Snowmass: Colorado Water Congress summer meeting “Rallying Our Water Community” August 20-22

July 23, 2014
Westin Snowmass Resort

Westin Snowmass Resort

From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

Excitement continues to build for our 2014 Summer Conference and Membership Meeting. It will be held at the Westin Snowmass Resort, August 20-22. Our theme this year is “Rallying Our Water Community.” To register please visit: Conference Registration.

We will know in a couple of weeks if enough signatures have been gathered to place Initiative 89, Local Government Regulation of the Environment, on the 2014 Ballot. Whether it does or not, the water community will need to develop a greater public presence on these issues. Our conference is designed to help develop your advocacy skills and knowledge base.

We want to ensure we are focused on our member’s priorities when the Water Congress Board sets our priorities this fall. Summer Conference activities are designed to give you the opportunity to provide direct input to our leadership. We hope that you will take this chance to engage with us.

Our exciting program will again include a session with the Water Resources Review Committee. Additional honored guests include both Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House Third District, and Attorney General. Don’t miss this chance to catch up with colleagues and meet new community members during our POND networking activities.

Highlights of our unique program sessions include:

Strategies for Finding Your Voice
Do you have adequate tools to advocate on behalf of Colorado’s water community? Practice conveying your message with other attendees and workshop leaders.

Senator Udall, Congressman Gardner, Congressman Tipton, and Former State Senator Tapia
We are pleased to host candidates for some of our top political offices as they address issues of keen importance to Colorado’s water community.

Costs of Doing the Right Thing
As we plan for our water allocation in the future, we rarely examine the full social and economic costs, including burdens on individual ratepayers. This panel will examine those costs, along with a brief overview of other economic challenges currently faced by Colorado water providers.

Mono Lake
For 100 years, the L.A. Aqueduct has been the source of legend and controversy. Today, drought imperils much of California’s water supply. How is Los Angeles handling the drought within the confines of a Public Trust Doctrine?

Mitigation for Transbasin Diversion
Past Aspinall Water Leaders will discuss historic transbasin water projects and their mitigation. What can we learn from the past?

We are looking forward to seeing you in Snowmass, August 20-22. Additional conference information and registration can be found at: Conference Information.

More education coverage here.


US Senate candidate Cory Gardner gets an earful about the federal role for water in the West #COpolitics

July 6, 2014

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Proposed rules could place “basically every drop of Colorado water” under the federal government’s jurisdiction, increasing permitting requirements, mitigation and costs for projects needed to ensure future water supplies in a state that’s expecting big shortages.

That was the general consensus among the several water officials, representatives of the agriculture industry and others who traveled from across the state to voice their concerns to Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., at his Greeley office on Thursday.

Gardner encouraged those at the table and others who are concerned to continue raising their voices to the Environmental Protection Agency, which will take comments on its proposed rule through Oct. 20.

The EPA has long stressed that its proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule is simply an effort to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands, since determining Clean Water Act protection became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.

But many are stressing now that the EPA’s attempted clarification would instead expand the federal government’s reach, with much more water and area falling under the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rules, according to their interpretations of the proposed rules.

New projects and certain maintenance on “Waters of the U.S.” requires federal permitting and, depending on the circumstances, possibly environmental mitigation efforts, which can mean a lot of time and money for the municipality, ditch company or whoever is overseeing the effort.

As an example, Mark Pifher with Colorado Springs Utilities compared the permitting and mitigation costs of Aurora’s Prairie Water Project — which was only $1.5 million, because it didn’t fall under “Waters of the U.S.” rules — to the $150 million in permitting and mitigation it took for the Colorado Springs Southern Delivery System, which did fall under “Waters of the U.S.” rules.

Along with more projects and maintenance facing increased permitting and costs, some on Thursday even expressed concerns of the EPA eventually taking control of water in Colorado, because the state’s individual water-rights holders wouldn’t be able to put them to use.

Water officials from across Colorado stressed that the EPA’s rules are a one-size-fits-all approach, and don’t take into account how differently water works in the semi-arid or arid West — where water storage, reuse, groundwater recharge and other efforts are needed to get by —­ compared to the much wetter eastern U.S.

The “connectivity” language in the proposed rules — which places areas and waters that are merely “connected” to “Waters of the U.S.” under the federal government’s jurisdiction — is particularly concerning to those who were at Gardner’s table Thursday.

The group said the fact that the EPA still believes it’s only clarifying its rules and not expanding its reach only reveals a big misunderstanding of how water works in the West and in Colorado.

Some at the table Thursday said that perhaps Congress — with representation of all states — is better equipped than the EPA to take charge of the rule-making.

Ag groups — like the Colorado Farm Bureau, which was represented at the table by Don Shawcroft, the organization’s president — are pushing their “Ditch the Rule” campaign.

Among other points, Shawcroft noted that the EPA’s existing “agriculture exemptions,” which would still apply under the new rules, wouldn’t do much good for farmers and ranchers, since those exemptions only apply to operations that are still under the same ownership and under the exact same practices as they were in 1977.

“Agriculture has changed a lot since then,” he added.

Impacts on NISP?

Eric Wilkinson — general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud, which oversees the largest water-supply project in the region, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — said “basically every ditch” and “every drop of Colorado water” could fall under the EPA’s jurisdiction under the new rules.

Because of that, he and everyone else at the table stressed, that the future costs and time to permit water projects or maintenance might detour officials, water providers or others from pursuing certain needed actions.

And in a state that, according to the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative study, is expected to see a municipal and industrial water-supply gap of as many as 1 million acre-feet by 2050, and also see as many as 700,000 acres of irrigated farm ground dry up by that same year, many water projects are needed, they say.

Under the proposed rule, Wilkinson said one of the “needed projects” that Northern Water is overseeing — the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, which would build a new reservoir near Fort Collins and another one near Ault — could possibly have to “go back to the drawing board” on some its federal permitting efforts, which have already been in the works by Northern Water for more than a decade.

Wilkinson and others said the complications resulting from more area and water in Colorado falling under “Waters of the U.S.” rules could also detour collaborative water efforts between cities and farmers. As many retiring farmers over the years have sold their valuable water rights to growing cities, many are now pushing for alternative water transfers between farmers and cities that would reduce the amount of water permanently leaving the state’s farms.

Improvements to irrigation ditches and other irrigation systems, too, could require more permitting and more costs under the new rules.

“There’s certainly more questions than answers,” noted West Slope rancher and Colorado Farm Bureau Vice President Carlyle Currier.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


Water Lines: Water, democracy and private property rights

July 3, 2014

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs


From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Which is more important: The public’s enjoyment of healthy streams, or preserving private property rights and agriculture? Do we really have to choose?

Questions swirling around proposed ballot initiatives that assert public rights to Colorado’s water and environment reflect broader tensions between public and private rights that are inherent in our democracy, as well as changing public values regarding natural resources.

The U.S. Constitution barely mentions water, but the Colorado Constitution has an entire article (16) on “Mining and Irrigation,” which provides the underpinnings of Colorado water law. In summary:

• Water in streams is owned by the public: “The water of every natural stream, not heretofore appropriated, within the state of Colorado, is hereby declared to be the property of the public, and the same is dedicated to the use of the people of the state …”

• At the same time, individuals’ rights to take water out of a stream to use it are assured: “The right to divert the unappropriated waters of any natural stream to beneficial uses shall never be denied.” Further details explain that “priority of appropriation shall give the better right…” In other words, first in time, first in right.

• Rights of way have to be provided to move water from a stream to where it’s needed: “All persons and corporations shall have the right-of-way across public, private and corporate lands for the construction of ditches, canals and flumes for the purpose of conveying water … upon payment of just compensation.”

These provisions reflect the necessity of access to water from streams for life and livelihoods in semi-arid Colorado and, according to legal scholar David Schorr, a desire to prevent that access from being controlled by a privileged few. This is a very democratic kind of desire.

Over the last 100-plus years, public values related to water have become more complicated. We all still want to drink water and eat food, but water in streams for recreation and a healthy environment have also become high priorities. And sometimes water taken out of streams to serve those long-established values of domestic use, agriculture and industry, and the livelihoods related to them, ends up leaving streams depleted and unhealthy.

The constitution clearly provides for taking water out of streams, but gives no direction about when water should be left in. The General Assembly passed laws allowing water rights to be filed for environmental and recreational purposes, but most of these rights are very junior to others and vulnerable to going unmet.

Proposed ballot initiatives to establish public rights in water and the environment seek to reverse the priority of these values. Initiative 103, “Public Trust Resources,” which focused on water, was derailed from its track to the ballot by the Supreme Court, but Initiative 89, “Local Government Regulation of Environment,” was cleared for signature collection.

Initiative 89 would amend Colorado’s constitution by asserting that Colorado citizens “have a right to Colorado’s environment, including its clean air, pure water and natural and scenic values.” It directs the state and local governments to protect these resources, and says that when local and state laws conflict, the more restrictive or protective would govern.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Gregory Hobbs argued that the new public right to the environment “would override existing private and publicly held property rights,” and would require state and local officials “to act adversely to the interests of private parties …”

In addition to reflecting the ever-present tension between public and private rights, the dispute also reflects polarization between parties primarily interested in preserving the status quo and those seeking enhanced environmental protections.

Longtime environmental advocate and vice president of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District Steve Glazer, speaking at the Colorado Water Workshop in Gunnison in June, urged both sides in the conflict to “listen to each other more, and move together instead of apart” in order to find solutions that don’t sacrifice one set of values to serve the other.

From The Durango Herald (Sarah Mueller):

Douglas Kemper, executive director of Colorado Water Congress, joined Bruce Whitehead of the Southwestern Water Conservation District, and elected leaders to educate the council on two initiatives that could change the state’s prior appropriation system for managing water claims. Prior appropriation is a way of water allocation that controls who uses how much water, the types of uses allowed and when those waters can be used.

The secretary of state’s website said any person can draft a statewide initiative to amend the state constitution. If proponents of the ballot measure gets enough signatures, about 86,105, all voters in the state would decide the issue. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed initiatives 89 and 75.

The Water Congress, a nonprofit group providing leadership on water issues, created a stewardship project that tracks, what it believes are, “public trust doctrine” initiatives that would change how Colorado allocates water. The group opposes public-trust initiatives. Switching to a public-trust system would mean the government would decide how to allocate water rights instead of who came first, according to Kemper.

Initiative 75 would give local governments the power to approve laws that would establish the fundamental rights of residents, communities and nature. It would give local governments expanded power over businesses, such as allowing local laws to establish or eliminate the rights of corporations and other businesses operating in the community to protect the rights of people, communities and nature.

“Those are some pretty far-reaching powers,” Kemper said. “Basically, it says those local laws would be superior to international, federal or state law.”

Initiative 89 declares that Colorado’s environment is the common property of all Coloradoans, including the clean air, pure water, and natural and scenic values. It makes state and local governments trustees of the environment and requires them to protect the environment.

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs Jr. wrote in a dissenting opinion on Initiative 89 that the initiative would create a new common property right that would override existing private and publicly held property rights.

“Initiative 89 would upend the existing regulatory balance and thrust private-property owners and governments into an uncertain future,” Hobbs wrote…

State Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, urged city councilors to draft a resolution opposing these initiatives. The Southwestern Water Conservancy District has issued a resolution in opposition to public trust initiatives.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


Initiative 103, Public Trust Resources, Denied by the Supreme Court Colorado Water Congress shifts focus to Initiatives 75 & 89

July 1, 2014

sloanslakebeforesunrise

From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Fiona Smith):

The Colorado Supreme Court published an opinion today declaring that Initiative 103 (Public Trust Resources) may not proceed towards the 2014 Ballot. A 4-3 majority holds that the Title Board lacked authority to proceed with a substituted designated representative when one of the proponents could not attend the rehearing. This decision validates a May 1 appeal by the Colorado Water Congress (CWC) and Coloradoans for Responsible Reform.

Initiative 103, by Phil Doe and Barbara Mills-Bria, proposed to establish an “inalienable right” of the people of Colorado to clean air, clean water (including groundwater), and the preservation of the environment and natural resources (called “Public Trust Resources”), as common property of all people, including future generations. It would require the state, as trustee of Public Trust Resources, to conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people. CWC and over 70 supporting entities from around the state opposed this Initiative on the grounds that it was unwise, unnecessary, expensive and disruptive to the responsible allocation and stewardship of Colorado’s water resources.

CWC will now shift its energy towards Initiatives 75 and 89, both of which are of concern to Colorado’s water community. A 5-2 Supreme Court majority decided today that Initiative 89 may proceed towards the 2014 Ballot. The Court similarly confirmed Initiative 75 last month. Each will require 86,105 valid signatures to be placed on the ballot in November.

Initiative 75 would strengthen “local control,” allowing local governments to adopt environmental regulations that override state laws, including the laws that limit and balance local governments’ regulation of water facilities. Initiative 89 would combine this local control theme with a Public Trust Doctrine, declaring “common property” in Colorado’s water and environment and obligating state and local government to conserve these resources as trustees. In his dissenting opinion today, Justice Gregory Hobbs cautioned that “Initiative #89 proposes to create an entirely unprecedented form of public trust duty requiring state and local governments to ‘conserve’ what are predominately privately held resources… [It] would upend the existing regulatory balance and thrust private property owners and governments into an uncertain future.”

The Colorado Water Stewardship Project, a special project of CWC, will continue to monitor Initiatives 75 and 89 and inform water stakeholders of the serious implications of amending the constitution to create a Public Trust Doctrine in Colorado.

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

The so-called “public trust doctrine” measure, No. 103, had drawn opposition from the Colorado Water Congress, representing water users across the state, and the business-backed group Coloradans for Responsible Reform.

The high court ruled Monday that the Title Board, which reviews ballot proposals, made a mistake when it allowed the backers of No. 103 to have a substitute fill in during a hearing on the measure.

The court said that state law “does not allow designated representatives who are unable to attend a Title Board meeting to substitute alternates to serve in their place. Instead, the Title Board must delay its considerations until the next meeting at which both of the designated representatives who were so designated at the initial stages of the initiative process are able to attend the Title Board meeting.”

The ruling means that the proposal can’t be considered for the 2014 ballot because the Title Board is no longer meeting for the 2014 election cycle, said a spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

The backers of the proposal were Phil Doe and Barbara Mills-Bria. But Mills-Bria couldn’t attend a meeting of the Title Board because she as traveling to an out-of-state funeral, according to the court ruling.

The court said the Title Board should have postponed its hearing on No. 103 until Mills-Bria could attend rather than allowing a designee to fill in.

The proposal sought to establish a common property right to “clean air, clean water, including ground and surface water, and the preservation of the environment and natural resources.” It also would have required the state to conserve and maintain those elements for the benefit of all people.

The Colorado Water Congress said it opposed the initiative on the grounds that it was “unwise, unnecessary, expensive and disruptive to the responsible allocation and stewardship of Colorado’s water resources.”

The Colorado Water Congress said it would shift its resources to oppose Initiatives No. 75 and 89.

No. 75 is a proposal by the Colorado Community Rights Network that would allow cities to ban any for-profit business that community leaders don’t want to see in their towns.

No. 89, which says that Coloradans have a right to clean air, water and scenic values, is one of nine proposals that are backed by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder.

The Colorado Supreme Court has rejected challenges to proposals No. 75 and No. 89, meaning supporters have until Aug. 4 to collect more than 86,105 valid signatures in order to have the initiatives placed on the fall ballot.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


Republican gubernatorial candidates all making water storage a top priority — The Greeley Tribune

June 21, 2014
Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

A top priority for all four Republican gubernatorial candidates struck a chord with the audience at a forum this week. All of the candidates talked early and often about developing more water-storage infrastructure for Colorado, doing so during a gubernatorial candidate question-and-answer forum Tuesday at the Protein Producer Summit, where livestock and water experts had already spent much of the day discussing water shortages for agriculture and the need for more water storage.

“It seems to be something no one else has the courage to talk about,” said Republican candidate Bob Beauprez, a bison rancher and former U.S. Congressman, noting that, to his knowledge, Gov. John Hickenlooper has spoken only of expanding current water storage by about 10 percent.

Referring to 10 percent increases in storage and Colorado’s population having doubled since the 1970s, and being expected to double again before 2050, Beauprez said, “We can’t keep going there, unless you want to keep drying up agriculture.”

Beauprez also spoke about making better use of Colorado’s aquifers for underground water storage, while fellow Republican candidate Scott Gessler — Colorado’s current Secretary of State — also stressed the need for a two-pronged approach that also includes water conservation measures.

All four Republican candidates made different points during the forum on other topics — for example, Gessler said he wants changes to Colorado’s constitution to require approval on a ballot in two consecutive elections before being approved, while former Colorado Senate minority leader Mike Kopp said, if elected, he’ll initiate a two-year study of regulations in Colorado, and will work to reduce regulatory costs by 25 percent for businesses.

But when it came to water storage, all four Republicans stood in unison. This week’s three-day Protein Producer Summit was hosted by various Colorado livestock groups.

Hickenlooper, currently leading a delegation in Mexico, joined the gubernatorial candidate forum Tuesday via video.

In his answer to the water-shortfall question, he didn’t refer specifically to water storage.

He listed conservation as the leading way to start addressing water shortages in Colorado, and otherwise talked about the Colorado Water Plan, which he initiated last year in hopes of letting local water officials and various users from across the state develop a statewide, long-term plan.

In Colorado, those looking to build reservoir storage have run into pushback, largely from environmental groups, and have battled long federal permitting processes.

For example, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, if approved, would build two new reservoirs — one near Fort Collins and another near Ault — and would provide 40,000 acre feet water per year to 15 municipalities and water districts in northern Colorado. But the endeavor — expected to cost about $500 million, if built — has been in the federal permitting stages for several years, and it’s still unclear how soon it will come, if it does.

The project hasn’t been supported, or denounced, by Hickenlooper, but all four gubernatorial candidates — Beauprez, Gessler, Kopp and former U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo — stressed that such projects would have their support, if elected, and are much needed.

Colorado’s municipal and industrial water supply gap by 2050 could be as much as 630,000 acre-feet annually and, by that same year, the state could see as many as 700,000 acres of irrigated farmland dry up, with cities continuing to buy more water from ag users, according to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative report, released in 2010.

That same report estimates the South Platte River basin alone, which covers Weld County and much of northeast Colorado, could face a municipal and industrial water supply gap of as much as 190,000 acre feet by 2050, and see as many as 267,000 acres of irrigated farmground dry up.

The stakes are particularly high for the agriculture industry, which uses about 85 percent of the state’s water.


2014 Colorado November election: Will the Public Trust Doctrine issue make the ballot this fall?

June 10, 2014
Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Water initiatives that could have a significant impact on the San Luis Valley are still awaiting Colorado Supreme Court decisions before moving forward to the November ballot box. Still awaiting the higher court’s direction are two initiatives Initiatives 89 and 103 that advocate the Public Trust Doctrine, which would present a radical change from the current water administration throughout the state.

Another ballot initiative, Initiative 75, has already passed through the higher court and now has the green light to collect signatures to place it on the 2014 ballot. Although not directly related to water issues, Initiative 75, the Right to Local Self-Government , could affect water developments and investments. It drew a court challenge from the business community.

The ballot title states: “An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a right to local self-government , and, in connection therewith, declaring that the people have an inherent right to local self-government in counties and municipalities , including the power to enact laws to establish and protect fundamental rights of individuals, communities, and nature and the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with those fundamental rights; and declaring that such local laws are not subject to preemption by any federal, state, or international laws.”

Initiative 75 was just one of more than 100 separate initiatives proposed or re-proposed this year. Eleven have been cleared so far to begin the signature-gathering process , and another 34 are still pending before the Colorado Supreme Court.

Those include Initiatives 89 and 103.

The Colorado Water Stewardship Project challenged the title-setting process for Initiatives 89 (Local Government Regulation of Environment ) and 103 (Public Trust Resources), arguing that the proposed initiatives did not meet the requirement of a single title.

These initiatives promote the Public Trust Doctrine. Since the 1800’s Colorado has operated under the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation, rather than the Public Trust Doctrine, so passage of these amendments could radically change the way water is administered in the state. Public Trust Doctrine holds that natural resources such as water are common property, while the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation operates under the principle that the first to put the water to use has priority over subsequent water users on that stream.

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs has described The Public Trust Initiative as dropping “what amounts to a nuclear bomb on Colorado water rights and land rights.”

Initiative 89’s ballot title is: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a public right to Colorado’s environment, and, in connection therewith, declaring that Colorado’s environment is the common property of all Coloradans; specifying that the environ- ment includes clean air, pure water, and natural and scenic values and that state and local governments are trustees of this resource; requiring state and local governments to conserve the environment; and declaring that if state or local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs?”

Initiative 103’s ballot titles is: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning public ownership of natural and environmental resources, and, in connection therewith , creating a public trust in those resources, which include clean air, clean water, and the preservation of the environment and natural resources; requiring the state, as trustee, to conserve and maintain public trust resources by using the best science available to protect them against any substantial impairment, regardless of any prior federal, state, or local approval; seeking natural resource damages from anyone who substantially impairs them, and using damages obtained to remediate the impairment; allowing Colorado citizens to file enforcement actions in court; requiring anyone who is proposing an action or policy that might substantially impair public trust resources to prove that the action or policy is not harmful; and criminalizing the manipulation of data, reports, or scientific information in an attempt to use public trust resources for private profit?”

The Colorado Water Stewardship Project is supporting legal actions before the Colorado Supreme Court regarding these initiatives, and the higher court is expected to rule on these appeals before July.

In the meantime The Colorado Water Stewardship Project is continuing to bring awareness to these initiatives and what they could mean to the water community throughout the state.

About 70 groups ranging from municipal utilities and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry to conservation and conservancy districts have approved resolutions opposing the Public Trust Doctrine.

San Luis Valley entities that have passed resolutions include: San Luis Valley Irrigation District, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and the Commonwealth Irrigation Company.

If the Colorado Supreme Court confirms the contested ballot titles and their proponents receive the green light to proceed with acquiring signatures, they would have to collect 86,105 valid registered voters’ signatures to get these initiatives on the ballot this fall. The deadline to collect those signatures and turn them in to the Secretary of State’s office would be August 4.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage <a href="


2014 Colorado November election: Colorado Water Congress — Initiative 75

May 28, 2014

US Representative Tipton was stumping in northwest Colorado this week

May 14, 2014

From the Craig Daily Press (Erin Fenner):

“We’ve got an out-of-control regulatory environment,” Tipton said.

It’s important for Western states to speak up because leaders in the east don’t fully comprehend the issues of water rights or what and endangered species listing can do to public and private land use, he said.

“Gov. (John) Hickenlooper is fighting for the state’s rights on this,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue.”[...]

Many residents were concerned about water usage and rights.

“The headwaters of the Yampa need to be storing water right now,” Moffat County resident Dean Gent said.

Other people shared their concern that the Environmental Protection Agency or other regulatory agencies would prevent them from storing water.

Water in Colorado is private property and should be treated by the federal government as such, Tipton said.

“This is a private property right that we got to be able to protect,” he said.


The March 2014 Colorado Stewardship Project newsletter is hot off the presses

March 11, 2014
Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Public Trust Ballot Initiative Introduced

A proposed Public Trust Doctrine Ballot Initiative is progressing through the state’s review process. The proponents made changes to their initial version and re-submitted the amendment on February 25. It is set for a Review and Comment Hearing March 11 at 1:30pm.

The current version of proposed Initiative 83 would amend the Colorado Constitution by adding a new section to Article XVI (the provisions of the constitution that govern mining and water rights). This amendment would, among other issues, establish an “inalienable right” of the people of Colorado to clean air, clean water (including groundwater), and the preservation of the environment and natural resources (called “Public Trust Resources”), as common property of all people including future generations.

For additional summary of proposed Initiative 83 click HERE or visit http://www.cowaterstewardship.com.

CWSP and the Colorado Water Congress are monitoring all initiatives that could affect water resources. To view the full initiatives tracking document click HERE.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


Bob Beauprez expected to announce gubernatorial campaign — The Denver Post

February 28, 2014

From The Denver Post (Kurtis Lee/Lynn Bartels):

Former Congressman Bob Beauprez, who has widely been expected to jump into the GOP gubernatorial primary, is expected to enter the race early next week.

GOP sources told the Denver Post that Beauprez has been looking at office space in the Denver Tech Center and at staffing hires.

FOX 31 Denver reported that Beauprez will enter the gubernatorial race Monday, the same day he’s expected to appear in Washington, D.C., before the Republican National Committee in an effort to lure the 2016 convention to Denver.

Beauprez, who lost the governor’s race to Democrat Bill Ritter in 2006, could not be reached for comment Friday. His personal website now reads “coming soon” and “2014.”

The frontrunner in this year’s crowded field, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, said he called Beauprez last week and said, “You keep telling me all these people are calling you to tell you to get in. Well, count me as one of them. Get in.”

But Tancredo said he told Beauprez that didn’t mean he would jump out of the race.

“I’m committed to this thing until somebody can show me a person that can raise millions of dollars that I can’t or has polling that shows he or she is going to walk away with it,” Tancredo said.

Tancredo leads a pack that includes Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, state Sen. Greg Brophy, former state Sen. Mike Kopp and businessman Steve House. The winner of the June 24 GOP primary faces Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is vying for a second term and in recent polls has outpaced all of his prospective challengers.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


New Survey: Conservation Could Impact 2014’s Ballot Box — Colorado College

February 16, 2014

conservationinthewestpollstateoftherockiescoloradocollege

Here’s the release from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project:

Conservation and land use issues could have the power to sway how westerners vote in 2014 elections, according to the new Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll.

“The West is a major political battlefield this year, and the poll tells us congressional candidates would be wise to consider their position on conservation and land use issues carefully,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Westerners want their air, water and land protected, and where a candidate stands on these issues could potentially sway votes.”

This year’s bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters across six states looked at voter attitudes on a list of issues, including land use, water supplies, air quality and public lands’ impact on the economy. The results show overwhelming -­‐ 85 percent -­‐ agreement that when the government closes national parks and other public lands, small businesses and communities’ economies in the West suffer. In a follow up message to elected officials and land managers, 83 percent believe funding to national parks, forests and other public lands should not be cut, as it provides a big return on a small investment.

“The Rocky Mountain region is politically diverse, with communities running the spectrum from red (predominantly) to purple to blue,” said Colorado College McHugh Professor of Leadership and American Institutions and regular Colorado political commentator Tom Cronin. “These poll results reinforce that a love for protected lands ties western voters together. Westerners across the political spectrum support the work of public land managers and expect conserved public lands to remain that way.”

Other public sentiments expressed in the survey include that:

• 72 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to promote more use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
• 69 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports enhancing protections for some public lands, like national forests.
• 58 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who votes to increase funding for land-­‐managing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.

The survey also holds warning signs for candidates, including that:

• 72 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports
selling public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit.
• 67 percent of Westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who reduces
funding for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.
• 54 percent of westerners are less likely to vote for a candidate who voted to
stop taxpayer support for solar and wind energy companies.

“Hispanics view the protection of our public lands as a moral obligation. It’s natural that this community would be drawn to candidates who support conservation,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “With the tremendous growth of the Latino voter bloc, especially in the Western states, we’re going to see engagement in environmental policy and advocacy for our public lands at levels we’ve never seen before.”

The results reflect the strong connection Westerners feel to their public lands, with 95 percent saying they have visited public lands in the last year. More than two-­‐ thirds of those surveyed said they would recommend an out-­‐of-­‐state visitor visit the outdoors, like a national park, rather than an attraction in town.

The government shutdown’s effects on Westerners are ongoing. When asked how they felt about the resulting closure of public lands, 89 percent responded with a negative emotion like annoyed, angry, concerned or upset. Potentially as a result of seeing what happens when public lands are no longer available, opposition to the sale of public lands increased from last year’s poll, with 74 percent now rejecting this idea.

The 2014 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) for a total 2,400-­‐person sample. The survey was conducted from January 7 through 13, 2014, and yields a margin of error of +/-­‐2.9 percent nationwide and +/ -­‐4.9 statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available here, on the Colorado College website

Click here for the presentation slides.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

More than three-quarters of Colorado voters say they oppose diversions of water to heavily populated areas of the state, according to a survey conducted by Colorado College.

The annual Conservation in the West poll, conducted for the college by Democrat and Republican pollsters, also found that a majority of Coloradans, 55 percent, favors allowing communities to regulate hydraulic fracturing and that 22 percent want the state to regulate fracking, the approach used to free up trillions of cubic feet of natural gas from formations deep below the surface.

The finding of strong opposition to more diversions is unsurprising, said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy organization.

“Agricultural interests and many Club 20 members don’t like diversions, and there are additional groups who want to see stream flows for recreational purposes and they recognize diversions as a threat,” Petersen said. “People familiar with the West understand the impacts of diversions.”

Respondents favored devoting more time and resources to better use of the current water supply and encouraging the use of recycling, the survey said.

On hydraulic fracturing, 28 percent of Colorado respondents supported tougher laws and 29 percent said there should be better enforcement of existing laws, the survey said.

The results underscore the need for greater education about hydraulic fracturing, Petersen said, noting the practice has been in use in western Colorado for 60 years “and there has not been an issue.”

Across the West, 72 percent of respondents said they were more likely to vote for candidates who favor the promotion of energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Another majority, 69 percent, said they were likely to vote for candidates who support greater protections for public lands, such as national forests, and 58 percent said they’d be likely to support candidates who want to increase funding to agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.

The survey polled 400 registered voters in Colorado and 2,400 in the six Western states of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The survey was conducted Jan. 7 to Jan. 13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

More conservation coverage here. More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


Udall Helps Secure Critical Arkansas Valley Conduit Funding in Bipartisan Budget Deal

January 18, 2014

arkansasvalleyconduitproposed

Here’s the release from US Senator Mark Udall’s office:

Mark Udall, a strong advocate for smarter water conservation and storage, heralded the inclusion of $1 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in the bipartisan budget deal the president is expected to sign into law. The funding, which Udall has championed in Congress, is a down payment on the completion of this water project, which will improve water quality for the counties along the Arkansas River.

The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.

“Water forms the very foundation of Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado. This funding, which I helped secure in the bipartisan budget deal, will ensure that this final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is up and running as quickly as possible,” Udall said. “I will keep fighting to ensure the Bureau of Reclamation continues robust funding for this project, while we work to develop and smartly conserve Colorado’s most important resource — its water. We must make every drop count.”

“Given the budget battles and constraints of late, I am glad to see the full $1 million appropriation for this fiscal year,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We are at a critical juncture with the completion of environmental compliance and moving forward with next steps of design and engineering, which will require significantly higher funding in fiscal year 2015 and beyond. We are grateful for the support of our congressional delegation, which has been and will continue to be key to getting the project under construction, completed and providing safe drinking water in compliance with federal mandates. The lower Arkansas Valley has been waiting a long time for this final but important piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.”

Udall has been a tireless advocate for Colorado’s water users, water managers and communities. He helped broker a deal last year to maintain funding for the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program, which monitors snowpack in Colorado’s mountains and helps water managers forecast supply issues before they occur. Udall also worked with the U.S. Forest Service in November 2013 to end the agency’s effort to transfer ski area permit holders’ water rights. Udall also has been the leading advocate of protecting the Colorado River and finding innovative ways to better manage water to meet rising demand throughout the West.


Governor Hickenlooper delivers the State of the State Address #COdrought #COflood

January 12, 2014
Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today delivered his fourth State of the State address and talked about jobs and the economic health of Colorado, as well as successful efforts to create a solid budget for the state, build reserves and eliminate bureaucracy.

He also spoke about the challenges faced by Coloradans in the past year, from fires to floods to shootings.

“We know there are people out there feeling the impact of the national economy’s downturns. And we are doing everything within our power to change that,” Hickenlooper said. “But make no mistake—the state of Colorado has not only endured, it also has thrived. My fellow Coloradans, despite every unforeseen test, despite everything that was thrown at us, the state of our state is strong.” Read the rest of this entry »


Public Trust Doctrine effort spurs the Colorado Water Congress to respond

January 10, 2014
Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

One of Colorado’s oldest, most powerful water groups is raising a war chest to battle an initiative that would place the public’s interest in the state’s hallmark rivers and streams ahead of the interests of private water-right owners, changing the state Constitution.
The notion that the public has an inherent interest in free-flowing water is well-established in other states, which embrace what’s known as the “public trust doctrine.”

California, Wisconsin, Montana and New Jersey, for instance, have such a doctrine, according to a 2009 report from the Center for Progressive Reform, a nonprofit policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. In Wisconsin, for example, the public interest in a water source is paramount and a water permit only can be granted if its use does not obstruct navigation, reduce flood-flow capacity or harm the public interest.

This would mark a radical shift from Colorado’s prior appropriation system, which favors individual water rights owners, especially those with older water rights. During drought periods, water is provided to those with senior water rights while those who have junior, or newer, water rights don’t get water.

But the Colorado Water Congress, which represents private water-right owners, contends the Public Trust Doctrine runs counter to state law and 150 years of case law. The legal principle would make rivers and streams public property, superseding water rights of property owners in some cases.

Richard Hamilton, a retired aquatic microbiologist from Fairplay, is behind recent efforts to introduce a ballot initiative to ask voters to enact the public trust doctrine in Colorado. Hamilton and Phillip Doe have tried several times since 1988 to enact a public trust doctrine.

“The state does not now act as a steward of the people’s property,” Hamilton said.

“It goes ahead and decides what is the best interest of everybody and the government makes up its mind as to which of those interests shall supersede the public’s ownership.”

Hamilton said his measure failed last year because the state did not give him enough time to gather signatures for a ballot initiative. He said he does not know whether he will pursue a ballot initiative this year.

The Colorado Water Congress, nonetheless, is spending $325,000 on a campaign to oppose any effort to launch a public trust doctrine initiative. Founded in 1958, the not-for-profit lobbying organization represents water-right owners. The Colorado Water Congress claims an 85 percent “success rate” on state water legislation it endorses, and Colorado governors rarely have signed bills it has opposed.

More Public Trust Doctrine coverage here.


Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention, January 29-31

December 26, 2013

Lodore Canyon via Timothy O. Sullivan

Lodore Canyon via Timothy O’Sullivan


Click here to go to the website for all the lowdown. Click here to go to the website for all the links for registration, agenda, etc.

From email this morning from Doug Kemper:

This time last year, we were winding down Water 2012 – our celebration year. It was my hope that the water community would also use this event as a springboard to continue to elevate our game.

The Water Congress has had a series of successful years that will provide the financial resources to invest in the future of the organization. Much of this year has been a construction zone for us.

I wanted to give you a few quick updates on the Water Congress as well as our Annual Convention. Early registration for the convention has been incredible. Thus far, we are nearly double the number of registrants from last year. Discounted early registration will continue through the end of the year. Expect regular updates as the convention draws closer.

Bob Berman
Our keynote speaker at the Annual Convention Thursday Luncheon will be Bob Berman. He is one of the best-known and most widely-read astronomers in the world. He wrote the popular ”Night Watchman” column for Discover for seventeen years, is currently a monthly columnist for Astronomy, and is the astronomy editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. He is an amazing storyteller. The title of his keynote will be: The Sun’s Heartbeat, How Solar Cycles Affect Our Weather (And Why The Sun’s Current Strangeness is a Game Changer).

David Schorr
We are excited about our partnership this year with the CSU Water Resources Archives. The annual fundraiser, Water Tables, will be at our convention on Thursday evening, January 30 and will feature David Schorr from Tel Aviv University. If you’ve ever wondered why Colorado water law is the way it is, David Schorr’s work, The Colorado Doctrine, tells the story of our water development and the founding legislative and court actions that still govern water law. He will also have a workshop on Wednesday.

Water Congress Board
In January, we adopted new Bylaws. The primary intent was to diversify the Water Congress Board to better represent our members and we added new seats. In recognition of the historic significance of the Governor and Attorney General in creating the Water Congress in 1958, new Board positions were added for their offices. This month, John Stulp was appointed to the Board by the Governor and he joins Chad Wallace from the Attorney General’s office.

We have a really great mix on the Board of new perspectives and traditional values. Of course, adding new Board members means new expectations. So we added new staff.

New Staff
We have added two new full-time staff members – Emily Brumit and Fiona Smith. As described below, new staff will greatly expand our communication capacity and member benefits.

Emily Brumit was originally hired in May of this year to help with our communications. A recent graduate from Auburn with a degree in Political Science, her responsibilities will move to the areas of water policy coordinator and legislative liaison. She will be working at the State level with our lobbyists, Orf and Orf, to increase our presence at the State Capitol and with our new Federal Liaison Board Member, Christine Arbogast, to do the same at the federal level.

Fiona Smith has been interning with us for the past 4 months. Fiona has a tremendous skill set and work ethic. In January, she will start as our new Outreach Coordinator. Her focus will be on strengthening Water Congress member engagement (particularly those members in the more rural areas of Colorado), new member development, and editing our Enews.

Web/Blog/Communications
Our new website rolled out in mid-year. It did not take long before our new staff began tailoring yet another evolution in our communications. In the first quarter of 2014, our advocacy will be driven by two new WordPress platforms. One will be used for our core activities and one for the new Colorado Water Stewardship Project. Members will continue to use the website as the portal for event registrations and getting basic information on the Water Congress as well as a work space for our standing committees.

Mary Stirling has been busy developing a new area on our website, labelled Reference. The purpose will be to ensure that we keep our historic viewpoints and water legislation in front of our members and link it to current relevant topics.

Eric Dorn is ensuring that all of the communication technology keeps functioning. New camera equipment arrives in a week and he will begin implementation of our video conferencing capability.

National Water Resources Association
This was a year of crisis for the NWRA. California and Texas dropped out of the organization creating a financial spiral that was the most serious threat in NWRA history. Considerable activity in the past several months included a complete change in management, staffing, and office location. A new strategic plan was adopted. In response, I am pleased to report that both California and Texas have voted to rejoin. But we just learned that Oregon has decided to drop out, at least for 2014. Much work remains ahead to deliver on the promises to reform the organization. I think we are up to the challenge.

I am excited about the Water Congress crew and the development of our new communications infrastructure. We look forward to ensuring that the Water Congress will continue to serve as the leading voice of Colorado’s water community for many years to come.


The latest Colorado Water Stewardship Project newsletter is hot off the presses

December 26, 2013

Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

Justian I first codifier of riparian rights


Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado Water Congress Board unanimously adopted a resolution opposing a public trust doctrine at its December 6th meeting.

The resolution declared:
A public trust doctrine is unwise, unnecessary, disruptive to the fair and responsible allocation and stewardship of Colorado’s scarce water resources, and an unwarranted taking of vested property interests. –December 6, 2013

The resolution cites the risks to agricultural users and major concerns for Colorado’s economic stability. The Board also opposed the doctrine because it would increase uncertainty in the ownership and right to use water, and shift control from the local water providers to the courts in the form of litigation.

Board Chairman Regan Waskom said the Colorado Water Congress will strongly encourage its membership to adopt similar resolutions. “It is important that the water community be absolutely clear that the public trust doctrine, in whatever form it might be offered, would be a disaster for Colorado citizens and for good water management.”

View the Colorado Water Congress Resolution on a Public Trust Doctrine HERE.

More Public Trust Doctrine coverage here.


The Colorado Water Congress’ latest newsletter is hot off the presses

November 18, 2013
David Robbins and  J.C. Ulrich (Greg Hobbs) at the 2013 Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention

David Robbins and J.C. Ulrich (Greg Hobbs) at the 2013 Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Join us for the 2014 Annual Convention, Jan. 29-31 at the Hyatt Regency DTC in Denver, Colorado. The annual convention is the premier water industry event in the state, attracting 500+ attendees that convene for networking and collaboration on the important water issues in Colorado.

Early registration is now open and offers members a discounted rate for registering before Dec. 31. There are many sponsorship opportunities available and many exhibit spaces to choose from.

As an added bonus to this year’s Convention, CSU will host its annual Water Tables event the evening of January 30.


2014 Colorado November Election: Steve Acquafresca throws his hat in the HD55 ring

November 16, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Steve Acquafresca will run for the Colorado House seat being vacated by Rep. Ray Scott, the Mesa County commissioner told fellow Republicans on Friday.

Unlike other candidates who have vied for the seat in recent years, Acquafresca is unique in that he’s already served in the Colorado House. When the now Grand Junction 62-year-old peach grower lived in Cedaredge, where he ran an apple orchard, he represented House District 58, which at the time stretched from eastern Delta County to the Four Corners. He served three terms, getting elected in 1990 and leaving in 1997.

Acquafresca, who’s served on the county commission since 2007 but can’t run again because of term limits, said he has lots of options that he could do after his time on the board ends next year.

But because of several pressing issues, including fears of more water grabs by the Front Range, Acquafresca said he decided the time was right to return to the Colorado Legislature.

“One of the most compelling issues that causes me to announce my candidacy is the fact that the governor has ordered a state water plan to be developed,” he said of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s May announcement that he wants that plan completed by December 2014.

“When we’ve heard that in the past, it’s generally not a good thing for the West Slope, where 80 percent of the water originates yet the Front Range has 80 percent of the population,” Acquafresca said at the monthly Mesa County Republican Party luncheon at Two Rivers Convention Center. “It is anticipated that legislation will result from that plan in the 2015 session. I want to be over in the 2015 session defending West Slope water rights.” [ed. emphasis mine]

Acquafresca said there aren’t enough people currently serving in the statehouse who worked in local government, saying state legislators could learn a thing or two about drafting budgets, cutting spending and serving the needs of Coloradans without making more demands on them, such as increasing their taxes.

He said the General Assembly needs to adopt a “downsizing spirit” to accomplish its goals.

“We’re really losing the ability to determine our own future over there,” Acquafresca said. “The fact that us Republicans have lost the majority in the Colorado House of Representatives is a big part of the reason why we’re losing the ability to determine our own future, and that’s what I want to turn around.”

Currently, the Democrats control the 65-member House 37-28 and the Senate 18-17. Scott’s seat will become vacant because the two-term representative announced in the summer that he will run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, who is running for Mesa County Sheriff.

Current Sheriff Stan Hilkey is term-limited and cannot run again.

To date, no Democrat has announced plans to run for the House seat, which primarily encompasses the city of Grand Junction.

More 2014 Colorado November Election coverage here.


Colorado Water Plan: State Senator Gail Schwartz stumps for the plan in Leadville

November 15, 2013
Leadville

Leadville

From the Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek) via the The Mountain Mail:

Colorado’s Water Plan was foremost on the mind of state Sen. Gail Schwartz as she visited in her district Nov. 8, including the office of the Herald Democrat.

She explained that Gov. John Hickenlooper in May issued an executive order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop Colorado’s Water Plan, but the plan itself will be the culmination of more than 8 years work through the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Basin Roundtable process.

Leadville and Lake County are part of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which meets monthly in Pueblo and has 53 voting members. Schwartz urges citizens to get involved in the roundtable, especially some of the younger people.
She noted that providing new water storage is especially crucial.

Information on all the roundtables and opportunities for input is available at http://coloradowaterplan.com [...]

Schwartz will be term limited after this term and noted that she is supporting Carrie Donovan, of Eagle County, as her replacement in the Senate.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


‘I do not want the federal government to have anything to do with our water plan’ — J. Paul Brown

November 14, 2013
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

From The Watch (Samantha Wright):

As a rancher, Brown said, water rights and conservation are of particular importance to him. If re-elected, he said he would fight to keep the Western Slope’s water on the Western Slope.

“The Front Range wants our Western Slope water,” he alleged, advocating for more storage capacity, both on the Western Slope and Front Range. Referring to the record-breaking floods in Colorado this fall, he pointed out, “If we could store that water on the Front Range, that would relieve demand for a transcontinental diversion of Western Slope water.

Brown added that he will be watching the formation of the new Colorado Water Plan mandated by Gov. Hickenlooper “very carefully; I do not want the federal government to have anything to do with our water plan,” he said. “I have heard they want to be involved; we have Colorado water and I don’t want the feds messing with it.”

More 2014 Colorado November Election coverage here.


‘The Front Range is thirsty. They want our water, and they’ve taken it’ — J. Paul Brown

November 11, 2013
Durango

Durango

From The Durango Herald (Brandon Mathis):

…La Plata County sheep and cattle rancher J. Paul Brown addressed a crowd of about 40 people at Christina’s Grill & Bar on Saturday morning to announce his plans to retake the House seat he lost by two percentage points in 2012 to Durango attorney Mike McLachlan. He called the district, which includes La Plata, Archuleta, Hinsdale, Ouray and a portion of Gunnison counties, one of the most beautiful places in the world and one of great importance to the state and nation.

“We are the pull of all of Colorado,” he said. “Tourism, mining, gas and oil, hospitals. It’s a wonderful district.”

While Brown, a Republican, said he is not yet ready to propose specific legislation, he did say he had a long list of issues and possible bills…

“Water is an issue here, and it always will be,” he said. “The Front Range is thirsty. They want our water, and they’ve taken it.”

Brown mentioned water-storage initiatives to keep water on the Western Slope and in the state.

“Six hundred thousand acre feet of water just went to Kansas and Nebraska,” he said. “That’s our water – we just don’t have any way to keep it.”[...]

La Plata County Planning Commissioner and beef rancher Wayne Buck supports Brown’s ideology. He called Brown a politician of moral fiber and character.

“He’s honest, and Lord knows we need honest politicians in Denver and in Washington, D.C.,” Buck said.

From The Denver Post (Kurtis Lee):</p.

Steve House, a healthcare consultant from Brighton, will announce his candidacy for governor Monday in Adams County…

House is now among five Republicans vying to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2014. Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, former state Sen. Mike Kopp and former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo have all announced their candidacies for governor.

More 2014 Colorado Election coverage here.


Public Trust Doctrine: ‘…a private owner’s right would be diminished or lost to the public domain’ — Terry Scanga

November 6, 2013
Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

Justian I first codifier of riparian rights

From The Mountain Mail (Terry Scanga):

Inclusions of a public trust doctrine in the Colorado Constitution have been attempted for several years without success. Most citizens may be unaware of the devastation that would be wrought on private water rights should the proponents be successful.

In Colorado water rights are a private property right acquired by diverting and placing the water to a beneficial use. Priority of use is determined by the date of first use – “first in time is first in right.”

Since statehood Colorado’s constitution has guaranteed this right.

The value of a water right is created by the combination of various components. To own a water right, the water must be placed to beneficial use on the lands decreed by the water court in each particular circumstance. The water itself represents a small fraction of the value of the right. The creation of the infrastructure to divert and transport the water to the place of use, the laterals, sprinklers, storage vessels and labor to efficiently distribute the water to its intended use and the ongoing maintenance of the infrastructure account for 90 percent or more of the asset value of the water right. Without all the parts, the right could not be created nor maintained.

Historically public values of water have arisen incidentally from the private application of water rights to beneficial uses.

Examples are the return flows from irrigation or municipal uses to tributaries and rivers from private uses or the creation of wetlands from irrigation that support water fowl and nesting.

Privately held water rights have provided these public benefits we all enjoy, but they have not created public ownership of the water.

A public trust doctrine would create a public ownership of these benefits without just compensation to the private water right owner whose money and labor created the benefit.

In the past quarter-century a movement to recognize the public benefit and ownership of water has taken hold in the West, particularly in California and other Western states. The implementation of this ownership/right has been incorporated in these states into a public trust and has had the effect of undermining private ownership and use of water as a private property right.

Today some owners of irrigation water rights are trying to define the value of irrigated agriculture. In their quest to better understand the values created beyond their immediate application of the water to beneficial use, there is a tendency to quantify the external value incidentally created within the community.

Most of these inadvertently created values are public benefits. The public has little or no financial resources to replicate these values if the owner of the right wishes to move the use to another location or change type of use. Under current law water right owners have standing to defend against negative impacts to their rights from changes of use by adjacent water right owners. Those with no water right have no standing to claim injury to incidental public benefits. A public trust doctrine would create standing.

If a public trust doctrine were successfully adopted by Colorado, a private owner’s right would be diminished or lost to the public domain. Governmental bodies would impose conditions upon water right owners to continue to maintain inadvertently created public benefits without just compensation.
Inundation of these incidental benefits by the water right owner through changes in irrigation practices could trigger fines and require replacement of publicly perceived benefits created from past irrigation practices.
The potential implications of such a public trust doctrine upon existing water rights are infinite. Irrigated agriculture should reconsider how it measures water right value.

The negative implications to municipal water rights are even more tenuous under a Colorado public trust doctrine. As presently envisioned, all water must be diverted and returned unimpaired to the stream. Thus there can be no diminishment in quantity or quality – an impossible task.

The cost of a public trust doctrine to municipal dwellers as well as agricultural users is simply untenable and unaffordable.

More Public Trust Doctrine coverage here.


51st State Initiative (secession): ‘I don’t have time for things I don’t think are serious or have any credibility’ — Terry Hart

August 31, 2013

coloradocountymap.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham):

The push of some in Northern Colorado to secede from the state have invited southern communities to join, including Pueblo. Members of the 51st State Initiative met this week with commissioners from Huerfano and Las Animas counties.

The group asked for a meeting with Pueblo County commissioners as well, but they declined the invitation. “We’re not interested in meeting with them. Thanks, but no thanks,” Commission Chairman Terry Hart said. “I don’t see it as a serious political issue at all. I’m not in favor of it. We are tackling a number of incredibly serious issues right now. I don’t have time for things I don’t think are serious or have any credibility.”

Commissioners in Huerfano and Las Animas said they listened to the group’s presentation but are far from making a decision. “We understand the concerns Northern Colorado has about what’s been going on in the last several years. We’ve not taken any formal action. I don’t know if we want to at this point. We’ve just listened to the presentation and understand what’s it’s about,” said Max Vezzani, a Republican and Huerfano County commissioner.

Mack Louden, a Republican commissioner in Las Animas County, said the meeting was informative, but he still has questions. “Like with every new thing, you have to peel back the skin and see what’s underneath,” Louden said.

The drive behind the Northern Colorado secession is the turn in state politics and policy priorities that favors urban and metro Front Range communities, not rural Colorado. Actions and laws by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature on gun-control measures and renewable energy standard for rural electric cooperatives are issues in the movement.

Jeff Hare, a movement leader, said their idea was well-received in Huerfano and Las Animas counties. “The primary emphasis we’re talking about in the movement is restoring liberty; restoring it to the local level with emphasis on local control, and both of them liked that message and that idea. We have a lot of ideas and wanted to fill them in. Both (counties) were open to the idea and we’re interested in hearing from those folks in the community,” Hare said.

More coverage from Analisa Romano writing for The Greeley Tribune:

Lincoln County commissioners on Friday joined nine other northeastern Colorado counties in placing the 51st state initiative on this November’s election ballot.

Lincoln commissioners originally dropped the initiative earlier this year when those interested in the secession plan met in Akron , but Lincoln County Commission Chairman Ted Lyons said several dozen people representing all areas of the county turned out Friday to plead with commissioners to place the initiative on the ballot. “We don’t have a problem putting it on the ballot and giving the opportunity to vote for it one way or the other,” Lyons said.

He said more than anything it’s an opportunity to express discontent over what all of those involved in the 51st state initiative say is an urban attack on rural industries and lifestyles.

Lincoln Commissioner Greg King said he is not in favor of the 51st state, but he agrees rural needs and protests are falling on deaf ears at the state capitol. King said he prefers the Phillips County proposal, which aims to change representation in the state Legislature so that rural representatives can carry more weight with their votes.

Commissioner Doug Stone echoed some of Lyons’ comments. “I’m not very convinced we are ready to jump on the bandwagon right now, but we are putting it on the ballot to see how other people feel in Lincoln County.”

Elbert County commissioners on Wednesday joined the 51st state movement, meaning the effort is up to 11 counties total in Colorado that have placed the secession measure on their ballots, including Moffat County, which is in the northwestern corner of the state.

According to the Sky-Hi Daily News, Grand County commissioners will consider secession ballot language on Tuesday. Grand County sits on the western side of Boulder County.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said on Friday he has also heard rumblings that Mesa, Las Animas and Huerfano counties are considering a vote for 51st state ballot language next week.

“We’re going to end up with far more counties than we ever thought we would have,” Conway said.

Mesa County sits on Colorado’s western border and is not contiguous with Moffat County. Las Animas sits on Colorado’s southern border near the east corner, and Huerfano County borders it to the northwest.

Commissioners have until Sept. 6 to send ballot measures to their county clerks.

More 51st State Initiative coverage here.


Colorado Water Congress Public Trust Special Project Fundraiser Alert

June 2, 2013

justianifirstdodifierofriparianrights.jpg

From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

After failing to collect enough signatures to place Public Trust initiatives in front of Colorado voters in 2012, the sponsors announced that they are redoubling their efforts to bring the issue to Colorado voters as early as 2014. “We will stay at this until we win,” their leadership stated.

The Colorado Water Congress has strongly opposed the Public Trust Doctrine becoming law for the last two decades. It is critical that we act now to prepare for the next round in the Public Trust battle. Failure to prepare will certainly leave us in a precarious position.

The Water Congress Board established a new Public Trust Special Project to fervently challenge upcoming ballot initiatives and, as importantly, to engage our water community in positive public communication about Colorado’s water future. Our two-year budget is $325,000.

The first phase of fund raising is the reason I am contacting you now. Please review the attached Public Trust Special Project overview, which provides a description of the issue, our position, and the very high stakes at hand. It also details the specific activities that your special fund contribution will support.

Time is of the essence. For public entities, this appeal is your only opportunity to financially contribute toward action on upcoming Public Trust initiatives. If they become certified for the ballot, your activities are severely restricted by law. Because the Water Congress receives a portion of its funding from public entities, we face the same restrictions

We hope that you will consider this issue a priority. If you wish to contribute to this project (in any amount), please click here. Thank you for your consideration.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It’s kind of like watching thunderheads build over mountain ranges.

Colorado Water Congress is seeking to raise $325,000 to fight off the next attempt to apply the public trust doctrine to Colorado water law. The group took the lead role in 2012 to battle an initiative by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay that it claimed would have created legal turmoil over water rights. “We think this issue may be in front of us for some time,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the CWC. “As the state is trying to develop a state water plan, this cuts the legs out from under it.”

For his part, Hamilton said he plans to launch a campaign to place ballot questions “exactly the same” as he attempted to place on the 2012 ballot.

In 2012, the ballot titles were challenged by the CWC, a process that cut four months off the six-month period to collect signatures, Hamilton said. In July, having collected only about 35,000 signatures of 86,000 needed to put the issues on the ballot, Hamilton withdrew the questions.

“The use of the public’s water is for the public’s good,” Hamilton said, saying Colorado’s constitution clearly says the state’s water is owned by the public. “It’s interesting that the state’s water interests try to block the initiative and refuse to have a full, open discussion with the public.”

Hamilton, a longtime lobbyist for water issues, has worked to place water issues on the ballot for the past 25 years. His concerns are rooted in the state’s priorities of placing development ahead of environmental and recreation concerns. “The water transfers that have happened in this state have benefitted real estate developers in Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs and at times Pueblo,” Hamilton said.

The Water Congress is concerned about protecting water rights that have been in place for as long as 150 years, property rights associated with stream access and costly water quality legal battles, Kemper said. The fundraising effort will provide money for legal fights, surveying public opinion, tracking ballot issues and distributing information, Kemper said. “As a water community, we need to be organized,” he said. “Once a campaign begins, deadlines can be extremely short and time is limited.”

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.


2014 Colorado November Election: A plan is forming to ask voters for a commission to reform the state constitution

September 29, 2012

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

“We’re going to go for the tough one. We’re going to go for the fix,” said Brenda Morrison, a member of Colorado’s Future, in a presentation Friday to Action 22, a group of Southeast Colorado county leaders.

The ballot initiative would not target any specific part of the constitution.

Instead, it would set up a panel that would meet every decade or so to recommend changes to the voters.

The specifics have not been decided yet, including how the panel would be appointed, what its power would be or even what it would be named.

The most often-criticized parts of the constitution include the Gallagher Amendment, which limits residential property taxes but can burden businesses; the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits taxes and requires refunds if the state collects too much; and Amendment 23, which forces spending on K-12 schools to increase with the inflation rate.

More 2014 Colorado November Election coverage


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