Issues and Campaigns
Audubon Society of Greater Denver and the Sierra Club are teaming up to present the Legislative Forum every February as the legislative session begins. Come meet other activists and learn about the hot environmental topics in this year’s State legislature.
If you are interested in volunteering at the Forum, mention this when you register and be sure to leave a phone number where you can be contacted.
Remember: Decisions are made by those who show up!
Conservation Report for the Warbler
“Where the water is, the water stays.” With that phrase, Governor John Hickenloooper seems to have relegated trans-mountain diversions in Colorado to the dust heap of history. It was Thursday, November 19, and he had just received the final Colorado Water Plan from the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, James Eklund. “There should be a way to find water for the front range without taking water from the western slope,” the Governor said.
If this statement does indeed become state policy, it will be a radical change for water in Colorado. Currently about 500,000 acre-feet of water is brought through tunnels and ditches from the western slope to provide for irrigation and municipal supplies on the eastern slope, and front range water districts are planning for more. This had enormous environmental impacts on waterways of the western slope; only one major river, the Yampa, remains undammed and free-flowing. Can the new Water Plan accomplish the change?
Governor Hickenlooper also stated that “we should start every conversation [about water] with conservation” and joked that he had held a conversation with his son the night before about taking shorter showers. Conservationists – including ASGD – have been urging the Water Conservation Board to prioritize water conservation and reuse as a method of making more water available and at the same time protecting rivers and streams from further diversions and degradation. Perhaps it worked. The Plan includes a goal of 400,000 acre-feet of water conserved statewide; however, achieving this goal is voluntary, not a mandate.
Over and over again, the speakers at the press conference stressed the need for collaboration, necessitated by drought and climate change. “Our water challenges necessitate that we pull together as one” says the Plan’s Executive Summary, “because discordant infighting weakens Colorado’s position in interstate and international arenas, invites federal intervention… and dulls our responsiveness.” This WOULD be a big change for Colorado.
Maintenance of irrigated agriculture is a major theme of the Plan. It discusses, at length, methods to discourage the common practice of cities to enlarge their water supply by buying water rights from farmers and taking the land out of production, or “buy and dry.” Slowing this trend will require, among other things, legislation. But will the legislature cooperate?
For environmentalists, the work has really just begun. Besides submitting thousands of comments on the draft Plan, we now have to monitor its implementation. Here are some issues that will need watching:
- The Plan stresses conservation by municipalities. What about agriculture, which uses 85% of the water in the State? Shouldn’t agricultural producers be required to become more efficient too? And what are the tradeoffs of ag efficiency? Loss of wetlands vs. more water in our rivers?
- What will be the criteria for State support of water projects? Should there be a requirement that a project have a substantial “firm yield” of water (what can be counted on even in the driest years)? If that had been the case, the State would never have invested public monies in the Chatfield Reallocation project, where the Army Corps of Engineers determined that “at Chatfield, all measures of dependable yield are 0.”
- Over and over, Audubon has asked that the needs of nonconsumptive uses of water, like fish and wildlife and recreation, be quantified just like the needs for drinking water and industrial uses. Will this in fact get done and will those needs be factored into water management?
- Will the push to get water projects done expeditiously, by changing current regulations, mean the environment gets short-changed?
- Can we really have it all: irrigated agriculture, conservation and re-use, additional storage, water for fracking, and healthy rivers and streams with functioning aquatic ecosystems, in the face of continued population growth? Are there any limits?
This Water Plan is the second attempt at statewide planning – the first foundered in the 1980’s at a time when Denver Water was pushing to get its Two Forks project built on the South Platte River. The forces of dissension forced an end to that process. The question is, will things be different this time, or will we continue down the same old path of fights over water and continued drying up of our rivers and streams?
Coda: The Plan requires some action by the state legislature, and there are bound to be bills introduced in 2016 to implement it. You can find out about the proposed legislation at the 2016 Legislative Forum, co-sponsored by Audubon and the Sierra Club. The Forum is scheduled for Saturday, February 27, 2016 from 8 AM to 1:30 PM at First Plymouth Church, 3501 S. Colorado Blvd. Plan to attend!
Chatfield Reallocation Project
PLEASE NOTE: Both the National Audubon Society and the Audubon Society of Greater Denver have serious concerns about the Chatfield Reallocation project; however the above video is not an official publication by either society. It is the result of work by volunteers interested in the Chatfield Reallocation issue.
Always remember, information and addresses are available at www.savechatfield.org.
Thank you so much for your interest and efforts,
Audubon Society of Greater Denver
For more information, contact:
Polly Reetz, Conservation Chairman, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Bonnell, Board Member, at email@example.com
Learn more about this threat to bird populations and how you can help protect birds in your backyard and at your office.
Keep Cats Indoors
The life and times of an outdoor cat and its impact on birdlife. Watch a video and read about what happens when cats are allowed to run free or become feral.