Rio Grande Basin: Cottonwood Creek desecrated?

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From the Center Post Dispatch (Teresa L. Benns):

Baca Grande property owner Terrell Tucker filed a civil lawsuit last August over construction of dams on Cottonwood Creek running through the Baca Grande Subdivision and now is considering a class action suit. According to Tucker, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) now apparently admits there was a violation of the Clean Water Act violation last year when a 75-foot long, 18-foot wide road was constructed on property owned by Chuck and Esther Grant adjacent to Tucker’s property. The almost seven-foot deep road was built by dredging an estimated 330 tons of earth from Cottonwood Creek, which runs through Tucker’s property and that of his neighbors, the Mathesons. Tucker and other property owners protested at that time that they had not been properly notified concerning the variance to construct the dam. Later another culvert was erected on Lot 183 in the subdivision.

The Mathesons and Tucker last year described the creek as “desecrated” by the road construction, noting that frogs, toads, lizards, ducks and other wildlife species have been adversely impacted by the dredging and the placement of the culvert. Tucker said the original POA covenants were established to, “preserve the natural environment and to encourage the protection of environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, wildlife corridors and stream beds.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage of the Rio Grande Basin here.

Pipeline from Bailey to Conifer: 1041 permit slowing project

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From The Fairplay Flume:

The plans were delayed due to the company needing a Park County Special Use 1041 permit, according to Conifer Water LLC Managing Partner John McMichael. McMichael told the Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District board members at their July meeting that construction of the pipeline will begin in November if the company obtains the Park County 1041 permit by then. The Park County 1041 permit application has been completed but not yet filed with Park County. McMichael said obtaining additional funding partners should be completed in July. Then the application and the $25,000 fee would be submitted.

The company plans on taking 3.9 cubic feet per second of water out of the North Fork of the South Platte at a diversion point in Bailey. That water is not part of Bailey Water and Sanitation District’s decreed water rights.

McMichael said the company is negotiating with the Bailey Water and Sanitation District to become a wastewater customer. The tap fee would be enough for the district to build a new state of the art treatment facility to process wastewater, similar to the one at the new Safeway-anchored Conifer Town Center, McMichael said.

He estimated a new facility would cost about $3.5 million to treat 500,000 gallons of wastewater per day…

At the Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District meeting, McMichael said that Conifer Water did not plan to obtain water rights but would use its customers’ water rights and augmentation plans. The company would only service water and sanitation districts as customers. McMichael said the goal is to get districts off water wells as a source of water and use surface water instead. Each district would remove solids from the wastewater, and any final treatment needed would be accomplished at the new Bailey wastewater treatment plant…

McMichael said the company would need to construct a water storage tank somewhere along the 13.3-mile route as well as lift stations for eight-inch diameter water and sewer pipelines. The company is currently considering land on Richmond Hill for a storage tank. A construction permit would be needed from Jefferson County for the storage tank. Burke McHugh, chief executive officer for Conifer Water, said the initial money needed for the project was estimated at $24 million. Of that, $18 million would be obtained through debt and $6 million from the company. He did not say whether the money would be obtained through loans, bonds or certificates of participation (a type of municipal bond often used to finance capital improvement projects or equipment). McHugh said the project was a 15- to 30-year plan. “In the long run, it will be better than adding new wells (to serve developments),” McHugh said…

Will-O-Wisp Metro District President Rick Angelica said the district had told McMichael that it was not interested for several reasons. First the district had plenty of water, including surface water. The district had no interest in spending money to change its water source, discharge point and water augmentation plan in water court. It has no intention of giving the control of its water rights and augmentation plan to a for-profit company. Lastly, the contract Conifer Water offered the district would increase the cost of providing water and sewer to district customers six to ten times over Will-O-Wisp’s current cost. “I told them ‘You’re about five years too late’,” Angelica told The Flume.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Mesa County: Water supply systems

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Here’s a short primer with details for water supply in Mesa County, from Michelle Will writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinal. From the article:

Here in the Grand Valley, we rely on snowpack for our water storage and supply. If you live in Mesa County, the water providers are the city of Grand Junction, Clifton Water District, the town of Palisade and the Ute Water Conservancy District. Although these water providers all serve residents of the Grand Valley, even their source waters can vary.

• The city of Grand Junction’s source water comes from Juniata Reservoir, the Kannah Creek Basin, the North Fork of Kannah Creek and Purdy Mesa Reservoir, all of which store runoff from the forests on Grand Mesa.

• The Clifton Water District’s sources are tributaries that flow into the Colorado River, including the Blue River, the Eagle River and the Roaring Fork River.

• The town of Palisade’s source water comes from Cottonwood Creek, Kruzen Springs, Rapid Creek and Cabin Reservoir, all on Grand Mesa. Approximately 25 springs contribute to the town’s water supply.

• Ute Water’s source is snowmelt surface water on the north-facing slopes of Grand Mesa. More specifically, the water travels from Coon Creek, Mesa Creek, Plateau Creek and Rapid Creek, as well as the Jerry Creek Reservoirs. Ute Water also can supplement its water sources with diversions from the Colorado River.

Most people don’t realize that a large part of all the lakes, rivers, creeks and streams located on Grand Mesa constitute a majority of the Mesa County water provider’s watershed. For additional information on where your water comes from, contact your individual water provider.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Susan’s purse-making caddisfly: Scott Hoffman Black ‘We sure feel that if any animal deserves it, it’s this one.’

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From The Fairplay Flume (Danny Ramey):

The Susan’s purse-making caddisfly (Ochrotrichia susanae) is found in just two places – Trout Creek Spring in Chaffee County and High Creek Fen in Park County.

The High Creek Fen is made up of 1,147 acres of wetland in western Park County, about 8.5 miles south of Fairplay. It is primarily owned by The Nature Conservancy and the Colorado State Land Board, as well as private landowners, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

An EPA document tied to the petition states that the Susan’s purse-making caddisfly is a small, hairy, brown caddisfly in the family Hydroptilidae. and adult forewings are 2 millimeters, or 0.08 inches, in length.

The rarity of the Susan’s purse-making caddisfly was one of the main factors motivating the petition, said Scott Hoffman Black, the executive director of the Xerces Society. “When you’re an animal that lives in only two places, if one of those places is destroyed, you’re in trouble,” he said. The petition also cited threats such as grazing animals, logging, roadbuilding, fires, water use, and camping and hiking as dangerous to the caddisfly and its habitat, said Gelatt. Along with its rarity, the Susan’s purse-making caddisfly should be put on the list because of its importance to its ecosystem, said Black. It is not only a vital part of the food chain but also a good indicator of how the ecosystem is doing. “When you see that they [the caddisflies] are declining, the ecosystem isn’t doing well,” said Black.

With the petition approved, the process will now move into the status review phase. During this phase, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin examining whether or not the Susan’s purse-making caddisfly requires protection under the Endangered Species Act. A 60-day public comment period began on July 8, to receive feedback from both scientific experts and normal citizens. The period will end on Sept. 7, said Gelatt.

Once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has researched the threats to the caddisfly, it will receive one of three designations, said Diane Katzenberger, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The first is that the threats to the caddisfly do not warrant a place on the list, which would end the process. It could also be found that the threats warrant a place on the list for the caddisfly. At that point, work on a proposal would begin. Finally, it could also be found that while a place on the list is warranted, it could be “precluded by listing actions of higher priority,” said Katzenberger. If that happened, the caddisfly would be put on a candidate list.

Black is confident that the caddisfly will find its way onto the endangered species list. “We sure feel that if any animal deserves it, it’s this one,” he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Durango: New stormwater regulations in the offing?

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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…

The proposed revisions to the city code help clarify the permitting process and largely reflect the state’s permitting standards, Holton said.

The most notable changes include:

•The implementation of a fine structure for violations. The city is proposing a $250 fine per violation, per site visit. That amount can be increased up to $1,000 for subsequent violations or noncompliance.

•As it is now, property owners are required to have a stormwater permit. But property owners are often ignorant of stormwater requirements or don’t live here and can’t monitor mitigation practices. So the city proposes allowing contractors to obtain the permits.

•As it is now, construction on lots a half-acre in size or larger requires a stormwater permit. The city proposes increasing the lot size to one acre.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: Tamarisk control

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Officials are getting ready to release tamarisk leaf beetles in several areas in the Arkansas River Valley next week with hope that the critters will establish well and control tamarisk. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The beetle Ñ technically, diorhabda carinulata Ñ was released in Utah several years ago and migrated into Colorado. It is thriving in every river basin on the Western Slope, but has been slow to take hold in the Arkansas Valley, which is the most heavily infected region of the state when it comes to the invasive trees. This week, thousands of beetles were harvested along the Dolores River in the Southwest corner of the state for release next week on Fountain Creek and other tributaries, and at Boone, Fowler, Rocky Ford, Two Buttes, Granada and Holly.

Bean and his staff will also be checking up on beetles that have established themselves on Beaver Creek in Fremont County. There is also a small population established below Pueblo Dam as the result of another strain of beetles from western China tested by the Bureau of Reclamation several years ago. “There are already major efforts to remove tamarisk in the Arkansas Valley, and the beetles are a supplement to those other efforts,” Bean said. Some theories speculated that the beetles, from Kazakhstan, would have trouble thriving at lower latitudes. Kazakhstan lies entirely above the 40th parallel, while Colorado is further south, resulting in fewer hours of daylight during the summer months. Still, in the Dolores basin, there are millions of beetles that have knocked back thousands of acres of tamarisk. The beetles have also decimated tamarisk in the Colorado, Green and Yampa basins, Bean said…

One of the reasons for next week’s releases will be to track how well the beetles can establish themselves in the Arkansas River basin…

The beetles will eat the leaves – and more importantly the flowers which contain seeds – of the older tamarisk as well. This makes them an effective biocontrol for the trees, but not a way to eliminate tamarisk altogether, Bean said. “In the long run, if they’re established in the basin, we’ll have a background population that will keep tamarisk under control,” Bean said.

More coverage from the Ag Journal (David Vickers):

[Dr. Dan Bean, the state’s top expert in using insects to control invasive plant species like tamarisk] manages the Colorado State Department of Agriculture’s Plant Industry Division Insectary at Palisade. He spent three days, July 7-9, working along the Apishipa and Purgatoire rivers in Las Animas County to release beetles that will devour tamarisk, also known as salt cedar. Patty Knupp, a private land and wildlife biologist, said 1,000 beetles were released July 7 in two locations along Chacuco Creek, a tributary of the Purgatoire River. On July 8, four more releases of beetles were conducted along the Purgatoire River and two releases were made on the Apishipa River. Then, on July 9, the tamarisk eating beetles were released on the main stem of the Arkansas River near Fowler…

Ants and Asian ladybugs are natural predators of tamarisk beetles and can be particularly tough on a population.
“We’ve found that the beetles don’t do especially well below the 38th parallel,” she noted. “The number of daylight hours have an impact on whether they flourish.” But there have been some fairly significant success stories, especially with aerial application of herbicide. Since 2005, more than 2,000 acres along the Apishipa River drainage have been sprayed.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Creede: Town Board moves to annex part of Willow Creek floodplain

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Here’s an update on actions up in Creede to restore the floodplain between the town and the Rio Grande, from Matt Hildner writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The board adopted a land-use plan and agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the property’s owners. The agreement with Creede Resources, which owns 156 acres south of town, was approved unanimously and calls for the company to request annexation for 94 acres of flood plain by Oct. 1 and submit an application to the Colorado Voluntary Cleanup and Redevelopment Program.

The floodplain – a 1.5-mile stretch between Creede and the creek’s confluence with the Rio Grande that greets visitors as they enter the town on Colorado 149 – has been left largely barren and incapable of naturally restoring itself after nearly a century of mining in the former boomtown. While the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee and, more recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have tackled cleanup of the mining district north of town, the floodplain has been largely untouched with the exception of the southwestern corner that was reclaimed for the Mineral County Fairgrounds. “It’s been a long time getting to this point,” Mayor Rex Shepperd said. The land-use plan adopted by the city calls for leaving most of the floodplain as open space suitable for parks, trails and recreation.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.