Dolores River: Sections eyed by BLM for Wild and Scenic designation

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The Bureau of Land Management is studying parts of the Dolores River for Wild and Scenic designation. Here’s a report from Kristen Plank writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Approximately 32 miles of the northern Dolores River and watershed was recently evaluated in a Wild and Scenic Eligibility Report released by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Grand Junction office…

“The first thing we do during this river study is to look at eligible segments of rivers that fit into the criteria of the Wild and Scenic River Act of 1968,” said Michelle Bailey, outdoor recreation planner at the Grand Junction office. “We then ask ourselves, ‘Hey, does this segment meet the criteria?’ If the answer is yes, then we further study those segments.”[…]

The Dolores River section of the study runs from the southwest border of the Grand Junction field office, running parallel to Highway 141, through Gateway until the river reaches the Colorado-Utah border, Bailey said. Conducted during the past 12 to 14 months, the eligibility study found geological, paleontological, recreational and scenic values within the 32-mile stretch of the river. The public has 30 days to comment on the eligibility portion of the report. While a segment of a river might be found “eligible” for Wild and Scenic designation, Bailey said “it may not be suitable.”[…]

The suitability study comes next, and public comment from stakeholders and the general public is taken throughout the study. The suitability study is slated to be completed in 2011. The findings will then go into the Grand Junction field office’s resource management plan, which will give recommendations of Wild and Scenic River designations to Congress. Congress will then decide which of the rivers should be given Wild and Scenic designation.

Recently, a group known as the Lower Dolores Management Plan Working Group has been meeting monthly to give input on a comprehensive river management plan known as the 1990 Dolores River Management Plan. The Dolores Public Lands Office plans to update the management plan this fall, and the working group will help determine how best to classify the Lower Dolores River so that it receives appropriate protection. The group hopes to bypass the Wild and Scenic River designation because federal management of that portion of the river conflicts with current principles the Dolores River Dialogue – a group that meets to preserve and improve water habitats in the Dolores River Valley – has already established.

On the Net: To read the Grand Junction’s eligibility report, go to http://www.blm. gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo/rmp.html and click on “Wild & Scenic Eligibility Report.”

Palmer Lake: Wrestling with surface water treatment funding

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Here’s an update on Palmer Lake’s search for a funding and supply solution, from Nicole Chillino writing for the Tri-Lakes Tribune. From the article:

“The existing plant is not producing water at the rate it was originally designed for,” said Paul Gilbert, with Tetra Tech Rmc Inc., a consulting and engineering firm. “Not only can we increase the capacity, we can increase the ease of running the plant, and we can more easily achieve drinking water standards.” The surface water is the town’s cheapest water, whereas the well water is more expensive to pump and process. Currently the town can utilize the deep wells to a greater extent, which are more expensive, or it can fix the plant, Gilbert said. The town could probably Band-Aid for a few years, but in the meantime costs would escalate significantly for both running the water system and constructing the plant later…

Tetra Tech looked at three alternatives to funding the filter plant, he said. The recommended option is a microfiltration system that can fit in the town’s existing building, he said. The system would have the capability of processing 500 gallons per minute, currently only 250-300 gallons per minute can be processed for short periods of time in the plant. The town’s senior water right is 400 gallons per minute, so there will be times the town can use its junior water rights for more, but the 400 gallons per minute will be comfortably covered, Gilbert said. To fund the plant, the team from Tetra Tech looked at several options including using the stimulus money that might become available to the state, but this would not be guaranteed money, said Linda Firth. Furthermore, the treatment plant project has to be ready by the end of September this year to get the money if it materializes…

Firth suggested the town go for revolving fund money, which has a low interest rate and the town is already in line for. The project will cost $1.8 million to $1.9 million for totally new internal pieces to the plant, Gilbert said. If there is any money left over, there are plenty of pipelines that need to be replaced. The new treatment units cannot handle the pressure from the gravity to the treatment plant, so it would need to be reduced on the way in and pumped on the way out, Gilbert said. The primary ongoing cost will be the tubes within the filter membranes, which will need to be replaced every 7-10 years, he said, but the cost will be comparable to that of replacing the media in a sand filter.

Elbert County: Groundwater 101

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Here’s a look at Colorado water law as it relates to groundwater in Elbert County, from Ashley Dieterle writing for the Elbert County News. From the article:

On April 2, in the Exhibit Hall at the Kiowa Fair Grounds, two members of the Colorado Division of Water Resources explained water rights and well permitting to Elbert County residents. Types of wells, types of ground water and adjudication of water were discussed by Kevin Rein and Keith Vander Horst from the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

All under ground water in Elbert County comes from non-tributary water in the Denver Basin. There are four bedrock aquifers, the Dawson (upper and lower) aquifer, the Denver aquifer, the Arapaho (upper and lower) aquifer and the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer. Most questions asked by attendants concerned their own water and whether or not adjudication, obtaining a determination of a water right, was necessary in order to maintain their water without the threat of it being taken away by the state, county or other developers. According to Vander Horst and Rein, the answer is no. Rein said the landowner has a right to the ground water if it has not been adjudicated, which means the water stays attached to the land. “By virtue of land ownership you have the inchoate right so nobody can come and adjudicate and acquire the ground water underlying your land just because you haven’t adjudicated it,” Rein said.

But Rein did mention some benefits to adjudicating ground water. He said the basic outcome of adjudication is the amount of ground water available is quantified and the characteristics are legally identified. After adjudication, the water becomes a vested right, not an inchoate right. “After adjudication that water is much more readily available to sell to interested developers,” he said. “And it becomes an independent property right, which allows you to make the deed to impair property for immediate benefit and allow you more revenue when you sell it.”

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

Glenwood Springs: Increase in water and sewer rates?

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Gardner): “According to Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Robin Millyard the recommendation from city staff is a 10 percent increase for water fees and a 20 percent increase for sewer customers…The latest review stated that water rates for financial year 2008 came up $139,000 short of projections from the previous year’s study, despite a third consecutive 10 percent increase in May 2008. While water revenues were down, operating and maintenance expenses were $171,000 higher than originally projected as well. Millyard explained that many variables contribute to the shortfall and include everything from a decrease in customer consumption to unforeseen cost increases for chemicals used in treating water. The report stated that exact reasons for the lower than expected revenue ‘was beyond the scope of the analysis,’ and that it appears less water is being sold than was anticipated by the last study…With the new plans for the wastewater plant in Glenwood, the report stated that a 47 percent rate increase, split over a three year period, for Glenwood sewer customers would be necessary to cover the projected shortfalls. The report stated that the 20 percent increase in 2008 recovered sufficient revenue to cover actual expenses, based on financial year 2008 unaudited results. However, by 2011, revenues were not expected to be sufficient to cover projected operating expenses and debt service on proposed capital improvements.”

Snowpack news

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From the Fairplay Flume (Debra Orecchio): “Measurements conducted in the South Platte basin, which includes Park County, show that the snowpack is 86 percent of average, a drop of 13 percentage points from measurements taken in January. At that time, the snowpack measured 99 percent of average. Statewide, the snowpack is about 96 percent of average. That’s the first statewide snowpack reading of this season to be below average, according to Allen Green, state conservationist with NRCS…”The press release also stated that statewide reservoir storage remains just slightly above average at 103 percent. In January, it was at 98 percent of average. Most of the reservoirs are storing at near-average volumes. The reservoir storage in the South Platte area is at 99 percent, compared to the 95 percent of average that was seen in January.”

Montezuma County: Tamarisk control update

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From the Cortez Journal: “The board of Montezuma County Commissioners is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Monday, April 13, in the commissioners room at 109 W. Main St., Cortez. Jodi Downs, with the Dolores Soil Conservation District, will give an update on tamarisk control in the county…For more information on the meeting, contact the county administration office at 565-8317, or visit”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Tri-State de-emphasizing Coal?

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From the Durango Herald (Shane Benjamin): “In the near-term, [Tri-State Generation and Transmission] plans to expand energy-efficiency programs, make investments in renewable energy and increase natural gas capacity, said Lee Boughey, a spokesman for Tri-State, during a phone interview Friday. In the long-term, Tri-State will consider building a nuclear power plant in southeast Colorado, he said. It is a marked difference from four years ago when the energy supplier announced plans to pursue three new coal-fired power plants, Boughey said. The shift comes amid a changing regulatory climate. There is a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to state and federal regulatory policies as they pertain to energy and the environment, Boughey said. Tri-State wanted to take time to understand the new direction and policies and evaluate the benefits and risks of new approaches, he said.”

From the Denver Post (Gargi Chakrabarty):

Tri-State Generation and Transmission’s board decided at its annual meeting Thursday to review the company’s long-term resource plans. “Part of our re-evaluation process will review how coal- based resources fit into our long-term resource plans,” said Ken Anderson, Tri-State’s executive vice president and general manager.

The announcement comes as environmentalists urge the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to take on regulatory oversight of Tri-State’s resource plans, in part to ensure the company follows Colorado’s renewable-energy mandates. Tri-State depends on coal for 72 percent of its power generation; just 1 percent comes from renewables such as wind and solar energy. The Westminster-based company serves 44 rural electric cooperatives in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska. It is regulated by a variety of federal agencies. Tri-State’s near-term plan is to increase its energy-efficiency programs, bring in more renewable and natural-gas resources, and invest in new technology for clean coal and renewable energy, spokesman Lee Boughey said. Two weeks ago, the company announced it would develop one of the world’s largest photovoltaic solar plants in New Mexico.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs vote on Pueblo County permit conditions this week

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Colorado Springs City Council will consider Pueblo County’s terms and conditions for the Southern Delivery System at its meeting this week. The meeting will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. Approval of the conditions would give Colorado Springs Utilities a “green light” to build its $1.1 billion pipeline project from Pueblo Dam, Utilities CEO Jerry Forte told council at a public hearing last week.”

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

Taming the Land: Sixth in the series

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Here’s part six of Chris Woodka’s series “Taming the Land” running in the Pueblo Chieftain. Click through to read the whole thing and for the cool photos that he’s dug up from area libraries. From the article:

Along with the scope of the [Fryingpan-Arkansas Project], its mission changed too. Partly because of pressure from the Western Slope, the Southeastern district opted to allocate 51 percent of the water from the project to cities in its 1979 operating principles. As farmland is dried up by purchases of water off of farms, even more water is going to cities. Still, the Fry-Ark Project has been a boon for agriculture since 1972, when the first water from the other side of the mountains came into the valley. More than 1.6 million acre-feet of water have been allocated since then, with about 72 percent going to agriculture. In the future, agriculture’s share will be less, because cities have been more likely to take their full allocation since the 2002 drought. In addition, cities of the Lower Arkansas Valley will begin putting their share of water from the Fry-Ark Project into the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a drinking supply line that was part of the 1962 legislation, but was never built because of the expense. The conduit will be built under a new funding formula approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama this year.