South Park Heritage Area included in public lands bill awaiting President Obama’s signature

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From the Fairplay Flume: “The bill would make South Park one of 49 National Heritage Areas across the country and one of three in Colorado. According to a March 26 press release from the Park County Office of Tourism and Community Development, a National Heritage Area is a ‘place where natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography.’ The designation means a great deal to the county, said Park County Tourism and Community Development Director Gary Nichols. ‘It’s something we can be known for nationally, if not internationally,” he said. “And at the same time, preserve our resources and quality of life.’ South Park will be listed with other national heritage areas, and be showcased by National Parks as a spot of interest.”

Snowpack news

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From The Aspen Times: “The Aspen area’s snowpack has been above average since early December, but warm temperatures throughout February and March were rapidly eating it up. The overall snowpack for the Roaring Fork River basin increased from 12 percent on March 20 to 14 percent on March 27 thanks to the latest storm, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The federal agency measures snowpack in seven areas around the Roaring Fork basin, including the Crystal and Fryingpan valleys. The agency’s website shows the Roaring Fork basin’s snowpack is one of the largest in the state. The snowpack is below average in many parts of Colorado, the conservation service data indicates. The snowpack east of Aspen near Grizzly Reservoir increased to 17 percent above average from 15 percent above average one week ago, the conservation service data showed. In the Fryingpan Valley, the snowpack fell to 3 percent below average at the Kiln site, at an elevation of 9,600 feet. It remained 7 percent above average at Nast Lake and 13 percent above average at Ivanhoe. In the Crystal Valley, the snowpack remained beefy. It was 22 percent above average at Schofield Pass, 18 percent at North Lost Trail and 8 percent at McClure Pass.”

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliot) via the Sterling Journal Advocate: “Snowfall totals for Thursday included 16.2 inches in Boulder, 12 inches in Greeley, 11.5 inches in northwest Denver, and 17.3 inches in the Westminster/Broomfield area…Nearly 18 inches fell in the unincorporated community of Gothic, near Crested Butte about 120 miles southwest of Denver. The west Denver suburb of Broomfield reported more than 15 inches.”

Telluride: New water main progressing

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From the Telluride Watch: “Proving that there is at least one upside to the current economic crisis, the Town of Telluride is in the process of signing a $429,095 contract with Telluride Gravel to complete the first of two construction phases that will replace the corroded and rupture-prone water main that lies below Colorado Avenue, according to Town Manager Frank Bell. The amount, proposed to the town by the company during a sealed bidding process, will pay for replacement of the line between Aspen and Willow streets and is about half of the $900,000 the phase was expected to cost when the project was originally engineered during much better economic times.”

Arkansas Valley: Sugar beets were once an economic driver

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Here’s the fourth article in Chris Woodka’s series “Taming the Land” running in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Since beets grown in the Arkansas Valley had the highest sugar content of any in the world, it was enthusiastically predicted that just as Cripple Creek had been noted the world over for its gold production, the valley would become celebrated for its unexcelled adaptability to sugar beets,” wrote Dena Markoff in a 1978 article about the National Beet Sugar Co., later the National Sugar Manufacturing Co., at Sugar City. National moved in at a time when Colorado Canal backers were trying to find homesteaders for 80-acre tracts in Crowley County. The company and the canal would be intricately linked in water matters and economics. The Sugar City mill opened in 1900, with a work force housed largely in tents for the first “campaign” – a non-stop operation of about three months that turned stacks of sugar beets into refined sugar.

A writer for the Irrigation Era, a Denver farm trade newspaper, wrote in 1901: “Big dirty beets are dumped in at one end of the factory, and quantities of beautifully white glistening sugar are poured out at the other.”

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Not that big a deal?

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Ed Quillen weighs in on Nestlé Waters North America’s plans for the Hagen Spring, in his column in today’s Denver Post. He writes:

It’s pretty hard to portray Nestle as a benevolent force — do you recall its efforts to promote its baby formula in the Third World? — so I won’t even try. Nor is it easy to defend bottled water in general. I buy Hershey’s chocolate and drink tap water from an expensive but useful CamelBak “portable personal hydration system” that doesn’t spill when I accidentally tip it while reaching for the telephone. Those are personal decisions, although if everyone made the same ones, there wouldn’t be a Nestle controversy here or anywhere else. But bottled water is a legitimate business, whether I like it or not. Nestle plans to take about 200 acre-feet a year (about 125 gallons a minute) from the Arkansas River’s flow. That’s not enough to notice for floating or fishing purposes or any other perceptible environmental effect.

In Colorado water jargon, Nestle is a “consumptive use” from a “junior right.” Nestle will have to make that up so that downstream users with senior water rights are not injured — a process called augmentation…

…it now appears that Nestle is working on a deal with the city of Aurora, which also seems to have acquired more water than it needs, now that home construction is a dormant industry. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like “what’s best for Chaffee County” for Nestle to be cutting checks to Aurora to replace water it’s taking out of Chaffee County. But then again, every tanker truck of water that leaves is that much less for a developer here. And maybe that’s what is best for Chaffee County.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Fort Collins keeping an eye on impacts

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Last year the Fort Collins City Council voted to opposed the Northern Integrated Supply Project. They haven’t taken their eyes off the project, according to a report from Kevin Duggan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

…the proposed reservoir, which would draw water from the Poudre River as part of the controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, still raises many concerns that Fort Collins officials say must be addressed through an extended federal environmental review of the project…

Fort Collins officials are “pleased” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to pursue a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement for NISP based on issues raised by the city, as well as entities such as the city of Greeley and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “I think it’s a testament to the work we did before and the work of others that the Army Corps decided to go ahead,” Stokes said…

The study responding to the city’s issues was done for Northern Water by the engineering firm Black & Veatch, or B&V. Worries cited by the city included whether bringing water from Glade to Horsetooth Reservoir would affect the quality of water in Horsetooth by raising the level of total organic carbon, or TOC, in the reservoir. With Glade drawing on the Poudre during spring runoff, the amount of debris in the water is likely to be higher than what’s typically found in Horsetooth and would force the city to ramp up its treatment practices. The B&V study claims much less water would be transferred from Glade to Horsetooth than the city had assumed in its studies of the project and TOC levels would be significantly lower. The city didn’t have detailed data when preparing its comments on NISP, Stokes said. And it’s still looking for answers to some of its questions about how water transfers would be handled…

“We’re going to do all we can to alleviate the city’s concerns,” [Brian Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District General Manager] said. “We want to get to the bottom of their issues and make them as comfortable as possible with this project.” The process will be helped by a requirement of the supplemental EIS for the project that a “common technical platform” be used in evaluating proposed water projects that would affect the Poudre River, including the city’s proposal to expand Halligan Reservoir, Werner said. Everyone studying NISP and other projects will be using the same data and assumptions when drawing their conclusions, he said…

Other issues raised by Fort Collins on NISP include the affect the project would have on a plume of chemical contamination from a former missile silo near the mouth of Poudre Canyon and whether reduced flows on the river would force the city to make expensive upgrades to its wastewater-treatment facilities. The B&V study claims the city’s concerns about both issues are overstated. But, the information provided through the study and technical documents in the draft EIS do not answer all of Fort Collins’ concerns, said Kevin Gertig, water resources and treatment operations manager for the city.