Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

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From the Greeley Tribune: "The deadline for the 2008 water conservation rebate program by the city of Greeley is Dec. 31. Applications for rebates must be submitted before January of next year to be eligible for 2008. The program will continue in 2009 for products purchased between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. More than 600 Greeley residents took advantage of the program this year."

Category: Colorado Water
11:43:49 AM    

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): "Shareholders of the Amity Canal settled Friday with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association in an upcoming case to change the use of almost half the ditch company's shares to provide water for a proposed power plant near Holly. There were no dissenting votes in a move that would support Tri-State's decree, consistent with the stipulation, in Tri-State's case. Tri-State has applied to change 49.12 percent of the shares of the Amity system, which would yield an average of about 20,000 acre-feet annually. Tri-State's change of water rights application includes agricultural, augmentation, storage and power plant uses in the valley."

More from the article:

Of the 20 parties to Tri-State's change of water rights case, 17 have entered stipulations agreeing to the entry of a decree in Tri-State's case. Parties signing stipulations include the Colorado State Engineer, Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, State Land Board, Southeastern Water Conservancy District, Prowers County, City of Lamar, Fort Lyon Canal Company, Buffalo Canal, Arkansas Valley Ditch Association, Holbrook Mutual Irrigation Company, Division of Wildlife, Aurora, Pueblo, Public Service Company, Five Rivers Ranches and individual parties. The State Land Board withdrew from the case...

Environment Colorado remains in the case on issues relating to the use of John Martin Reservoir, and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District wants to ensure there is proper revegetation of any farmland dried up as a result of the change case. Trial is scheduled to begin in Division 2 Water Court on Jan. 27.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
11:40:29 AM    

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From the Pagosa Springs Daily (Bill Hudson): "The Town of Pagosa Springs' ill-fated white water feature, the Davey Wave, was built in 2005 and has served as a focal point over the past three years -- a focal point of tourist and local water sports activities, and a focal point of controversy.

"Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered the Town to have the feature removed by December 31 this year, due mainly to erosion and flood level problems it has caused. It appears the Town is going to miss that deadline, but the hydrology firm hired to oversee the project hopes the ACOE will be satisfied, if not with the Wave's actual removal, at least with a plan to re-engineer the feature in March, 2009."

Category: Colorado Water
11:32:37 AM    

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Here's an recap of the first meeting of the Lower Dolores Management Plan Working Group meeting, from Kristen Plank writing in the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Roughly 50 interested residents from Cortez, Dolores, Dove Creek and beyond braved Monday's snowstorm to meet for the first Lower Dolores Management Plan Working Group meeting. Members of the working group, including various stakeholders and organization representatives, will be meeting over the next year to give input on a comprehensive river management plan, known as the 1990 Dolores River Management Plan, that the Dolores Public Lands Office plans to update in the fall of 2009. Monday's meeting took members of the working group and the public through much of the background issues related to updating the river management plan. Dolores Public Lands Office employees, including Manager Steve Beverlin and hydrologist Shauna Jensen, explained where the management plan began, where they are now, and what is ahead.

Part of the group's purpose is to help designate how best to "classify" the Dolores River, in a legal sense, so that it receives appropriate protection measures, Beverlin said. The group hopes to bypass a federal classification known as the Wild and Scenic River Designation because federal management of that river conflicts with current principles the Dolores River Dialogue has already established, according to a grant letter written by Dolores Water Conservancy Manager Mike Preston...

The working group was formed in February under the direction of the Dolores River Dialogue, a group that has been holding regular meetings to preserve and improve water habitats in the Dolores River Valley. A grant, written by Preston, for $99,980 was received to fund the working group's progress throughout next year.

On the Web:

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
11:22:24 AM    

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner): "It's back to the drawing board for the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District, and Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District. Late last month, RMW signed a letter of intent with UAWCD to lease some 20 acre feet of water from the RMW-owned Johnson Ranch south of Westcliffe.

"The UAWCD had hoped to use that water to help bring a blanket water augmentation plan to the Wet Mountain Valley, however, after concerns were raised about the agreement, the RMW has chosen to rescind the original letter and start over. A public hearing to continue to address the matter has been scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 8, beginning at 6 p.m. in the community room at Cliff Lanes bowling center."

The Round Mountain board just fired the district manager, according to a report from Nora Drenner writing in the Wet Mountain Tribune. From the article:

The board of directors for the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District has fired district manager Josh Cichocki, and they have accepted a letter of resignation from board member Paul Rose. Those actions took place during the board's regular meeting on Thursday, Dec. 4.

The firing of Cichocki followed a two-hour executive session conducted at the request of Cichocki, who has worked with the local district for a year. Board members cited poor job performance as the reason for letting Cichocki go. Voting in favor of firing Cichocki were board president Chris Haga, Darrell Niles and John Potts. RMW board member John Johnston voted against the motion. Cichocki immediately turned in his office key and left the meeting. Cichocki also said he would return RMW's lap top computer and shop keys on Friday, Dec. 5, as they were at his home in Rosita. The board confirmed earlier this week that those items were returned.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
10:50:13 AM    

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From the Leadville Chronicle: "Parkville customers will notice an increase on their water bills beginning with the first billing cycle in 2009. With the rate change, all customers will see an increase of $2 per month in the minimum charge, which is the cost for the first 3,000 gallons used in each month. There will also be an increase in the cost per thousand gallons above the minimum, from $2.40 per 1,000 gallons to $3 per 1000 gallons. 'Generally, if our customers practice wise water usage, the increase will have a minimal effect on household budgets,' said Greg Teter, water district general manager. This rate hike was approved, along with the 2009 operating budget, by the Parkville management and board of directors at the December Parkville Board meeting."

Category: Colorado Water
10:38:34 AM    

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The court case around the rules for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District's groundwater sub-district #1 is winding down. Judge O. John Kuenhold promises a decision by the end of the year after hearing closing arguments December 16th. Here's a recap from Ruth Heide writing in the Valley Courier. From the article:

He also indicated what that decision would be. "It's likely I am going to remand this," he said. "Whether I remand it in its entirety or in part is another question." He added, "I will analyze this with all my ability and give you my best judgment." He said if he remands the first water management plan back to the sub-district and its sponsoring district the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD), he would expect any modified plan to also go back to the state for its review.

Dual cases regarding the management plan went to trial before Kuenhold this fall, and the judge scheduled the closing arguments for Tuesday. At issue were the local district's approval of its sub-district's water management plan which came to Kuenhold as a civil case with a sole remaining objector and the state engineer's approval of the plan which came to the judge as a water court case with multiple objectors.

Proponents of the sub-district and its plan maintained that the plan was properly drafted/approved and met the district's goals of reducing the drain on the Valley's underground aquifer, replacing injurious depletions to surface water users and keeping the Valley in compliance with its Rio Grande Compact obligations while allowing farmers who depend on well water to stay in business.

Opponents contended that the plan was too vague and did not provide enough protection to senior surface water users.

More coverage from the Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

In 2004, the Legislature passed a law authorizing the creation of groundwater subdistricts in an attempt to regulate pumping in the San Luis Valley. The proposed subdistricts are to be reviewed by a water judge, and Kuenhold began hearing testimony on the proposal in October. Farmers and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District authored the proposal, which aims to reduce water pumping from the shallow aquifer of the south-central San Luis Valley. Through a combination of local assessments and potential funds from a federal conservation program, the subdistrict would pay landowners to fallow up to 40,000 acres of farm ground.

The subdistrict would also raise money to restore any depletions from senior surface rights and ensure that the state's obligations in the Rio Grande Compact are not diminished by groundwater pumping.

Supporters have argued that the subdistrict plan, which contains no authority to curtail pumping, is preferable to rules and regulations from the state engineer's office.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
10:29:01 AM    

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From the Cañon City Daily Record: "Because of a split vote, the council tabled a decision on whether to pursue a study on the Oak Creek drainage project in Monday night's meeting. In a meeting with Army Corps of Engineers, the city learned it would have to pay $140,000 in 2009 to keep the project alive and split the cost 50/50 with the Corps. In the meantime, Colorado Water Conservancy Board has allocated $106,000 funding for the project, but the city would have to pay the money up front to fund the study before requesting remittance from CWCB."

Category: Colorado Water
10:09:52 AM    

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From the Pagosa Springs Sun (Chuck McGuire): "Last week, the San Juan Water Conservancy District Board of Directors adopted budgets and joined a cloud-seeding program, but failed to approve a resolution suspending the collection of impact fees. Work toward that end will apparently continue next month. As with other area governments and special districts, December is budget time for the district, and its board of directors adopted amended 2008 and final 2009 budgets, Dec. 10. Above all, the SJWCD is charged with providing its constituents a dependable and sustainable source of water supply. Therefore, obtaining resources for future raw water storage ranks high on its list of primary functions."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:55:16 AM    

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From the Delta County Independent: "During its public hearing Dec. 3 on the 2009 town budget, current and former Orchard City Town Board members had a lively dialog on town spending priorities regarding water.

Angie Many, a former town trustee, addressed the board at the public hearing saying, 'The board was discussing the need to save for water projects which needs to be done as soon as they can be. The town is allowed to transfer a certain amount of money from the general fund to the water fund.'

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:45:44 AM    

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From the Crested Butte News: "If all goes smoothly, hydroelectricity could be flowing from Taylor Park in just a couple of years. A consortium of local interests has been awarded a grant to conduct a feasibility study of hydropower generation at the Taylor Dam...

"In October, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD), the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Group, and the Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA) agreed to partner in a $30,000 matching grant application to the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to conduct a hydroelectricity feasibility study."

Category: Colorado Water
9:35:51 AM    

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Parker residents are hopping mad about a proposed 28% water rate increase, according to Chris Michlewicz writing in the Parker Chronicle. From the article:

Parker Town Council members, residents and homeowner's association board members came out in droves to show their dissatisfaction with a proposed 28 percent increase in water rates and fees from the Parker Water and Sanitation District. Attendees packed into a conference room at the district's north water reclamation plant Dec. 11, when the board members were expected to vote on the resolution. After more than two hours of public pleas to reduce the increase, the Parker Water and Sanitation District board decided to delay the discussion and possible decision until a meeting at 5 p.m. Dec. 22 at the district headquarters at 19801 E. Mainstreet in downtown Parker.

District manager Frank Jaeger pointed out during a presentation at the beginning of last week's meeting that cuts were made in every area possible, resulting in a final recommendation of a 20 percent hike, or an average $11 monthly increase. In its initial proposal, the district said water rates would rise for every user, and flat service fees would increase for water and sewer service.

The plan also called for an increase in tap fees, which are paid by developers when homes and businesses are connected to the Parker water system, but Jaeger asked the board to table its decision so home builders could work the increases into their development plans.

Parker Mayor David Casiano has been the most vocal public figure to oppose the rate and fee increases because he said customers cannot afford to pay more in difficult economic times. An increase also would deter developers from bringing projects to Parker, which would result in a drastic decrease in revenue for the town.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:25:46 AM    

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Here's part one of Gene Sears and Rosalie Everson's series on Aurora's Prairie Waters project from the Brighton Standard Blade's.

Here's a part two. Aurora originally sold the project as a reuse project for water they transported from the West Slope. However it appears that they are buying additional ditch rights for the project. From the article:

It was a concept [reuse] bought into early on by Bart Miller of Western Resource Advocates, a six-state non-profit environmental law and policy organization focused on water and energy issues. "Certainly a portion of their project, the initial materials that they put out, was that it was waters that they were legally entitled to reuse, it was nothing to do with the farmland," Miller said. "They have some water that comes through the Fry/Ark project, the Frying Pan/Arkansas project, from the West Slope. That water they are legally entitled to use to extinction. So, if they have diverted a certain volume and only used, say, 20 to 30 percent of it and the rest has gone back to the river, under the general Colorado law they can use trans-mountain water that comes from a different basin. They can reuse that to extinction. That's what the original concept was, a reuse project."

During the honeymoon phase of Prairie Waters, Aurora failed to tell the Weld planners what they were buying, and are still buying: local water rights at a rate not seen since 1985, when the city of Thornton covertly bought thousands of acres of farmland north of Fort Collins for their water rights. Aurora, although it has purchased about 500 acres of real property for its north campus well farm between WCR 23 and Highway 85 alongside WCR 8, is not buying land per se, but ditch water rights -- shares of Brantner, Fulton, Lupton Meadows, Lupton Bottoms, Western Mutual and Platteville ditchwater. Along with outright purchases of ditch water, such as the 50 shares of the Fulton Ditch the city has purchased, Aurora's plan to secure water for city taps is drying up farms from Brighton to Platteville. Weld County records list that Aurora City initiated 13 dry-up covenants, water court decrees that allow farm owners to sell the water rights that have traditionally belonged with the land. The first such action came Sept. 8, 2005, with the most recent occurring Oct. 28. It is a process that shows no sign of stopping, as Aurora continues actively seeking "willing buyers," [ed. willing sellers?] according to city officials last week.

As the farmland is dried up, the tax base for school, fire, community college, and library districts erodes. Irrigated farmland in the area, Weld Assessor Chris Woodruff said, is valued at $425 an acre. Dry land goes down to $43 and grazing land, $12 per acre. The assessed value is 29 percent multiplied by the mil levy rate, a significant blow to the local economy. The original 10,000-acre feet are only the beginnings of a project planned to more than quadruple in size over the next two decades. Information from Deere and Ault, the city's water consultant and the same firm that worked with Thornton for its water procurement, clarifies Aurora's goals: "The PWP will provide a reliable supply of water to the city utilizing fully consumable water rights owned by the city of Aurora, junior water rights appropriated from the South Platte River and South Platte River agricultural water rights. The initial phase of the PWP slated end-of-year 2010 aims to deliver an annual water supply of 10,000 acre-feet to the city of Aurora. The full build-out of the PWP is anticipated to be completed in the year 2030 and provide an annual water supply of 46,000 acre-feet."

The Adams County Commissioners, the Wattenberg Improvement Association, representing the well interests of the residents of nearby Wattenberg, the Brighton Ditch Company and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, among others, also filed objections with the state water court. The issues before the Weld Planning Commission two years ago - approval of the aquifer recharge and recovery portion of the project - was their sole responsibility. Classified as a major facility of a public utility, it did "not get forwarded to the board of county commissioners for final determination per section 23-2-300 of the Weld County Code."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:13:04 AM    

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon): "Construction of the 36-inch water transmission line, from the water treatment plant on the east side of U.S. 50 around the Soda Point curve, in front of Territorial Prison to First Street then to Main Street and up Fifth Street will cost just $2.573 million after council approved a Tezak Heavy Equipment bid Monday. The bid was nearly half of the original estimated cost. City Public Works Director Adam Lancaster said the reason for the difference in the winning bid and the estimate was attributed to some work which was removed so that city workers could do the tasks in-house, changes in specifications and the market. "Right now, with the volatility of the market it depends on just how hungry some contractors are. We had eight bids which ranged from $2.4 million to $6.7 million,' Lancaster said. Also on Monday, the council voted to set the property tax mill levy at 2.683 mills."

Category: Colorado Water
8:53:49 AM    

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Fairplay's new wastewater treatment plant has been online since Thanksgiving week, according to Linda Bjorklund writing in the Fairplay Flume. From the article:

On a Dec. 11 tour of the plant, Stanford told The Flume that the quality of the outflow has been monitored to make sure that the wastewater treatment is working as it was designed...

The plant tour progressed from the headworks, now located within the treatment plant building; to the monitoring room, which contains electrical equipment; downstairs, where power equipment and the ultraviolet water treatment system have been built; and outside, to the covered separate chambers where wastewater comes in and is returned after treatment on its way into the Platte River system. Stanford explained that the ultraviolet water treatment system was not yet in operation, but would replace the chlorination treatments that have been used previously...

At the meeting of the Fairplay Sanitation District Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 11, it was reported that the plant is substantially complete and a payment from the retainage account was approved upon the advice of attorney Robert Tibbals. Phase two, the waste sludge project, remains to be completed in 2009. The CDPHE has issued the new plant discharge permit for public review and any comments can be made until Dec. 26.

The new plant was a long-time coming. It faced funding problems and design problems along the way.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:27:25 AM    

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Here's a look at what to expect from Ken Salazar and the Department of Interior from Laton McCartney writing for New West (and From the article:

After eight years of the Bush Administration's using Interior to enrich its friends in the energy business, obliterate huge swaths of landscape -- see the Upper Green River Valley -- short-change us on oil and gas royalties, endanger endangered species, and gut environmental laws, Senator Salazar (D. Colo) may well be Wyoming's last, best hope.

Indeed, no cabinet post is more critical to Wyoming than the one to which Salazar has been appointed. If approved, the 53-year-old, fifth-generation Coloradoan will be responsible for a broad portfolio of services that bears on every aspect of Wyoming's economy and environment. Interior encompasses the Bureau of Land Management; the National Park Service; the Bureau of Reclamation (which has been involved with the management and conservation of the state's water resources since Teddy Roosevelt was president); Minerals and Management Services (which collects and distributes the state's energy royalties); the Bureau of Mines; the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs...

"Senator Salazar is a neighbor who knows the issues facing the west," Republican U.S. Senator John Barrasso, Wyoming's junior senator told WyoFile. "As members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Salazar and I came together on issues important to our states. We worked on legislation that protects western resources and to ensure that certain priorities of our states are met. I look forward to discussing Senator Salazar's views about issues important to Wyoming during the confirmation process."

"Senator Salazar is someone who understands the West," adds Laurie Milford, executive director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. "He recognizes the value of a balanced energy policy, which includes responsible natural gas production on many of our public lands, while at the same time respecting local communities when they identify areas that are too special to drill."

As one of the few people in Congress who has genuine agricultural bona fides -- his older brother, Democratic Colorado Congressman John. T. Salazar, can make the same claim -- Salazar is viewed as a champion of ranching and farming interests. "I'm very pleased he has a background in ranching," says Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. "On issues such as public land grazing this can be very helpful. He's always been supportive of public land grazing. I wouldn't anticipate our agreeing on everything, but on this issue we clearly can relate."[...]

In one of his first acts as Colorado's attorney general, Salazar showed he wouldn't hesitate to shake up the status quo. In a move that may bode well for managing an Interior Department that's been beset by corruption and ineptitude, Salazar had all the deputy attorneys general and department staff turn in letters of resignation. "Nobody actually got fired as I recall, but Salazar made everyone justify their existence and set goals for the next ten years," Chiropolos says...

In the Senate, Salazar urged the Forest Service to boost spending to fight the bark beetle epidemic and was largely viewed as a supporter of wilderness protection, off road vehicle limits and strong water quality protection. His position on shale development has been proceed-with-caution, yet he also won praise from oil and mining interests for what they characterized as his reasoned, non-doctrinaire approach. Salazar has supported Wyoming-related legislation such as the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, a bill to withdraw from leasing certain federal land in the Wyoming Range and to retire other range leases...

"The Department of the Interior desperately needs a strong, forward looking, reform-minded Secretary," the group's [Center for Biological Diversity] executive director Kieran Suckling said in a December 16 news release. "Unfortunately, Ken Salazar is not that man." Among Salazar's failings, according to Suckling:

* fought federal action on global warming
* voted against increased fuel efficiency standards
* voted against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil
* voted for subsidies to ranches and other users of public land
* and, yes, as Colorado AG, he threatened to sue US Fish and Wildlife when its scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered.

"There's been some concern voiced that Salazar is not always making decisions based on good science," says Western Resource Advocates' Chiropolos. "But he's extremely well informed and quickly gets up to speed."

Chiropolos believes Salazar's tenure will resemble that of former Carter Administration Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in that Salazar, like Babbitt, knows politics, uses horse sense and diplomacy to push his agendas, but remains a forceful, environmental advocate...

"He's a man who understands what 'balance' means between natural gas development and safeguarding the Valley's abundant wildlife and air and water resources and protecting local communities.," says Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Coalition. "I've got great hope."

Baker concedes that, unfortunately, hope and balance may never be enough to restore the Pinedale region which is currently beset by rapidly deteriorating air quality, ground water contamination, huge wildlife losses and vast tracts of no-longer-useable land -- all the result of rampant natural gas exploitation. "So much egregious stuff has been going on around here for the past eight years that much of the damage can't be reversed," says Baker.

More coverage from Chris Frates writing for Politico. From the article:

To understand Sen. Ken Salazar's understated, down-the-middle style and how he might lead President-elect Barack Obama's Interior Department, just follow the money. His campaign contributions say as much about his environment and energy politics as his rhetoric...

During his four years as Colorado's junior senator, traditional energy companies -- mining, oil and gas -- gave the Democrat more than $27,000. Alternative energy companies, meanwhile, shelled out almost $33,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics. "The fact that he has a balance certainly fits with his profile as somebody who's a centrist and tries to play the middle course," said David Donnelly of Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonpartisan group that advocates for publicly financed elections. But the relatively small size of the sum combined with Salazar's short tenure in the Senate makes sweeping conclusions difficult, Donnelly said. "He hasn't been around long enough for one of these industries to sink their hooks into him."

Dan Grossman, director of the Rocky Mountain Office of the Environmental Defense Fund, said Colorado has depended on Salazar's "commitment to unite rather than divide." "Ken Salazar will bring the nation together in forging stewardship of our public lands, water and wildlife through integrity and through his abiding dedication to this cherished American legacy," Grossman said.

More coverage from Rob Capriccioso writing in Indian Country Today:

Salazar, who is Hispanic, won the seat of former Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, after he retired in 2004. He will replace current Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who has been unpopular with many American Indians and tribes. Despite being from opposing political parties, Nighthorse Campbell had many positive things to say about Salazar's new role in Obama's Cabinet. "President-elect Obama couldn't have picked a better person," Nighthorse Campbell said. "Kenny has a really strong voting record on Indian water rights, land claims, and things of that nature - he's just a wonderful candidate. I think, very frankly, that Native America is going to be very happy with him."[...]

While in the Senate, Salazar has co-sponsored what have been viewed as positive Indian country-focused bills, including the National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month Act, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site Trust Act, bills to extend methamphetamine funding to tribes, and a bill focused on honoring Code Talkers.

More coverage from The Hub (David Mullings):

So what's the Ouray County angle on this new national leadership team that is being assembled by President-elect Barack Obama?[...]

...perhaps the biggest impact, at least locally and on the ground, will come in the management of public lands. In Ouray County, more than half (50.8% to be precise) of our 542 square miles land is owned by one of three public agencies. We can probably expect policy shifts toward preservation and conservation. Notably, we will have a home-state boy, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar as the newly appointed secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior...

Environment Colorado said: "We look forward to working with Sen. Salazar in his new position to reform our nation's outdated mining law, where he can play a key role by holding industry accountable. And, Sen. Salazar should work to ensure a fully funded National Park System and preserve our nation's great natural legacy."[...]

Britt Weygandt, executive director of Western Business Roundtable, had this to say: "We look forward to continuing to find areas of agreement with the Obama Administration and particularly with our new Secretary of the Interior on water, public lands, energy policy and endangered species regulation. We know that we will get a fair hearing even on those issues where we disagree, because that's the kind of guy Ken Salazar is."

Some in Colorado may not remember his first high-profile public position, before he was the state's attorney general and junior U.S. senator. That job was as director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, under then-Gov. Roy Romer. There, Salazar was author of the Great Outdoors Colorado, the most important program in the state's history in protecting open space.

More coverage from Mateusz Perkowski writing in the Capital Press: The West's AG website:

President-elect Barack Obama's pick to head the Interior Department met with a big sigh of relief from farm and ranch organizations. Obama's nominee for secretary of the Interior, Democratic Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, is largely seen as a pragmatist who deeply understands the culture and economy of the rural West. "We fully expect him to balance resource concerns with caring for the people," said Jeff Eisenberg, executive director of the Public Lands Council, which represents ranchers who graze cattle on public land. "You need to take care of the land, but you need to take care of the people who make a living from the land," he said...

The Klamath basin became an important political battleground early in President George W. Bush's first term: Water was shut off to irrigators a few months into his first term and a fish die-off occurred the next year, when irrigation was restored. Those events established the Klamath basin as a top priority throughout Bush's presidency, Addington said. The region will now likely face more competition for the Interior Department's attention, but Addington is nonetheless optimistic about Salazar's upcoming tenure. "The word that comes up most often is 'balanced,'" he said. "Everything I hear is that agriculture has a good relationship with him."

Fruit and vegetable growers in California are also heartened by the nomination of Salazar, said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of the Western Growers Association. Growers hope that, under Salazar's direction, the Bureau of Reclamation will tackle water shortages throughout the state with storage and restoration projects, said Nassif. "To resolve the problems we have is going to take federal involvement," he said.

Salazar is known for seeking innovative ways to solve Western water problems, said Dan Keppen, of the Family Farm Alliance. For example, earlier this year he pushed through a bill in support of treating wastewater generated during methane production, Keppen said...

As for enforcing the Endangered Species Act, it seems likely Salazar will take a moderate approach, said Rob Rivett, president of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has been involved in lawsuits challenging ESA enforcement. "From what we know of him, he is not an extremist," Rivett said. For example, during a 2002 court case over listing Coho salmon as an endangered species, Salazar - then Colorado's attorney general - filed court papers in opposition to the listing, he said.

More coverage from the Rocky Mountain News:

President-elect Barack Obama wants major reforms in the "deeply troubled" and scandal-plagued Department of the Interior, but not everyone is convinced Sen. Ken Salazar is the person for the job.

After introducing Salazar as his new Interior secretary nominee Wednesday, Obama cited a litany of problems that have plagued the department over the past eight years - from a spate of embarrassing lobbying scandals to the perception of cozy relationships between resource managers and the industries they are supposed to regulate. Obama called Salazar uniquely qualified, and some conservation groups that have worked closely with him praise his pragmatic approach to issues. But others are skeptical of his environmentalist credentials and doubt he would be a true reformer.

"Salazar has never run on a reformer platform. He has not taken the lead in reform issues. So I just don't have a lot of confidence," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Arizona- based Center for Biological Diversity.

The Wet Mountain Tribune editorial staff in on board with the Salazar nomination. They write:

For many Coloradans, It was an exhilarating day yesterday when popular Senator Ken Salazar was tagged by President-elect Obama to serve as Secretary of the Interior.

Salazar, whose ancestry in the American Southwest can be traced back to the 16th century, has served four years of his first term in the U.S. Senate, where he has gained a reputation as a fence-mender, a key strategist in renewable energy policy, a champion for America's farmers, and a respected member of the powerful Finance Committee.

For those of us in Custer County, he's been a staunch friend to rural Colorado. A native of the San Luis Valley just across our Sangre de Cristos, Salazar has always felt at home in the small towns and villages of Southern Colorado, and he's a frequent visitor to Westcliffe. He held an informal rural health symposium here just two months ago, and even in his days from 1999 to 2004 as Colorado Attorney General, he found plenty of reasons to visit the Wet Mountain Valley.

Some hard-core environmental groups have derided Obama's pick of Salazar, saying he's just too cozy to agriculture, mining, forestry and the other extraction industries that built the American West. Those opponents seem to be city-slickers who don't know a Ponderosa Pine from an Engelmann Spruce, what an Animal Unit is, or how to spell molybdenum. Westerners on the other hand, whose economy still revolves around those extraction businesses, have learned to trust Salazar, and feel he would be a prudent caretaker of the half-billion acres of public land that fall under the Department of Interior.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:16:29 AM    

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Melinda Dudley): "Phippsburg residents will see their quarterly water and sewer bills rise $6 in 2009, in part because of expensive infrastructure projects Routt County had to undertake this year. In addition to an emergency $100,000 water main replacement last summer, the county also made about $500,000 in upgrades to the Phippsburg Wastewater Treatment Facility, Routt County Environmental Health Department Director Mike Zopf said Friday. The rate increases will affect the roughly 120 homes the county serves in the Phippsburg area. Customers will see their $94 quarterly water bill go up to $97, and their $72 accompanying sewer charge will increase to $75. The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved the rate increases as part of the county's 2009 budget, which was officially adopted Monday."

More from the article:

After rates stagnated for six years, the Oak Creek Town Board raised water and sewer rates by about 50 percent for 2009, from $55 to $83 for residential customers. Trash and electric rates also went up in Oak Creek, though to a lesser degree.

The town of Yampa is poised to raise its utility rates next month. The 2009 budget approved earlier this month by the Yampa Town Board assumes a $9 increase to the town's combined water-sewer bills, from $46 to $55 a month. The Town Board still has to formally approve the increases, and it will address them at its Jan. 7 meeting.

In order to comply with state standards, the Phippsburg Wastewater Treatment Facility's original sand-filter system, installed in 1976, was replaced with constructed wetlands, the first system of its type in Routt County, Zopf said. The effluent wastewater ultimately is discharged into the Yampa River after treatment.

Category: Colorado Water
7:46:43 AM    

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