White River Conservation District’s annual meeting recap

White River via Wikimedia
White River via Wikimedia

From the White River Conservation District via the Rio Blanco Herald Times:

More than 100 people enjoyed the White River Conservation District’s annual meeting Friday at the Meeker Fairfield Center.

The District was recognized by Colorado State Conservation Board in 2015 as “District of the Year,” and Executive Director Callie Hendrickson received the Conservation Excellence Award by Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown, “for giving a strong voice to locally led conservation at home, in Colorado and nationally.”

Hendrickson highlighted the district’s’ natural resource priorities including rangeland health, wildlife, water and natural resource information and education…

Attendees were updated on the progress of the Land and Natural Resource Use Plan. Hendrickson asked all Rio Blanco County citizens to be prepared to review and comment on the plan in March. The district will publicize the exact dates of public comment meetings. The plan will then be applied to influence federal regulatory frameworks that govern the management of public lands.

The district recognized Rocky and Sparky Pappas and Travis Flaharty as Conservationists of the Year. President Neil Brennan highlighted the Pappas’ conservation accomplishments, including water development, grazing practices, weed control and community involvement. The Pappases and Flaherty manage first for wildlife and second for livestock.

The property they manage is leased to several local producers to graze sheep and cattle during the summer. The livestock are removed before fall to allow for rejuvenation for wildlife habitat. With the ongoing partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Pappas’ and Flaherty reclaimed some farm ground in the Josephine Basin to provide critical winter range for mule deer and to improve the migration corridor for deer and elk.

They battle weeds through aerial applications and are experimenting with biological control such as beetles and pathogens for leafy spurge and thistles. They have improved water quality and quantity by converting manual pumps to solar, adding water tanks and installing pipelines to spread the water across the properties. In addition to their conservation efforts, the three volunteer on local boards such as the Historical Society, and the Flat Tops chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. They also sponsor youth hunts and help approximately 200 Colorado hunters with the Ranching for Wildlife program…

Keynote speaker David Ludlum, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s executive director, addressed the audience regarding the various ways industries convey their purpose and message to the public. While industries think they are doing a good job by providing great detail about “how they do their work,” they miss the important message about “why they do their work.”

Ludlum showcased how individuals that “bash” industry and the general public need to hear “industry develops these resources simply to provide the tires for your bicycles, the concrete you walk on, the fiberglass on your surfboards, the polyester and nylon in your clothes, the polycarbonate in your sunglasses, the ethane used to make your artificial hips, the heat you enjoy on a cold night, the gas in your car, the fertilizer used to grow your food, etc.”

Ludlum expressed how important it is that our industries help people understand what they provide for your standard of living. Most people, he said, don’t care “how” you do it until they understand “why” you do it.

Environment: Mercury deposition increasing in West and Midwest

Summit County Citizens Voice

asf Mercury emissions from power plants are a global issue.

Asia’s power plants affect U.S. environment

Staff Report

Mercury levels in precipitation are increasing in the central U.S. but steadily dropping along the East Coast, scientists reported in a new study.

The findings suggest that mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants in Asia are on the rise, while they are decreasing in North America, according to Peter Weiss-Penzias, an environmental toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz who was the lead author of the study.

Mercury is a toxic element released into the environment through a variety of human activities, including the burning of coal, as well as by natural processes. Rainfall washes mercury out of the atmosphere and into soils and surface waters. Bacteria convert elemental mercury into a more toxic form, methyl mercury, which becomes increasingly concentrated in organisms higher up the food chain. Mercury concentrations in some predatory fish are…

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Climate: From Global to Local

Your Water Colorado Blog

Globally, 2015 was officially the hottest year on record… by a long shot. Data from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as meteorological agencies in Britain and Japan all reveal the same. And we now know where the U.S. Senate stands on the matter of climate change. From NOAA:

During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 136 years in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.29°F (0.16°C) and marking the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century. This is also the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken.

figure3-350x270 From NSIDC. Monthly December ice extent for 1979 to 2015 shows a decline of 3.4% per decade.

The year was also significant in Arctic sea ice…

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COGA statement on new COGCC rules

Here’s the release from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (Dan Haley):

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners – my name is Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA). Thank you for allowing me a few minutes to speak to you regarding the important and complex rules that are before you today.

COGA is not new to rulemakings and engaging in our state’s ever-changing regulatory process. Over the last several years, COGA has stepped up to work with the administration, local governments, citizens and, other stakeholders to achieve constructive, meaningful, and practical solutions to tough issues faced in setback, groundwater, enforcement, citizen complaint, spill reporting, and floodplain rulemakings by this Commission. The outcome of these rulemakings resulted in the oil and gas industry operating under one of the most stringent regulatory environments in the nation.

Again, we find ourselves working in coordination with numerous stakeholders in yet another significant rulemaking – this one geared to the implementation of two of the unanimously approved recommendations by the members of the Governor’s Task Force, many of which are parties you will hear from today.

COGA fully supported the 9 recommendations submitted by the Governor’s Task Force in March 2015. In fact, our members said yes when the Governor asked industry to serve on the Task Force to help find ways for state and local governments to better collaborate and coordinate efforts for oil and gas operations. It was in the interest of all parties on the Governor’s Task Force to have a meaningful dialogue and work hard to seek ways in which the concerns of local jurisdictions, operators, and the state could be addressed and to provide constructive recommendations for policy on how best to achieve these goals.

In the end, all 21 task force members voted to adopt the language in Task Force Recommendations 17 and 20. Those recommendations were thoughtful and meaningful in approach and, by their unanimous support, addressed many of the issues before you today. These recommendations would bring a big change in the way oil and gas locations are permitted in Colorado. The changes proposed in Recommendation #17 are significant because for the first time:

  • The State would have a process and a standard for reviewing whether operators have worked in good faith to achieve agreement with local government on issues of concern about large facilities in urbanized areas.
  • There would be a record of negotiation to help the State decide what site specific mitigations may be necessary to respond to local concerns.
  • There would be established expectations that provide all parties with an understanding of when and with what conditions state permits will be considered.
  • These are meaningful changes.

    And with regard to Recommendation #20, for the first time, the State would identify parameters for industry to share longer-term planning information with local governments.

    COGA supports this rulemaking, however, maintains that the COGCC proposed rules must be modified to uphold the intent, meaning, and integrity of the task force recommendations.

    If Recommendations 17 and 20 were written the same as the draft rules before you, the industry representatives and maybe even a few non-industry members would NOT have voted in favor of the recommendations, and as such would not have passed out of the Task Force. In fact, as you will hear during the Industry presentation, there are certain elements of the rules that were outright rejected by the task force.

    That is why today, COGA, along with CPA and CPC, will be presenting an alternative rule that is based on the COGCC’s proposed rules, but reflects needed modifications in order to respect the intent, meaning and integrity of the actual recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force. The industry’s alternate proposed rule is based on the 3 C’s of Clarity, Consistency, and Certainty – you have heard this in prior rulemakings and we will explain in later testimony how our alternate rule follows the 3 C’s. Industry’s proposed rule maintains the intent and purpose of the unanimous recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force, while providing language that allows for the practicable and realistic application of an early evaluation process.

    Please keep in your mind that, in addition to the two recommendations before you today, industry task force members voted to support the other 7 recommendations, and COGA communicated and supported those recommendations to the legislature, as necessary. A lot is getting done, and today we are talking about two additional important recommendations to be implemented for further improvements in the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas resources.

    COGA recognizes that this is a very important hearing and that you have heard and will hear a lot of testimony, from many perspectives. We appreciate your patience and consideration and also want to say thank you to the staff for their very hard work on these tough issues. COGA asks that you strongly consider our alternative rule as presented later today by Ms. Jost as we do believe our proposal provides clarity, consistency, and certainty for all stakeholders, not just Industry.”

    Oil and gas well sites near the Roan Plateau
    Oil and gas well sites near the Roan Plateau

    COGCC approves new rules to enhance local government participation in locating and planning for oil and gas operations

    From email from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Todd Hartman):

    The nine-member Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) today approved new rules that amplify the role of local governments in siting large oil and gas facilities near communities and further bridge the regulatory roles between state regulators and local jurisdictions.

    The regulations address two recommendations from the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force. Specifically, the rules will:

    Provide earlier notice to local governments and opportunity for local officials to work with operators on the location of large oil and gas facilities adjacent to communities.
    Require additional mitigation measures and best management practices at these locations to address the potential impacts of oil and gas development activities.
    Require operators to share information with municipalities about future oil and gas development plans to encourage discussion and improve planning for both parties.
    Monday’s decision followed extensive public involvement, including three and a half days of testimony on the proposed rules dating to late last year, three stakeholder meetings in October and 11 statewide outreach meetings over the summer that included 39 local governments as well as several citizen and industry groups.

    “I appreciate the hard work of the COGCC staff and Commission to develop rules that implement the intent of the Task Force recommendations,” said Bernie Buescher, a Task Force member who supported the recommendations that led to the new rules. “The consultation and information sharing provisions reflect the desires of the Task Force to create more collaboration and communication between local governments and operators on large facilities near communities.”

    “The new rules provide meaningful opportunity for operators and local governments to negotiate siting issues early in the permitting process,” said Kirby Wynn, Oil and Gas liaison for Garfield County and representative for a coalition of Western Slope local governments at the rulemaking. “This was an extremely challenging rulemaking with diverse, entrenched, opinions. COGCC is to be commended for finding balance between the needs of local governments to consult with industry on well pad locations while providing sensible time limits for that consultation to occur.”

    “Going into this rulemaking, there were many expectations about its purpose, but the discussions among local and state governments, industry, and citizens have increased understanding on all sides of how local and state authority can be exercised in a complementary fashion to protect the public from oil and gas-related impacts,” said Barbara Green, an attorney specializing in local government issues and a participant in the rulemaking.

    The new rules are tied to recommendations (Nos. 17 and 20) of the Governor’s Oil and Task Force. On February 24, 2015 a two-thirds majority of the Task Force approved nine recommendations. Two of those required action by other agencies and two required action of the General Assembly. Five others required action by the COGCC, but only two of those five required a rulemaking process by the Commission.

    All documents, party statements, meeting audio and many other materials related to this rulemaking are housed on the COGCC website here: http://cogcc.state.co.us/reg.html#/rules/gtfrulemaking

    The rules approved Monday are the latest activity in a years-long effort at COGCC to strengthen its oversight of oil and gas development in Colorado. Since 2011, the COGCC and the administration of Governor John Hickenlooper has crafted rules to lengthen distances between drilling and neighborhoods, reduce the effects of light, noise and odors, protect groundwater, cut emissions, disclose hydraulic fracturing chemicals, increase spill reporting, significantly elevate penalties for operators violating Commission rules and toughen requirements for operating in floodplains.

    The Commission has also significantly expanded oversight staff, increased ease of access and volume of data available to the public, intensified collaboration with local governments, sponsored ongoing studies to increase understanding of impacts to air and water and adopted several formal policies to address health and safety issues brought about by new technologies and increased energy development in Colorado.

    From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission left several sides of the debate – including environmental and industry interests – dissatisfied with certain results, suggesting that the process struck a compromise…

    Under the rule-making that concluded Monday, operators are required to consult and register with local governments when building large facilities.

    Perhaps the biggest issue was defining a large-scale facility. The definition for large facilities was connected to “urban mitigation areas,” which include areas within 1,000 feet of at least 22 homes, a school or a hospital.

    Commissioners set the trigger for operators to consult with local governments in urban mitigation areas at eight new wells, or 4,000 new or existing storage barrels, not including water storage. The motion passed on a 5-4 vote.

    No operations in La Plata County would fall under the definition, according to the La Plata County Energy Council. The county has only two urban mitigation areas, which were built after natural gas wells were drilled.

    Some counties, including La Plata, pushed for counties to be included in the mandate to register with local governments, as opposed to just requiring registration with towns and cities. The COGCC ultimately included counties in the registration process.

    But La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, a Democrat, who co-chaired the governor’s task force, said counties are left with a limited voice.

    “It doesn’t require companies to provide counties with the same information they will be required to provide municipalities,” Lachelt said. “This is an erosion of local control.”

    Having dedicated six months to the task force, Lachelt was disappointed with the end result. She said the commission fell short of providing better protections for communities.

    “This process did not achieve those goals,” Lachelt said. “We have much work to do in Colorado to protect communities and local control.”

    Not all of La Plata’s three county commissioners, however, are concerned. Republican Brad Blake believes counties have had and continue to have a strong voice.

    “I’m not thrilled with the outcome, or sad with the outcome, because I think we still have the authority to look into these issues,” Blake said.

    He and the La Plata County Energy Council were disappointed that the county joined an alliance of several Front Range governments – led by Boulder – in calling for stricter rules. They wanted La Plata to represent its own interests.

    “La Plata entered into rule making with counties that they have absolutely nothing in common with,” said Christi Zeller, executive director of the La Plata County Energy Council.

    She also pointed out that there are existing memorandums of understanding with operators and a quarterly notification process in La Plata County.

    “La Plata County operators have been the leaders in sharing information and participating in local land-use codes and complying with COGCC regulations for decades,” Zeller said.

    Meanwhile, anti-fracking interests have proposed a slew of ballot proposals for this year, including banning fracking altogether and mandating larger setbacks of wells.

    “It’s not just the wells or the drilling, or the noise and lights and traffic 24 hours a day,” said Shawndra Barry, with the newly-formed League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans. “It is being disenfranchised with no due process.”

    From The Denver Post (Emilie Rusch):

    A contentious state rule-making process intended to give local governments more say in the siting of large oil and gas facilities in their communities ended Monday as divided as it began almost a year and a half ago…

    But on the heart of the matter — how big a proposed oil and gas facility must be to trigger local government involvement — commissioners were split, just like the many industry representatives, environmental groups, local government officials and members of the public who testified during the marathon, day-long hearing.

    Commissioners voted 5-4 in favor of defining “large scale” as eight new wells or 4,000 barrels of new or existing storage, not including water.

    Tripping either threshold gives local governments a say on where the well pads can be sited and provides nearby residents with more stringent protections regarding noise, emissions, fire control, etc. — but only when the proposed facility falls within an urban mitigation area.

    Urban mitigation areas, as defined by state law, are areas where oil and gas operations are within 1,000 feet of 22 or more homes or a large facility such as a school or hospital.

    Whether the new rules, which will go into effect 20 days after publication by the secretary of state, are enough to head off future conflict remains to be seen.

    Industry representatives and advocates of local control expressed disappointment immediately after the commission’s vote.

    “We’re disappointed that the COGCC chose to go beyond the original task force recommendations, especially in these economic times with oil prices the way that they are and jobs suffering,” Colorado Petroleum Council executive director Tracee Bentley said.

    “But we do very much appreciate the process that COGCC staff ran. It was a very thorough and very well-vetted process,” she said. “We’ll continue like we always have, to work with local governments and stakeholders.”

    Oil and gas companies had advocated for a much higher 12-well or 9,600-barrel storage threshold.

    Allied Local Governments — a pro-local control consortium representing Brighton, Broomfield, Erie, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland, and Boulder and La Plata counties — hoped the commission would err on the side of requiring more communication, triggering local input at 2,000 barrels of on-site storage including water, and 45,000 feet of well-bore length.

    At the beginning of Monday’s hearing, the COGCC staff proposed 90,000 feet of well-bore length and 2,000 barrels of storage, not including water.

    Larimer County resident Katherine Hall, who testified in favor of local control, said she would not be surprised if a citizen-initiated measure ended up on November’s ballot.

    “The final outcome of the rule making does not go far enough to ease the concerns of Colorado citizens,” Hall said.

    Drilling rig and production pad near Erie school via WaterDefense.org
    Drilling rig and production pad near Erie school via WaterDefense.org

    #ClimateChange: Carbondale carbon tax — The Mountain Town News

    Carbondale is a town of 6,500 people located 30 miles west of Aspen. That’s Mt. Sopris, Colorado’s loveliest mountain, in the background. Photo source/Wikipedia - See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2016/01/15/carbondale-carbon-tax/#sthash.tUbLVIZh.dpuf
    Carbondale is a town of 6,500 people located 30 miles west of Aspen. That’s Mt. Sopris, Colorado’s loveliest mountain, in the background. Photo source/Wikipedia – See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2016/01/15/carbondale-carbon-tax/#sthash.tUbLVIZh.dpuf

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Carbondale proposes to levy tax on carbon in electric, heat bills

    Although one resident has called it ridiculous, residents in Carbondale in April will decide whether to adopt a carbon tax. If approved by voters in the town of 6,500 people, it would be among just a handful of municipal carbon taxes in the United States.

    Proponents estimate that the tax would add an estimated $5 to $7 per month to the utility bill of an average home and $20 to $40 for an average business. It would not apply to sale of gasoline.

    Under the plan approved by town trustees on Wednesday, revenue would be used to continue and expand programs to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses and incentivize renewable energy. Funding has ranged from $65,000 to $100,000 for such programs, but the source of that funding—the town’s share of proceeds from natural gas and oil extraction in Garfield County—is expected to diminish in future years.

    “It actually started with the trustees,” says Erica Sparhawk, of the non-profit advocacy group Clean Energy Economy for the Region, or CLEER. “This is a very educated group of trustees, dedicated to sustainability, and they take their clean energy goals seriously. So they asked us to help them research and analyze different potential funding sources, so that these kinds of programs without the town having to tap their general funds.”

    With just a modest business and industrial sector, 60 percent of Carbondale’s greenhouse gases come from the town’s 2,400 homes. The town’s climate action plan envisions upgrades to those homes so that they use less energy and, coincidentally, are more comfortable to live in. The program being envisioned would address 1,000 homes in the next five years.

    Trustees, as the elected members of the town board are called, believe it’s important to create n income-qualifying program, so that lower-incomer residents can benefit from the carbon tax.

    Other potential use of revenues could include a large solar farm and a local micro-grid with battery storage.

    Once a coal-mining town

    The irony of Carbondale adopting a carbon tax is obvious. Mid-Continent Resource’s coal mine was a major payroll in the town for decades. The mine closed in 1991.

    “What better place than a town called Carbondale to implement a local carbon fee and put talk into action?” asks Mayor Stacey Bernot, a native, who grew up in Carbondale when it was still a mining town.

    But the demographics of the town have changed dramatically in the last 25 years, and Carbondale is now home to wide variety of innovators, creators and activists but also to a large population of immigrants who work in the construction and service sector of the Aspen-area economy. Latinos, mostly immigrants, compose 30 to 40 percent of the town’s population, and they tend to live in trailers and other lower-end housing.

    Lately, carbon of another sort has concerned town residents, because of the potential for drilling for natural gas in nearby Thompson Creek Valley. It’s part of the broad swathe of the mineral-rich Piceance Basin that arcs across west-central Colorado.

    Town residents have loudly opposed drilling, as they generally see drilling incompatible with the hunting and recreational uses of the valley. by one study, the Thompson Divide provides 300 jobs in the Carbondale-area economy.

    Sparhawk says trustees recognize what some—including this writer—called out as an inconsistency: How can you oppose drilling in your backyard while using natural gas to heat your homes and, increasingly, to produce your electricity?

    Trustees recognize the need to walk their talk, says Sparhawk. “If we are going to oppose drilling in the Thompson Divide, then we in the community need to lessen our demand for natural gas.”

    Six funding mechanisms were evaluated as dedicated revenue sources for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements in Carbondale, but after a series of work sessions with town trustees, efforts narrowed to the tax on carbon used for home heating and that proportionate of the electricity that comes from carbon sources.

    Trustees are scheduled to finalize the ballot proposal at their Jan. 13 meeting.

    Modeled on Boulder

    Carbondale’s plan is modeled on the tax adopted in 2007 by the municipality of Boulder, Colo.. It is described on the Boulder’s website as the “nation’s first voter-approved tax dedicated to addressing climate change.”

    The tax costs the average household about $1.33 a month and now generates $1.8 million a year. The tax is administered through Xcel Energy, which also provides electricity to Carbondale.

    Boulder sustainability officials claim to that use of the tax money has been used to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

    “What’s really interesting about Boulder’s carbon tax,” says Will Toor, a former mayor, “is just how popular it has been.” Boulder is deeply divided about whether to get a divorce from electrical provider Xcel Energy, but the 77 percent of voters last November decided to extend the tax through March 2023.

    The tax applies only to electricity, and it exempts any energy produced without burning fossil fuels.

    Other jurisdictions also have carbon taxes. In Arcata, Calif., a college town two hours north of San Francisco, voters in 2012 passed, by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent, what they call an excessive electricity use tax. According to the city’s website, the 45 percent tax is assessed on residential household meters that use more than 600 percent of baseline electricity or more than an average of three residential households from one meter.

    Washington D.C. also has a carbon tax levied on natural gas and electric bills. The tax in 2014 delivered $20 million to the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund, which is used to improve energy efficiency and expand renewable energy.

    Just one mountain town in Colorado has flirted with a carbon tax. Joan May, an elected commissioner in San Miguel County, proposed a carbon tax on electricity and natural gas that would have generated $100,000 a year. Few towns are as liberal as Telluride, but the tax lost badly at the polls.

    May says she failed to do her work in advance, leaving voters confused about the administration and use of the money. “I would solicit more support before we put it on the ballot,” she says. “It was basically ready, fire, aim.”

    She says she wouldn’t change the proposal itself, though. Similar to Boulder and other programs, the money would have gone into a fund that could be tapped for energy efficiency improvements.

    Argument against

    In Carbondale, CLEER avoided May’s mistake in Telluride by holding community meetings. Still, there’s a bit of pushback. In a letter published in the Sopris Sun, Carl Ted Stude, a retired environmental engineer and a 10-year resident of the town, dismissed the idea as impractical.

    It’s not the idea of a carbon tax that dismays him. He supports phasing in of a carbon tax at the national level. “I believe the preponderance of scientific evidence that emissions of carbon dioxide are contributing to global warming that will have long-term consequences that are more catastrophic than, say, a reduced ski season at Aspen.”

    Stude sees a national tax being phased in

    while subsidies and mandates for ethanol, wind turbines and cultured algae are phased out. But a municipal carbon tax in a small town like Carbondale makes no sense, he argues.

    “A carbon tax at the local level would involve substantial administrative effort (read ‘economic waste’) in calculating and assessing the tax.”

    Allyn Harvey, a trustee in Carbondale, doesn’t think administration will be inefficient. CLER has met with Xcel Energy, Holy Cross Electric and Source Gas, the three energy utilities, and it’s not a difficult process. A greater concern, he says, is the impact on Latino and other poor families, especially if nobody speaks English. “They may be leery of people knocking on their odors to talk about energy,” he says,.

    But Harvey sees this as a major opportunities, not just for poor people to ultimately benefit from more comfortable, energy efficient homes, but for Carbondale to take control of its own destiny.

    “If we wait for the federal government to take action and for partisanship to end so that we can enact a carbon tax nationwide, ti will be generations form now,” he sways. “I think there’s an opportunity for the local community tot take actions and do something about a problem that we all recognize.”

    The Arkansas Roundtable ponies up $194,000 for multi-use project

    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Can a water project be all things to all people?

    The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District wants to find out.

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable approved a $194,000 grant last week to determine if irrigated agriculture, environmental, recreation, municipal supply, hydropower and aquifer storage can be satisfied in one project.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board will consider final approval of the grant at its March meeting.

    The project involves the 200-acre Lake Ranch near Salida, which the district owns.

    Right now, the property is irrigated by a center- pivot sprinkler, but the plan is to expand the types of uses to include a hydropower system on the Cameron Ditch above the property, recharge ponds and wetlands on two corners of the field which are not being used and research on another corner. Farm structures occupy the remaining corner of the field.

    In addition, a leasefallowing program would provide water to nearby cities, and results would be used in educational programs.

    “This is the smaller program, to see if some of these ideas work,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Ark district.

    If they do, a much larger project on Trout Creek that would cover 1,800 acres and could provide an additional 20,000 acre-feet in storage would be attempted.

    That would be a boon to the Upper Ark district, which formed in 1979 to improve water use for numerous smaller entities in Chaffee, Custer and Fremont counties. Past studies have looked at improving how water supply is measured, the availability of underground storage and developing a leasefallowing tool to measure consumptive use when transfers occur.

    “Multiple purpose projects are necessary for providing additional needed water supplies in the 21st century,” the district noted in its grant application.

    Purgatoire River
    Purgatoire River

    More Arkansas Roundtable coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Several ditches along the Purgatoire River are in line to get a much-needed $271,000 makeover through a state grant approved last week by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

    The roundtable approved a $90,000 grant request to improve structures on six ditch companies that have deteriorated through erosion. The ditches, along with the Purgatoire Conservancy District, will contribute $121,000 and apply for a $60,000 loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    The CWCB still must act on the grant and loan at its March meeting.

    “All of the ditches are in the Trinidad Project,” said Jeris Danielson, manager of the Purgatoire district. “We estimated we could lose 10 percent of the water.”

    The ditch companies include Picketwire, Enlarged Southside Irrigation, Chilili, Baca, New John Flood and El Moro. All are located in the Trinidad area of Las Animas County.

    The project will rebuild headgates, flumes and culverts at various locations. As part of the project, about 1,000 feet of bank along the Purgatoire River will be restored and stabilized.

    The Trinidad Project is a federal project that relies on water stored in Trinidad Reservoir. Over the last 20 years, it has averaged only 40 percent of its full supply. The improvements will restore about 5,000 acre-feet (1.6 billion gallons) annually toward basin water needs, according to the application.

    Tamarisk
    Tamarisk

    Finally, here’s a report about efforts to mitigate flooding in La Junta from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    An $85,000 plan to remove a “pinch point” in the Arkansas River that has caused flooding in North La Junta got the blessing of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable this week.

    The roundtable approved a $25,000 grant toward the project by the North La Junta Water Conservancy District to deal with a problem that has persisted since a flood in the spring of 1999. Other funding is being provided by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Otero County and La Junta.

    The grant will take out several islands of tamarisk, or saltcedar, using a drag line and reconfigure dikes that apparently only aggravated flooding through the area. Combined, the projects will increase the channel capacity of the Arkansas River through North La Junta.

    “This is one of my favorite projects because we did it with one engineer and no lawyers in the room,” quipped Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district.

    The 1999 flood did serious damage to North La Junta, and the district has worked steadily since then to improve channel capacity through the area. Floods in recent years have renewed fears that past efforts were not as effective as hoped.

    In another move, the roundtable approved a $48,000 grant toward a $54,800 project to replace a domestic water supply pipeline that serves about 175 families in the McClave area. The grant helps hold down water rates for customers in an area that eventually will be served by the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board will consider final approval of the grants at its March meeting.