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President's Reception

Diane Hoppe and Lewis Entz, 2012 President's Award Winners

By Justice Greg Hobbs

Diane Hoppe

diane hoppeA third generation Sterling girl whose physician father delivered her, Diane Hoppe knows dry and the value of wet.  She and her former husband, Mike, were dry land farmers in Northeastern Colorado from 1975 to 1985.  “We had a cattle and wheat operation.  We prayed for rain a lot.”  They have two sons.  After their divorce in 1985, Hoppe moved back into Sterling and got her start in public life by “being the ears” for Congressman Hank Brown in his Northeastern Colorado district.  Brown, who forged the creation of the Cache la Poudre Wild and Scenic River Act in 1986, then became a Senator, bringing Hoppe along.  “Hank never had a bad thing to say about an individual.  He knew how to have a difference of opinion without thinking those who don’t agree with you are bad people.”

Thrust into the controversy over designation of new wilderness areas, Hoppe learned from Brown “how to keep a calm demeanor and take notes.”  Together Senators Brown and Wirth, of opposite parties, brought home a wilderness act protecting water and environmental interests.  “Hank believed Colorado’s Instream Flow Program could help resolve wilderness issues.  But, federal agencies didn’t trust the state to enforce the instream flow water rights once the Colorado Water Conservation Board got them.”

By careful boundary drawing, combined with legislative language disclaiming any intent to create a federal reserved water right, at least for those new wilderness additions, the Colorado Congressional Delegation obtained enactment of the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act.  Two years later, emphasizing that the CWCB appropriates instream flow water rights in the name of the people, the Colorado Supreme Court held that the state has a “fiduciary duty” to enforce them.

Hoppe served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1999 to 2006, succeeding fellow Republican Don Ament, whose political campaigns she had managed over the years.  In 2003, when the drought was at its worst and junior surface and tributary ground water rights in the South Platte Basin were being curtailed in favor of the most senior rights, she obtained the enactment of a provision allowing the State Engineer to approve substitute supply plans and temporary changes of water rights.  This provision allowed junior rights to receive water if they provided sufficient replacement water to the seniors and filed for a plan of augmentation in the water court.

Recently appointed to the CWCB by Governor John Hickenlooper,  Hoppe joins another of her revered public office mentors, former Speaker of the Colorado House Russ George, as a member of that important Board.  “I am going to do a lot of listening as a new member of the CWCB.   I am learning from the Western Slope members about their concerns.  I hope we can help to keep Ag whole.  Cities and farms are part of the economic engine and I know that agricultural return flows in the South Platte Basin contribute water to wildlife wetlands. I’m interested in helping new Water Leaders.  Involving legislators in the River Basin Tours, if legislative funding allows, is also very important.”

Lewis Entz

lew entzLew Entz has also been a member of the CWCB, though briefly, from 1999 to 2001, serving as its Chair in 2000.  Born to a San Luis Valley farming family, as a kid he minded the “three Ps” – pigs, peas and potatoes.  “The pigs ate the field peas.  Those peas were a great green manure for the potatoes as well.”

Entz has minded the Ps and Qs of a distinguished public service career, specializing in water for the Valley and for Colorado.  First elected as an Alamosa County Commissioner in 1969 extending to 1982, eight of those fourteen years as the Commission’s chairperson, he was elected and re-elected to the Colorado House of Representatives for sixteen years, from 1983 to 1998.  A member of the CWCB the next two years, he returned to the Colorado General Assembly as a Senator from 2001 to 2006, succeeding fellow Republican Gigi Dennis when she went from the legislature to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As a farmer and a legislator, Entz appeared in a twinkling here, there and everywhere from his home in Hooper.  “I was at my legislative desk for roll call in the morning and back to the farm the same afternoon.  It helped that my son Mike was managing the farm.”  A licensed pilot, he made the landing strip at Center his winged horse corral.  Along with partnering with his wife, Lora, in raising three daughters and a son, he has devoted particular attention to transportation, all things agricultural, and Veterans Health.  He was a Marine from 1951-53 during the Korean War.

As a legislator Entz carried nearly seventy water bills.  “The most important was the Subdistrict Bill, 222, in 2004,” Entz said.  In 1998, he obtained passage of the Rio Grande Decision Support System.  “It was quite a fight.  Front Range cities kept eyeing the Valley’s water.  We needed to know what we had for legs to stand on.”  Housed in the State Engineer’s Office, RGDSS has become a tool for understanding, monitoring and helping to manage the complicated hydrology of the Rio Grande River Basin, including the confined and unconfined tributary aquifers of the Closed Basin area north of the river, in connection with the Rio Grande River Compact among Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

A decade of drought at the outset of the 21st Century severely reducing mountain recharge runoff, combined with a considerable expansion of sprinkler irrigation since the 1970s in the Closed Basin, pitched unconfined aquifer storage water into a million acre-foot deficit.  “We had to do something.  So I sponsored the Subdistrict legislation so we could tax ourselves to cut back on our groundwater use and rebuild the groundwater.  We’d seen what happened on the South Platte with state-enforced well curtailments during the drought.”  Subdistrict No. 1 is a local public entity of the larger Rio Grande Water Conservation District the General Assembly established in 1967.  In December of 2011, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld Subdistrict No. 1’s groundwater management plan designed to replace injurious depletions to senior Rio Grande surface water rights annually, as well as fallow 40,000 acres of land over the upcoming years in order to achieve sustainable aquifer pumping levels.

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