Mark Udall: Bringing out the best in us

Mark Udall, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, President's Award Reception,
Mark Udall, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, President’s Award Reception,

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Mark Udall):

Recently, a lot of people have been asking me what it’s like to lose an election. It stings, that’s for sure. And while I wouldn’t recommend it, falling short in a race is a very humbling way of appreciating just how far you’ve come. In fact, as a lifelong mountain climber, I’ve learned far more from the mountains I did not summit, than those I did.

For the past 18 years, my most rewarding challenge has been exercising the power lent to me by the people of Colorado to fight on their behalf, first in the State House and then in the U.S. Congress. Throughout my career in public service — my six years in the U.S. Senate being but one chapter — I have always been guided by the rugged independence, strength and cooperative spirit that defines who we are as Coloradans and as Westerners.

This uniquely Western perspective holds that compromise is not capitulation, and that we are stronger when we all have a seat at the table — not only the privileged. This is a cause that my family has championed for generations and it is a creed that will continue to drive all Coloradans who answer the call to serve.

At this point in our politics, Americans are rightly impatient with the willful, partisan gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. Yet, in Colorado, we also know that by working together we have been able to keep our nation and our state moving forward and do our part to overcome Washington silliness for the good of the nation.

The idea that we don’t inherit the earth from our parents — we borrow it from our children — is the central idea of my long record of accomplishment. Throughout my career, this has led me to champion protecting our public lands and the special places that define Colorado, including Great Sand Dunes National Park, the James Peak Wilderness Area and Browns Canyon. It also has driven me to lead the fight to confront the real problem of climate change.

Colorado has spearheaded the nation’s pursuit of a balanced energy strategy. Most of the progress Colorado has made came after I fought alongside Republican Speaker of the Colorado House Lola Spradley to pass our state’s first renewable electricity standard. That important policy has meant Colorado is leading the clean energy revolution, creating good-paying jobs while fighting the causes of climate change. I’ve been proud to continue this fight in the U.S. Senate by successfully extending the Production Tax Credit for wind energy and introducing a national renewable electricity standard mirroring Colorado’s.

I also have led the charge to meet the promise of the Bill of Rights. Thomas Jefferson once said that a true patriot loves her country not just for what it is but what it can be. We still have a ways to go, but I am proud to have followed in the footsteps of leaders like my father to meet the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution. That includes leading the successful fight to repeal the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and supporting policies that help women, the middle class and our immigrants get a fair shot at the American Dream.

I’ve said for years that Coloradans pull together come hell or high water. Little did I know that this saying would be proven true during my time in the U.S. Senate, from wildfires that left thousands homeless to a biblical flood in 2013 that swept over much of the Front Range. I was proud to help Coloradans rebuild in the wake of disasters and to secure resources that will help fight tomorrow’s wildfires, including a series of next-generation air tankers. I also went to work immediately after the 2013 flood and partisan federal government shutdown and successfully delivered more than $770 million in emergency flood support and marshalled nearly $2.5 billion in additional federal assistance so that Colorado could rebuild better and stronger than before.

And while there is much work left to be done to protect our privacy from government interference, I’m proud to have led the effort to reconcile the enormous power of our nation’s intelligence agencies with the bedrock principles of our democracy. We’ve proven that the choice between ensuring our security and protecting our privacy is a false choice, and that we can keep faith with our nation’s founding principles while also safeguarding our communities.

When I first came to the U.S. Senate, I told my colleagues that we were not elected to deal with Democratic or Republican problems, but to find uniquely American solutions to our toughest challenges. Just like mountain climbers who are all on the same rope, we know that we’re all in this together — and that we are only truly successful when we all succeed together.

The great writer Wallace Stegner challenged us to build communities to match our scenery. In a narrow sense, that means that we should strive to make our society as beautiful and thriving as the natural landscape that surrounds us. But in a broader sense, it also means that our communities should bring out the best in us, and that we should never stop building on the uniquely independent yet cooperative spirit that makes Colorado great.

That’s the spirit that has guided me throughout my time in public service, and it’s the spirit that will continue to guide me as I find new ways to help Colorado and our country move forward.

Mark Udall is Colorado’s outgoing senior U.S. senator.

More 2014 Colorado Novembee election coverage here.

Fountain Creek: “If the mayor would have gotten behind this, it would have passed” — Jeff Chostner

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Funding for flood control projects on Fountain Creek that protect Pueblo has been jeopardized by last week’s rejection of a drainage district in El Paso County.

That’s the opinion of District Attorney Jeff Chostner, who worked diligently to advance funding opportunity for the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District while he was a Pueblo County commissioner.

“I had talked about the best way to get flood control passed would be to have a vote of the entire district (Pueblo and El Paso counties),” said Chostner. “Combined with Pueblo County, there would have been enough support.”

The Fountain Creek District is authorized by state law to collect up to a 5-mill tax, and the district’s board was seriously discussing how and when to approach voters. The district also had looked at forming a subdistrict within just the Fountain Creek watershed and charging a fee.

In June 2012, the Waldo Canyon Fire destroyed more than 18,000 acres and 347 homes. It also left behind ground baked hard as concrete, worsening the potential for floods.

That shifted the focus of public officials, who had already formed a stormwater task force, to looking at flood control projects to protect Colorado Springs and away from the obligation to protect Pueblo from increased development on Fountain Creek, Chostner said.

“As a former county commissioner, I’m disappointed that the stormwater measure did not pass. We counted on the goodwill of voters, and it failed,” Chostner said.

“I am looking to see if there’s a way the district attorney’s office can work with the Pueblo County commissioners and their attorneys.”

It would not be the first time the DA has gotten involved. Chostner’s predecessor, Bill Thiebaut, challenged Colorado Springs in federal and district courts on the issues of sanitary sewer spills and water quality. Chostner inherited and pursued the water quality case.

“I kept trying to expand it to Pueblo County,” Chostner said of his last year on the Fountain Creek board, where he served as chairman.

The downside of trying to sell the vote in Pueblo County would have been the perception that Pueblo would be paying to fix Fountain Creek problems mainly caused by rampant growth in El Paso County.

“I don’t blame El Paso County for concentrating on Waldo Canyon.

They chose to look inward, and this should have been a two-county vote,” Chostner. “I think people would understand these are problems we all share.”

Chostner puts a lot of the blame on Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who campaigned against the drainage district. Bach acknowledges Colorado Springs needs to do something about stormwater, but has tried to bundle it with other capital needs. Bach also wants Colorado Springs to take care of its own needs, rather than join in the regional effort promoted by the stormwater task force.

That grates at Chostner, who as a commissioner told the Colorado Springs City Council it had a “legal and moral obligation” to fund stormwater.

Bach was sitting just a few feet away and kept silent at that meeting.

“If the mayor would have gotten behind this, it would have passed,” Chostner said. “Now, Colorado Springs is the only major Front Range community without a source for stormwater funding. There’s no political courage in El Paso County.”

So when would be the best time for another vote?

“It should be at the earliest feasible time,” Chostner said.

More stormwater coverage here.

Opinion: Just call John Hickenlooper the Silver Fox — High Country News #COWaterPlan

Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference
Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

From the High Country News (Forrest Whitman):

John Hickenlooper, the recently re-elected (by a whisker) governor of Colorado, should be called the new “silver fox” for his work on water sharing, in memory of Delphus Carpenter, who earned that title back in 1922. That year, Carpenter cajoled seven Western states into signing the historic agreement that divvied up the Colorado River.

Delph Carpenter
Delph Carpenter

Hickenlooper was certainly wily as a fox when he brokered a difficult deal this summer between the oil and gas industry and Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis. Hickenlooper got Polis to back down from his campaign to put anti-fracking legislation on the ballot, and created a bipartisan commission to work out tougher fracking rules. Hickenlooper avoided a messy political battle while also spurring a fracking pact and developing a first-ever statewide water plan. It was the kind of thing Delphus Carpenter might have done.

Hickenlooper did something revolutionary when he signed a water plan for the entire state, and now, what he calls regional round tables are working hard to find ways to turn the plan into action. Early results show that some water providers east of the Rockies might agree to stop their destructive “buy up and dry up” programs on the state’s Western Slope. At the same time, stakeholders are working on water-conservation ideas, since we’re expecting a shortfall of a half-million acre-feet within the next decade.

This is not just a Colorado plan, because it offers relief to hard-pressed states downstream. That’s important, of course, because water in much of the West begins in Colorado. If we can put more water into rivers that feed into the Colorado River, neighbors as far away as the Sea of Cortez will benefit. It will certainly help states like California, now ravaged by terrible drought.

Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives
Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

When Delphus Carpenter, the first “silver fox of the Rockies,” got seven states to agree on how to share a river, he put a stop to legal water battles that were just beginning to get bitter and expensive. The compact wasn’t perfect, organized as it was during some of the wettest years in recent history. And increasing drought continues to dim and challenge its assumptions. Changing realities over time will also affect the new Colorado water plan, as well as the oil and gas pact.

Meanwhile, stakeholders have been asked to do something that is not in their natures. The oil and gas industry is seriously looking at ways to interfere less with local communities, which means that it’s talking beyond the mineral rights to which it’s entitled. The same is true with the water plan. Instead of trying to divert existing water for more supply in their own basin, the assembled landowners, water utilities and others are talking about ways to deal with shortages. They’re talking about how much water they can save and how to help the whole state have water. Interstate water compacts are at the table as well, because these obligations don’t go away.

Hickenlooper is responding to many obvious factors, such as the big drought of 2004-’05, and especially to the frightening predictions that Colorado, like the rest of the West, is soon going to be at “peak water” yield. Peak yield will happen when the water resource is giving us absolutely everything it can give. Hickenlooper’s also responding to the political facts about oil and gas development. Fracking may not be popular, but it’s also a $30 billion industry.

I’ve never served on an oil and gas commission, but I have served on one of those water roundtables. I’ve seen how hard it is to look beyond the immediate water needs of “our” basin. It’s also tough to preach moderation and quality of life to oil and gas drillers. How did this new “silver fox” do it?

Hickenlooper played what baseball managers call “little ball.” He didn’t hit for the fences, but made one little move at a time. He apparently aimed to be successful with just one person at a time. He is inclusive, he listens, and he’s persuasive: I still have the little silver water pin he once gave me.

Delphus Carpenter did the same thing. He urged representatives from the seven states that rely on the Colorado River to come together at Bishop’s Lodge near Santa Fe 92 years ago. The basic compact they signed back then still holds. Years ago, Carpenter gave all the credit for the deal to President Herbert Hoover. Hickenlooper does much the same thing with his “aw shucks, it wasn’t me” attitude. If that doesn’t sound like a Silver Fox, I don’t know what does.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies: Election Results and Impacts on the Water Sector

George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South
George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South

Here’s the release from the AMWA:

[The November 4] midterm elections will remake the look of Congress next year, as the Republican party will control both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006. While votes are still being counted in many parts of the country and many decisions are yet to be made about the new majority’s priorities for the 114th Congress, this memo will provide an early look at where things stand and what AMWA should prepare for heading into 2015.

The Makeup of Congress

Republicans picked up seven U.S. Senate seats outright last night, and appear likely to pick up two more by the time all the votes are counted. The GOP won open seat races in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana, and Iowa, defeated Democratic incumbents in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Colorado, and successfully defended all GOP-held seats up for election (most notably Kentucky, Georgia, and Kansas).

This gives Republicans 52 Senate seats as of this morning, but the total will grow to 54 if Republican Dan Sullivan holds onto his slim lead over incumbent Democrat Mark Begich in Alaska, and Republican Bill Cassidy defeats Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu in a December 6 Louisiana runoff election. Meanwhile, Virginia Democratic incumbent Mark Warner holds a slim 12,000-vote lead over Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in a race that appears headed to a recount.

In the House Republicans have gained a net of 14 seats so far, though 15 more remain too-close-to-call or headed to a runoff as of this morning. Analysts say the party appears on track to hold at least 246 House seats next year – which would mark the party’s largest majority since the 1940s.

Notable Winners and Losers

Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop of New York – Ranking Member of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee and a strong proponent of investing in water infrastructure (particularly the Clean Water SRF) – was defeated in New York’s First Congressional District. Also losing was House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Colorado Senator Mark Udall, who served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

On the Republican side, Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry is trailing Democratic challenger Brad Ashford by about 4,000 votes in a still too-close-to-call race. Rep. Terry serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and is the lead sponsor of H.Res. 112, a resolution marking the importance of tax-exempt municipal bonds. And defeated outright was Florida Republican Steve Southerland, who has been a harsh critic of EPA and its “Waters of the U.S.” proposal.

Pulling out a win was Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, who earlier in the year found himself in a competitive race but ultimately defeated his Republican challenger by a comfortable 17-point margin. Sen. Merkley serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee and was an early advocate for the new “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act” (WIFIA) pilot program.

Committee Ramifications

The election results will lead to some shuffling on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is expected to take Rep. Rahall’s place as Ranking Democrat and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) appears in line to take Rep. Bishop’s spot as lead Democrat on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) and Water Resources and Environment Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) each won reelection and are expected to maintain their gavels.

Michigan Republican Fred Upton will return as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and New Jersey’s Frank Pallone is expected to succeed the retiring Henry Waxman as Ranking Democrat. Leadership of the Environment and Economy Subcommittee – which has direct oversight of SDWA – appears likely to remain unchanged with Chairman John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Ranking Democrat Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) each winning reelection.

Wholesale changes are in store for Senate committees, as the Republican takeover of the chamber will allow GOPers to replace their Democratic counterparts as chairmen. Most notably for the water sector Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe will be the new Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, bumping Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to Ranking Member, while Arkansas’ John Boozman is likely to replace Maryland’s Ben Cardin as Chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee.

The Policy Landscape of the 114th Congress

While Republicans will be able to drive policy discussions on Capitol Hill for the next two years, their majorities in both chambers will fall well-below veto-proof margins – thereby requiring some degree of cooperation with Democrats and President Obama. Senate Republicans will also have to deal with possible filibusters from members of the new Democratic minority – many of whom will be eager to pay back the GOP for what they saw as an excessive use of the filibuster in recent years.

Looking ahead, lawmakers will return to Washington next week for what could be a brief lame duck session, where a budget measure to keep the government operating beyond December 11 is expected to pass easily. But once newly-elected members are sworn in to begin the 114th Congress the water sector will be affected in a number of ways:

  • If Republicans and Democrats aim for compromise early next year, a comprehensive tax reform bill could be on the agenda. Earlier tax reform proposals have included plans to raise revenues by reducing the tax benefits of municipal bonds – a policy that would have the side effect of increasing infrastructure borrowing costs for local communities. AMWA should be prepared to take part in a major effort to defend municipal bond tax benefits and educate lawmakers on its role for financing infrastructure. This effort will be complicated by the possible loss of Rep. Lee Terry, who sponsored the resolution in support of municipal bonds that served as a rallying point on the issue.
  • The newly-Republican Senate and the more-conservative House will probably take a fiscally conservative approach to writing FY16 appropriations legislation – especially when it comes to agencies like EPA. This could translate to less funding availability for the SRF programs and the new WIFIA pilot, so AMWA will need to brief lawmakers on the economic and job-creating value of water infrastructure investments.
  • Appropriations legislation could also serve as a vehicle for Republicans to attach riders undoing controversial policies, such as EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposal and the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations. Appropriations riders could also be used to attack possible administration efforts to impose “inherently safer technology” (IST) reviews or mandates on water and chemical facilities through Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act. However, these and other riders would probably draw veto threats from President Obama, thereby forcing Republicans to decide if fights on these issues are worth risking a potential government shutdown.
  • The Republican majority will virtually ensure Congress takes no action on divisive issues such as stand-alone legislation to impose “IST” mandates on water treatment facilities and measures to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or otherwise address climate change. Democratic-backed legislation to reauthorize the Drinking Water SRF also faces an uncertain future, even though a similar version of the bill unanimously passed the House in 2010 before dying in the Senate.
  • Looking to 2016 and Beyond

    Because it is never too early to look ahead to the next election, there is already talk in Washington that the GOP’s new Senate majority could be short-lived. When voters head to the polls in 2016 Republicans will have to defend a slew of competitive seats in states that generally trend blue in presidential election years (including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida). Running the table in these races could tip the Senate’s balance of power back in favor of Democrats – something that might motivate GOP senators from these states to spend the next two years searching for issues on which to reach across the aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship.

    No such competitive environment appears on the horizon in the House, where partisan redistricting has created an environment where most Republicans represent overwhelmingly conservative districts, and most Democrats hail from strongly liberal ones. Most political observers expect the House of Representatives to remain firmly in Republican hands at least through 2020, when the results of the next census will give state lawmakers a chance to once again redraw House district lines.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Silt Water Conservancy District sucessfully de-Bruces to fund infrastructure projects

    Silt Creek
    Silt Creek

    From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Heidi Rice):

    The Silt Water Conservancy Distict was successfully de-Bruced with unofficial election results reporting 1,943 in favor (58.5 percent) over 1,381 against (41.4 percent). The approval will mean the district will now be able to collect money for repair and replacement of irrigation equipment for Rifle Gap Reservoir and Harvey Gap Reservoir. The measure also will allow for improvements to irrigation ditches for farmers north of the Colorado River in the Rifle and Silt areas.

    “We just want to thank all the voters. A lot of people worked hard to get this passed,” said Kelly Lyon, president of the Silt Water Conservancy District. “This should really help our district. Now we need to go to work and get these things done.”

    The district had stressed that de-Brucing the district would not increase property or sales tax, but would give them access to government grant money to help pay for repairs. The district has been run under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or “TABOR,” which forces Colorado governments from the state to school districts to face restrictions in raising their budgets.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Fountain Creek: “They’re selfish and the vote shows they don’t care about their neighbors downstream” — Jay Winner

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Pueblo County officials are considering legal options after a two-year effort to form an El Paso County drainage authority for Fountain Creek went down the drain Tuesday. Particularly irritating for them was the decision by voters to approve keeping $2 million in tax money for parks while rejecting a plan to fund more than $700 million in flood control backlog.

    “They may develop some nice parks, and hopefully they’ll have water to put on those parks,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “They’re selfish and the vote shows they don’t care about their neighbors downstream. The vote on Tuesday was very divisive to Southern Colorado.”

    “I’m angry and disappointed,” added Pueblo County Commission Chairman Terry Hart. “They’ve put the question to voters twice and stormwater has failed twice. With these votes, it’s clear the people in El Paso County value entertainment more than honoring their commitments.”

    The vote could have repercussions for the Southern Delivery System, an $841 million water pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

    “Colorado Springs and its voters have not been supportive of finding and funding solutions for flood control on Fountain Creek throughout the discussions about Southern Delivery System,” said Pueblo Chieftain Publisher and Editor Bob Rawlings. “It should not have been built and should not be turned on until those questions are answered.”

    The Lower Ark District voted last year to sue the Bureau of Reclamation over its approval of the SDS contract despite the lack of a steady stream of funding for stormwater, which Colorado Springs had indicated was in place during a study. The district asked for a supplemental study monitoring SDS impacts without stormwater funding in place. The lawsuit was put on hold until after the election.

    “We did not want to be blamed for the failure of the stormwater vote,” Winner said. “To me, this is not unexpected. I just don’t think they care.”

    The Lower Ark board will consider its legal options at its Nov. 19 meeting.

    Pueblo County also will huddle with lawyers on potential violations of its 1041 permit for SDS, which includes stormwater controls. Hart said the county also is concerned about the Reclamation permit for use of Lake Pueblo and a state water quality permit in light of Tuesday’s vote.

    “Every conversation we’ve had with our friends to the north has been ‘be patient.’ We told them we would sit back and watch,” Hart said. “Our patience is at an end. In fact it may be gone.”

    The other commissioners had similar views.

    “They’re obligated legally and morally to control stormwater,” said Commissioner Sal Pace. “If they have to dry up some parks or not pave some streets, they need to figure it out.”

    “I would share my dismay with Colorado Springs Council President Keith King (who was quoted on the radio Tuesday night),” said Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen. “They need to regroup and secure funding for flood control on Fountain Creek. I would add that it’s up to their leadership to inform the voters.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A two-year effort to get El Paso County rowing in one direction on Fountain Creek flood control fell apart like a sandy bank falling into the stream Tuesday. But Colorado Springs officials have not given up on finding a way to fund flood control.

    “I think that it’s unfortunate that the stormwater initiative didn’t pass here in El Paso County, particularly considering the storms, floods and issues we’ve had in the last couple of years,” said Larry Small, a former Colorado Springs council member who now manages the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. “Hopefully the people will become more aware and reconsider the issue at some future point.”

    A task force started by Colorado Springs council members and El Paso County commissioners in 2012 became a private organization promoting the Pikes Peak Drainage Authority in this year’s election. But its efforts to promote were counteracted by signs in Colorado Springs front yards that read: “No rain tax.”

    Council voted 7-2 and commissioners 5-0 to put the measure on the ballot last summer.

    But Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach in August issued a proclamation claiming the fee was too high and tied up money for 20 years. He has promoted other ways to fund stormwater control, bundling it with other capital needs. On the day after the election, Bach announced stormwater would be added to the topics at a series of community meetings that will begin next week. In any case, the soonest another election would be held is next April.

    “Everything from Mayor Bach to date has grossly underfunded stormwater,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, who added that the county is looking at legal action as a result of the failed vote. “I need to see something concrete.”

    Colorado Springs Utilities continues to take the position that the 1041 permit applies to future development, not the historic needs that were listed in the stormwater initiative, said Gary Bostrom, chief of water services. However, Utilities wants to see stormwater control succeed.

    “We will remain focused on doing our part to support a longterm solution to fund stormwater infrastructure needs,” Bostrom said. “In addition to our many efforts underway to improve Fountain Creek, Colorado Springs Utilities will continue to work with community leaders to develop a stormwater solution that our residents can support.”

    From KRCC:

    In El Paso County, voters strongly supported issue 1A for a revenue retention to help fund county parks. Voters rejected a proposal to create a regional drainage authority to fund storm water repairs. In Manitou Springs, issue 2G, which would have prohibited marijuana sales, was soundly defeated.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

    One big loser in this election? Climate policy.

    Science Senator. It's called science.
    Science Senator. It’s called science.

    From Vox (Brad Plumer):

    In the lead-up to the 2014 midterms, a lot of green groups were hoping that this might finally be the election in which climate change became a defining issue.

    You had billionaire Tom Steyer spending $57 million trying to convince voters to care about global warming. You had the League of Conservation Voters pouring in another $25 million, more than in the previous two elections combined. All the while, it at least seemed possible that recent natural disasters — from Hurricane Sandy two years ago to the ongoing drought in the West — might push climate issues to the fore.

    Ultimately, none of it mattered much. The outlook for climate policy looks just as dismal after these midterms as it did before — at least in Washington, DC.

    True, there were small shifts in attitude here and there. Some Republicans are now acting like it’s no longer viable to deny the basic facts of global warming. Instead, they dodge and say “I’m not a scientist.” And, as Rebecca Leber reports in The New Republic, green candidates are getting better at playing offense. In Michigan, Democrat Gary Peters won his Senate race handily after making climate a top issue.

    But there are few signs that the broader landscape is changing significantly. Global warming remains a low-priority issue in American politics — in a Pew poll, it ranked a lowly 8th (out of 11) on the list of issues voters care about. The newest, more Republican Congress will, if anything, be even more hostile to climate policy than the last one. And those things will matter a lot.

    Congress’ indifference is a big problem for climate policy

    In the short term, the election’s impact might seem negligible. After all, the action in Washington over the next few years will center on the Environmental Protection Agency, which is crafting rules to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from US power plants. These regs don’t need congressional approval (they’re being done under the existing Clean Air Act), and President Obama is expected to veto any attempts by Republicans to block them.

    But congressional indifference is a huge problem for future climate policy. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that global greenhouse-gas emissions would need to fall 42 to 71 percent below 2010 levels by mid-century if we wanted to fend off the worst impacts of global warming and prevent average temperatures rising more than 2°C (or 3.6°F). That’s an astoundingly difficult task. But it gets harder and more expensive the longer that countries delay.

    Obviously the United States can’t solve climate change on its own. China, India, Europe, and a whole bunch of other nations would also need to get on board. But as one of the world’s biggest emitters, the US would have to make sweeping cuts of its own to help meet that goal. That would mean tripling or quadrupling the amount of clean energy we use and getting radically more efficient in the way we use energy by 2050.

    The EPA simply can’t make all that happen on its own. It just doesn’t have that much power. In theory, Congress could help get there — through policies like carbon pricing or incentives for cleaner energy. But lawmakers would need to act soon: Even though US greenhouse-gas emissions fell between 2005 and 2012, they’re starting to rise again. And the window to stay below 2°C — or even 3°C — keeps getting smaller with each passing day.

    Without a major global shift on climate policy — and soon — the IPCC was clear on what would happen. At current emission rates, the world is on pace to warm between 3.7°C and 4.8°C by the end of the century, compared with pre-industrial levels. (That’s 6.6°F and 8.6°F.) That greatly raise the risk of drastic sea-level rises, crop failures, the flooding of major cities, mass extinctions. Some scientists now worry that a world that hot may not be “able to support society as we currently know it.”

    The report’s bottom line was that countries need to get moving today if they want to stop the planet from heating up drastically. Not tomorrow. Not the day after. And definitely not 10 years from now. But the bottom line of this election is that Congress isn’t going to give much thought to climate change these next two years. Maybe not the two years after that. And it doesn’t seem to be in the power of either committed billionaires or Mother Nature to get them to do so.

    Which means that if anything’s going to change, it may have to happen outside Congress. Maybe new technologies will come along to shake things up (cheaper solar, say?). Or states or cities may need to gin up their own novel ideas for curtailing emissions and adapting to a warmer world. But the 2014 election made clear that Washington, at least, isn’t going to be much help on climate policy anytime soon.

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    Stormwater measure picks up broad support as opponents point out flaws — The Colorado Springs Gazette #COpolitics

    Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain
    Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

    The campaign on stormwater has become a David vs. Goliath match in terms of spending and visible support.

    Proponents of El Paso County Measure 1B, which would spend $40 million a year to plan, build and maintain drainage and flood control projects in four cities and portions of the county, have raised nearly $200,000 for their messaging, including television and radio commercials and billboards. The proposal has endorsements from the Regional Business Alliance, local construction and development companies, the Housing and Building Association and the Downtown Partnership.

    “We are very pleased with the support we’ve gotten from the community,” said Kevin Walker, co-chairman of the regional stormwater task force that led the charge in developing the proposal. “It’s a lot of people who recognize there is a need to address this issue, and it’s past time to do that.”

    The opposition is tougher to gauge. There is no splashy television campaign against 1B – just a handful of signs placed near the billboards. Douglas Bruce, the author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the man who coined the phrase “No Rain Tax” in 2008, has a website and has been handing out fliers at events and around downtown.

    Bruce said the stormwater proposal is flawed because it attempts to catch up on an estimated $700 million in backlogged projects but does not require future development to pay for flood control. Further, he said, no price tags are attached to the 114 projects listed as part of the plan, and there’s no guarantee that the projects will be built or in which order.

    “In my 50 years of being involved in political activity, I have never seen a worse ballot issue,” he said.

    Voters in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls and parts of El Paso County will be asked to create the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority, a governmental entity that would collect fees to pay for planning, building and maintaining flood control projects such as channels, detention ponds and curbs and gutters. The proposal would allow the authority to collect fees based on the size of a property and its impervious surface, meaning driveways, parking lots and rooftops.

    This month, the El Paso County Commission approved a resolution of “advocacy” in favor of the stormwater proposal.

    “This plan has gone through an arduous development process to make it the most responsible plan possible. Ultimately, the people will decide, but we have to stand up as elected officials to explain to them how big the stormwater problem has become and how important it is to our to public safety, to our roads and bridges, to the protection of private property and to economic development,” said Commissioner Amy Lathen, who was a member of the stormwater task force.

    The key question organizers of the proposal have been asked is, “how much is this going to cost me?” The proposed ballot question says the average residential property owner would pay $7.70 per month – $92.40 per year on the residential property tax bill.

    The problem with the proposal is that fees would apply to nonprofit agencies and schools, said Vince Rusinak, a retired Air Force civil engineer and member of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments. He has been on the board of directors for nonprofit agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club and said that the proposed stormwater fees would take money from programs. A chart of estimated rates shows nonprofits could pay from $41.58 a year to $3,750 a year depending on the amount of impervious surface.

    “That is a huge amount to those organizations,” Rusinak said.

    It’s true that a stormwater fee would dip into program budgets for nonprofit organizations, said Dave Somers, executive director at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. But the proposed fee structure, he said, is fair to nonprofit groups and schools and is lower than fees that would be imposed on commercial, industrial and government properties.

    In an unprecedented move, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence weighed in on the election issue, giving the proposal its endorsement.

    “With the last few years of floods, our board and staff and members recognized the importance of the community coming together in identifying a solution,” Somers said.

    Organizers of the initiative believe the authority could collect about $40 million a year. Fifty-five percent of the money collected would be spent on capital projects and that portion of the fee would sunset after 20 years. However, 45 percent of the money, which would be used for administration, maintenance and emergency needs, would continue on until the authority retired it, organizers of the initiative said.

    Mayor Steve Bach, who issued a proclamation in August detailing his opposition to the stormwater proposal, is uncomfortable with a never-ending portion of the fee. In his proclamation, he also said the authority could raise fees without voter approval.

    Bach, who had been the most visible opponent of the proposal but recently stepped back from public comments on the issue, has said the proposal creates an unnecessary layer of government. Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins agrees. She said the city of Colorado Springs spent $46 million on stormwater projects in the past two years. An authority, she said, would shave 1 percent of the money collected off the top for administration costs.

    Bruce, who finds himself aligned politically with Bach for the first time, applauded the mayor’s proclamation and added that if voters approve the stormwater fee, it will be attached to their annual property tax bill and a property owner could not refuse to pay it or the county would put a lien on their property.

    “It’s on a property tax bill,” he said. “If you don’t pay the bill, it’s a threat to your home.”

    Colorado Springs tried to solve its stormwater issue in 2008 when the City Council approved the creation of a Stormwater Enterprise – a property fee used to pay for drainage projects. The enterprise was phased out and ended by 2011 after voters approved the Bruce-sponsored Issue 300, and the enterprise was viewed as an illegal tax imposed without voter 

    In August 2012, El Paso County commissioners and the council convened a summit to talk about flooding and drainage problems across the region and how to pay for them. The November ballot issue is modeled after the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, created in 2004 by voters in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls. The PPRTA collects a 1 percent sales tax for transportation and transit improvements.

    In November, the stormwater task force commissioned the Washington, D.C.-based WPA opinion research firm to survey 400 registered voters – 80 percent in Colorado Springs and 20 percent elsewhere in El Paso County – to find out if flood control is on residents’ radar. Ninety-five percent of respondents said flood control is important, and two-thirds of those said it is very important. An additional 81 percent said there should be a dedicated funding source to pay for drainage projects.

    Bruce said that same survey showed that 44 percent of the respondents agreed with the fee.

    “Any ballot issue that starts out under 50 percent before the opposition even surfaces is doomed,” Bruce said. “Ballot-issue support always slides; it doesn’t rise.”

    Walker said the 44 percent is the amount of survey respondents who said they would prefer a fee compared with a sales tax or a property tax. It was meant as a research question and not a ballot question, he said. Once the task force settled on a fee structure, it did not conduct another 

    “We are optimistic that we can win,” Walker said. “But it’s not over until it’s over.”

    More, from The Gazette:

    5 things to know about 
Measure 1B

    1. If the measure is approved, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls and parts of El Paso County would form the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority. The governmental agency would have an 11-member board of directors made up of elected officials from each entity.

    2. The authority would collect fees on all property. The fee is based on the amount of impervious surface – driveways, rooftops and parking lots.

    3. The authority expects to collect about $40 million a year. Of that, 55 percent of the money would be used for a list of 114 projects identified as high priority for the region; 35 percent of the money would be used for maintenance and operations; and 10 percent would be set aside for emergencies. At the end of 20 years, the portion of the fee – 55 percent – used for capital projects would sunset. The rest of the fee would remain in place until the authority dissolved it.

    4. Fees would be added to annual property tax bills. Unpaid property tax bills trigger a lien process.

    5. For more information, go to or

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Telluride election forum, October 13

    Editorial: Mark Udall for U.S. Senate #COpolitics

    Mark Udall, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, President's Award Reception, 2012
    Mark Udall, Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s President’s Award Reception, 2012

    I have never endorsed a candidate here on Coyote Gulch but this year I’m making an exception and asking you to vote for Mark Udall. You can consider this post a call to arms of sorts.

    Like many progressives I was dismayed to see the major Colorado dailies endorsing Congressman Gardner.

    I found The Pueblo Chieftain’s endorsement particularly troubling in its focus. Here’s the link (no paywall for this one).

    You will see the omission of many of the areas where Congressman Gardner’s positions and record would not carry the day.

    No mention of environmental issues, no mention of women’s issues, no mention of immigration, no mention of climate change, no mention of the millions that have taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act, no mention of the pressing infrastructure needs, no mention of the need to control air pollution, no mention of renewable energy or even a sensible energy policy, no mention of gay marriage, no mention of views about economics, no mention of respective records supporting Colorado business, no mention of the Colorado recreation economy, no mention of an understanding of Colorado’s place in the Colorado River Basin, no mention of education, no mention …

    I guess if you feel like support for an environmental disaster for Canada and global CO2 (Keystone XL), premature opposition to Clean Water Act rulemaking (“Waters of the US”) instead of participation in the process, and opposition to extending healthcare to more Americans, are the most important positions for a Colorado Senator in 2014, then the congressman fits the bill. That’s the list for the editors of The Pueblo Chieftain.

    It really comes down to Congressman Gardner’s campaign and their cynical hope that if you are a voter in the groups that support Senator Udall in the areas listed above you won’t take the trouble to fill out and return your ballot.

    I do know that every election comes down to getting out the vote. So when your mail-in ballot shows up please put a checkmark next to Senator Udall’s name.

    One final note. The Chieftain also mentions Congressman Gardner’s, “deep roots in the Eastern Plains,” which is a cool story.

    Mark Udall’s father and uncle helped shape the current policy and facilities of the Colorado River Basin. Stewart Udall put his mark on wilderness as well. In my book the deep roots contest goes to Udall.

    Disclosure: I registered as Republican in 1982 and left the party the morning after Rudy Giuliani’s speech at the 2008 Republican Convention.

    [Central] Water district seeks tax revenue for ag infrastructure — The Greeley Tribune

    Typical water well
    Typical water well

    From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):

    Two Weld County ballot initiatives aim to direct more tax dollars toward the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District with the intention of increasing water infrastructure and maintenance investments for agriculture and communities.

    Ballot issue 4B proposes increasing the district’s annual tax allotment to a maximum of $750,000 in order to provide a stable water supply and maintain storage projects for farms, ranches and municipalities in Weld, Adams and Morgan counties.

    Broken down, the home-owners’ tax would equate to an additional $2.34 a year for the owner of $100,000 house, said Kathy Parker, the district’s public information officer. She specified that business owners would not be subject to the levy.

    Board member Randy Knutson emphasized the need for infrastructure improvements, especially following the wear and tear brought in 2013.

    “With the flood last year and the increased maintenance and repair that we’ve been faced with, that’s a big reason for this particular tax increase, that and aging infrastructure,” he said.

    He encouraged non-agricultural landowners to consider the possible benefits the tax would bring to overall quality of life.

    “They benefit from agriculture; they benefit from water quality; they benefit from delivery of water, which eventually provides food for them,” he said.

    The second ballot issue, 4C, would “de-bruce” funding restrictions created through the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). In other words, the issue would open up excess tax revenue and grants not currently available to the district due to tax code regulations.

    “We have lost millions of dollars by not being able to participate in funding and grant money that has been available. The TABOR amendment has limited our ability to participate,” Knutson said.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Silt, Rifle voters asked to ‘de-Bruce’ water district — Rifle Citizen Telegram

    Rifle Falls back in the day via USGenWeb
    Rifle Falls back in the day via USGenWeb

    From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Heidi Rice):

    Aging equipment and water lines in need of repair are the driving force behind the Silt Water Conservancy District’s ballot question 5A in November’s election seeking voter permission to “de-Bruce” and allow the agency to collect money to repair and replace needed equipment.

    The district operates Rifle Gap Reservoir, Harvey Gap Reservoir and the irrigation systems for most the farmers north of the Colorado River in the Rifle and Silt areas.

    According to the district’s board, a “yes” vote will not increase property or sales taxes, but it will give the district access to government grant money to help pay for the repairs.

    “We are not going to raise taxes — all we’re doing is de-Brucing so we can get funding,” said Kelly Lyon, president of the Silt Water Conservancy District (SWCD). “Right now, there is a problem with Harvey Gap. There’s a big hole that’s not enclosed and there’s leakage. It’s not been fixed in years.”

    The ballot measure would not only benefit those who use the irrigation ditch water, but also those who enjoy the Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap reservoirs that provide recreational activities.

    2014 Colorado November election:

    Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative
    Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

    From The Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning):

    “High and dry is not a water plan,” Beauprez responded to a question about water storage. “We simply must put a shovel in the ground.”

    Saying he supports building water storage, no question, Beauprez contended that regulation gets in the way of building the projects Coloradans need. “A governor needs to lead on behalf of the people to eliminate regulatory hurdles, not add to them,” he said.

    Hickenlooper countered that any big water storage project will take decades to complete and that “Every conversation has to start with conservation.” He also declined to take a position on the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a proposal to build reservoirs on the northern Front Range. “I’m not allowed to take — if I took a stand on NISP, it would jeopardize the entire federal process,” he said.

    “On my watch,” Beauprez rebutted, “we’re going to build”

    Coloradans want Congress to eye conservation — the Colorado Springs Independent

    George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South
    George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South

    From the Colorado Springs Post Independent (Matthew Schniper):

    …The Wilderness Society notes a new poll of 11 Western states that “shows strong support for taking action on legislation that would reinvest a portion of rents and royalties from renewable energy development on public lands to conservation activities.”

    That legislation is the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act (H.R. 596/S. 279), being pushed for a vote this fall.

    More conservation coverage here.

    Basin, state plan for future water needs — the Valley Courier #COWaterPlan

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

    From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

    As more people move to Colorado, the state is trying to make sure there will be enough water for them once they get here. Recognizing Colorado’s population will only continue to grow in future years, the state is developing a water plan encompassing all nine river basins including the Rio Grande Basin in the San Luis Valley. Last year the governor issued an executive order requiring the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to complete a statewide water plan by December 2015.

    About halfway through a statewide tour of the river basins, the state legislative committee heading up the water basin plan effort held a public meeting in Alamosa last week to see what local residents thought of the plan so far. There will be further public meetings in the future and the public may submit comments electronically at the web site:

    State Representative Randy Fischer, who is chairman of the legislative water resources review committee, encouraged comments to be made by October 1. He said the legislature does not have a role in formally adopting the water plan. The Colorado Water Conservation Board will adopt the plan in draft form by December of this year followed by the final water plan next year after additional public meetings.

    CWCB Member Travis Smith said the drought of 2002 prompted the state legislature to really look at water supplies and future water needs.

    “We have a water shortage issue and we have more people coming to Colorado,” he said. “We would like to preserve agriculture and Colorado’s values.”

    One consensus developing from the basins around the state is that each basin wants to keep the water it has, and each basin has future needs of its own on top of the statewide needs to serve a growing populace.

    “Export is a big deal here,” Water Educator Judy Lopez told the legislators as a mes- sage from the group for which she served as spokesperson . “We will rise and fight it.”

    The Rio Grande Basin water plan is being developed under the jurisdiction of the Rio Grande Roundtable, which hired DiNatale Water Consultants to develop the basin plan. Members of the roundtable and other local residents have spent numerous hours compiling a draft plan that sets out specific goals for the basin and how they could be accomplished in the future.

    Of the 14 specific goals of the plan, highlights include: protecting and restoring sustainability , watershed health and water quality; abiding by existing water rules such as the doctrine of prior appropriation , state water regulations and the interstate compacts; creating infrastructure such as storage for long-term water needs; sustaining the basin’s agricultural economy; developing projects with multiple benefits ; preserving wildlife habitats and wetlands; providing water-related recreational activities; and continuing to educate the public about water.

    The proposed plan also provides a template for those wishing to submit water projects for funding in the future. The template sets up a matrix of basin plan goals so the applicant can see how the potential project meets and measures up to those goals.

    See the local plan at and read more about the statewide plan at

    During last week’s public meeting regarding the plan, participants shared their ideas of how they believed the plan could be improved and what they believed was important to consider in future water planning.

    Rancher and Colorado Parks/Wildlife Commissioner Dale Pizel urged the group to use the plan once it is formulated and not leave it on a shelf. He said he hoped this would be a plan that would be dog-eared with use and marked up for future changes to make it better.

    “I want the plan to be used, and I want it to change, and I want it to go on because it is necessary if we are going to deal with problems of Colorado population and loss of agriculture,” he said.

    Rio Grande Roundtable Chairman Mike Gibson urged the legislative committee to be involved after the state plan is completed.

    “Let this process continue. Present it to the governor. Then the legislature should step in. For the statewide plan to work we will need to be considering changing some of the constraints that are out there today that would prohibit it from being implemented ” like regulations about new infrastructure.”

    Comments coming out of the group discussion process included:

    • Be sure the plan recognizes and upholds the doctrine of prior appropriation.
    • The plan calls for sustaining the confined and unconfined aquifers, but it should also call for restoring the aquifers.
    • Using water for multiple benefits and diversified ways is critical and requires cooperation among water users and agencies.
    • The plan should not only address future human needs but also the needs of wildlife and riparian habitat.
    • Consider recreational and environmental water uses/ needs.
    • Soil health is also connected to watershed health and should be considered.
    • Perhaps the basin plans should address trans-mountain diversions, some of which are occurring already. However , there is concern about new diversions from this basin to the Front Range or elsewhere, and attempts to do so would meet with resistance. Perhaps the state should keep the status quo regarding current trans-mountain diversions.
    • The Valley has many outdated water infrastructures requiring repair or replacement , and the basin water users hope the state plan and the Colorado Water Conservation Board will continue to financially support those needs.
    • New and repaired reservoirs are crucial to meeting future water needs, and the state should be more flexible with its regulations to allow such facilities to be improved, expanded, replaced or newly constructed.
    • There must be more storage in this basin. A reservoir at the state line would be beneficial , for example.
    • It is important to find ways of making existing storage facilities more effective both in this basin and statewide.
    • Give the water planning process sufficient time to develop sound, well-reasoned workable plans.
    • Streamline the permitting process for water projects going before the state for funding.
    • Accurate forecasts are crucial to this basin and the irrigators who are under constant call to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations, so it is vital to maintain technology and resources such as SNOTEL sites to provide as accurate forecasts as possible. Use technology to better measure water uses as well.
    • If this basin uses its water more effectively and carefully it could help meet water needs in other parts of the state where the population is expected to increase in future years. However, if water is transferred from this basin to supply urban development, the water should be used effectively and not excessively in those developments.
    • Consider the economic impact locally and statewide of increasingly more agricultural acreage being fallowed and take into account that some of that fallowing in this basin is an intentional means to restore the aquifer per state mandates.
    • It is important to find ways to decrease water usage and conserve water, not just locally but throughout the state, so the existing supplies can be better utilized.
    • Land use planning should be integrated into the water plan.
    • Address climate change in the water plan.
    • Maybe the state should look to outside water sources, such as the Mississippi River, for new water to meet increasing population demands.
    • Consider the relationship of solar energy development to water, or the lack of it.
    • Consider oil/gas development in the state water plan.
    • It is important for this basin and its agricultural economy to prevent a “buy and dry” acquisition of farmland.
    • The state water plan should acknowledge the unique characteristics of each basin and that each basin is different.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    “It’s a well thought out proposal that we’ve been working on for two years” — Dennis Hisey #COpolitics

    Fountain Creek Watershed
    Fountain Creek Watershed

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    El Paso County voters will decide in November whether to implement a fee to provide $39 million annually for stormwater protection by creating the Pikes Peaks Regional Drainage Authority. Commissioners Tuesday finalized an intergovernmental agreement and placed the issue on the ballot on a 5-0 vote.

    “It’s a well thought out proposal that we’ve been working on for two years,” said Dennis Hisey, chairman of the commissioners. “It’s a vehicle that will put our stormwater protection on track with other communities throughout the state.”

    The 11-member authority would include the mayor of Colorado Springs, five members appointed by Colorado Springs City Council, two members appointed by commissioners and one each from Fountain, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls.

    The authority would collect up to $39 million in 2016 through fees collected on property within the Fountain Creek watershed. The fee would be determined based on impervious surface area, density, land use and ownership, according to the IGA. Over the next 20 years, the money would go toward a $700 million list of projects, and after that, a smaller fee would pay for maintenance. The average homeowner would pay about $7.70 per month.

    Mayor Steve Bach opposes the fee, which he calls a tax, and has suggested alternative ways to finance improvements Colorado Spring needs and is obligated to make under its permits for the Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs City Council supported the IGA by a 7-2 vote.

    “We’re expecting a robust campaign,” Hisey said. “Any time you ask for money, there’s a need to educate the voters and make your case.”

    More stormwater coverage here.

    2014 Colorado November Election: Colorado Springs City Council approves IGA connected with stormwater enterprise ballot issue

    Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground
    Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs City Council Tuesday approved an intergovernmental agreement connected with a ballot issue to form the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority. The vote was 7-2.

    The issue is expected to be placed on the ballot by El Paso County commissioners at their meeting next week. It would establish the authority to include the county, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls and Manitou Springs. The authority would raise about $39 million annually through fees to address a $700 million backlog in stormwater projects.

    Stormwater control on Fountain Creek was one of the premises Colorado Springs Utilities used to obtain permits from Pueblo County and the federal government in order to build the Southern Delivery System.

    Colorado Mayor Steve Bach immediately opposed the measure. He said the average bill of $92.40 per year would be 77 percent higher than the fee for the former stormwater enterprise and roughly the same amount homeowners now pay (in property taxes) for all city services combined.

    “I believe this IGA is not fair to the citizens of Colorado Springs,” Bach said in a statement.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    CWC Summer Conference recap, day 3: Exempt Colorado water storage projects from NEPA? #COWaterRally #ColoradoRiver

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Aspen Daily News:

    Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez told the Colorado Water Congress Friday that as governor he would be the “lead cheerleader” for new water storage projects in the state. He also drew a distinction between himself and Gov. Hickenlooper on the potential of a major new dam and reservoir project being built in the state.

    The governor answered a question on Thursday at the Water Congress meeting in Snowmass Village by saying it was “unlikely” that public opinion in the state had shifted in favor of building a major new water storage project.

    “I submit to you that’s not leadership,” said Beauprez. “I think we need a governor that stands up and says we’ve got to build new storage and I’m going to lead the way to make sure it happens. I’ll promote worthy projects. I’ll be your lead cheerleader on that.”

    The Water Congress is an advocacy organization whose mission includes the “protection of water rights” and “infrastructure investment.”

    Beauprez said he would seek to streamline the approval process for new water projects by asking Congress to pass a resolution exempting Colorado projects from NEPA, which often requires producing an extensive environmental impact statement.

    “I’ll seek NEPA waivers for any project that meets the stringent Colorado standards, with the help of our Congressional delegation,” said Beauprez [ed. emphasis mine], a Republican who represented Colorado’s 7th District on the Front Range from 2003 to 2007.

    Beauprez also told the Water Congress crowd that he supported approval of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP. The project’s proponent, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, is seeking federal approval for two new reservoirs near Fort Collins.

    The water for NISP will come from the Poudre and South Platte rivers on Colorado’s East Slope, but Northern Water’s existing system also uses water diverted from the Colorado River basin on the West Slope, and some of that water could be used in a system expanded by NISP. The Army Corps of Engineers has been leading the review of the project since 2004 and expects to release a decision document in 2016.

    “Frankly, you’ve got a governor who can’t seem to decide if he’s for it [or] against it,” Beauprez said about NISP. “I’m for it. And I’ll do everything to make sure it gets approved and built.”

    Given his enthusiasm for new reservoirs, Beauprez was asked by an audience member if he was proposing new transmountain diversions to augment the Front Range’s water supply.

    “No,” Beauprez said emphatically.

    “Where are you going to get the water from?” the questioner asked, noting that 80 percent of water in Colorado is on the Western Slope.

    “What I’m proposing is the same kind of thing that NISP is doing — taking advantage of the opportunity to store East Slope water on the East Slope. I think until we’ve demonstrated that we’ve stored all the water we possibly can on the East Slope, transbasin diversions shouldn’t even be on the table.

    “We know we can move water,” Beauprez continued. “And sometimes we’ve moved it because it’s been convenient, or because there’s the money, or because there’s the votes, or because of whatever. But the West Slope of Colorado is Colorado, too. And I understand that. And I want to protect that. And I know that you’ve got a whole lot of people downstream from you on the West Slope that covet that water as well.”

    Beauprez, who grew up on a dairy farm in Lafayette and now diverts water to grow alfalfa and raise buffalo in Jackson County, said he has a keen appreciation for Colorado water law and will defend the state’s priority system, which is based on “first in time, first in right.”

    “I know what Colorado’s time-honored water laws are for,” he said “I know that our prior appropriations doctrine has worked, and worked very, very well. And I know that there’s a lot of people that would like to gnaw away, erode, and destroy that. I’m not one of them. Our prior appropriations doctrine, our water law, and our right to own and utilize our water needs to be protected every day at all costs.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Like a bolt of lightning, climate change clearly divides candidates in the Third Congressional District.U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger from Pueblo, Abel Tapia were asked about it at the Colorado Water Congress summer convention.

    “We all agree that climate will change,” Tipton said, quickly launching into campaign talking points on all-of-the-above energy policy.

    But Tipton criticized the way some have politicized the issue and complained of governmental overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal departments.

    “Anyone who doesn’t believe in climate change is fooling themselves,” Tapia said later in the day. “When you look at the forest fires and floods we have experienced, something has added to that.”

    Tapia said the country has the ability and obligation to discover ways to overcome the effects of climate change to keep the county and world secure.

    Tipton also stressed his record in Congress on water issues, citing his efforts to stop the National Forest Service from tying up water rights in federal contracts for ski areas and ranch land.

    He said the EPA’s Waters of the [U.S.] policies are dangerous to agriculture.

    “If the EPA can come in and tell us how to use water, we’re going to be stripping our farmers of their ability to make a living,” he said. “We need common sense in federal regulations.”

    Tapia said his own life experiences as an engineer, school board member and state lawmaker give him a unique perspective that would serve the state in Congress.

    “I’m a problem solver,” he told the Water Congress. “I know that when you need to know something you go to the experts. You are the experts on water.”

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Tweets from the conference were tagged with the hash tag #COWaterRally.

    Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference recap, day 2

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Aspen Daily News:

    Gov. John Hickenlooper told members of the Colorado Water Congress on Thursday that he thinks it’s “unlikely” that public opinion in the state has shifted in favor of a new major dam project being built in the state, even in the face of population growth and drought. He said he has found more support around the state for the idea of increasing the height of existing dams by 5 or 10 feet, which he said can dramatically increase the amount of water stored in a reservoir.

    “I think we have a lot of opportunity in those projects, many of which are underway,” Hickenlooper said.

    But, he added, “I’m not sure we have enough capacity just doing those projects for all the water we’re going to need.”

    He also called for increased water conservation in both the state’s cities and its fields.

    The governor spoke on the second day of the Colorado Water Congress’ annual summer convention, which is being held at the Westin hotel in Snowmass Village through today.

    Former Congressman Bob Beauprez, who is running against Hickenlooper for governor, is slated to speak this morning at the water conference.

    Hickenlooper had the full attention of the members of the water congress on Thursday, as his call for a draft Colorado Water Plan to address the state’s future water needs is supposed to be on his desk by Dec. 10, and the planning process has kept many in the state’s water community busy. The governor noted that the nine different river-basin roundtables have held over 850 meetings to discuss water policy and projects. The Colorado River Basin Roundtable meets monthly in Glenwood Springs, and its next meeting is Monday, Aug. 25 from noon until 4 p.m. Those individual basin plans are now being sifted and sorted to create the draft statewide plan, which Hickenlooper said was met with skepticism when he first proposed it.

    “What we kept trying to say is, the most important part of this water plan is the process we use to create it,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s not going to be a small group of people in Denver trying to make decisions on how water should be allocated for the rest of the state. And I think what we’ve seen is that this plan is going to be created by a broad cross section of people from across the state.”

    Hickenlooper also called for cooperation among often-warring factions in Colorado’s water world, be they Front Range water providers trying to deliver water to a growing urban population, Western Slope ranchers and farmers working to preserve their rural way of life and the future value of their private water rights, or river-lovers on both sides of the divide fighting to keep water in rivers for fishing, boating or nature’s sake.

    “Water can either divide us, or unite us,” Hickenlooper said. “In the end, it’s our choice. I think in this state, we generally choose to collaborate and work together to try and find compromises and make sure that it doesn’t divide us.”

    He said that by working together and taking a “calculated and conservative” approach to water planning, the state’s various water factions are, in fact, moving forward.

    “While this collaboration isn’t as sexy or glamorous as the bare-knuckled water brawling that we see sometimes in our neighboring states, and sometimes here in the past, this cooperation is effective and I think very productive,” Hickenlooper said. “Collaboration can bear fruit that otherwise would be unobtainable.”

    Jim Pokrandt, the director of communications at the Colorado River District in Glenwood Springs and the chair of the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, said it was hard to say if the roundtable members around the state had faith in the emerging water plan.

    “Some won’t be happy unless it calls out a project,” Pokrandt said. “Others will always think it is a stalking horse for a project no matter how it handles that issue.”

    Pokrandt said the draft plan will at least identify many local water projects and statewide needs. Then, he said, “the real work begins.”

    A final water plan is to be complete by December 2015.

    And it remains to be seen how well the governor and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is in charge of developing the draft water plan, will collaborate with the state legislature.

    Last year, state Sen. Gail Schwartz, formerly of Snowmass Village and who now lives in Crested Butte, co-sponsored a bill that would require the Colorado Water Plan to be approved by the legislature, and not just the governor. However, the bill was watered down to require the state’s interim legislative committee on water to hold nine public hearings in the state on the plan this summer. The hearing in the Colorado River basin was held Thursday evening at the Glenwood Springs library, with 10 state legislators who sit on the interim water committee in attendance, along with over 50 citizens.

    Pokrandt, as chair of the Colorado basin roundtable, gave an overview of the group’s draft plan. He said a key finding was that another transmountain diversion was not in the best interest of the state at this time, especially as pending projects are already likely to divert an additional 140,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado basin to the Front Range.

    Today, between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water is sent from the basin to the east each year.

    A chief finding of the basin’s plan is that “high conservation, (water) reuse and linking water supply to land use” are in the best options for the state.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    One candidate evoked the strong connection of water to Colorado’s past and the need to preserve more of it for the future. The other talked about a coming global crisis and the need for America to become an international leader for water development. This particular stop on the campaign trail was the summer convention of the Colorado Water Congress. U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, is facing Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in the November election. Both are perennial favorites of the state’s leading water group, but took different approaches to argue how they would best serve the state’s water interests.

    “How are we going to meet the needs of our people, our farmers and our communities if we don’t build storage,” Gardner said.

    The federal government impedes water development in Colorado and represents a danger to water rights within the state, Gardner said.

    Gardner talked about his family’s five generations as store owners and implement dealers in Yuma, and said federal policies endanger that way of life.

    “Will our children have the same type of opportunity if we don’t change the way we’re doing things?” he asked.

    Udall countered that it’s not enough for Colorado or the United States to look after just its own needs. Instead, the country has the opportunity to provide global leadership in confronting future shortages.

    “When it comes to water, we are living beyond our means and that is a dangerous situation,” Udall said.

    Climate is changing because of human activities at the same time world population is increasing, creating new stress on water supplies. As shortages grow, stability in foreign governments diminishes, he said. While that’s a threat to U.S. interests, it’s also an opportunity for American companies to be innovative while reaching out to help solve the problem. In the process, there would be goodwill toward the U.S., Udall said.

    Closer to home, he said Colorado must protect its interests on the Colorado River and to resist federal attempts to tie up state water rights.

    “I’ve made it one of my top priorities to protect Colorado water,” Udall said. “We have to make sure liquid gold is always available.” Will our children have the same type of opportunity if we don’t change the way we’re doing things?

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A bill that would allow water saved from farm efficiencies to support instream flows — vetoed this year by Gov. John Hickenlooper — could be resurrected in the next legislative session. The interim water resources review committee heard testimony Wednesday from some who opposed the measure and said a pilot program might be workable. There is still opposition to the bill, however.

    “I think we got an idea of why they’re opposing the bill,” said state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, after the hearing.

    The bill, SB14-023, proposed allowing water savings from agricultural improvements to be donated on a temporary basis to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for instream flows, without diminishing the water rights of those who contribute water. It was an attempt to encourage conservation while not penalizing farmers under the state’s “use it or lose it” system. The law applied only to the Colorado River and its tributaries, but could affect junior water rights, including transmountain diversions, such as those used by the Pueblo Board of Water Works or Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

    John Stulp, Hickenlooper’s water adviser, said a scaled-back pilot program to see the impact of such donations of water rights is now being considered.

    “Our concern is of possible damages to intervening diverters,” said Carlyle Currier, vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau. “They could spend a lot of time and money trying to defend themselves in water court.” In overappropriated basins, such as the Arkansas and South Platte rivers, the concept would not work, but there are conditions where senior water rights would not be harmed and junior rights even improved in the Colorado River basin.

    Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, was more supportive of the bill, saying it is a tool that could help keep farmers and ranchers in business. The group’s membership is split over the costs of water court, but argued costs could be reduced if the CWCB picked up the tab for engineering costs.

    “We believe the full range of issues was addressed in the bill,” said Doug Robotham, Colorado water project director for the Nature Conservancy. He also voiced support for the pilot program.

    Montrose farmer Mark Catlin said he considers the bill a “jaundiced” attempt to change state water law. He disagreed with other speakers about whether farm efficiencies decrease consumptive use, because all water in a system is reused many times.

    “A water right is how much water you can divert, and it’s dangerous to go into ag and change the way it works,” he said. “The calling right is at the headgate. Is the state of Colorado going to be a partner?”

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference recap #COWaterPlan

    Westin Snowmass Resort
    Westin Snowmass Resort

    From The Aspen Times (Jill Beathard):

    Climate change is globally impacting natural resources, particularly water supplies, and that can’t go unchecked, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said Wednesday in Snowmass Village.

    Managing water supply is clearly a critical issue in the West, but it is also an issue of national and international security, Udall said to a crowd gathered for the Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference at the Westin Snowmass Conference Center. Between now and 2040, the world’s water supply will not keep up with demand without better management, according to a recent assessment by the director of National Intelligence, Udall said.

    “Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and energy … hobbling economic growth here and around the world,” Udall said. “In turn, that will increase the risk of political instability, state failure and mounting regional tensions.”

    Global water consumption has tripled in the past 50 years, and furthermore, the supply is diminishing due to climate change, he said.

    “Our climate is changing, and the only thing constant and predictable on the subject is science, which shows we can’t ignore the problem,” Udall said. “Despite the mountains of proof, the volumes of scientific and peer-reviewed articles, some lawmakers and many talking heads still refuse to recognize that climate change even exists, much less that federal and state governments have a role to play alongside the private sector in solving it.”[…]

    That stance is what sets him apart from his opponent in the upcoming Senate election, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, who also spoke to the Water Congress on Wednesday. Gardner doesn’t acknowledge that climate change is occurring, Udall said.

    Without looking at the facts, legislators will not be working toward a solution that “maintains our special way of life” in Colorado, Udall said.

    The Colorado River reaches 40 million people, and as the headwater state, Colorado has to fight to protect its interests from being overshadowed by those of downstream users, Udall said.

    That is part of the role of Colorado’s representatives in Congress, by advocating to protect the state’s water rights as well as educating senators from parts of the country that are not faced with the same tight resources, Udall said.

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Aspen Daily News:

    Three members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation spoke on Wednesday in Snowmass Village at the annual summer convention of the Colorado Water Congress, which represents the interests of water providers and owners at the Colorado state house and in Washington, D.C.

    Republican congressmen Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton spoke at lunch on the opening of the three-day water conference, while Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, spoke in an afternoon session. Also speaking in the afternoon was Abel Tapia, a Democrat from Pueblo who is challenging Tipton for his 3rd Congressional District seat.

    Rep. Gardner, who is running against Udall for Senate, called for new water storage projects to be built in Colorado.

    “I believe we have to focus on water storage, what we can do to move forward on common-sense, water-storage projects,” Gardner said. “If we were to build every water project on the books today and every one that’s under construction, we are still short of water into the future. And how are we going to meet the needs of industry and agriculture and our communities if we don’t store more water?”

    Gardner called for simplifying the permitting process for water projects, including new dams and reservoirs, and said he wants to see federal, state and local partnerships formed to help pay for new projects.

    And Gardner said he wanted to “stop and defeat” a new proposed rule from the EPA that would clarify the definition of “waters of the U.S.”

    “Almost every molecule of water could come under the jurisdiction of that new rule the way it is currently written,” Gardner said.

    The EPA, on its website about the proposed rule change, states that “the proposed rule does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act.” [ed. emphasis mine]

    Rep. Scott Tipton also denounced the EPA’s proposed rule change.

    “That’s going to have a regulatory impact and cost to us and it’s effectively going to be a taking,” Tipton said, “because if the EPA can step in this room and start to tell the state of Colorado, start to tell the western United States, how our water is going to be handled, we’re going to be stripping our farm and ranch community of the ability to be able to grow our crops, our communities to be able to grow and to be able to prosper and to be able to create jobs and certainty for our children to be able to have a prosperous future.”

    After he spoke, Tipton was asked a question by Pitkin County commissioner Rachel Richards, who sits on the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, which is helping to shape the state’s forthcoming Colorado Water Plan.

    “One of our big uncertainties is really water availability,” Richards said, noting that projections show that climate change could reduce water supplies in Colorado by 15 percent. “What is your position on climate change?”

    “I always like to be able to say on climate change, I grew up in the shadow of some of the greatest climate change this nation’s ever seen — it’s called the Rocky Mountains,” Tipton answered lightly. “I guarantee you, the climate will change. And it will continue to do so. Unfortunately, we have some people that try and make this a political issue, for some reason.”

    Sen. Udall had a different take on the subject.

    “Our climate is changing, and the only thing constant or predictable on the subject is science that shows we can’t ignore the problem,” Udall said during his remarks to the crowd at the conference center in Snowmass.

    “Rising temperatures and ongoing drought are only exacerbating the pressure on our river basins by contributing to insufficient rainfall and snowpack,” Udall said. “This has led to dwindling reservoir levels, leaving water managers in this room and across the state with difficult decisions on how to meet the water needs of cities, farmers and the environment.”

    The Colorado Water Congress meeting runs through Friday noon in Snowmass.

    From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

    Just as the Colorado Water Congress kicked off its summer conference Wednesday, the political waters already were churning as the state’s U.S. Senate candidates traded jabs.

    Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner spoke at the premier summer conference on water issues.

    Udall issued a news release at the start of the conference, attacking Gardner for supporting a 2008 ballot initiative when Gardner was a state representative that would have diverted millions from water projects to fund transportation. Amendment 52 would have redirected some gas and oil severance-tax revenues from water to highway projects.

    The initiative was seen as a competing measure to another ballot question at the time, Amendment 58, that would have eliminated a state tax credit to increase severance-tax collection for college scholarships, among other areas.

    Both ballot questions were rejected by voters.

    “Senators have a duty to represent and protect the well-being of all Coloradans,” said former U.S. Sen. and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a news release issued by the Udall campaign.

    Opponents of Amendment 52 pointed out at the time that three out-of-state energy companies contributed to the initiative.

    “It is deeply disturbing that Congressman Gardner sided with out-of-state interests over the water needs of Colorado communities,” Salazar said. “Almost two-thirds of Colorado’s voters from every part of the state rejected Gardner’s scheme. Coloradans deserve better than Congressman Gardner.”

    In a phone interview with The Durango Herald on Wednesday, as Gardner was driving to the Water Congress engagement, the congressman said Udall’s campaign was “running out of steam.”

    “There’s a saying that I have for Mark Udall,” Gardner said. “Once again, Sen. Udall is missing the mark.”

    Gardner turned the debate back on Udall, pointing out that the incumbent supported Amendment 58, which was viewed as being anti-energy industry. Gardner also said that Udall has shown no leadership on transportation, including easing congestion along Interstate 70.

    “It’s a shame that Sen. Udall can’t even talk about how we need additional dollars for transportation and the water infrastructure in the state, he would rather resort to partisan attacks,” said Gardner.

    The congressman said he would speak to the Water Congress about “federal intrusion,” including a proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency that would clarify regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to protect streams and wetlands. Some farmers fear that the rule would allow the EPA to regulate small bodies of water, even ponds or puddles on their land.

    Gardner also said he would discuss increased water-storage opportunities.

    “I am passionate about water issues in Colorado I have been a leader at the state Legislature and U.S. Congress to protect Colorado water and Colorado water rights from intrusion,” Gardner said.

    For his part, Udall was expected to speak to the Water Congress about how water is “the liquid gold that makes our lives possible.”

    “Managing the supply and availability of our water is one of the most critical natural-resource issues facing the United States and the world,” Udall was expected to say, according to prepared remarks emailed to the Herald.

    “The bottom line is, when it comes to water, we are living beyond our means,” Udall added. “And that’s a dangerous way to live.”

    Udall used the opportunity to also highlight climate change, suggesting that the science is conclusive and Republicans continue to ignore concrete evidence.

    “Yet, despite the mountains of proof, the volumes of scientific and peer-reviewed articles, some lawmakers and many talking heads still refuse to recognize that climate change even exists … much less that the federal and state governments have a role to play – alongside the private sector – in solving it,” Udall said. “Like you, I have made it one of my top priorities to protect our water and invest in our water infrastructure.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Hundreds of people are helping to write and thousands more taking in interest in a state water plan, a legislative committee learned Wednesday.

    “This really shows that we’ve gotten to the point where people are taking a real interest in the plan,” John Stulp, who advises Gov. John Hickenlooper on water issues, told the Legislature’s interim committee on water resources.

    The committee was thrust in the middle of the state water debate by SB14-115 in the last legislative session. It is kicking off its own hearings tonight in Glenwood Springs and then will embark on seven more in each of the basins.

    The Arkansas River basin hearing will be 9 a.m.-noon Aug. 29 at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library.

    More than 1,000 separate comments were received by basin roundtables at 120 outreach meetings in developing implementation plans that were submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board last month.

    More than 160,000 unique hits have been recorded on the website for the plan (coloradowaterplan. com) with 2 million page views, he added.

    By mid-September, those comments will be integrated into draft chapters for review by the CWCB.

    The basins are in agreement on many issues, including the need to preserve agriculture, conserve water, protect recreation and preserve the environment.

    The Arkansas River basin also has pushed ahead the need for watershed health to anticipate and counteract the ravages drought and wildfire have had in recent years.

    Basins also agree that storage or other types of water projects should have multiple benefits, interstate compacts present challenges and more education of the public on water issues is needed, Stulp said.

    “You’ve said the basins work together, but how do we resolve fundamental conflicts,” state Sen. Gail Schwartz, DSnowmass Village, asked Stulp.

    “At this point, we recognize areas of agreement and will address conflicts as we move forward,” Stulp replied.

    The Interbasin Compact Committee, established in 2005 along with the roundtables, is moving ahead on resolving conflicts, he added. Recently, it reached a “conceptual agreement” on transmountain diversions.

    Diane Mitsch-Bush, DSteamboat Springs, said the amount of water for energy development has been a moving target for Western Colorado and also needs to be given priority in the state water plan.

    The water needs for both oil shale and hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells are being accounted for in the ongoing Statewide Water Supply Initiative, due for revision in 2016.

    The draft state water plan is scheduled to be presented to the governor in December.

    “This is a historic document we’re working on, and many people have had a part in it,” Stulp said.

    From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krinoven):

    The Water Congress is an advocacy organization that gets involved with state and federal water issues, like water rights. The group’s annual summer conference brings together water managers, politicians and others involved in the resource. This week features candidates for a range of offices.

    Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck was the first to speak. Regarding water, the republican says he’s developed a great pride for Northern Colorado.

    “The pride is seeing people come together, work together and seeing people turn a desert into a very productive agricultural area. The frustration is seeing the government screw everything up.”[…]

    Congressman Scott Tipton was up next. The republican touted his record including legislation signed into law last year that eliminates regulations on small-scale hydroelectric projects.

    He spent much of his 10 minute talk criticizing regulations from the federal government. He highlighted the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, saying it gives the agency too much power.

    “If the EPA can step in this room and start to tell the state of Colorado and the western United States how our water’s going to be handled, we’re going to be stripping our farming and ranching community of the ability to grow our crops,” he said.

    The only question came from Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards who asked Tipton about his position on climate change.

    “I always like to be able to say with climate change, I grew up in the shadow of some of the greatest climate change this nation’s ever seen. It’s called the Rocky Mountains. I guarantee the climate will change, and it will continue to do so,” said Tipton.

    Cory Gardner of Yuma began his talk by denigrating Congress, where he currently represents Colorado’s fourth congressional district.

    “It’s always great to be at the Colorado Water Congress, a congress that has a much higher approval rating than other congress’ that we know of!”

    Gardner is challenging Senator Mark Udall in a close and expensive race. He spent most of his time stumping – discussing not just water, but his so-called “Four Corner Plan,” that includes economic growth.

    “What we are going to do to get this country’s economy growing again. Where does it start? I believe it starts with simple things like regulatory reform and getting government out of the way and letting America work,” he said.

    Later in the day, democrat Abel Tapia stepped to the microphone. He is running against Congressman Tipton. The former engineer and Colorado state lottery director says he understands the challenges facing the Colorado River, which is over-utilized.

    “I am committed to fighting to ensure that the Colorado and the Third Congressional District are protected, and get the water it deserves. I support a balanced water policy that takes into consideration the multiple users of our water – agriculture, municipalities and industrial.”

    Calling water Colorado’s “liquid gold,” Senator Mark Udall was the last to speak. He pointed to the need for solving a projected water shortage on the Colorado River.

    “Let’s have ongoing, tough and ongoing conversations within Colorado and between the Upper Colorado Commission and the lower basin states. If we don’t do that we risk losing site of our shared economic dependence.”

    Climate change will exacerbate the problem of water shortages in Colorado and globally. He is concerned the majority of republicans in congress continue to deny climate science.

    “Just last month, I tried to get a resolution passed that would put the senate on record acknowledging that climate change is a problem and poses a problem to the United States but enough members of the republican caucus objected and blocked it. But, Coloradoans know better,” said Udall.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    New Report Shows Overwhelming Latino Support for Conservation #COpolitics

    Acequia cleaning prior to running the first water of the season
    Acequia cleaning prior to running the first water of the season

    From the Hispanic Access Foundation:

    Today, Latino Decisions and Hispanic Access Foundation released a new research brief — analyzing nine major public opinion polls from the last three years — that finds Latinos overwhelming support greater environmental protections, such as preserving parks and public lands, so much so that conservation issues could influence voting decisions in the mid-term elections.

    “This report provides definitive proof to what we’ve seen across the country – there is a significant, growing Latino movement that is advocating for greater environmental protections of our parks and public lands and is willing to support candidates that share that same value,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “The Latino population is the fastest growing segment in the country — their engagement in conservation is critical and could have a far-reaching impact.”

    “Hispanic Voter Perspectives on Conservation and Environmental Issues” additional findings include:

  • When it comes to policy priorities, water and air pollution are especially important to the overwhelming majority of Latino voters.
  • Looking at Latino attitudes on a range of conservation matters, conservation is viewed as essential to a better quality of life.
  • There is ample evidence Latinos in the West and Southwest have strong ties to the region and regularly partake in outdoor activities, all of which serve to sharpen interest in conservation and clean air and water.
  • Latino voters believe individuals and governments have important roles in protecting natural resources and promoting healthy, clean communities.
  • Latinos prefer policies and candidates that actively promote a cleaner environment and preserving public lands. They are more likely to vote for candidates based on their environmental positions.
    “Clean air and water, preserving public lands, climate change and promoting clean energy solutions are all matters of concern for this rapidly growing electorate,” said Dr. Adrian Pantoja, Senior Analyst for Latino Decisions and Professor of Political Studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. “Decision makers and advocates with national and regional constituencies will need to demonstrate their attention to these concerns and policy preferences as the Latino population and electorate continues to grow into the foreseeable future.”

    “We know that regardless of the issue, Latinos, like most Americans, will seek policy approaches that better the quality of life for them, their families, and their community” said Leo Murrieta, National Field Director of Mi Familia Vota. “From immigration reform to conservation, Latinos want candidates and elected officials who will best represent the issues they care about and will do so by promoting laws that will treat our community with dignity and respect. Ensuring that our families have access to clean air and water, cleaner environments, and preservation of outdoor recreational areas will continue to be important to Latino voters across the nation.”

    Since its founding in 2010, HAF has made building environmental awareness among Latinos, going outdoors and empowering advocates one of its top priorities. During the last four years, HAF has experienced a growing number of Latino youth and community leaders clamoring for opportunities to participate in efforts for clean water, balanced energy development on public lands in the west, conservation funding, and enhanced protections for parks and monuments.

    “When you recognize how many aspects of our lives are affected by the environment, it’s not surprising that Latinos are so passionate about conservation,” said Arce. “The outdoors provides a connection to their cultural heritage. Recreation, tourism and farming provide employment and financial security to many. Getting outdoors and experiencing nature benefits the physical and mental wellness of youth and adults. And unfortunately, Latinos are much more likely to suffer negative health issues due to environmental hazards,” said Arce.

    The full report can be downloaded at:

    2014 Colorado November election: Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority issue to be on ballot, Mayor Bach balks

    Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground
    Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    El Paso County commissioners Tuesday voted 4-0 to put an issue on November’s ballot that would create the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority to pay for storm water control. Voting for the measure were Chairman Dennis Hisey, Amy Lathen, Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton. Commissioner Sallie Clark was absent.

    The authority would raise $39.2 million annually to address a $700 million backlog in stormwater projects in the Fountain Creek watershed.

    Stormwater control is one of the premises Colorado Springs Utilities used in gaining approval from the Bureau of Reclamation and Pueblo County to build the Southern Delivery System, a pipeline to ship water from Lake Pueblo to El Paso County.

    “With this step, the hard part’s over,” Hisey said.

    Last week, Colorado Springs City Council approved, on a 7-2 vote, an intergovernmental agreement with El Paso County and other cities in the Fountain Creek drainage.

    The next day, Mayor Steve Bach said he opposed the authority. proposals for ways to fund stormwater control within Colorado Springs.

    A list of projects, which will be attached to the ballot proposal has yet to be approved, and will probably be in place by the El Paso County commission’s Sept. 2 meeting, Hisey said.

    That would give Colorado Springs City Council time to review the list.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

    The approval is a huge step in “controlling stormwater,” said Commissioner Amy Lathen, who has played a major role in the regional stormwater task force that first met in August 2012. Dave Munger, co-chairman of the task force, was at Tuesday’s meeting and joined a small contingent who let out a smattering of applause after the commission’s vote.

    Munger echoed Lathen about the need to solve stormwater issues regionally.

    “Everyone, just about everyone, is aware of stormwater and its significance. Everyone agrees that it is a regional problem,” he said, noting that governments working together will create “a synergy that we’ve never realized.”

    The decision appeared to be an easy one for the commissioners. But some debate arose after Colorado Springs Deputy City Attorney Tom Florczak gave the commissioners 18 projects the city insists be added to a list attached to the county’s 

    Florczak said the City Council did not include a project list in its resolution that passed on a 7-2 vote Aug. 12.

    “The concern of the administration was that by having the list, it is limited,” Florczak said.

    “It boils down to one word, flexibility,” said Steve Gardner, the Colorado Springs director of public works who was with Florczak on Tuesday.

    After the City Council’s vote on the PPRDA, Mayor Steve Bach held a news conference announcing that he would not support the stormwater initiative.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    2014 Colorado November election: El Paso County stormwater proposal scaled back #COpolitics

    Flooding in Colorado Springs June 6, 2012
    Flooding in Colorado Springs June 6, 2012

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    An upcoming stormwater vote in El Paso County has been slightly scaled down. Following a meeting with El Paso County commissioners last week, an intergovernmental agreement being promoted by a stormwater task force now proposes raising $39.2 million annually rather than $48 million as suggested in the first draft of the agreement.

    The fee for a typical home would drop to $7.70 per month, rather than $10 per month. The fee would be levied for 20 years and the money used toward addressing a backlog of $700 million in stormwater projects and maintenance of stormwater structures.

    The agreement includes Colorado Springs, Fountain, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls as well, and if all agree the formation of the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority would be placed on the November ballot by commissioners.

    It’s important to Pueblo because controlling flood water on Fountain Creek is one of the premises Colorado Springs used in obtaining permits for its Southern Delivery System. With its SDS permits in hand, the Colorado Springs City Council abolished its stormwater enterprise in late 2009, based on its interpretation of a vote.

    The lower amount still would be sufficient, said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

    “The proof will be if they can get it passed in November,” Winner said. “It’s a lot more than they have now, so anything they do will be an improvement.”

    The biggest remaining hurdle to getting the issue on the ballot is the rift between Mayor Steve Bach and the Colorado Springs City Council.

    Bach last week sent a letter suggesting changes in the IGA that would allow cities to prioritize their own projects, allow non-elected officials to serve on the board, lock in the proposed rates and include nonprofits and churches in assessments.

    Bach has not participated in the task force meetings that have been going on since 2012, and has suggested alternative ways of financing stormwater control.

    More stormwater coverage here.

    Snowmass: Colorado Water Congress summer meeting “Rallying Our Water Community” August 20-22

    Westin Snowmass Resort
    Westin Snowmass Resort

    From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

    Excitement continues to build for our 2014 Summer Conference and Membership Meeting. It will be held at the Westin Snowmass Resort, August 20-22. Our theme this year is “Rallying Our Water Community.” To register please visit: Conference Registration.

    We will know in a couple of weeks if enough signatures have been gathered to place Initiative 89, Local Government Regulation of the Environment, on the 2014 Ballot. Whether it does or not, the water community will need to develop a greater public presence on these issues. Our conference is designed to help develop your advocacy skills and knowledge base.

    We want to ensure we are focused on our member’s priorities when the Water Congress Board sets our priorities this fall. Summer Conference activities are designed to give you the opportunity to provide direct input to our leadership. We hope that you will take this chance to engage with us.

    Our exciting program will again include a session with the Water Resources Review Committee. Additional honored guests include both Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House Third District, and Attorney General. Don’t miss this chance to catch up with colleagues and meet new community members during our POND networking activities.

    Highlights of our unique program sessions include:

    Strategies for Finding Your Voice
    Do you have adequate tools to advocate on behalf of Colorado’s water community? Practice conveying your message with other attendees and workshop leaders.

    Senator Udall, Congressman Gardner, Congressman Tipton, and Former State Senator Tapia
    We are pleased to host candidates for some of our top political offices as they address issues of keen importance to Colorado’s water community.

    Costs of Doing the Right Thing
    As we plan for our water allocation in the future, we rarely examine the full social and economic costs, including burdens on individual ratepayers. This panel will examine those costs, along with a brief overview of other economic challenges currently faced by Colorado water providers.

    Mono Lake
    For 100 years, the L.A. Aqueduct has been the source of legend and controversy. Today, drought imperils much of California’s water supply. How is Los Angeles handling the drought within the confines of a Public Trust Doctrine?

    Mitigation for Transbasin Diversion
    Past Aspinall Water Leaders will discuss historic transbasin water projects and their mitigation. What can we learn from the past?

    We are looking forward to seeing you in Snowmass, August 20-22. Additional conference information and registration can be found at: Conference Information.

    More education coverage here.

    US Senate candidate Cory Gardner gets an earful about the federal role for water in the West #COpolitics

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    Proposed rules could place “basically every drop of Colorado water” under the federal government’s jurisdiction, increasing permitting requirements, mitigation and costs for projects needed to ensure future water supplies in a state that’s expecting big shortages.

    That was the general consensus among the several water officials, representatives of the agriculture industry and others who traveled from across the state to voice their concerns to Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., at his Greeley office on Thursday.

    Gardner encouraged those at the table and others who are concerned to continue raising their voices to the Environmental Protection Agency, which will take comments on its proposed rule through Oct. 20.

    The EPA has long stressed that its proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule is simply an effort to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands, since determining Clean Water Act protection became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.

    But many are stressing now that the EPA’s attempted clarification would instead expand the federal government’s reach, with much more water and area falling under the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rules, according to their interpretations of the proposed rules.

    New projects and certain maintenance on “Waters of the U.S.” requires federal permitting and, depending on the circumstances, possibly environmental mitigation efforts, which can mean a lot of time and money for the municipality, ditch company or whoever is overseeing the effort.

    As an example, Mark Pifher with Colorado Springs Utilities compared the permitting and mitigation costs of Aurora’s Prairie Water Project — which was only $1.5 million, because it didn’t fall under “Waters of the U.S.” rules — to the $150 million in permitting and mitigation it took for the Colorado Springs Southern Delivery System, which did fall under “Waters of the U.S.” rules.

    Along with more projects and maintenance facing increased permitting and costs, some on Thursday even expressed concerns of the EPA eventually taking control of water in Colorado, because the state’s individual water-rights holders wouldn’t be able to put them to use.

    Water officials from across Colorado stressed that the EPA’s rules are a one-size-fits-all approach, and don’t take into account how differently water works in the semi-arid or arid West — where water storage, reuse, groundwater recharge and other efforts are needed to get by —­ compared to the much wetter eastern U.S.

    The “connectivity” language in the proposed rules — which places areas and waters that are merely “connected” to “Waters of the U.S.” under the federal government’s jurisdiction — is particularly concerning to those who were at Gardner’s table Thursday.

    The group said the fact that the EPA still believes it’s only clarifying its rules and not expanding its reach only reveals a big misunderstanding of how water works in the West and in Colorado.

    Some at the table Thursday said that perhaps Congress — with representation of all states — is better equipped than the EPA to take charge of the rule-making.

    Ag groups — like the Colorado Farm Bureau, which was represented at the table by Don Shawcroft, the organization’s president — are pushing their “Ditch the Rule” campaign.

    Among other points, Shawcroft noted that the EPA’s existing “agriculture exemptions,” which would still apply under the new rules, wouldn’t do much good for farmers and ranchers, since those exemptions only apply to operations that are still under the same ownership and under the exact same practices as they were in 1977.

    “Agriculture has changed a lot since then,” he added.

    Impacts on NISP?

    Eric Wilkinson — general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud, which oversees the largest water-supply project in the region, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — said “basically every ditch” and “every drop of Colorado water” could fall under the EPA’s jurisdiction under the new rules.

    Because of that, he and everyone else at the table stressed, that the future costs and time to permit water projects or maintenance might detour officials, water providers or others from pursuing certain needed actions.

    And in a state that, according to the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative study, is expected to see a municipal and industrial water-supply gap of as many as 1 million acre-feet by 2050, and also see as many as 700,000 acres of irrigated farm ground dry up by that same year, many water projects are needed, they say.

    Under the proposed rule, Wilkinson said one of the “needed projects” that Northern Water is overseeing — the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, which would build a new reservoir near Fort Collins and another one near Ault — could possibly have to “go back to the drawing board” on some its federal permitting efforts, which have already been in the works by Northern Water for more than a decade.

    Wilkinson and others said the complications resulting from more area and water in Colorado falling under “Waters of the U.S.” rules could also detour collaborative water efforts between cities and farmers. As many retiring farmers over the years have sold their valuable water rights to growing cities, many are now pushing for alternative water transfers between farmers and cities that would reduce the amount of water permanently leaving the state’s farms.

    Improvements to irrigation ditches and other irrigation systems, too, could require more permitting and more costs under the new rules.

    “There’s certainly more questions than answers,” noted West Slope rancher and Colorado Farm Bureau Vice President Carlyle Currier.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Water Lines: Water, democracy and private property rights

    Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs
    Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

    Which is more important: The public’s enjoyment of healthy streams, or preserving private property rights and agriculture? Do we really have to choose?

    Questions swirling around proposed ballot initiatives that assert public rights to Colorado’s water and environment reflect broader tensions between public and private rights that are inherent in our democracy, as well as changing public values regarding natural resources.

    The U.S. Constitution barely mentions water, but the Colorado Constitution has an entire article (16) on “Mining and Irrigation,” which provides the underpinnings of Colorado water law. In summary:

    • Water in streams is owned by the public: “The water of every natural stream, not heretofore appropriated, within the state of Colorado, is hereby declared to be the property of the public, and the same is dedicated to the use of the people of the state …”

    • At the same time, individuals’ rights to take water out of a stream to use it are assured: “The right to divert the unappropriated waters of any natural stream to beneficial uses shall never be denied.” Further details explain that “priority of appropriation shall give the better right…” In other words, first in time, first in right.

    • Rights of way have to be provided to move water from a stream to where it’s needed: “All persons and corporations shall have the right-of-way across public, private and corporate lands for the construction of ditches, canals and flumes for the purpose of conveying water … upon payment of just compensation.”

    These provisions reflect the necessity of access to water from streams for life and livelihoods in semi-arid Colorado and, according to legal scholar David Schorr, a desire to prevent that access from being controlled by a privileged few. This is a very democratic kind of desire.

    Over the last 100-plus years, public values related to water have become more complicated. We all still want to drink water and eat food, but water in streams for recreation and a healthy environment have also become high priorities. And sometimes water taken out of streams to serve those long-established values of domestic use, agriculture and industry, and the livelihoods related to them, ends up leaving streams depleted and unhealthy.

    The constitution clearly provides for taking water out of streams, but gives no direction about when water should be left in. The General Assembly passed laws allowing water rights to be filed for environmental and recreational purposes, but most of these rights are very junior to others and vulnerable to going unmet.

    Proposed ballot initiatives to establish public rights in water and the environment seek to reverse the priority of these values. Initiative 103, “Public Trust Resources,” which focused on water, was derailed from its track to the ballot by the Supreme Court, but Initiative 89, “Local Government Regulation of Environment,” was cleared for signature collection.

    Initiative 89 would amend Colorado’s constitution by asserting that Colorado citizens “have a right to Colorado’s environment, including its clean air, pure water and natural and scenic values.” It directs the state and local governments to protect these resources, and says that when local and state laws conflict, the more restrictive or protective would govern.

    In his dissenting opinion, Justice Gregory Hobbs argued that the new public right to the environment “would override existing private and publicly held property rights,” and would require state and local officials “to act adversely to the interests of private parties …”

    In addition to reflecting the ever-present tension between public and private rights, the dispute also reflects polarization between parties primarily interested in preserving the status quo and those seeking enhanced environmental protections.

    Longtime environmental advocate and vice president of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District Steve Glazer, speaking at the Colorado Water Workshop in Gunnison in June, urged both sides in the conflict to “listen to each other more, and move together instead of apart” in order to find solutions that don’t sacrifice one set of values to serve the other.

    From The Durango Herald (Sarah Mueller):

    Douglas Kemper, executive director of Colorado Water Congress, joined Bruce Whitehead of the Southwestern Water Conservation District, and elected leaders to educate the council on two initiatives that could change the state’s prior appropriation system for managing water claims. Prior appropriation is a way of water allocation that controls who uses how much water, the types of uses allowed and when those waters can be used.

    The secretary of state’s website said any person can draft a statewide initiative to amend the state constitution. If proponents of the ballot measure gets enough signatures, about 86,105, all voters in the state would decide the issue. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed initiatives 89 and 75.

    The Water Congress, a nonprofit group providing leadership on water issues, created a stewardship project that tracks, what it believes are, “public trust doctrine” initiatives that would change how Colorado allocates water. The group opposes public-trust initiatives. Switching to a public-trust system would mean the government would decide how to allocate water rights instead of who came first, according to Kemper.

    Initiative 75 would give local governments the power to approve laws that would establish the fundamental rights of residents, communities and nature. It would give local governments expanded power over businesses, such as allowing local laws to establish or eliminate the rights of corporations and other businesses operating in the community to protect the rights of people, communities and nature.

    “Those are some pretty far-reaching powers,” Kemper said. “Basically, it says those local laws would be superior to international, federal or state law.”

    Initiative 89 declares that Colorado’s environment is the common property of all Coloradoans, including the clean air, pure water, and natural and scenic values. It makes state and local governments trustees of the environment and requires them to protect the environment.

    Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs Jr. wrote in a dissenting opinion on Initiative 89 that the initiative would create a new common property right that would override existing private and publicly held property rights.

    “Initiative 89 would upend the existing regulatory balance and thrust private-property owners and governments into an uncertain future,” Hobbs wrote…

    State Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, urged city councilors to draft a resolution opposing these initiatives. The Southwestern Water Conservancy District has issued a resolution in opposition to public trust initiatives.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Initiative 103, Public Trust Resources, Denied by the Supreme Court Colorado Water Congress shifts focus to Initiatives 75 & 89


    From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Fiona Smith):

    The Colorado Supreme Court published an opinion today declaring that Initiative 103 (Public Trust Resources) may not proceed towards the 2014 Ballot. A 4-3 majority holds that the Title Board lacked authority to proceed with a substituted designated representative when one of the proponents could not attend the rehearing. This decision validates a May 1 appeal by the Colorado Water Congress (CWC) and Coloradoans for Responsible Reform.

    Initiative 103, by Phil Doe and Barbara Mills-Bria, proposed to establish an “inalienable right” of the people of Colorado to clean air, clean water (including groundwater), and the preservation of the environment and natural resources (called “Public Trust Resources”), as common property of all people, including future generations. It would require the state, as trustee of Public Trust Resources, to conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people. CWC and over 70 supporting entities from around the state opposed this Initiative on the grounds that it was unwise, unnecessary, expensive and disruptive to the responsible allocation and stewardship of Colorado’s water resources.

    CWC will now shift its energy towards Initiatives 75 and 89, both of which are of concern to Colorado’s water community. A 5-2 Supreme Court majority decided today that Initiative 89 may proceed towards the 2014 Ballot. The Court similarly confirmed Initiative 75 last month. Each will require 86,105 valid signatures to be placed on the ballot in November.

    Initiative 75 would strengthen “local control,” allowing local governments to adopt environmental regulations that override state laws, including the laws that limit and balance local governments’ regulation of water facilities. Initiative 89 would combine this local control theme with a Public Trust Doctrine, declaring “common property” in Colorado’s water and environment and obligating state and local government to conserve these resources as trustees. In his dissenting opinion today, Justice Gregory Hobbs cautioned that “Initiative #89 proposes to create an entirely unprecedented form of public trust duty requiring state and local governments to ‘conserve’ what are predominately privately held resources… [It] would upend the existing regulatory balance and thrust private property owners and governments into an uncertain future.”

    The Colorado Water Stewardship Project, a special project of CWC, will continue to monitor Initiatives 75 and 89 and inform water stakeholders of the serious implications of amending the constitution to create a Public Trust Doctrine in Colorado.

    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    The so-called “public trust doctrine” measure, No. 103, had drawn opposition from the Colorado Water Congress, representing water users across the state, and the business-backed group Coloradans for Responsible Reform.

    The high court ruled Monday that the Title Board, which reviews ballot proposals, made a mistake when it allowed the backers of No. 103 to have a substitute fill in during a hearing on the measure.

    The court said that state law “does not allow designated representatives who are unable to attend a Title Board meeting to substitute alternates to serve in their place. Instead, the Title Board must delay its considerations until the next meeting at which both of the designated representatives who were so designated at the initial stages of the initiative process are able to attend the Title Board meeting.”

    The ruling means that the proposal can’t be considered for the 2014 ballot because the Title Board is no longer meeting for the 2014 election cycle, said a spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

    The backers of the proposal were Phil Doe and Barbara Mills-Bria. But Mills-Bria couldn’t attend a meeting of the Title Board because she as traveling to an out-of-state funeral, according to the court ruling.

    The court said the Title Board should have postponed its hearing on No. 103 until Mills-Bria could attend rather than allowing a designee to fill in.

    The proposal sought to establish a common property right to “clean air, clean water, including ground and surface water, and the preservation of the environment and natural resources.” It also would have required the state to conserve and maintain those elements for the benefit of all people.

    The Colorado Water Congress said it opposed the initiative on the grounds that it was “unwise, unnecessary, expensive and disruptive to the responsible allocation and stewardship of Colorado’s water resources.”

    The Colorado Water Congress said it would shift its resources to oppose Initiatives No. 75 and 89.

    No. 75 is a proposal by the Colorado Community Rights Network that would allow cities to ban any for-profit business that community leaders don’t want to see in their towns.

    No. 89, which says that Coloradans have a right to clean air, water and scenic values, is one of nine proposals that are backed by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder.

    The Colorado Supreme Court has rejected challenges to proposals No. 75 and No. 89, meaning supporters have until Aug. 4 to collect more than 86,105 valid signatures in order to have the initiatives placed on the fall ballot.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Republican gubernatorial candidates all making water storage a top priority — The Greeley Tribune

    Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative
    Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

    From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

    A top priority for all four Republican gubernatorial candidates struck a chord with the audience at a forum this week. All of the candidates talked early and often about developing more water-storage infrastructure for Colorado, doing so during a gubernatorial candidate question-and-answer forum Tuesday at the Protein Producer Summit, where livestock and water experts had already spent much of the day discussing water shortages for agriculture and the need for more water storage.

    “It seems to be something no one else has the courage to talk about,” said Republican candidate Bob Beauprez, a bison rancher and former U.S. Congressman, noting that, to his knowledge, Gov. John Hickenlooper has spoken only of expanding current water storage by about 10 percent.

    Referring to 10 percent increases in storage and Colorado’s population having doubled since the 1970s, and being expected to double again before 2050, Beauprez said, “We can’t keep going there, unless you want to keep drying up agriculture.”

    Beauprez also spoke about making better use of Colorado’s aquifers for underground water storage, while fellow Republican candidate Scott Gessler — Colorado’s current Secretary of State — also stressed the need for a two-pronged approach that also includes water conservation measures.

    All four Republican candidates made different points during the forum on other topics — for example, Gessler said he wants changes to Colorado’s constitution to require approval on a ballot in two consecutive elections before being approved, while former Colorado Senate minority leader Mike Kopp said, if elected, he’ll initiate a two-year study of regulations in Colorado, and will work to reduce regulatory costs by 25 percent for businesses.

    But when it came to water storage, all four Republicans stood in unison. This week’s three-day Protein Producer Summit was hosted by various Colorado livestock groups.

    Hickenlooper, currently leading a delegation in Mexico, joined the gubernatorial candidate forum Tuesday via video.

    In his answer to the water-shortfall question, he didn’t refer specifically to water storage.

    He listed conservation as the leading way to start addressing water shortages in Colorado, and otherwise talked about the Colorado Water Plan, which he initiated last year in hopes of letting local water officials and various users from across the state develop a statewide, long-term plan.

    In Colorado, those looking to build reservoir storage have run into pushback, largely from environmental groups, and have battled long federal permitting processes.

    For example, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, if approved, would build two new reservoirs — one near Fort Collins and another near Ault — and would provide 40,000 acre feet water per year to 15 municipalities and water districts in northern Colorado. But the endeavor — expected to cost about $500 million, if built — has been in the federal permitting stages for several years, and it’s still unclear how soon it will come, if it does.

    The project hasn’t been supported, or denounced, by Hickenlooper, but all four gubernatorial candidates — Beauprez, Gessler, Kopp and former U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo — stressed that such projects would have their support, if elected, and are much needed.

    Colorado’s municipal and industrial water supply gap by 2050 could be as much as 630,000 acre-feet annually and, by that same year, the state could see as many as 700,000 acres of irrigated farmland dry up, with cities continuing to buy more water from ag users, according to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative report, released in 2010.

    That same report estimates the South Platte River basin alone, which covers Weld County and much of northeast Colorado, could face a municipal and industrial water supply gap of as much as 190,000 acre feet by 2050, and see as many as 267,000 acres of irrigated farmground dry up.

    The stakes are particularly high for the agriculture industry, which uses about 85 percent of the state’s water.

    2014 Colorado November election: Will the Public Trust Doctrine issue make the ballot this fall?

    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights
    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

    From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

    Water initiatives that could have a significant impact on the San Luis Valley are still awaiting Colorado Supreme Court decisions before moving forward to the November ballot box. Still awaiting the higher court’s direction are two initiatives Initiatives 89 and 103 that advocate the Public Trust Doctrine, which would present a radical change from the current water administration throughout the state.

    Another ballot initiative, Initiative 75, has already passed through the higher court and now has the green light to collect signatures to place it on the 2014 ballot. Although not directly related to water issues, Initiative 75, the Right to Local Self-Government , could affect water developments and investments. It drew a court challenge from the business community.

    The ballot title states: “An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a right to local self-government , and, in connection therewith, declaring that the people have an inherent right to local self-government in counties and municipalities , including the power to enact laws to establish and protect fundamental rights of individuals, communities, and nature and the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with those fundamental rights; and declaring that such local laws are not subject to preemption by any federal, state, or international laws.”

    Initiative 75 was just one of more than 100 separate initiatives proposed or re-proposed this year. Eleven have been cleared so far to begin the signature-gathering process , and another 34 are still pending before the Colorado Supreme Court.

    Those include Initiatives 89 and 103.

    The Colorado Water Stewardship Project challenged the title-setting process for Initiatives 89 (Local Government Regulation of Environment ) and 103 (Public Trust Resources), arguing that the proposed initiatives did not meet the requirement of a single title.

    These initiatives promote the Public Trust Doctrine. Since the 1800’s Colorado has operated under the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation, rather than the Public Trust Doctrine, so passage of these amendments could radically change the way water is administered in the state. Public Trust Doctrine holds that natural resources such as water are common property, while the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation operates under the principle that the first to put the water to use has priority over subsequent water users on that stream.

    Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs has described The Public Trust Initiative as dropping “what amounts to a nuclear bomb on Colorado water rights and land rights.”

    Initiative 89’s ballot title is: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a public right to Colorado’s environment, and, in connection therewith, declaring that Colorado’s environment is the common property of all Coloradans; specifying that the environ- ment includes clean air, pure water, and natural and scenic values and that state and local governments are trustees of this resource; requiring state and local governments to conserve the environment; and declaring that if state or local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs?”

    Initiative 103’s ballot titles is: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning public ownership of natural and environmental resources, and, in connection therewith , creating a public trust in those resources, which include clean air, clean water, and the preservation of the environment and natural resources; requiring the state, as trustee, to conserve and maintain public trust resources by using the best science available to protect them against any substantial impairment, regardless of any prior federal, state, or local approval; seeking natural resource damages from anyone who substantially impairs them, and using damages obtained to remediate the impairment; allowing Colorado citizens to file enforcement actions in court; requiring anyone who is proposing an action or policy that might substantially impair public trust resources to prove that the action or policy is not harmful; and criminalizing the manipulation of data, reports, or scientific information in an attempt to use public trust resources for private profit?”

    The Colorado Water Stewardship Project is supporting legal actions before the Colorado Supreme Court regarding these initiatives, and the higher court is expected to rule on these appeals before July.

    In the meantime The Colorado Water Stewardship Project is continuing to bring awareness to these initiatives and what they could mean to the water community throughout the state.

    About 70 groups ranging from municipal utilities and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry to conservation and conservancy districts have approved resolutions opposing the Public Trust Doctrine.

    San Luis Valley entities that have passed resolutions include: San Luis Valley Irrigation District, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and the Commonwealth Irrigation Company.

    If the Colorado Supreme Court confirms the contested ballot titles and their proponents receive the green light to proceed with acquiring signatures, they would have to collect 86,105 valid registered voters’ signatures to get these initiatives on the ballot this fall. The deadline to collect those signatures and turn them in to the Secretary of State’s office would be August 4.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage <a href="

    2014 Colorado November election: Colorado Water Congress — Initiative 75

    US Representative Tipton was stumping in northwest Colorado this week

    From the Craig Daily Press (Erin Fenner):

    “We’ve got an out-of-control regulatory environment,” Tipton said.

    It’s important for Western states to speak up because leaders in the east don’t fully comprehend the issues of water rights or what and endangered species listing can do to public and private land use, he said.

    “Gov. (John) Hickenlooper is fighting for the state’s rights on this,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue.”[…]

    Many residents were concerned about water usage and rights.

    “The headwaters of the Yampa need to be storing water right now,” Moffat County resident Dean Gent said.

    Other people shared their concern that the Environmental Protection Agency or other regulatory agencies would prevent them from storing water.

    Water in Colorado is private property and should be treated by the federal government as such, Tipton said.

    “This is a private property right that we got to be able to protect,” he said.

    The March 2014 Colorado Stewardship Project newsletter is hot off the presses

    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights
    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

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

    Public Trust Ballot Initiative Introduced

    A proposed Public Trust Doctrine Ballot Initiative is progressing through the state’s review process. The proponents made changes to their initial version and re-submitted the amendment on February 25. It is set for a Review and Comment Hearing March 11 at 1:30pm.

    The current version of proposed Initiative 83 would amend the Colorado Constitution by adding a new section to Article XVI (the provisions of the constitution that govern mining and water rights). This amendment would, among other issues, establish an “inalienable right” of the people of Colorado to clean air, clean water (including groundwater), and the preservation of the environment and natural resources (called “Public Trust Resources”), as common property of all people including future generations.

    For additional summary of proposed Initiative 83 click HERE or visit

    CWSP and the Colorado Water Congress are monitoring all initiatives that could affect water resources. To view the full initiatives tracking document click HERE.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Bob Beauprez expected to announce gubernatorial campaign — The Denver Post

    From The Denver Post (Kurtis Lee/Lynn Bartels):

    Former Congressman Bob Beauprez, who has widely been expected to jump into the GOP gubernatorial primary, is expected to enter the race early next week.

    GOP sources told the Denver Post that Beauprez has been looking at office space in the Denver Tech Center and at staffing hires.

    FOX 31 Denver reported that Beauprez will enter the gubernatorial race Monday, the same day he’s expected to appear in Washington, D.C., before the Republican National Committee in an effort to lure the 2016 convention to Denver.

    Beauprez, who lost the governor’s race to Democrat Bill Ritter in 2006, could not be reached for comment Friday. His personal website now reads “coming soon” and “2014.”

    The frontrunner in this year’s crowded field, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, said he called Beauprez last week and said, “You keep telling me all these people are calling you to tell you to get in. Well, count me as one of them. Get in.”

    But Tancredo said he told Beauprez that didn’t mean he would jump out of the race.

    “I’m committed to this thing until somebody can show me a person that can raise millions of dollars that I can’t or has polling that shows he or she is going to walk away with it,” Tancredo said.

    Tancredo leads a pack that includes Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, state Sen. Greg Brophy, former state Sen. Mike Kopp and businessman Steve House. The winner of the June 24 GOP primary faces Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is vying for a second term and in recent polls has outpaced all of his prospective challengers.

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    New Survey: Conservation Could Impact 2014’s Ballot Box — Colorado College


    Here’s the release from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project:

    Conservation and land use issues could have the power to sway how westerners vote in 2014 elections, according to the new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll.

    “The West is a major political battlefield this year, and the poll tells us congressional candidates would be wise to consider their position on conservation and land use issues carefully,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Westerners want their air, water and land protected, and where a candidate stands on these issues could potentially sway votes.”

    This year’s bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters across six states looked at voter attitudes on a list of issues, including land use, water supplies, air quality and public lands’ impact on the economy. The results show overwhelming -­‐ 85 percent -­‐ agreement that when the government closes national parks and other public lands, small businesses and communities’ economies in the West suffer. In a follow up message to elected officials and land managers, 83 percent believe funding to national parks, forests and other public lands should not be cut, as it provides a big return on a small investment.

    “The Rocky Mountain region is politically diverse, with communities running the spectrum from red (predominantly) to purple to blue,” said Colorado College McHugh Professor of Leadership and American Institutions and regular Colorado political commentator Tom Cronin. “These poll results reinforce that a love for protected lands ties western voters together. Westerners across the political spectrum support the work of public land managers and expect conserved public lands to remain that way.”

    Other public sentiments expressed in the survey include that:

    • 72 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to promote more use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
    • 69 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports enhancing protections for some public lands, like national forests.
    • 58 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who votes to increase funding for land-­‐managing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.

    The survey also holds warning signs for candidates, including that:

    • 72 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports
    selling public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.
    • 67 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who reduces
    funding for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.
    • 54 percent of westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to
    stop taxpayer support for solar and wind energy companies.

    “Hispanics view the protection of our public lands as a moral obligation. It’s natural that this community would be drawn to candidates who support conservation,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “With the tremendous growth of the Latino voter bloc, especially in the Western states, we’re going to see engagement in environmental policy and advocacy for our public lands at levels we’ve never seen before.”

    The results reflect the strong connection Westerners feel to their public lands, with 95 percent saying they have visited public lands in the last year. More than two-­‐ thirds of those surveyed said they would recommend an out-­‐of-­‐state visitor visit the outdoors, like a national park, rather than an attraction in town.

    The government shutdown’s effects on Westerners are ongoing. When asked how they felt about the resulting closure of public lands, 89 percent responded with a negative emotion like annoyed, angry, concerned or upset. Potentially as a result of seeing what happens when public lands are no longer available, opposition to the sale of public lands increased from last year’s poll, with 74 percent now rejecting this idea.

    The 2014 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) for a total 2,400-­‐person sample. The survey was conducted from January 7 through 13, 2014, and yields a margin of error of +/-­‐2.9 percent nationwide and +/ -­‐4.9 statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available here, on the Colorado College website

    Click here for the presentation slides.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

    More than three-quarters of Colorado voters say they oppose diversions of water to heavily populated areas of the state, according to a survey conducted by Colorado College.

    The annual Conservation in the West poll, conducted for the college by Democrat and Republican pollsters, also found that a majority of Coloradans, 55 percent, favors allowing communities to regulate hydraulic fracturing and that 22 percent want the state to regulate fracking, the approach used to free up trillions of cubic feet of natural gas from formations deep below the surface.

    The finding of strong opposition to more diversions is unsurprising, said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy organization.

    “Agricultural interests and many Club 20 members don’t like diversions, and there are additional groups who want to see stream flows for recreational purposes and they recognize diversions as a threat,” Petersen said. “People familiar with the West understand the impacts of diversions.”

    Respondents favored devoting more time and resources to better use of the current water supply and encouraging the use of recycling, the survey said.

    On hydraulic fracturing, 28 percent of Colorado respondents supported tougher laws and 29 percent said there should be better enforcement of existing laws, the survey said.

    The results underscore the need for greater education about hydraulic fracturing, Petersen said, noting the practice has been in use in western Colorado for 60 years “and there has not been an issue.”

    Across the West, 72 percent of respondents said they were more likely to vote for candidates who favor the promotion of energy sources such as wind and solar power.

    Another majority, 69 percent, said they were likely to vote for candidates who support greater protections for public lands, such as national forests, and 58 percent said they’d be likely to support candidates who want to increase funding to agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.

    The survey polled 400 registered voters in Colorado and 2,400 in the six Western states of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

    The survey was conducted Jan. 7 to Jan. 13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

    More conservation coverage here. More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

    Udall Helps Secure Critical Arkansas Valley Conduit Funding in Bipartisan Budget Deal


    Here’s the release from US Senator Mark Udall’s office:

    Mark Udall, a strong advocate for smarter water conservation and storage, heralded the inclusion of $1 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in the bipartisan budget deal the president is expected to sign into law. The funding, which Udall has championed in Congress, is a down payment on the completion of this water project, which will improve water quality for the counties along the Arkansas River.

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.

    “Water forms the very foundation of Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado. This funding, which I helped secure in the bipartisan budget deal, will ensure that this final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is up and running as quickly as possible,” Udall said. “I will keep fighting to ensure the Bureau of Reclamation continues robust funding for this project, while we work to develop and smartly conserve Colorado’s most important resource — its water. We must make every drop count.”

    “Given the budget battles and constraints of late, I am glad to see the full $1 million appropriation for this fiscal year,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We are at a critical juncture with the completion of environmental compliance and moving forward with next steps of design and engineering, which will require significantly higher funding in fiscal year 2015 and beyond. We are grateful for the support of our congressional delegation, which has been and will continue to be key to getting the project under construction, completed and providing safe drinking water in compliance with federal mandates. The lower Arkansas Valley has been waiting a long time for this final but important piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.”

    Udall has been a tireless advocate for Colorado’s water users, water managers and communities. He helped broker a deal last year to maintain funding for the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program, which monitors snowpack in Colorado’s mountains and helps water managers forecast supply issues before they occur. Udall also worked with the U.S. Forest Service in November 2013 to end the agency’s effort to transfer ski area permit holders’ water rights. Udall also has been the leading advocate of protecting the Colorado River and finding innovative ways to better manage water to meet rising demand throughout the West.

    Governor Hickenlooper delivers the State of the State Address #COdrought #COflood

    Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference
    Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

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

    Gov. John Hickenlooper today delivered his fourth State of the State address and talked about jobs and the economic health of Colorado, as well as successful efforts to create a solid budget for the state, build reserves and eliminate bureaucracy.

    He also spoke about the challenges faced by Coloradans in the past year, from fires to floods to shootings.

    “We know there are people out there feeling the impact of the national economy’s downturns. And we are doing everything within our power to change that,” Hickenlooper said. “But make no mistake—the state of Colorado has not only endured, it also has thrived. My fellow Coloradans, despite every unforeseen test, despite everything that was thrown at us, the state of our state is strong.” Continue reading “Governor Hickenlooper delivers the State of the State Address #COdrought #COflood”

    Public Trust Doctrine effort spurs the Colorado Water Congress to respond

    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights
    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

    One of Colorado’s oldest, most powerful water groups is raising a war chest to battle an initiative that would place the public’s interest in the state’s hallmark rivers and streams ahead of the interests of private water-right owners, changing the state Constitution.
    The notion that the public has an inherent interest in free-flowing water is well-established in other states, which embrace what’s known as the “public trust doctrine.”

    California, Wisconsin, Montana and New Jersey, for instance, have such a doctrine, according to a 2009 report from the Center for Progressive Reform, a nonprofit policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. In Wisconsin, for example, the public interest in a water source is paramount and a water permit only can be granted if its use does not obstruct navigation, reduce flood-flow capacity or harm the public interest.

    This would mark a radical shift from Colorado’s prior appropriation system, which favors individual water rights owners, especially those with older water rights. During drought periods, water is provided to those with senior water rights while those who have junior, or newer, water rights don’t get water.

    But the Colorado Water Congress, which represents private water-right owners, contends the Public Trust Doctrine runs counter to state law and 150 years of case law. The legal principle would make rivers and streams public property, superseding water rights of property owners in some cases.

    Richard Hamilton, a retired aquatic microbiologist from Fairplay, is behind recent efforts to introduce a ballot initiative to ask voters to enact the public trust doctrine in Colorado. Hamilton and Phillip Doe have tried several times since 1988 to enact a public trust doctrine.

    “The state does not now act as a steward of the people’s property,” Hamilton said.

    “It goes ahead and decides what is the best interest of everybody and the government makes up its mind as to which of those interests shall supersede the public’s ownership.”

    Hamilton said his measure failed last year because the state did not give him enough time to gather signatures for a ballot initiative. He said he does not know whether he will pursue a ballot initiative this year.

    The Colorado Water Congress, nonetheless, is spending $325,000 on a campaign to oppose any effort to launch a public trust doctrine initiative. Founded in 1958, the not-for-profit lobbying organization represents water-right owners. The Colorado Water Congress claims an 85 percent “success rate” on state water legislation it endorses, and Colorado governors rarely have signed bills it has opposed.

    More Public Trust Doctrine coverage here.

    Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention, January 29-31

    Lodore Canyon via Timothy O. Sullivan
    Lodore Canyon via Timothy O’Sullivan

    Click here to go to the website for all the lowdown. Click here to go to the website for all the links for registration, agenda, etc.

    From email this morning from Doug Kemper:

    This time last year, we were winding down Water 2012 – our celebration year. It was my hope that the water community would also use this event as a springboard to continue to elevate our game.

    The Water Congress has had a series of successful years that will provide the financial resources to invest in the future of the organization. Much of this year has been a construction zone for us.

    I wanted to give you a few quick updates on the Water Congress as well as our Annual Convention. Early registration for the convention has been incredible. Thus far, we are nearly double the number of registrants from last year. Discounted early registration will continue through the end of the year. Expect regular updates as the convention draws closer.

    Bob Berman
    Our keynote speaker at the Annual Convention Thursday Luncheon will be Bob Berman. He is one of the best-known and most widely-read astronomers in the world. He wrote the popular ”Night Watchman” column for Discover for seventeen years, is currently a monthly columnist for Astronomy, and is the astronomy editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. He is an amazing storyteller. The title of his keynote will be: The Sun’s Heartbeat, How Solar Cycles Affect Our Weather (And Why The Sun’s Current Strangeness is a Game Changer).

    David Schorr
    We are excited about our partnership this year with the CSU Water Resources Archives. The annual fundraiser, Water Tables, will be at our convention on Thursday evening, January 30 and will feature David Schorr from Tel Aviv University. If you’ve ever wondered why Colorado water law is the way it is, David Schorr’s work, The Colorado Doctrine, tells the story of our water development and the founding legislative and court actions that still govern water law. He will also have a workshop on Wednesday.

    Water Congress Board
    In January, we adopted new Bylaws. The primary intent was to diversify the Water Congress Board to better represent our members and we added new seats. In recognition of the historic significance of the Governor and Attorney General in creating the Water Congress in 1958, new Board positions were added for their offices. This month, John Stulp was appointed to the Board by the Governor and he joins Chad Wallace from the Attorney General’s office.

    We have a really great mix on the Board of new perspectives and traditional values. Of course, adding new Board members means new expectations. So we added new staff.

    New Staff
    We have added two new full-time staff members – Emily Brumit and Fiona Smith. As described below, new staff will greatly expand our communication capacity and member benefits.

    Emily Brumit was originally hired in May of this year to help with our communications. A recent graduate from Auburn with a degree in Political Science, her responsibilities will move to the areas of water policy coordinator and legislative liaison. She will be working at the State level with our lobbyists, Orf and Orf, to increase our presence at the State Capitol and with our new Federal Liaison Board Member, Christine Arbogast, to do the same at the federal level.

    Fiona Smith has been interning with us for the past 4 months. Fiona has a tremendous skill set and work ethic. In January, she will start as our new Outreach Coordinator. Her focus will be on strengthening Water Congress member engagement (particularly those members in the more rural areas of Colorado), new member development, and editing our Enews.

    Our new website rolled out in mid-year. It did not take long before our new staff began tailoring yet another evolution in our communications. In the first quarter of 2014, our advocacy will be driven by two new WordPress platforms. One will be used for our core activities and one for the new Colorado Water Stewardship Project. Members will continue to use the website as the portal for event registrations and getting basic information on the Water Congress as well as a work space for our standing committees.

    Mary Stirling has been busy developing a new area on our website, labelled Reference. The purpose will be to ensure that we keep our historic viewpoints and water legislation in front of our members and link it to current relevant topics.

    Eric Dorn is ensuring that all of the communication technology keeps functioning. New camera equipment arrives in a week and he will begin implementation of our video conferencing capability.

    National Water Resources Association
    This was a year of crisis for the NWRA. California and Texas dropped out of the organization creating a financial spiral that was the most serious threat in NWRA history. Considerable activity in the past several months included a complete change in management, staffing, and office location. A new strategic plan was adopted. In response, I am pleased to report that both California and Texas have voted to rejoin. But we just learned that Oregon has decided to drop out, at least for 2014. Much work remains ahead to deliver on the promises to reform the organization. I think we are up to the challenge.

    I am excited about the Water Congress crew and the development of our new communications infrastructure. We look forward to ensuring that the Water Congress will continue to serve as the leading voice of Colorado’s water community for many years to come.

    The latest Colorado Water Stewardship Project newsletter is hot off the presses

    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights
    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

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

    The Colorado Water Congress Board unanimously adopted a resolution opposing a public trust doctrine at its December 6th meeting.

    The resolution declared:
    A public trust doctrine is unwise, unnecessary, disruptive to the fair and responsible allocation and stewardship of Colorado’s scarce water resources, and an unwarranted taking of vested property interests. –December 6, 2013

    The resolution cites the risks to agricultural users and major concerns for Colorado’s economic stability. The Board also opposed the doctrine because it would increase uncertainty in the ownership and right to use water, and shift control from the local water providers to the courts in the form of litigation.

    Board Chairman Regan Waskom said the Colorado Water Congress will strongly encourage its membership to adopt similar resolutions. “It is important that the water community be absolutely clear that the public trust doctrine, in whatever form it might be offered, would be a disaster for Colorado citizens and for good water management.”

    View the Colorado Water Congress Resolution on a Public Trust Doctrine HERE.

    More Public Trust Doctrine coverage here.

    The Colorado Water Congress’ latest newsletter is hot off the presses

    David Robbins and  J.C. Ulrich (Greg Hobbs) at the 2013 Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention
    David Robbins and J.C. Ulrich (Greg Hobbs) at the 2013 Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention

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

    Join us for the 2014 Annual Convention, Jan. 29-31 at the Hyatt Regency DTC in Denver, Colorado. The annual convention is the premier water industry event in the state, attracting 500+ attendees that convene for networking and collaboration on the important water issues in Colorado.

    Early registration is now open and offers members a discounted rate for registering before Dec. 31. There are many sponsorship opportunities available and many exhibit spaces to choose from.

    As an added bonus to this year’s Convention, CSU will host its annual Water Tables event the evening of January 30.

    2014 Colorado November Election: Steve Acquafresca throws his hat in the HD55 ring

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

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    Steve Acquafresca will run for the Colorado House seat being vacated by Rep. Ray Scott, the Mesa County commissioner told fellow Republicans on Friday.

    Unlike other candidates who have vied for the seat in recent years, Acquafresca is unique in that he’s already served in the Colorado House. When the now Grand Junction 62-year-old peach grower lived in Cedaredge, where he ran an apple orchard, he represented House District 58, which at the time stretched from eastern Delta County to the Four Corners. He served three terms, getting elected in 1990 and leaving in 1997.

    Acquafresca, who’s served on the county commission since 2007 but can’t run again because of term limits, said he has lots of options that he could do after his time on the board ends next year.

    But because of several pressing issues, including fears of more water grabs by the Front Range, Acquafresca said he decided the time was right to return to the Colorado Legislature.

    “One of the most compelling issues that causes me to announce my candidacy is the fact that the governor has ordered a state water plan to be developed,” he said of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s May announcement that he wants that plan completed by December 2014.

    “When we’ve heard that in the past, it’s generally not a good thing for the West Slope, where 80 percent of the water originates yet the Front Range has 80 percent of the population,” Acquafresca said at the monthly Mesa County Republican Party luncheon at Two Rivers Convention Center. “It is anticipated that legislation will result from that plan in the 2015 session. I want to be over in the 2015 session defending West Slope water rights.” [ed. emphasis mine]

    Acquafresca said there aren’t enough people currently serving in the statehouse who worked in local government, saying state legislators could learn a thing or two about drafting budgets, cutting spending and serving the needs of Coloradans without making more demands on them, such as increasing their taxes.

    He said the General Assembly needs to adopt a “downsizing spirit” to accomplish its goals.

    “We’re really losing the ability to determine our own future over there,” Acquafresca said. “The fact that us Republicans have lost the majority in the Colorado House of Representatives is a big part of the reason why we’re losing the ability to determine our own future, and that’s what I want to turn around.”

    Currently, the Democrats control the 65-member House 37-28 and the Senate 18-17. Scott’s seat will become vacant because the two-term representative announced in the summer that he will run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, who is running for Mesa County Sheriff.

    Current Sheriff Stan Hilkey is term-limited and cannot run again.

    To date, no Democrat has announced plans to run for the House seat, which primarily encompasses the city of Grand Junction.

    More 2014 Colorado November Election coverage here.

    Colorado Water Plan: State Senator Gail Schwartz stumps for the plan in Leadville


    From the Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek) via the The Mountain Mail:

    Colorado’s Water Plan was foremost on the mind of state Sen. Gail Schwartz as she visited in her district Nov. 8, including the office of the Herald Democrat.

    She explained that Gov. John Hickenlooper in May issued an executive order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop Colorado’s Water Plan, but the plan itself will be the culmination of more than 8 years work through the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Basin Roundtable process.

    Leadville and Lake County are part of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which meets monthly in Pueblo and has 53 voting members. Schwartz urges citizens to get involved in the roundtable, especially some of the younger people.
    She noted that providing new water storage is especially crucial.

    Information on all the roundtables and opportunities for input is available at […]

    Schwartz will be term limited after this term and noted that she is supporting Carrie Donovan, of Eagle County, as her replacement in the Senate.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    ‘I do not want the federal government to have anything to do with our water plan’ — J. Paul Brown

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    From The Watch (Samantha Wright):

    As a rancher, Brown said, water rights and conservation are of particular importance to him. If re-elected, he said he would fight to keep the Western Slope’s water on the Western Slope.

    “The Front Range wants our Western Slope water,” he alleged, advocating for more storage capacity, both on the Western Slope and Front Range. Referring to the record-breaking floods in Colorado this fall, he pointed out, “If we could store that water on the Front Range, that would relieve demand for a transcontinental diversion of Western Slope water.

    Brown added that he will be watching the formation of the new Colorado Water Plan mandated by Gov. Hickenlooper “very carefully; I do not want the federal government to have anything to do with our water plan,” he said. “I have heard they want to be involved; we have Colorado water and I don’t want the feds messing with it.”

    More 2014 Colorado November Election coverage here.

    ‘The Front Range is thirsty. They want our water, and they’ve taken it’ — J. Paul Brown


    From The Durango Herald (Brandon Mathis):

    …La Plata County sheep and cattle rancher J. Paul Brown addressed a crowd of about 40 people at Christina’s Grill & Bar on Saturday morning to announce his plans to retake the House seat he lost by two percentage points in 2012 to Durango attorney Mike McLachlan. He called the district, which includes La Plata, Archuleta, Hinsdale, Ouray and a portion of Gunnison counties, one of the most beautiful places in the world and one of great importance to the state and nation.

    “We are the pull of all of Colorado,” he said. “Tourism, mining, gas and oil, hospitals. It’s a wonderful district.”

    While Brown, a Republican, said he is not yet ready to propose specific legislation, he did say he had a long list of issues and possible bills…

    “Water is an issue here, and it always will be,” he said. “The Front Range is thirsty. They want our water, and they’ve taken it.”

    Brown mentioned water-storage initiatives to keep water on the Western Slope and in the state.

    “Six hundred thousand acre feet of water just went to Kansas and Nebraska,” he said. “That’s our water – we just don’t have any way to keep it.”[…]

    La Plata County Planning Commissioner and beef rancher Wayne Buck supports Brown’s ideology. He called Brown a politician of moral fiber and character.

    “He’s honest, and Lord knows we need honest politicians in Denver and in Washington, D.C.,” Buck said.

    From The Denver Post (Kurtis Lee):</p.

    Steve House, a healthcare consultant from Brighton, will announce his candidacy for governor Monday in Adams County…

    House is now among five Republicans vying to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2014. Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, former state Sen. Mike Kopp and former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo have all announced their candidacies for governor.

    More 2014 Colorado Election coverage here.

    Public Trust Doctrine: ‘…a private owner’s right would be diminished or lost to the public domain’ — Terry Scanga

    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights
    Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

    From The Mountain Mail (Terry Scanga):

    Inclusions of a public trust doctrine in the Colorado Constitution have been attempted for several years without success. Most citizens may be unaware of the devastation that would be wrought on private water rights should the proponents be successful.

    In Colorado water rights are a private property right acquired by diverting and placing the water to a beneficial use. Priority of use is determined by the date of first use – “first in time is first in right.”

    Since statehood Colorado’s constitution has guaranteed this right.

    The value of a water right is created by the combination of various components. To own a water right, the water must be placed to beneficial use on the lands decreed by the water court in each particular circumstance. The water itself represents a small fraction of the value of the right. The creation of the infrastructure to divert and transport the water to the place of use, the laterals, sprinklers, storage vessels and labor to efficiently distribute the water to its intended use and the ongoing maintenance of the infrastructure account for 90 percent or more of the asset value of the water right. Without all the parts, the right could not be created nor maintained.

    Historically public values of water have arisen incidentally from the private application of water rights to beneficial uses.

    Examples are the return flows from irrigation or municipal uses to tributaries and rivers from private uses or the creation of wetlands from irrigation that support water fowl and nesting.

    Privately held water rights have provided these public benefits we all enjoy, but they have not created public ownership of the water.

    A public trust doctrine would create a public ownership of these benefits without just compensation to the private water right owner whose money and labor created the benefit.

    In the past quarter-century a movement to recognize the public benefit and ownership of water has taken hold in the West, particularly in California and other Western states. The implementation of this ownership/right has been incorporated in these states into a public trust and has had the effect of undermining private ownership and use of water as a private property right.

    Today some owners of irrigation water rights are trying to define the value of irrigated agriculture. In their quest to better understand the values created beyond their immediate application of the water to beneficial use, there is a tendency to quantify the external value incidentally created within the community.

    Most of these inadvertently created values are public benefits. The public has little or no financial resources to replicate these values if the owner of the right wishes to move the use to another location or change type of use. Under current law water right owners have standing to defend against negative impacts to their rights from changes of use by adjacent water right owners. Those with no water right have no standing to claim injury to incidental public benefits. A public trust doctrine would create standing.

    If a public trust doctrine were successfully adopted by Colorado, a private owner’s right would be diminished or lost to the public domain. Governmental bodies would impose conditions upon water right owners to continue to maintain inadvertently created public benefits without just compensation.
    Inundation of these incidental benefits by the water right owner through changes in irrigation practices could trigger fines and require replacement of publicly perceived benefits created from past irrigation practices.
    The potential implications of such a public trust doctrine upon existing water rights are infinite. Irrigated agriculture should reconsider how it measures water right value.

    The negative implications to municipal water rights are even more tenuous under a Colorado public trust doctrine. As presently envisioned, all water must be diverted and returned unimpaired to the stream. Thus there can be no diminishment in quantity or quality – an impossible task.

    The cost of a public trust doctrine to municipal dwellers as well as agricultural users is simply untenable and unaffordable.

    More Public Trust Doctrine coverage here.

    51st State Initiative (secession): ‘I don’t have time for things I don’t think are serious or have any credibility’ — Terry Hart


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham):

    The push of some in Northern Colorado to secede from the state have invited southern communities to join, including Pueblo. Members of the 51st State Initiative met this week with commissioners from Huerfano and Las Animas counties.

    The group asked for a meeting with Pueblo County commissioners as well, but they declined the invitation. “We’re not interested in meeting with them. Thanks, but no thanks,” Commission Chairman Terry Hart said. “I don’t see it as a serious political issue at all. I’m not in favor of it. We are tackling a number of incredibly serious issues right now. I don’t have time for things I don’t think are serious or have any credibility.”

    Commissioners in Huerfano and Las Animas said they listened to the group’s presentation but are far from making a decision. “We understand the concerns Northern Colorado has about what’s been going on in the last several years. We’ve not taken any formal action. I don’t know if we want to at this point. We’ve just listened to the presentation and understand what’s it’s about,” said Max Vezzani, a Republican and Huerfano County commissioner.

    Mack Louden, a Republican commissioner in Las Animas County, said the meeting was informative, but he still has questions. “Like with every new thing, you have to peel back the skin and see what’s underneath,” Louden said.

    The drive behind the Northern Colorado secession is the turn in state politics and policy priorities that favors urban and metro Front Range communities, not rural Colorado. Actions and laws by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature on gun-control measures and renewable energy standard for rural electric cooperatives are issues in the movement.

    Jeff Hare, a movement leader, said their idea was well-received in Huerfano and Las Animas counties. “The primary emphasis we’re talking about in the movement is restoring liberty; restoring it to the local level with emphasis on local control, and both of them liked that message and that idea. We have a lot of ideas and wanted to fill them in. Both (counties) were open to the idea and we’re interested in hearing from those folks in the community,” Hare said.

    More coverage from Analisa Romano writing for The Greeley Tribune:

    Lincoln County commissioners on Friday joined nine other northeastern Colorado counties in placing the 51st state initiative on this November’s election ballot.

    Lincoln commissioners originally dropped the initiative earlier this year when those interested in the secession plan met in Akron , but Lincoln County Commission Chairman Ted Lyons said several dozen people representing all areas of the county turned out Friday to plead with commissioners to place the initiative on the ballot. “We don’t have a problem putting it on the ballot and giving the opportunity to vote for it one way or the other,” Lyons said.

    He said more than anything it’s an opportunity to express discontent over what all of those involved in the 51st state initiative say is an urban attack on rural industries and lifestyles.

    Lincoln Commissioner Greg King said he is not in favor of the 51st state, but he agrees rural needs and protests are falling on deaf ears at the state capitol. King said he prefers the Phillips County proposal, which aims to change representation in the state Legislature so that rural representatives can carry more weight with their votes.

    Commissioner Doug Stone echoed some of Lyons’ comments. “I’m not very convinced we are ready to jump on the bandwagon right now, but we are putting it on the ballot to see how other people feel in Lincoln County.”

    Elbert County commissioners on Wednesday joined the 51st state movement, meaning the effort is up to 11 counties total in Colorado that have placed the secession measure on their ballots, including Moffat County, which is in the northwestern corner of the state.

    According to the Sky-Hi Daily News, Grand County commissioners will consider secession ballot language on Tuesday. Grand County sits on the western side of Boulder County.

    Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said on Friday he has also heard rumblings that Mesa, Las Animas and Huerfano counties are considering a vote for 51st state ballot language next week.

    “We’re going to end up with far more counties than we ever thought we would have,” Conway said.

    Mesa County sits on Colorado’s western border and is not contiguous with Moffat County. Las Animas sits on Colorado’s southern border near the east corner, and Huerfano County borders it to the northwest.

    Commissioners have until Sept. 6 to send ballot measures to their county clerks.

    More 51st State Initiative coverage here.

    Colorado Water Congress Public Trust Special Project Fundraiser Alert


    From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

    After failing to collect enough signatures to place Public Trust initiatives in front of Colorado voters in 2012, the sponsors announced that they are redoubling their efforts to bring the issue to Colorado voters as early as 2014. “We will stay at this until we win,” their leadership stated.

    The Colorado Water Congress has strongly opposed the Public Trust Doctrine becoming law for the last two decades. It is critical that we act now to prepare for the next round in the Public Trust battle. Failure to prepare will certainly leave us in a precarious position.

    The Water Congress Board established a new Public Trust Special Project to fervently challenge upcoming ballot initiatives and, as importantly, to engage our water community in positive public communication about Colorado’s water future. Our two-year budget is $325,000.

    The first phase of fund raising is the reason I am contacting you now. Please review the attached Public Trust Special Project overview, which provides a description of the issue, our position, and the very high stakes at hand. It also details the specific activities that your special fund contribution will support.

    Time is of the essence. For public entities, this appeal is your only opportunity to financially contribute toward action on upcoming Public Trust initiatives. If they become certified for the ballot, your activities are severely restricted by law. Because the Water Congress receives a portion of its funding from public entities, we face the same restrictions

    We hope that you will consider this issue a priority. If you wish to contribute to this project (in any amount), please click here. Thank you for your consideration.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    It’s kind of like watching thunderheads build over mountain ranges.

    Colorado Water Congress is seeking to raise $325,000 to fight off the next attempt to apply the public trust doctrine to Colorado water law. The group took the lead role in 2012 to battle an initiative by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay that it claimed would have created legal turmoil over water rights. “We think this issue may be in front of us for some time,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the CWC. “As the state is trying to develop a state water plan, this cuts the legs out from under it.”

    For his part, Hamilton said he plans to launch a campaign to place ballot questions “exactly the same” as he attempted to place on the 2012 ballot.

    In 2012, the ballot titles were challenged by the CWC, a process that cut four months off the six-month period to collect signatures, Hamilton said. In July, having collected only about 35,000 signatures of 86,000 needed to put the issues on the ballot, Hamilton withdrew the questions.

    “The use of the public’s water is for the public’s good,” Hamilton said, saying Colorado’s constitution clearly says the state’s water is owned by the public. “It’s interesting that the state’s water interests try to block the initiative and refuse to have a full, open discussion with the public.”

    Hamilton, a longtime lobbyist for water issues, has worked to place water issues on the ballot for the past 25 years. His concerns are rooted in the state’s priorities of placing development ahead of environmental and recreation concerns. “The water transfers that have happened in this state have benefitted real estate developers in Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs and at times Pueblo,” Hamilton said.

    The Water Congress is concerned about protecting water rights that have been in place for as long as 150 years, property rights associated with stream access and costly water quality legal battles, Kemper said. The fundraising effort will provide money for legal fights, surveying public opinion, tracking ballot issues and distributing information, Kemper said. “As a water community, we need to be organized,” he said. “Once a campaign begins, deadlines can be extremely short and time is limited.”

    More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.