Uncompahgre River: Second annual Ridgway River Festival

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From the Ouray News:

The Watershed Education tent was operated by the Uncompahgre Watershed Planning Partnership, Mountain Studies Institute and Southwest Conservation Corps (all non-profits). They gave out valuable information on initiatives to protect and restore our local waterways, while the silent auction raised money to benefit service projects along the Uncompahgre river corridor.

Festival participants lined the Uncompahgre to watch the day’s exciting river events.

The Mosaic Community Project (MCP), a local not for profit organization, organized the river festival as a free community event.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Halligan Reservoir Expansion project: Fort Collins’ council weighing environmental impact

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

some City Council members said Tuesday they want to make sure the proposed expansion, which would increase the reservoir’s capacity more than six times, meets city needs without causing excessive environmental harm…

Council members received an update on the project, which has been in various stages of planning for 20 years. The expansion would provide the city with enough water to serve its population at “build out” and provide protection against drought, officials say. The project would expand the reservoir from 6,500 acre feet to 40,000 acre feet. An acre foot of water is enough to meet the annual needs of two or three urban households. Partners with Fort Collins in the Halligan project are North Poudre Irrigation Co., North Weld County Water District, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and the East Larimer Water District. The estimated cost of the project is $60 million. The city’s share would be $21 million.

Greeley has proposed expanding its nearby Seaman Reservoir from 5,000 to 53,000 acre feet. The Halligan-Seaman projects are being reviewed by the Army Corps of Engineers through a single environmental impact statement process.

If permitted by the Corps late next year, the enlarged Halligan could be operational by 2015.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Montezuma County: Water treatment plant expansion 90% complete

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From the Cortez Journal (Kristen Plank):

The project, which began roughly one year ago, is expanding the plant. Officials at MWC have employed their own workers to install a new pump station and add larger pumps. This upgrade will allow the facility to pump to the higher service areas, like Summit Ridge, said Mike Bauer, manager at MWC. “Our pumps are getting close to their capacity,” Bauer said, noting the capacity runs at 4 million gallons of water per day. “So what we are doing is getting larger pumps (for the plant). We’re also adding some new backwash pumps, which are used to clean the filters.” The cost for phase one has been approximately $1.4 million. No loans have been taken out to pay for the first part of the project, Bauer said…

Montezuma Water Co. provides rural water to three counties, including Montezuma, Dolores and parts of San Miguel. The water treatment plant provides a relatively unique way of filtering water. Microsand is injected into the system, which then rapidly cleans out the “heavy organics,” Bauer said. This process, which extends the life of the water treatment filters, is becoming more and more popular at other water treatment facilities.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Colorado Division of Water Resources: Colorado’s WellView Web

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Say hello to Colorado’s WellView Web brought to you by the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

Thanks to The Mountain Mail (Ron Sering) for the link.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

S. 787, Clean Water Restoration Act

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From The Durango Telegraph:

The tides appear to be turning against hardrock mining. This week, a breakthrough step was taken by the U.S. Senate on reforming the 1872 mining law and protecting the Colorado landscape. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has been ordered to develop rules that will ensure mining companies will again never dodge environmental cleanup in the future. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., chaired a Tuesday hearing on mining reform in the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. The session marks the first time federal mining reform legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate since 1993. In recent years, hardrock mining soared throughout the nation with uranium claims alone jumping 239 percent from 2003-09. Meanwhile, the 1872 mining law places the development of hardrock minerals as the best use of public lands, often creating irrational public land use decisions. Threats to communities are just one of the reasons why 20 state legislators and county commissioners in 11 counties submitted letters to Sen. Udall supporting strong mining reform. “A lot has changed since 1872. The West is settled, and agriculture, tourism and outdoor recreation are primary economic drivers for mountain towns,” said Colorado Sen. Gail Schwartz. “We need sensible mining policy. Colorado has taken steps toward reform.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

S. 1417 and H.R.3123, Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Remediation Act of 2009

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Senator Udall and Representative Lamborn have companion bills in the congress to grease the wheels of pumping from above the collapse in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. Here’s a report from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald Democrat. From the article:

Two bills have been introduced in this current legislative session. Lamborn introduced H.R.3123 and Udall introduced S.1417. Just like federal legislation introduced last year during the state of emergency, these are companion bills clarifying BOR responsibility for the tunnel and the water inside. Last year, the bill introduced in the Senate by former Senator Ken Salazar was halted by opposition from the BOR. The bill introduced jointly by the Congressman Udall and Congressman Lamborn made it to a vote in the House of Representatives. “The clock ran out,” said Udall about the lack of movement on this bill after the vote sent the bill to the Senate. The election loomed and the senate had a lot on its plate, and the bill was introduced rather late, he added.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Republican River Basin: Colorado will ask for vote on compliance pipeline at annual meeting of the Republican River Compact Administration August 11-12

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

RRCA’s annual meeting will be August 11-12 in Lincoln, Nebraska. If the pipeline is voted down, Colorado will begin the arbitration process. Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas have been holding closed door negotiations on the pipeline for months. Colorado called for a special meeting in late April, at which point Kansas and Nebraska each indicated there still were issues to resolve. That meeting was continued, and negotiations have done the same. [Peter Ampe with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office] told the RRWCD Board that Colorado has a revised proposal before the RRCA.

The RRWCD is not privy to the details due to confidentiality rules.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Lake Granby at highest level in years

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

At present, the lake is at an elevation of 8,276 feet, or about 4 feet (about 29,000 acre feet) from being full, according to Noble Underbrink, department manager of the Farr Pumping Plant of Lake Granby. The last time the reservoir was in that range was in 2000. Prior to that, the lake was close to or above that level each year. “This puts us back to normal since the perceived drought of 2001,” Underbrink said. In years since, the lake elevation was about 10 feet below where it is now, a level that can make a drastic difference to reservoir shores. Precipitation on the Front Range where water is delivered from Lake Granby, he added, decreased the need to draw water. The plant is pumping water at night to maintain elevation levels in Grand Lake; meanwhile Lake Granby remains stable, fluctuating by about 100th of 1 foot. Underbrink said he doesn’t expect Lake Granby to spill this year, unless there is an abundance of rain during the remainder of the summer. The last time the reservoir was completely full was in 1998.

From The Mountain Mail (Christopher Kolomitz):

It reached 3,250 cubic feet per second in Salida Monday and flow of about 3,500 cfs was recorded downriver. Heat, sun angle, rain and need to move water owned by municipalities and irrigation companies to downstream reservoirs are reasons behind the increase, officials said. It’s the second flow peak on the river since runoff began in early May. May 23 the river reached about 2,700 cfs in Salida. Flow was below 1,500 cfs around June 12 and has been on a steady climb since. The most recent big increase started June 26 when river flow at the Salida gauge jumped from 2,250 cfs to almost 3,000 cfs. “It’s a pretty unusual situation to have two significant peaks 30 days apart,” Greg Felt, owner of Ark Anglers and a member of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors said Monday…

Twin Lakes Reservoir is 90 percent full and Turquoise Reservoir is 98 percent full. Both reservoirs are in Lake County and water owners are looking downriver to Pueblo Reservoir which is 67 percent full for more space…

[Linda Hopkins, hydrologic technician with the Bureau of Reclamation] said the 54,000 acre feet of canal company storage in Twin Lakes is full…

Monday 439 cfs was being moved from the West Slope through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Reservoir. The Bureau of Reclamation which operates the tunnel, collection systems and reservoirs, is moving 250 cfs into Pueblo Reservoir, Hopkins said. Felt noted it’s been raining in the high country and at lower elevations, leading to an increase of 200-300 cfs.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Up until this week, river flows were up 30-40 percent above natural levels because of releases from accounts in reservoirs. Those releases are being cut back this week as transmountain flows slow, Vaughan said. “Basically, everyone’s moving water to where they have space,” Vaughan said. The Fry-Ark Project has moved about 81,000 acre-feet through the Boustead Tunnel this year, far exceeding projections of about 54,000 acre-feet – close to average – in May. There were three peaks to the runoff and frequent storms added to snowpack or runoff during the last two months. The tunnel is still carrying about 200 acre-feet per day, but Reclamation is cutting off its releases from Twin Lakes today because there should be adequate storage space in that reservoir and Turquoise Lake, [Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project for Reclamation] said. The runoff also came two weeks early in May, in the middle of a dry stretch…

[Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District] Total allocations will be about 65,500 acre-feet, which is based on the total amount brought over less transit loss, evaporation and balancing accounts with the Twin Lakes Canal & Reservoir Co. The committee will look at a staff proposal to allocate another 19,000 acre-feet to agriculture and municipal users, on top of 29,500 acre-feet already allocated. “We’re going to be able to fill everyone’s allocations, if they still want the water,” Hamilton said, explaining the additional water could arrive too late to use it this season for some irrigators. The allocations come with a small price tag, $7 an acre-foot for agricultural users, and has to be used within certain time frames that have been shortened by the late delivery. The district also has repaid the Pueblo Board of Water Works loan of 5,000 acre-feet to cover 2008 shortfalls.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Durango: Lake Durango Water Authority closes on Lake Durango Water Company sale

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The sale of troubled Lake Durango Water Co. to the Lake Durango Water Authority for $2.45 million closed Wednesday, ending years of controversy over the quantity and quality of water and the number of customers served. The utility serves the Durango West I and II subdivisions along U.S. Highway 160 west of Durango, and the Shenandoah, Rafter J and Trappers Crossing developments along Wildcat Canyon Road (County Road 141) – 1,435 taps in all. Lake Durango is fed by the Pine Ridge Ditch off La Plata River…

Durango attorney Bud Smith, who represents the water authority, said the sale price covered $1.75 million for the land and $700,000 for the treatment plant, pipelines and other related equipment.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

President Obama nominates Marcia McNutt to lead the USGS

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From The Stanford Daily (Emily Zheng):

President Obama announced last week that he will nominate Marcia McNutt, professor of geophysics at Stanford, as the next director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and science advisor to the Secretary of the Interior. “Marcia is a strong and experienced leader and a great scientist, and she understands the breath of issues that the USGS deals with,” said Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences. “She’s a perfect choice.”[…]

A member of the University’s faculty for over 20 years, McNutt has worked in the past with the USGS at its Menlo Park branch on earthquake studies, in particular regarding quake prediction. She has also been the president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) since 1997.

Ogallala Aquifer: USGS warns of gradual increase of contaminants

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Here’s a release from the USGS via CBS7.com (Midland/Odessa):

Water produced by the High Plains aquifer, which provides water to eight states, is generally acceptable for human consumption, irrigation, and livestock watering, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study highlighted at the summer meeting of the Western States Water Council in Park City, Utah.

The study warns, however, that heavy use of water for irrigation and public supply and leakage down inactive irrigation wells are resulting in long-term gradual increases in concentrations of contaminants such as nitrate and dissolved solids from the water table to deeper parts of the aquifer where drinking-water wells are screened.

“This increase in contaminant concentrations over time has important implications for the long-term sustainability of the High Plains aquifer as a source of drinking water,” said lead author of the USGS study, Dr. Jason Gurdak. “Once contaminated, the aquifer is unlikely to be remediated quickly because of slow rates of contaminant degradation and slow groundwater travel times in the aquifer; deep water in some parts of the aquifer is about 10,000 years old.”

The High Plains aquifer, also known as the Ogallala aquifer, is the Nation’s most heavily used groundwater resource. The majority is used for irrigation, but nearly two million people also depend on the aquifer as a source of drinking water. The eight states that use water from the High Plains aquifer include Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Nebraska hosts the largest segment and square mileage of the water source.

USGS scientists analyzed water for more than 180 chemical compounds and physical properties in about 300 private domestic wells, 70 public-supply wells, 50 irrigation wells, and 160 shallow monitoring wells sampled between 1999 and 2004. The study also assessed the transport of water and contaminants from land surface to the water table and deeper zones used for supply, to predict changes in concentrations over time.

Currently, water quality is generally acceptable for drinking. More than 85 percent of the 370 wells used for drinking met federal drinking-water standards. Nitrate, which is derived mostly from human sources such as fertilizer applications, was greater than the federal drinking-water standard of 10 parts per million in about six percent of the drinking-water wells. None of the pesticides or volatile organic compounds detected exceeded drinking-water standards.

”Most of the contaminants that exceeded drinking-water standards were of natural origin such as arsenic, dissolved solids, fluoride, iron, and manganese,” Gurdak said.

The report, “Water Quality in the High Plains Aquifer, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, 1999–2004,” U.S. Geological Survey Circular 2009-1337, is available online at pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1337/.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

South Fork: Get to know South Fork Water

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From The South Fork Times (Stan Moyer):

Residents and business owners in the South Fork area are facing a definite need to make decisions about water use and methods of supply in the relatively near future, according to several experts in the field who made presentations to an estimated fifty to sixty attending a “Get to Know South Fork Water” meeting at the Community Center on Highway 149 the evening of Monday, July 13. Although it would be nice to say, the issues discussed at the get-together promoted by Town Manager Todd Wright are not simple. The free handouts alone available at the meeting total 34 pages of detailed information from the Colorado Division of Water Resources, the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, and the District Court, Water Division No. 3, State of Colorado…

No political stand absolutely dictating one solution or another to South Fork future water supply problems was made by experts Mike Gibson, Manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, headquartered in Alamosa, along with other presenters seemed to emphasize that the town needs to have either a large, centralized water system or a smaller alternative system to ensure that the town has a water supply at a reasonable cost in the near future. Estimates for a residential water bill ranged from $44 to $84 a month, as an average figure, depending on the size of the water distribution system.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Evaporation pond complex in Delta County draws crowd to meeting

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

A public information forum held at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center last week and jointly sponsored by Delta County Economic Development (DCED, the former DADI) and the Western Slope Environmental Research Council (WSERC) held the prospect of softening some of Delta County’s rancorous disagreements over development and land use issues. Calling the event an “historic joining of hands of the two groups,” session moderator Tom Huerkamp said that he hoped a new sense of cooperation between the business development community and the environmental group could result. Delta County Economic Development and WSERC came together to host the forum and provide information on the proposed Wells Gulch Evap, Inc., non-hazardous solid waste disposal facility in remote western Delta County. Key design and operational details of Wells Gulch Evap’s plans have already been covered in detail by the DCI in a previous article (July 1, page 1A). Last week’s session at Heddles was intended to provide a face-to-face forum for exchange of information and views between county residents with environmental concerns and company officials who are working to address them.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Fountain Creek watershed: Conservation easements key to protecting the riparian environment

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Here’s a recap of an event last week sponsored by conservation groups on Fountain Creek, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Unfortunately, development in Colorado is heaviest along the sides of those streams, called riparian areas, and is putting pressure on the most productive wild environments in the state. “Whatever you’ve been doing here is great,” Rondeau told Ann Hanna, who like her late husband, Kirk, has continued to put the environment first in running the ranch on Fountain Creek. “It is a lot different than the river looks in Colorado Springs.” Despite a few invasive salt cedars, there are both large and small cottonwoods and a thick mix of undergrowth near the creek on the Hanna Ranch. On the ground were signs of all sorts of wildlife moving through the area. Bugs were everywhere. Those are all good signs, since species diversity in Colorado is highest among riparian corridors…

“These riparian zones face the greatest pressure,” Rondeau said. That is amply illustrated on the Hanna Ranch, located halfway between Colorado Springs and Pueblo in El Paso County. Once it was a sprawling spread that stretched from the foothills of Pikes Peak to the short-grass prairie and Tepee Buttes – volcanic vents that were part of the ocean floor in the ancient past. In the 1960s, the ranch was split by Interstate 25. Much of it was sold to Colorado Springs, which uses some of the land for the Ray Nixon Power Plant. The Clear Springs Ranch, on the west side of Fountain Creek, was a wildlife viewing area badly damaged by the 1999 flood and Colorado Springs Utilities plans to rejuvenate it as part of the corridor master plan with a fish diversion, trail, wetlands. camping areas and ponds. Hanna has kept the ranch going and continues to train hunter and jumper horses. She is working on a conservation easement that will set aside about 460 acres along Fountain Creek with Great Outdoors Colorado purchasing the development rights. “It was a struggle just to keep the ranch,” Hanna said. Her relatives, Jay Frost and Ferris Frost, own an adjacent ranch, which already has a 900-acre conservation easement.

Meanwhile, development edges ever closer. Pikes Peak International Raceway is due west. Trains barrel through several times a day. Power corridors, toll roads, extensions of city streets, more power plants, gravel pits and wastewater treatment plants have all been proposed for the area in recent years. The Southern Delivery System pipeline will cut through the ranch at some point, although no one’s quite sure where yet, and that’s the least of worries for Hanna. “At least it will be underground when it’s done,” she said…

“The Hannas and the Frosts, like a lot of families, have worked with conservation trusts very fiercely trying to protect their ranches,” said Dan Pike, executive director of Colorado Open Lands, which has obtained a $4.7 million legacy grant from GOCo for its Peak to Prairie program. Its partners include the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund, Colorado Conservation Trust, the Trust for Public Land and Conserving Land for People, which collectively have formed Keep it Colorado. Pike said the public funds available for protecting ranches pale when compared to the money available for development…

Overall, about 114,000 acres in a 2.2 million-acre area have been preserved at a cost of $32.69 million, about two-thirds funded by public funds. The goal of the project is not to stop or even curtail development, but to preserve enough land to maintain wildlife corridors and encourage strategic planning, Pike said. The short-grass prairie, like most riparian environments, is not greatly respected by the public, Rondeau said. “It’s under-known, under-conserved and under-appreciated. No other ecosystem is as converted to other uses as our grassland,” Rondeau said. “Ninety percent is privately owned. You can’t buy it all; that would be ridiculous. We want to work with the people who own it to preserve it.”

More coverage from R. Scott Rappold writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette:

…the Peak to Prairie program, which uses lottery funds and private donations to buy easements, has preserved 114,773 acres of prairie in the Pikes Peak region. That now includes 460 acres of the Hanna Ranch, which county property records show covers more than 4,200 acres.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.