Western States Water Council: 2009 symposium day 3 recap

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Federal Roles, Regulations and Planning Functions

The last day of the conference started out with a panel of representatives from four federal agencies moderated by Tony Willardson (Western States Water Council) and included: Chandler Peter (Denver Regulatory Office, Omaha District, Army Corps of Engineers); Bert Garcia (Director , Ecosystems Protection Program, Regions 8, Environmnetal Protection Agency); Randy Karstaedt (Director, Physical Resources, U.S. Forest Service); Meg Estep (Mountain-Prairie region, Chief, Water Resources Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

Peter explained that the Corps regulatory authority comes from Seciton 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act. He added that the Corps doesn’t bring any money to the table in the permit process, nor do they participate in planning — their job is to tell applicants what to do and what not to do.

Collaboration is the name of the game now. Peter hopes to move the EPA (at least in his office) to work collaboratively with water and land developers. He told the conference that much of the information that the Corps uses comes from submittals and that there is opportunity to collaborate on data collection and analysis.

Peter ran through some of the requirements for a permit. The Corps requires a needs analysis with each application. He said, “The amount of water needed translates directly to effects on aquatic resources.” The intensity of the review can be adjusted, “in light of the level of impact,” but he admitted that the needs analysis process can, “involve substantial cost and effort.” Some of the elements of the analysis are, demand, reliability of the source, conservation efforts, water rights, contracts, leases, and growth projections.

The Corps is statutorily required to evaluate alternatives to any proposed project and choose the option with the least environmental effect, he said.

The Corps, according to Chandler, is trying to improve the permitting process. He cited three examples where, after multi-year efforts and high investment, the application ended up in litigation and the applicant was denied the permit. Two Forks Dam made the list. Proponents spent some $40 million and in the end the reservoir was not approved.

Fort Collins and Greeley have agreed to partner with the Corps to test a new collaborative process, according to Peter. The pilot is the proposed Halligan and Seaman reservoirs expansion.

Garcia also cited Section 404 of the Clean Water Act as the authorizing legislation for the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory efforts. He asked the question, “What can we do to improve the process?”

He advocates transparency in the give and take between the EPA and thos the agency regulates. The more they know about projects the better they can integrate processes.

Garcia told the conference that the EPA will be promoting more low impact development.

Karstaedt said that the U.S. Forest Service is a land management agency rather that a regulatory agency. Most of us, “depend on rural areas and forests for our water,” he said. In the west forests comprise around 19% of the land area but supply more than half of the fresh water. He added that in Colorado the numbers are 22% of the land in forest provides 68% of the water supply. Nationally, he said, ranches, farms, private and state forests and federal land provide 80% of the drinking water supplies.

The USFS has been buying acreage near forest land to simplify watershed management. They recently purchased parcels in the Beaver Creek Watershed.

Estep told the conference that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets their charter from the Endangered Species Act. Their job is to prevent species from going extinct or ending up listed as threatened.

The Candidate Conservation Program, “…assesses species and develops and facilitates the use of voluntary conservation tools for collaborative conservation of candidate and other species-at-risk and their habitats, so that these species do not need the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” according to the USFW website.

They will also work with landowners to protect endangered species to set up best management practices through their Habitat Conservation Planning program.

A current focus of the agency is water quality.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Lamar: Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority runs out of dough

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From the Lamar Ledger (Aaron Burnett):

One month after opening bids for a major waste water improvement project, the city of Lamar will likely be shelving the project through at least the end of the year. Funding for the project, which was intended to replace the waste water system’s main lift station, dried up this past week when the Colorado Water Resources and Power. Development Authority (CWRPDA) informed city staff that the authority would not be able to offer a loan for the project in 2009. The city had applied for and been approved for up to $2 million in loan funds from the authority and was notified as late as August that the loan would be in place for 2009. City Administrator Ron Stock informed the council during its Monday evening meeting that staff had explored alternative funding sources, but had yet to identify one that would prove practical for the project.

More wastewater converage here.

H.R. 3123: Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel cleanup

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From The Colorado Independent (Katie Redding):

The Leadville Mine Drainage Remediation Act of 2009, HR 3123, sponsored by Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn of the 5th District, would order the federal Bureau of Reclamation to take responsibility for the entire length of the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, which drains zinc, cadmium and lead-laced water from many of Leadville’s historic mines. “We’re ecstatic that we’ve made it through the House again,” said Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen…

The bill also directs the Bureau to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to treat additional water from the Superfund site. The Bureau has done so in the past, but alleged that it does not have the authority to treat the water in perpetuity.

But Olsen had no patience for federal agencies who won’t use their already-built plant to treat nearby contaminated water. “The plant is made to treat contaminated water entering the Arkansas River,” he insisted. “It’s a public plant.” Olsen added that he was “extremely hopeful” that Senators Udall and Bennet would be able to secure passage of S. 1417 in the Senate.

More H.R. 3123 coverage here.

Weminuche Wilderness: Federal judge denies dam project at Emerald Lake

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

In a Sept. 18 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane dismissed a claim by the irrigation district that in 1940 it acquired the right build a dam at Emerald Lake. Kane also upheld the federal government’s position that heirs of the man who built a dam there about 1895 have no claim, either. The legal battle started about 2004 when Pine River Irrigation District, which provides Vallecito Reservoir water for irrigators in southeast La Plata County, attempted to resurrect what it alleged was the right to build a water-storage facility at Emerald Lake. The lake and nearby Little Emerald Lake, a total surface of 300 acres, sit at about 10,000 feet elevation in Hinsdale County.

Daniel Israel, a Denver attorney who represents the irrigation district, said Friday that an appeal is possible. “There’s a long history here,” Israel said. “We relied on a federal court decision eight or nine years ago, but Judge Kane rejected the court’s analysis. We don’t agree with his reading.” Israel said the 1891 law on which the early dam builder acted never has been analyzed by a federal court of appeals.

More San Juan Basin coverage here and here.

Western States Water Council: 2009 Symposium day two recap

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Speaking at a conference on water and population growth, Ritter restated a water policy he’s had since his first campaign for governor: look first to conservation and sharing water among cities and farmers, and to trans-basin diversions only as a last resort…

Thirty years ago, it was an era of plenty, Ritter said. Colorado had fewer than 3 million people, and three of its four major river basins were open to claims of new water rights. Today, the state has 5 million people, and only the Colorado River has unappropriated water. “We’re in an era of water scarcity and tradeoffs,” Ritter said…

On Tuesday, Ritter urged water planners to slow down and ask questions about Colorado’s future before dedicating more water to urban growth. “What will Colorado and the West look like in 50 years if we continue business as usual? Is this the world that we want our children to inherit?” Ritter did not define under what conditions he would back a transfer of water from west to east, but he said his administration would oppose it unless it improved all parts of the state.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Water must be a part of the conversation when it comes to creating vibrant, liveable communities,” Ritter told the Western States Water Council symposium on water and land use. “Any growth plan we have must acknowledge the scarcity of water.”[…]

The state needs to be smart about how it grows, and so it is rightly investing money through the Colorado Water Conservation Board in studies of water availability, water scarcity, conservation plans and sharing water. “There is no silver bullet,” Ritter said.

Ritter also lauded Aurora for pioneering water reuse through its $700 million Prairie Waters Project, which seeks to recapture flows from the South Platte River for direct reuse. “Aurora bought a lot of water from around the state, and a lot of people looked at Aurora as recklessly growing,” Ritter said. Since the 1980s, Aurora has purchased most of the Rocky Ford Ditch, part of the Colorado Canal, shares in Twin Lakes and ranches in Lake County in order to export the water from rights on those lands. Since it imports the water from another basin, it can theoretically reuse it to extinction, but that requires investment in infrastructure – a well field, pipeline and treatment plant in the case of Prairie Waters. “There is an ability to reuse that water, and that decreases the need for water from other parts of the state,” Ritter said.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka). From the article:

While Boulder made a decision years ago to limit growth despite having an adequate water supply for a city three times its size, Douglas County has maintained an aggressive growth policy with skimpy water supplies.

“The vision was a compact city surrounded by open space,” said Peter Pollock, who worked for 25 years as a planner for the city of Boulder. Boulder used every tool available to regulate growth and invented a few, determining where growth would come and how fast. The city worked with the county to maintain the rural nature of its outskirts, Pollock said. Pollock called the conflicting needs within the community useful in evaluating the trade-offs needed to obtain the desired results. Unlike many others at the conference, Pollock said water should be used as a tool to reinforce sustainable development, saying no community would be built if roads could not serve it…

“Efforts to control growth through water are futile,” Shively said. At least 50 percent of the state’s growth is from natural increases – from raising families and having children and grandchildren remain in the state. Communities like Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch already have per-capita water rates lower than most other areas of the state. The community is looking at rainwater harvesting, but the solution is to bring in more water from outside the Front Range to meet needs, Shively argued. “We have to teach our kids about water, and that we can’t conserve our way out,” Shively said.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka). From the article:

“The moment Douglas County or Aurora gets into trouble, it affects the value of every home on the Front Range,” Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper told the Western States Water Council symposium on water and land use Tuesday. “We’re having a discussion on regionalism.”

Denver has entered an intergovernmental agreement with two of its large neighbors to share resources, but that stops short of a commitment to supply water, added Chips Barry, director of Denver Water. “We’ll share our resources, but not our customers,” Barry said. For example, Denver and other communities generate return flows that it cannot physically reuse, but may be able to recycle through Aurora’s Prairie Waters Project, now 80 percent complete. Those flows could be captured for later reuse, with cooperation, Barry said…

“The West Slope is beginning to understand having a Front Range that is distressed for water is not helpful,” Barry said. “What we’re trying to do is settle 50 years of dispute. Denver wants certainty on the Blue River.”[…]

Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water, said the marketplace may be the driver for conservation. “Water is too scarce, and what you have to do to provide infrastructure is too expensive,” Pifher said. “The costs to the consumer and the developers will come to a point where they are self-regulating.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka). From the article:

Over in Texas…there might be enough water, but it’s not in the right place. Parts of the state have been in drought since 1996. Dallas has grown faster than its supply of water, said Carolyn Brittin, deputy executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board. In the past, water was a top-down activity in Texas, with permits issued for use wherever that use popped up. Groundwater is still not administered. Now, the state is trying to incorporate local decisions in its long-range water planning for storage and delivery, Brittin said. Conservation and reuse are becoming popular concepts, but Texas still doesn’t mess with land-use planning. Before it’s all done, 1.5 million acre-feet will have to come off farms unless the state can develop some of its 20 identified reservoir sites. Land regulation appears to be a last resort. “We’re going to grow . . . I find it fascinating that you would contemplate permits for subdivisions based on water availability,” Brittin said. “That’s pie in the sky for me, because I’m from Texas.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka). From the article:

…state Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, encountered a surprising amount of friction over a bill in 2008 (HB1141) that simply asked local governments to take water into account before issuing permits. “Local control is something that is in the fabric of this state and that’s not going to change any time soon,” Curry told the Western States Water Council symposium on water and land use Tuesday. While the state has a role, there are also issues of private property rights and water rights that play into these decisions.

And, judging from a parade of speakers at the conference Tuesday, a wide spectrum of what can be accomplished building-by-building, lot-by-lot, throughout a community and along a watershed. Planners discussed everything from low-flow appliances to rainwater capture to stormwater runoff on a small scale. Larger-scale solutions included high-density development, filling in empty urban spaces and locating essential businesses near homes through zoning to create pedestrian-friendly communities. “The danger of imposing the solution that we can all fit our hands around is that it isn’t going to work in every situation,” said Andy Hill, a Colorado Department of Local Affairs specialist in sustainable community development…

A report by Drew Beckwith looked at communities in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah that analyzed how techniques like using recycled water from homes to irrigate, reducing water use by appliances and Xeriscape landscaping significantly reduced water use. For instance, the Civanno community near Tucson, Ariz., used 35-45 percent less water than the already-low levels in the area, while reducing peak demand, Beckwith said.

More Colorado water coverage here and here.

Montrose County League of Women Voters: Water a Vital Resource October 1

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From email from the Colorado Watershed Assembly:

The first in a series of meetings hosted by the Montrose County League of Women Voters about regional programs working toward sustainability.

Join us and guest speakers from the Uncompaghre Watershed Planning Partnership and the City of Montrose Public Works Department for a forum on how to sustain water quality for businesses, citizens and wildlife for the next 100 years. Sarah Sauter of the UWPP will speak on its goal of improving water qualtiy and riparian habitat within the Uncompaghre River Basin by developing a collaborative watershed plan that would address heavy metals, selenium, wise land use planning, storm water, protection of drinking water supplies, flood hazard mitigation, river access, healthy fisheries, wildlife, public education and recreation. The City of Montrose Storm Water Management Program is dedicated to protecting the quality of surface waters, ponds, creeks and rivers.

Thursday, October 1,7: 00 p.m., Montrose Library Community Room Call Barb Krebs at 249-3989 for more information.

Western States Water Council: 2009 Symposium day two recap

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Opening Remarks

Governor Ritter kicked off the second day of the conference with a presentation about the opportunities and challenges facing the state and the western U.S. “Water is the most important resource to Colorado,” he said, citing the importance of water to recreation, tourism, agriculture, energy development along with the basic needs for the population.

Ritter mentioned the possible effects of climate change (climate disruption to some) on statewide water supplies. A 10-20% reduction in availability is the current long-term estimate. Ritter said, “How we manage our scarce water resource will determine how successful we are.”

The governor — a farmer in his youth — reminded the crowd that agriculture is the 3rd largest economy in Colorado as well as part of our heritage, saying, “It helped shape our culture.” He also made the point about the importance of a, “Sustainable locally produced food supply,” to the well being and health of Coloradans.

West slope water observers will be happy to note that the governor is opposed the transbasin diversions unless Colorado can find a “win, win, win” for all involved. He advocates thinking about land use planning as part of transportation planning and water planning. Ritter — through Harris Sherman at the Department of Natural Resources — has been asking people to consider, “How will we need to change to build the kind of west we want to leave to our children and grandchildren?”

State Efforts

This session was a panel discussion with representatives from California (Rod Walston), Arizona (Sandy Fabritz-Whitney) and Washington (Brian Walsh). The panelists related experiences and plans for the integration of land use and water planning back home.

Walston said that the traditional conversation focused on quantity and quality but now includes integrated land use and water. He outlined several legislative initiatives in California. The legislature has tried to mitigate the impacts of development by setting up statewide requirements for developers. For example, an environmental impact report for developments must be completed and approved prior to project approval and cities must create an urban water management plan which is updated every five years with a running 20 year supply.

Arizona, according to Fabritz-Whitney, requires a 100 year water supply for new developments and speculators cannot sell a lot for development unless they demonstrate a 100 year water supply. She told the group that Arizona’s first drought plan was adopted in 2004.

In Washington State the issues vary depending on location, according to Walsh. The west side of the state averages nearly 50 inches of precipitation a year while the eastern part of the state is much dryer. In addition, endangered species effect planning for virtually the entire Columbia River basin. The state has seen a good deal of success with local watershed planning groups that consist of county, city, tribal, state government and other local stakeholders. Some of the challenges going forward are the completion of a statewide water plan, a clearer definition of water rights (along with the cessation of new appropriations in some watersheds), navigating or unifying a patchwork of planning efforts, overcoming the “use it of lose it” aspect of prior appropriation, the need to permit domestic exempt wells and the effects of climate change. He listed conservation, reclaimed water, rainwater harvesting, aquifer storage and recharge and low impact development as opportunities for the state.

Local and County Efforts

The panel moderator, Julio Iturreria (Long Range Program Manager, Arapahoe County), stated that, in his career, “I have been doing planning with the idea that water will always be availiable.” He said that now is a good time — with development at low levels across the state — to approach local planning officials and ask that they include water planning in their processes going forward.

The panel included Peter Pollack (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy), Lorna Stickel (Portland Water Bureau) and Mark Shively (Executive Director, Douglas County Water Resource Authority).

First up was Pollack a former City of Boulder planner. He maintains that we can do a better job at the local level. He advocates water planning at all levels. Transportation planning drives land use, according to Pollack. He mentioned that Boulder and Boulder County were able to come to agreement about growth by using the concept of “urban services” (fire, water, sewer, police, etc.). The county agreed to stay with its rural character and drive growth to the cities and towns since they provided the urban services.

Stickel started out by saying that, “Water Supply is one of the most important aspects of planning.” There are many layers of planning in Oregon, most driven by legislation. She mentioned Portland’s gray water efforts. Homeowners are required to use “Off the shelf pre-designed systems.” She also talked about the Portland Sustainability Center which may be the largest green building in the world, according to Stickel. The building will recycle 100% of its water and generate much of the electrical demand using solar.

Shively listed some of the events that got Douglas County to where it is today — heavily dependent on the Denver Basin Aquifer system. Douglas County’s two dozen or so water providers depend on fossil water as do all of the individual domestic wells. The county was depending on Denver Water’s Two Forks Reservoir which was defeated in the late 1980s, and is still looking for a sustainable supply.

Shively told the attendees about the county conservation efforts. 40% of the county is open space. The county has implemented a rigorous review of plans. Castle Rock has reduced consumption to 134 gallons per capita per day. The county has implemented a “water ambassador program” where high school students present water education to fourth graders. The county is also part of an IGA with the South Metro Water Authority, Denver Water and Aurora Utilities that aims to share infrastructure and planning. He highlighted the Sterling Ranch development which hopes to use rainwater catchments (authorized by H.B. 09-1129 in the last legislative session) to cut gpcd for watering common areas.

Shively stressed that he wants to see people, “Work together to plan energy and water projects for our kids and grandkids.”

Two Sides Talking

The luncheon panel was moderated by Peter Nichols, an attorney with Trout, Raley, Montano, Witwer and Freeman. Panel members were Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Denver Water Manager Chips Barry, Aurora Water Manager Mark Pifher, Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer, Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn and Grand Junction Utilities Manager Greg Trainor.

Barry said, “Increased density is the way to reduce gallons per capita per day,” and greater density means, “higher per capita consumption per acre.” He said that Denver Water and west slope interests have come to understand that the two big issues are certainty of supply for Denver and a fixed total diversion number for the Colorado River Basin.

Trainor wants certainty or agreement about the water data that the basin roundtables are collecting, saying, “We have to be able to believe the data in front of us.”

Kuhn: “The tools of the past will probably not meet the uncertainty of the future.”

Pifher said that Aurora’s short-term strategy is to develop infrastructure to reuse their effluent. The project, Prairie Waters, filters water at the South Platte River. Water will then travel 30 some miles for treatment and distribution through Aurora’s potable water system.

Mayor Tauer said that for Aurora and Denver, “The drought was a catalyst,” regional cooperation is the name of the game now. Commenting on conservation efforts he joked that, “Denver Water’s campaign says, ‘Use only what you need,’ [while] Aurora says, ‘Use what you think you can afford with our new rate structure.'”

More Colorado water coverage here.

San Luis Valley: Second round in court for first groundwater sub-district

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Attorneys for proponents on Monday told the judge they had complied with his February order and revised the management plan. The state engineer’s office and sponsoring water district approved the amended plan this summer.

Opponents said they still had concerns with the plan, primarily regarding provisions to protect senior water rights, and argued that the amended plan did not comply with the judge’s February order. Three attorneys, Atencio, Erich Schwiesow and Tim Buchanan, represent the senior water users who still oppose the management plan.

Kuenhold has set aside the better part of three weeks for the trial, but RGWCD Attorney David Robbins told the judge on Monday he hoped to finish it in two weeks. He said he plans to call six or seven witnesses, and the state attorney general’s office plans to call two, State Engineer Dick Wolfe and Deputy State Engineer Michael Sullivan. Robbins said many of those involved in the water management effort, including one of his potential witnesses, were still involved in harvest.

The opening arguments consumed the morning of the first day, and the trial progressed no further than the first witness by the end of the day. Vandiver remains on the stand for cross-examination this morning as the trial enters its second day.

Vandiver testified about the process and progression of the revised management plan.

In his opening argument, Robbins said the sub-district water management plan is the culmination of seven years of efforts on the part of numerous volunteers who are trying to solve the Valley’s water problems in an innovative way, self-regulation. “The board of managers wasn’t thrilled to have had to do this, but they believe it’s the right thing to do. They believe it has to be done.”

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here.

U.S. Senate Interior appropriations bill includes $300,000 for Rifle waterline

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a news release that he successfully included the money in an Interior Appropriations bill that passed 77–21. A final version of the bill remains to be worked out with the House of Representatives. Mayor Keith Lambert said the city had been in contact with Colorado lawmakers about the project. “To have a partner like the federal government helping us promote our water systems here in Rifle is certainly a benefit,” he said. The money would come from the Environmental Protection Agency’s State and Tribal Grant Program. It would help pay for upgrades to the city’s main water line and construction of new lines. One line would improve service to customers on the south side of the Colorado River by building in redundancy to water delivery there. Lambert said a line also would be built to where the city is planning to construct a new water treatment facility. The water lines project, now in the preliminary engineering and design phase, requires a 45 percent cost share by the city.

More Rifle coverage here.

Western States Water Council: 2009 Symposium day one recap

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Update: From the Associated Press (Steven K. Paulson) via The Denver Post:

The council is an organization of representatives appointed by the governors of 18 Western states. The purposes are to promote cooperation, development and management of water resources. The theme of the meeting is “Water and Land Use Planning for a Sustainable Future.”

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

[John Wesley Powell’s] solution, offered to the territorial powers at the time, was to set up governmental jurisdiction based on watersheds and drainage basins, rather than the grid that had been used to divide the comparatively wet part of the United States up until that point. Trouble was, nobody listened to him. So, now with a few million people added and hundreds of water projects under its belt, the West will deal with linking water and land use the best it can…

Colorado is not alone in finding its water supply already stretched and looking at shortfalls in the future. Climate change could reduce precipitation by 10-20 percent, Tubbs said. “Yet this is the region where we’ve seen the highest growth and expectations are that it will continue once the economy improves,” Tubbs said. Tubbs, former water resources administrator for Montana, said the approach to water administration so far has been to divide water according to regions, geography and use. Now that scarcity is becoming reality, things must change. “New relationships will be built, if only by necessity,” Tubbs said.

Water quality also fits into the equation, said Bert Garcia, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8 ecosystems protection program. Local land use decisions have an impact on national water quality, but there is little money available to deal with the consequences, Garcia said. For example, there are $500 billion in needs nationally for wastewater systems, but only about $6 billion was made available in federal stimulus funds. “Protecting the watersheds is not only the duty of federal managers, but local water departments as well,” Garcia said.

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

In a conference that began Monday and concludes Wednesday, water experts from around the West are talking about how they will find enough water to serve the growing population of the West. Colorado’s population is expected to double to 10 million by 2050, and the state has no plan in place to deliver water to all the newcomers. Over the last few years, critics of Colorado’s growth policy – many from the Western Slope – have started to raise the question of where the water will be found. “What we decided is that we need to be talking, and that’s the purpose of this conference today,” said Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

Water and population recently has become a hot topic at Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee, a group chaired by Sherman that is supposed to find a bargain on water sharing between the Western and Eastern slopes. Compact committee organizer Eric Hecox presented data on the booming growth expected in the West. “That growth is driven by our strong economy. So we can’t really stop the growth,” Hecox said. But it will be possible to shape the nature of the growth. As much as three-quarters of the West’s housing units the next 20 to 30 years will be either new or rebuilt, Hecox said. That gives planners the chance to build denser housing that would need less water.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Western States Water Council: 2009 Symposium

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Water Use and Land Planning for a Sustainable Future: Scaling and Integrating

Opening session

The Western States Water Council, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Western Governor’s Association are putting on a 3 day symposium this week taking up water and land use planning issues.

Jennifer Gimbel, Director of the CWCB kicked off the afternoon with a presentation about the agency and its role in the state’s water picture. She told attendees that the CWCB is the “water policy” group. She lined out the various responsibilities of the CWCB saying that she has, “The most fascinating job to in the state.”

Financing water projects is a major role for the CWCB using funds from severance taxes and federal penalties to fund low interest loans, primarily to rural and small municipalities. The CWCB does get into larger projects such as Aurora’s reuse project, Prairie Waters.

Another role of the CWCB is compact protection. Around two thirds of the surface water available in Colorado must be left to flow out of state according to the various compacts that the state has signed.

The CWCB is involved with the Upper Colorado, San Juan and Upper Platte River recovery program for endangered species. In 1973 the board received authority to hold water rights for instream flows. They are also involved with flood mitigation, floodplain mapping, water conservation, drought planning and planning future projects.

Gimbel outlined the responsibilities of the Interbasin Compact Committee which was established by the Water for the 21st Century Act. The committee is tackling state needs, basin needs and is working to come up with solutions to the gap in supply indentified by the Statewide Water Supply Inititative (pdf) in 2004.

The Executive Director of the Western States Water Council, Tony Willardson, introduced the organization and its initiatives. The group was formed by the Western Governor’s Association to determine how to move water from the water rich northwestern U.S. to the water poor southwestern U.S. He said that the original group consisted of, “five members wanting to get the water, five members wanting to kill the project and one member working both sides.” The project didn’t get built but the group goes on.

Willardson said that 5 of the fastest growing states are in the west. He added that planners need to face up to the fact that, “We may not be able to sustain unlimited growth,” and, “We have not looked at water when determining how we would grow.” He is pushing “integrated” water and land use planning with water weighed very heavily in the process.

His group is actively trying to identify present and future water requirments while advocating that states do the local planning. Local, regional and state planning should ideally roll up to multi-state regional and and national plans, he said.

Willardson and the WSWC are hoping to see all states start to regulate groundwater.

WSWC has signed agreements with eighteen states and five federal agencies. Willardson says that the states, “have the primary and critical role.”

Monday keynote

John Tubbs, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, U.S. Department of interior was the keynote speaker today. He listed some of the challenges that the nation faces in the 21st century.

One challenge is our water institutions. In the U.S. they are built to divide the resource. Water is divided by quantity and quality, by federal and state policy and statute. It is divided by watersheds, recreation and on and on. Necessity is now forcing water and land use planners to work together as demand outstrips supplies in many areas and climate change adds unpredictability snowpack and runoff. Pollution is effecting many drinking water aquifers.

Tubbs quoted Winston Churchill: “Americans, after exhausting all other possibilities, will always do the right thing.” The right thing, according to Stubbs, is to bring institutional resources together at the watershed level along with the federal government. After all, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, “Provides water to one out of every five [irrigated] acres in the west.”

Planning for Water Demand in the West

Jennifer Gimbel moderated a panel discussion on planning. The panel consisted of Kay Brothers (Deputy General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority), Carolyn Brittin (Deputy Executive Administrator of the Texas Water Development Board) and John Longworth (Bureau Chief, Water Use and Conservation Bureau, New Mexico State Engineer’s office).

Brothers went back in time to set the stage for current Las Vegas water issues and policy. She said that in the 1980s there was competition amongst the various water suppliers in the area. The Southern Nevada Water Authority was formed in 1991 when those involved realized that they needed a regional entity to find and secure water resources. With the SNWA all water and wastewater purveyors are under one roof. They’ve instituted a “Growth Pays for Growth” policy.

Conservation is a major component of policy. They had hoped to reduce consumption to 250 gallons per capita per day by 2012 but realized the goal in 2008. They are now eyeing 190 gpcd by 2020.

The SNWA plan includes developing resources such as groundwater, pursuing pre-Colorado River Compact water rights and ocean desalination.

Brittin said that Texas has a consensus driven bottom-up process for water planning. Current plans call for conservation to meet 23% of future requirements. While reuse is being emphasized environmental concerns for lagging or missing return flows have led to the creation of an environmental flow regime for Texas rivers. Planners must now mesh their plans with state and basin watershed plans, according to Brittin.

In New Mexico 90% of municipal and industrial needs are met with groundwater sources which are very junior in priority, according to Longworth. Groundwater is generally mined. Permits are required for all groundwater appropriations. Utilities must submit non-speculative plans for development. Although state law requires the State Engineer to give a positive or negative opinion on new development the final decision is left up to the counties.

Land Use Planning and Water Demand (Colorado Report)

The final session of the day dealt with water and planning issues in Colorado. Jacob Bornstein, Program Manager, Intrastate Water Management and Development Section, detailed Colorado’s planning efforts. He explained the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act and showed the CWCB planning tool used to analyze the effects of water decisions as they will play out in the future.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District: What is the future of agriculture?

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Here’s a recap of a discussion last week at the Lower Ark monthly meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Things look pretty bleak for agriculture then?” asked Pueblo County Director Reeves Brown during a presentation by Eric Hecox, administrator of the Interbasin Compact Commission.

“It looks bleak for agriculture if what’s happened in the past continues,” Hecox responded. “There is opportunity for agriculture to lease water to the cities through programs like the Super Ditch. That has the potential of reducing the impact.” Hecox explained the evaluation tool the Colorado Water Conservation Board is developing with the IBCC to look at different mixes of strategies to meet Front Range needs that include new supplies from the Colorado River, conservation, reuse, identified projects, agriculture transfers and reuse.

“Is it impossible to challenge growth?” Brown asked.

“It’s not a strategy we’ve looked at in the past,” Hecox said. “In practice, we can’t stop growth, but we can talk about how we grow.”

Peter Nichols, the Lower Ark’s water attorney, said solutions lie in reasonable compromises, such as the Super Ditch sponsored by the Lower Ark district, that allow resources to be shared. “I was part of a 2001 study, where we looked at water all over the world. No community stopped growing for lack of water,” Nichols said. “In the 1990s, the five fastest growing states were also the driest. People no longer settle where the water is, because it’s convenient to move it.”

Colorado would need between 830,000 and 1.7 million acre-feet of new supplies annually to meet the demand, which probably is not available on the Colorado River alone. Under compacts negotiated in 1922 and 1948, as well an an international treaty with Mexico and federal rules, Colorado is entitled to 445,000-1.4 million acre-feet available annually on average, Hecox said. The high end would most likely be available if the Colorado River supply is somehow increased, either through pipelines from other basins – which appear unlikely – or other measures like cloud seeding, desalinization in California or tamarisk reduction. “If the last 20 years are a guide, a pipeline isn’t likely,” Hecox said.

Still developing projects within Colorado would be worthwhile. The South Platte basin already imports 345,000 acre-feet an the Arkansas basin 132,000 acre-feet annually. “Every acre-foot of West Slope water saves an acre-foot in the Arkansas and South Platte,” Nichols said. “The Arkansas Valley has a tremendous interest in developing West Slope projects.” That’s expensive, however.

A 250,000 acre-foot project would cost between $7.5 billion-$10 billion, according to state projections. The water rights already held by oil companies seeking to one day extract oil from shale are in the 500,000 acre-foot range, which further muddies the supply picture, Hecox said. A call from downstream states – California, Arizona and Nevada – has never happened and may be unlikely, but it could curtail rights within Colorado, Hecox said. Finally, climate change could reduce the amount of water physically available. When the 1922 Colorado River Compact was negotiated, the observed climate was wetter than it is now. Since 2000, flows have fallen far below the historical levels of the previous 80 years…

Drying up agriculture has been the easiest target for cities in the past, and state studies show more is on the way. The amount will depend on planning that begins today. “If we lose 500,000 acres of agriculture, how do you feed all these people?” Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner asked. “It’s very important to create a relationship between agriculture and the cities.”

More Colorado water coverage here.

California Gulch superfund site update

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Here’s an update about progress at operable unit 11 up at the California Gulch superfund site in Leadville, from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald Democrat. From the article:

This area, also known as the 11-mile reach, can be seen from U.S. 24 south of Leadville near the Hayden Ranch. The work done in this area was the subject of a tour taken by the Lake County Open Space Initiative on Sept. 10. The issues in the area were caused by the mining operations on the east side of Leadville, according to Mike Holmes, project manager with the EPA. Waste from the mines would wash down the river and deposit along the riverbank, creating areas where no vegetation would grow. The goal of the project along the 11-mile reach is to remediate these fluvial tailings piles along the river.

This project is different than most remediation projects with the EPA, said Holmes. Part of the funding for this project came from a natural resource damages settlement that put money in a trust for state and federal agencies to use on habitat restoration. With this funding, for the first time, remediation is being done in conjunction with restoration, said Holmes. Usually the EPA does the remediation of mine waste, then Division of Wildlife or State Parks, for example, come in to restore the wildlife. Both were done this summer on the same project on the banks of the Arkansas River.

For the remediation, sugar beet pulp was used to neutralize the low pH, or acidity, of the soil. The pH of sugar beet pulp is 8, or basic, according to Holmes. There is calcium carbonate that releases over time in the pulp for a long-term remedy for the soil. Once this occurred, natural grasses and willows were transplanted to the river banks where there was no vegetation before. This will help in the restoration process as well, according to Nicole Vieira with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. This vegetation will make the banks more stable, especially with the unsteady releases from Turquoise Lake.

Another part of the restoration process was placing cross veins in the river. These are rows of boulders across the river that slow down the flow in specified areas. The river bed is excavated so that deep pools are created around the rocks for fish to live in the winter, she said. This will cut down on the amount of migrating in the winter to allow for healthier growth of fish, she said.

Meanwhile a new citizen advisory group is forming to oversee operable unit 6. Here’s a report from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald Democrat. From the article:

According to Jennifer Lane, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lake County Commissioner Mike Bordogna and Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott, the new CAG will be a completely different group than the existing group. Members of the existing citizens’ group are welcome to join the CAG, said Lane. Bordogna said that the two groups could work on parallel tracks. The difference, he said, is that the citizens’ group was appointed by the previous board of commissioners to advise the commissioners. This CAG would be set up under EPA guidelines, use EPA funds and advise the EPA.

The EPA is looking to cap more tailings piles in OU6, according to a report from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald Democrat. From the article:

At a public meeting on Sept. 17, [Linda Kiefer, project manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] outlined the pilot study and the four methods being tested as possible remedies for the Greenback, RAM and Makato tailings piles in Stray Horse Gulch. These piles are visible both from the Mineral Belt Trail and East 5th Street, or CR 1. Under the original record of decision for remediating the operable unit 6 of the California Gulch Superfund site, there were two piles that were capped as part of the remedy. The rocks that were used to cover those piles changed the appearance of those historic tailings, which have since been referred to as “the wedding cakes” by Leadvillites ever since. The other part of this decision was to send other acidic runoff into the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, which was supposed to be plugged to ensure that all the water would be treated in the plant run by the Bureau of Reclamation.

This brought the EPA to announce earlier this year that the remedy chosen in 2003 was not working, and it informed the Lake County commissioners that capping otherwise undisturbed piles was the next option. In 2003, this was an unpopular option, because the community wanted to preserve the history of those piles. The community still wants to preserve that history. The pilot study is an attempt to compromise by capping the piles, but making them blend into the other historic mine piles.

On one section of the test pile, shotcrete will be used as the capping material. This is a light concrete that is sprayed onto the pile. It can be done with various colorations, according to Kiefer. The section next to the concrete will be covered with inert rock and stabilized with timber cribbing, much like what is seen from the Mineral Belt Trail. The inert rock, which is non-acid producing waste rock from other piles, would retain the historic look of the piles…

The hope is that the construction of the test site will be done by the end of October, when the community will be invited on a field trip to see the outcome of the test pile.

More California Gulch coverage here.

150 volunteers show up for Lake Pueblo cleanup day

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s cleanup at Lake Pueblo, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

By the afternoon, they had bagged 2,000 pounds of trash. “We only had hand scales, but we also found things like couches and tires that we couldn’t weigh,” said Tracy Wynn, owner of Aquatic Adventures. “Next year we hope to obtain two industrial floor scales so we can get actual weight on everything collected.” Most of the people worked along the shoreline, but a few divers showed up as well. Boaters ferried crews to shallow coves as well…

Future events will take place on the third Saturday in September to coincide with Project AWARE (Aquatic World Awareness, Responsibility and Education), Wynn added. To help with next year’s event, contact Wynn at 543-3483.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

CWCB: Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District scores $190,000 for water availability study

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The study was one of 14 grants totaling $3.3 million from the Water Supply Reserve Account, which is administered by the CWCB based on recommendations from the Interbasin Compact Committee and nine basin roundtables. The Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District plans to use the $190,000 from the CWCB as part of a three-year, $400,000 study with the U.S. Geological Survey and other partners to determine water availability.

Also approved last week were three grants from the Rio Grande basin: San Luis Valley Resource Conservation & Development, $200,000 toward a restoration project of Willow Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande near Creede with historic mine contamination. Trinchera Irrigation Co., $200,000 toward restoration of a diversion canal. Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation, $31,500 for planning studies.

More CWCB coverage here.

Hermosa Creek: Prime cutthroat habitat

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From The Durango Herald (Paul Shepard):

The Hermosa Creek basin has two outstandingly remarkable values: recreation, and fish and wildlife. Virtually all outdoor recreation activities are allowed including mountain biking, hunting, fishing, camping, off-roading, horses, hiking, climbing, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing and recreational vehicles. The basin also supports local agriculture with grazing allotments. To build on the outstandingly remarkable value of fish and wildlife, the Colorado River cutthroat trout reintroduction program is under way, with the Division of Wildlife working with the Forest Service…

Hermosa Creek is considered to be the top location in Colorado because it meets the criteria needed for success, including a waterfall on the East Fork to act as a barrier. If a waterfall is not available, a man-made one must be built. The barriers are needed to keep invasive trout from moving upstream and compromising the native-only populations. Barriers cannot be built just anywhere. Available geologic features must include sufficient gradient and a pinch-point. Additionally, a road must be near for equipment and stocking trucks. Such a road exists in Hermosa Park…

Nearly two decades ago, the Forest Service began this process by acquiring Purgatory Flats on the East Fork of Hermosa via a land swap. In 1991, the Division of Wildlife turned this reach into a cutthroat-only fishery above Sig Creek falls. Two years ago, a man-made barrier was built on the main stem at Hotel Draw, and the reintroduction is ongoing. Once the main stem is completed, this will create two separate populations. Thus far, the cutthroat reintroduction program is considered to be a success. However, the ultimate goal is to connect these two populations, allowing for movement between drainages and promoting population diversity. The Hermosa Park private parcel is the limiting factor to complete success. This is because the confluence of these two sections resides on this private property and is out of the jurisdiction of the Forest Service…

Two years ago, Hermosa Creek received the designation of “Outstanding Waters” by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. The creek has such high water quality that, by law, it can’t be compromised. Hermosa Creek is the only stream in Colorado with this designation outside of a national park or wilderness area. Also, the Hermosa Creek watershed is Colorado’s largest unprotected roadless area. Literally tens of thousands of acres are so pristine, they are eligible for wilderness designation. And all this is little more than a half hour’s drive from Durango. However, the Hermosa Park private parcel sits right in the middle of this amazing open space. In an open and public workgroup formed in 2008, unrelated to the land swap issues, a consensus values statement for the Hermosa basin was articulated as: The Hermosa Creek area is exceptional because it is a large, intact (unfragmented) natural watershed containing diverse ecosystems, including fish, plants and wildlife over a broad elevation range, and supports a variety of uses, including recreation and grazing, in the vicinity of a large town.

This diverse working group – ocs.fortlewis.edu/riverprotection/Hermosa – sees the value of an intact watershed and recognizes the special and unique characteristics of the Hermosa Creek area.

More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here.

Big Thompson River Revival

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s waterway cleanup sponsored by the city of Loveland and the Big Thompson Watershed Forum, from Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

The city of Loveland and the Big Thompson Watershed Forum jointly hold two waterway cleanups per year. This one, the fall cleanup, was called the Big Thompson River Revival. Volunteers found all sorts of debris in the river from flip-flops to alcohol bottles to a traffic cone to measuring tapes and more…

Alexander Alden, 7, and Jasmine Kristjansdottir, 10, stuck to the banks of the river with family members and friends. Alexander’s Boy Scout troop encouraged members to participate, but that is not the only reason he decided to pick up trash. Alexander said he was out at Fairgrounds Park “for the waterways.” “The water is what we drink,” he said. “It comes in all sorts of liquids we drink.” Jasmine added, “I’m here to help the world.”

More Big Thompson watershed coverage here and here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum: Invasive mussels update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’ve not seen the adults [quaggas/zebra mussels], just the veligers (larvae),” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “We’re on the cutting edge of doing the testing to find them.” Brown spoke this week at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, held at Colorado State Univer- sity-Pueblo. Last year, evidence of mussels was found in seven Colorado reservoirs and lakes after they were first detected in Lake Pueblo in January 2008. A total of 102 bodies of water were tested, which means that boat inspection programs or closures of some lakes were successful in stopping mussels from spreading further than they have, Brown said. “The mussels move from body to body of water primarily by boats,” she said…

Brown speculated that more adults have not been found because the zebra and quagga mussels are mainly populating the sediments at the bottom of lakes…

At Pueblo, there were 67 plankton tows, mostly performed by a team led by Colorado State University biology professor Scott Herrmann. The samples were tested at the university, by the Bureau of Reclamation and by the Division of Wildlife. Wildlife found that 70.8 percent of the samples tested positive, with anywhere from one to 76 veligers found in each of the positive samples. The DNA of the veligers was tested as well, showing that both zebra and quagga mussels have breeding population in the lake.

Reclamation last year completed a risk assessment of Lake Pueblo, finding that because of fluctuations in water, dissolved oxygen levels do not favor large outbreaks of mussels. Water providers are wary, however. The Pueblo Board of Water Works is making $1 million in upgrades to its intake system because of the threat.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

San Miguel County: Water 101

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Here’s a recap of Friday’s Water 101 event in Telluride, sponsored by the New Community Coalition, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the San Miguel Whitewater Association, the Telluride Institute, the Southwestern Water Conservation District and the Water Information Program, from Ben Fornell writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

On Friday, Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Gregory Hobbs was in Telluride to explain how the laws that govern water rights came into being…

Part history lecture, part legal discussion, part vacation slide show, the justice said he was eager to take the members of the room on a “journey,” through the water-sharing cultures of various ancient peoples and into modern day Colorado…

And the crowd of more than 100 packed into the town council room in Rebekah Hall seemed to have no problem sitting attentively at the judge’s feet while he unwound a yarn as long as the Colorado river itself. Slated for an hour, the judge’s talk lasted nearly two, but everyone seemed to be in rapt attention. At the end, the crowd pined for more questions, and despite warnings of “just one more” from a moderator, the judge indulged his desire to dialog with the crowd.

One of the major concepts the judge discussed was the idea that, in Colorado, one has the right to cross private lands in order to obtain water — both physically and with a ditch or conduit.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Greeley Chamber of Commerce: Water Wisdom 101

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From The Greeley Tribune (Mike Peters):

In Weld County, where the average precipitation is only 12 to 14 inches per year, water is a valuable commodity. About 50 people from Greeley and Weld County learned that lesson Friday as they took the 2009 Ag Tour — Water Wisdom 101 — of water facilities and heard the water history in Greeley and Weld County…

The tour is an annual event, sponsored by the Greeley Chamber of Commerce, for anyone interested in learning about agriculture in Greeley and Weld. “We want you to look at water,” said Chamber Executive Director Sarah MacQuiddy, “from different points of view — environmental, recreation, development and agriculture.” Meg Spencer of Thrivent Financial of Greeley attended the tour “because you can’t live in Weld County and not know about water. It’s too important.”[…]

The No. 3 ditch was the central irrigation ditch through Greeley and still winds through the city today. Clifford Clift, president of the Greeley Irrigation Co., told the group that “everybody seems to take water for granted, but Greeley wouldn’t exist today without No. 3 ditch.” The ditch was dug by the pioneers to bring water from the Poudre River into the Union Colony for irrigating crops. The Greeley Irrigation Co., along with the city of Greeley, oversees the ditch today and releases water for farmers in this area.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Dillon Reservoir ending water year with cushion for winter

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From the Summit Daily News:

Denver Water officials said this week that Dillon Reservoir water storage is slightly above average for this time of year. Going into the winter with a slight cushion helps ensure the reservoir will refill fully next spring, said Bob Peters, a water resource manager with Denver Water. In one of its regular updates on reservoir operations, Denver Water outlined dry, normal and wet scenarios. Even with a drier-than-average winter, the reservoir is likely to fill.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: U.S. Representative John Salazar named to conference committee for the 2010 energy and water appropriations committee

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Representative Salazar should be able to help funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit move out of committe. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

He was named to the conference committee for the 2010 energy and water appropriations committee. The committee will meet Tuesday to iron out differences between House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill. The Colorado Democrat represents many of the communities that would benefit from the $300 million project to bring fresh drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley, and has staunchly supported the conduit. “I’m going to keep fighting to keep the conduit funding in there,” Salazar said Friday. “If we’re successful, this will be the realization of a project that people in the Arkansas Valley have been waiting to see for the last 47 years.” Salazar, along with Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., made the argument that the conduit is a project that has long been on the federal waiting list in securing $5 million in appropriations in the House version of the bill.

Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, supported that position. The Senate appropriations committee, however, took the stance that the conduit was a new project, so eliminated its funding.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District votes to recommend denial of Pueblo County permit to proposed LaFarge Aggregate and Concrete gravel pit

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District voted to recommend denial of a proposal by LaFarge Aggregate and Concrete to mine gravel and operate asphalt and concrete batch plants at a site between Fountain Creek and Interstate 25 near Pikes Peak International Raceway. “I think it’s essentially a scarring of the landscape and what this group is trying to do,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, who chaired the meeting. “(The district) is trying to protect the landscape.” Because LaFarge removed two areas of the project that were in the flood plain, the district board only had the authority to recommend approval or denial of a permit to El Paso County Com- missioners. The LaFarge decision was only the second made by the board, which was formed in July by the state Legislature, and by far the most controversial. While LaFarge representatives tried to make the case that its operation would be temporary – 15 years after excavation began – environmental groups, landowners, sewer districts and one of the state lawmakers who formed the district voiced concern or opposition toward the project.

Sterling City Council talks treatment

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Forrest Hershberger):

Tuesday night, a public hearing was held by the Sterling City Council regarding the city’s water treatment plant. Several officials were in attendance at the city council meeting, including Jackie Whelan of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Whelan said Sterling has been in violation of water contamination levels since it completed a four-year study in 2007. Prior to 2000, she said, the state did not monitor uranium levels, so uranium contamination in public water systems was not an issue. However, the city of Sterling’s water system has become the focus because Sterling is the largest municipal water system in the state operating under a violation, according to Whelan. She said the problem is where the municipal wells are drilled, and how deep. Councilman Mark Fuller asked Whelan why the city is the focus of the upgrades when well users just across the city boundary are apparently exempt from the standards. Whelan said the health department does not monitor private water systems. “The state of Colorado has no authority over private wells,” Whelan said.

More Sterling coverage here and here.

Precipitation news: Yuma County

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From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

a total of 1.52 inches of rain fell on Yuma this week before the clouds cleared out. That brings September’s total rainfall to 1.68 inches, with five days left in the month. Yuma’s total precipitation now is up to 17.98 inches, tantalizingly close to that magical 20-inch mark. With three months left, 2009 already is one of the wettest in recent history. Of that year-long total, 14.99 inches of it has fallen since May 1, an average of 3-inches per month over the past five.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.

North Fork River Improvement Association watershed action plan meeting October 14

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From the Delta County Independent:

NFRIA is beginning its update to the original 2000 Watershed Action Plan for the North Fork of the Gunnison. This is a chance for citizens to take action in addressing the foremost issues concerning the river. A public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss from 4-6 p.m.

NFRIA would like to assess how the public perception of the watershed has changed during the last nine years. Participation in this meeting will prove valuable for NFRIA in pursuing the goals of all stakeholders in the watershed. They hope to come away with an inclusive list of public concerns allowing them to optimize their efforts. In order to better serve all stakeholders, NFRIA welcomes critique of previous projects and how well they have addressed the initial action plan.

This meeting is the first of two public meetings as the first task in updating the watershed plan. The update process will review the science, the state of the watershed, sources of water quality impairment, public concerns, and will set the goals for the next 10 years.

Colorado Water Conservation Board is funding this project. The original 2000 Watershed Action Plan can be found at http://www.nfria.org. Contact the NFRIA office with any questions at 872-4614.

More Gunnison Basin coverage here.

Surface Creek Valley: Orchard City scores 5 shares of Leon Lake water

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From the Delta County Indpendent (Hank Lohmeyer):

Town Trustee Jimmie Boyd presented the board with the offer he had received for the Leon Lake shares. Boyd explained, “This last week I had a lady approach me with five shares of Leon Lake water for sale. She is asking $5,000 for the five shares, which figures out to a little bit less than $2,500 per acre-foot. That’s about the going rate. “This water,” Boyd continued, “has already been converted to domestic use or as augmentation water, as well as irrigation. The town has 85 shares of Leon Lake at this point, so this purchase would bring us up to 90 shares.” Boyd went on to explain that there are about 3,600 shares total in the Leon Lake water company. “The largest owner has about 225 shares,” Boyd said. “There about 160 owners in the company, so no one individual or owner interest would be hit real hard if some kind of work had to be done on the reservoir.” Leon Lake is located on the north side of Grand Mesa in the Plateau Creek drainage. Water is transported to Surface Creek Valley by a tunnel that was constructed decades ago.

More Surface Creek coverage here.

Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust scores $1 million for Rio Grande corridor conservation easements

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From the South Fork Tines:

The newly awarded funds will be used over the coming year to complete two important conservation easements on the Rio Grande river corridor. The federal dollars also serve as matching funds to previous awards from the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund (GOCO), the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Habitat Partnership Program, The Nature Conservancy, Mineral County, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, and other local and regional supporters. With generous donations from the participating landowners, the NAWCA award will help achieve more than $12 million in conservation value on critical river ranches. These projects are part of the overall Rio Grande Initiative, a project led by RiGHT, along with key partners The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited, to conserve the ranches, important wildlife habitat and scenic beauty of the Rio Grande. A portion of the NAWCA award will also fund improved water delivery infrastructure on the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, which includes an important reach of the Rio Grande and senior water rights that provide vital habitat for waterfowl and migrating birds.

More conservation easement coverage here.

Telluride: ‘High and dry’ demonstration garden requires no supplemental water

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From The Telluride Watch (Martinique Davis):

[The] special High and Dry Garden [is] sponsored by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension in Norwood. Located along the east end of Telluride’s River Trail, the garden features plants carefully chosen to demonstrate one seemingly difficult achievement – to have a beautiful garden at high altitude that doesn’t require watering. Started last summer and still developing, Telluride’s demonstration garden is the first High and Dry garden of its kind on the Western Slope (with the exception of a similar demonstration garden outside Norwood’s CSU Extension office). It isn’t chock-full of showy plants with massive, colorful blooms. Rather, the plants selected for this garden a more practical side of high-altitude horticulture, since they are all considered “water-wise,” or “xeric.” In other words, this garden was designed and planted to exist on Telluride’s precipitation alone. Despite having no requirements for supplemental water, the High and Dry Garden is far from austere. Plants like serviceberry, French sage, penstemon, primrose, and geranium dot the raised bed, offering bursts of color and interesting shapes amid the gray gravel mulch – also intentionally chosen because effectiveness over wood chips at reducing water evaporation. A red gravel path cuts through the middle of the garden, providing color contrast to the gray mulch and a raised vantage point to examine the intricacies of water wise gardening.

More conservation coverage here.

Golden: Pilot project to test lowering of pharmaceuticals and other pollutants with education program

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From MileHighNews.com (Meredith Knight):

The study specifically targets consumer products such as shampoo, antibacterial soaps and lotions that contain chemicals that persist in the water system after they are washed away and have unknown health effects for aquatic life, according to Project Manager Sara Klingenstein. Millions of dollars are spent on studying the toxic effects of these chemicals, but little is done to study protection, EIS director Carol Lyons said. “To our knowledge nobody aside from ourselves is conducting a project to prevent contaminants of emerging concern from getting in the water,” Lyons said. In the next few months IES hopes to have a list of recommendations people could implement to reduce their chemical footprint, or the amount of chemicals they put into the wastewater system, according to Lyons.

Musk ketone, for example, is a chemical fragrance often included in shampoos and other scented products. “It’s designed to be very persistent,” Klingenstein explained, so the product’s fragrance lasts. But that means the chemical does not break down in wastewater and is ingested by the tiny krill and other organisms that larger fish eat. The contamination can then be passed on to larger organisms.

Initial water samples have been taken from the city’s wastewater system to establish baseline levels of the chemicals. EIS will conduct surveys to find out about people’s buying and using behaviors. The project’s goal is to reach 400 to 500 households.Then, the six-month community-based social-marketing campaign will begin. Klingenstein said the outreach would be interactive, rather than just providing information. She envisioned “Tupperware parties without any Tupperware” where neighborhood groups would gather to learn about contaminants, how to read labels to find them in products, and what alternative products are available. After that, water samples and consumer surveys will be taken again to see what impact the study had. If the study proves successful, EIS will make the program available to other cities and include other emerging contaminants…

The Institute for Environmental Solutions will be checking levels of more than a dozen emerging contaminants before and after its educational campaign in Golden. Those chemicals include atrazine, an herbicide, triclosan, an antimicrobial agent found in antibacterial soap, bisphenol A, found in plastic water bottles, and methylparaben, an antifungal agent used to preserve foods.

More water pollution coverage here and here.

CWCB: La Plata Archuleta Water District scores $400,000 from board for creation of district

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

“We’ve been working on the master plan over the summer,” Steve Harris, the principal in Durango-based Harris Water Engineering, said Thursday. “It will identify sources of water and the general layout of the pipelines and the order of installation.” The Animas and Pine rivers are the desired choices to provide water for the system, Harris said. Although no sources of water have been secured, the district would like to get half from the Pine, half from the Animas. Pine River water would be taken from the diversion point used by the town of Bayfield, which would partner with the water district in building a new water-treatment plant next to the town’s existing plant, Harris said. The water would serve customers in the eastern part of the district, Harris said. Animas River water, which would serve residents on Florida Mesa, would be diverted from the outlet on the Ridges Basin dam southwest of Bodo Industrial Park, treated at a plant yet to be constructed and then piped to Florida Mesa, Harris said…

Harris said there are 4,000 houses in the water district service area, but not all need or want a connection. Projections estimate the district will have 4,000 customers over 50 years. “But the advantage is that even without a single new house, the system is feasible,” Harris said. “It is not dependent on growth.” The district has been a long time in coming, Harris said. Most rural communities on the Western Slope have drinking-water systems, he said. Harris said the state agency grant allows work to continue on the master plan and permit acquisition from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and La Plata County.

More coverage of the recent CWCB grants from The Denver Post:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has awarded $3.3 million in grants to 14 water projects across the state and approved more than $2 million in loans for four projects. Director Jennifer Gimbel says the grants included two totaling about $1 million to address water supplies and infrastructure in the south Denver area. The Fort Morgan Reservoir and Irrigation Co. in eastern Colorado will get a $670,000 grant in part for a wetlands project.

More CWCB coverage here.

Lake Fork of the Arkansas River: Cleanup efforts

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Here’s a look at cleanup efforts along the Lake Fork of the Arkansas River and “good samaritan” legislation the supporters contend would lead to a greater cleanup effort, from Katie Redding writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

…members of the Lake Fork Watershed Working Group point out the strides they have taken to improve the watershed. Before the group started its clean-up efforts, the water at the confluence of the Lake Fork River and the Arkansas River did not meet Colorado water quality standards, even though the EPA had spent millions of dollars cleaning the river just upstream. Data showed the heavy metals from the Sugarloaf Mining District were carried up to 100 miles downstream along the Arkansas River, a waterway popular among boaters and fishermen, and used as a water source for Aurora, Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Since then, members of the watershed group have moved many tailing piles out of drainage paths and into repositories. This fall, they plugged the Dinero Tunnel, to keep it from continuing to release toxic water. At the Tiger Tunnel, where the rock isn’t strong enough for a plug, the group has plans to build a “sulfate-reducing bioreactor” next summer — an artificially constructed wetland that will reduce the heavy metals and acidity of the water. But the true benefits may not be apparent for a few more years, as insects, fish and wildlife start to return to drainages formerly too toxic for them. “It takes time for rivers to improve themselves,” Russell said.

More restoration coverage here.

Fountain Creek: $500,000 collector demonstration project for sediment control and water quality

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The city last week received $190,000 from the Water Supply Reserve Account, which is administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board on the recommendation of basin roundtables, for the project. The money will be added to $200,000 from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and $75,000 from the city’s stormwater enterprise. Another $50,000 from the state health department will go toward a floodwater detention basin below the North Side Walmart.

The project will install a 20- to 30-foot concrete collector designed by Streamside Systems at the railroad bridge about one-half mile from the confluence of Fountain Creek with the Arkansas River. The collector continuously removes bed-load sediment – the type that builds the sand bars in Fountain Creek – as water flows over it. The sediment is removed by pumps and can be sorted into different grades of material. Preliminary tests on a much smaller scale showed the collector could have a significant impact on water quality as well…

Sediment removal in Pueblo is important to maintaining the effectiveness of the levee system along Fountain Creek. The levees were built in the 1980s after the flood of 1965, but the amount of freeboard – the surge associated with flooding – has been compromised as the channel silted up.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Dust storms and forecasting runoff

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

“It’s profound,” said researcher Tom Painter, director of the snow optics laboratory at the University of Utah. “Areas that are actively disturbed release 1,000 times more dust,” Painter said, adding that dust layers in 2009 caused the snow pack to melt 45 to 48 days earlier than normal. Areas that haven’t been disturbed by human activities release very little dust, Painter said. “This has huge impacts on hydrology and snow cover,” Painter said, explaining that water managers have to account for changes in runoff as they plan the operation of reservoirs and diversions.

More climate change coverage here and here.

CWCB: Governor Ritter nominates April Montgomery for board position

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Governor Ritter has nominated Southwest Water Conservation District Board member April Montgomery to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. She will take over for Bruce Whitehead who is is exiting to the state senate. Here’s a report from Ben Fornell writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

“It’s a very interesting group of representatives from across the state that sit on the board. I think this is the first time they’ve had a representative from the San Miguel Basin,” Montgomery said. “Maybe what I have to give to the process is I think, it sounds so trite to say, but I bring a balanced perspective. I’m very interested in rivers for their importance to the environment and recreation, as well as the fact that I understand that we’re dealing with municipal shortages and the needs of agriculture.”

Montgomery has been working with water issues in southwest Colorado for more than six years. In 2003, she was named to the Southwest Water Conservation District Board, which oversees nine water basins including the San Miguel. She was also appointed by the San Miguel County Commissioners to serve on the Southwest Basin Roundtable.

Montgomery said she sees water conservation as one of the most important issues Colorado faces in upcoming years.

“We have, in the past, been pretty isolated from water shortages,” Montgomery said. Places like Denver and Aurora are facing tremendous challenges, their consumption threatening to outpace their supply as the population there grows.

More CWCB coverage here.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners approve final permit

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From The Mountain Mail (Jennifer Deneven):

Resolutions had been tabled at the Aug. 19 meeting at which commissioners approved the project, pending county staff developing appropriate language. Commissioners also approved the Chaffee County cost reimbursement fund, into which Nestlé will make payments from which the county can draw to offset costs related to the project. A portion of the project related to an easement along CR 301 was tabled pending commissioners receiving appraisal information. The easement will be included on a regular business agenda for commissioners…

[Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability board member Lee Hart] mentioned 20 standards not met by Nestlé’s initial application and questioned whether county-imposed conditions would ensure Nestlé’s compliance since they use the word “should” instead of “will.” Commissioners charged us with being the watchdogs-we’ll show them what a watchdog is like,” she said.

Here’s Lee Hart’s report from the Salida Citizen. From the article:

Of the dozen or fewer people who testified in favor of Nestle over the course of its public review, almost without exception, all stood to enjoy direct financial benefit from approval of the project. I hope these good, hard-working folks and neighbors understand that the opposition to Nestle was never about them. Like any private property owner in this country, the ranchers can sell their land to whoever they believe gives them a fair price for it. What happens after the sale is no longer the seller’s responsibility. However, when the new landowner proposes to change the existing uses on the land, in particular in this case when the property is deemed to be “an area of state interest,” then the matter must be considered by elected officials during a public process in which the public has a chance to air their concerns about how that new land use designation may impact them, for better or worse.

Over nine months of public hearings, hundreds of citizens passionately voiced their unambiguous opposition to Nestle. This, in the face of a hearing format that seemed biased in favor of giving Nestle every courtesy and consideration while on more than a few occasions showing visible irritation at testimony by local residents. In packed meeting rooms in Buena Vista and Salida, taxpaying voters waited patiently through inhumanely long meetings for their turn to speak out. The commissioners allowed Nestle to run beyond their allotted agenda time by – on some nights – hours, yet when citizens went a few seconds over their 3-minute allotment of time at the microphone, Commission Chair Holman threatened to forcibly remove the speakers. The bias was apparent again today when in the waning moments before they unanimously agreed to approve Nestle, the commissioners haggled over language pertaining to a Nestle-funded community endowment. In refusing the quantify – at all – Nestle’s annual programmatic contributions to the fund, the commissioners left it to Nestle – rather than the community – to define the dollar amount of philanthropic giving that constitutes being a “good neighbor.”

Face to face with a cadre of Nestle lawyers and high-priced experts, campaign promises by Giese and Holman, made less than a year ago, melted away as quickly as butter in August. Holman pledged that on his watch, no more water would leave this valley. How then could he sign a resolution permitting 65 million gallons to be sucked and trucked beyond county lines? Giese famously said that green is the color of the future of this valley. How could Giese possibly interpret as good for green all the warnings thrown up by the county’s own consultants and referral agencies warning that Nestle could have negative impacts to surface water quantity and quality, groundwater quantity, air quality, wetlands and the plants and critters that depend on the riparian habitat.

Public opposition to Nestle boiled down to several key themes: Incontrovertible evidence prior to their arrival in Chaffee County and even during the public hearing process made it hard to believe Nestle could, without very specific legally binding stipulations, be the “good neighbor” they purport to be; the intentionally weak and sugar-coated science Nestle presented during its testimony belies lurking danger to surface and groundwater resources as well as riparian habitat that is bad for the longterm sustainability of the environment, as well as future economic development prospects for the valley. Even the county knows this as implied in the Special Land Use Permit where the county writes “Future development outside the subject parcels may impact the quality or quantity of spring water related to the Project.” It would be naive to think Nestle won’t assign some of its vast resources to block any future housing or commercial development upgradient of its Bighorn and Ruby Mountain springs. It’s hard to imagine any small developer or business person being able to prevail against a fight waged by the world’s largest food and beverage maker.

More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.

Greeley: James Maxwell Clark and the Union Colony

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Here’s a look at James Maxwell Clark and the Union Colony, from Caroline Black writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

From 1872-1875, the economy of Greeley was hurting as farmers battled harsh winter storms, drought and grasshoppers. They attempted to learn new forms of crop cultivation that were in contrast with what they had experienced in the humid areas of the eastern United States. Like his neighbors, Clark found farming a terrible struggle, leading him to name his farm “Poverty Flats.”

During Clark’s study of irrigation he became a major contributor to the theory and practice of irrigation in the Greeley area, and the door of prosperity began to open for area farmers. He and [Abner Baker], who later founded Fort Morgan, helped construct ditches between Fort Morgan and Brush, and Clark became director of the No. 2 canal that travels south of Timnath through to north of Greeley, and the Upper and Lower Platte and Beaver Canals near Fort Morgan. He also assisted James P. Maxwell, first Colorado State engineer, in devising plans to measure water for irrigation use among area farmers.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Surface Creek Watershed: Source water protection plan

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

The Orchard City Town Board gave the go-ahead for its administration to apply for up to $5,000 in grant money to cover the costs of its participation in developing a “source water protection plan” for the town’s drinking water supplies. The town will be cooperating with other drinking water suppliers and interested groups in the Surface Creek Valley on the area-wide plan…

Trustee Jimmie Boyd who attended the first organization meeting of the group earlier this month explained that Forest Service facilities like gravel pits and septic systems pose the biggest concern as point source contaminants of drinking water supplies on the Grand Mesa. “This is essentially going to be a plan, or an inventory resource of what is up on the side of Grand Mesa that could involve our water sources,” Boyd explained. “There are no teeth in it that force us to do anything, but it could provide some possible advantages for grants or loans for the town.”[…]

The second planning meeting of the entities participating in the project is scheduled to take place in Cedaredge on Monday, Sept. 21, at 6 p.m. at the Community Center.

More Surface Creek watershed coverage here.

Ridgway council okays water and sewer rate hike (first reading)

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From The Telluride Watch (Gus Jarvis):

The Ridgway Town Council on Wednesday, Sept. 9 passed the first reading of an ordinance that raises both water and sewer rates over a three-year period in order to get the two operations financially sustainable. Sewer rates for users within town are currently $18 per month. That amount will increase to $25 on Jan. 1, 2010, and then increase by $5 for the next two years, making the monthly rate $35 by 2012.

For single-family homes, the ordinance will raise the current water rate of $22 a month to $27 in January. It will then increase in $5 increments, making the rate $32 in 2011 and $37 by 2012…

While the town needs to bring the two utility enterprises into the black, making them sustainable will also allow the town to pursue funding for its failing waterline infrastructure. Currently, town staff is pursuing outside funding from the Department of Local Affairs and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the town-wide replacement of the polybutylene water lines. The submittal requirements for the ARRA funding include proof by the town that the utility enterprise is sustaining itself from a revenue standpoint and will continue to do so to adequately absorb the debt service (0 percent) financing. The approved first reading of the ordinance, is, according to Clifton, “hopeful proof that the town’s utility will have sufficient revenues through time to cover these [financial] costs” in order to get the ARRA loans.

The rate-raising ordinance could go before council for final approval at its Oct. 14 meeting.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Arkansas River: Lower valley irrigation rules move ahead

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Board, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Board Wednesday unanimously voted to continue developing its compliance plan, refine estimates about costs to participating farmers and pursue the remainder of state funds set aside to ease the impact of the rules on farmers. “There have been substantial changes in the rules to reduce the impacts and costs to farmers,” attorney Peter Nichols told the Lower Ark board. Some of those changes have included the removal of on-farm improvements for things like pipe, ditch lining, furrowing techniques or fertilizers and adding new ways to comply with the rules…

The district also has used about $100,000 of $250,000 in available state funds so far to develop a compliance plan under Rule 10 of the state’s proposal. The board voted to apply for the remaining $150,000 to refine its plan and identify specific sources for replacement water…

The engineers developed two plans for compliance, depending on whether return flows come back to the Arkansas River above and below John Martin Reservoir. River conditions and presumed consumptive use differ depending on the location, Ten Eyck explained. The plans use refined models based on state data to determine the average amount of water a farmer would owe the river. Fees would be based both on the cost of running the program and the size of deficit or credit generated by each farm under the models…

The Lower Ark district would provide replacement water to the state to make up the deficits to the river. Water would be obtained from a variety of sources, and enough kept in storage to cover maximum projected deficits each year…

Farmers, in recent meetings with the Lower Ark district and with the state committee looking at the rules, say they are still not happy with the concept that led to the rules. “We have a philosophical difference,” Fred Heckman, a Fort Lyon Canal farmer near McClave, told the Lower Ark board Wednesday. He explained farmers look at it as an economic question, while the state is concerned with the volume of water. The model being used by the state probably underestimates consumptive use on the Fort Lyon in particular and overestimates the efficiency of sprinklers operated from ponds, Heckman said. The state has adjusted the model, just this week adding seepage from ponds as a factor, and will continue to adjust it as better numbers emerge, State Engineer Dick Wolfe said Monday. Even with the current numbers, the damage to the river, estimated to be about 1,000 acre-feet annually from 120 sprinklers installed so far, is statistically insignificant, Heckman said. At the same time, farmers can’t afford the costs of providing annual engineering reports for each system, another option under the state rules, so most would probably sign on with the Lower Ark plans, Heckman said.

More coverage of the proposed new rules, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“You do not have consensus on filing these rules the way they are,” said Dan Henrichs, speaking for the Arkansas Valley Ditch Association.

“We fully recognize that,” replied State Engineer Dick Wolfe. “We never thought we would get 100-percent consensus. We think we’ve got a large majority of those who recognize the benefit and need for these.”[…]

Water rights decrees specify an amount of water and area of land to be irrigated and sprinkler systems cover the same area as flood irrigation, Henrichs said. “The method of irrigation does not increase consumptive use,” he said. State models claim it does, however, and in particular along water-short ditches like the Fort Lyon Canal.

The rules incorporate a variety of strategies to deal with perceived or measured depletions of return flows to the Arkansas River from improvements to farms or canal systems since 1999. They cover only surface irrigation improvements – not wells – in the Arkansas Valley with the intention of preventing future shortfalls in deliveries to Kansas at the state line.

More Arkansas Valley ag efficiency coverage here.

Male bass in Colorado River system showing feminine sex traits

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

This gender-bending was most common in the southeastern U.S. as well as in western Colorado, in the Yampa River, where 70 percent of male bass had eggs developing alongside their testicular organs, the U.S. Geological Survey study found. The causes aren’t clear, scientists said in the report in Aquatic Toxicology. Nor could they say whether “intersex” fish could reproduce.

But the extent of the intersex fish was startling, said Jo Ellen Hinck, the USGS biologist who led the project. “When we see 70 percent, we don’t think that’s normal,” Hinck said, referring to a sampling along the Yampa about 18 miles west of Craig.

The researchers studied 16 species, collecting data from 1995 through 2004 (funding was cut in 2006), and documented intersex characteristics in three other species, including catfish. Researchers with microscopes examined about 1,500 fish in nine river basins: the Apalachicola, Colorado, Columbia, Mobile, Mississippi, Pee Dee, Rio Grande, Savannah and Yukon. Only in the Yukon Basin in Alaska did researchers find exclusively male males. The intersex condition was most common in bass, with about a third of male smallmouth bass and a fifth of male largemouth bass showing eggs growing alongside testicular organs…

USGS scientists now must verify, using museum samples, whether intersex bass occur naturally, said David Norris, a University of Colorado professor of integrated physiology who has documented fish- gender distortions in Boulder Creek, Fountain Creek and the South Platte River. If not, “we’ve got a concern,” Norris said. “At these incredibly low levels of contamination, we’re starting to produce reproductive effects in animal populations…

Federal wildlife officials along the Yampa will consider possible sources of pollutants, said Tom Chart, director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “If we’re having these endocrine disrupters showing up in bass, it’s very likely they’re affecting native and endangered fish as well,” Chart said. “This is out of the natural balance.”

More water pollution coverage here and here.

South Platte Forum

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From The Fence Post:

The 20th South Platte Forum will be Oct. 21-22 at the Radisson Conference Center in Longmont. Registration by Oct. 1 is $100; after that date it is $115. Registrations should be sent to the South Platte Water Forum, c/o Northern Colorado Water, 220 Water Ave., Berthoud, CO 80513.

This year’s Friend of the South Platte Award will go to Nolan Doesken, Colorado State Climatologist. Keynote presentations will be given by Chips Berry, manager of Denver Water, and Don Marositica, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

For more information, contact Jennifer Brown at (402) 960-3670.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Aspinall unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users will be making a 100 cfs cut in their tunnel diversions today which will effectively increase the flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge to just over 800 cfs. The Colorado Division of Wildlife will be on the river next week for their annual fish sampling/inventory so we’ll try to maintain stable flows during that time period. Following next week’s inventory, Crystal releases will be reduced as tunnel demands gradually subside.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.

Colorado River District: ‘Dust in the Wind and Other Winds of Change’ seminar recap

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

…the U.S. Department of the Interior is conducting a water-supply and demand study of the basin from Wyoming and Colorado to California, an Interior Department official said Friday at the Colorado River District’s water seminar. The exact form of the study will be shaped by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and a variety of stakeholders from around the basin, said Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science. “We all know that every drop of the Colorado River is allocated,” Castle said. That makes it all the more important to put the water in the river to the best use as the population of people dependent on it grows and the amount of water it carries shrinks as a result of drought and climate change…

Castle, who lived for a time in the 1970s on Orchard Mesa, most recently was a partner in the Denver law firm of Holland & Hart. In her new position, she oversees Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Gunnison Tunnel 100th year celebration

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Morph your Aspen viewing this weekend into a trip over to Montrose for the shindig. Here’s a report from Nancy Lofholm writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The 6-mile-long Gunnison Tunnel — invisible and sometimes forgotten by today’s residents — was built to bring water from the Gunnison River to the fertile but mostly arid Uncompahgre Valley. It turned farmland that had inadequate water into one of the state’s prime agriculture areas…

The tunnel will get its due during a monumental birthday bash. Saturday, bells will clang from Montrose to Delta in an echo of the bells that pealed across the valley when the first water came rushing through the tunnel and filling a canal system on Sep. 23, 1909. There will be a parade, fireworks, games, picnics and a re-enactment of President William Howard Taft “speechifying” and pressing the golden button that opened the tunnel. “It’s a tremendously impressive project,” said Western State College history professor Duane Vandenbusche, who has included two chapters about the tunnel in a newly published book about the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Denver Water: Demand down, construction costs also drop

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From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

Revenues for 2009 are projected to be down 15 percent to $190 million, according to Denver Water finance director David LaFrance. But the weak economy has also led to lower costs to borrow money and a drop in construction costs as building-material costs sag and contractors cut their bids by as much as 75 percent just to get work…It is difficult to tell how much of the revenue drop is the result of the recession and how much is from the wet summer that cut the need to water lawns, LaFrance said.

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Meanwhile revenues are way down for Aurora as well. Here’s a report from Adam Goldstein writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

But even with a resulting loss of revenues estimated between $8 million and $12 million, Aurora Water representatives say that the department has been able to absorb the losses, partly through savings in funds set aside for short-term water leases. “We had one advantage in our budget this year. Right after the drought in 2003, we put money in our budget for short-term water leases. If we had dry weather, we could simply lease water from farmers,” said Greg Baker, Aurora Water spokesman. “This year, we still had that money in our budget.”[…]

The city manager’s proposed budget for 2010, which he will present to the Aurora City Council later this week, proposes a budget of about $140,474,300 for the city’s water and wastewater/stormwater enterprise funds. This represents a slight increase over the budget for 2009, which was about $140,457,639. Baker added that proposed budget for 2010 will include two specific impacts on Aurora Water’s fees. In addition to a 6-percent increase in the city’s sewer rates, the department will also implement the second part of a two-tiered water rate increase originally approved in 2008. In 2010, Aurorans will see an increase of 7.5 percent in their water bills, a spike that follows the 8-percent increase implemented at the beginning of 2009. Both of these rate increases will help fund the Prairie Waters Project, the city’s new, $700-million water system set to come online in 2010.

More Denver Water coverage here. More Prairie Waters coverage here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works clears the way for Bessemer Ditch share buy

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The two resolutions clear up the relationship of the new debt to past and future obligations and give the board’s representatives flexibility in issuing the bonds next month. The board will issue up to $27 million in bonds for up to 5.5 percent interest, depending on several factors still undecided. The actual amount of the bonds is expected to be closer to $23 million at 4 percent interest when the bonds are issued on Oct. 22…

The board also is waiting to learn what portion of the bonds will be issued as Build America Bonds, part of the federal stimulus package, which could also reduce the financial impact and what level of bond insurance is needed. Market conditions also have to be taken into account.

More PBOWW coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District: Colorado Springs city council approves funding IGA

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The agreement will use $100,000 each from Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to provide staff and administrative support to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, formed in July by the state Legislature. The district has authority over land-use issues in the Fountain Creek flood plain between Fountain and Pueblo, and its board membership is evenly split between El Paso County and downstream interests. The agreement also provides $200,000 each from Colorado Springs and the Lower Ark to continue the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan, started under a similar IGA in 2007. Colorado Springs Council unanimously approved the agreement as a consent item after hearing a presentation last week while sitting as the Utility Board. The Lower Ark and Fountain Creek boards have already approved the agreement.

Pueblo County commissioners are expected to make a decision next week on whether the $300,000 contribution by Colorado Springs can be applied to the $50 million Colorado Springs has pledged to the district as a condition of a 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs also will pay $300,000 toward the study of a dam or dams to provide flood control on Fountain Creek in the next three years. The first payment has been made.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Denver Water and Winter Park Resort to pony up $110,000 for cloud-seeding

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

[Winter Park] and Denver Water are sharing the $110,000 cost of the project, which will take place in locations within 35 miles of the ski area. Denver Water last partook in cloud seeding over Winter Park in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. The project is slated to take place during the months of November, December and January, according to Steve Schmitzer, manager of water resource analysis for Denver Water.

Meanwhile, a supporting $60,000 cloud-seeding project will take place from November through March in the same area coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and water users from the lower Colorado River basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada…

About 10 Winter Park-Denver Water financed generators will be located on mostly private properties, and will be turned on and off depending on weather conditions and the presence of moisture-producing clouds. The two other generators will be located in higher areas and managed remotely by computer. The project involves a meteorologist who will determine appropriate times for cloud seeding. The quantities of iodide present in runoff due to cloud seeding equates to less iodine that what is found in salt on food, according to report on cloud seeding during the 2008 Arizona Weather Modification Conference. There is also more silver exposure found in tooth fillings, and there have been no human effects from cloud seeding found in 40 years of research, the report reads.

More cloud seeding coverage here and here.

State crackdown on well augmentation plan is squeezing Deer Mountain Ranch homeowners

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

The developers who subdivided the ranch were required to replace every drop that would be taken out of the Oil Creek watershed by the homes in the subdivision, since downstream ranchers, farmers and others have senior water rights. The plan the developers submitted to water court in the mid-1970s said they would build a pipeline from two wells they owned to bring water into Oil Creek below the subdivision, which flows into Four Mile Creek and the Arkansas River. “The pipeline apparently never was built, but the development did proceed. So there have been wells constructed that are withdrawing water contrary to the court-approved plan, or at least not in accordance with the court-approved plan,” said Steve Witte, division engineer in Pueblo for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. When lot buyers filed for well applications with the division, its staff checked to make sure there was a water augmentation plan, but nobody confirmed the plan was being followed, which was common practice, Witte said. Said Witte, “I think the folks that reviewed the well permit applications in our Denver office accepted on faith that the court-approved plan was being adhered to. They didn’t follow up to verify.”

More groundwater coverage here.