Save the Ales! — August 27

savetheales

From the Conservation Colorado website:

Colorado’s water: it’s some of the best in the nation, and it makes some of the best beers in the world.

And it’s limited.

Join us for the 5th annual Save the Ales on Thursday, August 27 to taste beers from 40 Colorado breweries and learn about Conservation Colorado’s efforts to protect one of our most important natural resources — the water that runs through our rivers and sustains our livelihoods.

VIP Tickets: Entry at 6:00 P.M. | $50 for Conservation Colorado members
($60 for non-members)

General Admission Tickets: Entry at 7:00 P.M. | $30 for Conservation Colorado members ($35 for non-members)

Click here to RSVP.

Event Details:

This is one event you won’t want to miss. Need proof? Scroll down to see the list of breweries that will be there! All attendees will enjoy unlimited beer tastings, drawings for beer swag, live music, and access to food trucks throughout the evening. VIP tickets include all that PLUS early entry to the event, food, a commemorative tasting glass, and entry into an exclusive VIP-only drawing.

Last but not least, there will be a beer brewed exclusively for this year’s Save the Ales — the Fir Needle Ale by Crazy Mountain Brewery!

Getting There:

EXDO Event Center
Thursday, August 27
1399 35th St
Denver, CO 80205

We encourage you to bike or take public transportation to the venue. Larimer Street provides a protected bike lane. The RTD Bus Routes 12, 38, and 44 drop off near the venue.

Sportsmen support federal water rule — The Durango Herald #cleanwaterrules

Fen photo via the USFS
Fen photo via the USFS

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

The bipartisan poll – conducted by two separate pollsters – highlights support across political lines, despite partisan gridlock in Congress. Critics of the survey, however, believe the poll left out key questions…

The Clean Water Rule will take effect Aug. 28. It clarifies regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to protect streams and wetlands.

In Colorado, 66 percent of sportsmen support applying the Clean Water Act to smaller streams and wetlands, with 43 percent indicating strong support, according to the survey. About 31 percent indicate opposition. Across all the four states surveyed, 83 percent of hunters and anglers thought the EPA should apply the Clean Water Act to smaller, headwater streams and wetlands.

The poll was conducted by right-leaning Public Opinion Strategies and left-leaning Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

“This is incredibly broad,” said Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “It’s as broad of support as I see for any issue in the electorate today.”

The survey was completed after interviews with 1,000 registered voters who identify as hunters and anglers. Pollsters completed 260 interviews with voters in Colorado.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who has strongly opposed implementation of the rule, suggested that the poll should have included questions pointing to local environmental protections.

“This sin of omission is misleading, and skews the survey to the desired outcome of those asking the questions,” Tipton spokesman Josh Green said. “To imply that there is wide support for the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule – with this survey as the evidence – is deeply misleading and insulting.”

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

Paradox Valley Unit: Earthquakes yes, but less saline water in the #ColoradoRiver

Here’s an in-depth report from Stephen Elliott writing for The Watch. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Nestled in an unassuming corner of Paradox Valley along the banks of the muddy Dolores, the work done at the Paradox Valley Unit, a facility operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation, has enormous implications for the water supply of major cities in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

The project is also having a literal impact closer to home, in the form of seismic activity; since injection began at the site in 1991, seismic monitors have recorded around 6,000 “seismic events,” or earthquakes, within 16 kilometers of the injection well.

It is known beyond any reasonable doubt that the earthquakes are the result of the brine injections.

“The injection history and seismicity history correlate pretty well in both the spatial and temporal extent. It’s generally accepted that the seismic activities in Paradox Valley are induced by injection,” said Shemin Ge, a hydrogeology professor at the University of Colorado.
“Yes, we induce small earthquakes,” said Andy Nicholas, facility operations specialist at the Paradox Valley Unit. “They knew from the beginning that there was the likelihood to do that.”[…]

When it comes to water quality in the western U.S., the importance of the Paradox Valley Unit cannot be overstated. If the salt wasn’t extracted from beneath the Dolores in Paradox Valley, it would end up not only in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, but also in treatment facilities for major urban Lower Basin water-user cities.

At the Paradox Valley facility, extraction wells between 40 and 70 feet deep along the Dolores pull brine out of the groundwater beneath the river, process it and pump it three miles across the valley to the injection well. The injection well then shoots the brine more than 2.5 miles down into the Mississippian Leadville Formation, beneath the Paradox salt formation that serves as a barrier preventing the brine from ascending back upwards.

Prior to the Bureau of Reclamation’s extraction-and-injection process, which began in the early 1990s, the Dolores River picked up roughly 185,000 metric tons of salt each year as it flowed across Paradox Valley. (Unlike most river valleys, which are created by erosion, this one was formed by the collapse of a salt-cored geological fold, instead of the flow of a river. Indeed, paradoxically, the Dolores River cuts across this span instead of paralleling it, giving the Paradox Valley its name.)
Between 2008 and 2012, the average injection rate at the Paradox Valley Unit was 190 gallons of brine per minute. As of last month, the PVU well had injected just over two million tons of brine beneath the muddy Dolores riverbed during its 24 years of operation.

The total tonnage of salt removed from the Colorado River system by the PVU is impressive, but the significance of the facility depends on the valley’s status as a so-called point source of salinity. A majority of the salt that flows into the Colorado River system does so through non-point sources such as large agricultural areas, where a tract thousands of acres in size might contribute a relatively small amount of salt to the river. At Paradox Valley, however, all of the salt enters the river system in a comparably small area, and can be more easily extracted and quantified than at non-point sources.

At non-point sources — say, a large agricultural valley where irrigation runoff pushes salt into a river — the best the Bureau of Reclamation and its partner agencies can do is offer canal-lining projects, which prevent some salt in the soil from flowing with excess irrigation water into rivers, and provide education for farmers about more efficient irrigation practices.

At the PVU, on the other hand, the Bureau of Reclamation can physically extract salt from the groundwater and quantify it, making it the only such location in the Colorado River Basin where salinity control impacts are 100 percent known. (There is a point source of salinity near Glenwood Springs that is perhaps more significant than the one at Paradox Valley, but no salt extraction is done there.)

All told, 10 percent of the salt taken out of the entire Colorado River system by the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program is extracted at the Paradox Valley site.

“It’s the only place where we’re removing salt in a physically measurable way. We’re measuring the quantity of salt, so we’re certain that we got that pumped out of the river,” said Steve Miller, a water resource specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “[The PVU] gives us a chance to really grab a large amount of salt in a very controlled fashion. The project is really important to the Lower Basin [states], but not so important to Colorado. In terms of the total amount of salt reaching Lake Powell it’s very important, because in Paradox we can get a lot of salt out in one fell swoop.”

EPA and Navajo Nation EPA Enter Historic Agreements with Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to Halt Water Pollution

Grand Falls Little Colorado River
Grand Falls Little Colorado River

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Soledad Calvino/Rick Abasta):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Nation EPA announced a pair of settlements with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to bring its wastewater treatment facility in Window Rock into compliance both with the federal Clean Water Act and the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act.

EPA’s agreement backs up a recent ground-breaking NNEPA settlement that required the NTUA to pay a $25,000 penalty. This is the first time that a tribally-owned entity has paid a penalty for violations of the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act. The NTUA has committed to bring the Window Rock facility into full compliance by December 31, 2015, or face additional penalties. NTUA has also agreed to build new infrastructure for the treatment plant at the site.

“For over 35 years we have partnered with the Navajo Nation to protect public health and the environment,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA applauds the Navajo Nation EPA for its leadership in setting this precedent that protects the Nation’s precious water resources.”

“The Navajo Nation Clean Water Act was created to protect the public health and the environment. These laws must be complied with by everyone within the Navajo Nation,” said Dr. Donald Benn, Executive Director of NNEPA. “The Window Rock Facility was out of compliance for a long time, prompting NNEPA’s Water Quality program to initiate an enforcement action. The parties have reached an agreement and Navajo EPA appreciates the cooperation by NTUA to implement a long term goal for compliance.”

An EPA inspection revealed that since at least 2011 NTUA had been discharging pollutants above its permit limits to Black Creek, a tributary of the Puerco River that feeds into the Little Colorado River. Other violations of the NTUA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit included its failure to submit complete and timely reports while inadequately operating and maintaining its existing treatment system. The plant collects and treats sanitary sewage from a population of about 13,300 in Apache County, Ariz., within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.

The settlements require the NTUA to conduct sampling, submit quarterly reports, train and certify the plant’s operators, and hold regular compliance meetings with senior officials of EPA and NNEPA. The NTUA will also submit a plan for EPA and NNEPA’s approval for the construction of an entirely new treatment plant including a detailed schedule for commissioning and bringing the new facility on-line. Approximately $10 million in funding for the new facility was provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Loans and Grants Program

For more information on EPA’s Clean Water Act NPDES program, please visit: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/

For more information on EPA’s Region 9 Tribal Program, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region9/tribal/

For more information on Navajo Nation EPA, please visit: http://navajonationepa.org/ or call the Administration Office for assistance at (928) 871-7692.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here

Thank God we have a #colorado because we have a chance to have a snowpack above 8,000 feet — Greg Hobbs #martz2015

Greg Hobbs at the 2015 Martz Summer Conference (Of course there is a projected image of a map -- this one was the division of Colorado into water divisions heeding the advice of John Wesley Powell)
Greg Hobbs at the 2015 Martz Summer Conference (of course there is a projected image of a map — this one was the division of Colorado into water divisions heeding the advice of John Wesley Powell to organize by watershed)

(If the Tweet above does not display correctly use your browser refresh button. There are timing problems with content between WordPress and Twitter at times.)

In Colorado we have prior appropriation, the anti-speculation doctrine, and a long-lived and active water market, that have managed to keep the wolf at bay. Maximizing shareholder value is the wrong goal for the public’s water. Most water in Colorado is provided by local government entities.

Municipal use is a small part of the overall pie but large amounts of water are necessary for agriculture and the environment. You don’t want to squeeze either one too much. We’re not that good at forecasting the consequences of our engineering.

I asked Brad Udall if he thought the Colorado River Basin was in collapse. He said no, even in the worst case we should have 80% yield from the system. He said we have to use the water more wisely.

That is the definition of collapse: There is not enough water to stay status quo in the basin. This is at the same time that the environment requires that we undo some of our damage and share some water.

Click here to read my notes (Tweets) from the conference. (Scroll down to the bottom and read up from there. Tweets are published in reverse-chronological order.)

More waterways likely protected under new EPA rule — the High Country News #cleanwaterrules

Photo via Jon Harvey
Photo via Jon Harvey

From the High Country News (Elizabeth Shogren)

“Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution,” President Obama said in a statement. “This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable.”

Congressional Republicans and some industry groups attacked the rule as an overreach by the administration that would hurt businesses and job growth.

But EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said given the impacts of climate change on water resources, such as drought in the West, “it’s more important than ever to protect the clean water that we have.”

Significantly for the arid West, the rule protects tributaries—no matter how frequently water flows in them—as long as they have signs of flow such as beds, banks and high water marks. Nearby wetlands and ponds also would be protected. Ditches would be protected only if they behave like tributaries…

Some regionally specific water bodies such as prairie potholes and western vernal pools in California would be protected, but most playas would not, according to McCarthy. Playas, flat desert basins that at times become shallow pools, would be covered only if they are within a 100-year floodplain, or are near or flow into a stream, its tributaries or adjacent wetlands…

Opponents and supporters of the rule differed over whether this action expands the scope of the Clean Water Act. Some ephemeral streams, waters and wetlands were federally protected before a 2001 Supreme Court decision, under the justification that migratory birds use them; the new rule, in practice, likely will increase the number of waters and wetlands that receive federal protection…

“For ecologists and people who care about ecosystems, it’s a big victory,” said Ellen Wohl, a professor of geosciences at Colorado State University. “There’s enormous scientific agreement that little streams are very important.”

Streams that do not contain water year-round still play important roles, providing nutrients, sand and organisms for bigger rivers.

“From an environmental perspective, it’s wonderful,” Wohl added. “Scientifically, it’s very obvious these streams need to be protected.”

At issue is whether companies and individuals have to get permits before they pollute, fill in or destroy a waterway or wetland. In the wake of the 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings, decisions about whether permits were necessary often have been subject to lengthy case-by-case consideration. The new rule is supposed to make it clear when wetlands and waterways are protected so case-by-case determinations are needed only rarely.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

West Clear Creek cleanup: “But who can make instream flow part of the deal?” — David Holm

Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

After years of delay, state and federal agencies this month confirmed they will clean the water by building a $15 million treatment plant — a project that had the goal of restoring fish habitat. The plant is a key step in a federal Superfund cleanup that has dragged on for 32 years. But fish are still out of luck.

Local town leaders want to divert the cleaned water for people, frustrating the agencies and those who want fish to return to the creek. It’s a case of how Colorado’s population growth and development boom are intensifying competition for water.

“It isn’t ideal,” said David Holm, director of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation. “Would it be better if we had a deal to ensure ample in-stream flow in North Clear Creek? Yes. But who can make in-stream flow be part of the deal?”

The mining towns-turned-gambling meccas Black Hawk and Central City have asserted that, under Colorado’s water appropriation system, they can use senior water rights that they own to tap the cleaned creek. Black Hawk plans to build thousands more hotel rooms, hiking and biking trails, a reservoir and, possibly, a golf course — all requiring more water.

More Clear Creek Watershed coverage here.