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 http://rbwf.com.

#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: http://arbwf.com

    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.

    Governor’s Forum on Agriculture recap

    Colorado Convention Center Solar Power System

    From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland) via The Durango Herald:

    Hickenlooper, speaking to an audience at the 27th annual Governor’s Forum on Agriculture this week, said that the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office met with representatives from recreation offices and outdoor recreation companies from eight states, and the result was something called the Colorado Accord. It’s a nonpartisan effort to work on issues related to clean air, water and public land – areas the trade association strongly supports and part of the reason the trade show moved to Colorado, he said.

    This accord is the start of an opportunity for Colorado to be a national leader in outdoor recreation, Hickenlooper said. The companies involved are small – around 10 to 15 employees.

    “They don’t want to live in the cities or their businesses to be in the cities,” he said. “These are companies that are naturals for smaller communities … . This is a chance to build a relationship between farms and ranches and outdoor recreation. If you want more jobs in your towns, there will never be a better chance.”

    The governor also addressed the ongoing negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the importance of maintaining partnerships with Canada and Mexico, which are NAFTA partners. The renegotiation of the 22-year old agreement hasn’t gone as quickly as he would like, Hickenlooper said.

    “Our relationships with Canada and Mexico need to remain strong,” given that more than half of Colorado agricultural exports go to those two countries, he said, adding that NAFTA has the potential to do so many good things for Colorado, and that he has talked with officials from both countries.

    “They just want a deal,” Hickenlooper said.

    Hickenlooper said he recently spoke with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and their positions align on several issues, such as the need for better and faster negotiations with South Korea, China and India on agricultural trade; about volatility in the labor market for ag, and for a more balanced approach on agricultural regulations.

    One of the state’s highest priorities for global exports, he said, is to open up Asia. “There’s an insatiable appetite for beef and pork” in South Korea, China and Japan, and the U.S. needs a fair deal with those countries.

    Hickenlooper also made a push for a long-term funding solution for the Colorado water plan. Last month, the governor said he favored a change in how the state collects severance taxes on oil and gas, saying, among other things, that Colorado has the lowest severance taxes on oil and gas in the region.

    A court case two years ago with oil giant BP dramatically reduced the amount of severance taxes the state can collect, which has been used in the past to mitigate oil and gas activities in rural communities and to pay for water projects around the state. The state had to take money out of its general fund to pay for the property tax deductions the court decided BP was owed. After that, the state’s share of severance taxes dropped from around $150 to $200 million per year in 2016 to about $25 million last year, Hickenlooper said.

    Without a structural change in how severance taxes are levied, he warned, severance taxes could come to an end. “But let’s get a referred measure on the ballot” that will provide a fair tax structure for oil and gas, he said. “It’s a social contract with the state of Colorado. If it were presented properly,” voters would not walk away from it.

    That didn’t fly with Senate President Pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, who was in the audience and is president of the board of the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Program, which hosts the annual agriculture forum. Sonnenberg disputed the governor’s claim that Colorado has the lowest severance taxes in the region.

    Sonnenberg told Colorado Politics that “we have robbed $400 million from severance taxes” to cover budget shortfalls, including $100 million to pay BP for the lawsuit. “We need to figure out how not to rob Peter to pay Paul,” Sonnenberg added. “If we truly want to do something about severance tax, maybe we add all energy: wind, solar, nuclear and hydroelectric.”

    2018 #COleg: Is there a sentiment, outside of @GovofCO, to raise severance taxes to implement the #COWaterPlan?

    James Eklund and Governor Hickenlooper roll out the Colorado Water Plan, Thursday, November 19, 2015 via The Colorado Independent

    From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland) via The Durango Herald:

    Hickenlooper was initially expected to talk about his water legacy during the Colorado Water Congress luncheon in southeastern Denver, but instead, he addressed how he regards water and how the state ought to pay for the water plan’s estimated $20 billion price tag.

    Before the start of Hickenlooper’s remarks, the Water Congress took the pulse of those in attendance about what the next governor should do with the water plan. Seventy-three percent said “use it,” 8 percent said the next governor should ignore it and 19 percent said the state should embark on a different path with regard to its water future.

    Pollster Floyd Ciruli said the results show the new governor has to make sure the water plan and its issues remain a top priority, along with rural broadband, transportation and public education funding.

    Hickenlooper referred to his recent State of the State speech and his reference to “topophilia.” No, that’s not something bad – it’s a love of place, according to the governor. And Colorado must do all it can to preserve its clean air and water, two of the most important aspects of the state’s infrastructure, he said.

    Funding for the water plan has not been identified, Hickenlooper said. The governor said he is looking for a bipartisan approach to funding the water plan, in part to avoid the sensitivity that people have to being asked to pay more taxes. That could include, he said, using severance taxes.

    But it would take a structural change to how severance taxes are levied to raise the kind of revenue anticipated to cover the state’s share of the water plan costs: around $100 million per year for the next 30 years, beginning in 2020.

    Hickenlooper explained the state has some of the lowest severance taxes in the nation. And that hasn’t gotten any better after a 2016 lawsuit from BP that challenged certain deductions on oil and gas equipment. BP won that lawsuit, which forced the state to tap tens of millions of dollars from severance taxes to cover not only BP’s deductions but that of other oil and gas companies. That lawsuit exposed structural problems in the way severance taxes are collected, Hickenlooper said.

    A structural change to severance taxes is something the General Assembly will have to deal with, most likely through a ballot measure, the governor added.

    The idea of using severance tax money for the water plan isn’t that far-fetched an idea. Those dollars have been going to water projects for years, mostly to water providers for infrastructure and through grants and loans, although in small amounts. And severance taxes have been tapped directly to fund the initial implementation of the water plan, in areas such as alternative transfers of water in agriculture, conservation and water efficiency. But the state has, in times of trouble, also raided the severance tax fund to cover shortfalls in the budget, to the tune of $322 million in the past two recessions.

    Hickenlooper said he believes the oil and gas industry will not stand in the way if the state seeks higher severance taxes, based on conversations he’s had with oil and gas CEOs. “They’re not complaining” about how much severance tax they pay in Colorado, especially after winning the BP court case.

    In #Colorado implementing the #COWaterPlan will fall to the next governor

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Floyd Ciruli):

    Although Colorado has identified its water needs and has a state plan, 2018 will be a year of political transition. Will a new governor and legislature keep water at the top of the agenda or allow it to drop until the next water crisis? Many local agencies need financial help that can’t be met through local ratepayers alone. The state water plan identified $3 billion in unmet needs. And, as California has demonstrated, conservation must be a well-articulated state goal with significant resources dedicated to public education. California cut statewide use by 25 percent during the last drought through massive education coordinated with local agencies. But, leadership, both local and from the state, is needed.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper accelerated the work of former governors Bill Owens and Bill Ritter to help address the state’s projected water shortage, but he only has one year left in office. Fortunately, besides Hickenlooper’s advancement of the scientific base behind the need for new projects, his use of a state planning process that involved all eight water basins in cooperation and decision-making and his issuing of a completed state water plan in December 2015, he has also seen real progress during his term on projects. He helped facilitate approval of Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir and Northern Water’s Windy Gap projects. Still, much remains to be done.

    ■ How will pressing water issues fare through the upcoming political transition?

    ■ Will the research, river basin collaboration and planning continue?

    ■ Will permitting of the water projects now underway continue to make progress?

    ■ Will the next wave of projects — many in rural and small towns — get permitted, funded and built?

    ■ Will the state initiate and fund a statewide conservation public education program?

    ■ Will the state continue its planning processes in order to lead a ballot issue funding effort? (The previous proposal, controversial in design and promotion, failed in 2003, but lessons were learned.)

    The planning and development capabilities of Colorado’s water community have grown significantly, but the needs are growing faster still. Through the 2018 political transition, we must ensure that water remains a top priority and not become another state plan ignored in a government file.

    Two trips around the Sun for the #COWaterPlan

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    Here’s a guest column from Drew Beckwith that’s running in The Durango Herald. Click through and read the whole column. Here’s an excerpt:

    On the second anniversary of the release of Colorado’s Water Plan, a few key facts are unchanged: A swelling population is stretching our water supplies, evidence is mounting that climate change is already reducing flows on the Colorado River and securing and sustaining Colorado’s supply of clean, safe drinking water continues to be top of mind…

    This funding imbalance is one reason why progress on implementing Colorado’s Water Plan has been lopsided. First, the good news. Communities across Colorado, like those in the Roaring Fork and Gunnison valleys, have developed stream management plans identifying specific projects to improve the health of the river and nearby communities. In 2016, the Colorado Legislature appropriated $5 million for the development of watershed plans and another $1 million for implementing environmental and recreation projects, the latter receiving requests for funding far exceeding the allotment.

    However, progress on urban water conservation, flexible water sharing, and river protection – projects that Coloradans said they value most – has been elusive and difficult to measure. Transparency is necessary so that Coloradans can see how well we are, or aren’t, doing on meeting urban conservation goals, environmental goals and other measurable objectives in the plan.

    We must address the uneven focus on water storage projects, too. The state has routinely spent tens of millions of dollars on storage and infrastructure projects over many years, while spending just a few million dollars on conservation, environmental and recreational projects – and that only recently.

    Two years in, it is clear what we need to do. We need Colorado to make smart investments in only the water projects that meet all of the criteria in Colorado’s Water Plan. We need state leaders to be more transparent about progress toward the plan’s goals. We need the Legislature to increase funding for urban water conservation, stream management plans that improve river health and innovative water agreements with agriculture.

    And, because we don’t have enough money to implement the full suite of projects needed to maintain clean, safe drinking water and protect rivers and wildlife – even with a rebalancing of existing funds – we need to secure a new source of money to move Colorado’s Water Plan over the finish line.

    Two trips around the Sun for the #COWaterPlan

    Here’a report from Marianne Goodland) writing in Colorado Politics. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    The 567-page plan sets nine goals, but its biggest focus is for a subset: Conservation and storage, with agricultural sharing and water recycling further down the list. The conservation goal asks for savings of 400,000 acre-feet of water, most of it to be born by municipal water providers and their customers. Storage needs hit the same number — 400,000 acre-feet — a gap that is most likely to be handled by water providers through new or expanded storage projects, such as those currently in the works in the Northern Front Range: the Windy Gap Firming Project, scheduled to break ground for a new reservoir near Loveland in 2019, and the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which is planning new reservoirs on the Poudre and South Platte rivers.

    Now that the water plan has hit its two-year anniversary, what kind of progress has the water plan made? It depends on who you ask. Those who favor more storage, particularly in northern and northeastern Colorado, claim not enough money is being devoted to increasing storage capacity. Those who favor environmental goals say not enough money is being spent in that area, either.

    According to a draft implementation update that is likely to become public in December, the water plan has made significant progress in the past year. That includes:

    • Water plan grants to begin addressing the supply-demand gap: $2 million was set aside from a $10 million appropriation from the General Assembly in 2017 to pay for nine water plan grants, which the draft update said would reduce the municipal/industrial water supply gap by 48,000 acre-feet.

    • Integrated water resource planning, part of the conservation goal: 22 water providers have submitted water efficiency plans to the CWCB, with 18 approved and 4 in review. These plans allow water providers to set local goals on indoor and outdoor conservation activities, including incentives, regulations, education and pricing mechanism. The CWCB has so far awarded more than $800,000 in grants for conservation planning and public education.

    • $1 million (out of the $10 million for the water plan) to conservation and land use activities, drought planning, water meter replacements and projects to reduce water loss.

    • The water plan sets an objective that by 2050, 75 percent of Coloradans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving activities into land-use planning. The draft implementation report notes that the CWCB has teamed up with other organizations and state agencies to train more than 300 participants on how to integrate water and land-use planning.

    • The water plan sets a goal of finding 50,000 acre-feet of water through agricultural sharing. In the past two years, the draft implementation report said, the CWCB and its partners have worked on education and assistance programs for farmers and ranchers that will promote water sharing, as well as $1 million for grant and loan programs that would improve aging agricultural infrastructure or other water efficiency projects.

    • Under the goal of increasing water storage, the draft report notes a study underway to investigate storage possibilities along the South Platte, primarily near Sterling. The results of that study are expected relatively soon.

    • Another $3 million funds water projects that will lead to the development of additional storage, according to the draft implementation report. That includes recharging water into aquifers and expanding existing reservoirs to provide more storage…

    One of the organizations that has worked with the CWCB on water projects is Western Resource Advocates. Drew Beckwith, water policy manager, told Colorado Politics recently that the state has made good progress in the first two years, and that $10 million per year is “a sound start.”

    The problem and urgency, as Beckwith sees it, is how to meet clean, safe and reliable drinking water standards and protect rivers. “We have to pick up the pace” to protect clean drinking water and preserve Colorado’s agricultural heritage, he said.