Grand Canyon: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered to review biological opinion of Glen Canyon dam’s effects on humpback chub

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NAZ Today:

U.S. District Judge David Campbell said in a ruling Tuesday that the 2008 opinion is a sharp departure from the federal agency’s long-standing opinion that fluctuating flows at the Glen Canyon Dam likely would jeopardize the fish. Campbell said the 2008 opinion never explains why the agency changed its position and doesn’t address the effects of modified river flows on the chub or its habitat using best science. In court documents, the agency said that although previous opinions predicted the chub would suffer under modified river flows, the population has stabilized and increased in the past few years. It’s up from 4,000 in 2000 to 7,650 at the end of last year, but still down from historical numbers, the U.S. Geological Survey said last month. Conservation efforts have allowed the population to increase, despite modified flows, Fish and Wildlife said. Campbell said the logic was insufficient and ordered the agency to revise its 2008 opinion by Oct. 30…

Environmentalists sued in 2007, alleging that the dam is being mismanaged by the federal government, threatening the humpback chub for the benefit of power production. Nikolai Lash, water program manager for the Grand Canyon Trust, hailed the Tuesday’s ruling and said science has consistently shown that current dam operations erode sandbars and beaches that humpback chub need to survive, reduce food production and decrease water temperatures. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have tried to dance around those issues, he said. “This judge has caught them in a lie, and is requiring that Fish and Wildlife come up with a reason why current dam operations should continue when they are damaging habitat illegally,” he said. Campbell didn’t agree with all the environmentalists’ claims. He rejected arguments that the Bureau of Reclamation’s assessment of an experimental plan increasing river flows for a short period of time violated federal law and that too few alternatives were considered. Campbell also rejected claims that the experimental plan violates the Grand Canyon Protection Act.

CO2 releases outpace assumptions used in 2007 IPCC report

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CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rising faster than predictions and the burning of coal in developing nations is a major contributor, according to a report by Kari Lydersen in the Washington Post. From the article:

“We are basically looking now at a future climate that’s beyond anything we’ve considered seriously in climate model simulations,” Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Field, a member of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said emissions from burning fossil fuels since 2000 have largely outpaced the estimates used in the U.N. panel’s 2007 reports. The higher emissions are largely the result of the increased burning of coal in developing countries, he said.

Unexpectedly large amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere as the result of “feedback loops” that are speeding up natural processes. Prominent among these, evidence indicates, is a cycle in which higher temperatures are beginning to melt the arctic permafrost, which could release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, said several scientists on a panel at the meeting. The permafrost holds 1 trillion tons of carbon, and as much as 10 percent of that could be released this century, Field said. Along with carbon dioxide melting permafrost releases methane, which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. “It’s a vicious cycle of feedback where warming causes the release of carbon from permafrost, which causes more warming, which causes more release from permafrost,” Field said…

Evidence is also accumulating that terrestrial and marine ecosystems cannot remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as earlier estimates suggested, Field said. In the oceans, warmer weather is driving stronger winds that are exposing deeper layers of water, which are already saturated with carbon and not as able to absorb as much from the atmosphere. The carbon is making the oceans more acidic, which also reduces their ability to absorb carbon. On land, rising carbon dioxide levels had been expected to boost plant growth and result in greater sequestration of carbon dioxide. As plants undergo photosynthesis to draw energy from the sun, carbon is drawn out of the atmosphere and trapped in the plant matter. But especially in northern latitudes, this effect may be offset significantly by the fact that vegetation-covered land absorbs much more of the sun’s heat than snow-covered terrain, said scientists on the panel.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Supplemental EIS

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Here’s an update on the supplemental environmental impact statement for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, from Cherry Sokoloski writing for the North Forty News. From the article:

A supplemental DEIS means more opportunity for public input. Carl Brouwer of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency coordinating NISP, said the new public comment period would likely come in the spring of 2010.

The supplemental document will also add to costs for NISP participants. According to Brouwer, the additional review could cost participants between $500,000 and $1 million. The process so far has cost about $6 million, he said. However, Brouwer noted, the 15 project participants have “become more galvanized as a group” in the past few months. They are getting more involved in the direction of the project, he said.

Also in February, Northern Water announced the results of its own study regarding environmental effects of NISP. The study, conducted by engineering firm Black & Veatch, concluded that water quality and treatment issues raised by Fort Collins and the EPA are not significant and can be easily addressed.

In other NISP news, Fort Collins officials have approached Northern Water about sitting down to discuss the project. “It’s the first indication we have received since early last year that they would like to open up a dialogue,” said Brouwer. “We view it as a positive development. We might be able to talk about mitigations, especially flows through Fort Collins.”

Brouwer said that “if everything fell apart” with NISP’s preferred alternative, which includes Glade Reservoir, Northern Water would look at the alternative using Cactus Hill Reservoir. That option would not require a permit from the Army Corps. However, he said, the NISP participants are still pushing for Glade.

The big disadvantage with Cactus Hill, located in Weld County, is that Horsetooth Reservoir could not be used as a conveyance facility for NISP water. Pipelines would have to be built instead, Brouwer said.

U.S. Supreme Court holds Kansas to district court fee structure in Kansas v. Colorado

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From the Pueblo Chieftain: “With the rejection of Kansas’ exception, the court unanimously approved the final judgment and decree of the 24-year lawsuit between the two states. However, the court will retain jurisdiction on some technical issues. The court limited expert witness fees to $40 per day, as set by Congress, meaning Colorado will not have to pay additional money to Kansas for costs incurred during the case…

“The court’s opinion was summed up during the Dec. 1 arguments by Justice Stephen Breyer, who told Six at one point: “Congress has a statute, and the statute is: We don’t care if the witness is Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg or the local zookeeper. . . . We don’t care if they did a lot of work or a little work. We want them to be paid $40 a day, period. . . . That’s the law.'”

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Grand Valley Irrigation gets dough to line portions of Highline and Mainline canals

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Tracy Dvorak): “As part of program to reduce salinity added to the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation awarded a $3 million grant to Grand Valley Irrigation to conrete-line portions of its Mainline and Highline canal, not to be confused with the Government Highline Canal. In this first of the three-year project, almost a mile of canal in the area between F 1/2 and F roads and between 26 to 26 1/2 roads is being lined. Next year, the canal running south of Mantey Heights to 28 1/4 Road will get its upgrade.”


The process begins with workers adding drainage pipes, shaping the ditch and compacting the sides and bottom, said GVIC Superintendent Phil Bertrand. Next, a type of fabric is laid over the dirt followed by a PVC liner, and then another layer of fabric. A crew from Mays Concrete has been hired to spray a 3 1/2 to 4-inch layer “shotcrete,” after which “blankets” are put over the shotcrete to keep it warm and protect if from freezing during the initial concrete curing process. The drainage pipes added at the onset are to drain out and divert the naturally flowing subsurface groundwater from “lifting” the lining out of the ditch, Bertrand said…

GVIC services approximately 3,200 water users from Loma to Palisade irrigating 35,000 to 40,000 acres of land. Established in 1882, the company is a nonprofit governed by its users and a nine-member board.

Colorado State University’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere: $64.4 million from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration

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From the

Chosen through an open, competitive process, CIRA will continue to investigate satellite applications to improve regional and global-scale weather forecasts, water resource forecasts and provide integrated weather information to meet future aviation and surface transportation needs. The new cooperative agreement begins July 1 and continues through June 30, 2014. CIRA is directed by University Distinguished Professor Graeme Stephens. Steven Miller serves as deputy director.

Thornton: Thornton Cares water bill subsidies

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From the

The City of Thornton will be giving away $400,000 in free money to help with the cost of water bills. It’s all part of the newly-established “Thornton Cares” initiative.

Qualifying families will receive a one-time $225 credit to their water bill, or there is an option to spread the credit out over 12 months.

“We think thousands of people will qualify,” said Thornton mayor Erik Hansen. “It’s a way for us to say, you know, if you need a little bit of extra help, we’re going to be there for you.”

In order to qualify for assistance, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident of Colorado and a Thornton water customer. Your household income must be 185 percent of federal poverty or less, which breaks down to about $1,600 a month for a single resident or $3,200 a month for a family of four.

Hansen believes thousands of Thornton residents will qualify for the year-long project. You can apply for assistance starting June 1 by calling the Utility Billing department at 303-538-7370 to get a referral for the Water Assistance Program. ??Once you’ve received the referral, you can apply in person at Community of Faith United, located inside the First Southern Baptist Church of Northglenn at 10620 Washington Street. Applications will be accepted Monday through Thursday between from 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Call 303-452-2727 for directions and questions.

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Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Scoping session in Rock Springs June 9

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled another scoping session in Rock Springs, Wyoming for the Regional Watershed Supply Project. Here’s a report from Jeff Gearino writing for the Casper Star-Tribune. From the article:

Southwest Wyoming residents will get another chance to voice their concerns — or support — for Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million’s controversial project to divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range around Denver, federal officials said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday a second meeting for Sweetwater County residents next month on Million’s proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project. Army Corps project manager Rena Brand said the agency will host the second public scoping meeting on the transbasin diversion project June 9 in Rock Springs…

A hostile crowd of around 300 people greeted Million and Army Corps officials at the first public scoping meeting April 14 in Green River. The handful of area residents who were allowed to speak at the meeting overwhelmingly opposed the unique, privately funded water diversion project. Residents said diverting much-needed water from the reservoir could hurt local industry, could curtail future growth in Green River and Rock Springs, would threaten a world-class fishery and would have no real benefits for southwest Wyoming.

But some officials attending the Laramie meeting said they would welcome the approximately 25,000 acre-feet of water that would be delivered annually to southeast Wyoming users in the Platte River Basin under Million’s pipeline proposal.

At a city workshop May 12, Green River, Rock Springs, Sweetwater County and other municipal officials agreed to form a coalition — and perhaps hire a public relations firm — to fight Million’s pipeline proposal. Officials decided the best way to oppose the project was to present some sort of “united front” that would include an aggressive, proactive campaign against the project. Officials also decided to press the Army Corps for another meeting in Sweetwater County and said they would consider litigation if necessary to try and kill the project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety to hold first stakeholders meeting on new rules for uranium mining under H.B. 08-1161

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Local representatives of Clean Water Action are expected to be on hand today as the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety holds its first stakeholders meeting on new rules for uranium mining. The rule-making process is mandated by legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2008. Also passed that year was a bill requiring companies that use a mining method known as in-situ, through which uranium ore is dissolved underground using chemically treated water and extracted, to restore the quality of groundwater in mined areas to what it was before mining started. The legislation was aimed at an in-situ mining project proposed for an area between Wellington and Nunn by the uranium company Powertech. Company officials have said they intend to apply for mining permits from the state and Weld County this year. Clean Water Action plans to deliver more than 1,500 handwritten letters its staff members collected from Fort Collins residents to Gov. Bill Ritter’s office before the rule-making meeting. The letters call for the governor to make sure the interests of local residents are protected during the rule-making process.

More coverage from the Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Stakeholders called together by the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety will meet today to discuss the rulemaking process called for by the 2008 legislature. Lawmakers were responding to worries that uranium mining would lead to environmental problems, especially at the proposed Centennial “in-situ” leach uranium mine in Weld County…

The draft rules require more public disclosure of uranium prospecting. They also tighten controls on in-situ mining, requiring companies to do baseline water-quality studies and restoring the aquifer to that level or one set by the state Department of Public Health and Environment. “Hopefully, the rules will relieve some of the concerns people have had,” Powertech’s chief executive Richard Clement Jr. told The Denver Post in July. The Mined Land Reclamation Board will formalize the new rules over the next two months and then offer them up for public comment later this year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.