Pueblo Board of Water Works and St. Charles Mesa Water District amend agreement

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The latest proposal would allow Bessemer shareholders to sell water to users outside Pueblo County, but would restrict leases of water obtained by the Pueblo and St. Charles water boards…

Pueblo and St. Charles Mesa have agreed to first use water within their service areas in Pueblo County, unless service areas expand beyond county lines. Any water not needed would be leased to remaining shareholders on the Bessemer Ditch. If no leases within the ditch or county are possible, Pueblo and St. Charles Mesa could lease the water anywhere in the Arkansas Valley, but not outside the valley. Other shareholders on the ditch would not be restricted in selling water to anyone outside the county or the valley. In the first draft of proposed changes, use was limited to Pueblo County. The requested change came from the Bessemer Ditch board, Hamel said. “(The amended agreement) commits us to lease back our shares,” said Executive Director Alan Hamel. “This reflects the board’s commitment to agriculture and the economy of Pueblo County.” The board also makes commitments in the St. Charles Mesa agreement that safeguard other shareholders on the ditch, Hamel added…

Bessemer Ditch shareholders will have a special meeting at 6 p.m. May 11 at the Pueblo Convention Center to consider changes in the bylaws and articles of incorporation. The changes made in the proposed bylaws satisfy some of the objections raised by shareholders over an earlier version of by-law changes, but there is still organization opposition to any change in bylaws. Some claimed restricting future sales to Pueblo County would lower the value of Bessemer shares and create a monopoly for the Pueblo and St. Charles Mesa water boards. “We still don’t want to change the bylaws,” said Leonard DiTomaso, who was elected to the Bessemer Ditch board in January along with Mike Klun on promises to oppose sales of water outside the ditch boundaries and support farming on the ditch. “That means forever and ever. What’s this land without water? We really don’t want to concede any points.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Pat Alderton will not serve second term on Upper Ark board

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From The Mountain Mail (Ron Sering): “‘Their public service philosophy doesn’t go along with mine,’ Alderton said. Alderton served a single four-year term on the board. She is also town administrator for Poncha Springs.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage

Moab: First trainload of uranium tailings moved

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From the Associated Press via the Grand Junction Free Press:

The first trainload departed on Monday. Don Metzler, project director for DOE, says the system is expected to be fully operational after a ribbon-cutting ceremony early next month. After May 4, a train with 88 containers full of the sludge will depart in the evenings Monday through Thursday. This summer, train shipments are planned to increase to seven days a week.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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

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Here’s a look at the recent decision by the Colorado Supreme Court upholding the water court ruling that dewatering used in production of coalbed methane puts the groundwater to beneficial use and therefore is subject to prior appropriation, from Joe Hanel writing for the Durango Herald. From the article:

The ruling means that all 4,600 coal-bed methane wells across the state have two months to get a water well permit from the state Division of Water Resources. However, both sides in the case are backing a bill in the Legislature that would avert the chaos the ruling could cause. House Bill 1303 calls for a timeout on the need for water permits until March 31, 2010…

The opinion, written by Justice Allison Eid, appears to affect only coal-bed methane wells, [Sarah Klahn, attorney for the plaintiffs] said. But it could open the door for challenges to other types of wells…

Even if only coal-bed methane wells were affected, the applications could swamp the state engineer’s office. In anticipation of the ruling, lawmakers introduced HB 1303. The sponsors are Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, and Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus. Isgar and State Engineer Dick Wolfe met Monday afternoon to see if the bill needs to be changed in the wake of the court ruling. But most people think the bill will work, Isgar said. “Right now, it looks like the bill’s in good shape, and it is needed because of this Supreme Court decision,” Isgar said. HB 1303 passed the House 60-0 on April 7…

Five justices joined the majority opinion. Justice Alex Martinez did not participate, and Justice Nathan Coats dissented. Coats agreed with one part of the majority’s opinion – that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission does not have exclusive jurisdiction over all gas and oil activities in the state.

More coverage from the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The decision will have implications for the Arkansas Valley, since coalbed methane wells are operating in Las Animas and Huerfano counties…

Depending on location, water from gas-drilling operations can vary in quality. But in areas where it helps feed surface streams, it must now be treated as a “beneficial use” and part of the overall water supply, according to the ruling. Coalbed methane drilling extracts natural gas by draining coal seams, producing large amounts of water while releasing the gas. The ranchers claimed the energy wells were a threat to their own agricultural wells, which have senior water rights, because of the decline in groundwater pressure. Typically, the water taken from the coal seams in the San Juan basin was reinjected to greater depths…

The court opinion, written by Justice Allison Eid, rejected all of the state’s arguments. “The use of water in coalbed methane production is an integral part of the process itself,” Eid wrote. “The presence and subsequent controlled extraction of the water makes the capture of methane gas possible.” Justice Nathan Coats concurred, but said it is not necessary to apply the standard of “beneficial use” to the coalbed methane process in order to give the state engineer authority to regulate the gas wells.

The state was anticipating that it would lose the Supreme Court case and has been working with legislators to draft new legislation that allows the state engineer to regulate water produced by oil and gas wells, Wolfe said Monday. The bill, HB1303, has passed the House and is awaiting Senate action. HB1303 meets the issues raised in the lawsuit, said attorney Sarah Klahn, who represented the ranchers in the case. “It gives everyone a year to get their act together,” Klahn said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Glenwood Springs: Water and wastewater rates go up

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Gardner):

Customers can expect a 10 percent increase on their monthly water bill, while their wastewater bill will increase 20 percent. The increases will take effect in May. The rate increases are the fourth in as many years designed to create revenue to pay for capital improvement projects like the relocation of the city’s new wastewater treatment plant, as proposed by the 2006 Water and Wastewater Cost of Service Analysis and Rate Study.

Standley Lake/Clear Creek Source Water Protection Planning group stakeholder meeting

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From YourHub

The Standley Lake/Clear Creek Source Water Protection Planning group is having its second stakeholder meeting on behalf of the Standley Lake cities and the broader Clear Creek Watershed. It will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 28, at the Clear Creek High School cafeteria, 185 Beaver Brook Canyon Road, in Evergreen. The group is developing the Clear Creek Watershed Source Water Protection Plan, which aims to identify sources of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water and ways to limit these pollutants from entering Clear Creek.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Don’t go in the water

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From the Colorado Connection (Danielle Leigh):

Fountain Creek is a source of drinking water for Colorado Springs, and so a group of sixth graders from Manitou Middle School have been studying its water ecology all year. Fountain Creek may look pretty but what these students found inside the water is not. “We found pollutants like lawn fertilizer, auto fluids and basically stuff you spray on your lawn to make the bugs go away, which kills the bugs but also kills life in the creek and possibly you if you drink it,” said William Dillinder…

This research is part of a region wide education program put on by the Catamount Institute. These students are planning a clean up Wednesday, April 29, at 3:30 around Fountain Creek in Soda Springs Park.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Corps of Engineers scoping sessions

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Here’s a recap of last week’s Corps of Engineers scoping session for the Regional Watershed Supply Project, from by Mary Bernard writing for the Vernal Express:

Public speakers offered a decidedly negative response to the proposal. Apparently, the measured reaction of the local speakers was a sharp contrast to the previous evening’s scoping meeting in Green River, Wyoming. “There, I felt like Dr. Frankenstein before the hostile villagers,” said Aaron Million, the Colorado-based developer. “Not here.”[…]

Worse still, in a drought of unknown length how can the region be asked to provide a firm yield of 250,000 acre-feet? As one Daggett County resident noted “even the Bureau of Reclamation’s statistics state that only 13 years out of 40 years of flow have produced 250,000 acre-feet.”

Amplifying his comments, Ed Peterson spoke on behalf of the Uintah County commission stating their opposition to the proposed project. “The project amounts to a raid on the Basin’s water,” said Peterson. If a 500-mile pipeline from Flaming Gorge can be built to deliver water to the Front Range then why not take it from the Mississippi or Missouri Basins 500 miles to the east?”[…]

Several residents noted that Colorado’s actions would foreclose on water development on the Western Slope. “Residents of the Yampa and White river basins would not be able to develop their water,” said a Colorado resident, noting the complete absence of meetings planned for these areas. None of the alternatives for project development include developing water conservation efforts for the Colorado Front Range in light of their shortfall.

Several Daggett County speakers pointed to their economic dependence on the recreation industry on the reservoir and the river below the dam. “The impact of low flows on the fisheries economy will be devastating,” says Jeff Taniguchi, Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council member. It was noted that fluctuations in water levels would affect the quality of flows and also spawning fish…

Not to mention river rafting trips on the lower Green, which Ted Hatch, of Hatch River Expeditions said “would become history.”

More coverage of the Denver scoping session from the Denver Post.

Here’s a recap of Monday’s scoping session in Fort Collins, from Fort Collins Now (Rebecca Boyle):

Many residents who offered opinions said they were concerned the Green River is already too dewatered. Duane Keown, a retired professor at the University of Wyoming, has fished the Green River for 30 years, and in the past five years, he’s seen one of his state’s largest campgrounds stay empty because of drought. “The Green River, truthfully, folks, does not have any extra water,” he said. “If you look at the prognostications over the next 35 years, there are more droughts on the way.”

Others said they wanted the Army Corps to examine other water storage proposals, including the proposed Glade Reservoir project, or even pipelines that would bring water from the frequently flooded Midwest back toward the Rockies. Still others said they wouldn’t support a project that would allow for more growth in arid Colorado…

He said a new water source would diversify the Front Range’s water portfolio, and would help prevent drying up of agricultural land, not to mention draining local rivers to meet municipal water needs. He even sported a savethepoudre.org sticker, hoping to convince Glade opponents that drawing water from the Western Slope would negate the need to drain the Poudre River. “This may be the key to alleviating some of the issues that they see,” he said.

But Gary Wockner, a spokesman for the Save the Poudre Coalition, hinted that Poudre people in Fort Collins would stand with their compatriots in Wyoming. “I’m very happy that you support the Save the Poudre Coalition, and thank you for wearing the sticker tonight,” he said, “but the idea that we would take water out of the Green River and potentially put in the Poudre is sort of a rob Peter to pay Paul scenario, and I don’t think that makes a lot of environmental sense.”[…]

Wockner asked the Corps to consider adding the Million project to its list of potential alternatives to NISP and other water storage projects like the Windy Gap Firming Project; proposed expansions to Halligan and Seaman reservoirs; and others. Million said that would be up to the Corps, but he hoped the Glade opponents would support his project as a more environmentally friendly alternative. “What we have found, to date, is that we have a surplus water supply that can be used to mitigate other impacts on the region,” he said. “We think this is by far the least environmentally damaging alternative out there.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Aurora and the Lower Ark send prototype legislation to Colorado congressional legislation

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District sent their idea of what legislation should look like to U.S. senators and representatives last week, and provided copies to partners in ongoing talks about the Preferred Storage Options Plan…

The legislation would provide authorization for Aurora and water users who are inside the Arkansas Valley, but outside the boundaries of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, to obtain excess-capacity contracts in Lake Pueblo and other Fry-Ark facilities. It would also authorize a feasibility study of enlarging Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake, the key features of the original [Preferred Storage Option Plan] legislation.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Mesa Verde National Park scores $11.5 million in stimulus dough for water supply

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From the Longmont Times Call:

The water system in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado will get an $11.5 million makeover as part of $750 million in federal economic stimulus funds for the National Park Service. National parks in Colorado will receive a total of $20.4 million, including $2.7 million for Rocky Mountain National Park and $2.5 million for Great Sand Dunes National Park. The money will help pay for work on trails; restoration of historic buildings; replacement of a boardwalk; sewer lines; heating systems in employee housing; and resurfacing of some roads in Rocky Mountain National Park.

More coverage of the $20 million for Colorado national parks from the Denver Business Journal.

Tremors in Paradox Basin likely caused by deep well injection of water

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said the movements are to be expected when brine that is taken from the river is blasted through a well into a deep layer of rock. The activity on Saturday and Sunday struck an odd note, officials said, because the bureau’s Paradox Valley Unit has been shut down, as it is twice a year. Paradox Valley is so named because it runs east-west against the southerly run of the Dolores River. The valley was formed by the collapse of a salt dome. The tiny temblors of 2.7 and 2.8, respectively, on the Richter scale “fell within our normal area of seismic activity” near the well, so officials believe they were part of the project, said Brad Dodd, chief of the facility maintenance group of the bureau’s western Colorado office in Durango.

Summitville superfund site scores stimulus dough

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From the Conejos County Citizen:

United States Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and Congressman John Salazar have announced that the Summitville Mine Superfund site in Del Norte will receive between $10 and $25 million in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate hazardous waste clean-up already underway at the site. The funding will complete work begun in 2007, when the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment started designing a new 1,600 gallons-per-minute water treatment plant, with construction slated to begin in 2010. The plant will remove contaminants from acidic metals-contaminated mine drainage before the water leaves the site and enters the headwaters of the Alamosa River, which flows into the Rio Grande. When the plant is operational, all cleanup work at the Summitville Mine site will be complete.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Sterling: Exploring options for compliance with CDPHE order

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Here’s a recap of the Sterling city council’s discussion of compliance with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s order for the town’s water supply, from Forrest Hershberger writing for the Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

Wednesday night, the Sterling city council held a special meeting to hear an update on the city’s water system. The research is being done by Arber and Associates, water, wastewater and reuse engineers. “There are a number of water quality violations the city is dealing with,” Richard Arber said.

The water quality issues are broken down into two categories: primary and secondary. The primary issues are contaminants: uranium, trihalomethanes and nitrates for example. The secondary issues address water hardness and sulfates. According to Arber’s study, the hardness standard is 100 to 200 milligrams per liter and Sterling’s typical range is 208 to 494 milligrams per liter…

Costs of upgrading the city’s water system were estimated Wednesday at between $17 million and $29 million. Earlier discussions among council members indicated residents might eventually be able to trade the cost of a home water purification system for what the city is required to provide. Wednesday night, the city council was addressed by a few residents and business owners regarding the possible price structure…

According to estimates provided by Arber and Associates, the upgraded water system will cost Sterling residents at least $65 per month. The costs would be based on what system is chosen by the city and the associated cost. The RO system would cost about $65 per tap; coagulation and filtration about $87 per month and lime softening $80 per month. The costs do not include existing pumping, distribution and water acquisition costs, according to Arber…

Rick Arber of Arber and Associates said the goal is to bring water quality to below health department’s maximum standards. “We have no choice,” Arber said. “By 2011, we have got to have a treatment plant online.” Arber cautioned that the effort of achieving acceptable drinking water will not get any easier. “Our industry has already picked the low hanging fruit,” he said. “so what’s happened is we’re having to pick lower and lower quality water.”[…]

The city will be meeting with the state health department next week regarding progress on the water system.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Denver: Mayor Hickenlooper appoints Paula Herzmark to Denver Water Board of Water Commissioners

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From the Cherry Creek News:

Mayor John Hickenlooper has appointed Paula Herzmark to the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. Herzmark is the executive director of the Denver Health Foundation, a position she has held since July 2004. She previously worked as the chief executive officer of the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, where she managed all activities, programs and operations. “Paula Herzmark is an outstanding leader who has a proven track record of serving the community,” said Mayor Hickenlooper. “She will bring vast administrative and executive experience to the Board of Water Commissioners.”

More coveage from the Denver Business Journal.

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County commissioners approve Colorado Springs Utilities permit application

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It’s been a long time coming but the Pueblo County commissioners approved CSU’s permit application for their proposed Southern Delivery System on Tuesday, according to a report from R. Scott Rappold writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Pueblo County commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to issue a 1041 land-use permit for the Southern Delivery System, a $1.1 billion pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir…

The Pueblo vote marked the end of hearings on the permit that spanned five months. While Utilities needs numerous other local, state and federal approvals, Pueblo County’s was considered the most crucial, considering the history of contention between the two communities on water issues…

“You’ve got a convert here, somebody who, four or five years ago, had a lot of skepticism about where we were going,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner. To address the county’s concerns, Utilities has agreed to spend $50 million on improvement projects along the waterway by funding the new Fountain Creek Watershed District; spending $75 million to upgrade its own wastewater or water-reuse systems; and dredging the creek at the Pueblo levees at a cost of $2 million…

Last week, the Colorado Springs City Council voted 8-1 to endorse Pueblo County’s conditions for approval, and on Tuesday, Utilities officials praised the Pueblo County process. It’s the first time Utilities has received a 1041 permit. “Your process has been fair. You’ve worked hard to ensure you’ve protected the interests of your community, and you’ve done it in an open process,” Bruce McCormick, Utilities’ chief water-services officer, told commissioners. The permit gives Utilities three years to begin construction…

While there are several other permits and approvals needed, none will involve such a high level of review, said John Fredell, Utilities’ project manager.

More coverage from Peter Roper writing for the Pueblo Chieftain:

After the formalities of reviewing and adopting the agreement, the commissioners and officials from Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works gathered for a photograph to commemorate the agreement. Not participating in the photo were officials from the Pueblo West Metropolitan District, which has filed a lawsuit in Pueblo District Court over portions of the agreement that require a guaranteed flow in the Arkansas River…

Ray Petros, special counsel to the county, noted that guaranteeing a flow in the Arkansas River had been part of the SDS discussions since 2003. He said the flow program has been part of public hearings and community meetings that Colorado Springs Utilities conducted on behalf of all the SDS partners, including Pueblo West. Petros told the commissioners that if one of the partners, such as Pueblo West, is allowed to opt out of the guaranteed flow program, it would void that requirement for all the partners. Commissioner Jeff Chostner said that guaranteeing the Arkansas River always has a flow through Pueblo has been an important goal of the project negotiations.

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