Radiometer near Mancos used to forecast cloud-seeding potential

April 5, 2014
Calibrating the radiometer via The Durango Herald

Calibrating the radiometer via The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

On Monday meteorologist, Marta Nelson, installed a temporary radiometer at Jackson Lake near the Mancos Water Conservancy District. The instrument is able to determine the best combination of water content in clouds and temperature to use a cloud-seeding generator.

Cloud-seeding generators throw up silver iodide into the atmosphere to harvest the extra water because snow will form around it.

“We can see relative humidity and vapor and the potential for a cloud to form. We can also see inside a cloud that’s already formed, so if we’re looking for liquid water versus ice that is frozen in the cloud the radiometer can tell the difference and help tell the cloud-seeding people when to run the generators or when it’s not going to do any good,” she said. Nelson works for Radiometrics Corp., based in Boulder, which installs similar machines all over the world.

The new data also will help scientists decide if the local cloud-seeding generator at Spring Creek should be run later into the winter season, said Jeff Tilley, director of weather modification at the Desert Research Institute in Reno. The institute operates the local cloud-seeding generator remotely. The data collected over the next month will be applied to operations next winter because the Spring Creek generator is almost out of cloud-seeding solution, he said.

The institute is collaborating with the Colorado Water Conservation Board on the project, and the board is paying the $8,500 to lease the radiometer for a month.

Across the state, about $1 million is spent on cloud seeding, and about 65 percent of the funds are provided by local entities such as ski areas, water districts and towns. The other 35 percent of the funds are provided by state and other funding.

The generator near Mancos has been in place for about five years, and in that time, there has been some benefit in the area, Tilley said.

“The impression we have is that we have seen some difference,” he said.

Cloud seeding is safe because silver iodide won’t break down in any way that’s harmful, Nelson said.

More cloud-seeding coverage here. More San Juan River Basin coverage here.


State hopes to recover the $49,000 it spent stabilizing the illegal Red Arrow mill site in Mancos

November 16, 2013

Red Arrow Mill site Mancos via The Durango Herald

Red Arrow Mill site Mancos via The Durango Herald


From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel) via the Cortez Journal:

The state spent more than $49,000 to stabilize mercury-tainted material at an illegal gold mill in Mancos. Now the state mining board wants Red Arrow Gold Corp. to repay the money, and it moved Wednesday to revoke the company’s mining permit.

Red Arrow owner Craig Liukko did not attend Wednesday’s hearing in Denver, but in letters to regulators, he blamed the problems on a former business partner and a receiver appointed by a bankruptcy court, who has controlled access to Red Arrow’s property since April.

The state excavated and isolated soil at the mill, and it isn’t currently presenting a hazard, said Loretta Pineda, director of the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety…

More mercury remains to be removed from the Out West mine north of U.S. Highway 160, mining inspectors said. Pineda’s division is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a permanent cleanup. And she still does not know the degree of pollution the mill produced in the past. The EPA is testing samples to figure out if there was a past risk, Pineda said…

On Wednesday, the Mined Land Reclamation Board found Red Arrow in violation of its order from August to clean up the site and pay a $100,000 fine. The board increased the fine to $285,000, increased Red Arrow’s bond and started the procedure to revoke Red Arrow’s mining permit in the next two months.

As part of the cleanup, the state removed mill tailings from a nearby pasture and the Western Excelsior aspen mill, across the street from the Red Arrow operation. Western Excelsior officials thought they were getting sand to patch holes in their lot, said Kyle Hanson, a manager at the aspen mill. The state did a good job of removing the mill tailings, he said…

The mining division spent its entire emergency fund on the initial cleanup, Pineda said. State officials want Red Arrow to repay them…

The Mined Land Reclamation Board also cracked down Wednesday on another Red Arrow property, the Freda mine west of Silverton. Both portals at the mine have collapsed, and stormwater berms have failed, allowing tainted water an tailings to flow off the site toward Ruby Creek, said Wally Erickson, an inspector for the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The board fined Red Arrow $2,500 for the violations at the Silverton mine.

More water pollution coverage here.


October 21 is the anniversary of the approval of the Mancos Project

October 22, 2013
Jackson Gulch Dam photo via USBR

Jackson Gulch Dam photo via USBR

Click here to visit the Bureau of Reclamation Mancos Project website.

More Mancos River Watershed coverage here and here.


Montezuma County has juridiction over the Red Arrow Gold Corporation’s illegal milling operation

September 1, 2013

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From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The site was recently ordered to cease and desist by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, who fined Liukko $337,167 for operating a mill without a license and five other mining violations.

Inspectors found dangerous levels of mercury inside the building and arsenic pollution in tailing piles outside the site and at the mine site in the nearby La Plata mountains. The Environmental Protection Agency is evaluating the sites for cleanup and remediation.

“We did not know it was there, and did not receive any plans from the operator that it was going on,” said county planning director Susan Carver. “It is a violation of the land use code because it is an industrial use that requires a high-impact permit and hearings before the county planning board and commission.”

Carver said Red Arrow Gold Corporation could face penalties for non-compliance but the decision would be up to the county commissioners.

“Operations there have ceased at this point,” she said. “It is a concern because of the health hazards for neighbors and for employees. Safeguards would have been required and evaluated under our permit system.”

Commissioner Larry Don Suckla, who represents the Mancos area, was angered by the illegal mill site.

“It is very upsetting because (the mill) broke the rules and created a risk to the safety of county residents and the town of Mancos as well,” he said. “This type of operation is far different than panning for gold.”

The commissioners are considering holding a community meeting with mine regulators to inform the public of the situation. Whether the county will levy penalties of its own, Suckla said, “Everything is on the table at this point. I feel like we were misled.”[...]

Decontaminating the milling site and mine have been handed over to the EPA and are in the planning stages. State mine regulators are expecting a cleanup to be completed by the end of the year.

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More coverage from Nancy Lofholm writing for The Denver Post:

While the town of Mancos worries over what a rogue gold mill might have put into its air, water and soil, Colorado mining authorities have called on the federal government to deal with what is being described as one of the most serious cases of pollution from illegal gold milling in the state.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine just how bad contamination is from a mill that had been using mercury to remove gold from ore at an under-the-radar, unlicensed mill on the edge of the southwestern Colorado town.

The EPA also will decide whether the mill should be designated for a Superfund cleanup. The Superfund program was created in 1980 to clean up the worst uncontrolled hazardous waste sites in the country.

The Red Arrow Gold Corp. mill contamination was discovered in June, and the mill was shut down by the state that same month. Mercury was found in two metal and cinder-block buildings just west of town when the company, which also owns the historically rich Red Arrow Mine, was placed in receivership. The division has fenced off and locked the site.

An initial investigation of the mill buildings turned up mercury contamination throughout the operation. Mercury was found in plastic buckets of sludge and in an overturned washtub that served as a vent hood. Inspectors’ photographs show droplets of mercury on drains, a jug marked “21.5 lbs Mercury” and stock tanks filled with sediment. Piles of processed material outside the building were covered with plastic tarps held down by old tires.

“This is one of the most serious cases we’ve come across of illegal milling,” said Tony Waldron, who is with the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. Testing thus far has shown the entire mill is probably contaminated with mercury. On some pieces of equipment, it is concentrated as much as 744 times the allowable level. The highest concentrations were measured at 32,000 parts per million. The standard considered safe for industrial operations is 43 parts per million.

Mercury can cause nerve damage in humans, and its use in separating gold from ore would not have been approved, Waldron said.

Tailings outside the mill buildings and also piled outside a nearby lumber operation were found to be contaminated with arsenic, but Waldron said the arsenic-laced tailings don’t pose a health hazard where they now sit.

“Obviously, we are concerned about the potential spread of mercury,” said Mancos town administrator Andrea Phillips. “We don’t know enough yet to know exactly what our concerns are.” Phillips has asked the EPA and state mining regulators to hold a public information meeting so that concerned Mancos residents who have been calling town hall can get some answers.

Red Arrow Gold Corp. president Craig Liukko might be able to provide some of those answers, but he did not show up at a Mined Land Reclamation Board hearing in Denver on Aug. 14, and he has not been seen lately around Mancos, Phillips said. In his absence, the board cited Liukko for the contamination and for operating a mill without a permit. The board fined him $285,000 for the 57 days the mill was believed to have operated in violation of state laws. All but $100,000 of that will be suspended if Liukko complies with corrective actions the division orders. Red Arrow was also ordered to reimburse the division $52,167 for the cost of its response to the mill discovery.

Liukko did not return a call asking for comment. In a conversation a month ago, he said his company had gone to great lengths to be cautious with the small amount of mercury he said was used in the gold-separating process. He said he did not think the mill needed approval to operate because it was a “pilot project.”

Liukko, whose family acquired the Red Arrow Mine nearly 30 years ago, also blamed an out-of-state hedge fund for Red Arrow’s troubles.

In a tangled financing agreement, Maximillian Investors of Delaware sued American Patriot Gold, He-Man LLC and Red Arrow Gold Corp., resulting in the receivership and the revelation that Red Arrow, which had promised investors large returns, had only $2,043 left in a bank account.

The Red Arrow Mine had delivered riches in another era. The mine’s ore body discovered in 1933 produced 4,114 ounces of gold between 1933 and 1937. In those days, ore from the mine was shipped to Leadville for smelting and then sent to the Denver Mint. The gold from Red Arrow included a legendary 5.5-pound nugget.

Marcie Jeager, who is handling the receivership through Jeager Kottmeier Associates of Denver, said she is focusing her asset-recovery efforts on the mine. It is permitted to operate by the state and is not contaminated like the mill. “We want to preserve the mine permit so someone else can buy that as a permitted mine that has value,” she said.

The mine

The Red Arrow Mine’s ore body discovered in 1933 produced 4,114 ounces of gold between 1933 and 1937. The gold mine and mill had operated off and on since 1988. It had most recently resumed operations in 2006.

State authorities took emergency actions in June to shut down the mine over mercury contamination. 43 parts per million of mercury is the standard measure considered safe for industrial operations 32,000 parts per million of mercury measured on equipment at the Red Arrow Mine, the highest concentration found there.

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

It’s “one of the uglier cases of using hazardous chemicals and illegal milling” that state mining regulators have seen, said Julie Murphy, a lawyer for the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety…

On Wednesday [August 14], the state Mined Land Reclamation Board slapped fines totaling $337,167 on the mill’s operator, Red Arrow Gold Corp. If Red Arrow cooperates with the cleanup and increases its bond with the state, $185,000 of the fine will be suspended. The facility has been shut down since April because of a bankruptcy dispute. The state got involved in June and issued a cease-and-desist order on the mill. The state contracted with Walter Environmental to test for contamination inside and outside the two buildings on the site, and the results came back last week…

Inspectors painted an alarming picture of what they found at the two small buildings, which sit across Grand Avenue to the north of the Western Excelsior aspen mill. They showed pictures of a series of machines that use mercury to separate tiny gold particles from rock taken from Red Arrow’s mine about 10 miles northwest of Mancos. The mercury-gold mixture was heated to separate the gold and attempt to recycle the mercury through a scrubber. A galvanized steel washtub was flipped upside down and used as a hood to catch mercury near the scrubber.

More Mancos River Watershed coverage here and here.


Mancos Water Conservancy District water workshop recap

February 3, 2013

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From The Mancos Times (Jeanne Archambeault):

Gary Kennedy, superintendent of the Mancos Water Conservancy District (MWCD) , started the day off with a talk about the organization and what it does for the Mancos Valley. He gave information and statistics about Jackson Gulch Reservoir – how much water it can hold, what it holds now, and where the water comes from. He said the MWCD is #36 priority for water and can capture about 250 cubic feet of water from the Mancos River between March and May. The MWCD fills water priorities as they come up and are called in…

Mike Rich, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) gave a talk about what’s been going on in the last 10 years with the Mancos River and the watershed that surrounds it.

Then, Kirsten Brown, of the Colorado Department of Reclamation Mining and Safety, and Cathy Zillich, of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave an extensive talk about the East Mancos River and the mining impacts on it. Ann Oliver talked about the Middle Mancos River and the management measures they are doing.

George San Miguel talked about the part of the Mancos River that runs through Mesa Verde National Park, and Colin Laird, a water quality specialist, talked about the lower watershed on the Ute Mountain Ute land.

The workshop was the beginning of an an ongoing discussion. There will be more workshops and informational sessions to come.

More Mancos River Watershed coverage here.


Mancos: ‘Water 101′ workshop Saturday

January 24, 2013

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From The Mancos Times:

For all interested people, there will be a meeting at the Mancos Community Center called “Water 101 in the Mancos Valley” on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Water will the subject and various people will talk about it. Gary Kennedy, superintendent of the Mancos Water Conservancy District will speak about the Jackson Reservoir; Marty Robbins of the Department of Water Resources will talk about the priority water systems, Brandon Bell of Mancos Rural Water will be there to address any concerns. Questions and comments will be encouraged from all who attend.

The workshop is hosted by the Mancos Conservation District and will be a good starting point for the discussion on water.

More Mancos River Watershed coverage here.


Colorado Water 2012: A look at the basins of Southwestern Colorado

October 31, 2012

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Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series, written by Bruce Whitehead. Here’s an excerpt:

Southwestern Colorado’s rivers are unique in that many of the rivers and tributaries flow from north to south and are administered as independent river systems.

This is due to the fact that many, such as the Navajo, Blanco, Piedra, Pine, Florida, Animas, La Plata, and Mancos Rivers, are tributary to the San Juan River in New Mexico or just upstream of the state line. The Dolores River flows from north to south, but makes a “U-turn” near Cortez and heads back to the northwest and joins the Colorado River in Utah. The San Miguel River originates just above Telluride, and flows to the west where it joins the Dolores River just above the Colorado-Utah state line.

The southwest basin has many areas that are under strict water rights administration on a regular basis, but there is still water available for appropriation and development pursuant to Colorado’s Constitution and the Colorado River Compact. The region is also known for its beautiful scenery and recreation opportunities, which is the basis for the establishment of the Weminuche Wilderness area as well as nearly 150 reaches of streams with in-stream flow water rights. Over 50 natural lake levels are also protected by the state’s In-Stream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program.

Water leaders have been active for many years in the basin and recognized early on that in order to meet agricultural and municipal demands storage would need to be developed. The Southwestern Water Conservation District was formed in 1941, and has been responsible for the planning, development, and water rights acquisition for many of the federal projects in the region. Reservoirs such as McPhee (Dolores Project), Jackson Gulch (Mancos Project), Ridges Basin a.k.a Lake Nighthorse (Animas-La Plata Project), Lemon (Florida Project), and Vallecito (Pine River Project) provide for a supplemental supply of irrigation and municipal water in all but the driest of years. The delivery of these supplemental supplies assists with keeping flows in many critical reaches of river that historically had little or no flow late in the season due to limited supplies and water rights administration.

Southwest Colorado is also home to two Sovereign Nations and Indian Reservations that were established by treaty in 1868. Under federal law the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Southern Ute Indian Tribe were entitled to federal reserved water rights, which had the potential to create conflicts with Colorado water law and non-Indian water users in the basin. After nearly a decade of negotiations, a consent decree was entered with the water court that settled the tribal claims. The Tribal Settlement included some early dates of appropriation for the tribes, and a water supply from some of the federal storage projects including the Dolores, Animas-La Plata, Florida, and Pine River Projects. This landmark settlement is evidence that both tribal and non-Indian interests can be provided for with water storage and cooperative water management.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.


Drought news: Jackson Gulch Reservoir at lowest level in 10 years #CODrought

October 25, 2012

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From The Mancos Times (Jeanne Archambeault):

…according to the [Mancos Water Conservancy District] who keeps track of precipitation each year, there was slightly less this year than in 2002. There was a total of 12.39 inches in the 2011/12 winter, and 12.98 inches in 2002. In the last 10 years, they were the two lowest precipitation years. The highest was 2005 with 23.22 inches…

At the moment, the level of the Jackson Gulch Reservoir is “just shy of 15 percent,” [superintendent Gary Kennedy] said. The average for the shutdown, which was Sept. 20 this year, is usually 40 percent. “We let the water out of the reservoir about a month early,” he said.

Kennedy is adamant about the fact that without the reservoir being here in the Mancos Valley, the Mancos River would have been dry in June and the town would have had to take water from the river. The next step, he said, is for the town to lease water.


Mancos and Dolores projects update — July end of month status

September 17, 2012

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From Reclamation via the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 3,914 acrefeet with a 9,948 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 7,322 acre-feet average (1981-2010) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 52/31 cubic-feet-per second was released into the Mancos River, and 69 acre-feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 260,582 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 315,968average (1981-2010) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 4,301 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 42,398 acre-feet were released for trans-basin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 71/69 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

More McPhee Reservoir coverage here. More Jackson Gulch Reservoir coverage here.


McPhee and Jackson Gulch reservoirs status

August 3, 2012

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From the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation via the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 6,020 acre-feet with a 9,948 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 9,014 acre-feet average (1981-2010) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 76/51 cubic-feet-per second was released into the Mancos River, and 88 acre-feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 299,646 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 343,394 average (1981-2010) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 4,120 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 45,079 acre-feet were released for trans-basin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 70/57 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

Questions can be directed to the Southern Water Management Group, Resource Management Division of the Western Colorado Area Office, Durango.

More Dolores River Watershed coverage here. More Mancos River Watershed coverage here.


The Bureau of Reclamation has released end of year operations reports for McPhee and Jackson Gulch reservoirs

April 15, 2012

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From the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 3,703 acre-feet with a 9,977 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 4,492 acre-feet average (1980-2010) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 11/0 cubic-feet-per second was released into the Mancos River, and 15 acre-feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 289,298 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 270,692 average (1986-2010) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 1,835 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 2,958 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 31/30 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here. More Mancos River watershed coverage here and here.


Durango: The Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 30th annual water seminar April 6

March 29, 2012

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From the Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District (Jane Maxson) via the Pagosa Sun:

The Southwestern Water Conservation District will hold its 30th annual Water Seminar on Friday, April 6, at the Doubletree Hotel, 501 Camino del Rio, Durango.

This year’s theme is “2012“ — Water Through the Looking Glass,” and we have a lineup of notable speakers who will address water history in Colorado and water issues in the West. Invited speakers include a political analyst, the state’s climatologist and a water policy consultant, among others.

Registration is $30 in advance and $32 at the door, per person. This fee includes morning and afternoon snacks and a buffet lunch.

Registration on April 6 begins at 8 a.m. The seminar will conclude approximately 4:30 p.m.

Registration forms and a draft agenda can be found at our website, http://www.swwcd.org/.


Colorado River Basin: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system?

December 25, 2011

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Here’s a guest commentary written by Eric Kuhn, David Modeer and Fred Krupp running in The Denver Post. The trio are issuing a call to arms of sort, asking for input for the Colorado River Basin Study. Here’s an excerpt:

Management of the Colorado River is a complex balancing act between the diverse interests of United States and Mexico, tribes, the seven basin states, individual water users, stakeholders, and communities. The challenges posed by new growth and climate change may dwarf anything we faced in the past. Instead of staring into the abyss, the water users, agencies, and stakeholder groups that make managing the Colorado River responsibly their business are working together, using the best science available to define the problem, and looking for solutions.

We’re calling our inquiry the Colorado River Basin Study, and we want your help. As Colorado River management professionals, we have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but we know that we don’t have them all. We want ideas from the public, from you, but we need your input by February 1. You can submit your suggestions by completing the online form at: http://on.doi.gov/uvhkUi.

The big question we need to answer is: What are the reasonable water management options and strategies that will provide water for people, but also maintain a healthy river system? We don’t believe there’s a single silver bullet that will resolve all of our challenges. We want to continue to explore the benefits and costs of every possibility, from conservation to desalination to importing water from other regions.

The West was built on innovation and hard work, and that spirit is still strong. Our landscapes and communities are unparalleled in their beauty, resilience, and character. The economic well-being of our rural and urban communities in the Colorado River basin is inextricably linked to Colorado River and its environmental health.

That’s why we are asking for the public’s input to help us craft a study showing a path forward that supplies our communities with the water they need to thrive and protects the health of the Colorado River-and the ecosystems and economies it supports.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.


Cortez: Water rates going up January 1

December 17, 2011

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From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

For the water fund, [City Public Works director Jack Nickerson] asked for a 25 cent increase in the residential base rate for water service from $13.50 to $13.75 per month. A 10 cent increase is proposed to the additional usage rate from $1.65 per 1,000 gallons to $1.75. He said the increase is necessary to keep up with the rising costs of water treatment chemicals and replacement projects. He cited the recently completed South Broadway waterline replacement project costing approximately $700,000 and approximately $25,000 still needed for water tank repairs.

More infrastructure coverage here.


Restoration: An objective for the Mancos Conservation District is to achieve a greater balance between ranching and healthy ecosystems and especially water

November 28, 2011

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Here’s an in-depth look at restoration and conservation efforts in the Mancos River watershed from Jeanne Archambeault writing for The Mancos Times via The Durango Herald. From the article:

There are many organizations in Mancos that have a direct influence on the river, the watershed that surrounds it and the condition and health of the river itself. The Mancos Conservation District is concerned with the river water and soil that is moved by the water.

The Mancos Valley Watershed Project was started in 2005 by the Mancos Valley Watershed Group, formed because of a need to conserve soil and water in the Mancos River. Integral partners of the watershed project are the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Mancos Conservation District (formerly the Mancos Soil Conservation District) and the town of Mancos. The project also has brought together riverfront landowners, farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, irrigation companies, recreationalists and community members to address a number of goals.

Goals include improving fishing along the river, reducing the loading of dissolved copper from the east fork, working with irrigators and irrigation companies and landowners along the river to rebuild and restore functioning of the diversion systems, and improving the riparian ecosystem and in-stream flows through the summer…

The Mancos River supplies water to the town of Mancos and outlying residents, to ranchlands and farms for irrigation, to Mesa Verde National Park, and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe and its agricultural interests. It also provides essential habitat for wildlife.

Ann Oliver is the watershed project manager contracted by the MCD. She has been instrumental in bringing interested parties together.

Russell Klatt, conservation technician for the project, also serves the landowners in the Mancos Watershed. Klatt designs the way the river is going to flow, and Keith Duncan Construction helps him move the rocks and do the work. “The large boulders in the water block and divert the water to where you want it to go,” Klatt said…

The project is a further positive step toward the MCD’s objective of achieving a greater balance between ranching and healthy ecosystems and especially our water.

The MCD also offers workshops and classes throughout the year, all free to the public, on such subjects as irrigation-water management, weeds and rangeland.

More Mancos River watershed coverage here and here.


At the end of July McPhee Reservoir storage stood at 348,845 acre-feet while Jackson Gulch Reservoir storage stood at 8,594 acre-feet

August 31, 2011

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From the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 8,594 acre-feet with a 9,977 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 7,306 acre-feet average (1971-2000) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 61/49 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Mancos River, and 22 acre feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 349,845 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 335,208 average (1986-2000) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 4,612 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 47,372 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 82/74 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

More San Juan River basin coverage here.


McPhee and Jackson reservoirs end of May status report

June 27, 2011

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From the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 9,977 acre-feet with a 9,977 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 9,296 acre-feet average (1971-2000) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 42/0 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Mancos River, and 51 acre feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 366,023, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 354,188 average (1986-2000) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 17,380 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 35,094 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 1,001/51 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here. More San Juan River basin coverage here.


San Juan Mountains: Research into high mercury levels

January 25, 2011

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

“In 2007 we began to study mercury because very little was known about its presence in Southwest Colorado other than that reservoirs had fish-consumption advisories, and that precipitation sometimes deposited heavy concentrations of mercury at Mesa Verde National Park,” former institute director Koren Nydick said last week by telephone.

As result of mercury accumulation in fish, the state of Colorado has posted advisories at McPhee, Totten, Narraguinnep and Vallecito reservoirs and Najavo Lake cautioning about consumption of fish from those waters.

Kelly Palmer, a Bureau of Land Management hydrologist, said as a result of the Mountain Studies Institute pilot study at Molas Pass, the San Juan National Forest in 2009 initiated a long-term mercury-monitoring program there.

“It appears the levels of mercury are notable,” Palmer said last week…

Analysis of mercury and weather data collected from 2002 to 2008 at Mesa Verde points to coal-fired power plants in New Mexico as potential sources of mercury. Analysis of pollution components as well as potential sources and storm pathways support the theory, Nydick said.

But they don’t pinpoint specific sources and don’t definitely rule out the possibility that storms were carrying pollution from elsewhere when they passed over the New Mexico plants…

In June 2009, researchers from MSI and other agencies spent a day in Mancos Canyon trapping and releasing songbirds after testing their blood for mercury. They also collected crayfish, spiders, sow bugs, cicadas and centipedes and planned to return to electro-shock fish for testing.

“Wetland-dependent songbirds were chosen for study, in addition to fish and crayfish, because research shows they can accumulate methyl mercury,” Nydick said at the time. “It appears they accumulate methyl mercury from prey such as spiders that are a link between the aquatic and terrestrial food webs. That is why we collect invertebrates, soil and dead foliage to analyze for mercury, too.”

More mercury pollution coverage here and here.


2010 Colorado elections: The Denver Post endorses John Salazar over Scott Tipton

October 9, 2010

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From the editorial staff at The Denver Post:

Salazar has shown an ability to work with people from differing political views to seek solutions that work for the district. In significantly advancing the prospects for a veterans’ cemetery in the Pikes Peak region, Salazar, an Army veteran, has worked with Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn and former Sen. Wayne Allard, and more recently with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. He also managed to get a $6 million appropriation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which will bring clean drinking water to 40 cities and towns along the 140-mile pipeline. The promise of clean drinking water to these poorer communities was made in the 1960s. It’s about time that promise is kept.

Salazar’s challenger in the race, Scott Tipton, is a conservative Republican and Cortez businessman who lost to Salazar by a wide margin in 2006. Tipton, a state lawmaker who also has deep roots in the district, is knowledgeable about the issues, and touts his private sector experience. He’s clearly qualified for the job.

We just think voters in the 3rd district will be better off with Salazar, a known quantity and reliable voice for the district.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.


Energy policy — hydroelectric: Uncompaghre River hydroelectric plant update

August 18, 2010

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From The Durango Telegraph (Allen Best):

The electrical production will be relatively small, 22 kilowatts, but enough to power the pumps used to circulate water at the nearby Ouray Hot Springs Pool. It is, in the eyes of Bob Risch, the mayor of Ouray, a start of what he hopes to see more broadly – not just in Ouray, but across the San Juans and beyond. “A bunch of small facilities like this can add up to a significant contribution,” says Risch, an astronomy teacher now retired in Ouray, where he was born and raised…

With access to seed money through the federal stimulus program, many small governments and some individuals have been taking a new look at small hydro across the Colorado Rockies and more broadly across the West. A forum held in Ouray during June drew 100 people, and a similar session held in Durango recently attracted 50 participants.

The potential is great. In a broad-brushed survey conducted several years ago, the Idaho National Laboratory concluded that 1,800 megawatts of electricity could be produced within Colorado without invading wilderness, roadless or other sensitive areas. This compares with the 1,500 megawatts output from the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired plant in New Mexico. More selectively, Colorado energy officials did a quick study of 100 sites, with potential for 100 megawatts – without building new dams, they hasten to add.

Congress has also started paying attention. A subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing in July to find out what the federal government could do to expedite development of what Grace F. Napolitano, chairwoman of the subcommittee, characterized as low-hanging fruit. “Small hydropower is not the sole answer to generating enough renewable energy to meet our future needs, but it should be an important part of the solution,” she said in an opening statement…

A small hydro installation in Cortez had been identified as feasible even 20 years ago. But federal money administered through the Governor’s Energy Office recently tipped the scale. The project harnesses the power of water flowing year round in a canal from McPhee Reservoir to the town’s water-treatment plant. The unit produces 240 kilowatts of electricity, more than enough to operate the water-treatment plant and enough to feed back into the electrical grid. The extra power is sold to Empire Electric…

Silverton, too, may get a small hydro plant. There, the San Juan County Historical Society has received $140,000 in grant funding and hopes for another $50,000 to build a generating plant at its Mayflower Mill, located two miles east of Silverton. Even with the low flows of fall and winter, production would more than pay group’s $500 to $600 monthly electrical bills for the historical society’s museum in Silverton. “This is huge for our little old historical society,” says Beverly Rich, the president. “We don’t get any other subsidies or tax moneys.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


Montezuma County: Southwest Colorado Watershed Workshop recap

March 14, 2010

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

The workshop, sponsored by Colorado State University Extension and BUGS Consulting, was a gathering of all the major players in watershed activities in Southwest Colorado…

Representatives were on hand from a number of local, regional and state entities, including the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, Mancos Water Conservancy District, Dolores River Restoration Partnership, Dolores River Dialogue, Colorado Watershed Assembly, Colorado Water Conservation Board, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Dolores Water Conservancy District, Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., U.S. Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Environment Department, Rocky Mountain Watershed Network, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation…

Peter Butler, vice chair of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, discussed the history of the Animas River Stakeholders Group. The San Miguel Watershed Coalition was introduced by Peter Mueller, a volunteer with the organization and The Nature Conservancy’s North San Juans project director. Chester Anderson, owner of BUGS consulting, addressed work being done by the Dolores River Dialogue, which includes the Lower Dolores Management Plan Working Group. Felicity Broennan detailed efforts of the Mancos River Watershed Project, an undertaking of the Mancos Conservation District…

Jeff Crane, executive director of the Colorado Watershed Assembly, explained to participants that there is no such thing as an ideal model for a watershed organization. The assembly is a coalition of more than 70 watershed groups in Colorado. “You have been hearing about the groups in the Southwest, and they are really diverse,” Crane said. “And really, they are diverse throughout the state. It is all over the place how they are structured, and how they are organized is also all over the place. It is a lot of thinking outside the box.”

Afternoon sessions at the workshop dealt with the benefits of local watershed groups, group dynamics and best management practices…

On the Net: Animas River Stakeholders Group, http://sanjuanrcd.org/watermanagement.php#ARSG; Mancos River Watershed Project, http://www.sustainablemancos.com/watershed_project; San Miguel Watershed Coalition, http://www.sanmiguelwatershed.org; Dolores River Dialogue, http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/drd/default.asp.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here, San Juan Basin coverage here, Mancos River watershed coverage here, Animas River watershed coverage here and San Miguel watershed coverage here.


$1.75 million for Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Project funding passes U.S. Senate

October 24, 2009

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

Jackson Gulch Reservoir supplies water to the town of Mancos, the Mancos Water Conservancy District, and the Mancos Rural Water Company. The reservoir is also the sole source of municipal water for Mesa Verde National Park. Jackson Gulch has been in the middle of rehabilitation for approximately six years, and the project is not cheap, according to Gary Kennedy, superintendent of the Mancos Water District. “We started this process about six years ago,” Kennedy said. “We came up with a price tag of a little over $6 million at the time, we ended up with a total price of $8.2 million and today it is even higher.” The primary goal of the project is infrastructure repair. Construction began on Jackson Gulch in 1941, and time has left the project in desperate need of additional work. “We have earthen sections that need to be rebuilt or realigned,” Kennedy said. “They need to be lined with some kind of sealing material so they won’t leak. We have approximately 30 per cent loss in the canals. Flow capacity is 2/3 of what it should be. If we can get that back up where it is designed to be, basically we can have a brand new canal system put back in.”[...]

While this year’s appropriation, which Jackson Gulch should receive next May, makes it easier for the project to continue to obtain federal funds, each year is a new process. “With this first appropriations, it makes it an ongoing funded project,” Kennedy said. “That makes it easier to get funded in the future.”

The Jackson Gulch Project is one of the first Bureau of Reclamation projects in the West to find funding through appropriations, according to Kennedy, but the appropriation sets the stage for more federal money to flow into other water projects.

More Jackson Gulch Reservoir coverage here.


Mcphee and Jackson reservoirs status

April 19, 2009

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From the Cortez Journal: “Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 3,532 acre-feet with a 9,948 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 5,008 acre-feet average (1971-2000) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of zero cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Mancos River, and 37 acre-feet were released for municipal purposes.

“McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 283,214 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 305,596 average (1986-2000) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 3,766 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 2,348 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 76/48 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.”


Montezuma County: Tamarisk control update

April 12, 2009

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From the Cortez Journal: “The board of Montezuma County Commissioners is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Monday, April 13, in the commissioners room at 109 W. Main St., Cortez. Jodi Downs, with the Dolores Soil Conservation District, will give an update on tamarisk control in the county…For more information on the meeting, contact the county administration office at 565-8317, or visit http://www.co.montezuma.co.us.”;

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Congress passes public lands bill

March 27, 2009

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From the Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews): “Five Colorado land and water bills, including one that designates $8.25 million for the rehabilitation of the Jackson Gulch Reservoir near Mancos, await President Barack Obama’s signature after passing the U.S. House on Wednesday…The Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Act was introduced in January by Salazar and Sen. Mark Udall in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources before being included in the omnibus bill. The bill will designate funding to improve the Jackson Gulch irrigation canals, which deliver water from the Jackson Gulch Dam north of Mancos to about 8,650 acres of farmland in Montezuma County, Mesa Verde National Park and residents in Mancos.”

More coverage from the Loveland Reporter Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The millions who visit Rocky Mountain National Park each year won’t see much difference now that nearly 250,000 acres are designated as wilderness. Land stewards have managed the park as such for the past 35 years. But the new designation, approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday and sent to President Barack Obama for his signature, makes it permanent, so future managers could not develop the land. “It provides long-term protection to the park,” said Superintendent Vaughn Baker…

The newly designated wilderness covers most of the park — the undeveloped areas where people hike, camp and watch wildlife year-round…

Operations of the Grand Ditch in the park and the Adams Tunnel that brings water from west to east underneath the park also will not change. An attachment to the bill ensures that both can continue to operate and be maintained despite the new designation, earning support for the bill from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The potential for wilderness designation at Rocky Mountain National Park has been hanging out there for 35 years, since President Richard Nixon recommended it in 1974. With that pending, but not acted upon, managers ran the national park as though the land already were designated as wilderness.

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kristen Plank):

The Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Act was part of an overall bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed Wednesday known as the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2009. U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., helped sponsor the rehabilitation act that designates $8.25 million in federal funding to help repair the canal’s infrastructure…

“We’re awful happy about the bill passing. It’s been a long track,” said Gary Kennedy, superintendent for the Mancos Water Conservancy District. “The district’s board and myself have worked pretty hard on the bill for the past six years to get it to this point.” Kennedy has been visiting Washington off and on to help promote the bill. He gives credit to Salazar and former Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., who were “very crucial to getting this bill to this point.” There is still more to be done, however. The recently-passed bill only gave authorization to fund the project, Kennedy said. No funds have been appropriated yet. “That’s another process that we’ve already started and have been working on,” he said. “The appropriations bill for 2010 is now going through Congress and probably won’t be voted on until September (2009) at the earliest.” Funding, he said, will be spread over a four year period with $2 million acquired each year, as the district cannot ask for more appropriations than can be spent in one season…

Construction for the canal system has already started. Kennedy and others have put $1.2 million into the rehabilitation project for the past three years, but the district is coming up on the “crucial part of the project where we need more funding.” The 60-year-old canal’s survival requires realigned earthen canals, protective waterproof linings, maintenance upgrades, pipes in canal structures, and concrete rehabilitation.


Jackson Gulch funding in omnibus bill

March 10, 2009

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Here’s an update on funding for rehabilitation of Jackson Gulch Reservoir and the Jackson Gulch canal, from Jeanne Richardson writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Board members and staff of the Mancos Water Conservancy District made another trip to Washington, D.C., this past week to talk with legislators about a bill that will appropriate funds to the district for repairing and rehabilitating the Jackson Gulch Canal near Mancos…

The Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation bill passed through the House in September 2008, but it was an individual bill then. Now it’s grouped with others in the omnibus bill and has to be re-approved…

The bill will authorize $8.25 million for repairs to the canal, and this is the sixth request for appropriations that the district has made. It’s the third year that the bill has been active…

Last year, the district put in a retaining wall along the inlet canal, allowing access to the canal for the first time in 50 years. This work will serve to make access to the canal easier when it comes time for the rehabilitation of the canal itself. The timeline of the rehabilitation project depends largely on when funding comes through and how much the district will receive…

The Jackson Gulch Reservoir serves the entire Mancos Valley and Mesa Verde National Park, and is a backup supply for the town of Mancos. According to Kennedy, the reservoir also provides irrigation water for more than 13,000 acres that include residential, commercial and agricultural consumers. The district has said all along that this $8 million, if spent on the rehabilitation project, would be much less costly than spending three times that much on a replacement canal later on down the road.

Here’s the link to the Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Project website from the Mancos Water Conservancy District.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.


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