Comments on new Cotter Mill plan due August 1

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

State and federal health officials are inviting the public to submit informal preliminary comments on the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill’s Draft Quality Management Plan.

The 53-page plan outlines quality assurance, training, implementation of work, record keeping, response and corrective action protocols for the now-defunct mill as it moves toward decommissioning. The mill has been an EPA Superfund site since 1984 due to the seeping of uranium and molybdenum contamination into groundwater and soil which was caused by the use of unlined tailings ponds.

The draft plan can be viewed on the state’s Cotter website at

Comments can be sent to state health department project manager Jennifer Opila at Deadline is Aug. 1.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here.

Coloradans urge water fixes: Take Mississippi River water, ban fracking, close borders — The Colorado Independent #COWaterPlan

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Creative Commons, Flickr

From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

I’m a Coloradan and I drink water.”

That’s how several letters to the Colorado Water Conservation Board in response to the state water plan begin. The statement may be valid, but it’s not going to solve a predicted water shortage over the next 35 years or contribute much to a state water plan, ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper, intended to address the looming crisis.
According to a 2010 study, Colorado may be short as much as 500,000 acre-feet of water per year by 2050, due largely to an expected doubling of the state’s population. That’s about 1.6 trillion gallons of water.
The water conservation board has been seeking public input both into the development of the plan and on its first draft, which was released last December.

A second draft is expected in the next few weeks. A third draft will likely be released in September, with more public comment solicited. The plan is to be finalized and sent to the governor in December.

Coloradans flooded the CWCB with more than 24,000 emails and letters in the past 18 months, beginning when Hickenlooper mandated the plan’s development.

The CWCB staff is responding to every comment – no small feat for less than 50 people.

Many thousands of comments were easy-to-dismiss form letters and form emails. But thousands of Coloradans wrote to the CWCB to express concerns about the status of Colorado’s water and what should be done to improve it.
The vast majority of the comments were thoughtful, well-informed and came from Coloradans from every walk of life, including school teachers, college students, farmers, ranchers, elected officials at every level and retirees.

While many are long-time Colorado residents, with some whose families go back four generations, one person who commented said that she’d just moved to Colorado a year ago.

All of the input showed what CWCB Director James Eklund called “strong public engagement” with the issue.
The comments touched on every aspect of the water plan, although water conservation was the dominant theme.

“As far as I can tell, there is little emphasis on education about water conservation. In our household, our water usage is about half that of other households because we make an effort to conserve,” wrote one Coloradan.
But another person, who also called for more education about water conservation, complained that he witnesses a guy at the local YMCA who takes showers that are way too long.

And then there were those with some seemingly off-beat ideas about how to save Colorado water. Gary Hausler suggested importing water from east of Colorado, including from the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

It’s not the first time somebody has proposed pumping in water from the Midwest. Two lawmakers during the 2015 session proposed studying the feasibility of extending a Kansas pipeline that brings in Missouri River water to the Eastern Plains. That bill, House Bill 15-1167, won approval from the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee but later died in the House Appropriations Committee.

Hausler is a proponent of piping in water from the Mississippi, south of Cairo, Illinois, to add one million acre-feet of water to Colorado.

“The Mississippi represents an immense source of unused water that meets Colorado’s future needs and eliminates the need for ag dry-up and additional trans-mountain diversions,” he wrote. (In Colorado, 80 percent of the water for the Eastern Plains comes through a system of 24 tunnels that travel through the Continental Divide from the Western Slope and its major rivers, including the Roaring Fork and Colorado.)

But Hausler said the proposal has been ignored and derided for years for political reasons, and he was careful to add that he has no financial interest in the proposal.

The CWCB staff replied that importing water from the Midwest has been studied and is not believed to be feasible for many reasons. However, the idea has been discussed by the various basin roundtable groups, the staff replied.
Colorado has eight major river basins. Each river basin has a roundtable group, plus a ninth, representing the Denver Metro area. The groups are made up of local governments, water districts and other representatives. Each basin roundtable developed its own recommendations for the state water plan.

Hausler’s suggestion was similar to one made months earlier by Brenda Miller, who called transferring water from the Western Slope to the Eastern Slope “futile” and a reflection of Denver’s “urban sociopathology.”
Look to a place with surplus, Miller suggested, such as the Missouri River, an “easy 400 to 500 miles from Denver.”

Another commenter wanted to offer his high-tech ag services to solve the predicted water shortage: “I have invented a growing system that uses less than half the water and produces more end product than conventional methods. It will save more water than I can claim,” said Larry Smith, who did not elaborate on his system.

Many letters dealt with a particular water use that writers believed ought to be curtailed: hydraulic fracking.
Sally Hempy wrote: “The biggest impact we can make in our Colorado waters is to outlaw the fossil fuel industry. You can’t protect one county that is free of fracking while the neighboring county mines, fracks and pollutes our acrifers (Note: aquifers).”

She also complained about runoff from agriculture and animal feedlots. “Let’s protect what we have!”

The CWCB staff said fracking doesn’t need a lot of water compared to other uses, such as power plants, and that the plan does not make a “value judgment” on any specific water use.

At least two letters suggested another ban: the livestock industry.

Jerry Daidian suggested eliminating “production of livestock feed as a beneficial use…The disproportionate use of Colorado’s [river] water by the livestock industry lies at the core of the problem.”

Other writers suggested Colorado close its borders and stop shipping water to other states.

Mary Ratz wrote that the state’s precipitation “is ours to use. We should not have to let ANY of it flow to other states and should not have to prove we own that water and that we need all of it. This is a state RIGHT, not for the federal government’s to decide.”

She also noted the Colorado River “is all ours” and shouldn’t be watering lawns in Las Vegas or any of the lower Colorado River basin states (Nevada, Arizona, California and New Mexico).

CWCB staff responded, trying to explain interstate compacts, Congressionally-approved agreements between states that govern just how much water goes from a headwater state, like Colorado, to its downriver states.

But by this spring, the CWCB staff had a different suggestion: The writer should read the “Citizen’s Guide to Interstate Compacts,” produced by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

Then there was the comment from Jeremy Davis: “Please lay-off. We are not merely cannon fodder. We are people with lives, dreams, and families. Leave our water alone. Allow us the opportunity to be.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage <a href="

USGS: Water Used for Hydraulic Fracturing Varies Widely Across United States

2011-2014 Hydraulic Fracturing Water Use (Meters Cubed per Well) via the USGS
2011-2014 Hydraulic Fracturing Water Use (Meters Cubed per Well) via the USGS

Here’s the release from the United States Geological Survey (Anne Berry Wade/Leigh Cooper/Tanya Gallegos). (Multiply meters cubed used by 264.172052 to get gallons used). Here’s an excerpt:

The amount of water required to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells varies widely across the country, according to the first national-scale analysis and map of hydraulic fracturing water usage detailed in a new USGS study accepted for publication in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The research found that water volumes for hydraulic fracturing averaged within watersheds across the United States range from as little as 2,600 gallons to as much as 9.7 million gallons per well.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Federal Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant goal is hydroelectric/crop watering efficiency

Crop circles -- irrigated agriculture
Crop circles — irrigated agriculture

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The Colorado experiment aims to pressurize flows of agricultural water, producing hydro-power, and then deliver water more precisely to crops using sprinklers. If successful, this is envisioned as a way to help reduce the 85 percent share of water required to sustain agriculture in semi-arid Colorado and other western states.

“This is not only possible. It is going to happen,” Vilsack said in an interview. “It is going to provide for more efficient irrigation, which is important as we deal with increased scarcity. It also is going to deliver hydropower, a renewable energy resource.”

The federal Regional Conservation Partnership Program grants, building on $394 million awarded in January, are designed to encourage local agriculture leaders to work with innovators at private companies, universities, non-profit groups and government agencies to solve environmental challenges. Congress created the program last year and funds it under the Farm Bill.

In Colorado, state agriculture officials are coordinating the Pressurized Small Hydropower project, which will receive $1.8 million in federal funds and assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, in addition to $1.6 million from American Rivers, the governor’s energy office, the Colorado Rural Electric Association and others…

Vilsack said more than 600 groups have applied for conservation grants with 115 funded so far. Teaming with the private sector amplifies what the government could do, he said. “We need to figure out ways to use water more creatively and more efficiently.”

From The Durango Herald (Ann Butler):

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday that up to $235 million has been allocated for conservation projects.

“Conservation programs not only allow us to preserve valuable lands for future generations and wildlife habitat,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who sits on the Agriculture Committee and helped craft the 2014 Farm Bill, which includes the RCPP, “they also pay a large part in sustaining our agriculture, recreation and tourism industries. The announcement of this funding is exciting news, and we encourage people to apply for funding to facilitate conservation programs across the state.”

The program encourages groups to work with multiple partners, which may include private companies, local and tribal governments, universities and nonprofits along with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners, to design projects that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government invest funding and manpower to the projects.

People in Archuleta and La Plata counties may have a leg up on obtaining a grant, as the two counties are in the Colorado River Basin, which has been identified as 1 of 8 Critical Conservation Areas in the country. The Colorado River District received $8 million in January, the first round of disbursements in the RCPP, for the Lower Gunnison River Basin. That funding is being used to better manage agricultural and water resources for farming by expanding improvements in conveyance, delivery and on-farm irrigation, Bennet’s office said.

More hydropower/hydroelectric coverage here.

More legal wrangling over uranium mine near Grand Canyon

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

The confluence of Havasu Creek with the Colorado River (river mile 157) is a popular place for boaters to stop and admire the striking blue-green water of Havasu Creek. The turquoise color is caused by water with a high mineral content. At the point where the blue creek meets the turbid colorado river there often appears a definite break. NPS photo by Erin Whittaker. The confluence of Havasu Creek with the Colorado River (river mile 157) is a popular place for boaters to stop and admire the striking blue-green water of Havasu Creek. The turquoise color is caused by water with a high mineral content. At the point where the blue creek meets the turbid colorado river there often appears a definite break. NPS photo by Erin Whittaker.

Impacts to water quality, cultural resources at stake, as conservation groups seek new environmental study

Staff Report

FRISCO — A U.S. Forest Service decision to allow uranium mining near the Grand Canyon will be tested in court once again.

Conservation groups last week said they’ll appeal a lower court ruling that affirmed the agency’s decision on the mine, located about six miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell last month said conservation groups and the Havasupai Tribe failed…

View original 406 more words

COGCC debuts redesigned website for improved public access

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website screen shot May 1, 2015
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website screen shot May 1, 2015

Here’s the release from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Todd Hartman):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this week migrated to a new and more user-friendly website at The new site provides a more contemporary look and feel, provides a more intuitive experience and streamlines the organization of large amounts of data and content available to the public.

The newly designed site also improves search capabilities while maintaining or enhancing all the content and functions of the previous site.

“We recognize the high public interest in the COGCC, its work and the data it maintains,” said COGCC director Matt Lepore. “Our agency has always been among the most transparent in the country in providing access to volumes of information about the regulation of the oil and gas industry in Colorado; with this redesigned website we’ve taken another important step in making public information available to all interested parties.”

The redesigned site is one of several recent steps to make interaction with the COGCC easier. The agency has streamlined the complaint process, aggregated spill data and converted its water quality data to a downloadable format. Work continues on additional projects that will make more data more easily accessed and analyzed by the public.

The website is part of an ongoing focus at COGCC to strengthen its regulation of oil and gas development in Colorado.

Since 2011, the COGCC under the administration of Governor John Hickenlooper has crafted rules to increase setbacks, reduce nuisance impacts, 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, 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.

Troubling Interdependency of Water and Power — The New York Times

Hydroelectric Dam
Hydroelectric Dam

From The New York Times (Felicity Barringer):

In Modesto, Calif., utility records chart an 18 percent rise in farmers’ energy use in 2014 compared with 2013. No evidence shows exactly why this happened, but California’s drought, now in its fourth year, sent many farmers to their wells to pump from hidden aquifers water that normally would be found at ground level.

Such measures are a timely illustration of the way water needs power — not just to move it, but to clean it and even, with desalination, to create it from brine. A large desalination plant being built to provide 7 percent of San Diego’s water will require about 38 megawatts of power, enough for more than 28,000 homes. And it is no coincidence that primary owners of the 2,250-megawatt, coal-fired Navajo generating station near Page, Ariz., are water managers; they need the power to move water.

The converse is also true: Water is required for power — for hydropower; for extracting oil, natural gas and coal; and, most of all, for cooling power plants. A report from the Congressional Research Service projects that 85 percent of the growth in domestic water consumption from 2005 to 2030 will come from the power sector.

More energy policy coverage here.