Runoff (snowpack) news: Record snowmelt?

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Reilly Capps):

“I think it’s safe to say it’s one of the fastest” melts ever, said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “I don’t know if it’s a record.” At least one measuring station, at the headwaters of the Rio Grande, lost all its snow at the earliest date in the history of the site, said Chris Landry of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton. On Red Mountain Pass, it disappeared like a magic trick. After the snow there reached its highest point of the season, 83 inches on April 18, the snow dropped an average of 2.3 inches a day until it was all gone by May 23. “Two inch melts rates — that’s nearly double what we would typically see,” Gillespie said. “Normally you would expect about an inch a day.” At Lizard Head Pass, it was gone by May 9, having lost its last eight inches in two days. More than 75 percent of the time, some snow sticks around longer than that. And this was a year in which the snowpack was above average. Statewide, a snowpack that was above the 30-year average on April 19 has now fallen to 29 percent of average.

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir continues to decline. In order to continue to fill the reservoir, Reclamation will reduce releases from Crystal Reservoir by 800 cfs over the next two days. Flows will be reduced by 400 cfs in two 200 cfs reductions today (morning and evening), Wednesday June 10th, and another 400 cfs likewise on Thursday June 11th. After the reductions, flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge should be about 2,200 cfs on June 12th. Further changes may be necessary in response to changing hydrologic conditions.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Around 7:30 this morning, Monday June 8, we increased releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue by about 300 cfs. Currently, there is about 1475 cfs in the Lower Blue. Inflow to Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoirs has increased again due to run-off. Because the weather has been alternating between warm and cool, we do not have a projection how long these releases from Green Mountain will continue. We are also still filling the reservoir. Currently, the water elevation of Green Mountain is just under 7944–a little more than six feet below full.

Energy policy — oil and gas: S. 1215, Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Two Colorado representatives, Diana DeGette, D-Denver, and Jared Polis, D-Boulder, joined with two East Coast lawmakers on Tuesday in a move to repeal a Bush administration exemption of the industry from following the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The group, which included two other Democratic representatives — Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Maurice Hinchey of New York — introduced legislation that would require oil and gas companies to disclose what chemicals are used in the controversial process. The two eastern lawmakers said they signed on to the bill because increased oil and gas exploration is taking place in their states. Known as the FRAC Act — short for Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act — the measure would be an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to a message from Kristofer Eisenla of DeGette’s Washington, D.C., office.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Center of the American West — ‘What Every Westerner Should Know About Oil Shale’

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The University of Colorado Center for the New American West has just published a new online book titled What Every Westerner Should Know About Oil Shale. I personally can’t wait to curl up with my laptop and a good book. Here’s the release.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Littleton: Rate payers can expect their sewer bills soon

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From the Littleton Independent:

The City of Littleton will send out the annual sewer and storm drainage utility bills in mid-June. Payment is due to the City of Littleton by Aug. 17. If full payment is not received by this date, a 25 percent penalty will be added to the remaining balance and a past-due bill will be mailed in September. The city will accept online credit card payments for the first time this year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo West Metropolitan District raising ruckus over Corps permit

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (James Amos):

Pueblo West board members voted Tuesday night to send a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opposing a wetlands permit needed for a large water pipeline to Colorado Springs. Pueblo West was set to participate in the pipeline but balked when Pueblo County demanded that it [participate in the Arkansas Flow Program].

More coverage from (David Ortiviz):

Pueblo West says it may take drastic measures, if the county wins a dispute over water. They’re at odds over a stipulation in the Southern Delivery System pipeline, that would cost Pueblo West water. Pueblo West has about 32,000 residents. But if the town is required to return some of its water to Pueblo, leaders say the community may not be able to get any bigger. “We really have a desire to get along with our neighbors but its important people understand that we don’t have water to be able to do this,” said Steve Harrison, Director of Utilities for Pueblo West Metro District.

More coverage from (Jason Aubry):

According to a Bureau of Reclamation study and recommended plan, the first 800 feet of pipeline would be used by Pueblo West to get their share of the water. Pueblo West officials say, it also recommends they should not have to take part in a Pueblo County program to put water back into the Arkansas River for a downtown water park. However, the county is insisting they do participate in the program. “We don’t understand why Pueblo County has imposed this unnecessary burden on us, because we don’t have water to be able to supply for other uses, other than ours. We should be able to have the right to say we can’t participate. And i believe we’ve proven that through some of the science,” says Stephen Harrison, Director of Utilities for the Pueablo West Metropolitan District. Pueblo West also argues their share of the water comes from west of the great divide, and they should not be required to put water into the Arkansas River because their water rights were never part of the rivers original flows.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter cleanup

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Here’s a recap of the recent public meeting about the Lincoln Park superfund cleanup, from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Monday meeting focused on five-year review results at the Lincoln Park Superfund site which has been the target of cleanup efforts since 1984. The site en- compasses Cotter Corp’s uranium mill and a portion of the surrounding Lincoln Park neighborhood. Contamination from old unlined tailings ponds seeped into the groundwater during the early days of the mill operation which geared up in 1958. Some soils also were contaminated by tailings that escaped the mill site in the 1960s during a flood.

Although there have been massive efforts to clean up contaminated soils, Pat Smith, a remedial manager with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said she is unwilling to have only the soils removed from the Superfund designation “due to new standards for the groundwater.” Much attention focused on the groundwater contamination and potential use of wells by residents who move into the area and are not notified of the uranium and molybdenum levels in their wells…

State health official Edgar Ethington said a major source of groundwater contamination, if not the main source – the old tailings ponds area – was cleaned up last year by Cotter workers. Some of the digging went down almost 30 feet to ground water in some areas…

Health officials said the newer lined tailings ponds, which are in the process of being dewatered and capped should help prevent future contamination. Phil Egidi of the state health department said as the newer tailings ponds are dewatered, Cotter will be required to “put a big, robust cap on it.”[…]

Discussion also focused on a “northwest plume” of contaminated groundwater located underneath the Shadow Hills Golf Course which is right next to the Cotter mill site. Cotter has hired a geologist to investigate the plume. “There is only uranium contamination, no molybdenum like the rest of the groundwater, so the simplest explanation is that it has a different source,” Ethington said. Ethington said investigation so far has ruled out an obvious possible source, an old, buried water channel. “Cotter still has work to do to see where the water is moving. They will install wells and test the water,” Ethington said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Parker: Searching for dough to complete Rueter-Hess

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The collapse in real estate in Parker has had a negative impact on funds for Parker Water and Sanitation’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir. Here’s a report from Chris Michlewicz writing for the Parker Chronicle. From the article:

When the housing market began its long slide into the abyss in 2006, district officials immediately began to notice the impact. The number of tap fees collected went from 1,700 in 2005 to suddenly 600 the following year. Last year, just more than 300 taps were connected. This year, as of June 4, only 18 taps have been sold. “All of our planning was based on a worst-case scenario of 600 taps per year,” [Frank Jaeger Parker Water and Sanitation District’s longtime manager] said during an interview in late April. “This thing has escalated on us.”[…]

Unfortunately for the district — and for its customers, it turns out — the end came into sight much quicker than ever thought possible. Between 2005 and 2008, Parker water collected $65.9 million in taps fees. The money funded capital projects, built up reserve funds, and was also used to pay debt service on the $105 million in revenue bonds issued in 2004. (Money for the expansion was paid up front by Castle Rock, Castle Pines North and Stonegate, who entered into a partnership to buy water storage in Rueter-Hess, which is still under construction just southwest of Parker’s town boundary). Counting the 5.118 percent interest rate on the bonds, Parker water is responsible for paying $12 million per year on its debt. To date, according to its finance director, the Parker Water and Sanitation District has paid only $4.1 million of the loan principal. That means the outstanding principal for Rueter-Hess alone stands at $101.3 million. And there is little in the way of revenue coming in right now. Enter last December’s proposed rate and fee increase of 28 percent on the water district’s 12,900 customers…

Conversely, prospective residents have a new quandary to consider. They, along with the existing population, will be responsible for covering the remaining costs for Rueter-Hess Reservoir, plus another $80 million in outstanding district debt, unless development picks up soon. Those who eventually move into The Canyons, a massive planned residential development just north of Castle Rock that will also be served by the Parker water district, will pay the high cost of water and eat the tap fee expense that is passed on from the developer. “People moving into Parker who haven’t got their homes built right now are in for that same surprise,” Jaeger said. “There’s no getting away from the cost of developing water.” One study conducted by a district consultant showed that the Parker area will need roughly 31,000 acre-feet of water as an indefinite supply. Jaeger is still exploring options — some very promising — for obtaining water for the future. “I’m looking 100 years down the road,” he said. “This community is not going to go away, and it’s going to need a water supply.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Southern Colorado water projects stand to benefit from stimulus dough

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Here’s a look at the possible effects of President Obama’s stimulus package on water projects in southern Colorado, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Drinking water supply systems in Rocky Ford, La Junta, Florence, Salida, Blanca and Baca Grande could benefit. Wastewater improvements in Canon City and Rye also made the cut. Major improvements for the Pueblo sewer plant are among projects on a waiting list if other projects fail to meet deadlines or criteria. All of the projects were rated for the impact to water quality and a community’s ability to fund projects. Final approval of more than $65 million for water and wastewater projects still rests with the Environmental Protection Agency, which has developed guidelines for how the money will be spent under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The state also requires engineering plans by the end of this month and construction starting by Sept. 30…

Colorado expects to receive $34.4 million for drinking water projects and $31.3 million in wastewater funds…

The state has listed 87 projects eligible for almost $300 million under the stimulus program. If any of the top-tier projects fail to meet stringent time guidelines or fail to gain EPA approval, others will move up to take their place, explained Carolyn Schachterle, head of the financial unit of the Water Quality Control Commission. If a project is not funded, it still could be funded through other state loan programs offered by the Colorado Water Resources Power and Development Authority. The Recovery Act is designed to stimulate jobs, however, and offers either grants – actually loans with forgiveness of principal repayment in order to streamline paperwork – zero-interest loans for small disadvantaged communities and low-interest loans, Schachterle said. Additionally, 20 percent of the money must be spent on “green” projects – generally those using alternative energy or that reduce power use – meaning some projects could move up on the list if a credible business plan to reduce energy demands is not shown. Finally, Colorado could collect additional money if other states fail to meet federal criteria to begin construction within a year of the signing of the act by President Barack Obama…

High on the list is a $2 million grant to connect 176 homes in North Canon City to the regional sewer system. The project already had been approved for a state loan and a $1.3 million state grant from the Department of Local Affairs…

Rye would receive nearly $2 million in funds to tie its sewer system into Colorado City’s wastewater treatment plant through a two-mile pipeline. Rye currently uses a lagoon system. The town also is working to improve sewer lines that were put in during the 1930s. Colorado City completed the sewer plant about three years ago and built it with enough capacity to accommodate Rye’s tie-in, explained Rye Mayor Tom Holgerson…

Pueblo is looking at $5.5 million to replace its chlorine disinfection system with ultraviolet treatment. This would eliminate the need to store toxic chlorine and sulfur dioxide, but would increase energy costs. Solar power would be used as a “green” component to offset the increase in power use, said Gene Michael, wastewater supervisor. About $1.5 million of the total cost would go toward the photovoltaic array, which could bump the project up on the state’s priority list. Pueblo also is looking at a $26.5 million project to remove ammonia in order to meet future environmental compliance rules…

Saguache is seeking $437,500 for collection lines and plant upgrades, while Lamar is looking for $2.4 million to replace a lift station…

In the San Luis Valley, Blanca is seeking $50,000 to replace water meters, while Baca Grande wants $1.4 million to upgrade lines and consolidate two water systems. In the Arkansas Valley, Florence wants $3 million to replace its chlorine mixing facility, called a clear well. Salida has asked for $325,000 to rehabilitate its water tank. Rocky Ford has requested $945,000 to extend water lines 3,000 feet to the Hancock Water System west of the city. The small water district has 46 taps and is facing expensive upgrades to deal with radionuclides in its well water. The connection would allow the district to blend water or tap into Rocky Ford’s system, said Dan Hyatt, Rocky Ford city manager…

La Junta wants $1.8 million to replace two storage tanks, one in town that is nearly a century old and the other a 60-year-old tank at the airport.

USGS: ‘Digital Map – Beta’

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Say hello to the USGS’s shiny new Digital Map – Beta website. From the website:

About the USGS’s New “Digital Map – Beta”

The USGS’s new “Digital Map – Beta” is an implementation and derivative of The National Map, celebrating 125 years of USGS topographic mapping. The “Digital Map – Beta” is the quadrangle map of the future. Although it is not a Geographic Information System (GIS), it is a new kind of georeferenced map that is a synthesis and evolution of USGS’s legacy digital map data files, the Digital Raster Graphics (DRG). These maps are different from other available imagery or maps. They are a first step toward a comprehensive portrayal of the Nation’s landscape. The initial version of “Digital Maps – Beta” includes orthoimagery plus roads and geographic names in the traditional 7.5 minute quadrangle format. The “Digital Map – Beta” is easily accessible, has reasonable file sizes and a common format with embedded tools, and theme-based layers.

Ultimately, in addition to a scale-corrected image base, the “Digital Map” will include layers for contours; water, transportation, boundaries, and structure features; geographic names; and vegetative surface cover or land cover in USGS’s customary 7.5-minute by 7.5-minute quadrangle format. When contours are added, the “Beta” designation will be dropped. Accompanying each “Digital Map” will be scanned files of previous editions of that topographic map. The quality and accuracy of the map depends on The National Map data that was used to make it. The file format is a georereferenced GeoPDF. The user can interact with the features on the map using free PC-compatible software. The map files will be available, at no cost, for digital download from the USGS Store.

Release Time Line

This new topographic map series will be released formally this fall. The USGS is making these maps from The National Map and plans to make an updated version of each map every 3 years. As other data layers are integrated, they will be added to the maps, so that after 3 or 4 years all of the data within The National Map will be shown. In 2010, the USGS plans to add integrated hydrography (water features) and hypsography (contours) to the maps. The USGS will follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) 3-year cycle to make these maps, thus covering the lower 48-States once every 3 years using the latest NAIP imagery as the base layer. In the near future, high-resolution scanned files of all historical versions of the new topographic maps also will be available for free download.

“Digital Maps – Beta” made in 2009 do not include the 7.5-minute quadrangles containing U. S. Forest Service (USFS) lands. These maps are provided by USFS and can be obtained for free as downloads at the USGS Store, or as paper copies for a fee by using the USGS-Store-Map-Locator and selecting USDA Forest Service Products.

Thanks to beSpacific for the link.