Moab tailings cleanup to benefit from stimulus dough

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Here’s an update on the cleanup of uranium mill tailings in Moab, from Gary Harmon writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The federal government will provide $108 million from the economic stimulus package to push ahead more quickly with the cleanup of uranium mill tailings from Moab, Utah. The new spending will more than double the number of employees from 125 to at least 275, officials with the U.S. Department of Energy said. The cleanup is scheduled to begin April 20 and is estimated to cost about $1 billion, which will be paid by the Department of Energy. “Grand County has an astonishing economic stimulus package going on,” Bob Greenberg, chairman of the county council, said Tuesday.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

President Obama to nominate Anne Castle as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science

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From The Cherry Creek News (Guerin Green): ” Castle has more than 25 years of experience in water rights, water quality and natural resources law. She currently serves as a partner in the Denver, Colo. office of Holland & Hart LLP. ‘Anne Castle is one of the nation’s foremost experts in water and natural resource law,’ said Secretary Salazar. ‘She will be an invaluable addition to our team as we work to address the water challenges facing our country and as we restore the role of science in decision-making at the Department of the Interior. Anne will help us find common sense solutions on some of the most difficult 21st century challenges we face, from climate change to water shortages.'”

Rio Grande Compact Commission votes not to certify river accounting figures

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide): “In an unusual turn of events during its annual meeting on Tuesday in El Paso, Texas, the Rio Grande Compact Commission voted not to certify the river compact accounting figures from the participating states of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. ‘There was a little bit of an issue with the accounting for Elephant Butte Reservoir,’ said Colorado Division of Water Resources Acting Division Engineer for Division III Craig Cotten. He explained that some problems with the gauging station at Elephant Butte came to light only a week before the Rio Grande Compact meeting so they could not be worked out before the meeting. The engineer advisors for each state met in February to review compact accounting numbers but they did not know about the gauging station problem at that time. “Unfortunately in this case we just found out that there might be a discrepancy in the numbers just a week ago,” Cotten said. Therefore, the compact commissioners decided to wait until a separate compact meeting in June to finalize each state’s numbers. Cotten said all three states will check out the Elephant Butte gauging situation before that time.”

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum day 1

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Here’s a recap of the Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel’s keynote on the first day of the Arkansas Basin Water Forum, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Water for energy – whether that means hydroelectric, biofuels, oil shale or power plant cooling involves choices for Colorado in a time when shortages are nearing critical points, a top water official said Tuesday. “When you are dealing with water, you are dealing with our future. It’s going to take choices, and it’s going to take trade-offs,” Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel said. Gimbel made her comments during the keynote speech of the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum being held at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The event continues today with the topic “Water to Fuel Our Future.”[…]

the state’s population is expected to triple by 2050, and climate change will mean warmer temperatures, a longer growing season, decreased flows in river, more rain, earlier runoff and increased variability in the weather, Gimbel said. Conservation and reuse will go only so far to meet anticipated shortfalls, she said. “We need to continue building infrastructure,” Gimbel said. “However, the infrastructure we do have needs to be managed collectively. That means more multiuse projects.”

Construction of dams, given a black eye in the public consciousness, benefits rivers by moderating flows and improving fisheries, Gimbel said. Her primary example was the Arkansas River voluntary flow agreement – made possible by balancing water accounts between dams – that created sufficient flows for the Arkansas River Headwaters State Recreation Area, which draws more rafters that any other American stretch of river.

New water projects are increasingly more difficult during tough budget times, however. About $45 million has been cut from CWCB construction funds to make this year’s state budget balance and deeper cuts could be looming in the future, Gimbel said. Other forms of energy development have varying impacts on water supplies. Wind farms use little water, but could impact birds; solar power may use more water than previously believed; ethanol production of 7 billion gallons annually eats up 19 million acres of farmland; oil shale has the potential to use more than double the amount of water imported into the Arkansas Valley each year; and coal-bed methane produces poor-quality water that state law deals with uncertainly.

Million pipeline project: Corps of Engineers to hold Wyoming ‘scoping’ meetings April 14th and 16th

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Here’s an update on Aaron Million’s plans to build a pipeline from the Green River in Wyoming (Flaming Gorge) to the Front Range and points south, from Jeff Gearino writing for the Casper Star Tribune. From the article:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said this week the agency is beginning work on an environmental impact statement that will analyze the impacts of the proposed regional water supply project. Army Corps project manager Rena Brand said the agency has scheduled public “scoping” meetings in Green River on April 14 and Laramie on April 16 to discuss the project…

The pipeline would deliver about 250,000 acre feet of water to points as far south as Pueblo, according to project plans. The pipeline would operate on a perpetual basis through 2030 and beyond. The water would be obtained from the Green River Basin as part of the unused portion of water allocated to the state of Wyoming and Colorado under the Upper Colorado River Compact, according to plans. In Wyoming, about 25,000 acre feet of water would be delivered annually to users in the Platte River Basin. The remaining 225,000 acre feet of water would be delivered annually to the South Platte River and Arkansas River basins in Colorado. The most conservative estimates predict it would take five years or more to permit and build the pipeline once it overcomes significant political and logistical hurdles…

Drawing water from Flaming Gorge — which can hold up to 3.8 million acre feet of water — and the Green River would affect few irrigators and other water users, Million contends…

The potential water users for the proposed project would include agriculture, municipalities and industries in southeastern Wyoming and Colorado’s Front Range, according to an Army Corps notice in the Federal Register. Two water withdrawal facilities would be constructed as part of the project. One would be located on the east side of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the other on the east bank of the Green River, about 200 feet downstream from the boundary of the national wildlife refuge. A water treatment storage reservoir would also be constructed near the Green River intake system, according to plans. The water pipeline system would be about 560 miles long and would feature three water storage/flow regulation reservoirs along the route, including one in Wyoming at Lake Hattie west of Laramie. Officials said 16 natural gas-powered pump stations would also be constructed. Brand said the agency will examine a full range of reasonable alternatives as part of the environmental impact study, including alternatives with different withdrawal points or only one withdrawal point, and alternative storage reservoir locations.

Update: More background from Joy Ufford writing for the Sublette Examiner:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) recently published its notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposal by Aaron Million, of the Million Conservation Resource Group (MCRG), to build the proposed “Regional Watershed Supply Project” (RWSP) and pull about 250,000 acre-feet of new water a year to his customers. The planned EIS will “analyze the direct, indirect and cumulative effects of a proposed water-supply project in Wyoming and Colorado,” states the ACE notice…

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would have to give Million a contract to withdraw water directly from Flaming Gorge and he would also need federal approval to cross public lands with the pipeline. The proposal also includes a water storage treatment reservoir near the Green River intake system, a water pipeline from 72 to 102 inches in diameter and about 560 miles long, a regulating reservoir at the pipeline’s western end, about 16 natural gas-powered pump stations along the pipeline route, temporary and permanent access roads and three water-storage/flow-regulation reservoirs (at Lake Hattie west of Laramie and the proposed Cactus Hill and T-Cross reservoirs in Colorado). Outlet structures at each reservoir would have water treatment facilities, onsite transformers, overhead power lines and water delivery systems to his water users, it says…

Million applied to the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office (SEO) for two permits, 15 months ago, which are still under review and will likely bring about public hearings and comment periods, according to State Engineer Pat Tyrrell. One is to divert water from the Green and the other is to use his proposed pipeline for Wyoming water use, Tyrrell said. The water sold to Wyomingites would count against the state’s apportionment, he added, just as the water piped to Colorado customers would count toward that state’s historic allocation. While the SEO permit to withdraw water does not require an environmental analysis or public hearings, the proposal is sensitive enough that the SEO plans to schedule meetings later this summer or fall, he said. “They were told from early on we would probably have hearings because of the size, nature and potential controversy that surrounds (the diversion and pipeline proposed),” he said.

Million has proposed four points for withdrawal to the SEO – three in the Green and one on the banks of Flaming Gorge. “We’re getting a lot of questions,” Tyrrell said. “There are concerns – can it be done without hindering Wyoming’s remainder of (its) portion?” Wyoming’s role is choosing whether or not to grant the two requested permits ‘is “only a smaller part of the much larger approval process,” he said. “We would be one domino in a much larger string.” Even assuming the SEO approved his permits, Tyrrell added, “That’s no green light for (Million).” The concept is “allowable” – but the project’s size is very “unusual,” he said…

ACE meetings in Wyoming will be held in Green River April 14, 6:30 to 9 p.m., at the Green River High School and April 16, 6:30 to 9 p.m. in Laramie at the Laramie High School. The public is invited to provide scoping input and comments through May 19. The notice is available at Address questions and comments on the proposal and EIS to Ms. Rena Brand, Project Manager, US Army Corps of Engineers, Denver Regulatory Office, 9307 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Littleton, CO 80128-6901; (303) 979-4120;

The Upper Green River Basin Joint Powers Board, representing Sublette, Lincoln and Sweetwater counties, has invited a coalition of concerned Wyoming and Colorado groups to meet but hasn’t “managed to nail down a date yet,” said board member Randy Bolgiano of Boulder.

The Wyoming Water Development Commission has scheduled an April 30 meeting with the Green River Basin Advisory Group and the coalition, 6 p.m. at the White Mountain Library in Rock Springs, to discuss the Million proposal.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

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From the Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson): “The first measurement [Todd] Boldt and John Fusaro took at the 10,276-foot summit of Cameron Pass at the top of the Poudre Canyon revealed 19 inches of new snow, and as it turned out about an hour later, an average of 83 inches of snow. Even better was the water content, 108 percent of the 30-year average…

“The late March, early April measurements are always the most important because, on average, about 80 percent of the snow the state’s mountains get in a season has fallen by the end of March. Information from monthly surveys allows hydrologists to predict the amount of runoff when the snow melt occurs in the spring. Water users, including those involved in agriculture, industry and municipalities, use that information for planning. As much as 80 percent of the state’s surface water supplies originate from the mountain snowpack.”