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Colorado: Water plan briefing in Vail today

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Water, water everywhere – for now. @bberwyn photo.

Colorado business community weighs in on water principles

Staff Report

FRISCO — Vail and Eagle County residents will have a chance to get up to speed on an emerging state water plan today (July 10), with a lunchtime briefing at Donovan Pavilion in Vail, 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered work to begin on the statewide water plan in May 2013; a draft is due to the Governor’s Office no later than Dec. 10, 2014, with the final plan complete by December 2015.

Business leaders have developed statewide business community water policy principles to be part of Colorado’s Water Plan and are seeking regional input to finalize the principles. Working through local business chambers, this statewide initiative seeks local feedback on the principles, which address the business and economic development needs of Colorado.

Speakers include:

  • Tom Binnings of Summit Economics will discuss the economics of water from a statewide perspective.
  • Linn Brooks of Eagle River Water & Sanitation District will share local water operations and policy, and discuss needs in the Eagle and Colorado River basins.
  • James Eklund, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board – the state agency tasked with drafting the Colorado Water Plan.
  • Bryan Blakely of Accelerate Colorado and Mizraim Cordero of the Colorado Competitive Council will discuss the business community water policy principles.
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Colorado: Wrangling continues over proposed new transmountain diversion, reservoir enlargement

Boulder County gets high-level backup on request for comment period extension on major new transmountain water diversion

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Will the public get more time to review and comment on the final environmental study for the largest proposed water project in years?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Boulder County’s request for more time to comment on the proposed Moffat Tunnel Collection System expansion got some high-level backup this week, as Sen. Michael Bennet formally asked the federal government for an extension.

Denver Water’s proposed new diversions from Colorado River headwaters in Grand County, specifically the Fraser River, are under federal scrutiny as the Corps considers issuing a permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. The federal agency released the final version of a massive environmental study in April, setting a June 9 deadline for comment.

The agency received about 400 requests for an extension, many of them via a form letter. Boulder County also requested an extension, citing the need for more time to read the detailed technical reports and other documents that are part of the study, but regional Corps of Engineer Commander Joel Cross decided not to provide more time. Continue reading

Colorado: As pine beetle epidemic passes, politicians still pushing for more logging

Budget woes still hindering forest restoration efforts

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Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs (standing) speaks with Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, at a recent meeting in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Colorado high country may be buried in snow right now, but lawmakers and fire experts are already brainstorming about the upcoming wildfire season.

As part of that process, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) met with local officials in Summit County recently to get feedback on recent successes and remaining challenges in forest management and wildfire mitigation policies and actions.

“It’s not a question of if we’re going to have more megafires, but when,” Udall said, without ever mentioning global warming as a key factor in the wildfire equation. Continue reading

New effort launched to curb NSA snooping

EFF version of NSA logo

Civil liberties advocates created their own version of the NSA logo to make their point. Image courtesy Electronic Frontier Foundation.

‘We have now seen that secret, domestic surveillance programs at the National Security Agency have crossed the line’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with colleagues from Wisconsin and Oregon, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is leading a new effort to curb overly eager spy agencies from invading the privacy and abusing the civil liberties of people who have absolutely no connection with terrorism.

Udall and U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)  introduced the Freedoms and Privacy Act of 2013, legislation that strengthens transparency, oversight and accountability on National Security Agency domestic surveillance.

“Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we learned about the importance of sharing information about international terrorism between intelligence agencies and law enforcement,” Udall said. “But we need to ensure that any personal information collected on innocent Americans with no connection to terrorism or espionage is shared appropriately with law enforcement entities. We need strong, appropriate privacy protections,” he said. Continue reading

Lawmakers want to curb spy agency abuses

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Congress to consider intelligence-gathering reforms.

Reforms needed to restore public confidence

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate want to ban bulk collection of Americans’ records, shield Americans from warrantless searches of their communications and install a constitutional advocate to argue significant cases before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court.

The Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act would halt the erosion of constitutional liberties resulting from invasive surveillance activities and the secret legal interpretations that have allowed this surveillance to proliferate, according Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and other supporters of the bill, including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Continue reading

Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper seeks statewide water plan

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Water pours down the Blue River in the high runoff of July 2011. Bob Berwyn photo.

Governor says state must figure out a way to address impending shortages

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado water experts will try to figure out how to manage the state’s most precious resource in an era when all signs points to increasing shortages and the potential for growing conflicts within the state and the region over its allocation.

Under an executive order issued this week by Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will lead the effort to address the growing gap between supply and demand. Especially worrisome is the gap in the South Platte Basin, the state’s most populous and at the same time, the most productive agricultural basin.

Hickenlooper acknowledged that the recurring drought could hasten the impacts of the gap between supply and demand, noting that the past two decades have been Colorado’s warmest on record, dating back to the 1890s. Read the order here. Continue reading

Sen. Mark Udall votes against assault weapons ban

Colorado lawmaker says bill was too broad, bu supports expanded background checks and limits on high-capacity ammo clips

Sen. Mark Udall said Coloradans are entitled under the second amendment to own weapons that can be used to commit mass murder.

Sen. Mark Udall says Coloradans are entitled under the Second Amendment to own weapons that can be used to commit mass murders.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO— Facing reelection next year, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) this week voted against a proposed ban on assault weapons, saying the measure was too broad for his gun-toting Colorado constituents.

Udall did support a background check bill, which failed when four Democratic senators, all up for reelection next year, voted against it. According to many polls, more than 90 percent of Americans support stronger background checks.

Udall dusted off the Second Amendment and said, “Coloradans, including sportsmen, hunters and responsible gun owners, agree that we need to keep dangerous military-style weapons off of our streets and out of places like our schools and movie theaters. Continue reading

Colorado: More wrangling over the Roan Plateau, as the BLM takes comments for another environmental impact statement

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A view of the Roan Plateau from a NASA satellite.

BLM starts new environmental study for drilling leases in sensitive wildlife area

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With comments coming in on a revised BLM study for fossil fuel development on Colorado’s Roan Plateau, it’s clear that there’s little common ground between the energy industry and conservation groups.

Hunters, anglers and environmentalists want the federal agency to set strict protections for natural resources, while oil and gas companies say the government needs to get on with opening the area for drilling as required under federal law.

A federal court last year ruled that the 2008 drilling plan didn’t consider conservation-oriented options, and that it didn’t adequately analyze the cumulative air quality impacts of oil and gas drilling. The BLM has acknowledged that developing up to 1,500 wells on the Roan Plateau would permanently alter some areas of high quality fish and wildlife habitat.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel stakeholders, represented by the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association also submitted comments, explaining that federal law requires the Roan Plateau to be leased and calling on the BLM to make only the specific supplemental analysis required by the court. Continue reading

Colorado may repeal the death penalty

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A bill to repeal the death penalty in Colorado is pending in the State Legislature.

State following national trend

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Following in the footsteps of at least a half-dozen other states, Colorado lawmakers this week will start considering a bill that would repeal the death penalty.

The measure was introduced in the Colorado Legislature this week, and got some immediate support from a group of 30 family members of Colorado murder victims, including Robert Autobee, whose son Eric was a prison guard and killed by an inmate. Continue reading

Colorado: Fort Collins moves closer to fracking ban

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SkyTruth created this map with 2008 data, showing the general location of oil and gas drilling activities in Colorado.

Town seeks to protect health and well-being of residents; critics say local bans violate state law

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Creating yet another headache for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s pro-fracking administration, Fort Collins this week voted to ban oil and gas exploration — including hydraulic fracturing — within city limits.

The 5-2 city council vote came after a several hours of citizen testimony, with a large majority of residents apparently in favor of a drilling ban. To become final, the ordinance must be passed by another vote in a few weeks.

Arguments over the ban remain the same. Supporters of the ban say the industrial processes associated with fossil fuel development don’t belong anywhere near residential areas, and the chemicals and air pollution associated with drilling pose a significant health risk. Continue reading

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