Energy policy — oil and gas: Representative DeGette takes aim at fracing methods to protect groundwater

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

DeGette, a Denver Democrat who unsuccessfully championed the cause on Capitol Hill last year, is poised to reintroduce legislation that would remove an exemption for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act that was granted in the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

“As this is an important issue for Congresswoman DeGette, she is expecting to introduce the bill soon,” DeGette spokesman Kristofer Eisenla said. “We are currently just finalizing language and talking to the chairman about the direction of the legislation,” he said, referring to U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who control’s the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee’s gavel. “While we are planning to introduce it, no decisions have been made yet on how it will move,” Eisenla said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Yampa River: Restoration projects

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The Yampa River is a restoration success story, according to this report from Kent Ventrees writing for Steamboat Magazine. From the article:

There’s a lot more to this aquatic amenity than meets the eye. Beneath the surface is a slew of carefully orchestrated river restoration projects that have turned the river into the world-class waterway it is today.

Stepping knee deep into the Yampa from his riverside store, Backdoor Sports owner Peter Van de Carr points upstream at hundreds of well-placed boulders lining the streambed. “Most every rock you see has been placed there intentionally,” he says. “These are what create such great fish habitat and recreational opportunities here.” The same rocks that create waves for rafters, canoeists, kayakers and inner-tubers create prime trout territory as well. “All these efforts have created a sustainable, year-round trout population that offers something for every type of angler,” says Tim Kirkpatrick, co-owner of Steamboat Flyfisher, which recently moved to a riverside location in The Olympian. “Enhancing their habitat has created a reason for them to stay in the area.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Gunnison River: New flow regime in Black Canyon takes effect

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

[May 12], a combination of Morrow Point Releases and high side-inflows caused Crystal Reservoir to spill and flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge to reach over 7,000 cfs by this morning. Flows at Delta are currently in the 12,000 cfs range. The May 1st forecast for the April through July runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir is 690,000 ac-ft. consequently, the Black Canyon Water Right calls for a 24 hr peak flow of almost 6,000 cfs (5,864 cfs according to the decree). This flow was achieved starting at about 16:45 May 12th. To insure a 24 hour peak is obtained and to make efficient use of water, Reclamation will start to slowly ramp down releases today. As a result, the spill at Crystal will start to subside and probably be complete by Sunday May 17th. A more detailed schedule is being developed and additional information will be distributed as it becomes available.

More coverage from the Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

“This is the beginning of repairing and healing the park’s ecosystem,” said Michael Dale, a Park Service hydrologist. Before the federal Bureau of Reclamation began gradually building up the flow last week, the Gunnison River was flowing at about 1,000 cubic feet a second. This morning, the flow was at about 7,500 cubic feet a second. The stronger flow — which is trying to mimic natural spring runoff — will remove sediment and algae, help breakdown riffle pools and whisk away vegetation encroaching on the river bank, Dale said. “One year’s high flow won’t do it all, but now we can hope for a spring flow most years,” Dale said…

“This has been one of the longest, most complex water-right battles in Colorado,” said Drew Peternell, an attorney for the sportsmen’s group Trout Unlimited. To win that right, the concerns of hydropower agencies, ranchers and farmers, and downstream towns fearful of flooding had to be addressed…

The decree filed in January with the Colorado water court guarantees irrigation water, hydropower water and a spring flow to the park based on the size of the snowpack each each year. “No one got everything they wanted, but no one is out of business,” said the Park Service’s Dale.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Glenwood Springs: U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials May 30-31

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From the Vail Daily:

The U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team trials will take place in Glenwood Springs on May 30-31. The action runs from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. The top kayakers in the nation will compete at Glenwood Springs’ highly acclaimed $1,000,000 Whitewater Park on the Colorado River at the Midland Avenue Bridge. Spectators are urged to come out and watch the exciting whitewater action and cheer on the athletes.

About 100 competitors will show their skills at the event, competing for a spot on the team that will represent the United States at the World Freestyle Championship to be held in Thun, Switzerland in August 2009. Kayakers willing to show off their skills, but not competing for a spot on the U.S. team are also welcome.

In freestyle kayaking, the goal is to throw as many different moves as possible in a 60-second time frame. The higher the degree of difficulty, the better. Judges award points based on difficulty, variety, and amplitude. The more moves performed, the more points a competitor can accumulate. Tricks will be performed on a standing wave, known as the G-Wave, and flows the last weekend of May are anticipated to be 15,000 to 18,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) with the spring run-off. Some moves may also be performed in a “hole” on the river, depending on what the water flow is on event day. Many freestyle kayaking moves can launch athletes and their kayaks inverted and up to four feet in the air.

Utah’s Senator Bennet spearheading efforts to block Salazar’s number two at Interior

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From Politico (Glenn Thrush):

Senate Republican are poised to shoot down the nomination of David Hayes, the man President Obama has picked to run the day-to-day operations of the Interior Department, according to Democratic aides. The GOP plans to vote as a bloc on Wednesday, keeping the Democrats just shy of the 60 votes needed to close debate on the nomination of Ken Salazar’s chosen number two at Interior.

Opposition to the nomination is being spearheaded by Utah Republican Robert Bennet, who is trying to pressure the administration to reconsider the cancellation of oil and gas leases in his home state.

Roaring Fork Watershed: State of the River

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Here’s a recap of the Colorado River District’s “State of the River” conference Tuesday dealing with the Roaring Fork Watershed, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Water is our greatest liquid asset,” said Dave Kanzer, an engineer with the Colorado River District, which is hosting meetings of watersheds along the Colorado River. “Our future is not controlled by the oil and gas as we feared last year. . . . Our economic assets are nothing without a reliable supply of water.” Through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and Twin Lakes Co., the Arkansas River basin brings over nearly 100,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Roaring Fork. While water managers on the eastern side of the Continental Divide fret about the ability of the Boustead Tunnel – which takes water from the Fryingpan River drainage into Turquoise Lake – to bring over trainloads of water every year, the Roaring Fork bemoans the loss of every drop. “The water that goes through the Boustead Tunnel is 100 percent consumptive,” Kanzer said. “That’s one drop we’ll never see again. . . . There is less water for use in the (Roaring Fork) basin.”[…]

The Roaring Fork is feeling pressure from other directions as well, Kanzer said in describing a new report that combines more than 50 studies of water quantity, quality and use in the basin. There are the diversions from the Roaring Fork mainly for use in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Aurora and agriculture. But the Roaring Fork also supplies a large chunk of water for meeting Colorado’s obligations under the 1922 Colorado River Compact, water for endangered fish on a stretch of river closer to Grand Junction and for its own growing needs. Kanzer acknowledged there have been benefits from the Fry-Ark Project as well. The major storage in the Roaring Fork basin, [Ruedi] Reservoir, was a part of the project, and in flood years the water taken off the river reduces flooding for towns like Basalt. But the Western Slope gets concerned when Arkansas River water managers start talking about enlarging Lake Pueblo, the largest reservoir in the Fry-Ark Project, he added.

The residents of Pitkin County were so alarmed, in fact, that they passed a 0.1 percent sales tax last year to protect water, said County Manager John Ely. He said the new fund was popular with voters because of the past success of county land-preservation and trail initiatives that have grown to be one of the largest parts of the county budget. Commissioner Rachel Richards said the county is in the process of appointing a seven-member panel to figure out how to best spend the $700,000-$1 million the tax is expected to raise each year…

“We have to change the mindset we have in Colorado that water left in the river is a waste,” said Ken Neubecker, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

Arkansas River Basin: Proponents claim that Aurora long-term contract with Reclamation benefits everyone in the basin

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkeiwicz):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Aurora made that argument Tuesday in a new filing in U.S. District Court in Denver. The argument is meant to persuade Judge Philip Brimmer to put on hold for two years a lawsuit that seeks to block the plan. The judge will hear arguments Thursday on a joint request of the district and Aurora to stay the case…

Arkansas Valley Native LLC, a group of four landowners who own water rights in the valley, has asked Brimmer to nullify the contract. The group contends the contract violates federal laws governing the Fry-Ark project and contends implementation of the contract would dry up large amounts of farmland east of Pueblo. Aurora and the district told the judge in Tuesday’s filing the landowners group seeks “to defeat a settlement that benefits virtually everyone in the Arkansas River basin . . . with the alleged exception of their four members and their limited water rights.” Partners in the landowners group are former Southeastern Water Conservancy District President Wally Stealey, former state Rep. Bob Shoemaker of Canon City, Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings and Wiley banker Frederick Esgar. They oppose putting the case on hold, claiming they will be injured by implementation of the contract. Some other, but not all, proponents of protecting valley water for use in the basin also oppose the contract, but are not litigants in the case to nullify the contract.

The landowners’ group told Brimmer last week the settlement allows the contract to be in effect during the two-year stay and allows the exporting of more water from the Fry-Ark service area than is currently exported. “That will reduce the water supply for water users in the Arkansas Valley . . . and result in injury to vested rights,” including those of the Native group, the four landowners also told the judge in last week’s filing…

The city and district told Brimmer on Tuesday that even if he does not put the case on hold and ultimately decides the contract is null and void, Aurora and the district “will both have an incentive to seek legislation.” They said the district’s incentive will be to seek funding for Arkansas Valley Conduit, which was authorized by the Fry-Ark Act in 1962, but never built, to provide drinking water to municipalities from Pueblo to the Colorado-Kansas stateline. Aurora and the district, told Brimmer the city’s incentive to seek legislation will be “to secure its water supplies.”

Reclamation, in a separate new filing asking the judge to grant the stay, asserts that it “is not illegal, does not attempt to change existing law and is not barred by any existing case law related to approvals of settlement. “Contrary to Arkansas Native’s unsupported assertions . . . the contract is neither against public interests nor on its face” violates either Congress’ Fry-Ark authorizing legislation of the 1960s or the Water Supply Act of 1958, Reclamation contends.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Bessemer Ditch shareholders amend bylaws, greasing the gears for sales to Pueblo Board of Water Works (and others)

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Here’s an article describing the mood at Monday’s Bessemer Ditch shareholders meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

In the end, arguments in favor of future sales prevailed over the strong sentiment to preserve a rich agricultural history in Pueblo County. The final vote was, exactly, 12,047.592 shares in favor of selling to 6,471.554 against.

The meeting was tightly run, with former Judge Joe Ulibarri wielding a stern gavel and an outside accounting firm counting the votes. Ulibarri at one point shut down a speaker who had begun railing against sellers. A dozen people spoke, staying within the two-minute limits strictly enforced by Ulibarri. Some offered rebuttals, but there was little verbal animosity of the type that has occasionally flared on the mesa lately.

In order to close voting, accountants and lawyers had to offer assurances that the signed shares which were voted Monday would remain sealed and confidential unless there were a court order to do otherwise. Bessemer board members, some of whom are selling and some who opposed the rules to make the sale easier, were publicly silent. The board as a whole took no position for or against the change.

A policeman was standing watch…

Some facts about the pending sale of the Bessemer Ditch.

– The Pueblo Board of Water Works is buying about 5,000 of the 20,000 shares on the Bessemer Ditch at a price of $10,150 per share. It expects to spend more than $60 million to complete engineering, legal and revegetation work.

– The board has an agreement with the St. Charles Mesa Water District to use the shares it buys first in Bessemer Ditch, then in Pueblo County, as long as it can find users for the water.

– Many of the contracts have agreements to lease water back to farmers for 20 years. The water board does not expect to need the water until about 30 years from now.

– The changes in bylaws do not prohibit sales to others, anywhere in the state. Bessemer takes its water directly from Pueblo Dam, making it difficult for any out-of-basin user to benefit from the water. Aurora, the only out-of-basin user in the Arkansas Valley, cannot buy new shares under a 2003 agreement, but can buy water on a temporary basis through a lease. El Paso County users could use the Southern Delivery System – if it is built from Pueblo Dam – to move water, with proper permit approval, but no arrangements to do that now exist.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.