IBCC: Transmountain water tranfers

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“I’m starting to feel that on the West Slope, a bit of reality is breaking through,” Jeris Danielson told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable this week. “They’re beginning to accept the fact, and the task will be how to make it as palatable as possible.” Danielson, a former state engineer who is now general manager of the Purgatoire River Conservancy District, represents the Roundtable on the Interbasin Compact Committee, which last month looked at a tool developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that simulates various mixes of conservation, new supply and agricultural dry-up under varying growth scenarios…

The basin’s other representative on the IBCC was not convinced. “I don’t see any movement from the West Slope,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “I see them drawing a line on the top of the mountains.”

Wayne Vanderschuere, a Colorado Springs Utilities executive and governor’s appointee to the IBCC, agreed with Winner, but said the state model may change minds, by showing the scope of how much agriculture is at risk without a new water project.

“I think the state and (CWCB director) Jennifer Gimbel have reached out to both sides of the mountains to identify what’s realistically possible,” Vanderschuere said…

Everyone agreed there is a renewed interest in at least having the conversation about whether it’s desirable to move more water across the mountains. The roundtable’s letter to the IBCC asking for analysis of a Blue Mesa alternative and consideration of Western Slope agricultural dry-up as part of the overall strategy was given consideration, Danielson said.

More IBCC coverage here.

Twin Lakes, Turquoise and Lake Pueblo are in good shape heading into winter

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Bureau of Reclamation already is clearing space in mountain reservoirs – Turquoise and Twin lakes – by flowing water to Lake Pueblo, said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Reclamation is expecting to clear out 65,000 acre-feet of space in anticipation of making room for 2010 imports from the Fryingpan River through the Boustead Tunnel. If snowpack and runoff were average this year, and no other adjustments made, about 14,000 acre-feet of water in some accounts would spill next spring, Vaughan said. The first 10,000 acre-feet is in a controversial account in Lake Pueblo under a long-term contract to Aurora. Other accounts holding non-project water within the basin also could be at risk as well.

However, as in the past two years, water planners are figuring out ways to use the water rather than lose it, Vaughan said. “The entities that know this is coming are finding a way out of it,” Vaughan said, noting that he is on the phone weekly to most of them as projections and water levels change. Water can be moved downstream to other reservoirs, which are far from full, either as part of water management plans or under low-rate sales to the Division of Wildlife. “Leasing water gets cheap when things get full,” Vaughan said.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Department of Justice is investigating Gale Norton’s role in 11th hour Bush administration rules

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

On its way out the door last fall, the Bush Interior Department tried to lock in rules that would require oil shale royalty rates for production on public lands starting at about 5 percent – far below traditional oil and gas royalty rates because of the speculative nature of the resource.

In its ongoing investigation of former Bush Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who later signed on as an attorney with Dutch Royal Shell – one of the leading researchers of oil shale production in Colorado – the Times turned up e-mails where Norton tips her hand on the strategy she suggested for locking in royalty rates despite changing administrations…

Oil shale production involves either mining shale and super-heating it to force out the kerogen, or organic matter, in order to refine it into petroleum; or heating the shale underground in what’s known as in-situ production. Both methods require huge amounts of water and electricity, and environmentalists argue research and development funds would be better spent on renewables.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Snowpack: El Niño building in Pacific

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Tom Ross):

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a winter forecast Thursday that rates the chances of average, below average and above average precipitation in the Inter-Mountain West through February as a toss-up. Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Pre diction Center, said the warm water phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean known as El Niño will be a driving factor in winter weather December through February in the United States.

Michelle Shaughnessy named to lead Colorado River Fishery Project

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The new leader of the Colorado River Fishery Project in Grand Junction has worked previously with private interests to preserve habitat. Michelle Shaughnessy most recently was the chief for the Branch of Recovery and Delisting in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s office in Washington, D.C. While there she was involved in controversial issues related to many species, including the gray wolf and the Preble’s Meadow jumping mouse…“After working on recovery of listed species at the national level for the past several years, I am excited to get back into the field and apply my endangered species knowledge to implementing recovery on-the-ground for the endangered fishes in the Upper Colorado and San Juan rivers,” Shaughnessy said in a statement.

More restoration coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: U.S. Senate approves $5 million in funding

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The prospect of an infusion of federal funds is also a call to action for the district. “Our planning processes will be accelerated when we take a strong look at our cash flow,” said Jim Broderick, executive director. Broderick developed an idea that would use revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to repay federal costs for the conduit. The bill includes a 65 percent federal match, which makes the project more affordable for Arkansas Valley communities.

On Thursday, the Senate approved a funding bill that includes the $5 million for the conduit. It will be added to a $1 million project already under way, which is funded in part by an Environmental Protection Agency grant. That work was scheduled to take more than two years, but would be completed much sooner in order to begin work on new phases of the project, Broderick said.

Other sources of money also must be lined up, including a loan from the Colorado Water Conservation board and commitments from local sponsors – the Southeastern district, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and up to 42 communities from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar that would benefit from the conduit. “We need to tell communities we’ll need money sooner rather than later,” Long said.

The money from this round of appropriations will go for planning and to begin work on the environmental impact statement the conduit will require. The Bureau of Reclamation already is putting a team together to complete the EIS, Broderick said.

More coverage from the La Junta Tribune Democrat. From the article:

“The people of southeastern Colorado have fought long and hard to make the vision of the Arkansas Valley Conduit a reality. Today, we are closer than ever to honoring a promise made to them nearly half-a-century ago,” [Colorado U.S. Senator Michael] Bennet said. “Forty-seven years ago, President Kennedy proclaimed this project ‘an investment in the future of this country.’ Finally, we can begin making that investment in earnest.” “Thanks to the strong support and leadership of Representatives John Salazar, Betsy Markey and Senator Mark Udall, we can begin work on the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Bennet continued. “This is a significant step forward but we also remain committed to making sure funding for the conduit continues to flow in the years to come.” Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation authorizing the construction of the conduit that was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Bennet, Markey, Salazar and Udall requested funding for the project earlier this year.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.