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J_WRARC_2023A 08/23/2023 02:10:24 PM Committee Summary

Date 08/23/2023
Bridges X
Catlin X
Hinrichsen X
Lukens X
Lynch *
McLachlan X
Pelton B. X
Simpson X
McCormick X
Roberts X
Time 02:10:24 PM to 04:59:34 PM
Place Off-site
This Meeting was called to order by Roberts
This Report was prepared by Alexa Kelly
Hearing Items Action Taken
Interim Commitee Bill Draft Process Committee Discussion Only
Colorado River Update Committee Discussion Only
Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Committee Discussion Only
Freshwater Carbon Mechanisms Committee Discussion Only
Public Testimony Committee Discussion Only

02:10:37 PM

Chair Roberts made opening comments.

Committee materials can be found online here:

Interim Commitee Bill Draft Process - Committee Discussion Only

02:13:00 PM  
Jennifer Berman, Office of Legislative Legal Services, gave the committee an overview of the interim bill request process and outlined the deadlines for the committee processes.

Colorado River Update - Committee Discussion Only

02:19:05 PM  

Amy Ostdiek, Colorado Water Conservation Board, introduced herself and discussed the Colorado River Compact.  She spoke about the importance of the compact, what the compact entails, and the relationship between the Upper Basin and Lower Basin states.  

02:24:37 PM  
Rebecca Mitchell,
Colorado Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission, spoke about
the various processes for addressing issues on the Colorado River. She
told the committee about her role and how she advocates for Colorado, the
use of the river in the lower basin, and the hydrology of the river. She
also disccused efforts to keep Colorado from needing to curtail water under
the compact, the water rights held by tribes, and the coordination between
the state and the federal government.  
02:36:14 PM  

Commissioner Mitchell continued to talk about how the General Assembly has invested in staff focused on the Colorado River and how that staff is working on Colorado River issues across the state.

02:38:39 PM  
Chuck Collum, Executive
Director, UCRC, introduced himself and spoke about his background working
on the Colorado River. He told the committee about the makeup of the UCRC,
which includes representatives from each of the Upper Basin states. He
told the committee about how the four states interact with each other,
and the requirements of the Upper Basin states as outlined in the Colorado
River Compact.  
02:44:58 PM  
Mr. Collum continued
to discuss the strengths of the Upper Basin states when it comes to managing
the water available in the Colorado River. He directed the committee to
the handouts provided (Attachments A-C) and discussed the variance in water
usage displayed in the handout graphics. He told the committee about the
water conservation programs that exist in the Upper Basin.
02:50:24 PM  

Commissioner Mitchell answered a question about the current interim operating guidelines in place on the river and what happens when the guidelines expire in 2026.  Mr. Collum answered a question about the drought response.  

02:57:19 PM  
Discussion regarding
drought response continued.
03:02:45 PM  

Commissioner Mitchell answered questions about system conservation in the basin.

03:04:28 PM  
Mr. Collum spoke
about the tools that can be used to be more water efficient, including
drip irrigation and turf replacements.
03:10:36 PM  
Commissioner Mitchell spoke about how conservation and water rights interact.

Waters of the United States (WOTUS) - Committee Discussion Only

03:15:16 PM  

Alex Funk, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), introduced his presentation and gave an overview of the importance of streams and wetlands. He discussed how the Clean Water Act is designed to protect water and explained the Section 404 permitting process, which focuses on dredge and fill activities that impact wetlands and streams. He told the committee about the history of rules that have defined Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and how they have varied over the Clean Water Act's history.  

03:21:35 PM  
Mr. Funk discussed
the recent Sackett vs. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) case that
focused on the definition of WOTUS. He told the committee about how the
result of the case changed which wetlands and streams would be protected
by EPA rules.    
03:28:09 PM  

Aaron Citron, The Nature Conservancy, introduced himself and discussed concerns about protecting of the quality of wetlands and streams. He told the committee about the concentration of wetlands in Colorado and the species that rely on the ecosystem services provided by streams and wetlands. He spoke about wetlands that would not be considered jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act as a result of the Sackett v. EPA decision.

03:32:22 PM  
Mayor Jeni Arndt,
City of Fort Collins, told the committee about the impacts of the court's
decision and how the definition of WOTUS has been variable, which creates
uncertainty for where and how waters in Colorado need to be protected.
 She spoke about the potential for Colorado to create its own solution
to address a potential permitting program.
03:36:47 PM  

Breanna González, HECHO, introduced herself and gave an overview of how environmental justice is impacted by the Sackett decision. She spoke about how water quality could impact certain communities in a disproportionate way.

03:42:45 PM  

Mayor Arndt answered a question about permitting and the potential role of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Mr. Citron answered a question about the percentage of wetlands that would or would not be protected under the Sackett determination. Mr. Funk answered a question about the interim state guidelines that are currently in place.  

03:52:38 PM  
Gabe Racz, Vranesh
and Raisch, spoke to the committee about the rationale of the U.S. Supreme
Court when it was considering what is covered under the Clean Water Act.
He told the committee about the state's current role in water quality,
which does not include a dredge and fill program. He discussed how potential
regulation in this space would affect a large number and variety of individuals.
He told the committee about what a permitting program could look like and
certain requirements that it should include.  
03:59:45 PM  

Damien Schiff, Pacific Legal Foundation, told the committee about what the Sackett decision entails and how states still have the ability to regulate wetlands. He discussed how a regulatory process should be balanced to minimize controversy.  

04:06:31 PM  
Trisha Oeth, CDPHE,
introduced her presentation and discussed the different types of state
waters, which include waters previously protected under the WOTUS rules,
and waters that would be protected under the WOTUS rules after the Sackett
decision. She discussed the current stakeholder engagement that the department
is seeking.  
04:13:30 PM  

Mr. Racz answered a question about what the federal dredge and fill permitting program previously looked like and the time and cost associated with the permitting process.

Director Oeth answered questions about CDPHE's role in a potential permitting process, including possible restrictions on a process timeline, how the significant nexus test may play a role, and how a program may impact conservation.  

Freshwater Carbon Mechanisms - Committee Discussion Only

04:23:50 PM  
Dr. Evan Thomas,
Professor, University of Colorado Boulder, introduced his presentation
and referred committee members to handouts provided (Attachments D-F),
including the report that can be found here:,high%2Daltitude%20balloons%20and%20drones.

He discussed the
potential for carbon credits to help pay for watershed restoration and
the market that currently exists for carbon credits.  He told the
committee about legislation that his team is promoting, which includes
identifying pilot projects focused on dischargers that are looking for
opportunities to fund improvements.
04:31:29 PM  

Alex Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer, Virridy, told the committee about his background and discussed the potential to monitor and demonstrate the benefits of watershed restoration. He spoke about the importance of water quality and nationwide investment in water quality control. He told the committee about potential benefits of a water quality trading program.

04:38:43 PM  
Dr. Thomas answered
questions about sensors that measure water quality in the Yampa River Basin
and how the program could pay individuals to conserve water and maintain
water quality.

Mr. Johnson spoke
about how system upgrade costs can be covered through credits in a kind
of trading program and how to manage changes in point sources of pollution.

Public Testimony - Committee Discussion Only

04:52:13 PM  
Ken Brenner gave public testimony.

04:59:34 PM   The committee adjourned.

The effective date for bills enacted without a safety clause is August 7, 2024, if the General Assembly adjourns sine die on May 8, 2024, unless otherwise specified. Details