Water regions to get $1 million each

Funding approved during state water meetintg in Steamboat Springs

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— Colorado's eight river basins and the Denver metro area will get $1 million each next year for water-related projects.

At a meeting of the state's Interbasin Compact Committee Wednesday in Steamboat Springs, water officials approved a plan to allocate $40 million in severance tax funds to river basins statewide.

"The wheels are in motion to get this going," said Eric Hecox, manager of the office of Interbasin Compact negotiations.

With the passage of House Bill 1177 in 2005, the Legislature created Colorado's nine water roundtables to address present and future water challenges in each of the state's eight major river basins and the Denver metro area.

Senate Bill 179, signed into law this year, established the Water Supply Reserve Account to fund studies and projects approved by the roundtables. The state will pump $10 million from severance tax revenues into the account annually through 2009.

Wednesday, the interbasin committee agreed to distribute $9 million from the account to the roundtables within a year, beginning with a $500,000 payment to each roundtable in January. In July 2007, each roundtable will receive an additional $500,000 from the account.

"The ball is now in the roundtables' court," Hecox said. "There's a lot of flexibility to make (funding) decisions it is up to the roundtables to approve a water activity."

Also by July 2007, the state will place a total of $11 million from the reserve account into a statewide pool for competitive funding applications. The state will make additional $10 million payments to the statewide pool in July 2008 and July 2009.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board also approved the funding plan. Wednesday's approval by the Interbasin Compact Committee finalized the funding.

"We'll be able to get on the ground and go to work," state Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Russell George said.

To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

Contact Mike Lawrence at 871-4203 or <ahref="mailto:mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com">mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com</a>

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