Snowpack news

A picture named snowflakesbentley .jpg

From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: “The Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes Grand Mesa, was at 117 percent of its historic average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service Snotel report for Wednesday. The Gunnison River Basin was at 111 percent of average, while the Yampa and White River basins were at 113 percent. Rivers in the southwestern part of the state were collectively at 115 percent of average. The South Platte River Basin, which had been slightly below its historic average earlier, was at 101 percent of average.”

Energy policy — Oil shale: Moffat County files objection to Shell application on Yampa River

A picture named shelloilshaleprocess3 .jpg

The Moffat County Commissioners — while not against Shell building a reservoir for oil shale production — have filed an objection in water court as a hedge to be kept in the loop on the filing, according to a report from Colin Smith writing for the Craig Daily Press. From the article:

The three commissioners voted unanimously at their Tuesday meeting to file a statement of opposition with the Steamboat Springs water court regarding the energy company’s December 2008 water filing. Commissioners and other county officials said multiple times that the county’s action does not mean it is opposed to Shell’s request. “The fact is, we don’t have a position at this point,” said Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resources Department director. Filing a statement of opposition is the only way for the county or anyone else to be involved with the water court’s process, he said…

Moffat County has several vested interests in whether Shell’s water is approved, Comstock said. The county has existing water rights on the Yampa River and should be involved when a large request is considered by the court. Not only that, Comstock said, Shell’s existing proposal would “inundate” a county road and make it unusable. Perhaps biggest of all, though, Shell could affect an existing arrangement between the county, local residents and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he added. Under terms of a 2004 agreement, Fish and Wildlife will allow another 54,000 acre-feet of water development on the Yampa River before it requires new users pay for ways to protect four species of endangered fish. If Shell’s water right falls under the agreement, officials worry it could take everything left in the river for development…

Dan Birch, Colorado River District deputy general manager, said his agency’s concerns would be “greatly eased” if Shell voluntarily decided its request would not fall under the existing endangered fish agreement. In that event, Shell would have arrange its own agreement with Fish and Wildlife to preserve the four species. “If suddenly Shell is covered under (the current agreement), their water right filing would essentially use up all the remaining development in the river,” Birch said. “That’s just an enormous issue for any water user, including the power plants, the mines, the (Colorado) River District, Moffat County and any other water users in the basin.”

Hillrose water project virtually finished

A picture named watertreatment .jpg

From the Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker): “The long-running Hillrose water project is virtually finished. Every home now has a line running from the water main to deliver the precious fluid from the Morgan County Quality Water District, said Hillrose Town Clerk Lynn Golemboski. The town also did a startup test on the pump station and water tank last week and it ran smoothly, Golemboski said. The only thing left to do is have a couple of inspections by the USDA to have final sign-off, and the first of those is scheduled for next week, she said.”

Hearing dates set for Nestle Waters permits

A picture named bottledwater .jpg

From The Mountain Mail (Paul Goetz): “Hearing dates for the Nestle Waters 1041 and special land use applications were re-set by Chaffee County Commissioners during their meeting Tuesday…Hearing with the planning commission was set for March 3, a site visit will be March 4 and county commissioners will host a hearing March 18. All meetings will be at 1 p.m. Meetings on March 3 and March 18 will be at the Steam Plant. The March 4 meeting will be at the site near Ruby Mountain.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

California Gulch progress report

A picture named californiagulchleadville .jpg

Here’s an update on the California Gulch Superfund site, from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald. From the article:

For most of the residential area of Leadville, which is operable unit 9, an amendment to the trust agreement between Lake County, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the mining company ASARCO is almost complete. The amendment was supposed to happen as soon as the remediation for that operable unit was considered complete, which happened a couple of years ago. This was complicated by the ASARCO bankruptcy that happened at the same time. The amendment would bring the Lake County Community Health Program, or Kids First into its second phase. Lake County would be in charge of the second phase. A new work plan is also in draft form for the second phase of the program. The program tested residential soils and remediated yards as needed. The new program would rely more heavily on education and only test and remediate yards if there is an indication of a problem. The last issue to be resolved for the new work plan is alerting new residents to the community of the possibility of contamination, a concern brought up by Sonya Pennock with the EPA. She was supposed to propose language to be discussed the next Wednesday morning. Otherwise, the final draft is ready to be released for public comment…

Also being brought before a public hearing are institutional controls for two other operable units in the Superfund site. These are OU3 and OU8, which were chosen first, because they are developable areas near the Arkansas River along U.S. 24. These are going before the county planning and zoning commission on Feb. 23. If there is a recommendation for approval, then these ICs could be in place by the next county commissioner meeting. Three months after getting the ICs in place, the two operable units could be deleted from Superfund site status.

The group decided to tackle operable units four and seven next.

The only exception to the progress being made on this site is OU6, which is the area that the EPA wants to reopen the record of decision to find a new remedy.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Lower Ark board meeting

A picture named arkansasriverbasin .jpg

Here’s a recap of this week’s meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, from Lola Shrimplin writing for the La Junta Tribune-Democrat. From the article:

A lawsuit against the bureau of reclamation by the board was discussed.
The Pueblo Chieftain had proposed pairing with the board and splitting the costs, but the board decided the proposal, while appreciated, wasn’t feasible. “Unless we’re in absolute lockstep with the Chieftain, it’s a bad idea,” Chairman Pete Moore said. The possibility of a conflict was discussed, and Attorney Peter Nichols was asked if the idea proposed by the Chieftain was a good one…

Update: The lawsuit mentioned in the article is probably the one brought by Arkansas Native, LLC against Reclamation. Chieftain owner Bob Rawlings is one of the principles in Arkansas Native.

The District is purchasing the Larkspur Ditch, Winner informed the board.
The purchase will begin this year, with half being purchased this year, and half in 2010.
A letter has been sent to shareholders discussing the purchase, with the District wishing to purchase at least two thirds majority in the ditch…

An attendee of the meeting from the State of Kansas drew attention from the audience and the board. Kevin Salter, with the State of Kansas, was in attendance and Don McBee, Fort Lyon farmer, gave an update on consumptive use rules. Eight ponds have been studied, McBee said. Dale Mauch, Fort Lyon farmer, suggested flow meters for ponds, stating that flow meters were already on the pivot irrigation systems. If flow meters were to be put on ponds, the loss could be measured, he said, showing that the farmers weren’t using more water than they were permitted. “Maybe we jumped the gun,” he said. Winner told Mauch to look to his left, where Salter was sitting, then told Mauch that Salter was from Kansas. “You’re from Kansas?” Mauch said, then started laughing and reached out to shake Salter’s hand.

A picture named cotransmountaindiversions .jpg

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain:

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District wants to buy most or all of the Larkspur Ditch from the Catlin Canal Co. The board voted Wednesday to make $500,000 available this year for purchases of shares in the ditch and plans on allocating another $500,000 next year to complete the purchase. The vote was 4-0, with directors Melissa Esquibel, Pete Moore, Anthony Nunez and Lynden Gill voting in favor. Director Wayne Whittaker, secretary of the Catlin Canal, did not vote. Directors Leroy Mauch and John Singletary were absent. The Lower Ark board sent a letter to Catlin shareholders in December to determine if there was widespread interest in selling shares in the ditch for about $70 per share. Payments must go to shareholders, since the Larkspur is held as a mutual ditch company…

The ditch diverted an average of 160 acre-feet of water from the Gunnison River basin to the Arkansas River basin from 1980-2007. Catlin purchased the ditch in 1943 for $12,500 as part of a package deal for shares in the Mount Pisgah Reservoir in Teller County, according to a written history by the late Frank Milenski. The Lower Ark signed an agreement with Catlin in 2004 to lease the water from the ditch for $5,000 per year for 10 years, with an option to buy. The Lower Ark has made improvements on the ditch, and uses the water to provide leases for users in the Arkansas Valley. The board’s goal is to obtain at least half of the shares of the ditch, and about 70 percent of shareholders indicated a willingness to sell, Whittaker said.

Southeastern looking to lease excess capacity in Lake Pueblo

A picture named puebloreservoir .jpg

Here’s a recap of this week’s meeting of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s board, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Built as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Lake Pueblo is rarely full, and the excess capacity is leased by the Bureau of Reclamation for storage of non-project water. While Reclamation has leased space in the reservoir since 1986, interest has skyrocketed since the drought of 2002. The Pueblo Board of Water Works obtained a 25-year lease for excess-capacity storage in 2000 and Aurora negotiated a 40-year lease in 2007. Colorado Springs and its partners in the Southern Delivery System are seeking a 40-year storage contract as well. The Southeastern district included a master lease for excess capacity storage in its Preferred Storage Options Plan, which also envisioned enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake.

While the enlargement plan has stalled, the district now wants to move ahead with the master lease, said Harold Miskel, who chairs the PSOP committee. “There are changes in the amount of water requested and new entities,” Miskel told the Southeastern board this week. “There are a lot of questions in front of the committee.” Executive Director Jim Broderick reminded the board that it decided last year to split off the excess-capacity question from PSOP after talks about enlargement broke down in 2007. There has to be some more study before the district decides how to move ahead with its master contract, since other projects like SDS and the Arkansas Valley Conduit also are moving, Broderick said…

Currently, excess-capacity contracts are negotiated year-by-year. Last year, contracts totalled 55,475 acre-feet, or about one-fifth of the available space in Lake Pueblo. That’s about three times the average from 1996-2002. A 2006 report by Reclamation found no significant environmental impact for storage of up to 80,000 acre-feet of non-project water over a five-year period…

In other business, the Southeastern board voted to use up to 1,900 acre-feet of water it has stored to cover sales of return flows of project agricultural water. The backlog of flows results from water that farmers did not use last year. Under district rules, 80 percent of the water must be used in the year it is purchased from the district. The remainder may be held until the following spring. Because the water is imported from the Fryingpan River in the Colorado River Basin, the return flows can be sold to other users.

A look at Colorado water history

A picture named firstintimefirstinright .jpg

Here’s a historical look at the development of Colorado water law, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado water law was forged in the furnace of the Civil War, and had less to do with the discovery of minerals in the mountains than to support the farmers who were feeding the miners.

“The mineral wealth brought people to Colorado,” said Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs, recounting the gold rush of 1859 on Friday at the annual meeting of the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance at the Pueblo Convention Center. “The persons who remained were the farmers who dug the ditches to feed the miners. The cities grew out from the ditches.”

Hobbs, who has been a justice since 1996, writes most of the water case opinions for the court and was an accomplished water and natural resources lawyer before joining the bench. The justice wove a colorful tale of the culture of the nation in 1861, when Colorado water law had its genesis – 15 years ahead of statehood.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Mussel inspections expanding

A picture named zebramussels .jpg

Officials are expanding the invasive mussel inspection program at Carter and Horsetooth reservoirs, according to a report by Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

The mussels, which attach themselves to boats, have not been found in lakes in Larimer County — and water and recreation officials want to keep it that way. So, trained inspectors will examine every boat before it is allowed to launch on Carter Lake or Horsetooth Reservoir, starting April 1, following new state regulations approved Friday. Although state regulations require inspection of boats that have been on infected lakes or any lake in another state, Larimer County will go one step further and inspect all boats entering Carter and Boyd lakes and Horsetooth Reservoir…

“Due to the constraints of checking boats, we will implement launching hours for the first time in the history of these reservoirs,” [Dan Rieves, manager of the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources Blue Mountain District] said. Boats will be able to enter the water from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and they can stay on the water beyond 10 p.m.

Similar inspections started in August at Boyd Lake State Park and will continue this summer. Inspectors at Boyd Lake examined 4,012 boats last season, becoming suspicious of only three; lab tests on those later came back negative…

All four of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs on the West Slope — Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Willow Creek Reservoir — have tested positive for velligers (baby mussels), but mature mussels have not been spotted there…

The regulations also outline the process of inspecting boats and cleaning contaminated vessels — the rules that inspectors in Larimer County will follow. Rieves plans to hire 17 boat inspectors for Horsetooth and Carter as soon as he receives $380,000 from the state. “A complication is the governor freezing money,” said Rieves. “That money has to thaw out before we get it.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.