Muddy Mine Waters Spill into Sneffels Creek in Ouray County

October 30, 2014


Reclamation Releases the Final Environmental Assessment for Two Salinity Control Projects

October 15, 2014

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south


Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it has released a final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for two proposed salinity control projects. The documents assessed and addressed the potential effects of the Bostwick Park Water Conservancy District’s Siphon Lateral Salinity Control Project in Montrose County, Colorado and the Forked Tongue/Holman Ditch Company’s Salinity Control Project located in Delta County, Colorado.

The Bostwick Park Project will pipe 1.76 miles of existing earthen ditch and will result in an annual reduction of 413 tons of salt contributions to the Colorado River. The Forked Tongue/Holman Ditch Project will pipe 1.89 miles of existing earthen ditch and will result in an annual reduction of 412 tons of salt contributions to the Colorado River. The purpose of both projects is to improve the efficiency of water delivery to canal users and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.


Wringing juice from irrigation canals — Mountain Town News

October 15, 2014
South Canal hydroelectric site

South Canal hydroelectric site

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

In 1909, President William Howard Taft arrived in Montrose on a train to dedicate one of the federal government’s first reclamation projects. With aid of federal funds, a 5.8-mile tunnel was bored from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River to divert water onto the fertile fields of the Uncompahgre Valley.

Even when the portly president (he weighed 340 pounds and once overflowed a bathtub), there was talk in Montrose about harnessing the power of fast-moving water to produce electricity. Emerging from the Bureau of Reclamation’s tunnel from April through October, the time of irrigation, the water churns with great power as it tumbles toward the 80,000 acres of irrigation around the towns of Montrose and Delta.

At long last, electrical production began last year. The first small hydroelectric plant began generation in June 2013 and the second two months later. Both were developed by Delta-Montrose Electrical Association. Together, the two units can produce 7.5 megawatts of electricity.

Two more are now being built, both by a private company called Shavano Falls Hydro. They are expected to be completed in spring of 2015 and produce a maximum 7.6 megawatts.

The four units altogether will produce 15.1 megawatts.

Delta-Montrose will sell the power to co-op members, while Shavano will sell the power to Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. Among others, MEAN sells energy to the municipalities of Delta and Aspen.

Jim Heneghan, renewable electricity engineer for Delta-Montrose, says the return on investment is 11 years. However, a better way of calculating the investment may be that it produces electricity for 3 cents per kilowatt hour more cheaply than the power delivered by wholesale supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Both these figures are without a rate increase in the wholesale price. Coal-fired electricity has been rising rapidly in cost, however. The water will be essentially free and the turbines should last at least 50 years before they need to be retooled.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.


Reclamation Releases the Final Environmental Assessment for Developing Hydropower at Drop 4 of the South Canal

September 5, 2014
Uncompahgre River watershed

Uncompahgre River watershed

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it has released a final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for a hydropower project at Drop 4 of the South Canal, part of the Uncompahgre Project in Montrose, Colorado.

The project, proposed by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, will be located at existing Reclamation facilities on the South Canal. A Lease of Power Privilege will authorize the use of federal facilities and Uncompahgre Project water to construct, operate, and maintain a 4.8 megawatt hydropower facility and 1.27 miles of associated interconnect power lines.

The hydropower plant will operate on irrigation water conveyed in the South Canal, and no new diversions will occur as a result of the hydropower project. Construction activities and operation of the hydropower plant will not affect the delivery of irrigation water.

The final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact is available on our web site or a copy can be received by contacting Reclamation.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.


Uncompahgre River: Float Highlights River Improvements, Future Visions — The Watch

August 28, 2014

From The Watch (William Woody):

Last Sunday [August 17, 2014], under beautiful sunny skies, members of the Friends of the River Uncompahgre (FORU) hosted a tour of the river from boats launched at an access point behind Chipeta Lake to a take-out near Taviwach Park on the city’s north side.

The tour was developed to give local officials and residents a first-hand experience of the river since improvements were made along its banks earlier this year; the improvements will continue in 2015 as part of the city’s continuing Uncompahgre River Master Plan, completed in 2011.

Along with local boaters, officials from the city, county, Bureau of Land Management, Parks and Wildlife and the Montrose Recreation District clambered into rafts and kayaks for the three-hour float.

Along the way, wooden markers on the river’s banks highlighted both public and private property boundaries bordering the water. Officials and residents are continuing to brainstorm ideas for possible public-property development. With a trained eye, one could see the next phases of the river master plan, which includes the addition of a whitewater park set for construction next year.

The whitewater park will be located between the pedestrian bridge in Baldridge Park and the West Main Street Bridge.

Due to the rising popularity of river sports, the trend in adding whitewater parks has continued in recent years in sites across the country as a way to draw more visitors.

“We wanted to get some ideas on how we make the river safe for families,” said Montrose City Manager Bill Bell. “We’re really trying to give locals who like the fishing or the outdoor recreation a chance to come and do that in a family friendly environment. But we also want to attract visitors and tourists.”[...]

Durango added its “watermark” years ago, incorporating its downtown with the Animas River through boardwalks and a variety of businesses. Unlike Durango, the Uncompahgre River is fed with water from the Ridgway Reservoir and the Gunnison Tunnel. This means water levels can be more sustainable throughout the year, whereas the Animas runs very low later in the summer.

The sustainable water flow offers the potential for Montrose to become a destination for whitewater companies and guides, allowing them to teach and float later in the season.

Another reason for the whitewater park is to give boaters a safer place to have fun in the rapids. With local knowledge, boaters can learn to ride the famed “M-Wave,” a large, continuous whitewater wave located on the south canal, east of Montrose. Using the park – at least at first – and avoiding the M-Wave will reduce the risk of injury, lawsuits and fatalities, according to officials…

In February, heavy equipment and surveyors with Evergreen-based Ecological Resources Consultants, Inc., spent weeks digging out a 1,500-foot stretch of the river to improve fishing habitat. The work took place directly south of the fishing bridge in Baldridge Park behind the park’s softball fields.

Re-shaping the river’s channel will not only improve the fishing habitat but also riparian wildlife areas along with entire river corridor, according to Renzo DelPiccolo of Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Montrose…

Through grants, lottery funds and city contributions, the cost of renovating the river corridor has amounted to about $900,000 so far, according to Bell.

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here.


No more fluoride dosing for Uncompahgre Water

August 9, 2014

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south


From The Watch (William Woody):

Last week, the Project 7 Water Authority, which provides drinking water to the Montrose, Olathe and Delta communities (and the Menoken, Chipeta and Tri-State water districts, as well) stopped using sodium silicofluoride in its water treatment to boost fluoride levels.

At Monday’s work session of the Montrose City Council, Public Works Director John Harris explained he has already received some positive comments about the change. Harris, who also sits on the Project 7 board, said the supply of sodium silicofluoride, produced by a manufacture in Louisiana, was interrupted due to hurricane Katrina in 2005. He said that supply never recovered, leaving municipalities in the United States looking elsewhere, including China.

In July — just as supplies were running out — Harris said the Project 7 board voted in favor to end the practice.

“I’m not willing to take a risk on a Chinese-based project,” Harris told The Watch Monday. “Something would have to change to make us rethink that.”

Harris said residents can use supplemental fluoride found in toothpastes and mouthwashes, but because of the shortage, fluoride “just wouldn’t be added to the drinking water.”

Although fluoride can occur naturally, sodium silicofluoride has been used in America’s public drinking water for more than half a century, for prevention of tooth decay.Studies published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest there has been an 18-to-40 percent reduction in cavities, in children and adults, as a direct result of water fluoridation.

In a press release, Project 7 said “sodium silicofluoride will no longer be added to boost the naturally occurring fluoride in the water to the “optimum level” as defined by the EPA…

“We can no longer obtain sodium silicoflouride that is manufactured in the USA, with the only supplier being China,” ” said Adam Turner, manager of Project 7. “We are not comfortable with the long-term quality control of the product we would be adding.”

According to the Project 7 website, water supplied to Project 7 from the Blue Mesa Reservoir contains a concentration range of naturally occurring fluoride (from 0.15 to 0.25 mg/l); the EPA limit of fluoride in water is 4 mg/l. Consuming levels higher than 4 mg/l, the EPA states, can cause bone disease and, for children, pits in their teeth…

For more information visit: http://www.project7water.org. or call 970/249-5935.

More water treatment coverage here.


A rise in alternative energy demand has led to a fourth hydroelectric power facility on South Canal — The Watch

August 4, 2014

southcanalhydroelectricsitethetelluridewatch

From The Watch (William Woody):

A rise in alternative energy demand has led to a fourth hydroelectric power facility now in the planning stages for the South Canal, east of Montrose.

The Delta-Montrose Electrical Association currently operates two facilities, at Drop 1 and Drop 3, with plans for a facility on Drop 2.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its draft environmental assessment for yet another proposed hydropower project, at Drop 4. Drops 1 and 3 is currently producing approximately 6.5 megawatts of power this summer, according to James Heneghan, renewable energy engineer for DMEA.

The proposed Drop 4 location, 0.8 miles downstream from the existing Drop 3 hydropower plant that was completed last year, drops approximately 71 ft. from Drop 3 to Drop 4. With a fourth facility, water would be diverted into a penstock and through the hydropower plant and returned to the canal to meet mounting irrigation delivery demands downstream.

The project also includes 1.27 miles of new overhead interconnection line across federal Bureau of Land Management and Reclamation lands.

“The purpose of the Drop 4 Hydropower Project is to develop a 4.8 megawatt (MW) hydropower plant on the South Canal at Drop 4 to provide a clean, renewable energy source that is locally controlled,” according to the bureau’s assessment. “Current federal policy encourages non-federal development of environmentally sustainable hydropower potential of Federal water resource related projects.”

The project, proposed by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association and a private developer, and would not affect the seasonal delivery of irrigation water.

Like Drops 1 and 3, the power generated at Drop 4 would be handled by DMEA, and transmitted to the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska.

“The electricity generated by the Project would provide the UVWUA with an additional source of revenue that can be used to defray annual operating expenses and assist in the maintenance and improvement of the Uncompahgre Project,” according to the assessment.

Structural plans for Drop 4 call for a new concrete intake canal connecting to an intake structure; a metal bar trash screen would remove debris as the water is forced into a 10-ft. pipe and flushed 1,347-ft. downstream to a new 30-ft. by 40-ft. powerhouse with a power generating turbine. It’s the same method now used in Drops 1 and 3…

When completed, the Drop 4 station could produce about 15,744 megawatt hours of energy per year, with an offset reduction of 32,000,000 to 34,000,000 pounds of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

On May 14 of this year, a Preliminary Lease of Power Privilege was entered into by the UVWUA and the Bureau of Reclamation for the project, putting it on the fast track. “I would say with the promise of privilege being drafted, Drop 4 will be competed before Drop 2,” Heneghan told The Watch this week…

Amendment 37 to the Colorado Constitution established a Renewable Energy Standard, an initiated state statute approved by voters in 2004, requires Colorado providers of retail electric services serving over 40,000 customers to secure a minimum percentage of electricity from renewable energy sources (such as wind, solar, and hydroelectricity to be 10 percent) by 2020. DMEA is close to achieving that standard, thanks in large part to the two existing South Canal projects. The Drop 2 project could be the next addition of renewable energy to DMEA’s portfolio, Heneghan said.

Wholesalers, like Tri-State Generation have to reach 20 percent by 2020.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html, or a copy can be received by contacting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Comments can be submitted to the Terry Stroh at the email address above, or to Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501, up until Aug. 8. The bureau will consider all comments received by that date, prior to preparing a final environmental assessment.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.


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