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, January 31, 2009

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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.

Category: Colorado Water
2:39:59 PM    

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The state legislature is not wasting time with the enabling legislation for the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District. SB09-141 would authorize the district paving the way for implementation of many of the recommendations from the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force. Here's a report from Charles Ashby writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

As a result, the new district - the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District - has numerous boundaries with varying authorities. Its overall purpose is to address flooding, drainage and erosion problems within the creek's basin, most of which is in El Paso County, Pace said.

As a result, El Paso County officials complained that the district includes too much of their county and not enough of Pueblo's.

At the same time, Pueblo officials said that's because most of the creek watershed is up north, and any flood or drainage problems naturally will begin there.

That's why the 60-page measure includes four different boundaries, with limited authority attached to each.

"Ninety-five percent of the controversial details were fought about over the past year," Pace said. "Putting together the board was a nasty, long process, but we're at a point where we're in agreement with all sides how the nine-member board would be comprised."

While the full boundaries of the district include all of El Paso and Pueblo counties, the fee and taxing area is smaller than that, but larger than the actual Fountain Creek drainage area. The last, and smallest boundary is the flood plain area, a narrow strip that is nearly equal on both sides of the county line (it extends from the south end of the city of Fountain to Pueblo's northern edge). Only there would the district have powers over land-use issues...

She said the district needs to be created before the two counties can access federal grant money to help address stormwater drainage and other issues, adding that imposing a fee or asking voters for a tax increase is a last resort that may never happen.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:44:39 AM    

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From the Vail Daily: "The Eagle County Conservation District will hold its annual meeting Feb. 19, at the Gypsum Recreation Center. The meeting will include several guest speakers, including George Platt, Bill McEwen and Perry Will. Platt is a local veterinarian, McEwen is the division water commissioner for Eagle County and Will is the area manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. All three guests will be giving presentations on topics related to the conservation district. Officials will also present a report on what the district accomplished in 2008.

The meeting is free, open to the public and includes a buffet dinner. Registration is required. For more information or to register, contact 945-5494 ext. 107."

Category: Colorado Water
8:21:15 AM    

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From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen): "Blue River's voters will return to the ballot box Feb. 3 to determine whether the town should be included in the Upper Blue Sanitation District. The move eventually would offer sewer access for the town's estimated 680 residents, minus a few who have opted out. With between 8 and 10 percent of the town's septic system discovered to be failing in recent years through change-of-ownership inspections, the sewer option is intended to offer environmental benefits as well as convenience. "Nobody has to connect to the sewer until their septic system fails," said Pete Turner, town building official and road manager. 'And it's kind of a win-win deal, because to repair a septic (system is costly).'"

Category: Colorado Water
8:17:11 AM    

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): "A $l million loan to the Park Center Water District to replace an aging, leaking well was approved this week by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The district serves about 4,000 people with more than 1,400 taps north of Canon City. It relies on a well drilled into a non-tributary, artesian aquifer about 3,200 feet deep which was drilled in the 1920s. The well originally was put in by an oil company, but little oil was found. Instead, a store of water was found. The Bureau of Reclamation purchased the well from the oil company and began selling water to customers in 1937. The Park Center District leases the well from the BLM. The well has developed leaks along 2,000 feet of its shaft and must be replaced, according to a study last year by the BLM. The total project will cost about $1.5 million."

Category: Colorado Water
8:08:35 AM    

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From the Delta County Independent: "The Orchard City town trustees agreed Jan. 14 to move forward with changes in the town's tap fees and water conveyance policy. The trustees also want to keep the door open to change the fees and policy back again if they decide to. Mayor Don Suppes said, 'I personally feel this is a starting point for us. If at the end of the year we find these changes don't work, then we can send them to file 13 and start over. I think this gives the starting point, and we can make more adjustments later.' The town hopes by making the changes, which in effect lower the cost of getting an Orchard City water tap both inside and outside the town, that more taps will be sold and water fund revenues will grow."

Category: Colorado Water
7:57:23 AM    

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