Poudre River: Four mile stretch of river closed due to asphalt spill

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From The Greeley Tribune:

That portion of the river could be closed for up to two weeks while National Forest Service crews take water samples and clean up the spill, said John Bustos, a spokesman for the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grasslands…

The long-term effects of the spill are undetermined, Bustos said. National Forest Service crews have been in the area for the past two days taking water samples and starting the cleanup process. Water sample results should be available today.

More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is urging the public to keep away from the asphalt tar spill in the Poudre River near the Greyrock trailhead. The spill occurred Wednesday morning when a commercial tanker driven by Kenneth Gale, 52, careened into the Poudre River and spilled 5,000 gallons of asphalt tar into the river. The truck was operated by Malpaso, a Wyoming-based trucking company, and was on its way to a paving project on Colorado Highway 14 in the upper Poudre Canyon near Cameron Pass, said Craig Myers, on-scene coordinator for the EPA’s emergency response unit based in Denver.

More about the cleanup methodology from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

EPA contractors will be using a crane to lift out large sections of asphalt from the Poudre River as workers continue cleaning up a 5,000-gallon spill. The crane will be parked in a pulloff, not in the river, said Peggy Linn, a Denver-based EPA community involvement coordinator. “We’re doing everything we can to cause a minimal amount of impact to the river and the surrounding area,” Linn said. The EPA has asked people to stay away from the area during the cleanup. The river is closed to recreational use from mile-marker 113 through mile marker 117.

Update: More on the cleanup from the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Trevor Hughes):

Members of a Belfour crew working under the EPA’s direction Friday were attacking the edges of the largest-single patch of asphalt, just downstream of where a commercial tanker driven by Kenneth Gale, 52, careened into the river Wednesday. Gale has been cited for careless driving; he crashed through a steel barrier and down the riverbank, spilling his load. There are about 10 similar patches…

Myers said water managers and users have agreed to lower the river’s flow for the next week to make it safer for Belfor contractors to work in the water. He said the majority of the cleanup may be finished within a week, as it’s moving faster than originally anticipated. Belfor workers Thursday tried sawing at the asphalt but have moved on to axes, which are more effective. “If the rocks were wet and cool when it hit them, it just peels right off,” Myers said. “I think we maybe lucked out a little bit.”[…]

EPA officials on Friday afternoon were still awaiting the results of water-quality tests. Myers said it’s likely the results will show little additional contamination of the water downstream from the spill. He said asphalt and other containments already wash into the river from the adjacent Colorado Highway 14 whenever it rains. As a precaution, the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley shut down their nearby drinking-water intakes, fearing the asphalt could clog intakes or contaminate their supplies.

Red Cliff scores $2 million for treatment plant

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From the Vail Daily (Edward Stoner):

The town has been awarded $2 million in federal stimulus funds for the $5.6 million project. The existing plant should have been replaced some 25 years ago, said Mayor Ramon Montoya. “This has been a five-year process in the making,” Montoya said. “It’s great that we’re going to, per our guidelines, begin construction prior to Sept. 30.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Eagle: Brush Creek enhancement project final phase to kick in soon

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From the Vail Daily:

The intent of the project is to improve stream health from the upper Sylvan Lake Road bridge to the upper end of the Eagle Ranch development boundary, about 8,300 feet. The project is coordinated jointly by the Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee, town of Eagle and the Colorado Division of Wildlife under permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Funding for the project comes from the Eagle Ranch Wildlife Trust Fund and Scott Skelton, an adjacent property owner who recognizes the benefits of the project. The project involves using mechanical equipment to construct gravel bars, pools and riffles, as well as stabilize eroding stream banks.

More restoration coverage here.

Tamarisk: Delta County tamarisk leaf beetle release update

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From Painted Sky Resource Conservation & Development via the Delta County Independent:

This summer Painted Sky Resource Conservation & Development staff has released tamarisk beetles at five sites in the North Fork Valley and Delta area to battle tamarisk, an invasive shrub from Eurasia. The beetle populations appear healthy and are reproducing well, according to monitoring observations conducted in mid-August.

The release sites, all on private property, range from Bell Creek and Back River Road between Paonia and Hotchkiss on the east to G Road and the Gunnison River northwest of Delta. Properties at the end of Horn Road near Austin and the Gunnison River and Highway 65 and the Gunnison River also received beetles. The fifth site, Confluence Park in Delta, is on public land. The average number of beetles released at each site is about 6,000.

Beetles are the last stage of the life cycle. After hatching from eggs, larvae go through three stages from tiny worms to larger worms or larvae. You can easily identify the third and final stage larvae by a “green racing stripe” on each side of its body. Beetles released earlier this summer have produced the next generation, which are in the third larval stage now. It’s the larvae, not the adult beetles that do the most damage to the plant. Like teenagers with insatiable appetites, they eat 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The beetles may cause browning of tamarisk by next summer, but it will take up to five years for them to kill the tamarisk.

As the beetle populations grow and exhaust their food supply at the release sites, they’ll fly up and down the river drainage in search of fresh tamarisk to eat. Eventually, they’ll distribute themselves throughout the area. Flying from tamarisk to tamarisk shrub, beetles have moved up the Dolores River from near Moab, Utah, to just south of Gateway without ever hitching a ride with humans.

Painted Sky plans more releases in the area in 2010, including the Surface Creek area, Smith’s Fork and along the Uncompahgre River in Delta. Landowners with tamarisk can ask to be put on a waiting list to receive beetles. Tamarisk or salt cedar has spread too successfully in the West over the past century. It out-competes native plants and trees, such as cottonwoods, creating a monoculture. A landscape dominated by only one plant hurts wildlife diversity.

More tamarisk coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board approves IGA to provide $100,000 a year for the next two years to pay for staff and expenses

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The money would come from a $600,000 pot funded equally by Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Over two years, the remaining $400,000 would fund a continuing study for improvement of Fountain Creek. The agreement is an extension of a $600,000 program started in 2007 that led to the creation of the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan, which looked at what is needed to restore about 40 miles of Fountain Creek south of Colorado Springs to the Arkansas River. The area coincides in large part with the primary area of concern for the district. The agreement still must gain approval from Colorado Springs City Council and the Pueblo County commissioners, both of which are likely.

Colorado Springs’ share of the money would count toward a $50 million contribution to the district which was a condition of Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions approved in April…

“With what’s happened on Fountain Creek in the last two years, we’re very excited,” said Jay Winner, executive director of the Lower Ark district.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Fryingpan-Arkansas yield

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It’s been a pretty good water year overall. Reservoirs are looking good heading into harvest time. Last week the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District finalized this year’s yield from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday finalized its allocations from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project at about 50,000 acre-feet for municipal and agricultural water users, with some left over to meet past and future obligations. “The water was more than our projected imports in May, so we have more than average available,” Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor, told the Southeastern board…

By the end of July, however, more than 82,000 acre-feet had come through the Boustead Tunnel, which empties into Turquoise Lake. Water is imported from the Fryingpan River in the Roaring Fork watershed on the West Slope. Even with repayment of last year’s loan of 5,000 acre-feet from the Pueblo Board of Water Works, a payment of 3,000 acre-feet to Twin Lakes to meet West Slope needs, evaporation and transit loss, about 63,000 acre-feet were available for allocation. Rather than make a second allocation, as has happened in the past, staffers and members of the executive committee decided to meet other needs, including: Setting up a 5,000 acre-foot reserve account. Repaying 1,458 acre-feet of 7,139 acre-feet still owed to Colorado Springs for releases to draw down Lake Pueblo in the safety of dams program in 1998. Holding a little more than 5,700 acre-feet until next spring in case new shortages arise.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Interior Secretary Salazar appoints Deanna Archuleta to work ‘full-time’ on Southern Delivery System mitigation requirements

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s meeting on water issues in Pueblo hosted by Ken Salazar, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Deanna Archuleta, deputy assistant secretary for water and science, will work “full-time” on the issue, Salazar said at a water issues summit in Pueblo…

Salazar called Fountain Creek a “shared resource” that is important to Colorado Springs and Pueblo, as well as the downstream farms and cities. As a U.S. senator, Salazar urged the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force to make the creek a “crown jewel” and he applauded the task force and state lawmakers for making the Fountain Creek Flood Control and Greenway District a reality. As secretary of the Interior, Salazar said he now has the authority to make sure the promises made by Colorado Springs to win approval for building the Southern Delivery System from Pueblo Dam are fulfilled. “Deanna Archuleta will help to identify the resources we need to get this done,” Salazar said. “I’m looking forward to working on this project,” Archuleta said after the meeting. “There has been exceptional collaboration and phenomenal work so far on this. It really is precedent-setting.” Salazar said Archuleta will lead a team directly inside the secretary of Interior’s office that includes Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor…

Salazar voiced strong support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a $300 million project authorized by Congress this year that would build a drinking water line from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. “I am 100 percent behind getting the Arkansas Valley Conduit built,” Salazar said. “I will look at our budget to see if there is any money we can put into it. Unless we get this process moving, we are not going to get it done.”[…]

Secretary Salazar also said the “right kind of limits” on taking water from the Arkansas River basin have to be found before federal legislation is crafted to allow Aurora to use the Fry-Ark Project. “It’s not going to happen unless my big brother’s (Rep. Salazar’s) concerns can be satisfied,” he said.

Here’s a look at U.S. Representive John Salazar’s views on legislation that would allow Aurora to benefit from Fryingpan-Arkansas facilities, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

No federal legislation to allow Aurora to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project will pass unless U.S. Rep. John Salazar is part of the discussion on how that legislation is drafted. The Colorado Democrat made that clear Friday in his closing remarks at a water summit he and his brother, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, hosted in Pueblo. “I’ve always been one to seek the middle ground on issues, but I’m adamant on agriculture,” Rep. Salazar said. “I want to make sure we don’t destroy one economy to make another.”[…]

In March, the Lower Ark and Aurora agreed to work for a change in federal legislation that would legitimize Aurora’s use of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. They later obtained a stay in the Lower Ark’s lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation, which in 2007 issued a 40-year storage and exchange contract for excess capacity in Lake Pueblo. “We believe these issues can be solved and we’re working to solve them,” Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer said.

There was no mistaking Rep. Salazar’s parting words, however. “I don’t like to be excluded when legislation is proposed. I want to be part of that discussion,” Salazar said.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here, Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here, Super Ditch coverage here and here, Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.