Larimer County: Historic preservation vs. new Greeley pipeline

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Here’s a look at the historic preservation side of the argument against Greeley’s new supply pipeline through Larimer County, from Monte Whaley writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

Brinks and Humstone bristle at the thought that a survey crew dared to show up on their land two years ago without permission. That was their first clue of Greeley’s intentions, and since then, they have allowed walking tours and nothing else. That has led Greeley to file for condemnation proceedings against Brinks, Humstone and one other property owner. The city wants a Larimer County judge to seize the properties to allow crews to do exploratory drilling, seismic surveys and other field work on what’s left of the grade, including 100 yards of track. This would lead to laying in a pipe of 5 feet diameter, 10 feet deep along a nearly 200-foot-wide right of way.

The women say the work would destroy the last remnants of northern Colorado’s railroad history. The grade, which dates to 1881, is on the National Register of Historic Places and was on Colorado Preservation Inc.’s 2009 list of endangered places.

Update: Here’s a look at the project through the eyes of Greeley’s Director of Water and Sewer, Jon Monson writing in the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The Northern Segment is between northern Fort Collins and the Bellvue filter plant. The route that ranked best in minimizing cost, environmental impact and land use disruption bypasses much of LaPorte to the south. The other routes examined would have impacted up to 150 residences and businesses. Unfortunately, the best route we found could impact structures now on the National Historic Register. We are working with property owners and state and federal agencies to assess any potential impacts. If there are any adverse impacts to the structures, Greeley will seek ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate the impacts in accordance with federal law.

Roaring Fork River restoration project

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From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

Commissioners, county staffers and a couple of neighboring residents tromped through the grass and mud along about a half-mile stretch of the river to see, first hand, the condition of the river where four property owners — including the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and Aspen Valley Land Trust — are seeking approval to alter the streambed and shore up eroding areas of the bank. “This is a stretch of river that has been degraded,” said Tom Cardamone, ACES executive director. One long, straight stretch in particular, where the river is a uniform depth and quite shallow in late summer, would gain riffles and pools to improve the trout habitat, explained Mike Claffey of Fruita-based Claffey Ecological Consulting Inc. An island formed by the buildup of sediment would be reshaped to match what can be seen in a 1968 aerial photo, he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Parker and the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition

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Here’s an update on Parker’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir — currently under construction — and the water they hope to store there, from Chris Michlewicz writing for the Parker Chronicle. From the article:

District officials have secured water in the South Platte River and Cherry Creek and remain active in pursuing new resources to wean themselves off deep underground aquifers that are being depleted at a mind-numbing pace. New water resources will eventually help fill the 72,000-acre-foot Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which is being built in Newlin Gulch southwest of Parker. It is scheduled to be completed in less than three years, and decision-makers are grappling with the immense task and astronomical cost of piping the water back to Parker…

Instead of throwing money at high-dollar water rights, officials purchased more moderately priced farms near Sterling that came with certain rights to South Platte water. Now the district owns 9,000 acre-feet of consumptive-use water that could be moved back through the water courts. “We’re looking at that water as a relatively inexpensive insurance policy,” Jaeger said. “If everything else goes sideways, that’s our least favorite alternative, but that’s an alternative we own.”

Because of heavy industrial uses along the South Platte, the water must be treated with a costly process called reverse osmosis, which strips the water of all pollutants and minerals. The treated water would then be sent through a pump station and piped back to Parker. It would take several partners to pay for a pipeline, and Parker water would be forced to raise rates or ask customers to approve a major bond issue to fund such an intensive project. If all options were exhausted, customers essentially would not have a choice but to go along with the “last resort” project, Jaeger said…

Parker Water and Sanitation hopes it will never reach a critical stage that would require it to make those tough decisions. Leaders are heading efforts to explore some promising new resources, including a new project that has created a buzz in both Colorado and its neighbor to the north. A coalition of Front Range water entities has opened a dialogue with Wyoming’s top brass to find out how much water is is Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, an expanse of wilderness on the Wyoming-Utah border. Preliminary estimates put Colorado’s portion alone at 165,000 acre-feet…

Water providers, including members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, have high hopes for Flaming Gorge because Wyoming would share the costs to build a pipeline to distribute the water and because the clean resource would not require reverse osmosis. Additionally, there would be no need to establish a massive evaporative pond to remove the brine left by lawn fertilizers and other pollutants in the South Platte. Although Flaming Gorge would require more miles of pipeline, the large number of partners sharing the cost would lower the price tag for end users, or customers. One considerable obstacle for Flaming Gorge is the need for local, state and federal dollars to back the project. However, a tentative cooperative agreement is already in place to conduct due diligence in determining the possible benefits to both states. Agreements are in draft form, and the Parker water district is a founding member of the Colorado-Wyoming Water Coalition. A meeting with representatives from Wyoming’s western slope in late April went “better than expected,” Jaeger said…

Parker water approached Wyoming’s leadership, including the division of natural resources, with a suggestion that the water authorities and conservation districts dictate where the water ends up instead of allowing private companies and speculators to get there first and set a price. Depending on how much Parker would get from the deal, water from the multi-billion dollar project could essentially become an infinite resource for Parker because the water can be reclaimed at the district’s water treatment plants, which remove waste and other pollutants before the water is dumped back into Cherry Creek, as required by the Endangered Species Act. A study showed that Parker needs roughly 31,000 acre-feet of water to sustain all homes and businesses at full build-out, Jaeger said. The Statewide Water Initiative Study from 2007 identified a need for 600,000 acre-feet of water for long term municipal and industrial uses across Colorado.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Runoff news

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From the Denver Post (Colleen O’Connor):

Colorado’s peak flow from snowmelt hit a few weeks earlier than normal, causing problems for some recreational users of the state’s rivers and complicating downstream irrigation strategies. A dozen late-winter windstorms coated high mountain snow with dust, causing the snow to melt earlier than usual. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Erin Curtis said the peak occurred in late May. BLM is especially worried about flows on the Colorado River in the western part of the state, where the so-called flat water is running especially cold and fast, at a flow now about five times what it will be later this summer…

Data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows that reservoir storage statewide is at 116 percent of average, the best since 1999. “But the earlier the runoff comes, the sooner the water runs out for certain irrigation systems that depend on streams, not water in reservoirs,” said Jim Pokrandt, a spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District…

But the early snowmelt, combined with recent weeks of heavy rain, is good news for quenching thirsty lawns right now, and maintaining municipal water supplies for the summer. “Everyone’s drinking water will be fine,” Pokrandt said.

New real estate group to focus on public land and water quality issues

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From the Greeley Tribune:

A group of real estate agents have organized a group in northern Colorado with a goal of bringing attention to the connection between the quality of life that attracts employers and the conservation of public lands and water. The primary focus of the Northern Colorado Home Ownership Alliance is a concern for the long-term impacts on Colorado’s clean water and public land because of the hardrock mining of uranium and other minerals. The group also hopes to focus on the need for clean energy and climate protection legislation that leads to the creation of new markets for renewable energy producers, local green collar job growth, and economic opportunity for families.

Western Governors Association Annual Meeting

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Here’s a recap of the final day of the Western Governors Association Annual Meeting, from Charles Ashby writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

On the final day of a Western Governor’s Association conference in Park City, Utah, the Colorado governor told the state’s media that talks over Western water issues should focus on desalination plants and conservation measures rather than trying to squeeze more water from the upper basin states of the Colorado River. The governor said he and others heard from water experts in similar dry regions of the world, and walked away “with great optimism” that there are other ways that growing, dry regions of the Southwest can get the water they need…

Ritter said technologies have improved in desalinization and conservation that make it less likely such lower Colorado River states as California, Nevada and Arizona will have to look upstream for additional water, supplies that the upper states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico can ill afford to provide. The question, however, is whether they will. Ritter said the governors of those three lower states didn’t attend the conference, but did send representatives to it. “It was still an optimistic conversation,” Ritter said. “The optimism flows from the ability for those lower basin states to address some of those challenges in a manner other than looking for Colorado to provide more (water). We’re just not going to be able to provide more to the (Colorado River) compact, we’re just not.”

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners delay deliberations awaiting $122,890 in fees

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Chaffee County Attorney Jennifer Davis told the commission that county code indicates that when fees exceed a deposit, the applicant has 10 days to submit certified funds which are the full difference between the deposit and the balance. According to a seven-page spreadsheet obtained by The Pueblo Chieftain, Nestle made $33,320 in deposits and still owes $122,890 of the total $156,210 application fee bill. The spreadsheet, which was submitted to Nestle on May 21, gives a detailed description of the date and types of charges ranging from postage fees to legal ad costs.

It also includes billings for the time county staff have spent working on the proposal and consultant fees. Chaffee County Planning Engineer Don Reimer, for example, spent 640 hours on the proposal through April 30 at a cost of $28,800 to the county. However, Nestle Waters North America representative Bruce Lauerman said, “The spreadsheet was not very clear – this is just poor accounting and I cannot express it any other way.” At his request, county representatives sent another invoice June 2. Lauerman said that invoice also was inadequate. Lauerman said he did not find out until Monday that failure to pay all the expenses incurred by the county could stall a decision. “We would like to pay our bill but this (invoice) will not get past Kentucky (Nestle officials),” Lauerman said. “I don’t think the county followed their own code here.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.