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

A picture named upperarkansasvalley.jpg

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

A picture named wetmountainvalley.jpg

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

A picture named sewerusa.jpg

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

A picture named microhydroelectricplant.jpg

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

A picture named effluent.jpg

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

A picture named sosidepikespeak.jpg

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

A picture named studentslesherjhsamples.jpg

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.