A final decision on the fate of Nestlé Waters North America’s special land use permit and 1041 application is on hold after Chaffee County Commissioners continued a special meeting until 1 p.m. April 29 at the Salida Steam Plant. During the Tuesday meeting in Buena Vista, which lasted a little more than seven hours in a standing room only American Legion Hall, commissioners heard comments from more than 20 people. Many more people were prepared to comment before commissioners decided to continue the meeting. Tuesday’s meeting was the third time residents had the chance to weigh in on the issue, and county officials said they have received more than 160 written comments.
More coverage from Jennifer Denevan writing for The Mountain Mail:
Consultants for the county and Nestlé each explained their stances on the application after Reimer gave his report. Ken Kohm, Ph.D., and Paul K.M. Van der Heijde of Geomega, a Boulder-based environmental consultant company working for the county, gave feedback of their review of Nestlé’s proposed groundwater and wetland development plan. Kohm and Van der Hejide expressed concerns about the site. The individual wetland structure and function were not identified by Nestlé, they said. There isn’t a history of the hydrology, Kohm said, so it’s difficult to fully understand what the impacts might be if previous patterns are unknown. Both consultants said correct monitoring is needed to get better data and recommended a complete monitoring and mitigation plan.
Bruce Lauerman, Nestlé natural resource manager, said he felt the testing done by Nestlé was sufficient, but he did agree with the consultants about having a monitoring plan.
Jean Coley Townsend of Coley/Forrest Inc., explained her concerns about the proposed positive economic impacts. She said she felt Nestlé overestimated revenues the county would receive, suggesting the amount would be 61 percent less than estimated by Nestlé due to Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights constraints. Townsend also said there were miscalculations regarding how the project is beneficial in terms of diesel fuel purchased, adding that there isn’t a local sales tax on diesel,. Townsend also feels the costs to the county were underestimated and said the real question is “What is the net fiscal impact?” She suggested the creation of a mitigation fund from which the county could pull money to offset costs.
Peter Elzi of THK Associates said the estimated costs of the project are now about $8.2 million instead of $4 million, which translates into more money into the county. He said he didn’t understand where the 61 percent reduction due to TABOR was coming from, and Townsend did not provide the basis for that number. Elzi admitted there was an error in calculating the income from diesel fuel but pointed to the Highway User Fund, through which $0.205 per gallon is given back to the county. Elzi said if Townsend was willing to show how she came up with her numbers, he’d review his information to determine what errors might exist and work to reconcile the differences…
Terry Scanga of the water conservancy district arrived late to give a copy of the letter as evidence. He said the district has concerns about the permit because of how Nestlé plans to augment the water. Nestlé would get the water from the city of Aurora, who in turn has an agreement with the district to lease water in a drought year, he said. Aurora may currently have plenty of water to lease, but that “savings account” is being drained, which would mean greater demand on the Arkansas Basin in a drought year.
Here’s an update on the state’s efforts to plug the leaky conservation easement program, from the Associated Press (Steven K. Paulson) via the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:
Erin Toll, director of Colorado’s Division of Real Estate, told lawmakers Wednesday the program is the target of a grand jury investigation that involves millions of dollars in questionable tax breaks. State lawmakers want to suspend the program and use the money to restore a property tax break for seniors, but Toll warned that could jeopardize hundreds of landowners who have taken advantage of tax credits who were told the easements would continue forever. She said tax benefits continue for up to 20 years, and some property owners have already sold those tax credits. “There’s a rollover for people who took that credit,” she told legislators. Toll said a grand jury is looking into $24 million that may have been fraudulently claimed with the help of unscrupulous appraisers who overvalued the land. Toll said three appraisers have been suspended and two of them are believed to be in Mexico. “We discovered millions of dollars in suspect credits,” Toll told legislators…
Toll said state regulators were hamstrung because of state laws that kept tax records private. She said new laws passed over the past two years will help investigators unravel what happened. Lawmakers were outraged when they were told they may not be able to cancel the program because of contracts that have already been signed to sell the easements.
“I’m ready to make a decision,” said Councilman Vince Longcor, which echoed what most of the council was saying at a work session Wednesday night. Several Wiggins residents and some who own Wiggins property urged the council to make a decision on its own, because it had been elected to make that kind of decision, rather than hold an election. The council had decided in February to hold an election after years of debate on how to solve the problem of falling town water well levels. The town attorney had advised the council that they did not have to hold an election and suggested a survey instead. After reviewing the three options that would have been on the ballot, and hearing the support for making a decision themselves, the council members decided to have another special water meeting next Wednesday and vote on which option to use, they said.
Here’s a roundup of the Big Five Mine spill event into Clear Creek, from Ian Neligh writing for the Clear Creek Courant. From the article:
A statement from the city of Golden said the discharge would not have an impact on the city’s water and that its plant operators diverted water before the mine waste could reach the city treatment plant. Idaho Springs itself does not draw any of its own water from Clear Creek.
Chris Brownell, Idaho Springs water and wastewater superintendent, said the spill occurred on the west end of the city about 4 p.m. April 15 and ended several hours later. Brownell estimated that well over 100 gallons per minute were pumped into the stream. He added that his department had taken a sample of the contaminated water to be tested, but said it was likely to include high levels of mercury, iron, lead and arsenic. “It’s nasty stuff,” Brownell said. “And one of the things, as far as aquatic life, they call it ‘acid mine waste’ and at a pH of 2 or 3 — that’s extreme.”[…]
Ed Rapp, president of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, said spills typically occur when water builds up in the mine and in natural dams, which form and then burst. The mine sludge typically funnels into an underground pipeline, in this case down Colorado Boulevard and Riverside to the Argo treatment plant. However, if the water flow is too large for the pipelines, it “blows out of the tunnel” then discharges into the river…
Downstream water users, once notified of the discharge, shut off their water intake until the stream clears. Rapp said there are ways of cleaning the water, but because the Clean Water Act doesn’t have a “good samaritan clause,” most entities are dissuaded from any cleanup effort — afraid of being held liable. “Nobody is going to set themselves up to be subject to a third-party lawsuit,” Rapp said. “So until there is a good samaritan clause in the Clean Water Act, why, we’re just going to have to suffer to permit this to occur.” Rapp said in most cases such spills do not have a lot of permanent consequences to the stream. “The fish can survive these short bursts, generally speaking, and then things get back to normal,” Rapp said.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, funneled through the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, could ease the town’s burden to maintain water service to the town’s citizens by providing funds for a clear well, membrane filtration, a revamped Colorado River intake and a new storage tank with a dedicated line. In a recent letter to the town, Health Department said the town is still eligible for federal funding after having clarified preliminary engineering information at the state’s request. The town is now searching for ways to leverage the possible $2 million no-payback loan to find additional state revolving-loan funds for its water system, with projected improvement costs at $3 million, as well as secure interim financing to get started on the clear well. The clear well is the final piece of conformance to an enforcement order handed down by the state Water Quality Control Division last summer.
In 1998, the Lake County commissioners started the process of applying for a water augmentation plan, which was case number 173 in water court that year. This process was never completed, and since that time, the county has changed water attorneys and their direction for dealing with water in Lake County. Now, the county is revisiting the case to find the cost of completing it.
Here’s an update on the efforts at developing a source water protection plan for the Morgan County Quality Water District, from Jesse Chaney writing for the Fort Morgan Times. From the article:
For several of the district’s sources of water, the group simply expanded and clarified the protection boundaries established by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to project coordinator Colleen Williams of the Colorado Rural Water Association, some state delineations are not based on environmental factors in the particular areas. The delineations will be submitted to the health department once they are complete, she said. “We’re trying to take all the information that we know at this point in time and put it together to move forward,” she said.
Since the district primarily uses 10 wells scattered among three aquifers, Williams said the team will need to define separate protection areas for each well field used. The district spans from Weld to Washington counties, and from Adams County to an area north of Jackson Lake…
Quality Water District Manager Mark Kokes said the team should pay special attention to the five wells in the Krause well field, which is located in Weld County. “We’re talking about 40 percent of the district’s water supply right here,” he said. The state originally delineated the Krause well field protection area by simply mapping a radius around it, Williams said. “They didn’t really do any kind of study on the alluvium or the drainage area,” she said.
The planning team also modified the protection areas for the district’s Smart well field near Brush and its Weingardt well field near Wiggins…
After the delineations are complete, Williams said, the team will consider what is happening in each area to identify possible source water contaminants.
Right now, the lake level is 1,100 feet above sea level. By July, it is expected to drop to 1,090 feet, just 15 feet above the level the federal government would use to declare a water shortage…
“We’re in the ninth year of drought now, and things have been pretty grim on the Colorado River,” said J.C. Davis, of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. That’s why the Bureau of Reclamation is projecting the water level to drop another 14 feet this summer. Eighty percent of Lake Mead’s water is used for agriculture in California, Arizona and Mexico. Six percent is lost to evaporation, and six percent is consumed by tamarisk plants, while the entire Valley uses only 1.8 percent of the water — despite a growing population over the past seven years. “Our water use last year was 200 billion gallons less than it was in ’02,” Davis said…
The bureau projects water levels will start to rise slightly before the end of summer…The Southern Nevada Water Authority said even though the Rockies had a higher than average snowfall this year, the lake level is so low that it would take several years of heavier than normal snowfall to get back to normal.
[Monument] is concerned that in the not-so-distant future it will be too expensive to draw water from the aquifers, so it is looking for other sources of water, said town manager Cathy Green. On paper, the town appears to have enough water, she said. Monument is currently using 401 acre feet of water per year and has 990 acre feet available annually. Triview Metropolitan District is using 607 acre feet of water per year and has 2,903 acre feet available per year. “Our concern is: Will we be able to affordably get water out of our wells?” Green said. The question is being addressed in part by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, an organization made up of water purveyors including Monument.
The authority is discussing water alternatives, said Monument Mayor Byron Glenn. One of the alternatives would require water to be reused, which is a probable, but expensive solution. The town has huge expenses it will encounter in the future to purchase surface water and create the infrastructure needed to move the water, Green said.
Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith dismissed the petition, submitted in February by opposition group Transparency Advocates for Parker Water and Sanitation, after finding that the information could have swayed the opinions of those who signed it. The group launched a campaign to oust four of the five acting board members after the board unanimously approved increases in water fees and rates in December. The increase was later rescinded in favor of a formal water rate study.
According to the dismissal order issued by Arrowsmith April 23, the transparency group used outdated figures for salary increases that were originally listed in the district’s 2009 budget. It posted the numbers on its recall campaign Web site. A phone call to Merlin Klotz, who helped lead the recall effort, was not immediately returned…
Arrowsmith also accused the group of presenting insufficient evidence that three or more members of the board violated the state’s open meetings law by having a closed-door meeting without the public’s knowledge, as alleged in the petition. TAPWS collected more than 500 signatures supporting the recall, but the “substantially misleading” information might have caused some to sign under false pretenses, Arrowsmith said.
From the Lone Tree Voice: “Using accumulated capital improvement reserve funds, the Southgate Sanitation District has been aggressively pursuing a series of sewer improvements to deal with system capacity needs, pipeline deterioration and adverse hydraulic issues. Work is under way at the Furniture Row project element in the city of Lone Tree, north of Park Meadows Drive and west of South Yosemite. The old sewer was showing significant pipe deterioration. It is expected that the work will be completed in the latter part of April.”
Colorado Springs Utilities is replacing a massive pipeline–one of the biggest in the entire system–on the south end of Colorado Springs. The pipeline is roughly 66 inches in diameter, made of concrete, and carries as much as 10 million gallons of waste water each day. It was installed off 85-87 and Las Vegas in 1973 and Colorado Springs Utilities believes it is nearing the end of its life span… “Any amount [of waste water] that would escape from a pipe like this..could be catastrophic,” said [spokesperson Steve Berry]. Springs Utilities says nothing has leaked from the pipe yet. However, to be safe they are replacing roughly 3,000 feet of it at a cost of about $3 million.
The inspections, which were also given last year, will be between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week. Russ Pallone, park manager, said that all boats will be inspected at the boat ramp before launch and when coming off the lake. Colored seals will be attached to boats leaving the lake to simplify the inspection process upon return. “We are pretty much in line with the rest of the state as far as zebra mussel inspections. It’s a priority for us to try and stop the spread of zebra mussels into Trinidad Lake,” Pallone said.
In other invasive mussel news live critters were found on a boat that sought to launch on Lake Pueblo this week, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
“The boat was being brought in from Missouri and had been on the Mississippi River,” said Brad Henley, assistant ranger at Lake Pueblo State Park. The operator of the South Marina, where the owner plans to launch the craft, reported the boat to State Parks. The boat was being serviced at a Pueblo West boat shop, where inspectors found the mussels. It will be decontaminated with hot water at a State Parks boat wash near the lake…
Henley credited the state’s ongoing education program, initiated last year after zebra and quagga mussel larvae were found in Lake Pueblo, for the awareness of the need to control mussels.
Here’s an update on Pueblo West’s reasoning behind their lawsuit against being required to join the Pueblo flow program as a condition of connecting to Colorado Springs Utilities’ proposed Southern Delivery System, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Pueblo County, under its 1041 land-use regulations, is requiring all SDS participants – Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West – to participate in the flow program set up under 2004 intergovernmental agreements. Colorado Springs and Fountain already participate.
Pueblo West claims it would lose a minimum of $5.3 million in the value of its water if it participates in the flow program, according to a lawsuit filed in district court by attorneys Tom Mullans and Robert Krassa. The estimate is based on an annual average of 531 acre-feet, about 6 percent of the annual water supply for the metro district. The suit claims, among other things, that this amounts to a taking of private property. The suit also acknowledges that Pueblo West stands to gain $3 million to $7 million by its participation in SDS because it would be able to connect to the SDS pipeline for $1 million rather than build a river intake that could cost up to $8 million. “This cost savings is Pueblo West’s sole benefit from participation in SDS,” the lawsuit states. The metro district attorneys claim the condition of participation in the flow program was not brought up until late in the 1041 process, and that Pueblo West never committed to joining the flow program…
While the county cannot directly enforce the flow program, it can hold participants to a portion of the IGA that requires their support for actions that prevent others from exchanging water against forgone exchanges, [Ray Petros, special counsel for Pueblo County] said.
Pueblo West argues that its Wild Horse Dry Creek exchange occurs above the area covered in the city of Pueblo’s recreational in-channel diversion decree and that its exchange decree from Lake Meredith existed long before the Pueblo flow program. Additionally, Pueblo West signed over the authority to negotiate all permits to Colorado Springs Utilities in a 2007 agreement, Petros said.
More coverage from Mike Spence writing for the Pueblo West View:
The SDS is a 50-mile pipeline that would take water from the north side of Pueblo Dam and pump it north to serve Colorado Springs, Fountain, Widefield and Security. Pueblo West officials had hoped to get a “T” off the pipeline as it comes through Pueblo County. That access would increase Pueblo West’s daily water capacity from 12 million gallons to 30 million gallons, assuring the community adequate water when it reached build-out. It also would give Pueblo West a second access to its water in the reservoir. But the county requirement, made as part of its 1041 permit process, would force Pueblo West to give up a portion of that water. The Flow Manage Program is part of an intergovernmental agreement signed in 2004 by Pueblo, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fountain and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Pueblo West was not part of the IGA, nor the negotiations on flow management program – and was not a signee to the pact.
At issue is the amount of water Pueblo West would have to contribute to the Flow Management Program. Pueblo officials estimate Pueblo West’s contribution would be about 92 acre feet of water annually. Pueblo West disputes that, saying the loss could be anywhere from 1,400 to 3,200 acre feet of water annually. Colorado Springs Utilities asked MWH Engineering to model Pueblo West’s participation in the flow management program. MWH Engineering came back with an estimate of at least 649 acre feet on average would be lost under the most ideal conditions. “We think that estimate is conservative,” said Steve Harrison, Pueblo West’s director of utilities, noting that it was based on a flow rate of 100 cubic feet per second in the river’s upper gauge and did not include the loss of further re-use. Using a multiplier of 1.8 to factor in that re-usage, the amount of lost water is approximately 1,200 acre feet of water, according to Harrison. Yet, even using the Colorado Springs estimate, which is more than seven times greater than the estimate made by Pueblo officials, the cost to Pueblo West to replace the water would be millions. “Considering a conservative $11,000 per acre foot for water such as Bessemer Ditch, this would be equal to $7.139 million for replacement water,” according to a report Harrison gave to the board of directors…
If Pueblo West were to attempt to replace that water with shares from Twin Lakes, the cost would be much higher – more than double. The last time Pueblo West purchased water shares from Twin Lakes they cost $26,000 per acre foot. That cost would likely be higher now, if the shares were available at all.
Despite the lawsuit, Pueblo West officials said they still are open to a compromise. “We would be willing to be good partners and contribute some of our water to help the kayak course,” said Pueblo West metro board Chairman Stan Hren. “But not the amount the county is calling for.”
Hren said the amount of water Pueblo West is being asked to contribute to the Flow Management Program is disproportionate to the amount of water it is receiving. “What does Colorado Springs contribute to the Flow Management Program, 1,500 acre feet?” Hren asked. “Colorado Springs has 300,000 acre feet of water, that’s less than one half of one percent of their total water. If you used that percentage for Pueblo West, it would be about 50 acre feet of water a year.”[…]
[Steve] Harrison, director of utilities for Pueblo West, said the district takes water from a pipeline at the dam and releases it from a sewage treatment plant on the eastern edge of Pueblo West. The water then flows down Wild Horse Dry Creek to the Arkansas River, giving Pueblo West the right to take a similar amount again from Lake Pueblo. Pueblo West is allowed to reuse the water because it comes from Twin Lakes, which is non-native to the Arkansas basin. Now, though, the county wants some of Pueblo West’s water to flow from the dam through the city of Pueblo, which has not been done in the past…
…the bottom line is that Pueblo West would lose water, perhaps a significant amount of water to the Flow Management Program. Mullans said it would be expensive to replace that lost water, and later may not be possible at all. There are far more water users in the Arkansas Valley that there is water, he said. “It was not easy to build up this portfolio of water rights,” he said. “And we need more.”
One Pueblo West resident wondered why Pueblo West doesn’t walk away from the SDS project and built a reservoir access of its own. The cost of building a pump station would be about $8 million, compared to the cost of $1 million for the “T” off the SDS pipeline, plus about $250,000 as part of Pueblo West’s share of the SDS project. Another reason, Mullans pointed out, was that even if Pueblo West withdrew from the SDS and sought to build its own pump station from the reservoir, the county would again step in with its 1041 permit process and demand that Pueblo West participate in the flow management program. The county’s 1041 process applies to all water or wastewater pipes 12 inches in diameter or bigger.
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain:
Pueblo County is not in a position to allow Pueblo West an exemption from the Pueblo County flow management program, its water attorney said Wednesday. The reason is not that the county has any power to enforce the flow program, but because the conditions of past intergovernmental agreements require that all participants in Southern Delivery System adhere to the program, said Ray Petros, special counsel for the county…
“The county permitting process is a way of promoting universal application of the flow program. It would be unconscionable for one member not to participate,” Petros said. The March 2004 IGA among Pueblo, the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs has a provision that requires all parties to prevent others from exchanging against flows that are a result of curtailment of exchanges. “The 2004 agreement says that if the forgone flows are exchanged upon, then it’s King’s X for everyone,” Petros explained. The same provisions are referenced in the May 2004 IGA that brought Aurora, Fountain and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District into the flow program.
A provision of legislation for the Preferred Storage Options Plan, which included Pueblo West, and the Upper Arkansas and Lower Arkansas Valley Water conservancy districts until negotiations were suspended in late 2007, required year-round target flows of 100 cubic feet per second for the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam. Aurora and the Lower Ark, along with most of the other PSOP partners, are supporting similar federal legislation.
Finally, Pueblo West agreed, in its 2007 IGA with Colorado Springs for SDS to support Colorado Springs Utilities as its bargaining agent for all permits required to build SDS.
In addition, Colorado Springs listed the Pueblo flow program as one of the benefits for Pueblo County in information that was distributed at meetings it sponsored in advance of Pueblo County 1041 hearings – including two in Pueblo West. “Pueblo West should have known of the contractual agreements that had been made,” Petros said. “Pueblo West does not have a case against Pueblo County. The remedy would be is not to go forward with SDS.”
Pueblo West stands to lose much more if it pulls out of SDS, Petros said. The largest loss would be a 10,000 acre-foot storage contract with the Bureau of Reclamation in Pueblo Reservoir, which is part of the SDS package, if the pipeline for the project comes from Pueblo Dam.
Here’s a recap of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ scoping session for the Regional Watershed Supply Project held on Wednesday night in Pueblo, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
About 30 people attended. What makes the project different is that no specific end users, other than Lake Hattie Reservoir in southern Wyoming, have been identified. There were questions raised at a Denver meeting earlier in the week about whether the project satisfied Colorado water law that prohibits speculative ventures. Brand explained that the Corps expects the project to change over the next five years while it is being evaluated and that end users would have to surface before it could be permitted.
Concerns expressed Wednesday focused on how water from the project would reach the Arkansas River, what the water quality impacts would be, how it could affect Fountain Creek and how the project would fit in with the Southern Delivery System and Colorado Springs water supply. “Personally, I’m concerned about the dry-up of agriculture in our state and the environmental impacts of more diversions from areas like Grand County,” Million told the group in explaining why he wants to develop the project. “This project will bring in a fresh, reliable supply of good water and alleviate the pressure on the high mountain range watersheds.”[…]
Some questioned whether agriculture could afford the water, but Million said he intends to price water at market value for both municipal and agricultural use, while providing some for environmental purposes as well…
Water would be stored in Lake Hattie, 69,000 acre-feet; a new reservoir northeast of Fort Collins, called Cactus Hill Reservoir, 185,000 acre-feet; and a new reservoir on Upper Williams Creek, 25,000 acre-feet. The Upper Williams Creek site is the same one chosen for terminal storage in the Southern Delivery System, a pipeline proposed by Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs Utilities staffer Keith Riley attended Wednesday’s meeting and spoke briefly with Million about the possibility of enlarging the size of the Upper Williams Creek reservoir to accommodate both projects. No decisions were made, however. The Corps must also approve Colorado Springs’ reservoir site. The site is on property now owned by Bob Norris.
Another storage possibility was suggested by Gary Barber, of the El Paso County Water Authority and Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. He suggested groundwater recharge reservoirs in designated groundwater basins like Upper Black Squirrel Creek. There are several others located in the South Platte River basin. The state is studying how they could be used to store water. The underground storage opportunities all lie fairly close to the pipeline’s proposed route and could even be used to bank water for Wyoming until it’s needed in that state, Barber said.
Meanwhile, the Uinta County (Wyoming) commissioners are considering opposition to the Regional Watershed Supply Project, according to a report from the Uinta County Herald. From the article:
“Ecologically this is going to affect us a lot,” [chairman Mick Powers] said. Powers said he attended a meeting at Green River High School on April 14 where officials outlined a plan to pipe water from Flaming Gorge and Green River for use in Colorado, more than 500 miles away. “This will have a huge impact. There is nothing to gain for anyone in this part of the country. It’s bad for all of us,” Powers added…
Powers said Tuesday that he believes the county needs to go on record and oppose the pipeline as strongly as possible.
He said he would draft a letter for the other commissioners to approve to be sent to the Corp of Engineers.
John Singletary, 64, turned in his resignation last week. “The main reason is that the board is moving in a direction that I cannot comfortably support,” Singletary said Thursday. The district will advertise for a replacement, who will be appointed by Pueblo District Judge Dennis Maes.
Singletary, who helped circulate the petitions to form the district in 2002, said he was torn by the decision. He praised the current board members and staff of the district and said the Lower Ark has accomplished many good things while he served on the board. But the board’s approval in March of a settlement agreement with Aurora in the 2007 court case against the Bureau of Reclamation for issuing a 40-year contract for storage and exchange was premature, in Singletary’s estimation.