Jerry Sonnenberg awarded Colorado Livestock Association’s Legislator of the Year Award

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, the Republican who represents Senate District 1 of northeast Colorado, told the Colorado Livestock Association’s Northeast Livestock Symposium on Tuesday that he’ll work to keep the Environmental Agricultural Program alive because it gives agriculture a voice in state environmental concerns.

The program, administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, oversees air and water quality protection regulations specific to animal feeding operations. That includes permitting, conducting site inspections, developing and implementing policies and regulations, providing technical assistance and initiating enforcement actions in coordination with the CDPHE’s Air and Water Quality divisions.

“A lot of people thought, when this program started, that it was just another way for CDPHE to hammer on us, and that’s why it’s sunsetted,” Sonnenberg said. “But it’s turned out to be one of those programs that actually uses a lot of common sense, and it gives (livestock producers) a voice when it comes to making regulations and policies.”

The senator said that, with the program’s track record, there is talk of removing the sunset requirement of the program, or at least moving it to a seven-year interval, and that he would support that move.

The legislature also will likely get involved with the Gilcrest high water table problem, which is causing property damage in and around Gilcrest as well augmentation practices — necessary to maintain the health of the South Platte River aquifer — have raised the water table during the irrigation season. A pilot program allows irrigators to pump without augmenting locally, but putting water in the river from other sources.

Sonnenberg said it might be better to store the augmentation water in reservoirs further away from Gilcrest so release of the water into the river can be better timed to the need for water downstream…

Sonnenberg said that, while he remains absolutely committed to the ideals and values of the Republican party, there is a certain efficiency and effectiveness that comes from split ownership of the General Assembly. He said it tends to moderate the extremes on both sides of the aisle in both houses and forces members of the parties to work together. The senator said he didn’t see the balance changing much in the 2018 elections.

And, he said, as long as he is in the legislature, he will represent all of agriculture…

Because of that representation, Sonnenberg was later awarded the Colorado Livestock Association’s Legislator of the Year Award for his work on behalf of farming and ranching families and the industries that support them.

“Senator Jerry Sonnenberg is a real-life farmer and rancher who has a deep-rooted understanding of and passion for agriculture in Colorado. This is most evident in his actions as he represents not just his constituents in Senate District One, but all of Colorado agriculture in carrying out his duties in the Colorado Senate,” Bill Hammerich, CEO of Colorado Livestock Association, said in an announcement. “Because of his commitment to and support of agriculture in the legislative arena the Colorado Livestock Association is proud to recognize Senator Jerry Sonnenberg as the CLA 2017 Legislator of the Year.”

2018 #COleg: Interim Water Resources Review Committee votes to carry the “Mussels-Free Colorado Act”

Quaggas on sandal at Lake Mead

From ColoradoPolitics.com (Marianne Goodland):

The program, authorized in 2008, has faced cutbacks in recent years just as mussels and their larvae are increasingly being found on boats entering Colorado reservoirs.

According to Doug Krieger, aquatic section manager for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CPW), about a half million inspections are done every year at Colorado’s 80 reservoirs. The state was able to declare itself mussel-free in January, but that victory was short-lived, according to Krieger, when mussel larvae were detected in August at Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County. Seven other Colorado reservoirs that previously detected mussel larvae have since been declared mussel-free, including Pueblo Reservoir, which had the worst problem in the state with mussel larvae between 2008 and 2011.

Unfortunately, the inspection program at Green Mountain has been cut back about 35 percent, Krieger told the committee, due to funding cuts. That means a shorter inspection season and shorter hours for those inspections. And that can lead to boaters who avoid inspections, whether putting in boats on private land around the reservoir or at the public ramps when inspections aren’t available.

At the same time, the discovery of mussel larvae at the reservoir means boats entering and exiting the reservoir are now subject to what Krieger called “high-risk” inspections and decontamination.

Green Mountain isn’t the only reservoir that has seen mussel activity; Krieger said there were seven other reservoirs this year with mussel detection.

Boats at state reservoirs are inspected and decontaminated, if necessary, at no charge, Krieger told Colorado Politics. Mussel larvae can attach itself to anything that gets wet, whether it’s the boat, anchors and anchor ropes, fishing gear, boat trailers or outboard or inboard engines. In one case, in southwestern Colorado, a boat came in heavily contaminated with mussels and their larvae, and it took weeks to completely decontaminate the boat, according to Doug Vilsack, the legislative liaison for the Department of Natural Resources. But because there’s no basis in law to recoup those costs, the boat owner was charged nothing for that decontamination.

The bill the committee decided to sponsor Tuesday would do two things: require boaters to obtain a stamp for their boats, and allow the division to recoup the costs of decontaminating boats that come in with mussels or their larvae.

2018 #COleg: Two bills come out of Water Resources Review Committee

HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

…when Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District Manager Joe Frank reviewed them for his board of directors at the board’s October meeting, there was much shaking of heads and rolling of eyes.

The first draft document, identified only as Bill 9, would attempt to address rising water tables in a couple of places on the South Platte River, and in at least one area that would mean allowing un-augmented irrigation pumping to lower the artificially high water table.

The draft legislation was triggered by a series of reports by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources on high water tables in the town of Gilcrest, south of Greeley on U.S. 85, and the Sterling area subdivision of Pawnee Ridge…

the Colorado Legislature’s Water Resources Review Committee was not. In September the WRRC drafted a bill, tentatively labeled Bill 9, that requires owners of “artificial recharge facilities” (ie. augmentation ponds) in District 2 of Water Division 1 to install monitoring wells; if their groundwater comes up within 10 feet of the surface, they have to stop augmenting, notify the state engineer’s office, and continue pumping until the water table goes down.

Water Division 1 is simply the South Platte River watershed; District 2 is an area directly north of Denver that includes Gilcrest.

Here on the lower reaches of the river, in District 64, there are two reasons that bill could cause a whole lot of trouble.

First, and most obviously, there isn’t sufficient data yet to make such a sweeping requirement of every irrigator in District 2. Bob Mari, a member of the LSPWCD, said during the board’s meeting on Tuesday that it’s a typical one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t need to be applied so broadly.

“You’ve got just a few sections of land where there’s a high water problem, but (legislators) want a statewide law to address the problem in that one spot,” Mari said. There was almost unanimous head nodding around the table when Mari made his remarks.

The second problem, according to Frank, is that allowing un-augmented pumping is simply not legal and would almost certainly harm downstream water users.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are very sympathetic to the problem, and we know it has to be addressed,” Frank said. “But it has been proven in the past that any pumping that goes un-replaced does cause harm. Even legislation that allows (un-augmented pumping) goes against legally binding water decrees. Taking water out (of the river aquifer) and putting it on crops without replacing it and putting it on crops is taking water that would have ended up back in the stream. Since they’re upstream from us, that creates a domino effect that affects us.”

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who chairs the WRRC, said the committee wanted to address the situation legislatively because, frankly, the $11 million solution just doesn’t make sense. He pointed out that the draft bill, which still needs some work, applies only in the district where the most severe problem exists. He said the committee believed the augmentation forgiveness shows promise, but needs some improvement.

“The idea was to try to figure out how to deal with high groundwater rather than pumping the water into the river from a dewatering well,” he said. “I don’t think it makes sense to dewater when they’re augmenting. Let’s consolidate the augmentation, move it closer to the river so we can control it better.”

Thus, the second document Frank shared with his board at that meeting, a bill draft tentatively called “Bill 10,” which directs the CWCB to engage “a qualified engineering consultant” to answer those questions and others. The bill tentatively directs that a report on the scope and goals of the study be delivered to the CWCB by Aug. 31, 2018, that a five-year pilot project be designed and begun by April 2019, and that the pilot project end by June 30, 2024.

Frank is hopeful that the study will identify ways other than un-augmented pumping, and he ticked off a list of ideas including improving surface drainage, cleaning out barrow ditches, finding new supplies for augmentation sources, tile drains in the area that move the water to the river, and moisture monitoring to avoid over-irrigating.

“Unfortunately, everyone points to that one solution, which is pumping un-augmented,” he said. “For us, that’s just not a solution.”

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

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

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

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

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

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

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

Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, was named…to the legislative Water Resources Review Committee

Colorado Capitol building

From The Montrose Press:

Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, was named…to the legislative Water Resources Review Committee, which convenes when the legislature is not in session to study and recommend policies to promote the conservation and responsible use of Colorado’s water resources.

The WRRC and the Colorado Water Conservation Board play major roles in the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan, the state’s first comprehensive management plan for its most precious natural resource.

Rep. Esgar’s appointment was announced by Speaker Crisanta Duran. Esgar takes the place of Majority Leader KC Becker, who resigned to devote more of her time to her House leadership role.