The Flaming Gorge Task Force October meeting summary is hot off the press

December 4, 2012


Click here to read a copy.

More Flaming Gorge Task force coverage here.

18th Judicial District Judge Paul King affirms his ruling regarding Sterling Ranch

November 14, 2012


From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

18th Judicial District Judge Paul King’s order on Friday states he followed the letter of a 2008 Colorado law when ruling the board “exceeded its authority” in approving Sterling Ranch’s development plan without requiring the company to prove an adequate water supply for the entire development. He denied the development company’s reconsideration request and denied the motion to remand the case back to Douglas County so it could make the water adequacy determination…

King ruled that the county Board of Commissioners had “exceeded its jurisdiction and abused its discretion” by approving Sterling Ranch’s water plan. His ruling stated Colorado law requires all developers to prove they have enough water to serve the entire development before any construction starts.

His Friday order stated pursuant to the 2008 law (Section 29-20-301), “our legislature has determined that securing an adequate supply of water for development can have a broad regional impact and it is imperative that local government be provided with reliable information concerning the adequacy of a proposed development’s water supply to aid local government in the exercise of its discretion.” He also restated his position that the law defines “adequate” as “a water supply sufficient for build-out of the proposed development in terms of quality, quantity, dependability and availability.”[...]

Sterling Ranch “confessed that they did not submit proof of a water supply to the Board during the lengthy approval process,” Friday’s order stated…

“I didn’t write the law. The judge didn’t write the law,” [Attorney Jim Kreutz] said. “Legislators chose to enact it, so opponents need to hire lobbyists and change the law I suppose.”

More coverage from the Associated Press via the San Antonio Express-News:

A Colorado River District official says a judge’s ruling on the proposed Sterling Ranch community in Douglas County could lead to new legislation. A judge this year reversed the county’s approval of a permit for the Sterling Ranch development, citing a state law that requires counties to first affirm that large new developments have an adequate water supply. County officials had argued they planned to incrementally evaluate Sterling Ranch’s water supply, as construction proceeded in phases.

According to the latest Colorado River District newsletter, district external affairs manager Chris Treese says he expects legislation next year addressing the ruling, though it’s too early to say what direction it could take.

More Sterling Ranch coverage here.

Weld County: Free well testing available for county residents concerned with oil and gas development

October 28, 2012


From the Fort Lupton Press:

County residents concerned about the impact from oil and gas drilling on their wells are now able to get free ground-water testing from the county’s Department of Public Health and Environment laboratory.

The lab, according to a Weld County news release, has a new gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer instrument to conduct testing. Chemist Mark Thomas said it’s an exciting addition to the lab. “We are talking about testing parts per billion,” Thomas said. “That is like saying we can measure something that is as small as one eyedropper drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”

Thomas said water samples will be analyzed for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and a report will tell how prominent they are — if at all — in the water. “We anticipate that individuals in the county who use well-water will want to take advantage of this test so they can have base-line information to which they can compare future tests.”

Before the chromatograph and spectrometer was acquired, residents had to pay private labs or the state for VOC testing. Weld County received a grant from the Federal Mineral Lease Board last spring that made the purchase possible. “Weld County chose to use that grant funding for the purchase of this instrument in order to provide a water-testing service for our residents” said Commissioner Dave Long. The cost of the instrument was approximately $145,000.

More water pollution coverage here.

The South Metro Chamber of Commerce, et. al., ask judge to reverse Sterling Ranch decision

October 19, 2012


From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

In what’s called an amicus brief — which basically means the parties have no standing in the case, but they’ve asked 18th Judicial District Judge Paul King to reconsider his ruling — the chamber said the case and King’s ruling “raises issues of critical importance to the economic strength of the businesses operating in the State of Colorado.” They said his ruling would strip local governments of their ability to control development and landowners of the right to develop their land, and would have negative economic ramifications for entire state…

The chamber, Colorado Contractors Association, Associated General Contractors of Colorado, Northwest Douglas County Economic Development Corp. and Colorado Association of Realtors stated in the amicus brief they “respectfully urge this Court not to disturb the decision made by the Commission, but rather, allow the operations of the Commission, and hence, local governments in the State of Colorado, to provide certainty and economic reality to land use decisions, especially those of the nature of the Sterling Ranch PD proposal, which, in and of itself, brings great economic and social value to the community.”[...]

The brief said King’s ruling, if allowed to stand, “creates procedural and fiscal uncertainty about the finality of a local government’s decision-making process, has a chilling effect on the confidence of Colorado property owners to develop their properties, destroys the opportunity for major developers, and therefore harms the economic future of the State and its citizens.”

Requiring developers to prove availability of water for the entire life of the project, which could take 20 or 30 years, “will result in small-scale patchwork development and unplanned sprawl.”

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

‘Water Wranglers’ is George Sibley’s new book about the Colorado River District #coriver

October 10, 2012



Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:

Water Wranglers
The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West

The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.

Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.

The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.

To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

More Colorado River District coverage here.

IBCC: Should Colorado take a more active role in the Flaming Gorge Pipeline?

October 2, 2012


Here’s the meeting summary from email from Heather Bergman. Here’s an excerpt:

After the last meeting, Jacob Bornstein and Tim Murrell conducted research on state involvement in water projects in Colorado and other states in West. Jacob and Tim presented information to Committee members regarding the role of the following states in existing and future new supply projects: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Following the Committee members’ discussion about this presentation, they considered the pros and cons of the State of Colorado having a role in a potential Flaming Gorge project. This information was provided as research only and was not intended as support for a particular type of state role in a water project in Colorado…

Based on Committee members’ discussion regarding potential options for a State role in water storage projects, most of the group agreed that the State is currently doing well with its overall involvement in water project planning, development, and implementation. However, Committee members discussed potential expansions or improvements that could be made to the State’s function in the areas of leadership, research, and coordinating efforts related to new water projects in Colorado. Several other ideas for how the State could improve its role in water projects emerged during the Committee’s discussion…

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

Can the Flaming Gorge pipeline save ag and water Colorado’s burgeoning population?

September 26, 2012


Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series, written by Eric Hecox. He is exploring the benefits of the Flaming Gorge pipeline, originally conceived by Aaron Million, now in the gunsights of the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition. Here’s an excerpt:

One potential new water project, the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, is being discussed and analyzed for its feasibility. The newly formed Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee is taking a closer look at this pipeline project. Simultaneously to this process, both public and private groups are investigating the potential of the project to meet present and future water demands. The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition, a public organization comprised of water and municipal entities in Colorado and Wyoming that could receive water from the pipeline if it is built, is conducting a feasibility study. A private developer, Aaron Millions, is also examining the project.

The Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee has identified three areas of focus related to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline: explore interests and issues related to a possible Flaming Gorge water supply project; gather and analyze current information about the potential impacts of such a project; and explore what additional work or activities would be needed to address the issues and interests.

The committee itself is a pilot project, created to assess the effectiveness of roundtable-based collaborations to explore water supply projects and issues. While the committee is focused on the Flaming Gorge project, it will also evaluate and track ideas and issues that emerge that can be applied to other potential water supply projects. The committee’s purpose is to gather information and explore ideas. It will not make recommendations about whether or not to build the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition is also analyzing the feasibility of the project. Established in 2010, the coalition is a joint collaboration between Colorado and Wyoming entities. The Colorado entities are: Douglas County, South Metro Water Supply Authority, Parker Water and Sanitation District, Town of Castle Rock and Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. The Wyoming entities are: City of Cheyenne, City of Torrington and Laramie County…

The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition is committed to a transparent examination of the Flaming Gorge Project. The coalition will complete the study, develop information, and engage in discussions with supporters as well as with skeptics and opponents.

Meeting Colorado’s water needs undoubtedly necessitates developing new water projects. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline project appears promising, however there is much work to be done including an objective examination of the project and open discussions among interested parties. Colorado has a robust water supply planning process and it is encouraging that, through this process and through project proponents, potential solutions to Colorado’s water shortage are emerging.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Sterling Ranch developers appeal ruling

September 18, 2012


From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

Attorneys for the planned Sterling Ranch subdivision in northwest Douglas County last week filed a motion asking for a judge to reconsider his ruling or at least send it back to the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners. The motion states District Court Judge Paul King erred when he ruled in late August that the commission had improperly approved a zoning changed and approved a development permit. The judge said the developers had failed to show the water supply was adequate for the Sterling Ranch project.

King’s ruling came in the civil lawsuit filed last year by the Chatfield Community Association against the Douglas County commission, challenging its approval of Sterling Ranch LLC’s plan for development.

Douglas County: Sun Resources (Phil Anschutz) plans to mine 15,000 acre-feet a year from the Denver Basin aquifer system

September 14, 2012


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Rights to the water were acquired by billionaire Phil Anschutz last year, and one of his companies, Sun Resources, is building wells that could pump as much as 15,000 acre-feet of water per year from Denver Basin aquifers. That’s enough water to sustain 30,000 houses, though Sun Resources chief executive Gary Pierson characterized the drilling as exploratory.

“We have not made any arrangements for the water at this point,” Pierson said…

Two production wells — 1,450 and 1,800 feet deep — were nearing completion this week. A 2009 document obtained by The Denver Post proposed 35 production wells and shows water being moved to cities and communities through pipelines, including one leading to Sterling Ranch, a planned $4.3 billion, 12,050-house development south of Chatfield State Park…

State water authorities this year issued permits allowing Sun Resources to drill two production wells under the Greenland open space. A 1995 water-court decision established rights to 1.5 million acre-feet of water under the 7,640-acre Greenland Ranch. Anschutz acquired those rights last year in a purchase of assets from the Gaylord family of Oklahoma…

South-metro water providers relying on finite underground sources have declared a mission of shifting to renewable water from snowmelt and rivers, said Eric Hecox, director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “That doesn’t mean they have to be 100 percent off the Denver Basin aquifer water,” Hecox said. “What we would like to do is use the Denver Basin in a different way, as a drought supply.

More Denver Basin Aquifer system coverage here and here.

Douglas County aims to file an appeal of the recent ruling about the Sterling Ranch development

September 9, 2012


From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

“The board will appeal the judge’s decision directly to the Court of Appeals,” county spokeswoman Wendy Holmes said Tuesday. The board voted unanimously to appeal 18th Judicial District Judge Paul King’s decision and has 45 days to file the appeal, she said.

Meanwhile, here’s an analysis of the reality of growth and development along the Front Range, from Bart Taylor writing for the Planet Profit Report. Here’s an excerpt:

Despite protests of the Denver Post, King’s decision isn’t an indictment of Sterling Ranch, but a reasonable reading of a statute.

The proposed community southwest of Denver has been lauded as a water-efficient, sustainable community of the future, but it’s also a poster child for the challenge facing the south metro area of Colorado’s Front Range. Most Douglas County communities south of Denver rely on non-renewable, diminishing aquifers. By Douglas County standards, Sterling Ranch has lined up a diverse supply, including an agreement to buy 190 million gallons of water annually from close neighbor Aurora to support the 12,000 or so homes planned for the community. King said it wasn’t enough.

As a result, Colorado’s business leaders would do well to contemplate a pro-business water platform around which economic interests can rally.

Harold Smethills, the development’s managing partner, promised to move ahead. King’s decision seemed to surprise others. David Tschetter, chairman of the Colorado Association of Homebuilders, told the Denver Post the ruling “will have a negative impact on development, no question…Who knows what water-usage needs are going to be 30 years from now?”

But if pressed, Tschetter would agree that Douglas County’s water problem is spooking development, King’s ruling notwithstanding. Despite membership in a loose coalition called the South Metro Water Supply Authority, most communities in DC are pursuing their own water plans. Some are faring better than others. Aurora, in a position to sell water to Smethills, may be the region’s most innovative water operator. None, arguably, have developed a comprehensive program that guarantees residents and business renewable (non-ground water), affordable, sustainable supplies – and mitigates regional concerns.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Denver: The Metro Roundtable is meeting September 12

September 7, 2012


Here’s the link to the notice. Here’s the link to the agenda.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting recap: Concern that Colorado does not have the ‘courage’ to build projects

September 1, 2012


Here’s a recap of the recent Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“I’m left with the feeling that other states have the courage to embark on water projects. We don’t have that,” said Mike Gibson, president of Colorado Water Congress and manager of the San Luis Valley Conservancy District.

The task force reviewed projects that other Western states have undertaken — including California’s state water project, started in late 1950s, and a $19 billion project to manage demands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta; Arizona’s water bank program and Central Arizona Project; and Utah’s proposal to build a $1 billion Lake Powell pipeline similar to the Flaming Gorge proposal…

…the state lacks a water plan and unlike other states, has no way to centrally plan projects or allocate water.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here and <a href="

Sterling Ranch Rezoning and Water Appeal Revoked

August 27, 2012


From email from Jennifer Riefenberg and the Chatfield Community Association:

On August 22, 2012, Douglas County District Court’s Judge Paul King, determined that Douglas County Commissioners abused their discretion in approving both the Sterling Ranch rezoning as well as its controversial water appeal, in May 2011, siding with the Plaintiffs, the Chatfield Community Association, et. al. In his determination, Judge King ruled that “The Board has no authority to approve the application without the Applicant demonstrating the adequacy of the water supply.” Judge King cited “In this case the applicant freely admits that it did not submit proof of an adequate water supply as part of its application.”

Douglas County has a long-held reputation for approving development which is dependent on non-renewable ground water or other non-sustainable water supplies. The Board of County Commissioners continued this trend when they approved the Sterling Ranch development in May 2011. Yesterday’s decision by the District Court focused on a 2008 revision to state statutes (CRS 29-20) that require “a water supply that will be sufficient for build-out of the proposed development in terms of quality, quantity, dependability, and availability to provide a supply of water for the type of development proposed…” , as well as Douglas County Zoning Resolution.

Water is a critical issue for the citizens and legislature of Colorado. However, Douglas County is currently proposing changes to their own zoning regulations that would make it even easier for development to occur without demonstrating a sustainable water supply. The impact of Judge King’s ruling should thwart this attempt to loosen these regulations..

Chatfield Community Association (CCA) is comprised primarily of citizens living in the Chatfield Basin area. CCA is interested in responsible growth, including clear and reliable evidence that the developer can provide the necessary infrastructure, water and wastewater commitments, density-appropriate plans for protecting sensitive areas, including Chatfield State Park, and protecting the rural way of life in the Chatfield Basin

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Salida: Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting Tuesday

August 26, 2012


Click here for a copy of the agenda. Thanks to Heather Bergman for sending it along in email.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

SDS: ‘It seems like Colorado Springs Utilities and city officials are doing a lot of talking’ — Jay Winner

August 24, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has made a formal request to the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen environmental studies for the Southern Delivery System because the 2008 study assumed a Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise was in place…

“It seems like Colorado Springs Utilities and city officials are doing a lot of talking,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district Wednesday. Forming a regional task force isn’t enough, he said. “They talk as if this could be done by the end of the year, but that’s not going to happen. While they meet with a task force, we’re the ones who suffer.”

Last week’s letter identified broad concerns about the repeal of the stormwater enterprise, while this week’s letter from Peter Nichols, attorney for the district, deals with more specific points related to SDS documents. The letter points out that the $15 million annually generated by the former stormwater enterprise would have been sufficient to cover the nearly $500 million in backlog of stormwater projects and maintenance identified in Colorado Springs. “Reclamation has a continuing duty to analyze significant changes in conditions that affect the environment and that call into question the original decision,” the letter stated.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Western Slope interests are, ‘better off at the table than on the menu’ — Bill Trampe

August 13, 2012


Here’s a profile of Rancher and water wonk, Bill Trampe, written by Jennifer Bock running in the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

Although water is probably more essential to his livelihood than many of us in the Gunnison Basin, Trampe admits that his philosophy on keeping water in the Gunnison Basin has changed over the years.

When Arapahoe County proposed the Union Park project, Trampe recalls that the local sentiment was “not one drop” and no one dared stray from that strict line in the sand.

Today, Trampe thinks that Western Slope interests are “better off at the table than on the menu” when it comes to talking to the Front Range and others about West Slope water. Trampe’s philosophy is tied to real life experience: He has spent the last seven years negotiating with the Front Range to develop the Colorado River Water Cooperative Agreement.

Perhaps characteristic of a rancher’s outlook, Trampe is both hopeful and frustrated when it comes to resolving Colorado’s water disputes.

He believes, as many do, that big, transmountain water projects simply won’t be able to provide enough firm yield to satisfy Front Range interests. In statewide water planning discussions, Trampe has been a proponent of addressing this problem through risk management — the idea that the state must have a comprehensive way to evaluate and guard against the potential consequences of failing to meet water delivery obligations to downstream states as it considers new diversions out of the Colorado River Basin.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.

Colorado, Wyoming and Utah and the remaining water under the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact

August 8, 2012


Back in 1925 the Upper Colorado River Basin States united to fight the lower basin states over Colorado River projects like Boulder Dam unless the Colorado River Compact was signed. (Click on the thumbnail graphic for a graphic of The Denver Post front page from that time.) Fast forward to 1948 and the upper basin states inked the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact. With both compacts signed everyone would be buddy-buddy for all time, right?

Maybe not, here’s a report from Bart Taylor writing for the Planet Profit Report. Here’s an excerpt:

The Bureau of Reclamation estimates that demand on the Colorado River will significantly exceed supply in the coming years, and likely already has. This, along with drought and some rather dire climate change-related impacts, have forced state planners to reassess their Colorado River water supply and demand metrics. The Upper Basin has never fully utilized its full allocation of river water, either collectively or by individual state…

It’s also begun to analyze its options to develop this remaining Colorado River allocation, and to the dismay of some in Wyoming and Utah (and Colorado, as I’ve written), one option involves a pipeline that taps the Colorado from its primary tributary, the Green River, at Flaming Gorge reservoir in southwest Wyoming and northeast Utah.

For its part, Wyoming has also awakened to the tenuous future of its water resources. The Green has increasingly been identified as a river “at risk” – to the effects of drought, climate-change and a competition for water that’s reaching a fever-pitch throughout the region. Wyoming’s residents and politicians are therefore pushing back on what’s perceived by many here to be a water grab by Colorado – reminiscent of the threat posed by Lower Basin interest’s decades ago.

According to my contacts, Wyoming water officials, including the state engineer, were initially neutral on the Flaming Gorge pipeline. Colorado is legally entitled to Green River water, and Flaming Gorge, like lakes Powell, Mead, Navajo and others, was built to implement the terms of the Colorado River Compact. To over-simplify greatly, the huge impoundments make it possible to even-out the distribution of water from wet years to dry for all parties to the agreement. Wyoming administrators initially had little reason (or recourse) to get worked up about the project, though from its source in Flaming Gorge, the pipeline would traverse the I-80 corridor west through Wyoming, then south to Colorado’s Front Range.

Also, since Aaron Million conceived of a Flaming Gorge pipeline and reminded Colorado officials of the state’s right to file on the Green, most, but not all, water observers gave the project little chance of success. Building any water project, let alone a multi-state, multi-jurisdictional, trans-basin project, is daunting.

Now, the political winds in Wyoming seem to blow hard against Flaming Gorge, the state engineer’s (yet unpublished) opinion notwithstanding. Ironically, Colorado water planners may be warming to the idea, again, driven by self-interest motivating all parties to the Compact. Colorado’s the fast-grower in the region and requires more water, even as it is entitled to more than its Upper Basin brethren. The state may simply not be able to turn its back on a huge, new source of water. (More on Colorado’s Flaming Gorge deliberations next time.)

Utah’s perspective may also be changing. Within the last year, the state engineer approved water-transfer that will result in a new and fairly substantial appropriation, also from the Green River. As I outlined before, the premise is similar to that which may also drive Colorado to the Green – an unused portion of its Colorado River allocation.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Reclamation’s EIS incorporated Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise which is now defunct

August 2, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“As I view it, there were firm commitments made on stormwater and the (SDS) contract requires that the environmental commitments are met,” Mike Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation said Wednesday, meeting with the editorial board of The Pueblo Chieftain.

In the SDS environmental impact statement, Reclamation states a stormwater enterprise is in place for Colorado Springs. The EIS laid the foundation for the 2010 contract for the project. The contract also incorporates all environmental conditions of Pueblo County’s 1041 landuse permit and state water quality measures. Connor’s goal is to assure the conditions are being met before 2016, when SDS is scheduled to go online. The $1 billion project would pipe water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West. Because Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009, no fees have been collected for the past three years. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs faces a $500 million backlog of stormwater projects and should be paying up to $15 million annually, according to City Attorney Chris Melcher.

“A plan is not enough,” Connor said. “We need to make sure the resources are there.”

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs is not alone in needing to fund stormwater improvements. El Paso County faces similar problems. Here’s a report from Scott Harrison writing for From the article:

Andre Brackin, the El Paso County Engineer, said the area, specifically the communities of Security and Widefield, have only a few drainage channels for runoff to drain into Fountain Creek.

Those communities were established in the 1950s and have grown since then, said Brackin. He estimated that addressing the area’s stormwater needs would cost $10 million — an amount the county can’t afford…

The lack of funds means the county also can’t afford to clear vegetation and rubbish out of the few existing drainage channels, such as the one along Widefield Boulevard…

Ultimately, said Brackin, local leaders must consider enacting some type of regional fee or tax to pay for stormwater improvements. He said the county has a backlog of as much as $100 million in needed improvements.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Pueblo County (Commissioner Jeff Chostner) rattles its sabers over Colorado Springs’ stormwater policies

August 1, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“When I looked at Fountain Creek this morning, I thought, ‘Here we are about to be hit by another flood, possibly this week, and they are doing nothing,’ ” Chostner said. “We need to see a good outline of next year’s (Colorado Springs) city budget that has $15 million directed toward stormwater funding.” When commissioners approved the 1041 permit for SDS in 2009, Colorado Springs had a stormwater enterprise in place. Council voted to end the enterprise in late 2009 after voters approved a ballot issue promoted by Doug Bruce, who called the stormwater fee a “rain tax.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A Chieftain editorial Monday asked Pueblo County commissioners to insist on a surcharge to Colorado Springs water rates on water provided by the Southern Delivery System that would raise $18 million a year to address the city’s $500 million in stormwater needs. Commissioners have some control through the county’s 1041 land-use regulations.

There are practical, but not insurmountable, hurdles to implementing a stormwater fee through water bills.
Colorado Springs Utilities policies, set by the Colorado Springs City Council, do not allow for a surcharge for stormwater fees. Fees for water service have to directly affect the water system, said spokesman Steve Berry.
“Utilities would not be able to do what the editorial suggested,” he said. “Stormwater would have to be a separate service, which we are open to if our customers and board directed us to do so.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Parker Water and Sanitation: ‘To cut from the budget without understanding what they’re doing is short-sighted’ — Mary Spencer

July 26, 2012


From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Mary Spencer, who was elected to the board of directors in 2006, sent a resignation letter to district manager Frank Jaeger June 29 that highlighted her growing frustration with the board…

When reached by phone July 16, Spencer said she became tired of her colleagues blaming past boards for a range of issues. Dissenters and “two sitting board members have made a disastrous decision to destroy not only the district but the reputations of past board members,” the letter said…

During the interview, Spencer also sharply criticized a recent decision to fire the water provider’s longtime lobbyists, whom she says have helped kill legislation that would have cost the district, and therefore ratepayers, millions of dollars. Spencer said the $48,000 that was paid annually to the lobbyists was well worth it. She also bemoaned the recent firing of Floyd Ciruli, a public relations specialist and political analyst who was contracted by the PWSD…

Spencer, whose term was set to expire in May 2014, said the decision to leave was difficult because she still believes in the district’s mission, but it was “not worth the stress” to deal with the fallout from the attempted board recall in 2009 and subsequent conduct that has had a “detrimental” affect on the water district.

More Parker coverage here and here.

The Colorado River District is on board with the Chatfield Reallocation Project

July 24, 2012


Here’s a letter from Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River Water Conservancy District, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Thanks to Mark Shively, Douglas County Water Authority, for sending it along in email.):

On behalf of the Colorado River Water Conservation District (River District), I am writing to express the District’s support for the proposed Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project as described in the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement (FR/EIS) for the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Study recently released for public comment.

The River District is the principal water policy and planning agency for the Colorado River Basin within the State of Colorado. The District is a public water policy agency chartered by the Colorado General Assembly in 1937 to be “the appropriate agency for the conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River and its principal tributaries in Colorado.” The River District provides legal, technical, and political representation regarding Colorado River issues for our constituents.

The River District has actively monitored the development of the Chatfield Reallocation Project since its inception. We believe this is a much needed and appropriate water supply opportunity for Colorado water providers.

The U.S. ACOE determined that Chatfield Reservoir can safely store an additional 20,600 acre feet of water without jeopardizing the reservoir’s original and authorized flood control purposes. This water is critically needed by various Colorado Front Range water providers. This reallocated storage space will allow several communities in the southern Denver metro area to more efficiently and effectively use existing water supplies and will reduce their current over-reliance on non-renewable groundwater supplies.

With this letter, the River District joins Colorado’s Congressional delegation, the Colorado General Assembly, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and others in support of this commonsense solution to additional water storage for consumptive use in Colorado. We support the Tentatively Recommended Plan in the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement on the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project and request that our letter be included in the record of public comments on this draft FR/EIS.

Additionally, we respectfully encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete its final review of the project and issue a Record of Decision in a timely manner so that requisite mitigation work can begin and additional consumptive use water can be stored in Chatfield Reservoir.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Douglas County forms a water and wastewater enterprise to fund infrastructure for renewable supplies

July 17, 2012


From the Castle Rock News Press (Rhonda Moore):

The board of county commissioners on July 10 established the Douglas County water and wastewater enterprise, opening the door to bring money to the table for long-term water development. The enterprise allows the county to issue revenue bonds secured by future revenues from water providers who pass muster, said Lance Ingalls, county attorney. The enterprise, through state statute, allows the county to issue the revenue bonds to qualifying providers on a project-by-project basis, Ingalls said…

The authority was focused primarily on advancing the water infrastructure and supply efficiency project that is pivotal to filling the Rueter-Hess reservoir, said Eric Hecox, authority spokesman…

“This enterprise is opening the door for the county to be a catalyst for partnership to meet our renewable water needs,” Hecox said. “Having a partner as big a player as the county gives us the opportunity to meet our regional long term challenges.”

The strength of the county’s borrowing power bumps the water game up a notch in Douglas County, said Jill Repella, commissioner, District 2. Repella was part of the conversations with providers who made it clear the county’s role is critical to the success of any effort toward bringing long-term water to Douglas County.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Denver District Court Judge Christina Habas dismisses Powertech’s challenge to Colorado’s in situ mining rules

July 17, 2012


From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Denver District Judge Christina Habas Friday rejected a lawsuit by Powertech, a Canadian-based uranium prospecting company proposing the 7,000- acre Centennial project near Nunn. The lawsuit challenged a list of rules governing the reclamation of mined land and the requirement of public and private comment during the permitting process. Powertech sued the state’s Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board, claiming the rules were “arbitrary and capricious.” Habas ruled Powertech’s allegations were baseless…

Powertech is disappointed in the judge’s ruling, said company attorney John Fognani said. The rules are far outside of the board’s powers, he said. “In addition, we are disappointed we didn’t have an opportunity to argue the decision before the judge,” said Fognani, noting Habas made her ruling on her final day as district judge. Powertech may appeal the ruling, he said,

The company, meanwhile, is postponing its work on the Centennial project as it concentrates operations in South Dakota.

From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

The suit, filed Nov. 1, 2011, argued that Colorado’s Mined Land Reclamation Board overreached its authority when it implemented new rules for mining operations in September 2010. The suit targeted rules governing groundwater protection and public involvement in mining permits…

“We are evaluating the decision and deciding whether to appeal,” Fongnani said. “We are disappointed in the decision because it doesn’t comport with the Administrative Procedures Act and the protections meant to be provided by the act to the regulated community as well as the environmental community.”[...]

“The Colorado uranium mining industry is wrong to keep fighting water quality protections and better public involvement,” Jeff Parsons, an attorney with the Western Mining Action Project who represented local communities that intervened in the case to defend the rules, said in a news release. “The people of Colorado have a right to be heard and will not accept mining projects that cannot protect the water.”

From the Associated Press via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Powertech attorney John Fognani said Monday the company is disappointed by the judge’s decision.

The company had envisioned having a mine in northern Colorado, where it would pump treated water underground to dissolve uranium and then pump it to the surface. It challenged new state requirements, including that it return the groundwater to its original purity when the process is completed.

Powertech alleged violations of the State Administrative Procedure Act, but a Denver judge on Friday rejected the company’s lawsuit challenging the rules.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

“Centennial is still a viable project,” said John Fognani, attorney for Powertech Uranium…

Jay Davis, a mine opponent and Centennial Project neighbor, said the future prospects of uranium mining in Northern Colorado appear to be poor after the lawsuit was dismissed.

The state’s groundwater restoration requirements make it nearly impossible for companies to mine uranium using a process called in situ leaching, said Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association.

He said that in situ leaching is very similar to the oil and gas industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing.

“It’s kind of ironic that fracking, which is not completely dissimilar technology, is occurring throughout Northern Colorado, and this one small uranium mining company has had to put the project on hold” because of difficulty seeking a mining permit, he said.

More coverage from Collin McRann writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The ruling holds up different rules and regulations put in place by decades of Colorado legislation. According to Parson, some of Colorado’s stricter mining laws have been influenced by studies and reviews of the Summitville Gold Mine and Superfund site in Rio Grande County. The mine went out of business in 1992 leaving masses of heavy metals and acids in soil and water supplies. The mine was listed as a Superfund site in 1994.

The state’s mining rules and requirements also apply to all types of uranium mines in terms of clean-up and contamination prevention.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jessica Maher):

Opponents of the in-situ technique, including the advocacy group Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction, say it threatens groundwater and would have health, environmental and economic impacts on Northern Colorado.

“The Colorado uranium mining industry is wrong to keep fighting water quality protections and better public involvement,” Jeff Parsons of the Western Mining Action Project said in a statement. “The people of Colorado have a right to be heard and will not accept mining projects that cannot protect the water.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline task force update: Have the committee members been spending too much time on problems?

July 16, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“There was a great deal of negativism in the first meetings, but at the last meeting we had a bit of a turnaround because we realized that we had not considered any of the positive things that would happen if we built Flaming Gorge,” Betty Konarski told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday. Konarski, a task force member who represents El Paso County on the roundtable, said the task force has been so busy trying to identify problems that it has neglected the other side of its mission: to evaluate the potential benefits of a new supply of water. The task force was formed to evaluate competing plans by Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million and the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

Denver District Court Judge Christina Habas dismisses Powertech’s challenge to Colorado’s in situ mining rules

July 15, 2012


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

In its lawsuit against the state, Powertech Uranium Corp. claimed that the Colorado exceeded its legal authority and that adoption of the rules was arbitrary and capricious.

By dismissing the lawsuit, the court also ensured that local communities will have a chance to be involved in the permitting of uranium mines.

“The Colorado uranium mining industry is wrong to keep fighting water quality protections and better public involvement,” said Western Mining Action Project attorney Jeff Parsons, who represented local communities that intervened on the side of the State in defending the rules against the Powertech lawsuit.

“The people of Colorado have a right to be heard and will not accept mining projects that cannot protect the water,” he said.

The lawsuit challenged a list of specific rules, each designed to ensure ground water protection as well as require public and local government involvement in the mine permit process. The rules were crafted over a two-year process and were supported by a diverse range of groups, including Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction (C.A.R.D.), Environment Colorado and other conservation groups statewide, Denver Water, multiple local governments and affected communities.

Southern Delivery System update: Next Pueblo County DA promises to continue lawsuit over the project water quality permit

July 6, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Jeff Chostner, who beat District Attorney Bill Thiebaut in the June 26 Democratic primary, said he will pursue a lawsuit now under appeal by the state and Colorado Springs. “It would not be judicially efficient to drop it,” Chostner said Thursday. “We will have the expertise to handle the case within our office.”[...]

“Assuming that it’s not resolved by the end of Bill’s term, we will continue with the case,” Chostner said.

Would he take the case to the state Supreme Court if the appeal goes in the state’s favor? “Let’s handle that one when the contingency arises,” Chostner said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force: Mixed views towards the feasibility of building the pipeline

June 23, 2012


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

On Friday, a task force of water interests from across Colorado charged to look into the feasibility of tapping the Green River met in Colorado Springs to discuss whether it’s possible or desirable to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline. While some on the task force said building a massive pipeline from western Wyoming to the Front Range would help restore the headwaters of the Colorado River while also preventing eastern Colorado farms from going dry, others were adamant that a Flaming Gorge pipeline is, at best, a project that could cause more strife than anything else…

“There’s been no real analysis of the environmental impacts,” [Chuck Wanner of Colorado Trout Unlimited] said, adding that he doesn’t believe that it’s possible for the task force to fully assess the feasibility of a Flaming Gorge pipeline by the end of the year.

Whatever project the state decides to build to bring more water to the Front Range, Colorado must tap all the Colorado River Basin water the state is entitled to, including Green River water, said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Water in Berthoud. That project, whether it’s a Flaming Gorge pipeline or something else, has to maximize currently-available infrastructure, and the proposed pipeline accomplishes that by using the Interstate 80 corridor in Wyoming, he said…

“The most important issue in this is whether or not a project unites the state,” said T. Wright Dickinson, a Brown’s Park rancher and former Moffat County commissioner. He said a Flaming Gorge pipeline as it is being envisioned would be too divisive to be built, doesn’t address what happens when Western Slope farmers need more water and isn’t adequate to address the state’s long-term water needs. Dickinson suggested an even bigger project: Tapping the Mississippi or Missouri rivers with a massive westbound pipeline…

The task force will meet once each month through December before making a final recommendation to state water regulators in January.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Reclamation moves test of new Pueblo Dam North Outlet Works to Monday

June 22, 2012


From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The flow test originally planned for the new outlet at Pueblo Dam…will now be held on Monday morning, June 25. No flow tests are planned for the weekend.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Western Resource Advocates Releases First Detailed Study on Water Requirements for Hydraulic Fracturing

June 21, 2012


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The analysis, presented Wednesday by the Boulder-based consultancy Western Resource Advocates, determined that the amount of water pumped into the ground for drilling wells and for hydraulic fracturing to coax out oil and gas is between 22,100 and 39,500 acre-feet each year. That’s enough for up to 296,100 people — or to meet most needs in Douglas County. “We’re already having trouble meeting our demands. Especially in a dry year like this, if this water is going to go into oil and gas wells, there’s going to be a loser,” said engineer Laura Belanger, author of the study. “Where’s this water going to come from? Municipalities? Agriculture? Are we going to have to make new diversions from rivers on the Western Slope?”

State regulators have estimated that fracking requires 13,900 to 16,100 acre-feet a year. State officials and industry advocates compare this with total water consumed in Colorado and emphasize it is less than 1 percent — due to the huge amount used to produce food. But drilling’s share is growing rapidly and now exceeds water diverted for ski area snowmaking.

More coverage from Kirk Siegler writing for KUNC. From the article:

For perspective, according to the group, 20-40 thousand acre feet is similar to the amount of water consumed in a year in a city the size of Fort Collins.

“In dry years like this one, and overtime as our populations grow, fracking water use will compete with municipal use,” said Laura Belanger, the report’s author.

Some cities in booming Weld County have been leasing their excess water to fracking companies; a move that’s generated hundreds of thousands in revenue in some areas.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Reclamation is testing the newly constructed North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam

June 21, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flows ranging from 5-1,100 cubic feet per second will be released from the new outlet works during the tests. It’s the first time the outlet has been used since construction.

The Arkansas River has been fed by releases from flood gates in the central portion of the dam during construction. River flows have been in the 400 cfs range below the dam recently.

The first test occurred Wednesday afternoon, and more tests are planned Friday and Tuesday, said spokeswoman Kara Lamb.

The Y-shaped outlet is being constructed by Colorado Springs Utilities as part of the Southern Delivery System. It will connect to a 90-inch diameter pipeline leading to a Pueblo West tap and the Juniper Pump Station, which will be constructed near the dam. The other pipeline will serve as the river outlet.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Western Resource Advocates Releases First Detailed Study on Water Requirements for Hydraulic Fracturing

June 20, 2012


Click here to go to the WRA website to download your copy of the report. Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

Western Resource Advocates (WRA) today released a new report on the amount of water needed for hydraulic fracturing in Colorado, providing the most comprehensive numbers available on the subject. In Fracking Our Future: Measuring Water and Community Impacts from Hydraulic Fracturing, researchers examined available data on water and fracking using Colorado as an example, and found that fracking requires enough water to otherwise serve the residential needs of the entire population of some of the state’s largest cities.

“It’s clear that we need to take a step back and make sure we aren’t over-allocating our most important natural resource one frack job at a time,” said Laura Belanger, Water Resources & Environmental Engineer with Western Resource Advocates and the lead author of the report. “While we need natural gas to transition to a cleaner energy future, we must have water to survive.”

Based on figures compiled from government and private industry sources, Fracking Our Future calculates that the amount of water used annually for hydraulic fracturing in Colorado (22,100 to 39,500 acre feet) is enough to meet the yearly residential needs of up to 296,100 people—more than the population of cities such as Cincinnati, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; or Orlando, Florida.

“It is a travesty that in a water-starved state like Colorado, we are using so much water for oil and gas drilling,” said Longmont resident Barbara Fernandez, who retired in 2011 after 24 years with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and has grown increasingly concerned about fracking near residential areas.

The report notes that it is particularly important to properly manage the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing because fracked water is 100% consumptive. Whereas 90-95% of indoor residential water returns (from uses such as showers and washing machines) eventually makes its way back into streams, frack water contains potentially harmful chemicals that must be disposed of in underground wells or pits.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (John Aguilar):

Water use by the oil and gas industry has come under greater scrutiny of late as the number of wells drilled in and near cities and towns in the state has exploded, prompting several municipalities to enact moratoria on new drilling activity. In 2010, there were more than 43,000 active wells in the state.

Reliance on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at those well sites has put even more strain on the water supply. Fracking involves injecting a water-sand-chemical mixture deep into the ground to force out pockets of natural gas trapped in tight rock formations.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the industry trade group, says fracking a typical vertical well requires up to 1 million gallons of water, while a horizontal well can require up to 5 million gallons. A spokeswoman for the group didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the report this morning.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: State Representative Sal Pace calls on Colorado Springs Utilities to halt construction

June 20, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pace sent a letter to Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach Monday calling for a halt to the $986 million SDS, now under construction…

“According to your own environmental documents, the SDS will increase Fountain Creek flows by 40 percent,” Pace wrote in the letter. “That increase will now take place without the protections in place that your city promised when you submitted the project to the Bureau of Reclamation for environmental review.”

As part of its 1041 land-use permit with Pueblo County, Colorado Springs agreed to meet requirements in a record of decision by the Bureau of Reclamation, which included a fully funded stormwater enterprise. “Temporarily stopping the project is the least that your city can do to guarantee the protections downstream communities morally and legally deserve,” Pace wrote.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

IBCC: Next Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting Friday in Colorado Springs

June 19, 2012


From email from Peak Facilitation Group (Heather Bergman):

…please find the agenda for Friday’s meeting of the Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee: Flaming Gorge. The meeting will be held from 10 am to 3 pm at the Pikes Peak Regional Council of Governments offices in Colorado Springs (15 S. 7th St..).

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: Objectors question the State Engineer’s authority to approve this season’s substitute water supply plan

June 1, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The case is one of the first major decisions facing newly appointed Division 2 Water Judge Larry Schwartz. “We think the state engineer has exceeded his statutory authority,” said Richard Mehren, attorney for the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association. LAWMA, along with the Amity Mutual Ditch Co., District 67 canals and Tri­State Generation and Transmission Co., filed the complaint last week in water court. It asks Schwartz to require the Super Ditch to file in water court in order to operate its pilot program…

The lawyers who filed the complaint say the Super Ditch transfer program have effects that would persist longer than five years — the return of groundwater to the Arkansas River. Mehren pointed out that the Super Ditch engineering shows this and LAWMA had to account for its own lagging return flows in a court case. Super Ditch engineers say recharge ponds would be put in place to account for the timing of return flows, and Wolfe agreed to the engineering design under a lengthy list of conditions. Several farms were eliminated from the plan because they could not meet recharge requirements, and in fact the pilot project’s scope was cut in half for that reason. Opponents also say the one-year pilot program sets a precedent, giving them little time to respond to claims made from one year to the next. They also point out the program could be renewed annually for another four years.

“We have an interest in keeping the water we think we have,” said Colin Thompson, a farmer on the Amity. “We’re out real money when we can’t irrigate, and we believe the burden of proof should be on the Super Ditch.” “LAWMA gets hurt in two ways,” said Don Higbee, manager of the well owners’ group. “We’re very cautious that our water rights won’t be depleted, but we also must make up flows at the state line.”

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: ‘Colorado has water available under the Colorado River Compact’ — Nathaniel Budd

May 31, 2012


Here’s a guest column written by Wyco Water and Power, Director of Business Development, Nathaniel Budd, running in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the column:

Colorado has water available under the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement among seven Colorado River basin states governing allocation of water rights for the Colorado River. Until Colorado’s apportionment is fully developed, the Lower Basin (California, Nevada, and Arizona) will benefit at the detriment of Colorado. For 90 years, our region has over-delivered to the Lower Basin, largely because the infrastructure does not exist to utilize the water supply available to this state. The water belongs to Colorado, not California…

Rather than develop waters allocated for the state’s beneficial use nearly 100 years ago, opponents of the Regional Watershed Supply Project would prefer to stunt economic growth and endanger the Upper Basin’s future water supply. If Colorado’s forefathers had been of this mindset, the eastern slope communities and the multi-billion-dollar agricultural base that supplies open spaces, preserves western culture, and provides innumerable environmental benefits would not exist as we know them today.

Meanwhile, here’s a report about FERC’s latest rejection of the pipeline’s preliminary permit, from Mary Bernard writing for the Vernal Express. From the article:

Aaron Milllion’s hydropower and water supply project, renamed the Wyco Power and Water Project was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on May 17. That’s the second refusal of the project’s preliminary permit request from FERC, preceded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ termination in 2011. FERC refused a rehearing on the decision saying, Million’s arguments were unsupported and no preliminary permit for its proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project would be issued…

The project has received widespread resistance from the private sector throughout the tri-state area. Formal opposition from Daggett and Uintah Counties, the Wyoming communities of Green River and Rock Springs, Sweetwater County, Wyo. and Moffatt County, Colo.

Local fly fishermen openly opposed the water project saying it would draw down reservoirs and destroy world class fisheries on the Green River and Flaming Gorge. High Desert Anglers president Jeff Taniguchi warned that the “Million Project would absolutely decimate one of the most beautiful places in Utah, and compromise every downstream user of water on the Green.”

Western Resource Advocates filed objections representing itself, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Castle Rock: Council releases 481 page analysis of long-term water supply proposals

May 27, 2012


From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

he 481-page summary was an indication of the job at hand for councilmembers tasked with one of the town’s most important financial decisions in years. “This is the first step in the process,” Town Manager Mark Stevens said. “This will involve multiple other meetings and opportunities for public input. This is a lot of information for everybody to start wrapping their arms around.”

The information included cost projections on full-scale, scaled-back and hybrid proposals from providers Renew Strategies, Stillwater Resources, United Water and the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project. Town staff enlisted the help of a team of water attorneys and engineers to help analyze the proposals from the four providers to arrive at a comparative analysis, said Ron Redd, utilities director.

The goal to find a renewable source of water is part of the town’s effort to wean itself of its groundwater supply and become 75 percent reliant on renewable water at the town’s anticipated buildout, Redd said.

From email from United Water and Sanitation District (Robert Lembke):

Castle Rock recently released a 425-page “Legacy Water Projects” report comparing the renewable water systems of the four applicants chosen by the town to submit proposals in August 2011. The Town’s consultants identified United as the only water system that is technically and legally capable of providing the town with 6,000 acre-feet of renewable water in a manner that is economically reasonable for its residents.

The report further confirmed that, by the year 2019, the United system becomes less expensive than the South Metro/WISE/Denver/Aurora proposal. The United system remains less expensive than WISE thereafter in perpetuity.

Under the United proposal, Castle Rock will possess ownership rights to 6,000 acre-feet of renewable water and water infrastructure while the South Metro/WISE/Denver/Aurora proposal leases the town only 3500 acre-feet of renewable water and infrastructure. Castle Rock’s report highlighted that Denver and Aurora would likely maximize their water deliveries to the town in the first few years of each decade, leading to the possibility of “no deliveries for 24 consecutive months” or “no significant deliveries during 35 consecutive months.”

The consultants also concluded that Denver and Aurora’s water delivery schedule under the WISE proposal could require South Metro to obtain up to 73,000 acre feet of storage in Rueter-Hess Reservoir in order to provide reliable water supplies to its members. Although Castle Rock already owns 8,000 acre feet of storage in the reservoir, the town would need to purchase an extra 17,550 acre feet of storage to survive the Denver/Aurora non-delivery years at an estimated additional cost of $87,775,000 – $140,400,000.

Finally, Castle Rock’s water attorneys and engineering consultants expressed serious reservations about any purchase of water from either Renew Strategies, L.L.C. (Lost Creek Basin water) or Stillwater Resources, Inc. (Box Elder Basin) due to significant issues related to the long-term reliability of the systems, lack of existing infrastructure, and poor water quality.

Copies of the Town’s engineering and legal reports discussing these matters in greater detail can be found on the United website.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Protect the Flows asks Governor Hickenlooper to put the kibosh on the project

May 23, 2012


Here’s the release from Protect the Flows.

118 West Slope businesses sent a letter this morning to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, expressing their opposition to the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline. The businesses are members of Protect the Flows, a coalition of over 500 small business owners in the seven state Colorado River region (AZ, CA, CO, NM, NM, UT, WY) who depend upon flows in the Colorado River and its tributaries that are adequate to support the recreation economy.

In the letter…Protect the Flows asks that the administration cease devoting state resources to studying the Flaming Gorge pipeline upon conclusion of the state’s special task force examining the project’s feasibility. As the task force has deliberated, troubling facts about the pipeline have continued to emerge, opposition to the pipeline has continued to grow, and federal agencies have continued to deny all permit attempts for the pipeline. Protect the Flows indicated that they would welcome a dialogue on water that welcomes and fosters ideas beyond the proposed pipeline and adequately accounts for the economic interests of the recreation and tourism industry. The task force, known formally as the Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee, is funded by a state grant issued by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and is scheduled to continue discussions through the end of 2012.

“The state’s task force is focused only on one increasingly controversial idea — the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal,” said Molly Mugglestone, Coordinator for Protect the Flows. “But to come up with the most effective solutions on future water usage we must apply a broader, more inclusive framework, like the one that was applied in achieving the newly completed agreement between Denver Water and West Slope interests.”

Protect the Flows recently released a report showing that the Colorado River and its tributaries support a quarter million American jobs and generates $26 billion annually in total economic output. In Colorado alone, the Colorado River supports about 80,000 jobs and about $9.6 billion in total economic output.

The proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline puts that economy in harm’s way. The plan would siphon 80 billion gallons each year from the Green River (a Colorado River tributary), which was recently declared the second most endangered river in America by American Rivers, for shipment to the Front Range. Moreover, the State of Colorado estimates that construction costs for the pipeline could reach $9 billion. An economic study by Western Resource Advocates indicated that the pipeline would take nearly a quarter of the Green River’s flow, which would result in a $58.5 million dollar annual loss to the region’s recreation economy. That same study reported that the water delivered to the Front Range by the pipeline would have to be sold at a price that is the most expensive in Colorado’s history (up to 10 times more than any existing project) because of the pipeline’s steep construction and operation costs.

“Construction of this pipeline would be devastating to the entire Colorado River System,” said Tom Kleinschnitz, President of Adventure Bound River Expeditions in Grand Junction, which employs 30 people. “The significant loss of flows in the Green River would dramatically impact the quality of river recreation and affect tourism for everyone downstream all the way to Mexico.”

Protect the Flows has committed to spend 2012 reminding Governor Hickenlooper and state officials that public resources would be better spent on more affordable solutions that support recreation industry jobs, such as improving water conservation efforts, water reuse and recycling, and better land-use planning and growth management.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

‘The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been rejected more often than a freshman before prom’ — Stacy Tellinghuisen (Western Resource Advocates)

May 19, 2012


It looks like Aaron Million will have to pony up the big bucks for engineering and attorney’s fees to flesh out his application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Here’s a report from Ben Neary writing for the Associated Press via the Fremont County Ranger. From the article:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday refused a request from Aaron Million of Fort Collins, Colo., to reconsider its February denial of his permit. In denying Million’s application in February, FERC said it was premature and lacked specifics about the proposed pipeline…

His plans have drawn opposition from Gov. Matt Mead as well as county and local governments in southwestern Wyoming and downstream states. “I continue to oppose this particular proposal and continue to believe that FERC is not the regulatory body to review Mr. Million’s proposal,” Mead said Thursday. “I am glad that FERC denied the request for a rehearing.”[...]

“We anticipated that they would not change the direction from the original response, part of the request frankly had to do with a clarification of issues related to their original decision,” Million said. “And indeed, they did clarify several things, and we now understand the rationale, in essence. They said the application was too broad.”

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water Inc., “presented no information in its permit application or its request for rehearing to indicate that the planning, routing or authorizations for the water conveyance pipeline are in progress or reasonably foreseeable,” FERC’s order said. Until Wyco can do that, the order said, there’s no point in issuing a preliminary permit…

Million said he expected this rejection and learned from the process. “They need some more specifics,” he said, estimating $5 million has been invested so far. “We’re pushing ahead. FERC will be involved at some point because they permit hydropower.”

From the Colorado Independent (Troy Hooper):

FERC deemed the application from Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water Inc., inadequate in February but Wyco returned the next month asking the agency to reconsider. “We are not persuaded by any of Wyco’s unsupported arguments that it should be issued a preliminary permit for its proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project,” the commissioners wrote in their decision. “Therefore, we affirm the February 23 Order and deny Wyco’s request for rehearing.”

Here’s a release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today re-affirmed its decision to deny a rehearing on a preliminary permit application for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. This is now the third time (in less than a year) that a federal agency has rejected plans for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been rejected more often than a freshman before prom,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, Water & Energy Policy Analyst at Western Resource Advocates. “It doesn’t matter how you try to alter the proposal, or whose name is on top. You can change the wording. You can change the font. You can print it on a different color paper. It’s still too expensive, too harmful to the environment, and just not necessary for meeting future water demands.”

In July 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers terminated its review of the pipeline proposal, prompting Million to shift his application request to FERC. On February 23, 2012 FERC denied a preliminary permit application for the pipeline proposal, and on March 23 Million requested a “rehearing and clarification.” In a decision released this morning, FERC stated:

We are not persuaded by any of Wyco’s unsupported arguments that it should be issued a preliminary permit for its proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project. Therefore, we affirm the February 23 Order and deny Wyco’s request for rehearing.

Said Robert Harris, Staff Attorney with Western Resource Advocates: “Enough is enough. This is a strong signal to the State of Colorado to focus more time and attention on proposals that — unlike the Pipeline — are more ripe for serious consideration.”

Million had been seeking a federal permit from FERC to review his ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) proposal to pump 81 billion gallons of water a year for more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—all at a projected cost of $9 billion dollars (according to CWCB calculations). Western Resource Advocates (WRA) filed objections to the application in representing itself, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC); in total, more than 5,000 objections were filed in December 2011 to Wyco’s proposal.

Opposition to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline has continued to grow since December. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has formally objected to the proposal, as have numerous local governments in both Colorado and Wyoming (such as Grand Junction, CO and Laramie, WY).

Here’s a release from Earth Justice (McChrystie Adams):

Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) closed the door on what will hopefully be the last attempt to permit the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. FERC denied a request for rehearing from Aaron Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water, Inc.—an attempted “do-over” on FERC’s earlier denial of a preliminary permit. The Colorado developer has spent several years, and a claimed $5 million, attempting to launch this ill-conceived boondoggle. His proposal has been met with stiff opposition from conservation groups, individuals, and local communities and businesses. Now, FERC has provided a point-by-point refutation of Wyco’s application and rehearing request, and left no doubt that this pipeline remains a pipe dream.

FERC’s order recognized that the Flaming Gorge Pipeline proposal is poorly defined, and the approval process would be “difficult and lengthy” due to the opposition and controversy surrounding the project. As a result, FERC states that it would be premature to issue the permit for the project at this time. Importantly, FERC also made clear that it would not license the entire 501-mile water conveyance project. FERC is now the second agency to reject Mr. Million’s attempts to review and approve the Pipeline, following the Army Corps of Engineers’ termination of its review of the project in 2011.

McCrystie Adams, staff attorney for Earthjustice, had the following statement on FERC’s action:

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would be one of the biggest, most expensive, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States. FERC got it right when they dismissed the permit application, and got it right again today when they denied Mr. Million’s rehearing request. We hope this will finally put an end to Mr. Million’s attempt to profit at the expense of one of the West’s last great rivers and the fish and wildlife, as well as the local economies, which depend on it.

“This project—and any similar, large-scale transbasin diversions—is the worst way to meet Colorado’s water challenges. Such a project is unnecessary and distracts us from the important work we must do to build a secure water future. Unfortunately, we cannot be confident that this project is dead until Mr. Million and those who might follow his path abandon this futile scheme. We will continue to work to ensure that the Green River is protected and that this and other assaults on the West’s rivers do not succeed.”

The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a massive transbasin water supply project that would annually take approximately 81 billion gallons (250,000 acre-feet) of water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River and pipe it more than 500 miles over the Continental Divide to Colorado’s Front Range and southeastern Wyoming. This diversion would have devastating impacts on the native fish and wildlife in the Green and Colorado Rivers, batter regional recreational opportunities and jobs that depend on river flows, and potentially be a fatal blow to one of the West’s last great rivers. The plight of the Green River and the impacts of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline were highlighted this week when American Rivers declared it #2 on its list of “most endangered rivers” in the United States.

After an attempt at permitting through the Army Corps of Engineers was rejected last year, Aaron Million’s new company Wyco Power and Water, Inc. turned to the FERC. In February, FERC, acting well within its discretion and following its governing regulations, dismissed Wyco’s preliminary permit application as “premature.”

FERC, in its review of the preliminary permit application, rightly found that Wyco would be unable to gain the many authorizations and the design certainty necessary to file a license application within the three year permit term. Again failing to take “no” for an answer, Wyco then requested a rehearing, yet failed to provide any meaningful evidence or arguments that FERC got it wrong the first time. FERC’s ruling today upheld its earlier finding and left it clear that Wyco’s application is without merit.

Earthjustice had intervened in FERC’s preliminary permit review and filed papers urging the agency to deny the rehearing request. Earthjustice represents a coalition of ten conservation groups with interests throughout the Colorado River Basin: Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Rocky Mountain Wild, Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, Glen Canyon Institute, Living Rivers: Colorado Riverkeeper, and Utah Rivers Council.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The controversial Flaming Gorge pipeline (formally known as the regional water supply project) was initially under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but partway through that process, proponent Aaron Million switched gears and asked the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission to review the proposal as an energy generating project.

FERC rejected the application once and Million subsequently appealed that decision under an administrative procedure. This week’s FERC ruled denies his appeal and appears to put the project on hold, at least for now.
The proposal garnered widespread opposition from businesses that rely on recreational flows in regional rivers and streams, collectively represented by Protect the Flows.

“The thousands of people in our region whose jobs depend upon a strong Colorado River system dodged another bullet today, but it’s time to move beyond this threat once and for all,” said the group’s coordinator, Molly Mugglestone. “Enough time and public money has been spent fixating on this one controversial idea, it’s time to bring people together to come up with a smarter way forward.”

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said in a statement Thursday that the order “confirms that it is premature to issue Wyco a preliminary permit for its seven proposed hydropower developments.”

Miller said Wyco presented no information in its permit application or its appeal to show that Wyco has permission from landowners to build the pipeline across their property.

“Until Wyco is able to do so, there is no point in issuing a preliminary permit for the hydropower developments because Wyco would be unable to study the feasibility of, and prepare a license application for, a project whose location has not been sufficiently narrowed,” the statement said.

From (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

The application for Wyco to study the feasibility of the pipeline — described officially as the Regional Watershed Supply Project — lacked concrete information such as the route or if any authorizations from land managers had been sought, according to the FERC decision. Also incomplete were details about the locations of its proposed hydropower stations. Aaron Million, a Fort Collins, Colo., entrepreneur who is pushing the project, said trying to provide that kind of detail this early in the process is premature — it needs more research…

Wyco has 60 days to file an appeal of Thursday’s decision with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Million on Friday said the latest ruling has given his team a better understanding of what it must include in its formal application. “We’ll address the issues and keep heading through the permitting process,” he said.

Large engineering construction firms involved in the project remain interested, he added. He declined to name them, citing confidentiality agreements. The pipeline would help meet the water needs of Colorado, which faces a water supply shortfall, Million said. It also would bolster flows in the Poudre River.

Finally, Chris Woodka talked to Aaron Million. The entrepreneur remains focused, according to Mr. Woodka’s report. From the article:

“We plan to move forward and will submit a more complete application,” Million said. He added that he is continuing to secure financing for the project.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: The CWQCC will appeal judge’s ruling for project water quality permit

May 16, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission voted unanimously Monday to appeal the decision. The commission approved staff certification under section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act in 2010, after the decision was protested by Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition…

“The 401 certification was fully discussed and we’re convinced we made the right decision, controls are in place and that Colorado Springs is in compliance,” said John Klomp, a former Pueblo County commissioner who sits on the state water quality board. Colorado Springs Utilities will join the state in the appeal, said spokeswoman Janet Rummel.

“We agree with the state of Colorado that the Pueblo district court decision was erroneous and believe the court of appeals will affirm the Colorado Water Quality Control Division’s issuance of the 401 water quality certification for SDS,” Rummel said…

Ross Vincent, of the local Sierra Club and the coalition, said the state decision is not appropriate. “The Water Quality Control Commission’s decision makes no sense to me,” Vincent said. “The state did a really sloppy job in its first review of the water quality impacts of SDS. The facts are pretty clear, and that’s why Judge Reyes ruled the way he did. It would be simpler, faster, and a whole lot less expensive for the state to go back to the drawing board and do the thorough water quality review that the law requires.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.

Voters ask for policy changes from Parker Water and Sanitation Board

May 14, 2012


From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Tracy Hutchins (2,714 votes), Bill Wasserman (2,572) and Kelly McCurry (2,591) were all voted to the water district’s board of directors May 8. Hutchins and Wasserman have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the board’s way of doing business.

Kelly McCurry, who has been in the water and sanitation industry for 22 years, believes his expertise could help guide the agency into the future, but also says that spending could be reined in. He said water bills could potentially be lowered through a change in oversight. McCurry said he is frustrated with the seeming lack of transparency while he tried to conduct research…

“We are really going to work on governance and accountability to the customers,” Hutchins said. “We’re going to do a top-to-bottom analysis of the organization as a whole and do same thing on the financial side.”[...]

Wasserman, who got involved in a recall election when the district tried to raise rates by 28 percent in 2009, said public input will be a large part of going forward. “Looking at the election results last night, it was a clear mandate from the populace: they want change,” he said.

More Parker coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: ‘Colorado Springs remains in compliance, and is in regular contact with Reclamation’ — Kara Lamb via the Chieftain

May 11, 2012


Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. [ed. The link does not take you to the article in the Chieftain's new format as of 5:11 AM. I had to scroll through the online paper to find it.] Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado Springs remains in compliance, and is in regular contact with Reclamation, spokeswoman Kara Lamb said this week. “Reclamation has not issued a permit. We are not a regulating agency,” Lamb explained. “What we have done is enter into a series of contracts with Colorado Springs Utilities and the other SDS participants.

“The contracts are based on the environmental compliance measures outlined in the final Environmental Impact Statement and associated record of decision and permits issued by other entities which do have regulating authority.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

‘It just speaks to how increasingly difficult it is to get a project like this put on line’ — Janet Rummel (Colorado Springs Utilities)

May 6, 2012


From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Even with recent good news regarding interest rates, SDS is going to cost ratepayers about $1.6 billion, including interest. Complications, of course, could drive the cost higher. And quite a few have been popping up lately.

A contrary court ruling. A competing reservoir plan. Skirmishes over access to engineer the 60-mile line from Pueblo Reservoir. Unresolved deals for real estate and trenching.

Utilities thought it was home-free last year after negotiating a long-term storage deal in Pueblo Reservoir with the federal government. It’s already installed 20 miles of pipe and acquired 63 percent of the roughly 300 parcels it needs. So what could go wrong?

Plenty, apparently.

“It just speaks to how increasingly difficult it is to get a project like this put on line,” Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel says. “At this time, we believe we can continue to manage these risks within the approved budget.”

More coverage from Chris Vanderveen writing for From the article:

The Southern Delivery System will, when completed in 2016, bring 78 million gallons of water a day from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs.

Major construction began on the 60-mile pipeline last year.

“Colorado Springs Utilities has been planning on the Southern Delivery System since really the late 80s,” SDS spokesperson Janet Rummel said. “It’s really going to help insulate us from a drought like we saw in 2002.”

It’s impossible not to notice the massive project in Pueblo West. Construction crews are feverishly digging trenches to house the pipeline. It’s often grueling work, requiring crews to dig into land that is flush with rock…

What is clear is that the project is providing much-needed relief for a construction industry that has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Jared Nessler works for HCP Constructors and is based out of Pueblo West. “We started working on SDS early in 2011,” he said. This job, he said, is right in his backyard.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Parker: The quest for a sustainable water supply leads to political fallout over Rueter-Hess Reservoir and water rights purchases

May 6, 2012


From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Tracy Hutchins, who served on Parker Town Council for eight years, has turned her attention to what she believes is negligence by the water district’s top authorities. She is decrying, among other dealings, the $7.7 million investment in farms and water rights in the Sterling area because she says the district has no way to transport the water back to Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a $105 million project that PWSD officials say is vital for storing water for Douglas County’s future. Instead of relying on underground aquifers that are rapidly being depleted, Parker Water planned Rueter-Hess as a mechanism to store water from wet years for use during times of drought. PWSD customers voted in 2004 to approve a bond issue that would use tap fees from ongoing development to pay for the reservoir construction. Hutchins says many Parker residents don’t know that when the real estate market crashed, the ratepayers were suddenly on the hook for the tab, which now stands at $97 million.

“In the bond election, we said we would use all means and methods necessary, including a tax increase in the event we could not make payments,” said Jim Nikkel, project manager and assistant district manager for PWSD. The quasi-governmental agency raised its mill levy for the 2011 tax year. Nikkel says water rate increases offset rising utility costs and don’t pay for the reservoir debt.

Hutchins says poor planning has saddled Parker’s water customers with debt, and the reservoir, which was officially opened in March, has only a puddle of water in it.

More Parker coverage here and here.

Pueblo County officials plan to hold Colorado Springs Utilities feet to the fire for stormwater improvements for Fountain Creek

May 5, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

SDS, a pipeline under construction from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County, needs the federal permit in order to take water from Lake Pueblo.
The federal permit also is a key element of the Pueblo County 1041 permit issued in March 2009. In a letter to Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and City Council President Scott Hente, the commissioners point out that council assured Pueblo County it would develop a replacement source of funding when it abolished the stormwater enterprise in December 2009.

“Now 2 1/2 years later, the city has yet to establish assured stormwater funding,” Commissioners Anthony Nunez, Jeff Chostner and John Cordova wrote in the letter sent Thursday. “Colorado Springs is the largest municipality in the state of Colorado without a stormwater enterprise or other assured mechanism to maintain and improve stormwater infrastructure.”

The letter makes it clear that there could be implications for the 1041 permit, a warning that Colorado Springs City Attorney Chris Melcher told the mayor and council about last month.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch pilot project is good to go for this water year

May 3, 2012


The State Engineer can approve a substitute water supply plan if certain conditions are met. The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch pilot project is good to go this water year now that the SEO has blessed the scaled-back plan. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Many people said we’d never get this far in 20 years, but we’ve managed to do it in just four years,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which is funding Super Ditch program. “This will be a benefit to every farmer in the Lower Arkansas Valley.” The transfer is seen as a test case for a much larger program that would move larger amounts of water from as many as seven ditches east of Pueblo. Under Super Ditch, water could be leased by farmers to cities, the state or even farmers on other canals without selling water rights…

Wolfe rejected an assertion by Tri-State Generation and Transmission that a water court filing must precede the substitute water supply plan, saying he has statutory authority to issue a permit as long as all conditions are met. He also rejected Tri-State’s claim that some of the return flows from the transfer will lag more than five years. The Super Ditch plans to build ponds to return water to the river over multiple years, just as the water historically would have run off the fields. The pilot program follows accepted ways to return flows to the river, Wolfe said.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million’s homes in Fort Collins are in foreclosure, ‘This is completely isolated from everything we’re doing on the business side,’ — Aaron Million

May 1, 2012


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Owing about $1.8 million on two Fort Coll-ins properties, water project financier Aaron Million’s two Fort Collins homes are listed in foreclosure, which includes a West Oak Street home listed as the business address for Wyco Power and Water, according to Larimer County Assessor and Colorado Secretary of State records…

Larimer County property records show a home owned by Million Agricultural Investments Ltd. at 1436 W. Oak St., was listed in foreclosure in February with a scheduled sale set for June 6. The property is listed as a home and business address by Million with the Colorado Secretary of State. County records show Million is delinquent in his payments on the property, for which Million Agricultural Investments owes $553,814 to Verus Bank of Commerce. The home, he said Monday, is a personal residence owned by a partnership with his parents, who have fallen on hard financial times. Knowledge of the foreclosure, which is public record and has been published in legal ads in at least one other regional newspaper recently, “has effects on my kids and my family,” Million said. “This is completely isolated from everything we’re doing on the business side.”[...]

Million’s 9,900 square-foot-home on Stargazer Court in northwest Fort Collins also is listed in foreclosure, with a scheduled sale date of Oct. 31.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: ‘Pueblo will not pay for the failure of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise’ — Jeff Chostner

May 1, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re paying five times per capita in Pueblo County, while El Paso County has five times the resources,” Chostner said. “Pueblo will not pay for the failure of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise. This has implications for the 1041 permit.”

The Fountain Creek board got its first look at a regional stormwater study by Summit Economics that suggests a coordinated regional approach is needed to meet a backlog of more than $750 million in stormwater management needs. The study, which will be finalized after the sponsors have a chance to review it, also points out that Colorado Springs pays only $4.63 per capita for stormwater protection, less than one-tenth of the Front Range average. Pueblo pays $25.81 per capita.

Chostner, who guided the Fountain Creek board away from contributing any money to the study, was adamant that it is not Pueblo’s responsibility to pay for stormwater projects in Colorado Springs, which abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009. As part of 2009 Pueblo County 1041 conditions, Colorado Springs agreed to provide $50 million to the district over five years after SDS goes online in 2016. Chostner balked at the economists’ suggestion that some of that money could defray stormwater costs. “This board decides how to spend that,” he said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

How would the State Engineer administer diversions with respect to the Flaming Gorge pipeline?

April 30, 2012


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“I just laid out the options we have if either Flaming Gorge plan were to move forward,” State Engineer Dick Wolfe said following a meeting last week of the Flaming Gorge Task Force in Grand Junction. The options include special legislation to cover bringing water from outside the state, an agreement between the states or state rules on water imports…

Wolfe is concerned that a pipeline could inadvertently injure Colorado water rights. Prompted by Million’s plan, Wolfe talked to the Colorado legislative interim committee on water resources last year about the possibility of legislation…

Colorado already has agreements with Wyoming and Utah on how to administer specific rights that cross state lines. Those involve smaller quantities of water than Flaming Gorge would divert, and neither targets a specific water right. Under an agreement, Colorado would be able to ask Wyoming to curtail diversions if they threatened rights on the Colorado River within Colorado. There could also be impacts to the Colorado River Compact, among seven states, that could affect Flaming Gorge diversions. “We don’t want Wyoming making judgments on how much water we have left to develop under the compact,” Wolfe said…

“It would involve a very public process, and would create the conditions for importing water,” Wolfe said. “Right now we have no venue to do that.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

IBCC: The Flaming Gorge Task Force March 27 meeting notes are hot off the press

April 27, 2012


From email from Peak Facilitation (Heather Bergman):

…please find the summary of the March 27 meeting of the Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee: Flaming Gorge here.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: FERC is reviewing Wyco Water and Power’s request for a rehearing for the project’s preliminary permit

April 26, 2012


From Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filed a notice Monday saying it needs more time to study a request for a rehearing filed by Aaron Million’s Wyco Power and Water Co.
While notice was titled “Order Granting Rehearing for Further Consideration,” it did not in fact approve a rehearing on the entire pipeline project, FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said [ed. emphasis mine]…

“All the notice meant was that the commission needed additional time to consider the rehearing request. If there was no action, the request would have been denied,” Miller said. “The commission is still reviewing the request.”

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Mark Wilcox):

The rehearing comes despite multiple protests from environmentalist groups, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Sweetwater County, Colorado Springs Utilities and others. Opponents claim it would damage the ecosystem surrounding Flaming Gorge, thereby damaging the $118 million local outdoor economy.

In his rehearing request, Million invoked the approved, 139-mile Lake Powell Pipeline, which will cost $1.064 billion and be finished in 2020. He said his preliminary proposal was similar to the Lake Powell Pipeline, but while Lake Powell got a green light, Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. was stopped on red.

“The commission’s order implies that the final pipeline alignment, all authorizations to construct the pipeline and even the construction of the pipeline should be completed prior to filing an application for a preliminary permit” Million’s rehearing request said.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


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