El Niño over the horizon?

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From Minnesota Public Radio (Paul Huttner):

For the first time ever, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has issued an El Nino Watch. CPC’s new advisory system is designed to give states and communities advance warning months in advance for seasonal weather changes and potential effects. Tropical Pacific SST’s have warmed to about 0.5 degrees above average. El Nino is defined when Pacific SST’s remain at or above the +0.5 degree threshold for 3 consecutive months and 5 overlapping seasons. Various CPC computer models indicate Pacific SST’s could warm to 1 to 2 degrees above average by next January. This would make for a moderately strong El Nino event.

Pre-1922 water bank

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Here’s a look at the pre-1922 water bank proposed by the Southwestern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District, from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

A call on the river – as it’s known – has never occurred. But board members of the Southwestern Water Conservation District and the Colorado River Water Association are interested enough in the consequences that they took up the matter last week at a meeting in Durango. A presentation by Tom Iseman of The Nature Conservancy, who spent six months researching issues, served mainly as a primer for future debate. The two water groups, which together represent all counties on the Western Slope, commissioned the study.

On the Western Slope, agricultural interests whose claims predate 1922 hold the rights to about 1 million acre-feet. An acre-foot of water covers a football field to the depth of 1 foot. But under what Iseman calls a water bank, early right-holders on the Western Slope would be compensated financially for putting their allotment temporarily at the disposal of junior users, who could lose their total allotments if there were a call by downstream consumers. Senior right-holders would receive further compensation if their water was actually used. Junior right-holders could use loaned water only in the case of an actual or imminent downstream call and then only for critical purposes.

State agencies – the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Division of Water Resources – have been briefed on issues Western Slope water suppliers are discussing, Whitehead said. Also, the boards have presented their plan to most water districts on the Front Range.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter update

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Here’s a recap of a recent meeting between the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and concerned citizens down in Cañon City regarding Cotter’s plans for the superfund site and reopening the mill there, from Rachel Alexander writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

Officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the federal Environmental Protection Agency spoke to a crowd of 165 at Harrison School…

Edgar Ethington, of CDPHE, discussed the excavation of the old pond area, which is a source of ongoing contamination. Additional excavation was implemented in 2008 to remove enough contaminated soil to allow ground water to meet state standards. Ethington said he emphasized dust suppression and air monitoring throughout the excavation process. The company removed 5,400 cubic yards of radium-contaminated soil, 221,800 cubic yards of uranium and molybdenum contaminated soils and analyzed 6,095 soil samples. He said there were no air contamination violations and no lost-time accidents. “I think operationally, they did a good job,” he said. “The contaminated soil has been removed to levels specified. Our role is to look over (Cotter’s) shoulder and make sure they’re doing it correctly.”[…]

Some citizens were concerned that direct health concerns were not addressed during Monday’s meeting and requested an epidemiological study. “When do we start talking about the health risk,” said Gloria Stultz. “We haven’t talked about the diseases (caused by contamination).”

“We are always conscious of what the health issue is,” Tarlton said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities only has eyes for the preferred alternative (Lake Pueblo)

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Here’s an update on Colorado Springs Utilities’ proposed Southern Delivery System, from Charlotte Burrous writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

“We’re going to outline the advantages for the preferred alternative” before the Pueblo Board on July 22, he said. “There are several factors. The first one is the difference in cost. In terms of engineering, it looks like about $209 million difference between the two alternatives.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Donala Water District applies to change ag shares

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Donala Water District in El Paso County has filed an application in Division 2 Water Court that would allow it to use agricultural water it purchased in Lake County. The application leaves open a wide variety of ways to deliver the water, including the proposed Southern Delivery System. It would change the use of water from agricultural to municipal and other uses. Pueblo District Court Chief Judge Dennis Maes is the water judge for Division 2, which covers the entire Arkansas River basin. Donala, which serves about 2,700 homes north of Colorado Springs, bought the Mount Massive Ranch for $4.7 million in November. The district expects the ranch to yield about 300 acre-feet of water, or one-fifth of its annual supply.

The problem is moving the water to the district, Dana Duthie, Donala general manager, told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable earlier this year. The district lies 50 miles north of the Arkansas River and has no way, right now, of bringing the water into its system. The application gives no clue about how that will be done, reflecting the fact that the district has made no final decision for using the water. Storage in reservoirs from Turquoise Lake in Lake County to Holbrook Reservoir in Otero County is included in the application, including a reservoir yet to be built in Pueblo County at Stonewall Springs near the Pueblo Chemical Depot. Clear Creek Reservoir in Chaffee County, owned by the Pueblo Board of Water Works, is also included as a potential storage point. The district wants to use SDS, a water delivery pipeline proposed by Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West, but would still need to get approval from Colorado Springs Utilities to use the project to move water through the project.

Runoff news

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

As of Monday, the [Fryingpan-Arkansas Project] had brought more than 43,200 acre-feet from the Fryingpan River collection system into the Arkansas River basin. More than 1,000 acre-feet a day are coming through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake for eventual use by cities and farms on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. However the rate of flows has been dropping and could be further curtailed to meet obligations to stream flows on the Western Slope.Vaughan is confident the Fry-Ark’s yield will reach projections of an average year Ñ around 52,400 acre-feet. “Hopefully, the tunnel will keep flowing until the end of the month,” Vaughan said…

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which controls allocations from the project, took a conservative approach in mid-May, when it was already apparent the runoff was coming hard and early. The board chose to allocate only 80 percent of the anticipated water, because projections came up 10 percent short in 2008. On top of that, the first 5,000 acre-feet of water this year paid off the Pueblo Board of Water Works, which loaned water to meet the 2008 shortfall. The water generally sells for $7 an acre-foot, plus surcharges, most of which goes toward repayment and operation of the Fry-Ark Project. Factor in the annual 3,000 acre-feet payment to Twin Lakes Canal and Reservoir Co. under an exchange agreement, 10 percent transit loss and 5 percent evaporation charge, and the amount of water available for allocation this year will be 29,500 acre-feet. That’s about three-quarters of what the district was planning for one month ago, said Bob Hamilton, engineering director. Of that, almost 55 percent will go to towns and cities, while farms will get a bit more than 45 percent. Water users have been notified about what they will receive. That’s only about 36 percent of what was allocated last year – one of the highest import years in history, despite the shortfall – and the lowest amount of allocations since 2004. In fact, since 1981, only 2002 and 2004 were lower.