Poudre River dropped from American Rivers top 10 most endangered list

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From Fort Collins Now (Rebecca Boyle): “The Poudre River is not listed as one of the nation’s top 10 most endangered rivers this year, according to the environmental group American Rivers…Gary Wockner, a spokesman for the Save the Poudre Coalition, said the river is still threatened — American Rivers simply chooses different ones to highlight each year.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

President Obama to nominate Pete Silva to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water

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From Water and Wastewater:

Silva currently serves as a policy advisor to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and an MWD spokesman said he specializes in Colorado River issues. The White House announcement mentioned his “work in the public sector specializing in water resources policy with extensive experience in US–Mexico border issues.”

Silva previously served six years on the California Water Resources Control Board, leaving as vice chairman. His appointments to that board came from both a Republican and a Democratic governor of California. He also served three years on the Board of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, appointed by President Clinton. Silva served three years as the BECC Deputy General Manager, based in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

His prior experience also includes 10 years with the city of San Diego, four years in charge of the International Boundary & Water Commission San Diego office and five years with the California Regional Water Quality Board in San Diego.

As USEPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water, Silva would supervise Water Office programs implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and provisions of several other laws to prevent water pollution and reduce risks for humans and ecosystems.

Stimulus dough for Summitville

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Stimulus dough is poised to rain down on the Summitville Mine superfund site, according to a report from Mark Jaffe writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

The Summitville Mine Superfund site will receive up to $25 million in federal stimulus funds to replace an aging plant used to treat polluted mine water…

…there were five small water-treatment plants on the site. A couple were closed and the rest consolidated into a single, upgraded operation, Wangerud said. That plant, however, had a rated capacity of 1,000 gallons per minute. “It just didn’t have the capacity to treat all the water,” Wangerud said. The new plant will handle 1,600 gallons a minute, removing acid and metal contamination from the mine drainage water, according to the EPA. The treated water is discharged into Wightman Fork, a tributary of the Alamosa River, which flows into the Rio Grande. When the plant is operational, cleanup work at the mine site will be complete.

More coverage from the Valley Courier (Eric Mullins) including a timeline for the Summitville Mine superfund site.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Is the water there?

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Wyoming residents are lining up against Aaron Million’s proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline (Regional Watershed Supply Project), according to a report from Jack H. Smith writing for the Green River Star. From the article:

A meeting in which the Army Corps of Engineers had intended to put up informative displays of the proposal and receive written comments, instead turned into an angry community showing disapproval. At one point during the meeting, in a show of unison Green River Mayor Hank Castillon, Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo and Sweetwater County Commission Chair Debby Dellai-Boese all stood before the crowd and showed strong opposition. One by one, each local leader stood up and protested the proposal and received loud cheers from the crowd…

[Rena Brand project manager for the Corps] said this is a time for the public to put forth written comments on the issue. She said the Corps of Engineers is working with the BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and several other entities on the proposal. The first scheduled EIS draft could be available to the public in 2012, and according to Brand a record of decision could be made in 2014. She said the Army Corps of Engineers is neither a proponent or opponent of the issue…

After Brand started the meeting with a brief set of comments, several residents began to express their concerns. One by one residents expressed concerns over the impacts on such things as fisheries, water quality and the group being a private entity. Brand finally stopped the discussion despite a strong opposition from the crowd, who voiced their displeasure throughout the proceedings…

Shortly after listening to Million and comments from concerned residents, State Rep. Stan Blake said he is totally opposed to the proposal with his biggest problem being this is a private entity profiting from our public water…

One local resident may have summed up the feelings for most of the crowd as he quickly left the high school before he could be identified. As he left, the man could be heard saying that he told Million, “You may be a hero on the other side of the Continental Divide, but you are not one here.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Studies of effects of development and production ‘unnecessarily heighten public anxiety’ according to the National Oil Shale Association

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Now here’s a surprise. The National Oil Shale Association is crying foul over three studies of the environmental effects of potential oil shale development and production. Here’s a report from Gary Harmon writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

None of the reports assesses any benefits that might be expected from oil shale development, such as distribution of royalties, taxes, economic development opportunities and a sustainable employment base, the Glenwood Springs-based association said in a statement.

A study conducted by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado Association of Governments based forecasts on the growth associated with development of tar sands in Alberta, Canada. That study, the National Oil Shale Association said, failed to offer a reliable projection of development, but was nonetheless used to project population growth and then to forecast water use by the Colorado, White River and Yampa river basin roundtables. The studies, released last year, “tend to create public fear and may stymie the current efforts by industry to perfect technologies that can meet regulatory, economic and public expectations,” according to the oil shale association.

The criticism is fair as far as it goes, said Aron Diaz, executive director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado. “We do understand there are some big differences” between the tar sands and oil shale, but the tar sands model was the one considered most prudent. “Local government is not ready for full-scale development” of oil shale, Diaz said. “We’re more interested in making sure local, state and federal government recognize that local government will need a lot of help up front to make sure the industry can thrive.”

The roundtable study also appears to overstate demand for water, the industry association said, because it fails to anticipate the demands of different technologies. The roundtable study predicted an annual demand of 400,000 acre feet of water but that “a realistic large-growth scenario would be half of that, or less,” the association said.

An inventory of water rights held by energy companies also overstates the holdings because the count by Western Resource Advocates includes all the rights held by the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District, the oil shale association said. That inventory did include the entire holdings of the river district, spokesman Chris Treese said. It’s unlikely that the district would devote all its water rights to industrial uses for oil shale, Treese said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

USDA funding for vital watershed projects

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From Hoosier Ag Today:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that the USDA will be sending $84.8 million to state and local governments to improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009…

Location, Project, and Funding amount:

Colorado Beaver Creek 2,500,000
Colorado Highline Breaks 629,000
Colorado Holbrook Lake Ditch 185,000
Colorado Limestone-Graveyard Creeks 187,000
Colorado Trinidad Lake North 79,000

Funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is part of the Obama Administration’s plans to modernize the nation’s infrastructure, jumpstart the economy and create jobs. For more information on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, visit http://www.recovery.gov.

Clear Creek/Central City superfund site to get $5 million in stimulus dough

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From TradingMarkets.com:

“This funding is going to help speed up efforts to clean up this site, bringing us closer to the goal of restoring this watershed, which extends from the Continental Divide to the Denver metro area,” Senator Udall said. “Not only will it create jobs now, but it will strengthen the local communities and protect a watershed that supplies more than 50,000 Coloradans with drinking water. This is exactly why we worked so hard to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and I’m very pleased to join Senator Bennet and Congressman Polis in announcing these funds.”[…]

The new money for the Clear Creek/Central City site will accelerate the cleanup of the 400-square-mile Clear Creek watershed that is impacted by wastes from historic mining activities. Improvements will include the consolidation and capping of mine waste piles, sediment control and water treatment to mitigate heavy metals impacts to Clear Creek, a tributary of the South Platte River. Work at the site will also reduce metals entering the watershed which supplies water to Denver-area residents.. For more information on the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, please visit Recovery.gov or Colorado.gov/Recovery.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

El Paso County to look at septic pollution of groundwater?

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Three special districts in El Paso county are willing to bank a proposed study of septic pollution of groundwater, according to a report from Pam Zubeck writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

“Are septic systems causing problems with aquifers? The answer is yes,” said development code administrator Mark Gebhart.

Before 1980, developers were limited to one home per five-acre tract to avoid well contamination. In 1980, the rule changed to allow 2.5-acre lots. Since then, wells and septics have been allowed on even smaller lots if developers showed there wouldn’t be contamination. Now, a state study and anecdotal evidence suggest septic tanks might be fouling water wells…

[Tim Hunker with the Meridian Service Metropolitan District] and officials with the Upper Black Squirrel Groundwater Management District and Cherokee Metropolitan District said they’ll help fund a well-water study. Gebhart said a similar study in Jefferson County triggered development restrictions in areas where aquifers were susceptible to sewage leaks due to shallowness or bedrock cracks. Commissioners said they support a study, but it’s unclear when it will be done…

Lower Ark farmers criticize Chieftain editorial

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An editorial that ran in Sunday’s Pueblo Chieftain caused a flash flood of negative reactions from downstream of Pueblo, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the…umm…Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“If Bob Rawlings had asked me, he wouldn’t be making all those dumb statements,” said Leroy Mauch, a Lamar farmer who sits on the Lower Ark board. Rawlings is the publisher of The Chieftain. Mauch’s comment came after farmers who are members of Super Ditch told the board an editorial Sunday unfairly characterized how the ditch operates and what the effects of future agreements with Aurora would be. They also told the board they agreed with the Aurora deal, which limits how Aurora will lease water in years to come. The Lower Ark district sued Reclamation in 2007 over a contract that allows Aurora to move water out of the Arkansas Valley…

Last month, Aurora and the Lower Ark agreed to support a two-year stay while they ask Congress to approve Aurora’s use of the Fry-Ark Project, the central point of dispute in the case. The Lower Ark also helped form the Super Ditch, a water leasing corporation formed by water rights owners on seven canal systems, last year. Super Ditch figures heavily in the lawsuit agreement.

“It’s disturbing to me that we are accused of selling the water. We never suggested we would be selling the water,” said John Schweizer, Super Ditch president and a Rocky Ford farmer. “The Pueblo Board of Water Works can buy Bessemer Ditch water and it’s OK, but not if anyone else wants to lease water. It’s not fair.”

“(Rawlings) says he’s a fan of the Arkansas Valley, but not if it helps farmers east of Pueblo? He contradicts himself,” said Dale Mauch, a Lamar farmer. “The Super Ditch was formed to protect the water. The alternative is buy-and-dry. If we don’t have the Super Ditch, that’s what’s going to happen.”

“(The editorial) makes it sound like in a drought we would be drying up 100 percent of the valley. Only a very small percent of the land would be taken out,” said Fred Heckman, a McClave farmer. “It’s missing the economic benefit of leasing water.”[…]

In the past month, some shareholders of the Bessemer Ditch have joined others from the Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford canals in Super Ditch.

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

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District purchasing shares of the Larkspur Ditch

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “The ditch diverts water from the Gunnison River into the Arkansas River basin and was purchased by the Catlin Canal in 1943. It is expected to produce up to 500 acre-feet of imported water this year, which will be leased by the district to water users in the valley. The Lower Ark board voted in February to exercise its option to purchase shares under an agreement with the Catlin Canal. The district has maintained the ditch since 2004, increasing its productivity. About 70 percent of Catlin shareholders said they wanted to sell their Larkspur shares in a December survey. As of Monday, about 130 shareholders had lined up to sell, and offers will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis, said Bill Hancock, Lower Ark conservation program manager. The Lower Ark is paying about $70 per share and expects to spend up to $500,000 this year for Larkspur purchases. Next year, it will spend up to $500,000 more to purchase the entire ditch, if possible.”