Governor Polis signs bills to reduce #groundwater use, fund water #conservation projects — #Colorado Newsline

Irrigation equipment on a farm in Montrose County, Colorado on May 29, 2021 with Lone Cone in the background. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed two bills into law that are aimed at conserving a precious and dwindling resource in the state: water. For the bill signings, the governor traveled to the San Luis Valley, an important agricultural region where farmers face mounting challenges from extreme drought driven by climate change.

Republican Sens. Cleave Simpson of Alamosa and Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, plus Reps. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, and Marc Catlin, a Montrose Republican, sponsored the first bill, Senate Bill 22-28. It puts $60 million of federal COVID-19 relief money into a new “groundwater compact compliance and sustainability” fund to help finance projects that reduce groundwater use in the Rio Grande and Republican river basins.


Such projects might include efforts to “buy and retire” wells used for irrigation as well as portions of irrigated farmland, with the goal of restoring water to underground aquifers and helping the communities meet deadlines to reduce their water use. The Colorado Water Conservation Board can allocate money from the groundwater fund based on recommendations from the boards of directors for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and the Republican River Water Conservation District.

“The timing of the availability of federal dollars and the growing sense of urgency in both basins created a unique opportunity that will serve both of these communities well,” Simpson told the Alamosa Citizen in April.

The other bill Polis signed, House Bill 22-1316, provides millions of dollars for construction projects approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The bill’s legislative sponsors included Reps. Karen McCormick, D-Longmont, and Catlin, along with Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Simpson. Among the local and regional projects funded are:

  • $3.8 million for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. By increasing water flows through the central Platte River habitat area — which stretches across northern Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska — the project is aimed at improving conditions for the interior least tern, pallid sturgeon, piping plover and whooping crane.
  • $2 million to support the state’s efforts to comply with the Republican River compact, which was first negotiated between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska in the early 1940s. The compact governs the three states’ use of the water resources in the Republican River basin, which begins on the plains of eastern Colorado and flows through northwest Kansas and eastern Nebraska.
  • $500,000 for the Arkansas River Decision Support System. The Arkansas River DSS project involves collecting data on characteristics like climate and groundwater in the Arkansas River basin, which covers the southeast quadrant of the state, and analyzing the data to help inform future decisions about water use.

Polis, a Democrat, signed both bills into law at the Rio Grande Water Conservation District offices in Alamosa. According to a statement from Polis’ office, the governor then joined state and national officials in the nearby town of Center to champion a major development for the San Luis Valley’s potato industry.

The U.S. recently began exporting potatoes — including those grown in the Valley — to new regions in Mexico under an agreement reached late last year between the two countries. Previously, potato exports were limited to a 16-mile border zone.

“This agreement, paired with the critical work the Valley is doing to protect and conserve our water, will make a major positive difference for our farmers, meaning more money in the pockets of hardworking Coloradans,” Polis said in a statement. “Colorado is strategically positioned to lead the nation in potato exports to Mexico.”

Colorado sent its first shipment of potatoes to Mexico under the new agreement last week, according to the statement.


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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 (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.

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

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

    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

    #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:

    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.

    2018 #COleg: Legislation aims to prevent new mining operations from polluting #Colorado waterways

    Acid mine drainage. Photo credit: University of Colorado

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday took a step toward preventing future mining disasters while acknowledging that contamination of waterways from old mining sites continues each day.

    They rolled out legislation, immediately opposed by industry, that would require mining companies to make reclamation plans that include an end date for water treatment to remove pollution. Proponents say this would force a responsible assessment, before mining begins, of how best to minimize harm.

    The bill also would force companies to post better financial assurance to cover costs of cleanup…

    “This bill is an important, yet moderate, step forward in addressing Colorado’s mining woes. If it were to pass, there would certainly still be more work to do,” Conservation Colorado water advocate Kristin Green said. “Even moderate policy such as this by no means has a clear path to the governor’s desk. ….. This bill will not solve our existing problems, but it works to ensure the problem is not getting worse.”


    A state requirement that companies submit reclamation plans specifying an end date for when water-cleaning no longer would be necessary is aimed at preventing perpetual treatment as a remedy. The bill also would require companies posting financial assurance bond money to include costs of protecting water, to reduce taxpayer vulnerability. And the bill would eliminate “self-bonding.” Colorado remains one of seven states where companies can self bond, or cover themselves, without posting recoverable assets.

    2018 #COleg: HB18-1008 Mussel-free Colorado Act status update

    From KKCO:

    A bill in the state capitol is aiming to cut down the chances there are for our bodies of water to be infested with an invasive species.

    This bill is called the mussel-free Colorado act. It would fund Colorado parks and wildlife aquatic nuisance species program more consistently.

    If passed into a law, a person living in the state would have to pay 25 dollars for a stamp. The stamp proves the boat has been inspected and it’s clean. A non-resident would have to pay 50 dollars.

    That money would go to the department’s inspection program.

    “We all have a stake in this to keep these species out of Colorado; whether that’s through a stamp or cleaning and draining and drying your boat or going through an inspection process,” said Mike Porras, a spokesperson with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The bill would also increase fines if you do infest any water. It’s currently 150 dollars but that would change to 500 dollars.

    The bill will be heard next in the senate appropriations committee.

    2018 #COleg: SB18-143 (Parks And Wildlife Measures To Increase Revenue) introduced

    From (Tyler Dumas):

    A bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers has introduced a new bill with the hopes of ensuring access to Colorado’s natural resources for future generations, by finding a long-term funding solution for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

    Senate Bill 18-143, or the Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act was introduced on Monday, Jan. 29.

    The bill is sponsored by two Republicans – Sen. Don Coram of Montrose and Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida – as well as two Democrats – Sen. Stephen Fenberg of Boulder and Rep. Jeni Arndt of Fort Collins.

    CPW said the bill was introduced after roughly three years of public meetings with legislators and outdoor enthusiasts, regarding the agency’s financial challenges and the future of Colorado’s outdoor recreation, state parks, and wildlife.

    CPW receives less than one percent of it’s annual budget from general fund tax revenue. They rely primarily on sales of hunting and fishing licenses, park passes, and camping fees. With the proposed bill, the agency is seeking approval to adjust fees to cover the rising costs associated with managing wildlife, protecting habitat, and maintaining and improving state parks to meet the needs of a growing population.

    With new funding the bill would bring, CPW said they are committed to pursuing the following goals and objectives by 2025:

  • Grow the number of hunters and anglers in Colorado through investments in programs such as hunter education, Fishing is Fun, and the Cameo Shooting and Education Complex, and grants for shooting ranges in all regions of the state.
  • Expand access for hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists by renewing existing high-priority leases and supporting additional public access programs on public and private lands.
  • Increase and improve big game populations through investments in habitat and conservation, including building more highway wildlife crossings to protect wildlife and motorists.
  • Improve species distribution and abundance monitoring and disease prevention efforts through partnerships with private landowners.
  • Increase the number of fish stocked in Colorado waters to above 90 million through hatchery modernization and renovations.
  • Identify and begin planning the development of Colorado’s next state park.
  • Reduce risks to life and property and sustain water-based recreation opportunities by reducing CPW’s dam maintenance and repair backlog by 50 percent.
  • Engage all outdoor recreationists, such as hikers, bikers, and wildlife watchers, in the maintenance of state lands and facilities and the management of wildlife.
  • Recruit and retain qualified employees to manage wildlife, park, recreational and aquatic resources.
    Provide quality infrastructure at CPW properties by completing much needed construction and maintenance.
  • In order to achieve these objectives, the bill would adjust fees for hunting and fishing licenses, as well as park passes. Hunting and fishing licenses would increase by $8. For example, an annual fishing license would increase from $26 to $33, and an elk tag would increase from $45 to $53. The bill would however reduce the price of an annual fishing license for those 16 and 17-years-old to $8. It would also allow the Parks and Wildlife Commission to implement other license discounts, in order to introduce a new generation of hunters and anglers to the outdoors.

    In addition to licenses, the proposed bill would CPW to raise state park entrance fees. Any increase though would be capped at $1/year for a daily pass, and $10/year for an annual pass.

    For more information on the Future Generations Act, you can visit the CPW website at the following link: Future Generations Act

    Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention @COWaterCongress #cwcac2018

    Coyote Albuquerque February 2015 photo by Roberto E. Rosales via the Albuquerque Journal.

    I’ll be live-tweeting from the Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention today. Follow along on Twitter @CoyoteGulch or better yet, follow the conference hash tag #CWCAC2018.

    2018 #COleg: HB 18-1008 (The Mussel-free #Colorado Act) sails out of committee

    One valve of Dreissena bugensis. Photo credit: Wikimedia

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    Colorado has done well keeping aquatic nuisance species out of its lakes and rivers, but that won’t continue to be the case if it doesn’t properly fund a program combating them, sponsors of a bill to raise fees to pay for that program said Monday.

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing establishing a $25 annual fee for a special boat stamp — $50 for out-of-state boaters — that would come on top of the annual boat registration fee the state already assesses on the more than 90,000 boats that use Colorado waters.

    The fee is expected to raise about $2.3 million a year, which is about half of what the program costs, said Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, who’s sponsoring the bill along with Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Don Coram, R-Montrose.

    “It’s better to have a sustainable source of income coming from the people who use the waterways to fund this,” Arndt told the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee, which approved the measure 10-3…

    While some state lawmakers said the bill didn’t properly address the program’s entire funding needs, others said the fee should be higher.

    “I’m not a wild fan of fee increases or a large fan of government intervention; however, I can tell you that this fee amount is a compromise,” said Kellen Friedlander, who testified on behalf of the Colorado Marine Dealers Association. “Colorado registrations are still one of the lowest, so we’re not asking for something that’s … totally out of whack with other states. We’re still relatively inexpensive to register boats.”

    Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, said it would be worse for Colorado’s rural economy if the state were forced to close lakes because of such nuisance species as the zebra mussel.

    “If we are not successful at this … everybody is going to pay to get those little buggers off the pipes,” Catlin said. “I really think the state of Colorado has a serious problem, and if we don’t get with it we’re going to have one we can never solve.”

    The bill also would increase penalties for boaters who fail to get inspected before launching, raising that fine from $150 for a first offense to $500.

    2018 #COleg: HB 18-1008 (The Mussel-free #Colorado Act) introduced

    Quaggas on sandal at Lake Mead

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    The Colorado legislature will consider a bill that would provide stable funding for Colorado Parks and Wildlife efforts to keep zebra and quagga mussels out of state waters.

    The Mussel-Free Colorado Act (HB 18-1008) was introduced Jan. 10 in the legislature.

    If passed, this bill will provide a funding source of $2.4 million for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Program in 2019 and beyond by requiring motorboats and sailboats to purchase an ANS stamp.

    Colorado residents will be charged $25 and non-residents will be charged $50.

    The bill also would continue Tier 2 Severance Tax appropriations, when available, to cover the remainder of the $4.5-$5 million annual cost of ANS program implementation, increase fines for violations and allow CPW to charge for labor and costs incurred to store and decontaminate intercepted vessels.

    “Zebra and quagga mussels pose a serious threat to our state’s water infrastructure, natural resources and recreation,” said Bob Broscheid, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said in a press release. “As a headwater state with no adult mussel infestations, the only way zebra or quagga mussels can get into Colorado is overland by hitchhiking on watercraft.”

    The numbers of motorboats and sailboats found by inspectors each year infested with zebra and quagga mussels continues to rise, according to the release.

    In 2017, Colorado inspectors intercepted a record 26 boats infested with adult mussels coming in from out of state. They have intercepted 144 boats infested with adult mussels since the ANS Program began.

    Zebra and quagga mussels are not native to the nation’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Adult infestations harm aquatic ecosystems and fisheries by disrupting the food web and out-competing native species, according to CPW, as well as problems for water infrastructure used for municipal, agriculture and industrial purposes by attaching to, clogging and impairing water storage, treatment and distribution systems.

    “While the problem is getting worse in neighboring states, Colorado’s prevention program is working to keep mussels out of our waters,” Reid DeWalt, assistant director of wildlife and natural resources for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said.

    @GovofCO presents his final state of the state address

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Here’s the complete text of the speech from The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    We created the country’s first and best methane regulations; a water plan that secures food production; protected the sage grouse from being listed as an endangered species; and developed an electric vehicle infrastructure spanning 7,000 miles.

    We cut or modified almost half of our rules and regulations. And in doing so, saved businesses nearly eight million dollars and over two million hours last year alone.

    Two million hours!

    And we measured our progress on everything that matters.

    We trained thousands of employees who completed 600 LEAN process improvements…created more value for Coloradans and won several awards…

    So we will not let up. We won’t stop to enjoy the view. We have a lot to accomplish in the next 119 days:

    ● We need to find the right solution to PERA’s unfunded liability.
    ● We need to pass legislation to safely cap orphan wells.
    ● We need to halt the opioid epidemic that continues to destroy lives and families, and disproportionately affects our rural communities.
    ● We need to enact a K-12 and Infrastructure Funding Plan that will help make the Water Plan a reality.
    ● We need legislation and funds to ensure full broadband buildout in rural areas.
    ● And we need to protect our rural communities by addressing the intense, negative impact the Gallagher amendment has had, and will have, in the future.

    It’s a commonsense agenda…

    We need your support to get to the finish line. One of the most essential pieces of infrastructure in our economy is our natural landscape, our clean air and water — the things everyone thinks about when they hear the word “Colorado.”

    It’s one reason why companies of all sorts have been drawn to this place we love. And the reason why the outdoor recreation show is coming to Denver in a couple weeks along with its $110 million in economic impact.

    It’s why many of our farmers and ranchers, who live on the land, came here, and stay here.

    But the responsibility to be good stewards doesn’t only fall on rural parts of the state. It rests with all of us.

    Xcel has submitted a plan to close two coals plants in Pueblo. This will clean our air and lower costs for consumers – and lead to greater investments that support 21st-century careers.

    What is it the critics don’t like? Is it the cleaner air or the lower utility bills?

    Clean air matters.

    Xcel is also working with Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel — one of the cleanest steel plants in the world — to move toward renewable energy while protecting Pueblo’s future as a center for steel manufacturing. We need everyone’s support to make this a reality.

    Pueblo is known as steel city, but soon it could also be “solar and wind city.”

    Most of us agree that science shows climate change is happening at a significant rate in large part because of humans. But even those of us who disagree on climate change can agree that we need to protect the Colorado environment our grandchildren will grow to love with a strong economy where they can find jobs.

    This includes protecting our water for agriculture. If we don’t implement our water plan, rural agricultural communities will be hit first and hardest. We live in a state of open markets. They can never afford to match what Front Range homeowners pay for domestic water.

    Having a sustainable source of food — no matter what happens around the world — is an essential foundation for the future of our state.

    We’re one of the great food exporting states and that’s a resource we should continue to invest in…rather than put at risk.

    The Colorado Water Plan provides a framework but doesn’t include all the funding for the last $1 billion over the next 30 years. We need the support of the General Assembly.

    But the cost of water has been a small part of rising new housing prices along much of the Front Range and elsewhere. It strains one’s ability to love where they live when they can’t afford the price of a home or even rent near the jobs and communities they care about.

    @COWaterCongress Annual Convention, January 24 – 26, 2018 #cwcac2018

    Travis Smith and past Aspinall Award Recipients at the 2017 Aspinall Award Luncheon. L to R: David Robbins; Harold Miskel, Eric wilkinson; Ray Kogovsek; Gale Norton; Lewis Entz; Don Ament, Travis Smith; Hank Brown. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

    Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

    The Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention takes place annually, in January, for three days in Denver, Colorado. The 2018 convention will take place at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, January 24-26.

    The Colorado Water Congress 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 of the day.

    2018 #COleg: LSPWCD supports Reservoir Release Bill

    North Sterling Reservoir

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

    The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s Executive Committee voted Tuesday to support the Reservoir Release Bill that should be taken up by the General Assembly later this month.

    The committee reviewed a draft of the bill at its Tuesday meeting and made clear that it supports the draft as it now exists.

    The bill covers only the Northern Integrated Supply Project now, but might affect any future water project and possibly projects that include expansion of existing reservoirs. It requires Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to maintain a prescribed stream flow in the Cache la Poudre River as it passes through Fort Collins, or about 12 miles of river channel. That water flow would be regulated by releases of water from Glade Reservoir.

    The proposed legislation converts into law a plan Northern Water presented last year, and that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission signed off on last September, that mitigates NISP’s impact on recreational use of the river through Fort Collins

    The key to getting groups like Lower South Platte to support it is a section called “Costs of Bypass Structures.” In order for river flow to be maintained from the water release point at Glade Reservoir to the end of the project, it will have to flow past several irrigation diversion structures. Because a constant stream flow must be maintained, some or all of those structures will have to be modified because they now completely block the river and dry up the river at several places. Ordinarily, that’s allowable as long as sufficient water is returned to the river somewhere downstream.

    But under the terms of the Reservoir Release Bill, the prescribed stream flow has to stay in the river, which means diversion structures will have to be rebuilt or modified to allow water to go around them.

    The Costs of Bypass Structures clause puts the cost burden of those modifications on the reservoir owner, who is the party responsible for maintaining prescribed stream flow; in this case, that’s Northern Water.

    Lower South Platte’s manager, Joe Frank, told the executive committee Tuesday he thought the district should publicly support the draft legislation, partly to avoid any misunderstanding.

    “Last year we took a neutral stance on (a previous version) and someone took that to mean we didn’t care about it,” Frank said. “We do care, we care deeply, and we support it. What we meant was that we didn’t oppose the plan, but someone took it to mean we didn’t support it, either.”

    During discussion of the legislation Bruce Phillips, the state’s water commissioner for District 64 which includes the lower South Platte, said he thought stream maintenance provisions would be required in all storage projects…

    Ken Fritzler, the district’s board chairman, asked whether other committee members thought the draft legislation is something the board could publicly support. Gene Manuello answered that he thought it was.

    “I think we should support the draft as it is now,” he said. “We have supported NISP all along, and I think a majority of WRASP supports it.”

    WRASP stands for Water Rights Appropriators of the South Platte; it is a consortium that represents more than 240,000 irrigated acres from Barr Lake to Julesburg, and more than 1,150 high capacity irrigation wells that draw from the South Platte alluvial aquifer.

    2018 #COleg: Water Resources Review Committee wants to charge $25 per boat to fight quaggas

    Colorado Capitol building

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    ■ Farmers and ranchers could see some incentives to hire interns to work in the agricultural industry. The idea, from the Young and Beginning Farmers Interim Study Committee, would reimburse qualifying farms and ranches up to 50 percent of the cost of hiring such interns. Donovan and Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, are to introduce that bill.

    ■ A few measures designed to limit oil and gas development, and the use of hydraulic fracturing, are expected to return again this session. Those include measures to give local governments more say about where drilling can occur and increasing the state’s standard for how much power must be generated from renewable energy.

    ■ To help crack down on people who fail to extinguish their campfires adequately, Coram and Hamner, members of the Legislature’s Wildfire Matters Review Committee, are to introduce a measure to increase the penalty for leaving a campfire unattended, moving it from a petty offense to a class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $750 fine and six months in jail.

    ■ The Legislature’s Water Resources Review Committee, meanwhile, is proposing creating a $25 special stamp that all boaters would have to purchase for a new Aquatic Nuisance Species Program. That program is designed to raise funds to battle foreign species like the zebra mussel.

    2018 #COleg: Mussel Free Colorado Act, sponsored by the water resources review committee, to be introduced in January

    Quaggas on sandal at Lake Mead

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    The Mussel Free Colorado Act, sponsored by the water resources review committee, is expected to be introduced to legislators in early 2018 and, if passed, would provide funding starting in 2019 by requiring boaters to buy an aquatic nuisance species stamp. These fees, $25 for Colorado residents and $50 for out-of-state boaters, would generate about $2.4 million per year and could increase with inflation, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The legislation also would increase the penalties for boaters who launch on lakes and reservoirs without an inspection from $50 to $100 and continues existing severance tax appropriations for the program.

    The state’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Act, approved in 2008, required boat inspections starting in 2009 at many lakes and reservoirs across the state — a program that has resulted in more than 3.5 million boat inspections, that wildlife officials say truly has protected waters and that is a model to other states.

    In fact, those inspections kept 25 mussel-infested boats off Colorado waters in 2017, keeping at bay a threat that state officials believe will likely increase as infestations spread nationwide through boats that move from water to water.

    @AmericanRivers: The big picture of @ColoradoWaterPlan – two years in

    Click here to listen to the podcast. From the American Rivers website:

    Last week, the state celebrated the second anniversary of Colorado’s Water Plan. Over the last two years, the state has made solid progress funding grants to advance water projects and increase funding for stream management plans. However, the challenges identified in the plan are significant. A swelling population is stretching our water resources, and climate change is having an impact, by reducing flows on the Colorado River. We need to pick up the pace toward implementing all of the Plan’s water solutions if we are to reach our goal of securing clean reliable water for our communities, preserving our agricultural heritage, and protecting our rivers. Over the next few months, We Are Rivers will highlight the Colorado Water Plan through a series of episodes breaking down the opportunities, challenges, and successes to date from Colorado’s Water Plan. Join us for the first installment, as we look back at the last two years of the water plan and identify a sustainable path forward.

    Growing up in New York, I envied the posters pinned up in my middle school hallways that honored Colorado landscapes like the Maroon Bells, Dinosaur National Monument, the Great Sand Dunes, and of course the Colorado River as it weaves through canyons and deserts. But moving to Colorado six years ago, tacking on to Colorado’s growing population, I haven’t exactly made life easier for the state’s water managers. Without the native badge, I empathize with the influx of people flooding into Colorado who have recreational fervor, career hopes, and of course adventure in mind, straining the West’s already overtapped water supply.

    Colorado’s population is projected to double by 2050, with most of the growth occurring on the Front Range, where about 80% of the people live. With about 80% of the state’s water coming from west slope snowpack, the imbalance is striking. Additionally, like many other states across the Southwest, Colorado is experiencing higher temperatures, reduced precipitation, and earlier and faster runoff. With growing population and climate change impacts, how can Colorado work to close our gap in supply and demand? Through increased collaboration, dialogue, and efficiencies, the Colorado Water Plan sets out to address this grand dilemma.

    The Colorado Water Plan sets a goal of conserving 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water by 2050. By 2025, if the Water Plan objectives are met, 75% of Coloradans will live in communities that have water-saving actions incorporated into land-use planning. Furthermore, by 2030, the plan sets out to A) re-use and share at least 50,000 acre-feet of water amongst agricultural producers, B) cover 80% of locally prioritized rivers with Stream Management Plans, and C) ensure 80% of critical watersheds with Watershed Protection Plans. In order for a project to utilize the Water Plan’s budget to meet these goals, the proposed conservation project must be appropriate in that it addresses real needs and is cost-effective, sustainable, and supported by local stakeholders.

    The state has taken a great step forward by allocating $10 million per year for Water Plan Implementation grants. While this is a first step, we must further fund the plan’s broader strategies as well. Public investment in water projects must be smart, which starts with meeting all of the “criteria” in the Colorado Water Plan. Before any new, significant projects are proposed, the state should apply all of the Water Plan’s criteria in order to demonstrate that the state is committed to investing in (or endorsing) only projects that use public resources wisely, protect rivers and wildlife, and reflect community values. The last two years have seen state funding disproportionately spent on costly structural projects while sustainable, cost-effective methods, such as water reuse and flexible water-sharing agreements have been undervalued and underfunded. Creative conservation projects are essential in upholding the Water Plan to sustain the natural beauty of Colorado’s rivers and streams and ensure a safe and reliable drinking water supply.

    However, it is important to note that there is nothing legally binding in the Water Plan that requires Colorado to abide by its outlined goals. Therefore, the success of the plan solely relies on the motivation of everyday people to work together as a community to hold politicians and basin roundtables accountable with respect to the plan. I encourage you to learn more about where your water comes from and what you can do as an individual to reduce your water consumption. We all need to work collaboratively to reduce our demand for water.

    As we celebrate the second anniversary of Colorado’s Water Plan, we have an opportunity, and a responsibility to rally behind the premise of the Plan, keeping Colorado beautiful and sustainable for all. Join us over the next few months as we dive into the mechanics of Colorado’s Water Plan, and why it is so important to see it succeed.

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    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 (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.