Windy Gap Firming Project: Chimney Hollow update

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Here’s a update on the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir, from Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

Officials at the Bureau of Reclamation will decide whether to allow the project and, if they do, what conditions will be imposed to minimize effects on the environment. Jeff Drager, project manager, told the Larimer County Commissioners on Monday that the water agency hopes to hear a decision this year. While the conservancy district is waiting for word from the federal agency, its leaders are not sitting still. They are working on ways to address concerns expressed last year when the project was open to public comment, Drager said.

At public meetings, most of the opposition came from residents who live on the Western Slope and worry about water quality and the effect to the Colorado River in Grand County.

The Larimer County commissioners, in their comments, worried about water levels and quality at Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake but gave support to the project…

Drager assured the commissioners that conservancy district officials are looking at ways to ensure higher water levels at Horsetooth and to lessen the effects on water quality. These could include transferring water between reservoirs and building infrastructure or buffers to prevent agricultural runoff from entering the waterway, he said…

The conservancy district plans to work with Larimer County on the recreation component of the reservoir as well. In 2004, the district and the county bought the land, 3,400 acres total, together. The reservoir will be built on 1,600 acres, and the remaining 1,800 surrounding the reservoir will be managed by the county — an arrangement much like that at Carter Lake.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here

Avon: Moving forward on project to use wastewater for street-heating

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From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning): “The Avon Town Council is one step closer to building an innovative system that would use wastewater to heat town streets and the Avon Recreation Center, but members still worry about kinks in agreements with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The council voted to approve three documents at its Tuesday meeting that would also need approval by the water district. The council also added provisions in an effort to protect the project after a lot of back-and-forth negotiating with the water district in recent months…

“The Avon Heat Recovery Project would use the heat from Avon Wastewater Treatment Plant effluent to heat town streets and the Avon Recreation Center.”

Energy policy — oil shale: Opponents of Shell’s 2008 filing on the Yampa organizing

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Here’s an update on opposition to Shell’s filing for a diversion from the Yampa River, from Brandon Gee writing for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

Routt County, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the towns of Oak Creek and Yampa will pool their resources in opposing Shell Oil’s application to take 375 cubic feet of water per second from the Yampa River west of Craig.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved the “common interest agreement” Tuesday. The others also are ex pected to approve the agreement if they haven’t already, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. The entities are among 25 groups that have logged oppositions against the application filed by Shell Frontier Oil and Gas in water court in Steamboat Springs in late December 2008.

The agreement will allow the agencies to share confidential information and attorney work product “in a way that has been recognized by the courts as protected,” Routt County Attorney John Merrill said…

Routt County, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the towns of Oak Creek and Yampa will pool their resources in opposing Shell Oil’s application to take 375 cubic feet of water per second from the Yampa River west of Craig.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved the “common interest agreement” Tuesday. The others also are ex pected to approve the agreement if they haven’t already, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. The entities are among 25 groups that have logged oppositions against the application filed by Shell Frontier Oil and Gas in water court in Steamboat Springs in late December 2008.

The agreement will allow the agencies to share confidential information and attorney work product “in a way that has been recognized by the courts as protected,” Routt County Attorney John Merrill said…

Shell spokesman Tracy Boyd said,“I think, given the choices, we’d prefer to have it referred to someone else in a referee function rather than go to trial.” “Generally speaking, we’d rather work with interested parties rather than work with a trial scenario. … We’re more interested in contacting all the entities and getting a better understanding of what their concerns are.”[…]

Light noted that there is no designated alternate referee and said she expects O’Hara to serve in that role. She also expects O’Hara to schedule a status conference with Shell and its opponents in the next 30 to 60 days. “The entire case is before him now,” Light said. “It’s exactly the same process, except Judge O’Hara is doing everything.”

The 25 statements of opposition enumerate a number of different concerns with Shell’s request. The city of Steamboat Springs argues that its water rights in the Yampa River Basin “may be adversely impacted if the subject application is granted without adequate protective terms and conditions.”[…]

In its statement, Routt County argues that, if approved, the diversion seriously would hinder the development of water resources for the unincorporated South Routt County community of Phippsburg, whose public water system is operated by the county. The county also states the diversion would impair the development of water resources for agricultural uses and would have a serious negative impact on its ability to finance and develop future water projects.

Across the board, statements of opposition also say that Shell has yet to prove its need for the water, that the claimed rights are not speculative, and the feasibility of its project, which includes a 45,000-acre-foot reservoir…

Some of the most strongly worded statements come from Steamboat attorney Tom Sharp on behalf of the Mount Werner and Morrison Creek Metro politan water and sanitation districts. In the statements, Sharp alleges outright that the application is “based upon the speculative sale or transfer” of the rights and that the water re­quested is excessive and wasteful.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Glenwood Springs: Work to begin on new wastewater treatment plant this weekend

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Gardner): “According to city engineer Mike McDill, Western Martinez Constructors from Rifle will begin work on an access road at the new site and installation of a pipeline that will connect the existing facility on Seventh Street with the new one west of the Meadows Shopping Center. McDill said that construction will start on the west end of Wulfsohn Road and Midland Avenue near where the entrance to the new facility will be. The next step in this first phase will be placing the connecting pipeline along Midland Avenue to the existing facility and that could create congestion at the Eighth Street and Midland Ave. intersection later in the summer or early fall, according to McDill…The new plant is expected to increase the wastewater capacity from about 1.8 million gallons per day to around 2.6 million. The current plant runs about 1.2 million gallons per day.”

Spinney Mountain Reservoir opens Friday

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From the Denver Post: “Spinney Mountain Reservoir will be open to fishing and hand-carried boats on Friday. Gates will be unlocked a half hour before sunrise. The lake was less than 20 percent ice-covered on Monday afternoon, according to Kevin Tobey, manager of Elevenmile/Spinney Mountain State Park, with several large sheets of floating ice. Trailered boats will be permitted April 4, when the inspection program for aquatic nuisance species will be in place.

“It’s going to be an interesting year,” said Jeff Spohn, Colorado Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist for the upper South Platte River drainage, noting that the reservoir was stocked with the Hofer strain of rainbow trout last fall. The Hofer rainbows are resistant to whirling disease and potentially could add a component of natural reproduction. They also might grow a bit larger than the strains of trout stocked in recent years.”

Trinidad Lake open for boating

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From Best of Boating: “Trinidad Lake State Park is now open for boating, thanks to mild weather and an ice-free lake…All vessels must be inspected for aquatic invasive species (AIS) before launching.”

Long Draw Reservoir: USFS to decide future use

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Here’s an update on the Forest Service’s plans for Long Draw Reservoir, from the Longmont Reporter-Herald. From the article:

The U.S. Forest Service expects to decide in April or May whether to allow continued use of Long Draw Reservoir. The reservoir and dam were enlarged in 1974 for [Water Supply and Storage Company] to provide water for irrigated farmland in Larimer and Weld counties. The permit to operate that expired in 1991. A subsequent extension was overturned by a court challenge, so the water company has been using the ditch under a special use permit while the federal environmental assessment process proceeded. That process, which lasted more than four years and solicited public input more than five times, is nearing its end with release of the final environmental impact statement.

The options are:

• Continuing to operate the reservoir and dam as it has been since 1974.

• Changing flows in the La Poudre Pass Creek to mitigate potential environmental damage.

• Maintaining the current operation and water flows but mitigating damage by restoring greenback cutthroat trout in Rocky Mountain National Park and the in the national forest in streams connected to the creek and the reservoir.

• Maintaining current operations and using water from the upper Colorado River basin to restore wetlands within the national park.

The assessment is online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf/projects/ea-projects/clrd/longdraw/index .shtml.

The final decision, which could be any of the four options, is expected in the next two months.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs public hearing April 9th

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The Colorado Springs City Council is wasting no time acting on Pueblo County’s permit conditions for the city’s proposed Southern Delivery System. Here’s a report from the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Utilities officials and city council will hold a public hearing on the conditions Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m., at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. Residents will hear a presentation on the conditions and be able to submit comments.

Comments can also be submitted in writing to the city clerk, at 30 S. Nevada, through 5 p.m. on April 9, and at the public hearing.

City council will vote on accepting the conditions April 14.

Meanwhile Pueblo West officials are voicing concern over SDS, according to a report from Jeff Tucker writing for the Pueblo Chieftain:

With the county’s approval for the Southern Delivery System, Pueblo West could see a second water pipeline brought to the community and a loss of up to a third of its total water supply, the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors were told Tuesday. Steve Harrison, public works director for Pueblo West, gave directors a presentation about concerns over a requirement by the Pueblo County Board of Commissioners in their approval of the SDS 1041 regulations. Harrison said the community has asked the county to be exempted from requirements that would make Pueblo West contribute to a flow management program that maintains levels through the Arkansas River and the kayak park through Downtown Pueblo…

Harrison estimated that if the community was required to return flows down the Arkansas, it could cost Pueblo West at least 3,000 acre-feet a year, or a third of the water supply the district currently uses. Harrison told directors and a crowd of nearly 200 people Tuesday that their water supply, for now, wasn’t in danger. “Everyone here has enough water. Today. It’s what we have to plan for at future build-out,” Harrison said. Harrison said he doesn’t believe Pueblo West should be a part of the flow management agreement because its process never has been shown to damage the river. However, he believes participating in the flow management program will damage the community. “I’ve challenged Colorado Springs and the Pueblo Board of Water Works to prove to me that it won’t harm us, and I have yet to see (proof),” he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.

Congress passes public lands bill

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From Reuters (Thomas Ferraro): “The measure, a package of more than 160 bills, would set aside about 2 million acres — parks, rivers, streams, desert, forest and trails — in nine states as new wilderness and render them off limits to oil and gas drilling and other development.”

[More…]

The House of Representatives approved the measure on a vote of 285-140 a week after it cleared the Senate, capping years of wrangling and procedural roadblocks…

The 2 million acres that would be designated as new wilderness are mostly in California, followed by Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, New Mexico and Michigan.

Separately, the legislation would permanently protect and restore a 26 million-acre (10.5 million-hectare) system composed of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s most historic and scenic lands and waters, including the Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado and Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas.

More coverage from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier:

Of the high days San Luis Valley native John Salazar has experienced during his terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Wednesday made the top-10 list. “We had a great day today here in Washington,” Salazar said as he phoned back to the San Luis Valley to share the news that the House of Representatives approved Baca Wildlife Refuge and Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area legislation in the public lands omnibus bill on Wednesday. Making the day even better was the fact Salazar presided over the floor during the debate on the bill. “I actually got to call the victory vote,” he said…

“Since Ken and I first got to Washington four years ago, in my opinion, this has been one of the proudest days of my legislative career,” Congressman Salazar said as he referred to the efforts he has undertaken during that time with his younger brother and Washington roommate Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator who now serves as the Secretary of the Interior. John Salazar said the secretary of the interior happened to come onto the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, so that made the day even more special…

Salazar explained that the Baca Wildlife Refuge Management Act, which amends the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act of 2000, enables a statement of purpose for the national wildlife refuge: “…to restore, enhance, and maintain wetland, upland, riparian, and other habitats for native wildlife, plant, and fish species in the San Luis Valley.”

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Act designates the counties of Alamosa, Costilla and Salazar’s home county of Conejos as a national heritage area and authorizes up to $10 million in federal matching funds over the next 15 years to help preserve unique historical, cultural, natural and recreational resources of the area. The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area’s mission is to promote, preserve, protect and interpret historical, religious, environmental, geographic, geological, cultural and linguistic resources that contribute to the overall national story.

More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Thirty-five years was a long time to wait, said Vaughn Baker, superintendent of the popular tourist destination outside Estes Park. The designation was put off over the years by Congress for a variety of reasons, Baker said, including a focus on how to address wilderness areas in national forests. Back-country areas of national parks are generally treated as wilderness, he said, so “there was no rush.” A push in 2005 from Grand Lake and Estes Park to get the designation made the difference, he said. Residents wanted to send a message they liked the park the way it is and wanted it to stay that way. “Getting this passed was in many ways a grass-roots effort,” he said. “It started locally, and sometimes it’s nice to see that happen.”[…]

The measure also would adjust the boundaries of the Indian Peaks Wilderness by adding 1,000 acres from the adjacent Arapaho National Recreation Area. The designation would not affect the operation of developed facilities inside the park, including roads and structures used to bring water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. Past efforts to get wilderness designation for the park were hung up by liability issues surrounding the Grand Ditch, which is owned and operated by the Fort Collins-based Water Storage and Supply Co.

More coverage from the Greeley Tribune: (Colin Lindenmayer)

[Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway] said he’s worried that without protection from the bill, future lawsuits could endanger water from the Big Thompson that is channeled to farmers and ranchers in Weld. “I hope and I pray that that day never comes,” he said. “This project is the lifeblood to northern Colorado.”

But Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Fort Collins, said the bill is essential to making sure Coloradans have access to clean water and open space through preservation. “These bills represent years of hard work by so many committed stakeholders, from local communities to the federal government,” Markey said in a release.

More coverage from the Denver Daily News:

[U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn] said he opposed the bill because it would limit oil and gas drilling, which could be a huge economic boon to the nation. “While this bill contains some good provisions for our state, on the whole it remains a bad deal for Colorado and the United States,” he said. “It’s a job-killer for energy because it prohibits American-made energy production and new jobs on more than 3 million acres of federal lands.” Lamborn also objected to the fact that there is nothing in the legislation that would allow citizens to carry concealed weapons in national parks. Two House Republicans on Tuesday attempted to push through an amendment that would have reversed an Interior Department rule preventing visitors to carry concealed weapons into parks. The amendment failed. President Bush also attempted to reverse the Interior Department’s 26-year-old firearms policy just before he left office. But a federal judge placed an injunction on the Interior rule last week. Lamborn also raised concerns over no provisions in the legislation that would have allowed for commercial fossil collecting on the protected land.

In addition to protecting 250,000 acres in Rocky Mountain National Park, the public lands legislation would also protect the water supply at the Arkansas Valley Conduit, as well as land at Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, the Baca National Wildlife Refuge and Indian Peaks Wilderness. It would also establish the Sangre De Cristo, Cache La Poudre River, and South Park National Heritage areas in Colorado.

More coverage from the Montrose Daily Press:

The legislation designates 210,000 federally owned acres on the Uncompahgre Plateau as the Dominguez-Escalante NCA, including 65,000 acres of declared wilderness area, to be called the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is charged with developing a comprehensive management plant for the long-range protection and management of the NCA and establishing an advisory council to that end. “This legislation is an important and historic step to better protect this land and water in Mesa, Montrose and Delta counties,” Rep. John Salazar, House sponsor of the NCA bill, said in a furnished statement.

More coverage from the Environmental News Service:

Some Republicans object to the measure in part because it blocks energy development on public lands. Republican Study Committee Chairman Congressman Tom Price of Georgia said earlier this month that he and other conservative Repubicans oppose “the pork-filled package” because it would “block millions of acres for energy development, expand federal land holdings, give the government even more control over American land, and trample private property rights.”

“It was a long and winding road to get this bill passed, but it was worth it to make sure that Mt. Hood and all the other special places in this bill are protected,” said Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat who authored seven of the bills in the package. “I’m glad Congress looked past politics and came together for our constituents, for the lands they love and for the jobs this bill will help create.”[…]

The bill includes over 1,100 miles of 86 new Wild and Scenic Rivers in eight states, said David Moryc of the conservation group American Rivers. These rivers will remain free-flowing and will never be blocked by a dam. Previously, only 166 rivers had been designated as Wild and Scenic in the 40 years since the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed. “A short list of those celebrating passage of this bill today includes: salmon and steelhead fisherman in Oregon, the Yavapai-Apache Nation in Arizona, outdoor business owners in Wyoming, ranchers, rafters and hunters in the desert country of Idaho, bird watchers in Massachusetts, and even the family farmers in northern Vermont,” said Moryc…

Ocean protections are also contained in the package of legislation, said Laura Burton Capps, senior vice president for government affairs and communications with Ocean Conservancy. The Ocean and Coastal Exploration and NOAA Act will authorize the National Ocean Exploration Program, National Undersea Research Program, and the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to increase scientific knowledge for the management, use and preservation of oceanic, coastal and Great Lake resources. The Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act will authorize the establishment of an integrated system of coastal and ocean observations for the nation’s coasts, oceans and Great Lakes. The Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act will authorize a coordinated federal research program on ocean acidification. The Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act will authorize funding for a program to protect important coastal and estuarine areas that have significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, aesthetic, or watershed protection values, and that are threatened by conversion to other uses. “The ocean is 71 percent of our planet and our life support system, providing us with much of the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat and regulating the climate that we need to survive,” said Capps. The leadership shown by Congress today will be reflected in the ocean we have to show our children and grandchildren.”

More coverage from the Christian Science Monitor (Eoin O’Carroll):

…here’s Dave Jenkins, director of government affairs for Republicans for Environmental Protection: “This bill is the most important conservation legislation that Congress has passed in many years. We are especially pleased that 38 Republicans from all parts of the country supported this bill. It’s a powerful demonstration of the good that can be accomplished for our country when Republicans return to their roots as the party of conservation.”

Of course, not all were thrilled about the bill. The AP notes that opponents of the measure, mostly Republicans, called the bill a “land grab.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Sterling: Council acts on water issues

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The Sterling City Council dealt with water issues at this week’s meeting. Here’s a report from the Sterling Journal Advocate:

The city approved contracting a study that could benefit the water system and the wastewater plant. The council voted 6-0 to approve a contract with Brown and Caldwell for engineering services. The engineering services are to evaluate the capacity of the wastewater process. “This is a study that is actually related to our water treatment plant,” City Manager Joe Kiolbasa told the city council. The city of Sterling is under a Colorado Department of Health mandate to upgrade the city’s water system. The conflict is based on tests that found uranium and trihalomethane levels beyond the acceptable limits. As such, the city must come up with a process that removes these particles to within the acceptable level. The problem is what to do with the brine when the city’s water is properly cleaned, according to Kiolbasa. The engineering study approved Tuesday will outline options. The study of the wastewater capacity will determine how much the city’s system can handle and what the best options are. Kiolbasa said the health department offers four options: blending the brine into the effluent, surface processing where the brine slowly “percolates” back into the ground, pumping it directly back into the South Platte River, or processing it through the wastewater process…

The council also approved changes in water turnoff fees. The fees are in regard to customers who do not pay their bill on time.

Lower Ark settles with Reclamation over Aurora long-term storage contract

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Colorado’s two U.S. Senators are looking closely at the deal struck between the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the Bureau of Reclamation over Reclamation’s long-term storage contract with Aurora. Part of the deal is pegged to federal legislation that would authorize Aurora to use Fryingpan-Arkansas Project facilities to move water out of basin — via exchanges enabled by storage in Lake Pueblo — something that Arkansas Valley irrigators and water providers have opposed on the grounds that such movement was not part of the original authorizing legislation for the project. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Other members of the delegation were asked if they would look at such legislation. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, responded to the question Monday. “Senator Bennet looks forward to speaking with the parties to the settlement to learn more details and to determine what next steps may be necessary,” said Deirdre Murphy, spokeswoman for Bennet. “Understanding that the two parties have spent the past several years negotiating this process, (Bennet) will work with them and with members of the congressional delegation to ensure that the needs of the water users in the Arkansas River Valley are addressed.

“(Udall) appreciates that the two sides have reached a settlement. He understands that an element of that settlement may involve federal legislation,” said Tara Trujillo, spokeswoman for Senator Mark Udall. “(Udall) plans to work with all parties – including the Bureau of Reclamation – to review the settlement and make sure that the farmers and other water users in the Arkansas River Valley are protected.”[…]

Should a federal water project intended to help farms and cities in the Arkansas Valley be used to wheel water? If legislation were adopted, what kind of limits would you put on it? If legislation were adopted, what kind of mitigation should be made to the Arkansas Valley?

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.