Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Colorado Dams Drying Up

The reserve sluice at Chatfield reservoir

According to a Denver Post examination, Colorado could increase its water storage capacity by the equivalent of four Chatfield Reservoir’s if the state’s water project funds were adequate. Many dams in the state are far from full capacity, limited by safety concerns from the Department of Natural Resources. The department says it lacks the funds to repair existing dams that have been deemed unsafe.

Over the last five years the state loaned $80.5 million to landowners to help rehabilitate 35 dams. But since 2009, lawmakers have siphoned off $120 million from the states water project fund to help close the budget gap.

Lawmakers this year alone attempted to take another $10 million from the fund, but Rep. John Becker (R- Ft. Morgan) told members at the CFB Legislative Conference that he was able to block the joint budget committee from taking the full amount. Thanks to his efforts, the JBC only raided $5 million from the fund.

All of this comes at a time when water managers across the state are looking for ways to increase water storage capacity in the face of a growing population. Repairing existing dams requires much less money and does not require the long regulatory approval process that is necessary to build new dams.

(Image:  bartlec)

CWCB Releases 2010 Water Report

The Colorado Water Conservation Board released Wednesday its Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) 2010 report. The SWSI report finds that if water use follows current trends, large supplies will inevitably be shifted away from agricultural uses, resulting in significant loss of farmlands, economic damage to the state’s agricultural regions and potential environmental harm. The report concludes that between 500,000 and 700,000 irrigated acres could be dried up by 2050.

The report as well as a summary of key findings is available at the Colorado Water Conservation Board website.

NISP Delayed Again

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is saying that the supplemental draft environmental impact statement for the Northern Colorado Integrated Supply Project — or NISP — is being pushed back into the latter part of this year. 

Army Corps Projects Manager Chandler Peter said more time is needed to weigh the complexity of NISP.

“This has turned into a complex and time-consuming process,” Peter said.

Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the entity proposing NISP says that the “delay” isnt a delay at all and that his organization has been anticipating a final decision by the end of this year.

“What we’ve found in the now 8 years of the EIS process is that the end point is a moving target,” said Werner. “The supplemental DEIS is scheduled to be made available for public comment sometime in 2011. The Army Corps is still telling us they see no fatal flaws and we still anticipate receiving a permit to build the project.”

Bartlett to Head CAWA

Charlie Bartlett, Merino area farmer and current board member of the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee, was recently elected Chair of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance (CAWA). John Stencel, former president of Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union, was elected Vice-Chair. Both will serve a one-year term.

The CAWA is unique in that its membership is comprised of producers and  executives of agricultural organizations who are committed to the preservation of irrigated agriculture, spanning all watersheds, and most agricultural sectors in Colorado.

When asked about his involvement  Bartlett responded, “I’m excited to help educate people about  water usage in Colorado. CAWA is an organization that represents all facets of agriculture. It provides and promotes a cooperative venue for industrial,  municipal, and agricultural  water users to come together in order to protect this important natural resource.”

Governor Elect ‘Inclined’ to Support NISP

According to Bill Jackson at the Greeley Tribune

While the state “needs serious conservation” efforts, the needs of agriculture also have to be met when it comes to water, Hickenlooper told a crowd of close to 200 at the 2010 Colorado Ag Classic at the Embassy Suites in Loveland.

The soon-to-be governor was asked where he stands on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, which includes a new reservoir northwest of Fort Collins that would supply 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to 15 water providers in Larimer and Weld counties.

“I have seen a presentation, and I think I’m inclined to support it. But I want to see the results of the environmental study first,” Hickenlooper said.

Takeaway? Hickenlooper is learning about water. While he still touted Denver’s conservation efforts during his tenure, he now realizes that what is good for cities is not always good for agricultural users. We hope the Hickenlooper team continues to leverage Ag groups as they learn more about water and other rural issues.

Colorado Water Official Blasts Flaming Gorge Project

The Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Wyoming

A veteran Colorado engineer said last week that entrepreneur Aaron Million’s hopes to move 250,000 acre feet of water from the Flaming Gorge to Colorado’s thirsty Front Range are dubious at best. According to estimates, if the pipeline is approved, municipal and other entities in southwest Wyoming and western Colorado that rely on the Green River may not have enough water to meet their future recreation, tourism and industrial growth needs.

“There’s just no water for Million for this project,” Colorado River Water Conservation District General Manager Eric Kuhn told members of a local group opposing the pipeline project.

Million estimates that high-alpine glaciers in Wyoming’s Wind River Range pour about 1.18 million acre feet of water into the Flaming Gorge Reservoir via the Green River each year. But records show in the past two decades that inflows have only averaged about 970,000 acre feet of water into the popular lake.

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Farm Bureau Asks Senate to Oppose Federal Water Control Bill

Farmers and ranchers would face burdensome federal regulatory control if provisions of a restrictive Senate water bill make it through the “lame duck” session of Congress, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF and a coalition of other groups are vowing to oppose any effort to attach the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act (S. 1816) to any bill that might be addressed during the lame duck session.

“While carrying a title that suggests it is limited in scope, provisions of this bill would have drastic negative impacts on agriculture,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The bill makes sweeping changes to the Clean Water Act and sets adverse water policy precedents that would impact watersheds throughout the nation.”

According to Stallman, the bill strips state and local governments within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed of their authority under the Clean Water Act and grants it instead to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Bigger federal government and expanded federal authority is not in the best interest of our nation,” Stallman said. “By granting EPA the authority to issue what are called Total Maximum Daily Loads without allowing states the opportunity to address water issues, this bill would give EPA greater control over land-use decisions that should be made at the local level.”

Pueblo Chieftain: Arkansas Water at Risk

Transfers from 1950 to the present could take water off one-third of historically irrigated land in the Arkansas River basin — nearly 150,000 of 450,000 acres, according to information compiled by The Pueblo Chieftain today.

The paper notes that an additional 63,000 acres could be taken out of production in the next 40 years to meet a municipal “gap” in water supply. Read the entire piece here.

Ag School Dean on Water in Colorado

The Dean of the College of Agriculture at CSU, Craig Beyrouty, has written an editorial for the Greeley Tribune commenting on the importance of water in Colorado and the university’s efforts to address the future problems related to the resource.

“For agriculture to continue to be a dominant force in the landscape of Colorado, we must continue to look for approaches that optimize our limited water resources so that we do not lose two of our most important economic drivers in the state: Agriculture and the green industry.”

Read the entire column at the Greeley Tribune.

CFB Releases South Platte Task Force Report

The Colorado Farm Bureau has released its final report of the South Platte River Task Force.

The South Platte Task Force was charged with the following:

to recommend and report to the CFB Board of Directors what can be done from a public policy perspective to increase water usage in the South Platte River Basin given the real and current parameters set forth by current Colorado water law including the 1969 law, the 1974 augmentation requirements and Colorado Supreme Court Decisions.

Several presentations were made to the board by individuals and organizations involved in the issues associated with both surface and ground water usage. Based upon these presentations and personal knowledge, several recommendations were made that would enhance the use of the water resources in the South Platte River Basin.

The final report contains these recommendations and can be viewed here.

NISP Rally a Successful Effort

Last week, CFB and other participants in the 2010 Farmers for NISP Rally recieved an email from Floyd Ciruli, noted Colorado pollster and political commentator who also works in support of the NISP project. Mr. Ciruli’s letter is below.

NISP may be the first proposed major water project in Colorado history that has taken the offensive to build support and counter distortions and misstatements.

The media coverage of the farm rally on July 16 was very strong.  The Denver Post article, in particular, told the project’s story with dramatic, lively pictures, strong writing and positive quotations.  In the first several paragraphs and the three pictures, the positive case for the project was made.

Although the Save the Poudre stickers generated some controversy, the agricultural community made the point that they want to “Save the Poudre” as much as self-proclaimed environmental advocates.  The only debate is the best way to do that – by storing the excess for Colorado’s use or by not managing the river, losing the water and depending entirely on levels of conservation that are both unrealistic and will have a negative impact in the next drought.  In fact, the NISP project not only keeps Colorado’s water for farms, recreation and jobs, but it helps manage the river’s flows and can help maintain water levels during dryer seasons.

NISP continues to be a model project that, by aggressively seeking support, such as from 13 business associations including Club 20, is maintaining public momentum during the long approval process.

Ag Rally for Northern Colorado Water Project Set for July 15th

The future Glade Reservoir site, shown here looking south towards Horsetooth Reservoir, will hold 170,000 acre feet of new municipal water supplies.

Northern Colorado farm and ranch organizations and public officials have announced an ag rally to show support for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a proposed water storage project that is a cooperative venture between agricultural ditch companies and growing northern Front Range communities. NISP would help prevent the aggressive dry up of thousands of additional acres of farmland in Northern Colorado while providing a responsible water management tool for growing Northern Front Range communities.

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Lucas, Others Seek Hearings on Commitment to Clean Water Act

Republican Reps. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Sam Graves of Missouri and Doc Hastings of Washington, the co-chairs of the Rural American Solutions Group, wrote to the chairs of four House committees on Tuesday seeking hearings on America’s Commitment to the Clean Water Act.

This bill greatly expands the scope of the Clean Water Act by removing the word “navigable” from its current definition. As a result, every body of water—from farmers’ irrigation canals, to streams, small ponds and backyard mud puddles—could suddenly be subjected to sweeping new federal regulations and permitting. This vast expansion of government authority would threaten jobs, increase costs for farmers and small businesses, and impact local water storage and delivery systems.

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NISP Rally Scheduled

The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) has scheduled a rally for all supporters of NISP. Thursday, July 15 farmers, residents and public officials will gather to show support for NISP and for a barbecue!

Individuals from the agriculture community and elected officials will be key speakers at the event.

The event will be held at Anderson Farms from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. rain or shine. Anderson Farms is located 2.5 miles east of I-25 at  6728 County Rd. 3 1/4 in Erie.

Additional information about the NISP and rally available at Glade Reservoir’s home page.

Compromise Reached on Rafting Proposals

An agreement has been reached today between commercial rafting outfitters and private property owners along the Taylor River. The compromise clears the way for sponsors of 24 competing ballot measures to withdraw their respective proposals from the November ballot, averting an expensive and divisive election fight.

Both parties have reached a settlement privately, avoiding possible contentious legislative initiatives or impositions.  The agreement permits rafting companies Three Rivers and Scenic River Tours, structured access through the private Wilder Ranch property while respecting each parties’ positions.

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EPA Clean Water Act Permit Costly to Farmers and Ranchers

EPA is proposing a new Clean Water Act permit for pesticide use near waterways that could lead to problems for farmers and ranchers.

“There are four categories that it’s going to apply to,” said Tyler Wegmeyer, AFBF regulatory specialist. “Mosquito and other flying insect pest control, aquatic weed and algae control, aquatic nuisance animal control and forest canopy pest control. You don’t hear farmers mentioned in that.  However, we believe that farmers will be impacted.”

Wegmeyer said the new regulation is expected to add to the cost of production and isn’t even needed.  “Is it going to make the environment safer and protect human health better?  No, it’s not going to.  Laws are already on the books that do a good job of protecting the environment and human health. Farmers abide by it, and it’s working,” he said.

Response to new EPA Permit Requirement: Swift and Negative

Response from the agricultural community regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s release this week of a draft version of the permit farmers will be required to obtain to apply pesticides on crops under the Clean Water Act has been swift and negative.

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) denounced the release of the draft permit and described it as “unfortunate” in a news release. “The result will be more expensive regulation and onerous permitting requirements for our producers that will provide no environmental gain,” he said.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, expressed disappointment with EPA’s decision in a statement. “By refusing to defend current law and its own reasonable regulations, EPA is unfortunately planning to place unnecessary, burdensome and duplicative permit requirements on producers, mosquito control districts and states. More regulation is not the key to economic recovery, especially when the regulation does absolutely nothing to further protect or enhance the environment.”

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Jackson-Shaw Grants Taylor River Rafting Companies Permission To Float

Jackson-Shaw, owner of the Wilder on the Taylor fishing reserve, announced today that it is granting the two Taylor River rafting companies, Three Rivers Outfitting and Scenic River Tours, permission to float through its property this summer.

Conflicts between fishermen and commercial rafting on the Taylor River gave rise earlier this year to Colorado House Bill 1188, which died at the end of the legislative session this week.

Jackson-Shaw Chairman and CEO Lewis Shaw said, “While mediation between Jackson-Shaw and the two Taylor River rafting companies continues, Jackson-Shaw recognizes that Three Rivers and Scenic are at the threshold of their commercial rafting season and that it will take time to finalize any formal agreement.  Accordingly, as a show of good faith, Jackson-Shaw has decided to give Three Rivers and Scenic permission to float through Wilder on the Taylor this summer.”

Shaw added, “Jackson-Shaw is still hopeful that the mediation process will result in a formal agreement among the parties.”

Mediation between the two rafting companies and Jackson-Shaw began on April 22 and remains ongoing.  All parties have agreed that the content of the mediation must remain confidential.

Due to differences in the parties’ and mediator’s availability, a second mediation session could not be scheduled at the Judicial Arbiter Group in Denver until May 26.

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NRI Shows Increased Ag Productivity, Improved Environment

The Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service released a major report Tuesday that illustrates how agricultural productivity has increased while farming’s impact on the environment has shrunk.

USDA released the 2007 National Resources Inventory (NRI) for Non-Federal Lands at an event marking the 75th Anniversary of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The report is science-based and relies on actual farm surveys.

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Oberstar’s Version of Clean Water Act Draws Attention

Investors Business Daily had a lead editorial last week highlighting Rep. James Oberstar’s new rewrite of the Clean Water Act and calling it an “existential threat to farms” across the country.

Fox News also picked up the Earth Day story with the report below.

Removing ‘Navigable’ From Clean Water Goes Too Far

Farm Bureau opposes “America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act,” introduced Wednesday by Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), due to concerns that the measure would regulate all waters in the United States, not just real “navigable” waters, as Congress clearly intended when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.

“Farm Bureau has always supported the Clean Water Act as a vital tool for protecting our nation’s valuable water resources,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The bill unveiled yesterday, however, goes farther by removing the word ‘navigable’ from the Clean Water Act. If the word ‘navigable’ is deleted from the law, any farm pond or ditch would be at the mercy of federal regulations. This vague and overreaching amendment to the Clean Water Act is unacceptable to America’s farm and ranch families.”

(Image: Hypergurl)

AFBF Files Suit Against Corps of Engineers in CWA Case

The American Farm Bureau Federation has filed an action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for what the organization calls another example of regulatory overreach. The suit, filed by AFBF and the U.S. Sugar Corporation in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., takes the Corps to task for non-compliance with its own rules regarding prior-converted croplands.

The suit argues that recent action by the Corps goes against the 1993 rule that excluded prior-converted croplands from regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Corps’ actions would subject croplands to federal control if farmers take their prior-converted cropland out of crop production and change its use. There are currently more than 53 million acres of prior-converted cropland in the U.S.

“These lands are out of the realm of Clean Water Act jurisdiction, meaning the Corps can’t regulate them as waters of the U.S.,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This is important because the value of prior-converted croplands is significantly higher than land encumbered by costly federal wetlands regulations.”

2nd Flaming Gorge Project gets Feasibility Study

Utah's Flaming Gorge Reservoir

A coalition of Colorado and Wyoming public water providers will study the feasibility of building a pipeline more than 500 miles long, at a cost of $3 billion, to carry water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, on the border of Wyoming and Utah, to the eastern, more populated areas of the two states.

The study will look at how much water is available in the reservoir, how much water members of the study group need, and how it might be delivered to the agencies, said Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.

The study group includes public agencies, who collectively serve more than 500,000 in Denver’s southern suburbs and El Paso County, as well as towns and counties in eastern Wyoming, Jaeger said.

(Image: chefranden)

More Opposition to HB 1188

Two more op-eds were published in Colorado newspapers opposing HB 1188. Opposition to the measure has been slowly growing across the state as more and more people realize that the bill goes far beyond simply clarifying the current system of floating on Colorado’s rivers.

Larimer County Farm Bureau President Bob Bee was published in the Ft. Collins Coloradoan yesterday, writing in opposition to the proposed ‘Right to Trespass’ bill that is currently up for consideration in the Senate Judiciary committee. Another op-ed was also published in the Aspen Times calling for the measure to be killed on the grounds that it completely ignores landowners.

Bill Threatens Ag, Tourism Balance

Coloradoan- Mar 3, 2010

The Threat of Commercial Rafters

The Aspen Times- Feb 24, 2010

(Image: Zevotron)

Opposition to HB 1188 Grows

Yesterday the editorial boards of both the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Pueblo Chieftain came out against the ‘Right to Trespass’ bill, HB 1188. In the case of the Chieftain, the board switched from their original position of supporting the measure, to opposing it, saying…

…the bill does not preserve the status quo, nor clarify any law… The bill, as written, could have severe economic consequences to farms, ranches and resorts located next to rivers. So we’re happy to change our tune and urge that this bill be scuttled during this year’s legislative session. (emphasis added)

The Gazette penned one of the best arguments against the bill that we at the Pulse have heard yet.

Politically, it’s a no-brainer to take from the few and give to the many. The many can easily outvote the few, which rewards politicians for redistribution policies… Nowhere is this phenomenon more in play than with Colorado1188, which would take private property rights from a few and give them to the public. House Bill

Responsible commercial outfitters, understanding the truth about floating in Colorado, have negotiated arrangements with landowners. Some contracts have involved compensation, and others have merely involved good faith agreements enforced with neighborly handshakes…

But that’s not enough for boaters, commercial and private. They demand nothing less than absolute freedom to boat down any creek that will float a kayak or inner tube, regardless of whether they have any legal right to do so…

This bill would prevent the landowners from seeking compensation for lost business and opportunity, freeing rafting companies to profit off land they don’t own without paying reasonable overhead for the commotion they cause and without so much as having to work out a reasonable arrangement with the landowners…

Legislators should kill this ill-conceived bill, which negates private property rights in favor of a collaborative attempt to resolve the conflict fairly. (emphasis added)

The Pulse would like to thank the editorial board of the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Pueblo Chieftain for their courageous positions in favor of protecting private property rights in Colorado.

Background on HB 1188 can be found here on the Pulse and here, at Coyote Gulch a most excellent blog on Colorado water issues.

(Photo: josue salazar)

A Water Blog Worth Reading

One of the most important issues in Colorado agriculture is water and one of the best places to go online for information and news related to Colorado water issues is Coyote Gulch. The site is a clearinghouse for just about every news story and water update from across the state.

Visit it often.

2010 Legislative Conference

February 2-3, 2010
Crowne Plaza Downtown
1450 Glenarm Place
Denver, Colorado

Tuesday, February 2
9:30 a.m.
     Advisory Committee Meetings
     (Animal Ag, Crops, Specialty Ag, Water, & Wildlife/Environment)

12:00 p.m.
      Break for Lunch

1:30 p.m.
     CFB Legislative Conference Welcome
     Former Congressman Scott McInnis, Candidate for Governor

     Legislative Updates

     Issue Updates and Debriefings from legislators, state officials, and candidates

     Colo. Department of Ag budget

     Continued Legislative updates

5:00 p.m.

5:30 p.m.

6:30 p.m.
     Legislative Dinner – Speaker: Craig Beyrouty, CSU Dean of Ag

South Platte Task Force Holds First Meeting

Members of the task force listen to a presentation on water law in Colorado.

Members of the newly formed South Platte Task Force held their first official meeting Monday. Lee Miller, a water lawyer from the firm Burns, Figa and Will gave a presentation about the history of water law in the state of Colorado.

Background on the Task Force –

At the Annual Delegate Meeting in November a motion was made on the floor to form a task force to look into the Sr./Jr. issues of the South Platte Basin. The Directive is as follows:

“CFB shall form a working group to find solutions to the ground water and surface water conflicts.”

Lee Miller of Burns, Figa & Will

To further guide this process, the CFB Board of Directors has commissioned a task force made up of one Farm Bureau member from each South Platte River Basin county. The CFB Board has offered the following question as a focus for the task force:

Recommend and report to the CFB Board of Directors what can be done from a public policy perspective to increase water usage in the South Platte River Basin given the real and current parameters set forth by current Colorado water law including the 1969 law, the 1974 augmentation requirements and Colorado Supreme Court decisions.

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Fox News Story Explores Clean Water Restoration Act

How passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act would affect farmers and ranchers was the subject of a Fox News broadcast story on Sunday. Don Parrish, water expert with the American Farm Bureau Federation, appeared live on a segment about the issue.

Parrish explained that removing the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act would harm America’s food producers by allowing federal regulation of all interstate and intrastate waters, including puddles, ditches and farm ponds. If the bill becomes law, farmers and ranchers would likely be forced to apply for expensive permits, Parrish said.

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Summit Considers Water Issues

Pat O'Toole of the Family Farm Alliance

Pat O’Toole of the Family Farm Alliance provided the keynote address for the recent Colorado Ag Water Summit held Monday at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. O’Toole touched on many water issues that producers are facing all over the West.

“We are in an inevitable decline of our culture if we keep taking water away from the production of food,” he said. “Everything that happens in water in the future will have winners and losers. We in agriculture can no longer be among the losers.”

O’Toole then issued a warning: “If we allow things to happen the way they have been happening, that will inevitably be the end for all of us.”

He used an example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requiring water be put in San Francisco Bay to protect smelt, a kind of fish. The long-range result was the dry up of several hundred acres of farmland in northern California and rural communities facing 40 percent unemployment, he said, “and now there are farm workers out of work because there is no water for farms.”

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