Morgan County source water protection plan drafting committee meeting recap

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Colleen Williams, a source water specialist with the Colorado Rural Water Association, a nonprofit organization that helps water districts and other groups with source water protection plans, presented the group with a draft of a plan for the Morgan County area. Members of the group will review the plan and suggest revisions. A final version of the plan is to be presented at the group’s next meeting Nov. 12 at 1:30 p.m. at the quality water district’s headquarters.

County buy-in to source water protection plans appears likely — Tony Carlson, one of the county commissioners; Barb Gorrell, zoning administrator; and Steve Enfante, emergency management coordinator, have been attending committee meetings. The plan will address a wide range of concerns about the protection of source water and ways of addressing those concerns. Public education looms large as a means of protecting water. In addition to county officials, the Northeast Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the city of Brush, Log Lane Village, the Morgan Conservation District and other entities have been involved in working on the plan.

The group is focusing on three areas — Hay Gulch near the border between Morgan and Weld counties, San Arroyo Creek southwest of Fort Morgan and Beaver Creek south of Brush. There are more than 600 oil and gas wells within the areas, but most of them are abandoned and capped. Regulations now call for oil and gas companies to use liners in water pits when drilling wells. In addition to oil and gas wells, other areas of possible concern to source water quality include transportation (particularly spills from vehicles), growth and development, septic systems, agricultural practices (especially fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides), private water wells, underground water storage, recharge ponds, residential practices and the Clean Harbors hazardous waste storage facility on Highway 36.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Environmental effects catalogued

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Here’s a recap on Thursday night’s meeting of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, from Dennis Webb writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

…the level of disturbance where any development might take place would be significant, said Jeremy Boak, director of the industry-funded Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the Colorado School of Mines. Boak said oil shale development would have less of a region-wide impact on the land than has been seen with local natural gas development. That’s thanks to the world-class richness and unmatched density of the region’s oil shale resource, which has underground concentrations of as much as a million barrels of oil per acre, he said. But where any oil shale development might occur, “you will for a time essentially have scraped off the surface if you’re doing a process like Shell’s,” Boak said…

Boak said the biggest environmental challenge for shale development is water — how much is used and how quality is affected.

More coverage from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson). From the article:

He [Jeremy Boak, head of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the School of Mines] said one company, Red Leaf Resources in Utah, had recently completed tests on a shale-oil extraction process that involved heating up the rock in place, underground, and piping out the kerogen…

He noted that Shell, which is one of the corporate sponsors of his institute, is working on a process involving the stripping away of the surface, followed by the drilling of numerous bore holes to be used to heat the “extraction zone” to a temperature of some 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Other bores are drilled around the extraction zone, to be used to freeze the area around the zone to prevent the oil and other contaminants from flowing into nearby ground water. Once the oil has been extracted, he said, the process calls for the injection of water into the bore-holes that turns to steam and scours out the area once permeated by the kerogen. That water is then to be treated and recycled, he said…

“But it will be pretty disruptive of the surface,” he said of that technology, which would involve in-situ plants that would move from one zone to another, scraping topsoil and drilling holes. He said reclamation would be easily accomplished using the same topsoil that had been removed prior to the process. Boak indicated that some of the new technological processes are said to consume relatively little water, but conceded that studies are needed to determine how much water is available for such uses, and what might be the effects of oil shale extraction on area water supplies and water quality. In addition, he said, there are potential impacts to the general ecology of the area that must be identified, as well as the socio-economic effects on the region’s communities.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Hot Sulphur Springs turning dirt on new treatment plant

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

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, in the amount of $3.3 million to the town, is paying for a new state-of-the art water plant, a new clear well, a second 230-gallon storage tank, a new water intake system and related river restoration work. The existing water plant will be retrofitted to be used as a pre-treatment facility, while the new neighboring plant will boast the latest technology in water filtration. Three of the town’s contracted water engineering consultants — Curt Thompson, Ed Duerr and Geoff Elliott — said the two plants combined will make “cutting-edge” technology…

The new system, said Thompson, water program manager for Merrick & Company engineering of Aurora, should satisfy the needs of Hot Sulphur Springs consumers for the next 15 to 20 years. The town will have the option to add a second membrane to the system in the future which, depending on how much Hot Sulphur Springs grows, would make the system sufficient for the next 40 years…

Low bidder Garney Companies Inc. of Littleton starts work on the new plant and system improvements this week with a completion date set for October 2010. In statements, Garney outlined that it aims to “use local work forces when available, hire local subcontractors and suppliers whenever possible, and contribute to the businesses of the community.”

More water treatment coverage here.

Bayfield: New wastewater plant online and performing well

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It’s been a long time coming but Bayfield’s shiny new treatment plant is online and performing well, according to a report from Carole McWilliams writing for the Pine River Times. From the article:

Bayfield’s new sewage treatment plant has been up and running since mid-September. Town officials are delighted with the quality of effluent it is producing. They hosted a tour and grand opening of the plant on Sept. 24. The treatment system is called a “sequencing batch reactor. Outside in huge concrete tanks are the open lagoons. At any given time, one is still and one is aerating. Sludge settles out in the still pool and is screened into a third pool. From there the sludge is piped into the control building where water is pressed out of the sludge and it is compacted and moved into an outside container to be transported to a landfill. The sludge looks like black dirt, Public Works Director Ron Saba said. With the sludge removed, the treated effluent is passed through an ultraviolet light chamber to kill bacteria before it is discharged into the Pine River.
The effluent is cleaner than the river, Saba proclaimed.

The effluent is cleaner than the river, Saba proclaimed. He led a tour of the control building. The first room is a small lab for testing sewage and treated effluent samples to make sure the plant is operating properly and within state permit limits. The effluent has been testing virtually zero for ammonia and suspended solids, and 2 parts per million on bio-oxygen demand which indicates sewage residue, Saba said. “That’s amazing. The old plant, we would barely make our permit limit.” The first room also has a computer system that shows what the plant is doing in real time. After that is the large noisy room where the sewage comes into the plant. Non-sewage trash is screened out. Then a lift station sends the sewage out and up into the sequencing batch reactor tanks. “Bugs” (specialized bacteria) in the tanks do the treatment work. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe provided “seed” sludge to start the bug colony, Saba said. “We put 25,000 gallons in the first basin, and it started right up. Then the second basin.” The start-up was aided by perfect weather conditions, he added. Seasonal temperature changes won’t affect operation of this system as they did with the old lagoons. Saba and his crew are still determining how much the high tech system will cost to operate, mainly electric use and staff time. So far the staff time is equivalent to one full-time person. It may need someone there seven days a week, eight hours a day, he said. Saba said the last room where the sludge is dried and compacted is one of the most critical and labor intensive. He speculated that the process might have to happen every day, “for sure three or four times a week.” It depends on strength of sewage coming in, not total volume, he said. Someone has to be there overseeing this process. The plant has a large emergency generator to keep it going during a power failure.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Hotchkiss: New treatment plant on schedule

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From the Delta County Independent:

On the Hotchkiss Public Works Director’s wish list is that the new water treatment plant upgrade will be completed and operational by the end of January 2010. Right now, Mike Owens said the department is hard at work completing the exterior of the building while the weather holds. Members of the Hotchkiss Public Works Department stand next to a control skid with the membrane modules they will assemble for the water plant upgrade. From left to right are Chad Lloyd, Don White, Leonard McCulloch and Greg Allen. Lloyd, who is a deputy with the Hotchkiss Marshal’s Office, is working part-time on the installation. They have completed framing the building. The doors are in so the new Pall equipment is secure. Scott Electric is in the process of the electrical installation. Once the exterior is completed the crew will begin plumbing the new equipment, making all the connections to the Pall system.

More water treatment coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Montrose County approves Piñon Ridge Mill 3-0

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the Piñon Ridge Mill, put forth by Energy Fuels Inc. Now, Energy Fuels must collect approval from the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment — a process opponents pledge will be heavily contested. The approval the company collected in Montrose was laden with 19 conditions, meaning the company must address county concerns such how much ore it processes per day. Commissioners also made a condition allowing them to tack on even more conditions in the future, cracking a door for more review.

The 880-acre project site is on private land zoned for agricultural use, not for industrial operations like processing ore, thus meriting a special use permit from Montrose County. The mill has torn an otherwise quiet region in two. Supporters say the revival of the uranium industry can create much-needed jobs in an area short of them and that uranium is the area’s roots — ore pulled from the earth went toward the Manhattan Project and shot life into boom towns like Naturita and now-bust Uravan. Opponents, meanwhile, say that the industry is part of the past and sickened people and the land alike and claim its environmental effects will be too great — from affecting crops to impacting tourism.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Western Resource Advocates pushes needs assessment while southern Wyoming towns help with ‘evaluation’

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Here’s a release from Western Resource Advocates:

At the urging of Western Resource Advocates and others, the US Army Corps of Engineers is requiring proponents of a controversial water pipeline to prove that it is needed. The proposed Million Project, a 560-mile pipeline that would move water from southwestern Wyoming to Colorado’s populous Front Range, is applying for a permit — yet there are no identified customers for the water.

At least six other major water projects that pre-date the Million Project are already in the planning stages. And although the Million Project claims it is needed to meet the Front Range’s future water demands, the proponents of these other projects have shown no indication that they’ll abandon their plans and rely on Million’s proposal instead. Thus, as a mechanism for solving anticipated regional water demands, the Million pipeline proposal is at least a decade too late.

The Million Project is vehemently opposed by residents of Wyoming and is under scrutiny in Colorado. As the largest proposed private water project in Colorado’s history, the Million Project raises concerns about speculation because it is against Colorado water law to acquire water without first identifying who will use it.

Demonstrating the need for the pipeline is but one troubling question confronting the Million Project. The movement of up to 250,000 acre-feet of water each year would require a vast amount of energy, adding to the ecological impacts of the pipeline. The pipeline could also jeopardize endangered fish, transport invasive species, and diminish recreation and wildlife habitat in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River that is already suffering from drought.

Meanwhile, from the Associated Press (Ben Neary) via The Denver Post:

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming says local governments in southwestern Wyoming will help to evaluate a private developer’s proposal to build a pipeline to take water from the Green River.
Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million has proposed building a multibillion dollar pipeline to carry water from the Green River in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. Barrasso, a Republican, says he stepped in to allow Sweetwater County, the Sweetwater County Conservation District and the cities of Rock Springs and Green River to serve as participating agencies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in reviewing the pipeline proposal.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Buena Vista: Town board of trustees cooperating with Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District augmentation plan

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From the Chaffee County Times (Kathy Davis):

In a letter to town administrator Sue Boyd dated Sept. 17, town water attorney Cindy Covell said that the UAWCD filed a water court application seeking approval of a global augmentation plan to allow the UAWCD to provide augmentation to wells, reservoirs and surface diversions that divert water from the upper Arkansas River and its tributaries, including Cottonwood Creek. This plan supplements UAWCD’s earlier plans and allows augmentation water to be provided from many sources, Covell said. The decree would allow UAWCD to have considerably more flexibility in the use of its water supplies, Covell said. The goal is to have an augmentation plan for UAWCD in which new users can subscribe without going to water court themselves, she said. According to the resolution approved by the trustees, the town originally filed a statement of opposition. Covell said the initial proposal had very few safeguards to assure protection of the town’s Cottonwood Creek water rights. The current proposed decree contains provisions that will provide greater protection of the town’s water rights than provided by the original proposals, she said. “The revised decree says that Buena Vista can monitor and make sure the town has accountability on decisions they make on augmentation,” town administrator Sue Boyd said. This is a tool, she said. Covell cautioned that the town must pay attention to this plan to make sure that it is operated properly. The plan may also result in the availability of water supplies for other projects. Town water engineer Patricia Flood of Wright Water Engineers has also reviewed the proposed decree and the technical issues involved in this proposed augmentation plan, Covell said.

More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Custer County: Fountain updates residents on plans for H2O ranch purchase

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

The City of Fountain purchased the 480-acre ranch for $3.5 million in partnership with the city of Widefield in March 2008 to acquire some 700-acre-feet of water. The ranch is located about two-and one-half miles west of Westcliffe on Kettle Lane. The purpose of the meeting, said Fountain and Widefield officials, was to let locals know what the future plans are for the water. “We are taking a forthright approach with no secrets,” said City of Fountain Utilities Director Larry Patterson. “We want to communicate with everyone and hear what they have to say.”[…]

Patterson also said the H2O ranch case has been filed in state water court, and he expects the case to take up to four years for completion. As part of the process for water court, said Patterson, the two entities are providing an engineering review and opinion regarding the water rights on the H2O ranch. Also in the works, said Patterson, are individual meetings with neighboring property owners. “We do not want to harm our neighbors’ ability to receive their water,” said Patterson…

“Our number one consideration at this time,” said Paterson, “is to lease the land with part of the water.” The amount of water which would be leased with the land, said Patterson, will depend upon the final water decree. Patterson also said, “We are not in the development business,” adding that the land will probably be sold sometime in the future. Other considerations, said Patterson, are placing a part of the ranch in a conservation easement, and working with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District to exchange the water.

More Custer County coverage here.

Windsor: Town board supports loan application for sewer improvements

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From the Windsor Beacon (Ashley Keesis-Wood):

The Windsor Town Board approved a resolution on Monday night that supports a loan application for sewer system improvements that include constructing a new interceptor sewer, headworks and pumping station. The loan process is contingent on approval of the site and utility plans. “This is important because it will let us go forward with the construction,” said Windsor Director of Public Works Terry Walker.

The town has been working for several years to plan for expansion and improvement of the wastewater treatment plant. “First, we need to consolidate all the previous efforts into one 20-year wastewater utility plan,” Walker said. That plan is expected to be completed later this fall. The state must approve the site plan application, but for the state to do so, the utility plan must be completed…

To pay for the approximately $5 million project, the town can apply for a low-interest loan of 2.9 percent over 20 years through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority.

More wastewater coverage here.

Delta-Montrose Electric Association hopes to provide 5% of maximum annual demand with small hydroelectric generation plants

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From the Telluride Watch (Alan Best):

The co-operative announced [recently] that it will apply to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which administers the Gunnison Tunnel, to develop enough electricity to equal 5 percent of the co-op’s maximum annual demand. As the energy landscape changes, other jurisdictions across Colorado and the West have similarly been re-examining their assets. Small hydro-projects produce far less electricity than most coal-fired power plants, or the giant dams on the Colorado River. But they can do so without generating carbon dioxide emissions and often without increasing other environmental impacts…

The projects, says Joani Matranga, Western Slope representative for the Governor’s Energy Office, would use primarily existing infrastructure and diversions, resulting in minimal environmental impacts. “We’re not building any new dams,” she says. “We think there is still plenty of potential to go after.”[…]

The effort to harness the irrigation canal east of Montrose is part of a broad effort to reverse this decades-old trend toward centralized generation of electricity using fossil fuels. Delta-Montrose Electric Assn. officials say that local power generation produces local jobs, and will insulate electrical customers from rising costs for coal. Those costs will almost certainly rise even more if the federal government adopts a cap-and-trade regime on carbon dioxide emissions, as proposed in the Waxman-Markey bill.

“If this project moves forward through the federal permitting process – and I am confident it will – DMEA’s membership will benefit in many ways, “ said DMEA General Manager Dan McClendon. “Money we would have otherwise exported out of our community for wholesale electricity will be retained in our own community,” he said. He went on to explain that even without grants or other financial assistance, the cost – about $25 million to $30 million – will deliver electricity comparable to the existing wholesale rate…

Unlike some proposals of the past, DMEA has no plans to harness the full power of the falling water. Water from the Gunnison drops 372 feet in as series of churning, roiling steps as the irrigation ditch, called the South Canal, winds around the dun-colored adobe hills east of Montrose. DMEA plans to yoke power from just 120 feet in that fall…

Some small towns – including Hotchkiss and Cortez – have installed small hydro components into their existing water delivery systems, to harness the power of falling water. Aspen does the same, and Hines, that city’s utility engineer, points out that even towns in the Midwest with water towers could tap the power of falling water. Elsewhere in southwestern Colorado, Eric Jacobson has refurbished several small hydro-power plants, such as a 500-kilowatt plant at Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride and a 150-kilowatt plant in Ouray. A variety of other small hydro projects are also scattered across mountainous areas of Colorado.

More coverage from The Telluride Watch (Beverly Corbell):

Both President Teddy Roosevelt and President Howard Taft spoke at Saturday’s 100th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Gunnison Tunnel, but the biggest news of the day came from President Dan McClendon. McClendon, president of the board of directors of the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, announced that his cooperative and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, sponsors of the event, would collaborate to build a hydroelectric plant on South Canal as it leaves the Gunnison Tunnel. “This will bring clean, renewable energy into DMEA’s system and will be one of the largest renewable electric facilities in western Colorado,” McClendon said. “It will keep money in our community and keep millions of dollars here in our area.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Environmental Protection Agency pushing overhaul of Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976

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From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

The 33-year-old Toxic Substance[s] Control Act has “fallen behind the industry it was supposed to regulate,” [Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson] said in a teleconference with the news media. “Our cars to the cellphones in our pockets are constructed with plastics and chemical additives,” Jackson said. “As more chemicals are found in our bodies and in the environment, concerns grow.”</p

The move for an overhaul of the act drew immediate support from industry groups. The system needs “modernization,” Cal Dooley, chief executive of the major industry trade group, the American Chemistry Council, said in a separate conference call. In August, the council issued its own principles for reworking the act, and Dooley said he was pleased the EPA approach was similar. “We believe more information needs to be brought forward to determine safety,” Dooley said…

Among the EPA principles:

• Chemicals would be reviewed against risk-based safety standards.

• Manufacturers would provide the EPA with information to show that new and existing chemicals are safe and do not endanger public health.

• The EPA would have clear authority to take action to manage risk or ban a chemical.

More water pollution coverage here.

Pikes Peak: Colorado Springs Utilities struggling with plan to open south slope to recreation

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

While many of the 50 or so in attendance at a public open house had their own ideas for recreation — ranging from hiking, horseback riding and camping — most agreed on one thing: The area should have been opened a long time ago. “If they can do it on the North Slope, why can’t they do it on the South Slope?” said state Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, a mountain biker, referring to the North Slope reservoir area that opened to the public in the early 1990s. “So many other cities, Denver, Boulder, have opened their water facilities for public recreation opportunities, I find it hard to believe Colorado Springs can’t do it as well as Denver or Boulder,” Merrifield said.

Several reservoirs were built on the South Slope from 1878 to 1912. Utilities has been studying how to allow public access to the 15,000-acre area for a decade. A 1999 study recommended building four hiking trails, and in 2007 Utilities issued a plan to move forward with the trails, after public meetings and a recommendation from a citizens advisory group. But officials have since, with the agreement of the citizens panel, decided to hire a consultant to study all forms of recreation. Budget issues delayed the $200,000 project last year…

Utilities officials said they will consider the public comments and release a “conceptual plan” for public access in January, but that trails probably won’t begin being built until 2011.

River Week at Cache La Poudre Middle School

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

It’s River Week at Cache La Poudre Middle School, and for a short window of two weeks, the river, which flows serenely behind the school, serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for students…

Though River Week is becoming an annual tradition at the school, Russell said the [recent asphalt] spills gave her an opportunity to compare water quality data her classes gathered from the river last year with similar data they’re gathering since the spills were cleaned up. “We’re going to be looking at all the things that affect how this river remains healthy,” she said in between announcing instructions to her 33-student class, sitting in small groups along the river bank.

Using electronic probes connected to a sensor and a calculator, students fanned out into the river to test the river’s nitrate levels, pH, temperature, water hardness and other qualities. “They are doing science,” Russell said. “This is what professional scientists do when they go out into the field.” Rarely do students get such an opportunity without having to apply for funding for a field trip, she said. The river is in the school’s backyard, allowing for not only scientific study and a chance for students to get their feet wet, but a chance for English, history, math and other classes to integrate the river into their curriculums…

Once back in the classroom, students will crunch their data, compare it to last year’s numbers and then create graphs to illustrate the differences. Honors students, Russell said, will continue to gather data through the winter for a more comprehensive picture of the river’s health. Doing that kind of science in the Poudre not only gives kids an idea about the level of pollution in the river, it helps “us open our eyes to what’s really going on,” said eighth-grader Joe McKey.

More education coverage here.

CWCB: $180,000 for Upper Ark groundwater study

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From the Salida Citizen (Trey Beck):

A grant of $180,000 awarded recently by the Colorado Water Conservation Board will help the Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District to determine the amount of water in the Arkansas Valley. The study will investigate the availability and sustainability of groundwater and calculate the water needed to recharge underground resources. District General Manager Terry Scanga said that this information is a vital part of any discussion about current and future water use. “Determining the amount of water available will give municipal and land use planners a tool by which they can gauge sustainability,” said Scanga. The information will also help the District anticipate the need for new water projects.

More CWCB coverage here.

Red Cliff turns dirt for new wastewater plant

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From the Vail Daily (Edward Stoner):

Red Cliff Ramon Montoya and Colorado Department of Local Affairs Executive Director Susan Kirkpatrick wielded golden shovels in the official ceremony. Construction on the plant began this week and is expected to be completed in August 2010…The project has been over 20 years in the making, Montoya said. The overall project, which includes a collections system, costs $5.6 million. The project received $3.2 million in federal stimulus funds as well as $800,000 from a State and Tribal Assistance Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $500,000 from a Department of Local Affairs Energy and Mineral Impact grant.

More wastewater coverage here.

San Luis Valley: First groundwater management sub-district trial update

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Here’s a recap of the first week of the current trial, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

The district and the state water division, represented by the attorney general’s office, are defending their approval of the sub-district board’s management plan while attorneys representing senior water users are contesting the plan as it is currently written.

By reducing well pumping in the closed basin area of the Valley north of the Rio Grande, the sub-district intends to provide protection and mitigation of injurious depletions to senior water rights; balance the aquifer; and ensure compliance with the Rio Grande Compact, an interstate agreement with downstream states.

The water district is presenting its witnesses first. Robbins said at the conclusion of testimony on Friday that the proponents still have four witnesses to call before the opponents begin their slate of witnesses.

Kuenhold told the attorneys on Friday that he would like to hear closing arguments in the case on the Friday of the third week, October 16, if at all possible He added he would try to render a decision in about 30 days following the trial but would not promise he could meet that ambitious of a deadline. He said he has asked visiting judges to help fill in for him so he could concentrate on the water decision…

When senior water rights attorney Tim Buchanan asked [Dr. Willem Schreüder, an expert on the Rio Grande Decision Support System computer model] if the model still had limitations, Schreüder responded, “I believe that’s true of every model.”[…]

Previously on the stand was the water district’s engineer Allen Davey who remained on the stand two days. Other witnesses this week have been the water district’s general manager Steve Vandiver and sub-district board member Carla Worley.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

In February, District Judge O. John Kuenhold sent the plan back to the board of managers for Subdistrict No. 1 of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. Kuenhold called for the inclusion of a time frame and detailed methodology for determining the depletions well pumping caused to the Rio Grande. The subdistrict’s boundaries would include 174,000 acres of irrigated land and roughly 3,000 groundwater irrigation wells. The valley could see up to five other subdistricts move forward with management plans if the court approves this one.

Attorney Tim Buchanan, who represents 11 objectors, said the revised plan left too much discretion to the state engineer and did not clearly lay out the steps the subdistrict would take. “We need implementing language,” he said. Buchanan also argued that the revised plan had backed away from previous testimony that past groundwater depletions would be replaced. Both he and Stephane Atencio, an attorney for two other objectors, took note that 40,000 acre-feet from past pumping will deplete the river over the next 20 years…

The subdistrict’s attorney, David Robbins, said the subdistrict board had felt replacing past depletions would punish those well users who voluntarily took part in the subdistrict. He added that the valley’s well users were operating within the law when those depletions were made. “There’s no logical basis to punish those who’ve acted affirmatively to solve the problem,” he said. Robbins also reiterated the plan was an attempt by users to find a workable solution instead of being subject to the groundwater rules and regulations currently being worked on by the engineer’s office. “It’s an effort to claim a right of self-governance,” he said.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.