Montrose County: Piñon Ridge plant pollution control

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Here’s a report about precautions at the proposed Piñon Ridge mill in Montrose County, from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

In an application to Montrose County for a special use permit on the mill site, Energy Fuels briefly lists some of the steps it will take to control pollution.

The mill will have the best available technology to reduce air emissions, according to the application. Mill opponents worry about dust pollution from the strong winds common to the Paradox Valley.

But company officials say they will spray roads, stockpiles and tailings with water or chemical dust suppressants.

Five air monitors are collecting data to establish a baseline for air quality, and they will continue monitoring during mill operation.

Waste ponds will be lined to avoid groundwater pollution and designed to withstand a 1,000-year storm. The mill site will be designed to have no stormwater discharge, according to the county permit application.

More energy policy nuclear coverage here and here.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting recap

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s meeting of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

President Gary Barber wants to evaluate the potential effectiveness of plans, projects and methods considered by the roundtable so far. Projects like the Arkansas Valley Conduit, Southern Delivery System and the stalled Preferred Storage Option Plan would be rated along with smaller projects like municipal water projects in Westcliffe and Las Animas, grander plans like the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force and defensive measures like zebra mussel control. Methods such as rotational agricultural fallowing, underground water storage and voluntary flow agreements also would be evaluated without specific reference to any ongoing proposals, Barber said. He suggested looking at how viable, bearable and equitable those plans are…

Some members have either forgotten the details of some of the proposals over four years on the roundtable. Others joined after the actions were approved. Barber backed up and agreed to provide descriptions of the projects and give members more time to evaluate them.

Others wanted to add other projects to the list, including some that may not happen for years, such as Pueblo’s proposal to enlarge Clear Creek Reservoir, suggested by Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Tom Brubaker asked that agricultural dry-up, the likely outcome of no action, be added for evaluation…

Barber wants the evaluation to complete a report on the progress of the roundtable he plans to submit to the Interbasin Compact Committee later this year.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Members of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable are perturbed that state agencies are not responding to requests from the Front Range to include the Gunnison River basin in its studies of future water supplies. They also have asked the state to look at the potential water that could be gained from drying up Western Slope agriculture, rather than solely looking at taking water from farms in the Arkansas and South Platte basins…

[Jeris] Danielson said he was frustrated that the roundtables, which were formed in 2005 to develop ways to look at corroboration in water projects between basins, have been slow to get to that point. He also said the IBCC is weighted toward Western Slope interests. Danielson brought up the issue at the July meeting in Crested Butte and received immediate rebuke from several Western Slope members of the IBCC. At its meeting last month, the IBCC declined to discuss a July 13 letter from Arkansas Basin Roundtable President Gary Barber – approved by the Arkansas roundtable in June – that asked for a study of Gunnison River basin exports and consideration of Western Slope dry-up. “The letter was suppressed at the state level,” said Wayne Vanderschuere, a Colorado Springs Utilities executive who was appointed to the board by former Gov. Bill Owens…

The Colorado Water Conservation Board already is looking at other proposals to bring water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, including proposals from the Yampa River, Colorado River return and Flaming Gorge reservoir in Wyoming that would bring water from further reaches than the Gunnison concept. Despite four years of IBCC meetings, any of the concepts would likely face a heated political battle. “They’re still saying ‘not one drop,’” said Reed Dils, who represents the Arkansas basin on the CWCB. “I still see a strong split between the East and West Slope.”

More IBCC and roundtable coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Stonewall Springs Reservoir?

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Colorado Springs area residents Mark and Jim Morley are trying to sell their potential gravel pit reservoir at Stonewall Springs to Colorado Springs as terminal storage for reusable water from the proposed Southern Delivery System. Here’s a report from J. Adrian Stanley writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

Morley, his brother Jim, and their partners own this land. But they’re offering most of it to Colorado Springs Utilities for the apparently bargain-basement price of $38.8 million. The Morleys say Utilities needs this land for the Southern Delivery System water project. And here’s the cherry: If Utilities bites, the Morleys will donate $12 million to the city for use in funding the just-revised U.S. Olympic Committee retention deal. The clock is ticking for Utilities’ decision and, like any proposal involving water, this one’s full of details. Here’s what is certain: The city could use the money. And the Morleys know it. In fact, everyone in City Council chambers knows it…

What the Morleys want to sell is basically a swath of gravel-packed soil. For people in the water business, though, it’s prime. It can be dug up to create storage reservoirs that could hold 34,400 acre feet of water. The gravel that’s removed in the process can be sold, or used for another purpose, like, say, bedding for the SDS pipeline. The Morleys’ project is also fully permitted, which means Utilities could avoid a lengthy, expensive approval process.

And, the Morleys say, the location is ideal. Here’s why: In the SDS system, treated wastewater from Colorado Springs will flow down Fountain Creek to Pueblo, where it meets the Arkansas. Colorado Springs owns this water and wants to be able to sell it to as many people as possible. But right now, that water just flows on by the ditches of many possible buyers, and ends up in a reservoir over 60 miles away. Two things happen in that process. First, a lot of water evaporates. Second, by passing by all those ditches, the Springs loses a lot of customers for its water — unless it wants to pay to pump the water back uphill. With the Morleys’ land, Utilities could store the water much sooner, which minimizes evaporation and gives the Springs more possible downstream buyers. Also, gravity will draw the water into the reservoir, and back out of it as well, eliminating the need for expensive pumps. The Morleys say their reservoirs could replace one of two reservoirs Utilities plans to build, at less than a fifth of the cost. The kicker: Utilities doesn’t need to make a payment to the Morleys for five years…

So the Morleys get a small profit, the city gets $12 million (which the Morleys will get by taking out a loan), and Utilities saves money. Not a bad deal. Only problem is, Utilities wasn’t planning on even thinking about its reservoir issue until 2016, and as good as the Morleys make it sound, Utilities may see drawbacks. Another possible negative: The Morleys paid just $6.275 million for the whole lot of land in 2005, and now they want nearly $40 million for just one part of it. The Morleys say it’s worth the extra cash — and then some — because the land is permitted and the reservoirs are partially engineered. But Utilities may disagree.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Windy Gap Firming Project not without its detractors

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Here’s a joint release from Clean Water Action, Fort Collins Audubon Society, Sierra Club PCG, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Environment Colorado and Western Resource Advocates. From the release:

WGFP engages the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Federal Water Supply Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Because of this engagement with federal environmental laws, the process is likely to be long, expensive, and high risk. Specifically, such engagements often boil down to a yes/no permitting decision after years and millions of dollars have already been spent. Additionally, any farmer, city, oil shale company, county, water district, organization, or member of the public can challenge these decisions, thus resulting in potentially more time and expense. Consider examining recent water-supply examples where delay, expense, and conflict have occurred: Two Forks (Colorado), Animas La Plata (Colorado), and King Williams Reservoir (Virginia). Alternatives to WGFP that are less time-consuming, expensive, and risky should be immediately investigated and implemented.

WGFP participants, including PRPA and Fort Collins, should be aware that the WGFP water right is a junior right that is junior to many of the oil shale rights placed on this same Colorado River water.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Rate payers shoulder the burden of paying for the project

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

This year, water rates jumped 41 percent. With ratepayers bearing SDS costs, rates should rise another 10 percent in 2010, 12 percent annually from 2011 to 2017, and about 4 percent in both 2018 and 2019. Taking inflation into account, that means the average monthly water bill would go from $34.80 in 2009 to a projected $91 in 2019.

Project director John Fredell notes that Utilities has cut $50 million off a price tag that had ballooned to $930 million for the first phase, which will cover the pipeline and the necessities that go with it, like a water treatment plant, permitting, land, mitigation and pump stations. Phase two, estimated to cost $520 million, will include two reservoirs and system expansion.

Chief planning and finance officer Bill Cherrier says Utilities also spread out costs as much as possible, while still making the progress needed to keep its hard-won permits. That meant water customers didn’t see 26 percent rate hikes two years in a row. And that Utilities maintains its enviable AA bond rating, which keeps interest rates on SDS loans low. If the rating fell two notches, interest could run an extra $15 million to $27 million a year, Cherrier says…

But the financial structuring does lead to uncertainty. The project will start before scores of needed permits are obtained, before land is purchased and before the project is fully engineered — which means costs could rise. As for rate hikes, if the city grows faster, you pay less. And if growth is sluggish, well …

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.