New EPA Good Samaritan guideline, ‘does not provide as much liability protection as we would like’ — Peter Butler

December 21, 2012

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From The Telluride Watch (Samantha Wright):

“I think it is helpful. I know the EPA put a lot of effort into it and I’m glad that they did,” said Animas River Stakeholders Group co-director Peter Butler of Durango. “It helps define what the EPA can do, but it does not provide as much liability protection as we would like.”

The new initiative seeks to give Good Samaritans assurances they will be free from Clean Water Act liability if they undertake a project to improve water quality at an abandoned draining mine adit.

Specifically, the policy clarifies that Good Samaritan agreements with the EPA can include extended time periods that give Good Sams legal liability protection and that they are generally not responsible for obtaining a clean water permit during or after a successful clean-up…

Butler, however, spelled out three specific concerns he has with the new policy.

First, he said, the regulations merely provide guidance, and do not come down in the form of rules or statutes.

Second, there is not much in that guidance to help protect Good Samaritans from third party lawsuits stemming from the ‘citizen’s suit’ provision of the federal Clean Water Act. This provision says that if someone suspects a violation of the Clean Water Act, a citizen may begin a legal action and if successful, the defending party will have to pay all of the legal expenses of the citizen’s group. If they are unsuccessful, the defendant does not have recourse to counter-sue.

It’s the bugaboo that has always spooked potential Good Samaritans from taking action to directly treat point-source discharge at abandoned mines. Good Sams have walked away from many mine cleanup projects for fear that if they don’t bring the discharge water all the way up to CWA standards, they may be sued by a third-party citizen or even another environmental group.

Third, Butler said, under the new EPA guidelines, the main protection offered defines Good Samaritans as non-operators. “Not everyone will fit that criteria very well,” he said. “It may rule out all state agencies” from engaging in Good Samaritan clean-up projects.

In short, Butler said, the policy “is somewhat helpful but doesn’t solve the issue. It probably won’t make a difference.”

However, he allowed, ARSG works closely with Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety on mine clean-up matters and is still waiting for state officials from that agency to weigh in the EPA memo.

More water pollution coverage here.


Snowpack news: The Upper Colorado = 67% of avg, South Platte = 62% of avg #COdrought #COwx

December 21, 2012

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We’ve been seeing a favorable storm track over Colorado for a while now and snowpack is heading in the right direction, for a change. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Upper Colorado basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Upper Colorado snowpack = 67% of average for this date.

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the South Platte basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. South Platte snowpack = 62% of average for this date.

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Arkansas basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Arkansas snowpack = 57% of average for this date.

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Gunnison basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Gunnison snowpack = 62% of average for this date.

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Rio Grande basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Rio Grande snowpack = 63% of average for this date.

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Laramie and North Platte basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Laramie and North Platte snowpack = 75% of average for this date.

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan snowpack = 58% of average for this date.

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the statewide basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Statewide snowpack = 65% of average for this date.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The heavy slushy snow that weighed down shovels Wednesday morning might be a sign of recovery from the drought, but the Colorado high country will need much more of the same.
Though the Tuesday night storm was the “first encouraging sign” from the skies, it “will just get us started on the way back to average,” Erik Knight, a hydrologist with the Grand Junction office of the Bureau of Reclamation, said Wednesday after a snowstorm covered the Grand Valley with as much as 6 inches of snow.

Officials won’t know until later just how much moisture the storm actually dropped over western Colorado and the high country that feeds into the Gunnison River and then the Colorado River.

The snow, however, marks a turnaround from October and November, the first two months of the water year, as it’s referred to by hydrologists and water managers.

The October-November totals were “on par with some of the worst records” going back to the early 1980s, Knight said.

Given the poor beginning of the water year, the mountains will likely need two solid winter months of snow “and maybe something big in the spring” to boost the snowpack—and its moisture content—back to average, Knight said.

Snowpack for the Gunnison Basin was at 39 percent of normal on Nov. 30,

Knight said. That means that the remainder of winter will require 120 percent of average to pile up enough snow for an average year, he said.

Not all storms are equal, however. Dry, fluffy snows eagerly awaited by skiers don’t pack the moisture wallop that a heavy, wet snow does, he said.

How much water was dropped over western Colorado will be determined by a system of snowpack and other climate sensors operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the high country.

The heavier and wetter the early season snow, the better, Knight said.

A frozen, compacted “snowpack tends to hang around a little longer,” prolonging the spring runoff, Knight said.


Forecast news: More snow for Colorado Christmas eve #COdrought #COwx

December 21, 2012

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From Snow.com (Joel Gratz):

For Colorado, there will be a break in the weather for the next few days after about five days of consistent snow. By late in the weekend, the big parent storm off the west coast will move east and head into Colorado on Monday night.


Forecast news: January, February and March 2013 drier and warmer than average — CPC #COdrought #COwx

December 21, 2012

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Click on the thumbnail graphics for the 90 day outlook for precipitation and temperature from the Climate Prediction Center. Here’s the link to their webpage How to Read the 3-class Three-Month Outlook maps.


Your Colorado Water Blog looks back at the Dust Bowl

December 21, 2012

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From Your Colorado Water Blog (Dr. Perry Cabot):

The airing of Ken Burns’ documentary The Dust Bowl last month brought greater attention to the Great Plains drought that began last year and extended into 2012. This documentary is another in a long lineage of inspired works on the Dust Bowl period of the 1930s that ruined millions of cropland acres and rippled hardship across the central United States for decades. Nevertheless, the Dust Bowl has generally faded into distant memory as farming practices improved and irrigation methods advanced and the country as a whole generally experienced stability in its food supply since that time. In other words, despite the harshness of the recent drought, we simply don’t feel the pain of farming’s travails as we once did…

Click through and read the whole blog post.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.


Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention — January 30 thru February 1, 2013

December 21, 2012

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The Colorado Water Congress has published their annual convention program and workshop descriptions.

This year’s convention should be a hoot. I plan to live-Tweet from the event @CoyoteGulch.


CWQCC seeks comments on reorganization of Colorado’s primary drinking water regulations

December 21, 2012

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Here’s the announcement from the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission:

Since the authority for amending the Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations (CPDWR) has been moved to the Water Quality Control Commission, the Colorado Department of Public Health’s executive management is interested in evaluating splitting up the current CPDWR into multiple regulations similar to the manner in which the Clean Water Regulations are organized.

This web form gives drinking water stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the reorganization of the current Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has scheduled a rulemaking hearing for November 2013 to consider adopting revisions of the Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations (CPDWR). The objective of the proposed revisions is to reorganize, simplify, and clarify the existing CPDWR…

Whether the regulations are split or not, the Department intends to reorganize the regulations at all levels. We will reorganize the order of the articles so they are grouped together more logically – for example, treatment oriented articles would be placed together.

The Department is exploring several options for dividing the current one regulation into multiple regulations. We are seeking stakeholder input on these various options and this survey is a major component of that stakeholder input. The options are as follows:

  • Break the regulation into multi-article regulations that are grouped (examples below)
  • Keep the articles of the CPDWR together as one regulation (with articles organized as noted above)
  • Make each article of the regulation its own separate regulation
  • More Colorado Water Quality Control Commission coverage here.


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