Time:08:08 AM to 11:46 AM
Place:Steamboat Springs, CO
This Meeting was called to order by
Mitsch Bush
Senator Schwartz
This Report was prepared by
David Beaujon
X = Present, E = Excused, A = Absent, * = Present after roll call
Bills Addressed: Action Taken:
Colorado Water Plan
Arkansas River Water Bank
FLEX Market Approach
Groundwater Management District Enforcement
Aquifer Storage Options
USFS Watershed Protection and Wildfires Update
USFS Ski Area Permit Administration
Public Testimony
Implementation of HB 13-1248
Public Testimony cont.
Briefing only
Briefing only
Briefing only
Briefing only
Briefing only
Briefing only
Briefing only

08:09 AM -- Colorado Water Plan

Mike King, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, explained that Governor Hickenlooper issued an Executive Order in May 2013 directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to deliver a draft Colorado Water Plan (CWP) to the Governor's Office by December 10, 2014 (Attachment A). This plan will build upon eight years of work produced through the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and basin roundtable process. He explained that the CWCB plans to meet regularly with the Colorado General Assembly to discuss implementation of the plan.


08:14 AM

James Eklund, Director, CWCB, discussed the development of the CWP since May 2013 when the Governor issued the executive order. He also described Colorado's growing water demands and expressed concern about what may happen to irrigated agriculture if alternative water supplies are not developed. He also explained how the IBCC and basin roundtables will assist with the development of the Colorado water plan, how the public and other interested persons may participate in the development of the plan.

08:23 AM

Mr. King described public interest in the development of the CWP and responded to questions from the committee about the deadlines to complete the plan and whether sufficient time will be available to complete the plan with adequate public input. He explained that the plan will not endorse or condemn specific water projects and will instead help provide guidelines for water development projects. He also responded to questions from the committee about the effect of recent budget challenges on state funding for water projects and recent transfers authorized by the General Assembly to replenish those funds.

08:33 AM

Mr. Eklund explained how the CWP will help guide state funding for water projects.

08:35 AM

John Stulp, Special Policy Advisor to the Governor for Water, discussed the activities of the basin roundtables and the IBCC, and explained how basin roundtables are increasing cooperation with other roundtables to solve common water supply problems. He also identified state agencies that are working to develop the Colorado water plan and responded to questions from the the committee about IBCC's" no and low regrets" action plans for identified projects and processes, alternatives to agriculture transfers, new supplies, and conservation.

08:42 PM -- Arkansas River Water Bank

Terry Scanga, General Manager, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, explained that the statute authorizing the Arkansas River Basin water bank pilot project was enacted in 2001 and related rules took effect
July 1, 2002 (Attachment B). The original statute contained a sunset provision and only authorized the formation of a water bank in the Arkansas Basin. This pilot water bank was operated by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. He explained that few deposits were made into the water bank and it resulted in no transactions. Mr. Scanga discussed obstacles to creating a water bank including the need for reservoirs to store banked water, the lack of an affordable water supply, and the need for infrastructure to deliver the banked water. He also discussed current statute and regulations of water banks including limits on out-of-basin transfers of water banks. He also identified potential options to hold banked water including alluvial aquifers, and he explained how lease fallowing may be used in conjunction with water water banks.


08:53 PM -- FLEX Market Approach

Andrew Jones, Lawrence Jones Custer Grasmick LLP, discussed the Colorado Water Conservation Board's initiative to identify alternatives to agriculture transfers and discussed the FLEX Water Market Model Project Completion Report (Attachment C). This study was commissioned by the board to identify alternatives to agriculture water rights transfers to supply Colorado's growing urban water demand while protecting the environment. He explained that a FLEX Market would enable a voluntary agreement between municipal and industrial water users, agricultural water users, and environmental and conservation water users to change the use of a senior irrigation right to include multiple end uses. The goal of the FLEX market is to maintain the economic benefit of the senior water right in its region of origin, and to retain sufficient agricultural water supply to sustain commercially viable farming activities. He discussed the development of models to assist with water court adjudication related to FLEX markets and identified barriers to multiple uses of senior decreed rights including litigation costs, price, and the need for infrastructure. He also identified lessons learned during the course of the study including the need to keep the process simple and he discussed possible legislation to facilitate the development of FLEX markets including amendments to the anti-speculation doctrine, changes to property taxes rates for partially irrigated lands, and authorization of ditch-wide changes in use for water rights. Mr. Jones responded to questions from the committee about the need for additional funding from the CWCB to implement the FLEX report's recommendations.


09:13 AM -- Groundwater Management District Enforcement

Mr. Jones explained that groundwater management districts are formed within designated basins to provide greater local control over use of ground water in the district. Each district is empowered to regulate the use, control, and conservation of ground waters within the district. District rules and regulations are subject to review by the Ground Water Commission. Thirteen ground water management districts have been created within six of Colorado's designated basins. He also discussed current law concerning enforcement of ground water management district rules and proposed legislation to allow these districts to enforce their regulations (Attachment D).


09:25 AM

Kevin Rein, Deputy State Engineer, Division of Water Resources, described oversight of groundwater management districts by the groundwater commission. He explained that ground water management district rules must be consistent with Ground Water Commission rules and responded to questions from the committee about how the Ground Water Commission enforces its regulations.

09:28 AM

Mr. Jones responded to questions about violations of ground water management district rules including over pumping by well owners, and he discussed the cost incurred by districts to enforce their rules.

09:30 AM -- Aquifer Storage Options

Dick Brown, Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, explained that in 2007 the Arkansas Basin Roundtable sponsored a conference entitled “Legal and Institutional Opportunities for Aquifer Recharge and Storage” in Colorado Springs. The conference was held pursuant to House Joint Resolution 07-1017 which encouraged the Arkansas Basin Roundtable to conduct a review of the economic, legal, ecological, and technical feasibility of using alluvial underground storage sites for underground water storage. Mr. Brown also announced that on October 7, 2013, the Colorado Agriculture Water Alliance will host a conference in Colorado Springs on the economic benefits of water used for agricultural purposes and invited the committee and members of the audience to attend the conference.

09:36 AM

Sean Chambers, General Manager, Cherokee Metropolitan District, described the need for long-term renewable water for southern metropolitan communities that depend on nonrenewable ground water. He also discussed a water reuse and recharge project operated by his district and explained how other water providers may benefit from such projcts. He also responded to questions from the committee about barriers to greater use of aquifer storage including the need for geophysical data to understand the aquifer characteristics necessary to control and use water stored in aquifers.

09:42 AM -- USFS Watershed Protection and Wildfires Update

Dan Jiron, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the USDA Forest Service (USFS), described his duties as regional forester and explained that 60 percent of the water used in the rocky mountain region comes from USFS lands. He explained that the 2013 fire season is particularly severe and discussed resources deployed to address these fires in Colorado and other western states. He identified mitigation needs to protect watersheds impacted by fires and discussed the importance of initial response from firefighters to minimize the threat of catastrophic fires and the need for consistent funding. He also discussed the benefits of long-term stewardship contracts for forest management projects to help improve forest health and reduce the threat of wildland fires. Mr. Jiron identified local partners in watershed protection and forest management projects including water districts, power utilities, and other entities. He also responded to questions from the committee about USFS forest management and wildland firefighting policies.

10:00 AM

Travis Smith, Rio Grande Irrigation District, discussed mitigation efforts by the Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team to address impacts from the West Fork wildland fire in the Rio Grande Basin.

10:06 AM

Mr. Jiron responded to questions from the committee about programs to educate the public about the need for forest management to reduce the threat of wildland fires. He also discussed wildland firefight strategies in wilderness and other areas of state.

10:16 AM -- USFS Ski Area Permit Administration

Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief for National Forest System with USFS, described the economic benefits to local communities from ski areas on USFS lands. She also discussed the importance of water to ski area operations for snow making and other purposes and she explained that her agency wants ensure that this water remains available for ski area operations and other permitted uses. She explained that the USFS is seeking to update a clause on the ski area special use permits. A clause adopted in 2012 was challenged in federal court. The U.S. District Court judge determined that the USFS must provide public notice and accept comment before issuing a final clause. She described recent meetings sponsored by the USFS in Denver and other locations to discuss a new ski area clause with ski areas and other interested persons. Ms. Weldon announced that a draft water rights clause will be released within the next month and explained how the public can comment on the draft clause that will be published in the Federal Register.

10:27 AM

Glen Porzak, National Ski Area Association, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, explained that 22 Colorado ski areas operate on USFS lands and he expressed concern about the USFS water rights directive that was issued in 2012 (Attachment E). He explained that the 2012 directive required ski areas to transfer ownership of many types of water rights to the federal government without compensation and that the directive exceeded the agency's authority to acquire water rights through administrative procedures. Mr. Porzak also expressed concern about a USFS policy adopted in 2011 that directs the agency to insert a clause in new special use permits for water diversion or storage facilities that requires other types of permit holder to obtain the water rights in the name of the United States. He explained that the Federal Water Rights Task Force created in 1996 concluded Congress did not delegate to the USFS the authority necessary to force water users to relinquish part of their existing water supply to the United States as a condition of permit renewals.


10:36 AM

Terry Fankhauser, Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Public Lands Council, expressed concern about USFS efforts to obtain ownership of stockwater and other water rights from persons and entities operating on USFS lands (Attachment F). He urged the USFS to review its water rights policy to address the concerns of these water users.


10:42 AM

Ms. Weldon responded to comments from prior testimony and explained that the public will be able to comment on the draft water rights directive after its published in the Federal Register.

10:59 AM -- Public Testimony

Senator Schwartz invited members of the audience to testify on the ski area permit issue and said that an opportunity for public testimony on other issues will be provided at the end of the day's meeting.

10:59 AM

Bill Baum, General Counsel for Intrawest Resort, Winter Park Ski Area, Clinton Ditch and Reservoir Company, National Ski Area Association, spoke in support of sustaining ski areas and explained that this goal can be accomplished without a water clause that takes ski area water rights. He discussed a proposal from the National Ski Area Association to address the USFS concerns about having an adequate long term water supply for ski areas, ranchers, and other federal permitees. This proposal would establish a process for entities to acquire ski area water rights when a ski area is sold or goes out of business (Attachment G).


11:05 AM

Gary Moyer, Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, described a resolution adopted by his organization that opposes the USFS policy that directs the agency to insert a clause in new special use permits for water diversion or storage facilities that requires the permit holder to obtain the water rights in the name of the United States. He explained that this policy may affect the ability of permitees to use their water rights as collateral for loans.

11:07 AM

Kristin Mosely, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, proposed legislation that would limit the ability of water courts and the state engineer to take actions related to USFS owned water rights that were acquired administratively from ski area or other entities without compensation. She also recommended that the committee consider legislation that would authorize local governments to use "1041 powers" to review transfers of water rights to the USFS that are obtained without compensation and to clarify that such water rights would violate the state's anti speculation doctrine.

11:09 AM

Brendan McGuire, Vail Resorts, thanked the Water Resources Review Committee for its interest in the USFS policy concerning ski area water rights and he thanked the USFS for listening to ski area concerns at a recent meeting in Denver.

11:11 AM

Doug Monger, Routt County Commissioner, expressed concern about USFS efforts to obtain greater control over privately owned water rights and explained that the issue may need to be resolved through litigation.

11:13 AM

Ms Weldon responded to questions from the committee about the proposed USFS water rights policy. Committee discussion followed about the possible role of the Water Resources Review Committee and the Governor's Office in providing comments on the draft USFS water rights directive.

11:17 PM -- Implementation of HB 13-1248

Kevin Rein, Deputy State Engineer, explained that House ill 13-1248 authorizes the CWCB to approve up to ten pilot projects that temporarily transfer agricultural waters rights in the South Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande, and Colorado River Basins to municipal water users. The board must consult with the State Engineer's Office when selecting project sponsors. The purpose of the pilot projects is to demonstrate how to lease water from fallowed agricultural land for temporary municipal use without injuring other water rights. Mr. Rein described the timeline for the development of criteria for the fallowing-leasing pilot project that are being developed in conjunction with the CWCB (Attachment H).


11:25 PM

Jay Winner, General Manager, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, explained how the pilot program may benefit farmers and municipalities.

11:27 PM

Peter Nichols, Special Counsel to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the Super Ditch Company, discussed how the pilot program may benefit farmers and explained how it could become part of Colorado's water plan to address growing water demands.

11:31 PM

Mr. Rein responded to questions from the committee about the timeline for developing the criteria and guidelines that will be considered at the September meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. He also discussed the definition of injury that would preclude an applicant from operating a pilot project.

11:40 AM -- Public Testimony cont.

Greg Fisher, Denver Water, explained that the Interbasin Compact Committee has been considering alternatives for increasing residential water use efficiencies including the need for a statewide water efficiency standards for indoor water fixtures that is the same as the EPA's Water Sense fixtures. He also identified potential water savings if these standards are adopted and explained why a statewide standard is needed as opposed to a local efficiency standard.

11:46 AM

The meeting adjourned.