Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2009

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall Wednesday took his boldest step yet on the road to a national nuclear renaissance as part of a program designed to combat global warming. He introduced the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2009 in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor in which he acknowledged he was likely stepping on an environmental landmine. “For some, news that a Udall is speaking favorably about nuclear power will come as a stark – and perhaps unpleasant – surprise. But I also believe public and expert opinion on the risks and benefits of nuclear power has changed,” Udall said…

The Senate bill, co-sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would clear the way for the U.S. Department of Energy to engage in research into modular and small-scale nuclear reactors, cost-efficient manufacturing for nuclear power facilities and enhanced proliferation controls…

Keith Hay, energy advocate for Denver-based Environment Colorado, said Udall’s own state would bear the environmental brunt of a revival of the nation’s nuclear power industry, which currently accounts for a about 20 percent of the nation’s electrical power, although no new nuclear plants have come online since the Three Mile Island disaster. “We don’t think that renewable energy is a silver bullet; we just think that there are some things that shouldn’t be part of the buckshot going forward, and nuclear [power] certainly shouldn’t be part of that buck shot,” Hay said. “We certainly agree with Sen. Udall that climate change is important and a pressing need, but we clearly disagree with Sen. Udall on the path forward.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Save the Poudre’s Gary Wockner pitches Fort Morgan City Council

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From the Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

Gary Wockner of the Save the Poudre Coalition said it is the goal of his group to stop the project. Wockner said Save the Poudre comprises 16 environmental groups and represents 3 million U.S. citizens. He thanked the council for inviting him to speak at Tuesday’s meeting. “We’ve been doing this for several years, and Fort Morgan is the first NISP participant to ask us to do this,” he said. The anti-NISP group also hopes to offer better alternatives for the cities and towns that need water and to propose a river restoration plan for the future, Wockner said…

Gary Dreessen, the city’s water resources director and a strong proponent of NISP, asked some pointed questions of Wockner after his presentation. “All this water that you want to go down the Poudre — where do you want it to go?” Dreessen asked. Wockner said Save the Poudre believes there aren’t any high flows in the river…

Wockner said Save the Poudre will do anything it can to stop NISP, including legal action, but that a long process lies ahead before the project could become a reality. He said the Corps of Engineers permitting process could drag on for another two years, and then the EPA will have to sign off on the project and participants will have to figure out how to pay for it. “Anyone can object at any stage,” he said. “It could go five to 20 years.”

Northern Water officials have said they expect a permit to be issued for NISP sometime in 2010, with construction expected to begin the following year.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here.

Colorado State University scores $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund water resources research

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Here’s the release from CSU. Here’s an excerpt:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Colorado State University two grants totaling $1.2 million to aid in research addressing critical water resource issues – the only university in Colorado to receive part of the $11 million distributed by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grants are distributed through the National Integrated Water Quality Program, which aims to address issues such as water quality protection and water conservation. “Cities, communities and rural areas across the nation depend on a safe and abundant supply of water for drinking and cooking,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA news release. “This research will play a vital role in our understanding of the part water plays in the ecosystem and developing tools and strategies to effectively manage our water resources.” The National Integrated Water Quality Program addresses critical water resource issues in agricultural, rural and urban watersheds through research, education and extension projects and programs.

Aspinall Unit: Invasive mussels inspections regime changed for winter operations

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From the Montrose Daily Press:

Stevens Creek boat ramp will remain closed to vessel launching and retrieval. Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramp hours are 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. Inspections continue at the Elk Creek Marina, rather than at the campground entrance. Vessels that have been slipped or on the water for more than 24 hours must go through a high-risk inspection and possible decontamination, which will take longer than a standard inspection. No motorized or trailered vessel launching or retrieval is allowed outside of the Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramps. Only hand-launched water craft may launch outside of these locations and their trailers may not enter the water. Boat decontamination is no longer available at Lake Fork, due to nighttime temperatures that are below freezing, and the potential for water lines and portable decontamination units to freeze. Boats needing decontamination will be sent to Elk Creek. Boaters can prevent the need for decontamination by keeping craft clean, drained and dried of any standing water upon arrival at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Cooler temperatures and reduced staff means decontamination might not be immediately available to vessels with attached adult mussels. Such vessels may be denied access to the lake until they are decontaminated elsewhere. The reservoir and inspection stations remain open until the water at Elk Creek and Lake Fork boat ramps freezes. Hours will again be reduced in late November or early December.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Antero Reservoir boating closure

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Beginning Sunday, Nov. 1, Antero Reservoir will be closed to trailered and motorized boating. Hand-launched craft, such as canoes, kayaks and bellyboats will be allowed until the reservoir is iced over. The anticipated reopening of trailered and/or motorized boating is May 1, 2010.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Denver Water raises rates for 2010

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners approved an adjustment in water rates for 2010 to help fund the utility’s 10-year capital plan. The new rates will take effect Feb. 3, 2010.

Denver Water’s 10-year plan includes 300 projects, including upgrades to aging infrastructure to prevent putting reliable water service at risk. The plan also calls for expansion of the utility’s system capacity to meet the future needs of its customers. Over the next 10 years, the utility plans to expand its recycled water system, enlarge Gross Reservoir by 18,000 acre-feet, finish developing gravel pits that store reusable water, and explore ways to work with other water providers to bring more supplies to its system.

Denver Water has determined the cost of making repairs and replacements to its aging infrastructure and building new supply within its system will total $1.3 billion over the next 10 years. “We need to be more proactive in our work to repair, maintain and upgrade our aging water system. Some of our facilities are more than 100 years old,” said Brian Good, director of operations and maintenance. “Next year, you will see us doing more water main replacements, more cement mortar lining of pipes to extend their useful life and upgrading underground vaults. We also will be doing major upgrades at the Marston Treatment Plant, replacing gates at Cheesman Dam that date back to the early 1900s, and installing a new hydropower turbine at Williams Fork Reservoir.” In 2010 the water department will need an additional $13.3 million in revenue to cover rising costs associated with maintaining and improving the city’s water system. Denver Water owns and maintains 2,800 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 12 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants. Rehabilitation and replacement of infrastructure is needed throughout the water distribution system, much of which dates back to the World War II era or earlier.

Typical Denver residential customers will see their bills increase by about $40 a year — an average of $3.30 per month, or about $12 on a summer bill. Typical suburban residential customers served by Denver Water will see an increase of $51 per year — an average of $4.30 per month, or about $16 on a summer bill. The effects of the proposed changes on customer bills will vary depending upon the amount of water the customer uses and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water; the more customers use, the more they will pay. Commercial, industrial and government customers will see adjustments in rates, as well. Rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

Denver Water is funded through rates, new tap fees and the sale of hydropower, not taxes. Its rates are designed to recover the costs of providing reliable, high-quality water service and to encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. Most of Denver Water’s costs are fixed and include maintenance of the system’s distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants. Denver Water also examines and adjusts its capital plan as necessary each year.

Details of the 2010 rates will be posted on Denver Water’s Web site within the next few days. Members of the public who have questions about the proposed rate adjustment may call 303-893-2444.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Colleen O’Connor). From the article:

Residential bills vary according to how much water is used per household, but the increase for typical Denver residents will amount to about $40 annually, or $3.30 a month; during the summer irrigation season, bills probably will increase about $12 a month. In the past decade, the amount Denver Water charges its residential customers per 1,000 gallons of water will have doubled to $3.50 in 2010 from $1.75 in 2000. Rates for suburban customers will increase about $51 a year, or about $4.30 a month and about $16 a month in summer. In 10 years, the rate per 1,000 gallons for suburban customers will have increased 81 percent, to $4.80 in 2010 from $2.65 in 2000. Commercial, government and industrial users also will see rate increases of about 4.1 percent, Denver Water rate manager John Wright said. The monthly service charge Denver Water adds to each customer’s bill will increase to $5.58 from $4.41, or about 26.5 percent.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Durango: Study of sediment sources in Lightner Creek underway

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

A coalition of public agencies has acquired funding for a three-phase hydrological study to answer questions that have stumped observers for years: Where does the sediment that Lightner Creek periodically dumps into the Animas River come from, and why? Field work on the study, begun this week, could be done by the end of the year and lead to answers to an environmental problem seen as a potential source of harm to renowned fishing waters. “Sediment comes and goes, but no one knows whether it’s natural or human-induced,” Meghan Maloney, river campaign director at the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said recently. “The reason for concern is that Lightner Creek runs into the Animas at the head of a trout fishery that the Colorado Division of Wildlife gives its highest rating – gold medal.”[…]

Three organizations put up funding for a study – Trout Unlimited $1,000, the Colorado Water Conservation Board $5,000 and the Southwestern Water Conservation District $2,600 – to hire Mark Oliver of Basin Hydrology. Oliver started his field work this week. “I started at the mouth where Lightner Creek runs into the Animas and I’m working my way upstream,” Oliver said. “I’m looking at the channel and flood plain for sediment sources that could come from bank erosion or land-use modification. “The Tech Center watershed and Perins Canyon seem likely sources of silt,” Oliver said. “But my study will confirm whether the deposition is coming from there.” At certain points, Oliver will do sieve analysis – measuring the size of sediment particles. Along with a cross-section analysis of the channel – width, depth and slope – he can determine the movement of sediment. “I’ll focus on sediment sources and the mechanics of how sediment gets to the mouth,” Oliver said. “Then I’ll try to determine if the sediment is natural or caused by people – for example, the landfill above the Tech Center.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Cutthroat Chapter of Trout Unlimited Annual Conservation Auction November 17

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From Colorado Trout Unlimited:

The Cutthroat Chapter of Trout Unlimited will hold its Annual Conservation Auction on Tuesday, November 17. The doors will open at 6:30 pm. Admission is free. The event will help raise funds for the chapter’s conservation activities such as Cheeseman Canyon trail maintenance, help fund a graduate fellowship at Colorado State University Department of Fish Biology and Wildlife, and the chapter’s stream improvement activities. More than 150 items will be available for bid through a silent auction and a traditional verbal auction. Items to auctioned include fishing trips, fishing equipment, professionally tied flies, art items, and much more. The event will be held at Terrace Gardens, 13065 East Briarwood Avenue in Englewood (just south of Arapahoe Road, 2 miles east of I-25). Please contact Bill Richards at 303-909-1375 or go to for more information or directions.

More conservation coverage here.

San Luis Valley: Final arguments heard in trial over first groundwater sub-district

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Attorneys argued for four hours in a packed courtroom over which sources of water the subdistrict could use to replace injuries to senior surface users, how proposed computer modeling could accurately monitor them and to what extent past injury to seniors should be compensated. Attorney William Paddock, who represents the Rio Grande Water Users Association, argued that compensating for past depletions from the Rio Grande that project to cause injury into the future would be unfair to well users who were operating legally in the past. Judge O. John Kuenhold, who questioned each of the six attorneys who presented arguments, asked if not doing so would be fair to the senior surface water users, who’ve born the demands of delivering water downstream under the Rio Grande Compact since the 1960s while wells went unregulated. “Is it fair to wait 40 years for something?” he asked, while clarifying later in the proceedings that attorneys should not take his questioning as an indication of how he would rule.

The plan, which would take in roughly 174,000 acres of irrigated land and 3,000 irrigation wells, are an alternative to the rules and regulations currently being formulated by the Office of the State Engineer. Either of those two plans, should they go in effect, would represent the first regulation of the valley’s wells.

Tim Buchanan, an attorney representing 11 objectors, criticized the computer model that would be used to project depletions, noting that there were more than 200,000 acre-feet in groundwater depletions that resulted in only a 3-percent depletion to the Rio Grande. “Is it math or is it voodoo,” he asked. Buchanan and Erich Schwiesow, an attorney for one other objector, also questioned the subdistrict’s plans to attribute the recharge decrees of ditch companies in the subdistrict toward replacement water. Buchanan argued that the subdistrict didn’t have the authority to utilize the property rights of ditch shareholders in that manner. Paddock countered, noting that the decrees for two of the larger ditches in question, allowed water to be reallocated should they come under new regulation from the state.

Meanwhile, not content to wait for Judge Kuenhold’s ruling, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board voted this week to move ahead with implementing assessments for the management of the groundwater sub-district. Here’s a report from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

Well owners within the geographic area of the sub-district will pay fees to operate and manage the sub-district. The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) has been footing the bills for developing its sub-district to this point. The water management sub-district is designed to reduce well pumping in order to alleviate injuries to senior surface water rights, replenish the underground aquifer and ensure the basin complies with the Rio Grande Compact. The water court approved the sub-district, but the sub-district’s management plan is currently under dispute and judicial review…

RGWCD District Engineer Allen Davey asked the board on Tuesday if Sub-district #1 should prepare to submit the administrative fee documentation to the Rio Grande County treasurer. He said the process of preparing the documentation will cost some money, and the district would be risking the loss of those funds if the sub-district plan is denied by the courts. RGWCD Board President Ray Wright said the illness at the conclusion of the trial delayed closing arguments to the end of October, and the judge would undoubtedly take time to render a thorough decision after that time. He said it is a judgment call at this point whether the judge’s ruling will be made in time to begin assessments in 2010. Davey added that even if the judge makes a favorable ruling, an appeal could be filed that could last another year or more.

RGWCD Attorney Ingrid Barrier said, “I am fairly confident if we get such a ruling, we will have an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.” She said Kuenhold is well aware of the district’s time constraints regarding the fee collections, but there is also no question the judge will be determined to fashion a comprehensive decision taking into account the proposals of all the parties involved. “I think it is wise for us to move forward as if we are able to collect this fee … because if we do not do that, that’s another year off.” She said the administrative fees could be placed in an escrow account so in the event the Supreme Court denied the sub-district plan, the fees could be given back. Barrier said that completing the process to begin collecting fees would make it easier in the future to repeat the process. Several other sub-districts are in the works throughout the San Luis Valley…

Barrier also reviewed the major arguments from the principal attorney for the opponents, Tim Buchanan who represents a group of senior surface water owners. Barrier said the opposing arguments include: sub-district not entitled to use any water from the Closed Basin Project to replenish depletions; likewise with recharge water; the plan is not specific enough in how it will protect senior water rights; the plan is invalid because no rules/regulations are in place regarding contracts with well users outside the sub-district area; and the time period to begin replacing injurious depletions is in dispute. The sub-district board proposes to replace depletions in January of the year following the plan’s approval, while opponents believe the depletions should be retroactive.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.