Energy policy — hydroelectric: Colorado State University, Applegate Group Collaborate on State Grant to Investigate Hydropower in Irrigation Canals

December 20, 2010

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Trevor Hughes):

Zimmerle said generating power from the flowing canals hearkens back to the time when millers diverted streams to turn waterwheels to grind grain and power sawmills.

“I think there is a good picture of ‘back to the future’ here,” he said. Zimmerle added that even small hydroelectric projects can generate greater amounts of power than photovoltaic systems, and they generate power more consistently.

Zimmerle will speak about the project Feb. 16 in Berthoud at a full-day workshop, “Low Head Hydroelectric Opportunities for Ditch and Reservoir Companies,” sponsored by the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance. DARCA is a resource for networking, information exchange and advocacy among mutual ditch and reservoir companies throughout Colorado.

For decades, projects such as these have posed a difficult challenge because even small hydroelectric installations have to undergo virtually the same permitting process as something on the scale of the Hoover Dam. But an agreement between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Gov. Bill Ritter’s office is expected to speed up the process for such small projects, George said.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Lake Mead: Mexico and the U.S. ink deal for storage

December 20, 2010

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Here’s the release from Secretary Salazar’s office:

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada today announced the successful completion of an agreement, known as ‘Minute 318,’ to adjust water deliveries on the Colorado River to areas damaged by a devastating earthquake on April 4, 2010.

Following their meeting in Mexico City, the Secretaries also announced a commitment by the two governments to initiate, in January 2011, high-priority discussions on a comprehensive long-term agreement between the U.S. and Mexico on the management of the Colorado River.

“Through this water agreement, the U.S., Mexico, and the seven Colorado River Basin states are bringing resources together for our mutual benefit and for the benefit of our neighbors whose irrigation systems and livelihoods have been damaged by the Easter Sunday earthquake,” said Salazar, who is in Mexico City to discuss water, conservation, and natural resource issues with President Calderon and Mexican government officials. “Minute 318 is a remarkable achievement from a humanitarian perspective, but it also lays important groundwork for a much-needed comprehensive water agreement with Mexico on how we manage the Colorado River.”

“Water users and stakeholders up and down the Colorado River have a strong interest in a comprehensive water agreement that would enhance reliability, certainty, and efficiency of water deliveries,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor, who coordinated with the seven Colorado River Basin States and the International Boundary and to reach the Minute 318 agreement. “The good faith negotiations that resulted in Minute 318 will help pave the way toward the comprehensive agreement for Colorado River management that is so needed on both sides of the border.”

Secretary Salazar and Secretary Elvira commended the work by the U.S. and Mexican Commissioners of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Edward Drusina and Roberto Salmon, who led their respective nation’s negotiation teams for Minute 318.

Under Minute 318, Mexico will be able to temporarily defer delivery of a portion of its annual Colorado River water allotment while repairs are made to the irrigation system in the Mexicali Valley of Baja California as a result of an April 4, 2010 earthquake. This agreement is founded on the 1944 Water Treaty between the U.S. and Mexico.

Under the 1944 Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico, Mexico is allotted a guaranteed quantity of Colorado River Water each year. Absent surplus or extraordinary drought conditions, Mexico’s annual allotment is 1.5 million acre-feet (maf).

Minute 318 allows Mexico to defer delivery of up to 260,000 acre-feet of its annual allotment through December 31, 2013. Beginning in 2014, Mexico could begin recovery of the amounts of Colorado River water deferred during the three-year period, subject to the progress of reconstruction of the Mexican irrigation system and the status of Colorado River reservoirs.

In their meeting today, Secretaries Salazar and Elvira, Commissioner of Reclamation Connor, Director General of the Mexican National Water Commission Jose Luis Luege Tamargo, and IBWC Commissioners Drusina and Salmon discussed the need for a comprehensive agreement on Colorado River water management issues, particularly in light of ongoing drought conditions and the prospect of continuing declines in reservoir levels.

Secretaries Salazar and Elvira identified the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement as a top priority for 2011. The leaders said they would direct their representatives to begin negotiations of the comprehensive water agreement in January, 2011.

Commissioner Connor noted that a comprehensive agreement is of particular importance in light of ongoing, historic drought in the Colorado River Basin:

- Since 2000, Colorado River basin reservoirs have dropped from nearly full to approximately 55% of total storage.

- Lake Mead currently stands at 39% of capacity, lower than it has been since it was filling in the 1930s.

- The last 11 years have been the driest in a century of recorded history, and among the driest 1% of periods in over 1,000 years.

- Current projections show that if current drought conditions persist, the Lower Basin (Arizona, California and Nevada) may be subject to the first-ever domestic shortage declaration on the Colorado River as early as 2012; the likelihood of shortage conditions by 2014 is approximately 35%.

To read Secretary Salazar’s statement, click here.

Here’s a release from the Environmental Defense Fund:

A bi-national pact announced today to allow Mexico to store a portion of its annual allocation from the Colorado River—up to 260,000 acre-feet over three years—in the largest U.S. reservoir—Lake Mead—sets the stage for progress on environmental issues in ongoing talks between the two countries, according to Environmental Defense Fund.

“As Lake Mead water levels continue to drop, a bi-national agreement to store water there that Mexico can’t use—until it repairs the damage from last April’s earthquake to its irrigation systems—is the logical solution for both countries,” said Jennifer Pitt, director of EDF’s Colorado River Project. “Secretary Salazar’s announcement today proves that diplomacy deployed to create additional flexibility on the Colorado River has great potential. It can improve water supply reliability for water users in our country and Mexico, and protect our invaluable environmental resources.”

The water level of Lake Mead—located on the Colorado River about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas—has been dropping steadily for the last decade due to drought and now is nearing the elevation—presently at 1082 feet above sea level or 39% of capacity—that will trigger shortages in Arizona and Nevada.

This U.S.-Mexico accord, known as Minute 318, follows two previous deals between the two countries:

1. Under the terms of Minute 317, the United States and Mexico are exploring how to improve Colorado River management, including: water supply management in dry times, bi-national conservation and desalination projects, and the delivery of water for environmental flows in the Colorado River delta.

2. Under the terms of Minute 316, the United States and Mexico agreed to dedicate water to the largest wetland in the Colorado River delta—the Cienega de Santa Clara—during pilot operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant in Arizona. The treated water is intended for inclusion in water deliveries to Mexico, and preserving the like amount of water in Lake Mead.

“For the first time in decades, the United States and Mexico are working productively towards mutually beneficial changes on the Colorado River,” Pitt concluded. “Given dire predictions of drought in this region, today’s agreement is a critical step in building the mutual trust and confidence we need to craft additional agreements that deliver a more sustainable water supply for our communities and for the environment.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

IBCC strategy report

December 20, 2010

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Here’s the release from Governor Ritter (Alexandra Davis/Eric Hecox/Todd Hartman):

Gov. Bill Ritter today praised the work of the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) in making great progress toward outlining a path forward for Colorado to achieve a sustainable water future. In a letter and accompanying report to Governor Ritter and Gov.-Elect John Hickenlooper released today, the IBCC called for shared responsibility and varied approaches to ensuring our growing state can provide the water needed to support agriculture, cities and homes, industries, recreation and our natural environment.

“I applaud the hard work of the IBCC as it begins to tackle the difficult challenge of planning how to ensure increasingly scarce water supplies are available to meet Colorado’s diverse and numerous needs,” Gov. Ritter said. “The IBCC’s collaborative, common-ground method asking all interests to share in the responsibility to map out a way forward is crucial if Colorado is going to maintain its economic and environmental quality of life.”

The IBCC’s report includes a summary of the past five years work by the IBCC, nine Basin Roundtables and the support of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The report results from a request by Gov. Ritter in January for the IBCC to add additional meetings in 2010 aimed at reaching agreements and report to him on its progress before the end of his term.

The report includes several key findings, including that a “status quo” approach to water planning will inevitably lead to the dry-up of significant agricultural land in Colorado and potential harm to the environment. To avoid this, the IBCC concluded that Colorado will need a mix of solutions, which include water conservation, the implementation of local water projects, agricultural transfers and the development of new water supplies.

The IBCC report also emphasizes that resources spent on various water interests fighting one another instead of working collaboratively will lead to further splintered, and ad-hoc decisions about water resources, one of Colorado’s most valuable assets. The IBCC considers the need for a mix of solutions an important part of this report, and understands that different stakeholders benefit from individual parts of this package and could take issue with other parts.

“We are looking for a more comprehensive policy approach through which to share the benefits – and burdens – across user groups,” said IBCC director Alexandra Davis. “This is the beginning of creating a framework within which more comprehensive decisions about water resources may be made. It’s a start to a broader grassroots conversation with roundtables and stakeholder groups.”

The report can be downloaded from the IBCC webpage. The Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) was established by the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act in 2005 to facilitate conversations among Colorado’s river basins and to address statewide water issues. A 27-member committee, the IBCC encourages dialogue on water, broadens the range of stakeholders actively participating in the state’s water decisions and creates a locally driven process where the decision-making power rests with those living in the state’s river basins. For more information, click here.

I read the report over the weekend and a few things stand out:

- According to the recommendations it seems that recreation and the environment (non-consumptive needs) will get a seat at the table in the planning process:

…it is important that addressing non-­‐consumptive needs  becomes integrated into larger planning efforts on future water supply projects and processes, even though it may not be possible to protect and restore all environmental and recreational values. Providing proponents of water supply projects and processes with accepted methods to determine non-consumptive flow needs, sound information about stream flows in a larger geographic area, and reach-­‐specific data can help inform water supply project siting and design to facilitate the development of water supply projects and processes…

- The IBCC and all involved realize that ag to urban transfers are a way of life in Colorado’s water world. The goal is to minimize impacts to the ag sector and local economies from ‘buy and dry’ scenarios.

- The 800 pound gorilla in the room on the Front Range is the need to replace 35,000 acre-feet of non-tributary Denver Basin groundwater while also accommodating a few million more Coloradans.

- While being hard to quantify it is the IBCC’s hope that conservation make up a good share of the municipal and industrial water supply gap by 2050.

If only it was irrigation season so you could curl up under the cottonwoods down by the creek to read the report.

More IBCC coverage here and here.

Arkansas River Basin: A look at the history of water in the basin along with current challenges

December 20, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Miles of irrigation ditches would be dug to create a carpet of fields on what once had been called The Great American Desert. There would not be enough water for all of them to operate as planned in the great vision of the time: a patchwork of family farms stretching to Kansas. There would be epic fights inside and outside of courtrooms to claim the water under Colorado’s constitutional provision that water first put to beneficial use has top priority. The rights to use the natural flows of the basin — other than spring runoff and floods — were pretty much spoken for by 1884.Water rights junior to that date are less often in priority, usually in times of high water. Ideas such as storage, importing water from the Colorado River and temporary sales of water have stretched the supply. There also would be a century-long tug-of-war between Kansas and Colorado over the amount of water that Colorado, the upstream state, was entitled to use…

As the region continued to grow, the pressure on its water resources would become ever greater and scarcity more evident. Several grand-scale projects — the Twin Lakes Tunnel, Homestake and the Fryingpan Arkansas Project — and many smaller transmountain diversions staved off the thirst by bringing new water into the basin.

But over time, even with the additional water, the cities and farms of the Arkansas River basin have had to stretch the supply. Incredibly, the booming city of Aurora in the South Platte basin, came hunting for water — and found it — in the Rocky Ford area in the 1980s, taking water from a basin that already had lived through a century of shortages.

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

Of the snow and rain that annually falls in the Arkansas River basin — 6.2 trillion gallons — less than 10 percent is used by man. “More than 90 percent is lost through evaporation or through transpiration,” [Pat Edelmann, who heads the Pueblo office of the U.S. Geological Survey] said…

Over the last 30 years, the need for good information about the river and its tributaries has increased. Cities and power companies have stepped up demand for water that once irrigated crops, and storage has shifted toward municipal needs. A rafting industry has been created on the Upper Arkansas River. Kansas sued Colorado over expanded use of water, prevailing in its U.S. Supreme Court claim that it was being shorted at the state line. “The USGS tries to provide the facts, as well as useful interpretation so the best decisions can be made,” Edelmann said.

Some of its current efforts include a basinwide water study for a water resources group formed under the 2003 Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District agreement with Aurora, a Fountain Creek flood control study and a better understanding of how snow melt affects streamflow in the Upper Arkansas. The agency also is involved in the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s decision-support system that will attempt to link numerous other investigations in an effort to describe what’s about to happen when you move the water from Point A to Point B…

Reservoirs constructed over the last 100 years capture that flow for use later in the growing season. The great majority of storage at high-mountain reservoirs, where it is most valuable, has been taken over by cities. At Lake Pueblo, the switching yard for water as it travels in the basin, cities are increasingly using the space they are entitled to each year.

Imports from the Western Slope add the greatest amount of water to the supply, increasing flows in the Arkansas River at Canon City by 25 percent, according to a study by the Bureau of Land Management in 2000…

Since 1990, there has been a voluntary agreement among water suppliers to keep flows higher during rafting season and optimal for fish at other times of year in the Upper Arkansas River basin.
The agreement is made possible by controlling when releases are made from Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo each year in order to make space for the next year’s imports.

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

In a typical year, the flows of the Arkansas River are enhanced roughly 25 percent by water brought in from the Colorado River basin. The great bulk of the water is brought over by cities to supplement supplies they own within the basin.

Colorado Springs brings water from the Blue River in Summit County and as partners with Aurora in the Homestake Project in Eagle County. El Paso County’s largest city also is the largest shareholder in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Ditch Company and receives 25 percent of the water brought over by the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. About 80 percent of its supply is imported…

Pueblo gets about half of its total supply from transmountain diversions. Over the years, the water board has formed working relationships with Colorado Springs, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Aurora and, perhaps most importantly, the Western Slope. “Pitkin County and Aspen are more aware, so taking more water out of the Roaring Fork watershed is difficult,” [Bud O’Hara water resources chief for the Pueblo Board of Water Works], said. “I think we need more of a cooperative effort with the Western Slope. Storage will be a big factor, but it gets back to cooperation.”

The earliest water projects were largely a proposition to take water from one side of the mountains to the other. Over time, compensatory storage in the basins where water was delivered from became the typical mitigation. Today, there are social and economic issues that are rooted in the attitude that Colorado River users need their own supplies to meet future needs.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Denver Water: Roberts Tunnel winter maintenance update

December 19, 2010

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The trans-mountain Roberts Tunnel, which transports water from Dillon Reservoir to the South Platte drainage, will remain shut off until April while Denver Water does major maintenance on the valves at the east end of the underground aqueduct…

“We’re in the process of draining it right now,” Steger said. The original plan was to shut off the tunnel in early November, but after talks with Keystone Ski Area, which uses some of the water from the tunnel for snowmaking, Denver Water decided to hold off on the project until mid-December, toward the end of the snowmaking season.

More Denver Water coverage here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

December 19, 2010

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Here’s the link to the Tuesday’s notes.

La Niña update

December 19, 2010

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

“It’s too big to fade,” said Klaus Wolter, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate researcher who has helped develop medium and long-range forecasts based on factors like the La Niña-El Niño cycles. Wolter said some of this year’s La Niña impacts are typical, including above-normal precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies. The National Climate Prediction Center explained that water temperatures are below normal along the full lengths of the Pacific Coasts of both North and South America. The coolness extends up to 600-feet deep into the water, making it likely La Niña will persist well into spring…

“There’s a lot of discussion about that right now,” Wolter said. And while the Front Range is expected to be somewhat dry during a La Niña, this year has been one of the driest on record for parts of the region, including Boulder, which has only seen 2 inches of snow through mid-December, putting this season on track to be the driest in 117 years of record-keeping. Wolter said one of the big factors in the Front Range weather has been the absence of any Arctic air masses moving south to help trigger precipitation. For December, that means temperatures have running 4 to 6 degrees above normal in many locations in Colorado.

Snake River: Rising levels of zinc may be due to climate change

December 19, 2010

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From Science Daily:

The study focused on the Snake River watershed just west of the Continental Divide near Keystone, Colo., where CU-Boulder researchers have observed a four-fold increase in dissolved zinc over the last 30 years during the lowest water flow months, said Caitlin Crouch. Crouch, a master’s degree student who led the study, said the high levels of zinc affect stream ecology, including deleterious effects on microbes, algae, invertebrates and fish. The team speculated the increased zinc concentrations may be tied to changes in groundwater conditions and stream flow patterns caused by climate change and the associated snowmelt that has been peaking two to three weeks earlier than normal in recent years, largely because of warming air temperatures. The result is lowered stream flows and drier soils along the stream in September and October, which increases metal concentrations, said Crouch. “While most of the talk about climate change in western waterways is about decreasing water quantities, we are evaluating potential climate influences on water quality, which is a whole different ball game,” she said…

The zinc in the Snake River watershed is primarily a result of acid rock drainage, or ARD, which can come from abandoned mine sites along rivers or through the natural weathering of pyrite in the local rock, said Crouch. Sometimes enhanced by mining activity, weathering pyrite forms sulfuric acid through a series of chemical reactions, which dissolves metals like zinc and carries them into the groundwater. McKnight, also a fellow of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, said there are nearly 2,000 miles of waterways in Colorado affected by ARD…

The elevated zinc in the Snake River comes from several ARD sources, said Crouch. Crouch’s study site — where an increasing trend in zinc concentrations is sustained by groundwater discharge — is above the Peru Creek tributary to the Snake River, where natural pyrite weathering is thought to be the main source of ARD. Peru Creek is largely devoid of life due to ARD from the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine and other smaller mines upstream and has been a target for potential remediation efforts.

McKnight said another factor involved in rising zinc levels in the Snake River watershed — which runs from the top of the Continental Divide to Dillon Reservoir — could be the result of the severe 2002 drought in Colorado. The drought significantly lowered waterways, allowing more pyrite to be weathered in dry soils of the watershed and in wetlands adjacent to the stream.

More Snake River watershed coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Mount Princeton geothermal lease will be issued by the BLM January 1

December 19, 2010

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

The lessee, 3E Geothermal, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Young Life, which owns Frontier Ranch, a Christian youth camp on land above a portion of the lease…

[Vanessa Delgado, bureau public affairs specialist] said bureau specialists resolved protest issues quickly because the issues were addressed Sept. 7 in the National Environmental Policy Act Determination of Adequacy. Therefore, she said, they didn’t require additional lease stipulations. The determination of adequacy cites federal and state regulations that protect water quality, “including the Mount Princeton Hot Springs domestic water supply,” and notes the regulations “are applied when (the bureau) receives an application for development of geothermal resources in the lease area.” Among requirements for geothermal resource development are an environmental assessment and public comment periods.

Delgado said 3E Geothermal will have 10 years to develop and make beneficial use of the geothermal resource, or the lease will be terminated. Because the lease is for commercial development, Delgado said 3E Geothermal will need to develop a commercial use of the resource to retain the lease beyond 10 years…

Young Life officials earlier made clear their intention to protect the camping experience at Frontier Ranch by protecting the natural beauty of the area.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Firestone scores some CWCB dough for rebates

December 19, 2010

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From the Carbon Valley Farmer & Miner:

The program provides a $125 rebate for any qualifying high water efficiency washing machine and a $75 rebate for any qualifying high water efficiency toilets. This rebate program applies to all eligible washing machines or toilets purchased after April 1. The total funds available are about $36,000…

Firestone is the first municipality to receive the water-efficiency grant from the board to automate the application process by using the town’s website. Go to and click on the Water Rebate icon on the left side of the home page. Contact Julie Pasillas, Firestone Water Department 303-833-3291.

More conservation coverage here.

Proposed Penley Dam Project reservoir update

December 19, 2010

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From the Douglas County News Press (Rhonda Moore):

The county planning staff recommends the county approve two options for the developer to choose from, one of which could result in construction of a 22,500 acre-foot water storage reservoir on nearly 430 acres.

Neighbors decry the proposal, with concerns the dam poses a potential safety hazard and will destroy mountain views, natural habitat and property values…

Ventana Capital proposes Penley Ranch as a development of more than 35 five-acre lots surrounding a non-recreational reservoir, which can provide a water storage solution for area water authorities. They came to the county with two options, a smaller, 14,000 acre-foot reservoir covering 292 acres, or the larger reservoir covering about 430 acres…

The planning staff recommends approval of both options, allowing the developer to decide which of the two will move forward. Among the conditions of approval are recommendations to perform detailed geotechnical and geologic investigations, provide the appropriate federal and state permits and comply with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requirements for the Preble’s Jumping Mouse. The dam site is identified as a potential habitat for the endangered mouse, according to a referral response from the fish and wildlife service. Another referral agency, the Colorado Geological Survey (CGS), responded with concerns that the dam is proposed on a site underlain by a complex series of faults.

Karen Barry, geological engineer with the CGS, says while the existing geotechnical report addresses whether the site soil can support embankments, further investigation can address potential hazards. “It is likely that geologic hazards and soil constraints can be mitigated,” Berry writes in her Jun 16 referral agency response. “Currently the application does not adequately identify or provide plans to mitigate such hazards.”[...]

The planning commission public hearing for the Penley Dam application continues at 7 p.m., Jan. 10 in the commissioner’s hearing room at 100 Third St. in Castle Rock.

More Penley Dam Project coverage here.

Orchard City hires new water superintendent

December 19, 2010

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

During the Orchard city town Board’s regular meeting on Nov. 10, Town Administrator David Varley announced that Randy Haynes, a resident of Montrose who has been working in Mountain Village, has been named the town’s new water superintendent. The town’s former water plant operator and water system supervisor, Keith Peterson, had resigned earlier this year.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Durango: St. Columba students participate in CDOW ‘River Watch’ program

December 19, 2010

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From The Durango Herald:

DOW spokesman Joe Lewandowski said the program, which began in 1989, enlists help from schools, organizations and some local governments to gather samples and conduct tests on 300 rivers and streams throughout the state. About 4,000 samples are collected every year and tested for aspects such as acidity, temperature and mineral content.

More education coverage here.

Water supply safety

December 19, 2010

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Here’s Part One of Dr. Joseph Mercola’s series Toxic Water running in the Pagosa Daily Post. It’s a nice in-depth look at drinking water supplies. From the article:

In other words, it’s typically the disinfection byproducts – not chlorine – that are responsible for the potential toxic effects of chlorinated water. Some of the more dangerous DBPs created from the chlorination of water include trihalomethanes (THMs) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These chlorine byproducts can trigger the production of free radicals in your body.

Here are some of the more dangerous chlorination byproducts and their associated suspected side effects:

Trihalomethanes (THMs):

- Cause cancer in laboratory animals
- Trigger the production of free radicals in your body

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs):

- Lead to central nervous system depression and drowsiness
- Can irritate skin and mucous membranes

More water treatment coverage here.

Colorado River District: Public radio stations team up for water issues series of reports

December 19, 2010

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From the Colorado River District website:

KDNK Community Radio and Aspen Public Radio team up to bring listeners an in-depth series looking at the threats to the region’s water. Reporters from the two stations examine how population growth, climate change, the loss of agricultural land, developments and the energy industry all put strains on Colorado’s limited resource.

Click through for the links to the audio presentations.

More Colorado water coverage here and here.

Colorado River Basin: Secretary Salazar is heading to Mexico to talk water

December 18, 2010

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From the Las Vegas Review Journal (Henry Brean):

In a speech on Friday in Las Vegas , Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will travel to Mexico on Sunday to discuss the international water agreement and other issues. “We have high hopes. We’ll know more within a very few short days,” he said. The details have not been finalized, but the concept is for Mexico to store some of its Colorado River allocation in Lake Mead for use in future years, temporarily lifting the water level in the drought-stricken reservoir. Right now, Mexico can’t take its full share of water from the river because of a 7.2 magnitude quake that struck Mexicali on April 4, damaging canals and reservoirs that supply the vast agricultural area just south of the California border…

Salazar said the expected agreement with Mexico would benefit the U.S. by keeping additional water in storage “so we can help address lake levels at Lake Mead.”

What’s the transit loss down there?

More Colorado River basin coverage here and here.

Precipitation news

December 17, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain:

An expected widespread snowstorm for Colorado hit the hardest in the southern half of the state Thursday in the San Juan Mountains. Wolf Creek Ski Area there reported 9 inches of snow had fallen by midafternoon…In the Upper Arkansas River Valley, the Monarch Pass area was hardest hit by the winter storm Thursday. Snowfall measured between 3 inches and 8 inches on Monarch Pass, but nearby Salida did not have any measurable snow…In Custer County, about an inch of snow was reported at the airport and just a bit of snow was reported in the East Hills area…A weather spotter in the Cuchara area said 2 to 3 inches of fluffy snow fell throughout the day Thursday. In nearby La Veta, about 2 inches of snow fell.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation over Aurora long-term storage contract ‘administratively closed’

December 17, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

U.S. District Court Phillip Brimmer on Wednesday “administratively closed” a lawsuit by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District against the Bureau of Reclamation for issuing Aurora a 40-year contract in 2007 to store and exchange water at Lake Pueblo…

“What this means is that the case can be opened for cause if Aurora is not abiding by its agreement with the Lower Ark,” said Jay Winner, general manager. “I think we have tied their hands.”

“I think the agreement is in place, the judge’s action doesn’t change the obligations of Aurora to follow the agreement,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. Pifher said Aurora is committed to living up to all of the provisions of its agreement with the Lower Ark district. The agreement, reached in 2009, asked the judge to stay the case for two years while Lower Ark and Aurora, among other things, worked for federal legislation to allow Aurora to use the Fry-Ark Project…

In the most recent report to the court, lawyers for the two sides indicated Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., agreed to look at legislation. Since then, Udall has made it clear he would not support any legislation unless there is agreement from all members of the Colorado congressional delegation and all parties involved. That could involve as many as 11 separate entities and the Bureau of Reclamation, which were engaged in talks prior to the lawsuit.

“The decision takes the pressure off getting the federal legislation done,” Winner said. “It also gives us the opportunity to educate people that what we are doing is about keeping other people out of the valley.” The agreement with Aurora enlists the city’s support of Lower Ark programs in the Arkansas Valley that keeps other cities in the Northern part of the state from using Fry-Ark facilities to move water out of the Arkansas Valley.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update

December 17, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’ve still got a long ways to go, because there’s a lot of legal stuff,” said Super Ditch President John Schweizer. “There is a lot of paperwork and permits involved, but it all looks very promising.”[...]

Super Ditch delayed its signup date to Feb. 15 at the request of the High Line board in order to give shareholders on all seven ditches time to consider the pros and cons of signing on.

High Line shareholders also approved a feasibility study that would allow the ditch company to buy shares that are for sale. “It might be a way to help young farmers get a start,” [Superintendent Dan Henrichs] said.

More than 80 percent of those on the Fort Lyon Canal have returned cards saying they are interested in participating in Super Ditch contracts. Dale Mauch, a former Fort Lyon president who represents the canal on Super Ditch, said there are many frustrations that have been expressed by farmers, and more are interested in participating in a water leasing program. “The groundswell of Super Ditch is gaining momentum,” Mauch said. “It’s a way to deal with all these issues we’re facing.”[...]

The Lower Ark district is paying for the legal and engineering fees to jump-start Super Ditch, and is sponsoring the compliance plan for the irrigation rules to reduce the costs to farmers. On behalf of the Super Ditch, the Lower Ark sent out packets asking 2,000 shareholders on the seven ditch systems if they are interested in the program and has received more than 600 positive replies with some replies from each ditch.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Colorado State University, Applegate Group Collaborate on State Grant to Investigate Hydropower in Irrigation Canals

December 16, 2010

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Emily Narvaes Wilmsen):

Three million acres of irrigated land in Colorado could be an untapped source of hydropower and a revenue source for irrigation companies.

A Colorado State University engineering professor is collaborating with an engineering firm, Applegate Group Inc., to review the potential power that could be generated by “low-head” turbines in irrigation canals.

Lindsay George, water resource engineer in the Glenwood Springs offices of Applegate, and Dan Zimmerle, a research scientist and adjunct mechanical engineering professor at Colorado State, received a $50,000 grant this year from the Colorado Department of Agriculture to study canals in Colorado. The grant is part of the Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy (ACRE) Program to promote energy-related projects beneficial to Colorado’s agriculture industry.

Water in irrigation canals moves fast enough to produce anywhere from 100 kilowatts to two megawatts of power. Two megawatts of power is enough energy to supply power to about 850 typical homes.

In the study, the researchers are examining turbines that could generate power from an elevation drop in an irrigation channel of five feet to 30 feet such as water diversion structures or chutes. They’re also investigating how to connect that power to the traditional electric grid.

Zimmerle and George are now conducting an inventory of irrigation canals in Colorado and surveying roughly 250 ditch companies and individual ditch operators around the state. The survey is available to ditch operators at

Zimmerle will speak about the project on Feb. 16 in Berthoud at a full-day workshop, “Low Head Hydroelectric Opportunities for Ditch and Reservoir Companies,” sponsored by the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance. DARCA is a resource for networking, information exchange and advocacy among mutual ditch and reservoir companies throughout Colorado.

“DARCA is very much interested in projects that will enhance the financial viability of its member ditch companies,” Executive Director John McKenzie said. “The introduction of these types of distributed power projects will help develop additional revenue streams for Colorado ditch companies.”

“That type of infrastructure allows for the potential of low-head hydropower,” Zimmerle said. “There are extensive irrigation systems in Colorado, so we’re identifying where hydropower could be applied in those irrigation channels.
“A large part of the cost for small generating plants is the cost of running a distribution line to generating plants,” he said. “There are good places in the irrigation system that will generate significant amounts of power. But we need to explore this issue with utilities – the approval process, interconnection standards and potential revenue.”

Hydropower generated from irrigation ditches is known as low-head hydropower or hydrokinetic power – what the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) defines as projects that “generate electricity from waves or directly from the flow of water in ocean currents, tides or inland waterways.”

Interest is growing in that type of power because technology is improving, George said: “FERC has a Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Colorado to streamline the permitting process for low-impact hydropower projects in existing canals.

“Hydrokinetic turbines produce a small amount of power and are going to be practical in certain situations,” she said. “With our study, we expect to report a total amount of power that could be produced using low-head and hydrokinetic turbines in our irrigation canals that should help irrigation districts in planning their projects.

“New low-head technologies have potential at sites previously considered unfeasible for hydro development because of a lack of significant elevation drop,” George said. “Irrigation canal drop and check structures, as well as existing diversion dams and outflows, may provide the drop necessary to implement these new low-head hydro technologies.”
Applegate Group, with offices in Denver and Glenwood Springs, is an engineering and consulting firm with expertise in water planning, water rights engineering, water policy and development of water infrastructure.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Moffat Collection System Project: CDOW impact report

December 16, 2010

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From the Greeley Gazette (Mike Bauman):

Ken Kehmeier, [CDOW] senior aquatic biologist for the Platte River Basin, told commissioners that Denver Water’s Moffat Firming project would result in reduced stream flows and increased temperatures in the Williams Fork, Fraser and Upper Colorado River systems. According to Kehmeier, the lower flows would increase sedimentation in the affected reaches of these rivers and reduce their ability to support aquatic insects and fish life.

On the East Slope, the additional diversions would send more water through the Moffat Tunnel, down South Boulder Creek and into an enlarged Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, Kehmeier said. The project would create a larger reservoir for recreation, however, longer periods of high flows in South Boulder Creek above Gross Reservoir would reduce its ability to support trout and other aquatic wildlife, he said…

Kehmeier noted that Denver Water could opt to divert an additional 16,000 acre feet, mainly through Roberts Tunnel and South Platte basin through the southern part of its system without getting a new federal permit. That would likely cause significant impacts to Dillon Reservoir and the high-value trout fishery along the South Platte River, Kehmeier said, and it would not give the Wildlife Commission an opportunity to negotiate mitigation for the increased diversions.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: The Sheep Mountain Alliance plans to deliver an environmental analysis of the proposed Piñon Ridge mill to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today

December 16, 2010

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

Hilary White, Sheep Mountain Alliance’s executive director, faulted Energy Fuels, the company hoping to build the mill, for sidestepping concerns. “I think that they probably took more time on some parts of the application than others,” she said, claiming issues such as worst-case scenarios and air transport of toxic dust were ignored. “They shrugged them off. … The application was incomplete when they first completed it, and it continues to be incomplete. The state should deny it on those grounds, as well as others.”

Fraink Filas, who speaks on behalf of Energy Fuels and is the environmental manager there, had yet to see the report and thus could not comment.

[Stratus Consulting of Boulder, Colorado] found fault in the application in several main areas: water supply, waste containment and management and unmapped plans for dealing with future problems at the mill site. It’s estimated that the mill will require 144 gallons of water per minute. The only nearby sources for water are the San Miguel River and the Chinle-Moenkopi aquifer beneath the site, which is estimated to put out 100-175 gallons per minute under an “optimistic” projection, according to the report. “We do not believe that Energy Fuels and their contractor… have adequately addressed questions of water supply over the proposed 40-year mill life,” it reads…

Stratus and others are also worried that the ponds, which are required to be lined, may leak into groundwater beneath the site. Energy Fuels has said it would monitor the ponds for leakage with devices and install netting and equipment to keep birds from getting into the ponds. “Given the history of other mine sites, we believe that Energy Fuels should plan for contaminant releases to surface drainages and groundwater and include multiple control measures as part of the permitting process,” the report reads.

The consultants also faulted Energy Fuels, and the mining industry as a whole, on a failure to address future and unseen problems and plan for remediation. “Energy Fuels and its contractors presented a plan with an engineered solution for all aspects of the milling process. Impoundments will be lined, the ground surface will be graded, it will be a zero discharge facility, and after 40 years, they will implement their closeout plan and walk away,” the report reads. “They have assumed that these engineered solutions are failsafe and that no additional contingency planning is necessary.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area scores $425,000 from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for restoration work

December 15, 2010

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From The Mountain Mail (Cailey McDermott):

The project is designed to reduce the sediment in the river, improve river health and fishery imports. “Probably when all is said and done, it will cost close to $1 million,” Rob White recreation area park manger said. Additional financing will be from Colorado state parks, he said. Construction is set to start in the spring at Hecla Junction recreation site. White is hopeful work will be finished by fall. Hecla Junction was chosen because it’s an area of heavy recreational use and it received back-to-back flash floods in 2006 and 2007, White said. “The floods cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. We want to make the site more sustainable,” White said. Tom Waters, area assistant park manager, said focus of spring construction will be to remove sediments from the river so they can be measured and examined. It will create detention ponds where sediment is captured before reaching the river.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Durango: Winter maintenance for Smelter Rapid

December 15, 2010

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From The Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews):

Track hoes in the middle of the Animas River at Santa Rita Park were performing winter maintenance on rock formations Monday, capitalizing on the 180 cubic feet per second flow of the Animas, which can run at several thousand cfs in the spring. The work, overseen by the city’s Animas River Task Force and funded by Durango Whitewater, should wrap up by the end of the week. The excavators are replacing dislodged boulders moved during monsoons and high flows over the last two years. Monday, Miguel Montoya of Spriggs Excavation of Durango was trying not to kick up silt while refashioning a river run that churns heavily in high water…

Durango Whitewater received a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and raised $14,000 to fund the project. Spriggs donated the track hoe and Montoya’s services. Wolf Creek Ski Corp. also donated a track hoe and operator.

More whitewater coverage here.

Tamarisk control: The Tamarisk Coalition scores $25,000 from Xcel

December 15, 2010

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From the Grand Junction Free Press:

The Tamarisk Coalition will be accepting $25,000 from the Xcel Energy Foundation for the continued restoration activities at Watson Island 9 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens. The Tamarisk Coalition will be using these funds in partnership with the City of Grand Junction, Western Colorado Math and Science Center, Mesa State College, the Botanical Gardens, and the Western Colorado Conservation Corps to reach the ecological objectives for this site which include replacing invasive plant species with native plants to benefit wildlife habitat.

More Tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Water Quality Control Division 401 certification challenge recap

December 15, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Water Control Commission, which oversees the division, heard testimony on the appeal of the certification at an all-day meeting Tuesday. The commission did not reach a decision, choosing to consider some points in executive session and deferring discussion and a ruling to a meeting at a later date. The case apparently is the first time a Section 401 certification has been appealed in Colorado…

Rather than set numeric standards for selenium, sulfates and E. coli levels that will increase as a result of SDS, the state chose instead to allow monitoring and cooperative action outlined in the adaptive management plan, Barth said. “There was no analysis done, and everything was based on a gut feeling,” Barth said in summarizing an eight-hour deposition of John Hranac, the state employee primarily involved with the Section 401 certification…

Barth continued to hammer on his point that there need to be specific limits on discharges because the streams already are impaired. Barth also said the state failed to look at how increased sanitary sewer and stormwater flows that will result from SDS will affect water quality on Fountain Creek and in the Arkansas River. The state ignored the demise of a stormwater enterprise that was used in the EIS adaptive management plan, he said. The division also didn’t take into account the high number of violations of water quality laws Colorado Springs has had over the past 12 years, he added. “There have been repeated violations that resulted in fines from the division and from federal courts,” Barth said, pointing out that some of the sewer line breaks were a direct result of lines crossing channels that washed out during floods. “Now you add more water? It’s putting more flame on the fire.” Barth, along with the coalition’s attorney Susan Eckert, asked the commission to either deny certification or remand the decision to the water quality division to develop numeric standards and analyze growth as a part of the process.

Colorado Springs argued that the scope of the certification is narrowly defined as a step toward a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow digging and dredging in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River. “The pipeline and treatment plants (in SDS) do not include any discharges,” said Jennifer Hunt, an attorney for Colorado Springs…

During questioning by Colorado Springs Utilities’ attorney David Robbins, SDS Project Director John Fredell said growth will occur with or without SDS, and that the project has other purposes — including providing redundancy of water delivery systems, reliability of service and development of water rights. Annette Quill, the state’s attorney, argued the adaptive management plan is enforceable, and defended the division staff as using their “best professional judgment,” not a gut reaction, to make the decision to certify SDS. The state favored the adaptive management plan rather than a strict limit on contaminants, said Steve Gunderson, director of the Water Quality Control Division. “An adaptive management program made sense, because you could study this thing to death and still not be conclusive,” Gunderson said. “Fountain Creek involves as much scrutiny as any basin in the state, and we’re definitely going to be involved.”

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

State regulators Tuesday delayed a decision until next month on a dispute involving Colorado Springs Utilities’ Southern Delivery System water pipeline. The group Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut have challenged a water-quality certification obtained by Utilities in April.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

December 14, 2010

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

As of mid-December, the Colorado River Basin snowpack is up more than 67 percent compared to last year, information from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Division shows. Compared to average figures for the basin, which includes the Blue River watershed and extends to western Colorado, the snowpack is up about 25 percent above average for this time of year. For all SNOTEL sites in Summit County (areas where the division has automatic snow survey equipment installed), last year’s mid-December snowpack was well below average, but this year the situation has reversed. Copper Mountain’s SNOTEL average is to have snow with the liquid equivalent of 4 inches. As of Dec. 13, the snow water equivalent is at 7.4 inches…

[NRCS spokesman Mike Gillespie] said the Upper Rio Grande Basin is at 43 percent of average and the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins are at 71 percent of average.

USDA Requests Proposals for Water and Land Conservation Projects

December 14, 2010

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA is seeking proposals for projects that will bring partners together to help farmers, ranchers and private nonindustrial forest landowners implement beneficial water and land conservation practices.

“Farmers, ranchers and owners of forest land play pivotal roles in protecting and enhancing natural resources,” Vilsack said. “Our goal is to support projects that will improve the health of the natural resources on their land and bring the environmental and economic benefits of conservation to their local communities.”

The requirements for submitting project proposals for the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) and the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) can be viewed at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible producers in approved project areas.

Through AWEP, NRCS provides support for projects that conserve and improve water quality, use irrigation water efficiently, mitigate the effects of drought and climate change and take other actions that benefit water resources. NRCS enters into partnership agreements with federally recognized Indian Tribes, state and local units of government, agricultural and forestland associations, and nongovernmental organizations to help landowners plan and implement conservation practices in designated project areas.

Twenty-eight projects approved for AWEP in fiscal year (FY) 2010 are supporting water conservation efforts in 9 states. For example, in central Colorado, satellite and Internet technology funded through AWEP allows farmers to monitor water-use data in real-time. This information helps them decide how much water to use on their crops, when to apply irrigation water and what type of irrigation equipment will work best for their operations.

Through CCPI, NRCS and partners assist producers in implementing conservation practices on agricultural and nonindustrial private forest lands. NRCS leverages financial and technical assistance with partners’ resources to install soil erosion practices, manage grazing lands, improve forestlands, establish cover crops, reduce on-farm energy usage and other conservation measures. CCPI is open to federally recognized Tribes, state and local units of government, producer associations, farmer cooperatives, institutions of higher education and nongovernmental organizations that work with producers.

Twenty-six projects in 14 states were approved for CCPI in FY 2010. NRCS and Trout Unlimited in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley are using CCPI to restore brook trout habitat and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The goal is to install nearly 26,000 feet of fencing to prevent livestock from entering streams within the bay’s watershed. This action is expected to improve nearly 10 miles of stream habitat. The project also will restore 20 acres of streamside vegetation to keep pollutants from entering waterways and stabilize soils on 2 miles of stream banks to prevent sediment from clogging waterways downstream.

Proposals for AWEP and CCPI projects must be received by NRCS by January 31, 2011. Visit and web pages to learn more.

2010 represents the 75th year of NRCS “helping people help the land.” Since its inception in 1935, NRCS has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.

More conservation coverage here.

Thirsty Energy, Scarce Water: Interdependent Security Challenges

December 14, 2010

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This in-depth look from the Journal of Energy Security (Steven Solomon) starts out saying:

From the invention of the waterwheel 2,000 years ago, to the modern, coal-burning steam engine that powered the 18th century Industrial Revolution, and the giant, multipurpose hydropower-irrigation-flood control dams pioneered at Hoover that helped transform 20th century global civilization, water and energy have been coupled in a matrimony of ever-deepening interdependence. Today their marriage interweaves so inextricably through the spinal nexus of 21st century infrastructures that achieving energy security depends critically upon freshwater sufficiency—and water security turns upon ample, and increasing amounts, of affordable energy.

Click through and read the whole thing. Thanks to Loretta Lohman for the link.

Here’s the link to his book.

More energy policy coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition challenge to the project’s 401 certification is today

December 14, 2010

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

“We have asked in our papers that the commission set aside the certification or remand it, which means send it back to the Water Quality Control Division for further review based on the various issues we’ve raised,” Susan Eckert, a Littleton-based attorney representing the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition, said Monday. The coalition, which describes itself as a non-profit dedicated to the protection of the environment and worker interests in the Rocky Mountain region, filed the appeal along with [Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut] in June. Among their assertions is that SDS, as presently configured, will not comply with all applicable state water quality requirements.

[Colorado Springs] Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel said SDS has “extensive mitigation requirements” that “fully address” the issues cited in the appeal.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project update

December 14, 2010

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From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

Over the years, Denver Water has built four trans-mountain diversions, five canals and 16 reservoirs to serve its 1.3 million customers. Northern Water relies on 110 miles worth of canals and even a tunnel beneath Rocky Mountain National Park to pump western slope water to its 13 reservoirs. Both agencies have pending projects to expand this footprint…

“This project allows us to take the water that we are currently entitled to take under the Windy Gap Project,” says Jeff Drager, Northern Water’s project manager overseeing the Windy Gap Firming Project. He says making the water more “firm,” or more reliable, means the water customers along the northern Front Range will be able to count on that water year in and year out…

These concerns set the backdrop of a State Wildlife Commission meeting on the two water projects last week in Colorado Springs. A relatively-unknown state law requires the commission to sign off on mitigation plans for water projects like these, which get passed on to federal regulators who have the final say on any proposal. “The number one concern of the Grand County Commissioners, and they said to say this very loudly, is to protect the aquatic environment,” said attorney Barbara Green, who represents the Grand County Commission. “That is their number one concern about these two projects.”[...]

Division of Wildlife biologist Ken Kehmeier said from 1985 to 2010, lower flows have led to some uninvited visitors, wiping out two mayfly and six stone fly insects that trout depend on. “We have chironomids and some muelids that are now dominant groups in some of these areas, these two species are generally indicators of water quality problems,” Kehmeier said. Which could have implications for all of us. So officials with Denver and Northern water say they’re working together to ensure that their projects’ impacts will be negligible.

Northern’s Jeff Drager says his agency’s plans could actually help the river, by carefully taking less water during dry months, and allowing more to flow down the western slope during peak runoff periods.

More Moffat Collection System coverage here and here. More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado election transition: Hickenlooper is looking at IBCC recommendations

December 14, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

…Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper said he is receptive to adopting water-efficiency standards for state agencies and departments…

“That’s what we did in the city,” Hickenlooper said. “We started asking, ‘Who uses large amounts of water in our city government that we could talk to first?’ ’’ Hickenlooper said that was a change that he implemented as mayor of Denver, and it worked. A chart generated by Denver Water showed that between 1990 and last year Denver reduced its water consumption considerably. Most of the water efficiency was achieved between 2000 and 2010. Hickenlooper became mayor in 2003. At its peak, Denver was devouring more than 220 gallons per person per day. As of last year, that measure had declined to 145 gallons…

“In some of these big issues, like water, I think you have to look at every agency in state government and ask everybody, ‘How are you going to cut your water consumption by 15 or 20 percent?’ ”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

La Niña/snowpack update

December 14, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Chances of snow [for Pueblo County and the Arkansas Valley] are 10 percent to 40 percent Wednesday through Friday, but the 10-day forecast is calling for below normal precipitation…

Most of the storms that have moved through the country for the last four months have missed Pueblo as a strong La Nina — cooling of the Pacific Ocean — continues. Storms tend to move further north, as last weekend’s pounding of the Midwest illustrates.

Snowpack in the mountains is spotty as well. North of Leadville, more than 3 feet of snow remains at Fremont Pass, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service Snotel tracking. But elsewhere in the Arkansas River basin, snow is sparse. At St. Elmo, southwest of Buena Vista, about 17 inches were reported Monday. Further south and east, the snow pack thins out. On Pikes Peak, where traces of white can be seen, only about 2 inches is measured at the NRCS site. At Hayden Pass near Villa Grove, only 1 inch was reported. Cooper and Monarch ski areas both reported a base of 34 inches with 7 inches of new snow over the weekend, while Wolf Creek Pass only has a 27-inch base with no new snow. The Arkansas River basin is at 76 percent of normal for snowpack, as measured by snow water equivalent, while the Rio Grande basin was at 54 percent as of Monday.

From The Denver Post (Kieran Nicholson):

While winter weather has a firm grip on the northern and central Colorado mountains, Denver and the Front Range remain mild and dry, a pattern unlikely to change in a hurry. Several Colorado ski resorts are boasting of early-season bases already measuring 40 inches and deeper, but Denver has seen just a “trace” amount of precipitation for the month of December so far…

“This pattern doesn’t change too much over the next 10 days,” said Bernie Meier, a meteorologist and spokesman with the National Weather Service in Boulder.Denver and the Front Range may get “a little light precipitation here and there, but nothing significant.”

Drought/snowpack news

December 13, 2010

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Bump and update: Here’s the latest snowpack map from the NRCS.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The federal Climate Prediction Center has classified most of Larimer County, including the foothills, and all of eastern Colorado as experiencing a moderate drought. Some areas of Colorado, including Pueblo, Otero, Crowley, Kiowa, Bent and Prowers counties, are in a severe drought.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The latest release of the U.S. Drought Monitor shows severe drought conditions along the entire Lower Arkansas Valley east of Pueblo and abnormally dry conditions in the Rio Grande basin. Most areas have not seen appreciable rain since midsummer.

Meanwhile, the Western part of the state is showing above average snowfall early in the season, with some areas showing 150 percent of average for moisture since October, according to the State Water Availability Task Force. A strong La Nina pattern — cooling over the Pacific Ocean — has pushed storm systems to the north, leaving Southern Colorado drier than usual. Snowpack in the Rio Grande basin is the lowest in the state at 77 percent of average, while the Arkansas River basin is at 89 percent, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The good news for Arkansas Basin water users is that the Upper Colorado River basin is at 142 percent. Arkansas River water users rely on imports of water from across the Continental Divide for about one-fourth of the total supply of water each year. Overall, snowpack is at 123 percent of average and the state’s water supply is at 103 percent of average, the task force reported…

Water storage levels throughout the state remain high, the task force reported last week. Reservoir levels in the Arkansas River basin are slightly above average.

Here’s the December 2010 Drought Update from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Taryn Huthcins-Cabibi/Veva Deheza). Here’s the executive summary:

Following a warm and dry September and October throughout much of the state, November saw conditions improve in some regions and deteriorate in others. The Rio Grande and Eastern Plains have received little to no precipitation in November and continue to experience moderate to severe drought conditions. The four corners region also remains dry, but has yet to be classified as experiencing drought conditions. Conversely, the northwest portion of the state experienced good precipitation in November alleviating previously dry conditions. Reservoir storage remains strong across most of the state with five of the eight major basins near or above average.

- The eastern plains of Colorado have received below normal precipitation in November and remain below normal for the 2010 water year, which began in October. Much of Northwestern Colorado has seen average precipitation in November helping to ease dryness from the late summer and early fall.

- Recent storms have alleviated dry conditions in The Yampa White Basin. This basin is now at 149% of average for the water year and has a snowpack 129% of average.

- Statewide snowpack is 103% of average. Individually, four of the eight basins are well above 100% of average snow water equivalent. The North Platte has the highest percent of average snow pack at 142%, the Colorado, Yampa/White and South Platte sit at 130%, 129%, and 116% of average, respectively.

- The San Miguel/Dolores and the Rio Grande River Basin remain well below normal for snow pack with 67% and 56% of average. Conditions in the southwest portion of the state will be closely monitored over the coming weeks for emerging drought conditions.

- According to the U.S. Drought Monitor 59% of the state is now experiencing D0, D1 or D2 status, which represents abnormally dry, drought moderate and drought severe conditions respectively. The drought conditions that have covered the eastern plains of the state throughout the fall have continued to deteriorate with D0, D1 and D2 covering much of Colorado east of the divide.

- The December 1st traditional SWSI values range from -1.8 in the Rio Grande Basin to +3.9 in the Yampa/ White/ North Platte Basin.1 The Gunnison and Arkansas basins are both near normal at +0.1 and +0.3 respectively. The Colorado and South Platte are both showing strong positive values at +2.6 and +2.0. The dry conditions in the San Juan/Animas/Dolores/San Miguel are illustrated by a SWSI value of -1.4. The traditional SWSI values are partly influenced by reservoir storage and may not fully represent conditions in the region; the revised SWSI values were not available for this month.

Middle Colorado River Partnership update

December 13, 2010

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

Glenwood Springs City Council recently committed $3,650 in matching funds and will send a formal letter of support for the federal 319 Watershed Planning Grant. The city will also provide in-kind support for the project. Garfield County commissioners have lent their support to the partnership as well, and the Battlement Mesa Metro District board of directors recently approved $1,000 in matching funds, according to Clark Anderson, facilitator for the new Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership.

Various stakeholders began meeting in September to explore the idea of forming a watershed group to go after the grant opportunity, Anderson explained. “More than 50 people from different agencies, businesses, organizations and the general public came together to discuss the potential value in forming a ‘watershed partnership,’ as well as what needs or issues it might address, how it might operate and what benefits might be realized for different stakeholders,” according to a summary of the project provided to City Council earlier this month. The partnership was formed to collaborate and share information about the watershed, and provide a unified voice to protect and enhance water quality, reliability and the overall health of the stretch of Colorado River between Glenwood Springs and DeBeque. Until now, this was one of the few stretches of river in the state without a watershed group. The focus of the watershed plan will be on its health and management and educating residents of its values. The effort has brought together a wide range of interests, including representatives of the natural gas industry whose activities are prominent in the region…

The grant application is to be submitted this week. The steering committee’s monthly meetings are open to the public and include periodic educational seminars on topics of interest. The next meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 14 at the Garfield School District Re-2 building in Rifle.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Southwestern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

December 12, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re running into an issue of timing and trying to keep the contracts we have [for the Arkansas Valley Conduit] on schedule,” Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Executive Director Jim Broderick told his board Thursday…

However, actual engineering for the conduit has slowed down, as Southeastern works to complete the EIS as quickly as possible. The goal is to finish the study within two years, Broderick said.

Broderick also thanked Colorado Springs Utilities for making engineering models of river operations available for the EIS.

Meanwhile, the district is preparing agreements for consideration by each of the more than 40 participants in the conduit. Those could be ready by the end of the year, depending on whether the funding picture clears up.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission will hear Fountain Creek water quality objections Tuesday

December 12, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Water Quality Control Commission will meet Tuesday in Denver on an appeal by the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition and [Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut] of certification issued to Colorado Springs Utilities and its SDS partners under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The state Water Quality Control Division certified SDS, a project that would build a pipeline from Pueblo Dam to serve Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West. The permit was issued earlier this year, and is necessary for a separate permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that allows construction of a pipeline across Fountain Creek.

“The division has, in effect, done nothing more than simply rubber-stamp the prior proceedings of the federal and local agencies that reviewed the SDS project under other programs,” said Joe Santarella, attorney for the coalition.

Here’s an interesting side story from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado Springs Utilities approached former Pueblo County Commissioner John Klomp shortly after his final term ended in 2005 to promote the Southern Delivery System.

He turned them down.

The information was included in a disclosure statement by Klomp, who is now a member of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, as the commission prepares to hear an appeal of SDS certification under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act.

Meanwhile the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board heard a proposal for a regional stormwater authority in the Fountain Creek watershed. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The board is reviewing the proposal by Summit Economics, a firm that has done Colorado, national and global economic research since 1981. Senior partners include Dave Bamberger, Tom Binnings, Paul Rochette, Mike Anderson and Tucker Hart Adams.

They propose a $37,500 project that would include interviews with key people and development of alternatives to provide funding for needed stormwater control projects. The main results would be to develop a stormwater funding that would meet state and federal regulations at a minimal cost to property owners. It would protect infrastructure in both incorporated and unincorporated areas of El Paso County. At the same time, a sustainable source of funds for both water quality and recreation on Fountain Creek would be identified.

The proposal is pegged on the decision last year by the Colorado Springs City Council to eliminate a stormwater enterprise that was integral to the environmental impact study by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Pueblo County 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

December 11, 2010

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

Snowpack is above average in the mountains, including the basins that supply Loveland’s water, but the cities on the Front Range are dry, with barely any snow or rain since August. Loveland is sitting at 43 percent of average moisture for September through Thursday, while Fort Collins is 49 percent of average. This September through November ranks as the 24th driest in Fort Collins’ 122 years of records, according to weather records kept at Colorado State University. The last year it was this dry in Loveland and Fort Collins was 2003…

“The reservoirs are as full as they’ve been in a decade,” [Nolan Doesken, state climatologist] said. “The mountain snow measurements are also looking very good.” The Upper Colorado basin measures 124 percent of average snowpack this time of year, and the South Platte sits at 113 percent. Both of these supply water to the Colorado-Big Thompson pipeline.

More coverage from the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Currently the snowpack in the mountains on the west side of the Valley sits at 61 percent of average, and the snowpack to the east is even lower. The Sangre de Cristo range on the Valley’s east side currently sits at 23 percent of normal snowpack, while the San Juans on the west are at 61 percent, making the basin wide snowpack at about 50 percent of average…

[Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division IIII Craig Cotten] said the current weather pattern is La Niña, and generally when that is the case, the southern part of the state seems to experience different weather than the northern part, with the dividing line around Highway 50. Areas north of Salida are currently experiencing as much as 150 percent above average snowpack while areas south, including the Valley, are experiencing considerably less. “The long term forecast for us is for below average precipitation through most of the wintertime,” Cotten added.

He said it is not good for Colorado to have below-average precipitation, but the problem is compounded when New Mexico is below average because it means the level of Rio Grande Compact reservoir Elephant Butte will decrease even more than it has, which hurts Colorado. Cotten said the reservoir is already fairly low, and a lot of the water in the reservoir belongs to somebody else, such as the state of New Mexico. Colorado actually has less than 1,000 acre feet of water stored at Elephant Butte, but that is a good thing, Cotten said, because of the evaporation at Elephant Butte. Colorado had previously stored Rio Grande Compact water at the Rio Grande Reservoir, a high mountain reservoir in the Valley where evaporation is not as much of an issue. However, the state released stored water (about 1,000 acre feet total) from Rio Grande Reservoir into the system to meet compact obligations. “I think we are going to be real close to our goal on both rivers, Rio Grande and Conejos,” Cotten said regarding the state’s obligation to downstream states through the Rio Grande Compact. The goal is to hit zero owed and zero credit on the Rio Grande, and the state will be close to that.

On the Conejos River system, the state will likely end the year with a credit, or more water delivered than the compact required.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board meeting recap

December 11, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Interim Executive Director Gary Barber will stay on until a new director is chosen, but told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday that the district needs someone who can work full time on the district’s programs. “This is not a part-time job. It is a full-time job. You’ve got to have a full-time director,” Barber said. “You need a full-time person to focus on the land-use issues and to be an activist for Fountain Creek.”[...]

The board voted unanimously to begin a search immediately, but will not be able to have a new director in place until February at the soonest. Barber will remain with the district until the new person is hired.

Barber also presented the board with a plan to stretch district funding until 2016, when the Southern Delivery System is scheduled to be completed. The bulk of $50 million that Colorado Springs pledged to the district as a condition of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit won’t be paid until then. The district also has been considering asking voters for a mill levy in the 2012 election, but the current economic climate could make that prospect dim, Barber said…

Beginning in 2012, the member entities would be asked to contribute more than $5,000 each to the district. Pueblo County, Pueblo, the Lower Ark district, El Paso County, Colorado Springs, Fountain and four El Paso County cities would contribute…

The district is coordinating Fountain Creek projects in conjunction with other agencies, including a $1 million wetlands and sediment removal project in Pueblo, a project to complete trails from Fountain to Clear Springs Ranch and a $570,000 flood-control study co-funded by the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado Springs. Barber offered to stay on as needed to help get the projects under way.

The board also approved a $344,000 budget Friday; $270,000 of that is restricted to the projects.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Lake Pueblo: Colorado Division of Wildlife special meeting recap

December 11, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“In the newspaper this morning was an article about how Woodmoor is planning a marathon (to acquire water rights),” Ted Sillox, a member of the Trout Unlimited Greenback Chapter, told state wildlife officials this week. “What’s the best route we can take to help stream flows?” Sillox and several other members said the $7 million Legacy Project on the Arkansas River is threatened as more cities buy water rights and move the water out of the Arkansas Valley. Trout Unlimited also has convinced the Wildlife Commission to approve limited catch and release on one reach of the river through Pueblo in order to improve the fish population. Fish more than 16 inches caught in a two-mile reach near the Nature Center must be released with no live bait allowed, beginning Jan. 1…

Wildlife Commission Chairman Tim Glenn and Commissioner John Singletary of Pueblo heard the concerns of fishermen, hunters and landowners at a special meeting at Lake Pueblo Wednesday. They were also sympathetic to the viewpoints expressed by Trout Unlimited…

A flow management program for Pueblo was established by a 2004 agreement, but it has gaps. There were only six parties to the agreement that set it up, but many other water users who store in Lake Pueblo. They choose to run water when they need it, and that has led to problems for fish. The program mainly curtails exchanges, but does not require replacement of water in the stream during extreme low flows.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities refuses to pay Pueblo County’s legal bills in winter flow program lawsuit

December 11, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We are unwilling to accept an implied obligation to pay for costs incurred by the county when our understandings were that, upon dismissal of the Pueblo West litigation, all parties would bear their own attorneys fees and costs,” John Fredell, Southern Delivery System project manager, wrote in an answer to Pueblo County commissioners this week.

Commissioners are seeking nearly $150,000 for litigation costs in reaching a settlement with Pueblo West that will lead to dismissal of the lawsuit. They maintain it was Colorado Springs’ job to gain compliance of all of its SDS partners with all of the conditions of a 1041 land-use permit. A 2008 agreement signed by Pueblo West authorized Colorado Springs to negotiate all permits…

In his response to commissioners, Fredell outlined the events that led up to the dispute. Colorado Springs was notified of the condition for all participants in SDS to comply with the flow program created in the 2004 intergovernmental agreement in January 2009, Fredell said. “Obviously, Colorado Springs was in no position to reject that proposed condition either for itself or for any of its participants,” Fredell said. After the full set conditions was presented in February 2009, Pueblo West expressed concern about the condition requiring compliance with the flow program in the permit. On April 16, 2009, Pueblo County issued the 1041 permit, and Pueblo West filed its lawsuit one month later…

Colorado Springs said nothing has happened that would trigger a dispute resolution clause of the 1041 permit, Fredell said. “We don’t believe that there has been a dispute between Colorado Springs and Pueblo County over the provisions of the 1041 permit that would have triggered the dispute resolution process,” Fredell said. He also said the settlement agreement itself has a provision that all parties would pay their own legal expenses.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Moffat Collection System Project: Colorado Department of Wildlife public meeting recap

December 11, 2010

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Here’s the release from the DOW:

A Denver Water proposal to increase the amount of water being diverted to the Front Range would impact five rivers on both sides of the Continental Divide, according to a report presented to the Colorado Wildlife Commission Thursday.

Denver Water’s Moffat Firming project would increase the amount of water imported to the Front Range from the Fraser and Williams Fork drainages by 18,000-acre feet, providing a more reliable supply for the utility’s 1.3 million customers. Under state law, the Wildlife Commission will be asked to review and comment on a plan that Denver Water will develop to mitigate impacts of the project, which will then be forwarded to the Federal permitting agency.

“A healthy Colorado River is critically important to the future of this state,” said Tim Glenn, chairman of the Wildlife Commission. “Water projects like this have to be done right if we’re going to have a healthy river in the future.”

The commission also received a presentation on the Division of Wildlife’s marketing, recruitment and retention efforts, an update on the status of a potential wolverine reintroduction project and reviewed draft Habitat Partnership Program management plans for South Park and the North Fork of the Gunnison that are designed to reduce conflicts between wildlife and agricultural operations. The meeting was held in the Crowne Plaza at 2886 S. Circle Drive in Colorado Springs.

Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist for the Platte River Basin, told commissioners that Denver Water’s Moffat Firming project would result in reduced stream flows and increased temperatures in the Williams Fork, Fraser and Upper Colorado River systems. The lower flows would increase sedimentation in the affected reaches of these rivers, reducing their ability to support aquatic insects and fish life, Kehmeier said.

On the East Slope, the additional diversions would send more water through the Moffat Tunnel, down South Boulder Creek and into an enlarged Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, Kehmeier said. The project would create a larger reservoir for recreation, but longer periods of high flows in South Boulder Creek above Gross Reservoir would reduce its ability to support trout and other aquatic wildlife, he said.

First Assistant Attorney General Tim Monahan explained that state statutes allow the Wildlife Commission to address impacts of Denver Water’s new diversions so long as the mitigation is economically reasonable and maintains balance between development and reducing impacts to fish and wildlife resources. The commission can also address the cumulative impacts of this project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s nearby Windy Gap Firming Project on the Upper Colorado River.

Kehmeier noted that Denver Water could opt to divert an additional 16,000 acre feet, mainly through Roberts Tunnel and South Platte basin through the southern part of its system without getting a new federal permit. That would likely cause significant impacts to Dillon Reservoir and the high-value trout fishery along the South Platte River, Kehmeier said, and it would not give the Wildlife Commission an opportunity to negotiate mitigation for the increased diversions.

Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington told commissioners that the impending stakeholder meetings offered an opportunity to determine what it is going to take to fix the Colorado river from a technical standpoint, and focusing on how much of that work should be considered mitigation vs. enhancement were premature at this point. Attorney Barbara Greene, representing Grand County, said the county greatly appreciated the Wildlife Commission’s focus on the issue and reported that the county was close to an agreement in principle with Denver water regarding impacts from current diversions.

More coverage from the Summit County Citizens Voice:

Colorado Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington told commissioners that the impending stakeholder meetings offered an opportunity to determine what it is going to take to fix the Colorado river from a technical standpoint, and focusing on how much of that work should be considered mitigation vs. enhancement were premature at this point.

Attorney Barbara Greene, representing Grand County, said the county greatly appreciated the Wildlife Commission’s focus on the issue and reported that the county was close to an agreement in principle with Denver water regarding impacts from current diversions.

First Assistant Attorney General Tim Monahan explained that state statutes allow the Wildlife Commission to address impacts of Denver Water’s new diversions so long as the mitigation is economically reasonable and maintains balance between development and reducing impacts to fish and wildlife resources. The commission can also address the cumulative impacts of this project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s nearby Windy Gap Firming Project on the Upper Colorado River…

On the East Slope, the diversions would send more water through the Moffat Tunnel, down South Boulder Creek and into an enlarged Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, [Ken Kehmaier, senior aquatic biologist for the Platte River Basin] said. The project would create a larger reservoir for recreation. But longer periods of high flows in South Boulder Creek above Gross Reservoir would reduce the stream’s ability to support trout and other aquatic wildlife, he said. Kehmeier explained that Denver Water could opt to divert an additional 16,000 acre feet, mainly through the Roberts Tunnel and via the South Platte basin through the southern part of its system without getting a new federal permit. That would likely cause significant impacts to Dillon Reservoir and the high-value trout fishery along the South Platte River, Kehmeier said, and it would not give the Wildlife Commission an opportunity to negotiate mitigation for the increased diversions.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

USGS: Digital map of the High Plains (Ogallala) aquifer

December 11, 2010

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Every now and then I run across a well-crafted graphic. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right to see a map of the boundary of the Ogallala Aquifer from the United States Geological Service.

More Ogallala aquifer coverage here and here.

Creede: Willow Creek Reclamation Committee board meeting recap

December 11, 2010

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From The Mineral County Miner (Toni Steffens-Steward):

The Willow Creek Reclamation Committee (WCRC) discussed finalizing three 319 mini-grants along with other upcoming activities at their monthly meeting.

The Five Mines Project grant for $200,000 will help to clean up or improve water quality at five local mine sites, Park Regent, the Phoenix Mill site, the Gormax, the Outlet and the Midwest. Water quality improvement projects would involve stopping metal loading into the creek.

Another $200,000 grant would be used for dewatering the Amethyst and Last Chance. The money would allow WCRC to conduct a dewatering test on the Nelson Tunnel to find out how much water is being pumped in and see if the dewatering plan was effective. The grant would also be used to put in control structures above and at the Amethyst portal and install rip-rap for stabilization along the creek.

The third grant would be used to create a watershed management plan. The money would be used for these projects and to cover the cost of administration related to them.

More restoration coverage here.

Grand Lake: 2011 town budget reflects ongoing water quality concerns

December 11, 2010

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

One significant budgetary line item in the total $2.3 million total budget proposes $25,000 in water quality legal contributions shared between the general and water funds, in part due to an amicus brief filed in October in support of a possible Supreme Court case concerning water transfers. The town board hopes to “continue to advocate for Grand Lake water quality through local, regional and state policy,” according to Grand Lake Town Manager Shane Hale.

More Grand Lake coverage here and here.

Hayden: Town council raises water and sewer rates

December 11, 2010

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From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

“I fully expected a roomful of people,” said Interim Hay den Town Man ager Lance Ste wart during the meeting where a 40 percent increase in water rates and 100 percent sewer rate increase were up for a vote…

Base water rates will increase from $19 to $26.60. The base sewer rate will jump from $6 to $12. Each includes a 10 percent usage fee increase, which amounts to about 35 cents per thousand gallons. The rate increases were proposed to make the water and sewer funds self-sufficient.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Donala Water and Sanitation water rates to rise January 1

December 10, 2010

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Lisa Collacott):

Customers should expect to see a three percent increase if they use 1-10,000 gallons of water a month. That equals to about $3.40 per billing period. Customers that use 10,000-20,000 gallons of water a month will see a six percent increase or $4.55 per month. If customers use 20,000-30,000 gallons of water per month, they should expect an eight percent increase or $5.25. For 30,000-40,000 gallons of water used customers will see a nine percent increase or $6.60 per month.

There is a significant increase in rates for customers using over 40,000 gallons. They will see a 13 percent or $9.60 increase and for those using over 50,000 gallons of water or more there will be a 14 percent increase or an additional $11 tagged onto their monthly bill.

Donala is trying to get more people to conserve water, especially the high volume users. Duthie said Donala had 660 people go over that 40,000 gallon mark between June and September. “We are trying to get people to understand they need to cut back on water usage,” [Dana Duthie, general manager for Donala] added.

In addition, townhome irrigation rates will be the same as single family homes up to 40,000 gallons. If they go over the 40,000 gallon plateau it will be $8.50 a month and $7.50 for cooperative landscaping. The sewer rates will remain the same at $27 per month. And there is also a monthly minimum whether water is used or not and that is $13 per month. Golf course irrigation rates will be increased accordingly due to usage.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Moffat Collection System Project: The Colorado Wildlife Commission is looking at the possible impacts to the fishery and riparian environment

December 10, 2010

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From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

Meeting in Colorado Springs Thursday, state wildlife commissioners got their first look at a proposal by Denver Water to increase the amount of water it sends to the Front Range from the Frasier River and its tributaries in Grand County…

The state wildlife commission has a say though because of concerns about further de-watering rivers, and what that means for trout and the rest of the ecosystem.

Speaking during a public comment session at a hotel conference center, Barbara Green also alluded to economical concerns. Fishing and river guiding is a big business in the central mountains. “The number one concern of the Grand County commissioners, and they said to say this in a very loud voice, is to protect the aquatic environment,” said Green, an attorney representing the Grand County Commission. “That is their number one concern about these two projects,” she said.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado elections: Governor-elect Hickenlooper is ‘inclined to support it’ (Northern Integrated Supply Project)

December 10, 2010

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From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

And while the state “needs serious conservation” efforts, the needs of agriculture also have to be met when it comes to water, Hicklenlooper told a crowd of close to 200 at the 2010 Colorado Ag Classic at the Embassy Suites in Loveland. The classic is the joint annual convention of Colorado Wheat organizations, Colorado Seed Growers Association, Colorado Seed Industry Association, Colorado Corn, Colorado Sunflower Administrative Committee and the Colorado Sorghum Producers. Hickenlooper joined Cory Gardner, recently elected to represent Colorado’s 4th District in the U.S. House, as featured speakers. The soon-to-be governor was asked where he stands on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, which includes a new reservoir northwest of Fort Collins that would supply 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to 15 water providers in Larimer and Weld counties. “I have seen a presentation, and I think I’m inclined to support it. But I want to see the results of the environmental study first,” Hickenlooper said.

Water will be one of Gardner’s priorities when he joins Congress in January. “We’ve got to store more water,” the Yuma Republican told the group. If that doesn’t happen, the buy-up and dry-up of agricultural water will escalate, he said, noting that the state not only needs to build additional storage but enlarge existing storage facilities where appropriate.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

December 10, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District adopted a $2.5 million budget Thursday. Nearly half of the budget is designated for water rights acquisition. The district is in the process of buying shares in the Larkspur Ditch from the Catlin Canal. Larkspur brings water from the Gunnison River basin into the Arkansas River basin. The district also owns Twin Lakes shares and has water rights on several ditches. The rest of the budget goes to support its activities, which are aimed at keeping water in the Arkansas River basin and the Lower Arkansas Valley, General Manager Jay Winner said.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.


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