Colorado Water Congress 51st Annual Meeting: Final day
Here are some highlights from the final day of the annual meeting:
The Great Lakes -- St. Lawrence Basin Water Resources Compact and the Colorado Compact in Comparison
The final round of concurrent sessions at Friday's Colorado Water Congress 51st Annual Meeting included a panel discussion of the commonalities and differences between the Colorado River Compact and the recently executed and approved Great Lakes Basin Compact.
The discussion featured State Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs and the Executive Director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, David Naftzger. Moderator for the session was attorney David Robbins.
The big difference between the two compacts was a primarily a function of time, that is, the regulatory climate, business environment today is much more complicated than it was in 1922. The impetus behind the compacts are pretty much the same however, legal and regulatory frameworks for basin development.
The agreement includes several states -- Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- along with two Canadian provinces, Ontairio and Quebec. Controlling out of basin transfers was a major rallying point for the states and provinces, according to Naftzger.
During the late 1990s a proposal to send water via tanker ship to Asia got everyone's attention, he said. It was worrisome due to the fact that there was no statuary authority to oversee the deal and no regulatory processes in place to ensure that the watershed would not be damaged.
Naftzger pointed out that the biggest political obstacle was getting the state legislators to pass the authorizing legislation without tinkering with it. A compact requires identical language since it's a contract between sovereign states. "The 2005 agreement required 18 legislative bodies approval with no changes," and, "getting a thumbs up or thumbs down required some education," he said.
Justice Hobbs couldn't help getting in a little western dig at Mr. Naftzger telling him that the agreement, "Locked up 90% of the fresh water in the U.S."
Focus on Federal Priorites
Friday's general session featured: Rick Cables, Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service; Sally Wisely, Colorado State Director, Bureau of Land Management; and Larry Walkoviak, Upper Colorado Regional Director , U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
All three outlined their agency's renewed commitment to building partnerships with everyone they can. They're trying to be inclusive within the constraints of agency and national policy.
Cables painted a dire picture of some of the watersheds in Colorado saying, "Water supply and water quality are in trouble," and that the only three issues that matter are, "water, water and water."
He is worried about the adverse effects to the watershed from the devastation of lodgepole forests in Colorado. The runoff may come sooner and sedimentation will be a problem. Also, the problem of falling trees -- two million acres of dead trees is a lot of snags -- will effect 350 miles of roads, miles of utility lines, aesthetics and fire control near populated areas. He conceded that it may be impossible to do much in the roadless areas due to budget restrictions and time.
Sedimentation is another huge problem. He mentioned Denver Water's multimillion dollar effort to control erosion and sedimentation in the Hayman Burn area near Chatfield Reservoir. He is hoping for funding to build pro-active controls.
Cables said, "Hopefully we'll have a sea of new lodgepoles come in under the dead trees." Indeed.
During her talk Wisely said, "Water is perhaps our most important responsibility," and added, "water [health] has to be one of the key litmus tests," for projects and agency accountability.
Regarding oil shale development she reminded everyone that there are only 5 projects authorized at this time and they are all looking at in situ methods rather than open pit mining. In situ techniques will be much less damaging to the environment, it is hoped. Everyone pulling for oil shale also hopes that someone will determine a commercially viable solution.
[ed. Oil shale remains the "Next Big Thing" as it has been for 100 years.]
Walkoviak echoed the sentiments of just about everyone in the room when he said he's, "Hoping for a good runoff," because that makes his job easier. Phone calls slow down and the volume and tone take less management.
Reclamation's priorities for 2009 center around maintenance of projects that are old and getting older. Last year they were able to deliver an additional 750,000 acre feet from Lake Powell to the lower basin states. "There is no shortage of people telling us how to operate our reservoirs," he said, scanning the audience for a few of the people he was talking about.
You'll be able to download the powerpoint slides from the Colorado Water Congress soon according to Executive Director Doug Kemper. Video recordings of the meeting should also be available soon. Get a copy just for the Robbins and Hobbs (and Naftzger) session.