I did a year ago,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango. “Last year, I went home demoralized and wondering if it made any difference to be up here.”[…]

Fights over water rights returned to the stage this year, and Roberts was in the middle of most of them. She brought the Legislature a plan hatched by a Durango water engineer to limit the size of lawns in new suburban neighborhoods. It riled homebuilders and city governments, and eventually it was turned into a study – a common way for legislators to delay inconvenient legislation.

Roberts also pushed for the Legislature to have veto power over the Colorado Water Plan, which Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to have crafted by December. Legislators of both parties had complained Hickenlooper was bypassing them, and that the public at large knew very little of the water plan.

Although her bill was scaled back, it still requires hearings around the state in front of the Legislature’s water committee before the plan can be finished.

“We weren’t invited to the party,” Roberts said. “We had to crash the party, but we are now at the table.”[…]

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, also noticed a change in tone from 2013, when pressure from party leaders led to a series of partisan votes.

“The lock-down mode wasn’t there this year, on either side,” Coram said…

Another bill, though, stands out as a statewide highlight of the 2014 session. It was a rural broadband bill that finally passed after four years of unsuccessful efforts. The bill converts part of the phone company’s subsidy for serving hard-to-reach customers into a grant fund to build high-speed Internet lines to unserved areas.

Last fall, Coram began crafting the bill with Club 20 and others on the Western Slope.

“The last couple years, that bill has failed because it was a top-down approach. This year, it was truly a grass-roots, bottom-up effort,” he said.

Weber Fire near Mancos June 2012 via MNGInteractive.com
Weber Fire near Mancos June 2012 via MNGInteractive.com

Here’s the link to Joe’s other final article. Here’s an excerpt:

Before this year, people around the Capitol knew Steve King as a rank-and-file Grand Junction Republican senator with perfect hair. This year, though, King stepped from his seat in the back row of the Senate to center stage with his single-minded advocacy of an aerial firefighting fleet. The passage of his bill to rent or buy firefighting aircraft ranks among the biggest achievements of the 2014 legislative session, which ended Wednesday…

The Legislature’s Democratic leaders entered the session in January without any of the flashy agenda items that characterized 2013, like gun safety, civil unions, elections reform or in-state tuition for kids without U.S. citizenship.

King stepped into that vacuum with his insistence that Colorado needed more airplanes and helicopters to fight wildfires. Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislative leaders had been lukewarm on the idea, citing the cost and questionable effectiveness of aerial firefighting.

Democratic Senate President Morgan Carroll praised King for his passion and signed on to his bill as a fellow sponsor.

“He has stuck with it and stuck with it and persuaded me it was the right thing to do,” Carroll said.

But everything really changed in March, when Hickenlooper’s top fire official, Paul Cooke, issued a report that recommended contracting for light air tankers and helicopters and buying spotter planes. King had wanted heavy tankers and helicopters, but he immediately embraced the report and changed his bill to follow its recommendations.

Hickenlooper was reluctant to cast King as the hero and said his administration started examining aerial firefighting in 2011.

“It wasn’t like we weren’t doing something. But Senator King definitely helped create a context where this was top of mind, where people were thinking about different alternative choices. In that sense, I think he was a valuable partner to have,” Hickenlooper said.

King, however, benefited from the same economic recovery that enabled the other big accomplishments of the 2014 session.

The $20 million cost of the aerial fleet is just a sliver of the big investments in education. An extra $110 million for K-12 schools begins to reverse about $1 billion in cuts since 2008. And the $100 million boost to colleges is a record, but it also does not restore deep cuts made during the recession.

Joe Hanel via The Durango Herald
Joe Hanel via The Durango Herald

I loved Joe’s adios on Twitter (Just the facts ma’am). I also thought that it was fitting that he used Twitter to let us all know about his new gig.

It’s a bummer to see another Colorado water reporter move on. Good luck man!

Click here to browse through the Coyote Gulch posts attributed to The Durango Herald and Joe Hanel. Joe shows up on the older Coyote Gulch as well.

HB14-1333: Legislature to fund Long Hollow project — The Durango Herald #COleg

Long Hollow Reservoir location map via The Durango Herald
Long Hollow Reservoir location map via The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

A Southwest Colorado water district can expect $1,575,000 from the Legislature to help build a dam just off the La Plata River. It’s one of the few water projects statewide the Legislature is funding this year.

Long Hollow Reservoir, about five miles north of the New Mexico border, is being built to help farmers and ranchers in southwestern La Plata County keep water through the dry months, while at the same time letting the state meet its legal obligation to deliver water to New Mexico.

“Part of the reservoir would be for interstate compact compliance when Colorado has a difficult time making deliveries to New Mexico,” said Bruce Whitehead, executive director of the Southwest Water Conservation District…

With the money from the state’s water projects fund, Long Hollow reservoir should be finished by fall, he said. Most of the money to build the reservoir was set aside when the Animas-La Plata Project was scaled down.

The Legislature’s annual water projects bill, House Bill 1333, often has something for water users all across the state. But this year, Long Hollow is the only construction project to get direct funding. The bill also makes up to $131 million in loans to two projects on Denver’s south side – an expansion of Chatfield Reservoir and a water-efficiency and reuse project in the southern suburbs.

The bill has passed the House on a 61-1 vote, and it is on track to pass the Senate early this week.

2014 Colorado legislation: SB14-023 — West Slope instream use, irrigation efficiency #COleg

Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado instream flow program map via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

Here’s the first of a two-part series about the bill from Michael Schrantz writing for Steamboat Today. Here’s an excerpt:

Senate Bill 23 is on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk thanks to some legislative maneuvering, but the bill dealing with changes to water law on the Western Slope has divided interested organizations and prompted warnings that its consequences could be much broader than intended.

The bill aims to provide incentives for Western Slope agricultural water users and irrigators to make their operations more efficient while also increasing instream flows.

Organizations opposed to Senate Bill 23 warn that while its intent is laudable, the bill also has the potential to harm existing water rights.

Under current water law, not using a water right in its full, decreed amount for the intended beneficial use can put the right in jeopardy. The Division Engineer’s office tracks historic consumptive use, and whatever water has not been used in a 10-year period (either the full right or a partial amount) gets put on the decennial abandonment list. Water that’s considered abandoned flows through the stream or creek like it had been during the previous 10 years or longer that it wasn’t being used or it’s put to use by other rights holders.

Senate Bill 23 would allow those who have rights for agricultural, irrigation or stock watering uses in water divisions 4, 5, 6 (that’s us) or 7 to implement efficiency measures, such as a sprinkler system, and transfer that savings as an instream right to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The water rights holders could structure the agreement so that they could get the transferred amount back from the CWCB in the future, allowing them to implement more efficient irrigation measures without risking the loss of part of their decreed water.

The CWCB would get an instream flow between the point the rights holder diverts water and the point of the historical return flows.

Critics of Senate Bill 23 generally have two major issues with the legislation: that a transfer for instream use has the potential to harm intervening water rights and that it also could injure upstream junior rights holders…

“The intent of bill is providing incentives for ag water to use efficiencies without harm to others,” Colorado River Water Conservation District spokesman Chris Treese said.

That’s a goal the district supports and has funded itself in the past, Treese said, but there are a number of concerns with Senate Bill 23.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District, which represents Western Slope counties including Routt, opposes Senate Bill 23.

The principal concern, Treese said, is that the process could represent a cost to surrounding water users who take it upon themselves to investigate whether the change would harm their rights.

“There’s definitely a potential for injury for those rights in between,” Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft said about the intervening rights between the point of diversion and point of historical return flows.

The Colorado Farm Bureau also opposed Senate Bill 23.

“It’s an interesting dilemma,” Shawcroft said. “Colorado water law says the state and anyone changing a water right has to prove they’re not injuring anyone else.

“Anyone who believes they’re injured has to lawyer up and engineer up and has to prove their point.”[…]

The Colorado Water Congress worked on the bill with legislators and other interested parties for eight to 10 months, Executive Director Doug Kemper said, and it is satisfied that the processes included in the bill will protect surrounding water rights holders.

“We finally got to the point where we felt like major concerns were addressed,” Kemper said. “We ultimately ended up taking the position to support” the bill.

Requiring a water court process to ensure that other water rights are not injured was a big part of that, he said.

“It’s not creating water right out of thin air or, of more concern, creating water right out of someone else’s water,” Kemper said…

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2014 Colorado Legislation: SB14-192 is on its way to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk

Lincoln/Cotter Mill Park superfund site
Lincoln/Cotter Mill Park superfund site

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Christy Steadman):

“The passage of the Uranium Groundwater Protection bill today will help restore our use and rights to our wells,” Sharyn Cunningham, Lincoln Park resident, said.

John Hamrick, facility manager at Cotter Corp., said SB 192 ceases “a year-and-a-half of progress in the negotiation process” with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to abide by the federal rules regarding “what is the best way” concerning clean-up. He said the negotiations were a measure to clean up what would eventually “go away” naturally.

Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said the area’s community members and activists “deserve a hearty congratulations for turning their passion into a legislative victory.”

“No community should have to endure the long-term exposure to uranium and other contamination as the community of Cañon City has at the hands of the Cotter Corp.,” he said.

Hamrick said he wanted to remind people that “to the best of Cotter’s knowledge, nobody is drinking ground water (contaminated) above any health limits or ground water protection standards.”[…]

Another issue with SB 192, said Hamrick, is the requirement to use the most expedited and best available technology for the clean-up. He said there will be only one technology that could reach both those requirements, and as of yet, nobody knows what it is nor an idea of its cost.

“Water quality is improving in Lincoln Park naturally,” Hamrick said. “(SB 192) adds a lot of unknown costs without a lot of public benefits.”

More nuclear coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: HB14-1002 passes House (again) now on to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk #COleg

2014 #COLeg: SB14-195, South Platte River Post #COflood Phreatophyte Study, Ag to Appropriations unamended 12-0

Click here to read the bill.

More 2014 Colorado Legislation coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: SB14-192 passes the Senate #COleg

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Christy Steadman):

The Colorado Senate passed Senate Bill 192 on Tuesday, which concerns uranium licensing and groundwater protection, but causes conflict between Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill and Lincoln Park residents.

In a press release issued by Conservation Colorado representative Chris Arend, residents of Lincoln Park “expressed support for (the) bipartisan legislation … that will help rectify 30 years of groundwater contamination by Cotter Corp.”

“The passage of SB 192 today will help restore our use and rights to our wells and begin to rectify the damage the Cotter Corporation has caused in our community,” Sharyn Cunningham, Lincoln Park resident said in the release.

John Hamrick, facility manager at Cotter Corp., said they have been in negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to abide by the federal rules regarding “what is the best way” concerning clean-up. He said that is “now in jeopardy” because of SB 192, and a year-and-a-half of progress in the negotiation process will have to be discarded, and they will now have “to go back to zero.”

“(Additionally), the State of Colorado is federally preempted from passing a law that requires the EPA to select a specific clean-up remedy,” Hamrick said.

In the release, Lincoln Park resident Pete Maysmith said SB 192 “will help clean-up residents’ groundwater and restore the historic use of their water wells.”

“No community should have to endure the long-term exposure to uranium and other contamination as the community of Cañon City has at the hands of the Cotter Corp.,” Maysmith said.

Here’s a release from Conservation Colorado:

Impacted residents and members of the Colorado conservation community expressed support for bipartisan legislation passed today that will help rectify 30 years of groundwater contamination by Cotter Corporation in Canon City, Colorado. Residents of the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Canon City had been told that the best way to deal with Cotter’s pollution was for the community to abandon use of their wells.

“For my Lincoln Park neighbors forsaking our historic use of our water wells was never an option. We knew we needed to keep fighting for full and active clean up of our wells not only to restore our current rights but for future residents,” said Sharyn Cunningham, Lincoln Park resident. “The passage of SB 192 today will help restore our use and rights to our wells and begin to rectify the damage the Cotter Corporation has caused in our community.”

“Today after 30 years of contamination and indifference, the residents of Lincoln Park saw significant movement in their campaign for the Cotter Corporation to finally clean up its mess in Cañon City,” said Pete Maysmith. “No community should have to endure the long term exposure to uranium and other contamination as the community of Cañon City has at the hands of the Cotter Corporation. The legislation passed today will help clean up residents’ groundwater and restore the historic use of their water wells.”

Although pleased that contaminated water would be cleaned-up, supporters expressed concern that the Colorado Senate stripped out licensing requirements that would protect against future contamination.

“We are disappointed in Colorado Senate amendments to remove important protections for experimental uranium milling proposed for our community,” said Cathe Meyrick, resident of the Tallahassee Area in Fremont County. “The legislation would have clarified that licensing is required before the industry deploys experimental uranium recovery techniques with potentially grave impacts on our groundwater. Regardless of this setback, we will rely on a committed community and look for other mechanisms to protect our groundwater.”

The proposed new technologies involve extraction through the creation of an underground uranium slurry (i.e., underground borehole mining) and concentration through physical, rather than chemical means (i.e., ablation). These new uranium recovery methods are being proposed for uranium deposits in Fremont County (Tallahassee Area/Arkansas River) and in Weld County (Centennial Project and Keota).

Both Conservation Colorado and impacted landowners in Fremont and Weld County will work to reinstate the provisions as the bill moves forward.

More nuclear coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: SB14-103 approved with just one Republican vote #COleg

Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman
Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

It seems like sneering at apple pie, motherhood, and blue skies. Why would you vote against water-efficient plumbing fixtures?

Nonetheless, S.B. 14-103 was approved by the Colorado Legislature with just one Republican vote. The bill would require that only those plumbing fixtures certified under the WaterSense program can be sold in Colorado as of Sept. 1, 2016.

A representative of Gov. John Hickenlooper said on April 25 that the governor plans to canvas water leaders around the state to understand the impacts to water use and conservation…

Denver Water, the primary proponent of the efficiency legislation, estimates that broad adoption of the water-efficient toilets, urinals, shower heads, and faucets will produce 40,000 acre-feet of savings across Colorado by 2050. The agency serves a quarter of residential customers in Colorado.

“Every conversation about water should start with conservation,” says Greg Fisher, manager of demand planning for Denver Water, parroting a line used by Hickenlooper (and probably many others).

Denver has significantly reduced per-capita consumption in the last 40 years. In the early 1980s, Denver Water coined the word “xeriscaping” to embody the idea of using plants and grasses native to the climate, to minimize the amount of outdoor irrigation at homes.

The drought of 2002 drove Denver to insist, not merely encourage, cutbacks to outdoor use. After the immediate threat ebbed, however, customers generally stuck with their new ways. Residential use in Denver and its service areas in close-in suburbs now averages 85 gallons per capita per day. That’s a 20 percent reduction since the start of the 21st century, but Denver hopes to squeeze another 2 percent of reduction in the next couple years.

Change-outs of indoor plumbing fixtures have helped shrink the per-capita use, says Fisher. Using rebates and assistance to low-income residents, Denver has retrofitted 135,000 toilets in its service area since 2003. The city’s WaterSense Challenge program also provides multifamily customers bulk discounts on toilets, faucet aerators, and showerheads. Field technicians in the agency’s commercial audits replace showerheads and faucet aerators free of charge.

While outdoor use is responsible for roughly three-quarters of residential water use, indoor plumbing changes can yield perhaps surprising savings…

At a House of Representatives committee hearing in March, Republicans questioned why Colorado needs a “one size fits all” approach to water efficiency. The general tone was that government had no right getting involved in people’s bathrooms. One of those committee members, Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose, later told a gathering in Durango that he opposed the bill because it wouldn’t save much water and it was impossible to enforce, according to a report in the Durango Herald.

Fisher had first taken the idea of water-efficiency standards to legislators two years ago, but admits now that he wasn’t ready to answer all the questions. This time, he says, he was ready, and his core argument was that more efficiency does not preclude consumer choices…

WaterSense-labeled toilets use 20 percent less water per flush but perform as well or better than today’s standard toilets and older toilets that use much more water.

Toilets once needed 7 gallons of water per flush. That dropped to 3.5 gallons and then, by 1996, 1.6 gallons. Now, all toilets certified by WaterSense use 1.28 gallons or less, with some models using as little as 0.8 gallons per flush.

WaterSense-certified bathroom faucets outfitted with aerators can save 30 percent.

Why mandate WaterSense fixtures? Building codes have begun requiring greater efficiency. And consumers at The Home Depot and other places are buying them on their own…

Fisher said Denver Water decided that mandates were needed to capture the entire market, retail and wholesale, and accelerate the pace of adoption.

“If we felt comfortable that the market was going to take care of this in the near future, I don’t think we would have seen the need for the bill,” says Fisher.

But he also said that Denver, in its strategies, wants to emphasize that lifestyles need not be sacrificed even as greater efficiencies are wrung out of water supplies…

This is just one of a trio of bills aimed at increasing water conservation and efficiency that were introduced in the Colorado Legislature this year. The most controversial was introduced by Sen. Ellen Roberts, the lone Republican to cross the partisan aisle to vote for the efficiency mandate. Based in Durango, she proposed strict limits on lawn sizes in any subdivision using new imports of water in cases where farms had been dried up for municipal supplies. The idea was sent to an interim summer committee for further consideration.

Yet another bill, introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, would have allowed legal transfer of water saved by farmers and ranchers through improved efficiencies. Under her original proposal in S.B. 14-023, the saved water could have been donated as dedicated instream-flow right in the rivers and creeks. It reportedly has run into opposition because of various concerns.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2014 Colorado legislation: The House turns thumbs down on HB14-1332 #COleg

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

A groundwater bill supported by a group of local farmers and the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley has been defeated. House Bill 1332 — aimed at providing relief for areas of Weld County and elsewhere where groundwater wells have been curtailed, and where high groundwater levels have caused damage — narrowly passed out of the House Appropriations Committee by a 7-6 vote Wednesday morning, but that afternoon was defeated 36-29 when it went to the House floor, according to Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, who sponsored the bill.

“It’s disappointing,” said LaSalle-area farmer Glen Fritzler, an outspoken proponent of the bill, whose groundwater wells had been curtailed in recent years, whose basement flooded and who also helped form the Ground Water Coalition. “It might be the end for us in this legislative session, but we’ll certainly try again next year.”

HB 1332 called for de-watering measures in areas of high groundwater, funding for more groundwater monitoring and studies, and potentially creating a “basin-wide management entity.”

The bill struggled for support from other water circles in the state.

Earlier this month, the Colorado Water Congress voted 20-3 against supporting the bill, and members of the South Platte Basin Roundtable — a group of water officials and experts who meet regularly to discuss the region’s water challenges — spoke out against the bill.

Rather than support the proposed legislation, the roundtable voted in favor of having further discussions about the high groundwater levels and curtailed wells, and, if reaching consensus on the issues down the road, adding such suggestions to the South Platte basin’s long-term water plan and eventual statewide Colorado Water Plan, which are currently in the works.

The majority of South Platte Roundtable members said at that meeting that such measures, like the de-watering efforts, are more complex than they appear. They also said the state putting forth more dollars for more groundwater studies is unnecessary since the recent Colorado Water Institute’s study is available for further examination, and the State Engineer’s Office is in the midst of a separate groundwater study.

Furthermore, creating an entity for basin oversight would just add “another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy.”

Wednesday’s defeat was another setback for LaSalle and Gilcrest area farmers, who, due to changes over the years in the state’s administration of groundwater, had their groundwater wells curtailed or shutdown several years ago. They’ve pushed for several other bills this year and in recent years that address the issue, but have been voted down.

For someone to legally pump water out of the ground in Colorado, most wells must have an approved augmentation plan to make up for depletions to the aquifer. The pumping of that groundwater draws down flows in nearby rivers and streams — surface supplies owned and used by senior water rights holders. But, because of increasing water prices, some in the ag community struggle to find affordable water they can use for augmentation.

In addition to losing the ability to pump their wells, many of those impacted believe the lack of well-pumping and increased augmentation is what’s caused the high groundwater levels that in recent years flooded basements and ruined crops in saturated fields. Many believe, however, that the high groundwater levels in recent years were caused by a variety of factors, and the existing system for groundwater management is needed to protect senior surface water rights.

2014 Colorado Legislation: SB14-192 would further regulate mining for radioactive materials #COleg

uranium

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Democrats in the Colorado Senate are considering a bill to place more controls over uranium mining that opponents say are duplicative and unnecessary. The measure, SB192, would require uranium and thorium mines to get a radioactive materials license from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and meet certain criteria for keeping contaminated materials out of the state’s groundwater supplies.

But opponents say federal and state regulations over such things are already stringent, and the proposed changes are being pushed by anti-nuclear energy advocates who want to stop all uranium mining.

Harold Roberts, chief operating officer of Lakewood-based Energy Fuels, the company that has been working to open the Pinon Ridge Mill in western Montrose County for the past three years, told the Senate Health & Human Services Committee that the measure is fraught with problems. He told the panel, which approved the bill Thursday on a 4-3 party-line vote, the measure only increases red tape, would spark more litigation and would have no impact on protecting public health or the environment.

“My point is, we’re highly regulated and I don’t see that SB192 would do anything to improve those regulations,” he told the seven-member panel.

Much of the testimony for the measure stemmed from residents who live near the Cotter Uranium Mill near Canon City, a uranium processing mill that was declared a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund clean-up site in 1984.

Opponents to the measure said that much has changed since then, and state and federal regulations today are far more stringent to prevent such a thing from happening elsewhere. Roberts said his proposed mill has spent more than a $1 million over the past three years in extra groundwater investigations and facility upgrades at the request of state regulators.

Last year, the company received a radioactive-materials handling permit from the state, but it is waiting to build the $150 million mill located near Naturita until the price of yellowcake, a uranium concentrate powder, increases. Currently, those prices are at a fraction of what they were before the recession began in 2008.

The bill heads to the full Senate for more debate.

More 2014 Colorado legislation here.

SB14-147 hits a wall in the Senate Ag Committee — indefinite postponement

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate:

Senate Bill 14-147, “A Study to Determine the Impact of Increased Well Alluvial Well Pumping In District 2 of Water Division 1,” would have allowed wells to pump 20 percent more than their decrees permitted under the auspices of a study.

Testimony was given during the hearing that the additional 20 percent of pumping proposed in connection with the study would injure other water rights and should not be used to solve high ground water issues. Additionally, Jim Yahn of the North Sterling Irrigation District told lawmakers that, based on court documents, there have been localized areas of high ground water in the South Platte since the early 1900s.

“The bill would have conflicted with existing water court decrees and undo stipulations between parties in hundreds of water court cases, making it unconstitutional,” the press release from WRASP said. “It could also interfere with Colorado’s obligations under the South Platte River Compact.”

Following the hearing, WRASP member Joe Frank expressed ongoing concern with the idea behind this legislation: “Water rights in Colorado are property rights. WRASP will always oppose proposals that undermine these property rights to the detriment of Colorado farmers. Taking our water should never be an option to solving water shortages in other areas. WRASP remains committed to working with all parties for reasonable solutions.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB14-1026: “In theory, it sounds good [flexible markets], but there are still not enough sideboards on it” — Jay Winner #COleg

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Local officials still are skeptical of pending legislation that would establish a flex marketing water right. The bill, HB1026, as introduced would have allowed agricultural water to be used anywhere, any time and for any purpose, apparently in contradiction of the state’s anti-speculation doctrine.

[…]

It breezed through the state House, but has been snagged for weeks in the Senate agriculture committee.

“In theory, it sounds good, but there are still not enough sideboards on it,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Winner has been trying to get a provision added to the bill that would limit fallowing of farmland to three years in 10 — a staple of current law regarding temporary transfers. Backers of the bill have pushed for allowing transfers to occur five years in 10, with nearly unlimited dry-up of farm ground during that time.

The bill was supposed to be heard in the Senate ag committee Thursday, but was again delayed. Winner thinks it should be referred to the interim water resources committee to work out differences.

Meanwhile, the Pueblo Board of Water Works also is backing off from supporting the bill. Even though provisions were added that prevent moving water from the water district where it originally was used, farms might be permanently dried up, said Terry Book, executive director of the water board.

“Our question is does it do what it’s intended to do?” Book said. “We would support something that allows farmers to market water, but not this bill.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

The latest newsletter from the Colorado Water Congress is hot off the presses #COleg #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlan

Colorado River near De Beque
Colorado River near De Beque

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

A record 180 people registered for the Wednesday, April 16 webinar, “Adapting the Law of the Colorado River.” John McClow, Colorado’s Commissioner on the Upper Colorado River Commission and CWC Board President, provided a brief summary of the Law of the Colorado River: the Colorado River Compact, the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact, and the Mexican Treaty of 1944. This was followed by a description of collaborative efforts among the seven Colorado River Basin states, the Department of the Interior, and Mexico to adapt the law to changing conditions on the river.

Read an overview of the presentation on the CWC blog and view the presentation on the CWC website.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

SB14-103 contains “soft enforcement” provisions

Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman
Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

Colorado will set higher efficiency standards for its plumbing fixtures starting in September 2016 — though the stricter standards might be a case of policy catching up with practice…

Senate Bill 14-103, sponsored in the House by Fort Collins Democrat Rep. Randy Fischer, prohibits the sale of plumbing fixtures that don’t meet federal WaterSense standards. WaterSense certification means the plumbing fixture uses at least 20 percent less water without sacrificing performance compared to standard models. For toilets, that means using 1.28 gallons of water or less per flush, as opposed to the federally mandated maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush.

The bill passed this month unanimously in the Senate and 35-28 in the House. Eric Brown, a spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper, said Wednesday that the policy team is reviewing the bill and talking with legislators.

Some communities, such as Thornton, have already put these standards into effect, Fischer said. He called the bill an attempt to “speed up the transition” to fixtures that are more efficient.

“There is a certain amount of penetration in the market already from these fixtures,” he said…

Fischer said the bill contains only “soft enforcement.” By March 2017, manufacturers must submit to the state the percentage of WaterSense-certified products sold to retailers. Retailers have no requirement and can sell non-WaterSense fixtures after the deadlines.

The requirements should help address the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s predictions of water supplies running short by 500,000 acre-feet of water per year in 2050 if habits don’t change. That would leave urban water users drinking up what would otherwise go to crops, Fischer said. The bill will help mitigate that without requiring a change of habits, he said…

Fort Collins rebate program

The city of Fort Collins offers rebates on water bills if you replace inefficient toilets and showerheads with models that are WaterSense-certified or those that perform better.

• $75 for a MaP-certified toilet (uses 1.06 gallons per flush or less)

• $50 for a WaterSense-certified toilet (1.28 gallons or less)*

• $10 for the purchase of WaterSense-certified showerhead

• The city estimates 4.7 million gallons of water a year will be saved with 2012’s rebated toilets alone.

• Information: http://noconow.co/waterrebates.

* May be discontinued with new law’s higher water efficiency standards.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Gov. Hickenlooper signs SB14-017

Sprawl
Sprawl

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A bill that initially sought to tie water supplies for new developments to minimal landscaping irrigation was signed into law Friday by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The bill, SB17, was amended as it moved through the state Legislature to identify and encourage “best practices” that could be used by cities, water districts and homeowners to limit outdoor water consumption.

It also referred further legislation to the interim water resources committee of the Legislature to determine if any mandatory limits are needed.

The original legislation would have limited irrigated landscaping to 15 percent of any new development that used water obtained from agricultural dry-up.

The Colorado Water Congress opposed the legislation because it interfered with local control and ignored benefits provided by lawns.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB14-1332 isn’t getting much love from the legislature #COleg

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

A bill supported by a group of local farmers and the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley is struggling to find support in other circles. House Bill 1332 — aimed at providing relief for areas of Weld County and elsewhere where groundwater wells have been curtailed and where high groundwater levels have caused damage — will have its first committee hearing Monday.

But already it’s hitting roadblocks.

On Monday, the Colorado Water Congress voted 20-3 against supporting the bill, and the next day, members of the South Platte Basin Roundtable — a group of water officials and experts who meet regularly to discuss the region’s water challenges — spoke out against the bill. Rather than support the proposed legislation, the roundtable voted in favor of having further discussions about the high groundwater levels and curtailed wells, and, if reaching consensus on the issues down the road, adding such suggestions to the South Platte basin’s long-term water plan and eventual statewide Colorado Water Plan, which are currently in the works.

“Any legislation right now is premature,” said Boulder water attorney and roundtable member Mike Shimmin, noting that the Colorado Water Institute’s study of groundwater in the basin was released just a little over three months ago, and further examination and discussion of that information, and other studies, is needed before changes are made.

HB 1332 calls for de-watering measures in areas of high groundwater, funding more groundwater monitoring and studies, and potentially creating a “basin-wide management entity.”

But the majority of South Platte Roundtable members on Tuesday said such measures, like the de-watering efforts, are more complex than they appear. They also said the state putting forth more dollars for more groundwater studies is unnecessary since the recent Colorado Water Institute’s study is available for further examination, and the State Engineer’s Office is in the midst of a separate groundwater study.

Furthermore, creating an entity for basin oversight would add “another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy,” noted Harold Evans, South Platte Roundtable member, and chairman of the city of Greeley Water and Sewer Board.

It was another setback for LaSalle and Gilcrest area farmers, who, due to changes over the years in the state’s administration of groundwater and other factors, had their groundwater wells curtailed or shutdown several years ago. They’ve pushed for several other bills that address the issue, but have been voted down.

For someone to legally pump water out of the ground in Colorado, most wells must have an approved augmentation plan to make up for depletions to the aquifer. The pumping of that groundwater draws down flows in nearby rivers and streams — surface supplies owned and used by senior water rights holders. But, because of increasing water prices, some in the ag community have struggled, and continue to struggle, to find affordable water they can use for augmentation.

In addition to losing the ability to pump their wells, many of those impacted believe the lack of well-pumping is what’s caused the high groundwater levels that in recent years flooded basements and ruined crops in saturated fields.

Others, though, believe the high groundwater levels were caused by a variety of factors, and the existing system for groundwater management is needed to protect senior surface water rights, some of which date back to the 1800s.

The debate goes back years and came to a head during the 2012 drought, when crops were struggling in fields but some farmers couldn’t pump their wells to provide relief, even though groundwater was at historically high levels in some spots.

That summer, those local farmers, along with Weld County commissioners, asked Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to make an emergency declaration that would allow them to temporarily pump some of those curtailed or shutdown wells — in hopes of bringing down the damaging high groundwater, and to also save their crops. But many other water users urged the governor not to allow it. The governor didn’t allow any emergency groundwater pumping for local farmers, saying the state would likely face a barrage of lawsuits if he did so.

However, those 2012 discussions led to lawmakers approving the recent Colorado Water Institute groundwater study — known as the House Bill 1278 Study. It’s the approval of that study that now gives hope to HB 1332 supporters.

“We’ll keep plugging away,” said Randy Ray, executive director for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, which, among other things, acquires and provides augmentation water to many of the impacted farmers. “We saw the same people speak out against that bill, and it still went through.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

SB14-103: If you like your toilet you can keep your toilet #COleg

Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman
Low flow toilet cutout via The Ultimate Handyman

From the Craig Daily Press (Bob Rankin):

“If you like your toilet, you can keep your toilet.” Does that sound familiar? Does it sound like the Affordable Care Act?

One of the longest- and hardest-fought floor debates last week had to do with toilets. The sponsor actually made that statement. The bill will require that all new shower and toilet fixtures be energy-efficient to conserve water. Our own Colorado Water District supports it in the hope that the Front Range will divert less water. But I don’t think government should limit choice unless it’s a public safety issue or offers some other very clear benefit. I have to flush the efficient toilet in our rented Denver apartment about three times, so I don’t think they work as advertised. The shower, in this touted “green energy-efficient” building, takes five minutes of running in order to get hot water.

But water conservation is a very serious topic in Colorado. Follow the progress of the water plan being developed this year. It supposedly will guide water use and conservation for years into the future…

We had a very controversial bill and debate in the Agriculture Committee that could have a big effect on water for irrigation and stream flow in our area. The bill would allow irrigators to use more efficient means of watering crops and fields and then sell or donate the saved water to keep our streams flowing all year. I like the concept, but we can’t seem to get agreement between the irrigators, lawyers, fishermen like me and environmentalists.

We haven’t voted as of this writing. I would like to see us work on the bill this summer and come back with agreement, since I really don’t think the committee, of which I am a member, is capable of sorting out this complicated water law issue.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

SB14-115’s goal is greater public participation in the #COWaterPlan #COleg

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

…legislators fret they will be left out of the process. And they worry the public will be caught unaware, even though years of work and hundreds of public meetings have gone into drafting the plan.

Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, said he wants to avoid repeating mistakes the state government made when it partnered with a private company to expand the highway between Denver and Boulder and add toll lanes.

Even though every local government in the area signed off on the plan in public meetings, hundreds of angry people turned out last winter to oppose that plan and said they were taken by surprise.

“Perception is reality,” Lebsock said. “It’s absolutely critical that our government, with an assist from the Legislature, is willing to hold public meetings.”

That’s the idea behind Senate Bill 115, which advanced Monday after an 11-1 vote in the House Agriculture Committee.

It was proposed by Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who thought Hickenlooper’s administration was ignoring the Legislature while drafting the water plan. Originally, the bill would have required the Legislature to approve the Colorado Water Plan.

Now, the bill requires the Legislature’s summer water committee to hold hearings around the state this year and in 2015 to take public testimony on the plan.

Two of the meetings would have to be in Southwest Colorado…

Nine years ago, the Legislature created a system of “water roundtables” in each major river basin to start working on a state water plan while reaching out to as many people as possible.

Those roundtables have been at work for nearly a decade and have held hundreds of public meetings, which have not always been well-attended.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Having exhausted all toilet puns, House approves SB14-103, Unamended — Kristin Wyatt #COleg

Colorado legislative committee OKs oil and gas health impact study — Denver Post #COleg

HB14-1026: ‘…seems like a Trojan horse for a permanent buy-and-dry’ — Peter Nichols

Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center
Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A flex marketing water right bill that passed the state House earlier this year would, in effect, overturn a state Supreme Court decision that prevented moving water out of the Fort Lyon Canal. That’s the opinion of Peter Nichols, water attorney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, who has been working to change the bill, HB1026, to provide more assurances that agriculture would remain the primary use under the new type of water right.

“The way the bill has been amended overturns the High Plains decision,” Nichols said, referring to a 2004 ruling by former water judge Dennis Maes that was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

High Plains claimed multiple uses for unnamed end users in counties throughout Eastern Colorado in its attempt to move water out of the Fort Lyon Canal. Maes rejected the application under the state’s anti-speculation doctrine that requires an end user to be named in a water change case.

“The way it’s written, if you had 1,000 acres, you could dry up 999 acres every year,” Nichols said. “That seems like a Trojan horse for a permanent buy-and-dry.”

The district is working with key lawmakers to try to put better limits on the bill that would make it conform to current laws which limit the frequency of years when water could be put to alternative uses and the amount of land that can be dried up.

The Lower Ark district promotes the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, but helped create it with the intent that water would be treated as another “crop” and not permanently removed from the land.

Nichols also suggested that removing ag water too often from fields would create environmental consequences for wetlands and return flows to rivers.

“For some reason, the environmental community has not paid attention to this bill,” Nichols said.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

HB14-1030 passes third reading in Senate, March 19, on to Gov. Hickenlooper #COleg

microhydroelectricplant

From HydroWorld.com (Michael Harris):

The legislation — officially HB14-1030 — streamlines state environmental review for small hydroelectric projects without weakening or changing any underlying state environmental requirements, according to the Colorado Small Hydro Association (COSHA).

Instead, the bill directs the Colorado Energy Office to facilitate project review by state agencies in a timely manner commensurate with federal agency timelines, making it possible for an applicant to simultaneously clear both federal and state reviews as quickly as 60 days for “non-controversial” projects.

The bill also streamlines the electrical inspection process by citing National Electrical Code (NEC) standards that electricians should be guided by when installing small hydro. According to COSHA, electrical inspectors will now determine if a project meets NEC standards for safety, quality and code compliance.

HB14-1030 mirrors legislation passed at the federal level in August 2013, which included the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act.

“Last summer federal permitting requirements for small hydro were streamlined thanks to Colorado legislators in Congress,” said COSHA President Kurt Johnson. “Now thanks to leadership from Colorado legislators in Denver, similar streamlining legislation has been approved in Colorado. Congratulations and thanks to the sponsors of HB14-1030 for their leadership on this reform legislation which will serve as a model for other states nationwide.”

HB14-1030 came out of an October meeting of Colorado’s Water Resources Review Committee hearing led by Sen. Gail Schwartz…

“It has been a pleasure working with the Colorado Small Hydro Association on this legislation for rural Colorado,” Schwartz said. “HB14-1030 cuts red tape for small hydro development, helping to accelerate development of new small hydro installations and job creation.

“It’s a great example of Colorado common sense.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation here.