H.B. 09-1303: Admin Mineral Development Water Wells

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Governor Ritter signed H.B. 09-1303 (pdf) on June 2. Here’s a report from Randy Woock writing for The Trinidad Times Independent. From the article:

HB 1303 allows the state engineer to approve alternates to augmentation plans for CBM wells that withdraw waters considered tributary and that impact an “over-appropriated” stream for a period extending from March 31, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012 in order to, “…provide sufficient time to integrate (CBM) wells into the water court adjudication process.”

The state engineer is allowed to approve the “temporary operation of a (CBM) well that withdraws tributary ground water” if several conditions are met that include providing written notification of the request for the approval of the substitute water plan to all parties on the substitute water supply plan notification list, after which the parties have 30 days to file comments with the state engineer.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Custer County: Round Mountain looking at a lease to Upper Ark

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

The Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District continues negotiations with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District regarding leasing some 20 acre feet of water from the RMW-owned Johnson Ranch to the UAWCD. A brief discussion regarding the matter took place during RMW’s regular board of directors’ meeting on June 4. At that time, chairman Darrell Niles said 20-acre-feet is an insignificant amount of water. Vice-chair Chris Haga agreed and he compared 20-acre-feet of water on the Johnson Ranch to one cup of water. Additionally, Haga estimated there was some 490-acre-feet of consumptive use water on the Johnson Ranch. RMW purchased the 320-acre ranch located south of Westcliffe in 2000 for the purpose of acquiring its water rights.

Energy policy — nuclear: Montrose County Planning Commission weighing permit for Piñon Ridge uranium mill

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

The Montrose County Planning Commission delayed its decision on a special use permit for Energy Fuels Inc., which wants to build the Piñon Ridge uranium mill 12 miles west of Naturita in the Paradox Valley. Commissioners favored the mill, but they needed more time to craft language for the permit. The commission will make its decision July 1…

The mill would have effects far beyond the remote valley. It would be the first new American uranium mill in decades, and it would offer a convenient place to process ore from Colorado’s shuttered uranium mines. “The advantage of having this mill in this area is, because there are a lot of uranium mines around us, it’s a relatively short haul to the mill,” said Frank Filas, environmental manager for Energy Fuels. However, Filas also said Energy Fuels wants to process waste from other facilities, like water treatment plants, in addition to uranium ore. Most of Colorado’s uranium mines have shut down, and the mill’s local proponents hope it would lead to a new mining era.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Novel desalination process eliminates brine disposal problem

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From The International Desalination & Water Reuse Quarterly:

[Western Municipal Water District, Riverside, California] completed extensive facility testing of the fixed-bed biological treatment (FXB) process in late 2008. The district and Carollo have received provisional approval from the California Department of Public Health to use FXB to remove nitrate from drinking water.

A key benefit discovered during testing is the ability to remove multiple contaminants from the water supply. In addition to removing nitrate, the FXB process destroys perchlorate and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

While existing nitrate treatment processes such as ion-exchange, reverse-osmosis and electrodialysis-reversal remove nitrate effectively, each creates a nitrate-laden concentrate waste requiring treatment and disposal. The FXB process converts nitrate to harmless byproducts such as nitrogen gas, thereby also eliminating the need for nitrate-waste handling, making this technology sustainable.

Other benefits include competitive operating cost and highly efficient water recovery.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

EPA moves another $25 million to Colorado water projects

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Here’s a release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

Release date: 06/12/2009

Contact Information: Diane Sanelli, 303-312-7822; Laura Niles, 303-312-6281

(Denver, Colo. – June 12, 2009) In a move that stands to create jobs, boost local economies, improve aging water infrastructure and protect human health and the environment for the people in the State of Colorado, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded more than $25 million, part of a planned $31 million total, to the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. This new infusion of money provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will help the state and local governments finance many of the overdue improvements to wastewater projects that are essential to protecting public health and the environment across the state.

“EPA is pleased to provide $25 million in Recovery Act funds for much needed improvements to Colorado’s water infrastructure that will benefit the state for decades to come,” said Carol Rushin, Acting Regional Administrator. “This funding will protect public health and improve water quality while creating hundreds of jobs in Colorado.”

The Recovery Act funds will go to the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund program provides low interest loans for water quality protection projects for wastewater treatment, non-point source pollution control, and watershed and estuary management. An unprecedented $4 billion dollars will be awarded to fund wastewater infrastructure projects across the country under the Recovery Act in the form of low interest loans, principal forgiveness and grants. At least 20% of the funds provided under the Recovery Act are to be used for green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency improvements and other environmentally innovative projects.

Since the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program began in 1987, EPA has awarded more than $26 billion in grants, which states have turned into $69 billion of financial assistance for water quality projects. The revolving nature of the program ensures water quality projects will be funded for generations to come. President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) on February 17, 2009 and has directed that the Recovery Act be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability. To that end, the American people can see how every dollar is being invested at Recovery.gov.

Information on EPA’s implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in Colorado, visit http://www.epa.gov/region8/eparecovery/.

Information on the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, visit http://www.epa.gov/owm/cwfinance/cwsrf/

Rio Grande Basin: No curtailments on the ditches

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

…[The] San Luis Valley’s summer rains have created a rare occurrence – zero curtailment on irrigators along the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems. Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division 3 Craig Cotten explained on Thursday that the division is currently not cutting irrigators short because sufficient water is flowing downstream to meet the Rio Grande Compact obligations to New Mexico and Texas.

He said the June forecast from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) actually rose 5,000 acre feet from May. NRCS is now predicting 590,000 acre feet on the Rio Grande this year. That is slightly below average which is about 650,000 acre feet.
Of that amount, the Valley will be obligated to send downstream 158,400 acre feet of water, or 27 percent. “That’s what we have to deliver to the state line from the Rio Grande portion,” Cotten explained during a well rules advisory meeting in Alamosa on Thursday.

“That’s what we have to deliver to the state line from the Rio Grande portion,” Cotten explained during a well rules advisory meeting in Alamosa on Thursday. The Rio Grande does not have to send 27 percent downstream right now, however, because the Rio Grande delivered 100 percent through the winter, sent more water downstream during the runoff period and is experiencing good return flows all the way through the system. Cotten said the Rio Grande would only need to send 8 percent downstream currently to meet its Rio Grande Compact obligation. “Our current curtailment on the Rio Grande is effectively zero. We do have a curtailment on our daily sheet but we add back some water, make some adjustments, so it is effectively zero on the curtailment.”

The same is true on the Conejos River system, Cotten said. The NRCS forecast for the Conejos system is 345,000 acre feet, up 15,000 acre feet from last month. The obligation to downstream states from that total is 143,200 acre feet or 42 percent. The current delivery target is 16 percent but because of the amount of water in the system the water division is not curtailing irrigators on the Conejos system “which is kind of an unusual situation that we don’t have curtailment actually occurring on either one of the rivers right now,” Cotten said.

The Conejos system peaked the first part of May, and the Rio Grande peaked around May 8, about three weeks earlier than normal.
“We are significantly lower right now at this time of year than we usually are,” Cotten said. Saguache Creek peaked the end of May which is about normal, Cotten added. He said that might indicate the northern part of the Valley had less dust on the snow. Kerber Creek near Villa Grove peaked almost exactly on target the end of May, Cotten said. “We are dropping off that peak pretty hard,” he added.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Arkansas Basin roundtable recap

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Here’s a recap of last week’s Arkansas Basin roundtable meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Recreation and tourism are our economy,” Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen told the roundtable. “Recreation is what we have. We haven’t sat around for the last 20 years waiting for the mines to reopen and we won’t now.” Olsen, along with fellow Commissioner Mike Bordogna, told the roundtable about the importance of flatwater fishing to Lake County. Turquoise, Twin Lakes and the Mount Elbert Forebay are all popular destinations, but could be enhanced with improved campgrounds, more active management and better understanding of their role to boaters, not just as water storage vessels, Olsen said. “One of the challenges in Lake County is that someone else owns the water,” Olsen said. “We want to move forward to increase the use and look at the potential to change (management of the lakes) to state parks.”[…]

The roundtable also heard a report on nonconsumptive – uses that rely on water in the stream rather than applying it to plants or subdivisions – priorities in the Arkansas River basin. SeEtta Moss, chairman of the nonconsumptive needs committee and the environmental representative to the roundtable, said the priorities are based on environmental need for water and the availability of resources to meet those needs. Two areas, wetlands near John Martin and Neenoshe reservoirs, are being studied under a Colorado Water Board grant. Other areas include Blue Lake, Ramah Reservoir, Karval Reservoir, Two Buttes Reservoir and Carrizo Canyon in the Comanche National Grasslands. There are also numerous streams now being considered for instream flow rights by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Moss said. A common problem with the reservoirs are widely fluctuating water levels. Too little water and creatures like mud toads lose their homes. Too much can disturb nesting shore birds.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A water transfers report more than two years in the making was adopted this week by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. The group, which represents water interests throughout the Arkansas River basin, adopted the report at the urging of President Gary Barber, who told the roundtable it needed to decide what to do with it in finalizing a report of its activities to the state Legislature, Interbasin Compact Committee and other roundtables…

The roundtable has batted the report around since it was completed last year. Work started after Las Animas Mayor Lawrence Sena told the roundtable in 2006 that more needed to be done for communities where water is taken from, rather than simply making sure the needs of growing cities are met. The report does not provide answers for mitigation of water transfers, but lists the types of considerations that should be taken into account, said Wayne Vanderschuere, a Colorado Springs Utilities executive who served on the committee that drafted the report. “It looks at the issues faced by the buyers, sellers and those on the sidelines,” Vanderschuere said. “The issues are not going to go away. The report is not going to go away. There’s no way to require it, but how do you use it?” That question has confounded the roundtable for months, because some members have said it should be required either by county commissioners or state laws, while the majority of the roundtable believes it should simply be made available as a tool. In theory, the report is already serving a useful purpose. It sparked a lively debate over the demise of rural Colorado earlier this year at the annual meeting of the Colorado Water Congress, and has gotten attention at water conferences across the Western United States. It has been widely hailed as a tool to address often elusive third-party interests in water sales.

In practice, no one has pulled it off the shelf and attempted to actually use it as a checklist or even as a way to evaluate ongoing water projects…

“It’s one of the things this roundtable has done that can be used by the other roundtables or any other entity,” said Reed Dils, the basin’s representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The report was adopted as “Considerations for Agriculture to Urban Water Transfers,” and removed a subtitle, “If you’re going to do it, how to do it right,” which was criticized for implying that transfers were inevitable.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs: Revamped stormwater plan in the offing

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Colorado Springs is hoping to develop a sustainable stormwater plan and is contemplating revisions of the current plan. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado Springs wants to develop strategies that are sustainable and cost-effective. Many of the current policies and practices were developed 20 years ago, although water quality criteria were updated in 2002. Another goal of the process is to create an open, responsive process that allows more participation in developing the standards, Bare said. “We’re really just getting started at this point,” Bare said, adding that Manitou Springs is already a partner in the project, while Fountain and Pueblo have been approached. A consultant has been hired for $250,000 to complete the study, which is expected to take 18 months to complete. A Web site has been set up to serve as an introduction to the project, Bare said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Florence: Stimulus dough to help replace well

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

The well, which was built in the early 1990s, consists of a square concrete vessel designed to hold a water and chlorine mixture before it is sent to water users in the regional water district encompassing Florence, Coal Creek, Rockvale and Williamsburg. “It is cracking and there are some significant cracks on two of the exterior walls,” said Tom Piltingsrud, Florence city manager.

Enter the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds at just the right time to help this small town get the problem fixed without again having to raise water rates. “We applied for a stimulus grant through the recovery act dollars the state health department got for drinking water projects. In the priority ranking we got a three with one being the most important and five being less,” Piltingsrud said. That put Florence out of the running for a grant that would not have to be repaid. “They got flooded with requests and we fell just below the line of those who got $2 million grants. We were offered a zero-interest loan for 20 years,” Piltingsrud said. “As I understand it, if one project ahead of us can’t meet the time lines, we might jump above that line and get a $2 million grant,” Piltingsrud said. Still, if that does not happen, the no-interest loan will make the project possible without having to raise water rates, thanks to some smart thinking on the part of Florence city officials.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.