Aurora: Settlement with Lower Ark over long-term contract with Reclamation

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Here’s a recap of last week’s congressional town hall meeting in Rocky Ford, from Adam Goldstein writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Those who supported the position that Congress should enact legislation that would facilitate the export of water from the basin and those who argued that such a move would endanger the rights of water holders in the basin’s communities both expressed their positions in a civil public setting. “We had about 30 speakers … Of those 30 speakers, about two-thirds were very favorable toward this settlement that Aurora has reached with the Lower Arkansas,” Perlmutter said. “Nine out of the 30 were opposed, but not adamantly opposed. It was a more positive meeting than I expected.”

Thursday’s meeting in Rocky Ford was the second public forum held in as many days in the region, and saw input from local residents, media representatives and public officials like Perlmutter, D-Colo., Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer and Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher.

At issue was the role Aurora should play in exporting water out of the Arkansas River Basin. Supporters of legislation that would ease Aurora’s ability to export water from the basin cited potential financial benefits for the area’s farmers, which included maximizing the value of water through the recently formed Super Ditch project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Larimer County: Septic permit fees to rise

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Larimer County will raise the cost of septic permit fees as of June 1, according to the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. The new fees were approved by the Board of Health at its May meeting…

The new rates are:
> New Residential: $873.
> Vaults: $375.
> Minor Repair: $298.
> Major Repair: $548.
> Remodel: $400.
> Mortgage Loan Inspections: $265.

Unchanged rates:
> New commercial: $1,023.
> Commercial repair: $1,023.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Jackson Gulch and McPhee reservoirs update

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From the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 7,723 acre-feet with a 9,948 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 7,333 acre-feet average (1971-2000) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 0 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Mancos River, and 44 acre feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 329,978 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 336,999 average (1986-2000) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 3,023 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 8,554 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 63/49 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.


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From the Montrose Daily Press (Katie O’Hare):

The Montrose area recorded 1.38 inches of precipitation as of Friday, May 29. The rainfall is above the monthly average of 1 inch with still several days of showers in the forecast, Jeff Colton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said. The area has been averaging about 0.10 to 0.25 inches of rainfall per day, with a half inch falling on May 22, Colton said. Harold, the owner of Tuxedo Corn, said the rain is allowing for such crops as onions to get the water they need, but is slowing down other planting operations.

Dave Wegner appointed staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on water and power

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Here’s a report about Mr. Wegner’s appointment, from Shane Benjamin writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

“I tend to be more conservative in protecting the environment than not, because once a species is gone, it’s gone forever,” [Wegner] said. “So I inevitably side on the side of the species until the data is collected and we can accurately identify and articulate how we need to manage for that species.”

Wegner, 57, will apply that philosophy in Washington, D.C., where he has been appointed to serve as the staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on water and power. It will be his job to help shepherd legislation related to water, power and the environment while considering the effects on species and climate change. Wegner, who has lived in Durango for 12 years, was asked to serve last week by officials in D.C. He and his wife, Nancy Jacques, a local artist, teacher and columnist for the Herald, will move to Washington for at least a couple of years with plans to return in the future, they said…

The Natural Resources Committee has significant influence on development and water and climate legislation, Wegner said. “It is our moral responsibility to address these issues now so that they all don’t fall on future generations to grapple with,” he said. “Durango is the most perfect place to live, but we have a responsibility to the future generations to make sure we do the right things to manage what resources we have in this country.”[…]

Wegner is originally from Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Minnesota. He moved to Colorado in 1975 and obtained a master’s degree from Colorado State University in river engineering. He worked for the Interior Department for more than 20 years, 14 of those coordinating the science program in the Grand Canyon. For the last 12 years, he has run his own business, Eco Systems Management International, focusing on endangered-species issues related to dams around the world.

Glenwood Springs: U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s competition, from Sean Johnson writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

The Glenwood Whitewater Park, just a little more than a year old, is the reason the 2009 U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team Trials came to Glenwood Springs. Volunteer staff member Chris Tonozzi was excited about the weekend events and said the day was running smoothly. The organizers have been meeting since last July to get the competition off the ground and running. Tonozzi said that many hours were spent each night making phone calls and writing e-mails. He is hopeful for another competition next year and thinks the likelihood of that depends on how fired up people get about it this year. The Main challenges in organizing the event were availability of space, and how limited the parking is at the Whitewater Park. Even the judge’s booth is halfway up the hill, in order to have a better vantage point to watch the kayakers.

Daman Martinez, who kayaks frequently for a hobby, was only there to watch the competitors, saying that he is not of the right caliber to be competing in the competition. “I love being in the water,” Martinez said. “I can’t really pinpoint why I like it so much. It’s just the thrill of it.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works: Bessemer Ditch sellers sorting out leases and purchase contracts

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works has offered to lease back the water it is purchasing on the Bessemer Ditch for 20 years to all sellers. However, until the contracts are closed, probably in October, the water board has no way of knowing how many irrigators will take them up on it. “The early indications are that the overwhelming majority are going to lease back,” said Alan Ward, water resources administrator. “We won’t know until we close the contracts. It’s offered to every seller.” Sellers do not have to accept the 20-year deal, which provides water to those who sold for the cost of ditch assessments. Shareholders already are required to pay the assessments for the operation and upkeep of the ditch…

Excess water that is not leased back to shareholders would first be offered to other users on the Bessemer Ditch, then to others with a need in Pueblo County, according to an agreement the water board signed with the St. Charles Mesa Water District. The district owns about 2,000 shares and has put the same limits on itself. The water board also has committed to revegetating any land that is dried up in the sale. Recent water court cases in the Arkansas River basin, such as the Tri-State acquisition of nearly one-half of the Amity Canal, have placed responsibility for revegetation with the buyer of the water rights as well.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District: Reeves Brown applies for vacant board seat

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Beulah rancher Reeves Brown has applied for the vacant Pueblo County director’s seat on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Brown is the third applicant for the seat, vacated in April by the resignation of John Singletary, who left the board because he does not agree with its current direction…

Brown and his wife Betsy have a commitment to conservation and preservation of agriculture in the Arkansas Valley. They bought their Beulah ranch in 1981 and believe conservation easements are needed to maintain agriculture in the valley. “The waters of the Arkansas River are critical to the future of valley agriculture and no less so to of the economics of the entire valley,” Brown said in his letter of application to Chief District Judge Dennis Maes. “Walking the line between a water owner’s right to sell to an open market and the broader community’s dependency upon that same water for its economic future, I see as the greatest challenge the valley has presently. . . . My intention as a board member would be to work toward keeping Arkansas River water in the valley within the legal framework of the law.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District: Rates to rise

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune:

The base rate for water service will jump from $15 to $20 a month and the amount per thousand gallons of water used will increase from $2.20 to $2.60. Also increasing is the basic sewer rate. It will also jump from $15 a month to $20 a month, however, the amount per thousand gallons used will be the same at $2.20…

In other business the special meeting the RMW board elected to sell the land on the Johnson Place Ranch located south of town. RMW will retain the water rights to the 320-acre property, however, they would lease a portion of those water rights to the new owner…The board decided to sell the ranch property in order to pay for a number of improvements to the current system. RMW purchased the ranch in 2000 at a cost of $850,000 to obtain the water rights.

Gunnison County: Standard Mine cleanup heading into second phase

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From The Crested Butte News (Seth Mensing):

Three representatives from the EPA visited the Crested Butte Town Council and the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners last month to tell them that the second round of remediation work at the site is set to begin this summer.
Gina Andrews, the EPA’s on-scene coordinator for the removal of the mining debris, told both groups that her group’s “task was to remove the waste rock and tailings pond and relocate the pond to a consolidated land fill and cap it off. We finished our portion of that work last fall.”

The council members and commissioners were shown photos of the site before and after the remediation work, which contrasted an abandoned mine—complete with mining cart trestle, a bridge and scattered debris—with a nearly natural high mountain valley.
The 10-acre Standard Mine is located in the Gunnison National Forest and on four patented mining claims on the backside of Mt. Emmons. Mining operations for zinc, lead, silver and gold began on the property in 1931 and continued until 1966, when the mine was abandoned.

In 2005, the property was placed on the National Priorities List for Superfund status, which initiated the EPA to take a series of steps to reclaim the land and treat contaminated water running from the mine into Elk Creek and eventually into the town and county’s watershed. In addition to removing about 50,000 cubic yards of rock waste and pumping the contents of the tailings pond through a filter, Andrews said a fisheries biologist from the U.S. Forest Service helped the team in the relocation of a stream that had been moved to serve the mine…

Andrews said her group would visit the site throughout the summer months to see how the newly constructed streambed holds up to the spring runoff and to monitor the other improvements while making repairs when and where they are needed. Remedial project manager Christina Progess said the next step for the EPA is to do a remedial investigation and feasibility study to get more information about the condition of the site and its effect on human health. The EPA will also be looking at different methods to treat water coming from the mine. One water purification method being tested at the site is a bioreactor that uses microorganisms to “eat” the contaminating heavy metals in the water. The result is water with 96 percent to 99 percent of the heavy metals removed. “The bioreactor is a step in the right direction,” said Progess. “It still doesn’t get us to the state’s stream water standard [for contaminants] but it could be one of several ways we approach the treatment of water coming out of the mine.”

Ground and surface water flows into the mine, where it is contaminated with arsenic, barium, lead, zinc, cadmium, copper and chromium, according to an EPA report that showed those metals at three times their natural level in Elk Creek below the mine site.
The water then flows out of the mine at a rate ranging from ten gallons per minute to 70 gallons per minute during peak runoff. The 40 square foot bioreactor that is now at the site is capable of treating only one gallon of contaminated water per minute. “If water treatment were needed, this system would be scaled out to treat whatever amount of water is coming out of the adit [mine opening],” said Progess. Progess conceded that expanding the bioreactor to treat 70 gallons of water per minute might not be feasible and because the technology is so new there isn’t a lot of data to show the long-term costs of operating and maintaining the reactor on a large scale…

Progess said the EPA would be able to calculate water flows to prepare for all eventualities.The remediation investigation and feasibility study will be done in March 2010, according to Progess, when the EPA will select a final preferred remedy and send out a proposed plan for public review and comment. The process continues with a Record of Decision, published in the federal register; the remedial design and action taking place; and finally completion of construction at the site. Progess said the EPA should hand the project over to the state in 2012. The EPA will then revisit the site every five years to monitor the condition and performance of site improvements. Funding for the project shifts from the EPA to the state, which entered the process early with a 10 percent cost-sharing arrangement. Local governments will not ever be responsible for paying to improve the mine site, said Progess.

Invasive mussels inspection update

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From the Ouray News:

Western Slope lakes and reservoirs where mussels have been detected (mandatory inspections leaving) include Blue Mesa Reservoir in Gunnison County and McPhee Reservoir in Montezuma County.

Mandatory watercraft inspections are now in place at Ridgway Reservoir (Ouray County); Crawford Reservoir (Delta County); Elkhead Reservoir/Yampa State Park (Routt County); Harvey Gap Reservoir (Garfield County); Highline Reservoir (Mesa County); Jackson Gulch Reservoir at Mancos State Park(Montezuma County); Navajo Reservoir (La Plata County); Paonia Reservoir (Delta County); Sweitzer Lake (Delta County) and Vega Reservoir (Mesa County)

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Starting Monday, boaters hauling a motorized craft to Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap are required to have their boats inspected for zebra and quagga mussels and other exotic aquatic nuisances prior to being launched. Inspections will be done from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day at Rifle Gap and from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Harvey Gap…

An example of the possible complications is at Blue Mesa Reservoir, where all undeveloped launch sites now are closed. Boaters are asked to launch only at Elk Creek, Lake Fork and Stevens Creek marinas, where boat inspections are available daily from 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. “If they want to launch before or after those hours they just can’t,” said Sandra Snell-Dobert, spokesperson for Curecanti National Recreation Area. “It’s difficult, we know, but we’re trying to stretch the hours with the staffing level available to us. So far it seems to be working pretty well.”

Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap is making an effort to accommodate early launches by offering a pre-launch inspection the day before. Boaters will get a sealed sticker showing their boat has been inspected and this sticker is good for one launch. It’s not a season pass and you can expect to have your boat examined the next time you show up.

It’s going to be particularly tough to avoid inspections at Blue Mesa, which recently was listed as “suspect” for zebra mussels. This, said Snell-Dobert, means the Division of Wildlife detected some DNA from zebra mussels in the water without actually finding mussels. “It might have washed from someplace upstream or came off a boat,” said Snell-Dobert. “Subsequent tests showed nothing so we really don’t know for sure.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.