Silverton: Acid mine drainage workshop

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s acid mine drainage workshop held up in Silverton, from Dale Rodebaugh writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

An all-day workshop Saturday, one of the Moving Mountain Education Seminar series sponsored by the Mountain Studies Institute here, brought together 20 people interested in talking about and seeing the consequences of acid-rock drainage – the leaching of minerals into waterways. The workshop was led by David Borrok, a professor in the geological sciences department at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Rob Runkel, Richard Wanty and Andy Manning, all with the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver…

Workshop participants, who spent the day in Prospect Gulch a few miles north of town, got an eyeful and an earful of information. Runoff from numerous Prospect Gulch tributary watersheds feed Cement Creek, whose yellowish-colored channel is evidence of the presence of iron. In fact, the caravan stopped twice to view ferricretes – iron oxide formations with their telltale reddish hue that are created when iron reacts with water and air. An ancient ferricrete was visible in a creekside cliff. The other – a terraced formation adjacent to the stream – is still forming. Iron also is responsible for the color of terrain on nearby Red Mountain Pass – the reaction of pyrites (fool’s gold) with air…

The presence of ferricretes is evidence that some streams in the region were metal-rich and acidic before mining came into its own in the region in the late 1870s, Runkel said. “Minerals are stable in the ground but react with oxygen and water when brought to the surface,” Runkel said. “No one knows the quantity of metals in the water before mining started.” He cautioned that accurate hydrological studies are required to establish standards for cleaning up contaminated mines and waterways.

Later in the day Runkel demonstrated how the dilution of a tracer solution shows the level of metal loading from different sources. Runkel poured half a bucketful of rhodamine, an organic dye, into a rivulet on the upper reaches of Prospect Gulch. A sonde with a sensor that emits light at the same wavelength as the fluorescent dye traces the flow of the additive as it moves downstream. Similar studies have been conducted on Cement Creek and other streams above Silverton as part of the Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative, he said. At the Galena Queen mine, workshop participants tested the acidity and electrical conductivity of water in the shaft. They also compared the qualities of the mine water to surface water. At a well on a bench immediately above Cement Creek, Manning explained how to age-date water. Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen (one of the components of water) has a half-life of 13 years, meaning that in 13 years half of any tritium decays to become helium-3. Consequently, the ratio of tritium to helium in water indicates its age. Rain will have a high ratio of tritium to helium-3 while the reverse is true for slow-moving subterranean water. “Age-dating will tell how an aquifer works and how much water it can supply,” Manning said.

More water pollution coverage here.

Vacancy committee chooses Bruce Whitehead to take over Jim Isgar’s state senate seat

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From the Associated Press via the Summit Daily News:

Isgar left his seat July 20 to join the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the Colorado state director for rural development. A vacancy committee chose Whitehead to replace him Saturday. A date wasn’t immediately set for him to be sworn in. Whitehead worked for 25 years for the Colorado Division of Water Resources and is the executive director of the Southwest and Animas-La Plata water conservation districts. Gov. Bill Ritter appointed him last year to serve on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

More coverage from the Montrose Daily Press (Mallory George):

Bruce Whitehead of Hesperus, Colo., will fill the Colorado Senate District 6 seat vacated by Democrat Jim Isgar, not former Montrose County Commissioner Bill Patterson…

Bev Rich, chairperson of the committee, said there were four candidates for the position. Patterson said he knew Whitehead really wanted the senate seat and that he was willing to quit his job as the executive director of the Southwestern Water Conservation District to be a full-time senator if he was chosen. Patterson told the committee before it made the final decision he would support Whitehead.

More coverage from State Bill Colorado:

Colorado’s Senate has a second civil engineer. A Democratic vacancy committee on Saturday selected water expert Bruce Whitehead to succeed Jim Isgar in Colorado’s 6th Senate District. Isgar took a post in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both men live in Hesperus, an incorporated town west of Durango, the La Plata County seat…

To keep his seat beyond January 2011, Whitehead must stand for election to a four-year term in November 2010. Ellen Roberts, a Republican state representative from Durango, already has announced her intention to run for the seat. Democrat Brian O’Donnell and Republican Lew Webb have said they are running to succeed Roberts…

The 6th District covers Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel counties. According to 2002 data, the district has 123,839 constituents. More than 101,000 are white, and 14,163 are of Hispanic origin.

Steamboat Springs: Water rights discussion around Steamboat 700 development

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Here’s a look at the water rights issues around the Steamboat 700 development, from Brandon Gee writing for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

Steamboat Springs City Coun cil is nearing a vote this fall on whether to annex the proposed development that could include as many as 2,000 homes during a 20-year build-out. At least one candidate in this year’s City Council election, former City Council President Kevin Ben nett, is accusing council members of encouraging “growth without water,” while the developers think they are paying more than is necessary and that they have been misled at every turn.

As it stands, the city will require Steamboat 700 to pay $960,000 during two years to firm up existing but unused wa ter rights the city holds in Fish Creek, Stagecoach Reservoir and the Elk River. The city will spend the money on preliminary legal and engineering work required to ultimately bring an additional 966 acre-feet of water — the estimated amount needed to serve the development — into the city’s system…

The current council, its attorneys and city staff said they instead were comfortable accepting about $1 million earmarked for water projects, because the city’s Water Supply Master Plan found that the city has a reliable long-term source of raw water but that it should “increase redundancy in the community’s water supply.”

Criticisms that the city is letting Steamboat 700 off the hook for water appear to have legs when compared to what is being required of developer Bobby Ginn in Minturn. Minturn is requiring Ginn to give the town enough actual water rights to serve his massive planned development on Battle Mountain that includes a ski resort, golf course and 1,700 luxury homes. Ginn offered the Pueblo water board $30 million for 1,337 acre-feet of water from the Columbine Ditch near Leadville, according to The Denver Post. That amounts to about $22,000 per acre-foot of water. Steamboat 700 is paying about $1,000 for each acre-foot of water it is helping the city use…

City officials argue that the Brown agreement [1993 agreement with the former owners of the the Steamboat 700 site] does not exempt Steamboat 700 from the city’s recently adopted water dedication policy. Adopted in May, that policy requires developers of land outside the municipal water utility service area to bring water rights — or money to help develop the city’s existing water rights, through means such as infrastructure — to the table as a condition of approval. Council members began debating the policy in January and voted in March not to require Steamboat 700 to provide “wet” water rights, instead requiring payment for water infrastructure…

Council members didn’t bend and decided to stick to their staff’s recommendation to require the payment throughout a two-year period.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

Salida: Water tower upgrades to start in September

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From The Mountain Mail (Christopher Kolomitz):

Upgrades include replacement of a failed storage tank roof covering and erection of security fencing. The tank is made of concrete and was part of two open reservoirs. It was covered with a concrete roof during the early 1970s, later tar paper and gravel roofing was applied. Failed sections of roof coating can be lifted and contaminants can potentially enter the tank, Schmidt said. A new roof covering will be constructed of PVC membrane, water plant manager Lonnie Oversole said. The site consists of an infiltration gallery, chlorination system and the tank. Water from the tank is pumped into the city water system. Bid notices are set for publication Aug. 12 and 19 with work scheduled to begin Sept. 7, Schmidt said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project: Commissioner’s meeting recap

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From The Mountain Mail (Jennifer Denevan):

Forty-seven conditions on the 1041 permit application filed by Nestlé North American Waters were reviewed by board members Wednesday. Commissioner Tim Glenn said he felt the county has given Nestle plenty of time to review the conditions formed, in part, using public comment and that portion of the process is closed. Board members indicated they wanted to continue movement and review stipulations individually, ensuring they all understand what is meant and the language is what they want. Barbara Green, county 1041 special legal council, said there are different types of conditions – one of which is to hold Nestlé to promises the company has already made.

After discussion Wednesday, commissioners set the next deliberation meeting for 9 a.m. Aug. 19…

The 47 conditions reviewed Wednesday were within categories including general, water and wildlife habitat; access, easements and exception, construction, economy, project water supply, water rights, augmentation, traffic and air quality and mitigation fund. Jim Culichia of Felt, Monson and Culichia, LLC., discussed water rights and supply conditions with commissioners. He drafted those conditions and serves as water counsel to Chaffee County. Some conditions, such as the mitigation fund, were rephrased to reflect what commissioners want to accomplish with the conditions. Green noted having two funds might be a possibility to solve mitigation issues. One fund could be for on-going expenses, she said, and the second would be for unexpected expenses including litigation.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

To try to assuage the commission’s fears about impact to the watershed, water attorney Jim Culichia of Colorado Springs drafted 10 of the conditions. The complexity of the task, he said, was making conditions that would be enforceable through Nestle when it is the city of Aurora that plans to lease Nestle the 200 acre-feet of augmentation water annually. “We don’t have any control over what Aurora does, but we do have some control over what Nestle does. They (Aurora) have created a demand they did not have before this lease (with Nestle),” Culichia said. Specifically, Culichia drafted a condition that would require Nestle to temporarily stop pumping if water is in such short supply that Aurora has to use exchange water downstream of Pueblo. The idea, he said, is to have the augmentation water flow through Chaffee County to offset what is being pulled from the Arkansas basin in Chaffee County by Nestle. “We also would require (that) Nestle provide detailed accountings to prove water provided meets the agreement,” Culichia said.

In the event that Nestle continued to pump during lean water times, Culichia said he sought to make the condition enforceable by having a penalty associated with it. “For each acre-foot of water pumped during those times, they would have to give up two additional acre-feet,” Culichia said. For example, if Nestle pumped 10 acre-feet when prohibited, it would therefore be giving up 30 acre-feet of pumping rights, Culichia said.

Conditions also would limit the number of wells at two and limit pumping to 200 gallons per minute or 16.66 acre-feet per month…

In terms of economic impact, commissioners mulled permit conditions that would require local construction jobs be given first to Chaffee County residents or, if not possible, expanded to contractors within 25 miles of the county. The board also is considering requiring Nestle to purchase materials and supplies locally as well as hire no less than 50 percent of its water-truck drivers from Chaffee County.

Other conditions getting fine-tuning Wednesday dealt with limiting truck traffic to one truck per hour between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day, fishing access, a conservation easement, groundwater and wetlands monitoring and much more. The commission also directed county staff to revamp a condition dealing with a mitigation fund. The draft condition sets the fund at $50,000 but Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese said he thought that was not enough.

More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project coverage here and here.