Energy policy — nuclear: Representative Markey and Senator Bennet ask the EPA to shine a bright light on the approval process for Powertech’s injection well

A picture named uraniuminsituleaching.jpg

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Powertech must obtain, and has applied for, a permit from the EPA allowing it to drill an injection well for solution mining, also known as a “Class III” well. The company has also applied to the EPA for a per-mit for a water injection well – a “Class V” well – at the Centennial Project site. The agency is allowing the public to comment on a draft permit for the well through Dec. 24. “We would respectfully urge you to take every precaution to safeguard the quality of our water,” Bennet and Markey wrote in their letter.

Meanwhile, the mine’s potential impact on water quality in the region will be discussed at a hearing Thursday at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources headquarters in Denver. The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety is writing rules governing in situ leach min-ing under a law passed in 2008 requiring companies operating such mines to minimize their impact on water quality.

More coverage from The Greeley Tribune.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Interbasin Compact Committee meeting December 2

A picture named ibccroundtable.jpg

Here’s the release from the Department of Natural Resources (Theo Stein):

Water planners and stakeholders will convene to discuss ways to mix and match multiple strategies for meeting Colorado’s future water supply needs at the 25th meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee, to be held this Wednesday in Denver.

The focus of the meeting will be the introduction of an analytical tool to help the nine river basin roundtables identify the right mix of conservation, new supply development, agricultural transfers, and other strategies to help them meet their future water needs. The Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) is a 27-member committee established to facilitate dialogue between basins and to address statewide water issues.

The IBCC is organized around nine basin roundtables covering the South Platte, the Denver- Metro area, the Arkansas, the Rio Grande, the Gunnison, the Colorado, the Yampa-White, the Southwest and the North Platte. These roundtables are the primary forums for on-going discussions related to needs within each basin and the basins’ interactions with each other.

Date: Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Sheraton Denver West Hotel 360 Union Blvd. Lakewood, CO
Room: City Lights

All meetings are open and the public is encouraged to attend.

More IBCC — Basin Roundtable coverage here.

David A. Sampson: ‘Water and energy are inextricably linked…Energy is required to transport and purify water, and water is used in energy production’

A picture named colonyoilshaleproject.jpg

Here’s the release from Arizona State University:

Climate projections for the next 50 to 100 years forecast increasingly frequent severe droughts and heat waves across the American Southwest, sinking available water levels even as rising mercury drives up demand for it.

Declining water supply will affect more than just water flowing from taps and spraying from hoses and sprinklers. It will also strongly impinge on power generation, testing the capacity of sources like Hoover Dam, with its roughly 1.3 million customers in Nevada, Arizona and California, to generate adequate power with less water.

Now, Patricia Gober and David A. Sampson of the Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University are teaming with David J. Sailor of Portland State University on a $65,000 grant to wade into this deep problem.

Their research will focus initially on water and electricity supply and demand in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, and the effects of extreme heat and drought on them.

“Water and energy are inextricably linked,” says Sampson, a DCDC research scientist specializing in simulation and modeling. “Energy is required to transport and purify water, and water is used in energy production.

“Further reductions within the Colorado River Basin threaten not only water supplies but also energy production and tourism, with a potential economic impact amounting to billions of dollars in lost revenues.”

According to Sampson, Lake Powell currently stands at 62 percent capacity and Lake Mead, which provides the water that drives the Hoover Dam’s hydroelectric plants, is currently at 43 percent capacity and could drop as low as 40 percent.

Such levels raise questions about how providers will supply safe, affordable water to the 27 million residents relying on the Colorado River supply, especially in light of continued development and population growth.

The researchers will attack the complex problem from a number of angles.

The energy research will assess the current sensitivity of electricity supply and demand to weather fluctuations, while also projecting future scenarios of population demographics and climate. Researchers will also develop models that predict and gauge the vulnerability of the electricity generation infrastructure to changes in climate and population.

With respect to water, the researchers will use WaterSim (http://watersim.asu.edu/), DCDC’ s systems dynamics model and decision tool, to investigate how changing climate conditions will affect runoff, which provides the lion’s share of surface water used to supply Phoenix. Adapting WaterSim to a more localized scale, they will also perform a sensitivity analysis of climate change versus future population growth, to determine their relative impacts on water shortages, while also analyzing vulnerability at the water-provider level.

The researchers will feed their results into two different scenarios, a business-as-usual policy and one reflecting a groundwater-sustainability approach. These results, in turn, will provide a foundation for future study of implications of climate change and policy scenarios.

“This research is very much in line with the DCDC’s purpose and goals,” says Gober, co-director of DCDC and a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the School of Sustainability. “Figuring out how all the pieces fit together, identifying sensitivities, and making useful predictions and recommendations in the face of climatic uncertainty.”

The National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), a commission established by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that takes a bipartisan approach to energy policy, balancing science and politics, funds the project. Energy infrastructure adequacy and siting is one of its three current focus areas, along with oil security and climate change.

Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City is one of five National Science Foundation-funded centers nationwide fostering better decision-making under climatic uncertainty. It was founded to apply this principle to water-management decisions in the urbanizing desert of Central Arizona.

Source:
David A. Sampson, dasamps1@mainex1.asu.edu
Decision Center for a Desert City

Contact:
Nick Gerbis, ngerbis@asu.edu
Decision Center for a Desert City

S.1777 and S.796: What do the bills mean for acid mine drainage cleanup efforts?

A picture named big5tunnel.jpg

From the Colorado Independent (Katie Redding):

…toxic waterways around the state and country — are at the center of a legislative tug of war. So-called Good Samaritan laws seek to lift liability so clean-up work can begin. Those laws, however, are opposed by environmentalists who argue they might erode the strong federal Clean Water Act. The better approach, they say, is to make mining companies pay to properly clean up the messes they have made and are making by revamping the nation’s 1872 Mining Law, which has let the extraction industry off the hook for more than a century…

Proponents of Udall’s Good Samaritan legislation, however, argue that the legislation is not meant to substitute for the new 1872 Mining Law reform bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by fellow Democrat Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, a bill that would at last set up severance taxes to pay for cleanups. Good Sam legislation, they argue, is a necessary corollary to Bingaman’s legislation. “You need all the pieces,” said Peter Butler of the Animas River Stakeholders Group. “Even if you did set up a fund with severance taxes, you’ve got to have someone who is going to use that money, and they’re not willing to use it if they’re going to be liable.”[…]

DRMS Abandoned Mine Program Manager Loretta Pineda said fear of legal liability is real and a major stopping point in clean up projects. Pineda said the state is stymied by fear of incurring the Clean Water Act financial burdens that currently faces any third party that would take it upon itself to drain an abandoned mine. “There are several projects we’d like to work on, but we’re unable to do so because of liability,” said Pineda flatly.

In the Animas River Watershed, the Animas River Stakeholders Group has determined that of the 1,500 historic mine sites contributing cadmium, copper, aluminum, manganese, zinc, lead and iron to the watershed, about 34 waste sites contribute roughly 90 percent of the waste-site pollution, and about 33 draining mines contribute 90 percent of the draining-mine pollution. Bill Simon, a member of the group, explained that the group can address the waste sites without incurring liability, because no water is involved. But work on most of the 33 draining mines — apart from 5 addressed by a mining company and several that are on federal land — await some kind of liability waiver, said Simon. Even if the group had funding, neither the Animas River Stakeholders Group nor any other agency is willing to risk being sued for a problem not of their making, according to Simon.

More S.1777 coverage here and S.796 coverage here.

Summit County: Emerging contaminants

A picture named genderbendingpollution.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

“This is turning into the next big issue for water treatment plants,” said local water quality expert Lane Wyatt. With new, extra-sensitive monitoring equipment, agencies like the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have been able to detect trace amounts of various substances — including Viagra and ibuprofen — that may be adversely affecting fish. Scientists also are concerned that a build-up of antibiotics in the environment could eventually lead to a significant impact on a massive scale, with changes to the way naturally occurring bacteria process vast quantities of biomass like dead wood, recycling the material into nutrients. Wyatt said the Colorado Division of Wildlife has been finding hermaphroditic trout in some Colorado rivers. Research in other areas suggests that the chemicals are starting to accumulate in the food chain. Studies from Sweden show that some of the pollutants are starting to show up in breast milk…

The issue is so new that there currently are no water-quality standards to address the new class of contaminants, Wyatt said. Upgrading water treatment plants to remove the chemicals is likely to be expensive. Keeping the pollutants out of the water in the first place could help address the problem…

Wyatt said local waters were tested with the new equipment in recent weeks to get some baseline data on the emerging contaminants. Similarly, local residents had a chance to fill out a mail-in survey on the same topic in the past few weeks in advance of publicizing the prescription drug take-back. EPA officials said they wanted to get an idea of how much the public knows about the subject before launching an education push. “This hasn’t been done in very many places,” said the EPA’s Jean Mackenzie, who is also coordinating an interagency effort to clean up pollution at the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine. She said many of the emerging pollutants act as pseudo-estrogen, leading an increased incidence of inter-sex fish. “We need to keep them out of the water because treatment is not set up to take them out,” she said.

More water pollution coverage here.

Windsor: Potable water plan forecasts shortfall

A picture named fountainpavementdrawing.jpg

From the Windsor Beacon (Ashley Keesis-Wood):

The town had commissioned a potable water master plan at the beginning of the year, and [Clear Water Solutions] was chosen to create that document, which is intended to act as a guide in future water acquisition decisions. “The upshot is that build out, with all the water dedication planned on being taken into account, you’ll have a gap of about 8,731 acre-feet of water,” [Steve Nguyen, President of Clear Water Solutions] said.

Currently, the town relies on the Colorado Big Thompson (CBT) project for all its water needs. “Because of caps put into place on CBT to allow smaller communities to purchase water rights in CBT, you are not able to purchase any more CBT rights on the open market,” Nguyen said. “You can still accept them through dedication as projects are developed.”

The town is one of the participants in the North Integrated Supply Project (NISP), and Nguyen said that is a good project, which will help diversify the town’s portfolio. But, it won’t be enough. “You’ll need to make sure you have other sources, including the upcoming Windy Gap project or the Water Supply and Storage Company water,” Nguyen said. “We recommend you initiate discussions with those groups.”

More Windsor coverage here and here.

Dick Wolfe: Prior appropriation, ‘the system that works in times of scarcity’

A picture named typicalwaterwell.jpg

From the Twin Falls Times News:

Recognizing early on the effects that groundwater pumping can have on senior surface-water rights, Colorado officials tried a proactive solution, said Dick Wolfe, state engineer and head of the Division of Water Resources since 2007. Junior well users since the early 1970s have generally had to file court-approved “augmentation plans” before they can operate, describing how they will replace the water they use in times of shortage. The system worked — until a severe drought in 2002 pushed it to its limits. The ’80s and ’90s had been among the wettest on record for the South Platte Basin in northeast Colorado, the state’s largest basin in terms of water use. Then the drought hit, Wolfe said, and augmentation plans developed for shortfalls decades before were insufficient to handle the sheer level of need. Stream flow only reached 25 percent of usual. Groundwater pumpers scoured the market for water supplies, competing with cities and other water users who were also reluctant to part with their extra water. Prices skyrocketed: What once cost only $10 to $50 per acre-foot commanded sums as high as $700 per acre-foot, Wolfe recalled. Tension and conflicts rose with the increased competition for costly, limited supplies…

The agency faced the daunting task of examining about 8,200 physical, high-capacity irrigation wells, some of which would have to be completely shut down. Employees started with the wells along the main stem of the South Platte River, creating an inventory of several thousand in the curtailment’s first year and notifying the owners of wells that had to be shut off as they went. Only 5,800 wells were legally able to operate after the first couple years of work. Many of those were still “severely” restricted due to the drought, Wolfe said. Half of the remaining 2,400 wells were records errors and didn’t exist any more. At least 500 to 1,000 belonged to people who had no augmentation plan in place…

The inventories and inspections are still going on seven years later. And though water issues continue to be fought out in court, the basic process Wolfe follows has been upheld by the state Supreme Court. Given the task his agency faced, he feels it’s been handled well — even quickly. And the work has only strengthened his confidence in his state’s approach to water management. Prior appropriation, he said, is “the system that works in times of scarcity.”

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Arkansas River Compact Administration to meet December 8 in Garden City, KS

A picture named arkansasriverbasinwikipedia.jpg

From the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal:

The Arkansas River Compact Administration annual meeting will be at 9 a.m., Dec. 8, at the Clarion Inn, 1911 E Kansas Ave, in Garden City, Kan. On or before Dec. 1, the meeting agenda will be posted on the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s website at http://www.ksda.gov/interstate_water_issues/content/143 and on the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website at http://cwcb.state.co.us. The Arkansas River Compact Administration administers provisions of the Kansas-Colorado Arkansas River Compact, including how John Martin Reservoir operates. Topics to be covered at the meeting include a review of John Martin Reservoir operations and updates from state and federal agencies…

The administration’s engineering, operations and administrative/legal committees will meet at 2 p.m., Dec. 7, also at the Clarion Inn.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Summit County: Drought Early Warning System organizational meeting

A picture named blueriver.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

State water experts hope to develop an early warning system for drought using a grassroots network of trained weather watchers. Summit County and Grand County will be part of the data-gathering effort for the Upper Colorado River Basin, relying on readings from more than a dozen local volunteers who measure and report precipitation to help fill in the gaps between the National Weather Service’s three official stations in the county — Breckenridge, Dillon, and Green Mountain Dam…

Doesken has been interviewing dozens of water users, planners and managers in recent months, determining that water planners would like to have an accurate forecast of drought two years in advance. “That sounds like a reasonable request, and weather forecasts continue to get better. But accurate forecasts weeks to months in advance are still a very tall order,” he said…

For more information about this “drought early warning system,” contact Nolan Doesken, State Climatologist, Colorado Climate Center, Colorado State University. (970) 491-3690 nolan@atmos.colostate.edu

To sign up to help measure and report precipitation, go to http://www.cocorahs.org and click “Join CoCoRaHS” or contact dmatthewsdss@comcast.net or Gerry Divine cjdivine@comcast.net.

For more information on the National Integrated Drought Information System, go to: www.drought.gov.

Here’s the meeting information:

Drought Early Warning System for Summit County – Meeting Dec. 2
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting starts at 6 at the Summit Senior Center in Frisco.
This program is free and the public is invited.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Carbondale: Proposed water and sewer rate hike halved

A picture named watertreatment.jpg

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

What was planned to be a 3 percent annual water/wastewater rate hike was cut in half by Carbondale town trustees at their Nov. 24 meeting, as a way of bringing some financial relief to town residents…

At 3 percent, the new monthly base rate for in-town residential and commercial water customers would have been $16.83 each, and for out-of-town users $25.24, plus the incremental charge based on water usage. Wastewater rates would have been $10.83 and $16.23, respectively, under the original proposal. Those rates will now be slightly less given the agreed-to 1.5 percent increase.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Denver Water: Public hearing in Summit County for proposed Moffat Collection System Project

A picture named dilloncolorado.jpg

Update:

Here’s the release from Denver Water. There are four meetings starting Tuesday in Boulder:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold four Public Hearings on the Draft EIS. At each location, Denver Water will hold an Open House from 4 to 6 p.m. The Public Hearings begin at 6 p.m.:

Tues., Dec. 1 — Boulder Country Club, 7350 Clubhouse Road, Boulder, CO 80301
Wed., Dec. 2 — Inn at Silver Creek, 62927 U.S. Highway 40, Granby, CO 80446
Thurs., Dec. 3 — Doubletree Hotel, 3203 Quebec Street, Denver, CO 80207
Tues., Dec. 8 — Keystone Conference Center, 0633 Tennis Club Road, Keystone, CO 80435

From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

As described in a draft environmental study, the Moffat Collection System project in Grand County would also have impacts on flows on the Blue River. Flows in the Blue River at its confluence with the Colorado River could be cut by as much as 4,800 acre feet annually, about 2 percent of the river’s flow, according to figures released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the draft study. Denver Water project manager Travis Bray said those figures apply when at full build-out of Denver Water’s existing system, and with the Moffat Tunnel on-line. Under the new configuration of diversions that would result from the Moffat Tunnel project, Denver Water would take between 4,000 and 5,000 acre feet of additional water from Dillon Reservoir each year. Bray said the draft study shows there would only be a negligible long-term impact to boating and no impact to fisheries in the Blue River…

Although 2 percent doesn’t sound like much, peak flows are important for the river’s ecosystem, said Becky Long, water caucus organizer with the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “If the project goes forward, the Blue River would see reduced flows in the summer months during wet and average years,” she said. The peak flows in wet years help flush sediment out of the river, create new habitat and support rafting and kayaking, she said.

The main focus of the project is on increased diversions from the Fraser River, but conservation groups are concerned about overall effects on the entire Upper Colorado ecosystem. They advocated for the Summit County hearing when the draft study was released a few weeks ago. Long said the Corps was responding to requests from Summit County residents by scheduling the local hearing…

Conservation groups have identified several broad environmental goals that should be included in the project’s mitigation plan, including:

— Adequate baseline flows in the Fraser throughout the year to sustain fisheries and recreation.

— Sustained peak flows at key times of the year to mimic a natural flow regime and ensure the health and resilience of the river.

— Aggressive urban water conservation and efficiency measures to save more water, such as incentives for homeowners to replace Kentucky bluegrass with drought-tolerant landscaping. More than half of residential water use goes to watering lawns.

— Ongoing monitoring of the river’s health and a mitigation plan with the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions…

A summary of the draft environmental impact statement is online at: https://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/html/od-tl/eis/moffat.deis.vol1.exec-summary.pdf (pdf)

Here’s the public meeting information:

What: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hearing
When: December 8 —Open House: 4 p.m.; public hearing begins at 6 p.m.
Where: Keystone Conference Center (0633 Tennis Club Road, Keystone)

More Denver Water coverage here.

Pueblo West: Pumpback plan update

A picture named lightningpueblores.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo West is seeking state health department approval of a pumpback plan it says will not harm Lake Pueblo, which is contested by State Parks and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The Pueblo County commissioners and Pueblo Area Council of Governments have balked at approval of Pueblo West’s plan to return treated sewer flows into a gulch behind the golf course above Lake Pueblo. Right now, all options are open, said Pueblo County’s water attorney Ray Petros…

“On the one hand, they say they have the science,” Petros said. “Then why are they so reticent about putting in an application for a 1041 permit so there could be public scrutiny and independent verification of that science?” The county still would have to permit a discharge into Lake Pueblo, even if state approval is given. There also likely would be issues with the Bureau of Reclamation for long-term storage contracts in Lake Pueblo, Petros said…

The pumpback option would allow Pueblo West to use more of [transmountain] flows because there would not be the transit loss associated with Wild Horse Dry Creek.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Republican River Basin: Senator Bennet and Representative Markey broker a deal to expand the CREP program in Washington and Lincoln counties

A picture named republicanriverbasin.jpg

From the High Plains Journal:

The agreement allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program from 35,000 to 70,000 acres and add areas of Washington and Lincoln counties. CREP allows water rights to be permanently retired: the once-irrigated farmland must be put into a grass habitat for 15 years, after which it may be used for grazing or dry land farming. “This will take acres out of production, yet it shows producers will do their part to help rural Colorado as a whole, not just themselves,” said Greg Larson of Haxtun. Larson is a farmer, vice president of the Republican River Conservation District, and secretary-treasurer of Colorado Corn Growers Association. “We are helping to preserve the aquifer and the basin, overall.”

Pueblo West: Discharge site request change spawns ill will

A picture named puebloreservoir.jpg

From The Pueblo West View (Mike Spence):

The 3-0 vote to reject the site application plan came after a 30-minute debate in which Pueblo West officials accused the county commissioners of singling out the Pueblo West project for rejection, of going back on their word, and connecting this project with the county’s battle with Pueblo West over the Southern Delivery System.

Those charges brought a rebuke from Commission Chairman Jeff Chostner. “It was the procedural compliance that is the problem,” Chostner said. “We are not hostile to your option. I have no opinion on your option. Until it comes to us formally, we are going to hold you to strict procedural compliance…

The war of words was over the metro district’s filing of an application with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to relocate the discharge site of its wastewater plant from the Arkansas to Lake Pueblo. The application is one of the first steps in the metro district’s attempt to build a pump back project that will clean wastewater from its wastewater plant and pump it six miles to the Golf Course Wash and into Lake Pueblo. Pueblo West’s water is non-native to the Arkansas Basin, so it can be re-used to extinction, according to state law. It also would negate the need for exchanges from Lake Pueblo, metro district officials said. Currently, Pueblo West cleans its wastewater and pumps it to Wild Horse Dry Creek and into the Arkansas River. Pueblo West is given credit for that water and exchanges those credits for water from Lake Pueblo.

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Colorado Springs: Which stormwater efforts will be funded now that the enterprise fund is kaput?

A picture named fountaincreekwatershed.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

a vote on Tuesday confirmed the [Colorado Springs city] council’s position to phase out the stormwater enterprise within two years. Unless another funding mechanism is found, Colorado Springs will absorb only the minimal funding for federal requirements, maintenance, health, safety and emergencies in its general fund beginning in 2012. Colorado Springs council adopted the new policy in response to Doug Bruce’s Issue 300, which implies the voters chose to end the stormwater enterprise, without actually saying so. Bruce campaigned for the issue as an end to what he and others called a “rain tax” and celebrated by tearing up his stormwater bill on television.

Council also agreed to include a $4.24 million-$6.7 million project to upgrade the Templeton Gap levee, which protects thousands of homes, was not on the critical projects list. In all, about $9 million of work on projects from the critical list are likely to be completed under the two-year phase-out.

Council members did not come up with an alternative for funding the remainder of critical projects on the list, although some talked about developing a regional approach with other El Paso County communities or putting a stormwater question on a future municipal ballot.

At the same time, Colorado Springs is planning on spending $46.2 million on SDS in the coming year, according to its published 2010 annual operating plan. The city has issued bonds for the project.

Colorado Springs also will spend almost more than $27 million for maintenance, repair, inspection and replacement of sanitary sewer lines in the city, including $7.5 million for ultraviolet treatment at its Las Vegas Street treatment plant, $7 million for sewer line upgrades and $6 million to fortify stream crossings, according to the operating plan. The city committed to spend at least $75 million in sanitary sewer upgrades, which are costs paid by customers and have nothing to do with the stormwater enterprise.

The city is obligated to make some of the repairs to its sanitary sewer system under state compliance orders, which are also a factor in a federal lawsuit won by the Sierra Club.

More stormwater coverage here.

Colorado will score $42 million from ASARCO reorganization plan

A picture named californiagulchleadville.jpg

From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

A Texas judge on Tuesday finalized the reorganization plan for ASARCO Inc., a copper mining and smelting company that owned mines around Silver Lake, which sits west of Silverton at 12,000 feet. In all, Colorado will get $42 million from the $1.7 billion reorganization plan. The state will use $16 million for ASARCO’s smelter in north Denver. The rest will go to mine cleanup around Colorado, including the Summitville site in Rio Grande County, according to a news release from Attorney General John Suthers.

“ASARCO’s reorganization is exceptional in that Colorado and the federal government will recover every dollar they claimed for environmental remediation – plus interest,” Suthers said. “These funds will go a long way to improving and remediating sites ASARCO operated at throughout the state.”[…]

The settlement was a happy surprise for Bill Simon of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, which works on mine cleanup around Silverton. “It seems like $4 million would be more than we expected,” Simon said. “That sounds very good.” ASARCO owned property and mines around Silver Lake, including the lake itself, Simon said. The area saw heavy mining in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and now waste and tailings from the mines are stacked next to the lake and cover the lake bed. At least one mine is draining acid into the lake, Simon said. However, cleanup of the lake hasn’t been the top priority for the Animas River Stakeholders. “That area is so remote and so difficult to remediate, we would probably like to use those funds in a more appropriate area and get more bang for our buck,” Simon said.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Tim Hoover). From the article:

The Globe plant has been the site for smelting or refining a number of heavy metals since 1886, and neighborhoods around it have undergone intensive environmental cleanup efforts for decades. Rep. Joel Judd, D-Denver, whose district includes the neighborhoods around the plant, said he hoped the bankruptcy plan would move the Globe site closer to being reused. “That thing’s been sort of a blight on a hill looking down on Globeville for a century,” Judd said. “It has the potential to be a residential site.”

Randall Weiner, an attorney who has represented Globe ville residents in a lawsuit against Asarco, said the bankruptcy plan appeared to also be good for his clients. “I suspect that moneys will be released, and they (residents in the lawsuit) will all receive the moneys that Asarco promised them 10 years ago,” Weiner said.

More Colorado Water coverage here.

S.796, Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009: Senator Udall signs on as a sponsor

A picture named big5tunnel.jpg

From the Colorado Independent (Katie Redding):

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall has taken a careful look at mining reform proposals and has announced that he is co-sponsoring the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2009, a Senate bill sponsored by New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman…

The bill has the backing of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, a former senator from Colorado and the Obama administration. However, observers expect Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to block the reform measure, as he has in the past, to cater to gold mining interests in his home state.

More S.796 coverage here.

Center for Biological Diversity files lawsuit to gain protection for the Colorado River cutthroat

A picture named greenbackvscorivercutthroat.jpg

From the Associated Press via the Vail Daily:

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., by the Center for Biological Diversity challenges a 2007 decision that kept the fish off the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision said there was evidence of an increased number of populations of the fish. But Noah Greenwald of the Portland-based Center for Biological Diversity says the trout is gone from 87 percent of its historic range, which included parts of Arizona and New Mexico.

More endangered species coverage here.

El Niño setting up in eastern Pacific

A picture named elninolanina.jpg

Both farmers and ski area operators spend a lot of time with one eye on the sky. Here’s a report about this year’s El Niño and what to expect from Brittany Havard writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The exact reason an El Niño weather pattern occurs is not certain, but during El Niño winters areas in the far Pacific Northwest and Gulf of Mexico react strongly to weather signals, producing excess precipitation. States like Colorado that lie directly in the middle of these strong signals receive fewer storms, according to the National Weather Service.

“We typically only get about six storms a winter that produce over a foot of snow per storm. If we get four, it’s a dry year. If we get eight, it’s wet. It looks like December, January, and February will be below average in precipitation, but hopefully we’ll get some bigger storms this spring,” said Joe Ramey, a forecaster at National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office…

Typically with an El Niño winter, states west of the Continental Divide get big storms in the fall and spring, though this year, the fall has been relatively dry — a concern for a tourism-driven Telluride economy. One hope for powder hounds is that the Farmer’s Almanac is in complete disagreement with the National Weather Service. “We continue to be at odds with the Farmer’s Almanac who continue to do their own thing. They’re saying it’s going to be a cold winter with significant snowfall, which is exactly opposite of what we’re saying,” said Ramey…

2008 and 2008 were La Niña winters, meaning the waters off the Peruvian coast were cooler, providing more snowfall for some states west of the Continental Divide.

Flaming Gorge pipeline update

A picture named flaminggorgeusgs.jpg

Here’s an in-depth look at Aaron Million’s proposed pipeline from southwestern Wyoming to the Front Range and points south in Colorado, from Joel Warner writing for Westword. Here’s an excerpt:

Disclaimer: I’m quoted in the article.

Along the Green River in Wyoming, cities and towns are massing to fight a proposal that would pump up to 250,000 acre-feet of water per year from their river to thirsty cities and towns in Colorado. One meeting on the topic was so contentious that attendees have referred to it as a “Guantánamo Bay waterboarding.”

The focus of the uproar is a relatively unknown Fort Collins entrepreneur named Aaron Million, who came up with the plan to bring the much-needed water to Colorado. And these days, he has as many enemies on this side of the border as he does in Wyoming. Some of Colorado’s most powerful water suppliers oppose the project, while one is trying to build a similar pipeline himself. One ensuing squabble nearly came to blows.

Here’s a follow up the the Million story detailing the disappearing glaciers that are part of the Green River’s source waters, from Joel Warner writing for Westword. From the article:

When [Charlie Love, a colorful geology and anthropology professor at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, Wyoming] isn’t busy living with New Guinea cannibals or erecting dinosaur displays on WWCC’s campus, he’s spent a lot of time over the past 25 years climbing around and flying over the glaciers that cling to the sides of the Wind River Mountain Range in western Wyoming, glaciers that feed the Green and several other major river systems. And what Love says he and his WWCC colleagues have discovered about these glaciers is disturbing: “They are going extinct before our very eyes.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

A picture named plowingsnowsanjuans.jpg

From the Stemboat Pilot & Today (Tom Ross):

[Art Judson, Steamboat weather observer and retired avalanche forecaster] explained how the density of the snowpack increases in the hours after a fresh snowfall. Density is an expression of how much water is contained in standing snow of a certain depth. “To get the density, you divide the snow depth into the water equivalent,” he said. Snow measuring sites maintained by the National Resources Conservation Service remotely sense the weight of the snowpack (revealing the water content) and its depth.

Snow depth had settled on Buffalo Pass on Wednesday to a depth of 37 inches and contained 9.5 inches of water. Simple division indicates a density of 0.256. “In Steamboat, the average density of new snow is 0.07. (actually 0.072),” Judson said. “One inch of snow with 0.07 water-equivalent equals a density of 0.07. To get the density, you divide the snow depth into the water equivalent. The main thing to remember is that snow is always densifying until it reaches the density of ice, which is 0.917.”

Inaccuracies in published data underestimate the amount of organic pollutants in raw sewage

A picture named wastewatertreatmentwtext.jpg

From Highlights in Chemical Science (Amaya Camara-Campos):

High quality analysis of raw sewage is crucial to measure pollutants in the environment and the efficiency of wastewater treatments plants. Suspended solids in sewage can block analytical apparatuses and complicate analysis so samples are commonly filtered before analysis. But, appropriate corrections for the filtration step are not always made say Rolf Halden and Randhir Deo at Arizona State University, Tempe.

Some hydrophobic organic compounds adsorb onto these solid filters and disappear from the sample, so the analysis of the resulting aqueous phase does not show the total amount that was present before filtering, explains Halden. Halden and Deo studied reported data for 33 organic compounds in the aqueous phase and found that between 15-60% of some compounds’ mass was adsorbed onto the suspended solids, which led to estimates of organic pollutants being 50% lower than actually present. And at higher pH levels, the underestimation became more frequent.

More wastewater coverage here.

Rio Grande Basin: Aquifer recharge underway

A picture named slvdischargerecharge.jpg

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division III Division Engineer Craig Cotten explained that the currently low water levels in the river are the result of recharge diversions this fall…

“We are still diverting some water in some ditches,” Cotten said on Tuesday. He clarified that the water being diverted now is solely in ditches that are able to take water for recharge. Those diversions will end in about a week, at the end of November. The Rio Grande will then begin to show higher levels…

One of the reasons for the recharge diversions this fall was expressly to reduce the amount of water that will be over delivered downstream as part of the interstate Rio Grande Compact, Cotten explained…

If the water division had not allowed more water to be diverted in the Valley, Colorado would have ended the year with a higher over-delivery downriver. Water delivered over the amount obligated through the Rio Grande Compact would be stored in the Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico where it would remain as “credit” water for Colorado. “We do lose some for evaporation,” Cotten explained. That would be like putting money in savings but having less in the account when the depositor was ready to draw the money back out. “We think it is better to keep the water up here and recharge the aquifers,” Cotten said.

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

Fryingpan River: Late summer releases from Ruedi hurt trout fishing but helped the Colorado Pike minnow and other fish in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

A picture named coloradopikeminnow.jpg

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it released water purchased from Ruedi by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when the agency demanded or “called” it in August. “We don’t have a lot of flexibility there,” said reclamation bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb. “That’s their water. They can call for it when they want.” The Fish and Wildlife Service is running a recovery program for four species of native fish in the Colorado River: The pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail club and humpback chub. Water is needed during dry times to enhance habitat in what’s called the 15-Mile Reach, a stretch of the river in the Grand Valley near Grand Junction.

The reclamation bureau’s data shows there were 33 days with flows at or above 300 cubic feet per second on the Fryingpan River between Aug. 5 and Sept. 24, when the water was needed for the recovery program. The flows exceeded 400 cfs on 21 days and topped 500 cfs on eight days. Anglers prefer flows below 250 cfs. Wading into the river is nearly impossible at higher flows and fishing the gold-medal trout stream is difficult when it exceeds that level…

[The Ruedi Water and Power Authority] , along with Basalt town government, invited the reclamation bureau to a meeting to discuss the operations. Lamb said the bureau accepted the invitation and is waiting for the local governments to set a time and place. “These are important concerns and we know that,” Lamb said. But she also stressed that the reclamation bureau doesn’t have a lot of control over the issues that upset anglers, fly shops and the local governments. The Fish and Wildlife Service has contracts for Ruedi Reservoir water. It can use 5,000 acre feet annually, and an additional 5,000 acre feet four out of any five years. There is also a special agreement that allows the federal agency to use an additional 10,825 acre feet for the endangered fish recovery program. All told, the Fish and Wildlife Service can call up to 28,825 acre feet of Ruedi water per year for the recovery effort. It’s not unusual for that entire amount to be demanded, but the timing varies. The tendency is for the water to be called in late summer and early fall, Lamb said. This year was different because the water was demanded earlier.

Work at the Shoshone Power Plant created lower flows on the Colorado River at the endangered fish habitat at the same time that hot, dry weather was reducing flows, Lamb said. As a result, the Ruedi Reservoir water was required earlier.

More endangered species coverage here and here.

New watershed group for the Colorado River in Garfield County?

A picture named glenwoodwave.jpg

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Chris Treese, external affairs manager for the Colorado River District office in Glenwood Springs, told the Garfield County Commissioners on Nov. 9 that he and others are hoping to create a watershed working group that will focus on this particular part of the Colorado River Basin. A group of 26 participants started meeting on Sept. 18, according to the group’s four-page draft mission statement. “The fact is, we have groups throughout the state covering every watershed,” Treese said in a telephone interview on Nov. 23. He pointed to the Roaring Fork Conservancy, which keeps an eye on that watershed, and other, existing watershed organizations that already cover much of the Colorado River basin, and on whose turf the new group does not plan to tread…

…he added that “We recognize that water is a scarce and valuable resource in the West, and it takes stewardship to manage that resource effectively.” From the potentially massive water needs of the still-embryonic oil shale industry, to water-quality concerns linked to current gas drilling in Garfield County, to basic population growth impacts, to the invasively flourishing Tamarisk plant that is choking out native plant life along the edges of rivers, the group is looking at a variety of issues, Treese said. “We don’t even have a name for ourselves yet,” he joked, although the draft mission statement refers to the “Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership Exploratory Purpose and Scope.”

Although he is working with a number of area groups and individuals, Treese said his primary partner in the effort is Clark Anderson of the Sonoran Institute, a western lands and conservation group with offices in the U.S. and Mexico, including one in Glenwood Springs. Anderson said the group, which currently is made up by representatives of government, energy industry, nonprofits, environmentalists, ranchers and other facets of the local political landscape, is still “figuring itself out.”[…]

On Oct. 29, the group issued a “stakeholder information letter” inviting any interested individuals or organizations to contact Treese (ctreese@crwcd.org or 945-8522), Anderson (canderson@sonoraninstitute.org or 384-4364) or any of a half-dozen of the group’s organizers. Both Treese and Anderson predicted that it will not be long before the group concludes either that there is no need for its efforts and disbands, or that it is time to come up with a name and a mission statement and declare itself. Treese said the next meeting of the group is not scheduled until after New Year’s Day.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Alamosa: Report on 2008 salmonella outbreak blames aging infrastructure, inspection regime

A picture named pigeon.jpg

Here’s a look at the City of Alamosa’s response to last week’s report on the 2008 salmonella outbreak, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

Alamosa Public Works Director Don Koskelin has responded to a recently released state report on Alamosa’s 2008 salmonella crisis. “There’s no big surprises,” he said…

Koskelin added that the Weber Reservoir was not in the best shape at the time of the salmonella crisis but was already slated to be out of service. Koskelin said the Weber Reservoir was constructed in 1979 and the roof was replaced in the 1980’s. He said all the indications the city had were that the reservoir was not in great condition but not in terrible condition and within a matter of months was to be taken off line. (It is currently only used for irrigation purposes, not as part of the city’s potable water supply.) Before the 2008 water crisis, the Weber Reservoir was not the center of attention, Koskelin said. “We were deeply involved in constructing the water treatment plant. We started designing the plant in 2004 … That was taking up much of our attention.”[…]

“If the water treatment plant had been in eight months earlier than it was, and it was under construction, none of this could have happened,” Koskelin said…

Koskelin shared a copy of Liquid Engineering Corporation’s 1997 report with the Alamosa city council. The inspection listed the reservoir as clean, the roof in good condition and the walls showing “minor spalling” (chipping, flaking) and bowing outward. Koskelin said the bow occurred when the concrete was initially poured. The report noted that the corners of the wall surface were in poor condition with cracking, spalling and exposed aggregate but were still satisfactory. “That’s exterior damage,” Koskelin said. The report also marked the concrete slab/ring as satisfactory but also showing cracking, spalling and erosion or exposed aggregate. The 1997 report also noted “minor corrosion on roof support structures.” The report stated sand had built up on the west side from the inlet, and sediment was observed on the floor, but no leaking was observed in any part of the reservoir at that time.

More Alamosa coverage here and here.

Routt County: Study into possible effects of coalbed methane exploration and production on groundwater and surface water underway

A picture named groundwater.jpg

From the Craig Daily Press (Collin Smith):

An ongoing study into the possible effects of coalbed methane production in the Sand Wash Basin now shows the area has deep faults potentially connecting coal seams and near-surface water reservoirs. This would mean activity in those coal seams could affect water resources used by local residents…

Officials from the Colorado Geological Survey are completing the study, which is slated to cost about $121,000. Moffat County contributed $1,500, Routt County $500 and state water groups funded the rest. Researchers said they are done mapping the methane and water resources of the basin, and next plan to build an analytical model that will help evaluate what impacts may arise in the future from coalbed methane production…

Peter Barkmann, managing hydrogeologist for the Geological Survey, said companies may have to do additional research before starting coalbed methane production in the Sand Wash Basin. “I think, if anything, the complexity of the basin tells me there’s going to have to be a pretty careful examination done before a company attempts to produce coalbed methane,” Barkmann said.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

$1 million for restoration from Shattuck Chemical site settlement

A picture named southplattedenvermetro.jpg

From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

Because the site is in the South Platte River watershed, the restoration efforts are broad. About 280 acres of wetlands on the Eastern Plains will be restored at a cost of $818,000, based on an initial $75,000 from the Shattuck settlement. Adding funds and services to the project are government agencies, private businesses and landowners, said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Matt Filsinger. Among those participating are Ducks Unlimited, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, the Harmony Ditch Co. and Drakeland Farms.

The Shattuck settlement also will help pay for a $235,000 restoration of Overland Pond Park. “It was felt that since Shattuck was an urban Superfund site, some of those funds should stay in Denver,” Archuleta said. The Fish and Wildlife Service will put $120,000 toward the project, and the remainder of the $235,000 will come from funds and services from community groups, such as the Greenway Foundation, and city agencies, such as Denver Parks and Recreation. “Overland Pond Park has been loved to death,” said Casey Davenhill, administrative coordinator for the nonprofit Greenway Foundation. “Those 8 acres are really heavily used.” The park, created in the early 1970s, has small habitat zones representing Colorado from the prairie to alpine forest, Davenport said. “This has made the park an important educational resource, and that’s something Fish and Wildlife wants to support,” Archuleta said. The project will include grading trails, new signs, upgrading the pond area and new plantings, according to a Wildlife Service draft restoration plan…

The draft restoration plan is open until early December for public comment and can be viewed at: www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/nrda/Shattuck/index.html

More restoration coverage here.

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

A picture named big5tunnel.jpg

From the Colorado Independent (Katie Redding):

With so many previous versions defeated, proponents of Udall’s new version laugh wryly when asked if the bill will pass this time around. In fact, there are indications that this time may be different. Having Udall in the Senate, where he’s been able to attract the attention of the Environment and Public Works Committee, will help, according to Cathy Carlson, policy adviser for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Earthworks. “He’s met a few times with Sen. [Barbara] Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, and she’s expressed interest in trying to do something with this bill,” Carlson said. Carlson also believed the bill has a friend in the Obama administration. “It’s a priority for the secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, who is from Colorado,” she said. Carlson — who recently returned from meeting with the staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about the bill — said she expects the committee will hear the bill by spring…

The bill has also been narrowed and tightened in order to cut down on the chances that it could be misused, which has brought more supporters on board. Both Carlson and Roger Flynn, director and managing attorney for the Lyons, Colo.-based Western Mining Action Project said their organizations opposed the 2006 version of this bill — as did many of the major environmental groups — because it waived liability from nearly every landmark piece of environmental legislation. Both have since worked with Udall to narrow the bill, and both support the recently introduced version of the bill, which exempts Good Samaritans and no one else from lawsuits under the Clean Water Act. Asked about the potential for the bill to be misused by mining companies, Paul Frohardt, administrator of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, pointed out that the bill can only be used to clean up abandoned mines — not sites where the responsible party continues to operate.

Carlson also noted that the bill prohibits so-called “re-mining.” That is, the bill doesn’t allow anyone to extract minerals for commercial use from these clean-up sites. Environmental groups worry that if re-mining is allowed, mining companies will try to re-mine existing mine waste with Good Samaritan permits, under the premise that are cleaning up the site. Flynn also points out that would-be Good Samaritans must apply to the state for a permit — and that permitting has a public hearing process. “So if a mining company did try to use the law to set up a “dummy nonprofit” to clean up its mess, said Flynn, “a quick review of that dummy nonprofit would show that it’s not a real organization.”

The bill also makes Good Samaritans liable if they make the pollution worse, said Carlson — thereby addressing the concern that a well-intentioned Good Samaritan might actually make a bigger mess of the site, due to poor planning or inexperience. “Although anything is possible, the bill is certainly not designed to [let mining companies abuse it], and there are some safeguards in there,” said Flynn. Still, he warns that the environmental community will have to be vigilant to make sure that mining companies aren’t successful in pushing loopholes for the industry, like re-mining permits, into the bill. “You can be sure that people will be watching out to make sure the mining companies don’t do an end run around this,” he said…

So far, many of the groups that opposed the controversial 2006 version of the legislation don’t appear to be firing off letters about this one. “I don’t believe it’s something we’re working on,” said Nick Berning, spokesman for Friends of the Earth. A spokesman for the National Resources Defense Council said the organization has no position on the new bill. Meanwhile, at the Clean Water Network, which has not yet taken a position, Colorado Watershed Assembly executive director and Good Samaritan proponent Jeff Crane recently joined the board of directors, in part to convince the group to support Good Samaritan legislation this time around…

Of the groups that opposed the 2006 legislation, so far only one, Earthjustice, has indicated to The Colorado Independent that it would not support Udall’s current Good Samaritan legislation. “We will not support a bill that makes exemptions from environmental laws,” said spokewoman Jessica Ennis. “The Clean Water Act is a landmark environmental law. Waiving environmental laws to clean up the environment just does not sound like the best approach.

More S.B. 1777 coverage here.

Colorado Springs: City council approves dismantling of stormwater enterprise

A picture named fountaincreekwatershed.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The phase-out [over two years] will give the city time to finish some projects already under way, allow it to repair a levee that protects thousands of homes and meet unfunded federal mandates. It will mean the city won’t be able to start several projects that are needed or to respond to citizen requests regarding stormwater. Colorado Springs also intends to fulfill its commitments on Fountain Creek related to Southern Delivery System despite ending the stormwater enterprise, and several on council voiced support for a regional solution in El Paso County that could include a vote to create a stormwater enterprise in the future. “The two-year phaseout will give us time to work on a regional solution, allow us to complete our projects and come up with a regional stormwater plan,” said Bernie Herpin, one of five council members supporting the phase-out…

The Templeton Gap Levee is the only Army Corps of Engineers levee in Colorado Springs, said stormwater director Ken Sampley. The levee, built in the late 1940s, needs between $4.24 million and $6.74 million in work to protect up to 3,000 homes and 300 businesses. If the work is not done, they would be required to obtain flood insurance.

Under the two-year phaseout, Templeton Gap will be completed, but more than 20 other projects won’t begin as scheduled. When the stormwater enterprise was created, there was a $300 million backlog in projects, with $60 million in critical needs. Sampley showed slides of bridge supports beginning to wash out and areas that were eroding because there has been only funding for piecemeal work…

In addition to Templeton Gap, there are $2.3 million of projects that have been started remaining in the pipeline, and four projects on Sand Creek totalling about $2.4 million. Sampley also recommended maintaining minimum funding for regulatory requirements, emergency operations, health and safety, which together total almost $5 million. By 2012, all those costs will be paid for from the general fund under the plan reviewed by council Monday…

The city also is prepared to meet its obligations of $125 million of spending on Fountain Creek through the financing of SDS, a $1 billion-plus water supply project that includes a pipeline from Pueblo Dam. Colorado Springs ratepayers will bear that expense. Colorado Springs also has included funds for improvements at Clear Springs Ranch south of Fountain and dredging the Fountain Creek channel in Pueblo as part of next year’s budget.

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

A split Colorado Springs City Council decided Monday to phase out the enterprise over two years, allowing the city-owned business to finish projects under construction and also reconstruct a decades-old drainage channel that’s been deemed “minimally acceptable.” Council members Tom Gallagher, Darryl Glenn, Jan Martin and Randy Purvis called for an immediate end of the enterprise…

Enterprise Manager Ken Sampley said the council’s decision could hamper the enterprise’s ability to collect fees over the next two years, even from people who have been paying them. “I’d like to think that everybody paid them (in the past) because they were good citizens and wanted to pay their Stormwater Enterprise fee,” he said. “That may not be the case. I think it’s reasonable to believe that if there is no provision for certifying (delinquent accounts) to the treasurer, we will be collecting, definitely, a lower percentage.”[…]

The initiative requires an immediate end to the enterprise, said [Douglas Bruce sponsor of Issue 300 passed by Colorado Springs voters November 3], who is threatening to start a petition drive for a permanent property tax cut if the city doesn’t get rid of the enterprise right away. “I don’t make threats,” Bruce said Monday night. “I’m just advising them that there’s going to be adverse consequences if they don’t give the people what they want.”

More stormwater coverage here.

Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Director Jim Broderick pow wows with Reclamation’s Mike Ryan

A picture named fryingpanarkansasproject.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“I think they are starting to understand the significance of what we are trying to do, and listening to the Secretary of Interior,” Jim Broderick, director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District told the board Thursday. Broderick went to Billings, Mont., last week to meet with Mike Ryan, regional director for Reclamation, and other officials. He took a list of about 20 issues that have been of concern to the district in recent years. It’s a new era of cooperation for the district, which has had an often placid, but sometimes stormy relationship with Reclamation in the past. A large part of the credit for the thaw belongs to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Broderick said. Salazar met with Southern Colorado water interests in August. His major action as a result of the meeting was to appoint Deanna Archuleta, deputy assistant secretary for water and science, as liaison for Arkansas Valley issues, like Southern Delivery System and the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Ryan also attended that meeting.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Mountain Studies Institute: Nitrogen levels in San Juan Mountains lakes less than that of Front Range lakes

A picture named vallecitolake.jpg

From the Silverton Standar & the Miner (Mark Esper):

Mountain Studies Institute contributed to two new scientific papers published Nov. 6 that explain how extra nitrogen deposited in undisturbed lakes is changing the nutrient balance available to algae, the small aquatic plants at the base of the food chain. San Juan Mountain lakes studied near the MSI field station in Silverton had relatively low levels of nitrogen, however, compared to many of the lakes studied in the Front Range of northern Colorado and portions of Norway and Sweden. Although increased concentrations of nitrogen in alpine lakes from atmospheric deposition have been widely reported, the subsequent effects on lake biology are not well documented. The results of the studies are published in the top-notch scientific journals Science and Ecology.

The findings demonstrate that atmospheric nitrogen deposition, which have been increasing steadily due to emissions from motor vehicles, energy production and agriculture, could reduce algal diversity and favor algae that are poor quality food for higher consumers such as zooplankton. Zooplankton are small swimming animals in lake food webs that are important food for higher predators, such as fish. Algae, like all plants, need nitrogen and phosphorus for growth. Inputs from pollution in the atmosphere appear to shift the supplies of nitrogen relative to other elements, like phosphorus. “When nitrogen levels get too high, the growth of algae at the base of the food web becomes limited by how much phosphorus they can acquire,” says Koren Nydick, executive director and chief scientist at the Mountain Studies Institute. “Initially, excess nitrogen from air pollution may stimulate growth of algae, but the phosphorus-starved algae are poor quality food for zooplankton, and this may have repercussions for fish.” James Elser from Arizona State University, who led the collaborative study, likens phosphorus-poor phytoplankton to “junk food” for zooplankton.

Lake sampling and experiments were initially conducted in low and high nitrogen deposition regions of Colorado in 2006. The San Juan Mountains near Silverton served as a “low deposition” region due to the relatively low amounts of nitrogen deposition recorded at a long-term monitoring station at Molas Pass. Algae in the San Juan lakes tended to be more deficient in nitrogen than phosphorus. This contrasted to lakes on the Front Range of northern Colorado, which receives about three times the nitrogen deposition recorded at Molas Pass. Algae in Front Range lakes tended to be phosphorus-poor (i.e., “junk food” for fish).

More Climate Change coverage here.

EPA faking the look of mine tailings with shotcrete at California Gulch

A picture named californiagulchleadville.jpg

From the Leadville Herald Democrat (Ann E. Wibbenmeyer):

The reaction to the work was positive, with comments about how authentic the piles still looked. There was some discussion about the wood used for the new cribbing wall, and whether it should have been treated to look old. According to Kerry Guy, project manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the wood was not treated at all. In this way, the boards will begin to look weathered sooner than with a treatment. The treatment on the surface of the wood could be done at a later time, he said, if that is what the community wants…

The work was done on the Denver City mine piles, which is owned by Leadville Silver and Gold. Bob Elder, local mining engineer, is the only remaining board member of this company and gave the EPA permission to use the piles [for the pilot study]…

Around the back of the Denver City piles, to the left, is the area that was covered with shotcrete. This is concrete shot onto the piles in varying shades to more closely resemble the rocks left on top of mining piles. Half of this was lined and the other half shot without a liner, to test the need for a liner to reduce the amount of acid mine drainage water into the Arkansas River.

More California Gulch/Yak Tunnel coverage here and here.

University of Colorado research team determines new way to measure snowpack with GPS

A picture named measuringsnowpack.jpg

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Peter Budoff):

A research team led by the University of Colorado has developed a new way to measure snow depth and water levels using traditional GPS technology, a method that could change the way scientists study the climate. GPS antennas receive a signal directly from a satellite that enables them to display information about their specific location. In reality, some of the signal from the satellite is actually reflected off the ground, walls and other objects and then received by the antenna after most of the signal has already hit. Long dismissed by scientists as purely interference, the reflected signal is the basis for the CU team’s study, which was released Thursday. By measuring how late the reflected signals hit the GPS antenna, the researchers are able to calculate how much of a certain object — in this case snow and water — was present to interfere with the signal. “You can think of it as measuring the ‘echo,'” said CU professor Kristine Larson, who led the study. Using known values, the team can take the time it took for the reflected signal to hit the antenna and figure out the depth of the snow on the ground or amount of moisture in the soil in the area around the GPS.

Larson said she came up with the idea for the study about five years ago, when she was experimenting using GPS devices as seismographs to calculate the intensity and location of earthquakes. “My results were completely contaminated by reflections,” she said. “I was getting reflections off a water tower that were as big as the actual earthquake. I went from being irritated to thinking how I can actually use these signals.”

Larson and other researchers have set up GPS stations at various locations, including a field site in Marshall. Last spring, researchers were able to use GPS signals to calculate the depth of the snow that fell at the Marshall site during two large storms. Most recently, the group has been working with Munson Farms in Boulder, setting up GPS devices that enable farmers to measure the precise moisture content of the soil and vegetation.

More Climate Change coverage here and here.

Cañon City: Source of contamination under golf course different from main plume at Lincoln Park/Cotter superfund site

A picture named groundwater.jpg

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

[Steve Tarlton, of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] said the company and department have determined that the source of contamination for the golf course plume is different from the source of the main plume, but the specific source has not been determined. Tarlton said the department has asked Cotter to continue to characterize the plume, install a ground water interception system that will most likely be series of wells and to determine possible sources. “We now have enough information to know where the plume is moving,” Tarlton said. Possible sources of the contamination include the CCD tanks, which Cotter currently is decommissioning and existing and historic ore pads, which the company is excavating.

Cotter also continues with the closure of the secondary impoundment and the deep dewatering of the primary impoundment.

Here’s the link to the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Superfund Site website.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Cañon City: University of Colorado to kick off climate change education program December 1

A picture named coalfiredpowerplant.jpg

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Debbie Bell):

Launching a statewide tour to bring home the message of climate change, the University of Colorado at Boulder will host a free community education program at the Abbey gymnasium Dec. 1.
“We are starting in Fremont County because CU Boulder has brought a number of science programs to the community already,” said Wynn Martens, outreach coordinator for CU Boulder Campus. “We would like to gather insight from the community on how to integrate our Web site as a resource for rural communities in Colorado.”[…]

The event, which is free and open to the public, is hosted by the CU Boulder Office of Continuing Education and Professional Studies. That organization recently launched a new Web site that features a series of educational videos and resources that localize climate change in Colorado. The initiative involves faculty and national institute scientists in a joint effort to raise public awareness on how climate change affects environmental issues in the state, from pine beetles in the mountains to wind turbines on the eastern plains, and offers examples of how individuals and organizations are addressing the challenges. White’s research focuses primarily on the causes of climate change to make informed predictions about the future. “The University of Colorado is home to some of the world’s leading climate scientists,” said Anne Heinz, associate vide chancellor and CEPS dean. “The Web site pairs these scientists with citizens to tell compelling stories about how climate change is affecting our state. It is an excellent public education tool that presents the facts in an accessible, localized manner.”

Those planning to attend the Dec. 1 session are encouraged to visit the Web site in advance. The Web site features five short videos that discuss the science of climate change and address issues like greenhouse gases, water, ecology and energy. Linda Lewis, human resources director of Cañon City, recently downloaded the videos. They will be aired on Bresnan Channel 19 repeatedly leading up to the Dec. 1 meeting. A schedule is available online at http://www.canoncity.org; click on the “Channel 19” link…

The Dec. 1 event begins at 7 p.m. at the Abbey field house. Seating is available on a first-come basis. The results of that pilot event will help CU Boulder set plans for future trips across the state.

More Climate Change coverage here and here.

Colorado River Basin: Snowpack and streamflow

A picture named coloradoriverbasincgs.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

Stream flows in Summit County are not too far off seasonal norms, but the Colorado River at Kremmling recently experienced an all-time record low flow for that date, according to local water commissioner Scott Hummer. The Colorado was only flowing at 280 cubic feet per second on Nov. 16, and flows farther downstream were also well below average, Hummer said. The previous minimum for the date was 330 cfs in 1978. “I can’t find a rhyme or reason as to why we’re starting to see these low flows so early in the season,” Hummer said.

Statewide, and in the Blue River Basin, the snowpack is at 79 percent of average. Only the Arkansas (at 99 percent) and the South Platte (100 percent) have an average snowpack for the date, he said. Some of the higher elevation sites in the Blue River Basin have a decent snowpack, including Fremont Pass, where an automated Snotel site shows the snowpack at 121 percent of average. But lower elevation sites are dry, with Summit Ranch, north of Silverthorne, coming in at just 33 percent of normal.

Alamosa: Report on 2008 salmonella outbreak blames aging infrastructure, inspection regime

A picture named salmonella.jpg

From the Valley Courier:

The health department’s final report (pdf) provides a comprehensive look at the disease outbreak, the response to the outbreak, and the conclusion of the 18-month investigation into how the city’s drinking water became contaminated. The investigation involved a detailed review of the water system; historical records; and interviews with city of Alamosa personnel, local health officials and responders to the outbreak. “We believe the people in Alamosa deserve to know what happened, what was done about it and why it happened,” said Ron Falco, Safe Drinking Water program manager in the Water Quality Control Division at the department.

The 65-page report concludes that animal waste most likely contaminated a concrete in-ground water storage tank that had several holes and cracks. A water sample collected during the outbreak indicated that water in the tank contained bacteria. Additional site visits conducted in 2009 found animal footprints in the snow around the tank, and a photograph in July 2009 captured bird feces on a corner of the tank that was repaired at the time of the outbreak. While these observations were made in 2009, they likely are representative of the animal activity that could have contaminated the water supply in the tank in 2008. “We cannot say with absolute certainty where the salmonella came from because the actual contamination event was not directly observed, and probably occurred at least 7 to 10 days before the outbreak was reported,” Falco acknowledged. “But after weighing all the evidence, we believe that the most likely scenario is that contamination entered this in-ground storage tank.” The city commissioned an inspection of the in-ground storage tank in July 1997 by a professional tank inspection company. That inspection report noted cracking and problems with the corners of the tank, and recommended routine inspections for the future. It appears that the tank continued to deteriorate into 2008. The state did not know of the city’s 1997 inspection findings, and its own inspections did not focus on storage tanks and distribution piping.

Alamosa was granted a waiver from state requirements to disinfect its drinking water in 1974, so water being served to the public in Alamosa at the time of the outbreak was not chlorinated. The investigation showed that only a small quantity of bird or animal feces contamination may have led to the salmonella outbreak. This kind of outbreak may have been very difficult to prevent in a system that did not chlorinate its water.

More Alamosa coverage here and here.

Paradox Valley: Energy Fuels Corp. formally applies for uranium mill state permit

A picture named uraniummill.jpg

From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

The mill, proposed for the Paradox Valley west of Naturita, would be the first new uranium mill in the country in 25 years. It has caused heated debate in the Paradox Valley, in part because it could restart the uranium mining industry in Southwest Colorado. Montrose County commissioners approved zoning for the mill, known as the Piñon Ridge mill, in September…

This week’s application to the state triggers a 10- to 15-month process that will include two public hearings. State regulators will zero in on health effects of the mill in both the short- and long-term, said Steve Tarlton, radiation program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Colorado has the most stakeholder-focused review process for uranium licensing in the United States,” Tarlton said. Tarlton’s office has 30 days to determine if the application is complete. Once it does, Energy Fuels has 75 days to hold two public hearings. Those hearings probably will happen in Montrose and the Nucla-Naturita area, said Energy Fuels spokesman Gary Steele. After the hearings, state law gives regulators nine to 12 months to approve or deny the permit. Energy Fuels CEO George Glasier said he is confident his application will pass muster with the state.

Travis Stills, a Durango lawyer who represents mill opponents, said Energy Fuels can expect plenty of opposition. “There will be considerable technical, grassroots and legal scrutiny of whatever it is they have proposed there,” Stills said. Stills filed the lawsuit in state court in Montrose against the county commissioners on behalf of Sheep Mountain Alliance. In the suit, mill opponents claim the county commissioners should not have approved the permit, because in the middle of the process, the company cut the amount of ore it intended to process in half and doubled the projected life of the mill to 40 years. The suit also claims that the mill should not have been approved in the Paradox Valley because it would carry much higher environmental risks than uranium mines, which are common the in the valley.

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Once the radiation program determines the application is complete, Energy Fuels must conduct the first of two required public meetings within 45 days. It must conduct a second public meeting within 30 days of the first. Montrose County, meanwhile, has 90 days from the first public meeting to submit to the state its review of the environmental report included in the company’s application. The state Health Department can act on the application within 270 days of the county’s response or within 360 days of the second public meeting, if the county has no response. Energy Fuels’ application is available on the Web at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/ rad/rml/energyfuels/index.htm and at the Nucla Public Library, 544 Main St., and Montrose County Planning and Development, 317 S. Second St. Public comments will be accepted throughout the review process. People may comment about the application at public meetings, by e-mail to cdphe.hm energyfuels@state.co.us or by writing to Steve Tarlton or Warren Smith at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Radiation Program, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver 80246-1530.

More on nuclear energy and Colorado’s role in the industry, from Hope Nealson writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

In 2006, 6.5 billion people used 14 trillion watts, or terawatts, of energy, [nuclear expert and former senior manager for the U.S. Department of Energy Dave Nulton] said. It will take all types of energy, including solar, wind, hydro and coal power, to satisfy the projected increase of demand for normal growth to 45 terawatts by the year 2050. Nulton said to achieve that kind of power, 66 wind turbines would have to be built every day until 2050, or two nuclear reactors every three days. “These numbers are extreme and really unachievable,” he said. “If you could build 66 windmills per day or two nuclear reactors every three days, you still wouldn’t get there without the help of other energies like coal, solar, etc.” Furthermore, Nulton said with atmospheric levels of carbon jumping from 228 ppm (parts per million) before the industrial revolution to 386 ppm today, using cleaner sources of energy like nuclear will help the world avoid approaching “catastrophic climate change by 2050.”

Nulton said the Four Corners – and Cortez’ role in general – would be to provide the uranium needed for nuclear power. “This area served the uranium supply (for nuclear power in the U.S.) for a number of years – now we’re second,” he said. “If you look at the available uranium in this country, Wyoming has more and the Four Corners is second.” Nulton said worldwide, there is a lot more uranium in Canada and Australia. “If we want to be energy independent, we don’t have to rely on another country like we do for oil – we can produce it in our own country,” he said. With no harmful releases, essentially no carbon footprint, low operating costs and minimal land requirements, Nulton said nuclear power is also an option that helps dispose of nuclear weapons. Other countries already reprocess the old fuel in nuclear war heads.

China has the most reactors at 16. There are 440 operating reactors in 31 countries, satisfying approximately 15 percent of electrical needs. Thirteen countries have plans to build reactors and 50 are currently under construction, he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch announces plans to sell water to districts in El Paso County in 2011

A picture named denveraquifer.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A lease agreement to provide 2,000 acre-feet of water annually for $500 an acre-foot (325,851 gallons) to the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority was announced Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District by John Schweizer, a Rocky Ford farmer who is president of the Super Ditch…

“We do not have a signed lease, but we are making excellent progress,” said Gary Barber, agent for the Pikes Peak group. He said chances of a contract are good, if all of the boards of the El Paso County water districts approve the deal. The details of which farmers will participate in the deal, how dried-up land will be accounted for, how water will be moved to the communities that are purchasing it and other technical matters have yet to be worked out…

The Lower Ark board, which supported the formation voted unanimously Wednesday to allow water attorney Peter Nichols to file a change of use case for the Super Ditch. Until that change is approved in Division 2 Water Court, the lease would be administered under a Substitute Water Supply Plan by the Division of Water Resources, Nichols said. Division Engineer Steve Witte said the plan would be similar to one used to regulate the lease deal between the High Line Canal and Aurora in 2004-05…

The timing and location of flows to augment the Arkansas River will depend on where water is taken from under the Super Ditch lease, Witte said. Nichols said the amount of water leased to the Pikes Peak group could increase to up to 8,000 acre-feet annually over the next 20 years. “The numbers will increase as we prove the ability to move the water,” said Jay Winner, executive director of the Lower Ark district.

One big problem will be moving the water to El Paso County. That has not stopped El Paso County from pursuing water rights along the Arkansas River, however. Fountain and Widefield have purchased a ranch in Custer County for its water rights, while Donala bought a Lake County ranch water rights. “We will see a working model of how the water will be moved in January,” Barber said. Most of the Pikes Peak group is located in Northern El Paso County, outside of Colorado Springs, which controls most of the pipelines leading from the Arkansas River. Colorado Springs has discussed using Southern Delivery System capacity to assist the other communities, but no decisions have been made and SDS is at least seven years from completion. One Pikes Peak participant, Fountain, has a share of the Fountain Valley Conduit from Lake Pueblo, however and could use the excess capacity to bring water into the community. Fountain also has the most urgent need because of its rapid growth in recent years.

More coverage from Dave Vickers writing for the La Junta Tribune-Democrat. From the article:

The deal calls for PPWA to pay $500 per share to lease the water from shareholders of the Bessemer Ditch, Highline Canal Co., Oxford Ditch, Catlin Canal, Otero Ditch, Holbrook Canal and Fort Lyon Canal.

The seven entities in the PPRWA that want access to the farmers’ water include Academy Water and Sanitation District, Cherokee Metropolitan District, Donala Water and Sanitation District, Triview Metropolitan District, The Town of Monument, the Town of Palmer Lake and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District. All are in northern El Paso County. Some, including Cherokee Metropolitan District, have been battling to preserve their rights and struggling to obtain more water because the aquifers that currently supply their members are drying up…

As members of the Super Ditch, shareholders from the seven canals are not contractually tied to any deal. The Super Ditch, incorporated last year as a private company, was developed by farmers who have searched for ways through the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to market their water in a way that would avoid what happened in Crowley County. Colorado Springs and Aurora purchased water rights to the Colorado Canal and Rocky Ford Ditch in the 1980s and 1990s, then exchanged those rights upstream so they could transport the water to their cities. In the process about 70,000 acres of former farm land was dried up. Schweizer said that perhaps as much as 25 percent to 30 percent of the land under the seven ditches would be without water eventually, but only during years when the seven El Paso County entities need water to overcome shortages there. “It would probably be done with rotational fallowing,” Schweizer said. “Some years none of the land would be dried, some years, like 2002 and 2003 (when severe drought fell upon Colorado), more land could be fallowed.” Although the leasing and fallowing program is scheduled to start in 2011, Schweizer said most Super Ditch members believe it will take at least that long to “work the kinks out and get the program approved in water court.”

Colorado Springs Utilities has been working on a second pipeline, called the Southern Delivery System, which recently was approved by both federal officials and officials from Pueblo County, El Paso County and the cities of Pueblo and Colorado Springs. The SDS project is intended to meet the drinking water needs of the Colorado Springs metropolitan area past the year 2040. Officials from CSU have said in the past they are open to use of SDS by other entities, including Super Ditch, that could use excess delivery capacity SDS might provide. “Some of the little communities have engineered their own plans for a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, but the cost of it was out of their reach,” Schweizer said. “They believe it would be better to go with SDS, at least at first. I know they would like to have a permanent place for getting water from that pipeline when it’s built. “A whole lot will depend on SDS and whether Colorado Springs allows it to be used to transport water for other water users,” he said.

More Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Change in Pueblo West effluent discharge point (to Lake Pueblo) debated

A picture named effluent.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“State parks’ greatest concern surrounds the public perception of a direct wastewater discharge into the North Marina Cove,” John Geerdes, regional manager for state parks wrote in a letter to Pueblo West officials last week. The public perception could decrease use of the north boat ramp as well as the North Marina Cove, impacting visitation and revenue at the state park, the most heavily used in Colorado, Geerdes said. A lengthy list of other concerns also is addressed in the letter.

Pueblo West wants to change its discharge point for treated sewage from Wild Horse Dry Creek to a gulch behind the Pueblo West Golf Course, about two miles from Lake Pueblo. The $6.5 million project would discharge water that meets state Department of Public Health and Environment guidelines and would allow Pueblo West to fully use its transmountain water rights, said Steve Harrison, Pueblo West utilities director. The metro district is confident its releases into the gulch won’t be detrimental to water quality in Lake Pueblo, noting that Pueblo West also takes its water from the lake and would not want to jeopardize its own supply, Harrison said…

Geerdes said state parks’ concerns include: Long-term effects of nutrient loading in the lake are unknown and create the potential for algae blooms that could affect both wildlife habitat and the appearance of the lake; Increased weed production, including tamarisk, along the drainage in the gulch. The state is asking for assurances that weeds would be controlled; The lack of dilution of water that is released into the gulch; State parks wants a long-term monitoring plan that includes the point of discharge into the reservoir; State parks has a potable water line that crosses the drainage, which could wash out with increased flows.

“State parks requests Pueblo West explore, evaluate and present other alternative options before making any final decision to release water return flows into Golf Course Wash,” Geerdes wrote.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

Pueblo West is filing an application with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to relocate the discharge site of its wastewater plant from the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam to Lake Pueblo. The discharge would be of treated water, not wastewater. Currently, the treatment plant discharges water into Pesthouse Gulch and then into the Arkansas River below the dam. The application would change the discharge route into Golf Course Wash, which leads into Lake Pueblo near the North Marina. District Manager Larry Howe-Kerr told the [Pueblo County] commissioners the district would satisfy all of the state’s water quality requirements in making the change.

Commissioners, however, turned down the request for approval, agreeing with county planning staff that the regional water-quality management plan, called a “208 plan” after the pertinent section of state law, needed to be amended first. That process could take six months or longer, according to Kim Headley, the county’s planning director. Howe-Kerr challenged that assessment, saying the regional plan should be modified later, after the state approves the change in the discharge site…

Headley said Lake Pueblo is a major source of drinking water to the region and other communities would want to comment on the Pueblo West application. Amending the 208 plan would require public hearings on the proposed change. After the commissioners voted not to approve Pueblo West’s application to the state, Howe-Kerr said Pueblo West would press ahead with the application anyway with the state’s Water Quality Control Division.

More Pueblo West project coverage here.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable survey recap

A picture named arkansasriverbasin.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Sharing water, municipal conservation and tamarisk removal were listed as the best ways to improve water supply in a recent survey of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. Also ranking high were rotational fallowing programs, like the type envisioned by the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, and certain water projects, like the Arkansas Valley Conduit, that improve drinking water supplies for communities in the valley. The survey has been the topic of discussion for the roundtable for months, largely at the urging of President Gary Barber, who has been coaxing the group to finalize a needs assessment report to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Both the report and survey were finalized at the November roundtable meeting.

The roundtable scored regional and statewide projects as well as methods along loose criteria that asked if they were viable, equitable and bearable, with a rating system that graded them 1-5, with 5 as the highest score. Then, the answers of roundtable members, who come from all parts of the Arkansas River basin, were averaged to provide a priority ranking for projects that are planned, already under way or have been completed during the first four years of the roundtable…

Projects to import more water from the Western Slope ranked surprisingly low on the list of viable, equitable and bearable options. More than a dozen strictly in-basin projects scored higher. The top three were the Green Mountain Pumpback plan, which primarily aids Denver, a Blue Mesa pumpback and the Flaming Gorge import plan. Ranking dead last on the list was the continued buy-and-dry of agricultural water rights, which was ironic considering the largest water deal in the Valley this year was the Pueblo Board of Water Works purchase of 27 percent of the Bessemer Ditch. The Pueblo water board, while buying the shares, offered farmers the option of using the water for the next 20 years, an offer nearly all of those who sold their water rights accepted.

More IBCC – Basin Roundtables coverage here.

‘Water for the 21st Century Act’ update December 17

A picture named ibccroundtable.jpg

From email from the Interbasin Compact Committee (Jim Yahn):

You are invited to a Progress Update on the “Water for the 21st Century Act” on Thursday, December 17th. We are hoping that you will join with other Northern Colorado leaders in attending this important event concerning our future water supply needs. This Progress Update event will be held December 17, 2009 in McKee 4-H, Youth & Community Buildingat the Larimer County Fairgrounds (The Ranch) in Loveland, Colorado. The event will be held from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please pass this invitation along to your Council Members, City or Town Manager, Water Board Members, key staff members and any others involved in decisions about your water future.

Please RSVP to Lory Hildred at the City of Greeley Water and Sewer Department. Her phone number is 970-350-9812. Her e-mail address is Lory.Hildred@Greeleygov.com. Your reply is requested by December 1, 2009.

More IBCC coverage here.

Arkansas River: Streamflow below Lake Pueblo

A picture named puebloreservoir.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftaian (Chris Woodka):

Flows from the dam were cut from about 350 cubic feet per second Saturday to 70 cfs on Sunday, as irrigators began a program that allows them to store winter flows for use later in the year. The winter water program was started by ditch companies under an agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District in 1975, after Pueblo Dam was completed. It became a decreed water program in 1984. Water is stored in Lake Pueblo, as well as several downstream reservoirs, from Nov. 15 to March 15 of the following year…

Under a recovery of yield program, created by an intergovernmental agreement in 2004, a minimum flow of 100 cfs below Pueblo Dam is maintained throughout the winter months. The flow is calculated at the river gauge above Pueblo, with flows through the state fish hatchery added. This week, flows above Pueblo have been between 60-65 cfs, while fish hatchery flows have been between 30-40 cfs. “What we’ve agreed to is that the flow won’t go under 100 cfs, with retroactive curtailment of exchanges after March 15,” said Alan Ward, water resources administrator with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Ward supervises the recovery of yield program. That decision was made last year, after flows in the Arkansas River dropped to nearly nothing in 2005 and were in danger of running low again in 2007. The IGA among Pueblo, the Pueblo water board, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fountain and the Southeastern district calls for curtailment of exchanges when the river drops below 100 cfs…

In practice, Colorado Springs is the only IGA participant that exchanges in the winter months, storing water out of priority in Lake Pueblo in exchange for return flows, mostly from treated sewage, down Fountain Creek.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: Where is the tipping point for farm communities as farms are dried up?

A picture named rockyfordditch.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday voted to help find the answer by folding the task into its existing research on the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch…

The Colorado Water Conservation Board already is funding research by the Lower Ark district in connection with the Super Ditch, a land-fallowing, water-leasing program that is seen as a possible answer to traditional buy-and-dry. The idea of the tipping point came out of a recent meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee, looking at ways to share the state’s water in the future.

Implement dealers, farm supply stores and retail stores suffer as water leaves farming communities, but no one has determined a threshold. The IBCC would like to plug that sort of information into its model that looks at balancing various water supply strategies. “No one has done this before,” Nichols said. “In the past, you got models that told you nothing.”

More Colorado Water coverage here.

Yuma: 2009 precipitation top 20 inches

A picture named lightning.jpg

From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

It is the first time in recent memory topping 20 inches in a calendar year. The traditional average annual precipitation is between 15 to 20 inches. The precipitation level being reported here is a combination of the Weather Underground stations at the Y-W Combined Communications Center, which reliably recorded moisture through September, and the one at Bo and Patty Vaughn’s residence west of town, which has been reliable lately but was offline in May and June when much of the moisture fell. Sunday’s snow storm resulted in .23 of an inch of moisture, putting Yuma’s total precipitation to date in 2009 at 20.06 inches.

Breckenridge: Illinois Gulch restoration

A picture named washingtonmineillinoisgulc.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen):

Wetlands were added, boulders were placed and trees were planted to help restore the area before development. The creek snakes through the Water House on Main Street condominium development before connecting with the Blue River. Project manager Sharon Cole with East West Partners said the creek in 2000 had been basically “a wash through the parking lot,” and that with the final phase of Main Street Station’s being built, the gulch has been reclaimed. The realignment project began March 1 and was completed about Oct. 1, and the project overall cost several hundred thousand dollars, Cole said. The company worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and environmentalists and “what we’ve accomplished is the creek now flows close to its natural origin,” Cole said. Willows have been planted and trout-spawning pools have been added to Maggie Pond. Cole said monitoring will continue the next three years to ensure the improvements make progress.

More Blue River watershed coverage here and here.

The Uncompahgre Watershed Planning Partnership to host workshop focusing on reclamation activities and abandoned mine lands issues in the upper Uncompahgre Watershed December 11

A picture named uncompahgrewatershed.jpg

Here’s the release from the UWPP via the Delta County Independent:

The Uncompahgre Watershed Planning Partnership will be hosting a day long workshop focusing on reclamation activities and abandoned mine lands issues in the upper Uncompahgre Watershed. The program, titled: “Examining Abandoned Mine Lands in the Uncompahgre Watershed” will be held on Friday, Dec. 11, from 9:30-3:30 at the Ouray Community Center.

According to the workshop’s organizer, Andrew Madison, this event will bring together representatives from state, local and federal agencies, as well as local organizations and industry representatives to discuss how different agencies are handling AML issues as well as future strategies for remediating and safeguarding abandoned mine sites. The workshop will involve short presentations as well as a roundtable discussion focusing on data sharing and prioritizing abandoned mine sites for future reclamation. Participants will include the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety, Trust for Land Restoration, Trout Unlimited, the Red Mountain Project and many others.

Abandoned mines can pose many hazards both to people and environment through un-safe mine openings and structures as well as soils and surface water contamination from acid mine drainage and abandoned mine waste. However these sites are an important part of the culture and heritage of Ouray County and provide a unique glimpse into the past for tourists and younger generations. Through proper management, reclamation and safeguarding, the hazards of these sites can be remediated while preserving cultural aspects.

The Uncompahgre Watershed Planning Partnership is a volunteer group seeking to involve citizens and organizations in the Uncompahgre Watershed. Its mission is to protect and restore water quality in the Uncompahgre River through coordinated community and agency efforts.

For more information about “Examining Abandoned Mine Lands in the Uncompahgre Watershed” contact Andrew Madison at 413-297-7232 or Ridgway.vista@gmail.com

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.

Dry Gulch Reservoir: Trout unlimited files Petition for Rehearing with Colorado Supreme Court saying storage safety margin reserve constitutes speculation

A picture named sanjuan.jpg

From the Pagosa Daily Post (Sheila Berger):

In its petition, Trout Unlimited requests the Supreme Court to remove from its November 2 opinion its endorsement of a one-year safety supply reserve, stating that, “the Districts would add a volume of water equivalent to a one-year’s demand to the amount of storage they would otherwise require, essentially doubling the size of the reservoir.” Trout Unlimited also alleges in its petition that planning for a one-year storage reserve constitutes speculation.

A one-year safety supply is, by definition, enough storage to supply one year of demand in the situation that a drought or another catastrophic event prevents PAWSD from diverting water from its stream sources. For example, in the summer and fall of 2002, even with sand bagging, a very minimal amount of river water was available for diversion. Because there had been no runoff in the spring of 2002, reservoirs were dangerously low. Even with severe drought restrictions, the District was very close to “running dry.” In 2002, the District had no storage safety margin. Currently, the safety margin is provided by the recently completed Stevens Reservoir Enlargement. For the first half of the 2002 drought year, sufficient river water was available for diversion. Reliance on storage became necessary in late June. The Trout Unlimited claim that a one-year safety supply doubles the size of the reservoir is an erroneous statement, as some of the first year demand would be served through river diversions and some of the storage reserve would be supplied by existing District reservoirs. Future drought patterns cannot be predicted with certainty, and the District has implemented its one-year safety supply margin to prudently plan for that uncertainty. The water districts feel that planning for severe drought is not speculative given the long historical record of, and recent occurrence of, severe droughts in the southwestern United States.

The response of the Supreme Court to the Petition is anticipated to be forthcoming in the next month. Meanwhile, the Districts will hold a special joint meeting at 6:00 p.m. November 30, at the PAWSD offices to discuss the case and the necessary next steps to preparing for another trial with the District 7 Water Court.

Here’s the release from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: New website for geothermal exploration and production in Chaffee County

A picture named geothermalenergy.jpg

Say hello to Chaffee County Geothermal. The group behind the website wants to protect the natural environment and recreations opportunities in the county. From the website:

We are fighting to protect the unique beauty of this area, its water and its quality of life, not to mention its recreational value to so many visitors.

Thanks to The Mountain Mail for the link.

More geothermal coverage here and here.