Chairman of Colorado’s inter-basin water committee booked to speak in Steamboat April 25 | CraigDailyPress.com

Chairman of Colorado’s inter-basin water committee booked to speak in Steamboat April 25

Governor's top water advisor on his way to Northwest Colorado

Tom Ross

When Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief water advisor, John Stulp, comes to Northwest Colorado April 25 and 26, he'll embark on a bus a tour of the Yampa River that will take in some of the desert stretch of the river in Moffat County.

Steamboat Springs — When Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief water advisor, John Stulp, comes to Northwest Colorado on Monday, he’ll be treated to a grand tour of the combined Yampa and White river basins at the cusp of spring runoff. — When Gov. John Hickenlooper's chief water advisor, John Stulp, comes to Northwest Colorado on Monday, he'll be treated to a grand tour of the combined Yampa and White river basins at the cusp of spring runoff.

— When Gov. John Hickenlooper's chief water advisor, John Stulp, comes to Northwest Colorado on Monday, he'll be treated to a grand tour of the combined Yampa and White river basins at the cusp of spring runoff.

As a cattle rancher and dryland wheat farmer in Southeastern Colorado, Stulp is apt to recognize this spring as a season of promise in the Yampa Valley. Calves are already putting on weight, and there appears to be ample snowmelt for a good hay crop this season. It also will be the first spring runoff on the Western Slope since Colorado adopted a new statewide water plan intended to help meet the state's water needs.

Water Tour: If you go

What: John Stulp, chairman of Colorado's Interbasin Compact Committee, which mediates water issues across the state, speaks at the Community Agriculture Alliance Water Forum.

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m., April 25

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th Street, Steamboat Springs

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What: Community networking

When: Noon to 1:30 p.m., April 26

Where: Colorado Northwestern Community College, Rangely

What: Public Meeting

When: 5 to 6:30 p.m., April 26

Where: Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way, Craig

"The wheat on our ranch has been green all winter and is a foot tall," Stulp said. He added his son told him they received a "fantastic" inch-and-a-half of rain last week.

Stulp was appointed by the governor to serve as director of compact negotiations for the Inter-basin Compact Committee, or IBCC. He chairs a 27-member committee that facilitates conversations among the different river basins in the state while addressing statewide issues.

Kevin McBride, district manager of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, serves on the IBCC representing the Yampa/White Basin, along with Jeff DeVere, Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely. Moffat County Rancher T. Wright Dickinson was appointed to the IBCC by the governor.

Among the stated goals of Colorado's new water plan is to get the most out of available water supplies by allowing more flexibility for rights holders, including ag irrigators, to profit from the temporary transfer of their water for other uses.

Steamboat Today reported in 2015 that, even before the formal adoption of the new Colorado water plan, conservation organizations in the region were launching pilot programs that would temporarily divert water tied to irrigating crops to other uses.

Soon after Stulp's bus crosses the Yampa River bridge on U.S. Highway 40 near the intersection of Routt County Road 70 east of Hayden, it will pass the Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch, which signed up in August 2015 to be among five locations in Colorado and five more in Wyoming to participate in a split water rights pilot program, administered by the Upper Colorado River Commission. It's part of an historic plan to explore how the four Colorado River states above Lake Powell can continue to meet their obligations to Arizona, California and Nevada.

Early this summer, about July 1, the Carpenter ranch will take the water off four hay fields as part of a split-season fallowing to learn how the fields react, as well as to gauge the results of leaving the water in the river.

Well to the south, in the Gunnison River drainage, the Colorado Water Trust undertook a similar program last spring at a ranch that will temporarily sell water rights in the Little Cimarron River to the Water Trust, which hopes to prevent the Little Cimarron from running dry, as it does in many summers.

Stulp said Thursday he favors the pilot projects on the Yampa and Little Cimarron — with emphasis on the word "pilot" — and sees value in already having projects underway in the first irrigation season after the adoption of the new water plan.

"There's nothing like getting something done on the ground," he said. "When you can look across the fence and see it's working, it will sell it to a neighbor more quickly than all the pamphlets that come out of Denver."

But the effectiveness of the two water rights sharing projects will only be known after several seasons, he added.

"I'm supportive of these pilot programs, and I think we really need to do pilot programs," Stulp said. "We call them pilots, but they (often) end up being permanent. This gives us an opportunity to see what the impact is. You can only do so much on paper … we need to try it for several years under a range of climatic conditions, which will give us some valuable information."

Stulp said if the agricultural operators at the pilot projects find they can rotate the fallowed fields across a period of years, they'll be able to gain a better understanding of how the pastures and hay meadows come back in future growing seasons.

"I suspect there may be some unanticipated benefits from some of these pilots," Stulp said. "Anytime you can have more water in a stream, it helps more people and more critters."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1 To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

Water Tour: If you go

What: John Stulp, chairman of Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee, which mediates water issues across the state, speaks at the Community Agriculture Alliance Water Forum.

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m., April 25

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th Street, Steamboat Springs

What: Community networking

When: Noon to 1:30 p.m., April 26

Where: Colorado Northwestern Community College, Rangely

What: Public Meeting

When: 5 to 6:30 p.m., April 26

Where: Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way, Craig