Energy policy — oil and gas: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment assesses $680,000 in fines against three oil and gas producers over Parachute Creek violations

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and a story in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, penalty settlements totaling $680,000 will be paid by Enterprise Products Operating LLC, Berry Petroleum Co., and Marathon Oil Co. for the incident last year.

The state, which will put the money into its Water Quality Improvement Fund, will use the funds to improve water quality in the Parachute area through the “planning, design and construction of stormwater and domestic wastewater treatment facilities.” State officials said the companies did not use best-management practices to prevent pollution, although none of the companies admitted wrongdoing in the settlement.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Arkansas Valley tamarisk control update

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From the Ag Journal (Susan Pieper):

Several partners including NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), Colorado Legends and Legacies and Mile High Youth Corps, Colorado State Conservation Board, Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado State University, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Fremont County Weed Manager J.R. Phillips and his department, Fremont County Weed Control Department (FCWD); Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (RMBO), Sangre de Cristo and Southeast Colorado Resource Conservation and Development Councils, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Wildlife Program, Upper Arkansas Cooperative Weed Management Area (UACWM), several conservation districts including Fremont, Turkey Creek, South Pueblo County, El Paso, Central Colorado, Northeast Prowers, Bent County, West Otero Timpas, Custer County-Divide, Upper Huerfano and Spanish Peaks Purgatoire River Conservation Districts plus several individual landowners have undertaken a massive effort to remove tamarisk along the Arkansas River and its tributaries and have provided financial and in-kind support for all the projects being undertaken in the various counties and individual conservation districts.

Also providing the same type of support for the projects are the county commissioners in each of the counties along this stretch of the Arkansas River, Colorado State Land Board, Southeast Colorado Water Conservancy District, Holly Flood District and Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Generally, water issues can divide communities, but the eradication of this scourge has united producers and governmental agencies across property lines, county lines and even the state line.

Although the Arkansas River banks are the primary target for tamarisk removal, the plan can not be successful within only those boundaries. The Arkansas River, just like any large body of running water, is fed by tributaries and with plants that can produce up to 50,000 seeds annually, controlling the spread of tamarisk on the creeks and arroyos upstream will support the efforts along the river.

In Colorado, approximately 1,414 acres along the Arkansas River in Prowers County have been targeted for eradication with the boards of directors of several conservation districts accepting bids and choosing the applicator to assist them with controlling and eventually ridding the river of this alien species. The same is true for areas up the river where approximately 850 acres were treated, also.

<p.In the lower regions of the Arkansas River, such as in Prowers County and across the state line into Kansas, herbicide application of the plants from the air was chosen.

In Fremont and Custer counties, the targeted areas were tributary streams.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Due to continuing demand for Green Mountain water, we are still releasing around 740 cfs from the reservoir to the Lower Blue. I am anticipating that this demand will stay on through the weekend and probably well into next week. The reservoir is at an elevation of 7920 and dropping about 2/3 of a foot a day.

More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

Bill to be introduced next session would allow water courts to consider additional mitigation before water is moved out of the basin of origin

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’ve all seen examples of bad buy-and-dries in the state,” said Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo. “With water folks itchy to move as much water as possible, we have to leave sidebars on to leave water in rural communities for our lifetimes and for our grandchildren’s lifetimes. If we don’t, we’re not going to see any little towns.” Pace will begin explaining his proposal at public meetings this week, beginning with a Colorado Water Congress committee Friday. He is also planning meetings with other groups in the near future…

The bill would allow judges in water courts to consider additional mitigation on any transfer of water between any of the state’s seven divisions – water administration units set up along the state’s major watersheds. Judges would be able to apply guidelines already set out in the 1937 state act governing conservancy districts. “There’s nothing new there. That’s a law that’s been on the books for 70 years,” Pace said. However, the provisions of that act would be widened to cover transfers from basins other than the Colorado River, all beneficial uses and any water exporter, not just conservancy districts. Alternatively, water exporters could develop mitigation plans with conservancy districts to avoid court-imposed actions…

“The bill doesn’t define the type of mitigation or limit what can be in the agreement,” Pace said. “On the Western Slope it might mean compensatory storage, while in Otero County it could mean money for schools.” The bill would not apply to in-basin transactions that do not cross state water district boundaries, such as the purchase of shares on the Bessemer Ditch by the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Pace said.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

S. 787: Clean Water Restoration Act

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The groups, including the Izaak Walton League of America and the National Wildlife Federation said Wednesday such unregulated pollution could contaminate drinking water for more than 620,000 people living in Larimer, Weld and Boulder counties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agrees water contamination from future mining and development could go unregulated in the headwaters of some streams in the region. Pollution could threaten drinking water here because most of the county’s water supply comes from rivers fed by streams that can’t be regulated because they can’t be navigated by boat, the groups said.

Scott Kovarovics of the Izaak Walton League said if someone wants to pollute a dry stream, the law might allow that. The concern stems from a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the kinds of streams that can be protected under the Clean Water Act. According to the EPA, only those rivers and streams that affect interstate commerce – those people that can navigate by boat or are connected to such streams – are protected by the act. Excluded from protection are streams, possibly including some high in the mountains, that flow less than a few months each year and exist on private land or don’t flow into a stream that people can navigate with a boat. “We should be concerned about those (streams) because those areas are where we have a lot of our snowmelt,” said Dick Clark, wetland coordinator for the EPA in Denver…

Generally, Clark said, streams on public land are protected, and so are high mountain streams that either flow all year long or most of the year. Unregulated contamination could flow downstream from private land being mined high in the mountains, he said…

The number of streams that aren’t regulated in Larimer County aren’t known because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which determines whether federal regulations apply to certain streams, doesn’t keep track of them, said Tim Carey, chief of the Corps’ Denver regulatory office. Only two streams in Colorado have ever been determined not to fall under the Clean Water Act, Carey said. One was in the plains of eastern Douglas County, where the stream disappears into the sand, he said…

Despite the concern, the Poudre is likely to remain uncontaminated because there is little development potential in its watershed, Gertig said. “Since the Poudre is a wild and scenic river, protection of that designation may be more powerful than anything else,” he said.

More S. 787 coverage here.