Water is top priority from Coram, Catlin — The Cortez Jounal

Colorado Capitol building
Colorado Capitol building

From The Cortez Journal (Jacob Klopfenstein) via The Pine River Times:

Speaking to an agriculture group this month in Cortez, state legislators Don Coram and Marc Catlin said they’re prepared to help farmer and ranchers from Colorado’s Capitol.

“The basis of this state and of this area is agriculture,” Catlin told members of the Southwest Colorado Livestock Association. “I’m a believer in that. I’ll do everything I can for agriculture.”

The livestock association held its annual meeting Feb. 11 at the Cortez Elks Lodge. Local, state and federal elected officials also spoke at the meeting, including Montezuma County commissioners and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.

Coram, R-Montrose, represents Senate District 6, which covers Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Dolores, Montezuma, La Plata, San Juan and Archuleta counties. He took over the seat from Republican Ellen Roberts, of Durango, who resigned in October.

Rep. Catlin, R-Montrose, took over Coram’s seat in House District 58, which covers Montrose, San Miguel, Dolores and Montezuma counties. He has experience as a water manager in Montrose County, he said.

Both Coram and Catlin said water on the Western Slope will be a major focus for their tenures in the legislature.

Coram introduced SB 36, a bill that would change the appeals process for groundwater court cases, in January. It passed the Senate on third reading Feb. 14 and will be referred to the House. The bill would disallow parties from introducing new evidence during an appeal that was not presented in the original case.

Coram said he has talked with some farming and ranching families that have spent lots of money paying water engineers and attorneys to resolve such cases.

The senator said legislators will have to work harder to store more water and keep it in Colorado. He said he will be traveling around the state to try to come up with funding solutions for water storage projects…

Catlin said there is a divide between how the western and eastern Colorado think about water. Agriculture operations on the Western Slope should be prioritized over cities and towns on the other side of the mountains when it comes to water, he said.

Agriculture doesn’t get enough attention from people in the state as other industries, such as tourism, Catlin added.

“Agriculture is the No. 2 industry in the state, and it sure doesn’t get much talk,” he said. “The only time they talk about us is when we have a crop failure and it’s going to affect main street.”

Coram also said he would advocate for hemp development. Currently outlawed at the federal level but legal in Colorado, hemp production is limited.

Coram touted the crop’s potential, saying it could become a viable crop and have a huge impact in Colorado.

2017 #COleg: Colorado Corn backs SB17-036 (Appellate Process Concerning Groundwater Decisions)

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

From the Colorado Corn Growers Association (Eric Brown):

During a meeting this month, the Colorado Corn Growers Association’s Public Policy Committee voted to put its support Senate Bill 17-036, a measure titled, “Appellate Process Concerning Groundwater Decisions.”

Under current law, the decisions or actions of the ground water commission or the state engineer regarding groundwater are appealed to a district court, and the evidence that the district court may consider is not limited to the evidence presented to the commission or state engineer.

Therefore, unlike appeals from other state agencies’ decisions or actions under the “State Administrative Procedure Act,” a party appealing a decision or action of the commission or state engineer may present new evidence on appeal that was never considered by the commission or state engineer.

This bill would limit the evidence that a district court may consider when reviewing a decision or action of the commission or the state engineer on appeal to the evidence presented to the commission or the state engineer.

While this is the first bill on which the CCGA Public Policy Committee has taken a position, the committee is monitoring a number of others as the 2017 Colorado Legislative Session continues.

Hickenlooper talks water, and beer, at Colorado Water Congress

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaking at the Colorado Water Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaking at the Colorado Water Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.

DENVER – A relaxed and candid Gov. John Hickenlooper told a luncheon crowd at the annual Colorado Water Congress meeting today at the Denver Tech Center that finding money for water projects, education, broadband services, and transportation infrastructure were all high priorities for him this year.

“Certainly what’s going on in Washington is a little disconcerting,” the Democratic governor said early on in his remarks. “You know, I’m an optimist, I think we’re going to be fine. I think we’ll figure this all out.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, Hickenlooper released a statement about President Trump’s executive order freezing grants and contracts at the EPA.

“This freeze could potentially impact the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s ability to carry out its federally mandated commitment to protect clean air, clean water and safe drinking water,” Hickenlooper said in the statement. “We have sought clarification from the EPA and have asked for assistance from Senators Gardner and Bennet.”

Acknowledging that three-quarters of the people in the room probably voted for Donald Trump, as water buffaloes in Colorado tend to be politically conservative, Hickenlooper quipped, “We’ve changed our Facebook relationship status with Washington, D.C., to ‘It’s complicated.’”

That got a laugh from the crowd.

Hickenlooper then turned to climate change, noting it wasn’t clear yet whether Colorado would see more or less water in the future. And he said whether one believes climate change is caused by human activities or not, Colorado should still be preparing for the worst.

The governor also praised the Colorado Water Plan that was presented to him by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in December 2015, after he called in 2013 for the plan to be prepared in two years, a blink of an eye in “water time.”

“Over the last year we’ve made progress on pretty much every measurable goal in the plan,” Hickenlooper. “We’ve really worked hard to make sure that water can be a way to unite this state. Historically that hasn’t been the case.”

Hickenlooper also cited the work of the regional basin roundtables in creating the water plan.

“My sense is that water should not be a partisan issue,” Hickenlooper said. “It shouldn’t be about one party or the other. We should work hard, just like we did in creating the water plan to come up with a shared, consensus, plan and then we should all work together. If we have disagreements, sit down, work through the disagreements, but keep it the hell out of politics.”

He also talked about the idea of creating “a hub for water data” in Colorado so that people get more information about how water is used. And he said he wanted the state to be a leader in innovative water management.

The governor also made a plug for the annual “projects bill” presented to the state Legislature from the CWCB. This year’s bill includes a $25 million investment in what Hickenlooper called “Colorado water plan activities,” including water supply projects.

The bill also includes a $90 million loan from the CWCB to Northern Water to help finance a new reservoir as part of its Windy Gap project, which would deliver more Colorado River water to the northern Front Range.

The governor said despite the state’s “fiscal thicket” created by two statewide tax-limiting measures, water issues should be given bipartisan support, along with education, transportation, and broadband. And, he noted, that rural counties in Colorado will likely get hurt the most if new revenue sources are not eventually supported by voters.

Gov. Hickenlooper, raising a glass of beer to toast to Colorado while speaking on Jan. 25 at the Colorado Water Congress at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
Gov. Hickenlooper, raising a glass of beer to toast to Colorado while speaking on Jan. 25 at the Colorado Water Congress at the Hyatt Regency hotel.

Water, and beer

Hickenlooper, who has been mentioned as a Democratic candidate for president in 2020, published a memoir last year called “The opposite of woe: my life in beer and politics.” And he managed a way to work beer into his short speech by bringing up new regulations around water reuse.

“The more water reuse we have, the more we’re going to have to put on crops,” he said. “It’s basic math. Once we get regulations in place, the home builders, businesses, and all kinds of water users are going to be able to safely implement gray water and direct potable reuse systems. It’s really going to take pressure off of irrigated agriculture as well as … that pressure of taking water from the West Slope.”

The governor, who founded Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Denver in 1988, then turned to what he called the “highest and most beneficial use” of water – the making of beer.

“I’d like the opportunity to lead you all in a toast,” Hickenlooper said as CWCB Director James Eklund approached the podium and poured him a glass of beer.

“Where’s our beer?” someone called out from the tables.

“If you want to run through a statewide election and get elected governor, you get your own pint on the lectern too,” Hickenlooper said to much laughter, while taking a sip and apologizing for not having beer for everyone.

“If it was my meeting … ,” he said, to more laughter, before toasting, “let’s raise a glass to the strong state of the headwaters state.”

8 trends and takeaways from this year’s Water Congress – News on TAP

What I heard from the water pros: collaboration, climate change — and the state water plan recited as a poem.

Source: 8 trends and takeaways from this year’s Water Congress – News on TAP

2017 #coleg: Jerry Sonnenberg priority = storage

Colorado Capitol building
Colorado Capitol building

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

“My priorities are, obviously, water storage, agriculture, and education,” Sonnenberg said during a lengthy interview Monday with the Journal-Advocate.

On water, Sonnenberg already has declared that any bill coming across his committee’s desk that doesn’t include storage will be DOA.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for conserving water, but we have to have someplace to store all of that water we’re conserving,” he said. “But for some reason, water storage has become a partisan issue. People seem to think that conservatives, ag, Republicans — are all against conservation and we’re not. Agriculture has led the charge on water conservation.”

He recounted the evolution of irrigation from flood to center pivot to drop-head sprinklers to drip irrigation.

Barker Meadows Dam Construction
Barker Meadows Dam Construction

“But water storage has to be a major part of every conversation we have about water,” he said.

Although he’s one of the few actual agricultural producers in the Legislature, Sonnenberg won’t spend much time advancing bills about growing food and fiber in Colorado. What he will do, however, is advocate for ways to make farming more profitable. After all, farm profitability is critical, Sonnenberg said, if America is going to entice young people to take over the responsibility of feeding the world. The senator said that, at 58, he’s still considered a “young farmer,” and that something needs to be done to lower the median age of farmers in the United States. That median age now is 59.

“But kids can’t come back to the farm if they can’t survive,” he said, and then proceeded to tick off the capital investments needed in equipment, land, and infrastructure. It was a bleak picture.

“What I can do is be an advocate,” he said. “My role as chair (of the Ag Committee) and as (President) Pro Tem (of the Senate) is to be an advocate to my federal partners. I have a good relationship with those people.”

[…]

Sonnenberg has some ideas about what his “federal partners” can do to help make farming more profitable, especially for younger farmers.

“What the government can do, without just outright giveaways, is help farmers manage the risk. They can do that by contributing a percentage of the premiums for crop insurance,” he said. “My biggest fear every year is hail, but hail insurance costs me $18 to $20 an acre,” he said. “You put that on top of all the other inputs — seed, fertilizer, fuel, pesticides — it’s just not profitable at anything less than $4 or $5 a bushel for wheat.”

[…]

The first-term senator also will be keeping an eye on the conservation easement debacle, which he said he thinks will cost the state more than it will ever recover from tax credits that have been retroactively disallowed. He knows Rep. Becker will again introduce a bill aimed at giving landowners relief while they haggle with the state over paying back those tax credits, and is ready to do what he can to promote it in the Senate.

He also intends to advocate on behalf of rural communities having to rebuild their sewer and water systems because of higher standards being imposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“What they’re doing to those small communities is a travesty,” he said. “You have a town with only, maybe, 100 (water) taps and they’re being held to a water quality standard that can’t be met economically. Is it cost effective to make sure every community has distilled water to drink? I don’t think so.”

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Southwest Colorado got two new lawmakers over the weekend — one new lawmaker and a familiar one.

That happened when the central committee for Senate District 6 chose Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, to replace Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango, who resigned her seat at the end of last year.

In his place, the central committee for his seat in House District 58 chose Marc Catlin to replace him.

Catlin, a graduate of Mesa State College, is the water rights development coordinator for Montrose County who also sits on the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

Catlin also is a former manager of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, and hosts a weekly talk show on 580 AM radio, where he mainly focuses on water issues on the Western Slope.

Coram, who was first elected to the Colorado Legislature in 2011, was just re-elected to a third term in the Colorado House in November.

He’s already been assigned to the Senate agriculture and judiciary committees.

Both men will be sworn into office alongside their colleagues when the 2017 session of the Legislature convenes on Wednesday.

Say hello to ColoradoPolitics.com a new service from The Colorado Springs Gazette.

@COWaterPlan: Where is it one year later? — The Pueblo Chieftain

James Eklund and Governor Hickenlooper roll out the Colorado Water Plan, Thursday, November 19, 2015 via The Colorado Independent
James Eklund and Governor Hickenlooper roll out the Colorado Water Plan, Thursday, November 19, 2015 via The Colorado Independent

Here’s a guest column from Crisanta Duran that’s running in The Pueblo Chieftain:

In the American West, nothing is more vital or sacred than water.

Colorado has a rich and complicated history with the resource, one that is colored by some successes, but also many conflicts and challenges. But because of the work of thousands of Coloradans on our state’s first-ever comprehensive water plan, our water future could be very bright indeed. That bright future, however, will require a lot more hard work.

A little more than one year ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the completion of Colorado’s water plan, developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board after two years of meetings across the state, input from the state’s eight basin roundtables, and the considered comments of more than 30,000 Coloradans from across the spectrum, including Colorado’s ranchers and farmers. It is a landmark policy document that will drive decisions about Colorado’s water for decades into the future.

The plan itself is ambitious, but implementing its component parts, though challenging, will be critical to our state’s future. Smart growth of our state requires tackling looming threats to our water supply, and the plan sets out a clear guide path to do just that.

There is both a conservation and economic imperative for implementing the Colorado Water Plan. We absolutely must have healthy rivers to power Colorado’s thriving recreation and tourism economies while also defending our agricultural community’s needs. In 2014, 71.3 million visitors came to Colorado and spent $18.6 billion, much of it on activities in Colorado’s great outdoors. We must ensure our rivers remain healthy so that future generations can continue to enjoy all the benefits our waterways provide.

The Colorado Water Plan set unprecedented statewide water conservation targets in cities and towns, prioritizing conservation as never before.

The conservation goal for towns and cities equates to nearly 1 percent per year water use reduction by 2050, which, while ambitious, is absolutely achievable

If met, the conservation goals and flexibility envisioned for users enshrined in the Colorado Water Plan will help both towns and cities meet their needs and keep our farms and ranches a key part of the Colorado landscape and economy.

For example, the CWP provides more flexibility for ranchers and farmers to share water with towns and cities, and to keep water in streams without jeopardizing future access to their water rights.

The plan also creates frameworks for much more comprehensive evaluations of new water projects to avoid costly diversions, helps keep Western Slope rivers flowing, and provides for comprehensive management plans for Colorado’s rivers. In short, if it continues to be implemented, the plan will preserve our water supply for ranchers and farmers, help to foster our outdoor recreation economy, and protect our quality of life now and into the future.

Creating a sustainable water future for Colorado is not only vital economics — it is vital to our local communities and our history as a state, including Latina and Latino communities whose long history in Colorado is intrinsically linked to Colorado’s waterways.

For centuries, Colorado’s rivers and streams have been integral to Colorado’s rich culture and way of life. Our rivers provide us with a collective sense of “querencia,” a place in which we know exactly who we are, the place from which we speak our deepest beliefs.

Protecting the Colorado and other rivers is not just smart water management for our state; it builds upon our tradition of responsible use and conservation for the benefit of future generations. Colorado’s rapid growth only compounds the need for urgent and continued action.

Crisanta Duran is speaker-designate of the Colorado House of Representatives. Lucia Guzman is minority leader of the Colorado Senate. Both are Denver Democrats.

Here’s a guest column from Bart Miller that’s running in The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Water is the lifeblood of Colorado, and yet demands for water to support population growth, agriculture, and businesses are increasing while available water supplies are not.

Climate change is also having a growing impact in an already water-scarce region, and Colorado’s population is predicted to double by 2050. Not surprisingly, water scarcity was found to be one of the top concerns of state residents in the latest State of the Rockies Poll Project while 77 percent of Coloradoans support more conservation and water reuse as opposed to only 15 percent who support diverting water from rivers and streams. The good news is that we’ve had a sound first year implementing the state’s new water plan and now we need our state Legislature to help.

One year ago, Colorado’s water plan established goals for ensuring enough water for vibrant cities, viable agriculture, and healthy rivers that sustain wildlife, recreation and local economies. For West Slope communities like Grand Junction, the plan contains a number of provisions to safeguard West Slope interests every bit as much as those of the Front Range.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board recently approved a new budget of $25 million annually over the next few years for implementation. This budget includes funding for water conservation to help reach our state goal of saving 400,000 acre-feet of water, which would reduce water use by approximately 1 percent per year. The budget advances cost-effective measures to help communities make the most of every drop, like fixing leaky infrastructure and increasing water reuse technologies. Also included: $5 million annually for stream management and watershed restoration plans — essential for both healthy ecosystems and our thriving recreational economy.

The plan’s criteria “checklist” for evaluating what water projects receive public funds also started to gain steam by being embedded in the grant process for local river basin roundtables. The common-sense checklist evaluates whether projects have community support, prevent environmental degradation, are feasible, and meet real water needs. Ensuring local community support is essential for protecting West Slope resources.

We’ve run a good first lap, but there are miles to go to meet new water demands and protect Colorado’s rivers. In the coming year, we need development of alternative agricultural water agreements that support agriculture rather than “buy and dry” scenarios where cities buy up water rights that never return to agricultural producers. We need urban water conservation embedded into land use decisions so new development is water-smart from the start, reducing pressure to divert water from the West Slope to the Front Range. We need funds so local stakeholders can assess river health and create local stream management plans.

Most immediately, we need the Legislature to approve the $25 million plan budget developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The plan’s proposals have the support of the vast majority of Coloradans. Ultimately, the water plan’s long-term success requires collaboration among diverse stakeholders to ensure we help all local economies that rely upon Colorado’s rivers. Please join us in asking our state representatives to help by putting the water plan and our communities first.

Bart Miller leads Western Resource Advocates’ program protecting healthy rivers; improving water efficiency; and drawing the connection between water, energy, and climate change.

Colorado Capitol building
Colorado Capitol building

Poll: Most Latino Voters Favor Strong Environmental Protections — Public News Service

derrick

From Public News Service:

More than 70 percent of Latino voters are deeply concerned about the environment and how it affects their families. That’s according to a new Latino Decisions poll, which found over 90 percent of Latino Coloradans want the President-elect and new Congress to fight climate change.

Dominick Moreno, incoming Colorado Senator for Adams County, said he isn’t surprised by the poll results.

“The Latino community, I think, in Colorado really cares about the environment, cares about climate change and doing something about that, and is generally, I think, more environmentally sensitive to these issues,” he said.

He added that the survey confirms Latinos are an increasingly important voting bloc and are willing to take their convictions into the voting booth. In Colorado, 96 percent of Latinos surveyed said they support candidates who work to protect public health by limiting air pollution.

Nationally, Latino Republicans were less enthusiastic than Democrats about the need for action on climate change, but more than 60 percent agreed it’s an important issue. Over 90 percent want more clean-energy development.

Senior analyst of Latino Decisions, Edward Vargas, said these voters care about the environment because Latino communities are disproportionately affected.

“We tend to reside and live near environmental dump sites, factories; Latinos are also more likely to be working in the fields,” he explained. “So, I think this is just a reflection of where we live and where we work is impacted by the environment.”

Moreno said he’s confident the Latino community will keep a watchful eye on the Trump administration and Congress in case they try to reverse progress on climate change or let energy producers off the hook.

“You’re going to see them really, I think, rise up and say that we’re not going to accept the status quo, that we’re not going to accept halting the work that we’ve already done to make sure that, no matter where you live, that you have access to clean air and clean water, and outdoor recreation,” Moreno added.