Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project: Commissioners approve 1041 permit

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From the Salida Citizen (Lee Hart):

The approval includes 40 conditions, totaling 11 pages and addressing what the commissioners considered some of the most controversial aspects of the proposal, namely water and economics.

However, it was a seemingly minor issue that proved to be the day’s most contentious. Citing private property rights and potential adverse impact to wildlife, Commission Chair Frank Holman adamantly objected to requiring Nestle to provide overland fishing access to the Arkansas River. Commissioner Tim Glenn was just as adamant that the easement was “not overly burdensome” to Nestle and provided very desirable public shoreline fishing access in a county where recreation is such an important part of the economy. Commissioner Dennis Giese was on the fence. In the end, the commissioners agreed to let the local Division of Wildlife determine if and where overland fishing access would be appropriate on the Nestle property.

Nestle had hoped to have the overland fishing access condition deleted from the final list of conditions writing in a memo to county staff that to do so would “unacceptably increase risk to security and spring water quality” and created an “unwarranted and significant business risk” to the company…

Sam Schabacker of the national non-profit Food and Water Watch said Colorado’s battle with Nestle is being closely watched around the country and is considered pivotal to the nationwide fight against the privatization of water. “This is the first battleground in the Rocky Mountain West – the arid West – and CCFS has shown great leadership in this national struggle.” Schabacker said the intelligence and dedication CCFS has shown through the application review process puts the organization in a good position to recalibrate and take the fight to the next level, joining the ranks of citizens in Maine, California, Michigan and Flagstaff, AZ.

More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project coverage here and here.

Clear Creek Whitewater Park

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From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

An official groundbreaking was held Aug. 11 for the Clear Creek Whitewater Park at Lawson. Plans for the park include specially engineered boulders that will provide chutes and waves for kayakers and other boaters along the 450-foot stretch of river just upstream from Mile Hi Rafting. Seating also will be provided on terraced rocks on the south bank. Other additions will include parking and a changing station with environmentally friendly toilets. Eighty percent of the funding for the $400,000 whitewater park comes from a grant from the Federal Highway Administration through the Colorado Department of Transportation. The rest is being split between the county Open Space Commission and Clear Creek County. According to Pete Helseth, chairman of Clear Creek Open Space, the stretch of Clear Creek is well known in boating communities. He said the stream’s path through the area was carved in the 1960s while Interstate 70 was being built…

Helseth said the idea behind the whitewater park is to take the existing boulders, improve the course, and make it into something more permanent. The project will be overseen by Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, which did the designs at similar whitewater parks in Golden, Steamboat Springs and Buena Vista.

More whitewater coverage here.

USDA halts tamarisk leaf beetle releases in eight western states

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From The Durango Telegraph:

A decades-old effort to bring a natural tamarisk predator into the region has started to yield strong results. Tamarisk stands along the Dolores, Colorado and San Juan rivers have taken hard hits in recent years thanks largely to the release of the beetles.

In 2004, beetles were transported to Moab and the Horsethief bench outside of Fruita. Not only have those local transplants thrived at the expense of tamarisk, they have started to spread through the region and chewed through many of the invasive trees in their wake. The beetles have spread up the Dolores drainage, along the Mancos River and could already be eating salt cedar in the Animas River drainage. The State of Colorado also recently got on the beetle bandwagon and sowed the bugs along the Arkansas River

However, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials recently revoked Colorado’s permits to move the beetles across state borders. The USDA also banned any release of the beetles in eight other Western states.

The orders were the result of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society. The suit charged that the tamarisk leaf beetle is contributing to the decline of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.

Flycatchers nest in the invasive tamarisk because the species of native riparian trees in which they previously nested have been replaced by tamarisk and are no longer available. The Endangered Species Act requires that federal agencies not harm endangered species or their habitat and that they consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to formulate plans to avoid such harm.

Following the moratorium, the Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society killed their legal challenge. “We are relieved that the program has decided to obey the law and will now consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent any further jeopardy to a federally protected species. Our case will now be dismissed,” said attorney Matt Kenna of the Durango-based Western Environmental Law Center.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Ouray: Council to raise water and sewer rates?

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From the Ouray News (Patrick Davarn):

The Town of Ridgway is proposing an increase to the monthly base rates by $5 for water and $7 for sewer, each year over three years. The hike will take Ridgway’s base water rate from $22 to $37 by 2012, and the sewer rate from $18 to $39…

Public Works Director Joanne Fagan explained that an Enterprise Fund must be run like a business, its revenues sufficient to pay expenditures. “It should not be running at a loss,” said Fagan. “When we apply for (capital project) grants, they look to see if we are at least sustaining. Neither fund, water or sewer are right now.” Fagan showed the town’s current budget of operating revenue and expenses to start Council’s discussion of the draft ordinance to change water and sewer rates. The Water Fund is estimated at $234,700 in operating revenue from 571 customers with operating expenses of $325,632 including debt service, and operating expenditures of $276,133 without the debt service. Debt or not, the projecting indicates a net loss. Fagan’s budget projections for the Sewer Fund are more ominous. Operating revenues for 2009 are estimated $181,700 as compared to operating expense of $269,184 without the debt and $342,000 including the service.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Hartland Dam project to enable fish passage

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From the Delta County Independent:

Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is funding the majority of the concept design phase with some financial support from Delta County. The project leader, Painted Sky Resource & Conservation Development Council, has hired Tetra Tech, an international engineering firm with an office in Breckenridge, to complete the preliminary design and cost estimate. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) will fund the final design phase. Construction is scheduled for early fall of 2009. At that time, Painted Sky will solicit bids from design and construction companies…

Modifying the dam structure has three objectives that will benefit fish, Hartland Dam Company, boaters and private landowners.

First, the dam has blocked the flannelmouth sucker, the bluehead sucker and the round tail chub from habitat upstream of the dam since it was installed. A fish passage in the new design will reconnect populations of fish above and below the dam, increasing their available habitat. Although not endangered, these three fish are species of concern to USFWS, making this the top priority for Region 6 of the USFWS.

Second, all modifications must allow Hartland Ditch Company to access its full water decree.

The third objective of the project benefits recreational boaters and private landowners on the riverfront near the dam. After the project completion in the spring of 2010, boaters crossing the dam will be safer and less tempted to trespass by portaging around the dam.

Spring Creek designated groundwater basin?

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The Northern Colorado Water Association is hoping to get the Spring Creek basin designated groundwater status to avoid having to pay returns to the South Platte River. The creek is currently considered tributary to the South Platte. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Spring Creek flows into northeast Larimer County from Wyoming and crosses I-25 just north of Wellington. There are now eight groundwater basins in Colorado, all of which are on the Eastern Plains. The last time the state approved a new designated groundwater basin was in 1987.

The groundwater the association currently obtains from wells in the area could affect South Platte surface water rights holders. If the new basin is not designated, the association would be required to return some water into the basin decades from now. The association claims a new designated basin would prevent it from being subject to the needs of the South Platte water rights holders because the water it uses is so far away from the South Platte and has little effect on surface water in the river. “Our engineers are telling us that even though we’ve been pumping stuff since the ’60s, we wouldn’t have any impact on the river for 200 years,” Patterson said.

Keith Vander Horst, designated groundwater team leader for the Colorado Groundwater Commission, said commissioners will decide today whether to consider the association’s request. A hearing that will determine if Spring Creek is viable as a groundwater basin will soon follow.

More groundwater coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: Colorado Springs Utilities takes a $35,500 hit in lawsuit over spills

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

The penalty was the only sanction in a long-awaited decision in a lawsuit the Sierra Club brought in 2005 against the city for violating the federal Clean Water Act. Senior U.S. District Judge Walker Miller denied Sierra’s request to order Colorado Springs to take specific actions designed to reduce spills of pollutants into the creek. The judge, in a 36-page decision, stated the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment already has issued those kinds of orders. He said the city has spent more than $100 million on its sewage system to make spills less likely and may spend more than $250 million. “There have been substantial improvements” in the operation of the system, he wrote. “Given the state’s involvement with its permits and compliance orders (against the city), I conclude that, absent proof of the inadequacy of the state’s enforcement, the overall public interest in avoiding pollution . . . is better served with the active enforcement by the CDPHE rather than by this court,” Miller wrote. He said the state’s enforcement is “effective.” The judge said he temporarily will keep jurisdiction of Sierra’s case against Colorado Springs “to assure that CDPHE is diligently enforcing its permits and orders.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.