Group discusses water project selection |

Group discusses water project selection

A bill enacted last summer has created what lawmakers hope will be a new process for divvying up Colorado’s water. Last June, the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act created roundtables in each of Colorado’s eight river basins and one each in Denver’s north and south metro areas, to reach agreement on water distribution in the state’s eight river basins. Compacts between the basins for water storage or transfer would be reviewed by the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC).The IBCC met in Glenwood Springs Monday to complete framing of its procedures and to discuss how to apply $10 million a year from the state severance tax fund that will go toward water projects.Senate Bill 179 sets aside $10 million per year for four years to fund those projects and will be available July 1. The bill remains to be signed by Gov. Bill Owens.”It’s important to note that the funding is not coming out of the local (government) side of the severance tax,” said Sen. Jim Isgar (R-Hesperus), who is a member of the IBCC.Isgar said the money is intended to fund water projects for “small entities without the wherewithal” to fund it themselves. Under discussion Monday was who would make the final decision about funding the projects, the IBCC or the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), which manages the state’s water resources.”We need to clarify the roles of the IBCC and the CWCB,” said Rep. Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison), who is a member of the IBCC. “It’s one of the bones of contention” that came up during debate over Senate Bill 179.”We need to know who controls the purse,” said Jeris Danielson, IBCC member representing the Arkansas River Basin. “If it’s the CWCB, that lessens the role of the IBCC.”Many of the members noted that decisions about future projects should not be made until each basin has identified its own water needs.”This process is supposed to be different,” said Gunnison River Basin member Bill Trampe. The intention “is to hear what the people on the ground want. It’s going to take time … and those needs are changing all the time.”The committee is charged to deliver a written report to the legislature in October outlining in part the criteria for choosing individual water projects.Among the selection criteria might be “projects that bring new (water) yield to the state rather than (one that) moves water from A to B,” said Metro member Chips Barry. Such projects could also be required “to serve more than one basin.”While the tenor of the IBCC meeting was one of cooperation and focus on the new compact process, the Colorado River Basin Roundtable that met Monday afternoon underscored the political rift between urban and rural, West Slope and Front Range water interests.To roundtable member Chuck Ogilby, who represents Eagle county municipalities, West Slope interests “don’t have a voice because a lot of deals are made behind closed doors. … It’s not fair, and we should take a stand on that.”In April, the city and county of Denver and Xcel Energy Co. reached an agreement that in part allows Xcel’s Shoshone Call – its right to control water in the river – to relax the call during dry years, allowing upstream reservoirs to store more water. Xcel’s call allows it to pull water from storage reservoirs on the Colorado River for operation of its Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon.Glenwood Springs engineer Louis Meyer agreed with Ogilby. “The first step in a collaborative process is building trust,” he said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext.

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