California Gulch superfund site: EPA proposes altered cleanup plan

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From the Colorado Independent (Katie Redding):

In 1997, under pressure from media, including NBC Nightly News, as well as from citizens, preservationists and state representatives, incredulous EPA authorities agreed to leave several remaining tailings piles in the Leadville Mining District in place, divert most runoff around them, and send any contaminated runoff down Stray Horse Gulch, into an old mine shaft and through a series of convoluted mine workings to a treatment plant on the other side of town.

But in the intervening years, according to EPA Remedial Project Manager Stan Christensen, dye tracer tests have shown that not all the 300 to 500 gallons of contaminated water generated each year actually makes it to the plant. Depending on the day, the plant recovers somewhere between 12 percent and 75 percent of the contaminated water that comes its way, he said. No one is sure where the rest of the water goes.

More California Gulch coverage here and here.

Kansas and Colorado turn the last page on lawsuit over instream flows in the Arkansas River Basin

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From the Associated Press via the Kansas City Star:

The two states filed an agreement with the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the final technical issues about monitoring Colorado’s use of water from the river. The agreement is designed to prevent the river’s depletion as it flows into southwest Kansas.

More Kansas v. Colorado coverage here.

Rio Grande Basin roundtable: First groundwater sub-district scores $31, 500

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Note: The post below is a little old. I failed to publish it on July 15.

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

The goal of the sub-districts of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District is to reduce well pumping in the San Luis Valley in order to protect senior surface rights, stabilize the aquifers and ensure the state meets its water delivery obligations to downstream states through the Rio Grande Compact. The first sub-district encompasses 1,500-1,600 sprinklers and about 3,500 wells. Its management plan is pending legal action, and a trial is scheduled for this September.

The roundtable group had approved an earlier funding request, of about the same amount, for the CREP application process. The funding requests are coming through the Rio Grande Restoration Foundation because it is an eligible nonprofit group. Rio Grande Water Conservation District Manager Steve Vandiver served as spokesman to present the request to the roundtable on Tuesday afternoon…

Vandiver said CREP would make available about $126 million over a 15-year period to irrigators in the first sub-district (north of the river) to reduce the amount of irrigated cropland by up to 40,000 acres. This federal program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture would only require 20 percent local cost share, Vandiver explained. The local match would likely come from sub-district fees paid by landowners within the sub-district’s boundaries…

Participants would receive $15,000-25,000 a year, Vandiver estimated. Over 15 years that would amount to $126 million throughout the sub-district, with about $94 million of that amount coming from U.S.D.A.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Littleton: Bobbie Sheffield named Western Welcome Week’s Grand Marshal

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From the Littleton Independent (Holly Cook):

no one knows more about conservation than Bobbie Sheffield, who has been named Western Welcome Week’s Grand Marshal. Sheffield’s title of grand marshal is based on 12 years as the chair of the South Metro Land Conservancy, which goes hand in hand with the 81st annual event. “I’ve always loved the outdoors,” Sheffield said. “When the world gets crazy, if I go walk around South Platte Park, it sets the world right again. It feeds your soul.”

Here’s the lowdown on Western Welcome Week, from Holly Cook writing for the Littleton Independent.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Colorado Trout Unlimited: 40th birthday bash

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From Colorado Trout Unlimited:

CTU’s 40th Birthday Bash

Colorado Trout Unlimited is Over the Hump!

Where: D Note music venue and restaurant
7519 Grandview Ave., Arvada, CO 80010

When: Friday, August 28th, 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM

How Much: $10.00 cover charge (proceeds benefit Colorado Trout Unlimited)

Advance Tickets: Go to and click on the fish wearing a party hat to purchase your ticket in advance.

What Else: Raffle and door prizes include: hats, t-shirts, posters, books, DVDs, reels, rods, jackets, vests, white water rafting trip for four and much, much more!

10,825 acre-foot pool for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

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Here’s a release from the Colorado River District:

A proactive environmental program designed to recover four endangered fish in the Colorado River has prevented the legal and social upheavals involving the Endangered Species Act experienced in other parts of the country while allowing the public to benefit from continued water development for a growing population and agricultural uses.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovering Program employs a tool box of initiatives to aid fish recovery, including the construction of fish ladders at dams, fish screens in irrigation canals, fish hatcheries, water conservation by irrigation companies and the contribution of stored water from reservoirs and water users to support habitat.

One of the agreements between water users and the Recovery Program for stored water is up for renewal in 2010 and is this year subject to a pending environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Colorado River District is leading an effort to help fund the assessment and has gained support from a number of Western Colorado entities that have benefited from the Recovery Program.

Contributors include Grand County, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Eagle County), the Upper Eagle Water Authority (Eagle County), Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Frisco, Parachute, the Ute Water Conservancy District (Mesa County), the West Divide Water Conservancy District (Garfield and Pitkin Counties), the Basalt Water Conservancy District (Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield Counties), the Grand Valley Water Users Association (Mesa County), the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District (Mesa County), the Grand Valley Irrigation Company (Mesa County) and the Colorado River District.

The partners are helping to fund an environmental assessment of a program to preserve a 10,825 acre-foot pool of water dedicated to the Recovery Program. An acre-foot of water is equal to 325,851 gallons of water.

This water obligation is currently split 50-50 by West Slope water users of the main stem Colorado River and Front Range entities that divert water from the Colorado River through transmountain diversions.

Under an expiring deal, the Colorado River District has been releasing half the water from Wolford Mountain Reservoir on behalf of the West Slope and Denver Water has been releasing its half from Williams Fork Reservoir on behalf of the Front Range. A new arrangement would provide half the water from Ruedi Reservoir and half from Granby Reservoir. The Colorado River District will continue to supply a separate pool of environmental water for endangered fish – 6,000 acre-feet – from Wolford Mountain.

The environmental analysis will cost an estimated $550,000, to be split 50-50 between the Front Range and the West Slope. Dan Birch, Deputy General Manager of the Colorado River District, is coordinating the effort to achieve the new deal and to gain financial support from West Slope water users. Negotiations continue to bolster the West Slope’s half of the commitment.

“We are pleased that 13 water providers have committed thus far and we look forward to help from other water users in the basin,” Birch said. He commended Ute, the Eagle County districts and Grand County for being leaders on this environmental issue.

If water users cannot win approval of the 10,825 plan, the blanket protection afforded water users by the Recovery Program would be jeopardized, forcing entities who need to improve their water supplies from the Colorado River and its tributaries to undergo expensive, individual consultations with federal authorities.

The water in question, as well as other sources of environmental water for the endangered fish, helps bolster flows in the 15-Mile Reach between Palisade and Grand Junction. The endangered fish are the Colorado pikeminnow, the humpback chub, the razorback sucker and the bonytail chub.

Pending the environmental assessment, water users are still liable for payment for the new arrangement. The Front Range option at Granby Reservoir is estimated to cost about $17 million. The West Slope option at Ruedi Reservoir could cost about $8 million. The Colorado River District is working on Congressional legislation to make the cost of the Ruedi water non-reimbursable because the federal water would be used to meet a federal environmental program. Ruedi is part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a transmountain diversion that supplies West Slope water to water users in the Arkansas River basin.

For more information about the 10,825 effort, contact Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District at (970) 945-8522 x 236 or For more information on the Recovery Program, go to

More Coyote Gulch endangered species coverage here.

Summit County: Ground-breaking ceremony for new Upper Blue Sanitation District North Plant expansion

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From the Summit Daily News:

In a special ground-breaking ceremony for the $34 million dollar Upper Blue Sanitation District North Plant expansion recently, district manager Andrew Carlberg detailed the numerous benefits of the expansion to residents of the county and the Upper Blue Basin. Not only will this new facility provide economical sewer service to build out of the Upper Blue Basin, but it will provide economic stimulus as well…It is estimated that at least 75 percent of the work force will be local labor, which equates to 30 new jobs in Summit County. There are also up to 10 local sub- contractors that will be used throughout the duration of the project, ranging from excavators to concrete supply and landscaping. In addition to the infusion of several million dollars into the community, Carlberg also outlined the inter-governmental cooperation that has also benefitted the district and the community. In separate agreements, the district, the Town of Breckenridge and Summit County exchanged sewer tap fees for waiving of development fees and water tap fees. This has saved the residents of the Upper Blue approximately $600,000. The tap fees the town and county have acquired are planned for use in public projects such as affordable housing.

More Coyote Gulch wastewater coverage here.

USGS: Piceance Basin water quality map now online

Here’s a release from the United States Geological Survey:

The U.S. Geological Survey today launched a website that provides water quality data for the Piceance Basin area of Western Colorado.

The site, created and administered by the USGS, was developed to better address concerns about water quality in the Basin. It consists of a common data repository with the most comprehensive collection of water-quality sampling information available in a single location (visit the Piceance Watershed Water-Quality Data Repository site).

“The purpose of the website is to provide all stakeholders with equal access to this important information,” said USGS hydrologist Judith Thomas. “A database such as this is an important tool in understanding changes in water quality over time.”

The need for the repository was identified by energy producers and local governments to address concerns regarding potential changes to surface and ground-water resources as large-scale energy development occurs in the area.

“There is a tremendous amount of water sampling data out there—from government entities, water districts and energy companies, said Sam Potter, president of the West Divide Water Conservancy District. “Until now, however, it hasn’t been aggregated and presented in a format that is easily accessible to the public. This repository is a boon for anyone with an interest in understanding water quality in this region—landowners, energy companies, regulators, and public officials.”

The website is the result of a collaborative data-sharing and water resource assessment process that included local citizens, industry, government agencies, and conservancy districts. A baseline water-quality assessment will be published by the USGS as a result of the compilation of this database.

The database will also identify data gaps and redundancies in water quality information. This information can be used to understand current conditions and inform future monitoring in the Piceance Basin area.

The $1.3 million dollar project is funded through contributions from federal, state and local governments, water conservancy districts, and energy companies, and is matched by grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).

Project collaborators included: the USGS, the Bureau of Land Management, West Divide Water Conservancy District, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Garfield, Delta, and Rio Blanco counties, the cities of Rifle and Grand Junction, the towns of De Beque, Palisade, Parachute, Carbondale, Silt, and Rangely; EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., Natural Soda, Oxy (Occidental Petroleum Corporation), Chevron, Petroleum Development Corporation (PDC), Shell Oil Company, Williams Production, and Marathon Oil.

More Coyote Gulch groundwater coverage here.