1976 Big Thompson Flood 33rd anniversary

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Today is the 33rd anniversary of the Big Thompson Flood. According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan there will be a ceremony tonight at to reflect on the tragic events of that day and the loss of 140 lives. From the article:

At 7 p.m. tonight, members of the Big Thompson Canyon Flood Memorial board of directors will again host a ceremony to recognize the devastation of the flood and share memories of tragedy and triumph. During the ceremony, four college students who lost their grandparents in the flood will be presented scholarships in memory of their loved ones…

For many Colorado residents, the memories of that devastating day in 1976 remain forever etched in our minds. For others, the impact of that tragic day does not truly resonate until they see the roadside memorial or read excerpts of books made available by people dedicated to ensuring the flood will never be forgotten.

As I remember it (highly unreliable), Mrs. Gulch and I had spent a week or so swimming through all the rain up in the Flat Tops Wilderness and were holed up that night in Steamboat Springs.

Southern Delivery System: 1041 lawsuit tab $420,000 for Colorado Springs Utilities and $440,000 for Pueblo County

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Each side will pay its own costs in the lawsuit, which was settled by an agreement this week. The suit was dismissed Tuesday in Pueblo District Court and both sides have asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to remand an appeal of District Judge Dennis Maes’ 2007 decision in the case. Colorado Springs released the figure for its costs on Thursday, while Pueblo provided numbers Wednesday…

Colorado Springs filed the lawsuit in El Paso County District Court in 2005, claiming SDS should be exempt from 1041 regulation. The case was heard in Pueblo District Court in 2007 after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled it was the proper venue…

As part of the agreement, Colorado Springs no longer will contest Pueblo County authority over the project.

More Coyote Gulch Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Republican River Basin: Kansas and Nebraska respond to arbitrators ruling in Republican River spat

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From the Omaha World Herald (David Hendee):

Kansas Attorney General Steve Six said Nebraska’s overuse of Republican River water is unacceptable.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said he remains hopeful that despite differences with “our neighbors, this matter can be settled outside of court.”

Both states accepted some parts of the decision and rejected others.

Nebraska agreed that it owed Kansas a token $10,000 in damages for farmer’s overuse of Republican River water in 2005 and 2006. Kansas once claimed $72 million in damages.

Kansas rejected the arbitrator’s recommendations limiting damages, on a proposed remedy and that sanctions must await additional violations by Nebraska.

Kansas accepted the arbitrator’s statement that Nebraska’s attempts to comply are inadequate and that Nebraska should further reduce the amount of groundwater farmers pump to irrigate crops.

Nebraska rejected the arbitrator’s recommendation that Nebraska and the Upper, Middle and Lower Republican Natural Resources Districts should make deeper cutbacks in the amount of groundwater pumped.

And Nebraska rejected the idea that a federal river master should take control of water use in the Republican valley.

More Coyote Gulch Republican River Basin coverage here.

Precipitation news: Wheat Ridge storm cleanup, July in Yuma and Denver

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Here’s a look at the aftermath of the big storm in Wheat Ridge, from Jeff Francis writing for the Wheat Ridge News. From the article:

[Councilwoman Karen Adams] pushed through the rain and hail and into her garage, just a minute before the power went out. Upstairs, her husband took shelter in a closet after the windows blew out. She comforted the family dog in the basement. Even though they were in the same house, the noise and chaos of the storm, along with the darkness, meant each didn’t even know if the other was home.

From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

Moisture has added up to 4.65 inches in Yuma for July. Last Thursday’s hail storm left 0.85 of an inch, followed by more rainfall Monday evening and again at midnight and into the early morning hours of Tuesday. Then came thunderstorms late Tuesday, stretching into the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, dumping another one-half inch. Total precipitation in Yuma for 2009 now is up 14.15 inches. Of that amount, 11.12 inches have fallen since May 1. The current wet period really seemed to kick in on May 21, the last day of school in Yuma when it remained rainy and cloudy all day. Yuma has received 10.41 inches of rain in the 10 weeks since May 21. If one prorated that pace of precipitation over a full year (52 weeks), Yuma would end up with 54.13 inches…

The new storm drainage pond north of the city of Yuma’s ball field complex, at the east end of town, has been an effective addition during this wet summer. However, there has been so much rain the last two months — at least for a place that basically is a desert — that the storm runoff is about to be maxed out.

Here’s a look at Denver’s rainfall in July from TheDenverChannel.com (Corey Christiansen):

This July is now just 0.18 inches away from being one of the top ten wettest July ever in Denver. As of Thursday, the Denver International Airport had recorded 3.53 inches of rain for the month. With all the extra rainfall, homeowners are seeing green in more places than just their lawns.

Boulder: City Council lukewarm to water, sewer and stormwater rate increases

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

At a study session Tuesday night, several council members indicated they wouldn’t support a proposal to increase the rates for water, wastewater and stormwater management beginning next year.

The Boulder Water Resources Advisory Board is recommending an increase of 3 percent on water bills, 2 percent for wastewater and 1 percent for stormwater. Together, the increases would mean most residential customers would pay $1.40 more a month — or about $17 more annually. Under the recommendations, water bills for businesses, such as restaurants, would increase about $162 a year, while heavy industrial uses would go up by $5,100.

While the City Council won’t make any formal decisions about the rates until September, Councilwoman Susan Osborne said she wouldn’t support increasing the rates this year because of the downtrodden state of the economy.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Morgan County: Source water quality protection plan to be final in October

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Having the plan will help the district have an “in” to be informed of any new proposed land uses in areas affecting its well fields and an opportunity for input regarding such changes, said MCQWD manager Mark Kokes. Those areas include the Hay Gulch area west of Wiggins hill and the San Arroyo and Beaver Creek drainages. The Colorado Department of Health and Environment has reviewed those areas, Kokes noted. The area of most immediate concern, Kokes said, is Hay Gulch, which is the most economically feasible area for underground storage.

Front Range interests, including the city of Parker, have been buying up water in Morgan County and other northeastern Colorado counties for possible underground storage and eventual transport to their facilities via pipelines, Kokes and Brush landowner Steve Treadway said. Underground storage has a couple of advantages — storage for later use with minimal loss to evaporation and built-in pre-treatment of the water, with some impurities taken out as the water percolates through the ground, Kokes said.

Water district officials and others are concerned, however, about possible degradation of water in their well fields as other water is brought in. Water taken from the South Platte River is high in nitrates and total dissolved solids, and the impurities grow worse as one moves downstream, Kokes said. “The further downstream you get, the less desirable the water is,” he stated…

Oil and gas activity is less of a concern than degradation due to inferior water being stored near well fields, Kokes said, pointing out that oil and gas is heavily regulated. Steve Enfante, county emergency management coordinator, noted that regulations on hazardous materials spills include requirements to report and clean up any spill of more than 25 gallons of any petroleum-based product. For crude oil, reporting and cleanup requirements start at five gallons, said Ken Strauch of the Northeast Chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Surprisingly, Kokes said, there is not much agricultural activity or many septic tanks near the district’s well fields.

More Coyote Gulch Morgan County coverage here.

Durango: City Council approves modified stormwater regulations

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From The Durango Herald (Jason Gonzales):

The amendments adhere to state standards, which address a few key points, said Kinsey Holton, storm-water quality program coordinator for the city:

•A permit now can be issued to a developer or general contractor along with the property owner.

•A lot without landscaping that is sold to a homeowner can be removed from storm-water management coverage.

•The city now has the power to enforce a fee schedule. The fee schedule will allow inspectors to cite permit holders without stopping work entirely, Holton said.

“It gives us an alternate tool instead of having to issue a stop-work order for a site that isn’t in compliance,” he said. “When stop-work orders are issued it sends everyone home, from the electrician to the plumbers who don’t have anything to do with the regulations.”

More Coyote Gulch stormwater coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Larimer County League of Women Voters opposed to Powertech’s proposed in-situ uranium project in Weld County

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Here’s an opinion piece from Carol Rush outlining the League’s opposition to Powertech’s plans to mine uranium from the aquifers under Weld County. From the article:

There are potential public health and economic impacts of the Centennial Project. Both the Larimer County Medical Society and the Colorado Medical Society wrote resolutions opposing in situ mining because of the potential health impact of radioactively contaminated water on our agriculture, livestock and civilian population. The League of Women Voters of Larimer County has concluded that in situ leach mining should not be done in this area because of the health and environmental risks it poses to the Northern Colorado Front Range. The league agrees with more than 11,000 local residents who signed petitions opposing the Centennial Project as well as the 80 municipalities, public entities and businesses who have signed resolutions opposing it.

More Coyote Gulch energy policy nuclear coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs Utilities drops challenge to Pueblo County’s 1041 permit authority

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

Colorado Springs Utilities sued in November 2005, challenging the right of Pueblo County to require a 1041 land-use permit, named for the legislation that gives counties authority over multi-jurisdictional projects. At the time, there was opposition to the pipeline in Pueblo, and a permit seemed unlikely. The $1.4 billion pipeline is expected to deliver 10 million gallons a day from Pueblo Reservoir starting in 2016 and will eventually bring 78 million gallons a day to a new reservoir southeast of Colorado Springs.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The action ends nearly four years of litigation, after Colorado Springs filed the lawsuit in 2005, centering on Southern Delivery System, a $1 billion-plus pipeline project that will affect Pueblo Dam, land in Pueblo West, Walker Ranches and numerous county roads. Pueblo County spent nearly $440,000 on the lawsuit and an appeal, which will not be recoverable, said Pueblo County Attorney Dan Kogovsek. Kogovsek explained the only way to have recovered the payments for lawyers and cost of depositions would be if the lawsuit were determined to be frivolous. “We discussed it, but just because we won the lawsuit does not mean it was frivolous,” Kogovsek explained…

Colorado Springs agreed not to contest Pueblo County’s authority to regulate SDS in the future, said Ray Petros, special counsel on land-use issues for the county…

In 2007, Chief District Judge Dennis Maes ruled in favor of Pueblo County’s position that its land-use regulations written under 1974’s HB1041 were applicable to SDS. Colorado Springs argued that they were not, because the project was not substantially different than other, existing utility corridors in the county. Colorado Springs appealed the decision, but the appellate court has not issued its opinion. The city and county have asked the case be remanded to district court. Colorado Springs applied for a 1041 permit in 2008 anyway, and received the permit in April. Last week, Colorado Springs City Council gave its blessing to the Pueblo County route over an alternative through Fremont County.

More Coyote Gulch Southern Delivery System coverage here.

CWCB: Division 6 Instream Flow appropriations in 2010

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

The Stream and Lake Protection Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board is giving a presentation at the Routt County Commissioner meeting to discuss recommendations received for potential Division 6 Instream Flow appropriations in 2010. These streams include: Big Beaver Creek, Grizzly Creek, Indian Creek, Moeller Creek, Morrison Creek, North Fork North Platte River, Piceance Creek, South Fork Big Creek, South Fork Slater Creek, West Prong South Fork Slater Creek, Wheeler Creek, and Yellow Creek. The Stream and Lake Protection staff will provide a brief presentation on the ISF program as a background for discussion. For additional information on these segments, please visit the CWCB’s website at: http://cwcb.state.co.us/StreamAndLake/NewAppropriations/ISFAppropriationNotices/2010ProposedAppropriations/2010Appropriations.htm

The meeting will take place at 11:00 a.m. on August 4th, 2009, and will be held in the Routt County Courthouse Commissioners’ hearing room, 522 Lincoln Avenue on the 3rd floor, Steamboat Springs. Questions about new appropriations may be directed to Jeff Baessler at 303-866-3441 ext 3202 orJeffrey.Baessler@state.co.us

More Coyote Gulch CWCB coverage here.

Grizzly Creek: Home for greenback cutthroat?

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Charlies Meyers (The Denver Post) is always looking for a new trout stream. He reports that a stretch of Grizzly Creek is above a stream full of mine runoff. That effectively blocks other species from the stretch. Here’s the report. From the article:

Janowsky is leading a broad- based team of experts poised to begin restoration on more than 2 miles of a creek whose sparkling headwaters rise off the flank of 14,267-foot Torreys Peak, a popular climbers’ destination just south of the Bakerville interchange off I-70. Funded in large part by MillerCoors, the Forest Service and Trout Unlimited and bolstered by a small army of volunteers, the effort will begin the first week of August with a launch of equipment and materials that will make the creek suitable for fish while erasing a rash of environmental scars. A buck-and-rail fence will be installed to prevent motorized incursion, while a mile of unauthorized road will be obliterated to further aid in stream protection. At the same time, a single-track trail will be maintained for hiking and other backcountry uses. Design and construction will be managed by Frontier Environmental Services, the firm that earlier was contracted by West Denver TU to design and build the so-called Golden Mile on Clear Creek. The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation will oversee the project once it has been completed, an effort that includes on-ground remediation and metals reduction…

“It’s the perfect chemical barrier to keep fish from coming in from down below,” said Paul Winkle, area biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

More Coyote Gulch conservation coverage here.

Runoff (storage) news: Pueblo Board of Water Works has a record amount of storage for the year

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The water board has about 50,000 acre-feet of water in storage now, nearly a two-year supply of potable water for the city. The water board supplies about 28,000 acre-feet annually for potable use, or about 9 billion gallons. However, much of the water in storage is needed to fulfill contracts for outside water sales and would be needed for the future growth of the city, Ward said. “If we get below 16,500 acre-feet in storage, then we start thinking about water restrictions,” [Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo Board of Water Works] said. “Right now, that would take several years of severe drought. Our target is twice the minimum, or about 33,000 acre-feet. We’re in a position where we can do that, but we wouldn’t have that luxury in the future because we don’t have the storage.”[…]

Right now, Pueblo has about 66,000 acre-feet capacity in storage accounts in four reservoirs. That number could increase by another 9,000 acre-feet by 2025 under a federal contract to use excess capacity at Lake Pueblo. The water board also has filed an application in Division 2 Water Court to triple the size of its Clear Creek Reservoir in northern Chaffee County and has been among those pushing for a study on the enlargement of Lake Pueblo. Pueblo supplies Comanche Power Plant with about 8,000 acre-feet of water annually, and the water board is obligated to provide another 5,000 acre-feet annually for the third unit under a 2005 contract. Pueblo also sells about 5,000 acre-feet of water annually to Aurora, under a lease agreement that can be suspended during a drought, as it was in 2002…

The water supply this year is swollen for several reasons, Ward said. The largest factor is boosting the amount in storage to supply Comanche. The water board also benefitted from a healthy spring runoff – Twin Lakes brought over 120 percent of average. The volume of the runoff surprised everyone and was bolstered by frequent storm systems during June. Finally, farmers who are leasing water from the Pueblo water board are delaying when they take the water, leaving it in storage longer.

Meanwhile the Pueblo City Council has approved the board’s sale of the Columbine Ditch to Aurora. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Columbine Ditch is located 13 miles north of Leadville on Fremont Pass and brings over water from the Eagle River basin. Council’s approval was the last piece needed for the sale, which already has been approved by the Aurora City Council and Climax. Money from the sale will help buy shares on the Bessemer Ditch. Mike Occhiato and Ray Aguilera voted against the sale at Monday’s City Council meeting, saying the water board should look for better alternatives in purchasing Bessemer shares. “Anytime I hear the word Aurora with the sale of water, it makes the back of my hair curl,” Aguilera said. “Anytime you sell water to Aurora from this basin, it doesn’t wash with me.”

The $30.48 million from the sale should be received in the near future, but details are still being worked out. The money from the sale will go toward $60 million the water board needs to complete its purchase of 5,200 shares of the Bessemer Ditch, about 25 percent of the total. The water board may not need the water for at least 20 years, and has agreed to lease water back to farmers for the cost of assessments during that time. It also has agreed to lease excess water from the sale to Pueblo County interests first and not to lease the water outside the Arkansas River basin. Other shareholders in the Bessemer Ditch would not be restricted from selling their shares to users outside the Arkansas Valley under changes in the Bessemer Ditch bylaws approved in May. However, Aurora – the only outside water provider that currently has the ability to move water out of the Arkansas Valley – is restricted from obtaining new water rights in the valley under several intergovernmental agreements. Last week, the water board entered financial contracts to issue $22 million in bonds to help finance the deal. The rest of the money would come from the water development fund and new long-term lease agreements for outside water sales. The water board is expected to discuss the amount of rate hike needed to finance the bonds at its Aug. 25 meeting and is looking for ways to minimize the increase in water rates.

More Coyote Gulch PBOWW coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Ruedi Reservoir update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This evening, we are bumping up releases from Ruedi by about 30 cfs. We anticipate inflows might rise slightly over night. As a result, later this evening, flows in the Fryingpan will be around 275 cfs.

Cañon City: Sewer work starts waterline project wraps up early

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Debbie Bell):

The Fremont Sanitation District will begin digging on Red Canyon Road, about 400 feet north of South Street. Red Canyon Road will remain open to local traffic only while the district extends the sewer main to High Street. “There is already an existing manhole there,” Brian Hagenau, district engineer tech, said Thursday afternoon. “We’re going to start there and work north.”[…]

The work is being done because the majority of residents in the area requested to be connected to the local sanitation district. For years, raw sewage has percolated out of the ground, caused by high water tables and poor soil conditions. Septic maintenance and failures have proven costly and have created many public health problems. “There are a lot of septics in that area failing because of the soil conditions,” Hagenau said.

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Debbie Bell):

Three months ahead of schedule, work on the city’s water transmission main project is complete.
Cañon City Engineer Adam Lancaster said all water line work on the project wrapped up this week. “Surface restoration on N. Fifth Street is all that remains,” Lancaster said Friday. “Public Works crews will start again on this next month and will likely be done in September.” The city began work on the massive project, which affected Main Street, U.S. 50, First Street and Fifth Street, in January. At $2.6 million, the venture was one of five major projects in the city’s $11 million water infrastructure update funded by a 20 percent water rate increase in January 2008.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Boulder: Council to weigh increases for water, sewer and stormwater

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

According to a memo being presented to the City Council during a Tuesday night study session, the Boulder Water Resources Advisory Board is recommending an increase in water, wastewater and stormwater rates. The proposal calls for an increase of 3 percent on water bills, 2 percent for wastewater and 1 percent for stormwater. Together, the increases would mean most residential customers would pay $1.40 more each month — or about $17 more annually. Water bills for businesses, such as restaurants, would increase about $162 per year, while heavy industrial uses would go up by $5,100.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Wyoming Governor Freudenthal urges slow going to protect state water supplies

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From the Associated Press via LocalNews8.com (Idaho Falls):

Freudenthal submitted written comments Monday to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, urging the agency to carefully scrutinize the proposal by Aaron Million. He wrote that he remains opposed to the project…The Wyoming governor says federal review of the proposal should include potential impacts on wildlife and endangered species.

More Coyote Gulch Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here.

Aspen: Smart grid installation underway

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From Smart Meters:

Aspen, Colorado has taken the first step towards implementing a smart grid that will take both electrical and water usage into account. The goal is to allow residents of the world-renowned ski resort to know how much energy or water they are using before they get their monthly bill while saving operational costs and increasing the reliability of the entire system. So far, smart electric services have become available. “We recently purchased about 150 new electric smart meters that can communicate information about how much energy a person is using and when,” said Lee Ledesma, utility operations manager for the city of Aspen, in an interview with the Aspen Times. “Your usage can be managed before the bill goes out.” So far, the city-owned utility has installed more than 200 smart meters mostly within an affordable housing development. Eventually, the smart meters will connect over the Internet with a Web portal that will allow utility customers to log in remotely and monitor their energy consumption in real time. At the present, homeowners that have a smart meter installed can call the billing department and ask for a report to be sent to them that details energy usage. “This is really the first step in transitioning to a smart grid system, which will increase response time for outages in addition to clueing customers and the city into energy and water consumption histories,” added Ledesma. He said that Aspen also has about 100 smart water meters available.

More Coyote Gulch conservation news here.

Precipitation news: Pueblo Board of Water Works says Lawn irrigation sales down for summer

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We won’t know what effect [lowered water sales] will have until the end of the year,” said Terry Book, deputy executive director at the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “You never can guess. We live off our (lawn) irrigation revenue. It’s been a steady year so far, but if we have a dry August, we may make it back.” Metered water sales revenue was only at 41 percent through the first half of the year, according to the most recent budget report. Water consumption within the system is nearly 2 percent below the five-year average, continuing a trend of lower per capita use that began in 2000…

First-half revenues were held down by a cool spring and frequent rains after temperatures finally warmed up, Book said. As of Monday, Pueblo officially had recorded 8.38 inches of rain, about an inch above average for the year. Other factors include conservation, either because of the change in attitudes found in the 2008 study, or because the city raised sewer rates, which are not set by the water board, but still appear on the same bill. Book said the peak days of usage reached all-time highs of more than 63 million gallons per day in 1997. This year, the highest reading has been 48 million gallons per day.

Range restoration use of herbicides questioned economically, environmentally

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Coyote Gulch readers are an interesting lot. Greg sends this link to an article about the perils of using herbicides in rangeland restoration, from Don Comis writing for the USDA. From the article:

Cattle grazing can help native forbs thrive because cattle prefer grasses over forbs, and cattle trample soil, loosening soil for seeds that the animals inadvertently plant when seeds are caught in their hooves or fur. That said, when herbicide wasn’t used, most native forbs did as well with or without cattle grazing.

Herbicide caused the native plants Missouri goldenrod and yarrow to become rarer over the 16-year study period. Barring herbicides, these two species proved capable of co-existing indefinitely with the exotics.

Four native perennials became rarer in sprayed plots, but only when grazing was excluded: velvety goldenrod, white prairie aster, vetch, and prairie sagewort. Herbicide spraying caused no long-term harm to four other native perennials. Rockjasmine and other plants belonging to the Androsace spp. group were not affected by the herbicide even initially.

That says a lot for the argument against tampering with the land — it’s damn hard to put things back. Another point to consider: There was only one application. What happens to the natives and spurge with multiple applications?

In other cattle business news the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has come out against S. 787 the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2009. Here’s a release from the organization via the Oregon Natural Resource Report:

Under the Act, family ranchers and farmers may be required to obtain permits from the EPA or Corps before conducting common, everyday operations, like watering their cattle or farming their land. The federal government is already struggling to handle a backlog of 15,000 to 20,000 existing section 404 permit requests. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the average applicant for an individual Clean Water Act permit spends 788 days and $271,596 in complying with the current process, and the average applicant for a nationwide permit currently spends 313 days and $28,915 – not counting the substantial costs of mitigation or design changes (Rapanos, 447 U.S. at 719, plurality opinion). Considering U.S. farmers and ranchers own and manage approximately 666.4 million acres of the 1.938 billion acres of the contiguous U.S. land mass, the massive new permitting requirements under this Act would be an unmanageable burden for the government, and could literally bring farming operations to a standstill.

Chilton shared from personal experience about a time his family ranch had to apply for a 404 permit to construct a road across a dry wash on their private property. The regulatory approval process took over a year and cost his family nearly $40,000.

“As a rancher, I wholeheartedly understand the critical importance of a clean water supply; it’s necessary for the health of my animals and my land,” said Chilton. “Federal agencies have ample authority under existing law to protect water quality, and it’s essential that the partnership between the federal and state levels of government be maintained so states can continue to have the essential flexibility to do their own land and water use planning.”

More Coyote Gulch restoration coverage here and here.

Megan Graham named to lead San Juan Citizen’s Alliance

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Graham, 35, bested about 30 other applicants from far and wide, Joe Griffith, chairman of the organization’s board, said Friday. [Mark] Pearson’s last day is July 31. Graham will start Aug. 17…

Graham knew how to answer questions – deep answers – and she knew when to stop, Griffith saida. Graham’s work as a director of membership and communications for the Colorado Environmental Coalition prepared her to work with the players she’ll be rubbing elbows with now. Writing editorials allowed her to master local, state and national issues, he said…

Graham has been in Durango since 1995. She earned a degree in communications at Fort Lewis College and was a reporter and editor at Herald from 1998 through 2000. In 2001, she started a five-year stint with the Colorado Environmental Coalition. She left the organization to return to the Herald as an editorial writer. “I want to continue Mark’s programs and expand the presence of the organization in the community,” Graham said. “I want to engage a broad cross-section of the San Juan Basin in our work.” Griffith said Graham’s immediate challenges are two:•Learn in depth the issues related to each staff member’s assigned field. Staff members handle specific issues such as water, federal land and environmental policies or gas and oil.

More Coyote Gulch San Juan Basin coverage here.

CWCB: Front Range water suppliers asking for top-down planning (and modification of environmental protections)

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Large Front Range water suppliers wrote a letter to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on July 15 asking for a review of regional water planning to date. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A July 15 letter from the major importers of Western Slope water – Aurora, Colorado Springs, Denver, Pueblo Board of Water Works and the Southeastern and Northern water conservancy districts – outlines the concerns about water planning in the state. The letter was to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Interbasin Compact Committee. It included a review of regional cooperative water planning to date and a “white paper” of suggested future actions.

“A major (although not exclusive) water supply challenge facing Colorado is the projected gap in water supply needed for the growing population in the Front Range urban corridor from Fort Collins to Pueblo,” the letter signed by managers of the six water providers states. “Unfortunately, the ability of Front Range water supply agencies to meet this water supply gap is complicated by a variety of political, institutional and regulatory factors that significantly hamper the ability to pursue new supply alternatives.”

However, each of the six water suppliers currently are moving their own projects forward, including the Southern Delivery System by Colorado Springs, Bessemer Ditch purchases by the Pueblo water board and the Arkansas Valley Conduit by the Southeastern district in the Arkansas Valley alone. [ed. Add the Windy Gap Firming Project, Northern Integrated Supply Project, Moffat System expansion, Colorado-Wyoming Coalition.]

“The prospects for arriving at a statewide consensus on the right timing and mix of water supply and demand management alternatives is further hampered by Colorado’s balkanized water supply and development framework,” the letter states. The letter goes on to call for CWCB and IBCC leadership to confront the political or legal obstacles to develop water projects in an “efficient and cost-effective manner.”

While commending the Front Range providers for taking a “positive step” toward resolution of problems, Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River District, said it is important to continue addressing the underlying conflicts, in a letter he wrote on July 17. “I believe without airing . . . underlying conflicts on (identified) projects, reaching a consensus on longer term projects is going to be impossible,” Kuhn wrote. “Without a resolution of the issues and inherent conflicts among (identified projects), how can there possibly be a consensus on the next generation of projects.” There is a “cultural divide” between the Front Range and the rest of the state which places the water needs of outlying areas as subordinate to those of the Front Range, Kuhn said. “Overcoming this cultural gap is very critical to establishing a positive environment that will open the door for the roundtable to succeed,” Kuhn wrote…

The list of “obstacles” the water providers included in their white paper included the Endangered Species Act, wild and scenic designation, wilderness designation, the National Environmental Policy Act, the need for “reform” of county land reviews under 1974’s HB1041, clean water certification, reuse regulations, water court decrees, recreational in-channel diversions and use of water in energy development.

Meanwhile, here’s a report on the current state of the roundtable process, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Meeting over the past four years, the IBCC and nine basin roundtables have yet to produce any agreements that would lead to a new transbasin water project. In fact, there are as often comments that such projects are no longer possible suggestions about how to move them forward. [Harris Sherman, Department of Natural Resources director], taking over the job as Gov. Bill Ritter’s appointee in 2007, redirected the IBCC to think in terms of a 50-year vision, looking toward the best possible future for all. “As we double our population in the next 50 years, it’s not a question of if we grow, but how we grow,” Sherman said. “The 2005 HB1177 (which set up the IBCC and roundtables) was a way to look at a future not as destructive to agricultural communities.”

The need for Front Range growth is frequently questioned, but big water interests counter they are merely preparing for an inevitable surge of urban population growth. The Western Slope has revived the specter of oil shale, which could drink up the remaining allocation of water to Colorado under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. Many are skeptical because the energy and water costs of producing oil shale are so high, no matter what price is set by the world market. Without a new transmountain project using unclaimed flows, agriculture would be dried up. There are studies about how to make the transfer of water easier, and what happens to local economies if all the water is taken from one area. It appears to be taboo to suggest that any Western Slope agriculture be diminished, however. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for this group to write the death knell for agriculture,” said T. Wright Dickinson, a northwestern Colorado rancher…

The lines of the problem have been clearly drawn and haven’t changed in the last four years. The IBCC and roundtables were created in 2005 after the worst annual drought in state history in 2002, a failed ballot measure to build unspecified big water projects in 2003 and a study revealing a gap in municipal water needs in 2004. The state has between 445,000 and 1.438 million acre-feet of water to develop from the Colorado River basin under the Colorado River Compact, although prolonged drought or climate change could affect the amount. The state demographer says the state’s population will double to 10 million people by 2050, with most of the growth occurring in the Pueblo-Fort Collins corridor. Right now, the state uses 1.2 million acre-feet for treated water supplies, and will need at least 2 million acre-feet by 2050. Only about one-third of the new supply will be developed under identified projects such as Colorado Springs Southern Delivery System, the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, Aurora’s Prairie Waters or the Windy Gap water supply firming project. Oil shale development could require as much as 500,000 acre-feet of water, if it ever happens.

“There are no single or simple solutions. It’s all about trade-offs,” Kuhn said. “The more water we develop, the greater the risk. This is as much about risk management as water development.”

More Coyote Gulch Colorado water coverage here.

Brush/Fort Morgan: Effluent mixing study on tap?

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jesse Chaney):

The study would help the cities determine whether to send effluent from their wastewater treatment facilities through a mixer before releasing it into the South Platte River. The mixer would disperse the water, which could prevent the effluent from releasing a potentially harmful plume into the river, said Brush Clerk Cathy Smith. The city of Brush has already budgeted for its portion of the study, she said.

More Coyote Gulch wastewater coverage here.

Hayden: Town Council considers actions to reduce 29% supply system loss

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Blythe Terrell):

According to numbers from 2005 through 2008, the town is producing more water than residents are paying for. Hayden Town Council members discussed the problem at their meeting Thursday, as well as issues related to money shortfalls in the town’s sewer and water fund. They couldn’t come up with clear answers…

Scott Price, the town’s water/wastewater plant operator, provided graphs and figures relating to the possible water losses at the Thursday meeting. His research showed that there doesn’t appear to be a seasonal variation or a change in loss between high- and low-use periods. “There’s a lot of variables in there, and that’s kind of why we’ve got to look at the averages,” Price said. The typical municipality experiences 16 percent water loss, Price said, suggesting that Hayden shoot for 10 percent…

Hayden is trying to refinance its debt on the water plant it built in 2003-04. So far, Martin and his staff members haven’t negotiated a better deal on interest rates. If they can’t do so, the town might take out a line of credit to pay bills and improve cash flow. That would be a temporary solution, Martin said. “It’s actually not a bad situation; it’s just like any business trying to figure out how you get through a period of time,” he said. “Because the water fund is a business, and right now it’s not making enough money to cover its bills, and that’s not a good thing.” Hayden town officials are working with bankers to figure out the next step for the enterprise fund. Martin said Town Council members probably would consider rate increases in coming months. The town can specify whose rates increase, leaving out senior citizens, for example, he said.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Crested Butte: Western State College water workshop

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Here’s a recap of this week’s workshop from Evan Dawson writing for the Crested Butte News. From the article:

While the meetings took place in the Upper Gunnison River Basin, there wasn’t much discussion of Gunnison-specific issues. Instead, the resounding topic across all the meetings was a dwindling water supply and growing demand for water all across Colorado…

[Peter Nichols, one of Governor Bill Ritter’s appointments to the IBCC] said it would take many years of problem-solving to find the 800,000 acre-feet of demand projected for the future of Colorado. Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director Harris Sherman said, “it’s not a question of whether we grow or not. It’s how we grow.”

More coverage from the Crested Butte News (Evan Dawson):

Both the Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District and Crested Butte Mountain Resort have plans for reservoirs to be built in Mt. Crested Butte, and both in nearly the same location, on the northwest side of town. But the plans were developed separately, and now the two groups must decide if the two reservoirs are compatible together—or if there could simply be one. The Water and Sanitation District discussed the reservoir during a meeting on Monday, July 13.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Storage (runoff) news: Lake Nighthorse 20% full

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

As of Wednesday the dam was holding back 25,000 acre-feet of water, slightly more than 20 percent of its capacity. The deepest point in the lake was 95 feet, with 87 vertical feet to go, Artichoker said. The amount of water the Bureau of Reclamation can take from the Animas River for Lake Nighthorse, one component of the Animas-La Plata Project, depends on the flow in the river. From April through September the agency must allow a minimum flow of 225 cubic feet per second below the pumping plant to satisfy the demands of downstream water-right holders and provide water for fish species; in October and November, the minimum flow is 160 cfs; and December through March, 125 cfs.

On Wednesday, the Animas flow peaked at 483 cfs, down from 766 cfs a week ago, 1,110 cfs two weeks ago and 2,110 cfs on July 1. Since frequent rain has done little to boost the flow, the Bureau of Reclamation has limited the amount it pumps to Lake Nighthorse, just over a ridge to the southwest from Bodo Industrial Park. The current 225 cfs downstream demand would allow the agency to pump considerably more than the 110 cfs it was taking on Wednesday.

Pumping into Lake Nighthorse will cease in August for 30 days. The hiatus will allow for saturation of the core of the earth-filled dam and give engineers a chance to check filling criteria devised by dam designers and safety engineers. “We don’t want to shock the dam by putting a big load on it all of a sudden,” Artichoker said. “We want to ease the dam into its function.” Piezometers will measure water level; inclinometers will show if there is settling or bending in the structure; brass embankment measurement points on the top of the dam also measure settlement; and a toe-drain system on the downstream side of the dam will indicate if there is seepage. “Information so far tells us that this dam is really tight, but we want to see if it’s performing as anticipated,” Artichoker said. “There won’t be any pumping, but there will be monitoring done 24/7.”

More Coyote Gulch Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Somerset: New treatment plant for coal mine benefits residents

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From the Delta County Independent (Kathy Browning):

The new treatment plant was started four years ago. It’s been a real step up from the days of just chlorinating river water. When water regulations changed for the better, a new treatment plant was required to meet current federal and state water quality standards.

The total project cost $700,000. Gunnison County contributed $50,000, the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant was for $375,000, Oxbow contributed $175,000 and the Town of Somerset received a DOLA loan for $100,000. The customers are paying off the loan through monthly fees of $36.50 for 10,000 gallons a month in the summer and 5,000 gallons in the winter. The cost is 15 cents for each 100 gallons over the limits. $20 from the monthly water bill goes toward paying off the loan and putting some aside for a capital reserve. While Oxbow Mining Waterworks operates the system today, when coal mining is completed and the land reclaimed the water treatment system will be turned over to the Somerset Domestic Waterworks District.

“We’re real fortunate to have Oxbow pay for a water treatment plant,” said Phillip Buskirk, president of the Somerset Domestic Waterworks District. “Oxbow helps Somerset a lot by running this.”

More Coyote Gulch water treatment coverage here and here.

Standley Lake/Clear Creek Source Water Protection planning group open house July 30

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Here’s a release from City of Northglenn Public Communications via YourHub.com:

*** The location for this event has been moved to the Community Room at West View Recreation Center, 10747 W. 108th Ave., in Westminster. Plague has been confirmed at Standley Lake Regional Park, and most of the park is closed. The time and date remain the same. ***

Residents and elected officials are invited to attend an open house at the Standley Lake Visitors Center on Thursday, July 30th between 3:00 and 5:00 pm. Participate in ongoing efforts to protect clean drinking water and gather information while enjoying refreshments and a relaxing afternoon by the lake. The Standley Lake/Clear Creek Source Water Protection Planning group is hosting this meeting to gather input on the Standley Lake Source Water Protection Plan. The plan is focused on identifying phosphorus and nitrogen sources and ways to reduce the levels of these fertilizers in Standley Lake.

Clear Creek and Standley Lake provide drinking water for over half a million people on the Front Range. Recipients of this water include residents of Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Golden, Arvada, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster. Effective protection of these water supplies requires collaboration from local government representatives, planners, state and federal agencies, and community members and organizations. Everyone is encouraged to attend this event. Presentations and posters will provide information on pollution prevention strategies and will provide details of the Source Water Protection Plan. In addition, you will have the opportunity to learn more about how you can help to protect the health of Standley Lake and the quality of your drinking water.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is funding this effort through a $50,000 grant, which is supported by in-kind funding from a wide variety of stakeholders.

For additional information about the meeting or the planning group, contact Rob Buirgy, protection plan coordinator, at 303-953-8342 or rbuirgy@gmail.com, or go to http://www.standleyswp.com.

More Coyote Gulch Clear Creek coverage here and here.

Green River: New release regime from Flaming Gorge will supplement winter flows for endangered fish

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From The Salt Lake Tribune (Mike Stark):

Matt Lindon, Utah’s assistant state engineer, said a new policy expected to be signed Sept. 21 will help guarantee year-round flows for the fish — and means any new requests for water in that area won’t be granted at the expense of the endangered species. The change is part of ongoing efforts to protect four endangered species: the humpback chub, the Colorado pikeminnow, the razorback sucker and the bonytail…

Although there isn’t much development along that stretch of the Green River now, Lindon said the new policy will safeguard the fish against future water requests and still allow the river to provide water that’s already spoken for. “We’re just making sure there’s water for fish and water for water rights,” he said.

Jana Mohrman, a hydrologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver, said the new policy will become especially important in years of low water, when the strain on the river is at its greatest. The fish would retain a “senior” water right and others who sought water in a new application after Sept. 21 would be subordinate to that.

More Coyote Gulch endangered species coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Springs city council approves Pueblo County route

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Debbie Bell):

Fremont County District 1 Commissioner Mike Stiehl, who studies water issues in Colorado, was reached Thursday morning at a water workshop in Crested Butte. He said the decision was not a surprise. “I still think there are a bunch of positive things that have come from this [Fremont County permit for SDS],” Stiehl said, “no matter how it turns out. The benefits to our economy were primarily potential employment, but that is still there no matter where they come out. Pueblo is pretty darned close, and people can commute.” Stiehl said Fremont County already has accounted for about $15,000 of the $50,000 deposit from CSU, not including commissioners’ time spent on the project. Unused funds will be returned to the utility. “We have accounted for time, effort, paper, telephones and staff time down to one-tenth of an hour,” Stiehl said.

Both Stiehl and Fredell said CSU had forged strong relationships with Beaver Park Water and the Penrose Water District. Both agencies worked with the utility company to create agreements to partner to obtain or move water through the SDS pipeline, if it was built in Fremont County.

More Coyote Gulch Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley: Reclamation funds water quality study

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From Targeted News Service (Ramesh Negi):

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation, Great Plains Region, has announced it intends to award a grant to Colorado State University to study water quality in Colorado’s Lower Arkansas River Valley. The estimated total program funding available was cited as $250,000, although no specific amount for this award was indicated by the agency. A grant notice from the Bureau of Reclamation – Great Plains Region states: “The public benefits to be derived from this Agreement are to improve water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and conservation efforts on the Arkansas River. The Lower Arkansas River Valley currently experiencing the ill effects of shallow ground water tables, excessive salt buildup, and high selenium concentrations, both on the land and in the larger river ecosystem.”

More Coyote Gulch Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Grand Junction: City of Grand Junction Environmental Laboratory evaluating gray water samples for coliform and E.coli bacteria

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Jo Holcomb):

Gray water contains household products, such as shampoos or detergents, and the effect on the environment is virtually not known at this time. That’s why CSU professors Sybil Sharvelle and Larry Roesner started a three-year research project to study the effects of irrigating with gray water. Specifically, the researchers are looking for negative effects on humans or plants. That’s where the city of Grand Junction Environmental Laboratory comes into play. The laboratory, in conjunction with Denis Reich, Western Slope water specialist, performed tests on bacteria for the study. From January through March 2009, gray water from baths, showers, sinks and washing machines was collected by volunteers from Curtis Swift’s master gardener class, at CSU Cooperative Extension Service. These samples were delivered to the city of Grand Junction Environmental Laboratory, which conducted the monitoring on total coliform and E.coli bacteria. Results of these cultures will be used in the researchers’ study.

More Coyote Gulch gray water reclamation coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Wyoming opposition building

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There isn’t much new news about Aaron Million’s pipeline but here’s a report about opposition up in the Green River Basin in Wyoming from Kirk Siegler reporting for New West. From the article:

Even around the arid West, a 550 mile water pipeline is not unheard of. But a two to three billion dollar project that’s privately financed would be unprecedented, at least for this region. But Million sees the project as a private-public partnership. He plans to sell the water to growing towns and cities…

That’s something you hear a lot in this part of the state. Downstream, the Green does briefly flow into Colorado. Locals also note that water in this basin is already scarce, and possibly already over-allocated to downstream farmers and cities. A few miles away in Rock Springs, local chamber of commerce director Dave Hanks points to another factor, climate change. Hanks says it’s already rearing its head here. There’s less snow, and less snowpack, the storage mechanism for water in the west. “We will definitely be opposed to this. It’s not no, it’s hell no,” he says…

Million promises to pull the plug on his proposal, if federal regulators conclude it will stress the system, and hurt the environment. But he says the whole reason he’s chosen to go through Wyoming and not the fragile, high mountains of Colorado, is because of the environment. Much of the I-80 corridor is designated for pipelines already. It’s also mostly downhill to the Front Range. Not so in his home state.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Montrose County Commissioners to hold hearing for new uranium mill August 13

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

A public hearing for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill between Naturita and Bedrock is slated for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13, at the Nucla High School gym, 224 W. Fourth St., Nucla. Commissioners are considering whether to approve a special use permit for Energy Fuels to operate the mill in an area zoned for agriculture. Energy Fuels recently secured the approval of the Montrose County Planning Commission, which, after several hearings, voted unanimously to forward the application on to the county commissioners with a recommendation for approval.

Proponents say the mill will bring badly needed jobs to the West End and regenerate the economy. Opponents contend the mill could pose health and environmental hazards that will last well beyond the anticipated economic boost.

More Coyote Gulch nuclear energy policy coverage here and here.

Monument: New well to replace failed well No. 7

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From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Bryan Grossman):

A well is being drilled at the Santa Fe trail head off of Highway 105 in Monument. The well is being constructed after the town declared an emergency because Monument Well No. 7 stopped pumping several weeks ago. The former well was inspected and it was found that the casing had deteriorated. Monument Well No. 7 was critical because it was the only well that could pump directly to the water tank, according to a town statement. The new well is estimated to cost a half million dollars and funds will come from available capital accounts and contingincies, according to the statement.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Pueblo County: Septic tank inspection cost to rise

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (John Norton):

The Pueblo City-County Board of Health on Wednesday approved the new fees recommended by Heather Maio, director of environmental health for the health department. Inspections of new systems will cost to $545 from the current rate of $325 and repaired systems will bring a fee of $467, substantially higher than the $40 charged now, the lowest in the state. The state caps fees at $1,000, which some counties have reached, Maio said.

More Coyote Gulch wastewater coverage <a href="

Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program update

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Here’s an update on the Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, from John Colson writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

…Dave Merritt, now serving as the Garfield County representative on the [Colorado River District’s] board of directors, [says that] there still is a need to raise half a million dollars in a “cost-sharing arrangement” to pay for a federal environmental assessment (EA) required by the National Environmental Policy Act. And it all must be finished up before the expiration of an existing agreement between the Denver Water Board and the Colorado River District, which together provide 10,825 acre feet each year to keep ample water in a stretch of the river known as the 15-mile Reach east of Grand Junction, which is the habitat of the fish. The issue, Merritt said, is the ongoing effort to prevent the extinction of four species of fish in the Colorado River — the razorback sucker, the bonytail chub, the Colorado pike minnow and the humpback chub.

The effort goes back to the 1980s, Merritt said, when the Bureau of Reclamation “reserved” 21,650 acre feet of water in the federally controlled Ruedi Reservoir, on the Fryingpan River above Basalt, to be used for the preservation of the endangered fish. The water was claimed by the federal agency after completion of the second of two rounds of water sales to private interests, Merritt said, leaving that amount of water unsold. An agreement was drawn up calling for the Western Slope and the Front Range water users to share in providing supplemental water flows, released from two reservoirs in the late summer every year, to raise the level of the 15-mile Reach and save the fish. Currently, the water is coming from the Wolford Mountain Reservoir for the Western Slope’s half, and from the Williams Fork Reservoir for the amount supplied by the Front Range, under an interim agreement reached in 1998, Merritt said. But that agreement is to expire in 2010, and a new arrangement has to be in place by 2012, according to Merritt. Currently, the new plan is for half the water, or 5,412.5 acre feet, to come from the Granby Reservoir, satisfying the Front Range obligation. The other half is to come from Ruedi Reservoir, to meet the Western Slope’s obligation.

Merritt said the river district is hoping that the water from Ruedi will be considered “nonreimbursable,” meaning the district would not have to pay the estimated $8 million value of the Ruedi water, because the water is being required to meet a federal environmental purpose. Although he is not directly involved in the ongoing negotiations for the Granby Reservoir water, Merritt said the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has estimated its value at $17 million. If the money is ruled to be “reimbursable,” Merritt said, it would be used to reimburse the Bureau of Reclamation for its costs in building the reservoir, which was completed in 1968 as the centerpiece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and has a capacity of more than 102,000 acre feet…

Merritt said the river district is hoping that the water from Ruedi will be considered “nonreimbursable,” meaning the district would not have to pay the estimated $8 million value of the Ruedi water, because the water is being required to meet a federal environmental purpose. Although he is not directly involved in the ongoing negotiations for the Granby Reservoir water, Merritt said the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has estimated its value at $17 million. If the money is ruled to be “reimbursable,” Merritt said, it would be used to reimburse the Bureau of Reclamation for its costs in building the reservoir, which was completed in 1968 as the centerpiece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and has a capacity of more than 102,000 acre feet.

More Coyote Gulch endangered species coverage here and here.

Storage news: C-BT reservoirs

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The water level at Horsetooth Reservoir is about 30 feet higher than it typically would be for this time of year, said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir. Municipalities and farmers that own the water haven’t been calling for it as they normally would, she said…

Horsetooth is about 10 feet short of being full, Lamb said. Carter Lake is about 12 feet short of capacity. A hot and dry August could dramatically change the water levels at the reservoirs, she said, but so far, “it’s been a really good water year.”

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo West’s share of the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program 20 to 30 acre feet annually, at first

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Here’s a look at what Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner has to say about Pueblo West’s participation in the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program as a condition attached to the 1041 permit for Colorado Springs Utilities’ proposed Southern Delivery System, from James Amos writing for The Pueblo West View. From the article:

Pueblo West didn’t complain until March, Chostner said, which was years into the negotiations and debate about the pipeline. Saying that Colorado Springs had originally wanted to reroute almost all the water in the river through the pipeline, Chostner said Colorado Springs agreed to the flow program to preserve some of the river as it flows through Pueblo. Pueblo West can’t think that a dry riverbed between Lake Pueblo and the confluence with Fountain Creek can be acceptable to anyone, he said. Even Pueblo West residents use the river and trail beside it for recreation. Pueblo built a kayak park in the river near Downtown, but Chostner said the recreation flows are about more than just kayaking.

The commissioner, one of three who represent Pueblo County, said Pueblo West wouldn’t have to give up much water, about 20 to 30 acre feet annually. The district has about 8,500 shares of water that translates into 8,500 acre feet of water in good years. In dry years, the yield could be about 4,500 acre feet of water – about what Pueblo West citizens use now on a yearly basis.

Chostner wasn’t speaking to any representatives from Pueblo West however, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain.

Other SDS partners, Fountain and Security, voiced support at the meeting [for the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program], but no one from Pueblo West showed up.

The Colorado Springs City Council drove a stake through the hear of the Fremont County route for SDS earlier this week when they approved the Pueblo County route. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The route decision takes a Fremont County option out of the picture, at least for now, and the cost reflects updated engineering cost estimates. The timing of the project was delayed because Colorado Springs now thinks it won’t need the project until 2017. It also allows water rates to increase more gradually. Most council members spoke of the decision in historic terms, comparing it to the Homestake Project of the 1950s and ’60s, agreeing with staff that it would be difficult if not impossible to gain the approval of state, federal and local agencies again if it’s not built now. Councilman Jerry Heimlicher called it a “tombstone vote,” meaning he would want it recorded on his tombstone when he dies. He vigorously defended the increase in water rates, saying they would go up even more without SDS.

Vice Mayor Larry Small touted the benefits to Fountain Creek Colorado Springs will pay for as mitigation to Pueblo County.

The council also heard about adding potential partners in El Paso County to the list of partners in SDS, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Vice Mayor Larry Small and Councilman Darryl Glenn also suggested the pipeline could be built sooner and paid for more easily by letting others into the project.

Councilman Tom Gallagher, the lone vote against SDS, spoke against the idea of enlarging the pool of users on the pipeline, saying council’s first obligation is to supply water to its own service area.

“They’re asking us to support their growth,” Gallagher said. “Do we have the supply to support their growth? If we’re not using the proper supply to make our decisions, we are risking our ability to serve our ratepayers.”

More Coyote Gulch Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Great Sand Dunes National Park: Public input sought for installation of groundwater monitoring wells

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The installation of the wells was a condition for the non-consumptive water right approved by state water court in August 2008. The monitoring wells would be installed along the south, north and west park boundaries to collect baseline water data and monitor any potential change in water levels. The monitoring wells would extend to the bottom of the unconfined aquifer – the shallower of the two groundwater formations that sit beneath much of the San Luis Valley. No water would be pumped from the wells, which will consist of a 2.5-inch pipe, protective housing built from a metal culvert and a metal pole with a solar panel and transmission antennae. Internal study by the National Park Service on the wells’ impacts on geology, soils, vegetation, wildlife and other resources found them to be minor.

Comments are due by Tuesday and can be mailed to Superintendent, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, 11500 Highway 150, Mosca, CO 81146. Comments can also be sent by e-mail to Fred_Bunch@nps.gov or telephone at 719-378-6361.

More Coyote Gulch groundwater coverage here and here.

San Luis Valley: Groundwater sub-districts sprouting across the valley

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Here’s an update for the formation of groundwater sub-districts in the San Luis Valley, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

About six sub-districts of the sponsoring Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) are in various stages of formation at this time. The primary goal of these water management sub-districts is to reduce groundwater use in order to sustain the Valley’s aquifers, protect senior surface water rights and maintain delivery obligations to downstream states through the Rio Grande Compact.

The first sub-district, located in the closed basin area north of the Rio Grande, has been approved, but its management plan is currently being litigated in water court. A late September trial is scheduled before Water Judge O. John Kuenhold.

Other sub-districts include: alluvial sub-district south of the Rio Grande, working on list of landowners within its boundaries; Conejos, collecting petitions again; Alamosa/La Jara, working on landowner information but comfortable with sub-district boundaries; Saguache Creek, trying to work out kinks in groundwater model; and San Luis Creek, progressing and has set boundaries…

RGWCD Attorney David Robbins added, “The more we know, the better the modeling will work and the more fairly we can make decisions what should be done to keep the system in balance and protect the senior water rights.” Robbins added he is willing to provide as much information as possible to objectors of the sub-districts in attempts to resolve contested issues short of trial. “I have to do everything I can to try to find areas where we don’t have to spend our time in court and we can reach some agreement,” he said.

However, he said he was certain the September 28 trial would still go forward and could last several weeks. Robbins said attorneys for Sub-District 1 on Monday filed a response brief to one filed by the senior water rights group that had challenged the way recharge decrees in Sub-District 1 were used in the model. “They were arguing the recharge decrees could not be taken into account when looking at impacts of well pumping. The recharge decrees are set up in part to replace the impacts of well pumping.”

In addition, Robbins said the senior water rights group last week filed a motion challenging any reliance on the Closed Basin Project production for replacement water alleging the project is an injurious activity that has to be augmented. He said organizers of the sub-districts in the San Luis and Saguache Creeks have also expressed concerns about the Closed Basin Project…

Robbins said in theory the Closed Basin Project is diverting salvage water. “If the terms and conditions of the decree are correct, that’s what it is doing.” Robbins added that the courts in the past have upheld the Closed Basin Project decree and associated agreements when they have been challenged but he would not presume to guess what the judge would decide in this present legal challenge. “Judge Kuenhold will decide based on what’s before him,” he said.

More Coyote Gulch San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Denver, South Metro and Aurora to coordinate and share supply facilities?

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Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority are exploring ways that facilities could be shared to optimize supply distribution, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Denver Water, Aurora Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority are preparing a report that would identify how water supply systems could be shared, Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher said. “We’re underutilizing our resources,” Pifher told a joint meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee and the interim legislative water resources committee. “We’re looking at ways to share our infrastructure, but it may require relief in water law to give us the additional flexibility to make that kind of project work.” By capturing flows that are not used, there would be less pressure in the short term on agricultural water rights. In the long run, there would be reduced costs for storage and pipelines if the water providers are working together, Pifher said…

A study of how the three entities could work together is being prepared and will be released later this year, Pifher added. Together, the water providers supply almost 500,000 acre-feet of water to a population of about 1.7 million. South Metro includes 13 separate water providers that have been looking at their own study of how to jointly use resources better…

Denver Water is in the midst of a 10-year plan aimed at reducing per-capita water consumption by at least 20 percent. It is also looking at possible projects to physically reuse water. Aurora’s $750 million Prairie Waters Project, now under construction, will recapture its return flows from the regional wastewater treatment plant and pump them 34 miles upstream. Return flows from water imported from the Western Slope, from Denver Basin aquifers or taken as consumptive use from ag dry-ups, in some cases, can be reused to extinction under state water law. Most of the water is not physically reused now, but exchanged against native flows. A 1999 study indicated there are about 200,000 acre-feet of reusable water in the Denver Metro area, with about 133,000 acre-feet coming through wastewater plants.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Colorado Springs: Utilities’ financing plan doubles rates over 10 years

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

Sitting as the Utilities Board, the City Council on Wednesday approved a plan for financing and building the Southern Delivery System water pipeline, which includes a doubling of water rates between 2010 and 2019. The city-owned utility has already received approval from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the reservoir, and Pueblo County. Though each rate increase will have to be approved by the council annually, the plan calls for annual water rate hikes of 10 percent to 12 percent through 2017, and 4 percent a year for two years after that. The increases would be on top of a 41 percent hike in water rates this year. “The rates will double over the next nine years as we go forward in getting this project done, but it’s something that needs to be done for the future of our community,” said Mayor Lionel Rivera. Average monthly water bills would go from about $40 in 2010 to $70 to $100 in 2019.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Aspen: FERC transfers Ruedi hydro plant license to Aspen

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From the Aspen Daily News:

The federal license to operate the hydroelectric plant at Ruedi Reservoir has been approved for transfer to the city of Aspen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Prior to the July 14 ruling, the hydro plant license had been held jointly by Pitkin County and the city.

More Coyote Gulch hydroelectric coverage here and here.

New stormwater regs for Durango?

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From The Durango Herald (Shane Benjamin):

On Friday, the city held a public meeting at the Durango Community Recreation Center to discuss the proposed changes. About 45 people attended, including contractors and a representative from the Colorado Department of Public Health’s Water Quality Control Division, which is charged with monitoring water quality and control throughout the state. The Planning Department is expected to vote on the proposed changes at its regular meeting July 27. The proposed changes will then go to the City Council for consideration.

More Colorado Coyote Gulch stormwater coverage here.

Lower Ark and Pueblo Board of Water Works work out plan to move water through Lake Minnequa

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

the water board and Lower

Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District stepped in to provide a way to move water through the lake. The Lower Ark will allow its water to flow through the Minnequa Canal into the system that includes the St. Charles reservoirs and Lake Minnequa, owned by Evraz. The water board will make up evaporative losses of water stored in Lake Minnequa. The water board will apply for two junior exchange rights and a junior storage right under the resolution approved Tuesday. Water Resources Administrator Alan Ward explained the need for the application to the board Tuesday.

The first exchange would allow water stored at Lake Pueblo to be exchanged upstream to the Minnequa Canal headgate at Florence, which gives the water board more flexibility in choosing the type of water used to fulfill its obligation. The water board has a carriage agreement with Evraz to move the water through the canal, and loses about one-sixth of the water as it flows the 45-mile length of the ditch.

The second exchange would be from the Lake Minnequa outfall into the Arkansas River, located at the Interstate 25 bridge over the river, to Lake Pueblo. This would let the water board recapture some of the water it provides for Lake Minnequa. “We couldn’t use it all the time, because it would be junior to the RICD (Pueblo’s recreational in-channel diversion) and the flow management program,” Ward said. “When the flow conditions are right, we want to have more flexibility to recapture that water.”

A 1,200 acre-foot storage right, junior to any others on the river, would allow the water board to store floodwaters in Lake Minnequa under rare circumstances.

This was a good year to store water.

In other PBOWW news: The board detailed its plan to finance the Bessemer Ditch buy, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The board will issue $22 million in bonds by Oct. 22 to round out its package of $60 million to purchase and convert 5,230 shares of the Bessemer Ditch, roughly one-fourth of the total. There are 65 contracts to close, so some of those will be completed before the date of the bond issue, Executive Director Alan Hamel said…

The bonds are one of three legs the water board is using to finance the Bessemer purchases. The board is planning to gain $30.48 million from the sale of the Columbine Ditch to Aurora and Climax Mine, with City Council approval of the contract expected on Oct. 27. The board will fill out financing from its water development fund, which was built up with lease contracts to Aurora and Xcel Energy in recent years, and some smaller long-term leases approved this year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.

Runoff news: San Luis Valley having a good water year

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

The creek at the dunes flowed, Platoro Reservoir was full, the San Luis Lakes hosted boating for the first time in years, well levels rose and the San Luis Valley’s rivers delivered water to downstream states in what local water experts are viewing as a pretty good water year so far. Making the 2002 drought year a dry memory, the 2009 water year has been so healthy in terms of recharge, spring run off and precipitation that the Valley’s rivers have had no problem meeting their Rio Grande Compact delivery obligations to New Mexico and Texas. As a result, water administrators have not had to cut irrigators back on water use to the extent they normally do, and even junior priority water rights came into priority this year…

Currently the Rio Grande has an 8-percent delivery obligation to the state line, but the water division is able to handle that with return flows. “We have about 100 cfs [cubic feet per second] down at the state line right now,” Cotten said. Even with the flow only about 70 percent of average right now, the Rio Grande should have no problem meeting its annual obligation to downstream states according to [Division III Division Engineer Craig Cotten]. “It was really a good year,” he told members and guests of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District Board (RGWCD) on Tuesday…

Retired Division Engineer and current RGWCD Manager Steve Vandiver said he saw more gains in the aquifer in May than he had ever seen. Several monitoring wells saw gains of 12 feet in just one month, he said. Mike Blenden, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said habitat conditions on the Monte Vista wildlife refuge were good, almost like “the good old days.” “We raised a lot of birds,” he said…

RGWCD District Engineer Allen Davey noted unanticipated gains for the first part of the year in his longitudinal study of the Valley’s unconfined aquifer storage. “We have seen some drop off now, but it’s going to have to be a good year,” he said. He said he also found increases in confined aquifer monitoring wells.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Colorado River District Annual Water Seminar September 18

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From email from the Colorado River District (Mandi Ebeler):

“Dust in the Wind and Other Winds of Change”

The Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar is Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colorado. Cost is $25. Speakers and panels will discuss Colorado River operations by the Bureau of Reclamation in the Lower Basin and this year’s unusually intense winter dust storm phenomenon and early runoff. We also expect to hear from a new high ranking member of the Obama administration’s Department of Interior. More is yet to come. Look for registration information in the coming weeks.

For more information about the Annual Water Seminar, contact Jim Pokrandt, Colorado River District, 970-945-8522 x 236, jpokrandt@crwcd.org

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Interbasin Compact Committee meeting recap

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Here’s a recap of Monday’s meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

[Harris] Sherman and the staff of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a part of his division in state government, presented daunting numbers to the Interbasin Compact Committee, which formed after the Statewide Water Supply Initiative identified a gap in municipal water supplies.

The first SWSI report in 2004 looked at needs to the year 2030 after shortfalls plagued the state in the 2002 drought. Five years later, the state is looking to the year 2050, with new draft reports giving updated numbers, and it’s not a pretty picture. The state demographer projects the population will double by 2050 to nearly 10 million people. Municipal needs – total diversion of water – will increase at least 830,000 acre-feet by that time, up from about 1.2 million acre-feet today. If projects don’t go as planned, the state’s climate changes or water is used for oil shale development, the additional water needed would be 1.7 million acre-feet.

The cities aren’t the largest users of water, as farms typically divert 85 percent of the water the state uses each year. In addition, the state’s recreation economy depends on flows being available in streams. Agriculture has been the easiest source of new water as cities have grown, and one purpose of SWSI was to slow down that trend…

While the IBCC has been meeting for years on the issues, little has been resolved, and Sherman framed Monday’s meeting as just the first step in addressing the needs.

The panel also heard a presentation on the study of a nonconsumptive needs – the water left in streams or added to benefit fish, wildlife and recreation – and learned that not all of the state’s nine basin roundtables are treating the information in the same way. “I’m a little distressed there’s no quantification of needs in some basins,” said Melinda Kassen of Trout Unlimited, representing environmental interests. “Are you suggesting it won’t be done in every basin?”

CWCB staffers explained the municipal needs were only the first to be addressed and the other needs will be considered as well, as required by the statute that formed the IBCC. Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said the CWCB report appeared to be heavily weighted toward traditional water projects that remove water from one area to use in another. She asked if the same amount of study would be devoted to land-use and conservation issues…

Jeris Danielson, representing the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, asked whether the state was looking at how ag rights on the Western Slope, which would yield cleaner water, stack up against ag rights in the South Platte and Arkansas river basins. He said the additional cost for treatment of water from the Front Range basins should be factored against the cost of building pipelines to move Western Slope water. That caused just about everybody from the Western Slope to bristle. “We have agricultural impacts as well,” Curry responded. “This is just a huge pressure on Western Slope agriculture.

Here’s an email announcement from the IBCC:

Water and Land Use Planning for a Sustainable Future: Scaling and Integrating

Western States Water Council
Colorado Department of Natural Resources
Western Governors’ Association

Red Lion Denver Central Hotel
Denver, Colorado
September 28-30, 2009

Integrating water and land use planning at different scales is increasingly important as we strive to meet challenges related to growth, change and sustainability in the arid West. Land use impacts water demands and water availability limits land use options. Sound planning requires taking both into consideration. We can’t define and achieve sustainability without understanding the limits of our land and water resources, and the present and future demands on those resources.

As the Chinese aphorisms say, “Together we get smart. Together we work. Together we progress.” The purpose of this symposium is to bring together diverse participants from special districts, cities and counties, state and federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations, including policy and decision-makers, planners, developers, and regulators to look at water and land use patterns, share experiences and concerns, identify problems and potential solutions, discuss obstacles and opportunities, and develop recommendations to better integrate and scale water and land use planning for a sustainable future.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Colorado River Basin: Climate change scenarios and reservoir depletion risk

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From the Science Blog:

The research team examined the future vulnerability of the system to water supply variability coupled with projected changes in water demand. The team found that through 2026, the risk of fully depleting reservoir storage in any given year remains below 10 percent under any scenario of climate fluctuation or management alternative. During this period, the reservoir storage could even recover from its current low level, according to the researchers.

But if climate change results in a 10 percent reduction in the Colorado River’s average stream flow as some recent studies predict, the chances of fully depleting reservoir storage will exceed 25 percent by 2057, according to the study. If climate change results in a 20 percent reduction, the chances of fully depleting reservoir storage will exceed 50 percent by 2057, [Balaji Rajagopalan, a CU-Boulder associate professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering] said…

Total storage capacity of reservoirs on the Colorado exceeds 60 million acre feet, almost 4 times the average annual flow on the river, and the two largest reservoirs — Lake Mead and Lake Powell — can store up to 50 million acre feet of water. As a result, the risk of full reservoir depletion will remain low through 2026, even with a 20 percent stream flow reduction induced by climate change, said Rajagopalan.

Between 2026 and 2057, the risks of fully depleting reservoir storage will increase seven-fold under the current management practices when compared with risks expected from population pressures alone. Implementing more aggressive management practices — in which downstream releases are reduced during periods of reservoir shortages — could lead to only a two-fold increase in risk of depleting all reservoir storage during this period, according to the study.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Energy policy — oil shale: No shortage of possible recovery technologies

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Here’s a roundup of the current state of oil shale recovery technologies and leasing pressure from industry from Dennis Webb writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

As oil shale enthusiasts hope for another chance to try out new ideas on federal lands, environmental groups question the need for a new round of RD&D leases. There are plenty of private oil shale holdings where research and development can occur, said Mike Chiropolos of Western Resource Advocates. Meanwhile, for environmentalists and policymakers pondering the potential impacts of oil shale development, recent patent activity gives them some things to think about.

For example, Chevron’s concept involves injecting carbon dioxide into underground shale formations, along with possible combinations of ammonia, acids, hydrocarbons and other substances. Critics worry about protecting groundwater in these and other oil shale approaches, and they fear how much water oil shale development will require. But Chevron has said it will pursue only a process that’s environmentally sound, and it contends its method actually could produce excess water and result in sequestration of carbon dioxide, thus helping combat global warming.

John Dorgan of Golden filed a 2007 patent application involving a concept to produce potable and nonpotable water from oil shale development, with the option of using the nonpotable water to sequester carbon dioxide. Such ideas may hold promise for reducing oil shale development’s environmental impacts. But Chiropolos said that particularly where federal land is involved, any ideas that are pursued, including any incorporating solar, would require a hard look at potential impacts, such as how many acres of land would be affected.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.