CU installs dual-flushing toilets for water conservation

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Brittany Anas):

Partly because of the conservative flushing, CU’s Boulder campus has gone from using 412 million gallons a year to 290 million gallons a year since 2003, said Dave Newport, director of CU’s Environmental Center. During that same time, the school’s building space has grown 12 percent, he said.

More conservation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Uranium boom on the horizon?

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Southwestern Colorado is looking at another potential uranium boom. Nuclear power is widely held to be part of the solution to global warming by many. Others feel that the storage of the waste and byproducts is an unfair burden to scores of future generations of humankind. Here’s a report from Joe Hanel writing for the (Cortez Journal). From the article:

Uranium proponents in Nucla and Naturita point to hopeful signs. A U.S.-Russian program to use old Soviet nuclear weapons for fuel in American power plants is set to expire in 2013. The United States already is heavily dependent on uranium imports – it produced only a tenth of the uranium it used in 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration. People here follow uranium news so closely that Nucla’s local newspaper, the San Miguel Basin Forum, prints the market price of uranium every week on its front page. It’s hovering around $52 – well below its high of $138 during a speculative bubble in 2007, but more than double the price during the 1980s and ’90s.

The price was right for George Glasier, a local rancher with a long career in the uranium business, to form Energy Fuels Corp. three years ago. Glasier wants to build a mill in the Paradox Valley to process uranium and vanadium, an element that’s used to harden steel. At $50 a pound, uranium mining makes sense in Colorado as long as there’s a mill, Glasier said. His company is here to stay, he said, unlike some firms that make money by “mining on Wall Street.”

“This is a company that has experienced guys,” Glasier said. “We’re producers, not promoters.”[…]

Lawsuits might dog the Piñon Ridge mill, too. Glasier said he wouldn’t be surprised to be sued over the mill. His county permit, if it’s approved in August, gives him five years to get the mill built. Stills also is working with mill opponents. He and his allies say the mill will have troubles with water supply and might pollute groundwater – a charge Glasier disputes. “It’s non-issue. We aren’t going to affect anybody’s water rights,” Glasier said. The mill will use 130 gallons a minute – less than he uses to irrigate the hay field at his ranch, he said. The Paradox Valley’s farms are mostly on the lush west side, where the water table won’t be affected by the mill’s wells, Glasier said. Opponents also say dust from the mill will be blown out of the windy Paradox Valley east to Telluride. But Glasier says dust will not be a problem. The mill keeps the uranium wet, so the dust will never be dry enough to fly away, he said. Glasier said he will make whatever health and safety improvements anyone suggests to the mill, but he won’t back away from it altogether. “The environmental community ought to be involved in a dialogue to make this mill better, not to stop it,” Glasier said.

The area still shows effects of past mining activity. Here’s a report from Joe Hanel writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

5,000 tons of uranium ore that remains on the surface from Colorado’s last boom, according to a Department of Energy environmental study. Five thousand tons of rock is only a few months of production from a mid-sized mine, but it’s enough to concern Travis Stills, a Durango lawyer who is leading the legal challenge to the DOE’s plan to lease Colorado land for uranium mining…

Piles of waste rock at uranium mines could cause trouble if water runs off them into creeks, said Angelique Diaz, an environmental engineer for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Denver office. The piles are radioactive and give off radon gas, but not in significant quantities, Diaz said…

The BLM has asked the state to put several old mines in the Paradox Valley on its list, [Loretta Pineda, director of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety abandoned mines program said. She had a project on tap near Uravan a few years ago, but they put it on hold when people started staking claims in the area. Anyone who opened a new mine would have to clean up the old pollution first.

In other nuclear news the Nunn Town Board recently rejected approval for a resolution in support of Powertech’s proposed in-situ uranium mining operation near the town. Here’s a report from Collin Lindenmayer writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

“Most people who live here don’t want this,” said Gerrit Voshel, who lives outside of Nunn near the Centennial Project site, during a short recess from the meeting. Voshel said the risk of contaminating groundwater — even if the risk is slight — is not worth the gamble. “The population density is far too great to risk that,” he said. “If they make a mistake, they’ll shrug their shoulders and move on.”

At a town meeting in July, Powertech Chief Operations Officer Wallace Mays and CEO Dick Clement noted the corporation’s track record and the potential economic benefits as reasons to support building the mine. The resolution in support of Powertech was introduced as a starting point for dialogue between the corporation and the town. It dealt with safety procedures and possible infrastructure stresses that could be caused by mine usage.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Animas-La Plata news

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From Fox Business:

BTrenchless, a division of BT Construction, Inc. in Henderson, CO, recently completed two tunnels vital to the construction of the Animas La Plata Reservoir in Durango, Colorado. The tunnels, 370 and 130 feet in length, were completed utilizing a Robbins Motorized SBU. Unique to this project, the boring equipment was recovered mid-air employing a hydraulic crane in a 15-foot diameter shaft, 118 feet deep.

More Animas River coverage here.

Grand County: Testing resumes at Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain, Granby, Willow Creek and Windy Gap reservoirs for cyanobacterial toxins

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Cyanobacterial toxins are released by blue-green algae into surface waters. There is a risk to anyone that gets their supply from a reservoir where a bloom is present. Here’s a report from the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Cyanobacteria have been documented in the Three Lakes since the 1950s, though methods for detecting toxins only recently became available. In 2007, toxin levels were just above that which the World Health Organization says is safe for an adult to drink for a lifetime, and resulted in advisories to both drinking water and recreational users. As a precaution, in 2008, Grand County began weekly monitoring for cyanobacterial toxins from early July to September. Levels were very low throughout 2008…

Grand County, the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Greater Grand Lake Shoreline Association, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Three Lakes Watershed Association, and Town of Grand Lake are sharing the costs of the sampling and analyses.

Fraser: Riverstock celebration August 9

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Riverstock, in the 40-year anniversary of Woodstock, is a day of fish, peace and music in the beautiful Fraser Valley…

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday August 9 at the Lions Club Fishing Ponds in Fraser.

IBCC reports about population growth and water needs

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Last week the IBCC reported about Colorado’s population growth and water needs and several projects that may or may not help, if they ever get built. Here’s a report from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Reports from the Interbasin Compact Committee predict a doubling of the statewide population, with most of the growth happening on the Front Range. But the population of Southwest Colorado will grow at least that fast, to between 202,000 to 260,000, up from about 100,000 today. All those new Coloradans will need water, and the reports predict a shortfall for cities and industry of 320,000 to 1.4 million acre-feet by 2050…

But Western Slope water experts aren’t in a hurry to talk about sending mountain water to the Front Range. One of the IBCC’s reports released last week considers six major projects to import more water to Front Range cities. Two siphon water from Front Range farming areas, while the other four would be pumpbacks from the Western Slope. They include a 400-mile pipeline from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the much-maligned “Big Straw” from the Colorado River on the border with Utah.

Eric Kuhn, director of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, called the potential big projects “a recipe for disaster.” But he thinks they face large obstacles before they are built. “Bigger projects are bigger targets. They’re billions and billions of dollars. I think everybody assumes somebody else is going to pay,” Kuhn said…

Indeed, the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District has floated a plan to pump Yampa River water to the north Front Range, but it couldn’t build the pipeline without help from the state government, said Northern spokesman Brian Werner. Right now, cities in Northern’s service area get their new water from buying out the water rights of farmers, which can devastate rural economies. “The bottom line is more people are going to be living in urban areas. And if we don’t provide some options, the next option is to buy and dry,” Werner said.

Kuhn thinks the Front Range hasn’t been serious enough about conservation. Southern California has doubled its population without any new water, Kuhn said…

IBCC members are also waiting for the first part of a study on how much water Colorado can legally claim from the Colorado River Basin. The results should be in by December or January, said Eric Hecox, who coordinates the IBCC for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

More IBCC coverage here.

Bob Abbey confirmed as director of the Bureau of Land Management

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From the Associated Press via the Summit Daily News:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar praised the U.S. Senate confirmation of Bob Abbey, saying he has a “proven record of strong leadership and accomplishments” that will make him an outstanding overseer of the 258 million acres managed by the BLM across the West.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who recommended Abbey for the national post, echoed Salazar’s accolades. “Coming from Nevada where nearly 90 percent of the land is federally managed, Bob understands the challenges that our state can sometimes face and will be very helpful in addressing them,” Reid said in a statement.

Abbey served eight years as the BLM’s director in Nevada, retiring in 2005. He also helped former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt complete a Utah wilderness inventory 10 years ago. More recently, he has been in private practice as a Nevada-based consultant. Before coming to Nevada, he was state BLM director in Colorado, and also worked for the agency in various positions in Arizona, Wyoming, Washington, D.C., and Mississippi. In all, he spent 25 years at the BLM, and 32 years in the public sector.