Interview: #Colorado’s Water Leader on the New Water Year — @AudubonRockies #COWaterPlan @CWCB_DNR

The Colorado River. Photo credit: Abby Burk

Here’s an interview with Becky Mitchell Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, from Abby Burk, that’s running on the Audubon Rockies website:

Interview with Becky Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado commissioner on the Upper Colorado River Commission.

Rebecca Mitchell was named to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on July 5, 2017. Photo credit the Colorado Independent.

October 1st kicked off the new water year. This is when water managers and water wonks focus on existing water supplies and precipitation predictions. Water years run from October 1st through the following September 30th, and Water Year 2020 is poised to be one we will all be talking about for years to come. During it, we’ll see the start of discussions around the agreement that needs to be reached in 2026 to replace the Colorado River Interim Operating Guidelines, further investigation of a potential Upper Colorado River Basin demand management program after the adoption of the Drought Contingency Plans in 2019, and the launch of the first update to Colorado’s Water Plan. It’s a dynamic time for both Colorado River and Colorado water management!

Abby Burk, western rivers regional program manager for Audubon Rockies, reached out to Becky Mitchell—director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and Colorado commissioner on the Upper Colorado River Commission—to ask six key questions and learn how she’s leading Colorado through these water milestone moments.

Q: Water is such a broad issue that connects all of us. Colorado’s Water Plan, completed in 2015, is four years old. What have been the plan’s successes and challenges? What is your most celebrated Water Plan implementation project?

A: At the CWCB, we work every day to implement the Water Plan, and because of that, I would call the plan’s biggest success its ability to bring all of the important projects and programs that the agency does into better focus with a cohesive whole. In fact, far beyond the CWCB, the Water Plan continually helps to unite countless efforts occurring throughout the state at every level of the public, private, and nongovernmental sphere. While it will always be an ongoing and iterative process, the concrete goals and objectives of the Water Plan have really helped to motivate our community to collectively address our (many) water challenges, which include maintaining momentum, coordinating efforts at every level, and continually funding the innovative and effective projects.

While it’s hard to pick just one example of a celebrated project, the first one that comes to mind is the Homestake Arkansas River Diversion Project. Currently under construction, this project is managed by the City of Aurora and Colorado Springs Utilities to improve the reliability of a major aging diversion structure while at the same time removing the last critical barrier to boat and fish passage on the Upper Arkansas River and restoring important habitat. The CWCB contributed $700,000 to help fund the project, along with funding from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, various other project supporters, and donated easements from the Pueblo Board of Water Works, totaling $7.7 million.

Q: Water is a critical issue for all Coloradans. Whether you play in/around our world class rivers, irrigate your crops, or take a sip of our abundant clean drinking water, our valuable and limited water supply impacts each of us every day. How will the Water Plan keep pace with a growing Colorado and protect what makes Colorado so special: our rivers?

A: From day one, the Water Plan has been a living document. The plan is fundamentally a broad ongoing effort to collectively meet our state’s evolving water challenges in the most effective and mutually beneficial ways. To keep pace with a growing Colorado, Chapter 11 of the plan sets the process for continually refreshing the plan. We have now unified all of the Water Plan components into three main pillars: the main Water Plan (the primary policy document), the Basin Implementation Plans (the local application of the plan), and the Analysis and Tech Update (the plan’s technical foundation). In summer 2019, we finalized the Tech Update and are now updating the Basin Implementation Plans and the Water Plan to support the Tech Update.

A critical aspect of all of these efforts is protecting our special rivers. The Tech Update included the development of an environmental flow tool to help interpret how potential future stream conditions may change, and how to plan for those impacts. We hope this tool and the wealth of other data in the Tech Update will better inform local efforts to address environmental needs, starting with updated analyses in the Basin Implementation Plans.

Q: This is an exciting time for Colorado River water management with the passage of the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) and the ramp up to the renegotiation of the 2007 interim guidelines in 2026. Considering the DCP, how are you leading Colorado’s place in exploring a possible demand management program? How is Colorado working with other Upper Basin states in looking at options for demand management?

A: The CWCB has taken two major policy actions regarding a potential demand management program. First, the board passed a support and policy statement back in November, 2018. This statement took into account public comments, stakeholder and water user concerns, as well as board guidance and support for the draft DCPs. This was aimed at guiding the assessment of demand management feasibility.

The board also adopted the 2019 Work Plan in March of this year. This Work Plan represents the first steps toward assessing demand management feasibility as identified in the support and policy statement. The Work Plan tasks CWCB with setting up workgroups to help identify priority issues regarding demand management and holding public regional workshops to garner input and discussion. It also directs the legal, technical, and policy investigations that will inform the Board’s next moves in determining whether a demand management program is appropriate for Colorado.

We communicate regularly with our Upper Basin state partners on their own intrastate efforts to assess demand management feasibility, who are all engaged in similar processes within their borders. As the intrastate investigations continue, the Upper Basin states will share information through the auspices of the Upper Colorado River Commission and their committees to further assess the feasibility of demand management across borders and throughout the Upper Basin.

Q: We have to acknowledge that storage is a part of our water portfolio future. However, none of us have an appetite for big new reservoirs. What are ways that storage can be leveraged for fulfilling the growing needs of water certainty while still supporting Colorado’s healthy rivers?

A: Without sufficient water storage, the vast majority of our current population could not live in this environment; and with a growing population, we will very likely need some additional storage. However, we also need to more effectively manage our existing infrastructure to support healthy rivers.

Examples of this include iterative efforts to re-operate the Ruedi and Chatfield Reservoirs to meet multiple needs, and in the case of Chatfield, to increase storage without raising the dam. Another example is the South Platte Regional Opportunities Water Group, which is currently conducting a feasibility study to examine aquifer storage and recharge, off channel reservoirs, and storage of municipal reuse water, among other things.

Q: What’s your message for people who care about Colorado’s rivers, and the birds and wildlife they support? How will the state take care of its rivers as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of droughts?

A: The takeaway message here is healthy rivers are vital to Colorado’s conservation efforts and quality of life, and the CWCB is committed to maintaining those stream flows for all fish and wildlife that depend on them as well as for the enjoyment of our outdoor recreationists.

More specifically, the CWCB works with partners on appropriating new instream flow water rights to maintain stream flows that support Colorado’s fish, birds, and wildlife and the food and habitat that they need. Particularly in dry years, we work with the Colorado Water Trust, other nonprofit organizations, and water rights owners on leases and other mechanisms for providing and protecting stream flows.

The Tomichi Water Conservation Program involves regional coordination between six water users on lower Tomichi Creek to reduce consumptive use on irrigated meadows as a watershed drought management tool. The project will use water supply as a trigger for water conservation measures during one year in the three-year period. During implementation, participating water users would cease irrigation during dry months. Water not diverted will improve environmental and recreational flows through the Tomichi State Wildlife Area and be available to water users below the project area. Photo credit: Business for Water.

In last year’s example of the Coats Brothers Ditch temporary lease on Tomichi Creek, the ditch owners used the water right for irrigation until July 1, when the CWCB started using it for the Tomichi Creek instream flow water right. This lease provided approximately 202 acre-feet of water to the stream during low flow conditions while providing an economic benefit to the ditch owners. This type of flexible tool is very effective at addressing low flow conditions.

In the face of climate change, which we know will present unique challenges to protecting our rivers and streams, we are committed to finding ways to address those challenges, including working with groups who have identified needs and opportunities in their stream management plans to implement additional stream protection.

Q: What is the one thing that gives you the most hope about where we are heading with water in Colorado?

A: We have engaged stakeholders who care deeply about maintaining the Colorado way of life and the values in the Colorado Water Plan. These stakeholders work with the CWCB, the basin roundtables and communities every day to collaboratively plan for our future and implement projects that drive the Colorado Water Plan forward. These efforts forge partnerships, remove barriers, inspire new generations and encourage a spirit of cooperation that is so important to building multi-purpose, multi-benefit initiatives that meet multiple water needs for farms, urban communities and the environment.

For the Water Plan to be successful, we need to balance all of these needs. Our stakeholders are the lifeblood of Colorado water planning and they serve as a shining example of what public engagement can accomplish.

The Southeastern #Colorado Water Conservancy District supports Proposition DD

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

District Supports Sports Betting for Water Projects

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board of Directors [September 17, 2019] voted to support a measure that would allow sports betting in Colorado as a revenue source for water projects.

Proposition DD would provide money for water projects by collecting a tax of 10 percent on net proceeds from sports betting operations at casinos in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek. Proponents say this could amount to $10 million to $16 million annually. The money would be part of the funding package for Colorado’s Water Plan.

“It ties into the water plan, but would be just one of the methods to generate revenues,” said Alan Hamel, a member of the Southeastern board.

The board voted 10-3 to support Proposition DD.

The water plan calls for $3 billion in new revenue for water projects over a 30-year period beginning in 2020.

Proposition DD was placed on the Nov. 5 ballot as a referendum by the Colorado General Assembly under HB1327.

The Southeastern District is the sponsor for one of the state’s largest pending water projects, the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a pipeline project that will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. The Bureau of Reclamation estimates the AVC will cost $600 million, of which 35 percent will be paid by sources within Colorado.

Photo credit Dave Scadden Paddlesports.

Ag groups endorse Prop DD as down payment on critical water needs — The North Forty News

From The North Forty News (Cynthia Wilson):

A coalition of agricultural groups announced their support [October 13, 2019] for Proposition DD, which asks voters this fall to tax casinos’ sports-betting profits to help conserve and protect the state’s water supplies.

The coalition includes the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Corn Growers Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, the Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Pork Producers, and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union…

“The Farm Bureau and farmers across Colorado are proud to support Proposition DD. Most farmers and ranchers could care less about sports betting. But this is a smart way to pay for the critical water infrastructure that Colorado’s future needs,” said Chad Vorthmann, Executive Vice President of the Colorado Farm Bureau.

“With dedicated funding through Proposition DD, we can ensure that Colorado’s Water Plan is implemented to secure a water future for the benefit of our businesses, our communities and our rivers and streams,” said Brad Erker, Executive Director of the Colorado Wheat Growers.

“This measure is an important step to ensuring adequate water supplies for agriculture amid our state’s growing population,” said David Eckhardt, Colorado farmer, and President of the Colorado Corn Growers Association.

“The common denominator linking all of agriculture in Colorado is water. Colorado’s dairy farmers support Proposition DD because it will provide funding for critical water projects in our state helping to ensure we maximize the use of this precious natural resource,” said Chris Craft, Chairman of the Board of the Colorado Dairy Farmers.

“We’re pleased to endorse Proposition DD, which is a dedicated funding stream for water storage and conservation in Colorado in the face of increased population and growing demands for this limited resource,” said Joyce Kelly, Executive Director of the Colorado Pork Producers.

A view of the headgate on the Robinson Ditch and the boulder structure in the Roaring Fork River that maintains the grade of the river so water can reach the headgate. Pitkin County has received a water-plan grant to help repair the diversion structure and improve boating passage. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

@CWCB_DNR: The latest “Confluence” newsletter is hot off the presses

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

Leaders Across the 9 Colorado Basins Collaborate on Water Plan in Winter Park

On September 25 – 26, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) hosted a statewide summit of Colorado’s nine basin roundtables (the C-9 Summit) at the Headwaters Center in Winter Park, which brought together over 200 water stakeholders to discuss the process for updating each basins’ implementation plans and, ultimately, the Colorado Water Plan.

CWCB recently released the Analysis and Technical Update to the Colorado Water Plan (Technical Update), which includes state of the art approaches to analyzing state water needs and includes impacts from climate change. The C-9 Summit provided a forum for sharing Technical Update findings and highlighting key goals for the upcoming Basin Implementation Plans.

Prior to the panel presentations and discussions, the CWCB organized three water project tours for attendees, which featured Fraser River enhancements, watershed health research in the Experimental Forest, and an innovative education and outreach exhibit called the Headwaters Center River Journey.

Additionally, the C-9 Summit served as a platform to present Basin Water Hero Awards to peer-nominated individuals who have shown continued commitment for water initiatives in their basins. Congratulations to the following winners:

Arkansas: Chelsey Nutter, Colorado: Paul Bruchez, Gunnison: Julie Nania, Metro: Emily Hunt, North Platte: Kent Crowder, Rio Grande: Emma Reesor, South Platte: Mike Shimmin, Southwest: Mike Preston, Yampa-White-Green: Jackie Brown

Supporters say Proposition DD will ‘fund Colorado’s Water Plan,’ but what does that mean? — @AspenJournalism #COWaterPlan

The Colorado River near the Colorado/Utah state line. Proposition DD could allocate tax revenue to a demand management program with the aim of leaving more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Proposition DD’s supporters — including environmental organizations, agriculture interests, conservation districts and Aspen Skiing Co. — say the measure will be used to close a $3 billion state funding gap in implementing the Colorado Water Plan. The frequently cited figure of a $100 million annual shortfall for 30 years is written in the water plan itself.

But where did the authors of the water plan get this number and what kinds of projects and programs might the measure fund? According to the legislation, money raised from Prop DD could go toward an agricultural water-use reduction program that doesn’t yet exist.

In the following explainer, Aspen Journalism unpacks the ballot question, which will be posed to voters Nov. 5, and what the tax revenue may actually end up funding.

The Colorado River in fall light. Proposition DD allows for tax revenue raised through sports betting to fund a future demand management program, which would pay agricultural water users to leave more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

How will Proposition DD work?

Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 19-1327 into law in May. But voters must still pass Proposition DD for it to take effect.

According to the 2019 State Ballot Information Booklet, Proposition DD would authorize the state to collect a 10% tax up to $29 million a year (but the projected average amount is $16 million) from casinos’ sports-betting proceeds. The Colorado Division of Gaming and the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission will be responsible for regulating sports betting operations.

Of the money raised, a projected $130,000 would go to gambling addiction services and $960,000 would go into a “hold harmless” fund. Entities that receive tax revenue from traditional gambling such as horse racing could apply for funding from the hold harmless fund if they can prove they lost money due to the legalization of sports betting.

The remaining projected average annual $14.9 million (but up to $27.2 million) in tax revenue would go to funding projects that align with the goals outlined in the water plan, as well as toward meeting interstate obligations such as the Colorado River Compact. Under the compact, the Upper Basin states, which include Colorado, must deliver 7.5 million acre-feet of water annually to Lake Powell.

If voters pass Proposition DD, it will take effect May 1.

The orange machine is a combine used to harvest grains. The yellow machine in front is a land plane used to level fields, clarification via Larry Vickerman. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smity/Aspen Journalism

What does the legislation say?

The legislation creates a special Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund, which would be administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a statewide agency charged with managing Colorado’s water supply. The money could be spent on water-plan grants, but may also be spent “to ensure compliance with interstate water allocation compacts … including … compensation to water users for temporary and voluntary reductions in consumptive use.”

This language refers to a demand management program, the feasibility of which the state is currently studying.

A hayfield near Grand Junction, irrigated with water from the Colorado River. Under demand management pilot programs, the state could pay irrigators to fallow fields in an effort to leave more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

What is demand management?

At the heart of a demand-management program is a reduction in water use by agriculture on a voluntary, temporary and compensated basis, all in an effort to send up to 500,000 acre-feet of water downstream to bolster water levels in Lake Powell to meet potential obligations under the Colorado River Compact. Under pilot programs the state could pay ranchers and farmers to leave more water in the river.

The CWCB has formed nine workgroups, each tasked with helping to identify and solve issues related to demand management. Western Slope agricultural water users https://www.aspenjournalism.org/2019/08/27/water-equity-a-concern-for-western-slope-water-users/ about how a demand-management program would be implemented fairly.

District 5 State Sen. Kerry Donovan, whose district includes Aspen and who was a sponsor of the bill, acknowledged that as Colorado gets a handle on demand management, money from Proposition DD could go toward funding a future program.

“Most water experts would say demand management in some form will be part of addressing the Colorado River Compact obligations,” Donovan said. “Maybe in five years, maybe in the next generation, but somewhere in the long-term planning strategy of the Colorado River, demand management will be part of the puzzle.”

District 5 State Sen. Kerry Donovan, left, speaks on a panel with other lawmakers at the Colorado Water Congress legislative session in Steamboat Springs in August. Donovan asked water managers for their support of Proposition DD, which would fund water projects grants and, potentially, a demand management program. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

What is the Colorado Water Plan?

At the behest of then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, water managers from across Colorado collaboratively created the water plan, which was unveiled in 2015. The plan, which is more of a policy document, says Colorado faces a looming water “gap” across all sectors — municipal, industrial, agriculture, recreation and environment — because of the state’s growing population and increasing water demands.

The 567-page plan does not prescribe or endorse specific projects but instead sets Colorado’s water values, goals and measurable objectives, which are set out in a critical action plan. For example, the plan sets a measurable objective of storing an additional 400,000 acre-feet of water in reservoirs by 2050 and covering 80% of local rivers with stream-management plans by 2030, but it does not say how water managers should go about doing this.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board, after unveiling the Colorado Water Plan in Denver in November 2015. Revenue from Prop DD could go toward funding water plan grants. Photo credit: Colorado River District

What about water plan grants?

According to the legislation, revenue from Proposition DD will also go toward water-plan grants. Local water managers apply to the CWCB’s Water Plan Grant Program to fund projects that advance critical actions laid out in the water plan from the following categories: agricultural, engagement and innovation, environmental and recreation, water conservation and land-use planning, or water storage and supply.

Water-plan grants are a 50% matching grant, meaning that the local entities applying for the grant must match from their own coffers the amount they are requesting in state funds.

For fiscal year 2019-20, $10 million will be available for the Water Plan Grant Program. Funding from Proposition DD could add roughly $15 million a year to this grant program.

Many of the projects that the water-plan grants fund come from each of the nine basin roundtables’ Basin Implementation Plans. The BIPs identify how each basin’s water needs will be met through existing or new projects, policies and processes. But many of the local water projects included in the BIPs don’t specify how much funding is needed to implement them and many roundtables’ projects lists have only partial and inconsistent information.

For example, 14 of the 31 top projects outlined in the Colorado BIP have “TBD” in the Funding Needs column.

“In the Basin Implementation Plans, some of those projects are pretty rough and it was a best guess at the time with limited information,” said CWCB Deputy Director Lauren Ris.

Roundtables will soon embark on an update to their BIPs, with the goal of refining project details, including cost.

A view of the headgate on the Robinson Ditch and the boulder structure in the Roaring Fork River that maintains the grade of the river so water can reach the headgate. Pitkin County has received a water-plan grant to help repair the diversion structure and improve boating passage. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

What is the funding gap?

According to the water plan, there is an estimated funding gap of $100 million per year over 30 years. These figures, according to Ris, came from data in the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative. That technical analysis found that Colorado needed $20 billion worth of water projects to meet the water supply gap by 2050. Of that $20 billion, $17 billion is expected to be paid for by existing funding sources, including rate payers of water utilities and federal money.

The state is investigating options to fund the remaining $3 billion gap. Proposition DD is one of these options. But the $3 billion figure, based on decade-old data, is not precise.

“($100 million per year over 30 years) was an estimate,” Ris said. “I don’t think it was ever really intended to be an exact figure. It’s more to say, we know there’s going to be a big need and we will work to refine that estimate going forward … We are just trying to point out it’s an expensive endeavor going forward.”

Supporters of Proposition DD say they realize that the estimated $15 million raised per year is still a far cry from the estimated $100 million needed per year, instead calling the money a “down payment” on implementing the water plan.

The 2015 Colorado Water Plan, on a shelf, at the CU law library. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Who is endorsing Proposition DD?

Proposition DD has received broad endorsement from environmental groups such as Conservation Colorado and American Rivers, agriculture organizations such as the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Corn Growers Association, and several chambers of commerce.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District and Aspen Skiing Co. also support the measure.

Matt Rice of American Rivers said his organization is endorsing the measure because it wants to see some projects fully funded, including stream-management plans, urban water-conservation programs and modernization of agriculture irrigation infrastructure.

Rice said American Rivers “unabashedly and unequivocally” supports a demand-management program in Colorado, which Proposition DD could help fund.

“We deeply believe a demand-management program needs to be one of the tools that we have in our toolbox as we plan for water scarcity or prolonged drought because of climate change,” Rice said.

A river project, partially funded by the CWCB on the Arkansas River at Granite. The project was removing a river-wide diversion structure and replacing it with a new diversion structure that will allow unimpeded boating through Granite. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Who is opposed to Proposition DD?

Environmental group Save the Colorado and the political action committee Coloradans for Climate Justice oppose the measure. According to the Coloradans for Climate Justice Facebook page, the group believes fossil fuel companies should pay for the damage to water-supply systems caused by climate change. So far, the group has not filed any reports for contributions or expenditures.

The Colorado River in fall near Loma. Proposition DD could allocate tax revenue to a demand management program with the aim of leaving more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Who is funding Proposition DD?

Despite broad support from many organizations, the political action committee Yes on Prop DD is funded primarily by the gambling industry. According to filings with the Secretary of State, as of Sept. 30, casinos and online sports betting organizations have spent nearly $1 million to support the measure. The Colorado Farm Bureau and the Environmental Defense Fund have contributed $10,000 each.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times, Vail Daily, Summit Daily, Glenwood Springs Post-Independent and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story appeared in the Oct. 10, 2019 edition of the above papers or on their websites.

Proposition DD garners support from state legislators

State Capitol May 12, 2018 via Aspen Journalism

Here’s a guest column that’s running in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Proposition DD isn’t a tax increase on citizens or most businesses. DD requires that casinos pay a tax on the profits from sports betting in a similar way they pay taxes on other casino earnings. It allows Colorado Mountain Casinos to offer sports betting, which is something they aren’t able to participate in.

In 1992, Congress gave Las Vegas a monopoly on sports betting, through an ill-conceived measure in an omnibus package. Thankfully, the Supreme Court overturned this ridiculous law, last year, in the case of Murphy v. The National Collegiate Athletic Association. Justice Alito wrote in the majority opinion that the regulation of sports betting should be left to the states. Our response to this opportunity: Proposition DD.

Proposition DD authorizes operating mountain casinos to offer sports betting, so Las Vegas doesn’t maintain their monopoly. It also allows for a small tax on these same casinos’ profits. The revenue from this tax goes to regulation costs, gambling addiction services, and the Colorado Water Plan.

While Colorado’s population continues to explode, competition for water is reaching a fevered pitch. It’s time for Colorado to take action to preserve the future of our water. Proposition DD will address water infrastructure needs.

Proposition DD would provide an estimated $29 million in funding to expand reservoirs, invest in water quality, manage watersheds decimated by wildfires, and protect access to flowing rivers and streams for fishermen and rafters. Conservatives and citizens who recognize the importance of water to the future of our great state — should vote yes.

DD will provide the funding necessary to protect Colorado’s water. It addresses core challenges like the need for water infrastructure with targeted approaches that do not increase taxes on the general public. By doing this, we keep the pressure for new taxes off the taxpayers in our great state.

Colorado must seek ways to address infrastructure needs without resorting to major tax hikes or the weakening of your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. There is zero need to resort to these measures to fix Colorado’s infrastructure needs. That is why Proposition DD is a reasonable proposal that engages our needs while maintaining low taxes.

Sports betting would be a new enterprise for Colorado, but Proposition DD would limit this enterprise to existing casinos and gambling establishments. It is a modest approach to the gambling industry, while still being viable enough to address our state’s obligations. If the voters approve Proposition DD in November, it is a win for agriculture, a win for the environment, and a win for all Coloradoans.

That’s why, as conservative Republicans, we are proud to join the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Farm Bureau, the Colorado Dairy Farmers, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Trust, Club 20, Action 22, the Grand Junction, Rangeley, and Denver Chambers, and dozens of key water leaders in rural, urban and suburban Colorado in supporting Proposition DD.

The following Colorado legislators contributed to this column: Senate: John Cooke, Owen Hill, Rob Woodward, Don Coram. House: Patrick Neville, Mark Catlin, Matt Soper, Janice Rich, Dave Williams, Kevin Van Winkle, Rod Pelton, Shane Sandridge, Colin Larson.

Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on Propositions CC, DD — Steamboat Today

From the Steamboat Today editorial board:

Coloradoans are being asked to decide two statewide ballot issues this fall, and we encourage voters to approve both measures, which have garnered widespread bipartisan support.

Proposition CC

Proposition CC proposes to eliminate the state’s revenue cap and reallocate that excess revenue to fund transportation and education. It is not a new tax but instead, would allow the state to retain tax revenue rather than refunding it back to taxpayers. The retained revenue would be equally divided and specifically spent on public schools, higher education and transportation projects.

The proposition mandates that the third of the revenue earmarked for transportation be divided between the Colorado Department of Transportation, counties and cities. According to Steamboat Springs City Council member Kathi Meyer, who serves on the executive board of the Colorado Municipal League, which has endorsed Proposition CC, Steamboat and Routt County stand to gain millions of dollars in revenue that can be spent on local roads and bridges during years when there is a Taxpayers Bill of Rights — or TABOR — excess.

In addition to helping to fund Colorado’s crumbling transportation infrastructure, Proposition CC would also boost funding for education, which we think is crucial to the future of our state, which currently ranks in the bottom third of the nation when it comes to per-pupil funding at the K-12 level.

Proposition CC also requires an annual audit of funding, which ensures transparency and allows taxpayers to know exactly how money is being spent.

We realize that Proposition CC is a De-Brucing at the state level, but we believe TABOR needs to be addressed due to the unintended consequences it has had on the state’s ability to fund core services. Proposition CC provides a mechanism to address TABOR’s flaws, and that is one of the reasons why we believe it deserves voter support.

Proposition DD

With broad support from across the state and at the capitol, Proposition DD seems like a no-brainer. The proposition is asking voters to legalize casino sports betting and tax profits to fund the Colorado Water Plan, and we think the measure deserves a resounding “yes” vote.

DD, if approved, will provide a dedicated, predictable revenue stream to help address Colorado’s future water needs. Funding from DD will help keep water in rural Colorado through the support of projects that are prioritized by the state’s various basin roundtables. And with the Yampa River flowing through downtown Steamboat, our communities know first-hand how important water and water quality are to recreation and our local agriculture community.

Sports betting is going to happen whether DD is approved or not, and we believe it’s smart for Colorado to tax it and use that revenue to fund water projects. The proposition also will create a regulated betting market as opposed to the black market, and a small portion of the revenue will be used to support resources to combat gambling addiction — an amount that was established with input from key stakeholders.

Supporters of Proposition DD offer a great analogy for how they believe the proposition will impact Colorado. They think DD will do for water what Great Outdoors Colorado, funded by the Colorado Lottery, did for open space across the state.

DD won’t provide the $20 billion needed to meet all of Colorado’s water demands, but it does create a significant down payment that can be leveraged in a big way.

Ninety percent of the revenue will be placed in a cash fund for Colorado Water Plan implementation. This fund will support the allocation of grants to support projects that focus on water storage, supply, water conservation, land use, agriculture, the environment and recreational uses, which all have the potential to positively affect our local community.

A screenshot from the website for Colorado’s Water Plan.

From Colorado Politics (Joey Bunch):

The group Yes on Proposition DD said the coalition of ag interests in support includes the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Corn Growers Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, the Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Pork Producers and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union…

“Most farmers and ranchers could care less about sports betting. But this is a smart way to pay for the critical water infrastructure that Colorado’s future needs,” Chad Vorthmann, the executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said in a statement.