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.

Loveland: Ditch and Reservoir Company Association 9th Annual Convention February 17

December 10, 2010

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Here’s the link to the convention information on the website.

Great Outdoors Colorado grants

December 10, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The latest GOCO grants, $24 million overall, drive more than just land deals. A total of 55 projects in 32 counties include town initiatives to cover and renovate an ice-skating rink in Crested Butte, improve lighting and snow-making at Steamboat Springs’ Howelson Hill ski jump, and install an astro-turf soccer field for rural players east of Colorado Springs.

Among the new $1 million-plus land deals in the works:

* Saguache County — Saguache Creek Corridor — 1,970 acres
* Routt County – Smith Rancho – 4,800 acres
* Rio Blanco County — Agency Park Ranches — 1,340 acres
* Jackson County — North Park Ranchland — 2,550 acres
* Alamosa County — Rio Grande Headwaters — 1,300 acres
* Pitkin County — Wapiti Ridge Mountain Park — 930 acres

New metro area open space includes a 223-acre Riverdale Bluffs addition along the South Platte River in Adams County and a 25-acre expansion of the Westminster Hills Open Space east of the former Rocky Flats nuclear bomb factory.

More conservation coverage here.

Snowpack news

December 10, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Jeremy Meyer):

[Denver] is on track for one of the driest snow seasons in history, with only 1.5 inches of snow since July. The average snowfall total by this time of the season is 25.6 inches. “It’s way down there,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kyle Fredin. “But the month isn’t over. Goofy things happen.”[...]

Bill Vidal, deputy mayor and manager of Public Works, said the city plans for about 50 to 60 inches of snow every year and up to 16 events. So far, the plows have been idle, with only a 1.5-inch event last month.
“But you can never be too sure,” he said. “I always tell people to stop wishing for a white Christmas.”

Republican River Water Conservation District board special meeting December 16

December 10, 2010

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The future of the proposed compact compliance pipeline could be hanging in the balance when the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors holds a special meeting in Yuma next Thursday, December 16. It is a fairly short meeting for the RRWCD Board as it is set to last only two hours, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Public comment will be heard at 2:15 p.m.

The meeting will be held at Quintech, 529 N. Albany St. The agenda consists of “consideration of whether to proceed with the Compact Compliance Pipeline to comply with the amendment to the CWCB loan contract and to ensure the availability of loan funds.”

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

Gunnison County: Mt. Emmons mine conditional water rights filing update

December 10, 2010

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From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

District Court Judge Steven Patrick issued a ruling on November 23 dismissing a motion seeking the dismissal of water rights associated with the proposed mine. The High Country Citizens’ Alliance, the Crested Butte Land Trust and the Star Mountain Ranch Homeowner’s Association claimed that water rights for the mine should be dismissed on the basis that U.S. Energy Corp. had failed to file a plan for mining by an April 2010 deadline established in the company’s conditional water rights. HCCA executive director Dan Morse said the organizations feel the judge’s ruling is “flawed.”

The groups opposing the water rights had argued that the correct deadline for submission of a mine plan was April 2010. The court found that the deadline for the filing of a mine plan is instead April 2013 based on interpretation of the water right decree and related legal proceedings. Morse said that in its ruling declaring that 2013 is the mine plan deadline, the court did not evaluate whether or not U.S. Energy had met requirements of its water rights with documents submitted to the U.S. Forest Service prior to April 2010.

“The Forest Service has been consistently clear that the 2010 deadline is the correct deadline,” Morse said. “So we feel Judge Patrick incorrectly interpreted that deadline. We are looking for recourse but we are not yet sure what form that will take.”

Morse said he thinks it is possible to appeal Patrick’s ruling through the courts but is not sure how that would be accomplished…

The water rights at issue in the case involve water that would be taken from Slate River and Carbon Creek as well as potential reservoir sites in the Carbon Creek, Ohio Creek and Elk Creek drainages. Morse commented, “We are pursuing this case in order to protect river flows, riparian resources and other uses of these creeks. Water right holders in Colorado have certain obligations for the use of water and our motion to dismiss these rights was intended to ensure that state water law was properly applied.”

Ann Johnston, Crested Butte Land Trust executive director agreed. “The Slate River Valley contains a remarkable concentration of high quality wetlands, the protection of which is very important to our community. These wetlands provide habitat for birds, fish and mammals, as well as important water quality functions,” she said.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 10, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

The local chapter of TU brought forth litigation in 2004 over concerns that the then 35,000 acre-foot reservoir and accompanying rights for diversion and refill amounted to a water grab on the part of PAWSD. Six years later, the [Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District] and SJWCD[San Juan Water Conservancy District] boards voted to allow their lawyer, Evan Ela, of the Denver law firm Collins Cockrel & Cole, to prepare a final decree to be submitted to and approved by District Court Judge Greg Lyman, hopefully closing the case.

The two boards made the decision following an executive session with Ela and water engineer Steve Harris at a joint meeting held on Dec. 1. Following the executive session, the boards made the decision and voted to release a letter between Ela, Sen. Bruce Whitehead and Trout Unlimited’s attorney, Andrew Peternell, which outlines the terms of the agreement…

Though litigation with Trout Unlimited should soon cease, it is still unclear whether or not Dry Gulch Reservoir will be built, when or by whom.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: What are the effects from living near uranium operations?

December 10, 2010

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From The Telluride Watch:

Unlike studies of the past that tended to focus directly on the impacts to uranium miners and others in the industry, the newer studies are beginning to look at what might happen to wider sections of the population as a result of genetic and reproductive defects developed after living in proximity to the industry. “It’s at least enough to be concerned that something similar might happen in humans,” [Doug Brugge, PhD, an assistant professor of public health and community medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston] said…

A 2007 study at Northern Arizona University, one that actually gave small doses of uranium to mice in order to mimic the comparable levels found in drinking water on the Navajo Nation, discovered that uranium is a potentially estrogenic compound. At the lowest levels, exposure appeared to cause similar defects to diethylstilbestrol – or DES – a synthetic estrogen originally prescribed between 1938 and 1971 for women who experienced miscarriages or premature deliveries. While it was initially believed to be safe for both mother and child, it was later discovered to increase the mothers’ risk for breast cancer and the risk for a rare vaginal cancer in her female offspring, and non-cancerous testicular cysts in male offspring. “To find that uranium did something [in mice] very similar [to DES], I think is particularly concerning,” said Brugge…

Studies in Nambia and India in the mid-1990s found increases of chromosomal aberrations in workers in uranium mines, as did a 1995 study in Texas that also looked at nearby communities. “[That study] suggests the potential for genetic damage is not just to the miners but [also] for people living . . . in the immediate proximity,” said Brugge…

One unpublished study done on the Navajo Nation may suggest a correlation between proximity to uranium mines, or tailings, and hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease. “I think there’s growing evidence for kidney effects,” said Brugge. “There’s growing evidence around reproductive harm, especially if this estrogenic thing plays out. It’s a significant concern.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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

December 9, 2010

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon)

The litigation was between Pueblo County and the Pueblo West Metropolitan District.

But Pueblo County contends it had to resolve an “agency dispute” between Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo West, one of the SDS partners.

“We consider reimbursement to be a matter of good faith and fairness on the part of CSU and within the spirit of the dispute resolution and fee reimbursement process outlined in Section 29 of the SDS 1041 Permit,” the three-member Pueblo Board of Commissioners said Monday in a letter to John Fredell, SDS project manager.

At issue is a condition of the 1041 Permit that Colorado Springs obtained from Pueblo County to build SDS, a 62-mile pipeline that starts at the Pueblo Reservoir.

The condition required Pueblo West to participate in the Arkansas River Flow Program, which Pueblo West claimed would cost it millions of gallons of water, the Pueblo Chieftain reported.

A settlement between Pueblo County and the metro district was reached last month.

Colorado Springs Utilities participated in negotiations and agreed to provide a paper trade of water in Twin Lakes to make up any losses Pueblo West would suffer, The Chieftain reported Thursday.

In a letter to Pueblo County, Fredell said Thursday the settlement agreement was fair and didn’t contemplate the payment of attorney fees or costs “beyond those which each party determined were necessary to represent its own interest.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Should the U.S. look to water rich Russia for future supplies?

December 9, 2010

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What community would hitch their horse to the Russians after watching them hold some nations in Europe hostage for natural gas? Well anyway, here’s a guest commentary touting the shipping of water to southern California, written by John M. Barbieri, running in The Denver Post. From the article:

Russia also has vast water resources in the Pacific Far East and Arctic regions and is poised to become a major exporter. Russia and the U.S. can and should work together toward the common purpose of resolving one of the world’s greatest challenges. Both should harness the ingenuity, technology and resources necessary to transfer water from remote locations to a thirsty world, including to the U.S. west coast.

The key to linking Colorado’s water needs and Russia’s water surplus is through ocean transportation, which already carries over 95 percent of world trade. Russian water would be delivered to southern California. This new source for California, which has long exceeded its legal allocation of Colorado River water, would allow The Golden State to relinquish supplies long “borrowed” from other user states, including Colorado. This type of land-based “water transfer” is commonplace throughout the western United States today.

Great Outdoors Colorado grants

December 9, 2010

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From Great Outdoors Colorado:

In all, 55 grants totaling $24,043,547.30 were awarded for projects in 32 counties. The projects will enhance outdoor recreation opportunities, create plans for future projects and protect 13,595 acres of open space. GOCO received 108 applications requesting approximately $40 million. Click here for a complete list of the Fall 2010 grant awards.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone). From the article:

Southern Colorado will reap more than $6 million for parks and outdoor projects, Great Outdoors Colorado announced on Wednesday. Almost $4 million of that sum will feed three open-space projects — two in the San Luis Valley and one in the Upper Arkansas Valley. Another $1.2 million will provide for the Arkansas Riverwalk Trail extension project in Canon City and the final phase of the Kim Equine Pavilion and Education Center in Las Animas County. Pueblo County will receive about $200,000 to add a baseball field at the Runyon Sports Complex and provide new turf for Corsentino Field there.

More conservation coverage here.

La Niña update

December 9, 2010

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

La Niña, the cooling of the tropical Pacific, causes mostly the opposite effects of El Niño. La Niña causes above average precipitation across the northern Midwest, the Northern Rockies, Northern California, and in the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, there is below average precipitation in the Southwest and Southeast. La Niña’s effects tends to be the more predictable of the two, and this year has been no exception, said Nolan Doesken, Colorado’s state climatologist. “Warmer than average has been dominating our conditions since the fall,” Doesken said. “We’re still in the first few months, so we don’t know how long it will persist.”

Pitkin County: Healthy Rivers and Streams Fund distribution update

December 9, 2010

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From the Snowmass Sun (Janet Urquhart):

Pitkin County commissioners agreed Tuesday to spend $50,000 on the study, using proceeds from the tax-supported Healthy Rivers and Streams Fund…

A Roaring Fork Watershed Plan being developed by the Roaring Fork Conservancy and Ruedi Water and Power Authority will get a $38,000 boost from the fund to cover a shortfall in finishing the plan, plus $5,000 for other costs, including a couple of educational events planned in 2011…

Commissioners also supported a $100,000 allocation from the fund to pay for legal and engineering fees associated with seeking a recreational water right on the Roaring Fork River in Basalt. The water right would protect flows in the river to benefit river ecology, as well as recreation. A kayak park in the river at Basalt is envisioned.

Click through for the cool photo of Castle Creek running by the site of Aspen’s proposed hydroelectric facility.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.

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

December 8, 2010

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Here are the notes from yesterday’s webinar.

El Paso County: Cherokee Metropolitan District president ousted in recall election

December 8, 2010

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

Voters in the Cherokee Metropolitan District decisively ousted their leader Tuesday, ending a long and combative recall effort to kick water board president Robert Lovato from the post he has held for six years. An overwhelming 82 percent of 1,613 people who cast ballots in the beleaguered water district voted to recall Lovato. About 15 percent of the nearly 11,000 registered voters in the district cast ballots in the election…

In dismissing Lovato, residents in the district elected Larry Keleher, a retired Colorado Springs firefighter, to join a board made infamous for its bickering and lack of progress in finding a cheap, sustainable source of water. No one else ran for the position.

Residents in the district have endured steep rate hikes since the board took poor legal advice and illegally used water from the Upper Black Squirrel Basin. The cascade of water rate increases in recent years were needed to pay for mounting legal fees and the high cost of purchasing water.

While short on specific ideas to help the parched water district, Keleher said he wants to “bring back the respect and bring back the trust of the people.”

More Cherokee Metropolitan District coverage here and here.

Western Governors Association meeting recap

December 8, 2010

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From the Associated Press (Cristina Silva) via The San Francisco Chronicle:

Governors from across the West sparred over water and how to make sure everyone is getting their fair share Tuesday during a policy conference designed to drive consensus. Federal experts urged state leaders to weigh water needs over water wants, while state leaders pleaded for less federal oversight and new flexibility on water agreements that detail how much water states get from a limited pool of resources…

The discussion opened the Western Governors Association’s two-day conference in Las Vegas. Governors from 19 states, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands were invited. Water conservation and efficiency remained favorite solutions among government leaders eager to lap up the most use from fresh water sources.

Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter said Colorado is exploring agreements that allow farmers to lease excess water to governments. “A little bit of conservation goes a really long way,” he said…

Despite the common goals, the policy conference at times exposed tensions between federal water officials and state leaders. “I look forward to your assistance, but not too much of it,” Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, deadpanned to [Anne Castle, assistant secretary for Water and Science at the U.S. Department of the Interior] at one point…

“It seems we are nibbling away just at the edge of the antiquated laws that we created along the river that we always have to struggle around because we are so afraid to deal with the politics of the river,” said [Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons], a Republican. “Why is it if we can change the culture of the people in how they use water, we cannot change the culture of how we think about the rational basis of how we allocate water? For example, if Wyoming doesn’t use all of its allocation … can we not utilize that by wheeling it down the river for some other better use of that water?”

Long range Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District plan update

December 8, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“This is going to be a marathon in the future,” Manager Jessie Shaffer said Tuesday. “Our goal is to get a renewable water supply for all of our customers.”

Woodmoor is committed to spending as much as $138 million over 12 years. The district began preparing for its drier future five years ago, and has no intention of pulling out.

Woodmoor has met opposition to its plan from more than 20 objectors in Water Court, including outspoken criticism from the Pueblo Board of Water Works that its plan is speculative and potentially harmful to other water rights. “Our attorney has been talking with their attorneys,” Shaffer said…

Shaffer brushed aside questions about whether water used in Woodmoor would cross the Palmer Divide into the South Platte River basin. He has said in the past that return flows from the Woodmoor system ultimately flow down Monument Creek, which joins with Fountain Creek at Colorado Springs…

The plan calls for exchanges to a reservoir south of Fountain, where it could be piped about 35 miles north through a 16-inch pipeline for use in Woodmoor with an elevation gain of roughly 1,500 feet, according to an engineering report produced as part of the court case. Woodmoor plans to develop its own reservoir at Stonewall Springs, near the Pueblo Chemical Depot, as part of the exchange system…

Shaffer could not say when the project would become critical for Woodmoor’s future water needs, citing the general plan that is posted on the district’s website when asked about the need for new supply. “The Denver Basin aquifers are in decline, and it’s a finite resource. At some point they become less reliable,” he said. “The board has decided to move forward on a renewable supply.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Pueblo County sends letter to Senator Udall requesting a seat at the table with regard to new storage legislation

December 8, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In a letter sent this week, commissioners asked Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to include the county and other community leaders in the Arkansas Valley in any discussions about new water storage legislation. “You reportedly have been meeting with water users in their effort to reintroduce legislation for the Preferred Storage Options Plan at Pueblo Reservoir,” the letter from commissioners stated. “We ask that you coordinate not only with water users but with this board and other county commissioners and community leaders in the Arkansas Valley.”

Udall replied that he will not move forward without consensus from all members of the Colorado congressional delegation, as well as the agreement of all stakeholders. “I would never move forward with any legislation until reaching out to the parties to the litigation, my colleagues in the congressional delegation, and all parties concerned and ensuring that there was public input from all groups and communities that would be directly affected,” Udall said Tuesday…

The PSOP bill primarily looks at a feasibility study for enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake, which is located near Leadville. It is inextricably tied to a series of intergovernmental agreements and further discussions that were conducted by former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar that broke down in 2007 when the Lower Ark filed its lawsuit.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here. More Preferred Options Storage Plan coverage here and here.

Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 8, 2010

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Here’s Part Three of Bill Hudson’s series titled Dry Gulch gets a little drier running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

The number that will stick in people’s minds, no doubt, is 11,000. That’s the maximum number of acre-feet allowed to be stored in a future Dry Gulch Reservoir, under this agreement — when combining an existing 6,300 acre-foot SJWCD storage right with a new 4,700 acre-foot storage right.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.

Water blog roundup

December 7, 2010

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From email from Anna Miller:

We at recently came across your blog and were excited to share with you an article “30 Best Water Conservation Blogs” [that we] recently published on our blog at (, and we hoped that you would be interested in featuring or mentioning it in one of your posts.

Click through and check ‘em out.

Fort Morgan: U.S. Representative-elect Cory Gardner listens to locals

December 7, 2010

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Gardner said one of his top priorities is to make sure the Northern Integrated Supply Project reservoirs get built near Fort Collins, and to work with water suppliers to build more storage. Although there are contending views on NISP, everyone needs to work through the issues, Gardner said. It is not a zero sum game to find ways to meet all water needs, and without NISP agriculture will suffer, he said.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 7, 2010

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Here’s Part Two of Bill Hudson’s series Dry Gulch gets a Little Dryer running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

As I say, writing about PAWSD has been an education. The provision of simple, clean drinking water, one of the very few substances absolutely necessary to human life, is not rocket science — after all, we are surrounded by water flowing freely in rivers and streams, and we have numerous underground aquifers accessible by wells. But in political terms, the provision of water is one of the more complicated processes in our governmental system. The right to use water — the water available all around us — is strictly regulated in Colorado, as it is throughout the U.S…

The mountains to the north and east of Pagosa Springs normally collect 300-400 inches of snow during the winter months, and in springtime, the water from the snowmelt slowly enters our local rivers and streams. By June, a massive amount of water is passing through Archuleta County — enough water to supply literally millions of human beings. But the water does not “belong” to the residents of our little community; through a complicated set of legal agreements and court rulings, the water passing through Pagosa Springs every year “belongs” mostly to people living downstream, in Arizona, California, Utah and Nevada.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.

Peter Binney joins Merrick & Company

December 6, 2010

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Here’s the release from Merrick & Company:

Peter Binney, PE, has joined Merrick & Company as the firm’s National Director of Sustainable Infrastructure, it was announced by Ralph W. Christie, Jr., PE, Chair, President, and CEO. In this new role, Binney will be responsible for expanding Merrick’s water infrastructure business across the U.S. and leading Merrick’s sustainable infrastructure practice through the firm’s 12 offices. As a nationally and internationally recognized expert in the water industry and sustainability, he has been instrumental in the soon-to-be completed national sustainable infrastructure certification and rating system being developed by the American Consulting Engineers Council, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Public Works Association.

“Having Peter on board at Merrick is exciting. Over the past several years, our water and sustainability practices have grown and Peter’s expertise will propel the firm forward as a national expert in the field,” said Christie. “I have known Peter over the years as a real professional who is dedicated to providing the best infrastructure solutions to serve clients and society. I am pleased to have him joining our employee-owned company.”

His expertise includes water management and development, sustainable infrastructure rating and performance, mediation and resolution of issues on complex public infrastructure projects, and a comprehensive understanding of public water utilities. His contribution to the community and to the water industry was recently recognized by the City of Aurora, when the city named its new $660 million water treatment plant for him. The Peter D. Binney Water Purification Plant was opened in October, 2010 after a five-year concept to commission schedule. Binney was the director of the City of Aurora, Colorado’s water utility during the planning, design, and construction phase of this trend setting a sustainable project.

Binney’s entire career has been focused on water and sustainable infrastructure. His past leadership positions include Director of Sustainable Planning for Black & Veatch and National Director, Water Resources for CH2MHill, where he spent 20 years in water resources. Binney is an active member of the American Water Works Association, the International Water Association, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. He holds a Masters of Science, Water Resources Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also has a Masters of Engineering and a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Thanks to American Surveyor for the link.

Dolores River watershed: BLM Wild and Scenic River suitability study public meetings December 6-7 and December 14-15

December 6, 2010

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

The Dec. 6 and 7 meetings will address the relationship between endangered fish and the Wild and Scenic River Act. The discussions will focus on the eligible segments of the Dolores River and tributaries in the Uncompahgre Field Office. The Dec. 14 and 15 meetings will address fish and riparian outstanding and remarkable values. The discussions will focus on the upper eligible segments of the San Miguel River.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Powertech gets the EPA go ahead for pump test

December 6, 2010

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From The Greeley Tribune:

“The permit places specific, rigorous conditions on the re-injection of groundwater that will be temporarily withdrawn from the Upper Fox Hills formation during an aquifer pump test,” said Steve Tuber, EPA’s assistant regional administrator in Denver, in the release. “The safeguards associated with this permit, some of which are the result of public comments, will ensure that groundwater in formations below the Centennial site is protected.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

CWCB: Next Water Availability Task Force meeting January 18

December 6, 2010

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From email from the CWCB (Ben Wade):

The next Water Availability Task Force (WATF) is scheduled for Tuesday, January 18, 2011 from 9:30-12pm at the Colorado Division of Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO, in the Bighorn Room.

NIDIS Webinar Schedule Update: La Nina Update and Long Range Climate Forecast — Tuesday, Dec. 7th

December 6, 2010

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From email from the Colorado Climate Center (Henry Reges):

Due to high demand for long range climate forecasts, climatologist Dr. Klaus Wolter of NOAA-ESRL in Boulder, CO will join us on Tuesday, December 7th at 10AM to share his long range climate forecast and La Nina update for the Upper Colorado River Basin. Dr. Wolter is an expert on El Niño/La Niña patterns and how they affect our weather patterns in the Western U.S. He will provide his insight and expert opinion on the current strong La Nina pattern we are experiencing and how it may affect our weather over the next several months. His forecasts are used to guide water planning and decision making across the Western U.S. and his forecasts are held in the highest regard.

Please join us at 10 AM on Tuesday, December 7th for an exciting discussion on current conditions and future outlook!

Register here:

Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 6, 2010

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From The Durango Herald (Patrick Young):

The agreement, coming after an hours-long negotiation moderated by Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, effectively ends years of dispute between the districts and the environmental group. “There was a willingness, I think, and a desire for both parties to come together,” Steve Hartvigsen, director of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District, said Saturday.

Though the districts originally requested water rights for 35,000 acre-feet, the agreement gives them the necessary water rights to construct a reservoir no larger than 11,000 acre-feet. In return, Trout Unlimited agreed to drop its opposition to the districts’ water rights request. The next step in the process is to put the terms of the agreement in writing and, once the draft is agreed upon by all parties, it will go to the water division for approval by the division engineer before going to the district water court for final approval…

Both Hartvigsen and [Trout Unlimited attorney Drew] Peternell acknowledged Whitehead’s integral role in bringing the parties together and ultimately as moderator of the negotiations. “A big thanks to Sen. Whitehead,” Hartvigsen said. “Without him there, I can’t say that we would have come to an agreement, not that we didn’t want to.”

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.

Lamar: Arkansas River Compact Commission annual meeting December 14

December 6, 2010

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Arkansas River Compact Administration will review a compliance update over water at its annual meeting…Also on the agenda at its Dec. 14 meeting in Lamar, Colo., is a review of John Martin Reservoir operations, committee reports and updates from state and federal agencies.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear — ‘Dirty Secrets: the Health Effects of Uranium Mining — New Research’ talk today in Telluride

December 6, 2010

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

[Doug Brugge, a professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University] is in town this week to discuss the issue in a talk titled “Dirty Secrets: the Health Effects of Uranium Mining — New Research.” The discussion is free at 6 p.m. Monday at the Palm Theatre and comes at a particularly relevant time, as Montrose County Commissioners gave their approval of a uranium mill to be built in the lonely reaches of western Montrose County, between here and Moab, Utah, in the fall of 2009.

Now, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is reviewing the proposal and will issue a final decision sometime in January. The mill’s approval would be the first in 25 years and has become a polarizing issue around Telluride, a town founded on mining that is now dependent on tourism. Those near the planned mill and from communities that participated in the first atomic boom generally support the idea and say their towns need jobs desperately while some Telluriders have taken a hard line, believing the environmental and health risks are too great.

Brugge is from the Southwest — he grew up in Gallup and Albuquerque, N.M. — but didn’t align his research with the region because of his roots, he said. Once he left school, he visited the reservation with his father. At the time, Brugge was working in environmental health and saw a Navajo newspaper story on the issues in uranium mining, which had cast a long shadow over the Navajo Nation.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

CU Denver: New desalination method treats wastewater and produces hydrogen

December 5, 2010

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Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science have discovered a way to simultaneously desalinate water, produce hydrogen and treat wastewater. “Ships and their crews need energy generated on-site as well as fresh drinking water. Thus, the Navy is very interested in both low energy desalination and renewable energy production,” said Zhiyong (Jason) Ren.

Ren and his team with the University of Colorado Denver discovered, after six months from the initial hypothesis to completion, that they could produce hydrogen gas, which is collectable and storable, thus making improvements in the technology of water purification.

More coverage from Science Daily. From the article:

A recent study by Logan group at Penn State University also demonstrated similar findings in that the energy contained in hydrogen gas not only can offset the energy used for the desalination process but has surplus that can be used for downstream processing.

Next steps for Ren and his team will include using real wastewater to test the efficiency as well as optimizing the reactor configuration to improve system performance. “This discovery is a milestone for our new research group,” said Ren. “We are very excited about our findings and will continue working to improve the technology.”

More water treatment coverage here.

Drought news

December 5, 2010

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From the Colorado Connection (Matthew Krueger):

The US Drought Monitor released updated data on November 30, 2010 which upgrades the moderate drought in southeast Colorado to a severe drought in some cases.

Little to no significant precipitation has fallen across the area since early August. Snowfall for Colorado Springs and Pueblo is far behind this season, and almost non-existant for some parts of the state so far for the 2010-2011 season. Conditions have been steadily deteriorating with fire danger remaining a concern. The Lower Arkansas Valley has been officially put in “severe drought” status as a result.

The airport at Colorado Springs has recorded just over half of its normal yearly precipitation. Pueblo is only slightly better.

Energy policy — nuclear: Powertech lawsuit update

December 5, 2010

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From the North Forty News (Dan MacArthur):

In its lawsuit, Powertech seeks to overturn state rules that it contends are unreasonable and unconstitutional. It also asserts that legislators’ involvement in the rule-making process violated constitutionally mandated separation of powers. Fort Collins state Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer were among those participating. The suit was filed Nov. 1 against the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board and Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. The state must respond within 20 days after being served with the suit…

Powertech president Richard Clement said the company is proceeding with plans to apply for a mining permit sometime in 2011. Clement acknowledged his earlier statement that Powertech could live with the new state rules. But, he said, the Canada-based company was compelled to challenge the process because “there were a lot of inconsistencies in the way it was handled.”

The new rules principally apply to in situ leach mines such as the one proposed by Powertech. In situ mining involves pumping water underground to dissolve uranium. The solution then is pumped to the surface, the uranium extracted and the water returned underground. The rules require in situ leach operations to restore groundwater to its original quality or to standards set by the state. Applicants must also provide detailed baseline hydrology information and environmental protection plans and prove that the proposed mining technology has been used at five other locations without damaging groundwater quality.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Poudre River: Rainbow trout habitat improvement experiment recap

December 5, 2010

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From the North Forty News (Cherry Sokoloski):

In August, the DOW and volunteers removed 1,400 brown trout, or 90 percent of the estimated population, from a 0.6-mile section of the Poudre River downstream of the Poudre Unit hatchery, then moved the browns to a different location. At the same time, the agency planted thousands of rainbows in the section where browns were removed and in a control section where browns were not removed. Special antennae at either end of each section have tracked movement of fish by reading tags implanted in the stocked rainbows. The relocated browns were also tagged, and Fetherman discovered that some of them made it back to the removal area.

The DOW planted 4,000 rainbows using strains that are resistant to whirling disease, which wiped out wild rainbows in the Poudre in the 1990s. Half the ‘bows were Hofer-Harrison crosses, and the rest were Hofer-Colorado River Rainbow hybrids.

In late October, Fetherman and others did a fish count in both the removal area and the control area, to check on populations of browns and rainbows. The results were significant. “In the short term, the removal was successful,” a smiling Fetherman said. In the control area, where browns were not removed, only 503 rainbows remained – 26 percent of the planted fish. In the removal area, however, the DOW counted 1,185 rainbows, or 60 percent of those planted.

This initial success suggests that, as hoped, stocked rainbows can succeed when competition from browns is removed. Fetherman thinks it’s likely that removal of the browns gave the rainbows a toehold in the territory before competing browns moved back in…

In addition, Fetherman found evidence that browns do prey upon the rainbows. Nine browns that were captured in October had rainbow tags in their stomachs.

More restoration coverage here.

Implementing the Endangered Species Act on the Platte Basin Water Commons

December 5, 2010

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Here’s a review of David Freeman’s new book, from Dan MacArthur writing in the North Forty News. From the article:

…after coming to CSU in 1967, he immersed himself in regional water issues. Freeman systematically studied the 109 “wonderfully successful irrigation associations in northern Colorado” and developed close working relationships with many of the long-time icons in the close-knit water community. “Water is the most sociological thing on Earth,” said Freeman, postulating that he may be the only sociologist who owns a water-measuring flume.

Freeman applied his characteristic obsessive persistence and thoroughness in his book. In it, he details the exhausting 12-year process resulting in an agreement to restore and preserve habitat for three birds and a fish designated as endangered species – the whooping crane, interior least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon. The effort brought together environmentalists, state and federal officials and representatives from Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. These strange, suspicious and sometimes outright hostile bedfellows were united only by the need to cooperatively develop a recovery plan lest a less desirable one be imposed.

Freeman was there from the beginning in 1994 when governors of the three states agreed to talks until an agreement was reached and ultimately signed into law…

“Implementing the Endangered Species Act on the Platte River Water Commons” is published by the University Press of Colorado. It is available for $45 plus shipping and handling by calling 800-627-7377.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Wellington: Boxelder basin floodplain update

December 5, 2010

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From the North Forty News (Cherry Sokoloski):

Phase I of the project, which will enlarge Clark Reservoir and widen the Inlet Canal flowing into the reservoir, should be mostly complete by the end of 2011, according to Larimer County engineer Martina Wilkinson. The $4 million project will be bid out in two separate contracts, she said…

When Phase I is complete, more than 200 homes in Wellington plus Eyestone Elementary and Wellington Middle School will no longer be in the Boxelder floodplain. The requirement for flood insurance in that area will “go away” once floodplain maps are revised, Wilkinson said, likely sometime in 2012.

On Dec. 16 at 10 a.m., the county commissioners will hold a work session to discuss Boxelder fees and boundaries.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Powertech gets the EPA go ahead for pump test

December 4, 2010

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

On Friday, the EPA approved a different permit for Powertech, a “Class V” permit to re-inject 43,000 gallons of water into Fox Hills Aquifer underneath the Centennial Project as part of a “pump test” that will help the company gather data about its uranium mining technique. The pump test approval needed to occur before the EPA can go forth with investigating Powertech’s plans to inject radioactive waste into the ground. Though Powertech has a green light from the EPA to drill the pump test well, state mining officials must also approve the test before it begins.

“One of the purposes of the pump test is to collect information about the hydrogeology at the (Centennial Project) location to inform the feasibility of ore recovery activities,” said EPA spokesman Richard Mylott. “During the pump test, water will be pumped out of the aquifer, held for a time and reinjected into the same location in the aquifer. It will not be altered.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

December 4, 2010

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From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

“At least so far this year, things are setting up in that typical La Nina pattern, said Chris Pacheco, the assistant snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRSC). “It is not surprising that the northern portion of the state is doing better than the southern part of the state.”[...]

And according to [the Ski West Report], snowpack around the Aspen area is at 123 percent of average, based on an average of readings from snow monitoring stations on Independence Pass, McClure Pass, North Lost Trail near Marble and Schofield Pass. The Independence Pass snow-monitoring station, at 10,600 feet, is at 113 percent of average…

The area around the Steamboat ski area is 178 percent of the 30-year average. The areas around Keystone, Arapaho Basin and the Loveland ski area is 157 percent of average, while the snowpack around Copper Mountain and Breckenridge is 139 percent of average. The NRSC shows Crested Butte at 127 percent of average, Vail at 119 percent and Powderhorn near Grand Junction at 103 percent. But then the numbers fall toward the south. The area around the Monarch ski area shows a snow depth of 103 percent of average, Purgatory near Durango is at 100 percent of average, Telluride is at 98 percent and Wolf Creek is at 84 percent…

Snowpack in the Colorado River basin — from the headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to above Lake Powell — is 130 percent of average.

Silt: The town with the help of the Aspen Valley Land Trust acquires a 132 acre parcel next to the Colorado River for habitat and river access

December 4, 2010

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Hikers, boaters and fishing enthusiasts soon will have a new access to the Colorado River at the Silt River Preserve, a 132-acre riverfront parcel formally purchased on Nov. 30 by the Town of Silt for $1.2 million. The purchase from the Dixon Water Foundation was the culmination of a year and a half of effort by the town and the Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) aimed at preserving open space and riparian habitat along the river for public benefit.

More conservation coverage here.

Mesa State College seminar — ‘Running Dry: A Journey From Source to Sea Down the Colorado River’

December 4, 2010

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From email from Gigi Richard:

Our next presentation in the Fall 2010 Natural Resources of the West: Water seminar series a project of the Water Center at Mesa State College will be…

Mon 6 December, 4:00 pm
Saccomanno Lecture Hall, Wubben Science Building , Room 141 (WS 141)
Mesa State College

Running Dry: A Journey From Source to Sea Down the Colorado River
Jon Waterman
Author and National Geographic Freshwater Hero

In the spring of 2008, Jonathan Waterman, a National Geographic Society grantee, Sonoran Institute Fellow, and an award-winning author, began a journey by foot and boat down the iconic mother of all western American rivers, the Colorado. Standing at over 10,000 feet in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, he emptied his mother’s ashes into the headwaters and began a journey by foot and boat down the river, all the way to its last trickle in the Sonoran desert and down the parched Mexican delta to the Pacific Ocean. It would be the first time anyone had ever traveled from these headwaters 1,450-miles to Gulf of California and it would be a compelling, complicated, and hugely informative journey.

As part of his Colorado River Project, Waterman has undertaken a lecture campaign throughout the west to educate the public about the river’s challenges in times of climate change and population growth. He also chronicles his experience and the river in his new narrative book,Running Dry: A Journey From Source to Sea Down the Colorado River, a photo book, The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict, and a National Geographic ColoradoRiver BasinWall Map. The Colorado, sometimes called the American Nile, supplies water for 30 million people and more than 3 million farm acres, across 7 western states and northern Mexico. But the demands made on the river have put its very future at stake. The river has not reached the sea for many years. It is the lifeblood of the American West, and as its waters dip to an all-time low, the economy, wildlife, people, and very landscape of this vast region are in jeopardy.

Mr. Waterman’s talk is presented with the generous support and funding of: The Water Center at Mesa State, Mesa State College’s Lectures and Forums Committee; The Land Policy Institute at Mesa State College; Mesa State College’s Academic Affairs Office; and the Grand Valley Audubon Society.

Seminars are free and open to the public, no registration necessary.
For the entire seminar series schedule, please see:

For more information please contact:
Prof. Gigi Richard, 970.248.1689,
Prof. Tamera Minnick, 970.248.1663,

More coverage from the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan).

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 4, 2010

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Here’s the release from email from Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Trout Unlimited announced today that it has reached settlement in principle with the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and the San Juan Water Conservancy District in long-running litigation on the districts’ claims for water rights for the so-called Dry Gulch Reservoir and Pumping Station project near Pagosa Springs. The settlement, which still needs to be written into a decree and approved by District Court Judge Gregory G. Lyman, sets significant limits on the amount of water the districts can divert from the San Juan River for the proposed project.

The settlement represents a dramatic downscaling of the Dry Gulch project. In 2004, the districts filed an application with the district court in Durango for water rights they claimed to need to serve future population growth in Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County. The districts claimed storage rights of 35,000 acre-feet in Dry Gulch Reservoir, a refill right for the reservoir of 35,000 acre-feet, and the right to divert 180 cubic feet of water per second from the San Juan River.

Under their original application, the water districts could have diverted as much as 128,400 acre-feet of water per year from the San Juan. Under terms of the settlement, the utilities can take no more than 11,000 acre-feet from the San Juan River in any one year and no more than 9,300 acre-feet per year on a 10-year rolling average.

Moreover, the districts are prohibited from diverting water if doing so will cause flows in the San Juan River to drop below minimum flow thresholds designed to protect fish and the environment. These flow thresholds are double the amount of the existing Colorado Water Conservation Board instream flow water rights.

“This is a victory for the San Juan River,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “The original application could have been devastating to fish habitat and the river ecosystem, but now we have a settlement that balances the districts’ need for water with the health of the San Juan.”

In 2006, TU appealed the decision of the district court awarding the utilities’ 2004 water rights application. Citing concerns that the districts were speculating in water and claiming more water than they needed, in 2007 the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the water court decision and remanded the case. In so doing, the Supreme Court established new, stricter standards for public utilities claiming water rights for future population growth.

In 2008, the district court issued another decree awarding the utilities water rights for a 25,000 acre-foot reservoir and diversions of 150 cfs. Trout Unlimited appealed to the Supreme Court again, arguing that the revised water rights were still speculative and not consistent with credible future water demand projections.

In November 2009, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with TU, again reversing the water court decision. The Supreme Court reaffirmed its earlier ruling that public utilities must base the size of their water rights on credible evidence of future water needs.

“The settlement underscores that municipal water projects must be based on well-founded, substantiated data about future growth and water needs,” Peternell said. “In a time of water scarcity, Colorado must embrace water solutions that meet a range of needs, including municipal growth, agriculture and wildlife and recreation. No water user can take more than its fair share.”

Here’s Part One of Bill Hudson’s series Dry Gulch gets a little dryer running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

Evan Ela had been representing both PAWSD and SJWCD since 2004 in their joint attempt to secure new water rights sufficient to fill that crucially necessary 35,000 acre-foot reservoir. That water rights application was approved by Durango judge Greg Lyman, but was then challenged by national fishing organization Trout Unlimited — twice. Both Trout Unlimited challenges were essentially upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court, sending the case back to judge Lyman for further hearings.

Over the past year, PAWSD, SJWCD and Trout Unlimited have been engaged in settlement discussions.

The essential question was this: Would PAWSD and SJWCD be willing to reduce the size of the requested new water rights — and as a result, reduce the size of the Dry Gulch Reservoir — in order to help preserve a free-flowing, wildlife-supporting San Juan River?

One year ago, I would not have expected either the PAWSD board or the SJWCD board to even consider backing down on their requested water rights. But over the past year, a couple of significant changes occurred on the PAWSD board. New directors Roy Vega and Allan Bunch joined that board — and then WSCWG member Jan Clinkenbeard was appointed to a seat left vacant by resigning member Bob Huff. Those changes created a completely new majority on the PAWSD board.

Meanwhile, the SJWCD board also saw a couple of changes to its nine member board, as three resignations led to new members Pat Ullrich, Larry Ash, and Diane Bower being added to the board.

And maybe, everybody was just tired of arguing about Court Case 04CW85.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.

Cache la Poudre River: Lawsuit to be filed by conservation groups over the Arapahoe snowfly

December 4, 2010

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The environmental groups filed their petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service in April, but the agency did not make a decision about whether the snowfly was threatened enough for the service to consider protecting it. The Fish and Wildlife Service “gave the standard response: They have other things to do,” said Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians, who sent a letter to the agency Wednesday informing it that the environmental groups intend to sue if it doesn’t act within 60 days.

“They haven’t given us an indication of when they’ll come out with a finding,” Rosmarino said. “The only way to get the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue decisions on petitions is to go to court. This is the first step toward going to court over the Arapahoe snowfly.”

Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Diane Katzen-berger said the agency is working on its decision about the snowfly, and it is due to be published in the Federal Register in April. She said the agency is cash-strapped and short-staffed, and it hasn’t been able to get around to fully evaluating the snowfly’s status until recently.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Fraser: Town may move to use-based water rates

December 4, 2010

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Armstrong):

Town Manager Jeff Durbin along with the town’s water-wastewater committee has proposed treating businesses and residences the same under a new fee structure. “I don’t see any reason to multiply the rate for businesses just because they are businesses,” Durbin said. “Businesses carry more of the burden already, and without them, we won’t have services.”[...]

Under the proposed system, businesses and residences would be charged based on the size of the pipe coming into their building rather than on the square footage of the business or the number of bedrooms in the house. The new system is expected to “flatten out inconsistencies,” Durbin said. Many businesses are expected to pay less for water and sewer under the proposed fee structure than they did in 2010. Larger, newer residences are also likely to see rates drop with the new fee structure since they are typically second homes that use less water.

But, with the switch from a flat rate to a use-based system comes some risk, explained Durbin. If the plan works and customers really start conserving water, the town stands to lose much-needed revenue…

Most of Fraser’s single-family residential customers currently pay a flat rate of $119 per quarter for water and $121 for sewer, regardless of use. The proposed base rate drops to $115 per quarter for almost all residences, including those who have larger homes. But, the town is also proposing a usage fee of $1.50 per 1,000 gallons. The average homeowner who uses 4,000 gallons per month will only see their bill increase by about $6 or 5 percent, Durbin said. Wastewater rates are proposed to increase from $121 per quarter to $129.

The board will discuss the proposed rate changes when it meets at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 in Fraser Town Hall.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Snowpack/La Niña news

December 3, 2010

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

According the [NRCS report], the area around Steamboat has received 178 percent of its 30-year average snowfall to this date. The area around Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland ski area is 157 percent of average while the snowpack around Copper Mountain and Breckenridge is 139 percent of average. The Aspen area is 123 percent of average while Crested Butte registers at 127 percent of average, Vail at 119 percent and Powderhorn at 103 percent…The area around Purgatory near Durango is at 100 percent of average, Telluride is at 98 percent and Wolf Creek, which usually boasts one of the state’s deepest snowpacks, registers 84 percent.

More coverage from The Crested Butte News (Mike Horn):

As for the outlook in Colorado, Joel Gratz, founder of, said to expect a solid winter. “La Niña means good, good things for Colorado. From about Crested Butte and north, this season’s snowfall should total 100 percent to 125 percent of average. “For Colorado and the United States in general, La Niña favors areas that are farther north. I would expect Steamboat to do very well this year, as well as states north of Colorado.” In the central mountains, we’re right on the edge—and hopefully inside of the storm track. So far, so good. Early-season storms, according to Gratz, “are 100 percent typical. It’s actually uncanny how these individual early-season storms epitomize the average La Niña pattern. Most La Niña-type storms will provide good snow to the central and northern Colorado Mountains, with slightly lower amounts for the San Juans. “The [Elk Mountains] should do well and are a part of my ‘100 to 125 percent’ of average snowfall zone on the season. During the last La Niña winter [2007-2008], Irwin recorded over 1,000 inches of snow. Heck yeah!”


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