Salida: Interbasin Compact Committee talks taxes — The Mountain Mail

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From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

The Interbasin Compact Committee continued its ongoing discussion about Colorado water rights and river basins at a meeting Tuesday in Salida.

The IBCC was founded through the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act to lead conversations and address issues about Colorado’s water.

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District hosted the event and kicked off the meeting with a presentation by the Arkansas River Basin PEPO (Public Education, Participation and Outreach) Workgroup, led by Chelsey Nutter and Jean Van Pelt.

They explained four tasks they are working on, including participation and partnership building, focusing specifically on the Arkansas Basin area for education.

Their second task is to develop a Water 101 presentation for education, and they are currently working on a documentary about water and the Arkansas Basin.

Their third task is to help facilitate communication among the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, the Colorado Water Conservancy Board, the IBCC and the public, by integrating the information gathered into public outreach forums.

Finally, they are working to market the Arkansas Basin by designing a mission, logo and online resources, including a website and a Facebook presence.

Bob Randell, an attorney with the IBCC, discussed the Colorado Supreme Court decision earlier this month, in which BP America Production Co. will be refunded millions in oil and gas severance taxes.

Randell explained that the refunded taxes will have a direct effect on Colorado general funds and Department of Local Affairs grants, which will not be adding any additional money to 2016 and 2017 Tier 2 programs.

Sean Cronin, the South Platte River Basin representative, spoke about how that will affect the Water Supply Reserve Account.

“With demand outpacing supply, we will have to maximize our limited dollars,” Cronin said. “We want to provide folks with confidence that we are using WSRA funds as effectively as possible.”

Cronin said some of the options they have been looking at to help the program include:

• Looking at other grant deed programs for ideas.
• Considering how money is spent to hire contractors.
• Looking at financial need analysis for applicants, with a sliding scale depending on financial stability.
• Encouraging match requirements.
• Considering holding back a percentage of funds until progress reports on projects have been turned in and reviewed.

During the Lean Process update, Eric Kuhn, an appointee to the IBCC by the governor, raised a point about the difficulty with working with different parties on a project.

“Sometimes we miss the biggest concern,” Kuhn said, “trying to do something with a complex project. When you have two major entities with a lack of consensus, you hope it works out, because the permitting process only works as long as people agree on it.”

Becky Mitchell with the IBCC responded, saying, “What we came up with out of the Lean Process is that the state won’t jump into those kinds of situations.”

Cronin also said he had heard it wasn’t so much a problem in other parts of the country, only Colorado.

“I did hear that Colorado has had special circumstances, but that it is common among Western states, but we’re not the worst,” Mitchell said.

The committee also debated an idea of placing a tax on drinking liquid containers, from children’s juice boxes to cans of soda, as a possible source for the additional funding.

No decisions on the tax were made, but it was jokingly said that Colorado would need a drought for a tax like that to go through.

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