CPDHE: The costs of (radionuclides treatment) compliance are high

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The Colorado Department of Health and Environment met with water providers in the Lower Arkansas Valley on Thursday. The topic of discussion was treatment processes to remove radionuclides from groundwater to comply with stricter state standards, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental met with area water providers Thursday to share the results of a study begun in 2006 of 33 Colorado water systems that operate on wells potentially contaminated with either radium or uranium. About 50 people attended. About 16 of those systems are in the Arkansas Valley below Pueblo, but nearly any community that depends on wells could be subject to new standards that could cost millions of dollars for compliance. Shallow wells are more susceptible to radium contamination, while deeper wells have encountered uranium. Some districts have created problems by drilling deeper wells, while others have long-standing problems that now are tolerated. “We focused our efforts on developing a solid treatment option that you know would work,” said Jon Erickson, who coordinated the state study. “The costs are high. I was foolishly optimistic that when we got into this, we would find a way to lower costs. The costs of compliance are high. This will create a hardship.”

Of the 16 Lower Ark communities in the study, 15 would be served by the Arkansas Valley Conduit, if it is built. Holly, which was part of the study, is located outside the boundaries that would be served by the conduit. The $300 million conduit would be a much more effective solution, since it would bring non-contaminated surface water into most of the systems now served by wells between Pueblo County and Lamar. There are about 42 communities, which would pay for 35 percent of the project, if current legislation passes in Congress. While that cost also is high, it would be far less than the numbers systems are looking at under the suggested remedies of the state study, said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and a Bent County commissioner. “This is why the conduit is absolutely necessary, to meet both the drinking water standards and future demand,” Long said. “I hope the state is patient and gives us time to work with our congressional delegation to get the conduit passed.”[…]

The conduit was part of original Fryingpan-Arkansas legislation passed in 1962, but was never built because of the cost to local communities. A public lands bill that includes authorization for using excess-capacity lease revenue to repay the federal government has passed the Senate, but is facing some opposition in the House, for other provisions in the legislation. The bill also would create a 65 percent federal match. A standalone bill with the same provisions has been introduced in the House by Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey, both Colorado Democrats. The conduit also has received an Environmental Protection Agency planning grant and a loan of $60.6 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board that is up for renewal in this year’s state water projects bill.

Otero County: Conservation easement battle on the horizon

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Here’s a detailed article on efforts to provide relief to landowners whose conservation easements have been devalued by the state during their investigation into the shenanigans around valuations, from Lola Shrimplin writing for the La Junta Tribune Democrat. From the article:

Otero County Commissioners agreed to set up a meeting with Landowners United and Fred Grant, a retired attorney from Texas, to discuss the possibility of the commission passing a resolution of coordination between government entities. J.D. Wright, a landowner north of Boone and Vernon Dillon, members of Landowners United, asked the commission to meet with Grant, who is retired, but is working as a property rights attorney and wants to help landowners in Colorado in their fight over conservation easements. Grant wants to meet with the commissioners while he is in Colorado to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit against the State of Colorado over the valuation of conservation easements placed on lands in Southeast Colorado.

The conservation easements tied up the lands in perpetuity and placed deed restrictions on them that can’t be removed. Many landowners applied for conservation easements because they needed the money, then the appraisers’ valuations were declared at no value. The landowners have had trouble selling tax credits from the easements or the easements were condemned at no value. The program is to permanently protect land from future development by allowing landowners to claim state income tax credits that can be sold for cash. Over 90 percent of the landowners have not sold those tax credits, Wright said.

California Gulch update

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

Institutional controls for California Gulch Superfund Site operable units three and eight got final approval from the county commissioners on March 2. The public hearing with the planning and zoning commission was on Feb. 23. With the approval of institutional controls, the process for deleting these two operable units from the National Priorities List for Superfund can begin. The deletions could be written into the federal register in September 2009…

The ICs will become part of the land-development code. Step one for the new controls will be to hand out a Best Management Practices handbook to all applicants for a building permit within either of the two OUs. Applicants will have to sign and verify that they received, read and understood the hand out in order to move forward on any projects. Step two would deal with the properties that have undergone engineered remedies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Superfund process. Developers who want to build on these properties will have to get project approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which has been a partner in the Superfund projects…

The third step is for excavating and removing more than 10-cubic-yards of soil from a non-engineered property, which also requires approval from CDPHE. Below the 10 cubic yards, no approval is needed, but the Best Management Practices handout will be given to the applicant. If these new controls are not followed by property owners or builders within the OUs, there is a $100 fine. If the infraction is serious enough, then environmental charges could be filed by the Colorado attorney general’s office.

Fort Lupton: Water and sewer rates to rise

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From the Fort Lupton Press:

The increase, which impacts water and sewer base charges, sewer costs and metered water, was tied to the cost of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for the metro area, which averaged 3 percent in both 2007 and 2008. The monthly water base was raised by $1.60, to $29.10, and sewer base charges were set at $7.90, an additional 40 cents. The water base fee includes an augmentation surcharge of $2.50 and a system maintenance fee of $2.50. Water rates are billed as a three-tier system. The first 12,000 gallons cost $3.74 per thousand gallons, goes to $4.27 per thousand from 12,001 to 20,0000 and tops off at $5.63 per 1,000 above 20,000 gallons consumed in a month. Low-end users of 12,000 gallons a month will see an increase of $4.12 and an average bill of $73.98. Those who consume 30,000 gallons a month will pay $164.44, up $9.34. The monthly base charge for sewer will be $7.90, up 40 cents and the cost per 1,000 gallons increases 25 cents.

Energy policy: Hydroelectric

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From the Summit Daily News (Allen Best):

President Obama last week talked about efforts to pass cap-and-trade legislation yet this year, in effect imposing a tax on the burning of fossil fuels.

If that happens, the electricity produced by burning coal will become somewhat more expensive, and the electricity gained from renewable sources will look that much less expensive. In anticipation of such a shifting landscape for prices, local water and energy officials in the Gunnison Basin are investigating whether a 200-foot-high earth dam on the Taylor River built to hold back spring runoff for irrigation purposes later in the season can be retrofitted to generate electricity. “It seems like a waste of a resource not to tap into hydropower there,” said Mike Wells, chief executive of the Gunnison County Electric Association. The Crested Butte News suggests $30,000 in local and state funds are being collected for the feasibility study.

For all its falling water and now its wind farms and solar panels, Colorado still gets the majority of its electricity from burning coal, about 70 percent, and most of the rest from burning natural gas. Utah is even higher, with 85 percent of electricity coming from coal, while Wyoming is at 97 percent.

Well before the alarm about global warming Aspen in the 1990s began looking at ways to prune its purchases of coal-fired electricity. It subsequently paid for installation of a hydroelectric unit in the Ruedi Dam, located about 25 miles from Aspen.

Aspen city officials have also investigated the potential to install a hydroelectric component in the dam that creates Ridgway Reservoir, between Telluride and Montrose. However, the payback on that investment looks less attractive, according to Phil Overeynder, the director of public works.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Ice out for trout

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent: “The Ferdinand Hayden Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s sixth annual “Ice Out for Trout” fundraiser will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 14 at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. A big raffle and silent auction, as well as hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be available. The program at 7:30 p.m. will be “Drift,” a film about the world of flyfishing, also a short film “Eastern Rises” by Felt Soul Media. Trout Unlimited is the nation’s foremost cold water fisheries conservation organization, and the Ferdinand Hayden Chapter covers the central mountains of Colorado from Vail to Rifle and Glenwood to Aspen. For more information, contact Jeff Dysart at 963-9245.”