Republican River Basin compliance pipeline update

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From the Yuma Pioneer (Tonay Rayl):

The proposed pipeline, and several issues surrounding it, were addressed during the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors’ regular quarterly meeting, last Thursday in Wray.

Attorney Dennis Montgomery gave an update on the arbitration process. He noted the selection of an arbitrator already is several weeks behind schedule but still expected the process to be completed by spring 2010.

The initial time frame was for Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas to have an arbitrator selected by September 16. However, it has not been done yet. Montgomery said five potential arbitrators are being interviewed by a mediator.

He noted Nebraska also is requesting arbitration on an issue it has with credits, arguing that paying for a shortage to Kansas should be wiped clean from the rolling average. He said this issue could be combined with the pipeline to go before the arbitrator.

Montgomery was asked what could happen if arbitration fails. The pipeline approval could be taken back before the Republican River Compact Administration again. If denied again, he was asked what Colorado would do. It could file a lawsuit or push it forward before the U.S. Supreme Court…

Nate Midcap spoke to the board about concerns in regards to what credit Colorado will receive for the water delivered by the proposed pipeline.

Midcap is the manager for four local ground water management districts, including the Sand Hills District, where the pipeline would be located. It is the Sand Hills board of directors that will have to have a hearing on whether to allow the exporting of water for the pipeline.

He said the state engineer said in a recent meeting that the pipeline water might receive only 80 percent credit for beneficial use. He noted the Sand Hills is a small board, and he did not want it burdened with the decision without a clear statement of beneficial use from the RRWCD. He said he wanted the RRWCD to push for 100-percent credit, and that the state engineer said he would push for 100-percent credit.

Midcap noted the more beneficial use credited to Colorado, the easier the board’s decision will be.

Montgomery said the district also would like to have a beneficial use statement, but probably will not have it until the end of arbitration.

“Our goal was to receive 100 percent credit minus the depletion factor, (which makes for a net of around 97 percent),” Board President Dennis Coryell said, adding the district’s goal still is 100 percent. “How it’s computed in the model is going to be the struggle for the states.”

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

S.B. 1777: Good Samaritan Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2009

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

“What my proposal has this time is the advantage of simplicity,” Udall said during a Wednesday press call. The bill would deal only with water pollution, unlike past measures that included waivers to other environmental laws, he said…

The measure would amend the Clean Water Act and create a permitting program for groups that can produce a cleanup plan.

Any mine owners responsible for polluting sites would not be eligible to apply for a permit. Nor would sites currently involved in Superfund cleanup be eligible.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (Katie Redding). From the article:

This will be the 11th piece of Good Samaritan legislation introduced in Congress in the last 15 years. Despite the support of many of those living near the mines, cleanup groups, as well as the Western Governors’ Association, all previous bills have been defeated. The most vocal opponents of the legislation have often been major environmental groups, who worry that such bills weaken environmental legislation…

The Good Samaritan Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2009 would introduce a “Good Samaritan permit” for those cleaning up abandoned mines they had no part in creating. The Good Samaritan permit would protect such groups from Clean Water Act liability.

“This is an elegant and common sense solution to one of the biggest obstacles Good Samaritans face when they want to get these abandoned mines cleaned up,” Udall said. “There are several groups in Colorado who care about their communities and want to protect them and who are ready to go as soon as we have legislation to help them get started. I’m dying to turn them loose so they can get to work.”

To apply for the permit, applicants would submit a clean-up plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If their application is approved, Good Samaritans could then clean up waterways without incurring liability under the Clean Water Act.

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

Colorado has 23,000 abandoned mines – far more than the state government can afford to clean up. But private organizations like the Animas River Stakeholders Group can do little to help, because under the current law, they would take all legal liability for the abandoned mine. “Any time you get your hands wet, you’ve triggered the Clean Water Act and Clean Water Act liability issues,” said Udall, D-Colo. His solution is Senate Bill 1777, which he introduced Tuesday. It would shield “Good Samaritans” from lawsuits under the Clean Water Act…

Elizabeth Russell of Trout Unlimited agreed. Her group reluctantly supported earlier Good Samaritan bills, but it is firmly behind Udall’s latest bill. “It would make a big, big difference in our state,” said Russell, manager for Trout Unlimited’s abandoned mine project in Colorado…

Groups in Durango, Leadville and Keystone have been blocked from cleaning up mines because of their fear of legal liability, Udall said. “I have a great deal of trust in these citizens who have seen the damage done to water quality and fisheries,” Udall said. “I’m dying to turn these groups lose.”

S. 1777 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

More good samaritan coverage here.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The CWCB plans to complete a feasibility study – actually an outline of new studies Arkansas Valley water users think they need – by the end of next year. Working with the engineering firm of Brown and Caldwell, the CWCB will inventory existing studies and interview various water users to find gaps in the data. The process was explained at Wednesday’s meeting of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. Decision support systems provide a complete picture of water resources and stresses put on them by projects and activities. Such studies were completed for the Colorado River and Rio Grande basins in the mid-1990s and have played a role in developing fish recovery programs, reservoir level maintenance strategies and groundwater use rules. The Colorado River Basin study is playing a part in current evaluations of how much water remains to be developed in Colorado…

The South Platte River basin study began in 2001, and is about two-thirds complete, Moore said. It has not solved problems of meeting future water demands and could not avert a crisis in farm wells that were shut off last year because of over appropriation. “The purpose is to provide better tools for the state and water users to make better decisions,” Moore said…

The H-I model is an assumption of the consumptive use of water by agriculture on the main stem of the Arkansas River east of Pueblo Dam based on theory rather than actual measurements. It affects groundwater rights administration in the Arkansas Valley and is woven into the new surface rules as well.

While the state is spending millions to refine the model, any changes would have to be negotiated with Kansas and would be subject to a dispute resolution process under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case.

More IBCC and basin roundtable coverage here.