Aspen: The Aspen Institute was surprised by $140,000 stormwater bill and is considering building its own stormwater system

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From the Aspen Daily News:

The Institute, which postponed a scheduled hearing before Aspen City Council this week to work on its plan, has to bring something to the city before a Nov. 23 meeting. The Institute was caught off guard by the size of the fee, which assesses $2.88 per square foot of impervious surface area, which includes paved areas and most roofs. However, the fee isn’t just for new construction. If an addition larger than 500 square feet is built onto an existing building, then the fee applied to all the impervious area associated with the building. About 55 percent of the tab was for a project adding about 1,000 square feet of impervious area (600 square feet of built space) to the Paepcke Auditorium building. The rest is for a project installing a rock and dirt ground covering for the 21,000-square-foot Greenwald Pavilion tent. “Very few people realize the magnitude” of the stormwater fee, Institute planning consultant Jim Curtis said.

More stormwater coverage here.

Creede: Hydroelectric project retrofit scores stimulus dough

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From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

[Aspenite Ruthie Brown] secured a $308,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $600,000 low interest loan to install a 340-kilowatt hydroelectric project at her family’s A.E. Humphrey Ranch in Creede. The system will produce roughly enough power to supply 230 homes once it is completed in spring 2011. Brown said she is a strong supporter of renewable energy and wanted to demonstrate to ranchers in the San Luis Valley that hydroelectric power is a cost-effective investment. Her family is negotiating with a local utility to sell the power generated back to the grid. That will provide the income to maintain the historic ranch and keep the land undeveloped for additional generations, she said. Her family tapped into a special program by the agriculture department to award $62.5 million in stimulus money to grants and loans for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The funds were awarded to 705 farms and ranches across the country. Flux Farms of Carbondale, a consulting firm on renewable energy projects, is helping Brown with the project…

The cost of the project is about $900,000. Utilizing the existing dam that her great grandfather constructed 90 years ago was key to making it affordable, Brown said. She is projecting that the project will show a small profit after just one year, thanks to the grant and low-interest loan through the agriculture department. Brown is working with state Sen. Gail Swartz of Snowmass Village to streamline the permit process for micro-hydro projects so that more landowners in Colorado will pursue them. Construction at the Humphreys Ranch is expected to begin next year.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Hayden: Water rate increase approved on first reading

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Blythe Terrell):

The Hayden Town Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would raise base rates 19 percent, to $19 per month for most customers and $11.40 per month for seniors. Usage rates would not change. Town Manager Russ Martin and some council members drew a distinction between the rate increase and water system losses.

Resident Gordon Dowling said he was frustrated the town would raise rates when it could be losing as much as 30 percent of its water a year, according to analyses. “This 30 percent kills me,” he said.

But Martin said the town’s water fund was in debt about $90,000 a year without tap fees. Even if 100 percent of the town’s water was accounted for, that debt still would exist, he said. Martin laid it out this way: The town produces about 100 million gallons of water a year. The production cost — without staff costs, which would be stable regardless of production — is $52,000 a year. A 30 percent water loss would cost the town $15,000 a year, Martin said. The fund still would be $75,000 in debt. Much of that comes from the $115,000-a-year loan the town is paying on the plant. As written, the rate increase would produce only $25,000 to $30,000, so the town still would have to cover the rest of gap out of its general fund.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Roaring Fork Watershed Plan update

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From The Sopris Sun (Jeremy Heiman):

Organizers of a recent series of public meetings soliciting input for the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan say those meetings were successful. “It’s really been valuable to get the input of people who haven’t been immersed in this for years,” said Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, the main sponsor of the watershed plan…

Fuller said attendance and participation was pretty consistent up and down the valley. He said people who showed up for the meetings have shown a lot of concern about the impacts of development, and especially about the health of the fishery in the river and its tributaries…

The Roaring Fork Watershed Plan is “an opportunity for interested stakeholders to help set the direction for long-term management of the Roaring Fork Watershed’s water resources,” states a document associated with the plan. The “State of the Roaring Fork Watershed Report,” represents Phase I of the two-part effort. It examines regional water management; surface and groundwater quantity; water quality; the quality of riparian and instream habitat; the potential effects of climate change; and the effects of diversion of Western Slope water to Front Range cities. Phase II of the project entails the drafting and distribution of the watershed plan itself, including public meetings on the issues facing the subwatersheds of the Roaring Fork. The creation of a plan to direct the management of water in the Roaring Fork drainage dovetails with an initiative begun in 2002 by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to conduct a basin-by-basin study of the state’s water supply and demand over the coming 30 years. Colorado’s population was 4.3 million in 2000. It is expected to balloon to 7.1 million by 2030. When it is complete, the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan will be integrated by authorities representing the Colorado River basin into an assessment of the water needs for the entire basin. It will have the ability to influence how the state manages water in the region until 2030.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here and here.

Orchard City: New raw water source running into regulatory snafus

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

With regulatory hang ups and delays frustrating the Ward Creek Diversion project at almost every turn, [Orchard City Town administrator David Varley] told the trustees at their October regular meeting, “I think it’s pretty much impossible that we’re going to get that project constructed this year.” The seemingly simple and relatively inexpensive idea was proposed last year. It was seen as a way to increase the efficiency of the town’s water system by diverting an existing raw water supply directly into a pipeline to the treatment plant. The project entailed about $38,000 in construction costs, and the town board had good hopes at the outset that the work could be completed in 2009. But contingency planning for the project failed to foresee the entangling involvement of the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Water Quality Control Commission. Varley gave those two agencies most of the responsibility for regulatory delays that will push the project’s completion date into next year.

More Surface Creek watershed coverage here.

Conservation organizations warn against Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project’s ecological effects on the Fraser River and Upper Colorado River

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Here’s a release from Colorado Trout Unlimited:

Trout Unlimited, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and a broad group of conservation organizations warned today that a proposal to divert more water from a tributary of the upper Colorado River poses a serious risk to the ecological health of the river system.

“Multiple water diversions have pushed the Fraser River to the brink of collapse,” said Kirk Klancke, President of the Colorado Headwaters Chapter of TU, based in Grand County. “This is a river on life support.”

At present, Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel and other diversions take about 60 percent of the Fraser’s stream flow. The Moffat pipeline carries most of it under the Continental Divide to supply water for the Denver metro area. Under a proposed expansion of the Moffat tunnel pipeline, Denver would take even more of the river’s native flows.

In 2005, the Fraser was listed as one of the most endangered rivers in America by American Rivers, a national conservation group.

The statement from TU and the Colorado Environmental Coalition came in response to the Friday release of the draft environmental impact statement for the Moffat Tunnel proposal—the first step in a public review of the project by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are looking forward to digging deeper into the DEIS, and are hopeful that we can have a substantive conversation with Denver Water in the coming months about how we can ensure our resources are protected,” said Becky Long of Colorado Environmental Coalition.

Looking ahead, the conservation groups 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 ecosystem.

–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.

“We have already met with Denver Water’s staff, and they seem open to discussing some of these concepts,” said Mely Whiting, Legal Counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project. “We hope the Denver Water Board seizes this opportunity to create a legacy, where water development and environmental protections can go hand in hand.”

“Front Range residents must recognize the connection between our water use and the health of our rivers and streams, fisheries and wildlife habitat,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We can’t continue to take and take from these rivers without accounting for our impacts. The glass is not even half full—it’s almost drained dry.”

Mely Whiting, (720) 470-4758
David Nickum, (303) 440-2937, x 101
Kirk Klancke, (970) 531-2199
Becky Long, (303) 405-6714

More coverage from the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

…the public is invited to comment on the project starting Friday, Oct. 30, when The Denver Water Moffat Collection System Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement is planned to be released. Similar to the recent process of the Windy Gap Firming Project, the public will be able to comment on the Moffat document for 90 days, until Jan. 28, 2010.

In essence, Denver Water has identified a shortfall in supply beginning in 2016. According to its statements, Denver Water plans to address about 16,000 acre-feet through “additional conservation,” leaving Denver Water with a remaining annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet. Denver Water maintains that unless it expands one of its existing reservoirs — particularly the one near Golden, which sits 340 feet above the South Boulder Creek streambed — it may be forced to shut down one of its three treatment plants in the future and would not meet the water demands of Arvada, Wesminster, and the water company that services Lakewood, Wheat Ridge and eastern Jefferson County, among others.

But securing more of its prior-claimed water means additional water would be carried from the Fraser River basin and Williams Fork River basin in Grand County through the Moffat Tunnel…

The Moffat water project became a catalyst for various West Slope water users — including river districts, water districts, counties and irrigators — to start serious water negotiations with Denver Water, to “settle a number of outstanding issues with Denver,” Underbrink Curran said…

Public meetings on the draft environmental impact statement are set for 4 p.m. (open house) and 6 p.m. (public comments) on Dec. 1, Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 in Grand County, Denver and Boulder to allow interested parties to ask questions and make a comment. The meetings will end when all participants have had the chance to make their comments. Of the five alternatives listed in the draft environmental impact statement, Denver Water prefers the Moffat Collection System Project, the alternative that details enlarging the existing Gross Reservoir by 72,000 acre-feet.

More Denver Water Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.