Afternoon Headlines July 10, 2017

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock this morning described the capital city in his annual State of the City address, as a vibrant, international hub where unemployment is low and businesses, large and small, are thriving. But he also acknowledged in stark terms the housing, neighborhood and transportation challenges Denver faces as its population grows.

“It cuts me to the core as I witness my friends and family members get priced out of their homes and entire minority neighborhoods struggle just to get by,” he said. “But I know that by staying true to our Denver values, this city will show how economic prosperity can bring everyone along. This city will show how development can serve our needs, not victimize us.”

He spoke, in particular of the displacement of African American and Latino communities, saying that when the city loses the homes and businesses of these traditional communities “you lose those stories, the experiences and that history. You lose the soul of a neighborhood. And our city loses a piece of itself it won’t ever get back.”

Hancock cited the upcoming redevelopment of the Sun Valley neighborhood in West Denver as a model that preserves communities while at the same time offering residents healthier environments with greater job opportunities.

He also unveiled what he is calling a Mobility Action Plan to reduce the city’s reliance on cars and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The plan calls for more transit-only lanes, expanded bus service and more bike lanes, as well as upgrades to sidewalks, intersections and crosswalks.

A group of residents and activists opposed to the expansion of I-70 through the north Denver neighborhoods of Elyria and Swansea this morning filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging the federal government’s adherence to its own environmental rules in giving the massive $1.2 billion demolition and construction project the go-ahead.

The lawsuit, Zeppelin vs. Federal Highway Administration, accuses the administration of bypassing National Environmental Policy Act regulations.

Residents have argued that construction of the highway will harm their communities, Latino neighborhoods that have already borne the brunt of decades of environmental pollution.

“In the short term, dust, noise, and general disruption of daily living is guaranteed. In the long term, the highway will negatively affect both human health and the environment, especially in an area that’s recently been named the “most polluted zip code in the country,” lawyers representing the plaintiffs said.

The Federal Highway Administration in January approved the widening of I-70 along a nearly two-mile stretch through the two neighborhoods. In February, during a contentious community meeting at Swansea Elementary School, CDOT’s director Shailen Bhatt told the crowd that the project would move forward unless its critics brought a lawsuit and “dispassionate judges” ruled that state planners hadn’t followed all the rules, or sufficiently considered other options or properly made their intentions known. A lawsuit, he suggested then, is the only way now to stop this project.

As Colorado grapples with a coming water shortage it is looking at how to better use what it has.

Colorado’s first statewide water plan seeks to find ways to use agricultural water as part of solving Colorado’s massive water shortage in the next three decades.

Colorado’s looming water shortage is projected to be about one million acre-feet of water per year, enough to impact virtually every Coloradan and in every way of life: farmers, city dwellers, businesses, oil and gas drillers, environmentalists, birders, anglers, rafters, kayakers and everyone else who values the health and vibrancy of Colorado’s rivers.

To find the water for cities, suburbs and towns, as well as for keeping rivers full for environmental and recreational reasons, the water plan borrows on an idea that southwestern states have been using for a decade, short-team leases of water from farms. In one method, known as rotational fallowing, farmers forgo planting and irrigating their land for a growing season and lease the water saved, over the short term, to utilities or districts that serve cities and towns.

But the state is running into resistance from mainly farmers, who are protective of their right to use their water as they see fit and in the amounts they’re allotted.

“I’m in agriculture to produce, not to sell or lease water,” Logan County farmer Gene Manuello told The Colorado Independent.

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