Arkansas headwaters: Community Clean ‘n Cruise

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From the Salida Citizen:

Be a part of “Community Clean ‘n Cruise” on Saturday, May 16. Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) and GARNA are again teaming up for the 18th annual Arkansas River Clean Up Green Up. Join fellow volunteers to beautify a section of the river and then enjoy a picnic with music by the Groove Farmers in Riverside Park in Salida. Pre-register through AHRA by calling 539-7289 or drop by the office at Sackett and G Streets. Or register on Saturday morning between 8:30-9:30 AM at AHRA. Picnic and music from 12-3 PM. Plan on staying in town for the Salida Police Bike Rodeo, a free bike safety event for children 12 and under, 2-4 PM at the F Street Bridge. Later, the Cruiser Crit, the entertaining FIBArk fundraiser will take place with a 4:30ish PM race start downtown and after party at Moonlight Pizza. For more information about Clean Up Green Up, please call GARNA at 539-5106.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners hearing continued to April 29

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From the Chaffee County website. “The Board of Commissioners continued the April 21st hearing to April 29, 2009, to be held at the Salida Steam Plant, 220 W Sackett starting at 1:00 p.m. This hearing will be for public comment only beginning at 1:00 p.m. A break will be taken from 5:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.”

Thanks to the Salida Citizen for the link.

The Salida Citizen is also running a piece from Linda Erickson with recommendations from representatives of the Sierra Club. From the post:

Suggestions from Steve Glazer and the Sierra Club:

– postpone any decision until a new hydrology study has been completed;
– that report should contain an inventory of all wetlands that could be impacted by the pumping or pipeline construction, a monitoring plan to reveal any changes impacting the wetlands, and most importantly–a mitigation plan to remediate identified impacts;
– set up a strategy to deal with potential injury to any other water users (that would be better than having to go to water court to address that potential injury);
– and require financial surety to pay for any impacts from the development and operation of the project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Precipitation news

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Amy Bounds):

Rain and snow storms have drenched Boulder with 5.86 inches of water in April, making it the wettest month in a decade. Adding in a late-March snowstorm, the city is up to about 7.5 inches of precipitation in the last five weeks, said Matt Kelsch, a meteorologist with Boulder’s University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The last month that brought more showers was April 1999, which recorded 7.55 inches of moisture, Kelsch said.

Grand Lake: Trustees pass ordinance to protect surface water

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

In Grand Lake, those who apply tree pesticides and phosphorous fertilizers are now required by law to spray 30 feet back from any water source, according to a new law passed on Monday that closes possible loopholes in chemical labels. The law, which saw little resistance among community members during its passage, levies fines of $100 to $300 per illegally sprayed tree. The law aims to prevent chemical spray drift from entering water sources such as rivers, streams and the lake in an effort to protect the town’s wellhead and drinking supply as well as to protect fish food sources.

San Luis Valley: First groundwater sub-district plan review gets extension from Judge Kuenhold

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Judge O. John Kuenhold has given the people working on the rules for the Valley’s first groundwater management sub-district another week to come up with a solution for protecting senior rights holders and other items specified in his ruling earlier this year. Here’s a report from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

The modified plan went out to objectors on Friday afternoon. The attorneys said they had not had time between Friday afternoon and Monday afternoon’s status conference to review the changes in the plan, so Judge Kuenhold gave them another week, until Monday, May 4. In the meantime he asked the parties to discuss among themselves whether they could agree or disagree on the changes to the plan. Kuenhold has scheduled an August trial in the event the parties do not agree. Attorney Ingrid Barrier who has been working with the sub-district board to modify its plan told the judge she sent out draft changes on Friday including copies of appendixes addressing annual replacements, the well data base and sub-district efforts to document how it will calculate credits. She encouraged other attorneys to contact her with any questions or concerns. She added that the sub-district board is on a short time schedule to get its plan adopted and finalized by the June deadline set by the court. “We are galloping toward that,” she said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Pueblo: City acquires parcels from Burlington Northern for flood control

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

At its regular meeting, council approved an ordinance giving the city 14 small parcels of railroad property running along the railroad right-of-way that extends from 24th Street south to the low-lying neighborhood near the train yard at Midtown. Peppersauce Bottoms has been drenched in storm floods in past summers, but city officials are planning to build several detention ponds to halt flooding. Dennis Maroney, director of the city’s stormwater utility, said the land negotiations had taken nearly two years, but the city will take possession of the land at no cost. Once the paperwork on the land acquisition is completed, the city will begin an environmental review of the sites, to make certain no unanticipated problems exist. What the city intends is to build detention ponds on the former railroad land at 24th Street, 22nd Street, 18th Street and then an infiltration pond closer to the neighborhood. Maroney said all of that work would be completed for the $800,000 that council has been budgeting for the work since 2007.

Southeastern Colorado erosion control projects score some stimulus dough

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From the Pueblo Chieftain:

our watershed projects aimed at erosion control or habitat in Southeastern Colorado are part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package. The projects total more than $1.1 million and were announced Monday by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The money will go toward more than 50 projects in four areas covering about 288,000 acres in Pueblo, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Las Animas counties. Work is sponsored in partnerships between the Natural Resources Conservation Service and landowners. The projects will reduce erosion and sediment deposits into Lake Trinidad and the Arkansas River. Some have been in the planning process for a decade, but never started because of funding, said Allen Green, state conservationist.

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

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Here’s a look at last week’s ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court which upheld a water court decision that water produced from coalbed methane wells is a beneficial use of the water and therefore subject to regulation by the state, from Randy Woock writing for the Trinidad Times-Independent. From the article:

The Supreme Court’s decision cited the Water Right Determination and Administration Act of 1969, which defined beneficial use as “…the use of that amount of water that is reasonable and appropriate under reasonably efficient practices to accomplish without waste the purpose for which the appropriation is lawfully made.” The court’s decision stated that, “Under the language of the Act, the (CBM) process “uses” water – by extracting it from the ground and storing it in tanks – to “accomplish” a particular “purpose” – the release of methane gas. Consequently, the extraction of water to facilitate (CBM) production is a “beneficial use” as defined in the Act and a “well” as defined in the Colorado Ground Water Management Act. ” The produced water from the CBM process had previously been considered a waste by-product, but the court’s decision rejected such a classification. “We reject the argument that water used in (CBM) production is merely a nuisance rather than a ‘beneficial use.'” the decision stated. “On the contrary, the use of water in (CBM) production is an integral part of the process itself. The presence and subsequent controlled extraction of the water makes the capture of methane gas possible.”[…]

Pioneer Natural Resources, the largest operator of CBM wells in Las Animas County, issued a response Thursday to The Times regarding the Supreme Court’s decision in the Vance case. “Pioneer has been following the case for some time and is presently evaluating the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Tom Sheffield, Vice President of Pioneer’s Rockies Assets Team, stated. “We appreciate the foresight of Representative (Kathleen) Curry, Senator (Jim) Isgar and the (SEO) for introducing a measure providing adequate time for a coordinated roll out of activities required by the new ruling while protecting existing tributary water rights in the state. That legislation, House Bill 1303, will be key to all Las Animas County water owners when it is passed and signed into law.”

According to Curry, House sponsor of HB 09-1303, the bill would provide breathing space for the large number of operators whose wells were just rendered out of compliance by the court’s decision. The bill would extend the amount of time available to operators to bring their wells into compliance with the permitting process as required by the court’s decision from 60 days to 270. “If I hadn’t run (HB 09-1303)…the Vance case affirms that about 5,000 gas wells would have been shut down, so we ran that bill to make sure there was a permitting process in place for (CBM) wells,” Curry said. “If we hadn’t run the bill, the Vance case, based on the ruling…all of those wells would have been out of compliance; we were guessing the the Supreme Court would rule that produced water is a beneficial use.”

Curry described the primary goal of the bill as setting up a regulatory process to “ensure that preexisting water users aren’t injured,” while also creating a process to brings all the CBM wells into the SEO’s regulatory framework. “It implements the decision, so I think we did a preemptive strike, knowing that the decision could put us in a position where they (the SEO) could have to review well permits for 5,000 wells in a 60 day period, and that’s just not practical,” she said. “They only do 1,000-2,000 well permits a year, and there would have been a 60 day period where all the operators on those (CBM) wells would have had to come into the (SEO) to get a permit. At least this way now we’ve got a way where the state can handle the workload and the operators can come into compliance.” HB 09-1303 also provides a requirement for augmentation for wells that might be depleting senior domestic water rights or existing domestic wells, and gives the state engineer the right to set additional guidelines for determining tributary versus non-tributary waters, along with the right to take the necessary steps to bring an operation into compliance should the operator have failed to have done so within the 270 day period. The bill stated that it was the legislature’s general intent to “clarify the circumstances under which permits are required when non-tributary ground water is removed in conjunction with the mining of minerals.” Non-tributary water is defined by HB 09-1303 as possessing several characteristics, such as being “withdrawn from a well that is completed in a confined sedimentary bedrock formation,” in addition to, “the well is not completed…in the Raton Basin and the well is located more than (12) miles from any point of contact between the aquifer and any natural stream, including its alluvium.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Northeastern Colorado precipitation back above normal (mostly)

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From the Denver Post (Tom McGhee):

Heavy spring storms have soaked the Front Range and the Eastern Plains, experts said. “Overall, we have a lot of farmers looking a lot more optimistic then they were 60 days ago,” said Chuck Hanagan, county executive director for the Otero Crowley County Farm Service Agency in southeastern Colorado…

Moisture totals are at 2.89 inches at Denver International Airport so far this month, compared with the 1.93 inches that is normal for April, said Wendy Ryan, research associate at the Colorado Climate Center. The snowpack measures 98 percent of normal statewide, said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “We were looking at below-average runoffs back on April 1 because of the dry March,” he said. “The other parts of the state have benefitted as much as the Eastern Plains and the Front Range. The only exception is the southwestern corner of the state.”[…]

Both the South Platte and Colorado River basins are above 100 percent of normal, a plus for Denver, which draws its water supply from them, said Greg Fisher, manager of demand planning for Denver Water…The city’s reservoirs are about 86 percent full, compared with the long- term median of 77 percent, he added.

May 14 hearing set for suspension of Lower Ark lawsuit against Reclamation

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The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District sued the Bureau of Reclamation a while back over Reclamation’s long-term storage contract with Aurora. The contract allows Aurora to store water in Lake Pueblo — a facility of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The Lower Ark claimed that the project did not authorize use of facilities to move water out of basin. Aurora was allowed to join the lawsuit along with Reclamation. Earlier this year Aurora and the Lower Ark reached an agreement that led to the Lower Ark asking for a time out in the lawsuit with Reclamation. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer set the hearing at the request of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Aurora and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation…

Aurora and the district last month agreed to delay court action on the lawsuit for two years while they try to get Congress to change the law to allow Aurora to use the project to move water out of the valley. In the agreement, Aurora also agreed to pay $2 million for Lower Ark district projects like the Super Ditch and Fountain Creek, to participate in the Super Ditch program, to support legislation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and to allow the Lower Ark district to buy its way into future Aurora reservoirs or projects in the valley. The district board approved the settlement with little public discussion, saying the success of the Super Ditch and conduit outweighed the damage to the valley from the export of water.

Arkansas Valley Native LLC., landowners in the valley, earlier intervened in the lawsuit in support of the district’s original opposition to the contract. Their attorney said earlier this month the group opposes putting the case on hold. “We need to settle the question of whether it’s legal to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the valley,” said attorney Sarah Klahn. Partners in the landowners group are former Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District President Wally Stealey, former state Rep. Bob Shoemaker of Canon City, Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings and Wiley banker Frederick Esgar.

The judge, in setting the hearing, suspended soon-approaching deadlines for submission of written arguments on the merits of the lawsuit. If Brimmer agrees to issue a stay putting the case on hold for two years, he would not need the arguments as soon as previously scheduled.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.