The Spring Edition of the #Colorado Ag Water Alliance Newsletter is hot off the presses

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

Water Legislation

A set of bills deal with new uses for reclaimed water: domestic wastewater that has received secondary treatment by wastewater treatment works, as well as additional treatment needed to meet standards for approved uses. In the past, this water has been restricted to landscaping irrigation and some commercial and industrial uses. Separate bills expand this use to edible crops (HB18-1093), industrial hemp (SB18-038), and marijuana cultivation (HB18-1053).

The bills codify rules promulgated by the water quality control commission by creating three categories of water quality for reclaimed domestic wastewater and the allowable uses for each water quality standard category. The bills require the water quality control division to develop policy, guidance or best management practices for use of reclaimed domestic wastewater.

Only the bill expanding reclaimed water use to edible crops has been sent to the governor. The bills for industrial hemp and marijuana cultivation are still in the legislature.

Another bill, HB18-1199, pertains to aquifer storage-and-recovery plans. HB18-1199 authorizes a person to apply to the groundwater commission for approval of an aquifer storage-and-recovery plan and requires the commission to promulgate rules governing the application process and requirements for a plan.

This bill was signed by the governor.

One last significant piece of legislation was HB18-1151: Colorado Water Conservation Board Approve Deficit Irrigation Pilot Projects. Current laws allows the water conservation board to approve up to 15 pilot projects for agricultural water leasing or fallowing projects. The bill expands the types of projects to include deficit irrigation in water divisions 2 and 3 and within the boundaries of the Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District. The bill also excludes the determination of historical consumptive use decreases in use resulting from deficit irrigation projects. The bill was set aside this year and may be brought up next legislative session.

2018 #COleg: Governor Hickenlooper signs SB18-066 (Extend Operation Of State Lottery Division)

The upper Colorado River, above State Bridge. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Governor Hickenlooper’s office via The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 18-066 into law Monday, reauthorizing the Colorado Lottery through 2049.

“The Colorado Lottery is the only lottery in the nation that commits nearly all of its yearly proceeds to outdoor recreation or habitat and wildlife conservation,” Michael Hartman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, said in a press release. “Coloradans can rest assured that their lottery game spending will continue to support the incredible resources that make our state so special, including supporting the capital needs of our state’s great school systems.”

According to the release, in the last five fiscal years, the lottery has distributed more than $670 million to its four beneficiaries — the Conservation Trust Fund, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Building Excellent Schools Today program.

Since its start in 1983 through fiscal year 2017, the Colorado Lottery has returned to more than $3.1 billion to its beneficiaries.

The money is distributed 50 percent to the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, 40 percent to the Conservation Trust Fund, and 10 percent to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. GOCO funds in fiscal year 2018 are capped at $66.2 million and funds that exceed the cap will go to the Colorado Department of Education’s Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, according to the lottery website.

The current structure of the primary lottery beneficiaries has been in place since 1992, when the people of Colorado voted to the amend the Colorado constitution and create the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund.

Lottery funds have been used to create and restore hundreds of miles of trails, protect hundreds of miles of rivers, create thousands of jobs, add thousands of acres to the state parks system, create more than 1,000 parks and recreation areas, and protect over 1 million acres of land.

Under a reauthorization passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2002, the Lottery division was extended 15 years from 2009 to 2024. The new bill adds 25 years, authorizing the lottery until 2049.

To learn more about where the funds go, visit http://coloradolottery.com/en/about/giving-back.

2018 #COleg: Governor Hickenlooper signs HB18-1008 (Mussel-free Colorado Act)

Zebra and Quagga Mussels

From email from Colorado Parks and Recreation:

On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the Mussel-Free Colorado Act into law in a short ceremony at the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver. The new law provides a stable funding source of $2.4 million for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Program for 2019 and beyond.

In February, the House passed the bill 44 – 20. The bill passed the Senate 24 – 10 in March.

“This is a huge win for protecting Colorado’s water,” said CPW Director Bob Broscheid. “Stable funding for the ANS program means a stable future for Colorado.”

The law requires Colorado residents to purchase a $25 ANS stamp for their boat. Non-residents must purchase a $50 stamp. The new law also:

  • Continues Tier 2 Severance Tax appropriations, when available, to cover the remainder of the $4.5 – $5 million annual cost of ANS program implementation
  • Increases fines for ANS-related violations. The fine for unlawful boat launches without inspection will be raised from $50 to $100. The fine for knowing importation of ANS into the state will be raised from $150 to $500 for a first offense.
  • Allows CPW to charge labor/costs incurred to store and decontaminate intercepted vessels.
    Encourages federal partners to take responsibility for ANS inspection funding at their reservoirs.
  • Why do we need a mussel-free Colorado?

    Zebra and quagga mussels are not native to the nation’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs and are considered our most serious invasive species threat. Adult infestations harm aquatic ecosystems and fisheries by disrupting the food web and outcompeting native species. They cause enormous problems for water infrastructure used for municipal, agriculture and industrial purposes by attaching to, clogging and impairing water storage, treatment and distribution systems.

    Eradicating an adult mussel infestation in an open water body is nearly impossible. Controlling infestations becomes a permanent and expensive part of normal operations post invasion. Colorado has implemented an effective prevention program to stop mussel introduction by inspecting and decontaminating watercraft before they enter our waters and ensuring that users clean, drain and dry their own watercraft in between each use.

    Almost all the states east of Colorado have a zebra or quagga mussel infestation. A mandatory watercraft inspection and decontamination program, coupled with monitoring and education, is the best approach to keep Colorado free of the invasive mussels and other ANS.

    In 2017, Colorado inspectors intercepted 26 boats infested with adult mussels coming in from out of state – a new record. Colorado has intercepted more than 145 boats infested with adult mussels since the ANS Program began in 2008. The number of infested boats increase each year and there have already been six infested boats intercepted in 2018.

    Colorado’s ANS Program was in Jeopardy

    The Colorado ANS Program was authorized by the Colorado Legislature in 2008 utilizing severance tax funds. CPW has leveraged those funds with federal and local grants to fund the ANS Program since inception. However, severance tax is a fluctuating source and federal funds have been reduced in recent years. The Mussel-Free Colorado Act is essential to providing a stable base of funding for the ANS Program to be leveraged with other dollars for the continued protection of water infrastructure, natural resources and maintaining recreational access to lakes and reservoirs. This funding source is critical to protecting our waters and water infrastructure from irreversible invasion.

    For more information about CPW’s ANS Program and the Mussel-Free Colorado Act, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/ISP-ANS.aspx.

    2018 #COleg: HB18-1199 (Aquifer Storage-and-recovery Plans)

    From The Telluride Daily Planet (Don Coram):

    Most people do not realize that managing water in the West represents a larger effort than putting a man on the moon.

    The wells, reservoirs and ditches needed to direct water for both agriculture and municipal uses have been a major accomplishment of mankind. Many forget that the land we live on was once abandoned by civilizations because of drought. To secure the future of water in the West, there is much more work to be done.

    I am happy to be introducing legislation this year that both directs funds to the advancement of water projects in Colorado, and legislation that would allow for aquifer storage and recovery — two major components in the immediate future for Colorado water.

    For years we have been drilling wells and pulling water out of the aquifers bellow us. In states like California and Texas, the aquifers have been overused, leading to compaction. This compaction destroys one of our most important natural resources. Colorado needs to work toward saving these natural reservoirs so that we can use them in the future.

    Rep. Marc Catlin, of Montrose, and I began a very important bill when he introduced HB 18-1199. This bill is referred to as the aquifer recovery and storage bill here at the capitol. What it creates is a process for the Ground Water Commission to approve aquifer storage and recovery plans. This is very important to offsetting how much water we are pulling from our wells and it will help avoid the compaction and eventual collapse of our aquifers in Colorado.

    HB18-1199 was signed by the governor on April 9.

    Above the ground, Rep. Jeni Arndt, of Fort Collins, and I have been hard at work trying to fund water resources projects in Colorado. SB18-218 appropriates $36 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board construction fund or the Department of Natural Resources to fund projects such as satellite monitoring systems, water forecast programs and the continuation of watershed restoration programs.

    The advancement of these projects allows us to have more control over water resources in the state of Colorado, allowing for us to control our own future. This year’s water forecasts are grim and are concerning to many. It is important — even in years when we are fortunate to have adequate water — that we continue to plan and build for the worst. Appropriating these funds will allow us to continue to do so. It will allow our cities to grow, our farmers to farm, mines to mine and our rivers to flow.

    Water is very important for the Western Slope. Multiple states, millions of people and another nation rely on us being responsible with our water. This is why we work so hard to bring legislation to further our water interest, and we thank you for the opportunity to make this happen.

    2018 #COleg: HB 18-1301 would update the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act, or CMLRA

    Colorado abandoned mines

    From The Durango Telegraph (Tracy Chamberlin):

    In an effort to prevent the remnants of hard-rock mining from tainting the region’s waterways in the future, Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, along with co-sponsors Reps. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, and Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, introduced HB 18-1301 last week.

    Conservation groups, like San Juan Citizens Alliance and Conservation Colorado, lauded the bill’s introduction.

    “It’s simple: our drinking water should be clean,” Kristin Green, water advocate for Conservation Colorado, said in a press release. “That’s why (this bill) is so critical. Our state’s mining laws are in dire need of an update.”

    The bill is meant to be just that – an update to the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act, or CMLRA. Under the act, mining companies are required to reclaim and clean up the land they mine, but those same protections don’t extend to water quality. This new bill, which only applies to new mining permits, would make water as much of a priority as land is under the CMLRA.

    First, it would require water quality – including treatment and monitoring – be a part of the calculations used to determine how much funding in the form of bonds needs to be set aside for cleanup. The bill also eliminates self-bonding, which is when the bond is backed only by the mining company itself. The concern with self-bonding is if the company goes bankrupt, Colorado taxpayers would be stuck with the bill. Finally, HB 18-1301 requires mining companies submit a plan for water-quality treatment and set an end date for operations.

    “These common-sense updates to existing policy would move Colorado toward a more sustainable and responsible mining future,” Marcel Gaztambide, Animas Riverkeeper for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said in a press release.

    The next step for the bill is review by the Colorado House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Mon., April 2.

    Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 11-12, 2018

    Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

    From the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum via The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Streams of funding will become important to keep streams of water flowing in Colorado in the coming decades, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top water adviser says.

    “We are looking at the appropriate revenue streams,” said John Stulp, the governor’s adviser. “One of the key questions is: How do you build certainty that new methods don’t dry up agriculture?”

    Stulp, whose home base is a farm-ranch operation in Prowers County, will speak at the 2018 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 11-12 in La Junta. This year’s forum is dedicated to the issues facing the Lower Arkansas Valley. Water lawyer David Robbins, who defended state interests in the Kansas v. Colorado case before the U.S. Supreme Court, will open the conference, while Stulp will offer closing remarks.

    Colorado’s Water Plan, completed in 2015, calls for $3 billion of new state investment in water projects from 2020-50, or about $100 million annually. Much of Stulp’s time working with the state Interbasin Compact Committee has been spent figuring out just how to do that.

    “We looked at 110 possibilities, then narrowed that to about 12. About four of those rose to the top,” Stulp said.

    Those ideas included:

    An excise tax on water activities, including recreation.

    A tap fee on all water users’ bills.

    A bottle fee on beverage containers.

    A one-time tap fee on new construction.

    In addition, a bill introduced late in the 2017 legislative session proposed a 0.1 percent sales tax to fund water.

    “None of the ideas have been implemented,” Stulp said. “It’s been a very general discussion.”

    Funding is also a very real issue at present. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has borrowed $10 million from its construction fund to fund Basin Roundtable projects that formerly would have been funded through mineral severance fees, which were curtailed by a court decision. Roundtables have been more selective in choosing projects that adhere to the Water Plan.

    “I think it’s been a good refresher for the roundtables to look at their Basin Implementation Plans and decide which projects to fund at the local level and which to take to the state level,” Stulp said. “The Arkansas Basin Roundtable has been very active and has come up with good ideas for the valley and to take back to the rest of the state.”

    [The] water forum at Otero Junior College in La Junta will include a series of presentations on agriculture, municipal water supply, environmental concerns, water quality and watershed restoration. For information, go to http://rbwf.com.

    #COWaterPlan: “We are looking at the appropriate revenue streams” — John Stulp

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

    Here’s the release from the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum (Chris Woodka):

    Streams of funding will become important to keep streams of water flowing in Colorado in the coming decades, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top water adviser said.

    “We are looking at the appropriate revenue streams,” said John Stulp, the governor’s adviser. “One of the key questions is: How do you build certainty that new methods don’t dry up agriculture?”

    Stulp, whose home base is a farm-ranch operation in Prowers County, will speak at the 2018 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 11-12 in La Junta. This year’s forum is dedicated to the issues facing the Lower Arkansas Valley. Water lawyer David Robbins, who defended state interests in the Kansas v. Colorado speaker will open the conference, while Stulp will offer closing remarks.

    Colorado’s Water Plan, completed in 2015, calls for $3 billion new state investment in water projects from 2020-50, or about $100 million annually. Much of Stulp’s time, working with the state Interbasin Compact Committee, has been spent figuring out just how to do that.

    “We looked at 110 possibilities, then narrowed that to about 12. About four of those rose to the top,” Stulp said.

    Those ideas included:

  • An excise tax on water activities, including recreation.
  • A tap fee on all water users’ bills.
  • A bottle fee on beverage containers.
  • A one-time tap fee on new construction.
  • In addition, a bill introduced late in the 2017 legislative session proposed a 0.1 percent sales tax to fund water.

    “None of the ideas have been implemented,” Stulp said. “It’s been a very general discussion.”

    Funding also is a very real issue at present. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has borrowed $10 million from its construction fund to fund Basin Roundtable projects that formerly would have been funded through mineral severance fees, which were curtailed by a court decision. Roundtables have been more selective in choosing projects that adhere to the Water Plan.

    “I think it’s been a good refresher for the roundtables to look at their Basin Implementation Plans, and decide which projects to fund at the local level, and which to take to the state level,” Stulp said. “The Arkansas Basin Roundtable has been very active, and has come up with good ideas for the valley, and to take back to the rest of the state.”

    Next month’s water forum at Otero Junior College in La Junta will include a series of presentations on agriculture, municipal water supply, environmental concens, water quality and watershed restoration. For information, go to the Web site: http://arbwf.com

    From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

    This year there just wasn’t enough money in the coffers to fund the state water plan at $10 million, which it received last year. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, it’s slated to receive only $7 million. The drop in funding comes just as the water plan’s chief cheerleader, Gov. John Hickenlooper, is headed into the last eight months of his term in office.

    Severance taxes are paid by oil and gas and mineral companies when they take those resources out of the land, known as severing. Those revenues pay for some of the divisions in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), including the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and are known as Tier I funding.

    Tier II dollars, which also come from severance taxes, pay for continuing projects such as water and agriculture-related programs, clean energy development, soil conservation, wildlife conservation, invasive species control and low-income energy assistance.

    But the decline in severance tax revenues due to lower oil and gas activity, combined with the state losing a lawsuit filed by oil giant BP over property tax deductions, has wiped out a substantial portion of what the state has to fund those operational activities…

    The Joint Budget Committee stepped in with a bill, House Bill 1338, to transfer just under $30 million in general fund dollars (income and sales tax) to ensure those DNR divisions and projects keep going. That bill is one of 17 bills, referred to as “orbitals,” that go hand-in-hand with the Long Appropriations Bill, House Bill 1322. Orbitals are included to ensure sure the budget is balanced.

    The House Appropriations Committee approved HB 1338 Tuesday morning, prior to the House breaking into its separate caucuses for a JBC presentation on the budget, and to determine what amendments would be offered when the House debates the Long Bill Wednesday.

    What’s left of the severance tax money will fund a variety of projects contained in Senate Bill 18, the annual CWCB projects bill. But with less money to work with, the water plan came out with less money than it got last year.

    The $7 million for the water plan includes $3 million for storage work; $1 million for agriculture-water projects; another $1 million for grants that would put into action strategies for conservation, land use and drought planning; and $1.5 million for environmental and recreational projects. Who gets what will be decided by the board of directors for the CWCB.

    The CWCB projects bill also includes $8 million to take care of “Republican River matters.” Half of those dollars will go to Nebraska, due Dec. 31, to pay off a settlement for alleged violations of an interstate compact.