Three-year cleanup targets Summit County’s Pennsylvania Mine — Summit Daily News

August 4, 2014
Pennsylvania Mine Upper Peru Creek Basin

Pennsylvania Mine Upper Peru Creek Basin

From the Summit Daily News via The Denver Post:

About 8 miles east of Keystone and a couple of miles south of the 14,000-foot-plus Grays and Torreys peaks, the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine is considered the worst mine in the state. The mine adds toxic heavy metal concentrations and acidifies water flowing into the Peru Creek, a tributary of the Snake River, which feeds Dillon Reservoir.

A three-year, $3 million cleanup project aims to stop that pollution. The project could serve as a model for future mine reclamation efforts around the state, said Paul Peronard, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The collaborative effort is currently under budget and ahead of schedule, he said, even with the added cost of helping Summit County fix the part of Montezuma Road that washed away in early June.

“This is very much a huge partnership,” said Jeff Graves, senior project manager with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

For decades, government agencies and other interested parties faced issues of liability and funding when trying to tackle the mine’s cleanup.

“It’s quite a conundrum,” said Lane Wyatt, a water-quality expert with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “The problem is you don’t really have anybody to point your finger to in places like this to say, ‘You’re responsible. You got to go clean this up.’ “

This year the state is working to place one of two bulkheads, or giant concrete plugs, about 500 feet inside the mine. The bulkheads will block water from leaving through one large entry and stop water from flowing freely through the mine, Graves said.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.


“Summit County has a huge stake in this with Denver Water” — Jim Lochhead #ColoradoRiver

August 4, 2014

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

The Colorado River System Conservation program is an effort to address a long-term imbalance on the Colorado River caused by years of drought and water demands that exceed supply.

Denver Water, Central Arizona Project, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority each contributed $2 million and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation pitched in $3 million to create an $11 million fund for Colorado River water conservation pilot projects.

The projects will demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated measures for reducing water demand in agricultural, municipal, industrial and other areas. [ed. emphasis mine]

“Summit County has a huge stake in this with Denver Water,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO.

The county is a headwaters community for the Colorado River, and Lochhead said Summit shares a common interest with the utility in water conservation and in meeting collective obligations to the people and ecosystems down river.

One of the biggest causes for concern, he said, is the dangerously low water level at Lake Powell…

That has a host of consequences for communities up river from the lake, including increased energy bills due to less productive hydroelectric power plants, reduced agricultural output, diminished snowmaking capabilities at ski resorts, water quality issues and loss of funding for protections under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Plus, he said, “we might have to be cut off from our water supply in order to meet our obligations to the lower basin.”

Summit County especially would see the effects in Dillon Reservoir, which Denver Water constructed in 1963 to supply its customers in the Denver metro area.

“Dillon could be literally drained in that scenario,” he said…

“This situation is becoming increasingly critical. We are already dealing with unprecedented pressure on the southern California region’s water system,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager for The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This innovative program is aimed at expanding conservation efforts from a local level to a collaborative system-wide program.”[...]

“I applaud the far sighted municipal water providers for beginning to address the imbalance in supply and demand on the Colorado River that could seriously affect the economy and the people who rely upon the river,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor in a press release. “There is still much work to be done, and the Interior Department is committed to supporting the efforts of the Colorado River Basin states and other stakeholders as partners in improving water management and operations, particularly during this historic drought.”

The program’s pilot projects will include residential and industrial water conservation programs and in the agricultural sector, something called “temporary compensated borrowing,” which Lochhead said would pay farmers not to irrigate or to irrigate less than they were.

The pilot projects are in the planning stages but should start next year, he said, and the two-year program will fund them into 2016. Successful ideas could then be expanded or extended.

To ensure that local concerns are addressed and that there is equity and fairness among all parties, the Bureau of Reclamation will manage the conservation actions in the Lower Colorado River Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada in a manner consistent with past programs. In the Upper Basin, the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming and the Upper Colorado River Commission will have a direct role in program efforts.

Denver Water plans to do a broad outreach program and partner with agricultural and environmental groups, Lochhead said.

“I think it’s important that we engage all of those groups in this effort,” he said. “We just set up the funds. Now we got to figure out how to make it work.”

More Blue River watershed coverage here.


There’s a lot of beach at Dillon Reservoir #COdrought

June 30, 2013

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Here’s an in-depth look the economics around Dillon Reservoir from Nathan Heffel writing for KUNC. Denver sells the water to its customers, Frisco depends on wet water in the reservoir for 30% of its tourism. Here’s an excerpt:

After back to back drought years, Dillon Reservoir is about nine to ten feet below average for this time of year. That’s where the interests of Denver Water and the town of Frisco play out.

Dillon is both the largest reservoir in the Denver Water system and a major economic driver for Frisco. During the summer, the marina provides a substantial boost to Frisco’s economy, accounting for a third of the town’s tourism.

A stylized sailboat adorns each street sign in downtown Frisco. It’s a relationship that’s part of their identity; a sail boat is etched on the town logo.

The issue? Frisco doesn’t own any of the water they rely on so much. It belongs to Denver Water and the on-going demands of Front Range water users.

More Blue River Watershed coverage here and here.


Summit County: Happy 20th Anniversary to the Clinton Ditch Company

September 1, 2012

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Clinton is celebrating its 20th anniversary and its many successes.

“Summit County has a long tradition of appropriating and acquiring water resources to meet the current and future needs of its citizens, business and commerce,” said Gary Martinez, Summit County Manager, “Clinton Reservoir is a key in these efforts … and it was a brilliant move to acquire this fabulous resource back in 1992.”

The historic deal took years of negotiations and involved many parties both locally and throughout the state of Colorado. Climax Molybdenum Company built the dam in 1977 as part of their mining operations. The reservoir capacity is 4,447 acre feet and its water source is Clinton Creek. The water is retained by a rockfill dam approximately 170 feet high and 1,500 feet long. The water in the reservoir is used primarily for municipal, irrigation and snowmaking purposes.

“Clinton Reservoir provides a reliable source of water supply to local private and government entities in an over-appropriated basin,” said Raul Passerini , Resource Engineering Inc. “Also, due to its location high in the basin (at 11,050 feet), releases from the Reservoir for downstream uses help maintain healthy streamflows within Tenmile Creek. During the spring, the reservoir is refilled during periods of peak snowmelt. This helps reduce the potential for downstream flooding near Copper Mountain and the Town of Frisco.”[...]

In addition to the Shareholders and Climax, the other major entity that played a significant role in the development of Clinton Gulch Reservoir is the Denver Water Board. Denver agreed to operate Dillon Reservoir to guarantee the needed yield of Clinton Gulch Reservoir and to use certain components of its facilities to deliver the Clinton water throughout Summit and Grand Counties.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.


Drought news: Summit County continues to acquire water rights

August 6, 2012

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Here’s a guest column (Summit Daily News) written by Karn Stiegelmeier and Gary Martinez detailing drought actions by Summit County. Here’s an excerpt:

The board of county commissioners works in the water arena in two major ways. First, to provide water locally to certain residential, agricultural and commercial customers and other projects that benefit the public generally such as the hospital development, environmental restoration and stream flow enhancement for environmental and recreational purposes.

The county has a long tradition of appropriating and acquiring water resources to meet the current and future needs of its citizens. It has built an extensive water rights and water storage portfolio and has adjudicated a countywide augmentation plan that provides a legal water supply for out of compliance or new residential wells and other water needs. County water and storage rights in various reservoirs can be used as a replacement source for water used locally when more senior rights must be made whole.

A majority ownership in the soon to be completed Old Dillon Reservoir will significantly add to the county’s water rights portfolio. These water rights have assisted agricultural and ranching activities in the Lower Blue River Valley, the construction of accessory dwelling units to address critical housing needs, residential development, stream flow releases during low flow periods, the ongoing Swan River restoration project and snow making that can be critical to local ski areas and our local economy. Summit County Environmental Health Department protects surface and subsurface water quality through monitoring, testing and inspection programs.

Secondly, the County Commissioners take a variety of measures to protect local water resources from further diversions outside the County. Approximately 30 percent of Summit’s native water is diverted east through the Continental Divide for use by Front Range water providers; Denver Water and Colorado Springs Utilities claimed and developed these water rights years ago. Summit County has been a leader in efforts to curtail the further exportation of water as well as efforts to address the impacts of these diversions. This has included years of litigation and negotiation with a variety of water interests throughout the state.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Seven months into 2012, Greeley is still on pace for its hottest and driest year on record, according to figures provided by Wendy Ryan with the Colorado Climate Center, whose historical data goes back to 1968.

For the year, the average temperature through the end of July was 56.4 degrees in Greeley, 3.7 degrees above normal, and precipitation had amounted to just 4.77 inches — not even half of the 9.81 inches that, on average, falls on the city before Aug. 1.

The 1.63 inches of precipitation recorded during July was only 0.05 inches below normal for the month, but prior to July, Greeley had experienced its driest January, March and April on record, along with its second-driest June…

Along with the issues farmers and ranchers have faced, the hot and dry weather this year has forced municipal water officials to draw large amounts of water from reservoirs to supply residents trying to save their lawns.

Jon Monson, director of the city of Greeley’s Water and Sewer Department, said July water demand for the city is usually about 15 percent higher than it is in June, due to the increase in temperatures. However, he said this year, the water-demand increase from June to July was only about 5 percent, thanks to the rains that arrived last month.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to a photo gallery of xeriscape gardens from Apartment Therapy.


Restoration: Partial cleanup of Saints John Mine in Summit County planned for summer

May 23, 2012

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Beautiful as Saints John Creek may look, it’s heavily polluted with cadmium, copper, lead and zinc that leaches into the water from weathered waste rock and from the underground workings of the former mine. Concentrations of some of the metals, especially zinc, are so high that the water is deadly to fish and to the aquatic bugs they feed on. As a result, the short stream segment has been listed as impaired since 1998.

This summer, the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety plans to start cleaning up the mess with an ambitious $500,000 restoration project that involves moving some of the exposed tailings away from the water to an upland repository, where they’ll be capped and covered with native vegetation.

State officials may also divert some of the water pouring out of an old mine opening to prevent the water from coming in contact with the weathered rock. Altogether, they hope the work will reduce the amount of dissolved zinc in the water by about three pounds per day. Zinc is particularly toxic to trout, impairing their ability to breathe.

More water pollution coverage here.


Dillon Reservoir operations update: The reservoir is down about three feet going into winter

December 15, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Right now, the reservoir is about three feet below full, a level that enables Denver Water to place a big steel and wood cap on the glory hole.

In late November, the inflow from the tributaries that feed the reservoir was at about 93 cfs, while the outflow into the Blue River was about 88 cfs. Those flows are expected to fluctuate between a minimum required flow of 50 cfs and 105 cfs, sometimes dependent on downstream calls.

This year, the Roberts Tunnel, which transports water from the Blue River Basin under the Continental Divide to the South Platte River, was turned off in late November and will likely remain shut off until well into spring.

Steger said Denver Water is doing some maintenance on the valves at the eastern end of the conduit. But the tunnel itself will remain filled of water during the winter. It holds about 220 acre feet of water. Keeping it full enables Keystone to draw water from the Montezuma Shaft to augment Snake River flows during snowmaking season and also prevents the inside of the tunnel from icing up.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.


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