@CWCB_DNR’s August Confluence Newsletter is hot off the presses

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

Nominate A Local Water Hero

Vote for your local basin water hero! Do you know someone that deserves to be recognized for their water industry service, outstanding contributions, or innovative thinking? Anyone is eligible. Anyone can vote. Winners will be recognized at the C-9 Statewide Summit of Colorado’s 9 Basin Roundtable in September. Vote here today!

Governor Polis Appoints CWCB Director Rebecca Mitchell (@cwcbbecky) to Upper #ColoradoRiver Commission, she replaces James Eklund (@EklundCO) #COriver #aridification @CWCB_DNR

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Chris Arendt):

Governor Jared Polis appointed Rebecca Mitchell as the Colorado Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission today. The Upper Colorado River Commission is an interstate water agency consisting of the Upper Colorado River Basin States of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

“The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the American West and is critically important for Colorado’s economy, agriculture, outdoor recreation and our way of life,” said Governor Polis. “Rebecca Mitchell will bring experience, leadership and a thorough knowledge of Colorado River issues and will enhance the shared mission of the Upper basin states of comity and collaboration as the Colorado River Commissioner.”

The Upper Colorado River Commission’s function is to ensure compact compliance with the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The Commission was established so states work together and in partnership to meet their obligations to the lower basin states while safeguarding the Upper basin states’ Colorado River water rights and allocations. The Commission is comprised of one representative appointed by the Governor of each Upper basin state and one member appointed by the President to represent the United States.

“The Colorado River faces unique future challenges with increased population, persistent drought, and impacts of climate change,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “We appreciate the service of outgoing Commissioner James Eklund, and Becky is ready to take the reins. She has been an incredible leader at the Colorado Water Conservation Board and her experience is needed now more than ever as the Upper basin states’ enact their provisions of the Colorado River drought contingency plans signed earlier this year.”

“It’s an honor to serve as the Colorado Commissioner for the Upper Colorado River Commission,” said Rebecca Mitchell, Director, Colorado Water Conservation Board. “There is no more important river than the Colorado both here and across the American West. In Colorado we have built a strong culture of collaboration, innovation, and smart policy to drive future water planning and I plan on bringing the same cooperative spirit and leadership to the Upper Colorado River Commission.”

“I am so proud to have represented Colorado in achieving interstate and international solutions for the Colorado River,” said outgoing Commissioner James Eklund. “The innovative tools we created and put in place are ready for implementation to the benefit of the entire basin. Colorado is now well-positioned to continue its legacy of leadership under the Polis Administration collaboratively and inclusively.”

Rebecca Mitchell (Becky) serves as the Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). She is an accomplished water leader with over 17 years experience in the Colorado water sector and highly knowledgeable in the water laws of the State. Mitchell played a significant part in working with the State’s Basin Roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee, the public at large and CWCB staff in producing Colorado’s Water Plan. Becky has worked in the public and private sector as a consulting engineer; she received both her B.S. and M.S. from the Colorado School of Mines.

Governor Polis also appointed John McClow, General Counsel for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District and David Robbins, Hill & Robbins, P.C. to serve as alternate commissioners.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday named Rebecca Mitchell as Colorado’s representative to the Upper Colorado River Commission, replacing Mesa County native James Eklund.

Mitchell also is director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The Upper Colorado River Commission works to ensure compact compliance with the 1922 Colorado River Compact, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources said in a new release. Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico are represented on the commission, with the goal of partnering to meet obligations to Lower Basin states while safeguarding Colorado River water rights and allocations in Upper Basin states.

Eklund, who has deep family roots in the Plateau Valley, is a former CWCB director who in that position led the effort to create Colorado’s first water plan.

He stepped down as director in 2017 to take a job as an attorney at a law firm, but remained as Colorado’s representative on the Upper Colorado River Commission, serving without compensation.

Both Eklund and Mitchell played roles in Colorado reaching agreements with other basin states for drought contingency planning…

Mitchell got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Colorado School of Mines, has worked as a consulting engineer, and has more than 17 years of experience in Colorado’s water sector. She also played a significant part in the development of Colorado’s water plan.

Aspen scores $186,356 from @CWCB_DNR for alternative water rights transfer methods

A view of the Wheeler Ditch headgate, looking upriver on the Roaring Fork River. Smith / Aspen Journalism

From The Aspen Daily News (Alycin Bektesh):

On Monday, the city announced that it is the recipient of $186,356, which will go toward establishing “alternative transfer methods” with area farmers. ATMs allow water-right holders to share a portion of their claims without giving them up entirely. The state has a goal to assist in 50,000 acre feet of water transfers through the use of ATMs by 2030.

The program allows creative solutions to water sharing in a way that was not previously accessible, according to Margaret Medellin, city of Aspen’s utilities portfolio manager.

“Traditionally in Colorado water law, if you don’t use your water right you’ll eventually lose it,” Medellin said, “so before this ATM concept came about you would want to use your water rights as much as you can at all times.”

This tactic is counterintuitive to what the state needs from its water holders, though. Colorado’s population growth projections show that the demand for water will increasingly outmatch the supply. By 2050, the state’s population is estimated to reach 10 million — double 2008’s figure — creating a water shortage for about 2.5 million families.

In attempting to preserve its own water rights on Castle and Maroon Creeks, the city found itself headed to state water court with 10 separate opponents last year. It was during those pretrial negotiations that the city decided to partner with two plaintiffs to explore the ATM solution locally.

“This project is one of a few good things that came out of that effort,” Medellin said. “It really is just us as different advocates for different parts of the community coming together to try and get creative.”

Wilderness Workshop and Western Resource Advocates have assisted the city in seeking out partners who would be willing to forfeit claims on diversions at different times. Over the last year, the city has held stakeholder meetings and consulted with experts, but they realized they would need assistance in identifying good partnerships.

“The thing we realized is that there was no clear project up here,” Medellin said.

The state grant allows the city to hire outside consultants who can continue the work of finding water-rights holders who would be willing to temporarily divert their claims to the city in exchange for fees.

Todd Doherty is the president of Western Water Partnership, the consultant who helped the city with the grant application and will continue to work on securing ATM agreements. He has identified 2,800 irrigated acres that use water diverted at or above the city. His team will be reaching out to farmers to explain the program and gauge interest.

New report: #ClimateChange to intensify #Colorado water shortages, even as residents hone their water-saving ways — @WaterEdCO @CWCB_DNR #ActOnClimate

Denver Botanic Gardens via Metropolitan State University at Denver

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

Colorado residents sobered by years of drought are learning to take shorter showers and use low-flow toilets, water-saving habits that have helped the state reduce its domestic water use 5 percent, according to a new report released last week by the state’s lead water agency.

The report, a technical update to the Colorado Water Plan, shows that household water use statewide has dropped from an average of 172 gallons per person per day in 2010 to 164 gallons per day in 2015, the latest year for which data was analyzed.

Those numbers could continue to drop under various planning scenarios developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with one scenario indicating that the statewide average for individual water use could fall as low as 143 gallons per person per day by 2050 as the public continues to embrace conservation and as water-saving technologies improve.

The idea behind the new water study is to help better guide the state’s efforts via the state water plan to stave off water shortages over the next 30 years, and to understand the impact of climate change on various population growth scenarios.

Despite the decline in average daily use, the state still faces future water shortages that could surge to more than 750,000 acre-feet annually if the economy and climate heat up dramatically.

But under a hypothetical scenario where the economy slows significantly and climate change moderates somewhat, Colorado’s urban areas could face shortages of just 245,000 acre-feet each year.

“We looked at five different scenarios, taking into effect climate change,” said Becky Mitchell, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which sets state water policy. “It’s a creative and innovative way to be looking at our [water supply] gaps,” she said.

So how much water do these shortage forecasts represent? A lot.

Right now, most urban households in Colorado use about ½ acre-foot a year, so a 245,000 acre-foot shortfall equals the amount 490,000 homes would use annually, while a 750,000 acre-foot shortfall equals the amount 1.5 million homes would use in that same time period.

Shortages are also projected for the state’s farms, with irrigated agriculture facing massive shortfalls ranging from 2.2 million acre-feet to 3.4 million acre-feet, depending on how population, economic growth and climate change play out.

But that’s not the case in the South Platte River Basin, where 85 percent of Colorado residents live. Though agricultural water use statewide is growing overall, in the South Platte that use is projected to shrink as cities expand onto neighboring farm lands. According to the new forecast, the South Platte’s farm economy uses about 774,000 acre-feet of water annually. But under all five planning scenarios, that number drops. Under the most extreme, “hot growth” scenario, for instance, agricultural water use in that river basin would decrease to 665,400 acre-feet annually.

In the Arkansas Basin, which is home to Colorado Springs and the state’s second-largest farm economy, agricultural water use is projected to drop under two scenarios, and increase under three. Under the “hot growth” scenario, for instance, demands for farm water are expected to surge to 819,500 acre-feet, up from 617,300 currently, a 33 percent jump, primarily because crops will consume more water as conditions become drier and growing seasons lengthen.

The report also examines how Colorado’s fish and rivers will cope as water shortages become more pronounced. Streams across the state are likely to see spring runoff from snowmelt come earlier, leaving the late summer months much drier than they are now.

And that’s bad news for fish, increasing the risk to both cold water and warm water species, the report said. But on streams where dams and reservoirs exist, some of the damage could be offset by intentional releases from reservoirs.

The state has been criticized in the past for failing to focus adequately on the water needs of the environment in its planning. A new tool the state has developed, which is designed to help analyze stream water needs by region and season, among other things, is a step in the right direction, but will need more refinement, according to Mely Whiting, an attorney for Trout Unlimited.

“I’m pleased that the tool and the review of the environmental and recreational [E&R] needs continues to be updated. But we still have a lot of catching up to do in understanding those needs,” Whiting said.

That understanding, she said, “will help us focus our efforts on cooperative projects that benefit not only E&R, but agricultural, and municipal and industrial needs as well.”

Still to come in the effort to quantify looming water shortages is work at the local level, where nine public river basin roundtables will now take the new data and tools and determine how best to reduce any forecasted regional shortages. Their work will eventually feed into an update of the Colorado Water Plan, first released at the end of 2015 and scheduled to be updated by 2022.

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org or @jerd_smith.

@CWCB_DNR: July 2019 #Drought Update

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Ben Wade, Tracy Kosloff):

July has seen above average temperatures across the state and below average precipitation. In contrast, the month of June was cool and wet. The North American monsoon season has been slow to start in Colorado, but is anticipated to bring moisture to Colorado in the next one to three weeks. July historically has been a wet month for the eastern half of the state. Reservoir storage across the state has grown considerably through June with well above average streamflows. The U.S. Drought Monitor Map of Colorado shows that a majority of the state is still free of D0-D4, despite below average precipitation and warmer than average temperatures through July 21 but D0, abnormally dry, has been introduced in the southwest corner of the state.

  • According to the US Drought Monitor, released July 25, Colorado’s 8 week streak of being free of D0-D4 drought ends as D0 has been added in the southwest part of the state.
  • A weak El Niño remains in effect and is tilted in favor of wetter than normal conditions. The long term ENSO forecasts are trending toward a return to neutral conditions later this year.
  • Statewide precipitation for July 1 to 21 at mountain SNOTEL sites has been 39% of average. For the Water Year, statewide precipitation is 119% of average. The Climate Prediction Center’s one month outlook is predicting above average precipitation for most of the state for August.
  • Reservoir storage across the state (as of the end of June) is 105% of average and 76% of capacity. At this time last year,
    statewide reservoir storage was at 92% of average.
  • The western and Southwest basins have seen significant recovery after storage was depleted last year. The Rio Grande basin reservoir storage levels are as high as they have been since 2000.
  • The corn crop is approximately three weeks behind due to cooler temperatures into late spring. Producers are hoping for
    normal temperatures and a late frost to ensure a viable crop.
  • Water providers in attendance report their systems are in good shape and water demand is down compared to this time last year.
  • Flooding due to monsoonal moisture in the next 2-3 weeks in post wildfire burn scars remains a concern and is being monitored closely. The daily flood threat bulletin can be accessed May 1 through September 30 HERE.
  • Colorado Climate Center presentation (Peter Goble)

    Natural Resources Conservation Service presentation (Karl Wetlaufer)

    June 2019 Surface Water Supply Index (Tracy Kosloff)

    West Drought Monitor July 23, 2019.

    From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland):

    The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday announced in its monthly update that southwestern Colorado is back in low-level drought, or D0.

    The folks who keep an eye on drought conditions at the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) didn’t have anything good to say about it.

    “Hi D0. You have not been missed,” the CWCB said in a tweet Thursday.

    The news means the state is 97% drought-free rather than 100%, which is where Colorado has been for the past month…

    Still, according to a Tuesday presentation for the CWCB’s Water Availability Task Force, Colorado’s snowpack has done the state well this year by every measure, and spring precipitation means many of the state’s reservoirs are full or close to capacity.

    The seven reservoirs in southwestern Colorado, tracked by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are at 100% full or nearly so. That’s water from the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan rivers.

    Reservoirs, however, in southern and southeastern Colorado are still well below capacity, according to the NRCS data. Of the 13 reservoirs served by the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado, seven are at 50% of capacity or below. For the reservoirs served by the Rio Grande, including those in the San Luis Valley, average capacity of its eight reservoirs is around 50%. Rainfall in the Rio Grande basin was 83% of average in June and doesn’t show much improvement for July, according to NRCS data.

    The NRCS data also showed precipitation has remained strong for most of the state. The most moisture has hit northwestern Colorado, home to the Yampa, White and North Platte River basins, with precipitation at 214% of average…

    The Colorado, the state’s largest river and supplier to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico, also had precipitation well above average in June, at 151%. The 10 reservoirs served by the Colorado are nearly full, averaging well above 80% of capacity in June.

    June ended with above average precipitation statewide, but July has been very dry across the state, the NRCS reported this week.

    The Colorado Climate Center reported Tuesday that June’s average temperature was the 42nd coldest for that month on record. The 2018-19 water year, which runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, is now the 8th wettest in state history.

    Among the standouts: Grand Junction, which is experiencing its wettest year in history, according to the Colorado Climate Center. The state is still in an El Niño weather pattern, meaning above average precipitation for the the next three months for all but the southwestern portion of the state. And summer heat, which held off during June, is now in full force, Climate Center data shows.

    @CWCB_DNR: Demand Management 2019 Work Plan – Update #3

    Here’s the update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Brent Newman):

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) Project Management Team will release periodic updates on progress and accomplishments relating to the 2019 Work Plan for Intrastate Demand Management Feasibility Investigations. In this Update, we will discuss changes to the Workgroup process, the Orientation Webinar, and upcoming opportunities for engagement.

    Workgroups to Proceed without Disclosure Agreement: After careful consideration of the comments and input received to date, CWCB and DNR leadership have decided that the Workgroup process will move forward without the proposed Ground Rules and Disclosure Agreement.

    From Director Mitchell:

    “The CWCB staff and Board have been moving forward in a process to investigate the feasibility of a demand management program in alignment with the Upper Basin Drought Contingency Plan. The Board and its staff have been in an ongoing conversation with stakeholders across Colorado about how to conduct this investigation transparently in the spirit of the Colorado Water Plan, while also providing space for a deliberative process where participants feel comfortable to freely consider complex, legally sensitive ideas and information.

    “While the CWCB was contemplating asking participants to adhere to disclosure agreements out of an abundance of caution, after hearing feedback from our constituents across Colorado, the CWCB will adjust course and move forward without requesting that workgroup participants sign any disclosure agreements. Additionally, the workgroup meetings will be open to members of the public, with an opportunity for comment. As appropriate and dependent on the relevance of the workgroup discussion to interstate considerations, a non-disclosure setting may be necessary for elements of particular workgroup subject matter discussion.

    “Each of the groups will work with CWCB staff to develop expectations around participation and communication in this effort. Through this investigation, I have high hopes that the groups will identify the relevant issues associated with the details of a potential demand management program and provide thoughtful feedback for staff and the CWCB Board to consider as we work through a public process with stakeholders to determine if and how demand management should be implemented in Colorado.

    “The CWCB Board and State of Colorado will benefit from the workgroup participants’ expertise in Colorado River issues and water management. I have great appreciation for all of the individuals who have generously agreed to participate in the process.

    “I recognize the need to maintain transparency and public participation throughout the activities of the CWCB. I appreciate those who reached out to the staff and Board with comments about our initial proposal. I sincerely hope this decision to adjust our direction provides clarity and simplifies the process for those involved in the workgroups. I look forward to continuing a meaningful public process and productive dialogue about the future of water management in Colorado.”

    Online Resources: The CWCB hosted an Orientation Webinar for workgroup membership to provide an overview of the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) process, and how demand management feasibility aligns with other efforts under the Upper Basin DCP. The Webinar also discussed the kickoff of the Workgroup process, and provided information to Workgroup membership about process and procedures. The Webinar was co-hosted in partnership with Colorado Water Congress (thanks, CWC!) The Webinar was open to the public, and the recording can be viewed here.

    On July 18, CWCB staff presented on the 2019 Work Plan to the CWCB and the IBCC at the July Joint Meeting. A recording of the presentation can be found here.

    First Regional Workshop Scheduled: The first regional workshop has been scheduled for Thursday, August 22nd. This workshop will be held in conjunction with the summer conference of Colorado Water Congress, at the Steamboat Grand Hotel in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. More information about CWC’s Summer Conference can be found here.

    Upcoming Events: Colorado River Drought Contingency Planning and demand management feasibility investigation will be on the agenda at the following events:

  • Colorado Water Congress’ Summer Conference, August 20-22, 2019 in Steamboat Springs.
  • As always, keep an eye on basin roundtable agendas. Drought Contingency Planning and demand management feasibility are frequent topics. Roundtable schedules and agendas are available here.
  • For questions, comments, or more information, visit the CWCB website or email demandmanagement@state.co.us.

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    @CWCB_DNR changes course, will open most demand management meetings to public — @AspenJournalism

    A meeting on Thursday, July 18, 2019 in Leadville between the members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Interbasin Compact Committee, in a meeting room on the Colorado Mountain College campus. The CWCB members discussed the unfolding demand-management workgroup process in an unscheduled executive session, and then were challenged to explain their process. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    State agency drops requirement for volunteer workgroup participants to sign non-disclosure agreements

    After a week filled with pushback from water managers and users, especially on the Western Slope, the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board has decided to hold upcoming workgroup meetings about a potential water-demand management effort in public and will no longer ask the workgroup volunteers to sign non-disclosure agreements or always meet behind closed doors.

    “The CWCB will adjust course and move forward without requesting that workgroup participants sign any disclosure agreements,” director Becky Mitchell said in an update on the workgroup process released Sunday. “Additionally, the workgroup meetings will be open to members of the public, with an opportunity for comment.”

    But Mitchell also reserved the option to shield from public view sensitive information and discussions that came up during the process.

    “As appropriate and dependent on the relevance of the workgroup discussion to interstate considerations, a non-disclosure setting may be necessary for elements of particular workgroup subject matter discussion,” Mitchell wrote.

    Mitchell said it was most likely that sensitive information would come up in the law and policy workgroup, which includes eight current or former water attorneys.

    CWCB staff members, working closely with lawyers in the attorney general’s “defense of the Colorado River” subunit, have been crafting a process for months to investigative the feasibility of a voluntary, temporary and compensated demand-management, or water-use reduction, program in order to stay in compliance with the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

    The CWCB intends to set up eight workgroups, each exploring a different aspect of a potential demand-management program in Colorado: law and policy; monitoring and verification; water-rights administration and accounting; environmental considerations; economic considerations and local government; funding; education and outreach; and agricultural impacts.

    Each of the work groups is slated to meet four times over the next year, meaning there could be 32 work group meetings.

    “The workgroups are kind of an extension of staff at this point. That’s how we’re seeing them,” Brent Newman, the head of CWCB’s section on Colorado River issues, told the CWCB directors in May. “They’re here to help inform staff about these solutions from a more technically diverse perspective. And then we’re going to bring those solutions to you guys.”

    Asked if CWCB directors should attend the closed-door workgroup meetings, Newman advised against it.

    “When you have a decision-making body like this board, having you all directly participate in some of the conversations of these working groups, it contravenes some open-meeting requirements, and we don’t want to do that,” Newman said.

    The open-meetings law says that if two or more officials of a state public body, such as the CWCB, attend a meeting, then it’s a public meeting.

    Steve Zansberg, an attorney at Ballard Spahr in Denver, is an expert on the state’s open-meetings law and the president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

    He said advisory committees, such as the CWCB’s proposed workgroups, are considered public bodies subject to the open-meetings law if they are appointed directly by the members of a public body, such as the CWCB directors.

    But if staff members form such committees, and the committees report directly to staff members and not to a board, then they may meet behind closed doors.

    “They are probably being very crafty and careful, and with the advice of the attorney general’s office, trying every which way to set these workgroups up as not being public bodies, and they are probably succeeding,” Zansberg said Friday, before Mitchell at the CWCB had changed course and opened up the meetings, or at least most of them.

    Zansberg also said the Colorado Supreme Court stated in a 2008 case, Town of Marble v. Darien, that “the open-meetings law prohibits bad-faith circumvention of its requirements.”

    “I’m not going to ascribe bad faith here, but it is an effort to evade or circumvent the requirements of the open-meetings law,” he said of the CWCB’s staff-meeting approach.

    During the River District’s quarterly meeting in Glenwood Springs last week, the district’s general manager, Andy Mueller, brought up the CWCB’s proposed workgroup process with his board of directors, who represent 15 Western Slope counties.

    Some of the directors voiced strong opposition to the CWCB’s requirement of a non-disclosure agreement and closed-door meetings, and unanimously passed a motion asking the CWCB to explain its process.

    “In all my years of participating in policymaking at the state level, at the local level, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Steve Aquafresca, who represents Mesa County on the River District board and is a former Mesa County commissioner and a former state legislator.

    Marc Caitlin, a state legislator and the Montrose County representative on the River District board, said, “This idea of putting this behind closed doors, putting a gag in your mouth and having us be surprised, so wonderfully surprised, when this comes out is not going to make sense to me. I can’t believe that the CWCB believes that they can actually pull this off.”

    He added: “I can’t believe the attorney general would even go along with this.”

    Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser explained his support for the CWCB’s process in a July 8 memo to the CWCB board.

    He said the proposed nondisclosure agreement was meant to “strike a balance between the need for the CWCB to lead the investigative process in a manner that considers and protects the state’s ongoing strategies in interstate forums” while also “honoring the roles and perspectives of the subject matter experts” asked to participant in the workgroups.

    The first version of the CWCB’s non-disclosure agreement — a six-page “confidentiality agreement” — ran into opposition from many invited workgroup members when it was released in June.

    In July, a second proposed agreement — this time labeled as a “disclosure agreement” — was circulated. It was shorter but still contained two key provisions from the first proposal.

    First, participants needed to agree to not attribute anything said in the closed-door workgroups. Second, the participants couldn’t share in a public setting what was said at the workgroups, unless they got permission from the CWCB.

    The 74 invited participants are still being asked to volunteer as individuals and “subject-matter experts, and not as representatives of their organizations or clients, which also troubled some River District board members.

    On Thursday, during a CWCB meeting in Leadville, Mueller told the CWCB directors that the River District board was seeking an explanation about the process, and that he and his staff could not participate until his board had learned more.

    Mueller made his comments shortly after the CWCB directors held a long and unscheduled executive session to discuss the non-disclosure agreements.

    CWCB chair Heather Dutton, who represents the Rio Grande River basin, responded by saying the board’s position on the workgroup process was still evolving.

    Also during the meeting, the CWCB had invited the members of the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee to join them at the table to discuss aspects of demand management.

    And Bill Trampe, a rancher from the upper Gunnison River basin who serves on the IBCC, the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, and the River District board, told the CWCB board members that their approach to the workgroup process was raising a lot of questions about demand management among his constituents on the Western Slope.

    “Everybody is starting to think about how they might participate, because they like the voluntary, compensated, temporary part,” Trampe said. “And they recognize the fact that we probably better show up and participate in some fashion, so that our brethren on the east side of the mountain will also be willing to participate.

    “But we know it’s going to hurt us like heck if we participate very deeply, and we’re trying to figure out how we can do it. And we feel like we’ve been shut out of this initial process. If you’re going to go behind closed doors and develop these ideas, we feel that that’s the wrong way to do it, that it should be open from the very beginning, and we can’t figure out why these different workgroups have things that they think they need to do behind closed doors,” Trampe said.

    On Friday, Mitchell issued a workgroup update that said the non-disclosure agreements had been eliminated and that the meetings would be public.

    That update took a softer approach to the remaining potential need for closed-door meetings and agreements to not discuss sensitive information, saying “each of the groups will work with CWCB staff to develop expectations around participation and communication in this effort.”

    On Sunday, she issued a revised update that did not include that statement, but did include the new provision that some meetings could still occur, if necessary, in a “non-disclosure setting.”

    In response the overall course change by the CWCB, the River District said, “We look forward to working with CWCB as they move forward with this important public-policy process. And we appreciate the deliberation that went into considering how the workgroups will do their work.”

    Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspaper. The Times published a version of this story on Monday, July 22, 2019.