Kogovsek & Associates to help Central Kansas farmers sustain a refuge

The Water Protection Association of Central Kansas (WaterPACK) has retained Kogovsek & Associates for the second time to assist them in their need to contribute additional water supplies to the neighboring Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Our focus will be on partnerships with non-governmental entities and government grant opportunities to obtain water supplies for augmentation on the refuge.

While this effort gets underway, the water users will continue to work through related issues with the State of Kansas' chief water engineer and with refuge management at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

We previously helped WaterPACK obtain additional funding for water-related studies and engineering at the refuge.

Interwest Energy Alliance hires Kogovsek & Associates on Colorado Energy Plan

Renewable energy association Interwest Energy Alliance has engaged Kogovsek & Associates as part of a broader cooperative effort to get Public Utilities Commission approval for a Colorado Energy Plan calling for a significant increase in the use of renewable sources like wind and solar.

The plan, pending before the PUC, would potentially shutter two coal-fired generators in Pueblo, Colorado. Interwest, based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, with members in several Western states, is one of several intervenors in the PUC docket.

Bears Ears battle in courts, not Congress

Legislative efforts by those who persuaded the Administration to slash the size of the Bear Ears National Monument designation have languished, and legal challenges by supporters of the Obama Antiquities Act designation are the focus.

The proposed legislation would essentially codify the changes made late last year by President Trump. In addition to the drastic reduction in size, the mechanics of the commission originally chartered with managing the monument were altered, angering the tribal coalition which has long supported the monument and a hands-on role for managing it.

While the legal challenges move slowly, Bears Ears advocates, including Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, continue to be vocal in their support. Click here Bears Ears for their most recent letter.

Southern Ute Indian Tribe continues to explore legislative opportunity for decision-making

The initiative by Tribal leadership and its legal and technical team to develop a legislative path for more decision-making authority is continuing, with fine tuning of statutory language and development of a Tribal environmental review policy.

After consulting with area county officials, the Tribe has made adjustments to both proposals and continues to communicate with LaPlata and Archuleta counties. The Tribe has consistently coordinated its initiatives with the local government, recognizing that the checkerboard nature of the Southern Ute Indian reservation makes such partnering a necessity.

The Tribe's thoughtful, analytical approach will yield a package its leadership will ask the Colorado congressional delegation to sponsor. This legislation would be specific to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and the delegation response thus far has been encouraging.

2018 Farm Bill moves to conference stage after major bipartisan vote in the Senate

The 2018 Farm Bill passed the Senate with ease, garnering strong support from both sides of the aisle, as Agriculture Committee Leaders Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow had hoped. And, the House eked out a narrow victory with a second vote after the first attempt to pass a bill failed.

House and Senate conferees will iron out differences between the two versions in a conference committee over the next several weeks.

Both bills have conservation titles which will preserve important programs that partner producers with USDA to conserve water and soils. But there are some significant differences, including the expansion of acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program and the structure of the Conservation Stewardship Program, as well as rental rate payment reductions.

Clients from the Republican River and the Rio Grande Water Conservation Districts have been advocating for a strong conservation title in the five-year bill. We work with both districts on their Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which is a partnership between the districts, the State of Colorado and the Farm Service Agency.

CREP allows producers to voluntarily enter into an agreement to retire irrigated farm land to conserve water in our semi-arid West. The producers are then paid a "rental rate" for those retired acres, with funds coming from the federal government and from assessments on producers within the District.

Both Districts have strong conservation goals in their areas, where a heavy reliance on groundwater exists. Their purpose is to conserve and protect the underground aquifers for the long-term viability of agriculture production. The Republican River District is in the northeastern plains of Colorado, and the Rio Grande District is in the high-altitude San Luis Valley in central Colorado. Agriculture is the backbone of the economies in both regions, and maintaining the economic base and rural quality of life is a top priority.

Farm bill also tackles forest management and watershed health

The western water community has in recent years focused significant attention on forest health and watershed management. Two major factors have brought this policy area to the forefront: all-too-frequent drought conditions resulting in catastrophic forest fires, and borrowing funds from management programs to fight the fires, leaving the forest health in jeopardy.

With the enactment of the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, the "fire borrowing" issue will see some relief, starting in 2020. The goal is to use those funds now preserved for non-fire forest management in programs that will enhance a healthy forest environment reducing fires or their severity.

The 2018 Farm Bills passed by the Senate and the House attempt to further address forest health, although advocates will continue to push for additional provisions when House and Senate conferees meet. For instance, there are some headwaters fire regimes which are left out of the categorical exclusions, and western resource managers and water providers are working to change that.

Provisions include stewardship programs at the community level, and increasing the categorical exclusion level from 3,000 acres to 6,000 acres, making smaller scale thinning and management efforts less cumbersome under NEPA.

The water community, including providers and managers throughout Colorado, welcomes these breakthrough legislative efforts and will continue to advocate for them as the farm bill process continues.

Arkansas Valley Conduit gets an added funding boost

Efforts to move closer to construction on the Arkansas Valley Conduit got a boost when Congress finally passed an omnibus appropriations bill for 'FY 18 which included an additional $3 million for ongoing pre-construction activities.

In addition, the omnibus included additional funds for water conservation and delivery, and $2 million from that was directed to continuing investigation of the new concept which proposes construction and operational efficiencies, saving money at the same time. $2 million more was directed to an important maintenance feature at Pueblo Dam, from which the conduit water will flow.

In February, the Administration released its FY '19 budget proposal, which requested no money for the long-awaiting drinking water supply project. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District leadership immediately appealed to Senators Bennet and Gardner and Congressmen Tipton and Buck. They are working on opportunities to secure funding in the next fiscal year.

The conduit's funding need is heightened by two factors:

The District's team is working diligently on a new concept for the project which would make the early stages of delivery more efficient. This process involves a partnership with the Pueblo Board of Water Works, whose existing facilities in Pueblo have capacity to move water to the Lower Arkansas Vally quickly and without many miles of new construction.

Click here to read more about the new concept.

Secondly, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which has been patient in waiting for a solution to the groundwater contamination issues which make the conduit a necessity, has issued new warnings of enforcement action to come if progress on the conduit cannot be demonstrated in the near future.

EPA grants treatment as a state status to Southern Ute Indian Tribe for clean water programs

After three years in the application process, the Environmental Protection Agency granted treatment-as-a-state status to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, giving them jurisdiction to implement water quality program on tribal trust lands.

See the EPA letter from EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento, who visited the Southern Ute reservation earlier this year to discuss this and other Southern Ute issues related to EPA.

Hemp production limits eased in Senate Farm Bill

Efforts by a diverse group of hemp supporters, ranging from farmers to textile manufacturers, to broaden the ability to grow industrial hemp were successful in the Senate version of the farm bill. While production of hemp was enhanced by the bill, supporters will be looking for stronger provisions in the House/Senate conference committee, covering products made from hemp and not just the production of the plant material.

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