Great Outdoors Colorado and the San Luis Valley

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

During the 15-year history of one of the recipients of lottery ticket sales, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the Valley has received $28 million for a variety of projects ranging from Creede Recreation Park on one end of the Valley to Costilla County open space on the other…

Saguache County’s share of GOCO funds during that time tops the Valley list at more than $8 million followed by more than $5 million each in Alamosa and Rio Grande Counties, $1.3 million in Costilla County, more than $400,000 in Conejos County and nearly $230,000 in Mineral County.

Projects have included: Hooper Park; Zapata Falls; South Side Community Park in Alamosa; King Ranch Preservation Project; Twin Lakes Trail; Manassa Fairgrounds; Antonito Public Park; Sanford Park; Romeo Sports Complex; Will Stegar Project in Costilla County; Sierra Grande Playground Project; El Parque-A Village Park in San Luis; Fort Garland Community Park; Costilla Open Space; Creede Recreation Park; Wright Ranch Preservation Project; Creede Skate Park; Wolf Creek Pass Project; River Valley Ranch; McNeil Ranch; Del Norte Area Trails Master Plan; Natural Wonders of the San Luis Valley Play Park in Monte Vista; South Fork Rio Grande Park; Native Aquatic Species Facility; Saguache County Closed Basin Biological Inventory; Crestone Peak Trail; Irby Ranch; and Center Park.

Some projects such as the Hooper Town Park received less than $10,000 while others like the Costilla County Open Space project topped half a million.

More conservation coverage here.

Steamboat Springs: Five-party water rights exchange may net city 2,000 acre-feet of storage in Steamboat Lake

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Brandon Gee):

Steamboat attorney and re gional water guru Tom Sharp has proposed a five-party water rights exchange that could prove to be a lower-cost alternative to solving some of the region’s water priorities.

If realized, one end result is that the city of Steamboat Springs would receive as much as 2,000 acre-feet of storage rights in Steamboat Lake to augment its 8 cubic feet per second flow in the Elk River. That would save the city the cost and difficulty of building its own new reservoir on the Elk. Augmentation of the city’s Elk River water right is necessary for the city to bring the water into the municipal water system, which is necessary for development in western Steamboat and the city’s goal of reducing its near sole reliance on the Fish Creek watershed.

Sharp said the city’s 1999 Elk River water right could be curtailed during low flows because the Colorado Water Conservation Board holds a 1977 in-stream flow right on the river. If flows in the Elk drop below 65 cfs, junior rights such as the city’s would be shut off — unless water could be released from a reservoir to augment flows…

City officials confirmed they are interested in the concept but said they will have to weigh it against all available alternatives. Public Works Director Philo Shelton said the cost estimate for a new 1,500-acre-foot reservoir is $12.5 million. Shelton said the city has not identified a location for such a reservoir, but he said it would be upstream of the city’s diversion point on the Elk River at Routt County Road 44…

The exchange involves the city, Xcel Energy, Tri-State Gen eration and Transmission, Col orado River Water Con serva tion District and Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District. Water rights would be shuffled between Elkhead Reservoir near Craig, Steamboat Lake in North Routt County and Stagecoach Reservoir in South Routt County…

Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for Colorado River Water Con servation District, said the district is interested in the proposal but needs to consider several issues and take the idea to its board of directors. The river district owns the rights in Elkhead Reservoir that would be leased to Tri-State.

Also through the complex exchange, Xcel Energy’s contract storage rights in Steamboat Lake would move to Stagecoach Reservoir, and the Upper Yam pa Water Conservancy Dis trict would receive the rights in Steamboat Lake that could be contracted to the city. Sharp said he thinks the exchange provides advantages to all five parties, but he also acknowledges there are several challenges to it including money and contract terms.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

Chris Haga: ‘At 100 feet, we broke through a clay layer and found a pristine supply of water. It was an awesome day’

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From The Pueblog Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The [Round Mountain Water District] reported it has completed a plan to build a well to increase the reliability of its water supply at the monthly meeting of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. The roundtable supported the district’s $120,000 grant from the Water Supply Reserve Account in 2007, part of a $1 million project to improve the water system that serves Silver Cliff and Westcliffe…

“The Gallery Well project has been completed,” Chris Haga, a member of both the district board and the roundtable. “The purpose of the project was to bring a new source of water into the district.” Haga reviewed the project’s history in a slide presentation with the district’s manager, Tracey Garcia, and fellow board member Jerry Lacy. “Prior to the project, we were struggling to bring water into our system at peak times,” Garcia told the roundtable.

The new well includes a wireless control system that allows it to be operated remotely from the district’s office. “It’s phenomenal what it can do,” Haga said…

The Gallery Well was the final step in providing a reliable water supply. “At 100 feet, we broke through a clay layer and found a pristine supply of water. It was an awesome day,” Haga told the roundtable.

More Custer County coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: State engineer plans to file proposed irrigation rules in Division 2 Water Court by the end of the month

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

At the end of the month, the state plans to file new rules in Division 2 Water Court that would cover improvements like sprinklers and drip irrigation systems fed by surface sources, rather than wells. Canal improvements, such as concrete lining or pipelines, are also covered, but on-farm improvements have been exempted during a process set up last year by State Engineer Dick Wolfe.

A committee made up of affected farmers, lawyers and governmental agencies involved in chipping the rough edges off rules first proposed in 2007 will have its final meeting in Pueblo on Sept. 21. “I think we’ve done a great job,” Wolfe said. “The whole idea was to get a consensus on a draft set of rules. The committee has worked through a lot of issues and we’ve made substantial changes along the way.”

More Arkansas Valley consumptive rule rules coverage here and here.

H.R.3123, Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Remediation Act of 2009

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From the Colorado Independent (Katie Redding):

A U.S. House bill ordering the Bureau of Reclamation to pump and clean the contaminated water in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel was voted down Tuesday, largely by Democrats, including two from Colorado, in what observers suggest looked like clear political gamesmanship.

H.R. 3123 coverage here.

Guy Laliberte to deliver message about water from space station

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From The Associated Press via The Denver Post:

Guy Laliberte, the Canadian billionaire founder of the Cirque du Soleil, said Thursday he aims to read a statement to the world about the planet’s water problems after taking a Russian rocket to the space station…

He said his reading from space will be part of several shows in 14 cities around the world beginning Oct. 9. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, pop singer Peter Gabriel and Irish rockers U2 have said they are participating in the event.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability meeting September 16

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From the Ark Valley Voice:

Hello Friends, CCFS has scheduled a meeting to discuss the status of the Nestle Waters project. The date is Wednesday September 16, 7pm at the Salida Community Center (3rd & G St.) At this meeting we will present some background, talk about the current standing of the permit application, discuss the permit resolution, and explore some of the options that the public has to resist the project. If you can be present we encourage and invite your participation.

More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.

Iliff: Colorado State University to hold Limited Irrigation Field Day September 22

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From The Holyoke Enterprise:

Colorado State University (CSU) is hosting a Limited Irrigation Field Day Tuesday, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. to noon one mile east of Iliff. This field day is open to all interested in learning more about practical research information regarding farming with limited irrigation resources. The research is sponsored by CSU and Parker Water and Sanitation District. The Lower South Platte Irrigation Research and Demonstration Project is now in its third year of study…

The program includes field plot tours with researchers showing their work on limited water cropping systems. Annual field crops shown in the research include corn, surgarbeet, canola, wheat and soybean. Two perennial crops are being studied as well: alfalfa and 15 grass species and varieties. A talk is included on the CSU weather station and public access to current data.

More conservation coverage here.

Sterling: Lower South Platte water quality meeting

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From the Sterling Journal-Advocate:

The meeting is open to the public and is scheduled for Sept. 16, 2009, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Gary DeSoto Community Center, 1120 Pawnee Ave., in Sterling. Landowners, agencies, organizations, businesses and residents are invited to discuss water quality concerns and priorities for managing natural and agricultural resources in the Lower South Platte basin.

State Representative Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling has been invited to speak on the importance of water quality to the economic viability of the entire watershed. Dick Parchini, Watershed Program Manager, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division and Cindy Lair, Colorado State Conservation Board Program Manager, will also be in attendance. “This is the second of several public input meetings to be held in different locations in the Lower South Platte Watershed over the next four months as we work to develop and write the Lower South Platte Watershed Plan,” stated Mark Cronquist, Conservation Specialist with the Colorado State Conservation Board and the Colorado Department of Agriculture…

The goal of this planning process, scheduled for completion in November 2010 with the publication of the Lower South Platte Watershed Plan, is to empower a group of landowners, managers, conservation professionals and residents to implement and oversee the plan in their watershed and review the plan on a regular basis to determine if changes are needed to keep the plan functional.

More South Platte Basin coverage here and here.

Blue Mesa Reservoir: Fall schedule for invasive mussel inspections

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From the Delta County Independent:

Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramp hours will be 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. beginning Sept. 8. Both entrance and exit inspections at Elk Creek will be done at the Elk Creek Marina, rather than the campground entrance. Vessels that have been slipped or on the water for more than 24 hours must go through a high risk inspection and possibly decontamination. No motorized or trailered vessel launching or retrieval is allowed outside of Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramps, only hand launched watercraft may launch outside of these locations and their trailers may not enter the water…

Due to nighttime temperatures below freezing and the potential for water lines and portable decontamination units to freeze, boat decontamination may not be available at Lake Fork. Boats requiring decontamination will be sent to Elk Creek. The best way to assure that your boat does not require decontamination is for it to be clean, drained and dried of any standing water upon arrival at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Due to freezing fall temperatures and the likelihood that our large decontamination unit will have to close, the proper decontamination may not be available to vessels coming in with attached adult mussels. Those vessels may be denied access to the lake until they obtain decontamination at another facility.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Harris Sherman tapped by President Obama to lead U.S. Forest Service

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From the Grand Junction Free Press:

President Barack Obama chose a Colorado natural resources official Thursday to be the new agriculture undersecretary in charge of the U.S. Forest Service. Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, will be nominated for the federal post, which requires Senate confirmation, Obama said.Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, will be nominated for the federal post, which requires Senate confirmation, Obama said.

Here’s an editorial about the appointment from The Durango Herald:

That job is important to Colorado in that the person holding it oversees this country’s national forests. And with former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar now secretary of the Interior, and therefore in charge of the Bureau of Land Management, all of this state’s federal lands will be supervised by native sons.

Sherman has an extensive résumé, all of which is on target for his new job. He has had a long career in Colorado government and now is director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, a position he also held under Gov. Richard Lamm…

Matt Garrington, field director for Environment Colorado – a group whose name pretty well explains where it is coming from – immediately issued a statement describing Sherman in glowing terms. “Harris Sherman,” he wrote, “is a stalwart conservationist and an excellent pick. … Sherman has spent a lifetime working to conserve open spaces, wildlife habitat and Colorado’s precious water resources.”

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Sherman has been one of the most high-profile members of Gov. Bill Ritter’s Cabinet. He led the charge for Ritter’s drive to overhaul the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and he now serves as chairman of that commission. He also leads the Interbasin Compact Committee, a group that is supposed to broker a deal on water resources between the Western and Eastern slopes…

In June, officials with the Wilderness Society and Trout Unlimited went public with their criticism of Sherman and urged Obama not to nominate him. “We haven’t agreed with him on everything, and certainly Colorado passing its own roadless rule is one of those issues,” said Wilderness Society spokeswoman Suzanne Jones. But Jones pledged her group would work well with Sherman on roadless forests and other issues, including climate change. “We think he will be a good steward,” she said.

By far Sherman’s biggest fight, though, has been with the gas and oil industry. He led the effort to get the Legislature to revamp the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, then steered the commission through a yearlong process to pass environmental rules. The Colorado Petroleum Association fought Sherman almost every step of the way, but on Thursday, its president had only kind words. “We always had a good relationship with Harris,” said Stan Dempsey. “He’s certainly well-qualified, and I’m sure he’ll serve the administration well.”

Sherman served as director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources in the 1970s under Gov. Richard Lamm. Between then and his appointment by Ritter, he was a partner at the Denver law firm Arnold & Porter, specializing in natural resources…

[Secretary of Interior Ken] Salazar sent his endorsement in a news release Thursday. “In the many years I have worked with Harris Sherman, I have known him to be a top-notch public servant, a champion for Colorado’s land, water and wildlife, and a problem-solver,” Salazar said. “President Obama and Secretary Vilsack have made a terrific choice in nominating him to serve our country as under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.”

More coverage from The Denver Post (John Ingold and Bruce Finley):

As undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Sherman would oversee the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This would put him in charge of vast swaths of land in the West as well as some significant conservation programs…

With former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar as secretary of the Interior Department and former Colorado U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland as Interior’s assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Sherman’s confirmation would put Coloradans in charge of roughly 700 million acres of federal land, or nearly 30 percent of the land area in the United States…

Meanwhile, pine beetle battlers said they are hopeful Sherman — the co-chairman of the state’s Forest Health Advisory Council — will draw greater attention to the problem in Washington. “He gets it,” said state Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Summit County. “He’s not someone who’s coming from an area where he needs a lot of education on it. He’s been working on these problems for a number of years.”

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Others in the environmental community felt Sherman’s direction of the Department of Natural Resources during the state’s push for its own roadless rule would hurt his chances. The Colorado Roadless Rule, crafted by the state to manage more than 4 million acres of the state’s largely undeveloped public lands, has been moved steadily forward by Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration despite conservationist’s concerns that it allows far too many road-building exceptions for power and water infrastructure, logging, ski area expansion and oil and gas development.

In fact, a group of Colorado environmental groups is launching the “Don’t Sell Colorado Short” Roadless Road Show at the Alliance Center in lower downtown Denver Friday, heading to Durango for a formal launch before moving around the state to document and call attention to Coloradan’s support for a more restrictive roadless rule like the one the Clinton administration put in place in 2001. That rule was quickly tossed aside by the Bush administration, but conservationists, for the most part, seek reinstatement of a nationwide rule similar to the Clinton rule.

“We would like to congratulate Mr. Sherman and ask that he promote the long-term conservation of our backcountry hunting and fishing traditions,” said Joel Webster, associate director of campaigns for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Western Lands, “including upholding and defending the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which safeguards our nation’s roadless areas, should he be confirmed as undersecretary.”

Here’s an excerpt from an editorial praising the Sherman pick from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

It is likely to be environmentalists and sportsmen’s groups that raise the greatest ruckus during Sherman’s confirmation hearings for his new job — undersecretary for natural resources and the environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

Sherman has for decades taken a thoughtful, moderate approach to natural resource management in this state. He is an excellent choice for the Department of Agriculture job.

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

As a member of Governor Ritter’s cabinet, Sherman oversees Colorado’s energy, water, wildlife, parks, forestry and state lands programs and serves as chairman of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and co-chairman of the Forest Health Advisory Council. Obama and Vilsack have made restoration, conservation and management of America’s forests and private working lands a priority in order to make them more resilient to climate change and ecologically sustainable for current and future generations, according a statement from the USDA…

Sherman moved the IBCC into thinking about long-range planning, said Jay Winner one of the Arkansas River basin’s representatives on the state board. “I think where Harris Sherman is going will be of great benefit to the state,” said Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “He had the foresight to look at the future of the state 50 years out, and was an inspiration to the IBCC. He got us talking about things that will affect the state for years to come.”[…]

“Sherman’s tenaciousness will make him a strong champion for the environment in the Obama administration. Environment Colorado looks forward to working with him and knows he’ll bring his same conservation ethic to work toward the protection of our forests for years to come,” said Matt Garrington, advocate of Environment Colorado.

More coverage from the Denver Business Journal:

Sherman received a bachelor’s degree from Colorado College and his law degree from Columbia University Law School. As managing and senior partner of the Denver office of law firm Arnold & Porter, his law practice focused on natural resources, environmental, water, public land, real estate, and Indian law.

Silverton: School officials cautiously optimistic about potential for geoexchange project

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From the Silverton Standard & The Miner (Mark Esper):

A huge drill rig from Geo-Energy Services pulled into town last week and was parked on the school playground. On Friday, drilling began. The drillers worked through one hole to 210 feet, said Sue Morris, owner’s representative for the school district’s massive renovation project…

Morris said the goal of the first hole was to drill to 360 feet, but ground conditions prohibited further drilling.
Nonetheless, the drilling hit a constant water source pumping at 5 gallons per minute and approximately 47.5 degrees, Morris said. “These conditions are good for geo-exchange,” she said…

Josh Druege, mechanical engineer for Geo-Energy Services, was on the playground last week as drilling began.
“What we’re anticipating here is finding ground with a temperature of about 45 degrees,” Druege said. “We can still extract heat from that.” He said the process involves using “just a little bit of energy” to boost refrigerants to a level that is extractible to be converted to heat. A system for the school and gym, he suggested, if it is found feasible, might involve 60 loops of small tubes each moving three or four gallons of refrigerant per minute deep below the playground.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Coal Creek Watershed coalition awarded two grants

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From The Crested Butte News:

he Coal Creek Watershed Coalition (CCWC) recently received $33,006 from two sources to further their work within the Coal Creek Watershed. The Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund awarded $10,756 to the CCWC to fund four programs. A portion of the funding will be used to complete the data analysis and interpretation of a tracer study. The study will characterize groundwater interactions with surface water during spring conditions. The funds will also be used to help provide support for a storm water study being conducted in 2009. The remaining funds will be used to attend conferences and workshops and will also provide funding for a third year of VISTA member support for the organization.

The CCWC was also awarded $22,250 by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to complete a riparian assessment in the watershed. The goal of the assessment is to assess the health of riparian (river) corridors within the watershed to develop prioritized list of areas most suitable for future restoration efforts. Ultimately healthy riparian areas contribute to the overall health of stream systems, provide habitat for a variety of organisms, function in the maintenance of a normal hydrologic regime and are aesthetically pleasing; among other values.

More Gunnison Basin coverage here.

Prowers County tamarisk efforts

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Prowers County is taking to the air to fight tamarisk, according to a report in The Lamar Ledger (Aaron Burnett). From the article:

[Prowers County Commissioner Henry Schnabel] said the county has concentrated its efforts in the area from Holly to the state line in hopes of clearing out the river channel and lessening the possibility that high water levels could result in flooding in and around Holly. “With the different entities coming together in a cooperative effort, it just shows what can be done when you have that cooperation among all the people to really get out there and get something done,” said Schnabel.

The area being sprayed through the project include sections along the Arkansas River as well as upland tributaries and runoffs. “We feel that if can control those tamarisk in those upland situations and get them killed, they shouldn’t be coming back,” said Michael Daskam, NRCS agent in the Holly office. Daskam said the water saved by removing tamarack and revegetating with native plant species is approximately 70,000 acre feet a year in the river. “That’s like John Martin (Reservoir) in a good year, and that’s the net savings each year.” Daskam said there are several benefits to removing tamarisk from the area. “There’s these water conservation benefits that we talked about, there’s flood hazard mitigation benefits, there’s wildlife benefits as well because tamarack don’t provide much of any kind of habitat for our native species. If we can get the native species to come back, then we’ll have a lot more valuable wildlife habitat.”

Following the completion of aerial spraying, ground spraying will be conducted in areas too tight for aerial spraying. It takes three years from the time of the chemical application for the tamarisk to be completely killed, at which point it can then be manually removed.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.