Colorado Water Congress: Annual summer meeting

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Zach Fridell):

[Mike Gillespie, the snow supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Ser­vice] reported about the state of Colorado snowpack throughout the past year at the Colorado Water Congress’ summer conference, held at the Steamboat Sheraton Re sort from Wednesday to noon today. “People start getting a little antsy” when early season snow is below normal levels, he said. “Then, lo and behold, the following month (December) or so we saw huge increases in the snowpack. We accumulated about a quarter of our normal average in the 30 days after that time.” That shot the snowpack from near the minimum to above the 30-year average for several months.

Statewide, snowpack was 17 percent above the 30-year average last year. For the Yampa and White River Basin, April 13 was the peak date, at 14 percent above the 30-year average. That’s one day later than the average high point in other years, indicating the snow was sticking slightly longer.

Montrose: Gunnison Tunnel 100th year celebration

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Montrose is gearing up for their celebration of 100 years of operation of the Gunnison Tunnel, from The Delta County Independent. From the article:

Celebrating 100 years of water provided by the Gunnison Tunnel, the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA) invites Montrose, Olathe and Delta community members and all Coloradoans, to join in fun activities culminating with the celebrations and ceremonies in Montrose at UVWUA headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 26…

Association manager Marc Catlin said the benefits of the tunnel to the Uncompahgre Valley cannot be overstated. “Opening the Gunnison Tunnel and then delivering the water to growers made this valley green while attracting a thriving population,” said Catlin. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the populations of both Delta and Montrose counties more than doubled between 1900, which the idea was first developed, and 1910, one year after the tunnel was completed. The data show that the decade of 1900-1910 saw the most significant population growth in the valley, ever.

More Gunnison Basin coverage here.

Ridgway to hike water and sewer rates

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From The Telluride Watch (Gus Jarvis):

The current draft of Ordinance 09-08 raises both water and sewer rates over a three-year period to get the operations back into a financially health operation. Sewer rates for users within town are currently $18 per month and the draft ordinance would raise that rate in $5 increments over the next three years starting on Jan. 1, 2010 where the monthly rate would be raised, if passed, to $25 per month. It would then be raised to $30 per month in 2011 and to $35 per month in 2012. (Council has recommended raising that increment to from $5 to $7 but is still up for review).

For water users in single-family homes, the draft ordinance would raise the rates from the current rate of $22 a month in $5 increments over the next three years with $27 per month being the rate in 2010, $32 per month in 2011 and $37 in 2012.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Ouray to install small generation plant, Cortez micro-hydroelectric plant moving forward

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From The Telluride Watch (Beverly Corbell):

{Ouray Mayor Bob Risch] said the city has applied for a grant from the Governor’s Energy Office for about $20,000 to use water from the old Biota water line to generate electricity near the city-owned Ouray Hot Springs pool…

The energy generated, about 20,000 kW, is not great, but would reduce what the city has to pay to San Miguel Power Association. “Anyway we can save energy is good,” Risch said.

From The Cortez Journal (Steve Grazier):

The city established a hydroelectric power enterprise during its Aug. 11 regular meeting and authorized loan documents for the approximately $2 million hydropower center, said City Manager Jay Harrington. “Basically, we’ll be taking energy (water pressure) that’s not utilized … to create electricity,” Harrington said. “It’s a 20-year project to recoup money. But in 20 years, the city will have an asset as a moneymaker.” Harrington noted that an agreement is in place with Empire Electric Association to produce power through the city hydroelectric plant. That power will go into Empire’s grid and help the cooperative’s renewable energy needs. “The pieces are continuing to move forward on the project,” he said.

In addition, a hydroelectric plant could generate electricity off an existing pipeline to provide enough power to run the water treatment facility altogether and produce additional power used for other resources, according to Jack Nickerson, the city’s public works director. “We could generate enough power to run the entire (water treatment) plant and have some left over to sell back to Empire Electric for credit,” Nickerson has said. “We want to utilize the energy that’s there, and lower the city’s carbon footprint (in burning electricity) at the same time.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Congress’ annual summer meeting

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s goings on at the annual conference, from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald:

During a question-and-answer period, one audience member asked how [State Senator Josh] Penry’s support for building dams squared with his backing last year of Amendment 52, which would have capped the money in Colorado’s water savings accounts and redirected extra money to highways. Penry responded that the state doesn’t spend the money it has effectively. “We study too much. We analyze too much,” he said.

Harris Sherman, head of the state Department of Natural Resources, disputed Penry’s charge that Colorado does too many studies at the expense of physical projects. In 2007, the state made $146 million in project loans, $87 million in 2008 and $45 million this year. “To imply that the state has not funded water projects in recent years is simply inaccurate,” Sherman said. In any case, the Legislature drained $107 million from those accounts the last two years to help cover the state budget gap…

Rod Kuharich is director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which serves fast-growing suburbs that have an unreliable water supply. Kuharich sits on the IBCC, but he called it “dysfunctional” and said it spends too much time on studies. Kuharich complained that IBCC members have become even more entrenched in their regional perspectives. He wants the Gunnison basin to entertain the idea of a pipeline from Blue Mesa Reservoir to the Front Range.

But IBCC member Peter Nichols said it’s not surprising no agreement is in sight, four years after the IBCC began its work. The engineering of a big water project is much easier than the politics, he said. “Give this time to work,” Nichols said. “It took us 150 years to get here. If it takes us 15 years to get out of here, I don’t think that’s absurd.”

More IBCC coverage here.

More coverage of the conference, from The Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

State lawmakers have turned to savings accounts for dams, canals and pipelines in order to cope with a budget crisis that’s entering its third year. In the past two years, the Legislature has taken $107 million out of the water accounts, said Harris Sherman, director of the Department of Natural Resources. “These are funds that have been built up over decades,” Sherman said…

“There are staggering costs involved in meeting our future water needs – tens of billions of dollars,” he said.

But the water project funds won’t be paid back this year, and they’ll probably be raided again, said Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee. At the same time, cuts continue to threaten the State Engineer’s Office, which administers water rights. The office lost six jobs in Gov. Bill Ritter’s budget cuts this week. “I’m getting tired of this. Every year this happens, and we have got to find a way to solve this,” Curry said. This week’s cuts hit health care and human services especially hard. But in the long term, colleges are at risk. So Curry recommended that the water community reach out to advocates for higher education to find a solution to the perpetual budget crisis.

“We can’t have just water meetings anymore,” she said.

Oak Creek: Contract for treatment plant awarded

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Zach Fridell):

Local contractor Duckels Construction won the bid to complete a wastewater treatment plant on the north end of Oak Creek. Town officials say the construction should be finished within about a year. Duckels entered the low bid in the project at $1.6 million, beating four other companies that had bids ranging up to $1.84 million.

The project, in planning stages for years, includes a wood-framed building on a concrete slab near the two lagoons on the northern end of town. The two lagoons also will be cleaned and rebuilt with modern technology. Wes Woodford, a retired engineer who agreed to work as a temporary plant manager, said the new system will improve the way wastewater is handled in Oak Creek. “They’re going to be operated in a more modern manner,” he said. “Technology has changed over the years and (the lagoons) are going to be updated and modernized.” Instead of floating aerators on top of the pond, perforated pipes will be installed on the bottom of the lagoons to pump air through the wastewater.

More wastewater coverage here and here.