Western Slope interests are, ‘better off at the table than on the menu’ — Bill Trampe

Here’s a profile of Rancher and water wonk, Bill Trampe, written by Jennifer Bock running in the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

Although water is probably more essential to his livelihood than many of us in the Gunnison Basin, Trampe admits that his philosophy on keeping water in the Gunnison Basin has changed over the years.

When Arapahoe County proposed the Union Park project, Trampe recalls that the local sentiment was “not one drop” and no one dared stray from that strict line in the sand.

Today, Trampe thinks that Western Slope interests are “better off at the table than on the menu” when it comes to talking to the Front Range and others about West Slope water. Trampe’s philosophy is tied to real life experience: He has spent the last seven years negotiating with the Front Range to develop the Colorado River Water Cooperative Agreement.

Perhaps characteristic of a rancher’s outlook, Trampe is both hopeful and frustrated when it comes to resolving Colorado’s water disputes.

He believes, as many do, that big, transmountain water projects simply won’t be able to provide enough firm yield to satisfy Front Range interests. In statewide water planning discussions, Trampe has been a proponent of addressing this problem through risk management — the idea that the state must have a comprehensive way to evaluate and guard against the potential consequences of failing to meet water delivery obligations to downstream states as it considers new diversions out of the Colorado River Basin.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1068 withdrawn

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According to Joe Stone writing in The Mountain Mail the bill has been withdrawn. Here is Mr. Stone’s recap of a recent Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District meeting. From the article:

District engineer Ivan Walter reported the Temporary Water Transfer legislation, House Bill 1068, was recently withdrawn from consideration after numerous objections.

One reason for objections, Walter said, is that most entities in the state water community consider the [Hydrolocical Institutional Model] inappropriate for determining consumptive use under widely varying conditions. It was developed by Kansas to quantify water depleted from the Arkansas River by wells in Colorado. Terry Scanga, UAWCD general manager, said the model contains presumptive numbers that could cause injury to water right holders. Because lower valley right holders rely on return flow from upstream use, inaccurate numbers could affect amount and timing of return flow, Scanga said. With a change of water right under a temporary transfer, faulty numbers could cause more water to be transferred than was historically used. Scanga explained that could lead to premature calls by holders of senior rights in the lower valley. Premature calls, he said, would cause injury by reducing the amount of water available for junior right holders in the upper valley.

He said a more robust model would have statewide benefits and other entities have expressed interest in supporting the project, including Pueblo Board of Water Works, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “If we don’t do this,” Scanga said, “it will cost us several hundred thousand dollars in opposition costs.”[…]

Hydrologist Jord Gertson reported ice caused gauges to stop functioning properly at Cottonwood Lake and Poncha and Texas creeks. He said the fill rate at Boss Lake dropped from 20 acre feet per month in December to 15 acre feet in January. He said O’Haver Reservoir lost about 4 acre feet of water in January. Gertson said backup equipment was purchased for weather stations and stream gauges and will enable the district to replace any component that might go down, thereby minimizing data loss. Gertson updated directors about offering provisional stream, reservoir and weather data via the district website at http://uawcd.com/water_resources.php.

In other business, directors:

• Learned the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation approved $285,000 for high-elevation data collection platforms and wants to highlight success of platforms already installed within the district.

• Approved financial reports indicating a district general fund balance of $11,985.12 and an Enterprise Committee general fund balance of $59,764.09.

• Heard an augmentation report indicating the state approved applications for 251.81 acre feet of augmentation water.

• Learned about House Bill 11-1066, which would grant some priority to seep ditch rights in continuous use at least 25 years.

• Learned of efforts by Colorado Historical Society to list irrigation ditches on the historic register which would complicate maintenance and operation of irrigation equipment on those ditches.

• Approved $1,000 annual district membership in Family Farm Alliance because the organization provides contacts and information about federal legislation.

• Agreed to oppose a Catlin Canal Co. application for change of use for as much as 40 percent of the company ditch shares.

• Learned about progress on the Arkansas Basin Decision Support System, including need to study evaporation from undecreed reservoirs estimated as much as 30,000 acre feet per year.

• Voted to enter Water Court case No. 10CW98 involving exchanges on Beaver Creek by the City of Victor, Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Co.

• Learned the district reached an agreement in principle with owners of Willow Creek Ranch near Leadville including protections for district water.

• Received feedback from directors about the recent Colorado Water Congress annual convention.

• Heard a legal report from attorney Julianne Woldridge regarding district applications and court decrees.

Here’s an essay from Dave Miller about the legislation. Mr. Miller writes, “Colorado’s HB1068 is the product of Balkanized single-basin water planning.” More from the article:

U.S. Department of Interior reports indicate Colorado has beneficially used only about 2.2 million acre-feet of its annual 3.87 million acre-feet of Colorado River Compact entitlements since the 1970s. This means Colorado still has major interstate rights that should be developed as soon as possible for urban growth. As a primary headwater state and water source for 11 down-river states, Colorado has several innovative high-altitude renewable water and energy storage sites and solutions for state and regional needs. This breakthrough high storage concept is described in Central Colorado Project’s (CCP) White Paper, dated April 4, 2007, and its applicable U.S. Patent No. US 7,866,919 B2, dated Jan. 11, 2011.

To date, Colorado’s statewide water planning entities — Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Interbasin Compact Committee — have not shown interest in Colorado’s integrated high-altitude storage options for statewide and regional water and energy needs. This skepticism would, in all likelihood, change to enthusiasm if preliminary modeling were used to confirm the extraordinary economic and environmental advantages of high-altitude reservoirs for Colorado and the southwestern region.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

State Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, withdrew HB1068 to give a task force time to develop a better approach to long-term leasing and fallowing of land. Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, was the bill’s Senate sponsor. The bill would have established a pilot program that allowed agricultural water-rights holders downstream from Pueblo Dam in the Lower Arkansas basin to lease up to one-third of their holdings to municipalities for up to two 40-year terms, meanwhile, fallowing the land it would have watered. It also would have granted authority to the state engineer to approve water transfers presently under the purview of state Water Courts. Fischer said the bill’s intent was to establish a long-term leasing mechanism so agricultural holders of water rights could continue to reap financial benefits for their rights without forfeiting them. “I was trying to solve a very complex issue about how we in the future as a state are planning to be able to meet our water needs as the population of our urban areas increases without having the default be permanent ag dryup, or buy-and-dry, as they call it,” Fischer said.

Fischer said he proposed to give the state engineer authority over water transfers to make the process more accessible. He said going through the existing channels in Water Court to establish leasing arrangements is cost-prohibitive to most holders of water rights. Last week, John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s appointee to head the Interbasin Compact Committee, visited the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and the formation of a task force to review leasing of water rights developed. So instead of moving forward with his proposal, Fischer said allowing the task force to fully study how best to approach leases would be prudent…

[Arkansas Basin Roundtable member Bud O’Hara] said the proposed pilot project that could have stretched into 80 years of leasing represented too long a time frame. He said granting authority over water transfers to the state engineer might not be seamless, considering turnover in that post that typically follows election of a new governor. “There is an existing process for getting concerns reviewed through Water Court, and an opportunity to comment,” O’Hara said. “We just want them to use that process rather than circumvent it by going directly to the state engineer.”

More Dave Miller coverage here and here. More Upper Ark coverage here.

Gunnison River Basin: Union Park Reservoir

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Every so often Dave Miller surfaces with his hopes to build Union Park Reservoir high up in the Taylor River watershed in Gunnison County. The plan is to move water out of the Gunnison River Basin to satisfy some of the projected need east of the Great Divide.

Mr. Miller has penned a letter to the editor that is running in the Ag Journal. From the article:

Since these late 1980s studies, an innovative Blue Mesa-Aspinall high altitude storage alternative was conceived and evaluated between 2004 and 2007. It is called the Central Colorado Project. CCP is designed to pump and store several years of the Bureau’s unused Aspinall Pool rights in the Gunnison National Forest’s off-river Union Park Reservoir site, near the Continental Divide. Advanced modeling can quickly confirm CCP’s unprecedented capabilities throughout multiple river basins. CCP’s 1.2 million acre-feet of storage at 10,200 feet altitude can integrate and selectively multiply the productivity of limited water and energy resources, throughout five southwestern river basins – Gunnison, Colorado, [South] Platte, Arkansas and Rio Grande – and the western power grid.

More Union Park Reservoir coverage here.