Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioner’s hearing recap

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Here’s a recap of last week’s Chaffee County Commissioner’s hearing on Nestlé Waters proposal to move water out of basin. From the post:

In what appeared to be a move aimed at countering last week’s testimony by Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga, Nestle brought Colorado water law heavyweight Steve Sims to town.

Sims served as senior water counsel under former Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar. Named one of the state’s 2009 Super Lawyers, late last year Sims was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. Sims and Nestle lead counsel Holly Strablizky, both of whom hail from Denver-based Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck. Last summer, an article in the New York Times named the firm “one of the most powerful legal firms in the West.”

Sims took direct aim at Scanga’s testimony that alleges that because of a prior existing intergovernmental agreement between UAWCD, Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District and Aurora, Nestlé’s proposed water lease with Aurora could have a “deleterious effect” on water in the Upper Arkansas River Basin, particularly in the event of a severe Stage III drought. State water law requires Nestle to replace the spring water it hopes to harvest in Nathrop with a court-approved augmentation plan.

To that end, in late March, Aurora City Council approved leasing Nestle 200-acre-feet of water annually for approximately $200,000 per year. The lease has a renewal option for an additional 10 years, at Aurora’s discretion. Aurora also reserves the right to interrupt its supply to Nestle in the event of a severe Stage III drought. In such a scenario, Nestle would be obliged to stop pumping unless it has an additional augmentation source that is not subject to the same drought restrictions.

Sims said that while he appreciates Scanga for “always looking out for the Upper Ark,” he also said it was “very very doubtful” that the Nestle-Aurora lease would change any legal dynamic on the river. Sims said the 200-acre-feet per year Nestle-Aurora lease is a fraction of Aurora’s 52.000-acre-foot portfolio on the Upper Arkansas Basin. Translating what the Nestle-Aurora water lease means in terms of the standard unit of river flow, Sims said it’s “unlikely a half cfs (cubic feet per second) per day would change anything.”

Commenting on the worst case drought scenario Scanga painted for the county, Sims said “it’s just not going to happen,” especially in light of Aurora’s Prairie Waters project which Sims said will double or triple Aurora’s water portfolio, buffering it against enacting the type of Stage III drought triggers that Scanga warned the county about. Sims is also Aurora’s legal counsel for the $800 million Prairie Waters project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — Oil and gas: Leases pulled near Dolores River

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From the Telluride Daily Planet:

About 400 acres of high desert land will be removed from an upcoming oil and gas lease sale due to its proximity to the Dolores River. Stretches of the Dolores, which pours through the Big Gypsum Valley and has worn grooves through the red rock of the southwest, are up for wild and scenic river corridor designation, potentially affording the river lofty environmental protections. Part of the roughly 1,200 acres in San Miguel County in the Bureau of Land Management’s mineral rights auction on May 14 inched toward the Dolores, prompting a review from county officials. The BLM has deferred about 400 acres near the river.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Boulder ditch history

Many Colorado cities grew outward from the early irrigation ditch systems. Boulder is no different. Here’s a report from Mike Ellis writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

True, ditches are like my grandfather’s shovel — the handle’s been replaced seven times and the blade four times — but they’re still 150 years old. The ditches may have been re-dug and repaired many times, but they are the same ditches. The first shovel was turned on the oldest, Smith-Goss ditch, in 1859, the same year the city of Boulder was founded. Today, Smith-Goss still runs through Naropa University and waters the fields at Boulder High…

Local government has generally agreed that irrigation ditches are an asset to the community. The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, a joint agreement between the city and county of Boulder, calls for preserving historical ditches, protecting ditches from adjacent development, and supporting the neighborhood-building aspect of ditches…

“The Ditch Project – 150 Years of Ditches: Boulder’s Constructed Landscape” will be featured at the Boulder Public Library, the Dairy Center, and Central Park through July 8, with presentations, films, story telling, sculpture, tours, and more. The opening reception is May 15, and an all-day Ditch Symposium will be held May 16. All exhibits and events are free and open to the public. For information see

Invasive mussels: North Sterling, Jumbo and Prewitt reservoirs

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Judy Debus):

The North Sterling does not have any sign of the species at this time according Dara Garretson, Park Manager II at North Sterling State Park. And in order to keep it that way, there will be inspection stations set up at the Elks and the South Boat Ramp at the reservoir. There will be two types of inspections, a basic inspection and a high-risk inspection. The basic will be done on those boats that are smaller and dry. A high-risk inspection will be conducted on boats that are from out of state; have been in infected waters; have standing water; or are the bigger boats with crevices, ballasts, hidden areas or other areas that might be susceptible to carrying the aquatic nuisances to the area. If a boat is found to have any reason to suspect contamination, the boat will be sent through a decontamination process before being allowed to use the reservoir.

Quagga mussels were found in the Jumbo Reservoir last November. The Department of Wildlife will conduct boat inspections there and at the Prewitt Reservoir. A new discovery of the species was also found in Pueblo Reservoir last week.

Large instream flows help control didymo

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It looks like streamflow helps control didymo algae. Here’s a report from the University of Colorado. From the article:

[University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Diane McKnight of the civil, environmental and architectural engineering department] and her colleagues, working with the Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research Site and Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory projects — both funded by the National Science Foundation — have discovered higher flow rates in Boulder Creek appear to cause a decrease in the amount of didymo clinging to the rocks. “When there is a high enough flow, there is some potential destabilization and the rocks move in the stream bed,” said McKnight, also a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “That’s enough to knock it back.” The findings suggest that controlled flow releases from reservoirs during the summer could be used to limit the impact of this nuisance species in streams in the Colorado Front Range. Flows below Barker Reservoir near Nederland that are above 200 cubic feet per second — similar to those experienced last year once the reservoir started to spill in late June — appear to be sufficient to control the didymo…

“We don’t know if it was the drought that caused the explosion of didymo or if it was the man-made changes in the nature of the flow of water after the drought,” said McKnight. “But this didymo growth is something that’s really changing the stream ecosystems.” McKnight said the findings show there may be a way to slow the didymo before it gets out of hand as it has halfway around the world in New Zealand. “In New Zealand it’s an extreme problem,” said McKnight. “It has taken over many of their streams and rivers.” Didymo is an invasive organism in New Zealand and was likely spread by visiting fishermen traveling from stream to stream. The cells of the algae can live for long periods of time without dying, clinging to the bottom of felt-soled waders worn by people while fishing. “You have to freeze the waders for two days or soak them in bleach to kill the cells,” said McKnight. In New Zealand it is illegal to move from one stream to another without cleaning one’s waders. No such regulations exist in the United States.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Summit County moving to step up regulation of cyanide heap-leaching

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Last year the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the industry challenge to Summit County’s ban on the use of cyanide heap-leaching. The Summit County Commissioners are now looking to tighten regulation of the process while removing the ban from the books. Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

As argued before the Colorado Supreme Court, the case centered on the limits of local authority over mining. Summit County claimed local governments have the right to block activities that could potentially threaten local water quality and fisheries. The Colorado Mining Association argued that state laws adequately address environmental concerns. Allowing counties establish local bans on certain types of mining would result in patchwork of regulation that could hamper the economically significant activity in the state.

Now, the county will strike the ban from its regulations, per the court ruling, but will look at other ways to maintain local control. “The commissioners asked us to look at this and make some changes to our codes,” said county planning director Jim Curnutte.

One area planners will explore are stricter performance standards for mining. Such standards would require mining companies to beef up the plans for emergency operations, including the clean-up of any potential spill, Curnutte explained. The changes would make it easier for local planning boards to review proposed projects and to issue stringent conditional use permits…

Curnutte said the county would also look at applying its so-called 1041 powers to review and regulate mining operations. Local 1041 powers stem from a 1974 state law enabling local governments to “designate certain geographic areas and specified activities as matters of state interest.” Those powers have sometimes been used to exert authority over projects like pipelines. According to Curnutte, Summit County may look at designating specific mining or mineral zones that would subsequently be subject to local 1041 permitting authority.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Invasive mussels: Stagecoach reservoir and Steamboat Lake

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Margaret Hair):

Certified inspectors will be on hand at Steamboat Lake boat ramps during weekends this summer, as well as at the Dutch Hill marina boat ramp during the week. The inspections are scheduled to start by Memorial Day weekend but could begin any time after the marina’s May 15 opening date, Schuler said.

Boat checks at Stagecoach will begin at 8 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting as early as this Friday, said Kathleen Fischer, senior park ranger at Stagecoach. Both parks are considered low-risk and are mussel-free…

Park rangers are stressing the need to show up at ramps with a clean, dry boat, Fischer said. Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach will allow boaters to enter the water if no inspectors are present. Anyone who wants a boat inspection at Stagecoach outside of scheduled hours can contact the park office, Fischer said.