Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District meeting recap

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

“Our research shows some major downstream impacts relative to the Fountain Creek drainage and the Lower Arkansas River,” Colorado State University-Pueblo biology professor Scott Herrmann told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District last week. Herrmann thanked the Lower Ark board for its support of the studies over the last three years in purchasing equipment and supporting research on Fountain Creek. The board has provided $375,000 for the Fountain Creek studies. The Lower Ark board helped to purchase an inductively coupled mass spectrometer for the university. The equipment is critical to timely measurement of trace metals in water, plants, animals, insects and other life on the creek…

“They came back for $100,000 this year, and we’re hoping they can find more funding,” said Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager. “We just don’t have the money.”

The work includes five projects on Fountain Creek that look at levels of metals, bacteria and other contaminants both in the water and in aquatic life along the creek. During the studies, a sewer line leak was found and corrected in Manitou Springs. Most recently, traces of mercury were found in Fountain Creek water where none had been previously been detected. The CSU-Pueblo team plans to begin a sixth project to analyze municipal, industrial and agricultural releases of organic compounds in Fountain Creek and downstream.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta decided that the Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act is correct and no permit is required to transfer water from one area to another. The decision, which is likely to face appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, overturned a Miami federal judge’s ruling in a case where environmental groups Miccosukee Indian tribe had sued the South Florida Water Management District for its practice of pumping contaminated farm water into Lake Okeechobee. Nichols and other lawyers in the case were surprised that all three judges supported the decision in the case, which has already moved to the Supreme Court and back on some points. “This is important to the Western United States, but it’s not over yet,” [Water attorney Peter] Nichols said.

Subjecting transfers of water, including transmountain diversions, to water quality permits could end up costing Colorado water suppliers millions of dollars. Water providers could be required to build treatment plants if the Miami ruling were upheld. “The Colorado-Big Thompson Project has 17 diversions and plants would cost $3 million each,” Nichols said. “Colorado has 105,000 miles of mountain streams and not one foot is affected by this issue.” Nichols said the issues in the Eastern United States are different than in Colorado and other Western States. “In the Eastern states, they are concerned about flooding, while the West moves water to where it is needed,” Nichols said. “There is no evidence that transfers cause the same sorts of problems in the Western United States.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

This spring, the city of Pueblo removed about 30 acres of tamarisk and Russian olive trees that were blocking access to the lake, said Scott Hobson, city planner. “The lake has nice shoreline areas that were being blocked by about 16 acres of tamarisk and 17 acres of Russian olive,” Hobson told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board at its monthly meeting this week. “A year ago you could not see the lake. The lake area has opened up.”

City crews cut out the trees – invasive species which use large amounts of water – at a cost of about $90,000, Hobson said. The city has followed up with the release of beetles last week in an effort to knock back tamarisks, or salt cedars, not only at Lake Minnequa, but along the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. The $5.2 million park project is being funded by a combination of Great Outdoors Colorado and federal grants, as well as from collections of the stormwater utility fee. Bids were opened Thursday for the next phase of projects to improve wetlands, extend a road into the park, build basketball courts, create a playground area and build a trail around the lake. Council is expected to act on the bids at its meeting Monday. The next phase will cost $3.5 million, mostly for earth-moving and restoration projects, and must be completed by the end of the year to meet the conditions of the state grant, Hobson said…

The city already has spent $1.5 million for land acquisition and water piping needed to channel stormwater into the lake and connect it with existing stormwater lines. The 100-acre lake will have a base pool of about 600 acre-feet, which will be supplied by the Lower Ark and supplemented by the Pueblo Board of Water Works under an agreement reached last year. It also will have the capacity to detain up to a 100-year flood and release that volume of water back into the Arkansas River over a 96-hour period, Hobson said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

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