Colorado-Big Thompson Project scores $14 million in stimulus dough

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Grand County is asking that $100,000 to $200,000 of the C-BT stimulus money be spared, according to an April 23 letter the county manager sent to the Bureau’s eastern Colorado area manager. The money is needed for an appraisal plan, the county’s letter states, which might become the first step toward a solution to Grand Lake’s water quality problems. County officials have called the lake’s water quality “an environmental disaster that needs to be fixed.” In recent years, Grand County has taken the stance that water delivery through the lake, a natural lake made part of the C-BT system about 70 years ago when the system was approved, is degrading the lake’s clarity. “We would respectfully ask that within the $14 million funding allowance, the Bureau might be able to divert up to $200,000 of this funding to begin the appraisal process,” County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran wrote. The Bureau has told county officials the agency could start the process without congressional go-ahead, but due to budget timing, the Bureau’s first opportunity to assign needed funds would be in 2012.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Evaluation of geothermal potential underway in Chaffee County

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From The Mountain Mail (Ron Sering):

Thermal gradient drilling began Monday for six holes to gather information about possible generation of electricity using geothermal energy in Chaffee County. Personnel at Mount Princeton Geothermal LLC said the first hole will be on land owned by Taylor Adam east of the intersection of CR 289 and 290 at the bridge south of Deer Valley Ranch and west of Dead Horse Lake. The drilling is the first in several events occurring this week regarding geothermal exploration.

Officials with the governor’s energy office will host an all day geothermal conference at Salida Steam Plant at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Friday, officials of Mount Princeton Geothermal will host a tour of test holes and discuss plans for a project to construct the state geothermal electric generation project in the Mount Princeton area. The tour will begin at 8 a.m. with breakfast at Mount Princeton Hot Springs followed by a carpool tour.

The wells, the first such exploration in the area since the 1970s, are permitted as monitoring test holes by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “The holes are non consumptive (no water pumping) and will be used to measure thermal gradient (temperature change at varying depths) and rock types to determine heat flow in each well,” Fred Henderson III, chief scientist for the local geothermal group, said. “The goal with these six holes is to complete the western side of the high heat flow anomaly drilled by AMAX Exploration Co. in the 1970s.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

New owner for Black Mountain Disposal?

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From the Grand Juction Daily Sentinel (Le Roy Standish):

One of Black Mountain’s ponds leaked in 2001. Exactly what spilled, how much spilled and an acceptable plan to clean up the mess has yet to be produced by Black Mountain’s current owner, Elaine Wells. The county closed the facility late last year, and the state has taken Black Mountain Disposal to court, demanding it clean whatever spilled.

But new owners may be on the horizon, meaning that if the property sells, cleanup will be the new owner’s responsibility. On Tuesday, during a review hearing of Black Mountain Disposal’s conditional-use permit and certificates of operation, which the county commission suspended in October, the representative of possible new ownership, Jeffrey Been, said he already hired Walsh Environmental of Grand Junction to start the cleanup process. Been has submitted a letter of intent to the county indicating he represents people who want to buy Black Mountain Disposal. “I have signed a contract to buy the assets of Black Mountain Disposal, and in that contract I have been appointed seller’s agent,” Been wrote in the letter.

The County Commission ruled the facility should remain closed, and it scheduled another hearing in 30 to 90 days to get an update on the progress of the sale and the cleanup.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Bessemer Ditch: Bylaws changes sparking conflict

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The Pueblo Board of Water Works is trying to buy shares of the Bessemer Ditch as part of a strategy to lessen the city’s dependence on transmountain water — and to make sure that Pueblo can keep growing of course. The purchase requires changes in the bylaws of the ditch association and that has some of the ditch members alarmed. They’re mounting opposition to the changes according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

On one end of the [issue] are the Pueblo Board of Water Works, St. Charles Mesa Water District and those who want to sell to the water board. At the other end are numerous small shareholders who say that the 1894 articles of incorporation and bylaws of the ditch company should not be changed. Neighbors and families are in disagreement about what to do, and a historic decision could be made at a special meeting of shareholders at 6 p.m. May 11 at the Pueblo Convention Center.

Both sides have mailed or handed out a flurry of information in preparation of the meeting to try to sway shareholders. As a mutual ditch association, the decision is up to private water rights holders, just like other water transfers in the Arkansas River basin over the past 50 years have been…

The almost 900 shareholders have stakes ranging from just one share to several hundred. The St. Charles water district has about 2,000 of the 20,000 shares on the ditch. The Pueblo water board wants to buy 5,000 shares, mostly for future needs and to keep thirsty cities to the north from raiding the local canal. In order to do that, however, the water board wants clear direction from the Bessemer shareholders that it will be able to use the water in the future. “We will be investing a large sum of money in these shares and we must protect that investment by amending the governing documents to give us the opportunity to move the shares out the ditch when needed in the future,” water board Executive Director Alan Hamel said in a letter to shareholders…

The Pueblo and St. Charles water boards have committed to use the water within Pueblo County, but the possibility of using the water outside the county would remain in the bylaws at the request of the Bessemer Ditch board, in order to maintain maximum value. The water board also has committed to make improvements on the ditch and lease back the water to shareholders, and states its aims in a way that tries to convince non-sellers they would be hurting neighbors by resisting the changes.

“The effect of not approving the changes to the governing documents is that your friends and neighbors who want to sell will not be able to sell their shares to the Board of Water Works, or any other entity that want to use the water outside the ditch,” Hamel stated.
Some of the shareholders of the Bessemer Ditch who want to sell have written their own letter asking for the cooperation of others, arguing that the change of bylaws will increase the value of everyone’s water rights. “If you have interest in leasing your water (perhaps to the Super Ditch) or selling in the future, then you’ll vote for the changes, allowing the water to be moved from the ditch,” the letter states. The letter is endorsed by 27 shareholders, most of whom are reportedly among those with contracts with the water board. They state that the negotiations between the St. Charles and Pueblo water boards have strengthened protections for shareholders who choose not to sell. The changes in the bylaws and articles of incorporation increase the value of water while maintaining the ability to farm and the quantity of water per share, they say, urging support of the changes.

Opponents of the bylaw changes have presented reasons not to change the bylaws for months. An analysis by Mike Bartolo, a small shareholder on the ditch and head of the Colorado State University Ag Research Center at Rocky Ford, claims the price per acre-foot in the current offer is a little more than $5,000 or roughly half of the cost per share, and criticizes the way the Pueblo water board has portrayed the price. Bartolo also urged shareholders to look at leasing as an opportunity and has joined the Super Ditch board on behalf of Bessemer shareholders. Leonard DiTomaso, who with Mike Klun was elected to the Bessemer Ditch board in January on promises to fight for preserving agriculture on the ditch, has been tireless in sending out letters to try to convince shareholders to leave things as they are. “Everyone I talk to, shareholders and non-shareholders, thinks our ditch should live forever,” DiTomaso said. “I agree. People like seeing our green irrigated farms. Most of the farms are well-managed and cared for.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Loveland: Community Summer Sports Market

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bill Prater):

Vowing to raise enough money to keep the Loveland Kids Fishing Derby free and high-quality family event, the Loveland Fishing Club and City of Loveland are sponsoring a first-ever “Community Summer Sports Market,” to be held Saturday, May 16 under the pavilions at Fairgrounds Park. “For $10, any individual or business can buy a 10×10 space to sell their new or used sports-related stuff,” says Tom Miller, past club president and an organizer of the event. “Clean out your garage, earn some spending money and feel good knowing that 100 percent of the money raised through that $10 fee is going to support the Kids Fishing Derby.”

The free, volunteer-run derby attracted more than 1,200 youngsters and their families last spring. In addition to a top prize for biggest fish, every little angler took something away from the Duck Pond in North Lake Park, including dozens of donated fishing poles, tackle boxes and tackle. Many of the parents can recall their own first fishing adventures at the annual community event.

Southern Delivery System: Gary Bostrom’s influence

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Project manager John Fredell has gotten most of the press lately as the public face for Colorado Springs Utilities proposed Southern Delivery System. Here’s some background on Gary Bostrom the chief water planner for CSU who has had a pivotal role in CSU’s water planning for quite a while now, from R. Scott Rappold writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners hear more testimony

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Here’s a recap of today’s proceedings with the Chaffee County Commissioners, from Lee Hart writing for the Salida Citizen. From the post:

For the first time in four months of public hearings, Nestle was obviously on the warpath as first Nestle project manager Bruce Lauerman, then Nestle lawyer Holly Strablizky took aim at Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga…

Lauerman called Scanga’s testimony “fuzzy math.”

Buena Vista resident John Cogswell also cross-examined Scanga challenging the veteran water manager’s assertion that the Aurora-Nestle lease would have a significant adverse net affect. “(UAWCD’s) water argument doesn’t hold water,” Cogswell told the Salida Citizen.

Cogswell tried to get Scanga to agree that Nestle’s lease with Aurora would be no more impactful to water in the basin than irrigating 100 acres of agricultural land. Scanga agreed that while the depletion is the same, the beneficial use of the water is not. A local rancher’s use of the water creates beneficial use within the county while Nestle’s bottled water project creates beneficial use outside the county, Scanga said.

During questioning from Commissioner Tim Glenn, Scanga said the Nestle-Aurora lease compounds the impact to the Upper basin in ways that would not occur if Nestle secured its leased water from another in-basin entity such as Pueblo Board of Water Works or the joint Salida-UAWCD proposal.

On that last point, longtime resident and local Realtor Karin Adams brought more math to light. The Aurora lease will cost Nestle approximately $200,000 for 200 acre feet of water for each of ten years, with an option to renew for another 10-year term. Aurora’s lease to Nestle could be interrupted in the event of a severe drought. Nestle rejected a joint offer from Salida and the UAWCD that would have cost $500,000 but would have provided an in-basin, uninterruptable supply of water that would have protected Nestle and other water rights users in the event of a drought. Scanga said if Nestle had agreed to the Salida-UAWCD proposal, the UAWCD would have re-invested the money to enhance the county’s water portfolio.

On another point, despite Scanga’s assertion to the contrary, Lauerman told the commissioners unequivocably that UAWCD has expressed interest in participating with Aurora in Aurora’s lease to Nestle.

Even if the Chaffee County commissioners approve Nestle’s Special Land Use Permit, Nestle still has to get water court approval for its augmentation plan. The stage has been set for a battle of the titans in water court. Based on Scanga’s predications, there will likely be at least two if not more objectors to the Nestle-Aurroa lease when it goes before the water court in a process that typically takes at least two years.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Whitewater sports starting up

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From 9News.com (Matt Renoux):

In a matter of days, the rafting season will officially be under way in Colorado and rafting companies have already started preparing for customers…Rafters are optimistic this summer. They say even in a recession business should be good thanks to a strong and slowly melting snowpack in the high country. “The snowpack is great this season we’re looking at right above 100 percent of average on the Arkansas River,” [Campy Campton the owner of Kodi Rafting] said.

From the Vail Daily:

Avon, Colorado’s whitewater park is open and water is running at a good level for surfing…The Whitewater Park was constructed in 2006 and modifications and restoration continued through 2007. With the great snow season this year, the park promises to offer lots of fun throughout the spring and summer for boaters.

Boulder Creek: Restoration of fish habitat

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From the Boulder Daily Camera:

The $234,000 restoration project is the result of three years of hard work by Boulder Flycasters, the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, to create a fish-friendly section of stream with stable banks, better recreational access and environmental education opportunities…

Over the decades, the area of Boulder Creek called Rogers Park has been damaged by a nearby sawmill, the construction of Colo. 119, flooding and pollution from the highway. And the dam four miles upstream, which creates Barker Reservoir, has altered the natural stream flow, leaving Rogers Park with wide banks, shallow waters and a relatively uniform stream bottom. In the winter, the stream froze nearly to the bottom, and during droughts the water slowed to a trickle — both scenarios eliminating places where trout can survive. By next week, the stream will have had a total makeover, with deep, calm pools pouring into sections of shallow ripples and quickly moving channels…

The Rogers Park project is funded by Boulder Flycasters, the Fishing is Fun Program, Colorado Trout Unlimited, the Colorado Watershed Restoration Program and Boulder County.

Runoff (Snowpack) news

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From the Durango Telegraph:

“…the Dolores Basin’s snowpack level is currently at 93 percent of average, and water managers are carefully considering options for this spring’s spill.”

From the Vail Daily:

The flow of the Eagle River near Minturn rose from 83 cubic feet per second on April 20 to 307 cubic feet per second Monday, according to measurements from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The historic average since 1990 for this time of year is about 139 cubic feet per second…There was 26.4 inches of “snow water equivalent” on the mountain. The historic average for this time of year is about 23.7 inches.

Animas River: Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 2009 Volunteer of the Year

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From the Durango Telegraph:

One of Durango’s leading river stewards received national recognition last week. Ty Churchwell, of the Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, was recognized as Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 2009 Volunteer of the Year last weekend at the group’s Spring Rendezvous. Churchwell commented that he volunteers out of a sense of obligation both to the Durango community and the Animas watershed. “Those trout keep me sane and our rivers are my ‘church,’” he said. “Healthy rivers are the lifeblood of our communities, and I’m thankful Durango recognizes the value of the Animas to our community.”

The award also spotlighted the Animas River Restoration Project, which Churchwell is helping to spearhead. The City of Durango was awarded an $86,000 grant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife for habitat improvements and bank stabilization for the stretch of river between 9th Street and the Highway 160 bridge. The project, which is planned for August, is meant to improve fish habitat while restoring riparian areas along the western river bank. With the high flows and increased use of the area in recent years, a number of native cottonwoods and shrubs along the banks have disappeared, leading to further erosion and habitat damage.

Bessemer Ditch: A look at one farmer who plans to sell his water

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The sale of agricultural water is fraught with emotion. Here’s a look at one farmer that has signed a purchase contract with the Pueblo Board of Water Works for his shares in the Bessemer Ditch, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Roaring Fork River: CDOT flood control project

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From the Aspen Daily News:

Colorado Department of Transportation crews are expected to begin work late this week or early next week on the edge of the Roaring Fork River upstream from the Basalt bypass bridge at mile marker 23.5 on State Highway 82. The crews will be removing rock and sand from a natural corner of the river just upstream from the low-ceilinged bridge in order to make room for the river to pass under the bridge at high water. The project did not require a 404 permit — which regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into water — from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because of a bridge maintenance exemption and because the rock and sand will be trucked off site so there will be filling of wetlands, according to CDOT officials…

CDOT crews will not be working in the river itself, but instead will be working from the side of the river to remove a sand and rock bar that has formed on river, right upstream of the highway bridge. They plan to leave a portion of the sandbar — the edge closest to the middle of the river — as a berm that continues to guide the river around the corner and under the bridge. But at high water the remaining berm is expected to be breached, which will allow some of the river to flow under the river-right side of the bridge. “There will be no work done in the water,” Gaymon said, adding that the work is not expected to interfere with the river or irrigation ditches in the area. “All we are trying to do is get back to where the river at high water is able to flow at full capacity under the bridge.”

Arkansas headwaters: Community Clean ‘n Cruise

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From the Salida Citizen:

Be a part of “Community Clean ‘n Cruise” on Saturday, May 16. Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) and GARNA are again teaming up for the 18th annual Arkansas River Clean Up Green Up. Join fellow volunteers to beautify a section of the river and then enjoy a picnic with music by the Groove Farmers in Riverside Park in Salida. Pre-register through AHRA by calling 539-7289 or drop by the office at Sackett and G Streets. Or register on Saturday morning between 8:30-9:30 AM at AHRA. Picnic and music from 12-3 PM. Plan on staying in town for the Salida Police Bike Rodeo, a free bike safety event for children 12 and under, 2-4 PM at the F Street Bridge. Later, the Cruiser Crit, the entertaining FIBArk fundraiser will take place with a 4:30ish PM race start downtown and after party at Moonlight Pizza. For more information about Clean Up Green Up, please call GARNA at 539-5106.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners hearing continued to April 29

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From the Chaffee County website. “The Board of Commissioners continued the April 21st hearing to April 29, 2009, to be held at the Salida Steam Plant, 220 W Sackett starting at 1:00 p.m. This hearing will be for public comment only beginning at 1:00 p.m. A break will be taken from 5:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.”

Thanks to the Salida Citizen for the link.

The Salida Citizen is also running a piece from Linda Erickson with recommendations from representatives of the Sierra Club. From the post:

Suggestions from Steve Glazer and the Sierra Club:

– postpone any decision until a new hydrology study has been completed;
– that report should contain an inventory of all wetlands that could be impacted by the pumping or pipeline construction, a monitoring plan to reveal any changes impacting the wetlands, and most importantly–a mitigation plan to remediate identified impacts;
– set up a strategy to deal with potential injury to any other water users (that would be better than having to go to water court to address that potential injury);
– and require financial surety to pay for any impacts from the development and operation of the project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Precipitation news

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Amy Bounds):

Rain and snow storms have drenched Boulder with 5.86 inches of water in April, making it the wettest month in a decade. Adding in a late-March snowstorm, the city is up to about 7.5 inches of precipitation in the last five weeks, said Matt Kelsch, a meteorologist with Boulder’s University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The last month that brought more showers was April 1999, which recorded 7.55 inches of moisture, Kelsch said.

Grand Lake: Trustees pass ordinance to protect surface water

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

In Grand Lake, those who apply tree pesticides and phosphorous fertilizers are now required by law to spray 30 feet back from any water source, according to a new law passed on Monday that closes possible loopholes in chemical labels. The law, which saw little resistance among community members during its passage, levies fines of $100 to $300 per illegally sprayed tree. The law aims to prevent chemical spray drift from entering water sources such as rivers, streams and the lake in an effort to protect the town’s wellhead and drinking supply as well as to protect fish food sources.

San Luis Valley: First groundwater sub-district plan review gets extension from Judge Kuenhold

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Judge O. John Kuenhold has given the people working on the rules for the Valley’s first groundwater management sub-district another week to come up with a solution for protecting senior rights holders and other items specified in his ruling earlier this year. Here’s a report from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

The modified plan went out to objectors on Friday afternoon. The attorneys said they had not had time between Friday afternoon and Monday afternoon’s status conference to review the changes in the plan, so Judge Kuenhold gave them another week, until Monday, May 4. In the meantime he asked the parties to discuss among themselves whether they could agree or disagree on the changes to the plan. Kuenhold has scheduled an August trial in the event the parties do not agree. Attorney Ingrid Barrier who has been working with the sub-district board to modify its plan told the judge she sent out draft changes on Friday including copies of appendixes addressing annual replacements, the well data base and sub-district efforts to document how it will calculate credits. She encouraged other attorneys to contact her with any questions or concerns. She added that the sub-district board is on a short time schedule to get its plan adopted and finalized by the June deadline set by the court. “We are galloping toward that,” she said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Pueblo: City acquires parcels from Burlington Northern for flood control

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

At its regular meeting, council approved an ordinance giving the city 14 small parcels of railroad property running along the railroad right-of-way that extends from 24th Street south to the low-lying neighborhood near the train yard at Midtown. Peppersauce Bottoms has been drenched in storm floods in past summers, but city officials are planning to build several detention ponds to halt flooding. Dennis Maroney, director of the city’s stormwater utility, said the land negotiations had taken nearly two years, but the city will take possession of the land at no cost. Once the paperwork on the land acquisition is completed, the city will begin an environmental review of the sites, to make certain no unanticipated problems exist. What the city intends is to build detention ponds on the former railroad land at 24th Street, 22nd Street, 18th Street and then an infiltration pond closer to the neighborhood. Maroney said all of that work would be completed for the $800,000 that council has been budgeting for the work since 2007.

Southeastern Colorado erosion control projects score some stimulus dough

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From the Pueblo Chieftain:

our watershed projects aimed at erosion control or habitat in Southeastern Colorado are part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package. The projects total more than $1.1 million and were announced Monday by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The money will go toward more than 50 projects in four areas covering about 288,000 acres in Pueblo, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Las Animas counties. Work is sponsored in partnerships between the Natural Resources Conservation Service and landowners. The projects will reduce erosion and sediment deposits into Lake Trinidad and the Arkansas River. Some have been in the planning process for a decade, but never started because of funding, said Allen Green, state conservationist.

H.B. 09-1303: Admin Mineral Development Water Wells

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Here’s a look at last week’s ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court which upheld a water court decision that water produced from coalbed methane wells is a beneficial use of the water and therefore subject to regulation by the state, from Randy Woock writing for the Trinidad Times-Independent. From the article:

The Supreme Court’s decision cited the Water Right Determination and Administration Act of 1969, which defined beneficial use as “…the use of that amount of water that is reasonable and appropriate under reasonably efficient practices to accomplish without waste the purpose for which the appropriation is lawfully made.” The court’s decision stated that, “Under the language of the Act, the (CBM) process “uses” water – by extracting it from the ground and storing it in tanks – to “accomplish” a particular “purpose” – the release of methane gas. Consequently, the extraction of water to facilitate (CBM) production is a “beneficial use” as defined in the Act and a “well” as defined in the Colorado Ground Water Management Act. ” The produced water from the CBM process had previously been considered a waste by-product, but the court’s decision rejected such a classification. “We reject the argument that water used in (CBM) production is merely a nuisance rather than a ‘beneficial use.'” the decision stated. “On the contrary, the use of water in (CBM) production is an integral part of the process itself. The presence and subsequent controlled extraction of the water makes the capture of methane gas possible.”[…]

Pioneer Natural Resources, the largest operator of CBM wells in Las Animas County, issued a response Thursday to The Times regarding the Supreme Court’s decision in the Vance case. “Pioneer has been following the case for some time and is presently evaluating the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Tom Sheffield, Vice President of Pioneer’s Rockies Assets Team, stated. “We appreciate the foresight of Representative (Kathleen) Curry, Senator (Jim) Isgar and the (SEO) for introducing a measure providing adequate time for a coordinated roll out of activities required by the new ruling while protecting existing tributary water rights in the state. That legislation, House Bill 1303, will be key to all Las Animas County water owners when it is passed and signed into law.”

According to Curry, House sponsor of HB 09-1303, the bill would provide breathing space for the large number of operators whose wells were just rendered out of compliance by the court’s decision. The bill would extend the amount of time available to operators to bring their wells into compliance with the permitting process as required by the court’s decision from 60 days to 270. “If I hadn’t run (HB 09-1303)…the Vance case affirms that about 5,000 gas wells would have been shut down, so we ran that bill to make sure there was a permitting process in place for (CBM) wells,” Curry said. “If we hadn’t run the bill, the Vance case, based on the ruling…all of those wells would have been out of compliance; we were guessing the the Supreme Court would rule that produced water is a beneficial use.”

Curry described the primary goal of the bill as setting up a regulatory process to “ensure that preexisting water users aren’t injured,” while also creating a process to brings all the CBM wells into the SEO’s regulatory framework. “It implements the decision, so I think we did a preemptive strike, knowing that the decision could put us in a position where they (the SEO) could have to review well permits for 5,000 wells in a 60 day period, and that’s just not practical,” she said. “They only do 1,000-2,000 well permits a year, and there would have been a 60 day period where all the operators on those (CBM) wells would have had to come into the (SEO) to get a permit. At least this way now we’ve got a way where the state can handle the workload and the operators can come into compliance.” HB 09-1303 also provides a requirement for augmentation for wells that might be depleting senior domestic water rights or existing domestic wells, and gives the state engineer the right to set additional guidelines for determining tributary versus non-tributary waters, along with the right to take the necessary steps to bring an operation into compliance should the operator have failed to have done so within the 270 day period. The bill stated that it was the legislature’s general intent to “clarify the circumstances under which permits are required when non-tributary ground water is removed in conjunction with the mining of minerals.” Non-tributary water is defined by HB 09-1303 as possessing several characteristics, such as being “withdrawn from a well that is completed in a confined sedimentary bedrock formation,” in addition to, “the well is not completed…in the Raton Basin and the well is located more than (12) miles from any point of contact between the aquifer and any natural stream, including its alluvium.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Northeastern Colorado precipitation back above normal (mostly)

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From the Denver Post (Tom McGhee):

Heavy spring storms have soaked the Front Range and the Eastern Plains, experts said. “Overall, we have a lot of farmers looking a lot more optimistic then they were 60 days ago,” said Chuck Hanagan, county executive director for the Otero Crowley County Farm Service Agency in southeastern Colorado…

Moisture totals are at 2.89 inches at Denver International Airport so far this month, compared with the 1.93 inches that is normal for April, said Wendy Ryan, research associate at the Colorado Climate Center. The snowpack measures 98 percent of normal statewide, said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “We were looking at below-average runoffs back on April 1 because of the dry March,” he said. “The other parts of the state have benefitted as much as the Eastern Plains and the Front Range. The only exception is the southwestern corner of the state.”[…]

Both the South Platte and Colorado River basins are above 100 percent of normal, a plus for Denver, which draws its water supply from them, said Greg Fisher, manager of demand planning for Denver Water…The city’s reservoirs are about 86 percent full, compared with the long- term median of 77 percent, he added.

May 14 hearing set for suspension of Lower Ark lawsuit against Reclamation

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The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District sued the Bureau of Reclamation a while back over Reclamation’s long-term storage contract with Aurora. The contract allows Aurora to store water in Lake Pueblo — a facility of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The Lower Ark claimed that the project did not authorize use of facilities to move water out of basin. Aurora was allowed to join the lawsuit along with Reclamation. Earlier this year Aurora and the Lower Ark reached an agreement that led to the Lower Ark asking for a time out in the lawsuit with Reclamation. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer set the hearing at the request of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Aurora and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation…

Aurora and the district last month agreed to delay court action on the lawsuit for two years while they try to get Congress to change the law to allow Aurora to use the project to move water out of the valley. In the agreement, Aurora also agreed to pay $2 million for Lower Ark district projects like the Super Ditch and Fountain Creek, to participate in the Super Ditch program, to support legislation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and to allow the Lower Ark district to buy its way into future Aurora reservoirs or projects in the valley. The district board approved the settlement with little public discussion, saying the success of the Super Ditch and conduit outweighed the damage to the valley from the export of water.

Arkansas Valley Native LLC., landowners in the valley, earlier intervened in the lawsuit in support of the district’s original opposition to the contract. Their attorney said earlier this month the group opposes putting the case on hold. “We need to settle the question of whether it’s legal to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the valley,” said attorney Sarah Klahn. Partners in the landowners group are former Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District President Wally Stealey, former state Rep. Bob Shoemaker of Canon City, Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings and Wiley banker Frederick Esgar.

The judge, in setting the hearing, suspended soon-approaching deadlines for submission of written arguments on the merits of the lawsuit. If Brimmer agrees to issue a stay putting the case on hold for two years, he would not need the arguments as soon as previously scheduled.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Humpback Chub numbers increasing

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Here’s a release from the USGS:

Adult endangered humpback chub (Gila cypha) in Grand Canyon, Arizona, increased by about 50 percent between 2001 and 2008, according to analysis recently conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey. The upward trend reverses population declines from 1989 to 2001. The estimated number of adult chub in the Grand Canyon population is between 6,000 and 10,000, with the most likely number being 7,650 individuals.

The humpback chub is a freshwater fish that may live up to 40 years and is found only in the Colorado River Basin. The humpback chub was placed on the Federal list of endangered species on March 11, 1967. Only six populations of humpback chub are currently known to exist, five above Lees Ferry, Arizona, and one in Grand Canyon, Arizona.

“USGS scientists and their cooperators are actively pursuing research that will increase our understanding of why native fish populations are increasing,” said Matthew Andersen, USGS supervisory biologist. “Experimental flows from Glen Canyon Dam and above average water temperatures as the result of drought conditions may have supported native fish. Removal of some nonnative fish species in select locations may also have helped.”

It is not easy to determine what is causing the rebound because several natural and human-caused changes have taken place between 2000 and 2008. The primary factors thought to be contributing to the findings are as follows:

The experimental removal of large numbers of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) from the area near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers may have benefited humpback chub. Rainbow and brown trout are thought to prey on young fish and compete with humpback chub for food. Between 2003 and 2006, the rainbow trout population in the Colorado River near the Little Colorado River, the area where most Grand Canyon chub are found, was reduced by more than 80%.

Native fishes, including humpback chub, are thought to have benefited from drought-induced warming beginning in 2003. Before 2003, water temperatures in the main channel of the Colorado River have been too cold for humpback chub to successfully reproduce near the Little Colorado River. Humpback chub require a minimum temperature of 16°C (60.8°F). As the level of the Lake Powell has dropped, warmer water found closer to the surface of the reservoir has reached the release structures. In 2005, water temperatures in the mainstem Colorado River near the Little Colorado River exceeded 17°C (62.6°F), the warmest temperatures recorded in this section of the river since the reservoir filled in 1980.

A series of experimental releases from Glen Canyon took place between 2000 and 2008 that may have benefited humpback chub and other native fish. Humpback chub hatched in 1999 may have prospered as the result of substantial in-stream warming as the result of the 2000 low summer steady flow experiment. As a result of the experiment, peak water temperatures in lower sections of Grand Canyon exceeded 20°C (68.5°F) in the summer of 2000, compared with typical peak temperatures of 15-18°C (59-64°F).
Grand Canyon native fish populations have experienced recent improvements, which is not the case elsewhere in the Colorado River Basin. In addition to humpback chub, the flannelmouth sucker (Catostomus latipinnis) and bluehead sucker (Catostomus discobolus), both native Colorado River fish, are stable, appear to have increased in the reach upstream and downstream from the mouth of the Little Colorado River. In this area, scientists have found juvenile and adult fish of both species, suggesting that more successful reproduction is occurring.

“The Grand Canyon is the one bright spot in the Colorado River Basin for native fishes, which is excellent news,” said Matthew Andersen, USGS supervisory biologist.

The likely factors that contributed to the historical decline of Grand Canyon native fish include changes in flow and reduced water temperature resulting from the regulation of the Colorado River by Glen Canyon Dam, the weakening of young fish by the nonnative parasites such as Asian tapeworm (Bothriocephalus acheilognathi), and competition with and predation by nonnative fish species.

Specific recovery goals for humpback chub in Grand Canyon are currently being established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has jurisdiction over the humpback chub as a federally endangered species.

The USGS Southwest Biological Science Center’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC) is responsible for the synthesis and analysis of fish data collected by a number of cooperating entities, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department. These activities are undertaken as part of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

More information is available by visiting the Status and Trends of the Grand Canyon Population of Humpback Chub factsheet and open file report.

Runoff news

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From the Vail Daily: “The flow of the Eagle River near Minturn rose from 83 cubic feet per second on April 20 to 307 cubic feet per second Monday, according to measurements from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The historic average since 1990 for this time of year is about 139 cubic feet per second…There was 26.4 inches of ‘snow water equivalent’ on the mountain. The historic average for this time of year is about 23.7 inches.”

Fort Collins: City council okays exploration of agreements with water districts

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The City Council last week approved a pair of resolutions authorizing the city manager to investigate options for cooperative agreements to provide service to the Boxelder Sanitation District and area water providers known as the tri-districts. Council members said they support the concepts of regional cooperation and consolidation of services, but they want to make sure any potential agreements would protect the city’s interests. Those interests should go beyond financial considerations, Mayor pro-tem Kelly Ohlson said. The city also has an interest in land-use patterns and water conservation. Any agreements should be good for the city, the districts and the region, he said, but not pertain “just on the dollars.”[…]

The Boxelder district provides sewer service to portions of Fort Collins as well as parts of unincorporated Larimer County and Timnath. In time its services could stretch in to Weld County.

The tri-districts – the East Larimer County Water District, the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and the North Weld County Water District – own and operate the Soldier Canyon Filter Plant, which is next-door to the city’s water treatment facility on LaPorte Avenue near Horsetooth Reservoir.

Growth in their service areas is likely to force the districts to eventually enlarge their facilities or build new ones, officials say. By consolidating services, the districts could save money and the city could get help covering its costs.

The city’s larger water and wastewater facilities have enough capacity to handle the additional flow because of successful water conservation programs, officials said. Steve Comstock of the city’s wastewater division told council members the Boxelder district, which operates a treatment facility downstream of the city wastewater plant on East Drake Road, might be able to get by without building another facility along the Poudre River.

Grand County: State of the river

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From email from the Colorado River District (Mandi Ebeler):

Grand County State of the River

Thursday May 14th 6:30 – 8:15 p.m.
Mountain Parks Electric, Inc. Building.
321 W. Agate Avenue (U.S. 40), Granby

Breckenridge hopes to tap Miners Creek for supply

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

The town of Breckenridge has revived a decade-old plan to claim water rights on a historic ditch that diverts water from Miners Creek, near Frisco, to North Barton Creek, a small drainage near Peak 7. U.S. Forest Service rangers said Monday the agency will extend a comment period on the plan. The Forest Service is involved because Breckenridge needs to build a headgate and flume on national forest land to control the diversion. The Forest Service issued a scoping notice for the proposal in late March, with an Wednesday comment deadline. But Frisco officials and other residents in the area said they hadn’t received any formal word from the agency as late as Monday. As a result, District Ranger Jan Cutts said the Forest Service will release information on an extended comment deadline in the next few days.

Delta hires URS for treatment plant upgrade design

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From the Delta County Independent:

Five firms responded to a recent request for bids for the river diffuser system. Those bids were presented to city council members Tuesday, April 8, with a recommendation from public works director Jim Hatheway that the bid be awarded to URS Corporation. Although the bid of $98,043 was not the lowest of the five received, Hatheway said city staff felt URS could provide the most qualified team and the most favorable schedule to complete the work this year. Hatheway said URS has on staff an expert on endangered species, as well as a former employee of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment who is familiar with the state’s permitting process. A number of fish in the affected portion of the Gunnison River are considered endangered. Hatheway said a large portion of URS’ fee is allocated to bidding and construction support. He told council members the city will bid the project itself to save costs.

Ginter Grove Domestic Water Corporation looking at $300,000 for repairs

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From the Delta County Independent:

In 1972 the Ginter Grove Subdivision was approved by Delta County, based upon the Town of Cedaredge’s approval of Resolution 9183-R, authorizing the town to furnish domestic water to the residents of the Ginter Grove Subdivision. The property owners were required to pay all costs of installation of the necessary infrastructure and to form a non-profit corporation (GGDWC) to administer water. The problem is that pipeline is now more than 30 years old. There have been several leaks discovered over the past several years. It has been determined the pipeline needs to be replaced, and the water delivery system upgraded, at an estimated cost of $300,000. Currently there are 31 lots, 29 paid taps and 27 taps in use. GGDWC owns the pipelines and other equipment necessary to deliver water to each user and, under the current agreement with the town, is responsible for the cost of maintenance and repair of the main pipeline, distribution lines and fire hydrants. The town owns the meter (master and individual) and is responsible for their maintenance.

According to the GGWDC “The 31 lot owners are not in a position to afford the cost of replacing the pipeline and the necessary upgrade to the water delivery system . . . without financial help in the form of grants and low interest loans.” And, according to the GGWDC, the most affordable of these types of loans are available only to local governmental organizations.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Methane pollution

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Here’s an in-depth look at methane pollution in groundwater from Abrahm Lustgarten writing for Pro Publica. From the article:

Industry spokesmen also oppose making the precautionary cementing practices mandatory. “For one thing it is very costly,” said Lee Fuller, vice president of government relations at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “At the same time if you try to put in too much cement you can risk collapsing the well. So it’s drawing a balance between protecting the groundwater” and “protecting the well that you are constructing.”

At the bottom of the hill on Carter Road, Richard Seymour runs a certified natural farm that ships produce across the state. His well is running red and turbid, and bubbles with so much gas that he fears he’ll lose that agricultural certification. If there’s a technology, like cementing, that can protect his water, then shouldn’t it be required in every case, he asks? “We feel pretty alone on this, pretty frustrated,” Seymour said. “I assumed the DEP, EPA, the state — the government — would protect our land. We didn’t know that as a landowner the burden was on us.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education — annual river basin tour: Rio Grande Basin

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From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (David Harper):

We are happy to announce that the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s annual river basin tour will take place on June 18th and 19th in the Rio Grande basin. Tour registration information, draft itinerary and brochure are attached. You can also access additional information and registration materials at http://cfwe.org/2009Tour/2009TourHome.asp. There are additional recreational options for this year’s tour including a rafting trip and an acequia tour on Wednesday, June 17th. It is shaping up to be one of our most informative and entertaining tours to date. We look forward to seeing you there.

Center for Native Ecosystems: Critterthink

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Say hello to Critterthink the weblog from the Center for Native Ecosystems. From email from Andrea West, Development Director:

Greetings from Center for Native Ecosystems, a non-profit conservation organization based in Denver, CO. We work to protect endangered species and their habitat throughout the Rocky Mountain region. I wanted to let you know about an exciting new blog series we recently launched to celebrate our 10th anniversary called “From Where I’m Standing: Perspectives on Conservation in the American West.” Thus far, we’ve recruited about 40 all-star guest bloggers to write on the question “What is the greatest conservation opportunity currently facing our region or our nation?”

We’ve had a great response thus far, recruiting folks from photographer John Fielder to CU Professor and author Patty Limerick to Golden, CO mayor Jacob Smith and State Representative Claire Levy. The series was picked up by Westword (a weekly Denver news magazine) in their “Best of Denver” edition as the “best tenth anniversary present to Denver.” We are honored to be recognized for our contribution to our hometown, and thrilled to be hosting the conversation on some of the most pressing issues facing our region. Check out the series at http://www.nativeecosystems.org/perspectives.

We posted a new entry every day for the first thirty days, and the blog will now feature weekly guest entries interspersed with blogs written by our staff. We’ve recruited some exciting guest bloggers for the coming months, including Denver mayor John Hickenlooper and author Terry Tempest Williams.

Click through and give them a look.

Larimer County: Invasive mussel regulations

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Here’s an update on boating regulations for Larimer County to combat the spread of invasive mussels, from Miles Blumhardt writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

To combat the potential spread of these exotic mussels that can cause significant damage to waterways, Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake and Boyd Lake have started conducting inspections of boats before they can be put into these waters. Also, Larimer County has restricted boating hours on Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake to allow for the inspections. Boating hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Sept. 30 with reduced inspection hours thereafter. Boat launching will not be allowed outside of those hours.

Larimer County and state parks staff said there will be minimal delays in launching boats due to the inspections, which they said take less than 5 minutes. To reduce the inconvenience, boaters can have their boats inspected when they come off the water. If the boat and trailer are found to be clean, they will be tagged and allowed to bypass having the boat and trailer inspected on the next outing.

Larimer County is hoping to have off-site inspections up and running before the busy Memorial Day Weekend.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

State of the Roaring Fork Basin

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From email from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

State of the Roaring Fork River Basin

Tuesday May 12 — 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Eagle County Community Center, El Jebel

Fountain Creek: New board to get its feet wet overseeing gravel pit operation

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From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Pam Zubeck):

Lafarge West, Inc., wants to dig a gravel pit between Fountain Creek and Interstate 25 south of Pikes Peak International Raceway, and it needs the new board’s approval to do it. The project, which would bring dust, noise and nearly 800 trucks a day, could become a lightning rod that will test the new nine-member Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board. Board chairman, El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, said the board will apply tough standards to protect the creek from the mining operation. “We’ll have certain assurances that things are going to be done right,” he said.

But Ferris Frost is skeptical a gravel pit could ever be compatible with the creek. A rancher whose family donated a 915-acre conservation easement opposite the gravel pit site, Frost is concerned about sediment washing downstream, damage from flooding to wetlands and riparian areas, noise, dust and traffic. “We don’t consider it possible,” said Frost, who worked on the vision task force. “I should hope the district wouldn’t allow it. It’s so counter to what the watershed is about.”[…]

Lafarge wants to build an asphalt and concrete plant and a gravel extraction operation on 514 acres next to the creek. The plant would run for 12 hours a day, seven days a week for 15 years, depending on demand, according to Lafarge’s proposal. The company plans interchange improvements and a new road east of I-25 to handle the estimated 780 truck going to and from the site. Lafarge’s proposal gives detailed prescription for reclaiming the land, including replacement of topsoil, seeding and mowing. Lafarge, which has 20 to 30 mining operations in Colorado, has a good track record, said Lafarge spokesman Sean Frisch. “We do a complete job until the reclamation as required is finished,” he said.

The district board has the final say on approving mining within the 100-year floodplain, although the part of the proposed gravel pit outside the floodplain would also have to be approved by the county commissioners. A hearing on the Lafarge proposal will be held at the next district board meeting at 10 a.m. May 29 at Fountain City Hall.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Build in Pueblo County or Fremont County?

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Colorado Springs Utilities has managed to get two permits for their proposed Southern Delivery System, one from Pueblo County, their preferred alternative and one from Fremont County, the backup in case the preferred alternative was denied or too expensive. Pueblo County tacked on $125 million in costs to the project through the county so now CSU is in the process of analyzing their options over which route to use. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Right now, we’re beginning the business analysis that will give us the costs and information we need for timing of the project,” said Bruce McCormick, chief of water services…

But with an additional $125 million tacked on to the conditions, a slowdown in growth in the Colorado Springs service area and commitments whose costs have not been fully examined, there are tough decisions ahead, McCormick said…

The Fremont County route would be more expensive to build and operate, but comes with fewer strings attached up front. If Fremont County is chosen, the pipeline would still serve Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain, but Pueblo West would be left with a more expensive option, a river intake below Pueblo Dam, to obtain its future water. The Pueblo flow management program also is jeopardized if SDS goes through Fremont County. Colorado Springs is committed to maintaining flows and curtailing exchanges only if a Pueblo Dam option is chosen. Even so, a lawsuit by Pueblo West against Pueblo County has cast a new shadow over the flow program, although the partners in the 2004 agreement that created the program remain committed.

Beyond the two choices, there are other issues Colorado Springs must consider, McCormick said. “There are tremendous variables to consider in financing markets and rates, limits on permits, value engineering and other opportunities,” McCormick said. To date, Colorado Springs has invested more than $80 million in SDS, and it still has work to do before a shovel of dirt can be turned.

In the immediate future, perhaps during the two months when a route will be chosen, Colorado Springs will begin seeking permits in El Paso County for the project. El Paso County does not have 1041 regulations like Pueblo County, but the issues are equally complex. A treatment plant and two reservoirs will be built in El Paso County in addition to the bulk of the length of the pipeline – about 30 miles in addition to the roughly 20 miles in either Pueblo or Fremont counties. “We plan to initiate the El Paso County process in the next few weeks,” McCormick said.

In the meantime, Colorado Springs Utilities is still working on crucial permits with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Division of Wildlife.

Finally, contract negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation won’t begin until a route is chosen. Contracts are needed for each of the partners to store water in Lake Pueblo, to build and use a new pipeline connection at the north outlet and to exchange water between the new pipeline and the existing Fountain Valley Conduit.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Too many Colorado water projects?

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Does Colorado have too many water projects in the works? Is there enough water left in the rivers to satisfy requirements? Will agriculture survive municipal growth? These are among the questions that some are asking. While water development is largely a bottom-up process — someone files for a decree on a stream and gets a priority or a group buys water from a willing seller — there is little top-down coordination of the cumulative effects of the separate projects. In every sense the race goes to the swiftest and the groups with the deepest pockets. Here’s a report from Mark Jaffe writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

…from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, the projects are moving forward, powered, attorneys and water managers say, by Colorado water law’s first-come-first-served principle. “In water law, it is still the Wild West,” said Sarah Klahn, a water attorney and University of Denver law professor. “You can be a dreamer, and if you make it come true, it’s yours.”

The concentration of projects worries federal officials who are left to sort out the multiple impacts. “It is the combined projects’ effect on water quality that concerns us,” said Larry Svoboda, environmental assessment director in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Denver office…

Among the plans moving forward are:

• Projects by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley on the same reach of the Cache La Poudre River.

Denver Water and Northern Colorado Water both are developing projects on the Colorado River and tributaries in Grand County.

Aurora Water and East Cherry Creek Valley Water and [Sanitation] District both have projects with 30-mile- long water pipelines running to the Brighton area. In some cases the lines are just a few hundred yards apart…

And even with all these projects, by 2030 the region may be short by 29 billion gallons, according to state projections. In this atmosphere everyone is guarding their own interests, said Dave Little, Denver Water’s planning director. “Everyone can agree on the need, but as soon as you try to identify a project, the parochial interests kick in,” Little said.

Still, as opportunities for water projects dwindle and costs rise, communities are cooperating more, said Eric Wilkinson, Northern Colorado Water’s general manager. For example, Denver Water, Aurora Water and South Metro Water Supply Authority are exploring the possibility of a joint project, said South Metro executive director Rod Kuharich.

Rights and projects are decided on a case-by-case basis in the state water courts and seniority rules. Unlike some other states, in Colorado the legislature and the administrative agencies have no role. It is all settled in water court, Klahn said.

“We don’t have a water plan; prior appropriation is our plan and it’s every man for himself,” said Melissa Kassen, a director of Trout Unlimited’s Western Water project.

Since 2005, through the Intrabasin Compact Committee and nine basin roundtables, the state has tried to do more water planning and forge voluntary agreements. “It is an experiment,” said Harris Sherman, director of the state Department of Natural Resources…

Critics argue that this is still a piecemeal approach as the federal agencies do not set priorities on projects or assess overall water needs. “As we get closer to appropriating the water that’s left in Colorado, we really ought to be able to set priorities,” Trout Unlimited’s Kassen said.

Until there is change, prior appropriation rules. “The state has been reluctant to support one project over another,” said the Department of Natural Resources’ Sherman. “As we enter water scarcity, that may change.”

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

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Wyoming opposition growing and getting organized

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Wyoming residents are organizing to oppose Aaron Million’s Regional Water Supply Project calling it the “Wyoming water grab.” Here’s a report from Joan Barron writing for the Casper Star Tribune. Of course Million Conservation Resources Group and the lesser known project the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition intend to move water that Colorado is entitled to under the Colorado River Compact using a clause in the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact that allows one state to move their water through another state. However — as Eric Kuhn (Colorado River District) keeps pointing out — the water may not be there to develop. If Colorado develops all of the water left in the Green River before Wyoming the Cowboy State may never get their water. That’s part of the motivation for another reservoir to store Wyoming’s share. From the article:

Wyoming people are paying plenty of attention to reports of the latest Wyoming water grab…

Southwest Wyoming residents emphatically oppose the project as evidenced by their testimony at a public meeting sponsored by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in Green River more than a week ago. Dan Budd, a Big Piney rancher, member of the Wyoming Water Development Commission and a former legislator, attended that hearing. Never shy about expressing his opinion, Budd said it was the worst conducted public meeting he ever sat through and he has sat through plenty. “They didn’t have speaker systems, they didn’t recognize the people trying to participate and they cut the meeting an hour short,” Budd said last week.

For some time Budd has pushed for construction of another reservoir on the Green River to impound Wyoming’s share of unallocated water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The amount of the unused Green River water is 300,000 to 400,000 acre feet…

During a meeting of the commission last year, Budd made a motion for the state to file for a permit for a reservoir site at Warren Bridge on the Green River. The filing would give the state a priority date. He said his motion failed by one vote. He said opponents said the state could never get a permit for the reservoir…

That is what happened with the Big Sandstone Reservoir. The Corps of Engineers refused to permit the reservoir because the state could not identify a need and purpose for all the water that would be stored. The reservoir was too big. It was ultimately shrunk and built as the Little Sandstone, or High Savory Reservoir, in the Little Snake River Valley. Budd contends the state should be able to define a use for the Green River water given a decade of drought and healthy population growth in Rock Springs. Moreover, he said, a group of Colorado government entities, headquartered in Evergreen, also is working on a plan to grab Wyoming water. Members of this group already have talked to the state engineer about filing for a permit for a dam, Budd added. With a two-pronged threat, Budd wants protection for Wyoming’s water…

Given that the Corps of Engineers study on the trans-basin diversion Front Range project could take years, the state has time to try to ward off the water grab. “We’re working hard to be sure they don’t,” Purcell said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners continue hearing to April 29

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From The Mountain Mail (Jennifer Denevan):

A final decision on the fate of Nestlé Waters North America’s special land use permit and 1041 application is on hold after Chaffee County Commissioners continued a special meeting until 1 p.m. April 29 at the Salida Steam Plant. During the Tuesday meeting in Buena Vista, which lasted a little more than seven hours in a standing room only American Legion Hall, commissioners heard comments from more than 20 people. Many more people were prepared to comment before commissioners decided to continue the meeting. Tuesday’s meeting was the third time residents had the chance to weigh in on the issue, and county officials said they have received more than 160 written comments.

More coverage from Jennifer Denevan writing for The Mountain Mail:

Consultants for the county and Nestlé each explained their stances on the application after Reimer gave his report. Ken Kohm, Ph.D., and Paul K.M. Van der Heijde of Geomega, a Boulder-based environmental consultant company working for the county, gave feedback of their review of Nestlé’s proposed groundwater and wetland development plan. Kohm and Van der Hejide expressed concerns about the site. The individual wetland structure and function were not identified by Nestlé, they said. There isn’t a history of the hydrology, Kohm said, so it’s difficult to fully understand what the impacts might be if previous patterns are unknown. Both consultants said correct monitoring is needed to get better data and recommended a complete monitoring and mitigation plan.

Bruce Lauerman, Nestlé natural resource manager, said he felt the testing done by Nestlé was sufficient, but he did agree with the consultants about having a monitoring plan.

Jean Coley Townsend of Coley/Forrest Inc., explained her concerns about the proposed positive economic impacts. She said she felt Nestlé overestimated revenues the county would receive, suggesting the amount would be 61 percent less than estimated by Nestlé due to Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights constraints. Townsend also said there were miscalculations regarding how the project is beneficial in terms of diesel fuel purchased, adding that there isn’t a local sales tax on diesel,. Townsend also feels the costs to the county were underestimated and said the real question is “What is the net fiscal impact?” She suggested the creation of a mitigation fund from which the county could pull money to offset costs.

Peter Elzi of THK Associates said the estimated costs of the project are now about $8.2 million instead of $4 million, which translates into more money into the county. He said he didn’t understand where the 61 percent reduction due to TABOR was coming from, and Townsend did not provide the basis for that number. Elzi admitted there was an error in calculating the income from diesel fuel but pointed to the Highway User Fund, through which $0.205 per gallon is given back to the county. Elzi said if Townsend was willing to show how she came up with her numbers, he’d review his information to determine what errors might exist and work to reconcile the differences…

Terry Scanga of the water conservancy district arrived late to give a copy of the letter as evidence. He said the district has concerns about the permit because of how Nestlé plans to augment the water. Nestlé would get the water from the city of Aurora, who in turn has an agreement with the district to lease water in a drought year, he said. Aurora may currently have plenty of water to lease, but that “savings account” is being drained, which would mean greater demand on the Arkansas Basin in a drought year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Conservation easements

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Here’s an update on the state’s efforts to plug the leaky conservation easement program, from the Associated Press (Steven K. Paulson) via the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Erin Toll, director of Colorado’s Division of Real Estate, told lawmakers Wednesday the program is the target of a grand jury investigation that involves millions of dollars in questionable tax breaks. State lawmakers want to suspend the program and use the money to restore a property tax break for seniors, but Toll warned that could jeopardize hundreds of landowners who have taken advantage of tax credits who were told the easements would continue forever. She said tax benefits continue for up to 20 years, and some property owners have already sold those tax credits. “There’s a rollover for people who took that credit,” she told legislators. Toll said a grand jury is looking into $24 million that may have been fraudulently claimed with the help of unscrupulous appraisers who overvalued the land. Toll said three appraisers have been suspended and two of them are believed to be in Mexico. “We discovered millions of dollars in suspect credits,” Toll told legislators…

Toll said state regulators were hamstrung because of state laws that kept tax records private. She said new laws passed over the past two years will help investigators unravel what happened. Lawmakers were outraged when they were told they may not be able to cancel the program because of contracts that have already been signed to sell the easements.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Wiggins: Town may move forward on long-term supply decision without election

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From the Fort Morgan Times:

“I’m ready to make a decision,” said Councilman Vince Longcor, which echoed what most of the council was saying at a work session Wednesday night. Several Wiggins residents and some who own Wiggins property urged the council to make a decision on its own, because it had been elected to make that kind of decision, rather than hold an election. The council had decided in February to hold an election after years of debate on how to solve the problem of falling town water well levels. The town attorney had advised the council that they did not have to hold an election and suggested a survey instead. After reviewing the three options that would have been on the ballot, and hearing the support for making a decision themselves, the council members decided to have another special water meeting next Wednesday and vote on which option to use, they said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Clear Creek Watershed: Big Five Mine spill

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Here’s a roundup of the Big Five Mine spill event into Clear Creek, from Ian Neligh writing for the Clear Creek Courant. From the article:

A statement from the city of Golden said the discharge would not have an impact on the city’s water and that its plant operators diverted water before the mine waste could reach the city treatment plant. Idaho Springs itself does not draw any of its own water from Clear Creek.

Chris Brownell, Idaho Springs water and wastewater superintendent, said the spill occurred on the west end of the city about 4 p.m. April 15 and ended several hours later. Brownell estimated that well over 100 gallons per minute were pumped into the stream. He added that his department had taken a sample of the contaminated water to be tested, but said it was likely to include high levels of mercury, iron, lead and arsenic. “It’s nasty stuff,” Brownell said. “And one of the things, as far as aquatic life, they call it ‘acid mine waste’ and at a pH of 2 or 3 — that’s extreme.”[…]

Ed Rapp, president of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, said spills typically occur when water builds up in the mine and in natural dams, which form and then burst. The mine sludge typically funnels into an underground pipeline, in this case down Colorado Boulevard and Riverside to the Argo treatment plant. However, if the water flow is too large for the pipelines, it “blows out of the tunnel” then discharges into the river…

Downstream water users, once notified of the discharge, shut off their water intake until the stream clears. Rapp said there are ways of cleaning the water, but because the Clean Water Act doesn’t have a “good samaritan clause,” most entities are dissuaded from any cleanup effort — afraid of being held liable. “Nobody is going to set themselves up to be subject to a third-party lawsuit,” Rapp said. “So until there is a good samaritan clause in the Clean Water Act, why, we’re just going to have to suffer to permit this to occur.” Rapp said in most cases such spills do not have a lot of permanent consequences to the stream. “The fish can survive these short bursts, generally speaking, and then things get back to normal,” Rapp said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Hot Sulphur Springs still in line for stimulus dough

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, funneled through the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, could ease the town’s burden to maintain water service to the town’s citizens by providing funds for a clear well, membrane filtration, a revamped Colorado River intake and a new storage tank with a dedicated line. In a recent letter to the town, Health Department said the town is still eligible for federal funding after having clarified preliminary engineering information at the state’s request. The town is now searching for ways to leverage the possible $2 million no-payback loan to find additional state revolving-loan funds for its water system, with projected improvement costs at $3 million, as well as secure interim financing to get started on the clear well. The clear well is the final piece of conformance to an enforcement order handed down by the state Water Quality Control Division last summer.

Lake County: Moving forward with augmentation plan?

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From the Leadville Chronicle:

In 1998, the Lake County commissioners started the process of applying for a water augmentation plan, which was case number 173 in water court that year. This process was never completed, and since that time, the county has changed water attorneys and their direction for dealing with water in Lake County. Now, the county is revisiting the case to find the cost of completing it.

Brighton: Water and sewer rates to rise

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From the Brighton Standard Blade:

Under the new schedule, the water increases will be:

2010 – Monthly fixed water charges will increase an additional $1.50.
Water usage rates will increase an additional 2 percent.
Sewer usage rates will increase by an additional 3 percent.

2011 – Monthly fixed charges will increase an additional $.25.
Water usage rates will increase an additional 3 percent.
Sewer usage rates will increase an additional 2 percent.

Morgan County Quality Water District source water protection plan

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Here’s an update on the efforts at developing a source water protection plan for the Morgan County Quality Water District, from Jesse Chaney writing for the Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

For several of the district’s sources of water, the group simply expanded and clarified the protection boundaries established by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to project coordinator Colleen Williams of the Colorado Rural Water Association, some state delineations are not based on environmental factors in the particular areas. The delineations will be submitted to the health department once they are complete, she said. “We’re trying to take all the information that we know at this point in time and put it together to move forward,” she said.

Since the district primarily uses 10 wells scattered among three aquifers, Williams said the team will need to define separate protection areas for each well field used. The district spans from Weld to Washington counties, and from Adams County to an area north of Jackson Lake…

Quality Water District Manager Mark Kokes said the team should pay special attention to the five wells in the Krause well field, which is located in Weld County. “We’re talking about 40 percent of the district’s water supply right here,” he said. The state originally delineated the Krause well field protection area by simply mapping a radius around it, Williams said. “They didn’t really do any kind of study on the alluvium or the drainage area,” she said.

The planning team also modified the protection areas for the district’s Smart well field near Brush and its Weingardt well field near Wiggins…

After the delineations are complete, Williams said, the team will consider what is happening in each area to identify possible source water contaminants.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Lake Mead drops to lowest level since 1965

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From Fox5Vegas:

Right now, the lake level is 1,100 feet above sea level. By July, it is expected to drop to 1,090 feet, just 15 feet above the level the federal government would use to declare a water shortage…

“We’re in the ninth year of drought now, and things have been pretty grim on the Colorado River,” said J.C. Davis, of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. That’s why the Bureau of Reclamation is projecting the water level to drop another 14 feet this summer. Eighty percent of Lake Mead’s water is used for agriculture in California, Arizona and Mexico. Six percent is lost to evaporation, and six percent is consumed by tamarisk plants, while the entire Valley uses only 1.8 percent of the water — despite a growing population over the past seven years. “Our water use last year was 200 billion gallons less than it was in ’02,” Davis said…

The bureau projects water levels will start to rise slightly before the end of summer…The Southern Nevada Water Authority said even though the Rockies had a higher than average snowfall this year, the lake level is so low that it would take several years of heavier than normal snowfall to get back to normal.

Monument and Tri-Lakes area looking for alternatives to mining aquifers for water

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From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

[Monument] is concerned that in the not-so-distant future it will be too expensive to draw water from the aquifers, so it is looking for other sources of water, said town manager Cathy Green. On paper, the town appears to have enough water, she said. Monument is currently using 401 acre feet of water per year and has 990 acre feet available annually. Triview Metropolitan District is using 607 acre feet of water per year and has 2,903 acre feet available per year. “Our concern is: Will we be able to affordably get water out of our wells?” Green said. The question is being addressed in part by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, an organization made up of water purveyors including Monument.

The authority is discussing water alternatives, said Monument Mayor Byron Glenn. One of the alternatives would require water to be reused, which is a probable, but expensive solution. The town has huge expenses it will encounter in the future to purchase surface water and create the infrastructure needed to move the water, Green said.

Parker: Recall petition for Parker Water and Sanitation board thrown out

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith dismissed the petition, submitted in February by opposition group Transparency Advocates for Parker Water and Sanitation, after finding that the information could have swayed the opinions of those who signed it. The group launched a campaign to oust four of the five acting board members after the board unanimously approved increases in water fees and rates in December. The increase was later rescinded in favor of a formal water rate study.

According to the dismissal order issued by Arrowsmith April 23, the transparency group used outdated figures for salary increases that were originally listed in the district’s 2009 budget. It posted the numbers on its recall campaign Web site. A phone call to Merlin Klotz, who helped lead the recall effort, was not immediately returned…

Arrowsmith also accused the group of presenting insufficient evidence that three or more members of the board violated the state’s open meetings law by having a closed-door meeting without the public’s knowledge, as alleged in the petition. TAPWS collected more than 500 signatures supporting the recall, but the “substantially misleading” information might have caused some to sign under false pretenses, Arrowsmith said.