2018 #COleg recap

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

The Mussel-free Colorado Act came from the interim water resources review committee and was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper on April 23.

Since they were first found in a lake outside of Detroit in 1988, zebra and quagga mussels have become a huge problem for waterways in the eastern half of the United States, particularly the Great Lakes.

Sightings have been rare in Colorado but they have happened: at Lake Pueblo in 2008, at Green Mountain Reservoir in 2016 and in March outside of Grand Junction. In 2017, according to the state Division of Parks and Wildlife, 25 boats were found contaminated with mussels, up from 22 boats in 2016. Those boats had all come from other states, with Lake Powell in Arizona and Lake Havasu in California as the places where the mussels most likely came from…

Fears that the nuisance could to do to Colorado’s water system what it’s done to systems back east prompted lawmakers to ramp up the state’s aquatic nuisance detection program, which has been underfunded for years.

Under House Bill 1008 — the mussel-free law — beginning January 1, Colorado residents will pay $25 for an aquatic nuisance stamp for their boats in addition to the boat registration free. Non-residents will pay $50 to use their motorboats or sailboats in state waterways.

The fee is expected to raise $2.2 million that will help Colorado Parks and Wildlife keep boat inspection sites open for longer hours and for a longer season. Doug Kreiger of CPW told the interim water committee last year that budget cutbacks have meant boaters could avoid inspections, such as putting their boats in reservoirs on private land or at the public ramps when inspectors aren’t available.

The law also will allow the division to recoup the cost of decontaminating boats that show up with mussels attached to boat or boat motors, anchors, anchor ropes, fishing gear, and boat trailers.

The water committee also carried two of the recycled water bills: to allow recycled water to be used for industrial hemp and for irrigating marijuana crops.

Recycling water — the process for treating water and then reusing it — isn’t new in Colorado; it’s been a part of irrigation for agriculture for years. But it’s gaining new attention, thanks in part to the state water plan. It noted that 25 utilities, mostly on the Eastern Slope, are already treating and recycling non-potable water and would look for additional ways for using recycled water as a way of addressing Colorado’s looming water shortage, with a goal of finding 170,000 acre-feet through recycling.

The water plan cites as an example the Colorado Springs utility, which uses recycled water for irrigation at golf courses, parks and other properties, as well as for cooling towers at local power plants. The utility reported in 2016 that reuse saves one billion gallons of drinking water every year.

Senate Bill 38, signed into law on April 28, would add industrial hemp on the list of approved crops irrigated with recycled domestic wastewater and in accordance with existing water rights. Industrial hemp is a crop that under the bill could not be used for food production.

Sen. Don Coram of Montrose, the bill sponsor, explained that hemp is a high-protein crop, higher than alfalfa, and that it poses no risk to cattle, for example. The bill was supported by the Colorado Water Rights Association, the Colorado Water Congress and the hemp industry.

The bill was amended to address concerns about water quality.

The bill allowing recycled water for irrigation of marijuana — House Bill 1053 — wasn’t as lucky and died in the Senate Finance Committee, at the request of its sponsor. The marijuana industry opposed the bill, based on concerns that the law would require cultivators to use recycled water that could contain pesticides that cannot by law used on cannabis plants.

Would you use recycled water to flush toilets? Colorado law changed a couple of years ago to allow developers to build greywater systems in new homes, but left out existing homes and businesses.

House Bill 1069, signed on April 30, would let businesses and multifamily residences, such as apartments, condos and townhomes, to flush toilets with recycled domestic wastewater. The state’s plumbing code is changed under the law, and toilet plumbing would have to be retrofitted to accommodate the rerouting of recycled water.

The General Assembly also changed state law on water quality to allow recycled water to be used to irrigate food crops, but only if that water meets the water quality standards for commercial crops under the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act. That bill was signed into law on April 28.

The law does not apply to big agriculture, according to the sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jeni Arndt of Fort Collins. She said the intention is to use recycled water to replace drinking water that is used to irrigate indoor grows;l community gardens; community-supported agriculture, usually farms of one acre or less; and other forms of urban agriculture.

Finally, the General Assembly put another $7 million toward implementing the state water plan. Under Senate Bill 218, $3 million would go toward developing additional storage, recharging aquifers and dredging existing reservoirs to add capacity; $1 million for agricultural projects; $1 million for grants that would implement long-term strategies for conservation, land use and drought planning; $500,000 for grants on water education and $1.5 million for environmental and recreation projects. That bill was signed into law on May 30.

On June 19, the interim water resources review committee is scheduled to meet in Denver to review a study commissioned in 2016 to look for new or enhanced water storage opportunities along the South Platte River, primarily in northeastern Colorado.

Please vote for the environment in the #Colorado primary election, June 26, 2018

Brad Udall likes to tell folks that, “Climate change is water change,” and he is right.

Please consider voting for the environment. You owe it to those that have a good chance of being alive in 2050. With the CO2 in the environment already the atmosphere will continue to warm for generations. Science has known about the greenhouse gas effect over a 100 years.

Here’s a look at water sustainability from Rebecca Lorenzen writing for NewSecurityBeat:

Food and Floods: Challenges

“Agriculture currently uses about 70 percent of the world’s freshwater resources, with only about 10 percent going to cities and residents, and 20 percent going to industry,” said Kate Tully, Assistant Professor of Agroecology at the University of Maryland. Water is “embedded in the foods that we eat,” she said; the most “water hungry” foods—like beef and pork—represent much more water use than poultry and legumes.

Through agricultural products, virtual water moves around the world. “The globalization of trade has decoupled the environmental effects that are a result of our agricultural production from the places that are consuming those products,” said Tully. “We now are relying very heavily on a few water-rich regions to provide most of our food.”

But environmental changes, including climate change, may threaten this reliance. For example, at the current rate of sea-level rise, a good portion of habitable and agricultural land space in Bangladesh will be underwater. In Africa and Asia, eight major crops may be lost by 2050, warned Tully.

Droughts and floods in the United States also threaten trade. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages navigable rivers, channels, and dams, can recover from floods relatively quickly, said Kathleen White, the lead of the Corps’ Climate Preparedness and Resilience Community of Practice. But droughts can present significant challenges: If “you can’t get any barges down the river, then there’s a real problem.” Improving the United States’ hydroclimatic forecasts will help improve dam management, she said.

2018 #COleg: Conservation easements on Sonnenberg’s radar during the session

Pond on the Garcia Ranch via Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

From The Fort Morgan Times:

The perpetual concerns over the way the state has handled conservation easements also was on Sonnenberg’s radar. There were five bills this year on that issue, including a sunset review of the conservation easement oversight board. The bill, which is awaiting a signature from the governor, made changes to the board, including requiring a conflict of interest policy that would disqualify from serving any member who has a financial interest tied to conservation easements. Sonnenberg initially won support for an amendment that would address one of the program’s most controversial problems: landowners who received conservation easements tax credits from the state and the IRS, only to have those state tax credits yanked away. Hundreds of Coloradans have complained that the appraisal process has been rife with problems.

Sonnenberg’s amendment would have allowed the landowner to take back clear title to the land placed under easement, with the understanding that they would have to pay back the federal tax credits. That amendment didn’t succeed but the bill does include a requirement that the board come up with a process for making that happen.

The oversight board was extended for a year, and Sonnenberg said that meant “we kicked the can down the road a year.” But he was pleased that lawmakers got a commitment from the Attorney General’s office that they would figure out a way to “extinguish” conservation easements that have been devalued. Sonnenberg said he will carry that bill next year.

2018 #COleg: Eagle County folks welcome extension of #Colorado Lottery

Floating the tiger, Yampa River, 2014. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed SB18-066 into law, extending the operation of the Lottery Division to July 1, 2049, 25 years past July 1, 2024, the date it was previously scheduled to terminate.

“It’s great news and we’re pleased this avenue of funding has been extended to help ensure that everything we love about Colorado — its wildlife, natural resources, rivers and trails — will continue to benefit from the lottery proceeds for another 25 years,” said town of Vail Communications Director Suzanne Silverthorn.

The Colorado Lottery is marking its 35th anniversary this year. After Colorado voters approved a state lottery in 1980, the General Assembly created a Lottery Division to administer the program as an enterprise fund, which means it receives no tax dollars. Since 1983, the Colorado Lottery has returned more than $3 billion in proceeds to the state to invest in outdoor recreation and land, water and wildlife conservation. Since 1992, this work been funded through three organizations: the Conservation Trust Fund, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Great Outdoors Colorado…

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Sen. Leroy Garcia in the Colorado Senate and Rep. Jeni James Arndt and Rep. Cole Wist in the Colorado House of Representatives sponsored SB18-066. The bill netted a vote of 30 in favor and five opposed in the Senate and 48 in favor and 16 opposed (with one representative excused) in the House…

In 25 years, Great Outdoors Colorado, which annually receives up to half of lottery proceeds against a cap, has funded more than 5,000 projects in all 64 Colorado counties through its partners: local governments, nonprofit land trusts and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Projects include school yards, playgrounds and enriching outdoor education spaces for our state’s urban and rural youth; hundreds of miles of trails; and more than 1,600 parks and outdoor recreation areas. Great Outdoors Colorado funding has also supported the state park system, conserved critical wildlife habitat and protected farms and ranch land.

Conservation Trust Fund, a program of Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs, receives 40 percent of lottery proceeds to fund conservation and recreation work across the state, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife receives 10 percent for state parks. In years when lottery profits exceed the Great Outdoors Colorado cap, which they typically do, spillover dollars go to the Colorado Department of Education’s Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, called BEST.

2018 #COleg: Governor Hickenlooper signs the “Mussel-Free Colorado Act”

Pueblo Reservoir

From KRDO.com (Alexis Dominguez):

Governor Hickenlooper was in Pueblo introducing the Mussel-Free Colorado Act.

It provides funding for inspections of boats to help keep invasive species of mussels out of Colorado water.
The mussels often create problems as they attach to rocks, docks and boats — clogging pipes.

Under the law, Colorado residents will be required to buy a $25 Aquatic Nuisance Species sticker for their boat, while non-residents will pay $50.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director, Bob Broscheid explains how this fee will help.

“It’s paying into program that will allow us to continue to monitor, prevent any infested vessels from coming into the state of Colorado,” Broscheid said. “It’s basically the inspection system that we funded at all of our state parks that tries to intercept any contaminated boats.”

Invasive mussels have not been a big problem in Colorado and lawmakers hope this act will keep it from becoming one.

The fee will help pay for the cost of decontamination.

2018 #COleg recap

View from the Pitkin County end of Homestake Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Ken Salazar and Tom Gougeon):

Colorado’s iconic mountain ranges, farms and ranchlands, parks, rivers and open spaces are an undeniable part of our shared identity as Coloradans. We live in a state where three in four residents consider themselves conservationists, and 87% understand that Colorado’s open lands and outdoor lifestyle give the state an economic advantage.

That’s why we hope every Coloradan will take a moment to recognize two huge legislative wins achieved this month for conservation in our state – and what together these wins mean for future generations and their quality of life.

The most lauded success happened on May 1, when Governor Hickenlooper signed into law a measure ensuring that Colorado lottery proceeds will continue to be a steady source of revenue for conservation and outdoor recreation through at least 2049. This measure extends and affirms the will of Colorado voters, who in 1992 passed a constitutional amendment that created Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), an independent body that annually receives up to half of all lottery proceeds.

Over the past 25 years, GOCO has been the single most important tool for advancing conservation in Colorado. It has funded more than 5,000 projects – including dozens of school playgrounds, over 900 miles of trails, and more than 1,600 parks and outdoor recreation areas – benefitting all 64 Colorado counties, and permanently protecting more than 1 million acres of open space.

For ensuring GOCO endures another 25 years, Coloradans can thank the efforts of a broad, bipartisan coalition of local governments, nonprofit partners, agricultural and business leaders, and thousands of individuals and other advocates who signed on to Keep It Colorado – a campaign to ensure lottery proceeds continue flowing to conservation for future generations.

The second accomplishment was quieter, but also will have significant impact into the future. Last week, in the waning hours of the 2018 session, legislators passed a bill that paves the way for a new, forward-looking approach to conservation in Colorado.

The bill, now awaiting Governor Hickenlooper’s signature, extends a tool that is a strong complement to GOCO funds in the conservation toolbox: a program that rewards private landowners with state tax credits in exchange for voluntarily restricting development on their land – in perpetuity. Since 2000, conservation tax credits have been used to conserve more than 2.2 million acres of private land – majestic vistas, working farms and ranches, forest and river ecosystems – 80 percent of which is now under the stewardship of nonprofit land trusts across Colorado.

For years, a statewide coalition of these land trusts and landowners have been advocating for a number of refinements to the program. The measure will create a new Division of Conservation with a mandate to lead an inclusive workgroup of stakeholders to advance the program in a transparent, effective, inclusive manner.

The opportunity presented by the creation of this new division and visioning process is hard to overestimate. The legislation moves oversight of this critical conservation program from the state’s Real Estate Division to a new body that is, by design, aimed at assessing conservation values more holistically and ensuring the effectiveness and success of the program. This step aligns with the current work of the field that is looking at conservation’s return on investment – not just in real estate value, but more broadly to include the value of ecosystem services (such as carbon sequestration, climate regulation, or water storage and purification), as well as conservation’s economic value to state and local communities. It also comes at a time when land conservation leaders statewide are embarking on the yearlong Conservation Futures Project — supported by the Gates Family Foundation, GOCO, and other funders – to re-envision the role and value of land trust organizations to the communities they serve.

Thanks to these two legislative victories, the state’s conservation partners are positioned for even greater success over the next 25 years. With secure access to the resources, tools, and vision necessary to protect Colorado’s working lands and natural inheritance, both today’s Coloradans and future generations will benefit.

Ken Salazar is former U.S. secretary of the Interior (2009-2013) and U.S. senator from Colorado (2005-2009); he authored the Great Outdoors Colorado amendment while serving as head of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources.

Tom Gougeon is president of the Denver-based Gates Family Foundation, which for the past two decades has been Colorado’s largest private match source for GOCO-funded land conservation, statewide.

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.