Remembering Bob Trout — Greg Hobbs

Remembering Bob Trout
by Greg Hobbs

I was Bob’s colleague at Davis, Graham & Stubbs and Hobbs Trout & Raley from 1979 to 1996. Bob is one of our finest Coloradans.

When I joined the Colorado Supreme Court in 1996 and became the Justice assigned to the Civil Rules Committee, I recommended Bob’s appointment to the committee. The best of the best trial lawyers served on this committee. They knew Civil Procedure thoroughly – engaging in prolonged, detailed, scholarly and practical debates every time they considered recommending or not recommending an amendment to the Civil Rules. At that time there was no Water Court Committee. So, Bob, the only water attorney on the Civil Rules Committee – and since water court practice also involves the Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure – through his active and intelligent participation crucially served everyone connected with water court practice and trial practice in general. I mean he held forth with the best of the civil practice attorneys, plaintiff and defense, corporate, the gamut!

I knew Bob would serve well on Civil Rules, for I had experienced his consummate skills as a trial attorney in the federal reserved water rights case involving the forest claims in Water Division No. 1, followed by the very complicated Thornton/Bijou case in which Bob carried a heavy load on behalf of the water users. Bob’s integrity, his calmness under fire (how did he do that!), his meticulous preparation of the facts and expert testimony for trial, and his excellent presentation to the courts both as a trial attorney and an appellate attorney — he exemplified for younger attorneys the traits of a master officer of the court.

Bob was kind, humble, straightforward, true and dedicated to his family. What a fine father to his son and daughter and husband to Jill. For the seventeen years we practiced together, I clearly saw that everyone who came in contact with him relied on his good judgement and his ability to draft all kinds of legal instruments – solving client problems practically with a great deal of equanimity. What a stellar person in all ways with staff, clients, attorneys, engineers, civic organizations and members of the public!

There’s a reason why Bennett and I coaxed Bob to accept the Managing Partner role when we established Hobbs, Trout & Raley in 1992. Competence! We became Hobbs & Trout soon thereafter when Senator Hank Brown asked Bennett to withdraw from the firm and go to Washington D.C. to help the Senator bring about the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act. When Bennett returned, we became Hobbs, Trout & Raley once again. The firm became Trout & Raley when I joined the Supreme Court in May of 1996. The Northern District’s legal business never skipped a beat! The Board was very confident with Bob as its Principal Counsel. So much so, the District honored his energy and light by naming the hydropower plant on the southern water supply delivery pipeline below Carter Lake’s dam and spillway after him. Very few attorneys are ever honored by such a client in such a way.

When we look to Long’s Peak. When we see the Colorado Big-Thompson pipeline traversing the Great Divide from Long’s Peak to Carter Lake’s dam and spillway – delivering sterling water to the people, farms and businesses stretched out on the plains – we see Bob’s hand at work.

Southern Utes approve hefty rate increase for water, wastewater users — The Durango Herald

Photo credit: Ute Camp in Garden of the Gods – Library of Congress

From The Durango Herald (Shannon Mullane):

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe Utilities Division will raise water and wastewater rates by more than 90% and 50%, respectively, starting Oct. 1.

The Southern Ute Utilities Division, administered by the Southern Ute Growth Fund, provides both treated drinking water and wastewater treatment for the tribal campus, local tribal members living near Ignacio and the town of Ignacio. Discussions of rates have caused a rift between the town and the tribe, said Mark Garcia, interim town manager. While the town and the tribe analyze their agreement, ratepayers are stuck paying ever-increasing water and wastewater utility rates.

“Wastewater and water rates are based on usage, and they’re going up,” Garcia said. Utility customers will be hit with the increase at different times, based on their level of use for water and/or wastewater. But for overall water and wastewater rates, “all levels of users will see probably an increase in their rates starting in 2020,” he said.

Starting Oct. 1, ratepayers will pay higher base rates for fewer correlating gallons of water. Water rates will increase from $32.80 per 8,000 gallons to $47.80 per 6,000 gallons, a 94% increase. The rates will jump again Oct. 1, 2020, to $62.80 per 6,000 gallons, a 156% increase over current rates, according to a July letter to Garcia from the tribe.

The town charges customers additional fees for billing, repairs and collections. Garcia said the town’s water fees will increase from $24.60 to $26.48 a month starting Jan. 1, 2020, a 6.4% increase.

Wastewater rates will also increase. Service users currently pay $72.09 per ERT, or Equivalent Residential Tap, per month. One ERT allows for 7,500 gallons of usage.

That billing system will change. The tribal utility will charge the town based on winter usage, not ERT. This shift will also make ratepayers pay more for fewer gallons. On Oct. 1, the rate will increase to $87.09 per 6,000 gallons, a 51% increase over current rates. Wastewater rates will jump again in 2020. Users will be charged $102.09 per 6,000 gallons, a 77% increase over current rates.

The town charges an additional $9.88 base rate to users for billing, repairs and collections.

According to Garcia, the average town customer uses 4,000 gallons of wastewater per month, so ratepayers are paying for more wastewater than they are using.

“With the new rates and winter flow basis, the rates that the tribe charges the town as a bulk customer will actually go down from the current bulk rate charged,” the tribe wrote in a June news release.

70 Ranch project update

Photo credit: 70ranch.com

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Urban water broker builds $22 million reservoir to boost development and agricultural land

The desire to expand housing, commerce and other development around metro Denver and on arid high plains once deemed inhospitable has driven an innovative urban water broker to build a $22 million reservoir on a ranch 70 miles east of the city along the South Platte River.

Water siphoned from the river through a pipeline this summer has filled about a third of this 5,500-acre-foot — or 1.8-billion-gallon — 70 Ranch Reservoir. It’s the latest new storage in an expanding network of reservoirs that United Water and Sanitation District president and ranch owner Bob Lembke is installing to meet rising demands from Front Range suburbs hooked on dwindling groundwater.

Bob Lembke. Photo credit: United Water

The reservoir that Lembke built near his private 13,000-acre 70 Ranch, purchased in 2003, took three years to complete, the largest synthetically lined reservoir west of the Mississippi River. It reflects growing impatience with constraints that could limit development along Colorado’s booming Front Range.

Others in northeastern Colorado also are planning, and seeking funds, to build much larger reservoirs that, like this one, would capture South Platte water otherwise bound for Nebraska. Lembke has been able to avoid red tape — and has left critics asking questions — by working with wealthy water-poor suburbs, building on land he owns and using former gravel pits off the main channel of the river.

“We’d like to try to enhance the economic development. I’m a native. I grew up in Arapahoe County. As a native Coloradan, jobs for my kids, and eventually my grandkids, are important,” Lembke said in a recent interview in his headquarters suite at the Denver Tech Center.

“If you look at Denver, they’ve done a wonderful job planning for their water. But outside of the Denver service area? There’s a lot of challenges in how to get water and economic growth in these areas not served,” Lembke said…

“We have tens of thousands of acre-feet of water that, without storage, will leave the state — to no economic value here in Colorado. We can accommodate a great deal of quality growth. … I am a problem solver. I like to tackle difficult problems. Providing water increases the value of land that otherwise did not have water,” he said…

“Whether on the South Platte River, the Colorado River or the Yampa River, we’re not in favor of converting agricultural water use to municipal use,” said Andy Mueller, manager of the Colorado River District, which represents western Colorado communities.

The new 70 Ranch Reservoir northeast of Denver “brings up questions,” Mueller said. “Is it water to support new growth? Or is it water to support the existing population that is dependent on groundwater?”

The hedge fund investors purchasing land and water rights in western Colorado typically seek double-digit returns, Mueller said. “They believe there’s monetary value there for their investors. We’d say that’s speculation. How do we make sure there is not emerging speculation by outside investors who may not have community values? How do we help farmers and ranchers stay in business?”

Colorado leaders for decades have declined to regulate population growth and development. But the growing private interests in water, perhaps reviving the role private financiers played developing water systems in the 19th and early 20th centuries, has piqued concerns.

“Because traditionally in the West we have the mind-set that water is the property of the people, we are concerned when water is being controlled and distributed by a private corporation that may have very different interests from the collective group of people who are affected by the use of that water,” said Anne Castle, formerly the top federal water official in the Obama administration, now a senior fellow at the University of Colorado Law School’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment.

For an urban water broker to buy agricultural land and install a reservoir “is all perfectly legal and allowable,” Castle said. “But it does make us nervous because we tend to think governmental entities will have some accountability to the people to recognize the different kinds of values people put on water. We just don’t have that assurance with a private corporation.”

Lembke in his role as president of United Water and Sanitation also serves as president of the Weld Adams Water Development Authority, which owns and operates the 70 Ranch Reservoir. He pointed out that these so-called special-use districts are governmental groups…

SIEP Project location map via United Water and Sanitation

Denver-based water attorney David Robbins called Lembke “a very smart man. He is an entrepreneur. He is filling a niche.”

The 70 Ranch site also is used for experiments in drip irrigation, aimed at using water more efficiently to grow plants where otherwise vegetation might not survive…

Lembke now is installing other reservoirs — including two that he would own privately — as part of a network that when completed would store about 30,000 acre-feet for supplying water to suburbs, agriculture, industry and other development along Colorado’s Front Range.

He has built, or is in the process of building, four reservoirs upriver from the 70 Ranch at high-growth locations along the South Platte: in Milliken (12,000 acre-feet), between Commerce City and Brighton (3,500 acre-feet), east of Lochbuie (4,000 acre-feet) and in Fort Lupton (5,000 acre-feet).

These will supply businesses and housing developers in each booming area “to help them achieve their goals for economic growth and development” using surface water from the river rather than by pumping from over-tapped underground aquifers, Lembke said.

“Everything has got a finite limit,” he said. “But if we use water intelligently, we have the potential for long-term growth in this region.”

70 Randh Reservoir: Partnering with the Platte River Water Development Authority, this facility will be used to store water for the support of 70 Ranch’s cattle and farming operations as well as provide storage for local agricultural and municipal water providers. Photo credit: 70 Ranch

Summer is almost over, but the fun has just begun – News on TAP

Denver Water’s Youth Education Program focuses on developing future water citizens.

Source: Summer is almost over, but the fun has just begun – News on TAP

Victims if Colorado adopts California’s zero-emissions standard for cars, and victims if it does not — The Mountain Town News @MountainTownNew

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Victims testified left and right at the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission hearing on Wednesday.

Gov. Jared Polis directed the commission to consider adopting provisions of the California zero emission vehicle standard. This would require vehicle manufacturers to increase the number of electric vehicles delivered to Colorado for sale beginning in 2023. With more variety, according to the thinking, consumers will be more likely to purchase electric vehicles.

Why electric vehicles? Two good reasons.

One is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado has adopted aggressive goals of GHG reduction. The second reason is to reduce precursors of the ground-level ozone that blankets the northern Front Range from Denver to Fort Collins and Greeley on hot summer days. This area is out of attainment with federal standards.

The standards are based on adverse health impacts. A new study has found that air pollution— especially ozone—can accelerate the progression of emphysema of the lung. Researchers found that bad air pollution can have as much impact as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

The Denver-based Regional Air Quality Council testified why electric cars will help the metropolitan area to improve air quality. What the agency calls “on-road mobile sources” contribute 31% of nitrogen oxides and 16% of volatile organic compounds, two contributors to ozone pollution.

Local government groups—including representatives of both Eagle County and Aspen—as well as environmental advocacy groups testified why they supported the ZEV standard.

Then, as the afternoon wore on, two groups with very different opinions took turns at the microphones. First was a collection of groups collectively called the Environmental Justice Coalition. Several identified themselves as being from along Interstate 70 as it passes through Globeville and other communities north of downtown Denver, east of Interstate 25. One woman, speaking in Spanish, which was interpreted, told about the injustice of sending her children to an elementary school there, near the intersection of the two interstate highways, and the pollution from the vehicles that caused harmful health effects such as asthma.

They opposed the widening of I-70, what one speaker, Drew Dutcher, called a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. They lost that battle. But Dutcher suggested that electric vehicles will reduce the pollution to low-income areas such as his.

Ean Tafoya, from the Colorado Latino Forum, broadened that thought to include those who live along all busy highways. He said that Polis had visited poorer Latino communities and said that prioritizing public health was a high priority. “That’s what makes this an environmental justice issue,” he said.

Then came a group called Freedom to Drive Coalition. It includes Mesa County, Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Colorado Motor Carriers Association, Colorado Wheat Growers, Colorado Petroleum Association, and others.

They reject mandates and argued that electric vehicles will be subsidized by purchasers of internal combustion engines, a cost one speaker said would amount to $500 per vehicle. They argued that upper- and middle-class residents of metropolitan Denver as well as places like Aspen would be burdening Colorado’s rural residents.

Elise Jones, a Boulder County commissioner who is also on the Air Quality Control Commission, asked the wheat industry representative if wheat farmers were worried about the effects of climate change. They were worried, he replied, but that was a long-term threat, whereas earning a profit on next year’s crop was an immediate concern. Wheat growers only make money in one out of five years, he said.

The testimony went on and on, and as the afternoon grew long, John Medved, talked. “I have never had anyone tell me they are going on a mountain adventure with an electric car except maybe in the summer,” he said.

Medved also shared this detail: He makes only $400 when sale of a car. All of his significant profits come from other arms of his car dealerships.

It’s perhaps useful to note here that electric vehicles have a reputation of requiring much less maintenance than internal combustion engines, because they have few or no moving parts. As such, they don’t need to be returned to a dealer or some other mechanic for servicing.

What was hard to digest was the argument that rural Colorado would be forced to subsidize urban Colorado. “Simple economics,” one of the Freedom to Drive Coalition. He tried to explain, but the explanation was completely lost on me. Those simple economics also overlook the projections that electric vehicles will reach price parity with internal-combustion engines by 2024-2027.

The Freedom folks also testified that accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles in Colorado will simultaneously raise the price of electricity and raise the price of diesel. Perhaps cause dandruff and bad breath, too?

As I write this, late Thursday afternoon, more than two days after testimony began, the testimony and the questions continue. By the time you read this, a decision will probably have been rendered by the Air Quality Control Commission.

Leaf Byers Canyon August 21, 2017.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission did pass the standards. Air Quality Control Commission adopts a zero-emission vehicle standard (Jessica Bralish):

The new standard will provide Coloradans with more vehicle choices

DENVER: The Air Quality Control Commission adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard for Colorado early today in an 8-1 decision. The move is directly aligned with the commission’s mission to achieve the cleanest air practical in every part of the state.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is pursuing aggressive strategies to reduce ozone pollution as quickly as possible, as the state continues to work to meet the federal ozone pollution standard. Fossil-fuel vehicles are a major source of ozone pollution, along with the oil and gas industry. Ozone pollution can cause asthma and other adverse symptoms. Fossil-fuel vehicles also emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

“We are charged up and ready to roll,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director. “The adoption of the zero-emission vehicle standard is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to making sure every Coloradan has clean air to breathe.”

John Putnam, environmental programs director at the department, said, “We are committed to a state where Coloradans can zip up into the mountains in a zero-emitting vehicle and go for a hike without coughing and wheezing from ozone. It’s what Coloradans rightfully expect and deserve. We’ve made a lot of progress on cleaning up our air over the past several years, but the standards are getting more stringent. We have to rise to the challenge.”

The new zero-emission standard requires automakers to sell more than 5 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2023 and more than 6 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2025. The standard is based on a matrix of credits given for each electric vehicle sold, depending on the vehicle’s zero-emission range.

The new requirement does not mandate consumers to purchase electric vehicles, but experts say it will result in manufacturers selling a wider range of models in Colorado, including SUVs and light trucks.

“The zero-emission standard does not compel anyone to buy an electric vehicle, said Garry Kaufman, director of the Air Pollution Control Division at the department. “It only requires manufacturers to increase ZEV sales from 2.6 percent to 6.23 percent. It’s a modest proposal in the face of a critical threat. Where the federal government refuses to act, states must lead. Time is of the essence.”

The Air Quality Control Commission prioritizes stakeholder engagement and public input.

The commission invited public comment at various hours of the day and evening, and also invited remote testimony by telephone to make it easier for those who could not travel to the Front Range. The commission’s decision came after a robust public comment period, as well as significant written and oral testimony from parties providing information on all aspects of the standard.

“The commission was impressed by the overwhelming amount of public support for electric vehicles from urban and rural areas throughout the state,” said Trisha Oeth, the department’s director of environmental boards and commissions. “They noted that the public want these vehicles, want them more quickly, and want more choices.”

Drought response takes hold along #ColoradoRiver — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel #COriver #aridification @USBR

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Last winter’s big snowpack has helped ease the impacts that long-term drought has had on water storage in the Colorado River watershed, but reservoir storage levels are still low enough that provisions of a new drought contingency plan in Lower Basin states already are kicking in.

Some water officials and conservationists say the triggering of plan components reflects the fact that a single bountiful water year is far from enough for storage to recover from a mostly dry period dating back to 2000, and recently adopted drought planning measures are needed to prepare for the very real possibility that drier years will return. Those measures involve Upper Basin states including Colorado.

The reductions that the Lower Basin drought contingency plan already is requiring show that in its first year, the plan “is already working,” Chuck Cullom, Colorado River programs manager for Arizona’s Central Arizona Project, wrote in a blog on that entity’s website.

The Central Arizona Project is a water provider that will see its supplies reduced by 192,000 acre-feet next year under the plan’s provisions. That is the entire part of the state of Arizona’s Colorado River water allocation that the state instead will leave in Lake Mead under the plan, as a result of projected water levels in that reservoir at the start of next year. Nevada and Mexico also will leave smaller amounts of their allocation in Lake Mead under the plan and a separate agreement involving Mexico.

The actions are required based on a Colorado River Basin report released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. It projects that Lake Mead will begin next year with water at an elevation of 1,089.4 feet. That’s less than a foot under a 1,090-foot threshold set by the Lower Basin drought contingency plan, below which the mandatory austerity measures begin. California will have to start leaving a portion of its allocation in the reservoir should surface levels go below 1,045 feet.

Lake Mead and Lake Powell upstream of it serve as the two largest storage pools in the Colorado River Basin. The Bureau of Reclamation reported that thanks to above-average snowpack, runoff from the Upper Basin into Lake Powell was 145 percent of average from April through July, raising Powell’s elevation by more than 50 feet. But it is projected to remain 81 feet below full as of the start of next year.

The Bureau of Reclamation says that total Colorado River system storage today is at 55% of capacity, up from 49% a year ago…

“One wet year doesn’t change the fact that we have a lot left to do,” said Bart Miller with the Western Resource Advocates conservation group.

He said the big snowpack provides some breathing room in dealing with the longer-term drought. Both Mead and Powell were full in 2000, before the river basin began experiencing a trend of far more dry years than wet ones, he said. The drought contingency planning is an effort to get out ahead of the problem and prevent larger-scale shortages, Miller said…

Drought contingency plans involving the Lower and Upper Basin states and the federal government took effect with their passage by Congress earlier this year. The Upper Basin plan includes provisions to operate reservoirs above Powell as needed to try to keep Powell’s water high enough to continue generating power at Glen Canyon Dam. But another part of the Upper Basin plan involves investigating the use of demand management if needed in the event of a worsening drought, to avoid a forced curtailment of Upper Basin water uses to satisfy water obligations to Lower Basin states under a 1922 compact.

In Colorado, water officials are looking into the possibility of voluntary, compensated, temporary demand management approaches as a means of staving off mandatory, unpaid curtailments under the compact. It’s expected that many demand management approaches would involve Western Slope agricultural operations.

Pokrandt said the milestone of the Lower Basin drought contingency provisions kicking in “certainly highlights the need” to determine if a demand management program is feasible. The Colorado Water Conservation Board recently created nine workgroups that have begun exploring the feasibility of such an approach, and entities including the river district and Grand Valley Water Users Association also are investigating the concept, Pokrandt said.

2019 Colorado Water Congress Annual Summer Conference @COWaterCongress #cwcsc2019

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

Posting to Coyote Gulch is likely to be impacted by the events this week in Steamboat Springs including the horrible bicycle commute each morning and evening between my campsite on the west edge of town and the conference location at the Steamboat Grand Hotel.

Click here for all the inside skinny.

Follow along with the Twitter hashtag #cwcsc2019 or my Twitter feed @CoyoteGulch.