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The Colorado State Legislature yesterday gave final approval to bills authorizing water projects in southern Colorado and cutting employers’ unemployment insurance costs before adjourning its special session. The water projects that were approved will provide $15 million each of the next two years to the Rio Grande Reservoir and the Beaver Park Reservoir, both in the San Luis Valley. Representative Sal Pace of Pueblo and Senator Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village were among the bill’s sponsors. Schwartz said the importance of the water projects is underscored by drought conditions, because much of the state is just at 12% of its average snowpack level for this time of year. Schwartz said that this bill absolutely had to pass to administer the state’s drought plan. Pace said the expanded water storage in the valley reservoirs, associated construction jobs and the $1 million it authorizes to explore alternatives to the buy-and-dry of agricultural water rights all warranted the legislature staying on the job beyond the regular session.

The full house appropriations committee yesterday renewed the ban that blocks the U.S. Army from spending money to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site for a sixth year. Representative Scott Tipton, who represents the 3rd congressional district, had the funding ban included in the 2013 Military Construction Budget for the Pentagon. The budget was approved by the full house committee which oversees the federal budget each year. That means that the ban is almost guaranteed to stay in effect for a 6th year. Tipton, a freshman representative, had to scramble last year to get the funding ban restored when the military construction subcommittee left the ban out of its 2012 budget plan. Tipton didn’t lose time this year in getting the wording included in the subcommittee’s mark-up of the 2013 budget. Tipton inherited the funding ban from his predecessor, Representative John Salazar, and Representative Marilyn Musgrave.

The Hewlett Gulch Fire in northern Colorado has grown to nearly 1,000 acres and is putting out more smoke as it spreads into areas with more trees. About 200 firefighters were fighting the fire in Poudre Canyon northwest of Fort Collins yesterday. The fire is about 5% contained. The U.S. Forest Service says that the fire was caused by humans and the investigation into how it began is continuing. No one has been evacuated because of the fire as of now, but the fire is within a quarter mile of some homes. In western Colorado, firefighters are expecting to have a 170-acre fire between Delta and Whitewater fully contained sometime tomorrow. The fire was 80% contained on Tuesday. The fire was started by lightning. No structures are threatened.

Winter storms in December and January accompanied by winds in excess of 150 mph did extensive damage to the several campgrounds on the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. This damage and the clean-up work is delaying the opening of the Alvarado Campground in Custer County until June 29th, at the earliest. U.S. Forest Service crews, private contractors and state prison crews are working diligently to get the site cleaned-up. The campground will reopen when it is safe to occupy the area. As the clean-up progresses, the USFS will re-assess the scheduled opening and may delay it further, as necessary. Public firewood permits are available to assist crews with removing downfall from the campground. Permits are $10 a cord, with a 3 cord minimum. Call 719-783-2079 for more information.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is accepting listings for the 2012 Colorado Hay Directory. This annual publication, celebrating its 26th anniversary, markets Colorado hay to buyers. The listing fee is $25 and the deadline is June 15th. Forms are available at Colorado State University extension offices or by contacting the Colorado Department of Agriculture. This free directory will be available in August through CSU extension offices and various livestock associations. Each listing includes the type and amount of hay available, bale type and size, whether or not laboratory analysis is available, certified weed free status and identifies organic hay. For more information, or to receive a listing form, contact the markets division at 303-239-4115, or visit www.coloradoagriculture.com.