New Partnership Projects Funding Program; Concerns About Water Speculation Are Anticipated Highlights Of Upcoming River District
BOARD TO FINALIZE PARTNERSHIP PROJECT FUNDING PROGRAM FUNDED BY 7A
The Colorado River District’s Board of Directors is expected to complete the framework and application process for its new Partnership Project Funding Program on Tuesday, Jan. 19. This program will fund West Slope water projects using revenue generated by ballot measure 7A, which passed a mill levy increase to 0.5 mills to support the protection of West Slope water in November 2020.
The Colorado River District’s Board of Directors will meet virtually on Zoom on Tuesday Jan. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Directors are expected to enter executive session from about 9:10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Tuesday and from about 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Wednesday.
An agenda and associated documents are available online here.
The framework that will be presented to the Directors on Tuesday, Jan. 19 will establish a uniform system for applicants to apply for funding and for staff to evaluate and recommend project applications to the Directors. Consistent with the Board’s Fiscal Implementation Plan for 7A revenues, the proposed framework outlines the District’s desire to award funds to projects in an equitable way both geographically within the District’s three major river basins and in terms of project type. Projects that receive funding from the program must fit in one or more of the following categories, which were also outlined in the language of the fiscal implementation plan: productive agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality or conservation and efficiency.
District staff plan to announce more details about the program — and how you can participate — after the Board’s anticipated approval on Jan. 19.
BOARD TO DISCUSS RENEWED CONCERNS RELATED TO WATER SPECULATION ON THE WESTERN SLOPE
The Board of Directors is expected to discuss recent national and regional press coverage highlighting Wall Street’s continued interest in West Slope water.
In his General Manager’s report to the Board, Andy Mueller provides analysis on two specific examples that have “caused quite a bit of controversy:” A New York Times Business article titled “Wall Street Eyes Billions in the Colorado’s Water” featuring Colorado’s former representative to the Upper Colorado River Commission, James Eklund, and his affiliation with Water Asset Management, a New York- and California-based investment firm that has purchased thousands of acres of agricultural land and senior water rights on the Western Slope in recent years.
Two days after the New York Times’ story, a Denver Post opinion editorial authored by one of Water Asset Management’s advisors and confidants, Brian Richter, called for the drying up of western Colorado. “This is not a coincidence” reads Mueller’s memo, “The author of the Denver Post article apparently has a long and close financial relationship with Water Asset Management.” Richter did not disclose his connections to Water Asset Management in the opinion editorial.
OTHER KEY TOPICS UP FOR DISCUSSION AT THE MEETING
From new board members to the possibility of new funding for cloud seeding, here are other highlights the board is expected to discuss on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- The Board will review credentials for board members from Garfield, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, Rio Blanco and Summit counties. Some of these counties will be represented by new appointees to the Board of Directors.
- Directors will select a new Board President and Vice President and make committee appointments.
- Directors will hear updates on big river issues, including demand management and drought contingency planning.
- The directors will review water supply updates in the basin. Currently, the outlook for spring runoff in the Colorado River Basin is discouraging, with projected inflow to lake Powell in Water Year 2021 at 58% of the long-term average. Snowpack readings and stream flows are below average across the River District.
- The Board of Directors will consider signing a memorandum of understanding to join a coalition of organizations working to restore areas impacted by the East Troublesome Fire last year.
- With the loss of some financial support for cloud seeding from ski areas within the River District’s boundary, staff will recommend that the Board double its contribution to the regional cloud seeding program from $25,000 to $50,000.