The eighth annual State of the Rockies poll released by Colorado College this week took the public pulse in eight states on public lands and how that’s being handled by the Trump administration, energy, and water. The latter examined attitudes in the West on water, just as Colorado and its western neighbors are facing a below-average […]
More than a decade ago, Colorado learned that it faces a projected shortfall of more than 400,000 acre-feet of water by 2040. The amount, if stored and if conservation techniques were implemented simultaneously, would supply water to 2 million people. But during the past 10 years, the state has continued to attract people – now, more than 2 million newcomers are expected to arrive by 2040. Meanwhile, Colorado is susceptible to drought cycles, with the last one occurring in 2012. This 2017-2018 winter season is certainly starting out exceptionally dry in the high country, which is of concern because the Front Range gets the majority of its water supply from mountain snowmelt. Water supply is a constant priority in Colorado.
“It’s warm, it’s us, it’s serious, we’re sure and we can fix it.” And without a solution, or many solutions, it — climate change — could cause Colorado to lose 20 percent of the water from the Colorado River by 2050 and more than a third of its flow by 2100, according to Brad Udall, […]
If you think paying for the state’s transportation wishlist at an estimated $9 billion is expensive, you haven’t seen anything yet. Meet water. When it was released in 2015, the state water plan estimated the cost to implement its recommendations — just to handle an expected population surge of 3 to 5 million people by 2050 […]
The Environmental Protection Agency this week formally launched its effort to rescind regulations over certain bodies of water. The agency is allowing the public to comment on the controversial proposal to repeal the Obama-era rule, which clarifies regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to protect streams and wetlands. The Obama administration took action on […]
Deputy State Engineer Kevin Rein has been appointed to serve as the new state engineer, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office announced.
Rein served as deputy state engineer since 2008. He replaced Dick Wolfe, who retired at the end of June after 10 years in the position.
“The chance to serve the state in this new capacity is an honor and a privilege,” Rein said.
As state engineer, Rein also serves as the director of the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
As deputy, Rein directed and supervised the review and engineering evaluation of substitute water supply plans; water court and well permit applications; subdivision water supply plans; and other instruments that guide the management of water rights throughout Colorado, according to a press release announcing the appointment.
He has worked for the division since 1998.
“The importance of water administration has never been more clear as we implement Colorado’s Water Plan,” Hickenlooper said, pointing to a blueprint for water conservation and sustainability. “Kevin’s experience and leadership will be crucial to our state’s long-term success in protecting this vital resource.”
The Division of Water Resources is responsible for administering Colorado’s water rights system, issuing water well permits, representing Colorado in interstate water compact proceedings, monitoring streamflow and water use, approving dam construction repair and safety inspections, and maintaining numerous water information databases.
“The Division of Water Resources boasts a team of committed individuals focused on administering the state’s water resources and serving the public, and I am honored by this leadership opportunity,” Rein said. “We will work with our customers to solve problems, exercise good stewardship, and assist the public in understanding Colorado’s water heritage.”
The Trump administration is examining land use planning procedures and other environmental reviews, keeping in line with its stated commitment to roll back what some consider burdensome requirements.
The Bureau of Land Management said on Monday it is requesting “ideas and input” on how the agency can make procedures and reviews timelier and less costly. The effort comes after President Trump’s March approval of a House Joint Resolution, which nullified the BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule.
The rule gave more power to citizens in approving larger projects on public lands, which includes more than 8 million acres in Colorado.
The Trump administration has sought to roll back several Obama-era environmental actions, including regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon and methane pollution, as well as federal regulatory authority over small bodies of water.
“The decisions made in land use plans and environmental reviews are fundamental to how public lands and resources are used for the benefit of all Americans,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “The Trump Administration and the Department of the Interior are committed to working with state and local governments, communities, Indian tribes, and other stakeholders as true partners to determine the best ways to accomplish this, now and into the future.”
Federal officials are working with state and local elected officials, including the Western Governors’ Association and the National Association of Counties, to engage and gather input. Comments can be taken at a BLM website.
“We are doing this because Secretary Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that public engagement, especially at the local level, is a critical component of federal land management,” said BLM Director Michael Nedd. “We need and want input from our state and local partners as well as from the general public in this effort.”
A 21-day public input process began on Monday. Following the process, the BLM will prepare a report that will be released later this year.
Resource management plans provide a framework for land use authorization decisions on BLM-managed public lands, including those relating to subsurface federal minerals, according to the BLM. Most land use authorization decisions are preceded by review under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Through the public NEPA process, the BLM analyzes the effects of proposed plans and land use authorization decisions and discloses them to the public.
The Trump administration review of land use planning procedures falls in line with several Republican efforts to hand back control to the states.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, successfully pushed a measure through the House Natural Resources Committee last week to prohibit the departments of Agriculture and the Interior from requiring the transfer of water rights as a condition of any land-use permit. The bill also requires that future directives from the departments be consistent with state water law.
Tipton said he became concerned over federal attempts to manipulate federal permit, lease and land management processes to circumvent state water law and “hijack” privately held water rights. He pointed to a U.S. Forest Service attempt to require a transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a condition for granting permits on National Forest System lands.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Greeley, backed a measure that would designate the Bureau of Reclamation as the lead coordinating agency for water project permitting among state and federal governments on federal lands.
Buck points to the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a multi-county water storage effort that would impact much of northeastern Colorado. Buck said the project and others face delays because of burdens imposed by federal agencies. He hopes designating an agency to handle such requests would streamline the process.
The permitting of the NISP project has already cost Colorado communities over $15 million and has dragged on for over 13 years, Buck said.
“In Colorado, water is tough to come by, which makes water storage a necessity,” Buck said. “We need to streamline the water project permitting process so that future projects like NISP don’t take over a decade to win a permit.”