Legislative Update (by John Porter and Bruce Whitehead)

Bruce Whitehead has resumed his full-time employment at Southwestern Water Conservation District. At the December meeting of the SWCD, Bruce was named the District’s member to the Colorado Water Congress State Affairs Committee with John Porter serving as the alternate. The Board’s opinion was that, given Bruce’s experience in water administration and law, that the District’s interests regarding water legislation would be well served. Therefore, Bruce will be submitting the weekly reports to interested parties in Southwest Colorado (if you know of any entity or individual that would like to be a recipient of the reports, please contact him at 970-247-1302). Bruce’s first report follows:
The legislature starts the 68th session on Wednesday January 12, 2011, so no bills have been introduced at this point. Members of the General Assembly have submitted their initial bill titles, and a number of bills will be introduced during the first week of the session. The Water Congress is aware of possible legislation including; Temporary Transfers in Arkansas River Basin (Representative Fisher), Water Quality Monitoring (Representative Wilson), and Storage Projects and Funding (Representative Becker). Jennifer Gimbel from the CWCB noted that the annual Construction Bill and Species Conservation Trust Fund legislation would be introduced, but limited in scope due to funding constraints this year. Both Jennifer and Dick Wolfe (State Engineer) provided comments on the budget issues that their respective agencies face this year. The State Engineers Office will see a continuation of previous cuts including loss of 6 positions and $1.1 million in funding. The CWCB may face a cut of $10 million to the perpetual base account in the current fiscal year, with an additional amount being contemplated of $15 million for FY 11/12. These cuts are viewed as necessary to balance the budget, but could have longer term impacts on funding for water projects.
The complexion of the Legislature has changed. The Republicans control the House and the Democrats control the Senate. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will be Chaired by Senator Gail Schwartz from Aspen and the House Agriculture Livestock and Natural Rersources Committee will be Chaired by Representative Jerry Sonnenberg from Sterling. The respective phone numbers for the Senate and House are 888-473-8136 and 800-811-7647. The General Assembly web site is www.leg.state.co.us.