Sterling: Public meeting for fall ballot issues includes new water treatment plant

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From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Forrest Hershberger):

The city of Sterling has a question on the ballot that asks voters for permission to go into debt for as much as $29 million. The reason for the question is the city is faced with constructing a new water purification system, or facing the possibility of daily fines and loss of federal funding in the area. The fines and loss of funding would be a result of the city’s water supply system being declared non-compliant by the state health department and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“There’s a $2,000 per day fine for non-compliance,” Kiolbasa said. He stressed that this need to build a water treatment plant is not because the city’s water is getting worse, but because allowable standards as determined by the EPA have changed. The chemicals of concern are uranium, a natural erosion byproduct, and trihalomethanes, a result of water purification. Additionally, new health regulations say that any well deemed to be under the influence of surface water must be purified. The health department determined that the city has wells directly under surface water influence.

The unranium drawn from the city water supply will offer a problem of its own. The residue is expected to be concentrated to the point it has to be handled as a hazardous substance. The plan is to dispose of the remaining uranium with deep injection wells. The deep injection wells will be drilled at least 7,000 , well below the average depth for an oil well, Jones said…

Water softness is also a concern that was addressed. The chemical makeup of water is such that requires a proper balance between too soft and too hard. Water that is too soft, 0-2 grains, is considered corrosive and could damage pipes. Kiolbasa said water that is too soft could also be a health issue. The city is focusing on water quality better than what city customers experience now, but harder than the 0-2 soft water range. “We’re talking about a hardness of 7-9 grains. Most people will notice less scaling of the water,” Kiolbasa said. One of the losses in the process, when the new water system is completely online in 2012, is less need for water purification systems.

Many of the residents present in the meeting were concerned about how the increased water rates will affect their home budgets. A flyer distributed to the audience included a chart that shows conventional treatment would increase monthly costs by about $49 per month, and a decrease in cost for the reverse osmosis system of $2 per month if the customer is using an in-home treatment system. Customers who use bottled water, but no in-home treatment system, will see an increase cost under the conventional treatment system of $49 per month, and a $32 decrease under the reverse osmosis proposal. People who chose to use the water as provided, no treatment or bottled water, will experience the largest price increases: $49 per month with conventional treatment and $53 per month for reverse osmosis. The city council is preferring the reverse osmosis process because it has the best chance of staying ahead of changing standards in the future.

More Sterling coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs Utilities hires consultant to direct efforts at opening the south slope of Pikes Peak for recreation uses

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

City Council, sitting as the Colorado Springs Utilities Board, heard a presentation Wednesday on the progress of opening the 15,000-acre scenic area, which is home to several reservoirs. Utilities recently hired a consultant to consider multiple uses in the area, at the direction of an advisory group studying the issue, and a public meeting will be Sept. 29. The consultant, at a cost of $200,000, will help Utilities draw up a comprehensive environmental plan for recreation in the area, which will be presented to the council in the fall of 2010…

A 2007 plan, which stemmed from a 1999 document that provided for opening the watershed, called for building four trails. But now, many forms of recreation are under consideration, including hiking, bird watching, boating, camping, use by commercial outfitters, fishing, climbing, cross-country skiing, show-shoeing, horseback-riding and picnicking.

Utilities opened the North Slope of Pikes Peak, including reservoirs and hiking trails, to recreation in 1992.
The construction season is short because the South Slope is covered by snow eight months a year, so it is unknown when trails would be complete.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Grand junction recognized by American Rivers for river cleanup efforts

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The city at the junction of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers was selected because “of the value it places on healthy rivers as community assets,” the organization said. The report, “Natural Security: How Sustainable Water Strategies are Preparing Communities for Climate Change,” is being released as Congress is dealing with measures to help communities prepare for the floods, droughts and waterborne diseases that come with a changing climate, American Rivers said. “We are at a transformational moment for our nation’s rivers and water infrastructure, and Grand Junction is forging the path to a healthier, more secure future,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. Much of the focus on Grand Junction is due to the Colorado Riverfront Project, which was aimed at cleaning up the riverbanks to allow for recreational and commercial development. The effort also included the cleanup of the old uranium mill and tailings piles near downtown, and moving a salvage yard off the banks.

More climate change coverage here and here.

Yampa River cleanup tomorrow

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Tom Ross):

The semi-annual scavenger hunt known as Yampa River Cleanup Day, from 10 a.m. 2 p.m. Friday, promises to round up the last layer of litter left behind by people recreating on and along the Yampa River during the summer. The Yampa through downtown Steamboat Springs is flowing at its lowest level of the season — 90 cubic feet per second — and low flows expose nearly all of the remaining refuse. Cleanup organizer Peter Van De Carr says to expect the unexpected Friday. “It kind of falls into a couple categories, there’s the stuff that river runners bring along — sunglasses and Coors beer cans, and flip-flops, and there’s industrial stuff like auto parts left from the old Detroit rip-rap (car bodies used in misguided erosion control efforts). We even find gardening tools — rakes and shovels.”

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District: Colorado Springs City Council ponies up some dough

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We now have a united community along Fountain Creek that stands together as we move ahead,” Carol Baker, Colorado Springs Utilities Fountain Creek coordinator, told council. Baker explained how more than $1 million has been directed toward Fountain Creek as part of a two-year effort that resulted from an agreement between Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Another $10 million in funding is on the horizon, but there need to be plans in place to apply for and use the money, Baker said.

Next week, council will vote on extending the agreement, which would add the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District as a partner. Over two years, $200,000 would be provided to the district, while $400,000 would help finish the Fountain Creek Master Corridor Plan. If Pueblo County commissioners agree, the $300,000 share from Colorado Springs would count toward a $50 million payment under the county’s 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs also is obligated to pay an additional $300,000 for dam studies on Fountain Creek, but the bulk of the $50 million would not be paid until after SDS is completed in 2016.

The $100,000 a year for the Fountain Creek District would fund a manager and office expenses, and the offer appears to be the sole source of funding available to the district. While the district was created by the state Legislature, no funding was provided. The district board wants results to show before asking voters for a tax to fund the Fountain Creek district…

The [demonstration project] furthest along are the Clear Springs Ranch project south of Fountain and the Confluence Park in Pueblo. “We’ve already lined up $750,000 worth of work for Clear Springs,” Baker said. That project will look at techniques to improve water quality and reduce erosion and sedimentation while building a fish passage around an 8-foot-high diversion structure. It would also improve public access for wildlife viewing.

About $525,000 has been lined up for the Confluence Park, including a $225,000 grant approved Tuesday by the Colorado Water Conservation Board for a streamside sediment removal system. Another $200,000 is available through federal water quality grants, $80,000.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.