Pagosa Springs hopes to tap geothermal for electrical generation

December 31, 2013
Geothermal Electrical Generation concept -- via the British Geological Survey

Geothermal Electrical Generation concept — via the British Geological Survey

From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

The Town of Pagosa Springs council met in executive session with town attorney Bob Cole last Thursday, Dec. 19, with the topic of conversation centering on matters involving funding for a possible geothermal electric utility. According to town manager David Mitchem, council gave Cole instruction during the executive session. Mitchem said that the executive session did, “move the process forward,” but that no decisions were made at the meeting. A decision, Mitchem indicated, is expected in the next three weeks to a month…

Mayor Ross Aragon said the geothermal utility discussed Dec. 19 was the same contract the county [Archuletta] earmarked money for, and said the town and county have been and are expected to continue to be on par with each other in contributing to the project.

In 2013, both the town and the county pledged $65,000 toward research on geothermal resources and the possibility of using a geothermal resource to create power. That exploration work is being done by Pagosa Verde, LLC, headed by Jerry Smith.

More geothermal coverage here and here.


The Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District board is moving ahead with wastewater pipeline

December 9, 2013
Wastewater Treatment Process

Wastewater Treatment Process

From the Pagosa Sun (Ed Fincher):

The Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District board voted last week [week of November 25] to accept a bid from Hammerlund Construction Company for work on a pipeline and pumping stations needed to deliver wastewater from the town’s current lagoon site to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s Vista treatment plant.

Art Dilione, special projects manager for Bartlett & West, the company tasked with handling the bidding process for the town, sent a letter to both town manager David Mitchem and Gregg Mayo, special projects director for PAWSD.

The letter, dated Nov. 19, explained how the project was originally bid on Oct. 2, but all of those bids came in well above the engineer’s estimate as well as the project’s budget, so those original bids were rejected and the project was rebid on Nov. 12.

More wastewater coverage here.


Pagosa Springs: Increased focus on water loss yields results

November 27, 2012

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From the Pagosa Springs Sun (Lindsey Bright):

During Tuesday afternoon’s PAWSD board of directors’ meeting, the directors looked at the gallons of water being produced both at Hatcher and Snowball.

At Hatcher, in the time since new meters were installed and monitored, Nov. 6-8, the plant produced 174,000 gallons of water, with 124,310 gallons sold — a loss of 49,690 gallons in the three-day period.

The Snowball treatment plant, which has one meter left to be installed, produced 10,951,611 gallons of water, with 7,697,100 sold between Sept. 29 and Oct. 28, making for a monthly loss of 3,254,511 gallons of water.

PAWSD District Manager Ed Winton said one area of water loss was discovered when PAWSD and Bartlett and West engineers, “shot elevations.” During the process, engineers realized the Reservoir Hill and Cemetery water tanks are not at the same elevation, as had been thought — there is a 38-inch disparity. Since the two tanks work together, when one is being filled, instead of filling completely, it fills part way and the other tank overflows.

Director Roy Vega asked how much of the overall water loss can be attributed to the tank overflowing.

Winton said he could not answer that, but did say that just fixing the tanks would not solve the overall water loss problem.

By the next regular meeting in December, all the new water meters should be installed at the treatment plants, which should provide accurate monthly numbers.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: Fishery improvement project to take place over the next few weeks

November 19, 2012

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From the Pagosa Springs Sun:

The Town of Pagosa Springs would like to make residents and businesses at the east end of town aware of increased, construction-related traffic in the vicinity of the River Center.

Over the next several weeks, construction and hauling crews will be working behind the River Center performing various tasks associated with the town’s “Fishing is Fun” fish habitat and angler access project along the San Juan River corridor.

Work will include hauling dredged silt from the fishing ponds via dump truck to the sanitation lagoons on South 5th Street. Work will also include hauling river habitat enhancements (root wads, boulders, etc.) to the River Center

Construction activities will begin this week and continue intermittently until approximately mid-December. Work will be performed during the daytime work hours of 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Weekend work may be performed periodically, when necessary.

More San Juan River Basin coverage here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation board meeting recap: Total expenditures in the draft budget = $1.3 million

October 26, 2012

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From the Pagosa Sun (Lindsey Bright):

During the meeting, the board reviewed the 2013 draft proposed budget for the first time during a regular meeting. This was an initial discussion on the budget, and no action was taken.

The General Fund total revenue in the 2013 draft proposed budget is $968,490, down from $991,102 in 2012.

The total expenditures in the draft budget is $1.3 million, up from $1.25 million in 2012. This increase is due to several incremental climbs in a variety of line items as well as the addition of three line items: Transportation Equipment, $18,000; Office and Administration Equipment, $11,500; and Administrative Building Remodel/SCAN Network, $50,433.

In the Water Enterprise Fund, the total budgeted revenue for 2013 is $4.54 million, down from $4.7 million in 2012. The total expense for Work in Progress in 2013 is $1.3 million, up approximately $500,000 from 2012. The areas where it increases most are: reservoirs/watersheds, $220,000; water treatment plant upgrade, $75,000; and distribution system upgrades, $703,772.

Total maintenance is proposed to be $151,959 in 2013, and total administration is proposed to be budgeted at $371,691.

Debt Retirement and Transfers is $1.07 million.

In the Wastewater Enterprise fund, the total revenue for 2013 is budgeted at $2.2 million, down nearly half from $4.1 million of the 2012 amended budget.

The biggest increase for the Wastewater Enterprise is in the Work in Progress category, where the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District Pumping Project is budgeted at $1.24 million.

Total Wastewater Treatment for 2013 is budgeted at $401,000 with the biggest increase seen in line item Operator Salaries, rising to $82,623 from $38,200.

Total WasteWater Maintenance is budgeted at $73,444 for 2012, only a slight increase from the $68,946 in the 2012 amended budget.

More San Juan River Basin coverage here and here.


The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District tables Dry Gulch Reservoir Project for another day, another board

September 13, 2012

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From the Pagosa Sun (Lindsey Bright):

During Tuesday’s Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation board of director’s meeting, with both directors Mike Church and Roy Vega excused, the board unanimously passed a motion to send a letter, “requesting substantial completion” to the Colorado Water Conservation Board regarding their $11. 2 million loan, of which only $9.2 million has been drawn and used.

The letter will be sent to Kirk Russell, CWCB’s finance section chief, who had recently told PAWSD that he needed a letter of intent and direction by Sept. 18 to present to the CWCB board.

PAWSD Business Manager Shellie Peterson will write the letter to inform the CWCB board that PAWSD does not, with the current board, intend on building Dry Gulch Reservoir and they will not be drawing the remainder of the loan out. The PAWSD board used $9.2 million of the CWCB loan, along with the San Juan Water Conservancy District’s $1 million CWCB grant, to purchase the Running Iron Ranch in 2007 as a reservoir site. Prior to this letter, there had been discussion by previous PAWSD boards considering use of the rest of the funds to buy a small portion of the adjacent Laverty property in order to have enough land to build the reservoir.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Water and Sanitation scores a $2 million loan for wastewater pipeline

September 7, 2012

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From the Pagosa Sun (Ed Fincher):

Phil Starks, of the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District, reported to town council the approval of a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority for a project that would allow sewage to be pumped from downtown Pagosa Springs to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s Vista treatment plant, enabling the clean-up of the old sewage lagoon site near Yamaguchi Park…

Although Stark reported success in getting a vote of approval from the water authority, he went on to say, “We have to still do a lot of paperwork. One thing is getting the legal opinion of Mr. Cole (town attorney Bob Cole).” Another is getting the approval of town council, but the sewer line project is still moving forward…

Ken Charles, from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which, along with the state water authority, had a say in whether or not to approve the loan, said, “When I took that proposal back and it had changed from a wastewater treatment plant to this pipeline project, everyone said this was a completely different project and we should ask them to re-apply to the program. I just told them this is a prudent decision in all sorts of ways. You’re saving money in the long run, and you’re avoiding another discharge point into the river. It was a win-win situation, and you let your staff work out the details.”

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Report on the Pagosa Springs Area geothermal resources suggests that potential is more extensive than previously identified

July 8, 2012

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Here’s the abstract from the report:

Pagosa Springs, Colorado is famous for the hydrothermal activity in its groundwater system, though the system is poorly understood. At present, the hot water flow is used for both tourism and the heating of some buildings, but further expansion of the springs’ usage could reduce the effective energy produced in both cases. To better understand the nature and extent of the hydrothermal flow, several geophysical methods were designed and implemented, including: Gravity, magnetics, electromagnetics, seismic, Direct Current (DC) resistivity, and ground penetrating radar (GPR), all of which were tied in with global positioning system (GPS) data. The surveys were designed to determine the structural geology, the locations of water sources, and the direction and magnitude of that flow. These geophysical surveys were employed to give students a better understanding of geophysical methods as well as assisting Pagosa Springs in learning more about the complexion of the springs so as to better utilize the hydrothermal energy without damaging, and hopefully improving, the existing infrastructures.

The data of the geophysical methods was processed, interpreted and integrated by students to attain a plausible explanation of the results and the geothermal system the results describe. At the Stevens Airport and the Barn 3, a survey site far to the south of town, it was shown that the Eightmile Mesa Fault, as well as nearby faults, likely penetrate into the basement geology which could provide a conduit for deep hot water transport. At another site three kilometers south of Pagosa where there were geothermal springs cooler than the Pagosa springs, the data entertains the possibility that there is water flowing from the ridge to the east toward the river to the west. The data also shows that there is likely a fault to the east of the Pagosa Mother Spring. The Pagosa Mother Spring is the main spring in the town that was measured to be at least 1,000 feet deep. Closer to the Mother Spring, on the field southwest and east of the river, the flow of water in the subsurface near the spring was surveyed. Two conduits were expressed in the data: one running east-west and the other going north-south. Finally, one line indicated the possibility of two additional faults north of Pagosa, though further investigation is necessary to better define these results. These integrations can be used to sum up a plausible explanation of the hydrothermal system, however, there are several studies that could still be done in this area to better understand the hydrothermal system as well as hopefully improve the current geothermal usage in Pagosa.

From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin):

Earlier this month, the Colorado School of Mines Geophysics Department (CSM) released results of research recently conducted throughout the area. After spending two weeks in Pagosa Country this past May, studying characteristics of the area’s geothermal aquifer, a team of CSM students and faculty members provided a lengthy report on findings during that visit.

The full report can be downloaded at http://geophysics.mines.edu/GEO-Field-Camp.

While not quite as exciting as the almost certain discovery of the Higgs boson that was announced on Tuesday, the report provided some interesting suggestions regarding geothermal resources in the area. Primary among the findings was a suggestion of geothermal resources far more extensive than had been previously postulated.

That report indicated the discovery of three previously unknown faults north, south and west of the “Mother” spring (the Great Pagosa Hot Springs that provides water for local bathers and heating systems).

“First, the seismic results from both the Stevens Airport and the Barn 3 (south of town) line show that the Eightmile Mesa Fault, and possibly other faults nearby, penetrates the basement material,” the report reads. This discovery shows that faults in the area can penetrate the basement (several layers of strified rock that sit atop the water) and provide a conduit for deep and hot water transport.

More geothermal coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership scores $25,000 for greenhouse project

April 22, 2012

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Elaine Feeney Wood):

The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Laura Jane Musser Fund to contribute to the implementation of the greenhouse initiative in Centennial Park. The Musser Foundation encourages the collaborative and participatory efforts among citizens in rural communities to strengthen their towns in civic areas including economic development, arts and humanities, public space improvement and education…

The GGP aims to:
1) create a center for lifelong education as well as for advanced study in agriculture and renewable technology;
2) provide a test site for the commercialization of year-round organic crops at high altitude using renewable energy;
3) provide affordable, organic, locally grown food for people and businesses; and
4) provide year-round community gardens.

The greenhouse domes will be built in Centennial Park on the banks of the San Juan River. This park will invite locals and visitors alike to pause, enjoy the natural setting, pursue environmental education, experience sustainable agriculture, and appreciate renewable energy technologies.

More geothermal coverage here and here.


Proposed MOU between the Archuleta County Board of Commissioners and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District scrapped by county

March 6, 2011

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From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

Commissioner John Ranson expressed that, while he was disappointed that the time and effort given to the MoU did not pay off, he believes the withdrawal of the agreement was the right move. “I think it’s exactly the right thing they should have done,” Bunch said in a Wednesday interview. “It gets things back on the basis it should have been on since day one … We are two separate managerial agencies that need to take care of our business.”

A rift between the BoCC and PAWSD began in the fall of 2009, when the BoCC began requesting financial documents from PAWSD, expressing concerns over PAWSD’s spending, Dry Gulch Reservoir assumptions, service plan and more. The rift then deepened last March, when the BoCC began requesting that PAWSD provide the county with an annual report.

The two boards met in a public meeting in March 2010, where the idea of an agreement or memorandum of understanding between the two boards was mentioned by PAWSD Attorney Jim Collins.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District hires Edwin Winton as their new director

February 25, 2011

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From the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District via the Pagosa Daily Post:

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors are pleased to announce the hiring of Mr. Edwin (Ed) Winton to fill the position of District Manager. Mr. Winton was selected from a group of four well qualified finalists. His career history includes extensive experience not only in the water/wastewater utility field, but also in management. He will be relocating from Topeka, Kansas, and is expected to assume his new post with PAWSD on approximately March 14, 2011.

The PAWSD Board believes Mr. Winton will be a positive addition to our staff, the District and the community we serve. We look forward to his arrival.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board meeting recap

February 19, 2011

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Bill Hudson):

The meeting began with a thoughtful and well-researched presentation by former Pagosa Post magazine editor Glenn Walsh, about the possible future of the [Water Resource Fee] — still under moratorium until April 1. Using input from the Water Supply Community Work Group (WSCWG), Mr. Walsh proposed at least three possible approaches to the WRF, including eliminating it entirely.

The WRF — a new fee charged against all new construction projects in the PAWSD district — was created in 2006 as, supposedly, the primary funding mechanism for a proposed 35,000 acre-foot reservoir in the Dry Gulch valley. As the Archuleta County construction industry began fading into a mere ghost of its former self, starting in 2007, the construction and real estate industries began pointing an accusing finger at the WRF and other PAWSD fees on new construction as one of the culprits in that decline.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Springs scores $4 million for wastewater treatment plant

February 18, 2011

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From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin):

Last Thursday, the Town of Pagosa Springs received notice from the USDA that it would receive the funds for the construction of the facility. The money includes $3,145,000 in loans (at 2 percent interest) and $787,000 in grants. Along with other funds secured two years ago (a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs), the Town of Pagosa Springs has just over $7 million to construct the plant. “I’m relieved that we’re finally moving forward,” said Phil Starks, supervisor for the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District. According to Starks, the town would most likely break ground on the project in May…

…timing for the funding award was more than mere providence: the town’s current wastewater treatment system occasionally exceeds ammonia levels in its discharge during the winter months, and also risks hydraulic problems and violations during the spring when snow runoff can overload the system. Those violations not only got the town sideways with the CDPHE (which in turn answers to the EPA), but put the town at risk of further sanctions at the state and federal level, severely hampering badly needed economic development in the area…

With the award of over $4 million in USDA funds, the Town of Pagosa Springs can breathe easier, not just in regard to meeting CDPHE mandates, but also in the knowledge that it will soon treat one of its most valuable resources — the San Juan River — with much-improved respect.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs scores $4 million from USDA for new wastewater treatment plant

February 12, 2011

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From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin):

Yesterday, the town of Pagosa Springs received notice from the USDA that it would be receiving the funds for the construction of the facility. The money includes $3,145,000 in loans (at 2 percent interest) and $787,000 in grants. Along with other funds secured two years ago (a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs), the town of Pagosa Springs has just over $7 million to construct the plant. “I’m relieved that we’re finally moving forward,” said Phil Starks, supervisor for the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District. According to Starks, the town would most likely break ground on the project in May.

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation board and the Community Water Supply Workgroup workshop recap

January 4, 2011

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From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

With the holiday season quickly being relegated to memory, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation Board and Community Water Supply Workgroup will soon continue their comprehensive look into PAWSD fees at a third work session dedicated to the topic slated to take place Jan. 4…

At the first of the work sessions, held on Dec. 9, PAWSD and CWSW members discussed a number of items with engineers Patrick O’Brien of Briliam Engineering and Mike Davis of Davis Engineering, including items needed for the engineers to update the CIP and system model:

• Determining an acceptable calculation for water demand;

• Determining a correlation between water demand and use per equivalent unit, peak day;

• Determining if the full build-out condition or population projections should be used as the basis for modeling and cost projection; and

• Reviewing operation standards relating to water pressure, fire flow and water age…

The second work session, held on Dec. 15, afforded the group a chance to review the calculation for water demand, review the correlation between demand and use per EU, discuss and define “new growth” and how account holders should be credited for assessed water availability fees, and discuss inclusions.

With some minor changes in the formula agreed upon at the previous meeting, the group agreed to the calculation of water demand, with the agreement made that the chart would be updated on a regular basis.

The discussion then turned to peak day and water loss, which brought up the topic of how much water storage exists and how long district reserves would last.

More San Juan 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Energy policy — geothermal: Pagosa Springs geothermal infrastructure update

December 3, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin):

Last month, Pagosa Springs Geothermal Supervisor Phil Starks presented a report to council stating that the potential for systemic failure is especially apparent in the town’s geothermal heating system, which experienced a cascade of failures during the past year. Initial repairs to the system earlier this summer were immediately followed by failures downline (concentrated along the Lewis Street corridor), most likely the result of differential pressure created when the initial repairs were done. Reporting the work completed over the summer, Starks added that the failures were symptomatic of a system that had exceeded its lifespan and would see increased failures in the near future.

When SUN staff, during a later phone interview, asked Starks if those failures were systemic, Starks replied, “Yeah, essentially.” According to Starks, “It’s the whole system in general because of the nature of the geothermal water, the age and type of piping used, plus the heat of the water. We are fatiguing the system due to the depressurizing and repressurizing that takes place every year.” Currently, the town carries most of its water for geothermal heating through asbestos cement (AC) piping, which under normal circumstances has a lifespan of anywhere between 50 and 70 years. While the AC piping in Pagosa Springs has been in the ground for over 30 years, “The way we use our system is causing the breakdowns,” said Starks. Starks said that breaks occur in the system, “Normally when we repressurize — about one a year,” but added that, with the stress on the aging system, he anticipates that number to increase, similar to what happened this past summer…

Although the Obama administration has allocated hundreds of billions of dollars for infrastructure projects since early 2009 — with allocations especially designated for renewable energy — the town has been slow to pursue those funds. Despite an additional $50 billion being released by the administration this past summer, with those funds tied directly to infrastructure (with priority given to renewable energy projects), the town has just recently investigated availability of infrastructure stimulus money for its geothermal system (Starks and the town, after several fits and starts, have pursued federal funds for construction of its wastewater treatment plant). While Starks said that a grant application was being written by Mary Tighe (the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation’s newly-hired community grant writer), he could not say what kind of priority was being given to the grant application or when it would be submitted.

More geothermal coverage here and here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s water resource fee dominates board meeting

December 3, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

The board invited PAWSD attorney Evan Ela, of Collins, Cockrel & Cole (Denver), to the meeting to discuss the legality of the district’s WRF since its legality has been questioned by directors Roy Vega and Allan Bunch, as well as a number of the Water Supply Community Work Group. The WRF is an assessment levied on all new construction to help pay for future water development made necessary by growth. The fee is not currently being assessed due to a moratorium in place that will expire Feb. 1, giving the board time to look into the matter.

PAWSD initiated the fee in 2005, as district engineers insisted new water storage would soon be necessary. At the time, a panel of community volunteers decided that new growth should pay its own way, thus resulting in the WRF and other “impact” fees imposed by other local districts, the town and Archuleta County. Before implementing the WRF, PAWSD looked into how similar communities funded future water development, as attorneys from Collins, Cockrel & Cole analyzed legal options. Near the end of 2005, the district board approved the fee…

At Tuesday’s meeting, Ela reiterated the stance that the fee is “fully legal” under Title 32, explaining to the board how each Titles 29, 30, 31 and 32 relate to various governmental and quasi-governmental entities. Ela explained that Title 29, which discusses impact fees, is “entirely directed” towards governments with land regulatory powers and that it is “no accident” such fees were under Title 29. Ela continued that statutes have to be read precisely, also citing multiple court cases in which water districts were allowed to impose “rationally related” development fees for growth to pay its own way. Ela added his belief that courts give latitude on the fees to be rationally related at the time the service is needed…

Two hours of discussion later and with no real headway seemingly made in terms of a consensus between the board members over the legality of the WRF, future discussions concerning both the presence of the fee and the possibility of WRF rebates will have to take place before the Feb. 1 moratorium expires.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


San Juan Basin: Water Supply Community Work Group meeting recap

November 13, 2010

From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

When group chairman Bruce Dryburgh called the meeting to order, the group lacked a quorum, though with the arrival of Steve Van Horn, official business could begin — approval of past minutes and “removing members from the island.” Jan Clinkenbeard was voted out of the group due to her recent appointment to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors, as was Archuleta County Commissioner John Ranson for his conflict of interest in light of the BoCC’s statutory oversight duties concerning PAWSD…

Following a brief hiatus, the group then met with the PAWSD board, with Shellie Peterson, interim district manager, presenting a report on the history of the PAWSD schedule of fees and charges. The presentation included the development and justification of all of the PAWSD fees, with many board members noting the informative value of the report.

PAWSD Special Projects Manager Renee Lewis said in a later interview that the report provided a good platform for the WSCWG’s future work, should they decide to continue on and in what capacity to do so. According to Dryburgh, no further meetings of the WSCWG had been scheduled as of presstime.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District: Highlands Lagoon Elimination Project update

November 8, 2010

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From email from the PAWSD:

As the leaves brown, PAWSD is going green! The Highlands Lagoon Elimination Project is funded in part by a $1.3 million grant from the State’s Green Project Reserve Fund, which is a special pot of federal stimulus funds for green initiatives. The Highlands project will include a biosolids beneficial use facility, which will turn our wastewater sludge into a rich, safe, class 1 soil amendment. That beats dumping the sludge in the landfill!

More wastewater coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs plans new features for their whitewater park

November 5, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuggin):

…if Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) permitting goes seamlessly, along with other variables, river enthusiasts could have as many as seven new whitewater structures in the river by next summer…

The two new features, set for completion before next spring, will be installed in the portion of the river adjacent to Town Park.

With two new features slated for completion by mid-December, the town also approved engineering for five additional features in the near future, with construction possible as soon as next spring if ACoE permitting can make it through the process prior to late-winter thawing. Of the five features, two are planned for installation just north of the bridge on east U.S. 160, adjacent to the River Center shopping complex. Farther down the river, one feature is planned for the portion of the river adjacent to Town Hall, with two more set for construction adjacent to Yamaguchi Park. With the construction of a total of seven new features in the San Juan River, Pagosa Springs could potentially become a premier destination for rafters, kayakers and other whitewater enthusiasts…

As far as the additional five structures, Pitcher said that engineering and surveying was in process, as well as necessary easement acquisition (to fulfill ACoE requirements). “That’s going good and, as far as easements, I think we’ll have that done. Everyone seems to be supportive of the project.” If Riverbend and the town can secure those easements along with amended ACoE permits, construction on a third phase of the project (for five more structures) could begin as early as next spring.

Meanwhile, a whitewater park may be on the horizon for Montrose. Here’s a report from Kati O’Hare writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

[Scott Shipley, a world champion kayaker and veteran whitewater park designer] spoke Wednesday to a crowd of about 50 about the Uncompahgre River’s potential for a park. The discussion was part of a follow-up presentation about the city’s ongoing Uncompahgre River Corridor Master Plan process. Shipley said Montrose has the river, with its flow, and all aspects needed for a successful whitewater park. “They’re designed to mesh with the environment” and consider fish passage, vegetation and river access, he said. Designers consider 100-year floods and “most important, are designed that it doesn’t have a negative impact on the community where you put it.”

More whitewater coverage here.


Pagosa Springs: Town officials are chasing USDA grant funds for new wastewater treatment plant

October 31, 2010

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Here’s a look at the complicated financing web that the town of Pagosa Springs in trying to spin to fund their new wastewater treatement plant from, Jim McQuiggin writing for the Pagosa Sun). Here’s an excerpt:

In early 2010, the town’s fortunes changed. Personnel changes at the USDA created a friendlier environment for the [Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District] and it was suggested that the board take a second bite at the apple. Submitting preliminary paperwork to the USDA last spring, both Mitchem and PSSGID Supervisor Phil Starks presented an optimistic picture to the board. Given details of a report that was seemingly positive as far as its potential return on investment, the board gave Mitchem and Starks the green light to renew the pursuit of USDA funding. Mitchem could not say how much money the USDA might provide for the new facility. When asked if the funding would meet the almost $6 million price tag previously estimated for the project, Mitchem responded, “The real answer is, we don’t know yet and we won’t know yet.”

More wastewater coverage here and here.


San Juan Basin: The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District restructures taps fees

October 23, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors voted Tuesday night to rescind Capital Investment Fees (CIF) imposed on new construction, in favor of collecting a $3,000 deposit per Equivalent Unit (EU) for connection to each of the water and wastewater systems. The move potentially reduces total CIF assessments by more than $1,800 per EU. As discussion during the five-hour PAWSD board meeting turned to consideration of district fees, director Roy Vega proposed a resolution placing an immediate moratorium on both the existing water and wastewater CIFs. Together, those fees equaled $7,831, with $3,579 going to the water enterprise fund, and $4,252 to the wastewater enterprise fund.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District resignations

July 24, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

As previously reported, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Manager Carrie Weiss tearfully announced three staff resignations during last week’s monthly board meeting, including her own. Understandably, following nearly 28 years of devoted district service, it was a particularly poignant moment for her. At the virtual end of a lengthy public session, an emotional Weiss began by first asserting that, “I have some resignations to report.” While clearly struggling to maintain composure, she added, “Um, Lisa Dermody is leaving the district, and Nancy Stahl has, um, agreed to fill her position. It was opened up to the rest of the staff and Nancy was interested and she gladly accepted that. But, it (Dermody’s departure) is a huge loss to the district.” With somber hesitation, Weiss tentatively continued, “… Sheila Berger is leaving … and … it’s time for me to leave the district.”

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Springs: Community Water Supply Planning Group update

July 12, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

According to the meeting agenda, the hired facilitator, Maro Zagoras, of Desired Outcomes Inc. (Fort Collins), was to initiate discussions on her specific role, hopeful meeting outcomes, the day’s agenda and equally important, determining a group name and establishing immediate and future ground rules. That was to begin at precisely 4:30 p.m. First, however, Zagoras chose to “train” or educate the panel on proper conduct and procedures necessary in reaching vital decisions relevant to the group’s final charge, which the group itself must ultimately define.

Though the CWSPG has yet to clearly define its true aim — much less name itself, or designate an official group spokesperson — determining the best means of managing PAWSD finances has never been considered its ultimate goal by the 29 additional participants now seated on the panel. Rather, answering whether PAWSD should plan for future water needs and, if so, how, are apparently the questions that drew most volunteers to sit on the CWSPG panel to begin with. Certainly, any future water storage plans will involve detailed financing, in which informed district constituents should play a vital role. However, PAWSD is a complex special district funded by several convoluted enterprise funds, the management of which can’t be taken lightly.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: Long-term water supply planning group inaugural meeting recap

June 18, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

In light of recent community unrest regarding future water planning and storage issues, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors asked that willing citizens step forward and assist in determining how best to assure long-term water supplies. By the June 9 meeting, 21 participants signed on, including local government officials, builders, Realtors, water experts and rate payers.

From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

Toward the end of another lengthy Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors meeting Tuesday night, some convincing community members moved what seemed an immovable object. As a result, the board suspended its construction-related Water Resource Fee (WRF) for six months.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District update

June 12, 2010

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Here’s Part V, Part VI and Part VII of Bill Hudson’t series PAWSD Makes an Apology, Of Sorts which is running in the Pagosa Daily Post.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Springs: The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners talk shop

May 28, 2010

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Here’s Part I of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Makes an Apology, Of Sorts. From the article:

Last night, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board and staff made a lengthy presentation for the benefit of the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners. The meeting had been requested by the BoCC, and was destined, I think, to set Archuleta County on a new path. Either the BoCC and PAWSD would enter into a dialog about the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir and begin to work collaboratively in deciding the future of the county — or the BoCC would begin to exercise its statutory oversight powers, and start intervening in the water district’s financial decisions.

Here’s Part II, Part III and Part IV. More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board election recap

May 15, 2010

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Bill Hudson):

On May 4, the residents and property owners within the PAWSD district went to the polls and elected two new board members, in a landslide election: Allan Bunch, owner of the Malt Shoppe restaurant, and Roy Vega, owner of Vega Insurance. Bunch and Vega ran on a platform that questioned current PAWSD policies — particularly the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir and its funding mechanisms, along with the high level of debt the district has incurred in recent years.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Springs Area Water and Sanitation District board of directors election

May 1, 2010

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Here’s Part I and Part III (I haven’t found Part II yet) of Bill Hudson’s look at the election of the board. I would think that Dry Gulch Reservoir will be part of conversation.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: Dry Gulch Reservoir update

March 20, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) boards of directors met in joint session Monday afternoon, with talks centering around acquiring rights to flood land owned by the Laverty family two miles northeast of Pagosa Springs. While uncertainty appeared paramount throughout the discussion, both boards and their attending legal counsel appeared intent on assisting the Lavertys in creating two separate conservation easements on their property, with hope of eventually acquiring fee title ownership of the inundated portion…

By agreeing to conservation easements on Laverty land, Whiting said the districts will also gain the right to store water up to the 7,400-foot contour line — a level that would constitute a reservoir of 35,300 acre feet. Though few people envision the need for an impoundment of that size in the foreseeable future, the districts feel it prudent to plan for the maximum allowed by court decree.

Problem is, the original court decree, which initially granted the districts sufficient water rights to develop a 35,300-acre-foot lake, has been appealed by Trout Unlimited multiple times. While both sides await yet another decision by Judge Gregory G. Lyman of District Court, Water Division 7, State of Colorado, the court has already reduced district water rights to allow a reservoir of just 25,300 acre feet, including 6,300 acre feet currently held by the SJWCD. Nevertheless, as previously guided by former SJWCD board president Fred Schmidt, the districts believe they must secure a site adequate for expansion, should future growth dictate a need for additional water storage. To do so, according to Whiting, the districts’ only two options have always been to either grab the Laverty land through eminent domain, or agree to conservation easements that will prohibit any future development, other than the reservoir…

On Tuesday, [Southwest Land Alliance (SLA) Executive Director Michael Whiting] insisted easements will give the districts what they need, while avoiding higher costs and the pubic relations nightmares associated with taking land through eminent domain. Given two separate easements, they could eventually flood the portion up to the 7,400 contour line, while resting assured the land above 7,400 feet would not bring residential or commercial development along the Dry Gulch shoreline…

At Monday’s meeting, however, districts’ attorney Evan Ela expressed concern with what he envisioned as their agreeing to a “partner in their lake.” While referring to the SLA, who will hold, maintain and enforce the easements in perpetuity, he feared an SLA board 20 or 30 years down the road that could interpret the agreement terms differently. Further, he suggested the districts try and find some way of eventually “purchasing” the easement on the inundated portion from the SLA. With that, they could eventually gain fee title ownership.

But, Whiting insists that’s not possible. “Only a land trust can hold whatever easements are created,” he said. “The Lavertys selected the Southwest Land Alliance to do these easements. They could’ve used another land trust, but we’re the only game in town. “The districts are a developer,” he continued. “No developers can ever hold an easement that encumbers a property that they themselves would develop, it’s illegal. Water districts can hold easements, but not on property they will develop, and Dry Gulch will be a development of that land.” That said, it appears the only real option the districts have in eventually developing Dry Gulch to the fullest extent possible is to agree to the conservation easements as proposed.

Meanwhile here’s Part VII of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet which is running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

As we will see in today’s article, the numbers that PAWSD shows us — or that it shows to lenders like the Colorado Water Conservation Board — are never complete numbers, nor are they always “up to date” numbers. PAWSD has at hand numerous reports and studies, dating from various years, and is able to select projections and water usage data as needed from those various reports.

Our readers may have noticed in yesterday’s article that the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District put the district’s taxpayers another $11 million in debt by submitting a 2008 loan application to the CWCB — and then used most of that money to pay off a previous loan they’d already used to purchase land for their proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, to be built, PAWSD says, some time in the next 50 years.

Here’s Part IV of the series.

Here’s Part V of the series.

Here’s Part VI of the series.

Here’s Part VIII of the series.

More Dry Gulch coverage here and here.


Archuleta County: Board of Commissioners ask the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District to produce and annual report complete with the details about the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir

March 13, 2010

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Here’s Part I of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet running in (Pagosa Daily Post) report from last week’s meeting. From the article:

As a few of us discovered for the first time yesterday — sitting in the audience in the Commissioners meeting room at 10am — the County Commissioners have the power to request an “annual report” from any special district located all or partly within their county.

And that is what the Board of County Commissioners want from PAWSD, according to the letter (pdf) approved yesterday. Give us an annual report, the BoCC asked, that will clarify your financial condition and your long range plans. Especially, give us some justification for the planned 35,000 acre-foot Dry Gulch Reservoir, and the related impact fees.

Here’s Part II of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District has found itself in the position of such a forward-thinking parent in the past few years — assuring us, the residents of Archuleta County, that if we would just pony up and swallow their $360 million, 35,000 acre-foot reservoir and water treatment project at Dry Gulch, our great grandchildren will someday have plenty of water.

At Tuesday’s PAWSD board meeting, board member Bob Huff referred to Dry Gulch critics as folks who “want to kick the can down the road” — meaning, they want to put off the hard decisions, and the immediate costs of a well-considered plan for the future. “We, as a board, have decided, we’re not kicking the can down the road. We’re going to start planning; we’re going to start moving on that plan. And that’s what the Dry Gulch [property purchase] is all about. We’re moving forward in a step-by-step way…

The most vocal of PAWSD’s critics include, of course, the Pagosa Area Association of Realtors and many of our local developers and builders who see the water district’s Water Resource Fee impact fees and Capital Investment Fees and Inclusion Fees — running $30,000 or more for a large, new home in Pagosa Springs — as part of the reason behind the slow demise of the Archuleta County construction industry, beginning in about 2006 when those new fees were established by PAWSD.

Here’s Part III where Hudson steps through the commissioner’s letter.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District chasing USDA dough to build a new wastewater treatment plant

March 12, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin):

The board previously rejected the idea of pursuing USDA funding when it was brought to the table last summer. At that time, the USDA had set forth two requirements that the board found insurmountable: designing the plant to be outside a 500-year floodplain and conducting an environmental assessment that would have driven initial costs for the USDA application up (with no guarantee of securing USDA funding). However, according to [Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District supervisor, Phil Starks], the USDA has changed its requirements and appears to be more flexible in working with the PSSGID toward offering up funding. Seemingly entrenched with criteria stipulating a 500-year floodplain last year, the USDA now appears to offer an out, allowing the plant to be built within a 500-year floodplain “if no reasonable alternative exists.” Furthermore, Starks said, costs for preliminary environmental assessments have dropped significantly, from cost estimates between $70,000 and $100,000 last year, to between $30,000 and $60,000 for current estimates…

According to Starks, the PSSGID would likely receive a $3.3 million loan and a $2.7 million grant to go toward a $6 million plant — about $700,000 more than estimates for a previously rejected project. Starks added that the plant would be a facility that would last at least 20 years and, when time expired on the plant, would merely require an upgrade as opposed to construction of an entirely new plant. Previous wastewater treatment plants in Pagosa Springs have been, in Starks’ words, “stopgap measures” that required entirely new construction once the plants became obsolete.

More coverage from the Pagosa Daily Post (Bill Hudson):

Lately, we have been polluting the river. Just a little. That normally happens in the winter months, due to the Town’s aging lagoon-style sewer treatment plant; in cold weather, the bacteria that live in the lagoon and do the heavy work of breaking the raw sewage down into non-toxic materials, simply aren’t active enough to keep the sewer effluent from violating Colorado state standards. So we dump a little too much ammonia or solid waste into our local river — and we risk fines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, CDPHE.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Special meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board Monday

February 7, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun:

A special meeting of the Board of Directors of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District has been scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8. The primary purpose of this meeting is for discussions with the Board of Directors of the San Juan Water Conservancy District on water matters and the development of raw water projects. Towards the end of the meeting, the boards of directors are expected to enter into executive session for the purposes of conferences with legal counsel for receiving legal advice on litigation and discussing matters related to land acquisition for development of raw water facilities and other matters subject to negotiation involving both districts pursuant to Sections 24-6-402(4)(a), 24-6-402(4)(b), and 24-6-402(4)(e), C.R.S. The meeting will be held at the district’s administrative office located at 100 Lyn Ave.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs to host meeting to show off plans for two new whitewater features in town

January 31, 2010

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Tom Carosello):

The meeting will be hosted by Riverbend Engineering and the Town of Pagosa Springs, and will be held in the south conference room of the Ross Aragόn Community Center Thursday, January 28 at 5:30pm. Construction of at least one of the proposed features is tentatively slated for this spring, with the possibility of an additional feature being constructed in the fall.

More whitewater coverage here.


San Juan Water Conservancy District unveils 2010 budget

January 9, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

…the district has said it will continue working with the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) to obtain additional land for a future reservoir, the exact size of which will be determined sometime in the future. It will also participate in the final phase of the Lower Blanco River Restoration Project in 2010, as it has throughout the first three phases. Once complete, the project will afford improved water quality, fishing and public access to several miles of mountain stream.

The bulk of the district’s anticipated 2010 income is based on property tax revenues subject to statutory limitation of $102,648. Calculated by a certified mill levy of 0.316 mills, it is based on a countywide assessed property valuation of $324,836,502, excluding bond and interest payments, and election-approved contractual obligations. On the budget’s revenue side, the district expects $50,000 in grants (Environmental Protection Agency and Southwest Water Conservation District); the $102,648 in mill levy money; $7,500 in specific ownership tax; $2,700 in delinquent tax and interest; and another $6,000 in interest earned. The total should equal $169,348, or some $63,000 more than last year. As for expenses, the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir project will account for the lion’s share, with $162,050 going to land acquisition and water rights. The Blanco River restoration project will receive $5,000 in district support; while other ditches and streams, cloud seeding and various contributions will total another $3,500. Assorted administrative and legal expenses will add up to $49,400, as public relations, education, and treasurer’s fees will cost $5,600. Total expenses should be $225,550. In 2010, the district expects expenses to exceed those of 2009 by approximately $33,400. As the new year begins, its budgetary fund balance will amount to $220,279, while its year-end budgetary fund balance should equal $164,077. The 2010 beginning balance will be roughly $86,000 less than last year’s, while the ending balance will fall short of last year’s by about $56,000.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.


Pagosa Springs: Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District scores $48,700 grant for water audits to help with conservation efforts

December 27, 2009

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From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chuck McGuire):

Working with Great Western Institute, a Colorado-based non-profit, the district successfully procured the “Water Efficiency Grant” to help cover costs associated with performing “SMART WATER audits” and installing water-conserving fixtures at select local businesses. Last winter, PAWSD conducted pilot SMART WATER audits at various volunteer businesses to gauge potential water savings and community-wide interest in a fixtures retrofit program. In the process, the district evaluates a business’s water use and determines water savings solutions. Typically, the most obvious and efficient actions include replacement of older water-wasting toilets, shower heads, and spray valves, while adding aerators to existing faucets, thereby reducing unnecessary flow and hot water usage. The district also performed irrigation audits to evaluate outdoor water usage by certain homeowner associations. Again, the audits identified needed fixture replacements and established annual reporting requirements, which will later detail water use before and after specified retrofits are made. Too, such “before and after” comparisons will measure program benefits from year to year…

In 2010, PAWSD intends to audit and retrofit another 15 area businesses, at an estimated annual savings of approximately 11.5 acre feet, or 3,747,287 gallons of precious water. The district invites all interested businesses to contact Water Conservation Coordinator Mat deGraaf to learn more about the program, or schedule a consultation for consideration in the next phase of SMART WATER audits beginning in March 2010. Meanwhile, for additional water conservation programs and practices directed at all water users, visit the PAWSD Web site at pawsd.org, click on the Conservation link, then click on Catch the Wave and Save. You can also contact deGraaf at 731-2691.

More conservation coverage here.


Dry Gulch Reservoir: Trout unlimited files Petition for Rehearing with Colorado Supreme Court saying storage safety margin reserve constitutes speculation

November 21, 2009

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Sheila Berger):

In its petition, Trout Unlimited requests the Supreme Court to remove from its November 2 opinion its endorsement of a one-year safety supply reserve, stating that, “the Districts would add a volume of water equivalent to a one-year’s demand to the amount of storage they would otherwise require, essentially doubling the size of the reservoir.” Trout Unlimited also alleges in its petition that planning for a one-year storage reserve constitutes speculation.

A one-year safety supply is, by definition, enough storage to supply one year of demand in the situation that a drought or another catastrophic event prevents PAWSD from diverting water from its stream sources. For example, in the summer and fall of 2002, even with sand bagging, a very minimal amount of river water was available for diversion. Because there had been no runoff in the spring of 2002, reservoirs were dangerously low. Even with severe drought restrictions, the District was very close to “running dry.” In 2002, the District had no storage safety margin. Currently, the safety margin is provided by the recently completed Stevens Reservoir Enlargement. For the first half of the 2002 drought year, sufficient river water was available for diversion. Reliance on storage became necessary in late June. The Trout Unlimited claim that a one-year safety supply doubles the size of the reservoir is an erroneous statement, as some of the first year demand would be served through river diversions and some of the storage reserve would be supplied by existing District reservoirs. Future drought patterns cannot be predicted with certainty, and the District has implemented its one-year safety supply margin to prudently plan for that uncertainty. The water districts feel that planning for severe drought is not speculative given the long historical record of, and recent occurrence of, severe droughts in the southwestern United States.

The response of the Supreme Court to the Petition is anticipated to be forthcoming in the next month. Meanwhile, the Districts will hold a special joint meeting at 6:00 p.m. November 30, at the PAWSD offices to discuss the case and the necessary next steps to preparing for another trial with the District 7 Water Court.

Here’s the release from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


More on last week’s Colorado Supreme Court ruling on Dry Gulch Reservoir planning horizon

November 13, 2009

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

According to Drew Peternell, of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project, the Supreme Court laid out a new test for public utilities. In the Pagosa Springs case, the court ruled that the city’s claim for water based on a 100-year planning horizon was not reasonable. “They have to show that claim for water is based on realistic projections for population growth. They can’t just pull numbers out the air,” Peternell said.

Undeveloped (conditional is the legal term) water rights are subject to periodic hearings in water court. Every six years, the water providers have to show their claim on the water is still valid. When the time for those hearings comes, they will be held to the new standards spelled out by the court, Peternell said.

Denver Water, the biggest player in Summit County, joined in the court case on the side of Pagosa Springs, along with other water providers from around the state. “We wanted the court to maintain a degree of deference to governmental entities that have to plan for future growth,” said Denver Water attorney Casey Funk. Funk said the Supreme Court decision established some new factors that water courts have to consider before awarding water rights, but that water providers still do have some flexibility in planning for future needs. Essentially, the ruling partly clarified some of the conflicts between the “great and growing cities” doctrine, which provides flexibility to plan for future water needs, and the anti-speculation doctrine, which limits pie-in-the-sky water claims.

More water law coverage here.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


Colorado Supreme Court rules against Pagosa Water and Sanitation District conditional water rights while holding that a 2055 planning horizon is reasonable

November 7, 2009

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From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chuck McGuire):

In this most recent ruling, the high court upheld the districts’ 50-year planning horizon decreed by Judge Gregory G. Lyman of District Court, Water Division 7 in a September 2008 ruling, and endorsed the districts’ planning approach to maintain a one-year water safety supply margin in its storage reservoirs. For a second time, however, the Supreme Court also remanded the case back to the District 7 Water Court for additional evidence regarding specified decree provisions and determination of “water amounts reasonably necessary to serve the districts’ reasonably anticipated needs in the 2055 period, above its current water supply.”[...]

In a press release issued Tuesday, a districts representative stated, “In its opinion, the Supreme Court endorsed statewide water rights planning efforts recently coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Supreme Court opinion also linked land use planning requirements recently enacted by the Colorado General Assembly to water court determinations of conditional water rights. In doing so, the Court introduced unprecedented legal elements into future water court determinations. “Additional trial before the Water Court will enable the Districts to extend their evidence of long-term growth patterns within Archuleta County in support of their 50-year water rights planning horizon and to demonstrate the actual reliability of water rights upon which the Districts currently depend.”[...]

From TU’s point of view, however, the Supreme Court decision reinforced the principle that Colorado municipalities must base water projects on clearly demonstrated and credible projections of future need. “The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that it will not tolerate public utilities speculating in water,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project, who argued the case before the state’s highest court. “This is a victory for reality-based water planning.”[...]

In its most recent appeal, TU argued that the districts’ revised figures were still not in line with credible future water use projections and amounted to speculation. In Monday’s decision, the high court unanimously agreed, finding insufficient evidence to support the quantities of water Lyman awarded, either in direct flow rights or storage. In its decree, the Supreme Court ruled that the 23,500-acre-foot size approved by the water court is based on “speculative claims, at least in part.” In response, TU insists that, “Unless the Pagosa districts can now demonstrate a ‘substantial probability’ that a reservoir of that size is needed to meet future needs, the water court must reduce the amount of their claimed water.”

More water law coverage here.

Meanwhile, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board approved a change in the diversion plan for Dry Gulch Reservoir recently. Here’s a report from Chuck McQuire writing for The Pagosa Springs Sun. From the article:

According to engineers, the modified plan will reduce water treatment costs while meeting current and short-term future demands, preserve senior West Fork water rights and allow incremental system development as needed…

As designed, Option 6A involves reconstruction of the Snowball pipeline from the West Fork diversion to a proposed treatment plant at Dry Gulch. Until development of the Dry Gulch plant is necessary, the Snowball treatment plant will be upgraded and expanded, while a segment of the Snowball pipeline (leading to the Snowball plant) is maintained. As the Dry Gulch plant is eventually built, workers will connect both plants with a new pipeline, and construct the pipeline from Dry Gulch to the cemetery tank. Meanwhile, as engineers further scrutinized the original options, they also realized that the quality of water coming from the West Fork was notably superior to that found in the main stem of the San Juan. By continuing to utilize West Fork water, PAWSD could reduce projected water purification costs, while maintaining stringent water quality requirements. Also, because the elevation of the West Fork diversion is hundreds of feet higher than the proposed Dry Gulch treatment plant, it will naturally pressurize the plant, thereby reducing the cost of building and operating expensive pumps. Too, building a new diversion at the Dry Gulch site would require transfer of the Snowball water rights from the West Fork to the main stem, through a Colorado Water Conservation Board in-stream flow water right. Based on discussions with the CWCB, doing so would likely result in subordinating the Snowball rights to the CWCB right, thus removing them from priority much of the year. The end result would be a less-than-firm water supply for District Two. According to PAWSD, Option 6A will allow system development in stages, as funding and demand dictates. An upgraded Snowball treatment plant and a newly-aligned Snowball pipeline segment around the Jackson Mountain slide area would come first, with an upgraded stretch between the slide area and the West Fork diversion next. Eventually, as the Dry Gulch treatment plant is built, an extended line would connect it and the Snowball treatment plant.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: Water supply and wastewater treatment plant bids due in August

August 7, 2009

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Sheila Berger):

Bidding for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – funded Highlands Wastewater Treatment Facility Elimination project opens [August 6]. [Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District] held an informational meeting for contractors on July 29 in order to prepare them for the contractual requirements of this project by providing an overview of key federal and state mandates and conditions of the federal stimulus funding…

Tentatively scheduled for the third week in August, PAWSD will solicit bids for the Hatcher Water Treatment Plant upgrade and expansion project. This project, funded by a very low-interest loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, will provide upgraded technology for the Hatcher facility in order to meet more stringent state and federal drinking water requirements as well as to provide for future capacity expansion of the plant.

More wastewater coverage here. More water treatment coverage here.


Pagosa Springs: Stevens Reservoir expansion — wetlands mitigation

July 4, 2009

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

Though Stevens can now accommodate considerably more water than it did when the district first declared its moratorium, it won’t be filled to capacity until wetlands mitigation work ends later this year. That work, now underway, is the first of a two-step process involving site preparation; excavation and placement of several inches of wetland soils; the installation of monitoring wells, depth gages and erosion control measures; road maintenance and planting of around 1,300 small shrubs. PAWSD officials believe workers will complete the first step in 120 calendar days. Then, depending on weather, the reservoir will be filled to capacity when district water rights are in priority, later this year. To complete the final step, district managers will again reduce the reservoir level by approximately six vertical feet, sometime around May 2010. That will allow planting of an additional 70,000 wet meadow and emergent plants, before refilling the reservoir late next year, when district rights are again in priority.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Energy policy — geothermal: Pagosa Springs geothermal lease

July 1, 2009

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Here’s Part One and Part Two of Bill Hudson’s series When is a lease not a lease? about the inner workings of the Pagosa Springs town council and its geothermal lease.

Hudson also reports that the town council is not going to pursue a new wastewater plant.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: Chasing dough to build wastewater treatment plant

May 23, 2009

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The new wastewater treatment plant for Pagosa Springs — originally scheduled for a 2008 completion — still lacks complete funding. Here’s a report from Jim McQuiggin writing for the Pagosa Sun. From the article:

Those discussions, in the form of a conference call held May 6 that included Starks, Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon, Town Manager David Mitchem and representatives from the Colorado Health Department, the USDA, the Department of Local Affairs, and the Water and Power Authority, kick-started the arduous process of chasing down necessary additional funding for the project. Although both the mayor and Mitchem reported the outcome of the call was “very productive,” both conceded the call was only a first step towards acquiring those funds.

Following up on the call, Aragon and Mitchem met with USDA representatives Tuesday morning to learn what steps would be needed to grab federal money.

“They want us to jump through hoops,” the mayor said, “but they have the money we need. There’s still a lot we have to discuss.”

Aragon reported that the USDA representatives brought up the possibility of a rate hike (one of several ideas) but said, “That’s not really an option, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve already gone up sixty-seven percent, and that’s much more than I wanted.”

The mayor also stated that, although the idea of scaling back the project was floated by the USDA representatives, the town would continue with the current scope of the project, adding, “We don’t want to build it and then find that, five years down the road, we need something bigger.”

No less sanguine regarding the conversation with the USDA representatives, Mitchem was nonetheless optimistic that the town could meet federal benchmarks set out by the USDA. “We’re going to move ahead with our preliminary plans,” he said, “We’re going to refine some of the engineering, review our current environmental studies and fine tune the flood plain mapping. We’re under a tight deadline from the feds. Everything has to be approved by Washington by October 1.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.


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