Greg Felt appointed to #Colorado #Water #Conservation Board — The Ark Valley Voice @CWCB_DNR

From The Ark Valley Voice (Jan Wondra):

Greg Felt via his Facebook page February 2020.

Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt has been appointed by Governor Jared Polis to serve on the Colorado Water Conservation Board; a three year term of office effective February 12, 2020 to February 12, 2023. According to Felt, the appointment represents a shift from what has traditionally been a Front Range focus.

“The Front range gets more attention than we do. But what has been happening is a recognition and an understanding that these upper basins of our major river systems of the state are where the big, forested watersheds are,” said Felt earlier this week. “A lot of those are like ours – not in the best of health and at risk for wildfire. We need to focus more attention on those challenges, as we’ve done through the Envision process here.”

Felt’s viewpoint; that our water infrastructure is dependent upon a healthy forest. “The forest is our greatest reservoir [of water] of all and if we don’t give it some attention, all the dams, and pipelines and ditches aren’t going to be nearly as effective. Watershed health is becoming a big part of the picture.”

While he sees progress ahead, Felt says there are challenges. “How do we achieve those greater goods, without compromising the property? There are trade-offs – what are we willing to do to protect what we value? It will take some creative thinking – getting folks involved who aren’t purely part of the institutions of water management.”

Felt, who still faces Colorado Senate confirmation, says that the role he is taking on is only possible because of the great mentorship he has received over the past several years. “I think I been fortunate to have some great mentors in this field. People like Terry Skanga, Ken Baker and Jim Broderick down at Southeastern [Colorado Water Conservancy] – Alan Hamel of Pueblo board of Waterworks – without their help and guidance I don’t think I’d be at the point where I’m ready to try this. It takes a long time to learn this stuff, and it’s important that we keep passing on the knowledge.”

[…]

Three appointments were made to the CWCB. Felt is unaffiliated. Also reappointed to the CWCB were Celene Nicole Hawkins of Durango, Colorado, a resident of the San Miguel-Dolores-San Juan drainage basin and a Democrat, and Heather Renae Dutton, a Republican of Del Norte, Colorado, representing the Rio Grande drainage basin.

Chaffee County applies for new #Colorado state fire resiliency grant — Ark Valley Voice

From the Ark Valley Voice (Jan Wondra):

Chaffee County’s proactive steps to address our community’s wildfire challenges is getting noticed. Because of the work of Envision Chaffee County, combined with the resulting 1A Ballot question known as Chaffee Common Ground, Chaffee County has been asked to participate in a very large and brand new statewide grant program that, if awarded, would super-size the county’s efforts toward fire resilience, forest health action and watershed protection.

A pre-grant joint proposal of Chaffee and Lake counties was submitted and the counties were invited to formally submit their joint grant proposal to the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative (RMRI). The full proposal was completed Nov. 3. Only eight communities are competing for funding from the three focal areas for the grant: two are in Southwest Colorado, four in Central Colorado and two along the I-70 Corridor. One of the other communities is Durango, which experienced severe fire during the summer of 2018.

Now the county is moving to the next stage of the grant process, with a Nov. 13 presentation in Golden to about 40 representatives of the various agencies and entities involved in the grant award. The comprehensive grant review board includes a mix of agencies. Among them: representatives of the forest service, water resources, the energy and power grids, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The team from Chaffee County will include Commissioner Greg Felt, U.S. Forest Service District Manger Jim Pitts, and Cindy Williams representing the Central Colorado Conservancy. According to Williams, Chaffee is the only county showing up represented by a cohesive group including a County Commissioner, the forestry agency and the private non-profit sector.

Think of it as a sprint toward resiliency – with the state, as well as other Colorado communities and counties taking notice.

“This probably wouldn’t have happened if Chaffee County hadn’t passed the funding for forest health,” said Williams. “This is the first time we’ve been invited to do something like this. We understand that the likely thing is that three of the eight applications will be selected. We’re not sure how much money is available, we think somewhere between one and four million a year for the county. But as a 10 year plan we’re presenting for $40 million over ten years, not just for Chaffee, but we are working together with Lake County on this grant proposal. Together we’re the Arkansas River watershed.”

Paired historical and current photographs of the Cheesman Reservoir landscape (near Denver CO) illustrating the general increase in forest density and loss of openings that occurred from the late 1890’s to 2000. These types of paired photos can help us to give scientists a broad idea of how forests have changed over time (photos from 2000 by M. Kaufmann) via the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Chaffee County: Nestlé Waters 1041 permit renewal extended six months to allow for public comment

Location map for Nestlé operations near Nathrop via The Denver Post.

From The Ark Valley Voice (Jan Wondra):

In a decision reflecting the complicated process of renewing a Colorado 1041 Permit, the Board of Chaffee County Commissioners moved to direct staff to extend the Nestlé Water (NWNA) permit and set a hearing six months down the road, due to the need for proper public notification. The six month time frame was requested by Nestlé to prepare for the required public hearing.

The hearing to consider renewal of the permit under which Nestlé has operated since 2009 had been initially scheduled based on the county’s standard 15 day public hearing notice requirements. But the process of renewing a Colorado 1041 permit requires at least a 30 day notice of public hearing, which did not occur in this case. Nestlé is requesting a 10-year extension.

“The extension is the simplest for us and the county,”said Nestlé Western U.S. Director Larry Lawrence, who attended the Oct. 15 meeting. “ We have been in good standing for the past ten years. When we reviewed our 1041 permit we had a couple different methods we could do: modify it [the agreement], or extend for 10 years. The process as I understood it was simply, all we had to do was file a formal written request, which we did on Sept. 16. We’re happy to work on other modifications as allowed.”

[…]

In 2009, after a comprehensive two-year permitting process that included significant stakeholder input, Nestlé was given unanimous approval by the Board of Chaffee County Commissioners to operate and source water from the Ruby Mountain Springs site in Chaffee County. At that time, the county required two permits in order for NWNA to operate in Chaffee County:

  • a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) to develop a water supply in an area currently zoned as rural or commercial and,
  • a 1041 Permit to identify and mitigate any potential impacts from the proposed project.
  • The last-minute discovery that the scheduling of the Nestlé 1041 permit process was made in error, required formal action. While the BoCC initially discussed continuing the matter to its Nov. 19 regular meeting, “This does require notice to the public and public comment,” said Tom…

    A motion was made by Commissioner Keith Baker to extend the current Nestlé permit for six months, to the time of the public hearing regarding the 1041 permit, which should occur in April, 2020. Commissioner Rusty Granzella seconded and it passed unanimously.

    Chaffee County voters to decide on sales tax for watershed health in November #vote

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Mountain Mail (Merle Baranczyk):

    If voters approve the proposed 0.25 percent countywide sales tax at the November general election, a portion of funds would be used to treat forest lands.

    The U.S. Forest Service currently treats about 1,200 acres per year. With additional funding, that number would grow to 4,000 acres annually, nearly triple the number of acres that could see mitigation.

    The sales tax would generate about $1 million per year and would be used to:

    • Strengthen forest health;

    • Conserve and support working ranches, farms and rural landscapes; and

    • Manage impacts of growth in outdoor recreation.

    Cindy Williams, co-lead with County Commissioner Greg Felt of Envision Chaffee County, the entity that is the impetus behind the proposal, said the goal would be to treat 2 percent of forested public lands, about 4,000 acres, in the county each year.

    Responsibility for maintaining public lands in the county rests with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managment and state of Colorado. But, Felt said, the agencies do not have the budget or the staff to properly maintain lands under their jurisdiction.

    An example of how funding would be used is the current project on Monarch Pass. In concert with the U.S. Forest Service, a number of entities have joined forces in an effort to remove beetle-killed dead standing trees to improve forest health, reduce the danger of wildfires and protect water supplies.

    Williams said various entities, including the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, Monarch Mountain, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Pueblo and Colorado Springs water utilities, are supporting the project.

    Monarch Pass is the headwaters of the South Arkansas River, which is a source of water for the city of Salida and dozens of irrigators.

    Mitigation work, she said, would protect towns, water supplies, water infrastructure, the recreation economy, wildlife and wildlife habitat.

    Felt said Chaffee County has contributed $48,000 from the Conservation Trust Fund to the program.

    The idea behind this element of the sales tax, he said, “is to leverage interests of other water-related organizations” who have an interest in water quality and the resource.

    If the county puts $500,000 from the proposed conservation tax toward forest mitigation work, Felt said the goal would be to generate an additional $5 million from other sources.

    “The goal,” Felt said, “is not to spend a million dollars a year on conservation, but to leverage that into $5 million” to benefit the county.

    He said if there is local interest, the county will be able to do more by drawing money from other organizations and agencies…

    Williams said the net result of the tax would be to bring additional dollars through grants and participating partners into the county to be used to benefit county resources.

    Williams said representatives of agencies and foundations she has talked to about the county conservation project have said they typically do not see communities coming together like this, including governments, businesses and citizens.

    The Gates Family Foundation, she said, is monitoring the county as a possible development model with new tools for other Western states.

    Felt said Envision has “blown out of the water” representatives of foundations and government agencies who have become aware of the project and now want to play a part in the program as it evolves.</blockquote.

    FEMA open house draws large crowd in Buena Vista — The Chaffee County Times

    From The Chaffee County Times (Mason Miller):

    Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Chaffee County and the town of Buena Vista were in attendance April 27 for an open house meeting and presentation on the recently completed preliminary Flood Insurance Study and its accompanying Draft Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

    The maps includes base flood information and areas subject to significant flood hazards along Cottonwood Creek within Chaffee County and the town of Buena Vista.

    Before the presentation, representatives from FEMA and CWCB met with residents to go over impacts the FIRM and FIS will have on property owners.

    During the presentation, Thuy Patton with CWCB said the map updates had been ongoing for 7 years and said the primary focus of the updates was to digitize the maps and provide information on flood risks.

    She said the map updates were currently in the post-preliminary processing phase and said the town and county’s 90-day appeal period had begun March 10, noting it would be around another year before the FIRM and FIS became effective, following a 6-month compliance period after the 90-day appeal window. Town administrator Brandy Reitter said the compliance period was required for the Buena Vista board of trustees to pass and adopt an ordinance approving the FIRM.

    During the appeal period, Patton said residents will need scientific evidence proving FEMA’s original flood hazard determinations were technically or scientifically incorrect.

    “With our new studies and hydrology, we’ve been able to put that on a map so you can know what the (flood) risks are,” Patton said about the map updates and said the FIRM and FIS allows for current and future residents to assess flood risks on their property.

    During the question and answer portion of the meeting, residents expressed frustration over the amount of time left in the 90-day appeal period and the fact that town and county administration were not more proactive in informing residents sooner about the potential impacts the studies will have on their properties.

    “Our 90 days is halfway over and we’re just getting good information,” one resident said.

    While there were several questions submitted throughout the meeting, organizers did not ask residents to state their name or write their name on question cards, so question askers remained anonymous.

    “This is probably a lesson for us,” Diana Herrera with FEMA said. “We need to look at the timing of our community meetings and (consider) moving those up.”

    While going over information on flood insurance rates through the National Flood Insurance Program residents asked why property owners in the high risk flood areas would be paying the same rates as residents in places like New Orleans and Houston, some of which are below sea level. Herrera said it was a national rate and said the potential for flooding was the same.

    “This area is nothing like Houston, yet we’ll be paying the same rate?” one resident asked, noting places like Houston and New Orleans flood more frequently and more significantly than Buena Vista. Herrera said depending on the FIS and FIRM, residents may pay the same rates as those areas.

    In regards to if residents would be able to rebuild or build on a floodway or floodplain, Jamie Prochno with CWCB said residents would be able to rebuild on the same footprint as the previous structure if flooding was to happen, but said if residents want to expand or build within a floodplain or floodway, they would need to work with local government to obtain a permit.

    “There’s nothing that says you can’t build in a floodplain. However, you have to get a permit from your local government, meet all those standards, meet any local standards that could be higher than our state standards,” Prochno said. “Generally in a floodplain that’s going to be much simpler because you just have to build your structure high enough … if it’s in a floodway, it’s a little more difficult because that’s a hazardous area, you have to show that there’s no rise to the base flood elevation. Keep in mind, these aren’t just lines on a map, that water has to go somewhere.”

    Doering said in March that according to the maps, there are 276 residents inside of Buena Vista town limits affected by the floodways or floodplains. He said the majority of those residents are on the east side of the railroad, along Cottonwood Creek.

    Buena Vista
    Buena Vista

    The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation
    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

    Here’s part one of an in-depth look at the Southern Delivery System from John Hazlehurst writing for the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Contending that the denial [of Homestake II] had been arbitrary and capricious, the two cities [Aurora and Colorado Springs] appealed the decision to the courts. In a comprehensive description of the city’s water system and possible future sources of supply given to City Council in 1991, CSU managers said that “extensive litigation is expected to continue.”

    Denied by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court, the cities appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

    City officials were stunned. They couldn’t believe that a coalition of Western Slope “enviros” and ski towns had prevented them from developing water to which the city had an undisputed right. They had believed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1990 decision to scuttle Denver’s proposed Two Forks Dam near Deckers on the South Platte River was an outlier, not a sign of things to come…

    Slow to recognize that mountain communities now had the power to kill their water development plans, Utilities officials looked at another alternative. Instead of taking water directly from the wilderness area, the city proposed to build a dam on the mainstem of the Arkansas at Elephant Rock, a few miles upstream of Buena Vista.

    A grassroots rebellion against the project was soon evident, as hand-lettered signs appeared along U.S. Highway 24, which parallels the Arkansas. The signs carried a simple message: “Don’t Let Colorado Springs Dam this River!”

    It soon became clear that Chaffee County commissioners would not issue a construction permit for any such project, dooming it before the first planning documents were created…

    If trans-mountain diversions or dams on the Arkansas were no longer feasible, that left a single alternative for developing the city’s water rights. CSU would have to let its water flow down to Pueblo Reservoir, construct a diversion structure on the dam, and pump it uphill to Colorado Springs.

    It would be, water managers believed, the easiest project to build and permit.

    “It was just a pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom, who has worked 35 years for Utilities. “What could go wrong?”[…]

    “We didn’t really understand the importance of partnering with and involving the public in decision-making,” said [Gary Bostrom], “until the Southern Water Project.”[…]

    The plan for the Southern Delivery System was presented to City Council in 1992. Among the material submitted to councilmembers was a comprehensive description of the city’s existing water system. Water managers made sure Council was aware of the importance of the task before them.

    “The massive scope of this project,” CSU staff noted, “requires a very long lead time to allow for complexities of numerous permitting processes, land acquisition, litigation, design, financing and construction.”

    Of all the variables, CSU managers and elected officials gave the least weight to those that may have been the most significant…

    “We weren’t worried about hydrology,” said Bostrom. “The years between 1980 and 2000 were some of the wettest years on record. The water was there for the taking. Shortages on the Colorado weren’t part of the discussion.

    “We knew about the Colorado River Water Compact of 1922 (which allocated Colorado River water between Mexico and the upper and lower basin states), but it wasn’t something we worried about.”

    Then as now, 70 percent of the city’s water supply came from the Colorado River. SDS would tap the city’s rights on the Arkansas, diversifying the portfolio.

    “We have to plan for growth,” said Bostrom. “That’s what history tells us. We know that it will be expensive, but the cost of not building a system well in advance of need would be much greater. People complained about the cost of the Blue River (trans-mountain diversion) project in the 1950s, but we wouldn’t have a city without it — we wouldn’t have the Air Force Academy.”

    But even as the project moved slowly forward, the comfortable assumptions of a wet, prosperous future began to unravel.

    “Exactly 15 years ago today (April 29, 1999),” said Bostrom, “we were in the middle of a flood — remember? We didn’t know it, but that was the day the drought began.”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Colorado River Outfitters Association: Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River = $55 million

    raftingarkriver

    From The Mountain Mail (Nick Jumey):

    Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River brought an economic impact of more than $55 million from 179,535 user days in 2013, according to an end-of-year report by Colorado River Outfitters Association.

    The association defines a “user day” as “a paying guest on a river for any part of a day.”

    To calculate economic impact, the association multiplies user days by “direct expenditures” and the “economic multiplier.”

    Direct expenditures are the total cash outlay for rafting, food, lodging, etc., spent in the local area by one river rafting customer in one day. The economic multiplier is the number of times a dollar is spent in the local area before being spent outside that area – 2.56 times, according to the Colorado Tourism Board.

    Overall, the report showed rivers in Colorado had an economic impact of more than $145 million in 2013, an increase of 13.5 percent from 2012’s $127 million. In addition, rafters spent nearly 50,000 more user days on Colorado rivers in 2013, including an increase of 10,000 user days on the Arkansas River alone.

    The Arkansas River accounted for 38.89 percent of the market share of river rafting impact in 2013, the largest share by a wide margin. The next closest rivers in terms of market shares were the Colorado River (23 percent combined) and Clear Creek River (13.2 percent), according to the report.

    Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) recently cited the association report as a reason to cosponsor S. 1794, also known as the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013.

    In a press release, Bennet cited the report’s findings, including the $55 million economic impact, and noted that the Arkansas River is particularly popular for whitewater rafters.

    The bill, introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), aims to protect the Browns Canyon region as “an invaluable economic and natural resource for Chaffee County and the state” and would preserve 22,000 acres along the Arkansas River as a national monument.

    “The rugged and unique beauty of Browns Canyon attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world who come to hike, camp, climb and raft,” Bennet said in a press release. “This generates millions of dollars of revenue for our local economies.
    “Designating Browns Canyon as a national monument will not only allow future generations to enjoy the whitewater rapids in the heart of the Rockies, but it will also ensure that the area remains an economic driver and job creator for the region.”
    Keith Baker, Buena Vista, executive director of Friends of Browns Canyon and a retired Navy commander, said he was pleased to hear Bennet’s decision to cosponsor the bill.

    “We’re pleased and honored to have Sen. Bennet on board with this important legislation, which not only protects one of Colorado’s world-class recreational destinations, but was built from the ground up by local people who do business, recreate and make their homes in this part of the state,” Baker said.

    More whitewater coverage here.