Horsetooth Reservoir operations update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today, Horsetooth Reservoir is sitting at an elevation of 5400 feet. To put some perspective on this, looking back about 20-years, our average elevation at Horsetooth this time of year is usually around 5385.

Right now, we are sending just over 200 cfs into Horsetooth. About 354 cfs is going out. This is a relatively slow draw on the reservoir. If demands remain about the same, I anticipate we will see an elevation in the mid-upper 5390s for Labor Day weekend. That should be plenty of water for all boat ramps.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here and here.

Aspinall Unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Crystal Dam has been operating at full powerplant release for most of this spring and summer. Now that Blue Mesa storage space has been regained and because of lower than expected late summer base flows, Reclamation will reduce reservoir releases in order to conserve reservoir storage. In addition, lower releases in the early fall months will provide more optimal flows for river recreation, fish studies scheduled for late September, and for the brown trout spawn which occurs during mid October to mid November. This change will also provide the flexibility needed to provide higher releases for power production during December and January.

Starting today, August 31, releases from Crystal Reservoir will be reduced by 100 cfs each day for the next four days, resulting in Black Canyon – Gunnison Gorge flows of 700 – 800 cfs. An additional flow reduction of 100 cfs could be forthcoming next week depending on conditions, with flows averaging around 600 cfs for September through November. Please reply to this email if you have further questions.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program: Grand County’s efforts

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Starting Sept. 1 to Sept. 15, the county seeks to augment the river by 45 cfs…Grand County-paid pumping would supply another 30 cfs from Sept. 16 through Sept. 30, another 20 cfs Oct. 1-15 and additional 10 cfs Oct. 16-30. That would leave 321 acre-feet of water carried over for release in 2010, according to county officials.

More endangered species coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Aspen is first Colorado municipality to file permit request under Colorado geothermal law

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Here’s a look at Aspen’s geothermal plans, from Carolyn Sackariason writing for the Aspen Times. From the article:

Last week the council awarded a contract to John Kaufman of Rocky Mountain Water Consulting LLC to prepare a report for the state water court, which has the authority to allow the city to move forward with test drilling and be granted water rights to tap into geothermal heat underneath Aspen, said John Hines, the city’s renewable energy utilities manager. A state engineer has determined that water rights will likely be granted. But first, the city has to prove that it will not harm the Roaring Fork River in its quest to find geothermal resources underground. That is what Kaufman’s report will contain, which will then be submitted to the state water court. The court is expected to rule on Aspen’s water rights Jan. 15, Hines said…

Meanwhile, the city is applying for a federal grant with the Department of Energy to help pay for the entire geothermal project, which is estimated to cost $3.5 million. The test drilling was scheduled to be done this year but because of the high cost of doing it, city officials decided to hold off and try to get federal money. If the grant is awarded, the city could begin drilling early next year…

The goal is to find enough geothermal energy to heat 1 million square feet, the equivalent of 10 large hotels. Doing so would cut Aspen’s natural gas needs by about 15 percent, according to city officials. A geothermal heat district could potentially provide renewable heating and cooling to businesses within a 4-square mile radius of downtown Aspen. Last year Kaufman conducted a geothermal reconnaissance study, which found that warm ground water associated with hydrothermal deposits of silver, lead and zinc ore beneath Aspen may be present in sufficient quantities for direct heat exchange, or for the application of a groundwater heat pump system…

The city’s water rights application makes Aspen the first municipality to apply under the new Colorado Geothermal Act. The geothermal heat would work by taking the steam and hot water produced in the earth’s core and using it to heat a glycol-based solution that circulates through buildings to heat them. Customers would pay according to the thermal units of energy used as the heated liquid goes by their building. Electricity would be needed to move the water. City officials in the past have said they want to find a well or combination of wells that will produce 5,000 gallons per minute of 140-degree water.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District are asking for Upper Arkansas Basin salinity study

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Salinity in the basin is concentrated in the Lower Arkansas basin, but the source of loading is upstream of Pueblo Reservoir,” Pat Edelmann of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last week. The USGS is working on a project to study water quality in the Arkansas River basin for a water resources group formed in 2003. Southeastern, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District are participants. Edelmann outlined a course of action for a $1.7 million water quality study over several years that would look at the most pressing water quality issues in the basin: Salinity, Lake Pueblo impacts and heavy metal loading in the Upper Arkansas River. Funding of the complete package would be about one-third from USGS, with $1.2 million from local or state sources. “Water supply and water quality are increasingly linked,” Edelmann said. “It’s getting hard to separate the two.”[…]

The USGS found that two-thirds of the salt that is dissolved in the water enters the Arkansas River above Avondale, long before the major agricultural operations in the valley. While farms contribute, they also remove a certain amount of salt from the river that is deposited on fields, Edelmann said…

Edelmann speculated that the major source of loading along the river is evaporative loss, although there is no way to prove that without more continuous monitoring of the river in critical reaches. Continuous monitoring all along the river is needed to compare changes, and such data have been available only since 2000. That would cost roughly $570,000 on top of the $280,000 already being spent…

The loading above Pueblo has not been studied because water is well within acceptable levels for drinking. But reducing salinity even a little bit in the headwaters could might a tenfold benefit downstream for both surface supplies and groundwater in connected aquifers, Edelmann said.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here and here.

Telluride and Idarado settle lawsuit

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The litigation revolved around a plan the town has been pursuing for years — securing an ample source of water for its residents by tapping Blue Lake, a body of very pure water that sits in the rocky alpine basin above Bridal Veil Falls. The town’s plan entails piping the water down to a treatment plant above the Pandora Mill, and then dispersing it. The town set out to complete the project years ago — doing engineering, winning voter approval for a $10 million bond, and securing a piece of land (gifted by Idarado) for the treatment plant. But as the town was obtaining an array of deeds and easements necessary for construction, access and water rights, it stumbled over language in a 1992 settlement agreement with Idarado that would give the mining company the right to recall not only water rights, but also proportionate ownership in water storage and conveyance structures. When Idarado refused to omit the language, the town sued, claiming the mining company breached the contract and cost the town money by delaying its project. And Idarado replied with a countersuit, answering that it only wanted its rights protected.

A trial took place in January in Montrose. The mixed ruling that followed the trial awarded both sides some of what they fought for. For Telluride, there was good news: The town retained enough rights to move forward with the long-awaited implementation of its new water system and treatment plant. And for the mining company, the ruling meant it was able to hold onto some of the property and water rights it sought. Also: The judge ruled that when the town went on to Idarado property to do construction on a road, its actions constituted a taking (hence, last week’s settlement). But for the town, the bottom line is that: now it can continue pursuing its plans for a water system on the east end of the valley.

More San Miguel watershed coverage here.

Halligan Reservoir: 3 water districts quit expansion project

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Here’s a report from Kevin Duggan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The expense of an ongoing environmental analysis of the proposed expansion has driven the Fort Collins-Loveland, East Larimer County and North Weld County water districts away from the $60 million project. In letters sent to city officials, the water districts noted a 2004 agreement authorizing the environmental analysis, which is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to receive a permit for the project, would cost no more than $4 million. So far, more than $5 million has been spent on the analysis by participating entities and “it appears little progress, if any, has been made in the planning and environmental review for permitting the project,” the districts wrote.

Backing away from the project is primarily a financial decision, said Mike Scheid, manager of the East Larimer County, or ELCO, Water District. The district serves a portion of northeast Fort Collins and areas of unincorporated Larimer County…

Another concern of the districts is an apparent lack of support for the project among some Fort Collins City Council members, said Mike DiTullio, general manager of the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District. The district covers part of south for Fort Collins. During a recent study session on the project, some council members questioned the size and need for the expansion, which would almost triple the size of the reservoir to 40,000 acre feet…

Fort Collins officials say they will continue with the Corps’ environmental impact statement process, although they are reviewing options such as reducing the size of the proposed expansion to about 20,000 acre feet. The reservoir’s current capacity is 6,500 acre feet…

With the Tri-Districts out, the city’s remaining partner is the North Poudre Irrigation Co., which owns the water stored in Halligan. The city owns the property covered by the facility and the right to expand. Of the $5.3 million spent on the project, about $2.3 million has been in payments to North Poudre for the Halligan site, city officials say. North Poudre manager Steve Smith said the irrigation company plans to stick with the project and the permitting process.

The Corps is conducting a combined environmental impact statement, or EIS, process on Halligan and Milton Seaman Reservoir, which is owned by the city of Greeley. A draft EIS on the proposals is expected to be complete by early 2011, said Chandler Peter, project manager with the Corps. Much of the technical analysis of the project is already complete, Peter said. With the Tri-Districts out of the project, the Corps will examine the viability of alternative projects that might require less water. How much more the EIS process will cost participants is not clear, Peter said. The process has been extended, in part, by the Corps’ decision to use a “common technical platform” for all water projects proposed for the Poudre River basin, including the controversial Northern Integrate Water Supply Project, or NISP, proposed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

“Whoever wants to drain, divert or dam the Poudre needs to understand it’s not going to be fast, cheap or easy,” [Gary Wockner, Colorado program manager for the environmental group Clean Water Action] said.

More Halligan-Seaman expansion coverage here and here.

Grand Ditch: Installation of new box culvert to continue through October 15

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The Water Supply and Storage Company is installing a large box culvert across a massive breach that occurred in the ditch in 2003. A 2.5-mile section of the Grand Ditch Road, used by hikers for access to the Never Summer Mountains from La Poudre Pass, is closed through Oct. 15, Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said. The road is closed between the Little Yellowstone Trailhead and the Thunder Pass Trailhead.

More Grand Ditch coverage here.

Aspinall Unit operations meeting recap

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Here’s a recap of Thursday’s operations meeting, from Katharhynn Heidelberg writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

Blue Mesa’s inflow for May was forecasted at 690,000 acre feet. The June 1 forecast jumped it to 790,000 af. “A lot of that was the result of precipitation that occurred in late May and also the fact that we got some good runoff in May,” Crabtree said. “We had more runoff in May than average.” BuRec went to higher releases to avoid having to spill Blue Mesa Reservoir. Crabtree said the reservoir came within three inches of spilling over, so releases were increased to gain control. At one point, the reservoir contained only 2,000 spare acre feet of storage. “Considering the size of that lake, that’s not a lot of room,” he said.

BuRec will slowly decrease releases from Crystal over the next few months to allow the Division of Wildlife to conduct its annual fish surveys. Additionally, BuRec wants to have lower flows to encourage brown trout to spawn in deeper water. That way, when the water recedes, there is less chance of the eggs being left high and dry, which could happen if spawning occurs in shallower water. Crabtree said flows will increase in December and January to help meet demands for power production.

Here’s a look at operations last May, from Dave Buchanan writing for the The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

…on May 12, the day the Bureau had predicted runoff would peak and Crystal, the last dam in the line, would spill, the expected overflow came much faster and higher than anyone foresaw. So fast, in fact, the Bureau was inundated with complaints about their supposedly poor flow management, particularly from people familiar with the Aspinall Unit operating directives, which limit how fast a flow can increase or decrease (ramp up or ramp down). From 8 a.m. on May 12 to 8 a.m. on May 13, flows in the Gunnison River below Crystal Dam jumped from about 3,500 cubic feet per second to 7,300 cfs, about four times faster than the Aspinall EIS said should happen. That doubling of the flows not only threatened unwitting anglers and other river users, but also sent a glut of water toward Delta, which eventually saw a flow of 12,500 cfs gnaw away at river banks and threaten riverside development.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Gunnison Tunnel 100th year celebration

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Here’s a opinion piece from the Montrose Daily Press detailing some of the history behind the Gunnison Tunnel. From the article:

[Francis Lauzon] introduced his idea to the townspeople who began to call him the “Crazy Frenchman.” Lauzon was able to convince the Montrose County Commissioners to put funding his idea up to a vote, but the measure failed. Tireless, Lauzon continued to push his idea and in 1894 the U.S. Geological Survey performed the first surveying expedition to determine if the tunnel was feasible. Lauzon appears to have disappeared shortly after this, but a new advocate, one with clout and admiration, soon took up the cause.

By all accounts, Mead Hammond of Paonia was an upright, humble public servant who represented the district in the state house. Hammond’s passion for and belief in the future of the Uncompahgre Valley clearly motivated him. He introduced and worked to pass House Bill 195, “a bill for State Canal No. 3,” in the 1901 General Assembly. The bill authorized $25,000 to begin boring the tunnel using convicts for labor.

More Gunnison Basin coverage here.

How to increase yield from the Fryingpan-Arkansas project?

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Here’s a look at the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project along with future considerations for increasing yield, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“There is a 14,400-acre-foot gap,” Executive Director Jim Broderick told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board last week. “How do we lower that gap?”[…]

The gap represents the difference in the water that potentially could be provided through the collection system in the Fryingpan River basin and what actually comes over. It would not be an expansion of the district’s existing water rights, Broderick said. His point is that cities and farmers in the nine counties covered by the district signed up for the project anticipating that 69,100 acre-feet per year would be delivered. Instead, only about 54,700 acre-feet have been delivered each year, for a variety of reasons:

Part of the project’s collection system was never built because it is in wilderness areas.

There are physical limits on the amount of water that can be brought through Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake.

The diurnal nature of flows – snowpack melts in the day and freezes at night during spring runoff – through the tunnel could be evened out with some sort of storage on the western side of the tunnel. Ruedi Reservoir above Aspen is downstream of the Boustead Tunnel intake and exists to meet Western Slope needs…

Vera Ortegon, Pueblo County director, said it is unlikely that a reservoir could be built [near the Boustead Tunnel] because of environmental requirements. “To me, the most important thing is to optimize the infrastructure we have,” Ortegon said. “The biggest issue is environmental, and it’s insurmountable.”

Broderick said the board has to make policy decisions in order to improve the way the Fry-Ark Project works, and said he will bring options to the board in several areas in the months to come. “Should we own water? Should we lease water? How much do we reserve? These are all policy questions,” Broderick said.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Poudre River: Four mile stretch of river closed due to asphalt spill

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From The Greeley Tribune:

That portion of the river could be closed for up to two weeks while National Forest Service crews take water samples and clean up the spill, said John Bustos, a spokesman for the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grasslands…

The long-term effects of the spill are undetermined, Bustos said. National Forest Service crews have been in the area for the past two days taking water samples and starting the cleanup process. Water sample results should be available today.

More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is urging the public to keep away from the asphalt tar spill in the Poudre River near the Greyrock trailhead. The spill occurred Wednesday morning when a commercial tanker driven by Kenneth Gale, 52, careened into the Poudre River and spilled 5,000 gallons of asphalt tar into the river. The truck was operated by Malpaso, a Wyoming-based trucking company, and was on its way to a paving project on Colorado Highway 14 in the upper Poudre Canyon near Cameron Pass, said Craig Myers, on-scene coordinator for the EPA’s emergency response unit based in Denver.

More about the cleanup methodology from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

EPA contractors will be using a crane to lift out large sections of asphalt from the Poudre River as workers continue cleaning up a 5,000-gallon spill. The crane will be parked in a pulloff, not in the river, said Peggy Linn, a Denver-based EPA community involvement coordinator. “We’re doing everything we can to cause a minimal amount of impact to the river and the surrounding area,” Linn said. The EPA has asked people to stay away from the area during the cleanup. The river is closed to recreational use from mile-marker 113 through mile marker 117.

Update: More on the cleanup from the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Trevor Hughes):

Members of a Belfour crew working under the EPA’s direction Friday were attacking the edges of the largest-single patch of asphalt, just downstream of where a commercial tanker driven by Kenneth Gale, 52, careened into the river Wednesday. Gale has been cited for careless driving; he crashed through a steel barrier and down the riverbank, spilling his load. There are about 10 similar patches…

Myers said water managers and users have agreed to lower the river’s flow for the next week to make it safer for Belfor contractors to work in the water. He said the majority of the cleanup may be finished within a week, as it’s moving faster than originally anticipated. Belfor workers Thursday tried sawing at the asphalt but have moved on to axes, which are more effective. “If the rocks were wet and cool when it hit them, it just peels right off,” Myers said. “I think we maybe lucked out a little bit.”[…]

EPA officials on Friday afternoon were still awaiting the results of water-quality tests. Myers said it’s likely the results will show little additional contamination of the water downstream from the spill. He said asphalt and other containments already wash into the river from the adjacent Colorado Highway 14 whenever it rains. As a precaution, the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley shut down their nearby drinking-water intakes, fearing the asphalt could clog intakes or contaminate their supplies.

Red Cliff scores $2 million for treatment plant

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From the Vail Daily (Edward Stoner):

The town has been awarded $2 million in federal stimulus funds for the $5.6 million project. The existing plant should have been replaced some 25 years ago, said Mayor Ramon Montoya. “This has been a five-year process in the making,” Montoya said. “It’s great that we’re going to, per our guidelines, begin construction prior to Sept. 30.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Eagle: Brush Creek enhancement project final phase to kick in soon

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From the Vail Daily:

The intent of the project is to improve stream health from the upper Sylvan Lake Road bridge to the upper end of the Eagle Ranch development boundary, about 8,300 feet. The project is coordinated jointly by the Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee, town of Eagle and the Colorado Division of Wildlife under permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Funding for the project comes from the Eagle Ranch Wildlife Trust Fund and Scott Skelton, an adjacent property owner who recognizes the benefits of the project. The project involves using mechanical equipment to construct gravel bars, pools and riffles, as well as stabilize eroding stream banks.

More restoration coverage here.

Tamarisk: Delta County tamarisk leaf beetle release update

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From Painted Sky Resource Conservation & Development via the Delta County Independent:

This summer Painted Sky Resource Conservation & Development staff has released tamarisk beetles at five sites in the North Fork Valley and Delta area to battle tamarisk, an invasive shrub from Eurasia. The beetle populations appear healthy and are reproducing well, according to monitoring observations conducted in mid-August.

The release sites, all on private property, range from Bell Creek and Back River Road between Paonia and Hotchkiss on the east to G Road and the Gunnison River northwest of Delta. Properties at the end of Horn Road near Austin and the Gunnison River and Highway 65 and the Gunnison River also received beetles. The fifth site, Confluence Park in Delta, is on public land. The average number of beetles released at each site is about 6,000.

Beetles are the last stage of the life cycle. After hatching from eggs, larvae go through three stages from tiny worms to larger worms or larvae. You can easily identify the third and final stage larvae by a “green racing stripe” on each side of its body. Beetles released earlier this summer have produced the next generation, which are in the third larval stage now. It’s the larvae, not the adult beetles that do the most damage to the plant. Like teenagers with insatiable appetites, they eat 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The beetles may cause browning of tamarisk by next summer, but it will take up to five years for them to kill the tamarisk.

As the beetle populations grow and exhaust their food supply at the release sites, they’ll fly up and down the river drainage in search of fresh tamarisk to eat. Eventually, they’ll distribute themselves throughout the area. Flying from tamarisk to tamarisk shrub, beetles have moved up the Dolores River from near Moab, Utah, to just south of Gateway without ever hitching a ride with humans.

Painted Sky plans more releases in the area in 2010, including the Surface Creek area, Smith’s Fork and along the Uncompahgre River in Delta. Landowners with tamarisk can ask to be put on a waiting list to receive beetles. Tamarisk or salt cedar has spread too successfully in the West over the past century. It out-competes native plants and trees, such as cottonwoods, creating a monoculture. A landscape dominated by only one plant hurts wildlife diversity.

More tamarisk coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board approves IGA to provide $100,000 a year for the next two years to pay for staff and expenses

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The money would come from a $600,000 pot funded equally by Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Over two years, the remaining $400,000 would fund a continuing study for improvement of Fountain Creek. The agreement is an extension of a $600,000 program started in 2007 that led to the creation of the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan, which looked at what is needed to restore about 40 miles of Fountain Creek south of Colorado Springs to the Arkansas River. The area coincides in large part with the primary area of concern for the district. The agreement still must gain approval from Colorado Springs City Council and the Pueblo County commissioners, both of which are likely.

Colorado Springs’ share of the money would count toward a $50 million contribution to the district which was a condition of Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions approved in April…

“With what’s happened on Fountain Creek in the last two years, we’re very excited,” said Jay Winner, executive director of the Lower Ark district.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Fryingpan-Arkansas yield

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It’s been a pretty good water year overall. Reservoirs are looking good heading into harvest time. Last week the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District finalized this year’s yield from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday finalized its allocations from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project at about 50,000 acre-feet for municipal and agricultural water users, with some left over to meet past and future obligations. “The water was more than our projected imports in May, so we have more than average available,” Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor, told the Southeastern board…

By the end of July, however, more than 82,000 acre-feet had come through the Boustead Tunnel, which empties into Turquoise Lake. Water is imported from the Fryingpan River in the Roaring Fork watershed on the West Slope. Even with repayment of last year’s loan of 5,000 acre-feet from the Pueblo Board of Water Works, a payment of 3,000 acre-feet to Twin Lakes to meet West Slope needs, evaporation and transit loss, about 63,000 acre-feet were available for allocation. Rather than make a second allocation, as has happened in the past, staffers and members of the executive committee decided to meet other needs, including: Setting up a 5,000 acre-foot reserve account. Repaying 1,458 acre-feet of 7,139 acre-feet still owed to Colorado Springs for releases to draw down Lake Pueblo in the safety of dams program in 1998. Holding a little more than 5,700 acre-feet until next spring in case new shortages arise.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Interior Secretary Salazar appoints Deanna Archuleta to work ‘full-time’ on Southern Delivery System mitigation requirements

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s meeting on water issues in Pueblo hosted by Ken Salazar, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Deanna Archuleta, deputy assistant secretary for water and science, will work “full-time” on the issue, Salazar said at a water issues summit in Pueblo…

Salazar called Fountain Creek a “shared resource” that is important to Colorado Springs and Pueblo, as well as the downstream farms and cities. As a U.S. senator, Salazar urged the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force to make the creek a “crown jewel” and he applauded the task force and state lawmakers for making the Fountain Creek Flood Control and Greenway District a reality. As secretary of the Interior, Salazar said he now has the authority to make sure the promises made by Colorado Springs to win approval for building the Southern Delivery System from Pueblo Dam are fulfilled. “Deanna Archuleta will help to identify the resources we need to get this done,” Salazar said. “I’m looking forward to working on this project,” Archuleta said after the meeting. “There has been exceptional collaboration and phenomenal work so far on this. It really is precedent-setting.” Salazar said Archuleta will lead a team directly inside the secretary of Interior’s office that includes Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor…

Salazar voiced strong support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a $300 million project authorized by Congress this year that would build a drinking water line from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. “I am 100 percent behind getting the Arkansas Valley Conduit built,” Salazar said. “I will look at our budget to see if there is any money we can put into it. Unless we get this process moving, we are not going to get it done.”[…]

Secretary Salazar also said the “right kind of limits” on taking water from the Arkansas River basin have to be found before federal legislation is crafted to allow Aurora to use the Fry-Ark Project. “It’s not going to happen unless my big brother’s (Rep. Salazar’s) concerns can be satisfied,” he said.

Here’s a look at U.S. Representive John Salazar’s views on legislation that would allow Aurora to benefit from Fryingpan-Arkansas facilities, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

No federal legislation to allow Aurora to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project will pass unless U.S. Rep. John Salazar is part of the discussion on how that legislation is drafted. The Colorado Democrat made that clear Friday in his closing remarks at a water summit he and his brother, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, hosted in Pueblo. “I’ve always been one to seek the middle ground on issues, but I’m adamant on agriculture,” Rep. Salazar said. “I want to make sure we don’t destroy one economy to make another.”[…]

In March, the Lower Ark and Aurora agreed to work for a change in federal legislation that would legitimize Aurora’s use of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. They later obtained a stay in the Lower Ark’s lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation, which in 2007 issued a 40-year storage and exchange contract for excess capacity in Lake Pueblo. “We believe these issues can be solved and we’re working to solve them,” Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer said.

There was no mistaking Rep. Salazar’s parting words, however. “I don’t like to be excluded when legislation is proposed. I want to be part of that discussion,” Salazar said.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here, Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here, Super Ditch coverage here and here, Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Hayden: Town Council to hear rate increase proposal on September 17

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Blythe Terrell):

Town staff members plan to present a base rate increase of about $3 a month to the Hayden Town Council at its Sept. 17 meeting. The possible hike results from a shortage in the town’s enterprise fund, which includes revenue from water and sewer systems, Martin said.

Part of the problem is a decrease in tap fees, which builders pay to tap into the water system. New construction has slowed, which means that money isn’t coming in. “We generally have identified an operating deficit annually, without tap fees, of about $90,000,” Martin said. Part of the cost is payment on the debt for the water system, which costs $115,000 per year. The town started paying on a 20-year loan eight years ago. The plant was finished in about 2003, Martin said. “Without that debt payment, we’re generally operating in the black,” he said. “But with that debt payment, we’ve got to come up with that.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Castle Rock is teaming up with Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority for joint operations

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From the Douglas County News Press (Chris Michlewicz):

Town council entered into an intergovernmental agreement Aug. 25 with Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority, of which Castle Rock is a member. The WISE partnership – which stands for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency – is a joint collaboration to explore opportunities to acquire water and share infrastructure to support the development of water in the South Platte Project Region, an area that stretches from Chatfield Reservoir to the small town of Balzac, Colo., on the eastern plains.

The agreement promotes regional cooperation among water providers and enables the participants to share costs on large projects instead of duplicating efforts. It also brings bigger partners into the mix, said Heather Beasley, water resource engineer with Castle Rock’s utilities division. The partnership does not obligate the town to participate in projects. Members will bring opportunities to the group for discussion, but each entity can decide individually if it wants to join in, Beasley said.

More Denver Basin aquifer system coverage here and here.

Durango: Animas River bank stabilization project

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From The Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews):

Ridgway company Western Stream Works will be installing boulder structures to divert water away from Roosa Avenue starting in early September. Boulders will also be placed at points in the river to improve fish habitat, minimize erosion, protect existing cottonwood trees and lessen the current undercutting the steeper sections of the riverbank. The four- to six-week project is being funded through an $86,400 Colorado Division of Wildlife Fishing is Fun grant, which was secured through the efforts of local nonprofits Animas RiverKeeper and the Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Three years ago, the two groups raised about $8,000 to prepare a study of the section of the Animas River corridor falling under the city’s authority that highlighted areas overdue for repair. Trout Unlimited prioritized the list of nine trouble spots and presented the Durango City Council with a project proposal.

More Animas River watershed here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Valley officials psyched that Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar is talking water issues

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“This is a big deal. Very rarely have we seen a Secretary of Interior walk into a community to talk about water issues,” Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Executive Director Jim Broderick said Thursday…

The Southeastern district is the primary sponsor of the conduit, which would deliver water from Pueblo Dam to 42 communities as far east as Lamar and Eads. “When I visited Bureau of Reclamation officials in Washington, there were a lot of encouraging words on the conduit,” Broderick said. “I think they’re starting to get an indication this is a highly visible project.” Under legislation passed earlier this year, the conduit will receive funding, which the district has sought since 2003. Part of the reason the bill passed this year is a concept first suggested by Broderick to use excess-capacity revenues to pay off unfunded parts of the Fry-Ark Project, including the conduit. The House approved funding of $5 million for next year, at the request of Reps. Salazar and Betsy Markey, D-Colo., but the appropriation still must survive a conference committee. The Senate made no recommendation for funding…

Broderick also is encouraged because Jennifer Gimbel, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, last week at Colorado Water Congress confirmed the state’s loan for the conduit is still active. The loan was among items potentially on the chopping block to balance the state budget…

The Southeastern board approved $300,000 in contracts Thursday under an Environmental Protection Agency grant to begin work on environmental, engineering and mapping tasks associated with the conduit. The contracts are the first steps toward building the conduit. In a related move, the board agreed to work with Colorado Springs in exploring ways to use a proposed North Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam to provide system redundancy for the South Outlet Works, the conduit’s connection to water in Lake Pueblo.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: They’re talking about the project in Vernal

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From the Vernal Express (Mary Bernard):

[David Allison, environmental consultant for Uintah County] opened his talk before the Vernal Chamber luncheon saying the comment period relates to the environmental impact statement being prepared for Million’s permit request. “He has submitted project plans to the Corps in order to receive a permit for the 400-mile long pipeline,” says Allison…

“It’s a no-brainer,” Allison says enumerating the county’s concerns. “In the first place, based on water availability the amount of water requested may be unsustainable.” Water withdrawal would include 85,000 acre feet out of the Green River and 165,000 acre feet to be piped from Flaming Gorge Reservoir. “Secondly, they’re not dealing with issues relating to water rights in this environmental impact statement,” the consultant said. “Federal process under the National Environmental Protection Act do not allow severalty. They need to address all the impacts.”

The strongest argument Allison says is that water flows will be changed on the Green River which will likely further endanger protected species of fish. “We’ve spent a lot of money on threatened and endangered species,” Allison says, noting the considerable cost that has gone into protected lands like the Ouray Refuge in Brown’s Park.

He sums up effects by saying “these withdrawals will degrade water quality, increase temperature, raise sediment levels and alter flows.” “Local business will be affected as the draw-down will impact the recreational use of Flaming Gorge and the Green below the dam,” Allison says. “But these impacts are not part of the current Corps document in preparation.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

American Recovery and Investment Act funds Colorado projects

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From The Denver Post (David Olinger):

Elsewhere, many of the state’s highest-priority drinking-water and wastewater projects went unfunded, including some classified as acute health hazards. That’s because to be eligible, projects had to be ready to start construction by next month. And the available dollars, $62 million, amounted to less than 2 percent of the money sought by Colorado cities, towns and districts to improve their sewer and water systems. “It’s a drop in the bucket,” said Steve Gunderson, water-quality director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. One of the biggest challenges, he said, was finding projects that also could meet a federal requirement to earmark 20 percent of the money for “green infrastructure.”

Among wastewater-treatment projects, a $1.5 million loan for solar panels in Pueblo got the green tag. Among drinking-water projects, the state gave a green light to systems with leaking pipes.

Fort Morgan: City council looking at plan B for stalled Northern Integrated Supply Project

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

The city’s participation in the project would cost it more than $30 million over about 12 years after the project gains a permit, and city and water board officials have said it would ensure a reliable supply of water sufficient for future growth of the city. The project has been stalled, however, in the permitting process by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, due at least in part to objections from opponents of the project who claim NISP will damage the Poudre River. The city water advisory board has always strongly recommended that the city continue to be a part of NISP. No further information on the discussion regarding alternate options was provided in the council agenda packet for Tuesday’s meeting.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Climate Change: Senators Udall and McCain get an up close look at changes in Rocky Mountain National Park

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From the Longmont Times-Call (Pamela Dickman):

“It’s unbelievable,” McCain said an hour later during a hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks held in Estes Park. “Every home in America should see. Every citizen should see what is happening here.”[…]

The issue is complex, according to four experts who testified about some of the problems associated with increasing temperatures and shrinking precipitation:

• Increased bark beetle kill, which adds to fire danger.

• Increased risk of wildfires, which threaten homes and can cause erosion and potential water contamination.

• Shorter, milder winters and longer, drier summers, which change the landscape and wildlife habitats.

• Less snow and earlier melts, which affect water supply for many states, as Colorado contains the headwaters for four major rivers, and which affect the state’s billion-dollar winter and summer tourist industry.

More climate change coverage here.

Orchard City: Town Board approves $5 capital construction fee

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

The new $5-per-month charge will be charged for every water tap that is serviced by Orchard City’s treated water system. That includes individual taps that are served through master meters on pipeline companies and private water lines. The ordinance states the water capital construction fee will be “assessed on all users.” The town board heard the ordinance on first reading at its July meeting. It was adopted unchanged. Mayor Don Suppes explained, “We have to come up with a way to pay for water projects, and with our current water rates it is not going to happen. This is what the board came up with as the best way to get that done.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Del Norte: Meter and waterline upgrade

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From The Del Norte Prospector (Alex Rice):

Del Norte is one of several San Luis Valley towns, along with Blanca and Crestone, installing new equipment in preparation for a state-mandated switch from a flat water usage rate for residents to a system that charges those in town depending on how much water they actually use. As per a town of Del Norte resolution, this billing structure likely won’t begin until September 2010.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Boulder: 3% Water and sewer increase?

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From The Denver Post:

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 users would see bills go up by $5,100.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Routt County: Board of Commissioners approves $400,000 for Elkhead Ranch conservation easement

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Brandon Gee):

The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved spending $400,000 of taxpayer funds to help place 645 acres of the 3,950-acre Elkhead Ranch under a conservation easement to be held by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. The easement is the third phase of an effort to protect the entire ranch. The easement lands include grazing pastures, hay fields, portions of Elkhead Creek, meadows, trees and wetlands. According to a news release, Elkhead Ranch “provides important habitat for numerous wildlife species including elk, deer, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, fox, sandhill cranes, Columbian sharp-tail grouse and greater sage grouse.”[…]

[Elkhead Ranch owner Heather Stirling] is contributing about two-thirds of the easement’s value, which means she is not being reimbursed for about 66 percent of the property value lost by placing it in a conservation easement. “This is not only beautiful land and prime agricultural land,” County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush told Stirling, “but your contribution is over the top, in my opinion.” Some have criticized the program for spending taxpayer money on remote lands that will remain under private ownership. Roundtree rejected those criticisms and also noted that this project and others are highly visible from public roads and public lands. Visibility is one criteria the PDR board uses to evaluate a project, but not the only one, Roundtree said.

More conservation easements coverage here and here.

Grandview Canal & Irrigation Company scores $5.3 million to reduce salinity

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

Grandview Canal & Irrigation Company will use the grant to pipe nearly five miles of the Grandview Canal and five miles of associated irrigation laterals located near Crawford. Converting the canal and laterals from open, earthen ditches to pressurized pipe will enable the company to upgrade about 900 acres of farmland that is currently flood-irrigated to sprinkler irrigation, according to the BuRec’s news release. The project will prevent approximately 6,400 tons of salt from entering the Colorado River system each year. It is slated for completion in 2011. The grant was awarded through BuRec’s Basinwide Salinity Control Program, which aims to reduce salinity levels in the Colorado and prevent economic damages in lower parts of the basin. BuRec says irrigation in western Colorado valleys is a prime source of human-caused salinity increases to the Gunnison and Colorado rivers.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: Secretary of Interior Salazar to hold water summit in Pueblo August 28

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The meeting is scheduled at 10 a.m. Friday at the Bob Jackson Conference Room at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. Also planning to attend are U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., and other members of Congress; Deanna Archuleta, deputy assistant secretary for water and science; Mike Ryan, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; and local and regional leaders, according to a news release from Interior.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here and here.

Precipitation news: Telluride area is missing the monsoon season

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

This summer, though, there has been a noticeable absence of the afternoon storms. Monday — when people pulled out rain jackets and umbrellas to hide from the cold sheet of rain — was only the sixth day of rain in the month, according to a local weather reporter. And according to his tallies, the precipitation for the month is running nearly 2 inches behind average. “We’re way below average for the month,” said Thom Carnevale, who measures Telluride’s precipitation near San Juan Village. “This has been one of the driest Augusts we’ve had in the past several years.” As of Monday morning, Carnevale had recorded 91/100th of an inch of precipitation for the month, with rain falling on Aug. 5-6, 14, and 22-24. The average rainfall for June, he said, is 2.92 inches.

And this is only the second half of the story of strange summer weather. Chapter one happened in June, when what is typically one of the driest months of the year turned into one of the wetter ones. June — usually the month of sun-worshipping days — was cold and drippy this year. While the average precipitation in June is 1.22 inches, Carnevale said, this year June brought 2.59 inches — more than double the average…

For western Colorado, the southwest monsoon pattern generally begins around the second week of July, and can last into September. This year, though, Lawrence said that a consistent trough has hung over the east, while a ridge has sat over the west, “which has kept us high and dry and them wet and cold. It’s just kept us from getting a real monsoon season.”

Colorado State University: Center Lake rehabilitation

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The problem at Center Lake is complex. Colorado State University civil and environmental engineering professor Larry Roesner, along with city officials, say they’re working hard to rid the lake of both the stench and the dead fish while rehabilitating it, so its ecology and fishery can be healthy again. More than a century’s worth of accumulated organic matter and sediment sit at the bottom of the lake, the largest of three lakes the city created along with Fossil Creek Park in 1996 at the old Portner Reservoir site. As the organic matter decomposes, it produces hydrogen sulfide, which is toxic to fish, Roesner said. Oxygen in the lake is stratified because there is too little circulation for the oxygen to be distributed throughout. The hydrogen sulfide stays near the bottom, and the fish normally avoid it. Since the park was built, he said, some of that hydrogen sulfide mixed into the upper parts of the lake when the wind blew, and the rotten-egg stench would waft through the park and the neighborhood.

So, to get rid of the smell and to rehabilitate the lake, the city and Roesner’s team installed aerators, which are designed to provide oxygen to all depths of the lake. Signs at the lake explain the aeration process and warn visitors some fish may die because of it. But the concentrations of hydrogen sulfide at the bottom of the lake were higher than Roesner expected. When Roesner’s team started up six aerators last Thursday, the stench became worse than normal and fish began to die, but not just because the hydrogen sulfide was rising to the surface. Organic matter circulating through the lake because of the aeration process sucks up oxygen in the upper depths of the lake. So, even more fish suffocated.

To solve the problem, the team has a new solution: A private company is going to bring in microbes that eat hydrogen sulfide and improve aeration in the lake, Roesner said. The goal is to eliminate the oxygen-impoverished layer in the lake water, which should get rid of the odor and improve the fishery, said Craig Foreman, Fort Collins director of Park Planning and Development.

More restoration coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Pueblo District Attorney credits Sierra Club lawsuit with nudging Colorado Springs towards action

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“It was not as important that a fine was entered as it is that the court found that Colorado Springs violated the act,” Thiebaut said. “We have argued all along that the pollution of Fountain Creek is a violation of law and the problem must be fixed.”[…]

Thiebaut, like Ross Vincent of the local Sierra Club, attributes the actions to improve Fountain Creek during the last four years as a result of the lawsuits. Colorado Springs Water Chief Bruce McCormick last week disputed that viewpoint, and said Colorado Springs prior to the suits already was committed to taking steps to reduce sewer spills and improve Fountain Creek. “In the order, the judge took note of the fact that Colorado Springs has begun to take steps to mitigate future spills,” Thiebaut said. “We have also acknowledged those positive steps but note that they began after, and we believe as a result of, our notices of intended litigation.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Meet State Senator Bruce Whitehead

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The Durango Herald (Katie Burford) is running some background and a short interview with newly appointed State Senator Bruce Whitehead. From the article:

While Whitehead, a Hesperus-area resident, may be a newbie to politics, he said he’s not a stranger to high stakes deal-making, having spent his entire professional career working on water issues. His personality disposes him toward consensus building and a careful study of the issues. “I think I bring a common-sense approach,” he said.

Big Thompson Watershed Forum 11th annual meeting September 22

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From The Greeley Tribune:

The Big Thompson Watershed Forum will host its 11th annual meeting — Protecting Our Watershed, Preserving Our Future — on Sept. 22. It will be at the Drake Center in Fort Collins and is scheduled for 8 a.m.-3:45 p.m.

The Big Thompson River Watershed, an area of about 900 square miles, provides drinking water to numerous cities in northern Colorado including Estes Park, Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland. The Big Thompson River Watershed is vital to more than 800,000 people as it carries water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and is used for residential, commercial, agricultural, recreation and wildlife habitat purposes. The mission of the forum is to protect and improve water quality in the watershed through collaborative monitoring, assessment, education and restoration projects.

This year’s topics include a volunteer monitoring program water quality update; the future of the watershed movement in northern Colorado; Colorado’s source water assessment and protection program; what a changing climate means for the West’s water; Clean Water Act and proposed nutrient amendments; a model to plan, build and live water-smart; and an education and outreach panel discussion for the forum and local watershed groups.

State Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, will provide opening remarks. Cost is $15, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch.

For more information, e-mail Zack Shelley at

More Big Thompson coverage here and here.

Climate Change: Senators Udall and McCain get an up close look at changes in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Arizona Senator John McCain and Colorado Senator Mark Udall were up in Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday getting a first hand look at the devastation wrought by pine beetles. They also heard a pitch about the need for climate change legislation from park officials. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

“The effects of climate change are not yet to come but are occurring right now,” David Schimel, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, told Udall and McCain. “Colorado is in one of the parts of the Lower 48 to experience the greatest warming.” He said decreases in mountain snow and runoff could mean a 25 percent reduction in water in the Colorado River system compared with today’s levels. The amount of carbon the region’s forests absorb from burning fossil fuels will be reduced by half as the planet warms, he said. Climate change will submerge some Eastern national parks under rising oceans, melt Glacier National Park’s glaciers, kill Joshua Tree National Park’s Joshua trees and dramatically change the face of Rocky Mountain National Park, said Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. “We’ve never lost a national park before,” but global warming could change that, he said…

Udall and McCain reiterated their support for nuclear power as part of a cure for climate change. McCain said he will not support a climate change plan that does not include nuclear power. “If we want to respond to climate change, nuclear power has to be part of the solution,” Udall said, later calling nuclear part of an “all-of-the-above strategy.”

More coverage from The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“I agree with Sen. McCain that nuclear power has to be part of the mix,” Udall, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on National Parks, said Monday in the meadow. “It is clear that if we want to respond to climate change, nuclear power has to be part of the solution.” Later in an interview, Udall said his support includes emphasis on safety by improving the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and issuance of mining permits. Udall also noted that a project to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada appears to be “a dead project.” At some point, he said, “you have to have a geologic depository that is safe.”

The hearing Monday — following Udall and McCain’s two-day weekend swing through Grand Canyon National Park — focused not on the complexities of “cap-and-trade” legislation and energy policy but rather on using national parks as “canaries” to signal specific changes and convey them in a way that mobilizes tens of millions of Americans.

About 100 residents attended the hearing, where experts from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Park Service and other institutions warned that human activities are disrupting natural processes.

More coverage from the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

Tiny mammals, moths and birds such as Colorado’s famed ptarmigan are all threatened by rapid warming in mountain regions, and America’s national parks — the jewels in her natural resource crown — could be most threatened of all. That’s according to Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, speaking during a federal parks subcommittee hearing Tuesday in Estes Park. Saunders, whose organization issued a landmark 2006 report on climate change threats to national parks, tried to rally Americans to protect natural treasures like Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. U.S. citizens have always responded when parks are in danger, he said, outlining concerns over more insect infestations, frequent wildfires and dramatic loss of habitat for many species. Saunders said the National Park Service too often has looked the other way, citing climate change impacts as external forces beyond the control of planners. The agency is mandated by law and its own policies use all available authorities “to protect park resources and values from potentially harmful activities.”

More coverage from the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

Udall and McCain, R-Ariz., agreed that global warming is real, that it is negatively affecting national parks, that climate-change legislation will have to wait until health-care reform is somehow put to bed, that the president needs to lead the way in creating such carbon-limiting laws, and that nuclear power must be a part of the country’s future energy portfolio.

More climate change coverage here and here.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project update

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Click here to read Lee Hart’s analysis of last moment tactics from Nestlé Waters before the Chaffee County Commissioners approved the 1041 permit.

Here’s a release from Nestlé Waters via

On August 19, Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners unanimously directed County legal counsel to prepare resolutions of approval for Nestle Waters North America to produce spring water for its Arrowhead Spring Water Brand.

Nestle Waters has been actively engaged in Chaffee County since 2007. In November 2008, the company applied for a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) and 1041 Permit. The process has included numerous public hearings, extensive community dialogue, thousands of pages of scientific, economic, and ecological and environmental data collection and research. The process is thorough, comprehensive, and involves the review of a number of different independent consultants and agencies with diverse areas of expertise, and the review and approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of County Commissioners.

“Chaffee County is a special place, we appreciate the many community members we’ve had the privilege to meet who have provided valuable advice and helped to shape our project to better fit this community,” said Bruce Lauerman, Nestle Waters North America’s Natural Resource Manager in Colorado. “We have a unique opportunity to protect a natural water resource, preserve beautiful open space, create local jobs and provide additional funds for education and other needs in the local community.”

For nearly two years, Nestle Waters has been working together with local residents, conducting site tours, and reaching out to local agencies and businesses to tailor this project to best fit the needs and desires of Chaffee County citizens. Included as part of its permit application, Nestle Waters voluntarily added a comprehensive community giving effort that will provide: a $500,000 endowment for local education initiatives; a permanent conservation easement to protect Nestle’s 115 acres along the Arkansas River; in-stream fishing access at the Ruby Mountain and Bighorn Spring Sites; multi-million dollar local contracts to Chaffee County construction companies to construct the five-mile pipeline; programmatic annual giving to locally identified needs in the community; opportunities for environmentally-focused field work with local college and high school students; a comprehensive, wildlife-habitat restoration project of the old Ruby Mountain fish hatchery (which will incorporate a number of local agencies and interested groups); and a commitment to hire at least 50% of its truck drivers from the local area.

As part of the conditions of its 1041 and SLUP permits, Nestle Waters will be required to provide a comprehensive land management plan of the spring sites, to include the hatchery restoration, surface water and groundwater monitoring and mitigation plans, protection of bighorn sheep habitat, streambank and wildlife friendly fencing, and other environmental, construction, and land use conditions. Long-term hydrologic monitoring, initiated in 2007 will continue throughout the life of the project.

“We appreciate the efforts made by the County Commissioners, Planning Commission, and Staff during this lengthy and complex permitting process,” said Lauerman. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with this community and working together to benefit the Arkansas River Valley for years to come.”

For more information about Nestle Waters North America’s operations in Colorado, please visit:

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Cañon City: Federal and state dough fund sanitary sewer expansion

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Debbie Bell):

George Medaris, recently-retired Fremont Sanitation District manager who now is working on the project as a consultant, said contracts are being finalized for the funding. He said the only cost to residents will be an estimated $600 cost to abandon their old septic tanks, and a standard monthly sewer charge of $18.26 once the sewer lines are in place.

More wastewater coverage here and here. outage

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If you were trying to get here using the URL today and were unsuccessful, I apologize. I was having problems on my network.

Everything should be okay now.

Fountain Creek: Colorado Springs Utilities fined $35,500 as a result of Sierra Club lawsuit

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Here’s a look back at the Sierra Club’s lawsuit against Colorado Springs Utilities over sewage spills into Fountain Creek, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Sierra Club says it has leveraged progress, while Colorado Springs claims it would have taken steps without the threat of a federal lawsuit…

Colorado Springs is spending millions to improve its sewer system, and is cooperating with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in a corridor master plan. Numerous studies are looking at water quality. The public’s attention in the past turned to Fountain Creek only after major flooding, but now it has become a major focus for water-quality issues in the Arkansas Basin. “If you look at the big picture, a lot of things on Fountain Creek have happened since the lawsuit was filed,” Ross Vincent, of the Pueblo Sierra Club, said Friday. “Without the lawsuit, I think we would have seen a continued record of violations, because their response initially was to spend ungodly sums of money on PR.”

Bruce McCormick, Colorado Springs Utilities chief of water services, emphatically disagreed. “We recognized how important this is in terms of environmental stewardship,” McCormick said. “Since 2004, we have spent $120 million, and we plan to spend $300 million more. These are commitments we have made to improve the system.”[…]

The judge retained jurisdiction for the next year, while saying enforcement by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was “effective.”[…]

The judge sided with the Sierra Club that federal laws were violated and assessed penalties that the state had not, Vincent said. “The remedies are weak if you want to make sure violators understand they need to make investments,” Vincent said. “If it’s cheaper to ignore the law, they will continue to do so.” Vincent said the early state compliance orders, which track violations back to 1998, did little more than require studies and paperwork while spills into Fountain Creek continued…

The suits came after two sewer lines broke during flooding of a tributary of Fountain Creek, less than one year after an operator error had released tons of sludge into the creek. Pueblo political leaders were livid following the incident, creating a year of turmoil that ultimately led to the Vision Task Force.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Aspen’s Castle Creek hydroelectric generation station update

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Nearly three years ago Aspen residents approved bonding to fund a hydroelectric generation station on Castle Creek in town. Here’s an update on progress towards building the facility, from Carolyn Sackariason writing for the Glenwood Springs Independent. From the article:

John Hines, the city’s renewable energy utility manager, said the 1,880-square-foot facility will go through public review for final approval starting next month. If it’s approved by the Aspen City Council, construction could begin as early as the spring…

There has been minimal opposition to the facility, but some people are concerned about a decreased flow in the nearby stream because water will be drained out of it to generate power. Hines said the city will host a neighborhood meeting after Labor Day in which a hydrologist and an engineer will address water-flow concerns. He added that neighbors are generally in favor of the facility but are watching the design of it closely. “They are in favor of the hydro facility, but they want it done right; I don’t blame them,” Hines said.

A new water line is being built to replace the old one, as well as to accommodate the new plant, which will generate renewable energy for the city and increase its supplies by 8 percent over its current level of about 75 percent. The project would utilize existing water rights, head gates, and water storage of the original Castle Creek hydroelectric plant, which met all of Aspen’s electric power needs from 1892 through 1958, when the plant was decommissioned. When completed, the 1.05 mega-watt facility is expected to increase electric production by 5.5 million kilowatt hours annually.

City officials say that switching from primarily coal-fired energy purchases to hydroelectric power production would eliminate an estimated 5,167 tons of CO2 emissions — representing a 0.6 percent community-wide reduction in carbon emissions based on the 2004 greenhouse gas emission inventory.

The facility’s turbine and generator will be designed to convert the force of falling water into electric power. The water comes from the Thomas Reservoir, which is located at the top of Doolittle Drive and is the home of the water treatment facility. The water will travel down a 42-inch pipe, supplying the hydro plant with approximately 52 cubic feet per second. There are nearly 4.9 million gallons of water sitting above some residential areas and the hospital. The pipe would allow the city to quickly evacuate the water should the walls of the reservoir ever be breached. The electricity will be placed on the city’s grid and taken up to the water treatment campus to power those facilities, and to potentially produce hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen vehicles.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

USGS: Mercury in fish widespread

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Here’s the abstract from the study:

Mercury (Hg) was examined in top-predator fish, bed sediment, and water from streams that spanned regional and national gradients of Hg source strength and other factors thought to influence methylmercury (MeHg) bioaccumulation. Sampled settings include stream basins that were agricultural, urbanized, undeveloped (forested, grassland, shrubland, and wetland land cover), and mined (for gold and Hg). Each site was sampled one time during seasonal low flow. Predator fish were targeted for collection, and composited samples of fish (primarily skin-off fillets) were analyzed for total Hg (THg), as most of the Hg found in fish tissue (95–99 percent) is MeHg. Samples of bed sediment and stream water were analyzed for THg, MeHg, and characteristics thought to affect Hg methylation, such as loss-on-ignition (LOI, a measure of organic matter content) and acid-volatile sulfide in bed sediment, and pH, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and dissolved sulfate in water. Fish-Hg concentrations at 27 percent of sampled sites exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency human-health criterion of 0.3 micrograms per gram wet weight. Exceedances were geographically widespread, although the study design targeted specific sites and fish species and sizes, so results do not represent a true nationwide percentage of exceedances. The highest THg concentrations in fish were from blackwater coastal-plain streams draining forests or wetlands in the eastern and southeastern United States, as well as from streams draining gold- or Hg-mined basins in the western United States (1.80 and 1.95 micrograms THg per gram wet weight, respectively). For unmined basins, length-normalized Hg concentrations in largemouth bass were significantly higher in fish from predominantly undeveloped or mixed-land-use basins compared to urban basins. Hg concentrations in largemouth bass from unmined basins were correlated positively with basin percentages of evergreen forest and also woody wetland, especially with increasing proximity of these two land-cover types to the sampling site; this underscores the greater likelihood for Hg bioaccumulation to occur in these types of settings. Increasing concentrations of MeHg in unfiltered stream water, and of bed-sediment MeHg normalized by LOI, and decreasing pH and dissolved sulfate were also important in explaining increasing Hg concentrations in largemouth bass. MeHg concentrations in bed sediment correlated positively with THg, LOI, and acid-volatile sulfide. Concentrations of MeHg in water correlated positively with DOC, ultraviolet absorbance, and THg in water, the percentage of MeHg in bed sediment, and the percentage of wetland in the basin.

More mecury pollution coverage here and here.

Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority is preaching conservation

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

At its Aug. 19 meeting, the authority’s board of directors discussed water conservation in response to a recent letter written by six major Front Range water providers to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Interbasin Compact Committee which addressed several topics related to filling Colorado’s “water supply gap.”

“Right now, nobody’s worried about conservation because it’s been raining,” said Dana Duthie, general manager of Donala Water and Sanitation District.

Most water providers in the authority, however, rely on non-renewable aquifer water, which is unaffected by rain. Duthie added, water rationing will become more attractive to consumers when rates start going up. Water rates will have to be raised by two to four times what they are now for that to work, said Monument Public Works Director Rich Landreth.

More conservation coverage here.

Prowers County is taking the fight to tamarisk

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Bids for aerial spraying of 1,500 acres of tamarisk between Holly and the Kansas border came in at half the cost that was expected. “It gives us great encouragement that something can be done,” County Commissioner Henry Schnabel said. “It’s left us scrambling to find more acres.” Schnabel was addressing the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy Board, which earlier had contributed $10,000 to the project. The county, working with several other agencies that have put about $260,000 toward the project, was expecting to pay $160 per acre for the spraying. Instead, the bids were opened Monday and Tri-Rotor Helicopter Spraying of Ulysses, Kan., bid just $85.49 an acre for the service. The company guaranteed an 85-percent kill rate and can tailor the spraying to avoid cottonwoods along the river, Schnabel said. “The spraying is critical on that reach, because the tamarisk is so tall that Holly would flood if there were another 1965-type flood,” Schnabel said.

Across the state line, Kansas also is killing tamarisks as part of the effort.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Silverthorne: Benefit for Blue River Restoration Fund August 28

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From the Summit Daily News (Caitlin Row):

Proceeds will benefit the Blue River Restoration Fund used to construct fish habitat enhancement structures, expand public access areas and maintain the Lower Blue’s Gold Medal Trout designation. Two Colorado-based bluegrass bands — Head for the Hills and Spring Creek — will perform on the Silverthorne Pavilion lawn on Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. Spring Creek will take the stage around 8 p.m.

More restoration coverage here.

Fowler to supplement sewer lagoon mechanical process with algae

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Fowler wants to use a patented process that uses single-cell algae to put oxygen into the water, rather than mechanical processes typically used in lagoons, said Wayne Snider, town administrator. Fowler has nine lagoons and will spend about $15,000 on the pilot program by BiO2 Solutions [Ed. website is still under construction.].

iO2 is using a patented process developed by Lonnie Losh, who said he stumbled across the idea while dealing with wastes from his family’s cattle and hog operations near Strasburg, east of Denver. “What we have come up with is a reliable way to treat lagoon waste and return it to the river,” said Losh, president and co-founder of BiO2. Losh said the algae used in his process do not form the filmy layer sometimes associated with algae in ponds, but penetrate the water more deeply to improve oxygenation. Losh partnered with wastewater treatment engineers to expand the treatment to municipal or industrial systems as well as agriculture. The algae, which are grown in greenhouses and mixed into ponds through diffusion equipment, improved oxygen levels above state standards, reduced ammonia concentrations and lowered costs 80 percent in trials at Wray, Guthrie said. The system could also improve how communities such as Fowler use their water, since discharges from lagoons could be year-round instead of annually.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Powertech’s project vs. state water quality standards

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

…in a move uranium-mine opponents fear might prove Powertech is trying to skirt around clean-water standards, the company Wednesday asked state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, or DRMS, officials to allow it to change original water-quality information for the mine site while uranium is being mined…

Before mining begins, the law requires Powertech to collect “baseline” water quality data, or information on the state of the water before it is contaminated by mining, then restore the water to that same quality after mining ends. In comments sent to the state Aug. 12, Powertech officials wrote it should be able to revise its baseline water quality data during the mining process “if new water-quality information comes to light” as an effect of mining. Powertech President Richard Clement said Thursday geology varies in a mining area, and it might be necessary to present the state with new information about the original water quality at the mine that could change the company’s groundwater restoration plan.

“Powertech is still making arguments to undermine groundwater quality protections,” said Matt Garrington of Environment Colorado. “They asked the Mining Division yesterday to be able to move the standard for groundwater during the mining project. They’re still making that argument in this process, and it’s crazy.”

“I’m not sure of their intent in the long term,” said Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Office Director David Berry. “Our intent would be information can no longer be baseline if it’s disturbed by an operation. We’re pretty steadfast in that.”

A day after making its argument, Powertech reversed its opinion. “It was made very clear by the DRMS that they determined that the issue has been established, so we have no further objection,” Clement said Thursday.

Powertech also quibbled with the state’s definition of the surface and groundwater the company might affect with its uranium mining. The rule the state is writing says potentially affected surface and groundwater includes the water found on the land at the mining site and “in surrounding areas.” In its comments to the state, Powertech called that definition “amorphous.”

More energy policy nuclear coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress: Annual summer meeting

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Zach Fridell):

[Mike Gillespie, the snow supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Ser­vice] reported about the state of Colorado snowpack throughout the past year at the Colorado Water Congress’ summer conference, held at the Steamboat Sheraton Re sort from Wednesday to noon today. “People start getting a little antsy” when early season snow is below normal levels, he said. “Then, lo and behold, the following month (December) or so we saw huge increases in the snowpack. We accumulated about a quarter of our normal average in the 30 days after that time.” That shot the snowpack from near the minimum to above the 30-year average for several months.

Statewide, snowpack was 17 percent above the 30-year average last year. For the Yampa and White River Basin, April 13 was the peak date, at 14 percent above the 30-year average. That’s one day later than the average high point in other years, indicating the snow was sticking slightly longer.