Rico: Some town residents lament the prospect of renewed mining, some do not

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

By far, the most pressing concern among the citizens of the town is that of water. At the hearing, part-time resident Steve Williams expressed a fear felt by all who live in Rico. “My big concern is the protection of the watershed,” he said. Rico currently procures its drinking water from Silver Creek, which runs through the proposed mine site. The Rico Municipal Water Supply Diversion Gallery is located approximately 1,000 feet upstream from the site. In 2008 the town created a watershed protection area to ease fears about contamination of the water supply. The mine site, however, is just beyond the reach of the protection area.

Mark Levin, president of Outlook Resources, the company interested in exploring the molybdenum deposit, understands the concerns of those who live in Rico but maintains they are unwarranted. “I’m an environmentalist,” said Levin, who holds a degree in ecological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. “There would be no new environmental disturbance. All you would have is environmental betterment.” The idea of environmental betterment has been a theme in Rico over the past decade, but the execution has not always been as flawless as the concept…

Silver Creek is currently listed on the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division’s 303(D) List as an “impaired water.” An impaired water listing signifies a body of water does not attain water quality standards due to the presence of one or more pollutants, according to WQCD’s listing methodology for the 2010 listing cycle. Silver Creek’s listing is a result of zinc and cadmium levels in the water. However, that contamination is due to past mining activity, using practices that have changed drastically.

“The perception of it being just like it was 50 years ago, I think, is false,” said Mark Walker, project director with the Colorado Brownfields Foundation. “Regulations have become a lot more stringent” Walker worked for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and was involved in the ARCO VCUP project.

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

The county currently is experiencing an unemployment rate of 13.2 percent, the highest in the state, and the economic promise of an undeveloped resource is enticing. Mark Levin, of Outlook Resources, firmly believes that molybdenum could be the answer to the economic woes of the area. “Three generations could make a living off of this project,” Levin said. “There is the possibility of the creation of 200-300 new jobs and a $15 to $20 million annual payroll.” Those are large numbers for a community whose economy is tied to historically shifting markets such as agriculture, construction and tourism.

The possibilities offered by molybdenum mining are immense. A closer examination of the economy surrounding the Henderson molybdenum mine in Clear Creek County, Colo., offers a look at the influx of capital a mine could provide. According to Diane Settle, Clear Creek county assessor, the net property tax revenue in 2009 was $16,565,902 – of which Henderson contributed $9,783,975. In other words, the Henderson molybdenum mining operations alone accounts for 59 per cent of the tax base in Clear Creek County. Assuming a molybdenum operation based in Dolores County would be similar in scope and size, the project could quadruple the county’s revenue, which stood at $3,337,575 for the 2008 tax year. “The impact (of a mine) would be immense,” said Mike Thompson, an economic geologist and co-owner of Grayling Environmental, based in Cortez. “It would by far be the largest contributor to Dolores County.”

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kristen Plank). From the article:

In the end, the weight of that monumental decision [to permit the new molybdenum mine] will ultimately rest with the county government, for which decisions are made by three commissioners who live near Dove Creek, the county seat. “This molybdenum deposit lies within Dolores County, so any legal issues would be with Dolores County,” said Mike England, town manager in Rico. “Our jurisdiction is at the town limits.”[…]

because Dolores County has a very lenient land use code – and absolutely no zoning – projects in the county are decided one at a time. “On some of the projects, it makes it a little harder, but it depends on the project,” Dolores County Commissioner Ernie Williams said about the county’s lack of zoning. Because of the situation, Outlook chose to submit an application to secure a “land development agreement.” Outlook’s owner, Mark Levin, hopes to be granted a “use by right” for the underground molybdenum. Though the first application was denied by commissioners because too much of it was left open-ended, Levin plans to reapply. In the meantime, Rico is working on designating a three-mile planning area to minimize impacts to the town, said town planner Jennifer Stark.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here.

Aspen: Proposed stormwater regulations public meeting October 27

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From the Aspen Times:

The city of Aspen will hold a public meeting regarding proposed stormwater regulations contained in the newly published, draft city stormwater manual. The meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 27, from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Rio Grande meeting room, 455 Rio Grande Place. Following a brief presentation on the proposed regulations, public comment will be accepted. City staff will present the stormwater manual, with public input, to the City Council at a meeting in December. The council is slated to make a final decision on the regulations at that time.

For a copy of the manual, visit http://www.aspenpitkin.com and click on the “Engineering Department” page.

More stormwater coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: Tamarisk control update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Valley has taken aim at the invasive trees and gotten rid of 9,000 acres of the pests in the last four years. It’s estimated that 67,000 acres along the Arkansas River and its tributaries are infested with tamarisk. “Since 2006, we’ve spent more than $1 million in controlling invasive species,” said Mary Miller, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the federal agency that has coordinated programs. “The majority of the money has been spent on the ground for the treatment of tamarisk.” Last year, the NRCS, more than two dozen government agencies and 40 landowners spent a combined $248,000 to treat 2,400 acres in Fremont, Pueblo, El Paso, Huerfano, Las Animas, Otero, Bent and Prowers counties.

The programs mostly involved destroying tamarisk, with some areas being restored as well. Mechanical, chemical and biological methods were used, Miller said. The largest areas were controlled with aerial spraying. Mechanical means, either by hand or with machines, are more time-consuming and costly, but more effective in some areas. Biological control usually means releasing beetles that eat tamarisk, and only tamarisk.

More tamarisk coverage here and here.

Bottled water under fire

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Bottled water and newfound caution approaching all things water is the subject of this article from Moises Velasquez-Manoff writing for the Christian Science Monitor. He ties his story to Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project. From the article:

Citing myriad concerns, a group of [Chaffee County] residents has objected vigorously. They worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related. And, pointing to fights other communities have had with the company, they say they simply don’t want Nestlé as a neighbor. Nestlé counters that these concerns are overblown. The company says: The amount of water it plans to withdraw is negligible; the project will bring many benefits – economic and otherwise – to the community; and the company, the largest water bottler in North America, is an upstanding corporate citizen…

But many say the greater story – about a growing world population of more than 6.5 billion faced with a limited supply of fresh water – is, in fact, just beginning. Experts not directly involved in the Chaffee County situation point to it as evidence of rising sensitivity to water issues everywhere. They cite a growing number of disagreements between communities and bottled-water firms around the US – in Maine, California, Florida, and Michigan, among other places – as evidence. “There is a growing interest in water as a whole [and] growing scarcity in the Western United States,” says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif., a nonprofit that does research and policy analysis in the areas of environment and sustainable development. “And when people pay more attention, it sort of makes it harder to do the things [bottled water companies] used to do without any opposition.”

These companies have now become the focus of campaigns against bottled water in general. Organizations like Corporate Accountability International and the Environmental Working Group rail against bottled water for a number of reasons, the environmental impact of plastics among them. (Lauerman points to Nestlé’s new ecoshape bottles, which, he says, use 30 percent less plastic than most.) The groups also argue that consumption of bottled water – paying for something that’s already cheaply available – leads to neglect of municipal water infrastructure, to everyone’s detriment. The US Conference of Mayors has urged cities to stop buying water and has called for an investigation into how much the industry costs taxpayers. (By one estimate, 40 percent of bottled water comes from municipal sources, not springs.)…

But the assumption underlying these laws – that water is in limited supply – is the correct one, says Robert Glennon, author of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It.” Other states often allow “a limitless number of straws in the glass,” he says. But in Colorado, if you can’t replace it, you can’t take it. “That’s exactly what I think we should do,” he says.

More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to test conservation easement valuation

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The value of the water used on farms can increase exponentially if its use is changed to municipal or industrial, creating a dilemma for assessors, headaches for property owners and trouble for conservation easement sponsors in the past. So the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District will present a test case to the state Division of Real Estate by claiming conservation easements on properties it owns on four ditch systems – the Bessemer Ditch, High Line Canal, Rocky Ford Ditch and Holbrook Canal. The easements are among nine the Lower Ark board voted to complete on Wednesday, bringing the total held by the district to about 60 easements. The district will present the ditch properties with easements that tie the water rights to the land, yet allow part of the water from those rights to be sold on an annual basis – or leased. The concept is central to the Super Ditch, a water leasing program supported by the district. It will also get two appraisals on each property in an attempt to determine the value of the water, and then ask the Division of Real Estate to verify the value of water, said Executive Director Jay Winner.

Because the district owns the properties, there won’t be the same liability a private landowner would face with any tax credits claimed in the transaction. The State Department of Revenue and Internal Revenue Service have raised questions about easements in Colorado in recent years, after many property owners took advantage of state tax laws meant to encourage easements. A state commission was set up and is working to certify trusts and governments that hold easements.

More conservation easement coverage here.