Colorado Springs: City targets stormwater fee scofflaws

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From the Colorado Springs Gazettte (Daniel Chacon): “After a two-year reprieve, the city of Colorado Springs has decided to put its foot down and go after delinquent property owners who owe a combined $2.44 million in outstanding Stormwater Enterprise fees. “I think it’s only fair to those people who are paying their bills and paying their fair share of making sure the stormwater infrastructure is taken care of,” Mayor Lionel Rivera said Thursday.”

Lamar: Council approves lift station design contract

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From the Lamar Ledger (Aaron Burnett): “The council approved an agreement with The Engineering Company (TEC) for the design of a new wastewater lift station. Total cost for the design is $177,500…Montgomery told the council that a new lift station would replace the current main lift station that is nearing the end of its useful life and is in dire need of replacement. He noted that the current lift station does not have any screening mechanism in place, so debris and solid objects damage the pump works as they pass through. The new lift station would be designed with a screening system that could catch large particulates and remove them from the system said the water resource manager. Montgomery added that because of the methods used to construct the current facility, it is deemed a “confined space” which limits on site expansion or replacement options. Funding for the design of the new lift station will likely come from the water and wastewater fund’s reserves. City Treasurer Linda Rohlman said there appears to be adequate funding for the project available.”

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District meeting

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Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s meeting of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, from Judy Debus writing for the Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

The board suspended their meeting for a public hearing on the inclusion of a well at the Ovid School District into the LSPWCD plan. The executive committee approved it subject to the approval of a specialty contract with the district. Joe Frank, manager, reported that it was published in the paper and there has been no written or public protests. Receiving no public comment, the board reconvened and moved for the approval of adding the specialty contract. It was approved and placed into the March 10 executive committee meeting minutes…

In his manager’s report, Frank presented information of telemetry remote measurement and reporting. He and Fritzler attended a presentation on the use of that on wells. A possible demo-project is being considered using radios and repeater towers. “The big issue that I was concerned with was if the radios would be reliable,” he said. He and Fritzler also reported that the requirements of manpower and cost for data were concerns, as is long-term maintenance and cost. “The key is for us to find something that really works before someone actually goes out and starts putting this in,” Frank said. There was also discussion of licenses and fees and if that investment should be made now in order to do a demo project. Also discussed was satellite telemetry that might be available through the state. Further investigation into the issue will be made.

The annual Water Festival has been scheduled for May 19 at Northeastern Junior College. Frank reported that there are 475 children are signed up and 22 presenters will be involved.

Republican River compliance pipeline: Project may be headed to binding arbitration

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Here’s a recap of the April 9 meeting of the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors, from Tony Rayl writing for the Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

No significant progress, in regards to getting Kansas and Nebraska to approve the [compliance pipeline] project, has been made in the past few months, it was reported during the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors regular quarterly meeting, last Thursday, April 9, in Yuma. A teleconference with Kansas and Nebraska is set for Tuesday, April 28, for a special RRCA meeting. Colorado will ask for approval for the proposed compact compliance pipeline. If Kansas and Nebraska reject it, as expected, Colorado will move to the arbitration stage.

If not approved, the next step would be arbitration. The system is set up so it is “non-binding” arbitration, meaning the states do not have to adhere to the ruling. It is a step taken, though, in an effort to resolve the issue without going to the U.S. Supreme Court. Colorado, though, is willing to take the pipeline to binding arbitration, meaning the arbitrator’s decision carries weight. “We have offered binding arbitration but Kansas has rejected it, at least initially,” [Alexandra Davis, the assistant director for water for the Department of Natural Resources] said. “We were willing to go to binding arbitration.”[…]

The Republican River Water Conservation District continues to lay the groundwork for the pipeline, while waiting for RRCA approval. Engineer Jim Slattery told the board last Thursday that work continues on easements, an application for a permit from the Corps of Engineers has been submitted, and the district also is dealing with a minor issue with the Colorado Ground Water Commission in regards to “co-mingling” wells. Slattery told the board he has been told bidding among contractors is still competitive due to a slowdown in projects, but it might not last much longer.

The district itself is not moving too far ahead until issues are resolved between the three states. The RRWCD is taking the stance that it developed the pipeline project on the assumption that delivering water to the North Fork would bring Colorado into compliance with the pipeline. However, Kansas asserts Colorado is not in compliance in the South Fork sub-basin, and the pipeline to the North Fork will not address that. Therefore, the district definitely wants that issue resolved, and approval from the RRCA, before building the pipeline. The RRWCD also has requested assurances from state officials that Colroado will drain Bonny Reservoir, or take other actions equivalent to draining Bonny, if Kansas is found to be correct in its interpretation of the South Fork issue.

Also, the Sandhills Groundwater Management District, where the wells for the pipeline are located, has stated it will not hold a hearing on the RRWCD’s request to export water from the management district until the RRCA has approved the augmentation plan.

A $60,000 million, 2-percent interest loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board was approved by the Colorado Legislature last year, to the RRWCD for the pipeline. The RRWCD does not want to take the risk of borrowing that money until it is certain the pipeline is a go for all parties. Technically, the RRWCD has two years from the date of the loan contract to borrow and complete the project, according to legal representation. The CWCB staff has told the RRWCD it could obtain further time if necessary. However, in light of the budget crisis, the district would like to get going before the end of the year.

More coverage of the meeting from the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The water level at Bonny Reservoir continues to be an issue with the Republican River Water Conservation District. Dave Keeler, the state’s water commissioner for the Republican River Basin, gave a Bonny update to the RRWCD Board during its regular quarterly meeting, last Thursday in Yuma. He said measurements show that currently there is an extra 3,992 acre feet of storage in Bonny, which is considered “out of priority” water. As to when that water will be released, Keeler referred to State Engineer Dick Wolfe. Among the main considerations in releasing the water is the ability to maximize the amount released getting to the gage in Benkleman, Nebraska. It sounds like there will not be a release until the fall. However, there is a live stream flow in the South Fork of the Republican River reaching the Benkelman gage, and there is little irrigation right now. Board Member Eugene Bauerle said the district should consider asking the state to make a release now, since conditions are good for the water getting to the gage.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Alamosa: Council approves sewer rate hike

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide): “After receiving no public comment during a public hearing on the rate increase, the council voted on an ordinance that will more than double sewer rates over a three-year period. This year the average resident’s utility bill will go up by about $5 a month with proposed increases of another $4 per month each year for the next two years. The average residential customer has been paying about $11.50 a month for sewage services. That involved a flat rate of $3.50 per month plus a usage fee based on $1 per 1,000 gallons of water measured in non-irrigation months (November through February.) Commercial customers paid the same usage fee but their flat rate was $4, and industrial customers’ flat rate was $4.10 per month. The ordinance the council approved on Wednesday increases the flat rate for residential customers from $3.50 to $5 a month and the usage fee from $1 to $1.50 per 1,000 gallons of water. Commercial customers will see an increase of $3 in their flat rate from $4 to $7, and industrial customers’ flat rate will increase just a little more than $3 from $4.10 to $7.20 per month. The usage fees will be the same for all customers, $1.50 per 1,0000 gallons of water. In 2010 the flat rate for residential customers will increase by 25 cents more per month and the cost per 1,000 gallons will increase by 50 cents per month; the flat rate for commercial customers will increase 30 cents per month; and the flat rate for industrial customers will increase 20 cents per month. Again, the usage fee will be the same for all customers in 2010, $2 per 1,000 gallons of water. In 2011 the flat rate will increase 5 cents per month for residential customers and 20 cents for commercial and industrial customers, and the cost per 1,000 gallons will increase by another 50 cents per month, to $2.50.”

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo West to file lawsuit over requirements to join Pueblo flow program

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (James Amos): “[Pueblo County] has told the Pueblo West Metropolitan District that it must participate in a program to provide recreation water in the Pueblo kayak course if it wants water from Colorado Springs’ Southern Delivery System pipeline. Under state law, Pueblo County can order some requirements on participants in the pipeline because the pipeline is planned to be built in the county. But the flow program comes from an agreement signed in 2004 by Pueblo, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fountain and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District – but not Pueblo West…

“At the board meeting Tuesday night, Pueblo West board members and staff members repeated their belief that the flow program could cost Pueblo West as much as a third of its yearly water. Tom Mullans, the metro district’s attorney, said he’s spent too long helping to create Pueblo West’s portfolio of water rights to watch part of it literally wash down the river.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Lee Simpson retires from Southeastern board

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Simpson stepped down from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday after 28 years of service and was recognized at a luncheon following the monthly meeting. ‘We wish you well in the future,’ President Bill Long told Simpson. ‘You’ve got a pretty good replacement, but he’s got pretty big shoes to fill.’ Simpson’s replacement as Pueblo County director is his son, David Simpson, who like his father before him is the manager of the St. Charles Mesa Water District. The elder Simpson has more than 50 years in water and helped found the St. Charles district, serving as its manager for 36 years. During the 1970s and 1980s, Simpson organized and taught classes for water and wastewater operators. He helped form the Colorado Rural Water Association, which provides training and assistance for water operators throughout the state. He was president of the group for eight years and served for eight years on the National Rural Water Association Board. Simpson also is a member of the Bessemer Ditch board.”

Lower Ark requests 2 year stay in lawsuit with Reclamation over Aurora long-term contract

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Here’s an update on the lawsuit filed by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District over Reclamation’s long-term storage contract with Aurora, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Lower Ark district, Aurora and Reclamation Wednesday jointly asked federal Judge Philip A. Brimmer for a two-year stay in Lower Ark’s lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation over contracts to Aurora. The stay is part of a March 18 agreement between the Lower Ark and Aurora which could settle the case if federal law is changed to allow Aurora to use the Fry-Ark Project to move water out of the valley.

Arkansas Valley Native, a group of four water rights owners, opposes the delay. Members of the group are Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings, former state lawmaker Bob Shoemaker of Canon City, former Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District President Wally Stealey and Wiley banker Frederick Esgar. They entered the case on the Lower Ark’s side, claiming that Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water cannot be used to move water out of the valley under the federal contract.

he Lower Ark-Aurora agreement includes a provision to try to change federal law to allow Aurora, and Aurora only, to move water out of the basin using Fry-Ark facilities. That would remove the central point of the lawsuit. Aurora has used annual excess-capacity contracts since 1986 to move water out of the valley through Lake Pueblo, Turquoise Lake and Twin Lakes, all Fry-Ark reservoirs. The Southeastern district questioned the contracts in 1986 and again in 2003, when it reached its own agreement to allow Aurora to use the Fry-Ark Project. The 2003 agreement binds the district to seek federal legislation to legalize Aurora’s contracts, which it tried to do in now-stalled Preferred Storage Options Plan legislation. The Southeastern board Thursday learned negotiations on the Aurora legislation will begin again in the near future among nine parties who broke off talks when the lawsuit was filed in late 2007. The Pueblo City Council Monday voted to affirm its support of the Aurora legislation.

Reclamation’s position in the 1986 and 2003 disputes over the contract was that it already has the authority to lease excess-capacity storage to Aurora and other users outside the Southeastern district’s boundaries. The district includes parts of nine counties, but not all of the area in the Arkansas Valley.

Aurora, Southeastern and Lower Ark representatives lobbied members of Congress recently on the proposed legislation. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colorado, said he opposes the legislation suggested in the Lower Ark-Aurora agreement. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, say they are open to discussion, but want to protect the Arkansas Valley’s interests. In 2007, Reclamation issued a 40-year contract to Aurora for both storage and exchange at Lake Pueblo. Aurora has an account for 10,000 acre-feet and its water would be the first to spill if project water used the entire capacity. Part of PSOP would study enlarging Lake Pueblo, which now can store 257,000 acre-feet of water, while reserving space for flood protection.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: No federal stimulus dough for project

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Authorization for the Arkansas Valley Conduit (supply water pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar) has been a moving target for decades and now funding is drying up before anyone starts turning dirt. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District learned Thursday that federal economic stimulus money for the project is unlikely and that a loan for the conduit has become a playing piece in efforts to balance the state budget. The Bureau of Reclamation had $1 billion in stimulus funds available, but chose to fund projects that are close to being finished rather than new projects, said Christine Arbogast, a lobbyist for the Southeastern district.

The district had requested $5 million to advance planning on the route and rights of way for the $300 million conduit from Pueblo Dam to Lamar. The conduit would provide fresh drinking water to about 50,000 people in 42 water districts, many of which are facing water issues such as salinity and radium or uranium in wells. The conduit was part of 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas legislation, but was never built because of the local expense. A bill signed into law last month by President Barack Obama authorizes the conduit to be built using excess-capacity lease revenues from the Fry-Ark Project to repay federal costs. The federal share is 65 percent under the legislation…

Meanwhile, the state House is considering using $35 million of a $60 million Colorado Water Conservation Board loan the district obtained to finance the local share. Executive Director Jim Broderick said using the loan, which is really funding capacity, has been discussed as one source of finding state funds to patch budget deficits for several weeks. The problem with tampering with it at this time is that this Legislature cannot make financial commitments for future bodies. As recently as last Friday, the entire $60 million appeared to be secure in the Senate’s budget, but only $25 million is in the most recent House budget. Broderick has been organizing pressure from several directions to attempt to secure the whole amount. The conduit has not used any money from the loan to date.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Beautiful snow (and rain)

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What a beautiful snow we had yesterday here in Denver and most of Colorado. Here’s a report from the Greeley Tribune: “The storm, which stretched across Colorado, brought more than an inch of rain to Greeley since Thursday night while pounding areas west of Interstate 25 with heavy accumulations of snow. At Buckhorn Mountain, roughly 10 miles west of Fort Collins, about 25 inches of snow fell while at Rist Canyon, roughly 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins, 3 feet of snow fell. Further south in Denver, 9 inches of snow fell, according to Fox 31 Meteorologist Chris Dunn. A tornado, however, was spotted northeast of Pueblo, according to Bill Eckrich, meteorologist at Day Weather.”

Residents of Clear Creek County probably don’t think it was a beautiful snow and would most likely tell me so to my face if they could get down the mountain. Here’s a report from the Summit Daily News:

The American Red Cross is in the process of setting up a warming shelter in Idaho Springs to accommodate the large number of stranded travelers. A ‘warming center’ is a place for people to get off the highway, use the restroom, get warmth and shelter, and acquire basic necessities like water and snacks. These centers do not have cots or full feeding capabilities. The County is still in the process of determining the location. We will pass that along as soon as we know it. Clear Creek County officials are setting up similar ‘warming centers’ in Georgetown. County officials have not yet determined the location. In the interim, Colorado National Guard will escort a caravan of Red Cross supplies and volunteers into Idaho Springs as Clear Creek declares a state of emergency. A state of emergency means that the County is requesting use of state assets such as the Guard and additional snow plows. Clear Creek Middle School is at capacity at over 200 people. An official head count will be taken at midnight.

More coverage from the Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham):

A spring storm brought rain, sleet, small hail, lightning and thunder to Pueblo and the region on Friday. A tornado was even spotted in El Paso County near Truckton, about 40 miles northeast of Pueblo, according to the National Weather Service…

Custer County Road and Bridge Foreman David Trujillo said the Wet Mountain Valley received between 10 and 12 inches of heavy, wet snow. The snow storms were accompanied by rumbles of thunder according to one weather spotter…

Crestone had received 16 inches of snow just before noon, according to a spotter for the National Weather Service. The Sangre’s foothills along the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley were also hit hard Sunday when just under two feet of snow fell on a corridor stretching from Crestone to just south of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The snowfall tapered off along the valley floor during the day, although a volunteer spotter near Monte Vista reported 4.8 inches of new snow and 0.42 inches of precipitation. Creede reported 4.9 inches of new snow and 0.33 inches of precipitation.

Biosolid use as fertilizer curtailed north of Longmont

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From the Longmont Times-Call (Brad Turner):

Because of fears about groundwater contamination, spreading sludge — or biosolids, as the industry calls the nutrient-rich material produced by sewage-treatment plants — won’t be an easy option for [farmer Issac Drieth], if it’s allowed to happen at all. “I got nothing against the stuff. It’s done wonders for me,” the 79-year-old said Monday afternoon, leaning against a pickup outside his farmhouse on the Jim Clark Open Space property north of Longmont. “But people around here raise hell.”

Data compiled recently by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show Drieth lives on a farm where groundwater may be too close to the surface for biosolids use, even though he had been allowed to use sludge as fertilizer from 1996 to 1999.

Drieth would have to pay a contractor to drill holes on his property that prove the water table is at least 5 feet deep — far enough down that nitrates from the sludge wouldn’t seep into the water, according to state health officials. High levels of nitrates in drinking water can cause oxygen deficiencies in young children.

In addition to shutting down biosolids use on part or all of three farms north of Longmont over concerns about the shallow water table in the area, CDPHE officials suspended biosolids use on four farms that hadn’t used sludge in recent years. The 97-acre farm where Drieth has lived for 30 years is one of the four inactive sites.

Reclamation scores $1 billion for infrastructure, Colorado-Big Thompson to get $14 million

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The stimulus dough from the American Recovery and Investment Act keeps flowing. Here’s a report from Kelly King writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that the Bureau of Reclamation will use $1 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to repair water infrastructure across the country, including a $14 million upgrade to water-delivery pipes at the Flatiron Hydroelectric Plant west of Loveland…

The Flatiron Hydroelectric Plant is stationed at Flatiron Reservoir, one of several facilities used by the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, or C-BT, to deliver water from the Colorado River on the Western Slope for use as supplemental water on the Eastern Plains…

Dubbed one of the larger infrastructure improvements in the overall national upgrade, the $14 million will be used to recoat 50-year-old linings on the interior and exterior of water-delivery pipes called penstocks. The dual water pipeline is one mile long and drops water down more than 1,000 feet from the Pinewood Reservoir to the Flatiron Power Plant, creating the most electricity in the C-BT system, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The C-BT Project was built from 1938 to 1957 and features equipment from 60 to 70 years old that spreads across 250 miles to store, regulate and divert water. The project also generates enough electricity to power 58,300 homes for one year, equal to 759 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The C-BT project provides supplemental water to 800,000 people in Northeastern Colorado.