Erie: New wastewater treatment plant

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From the Erie Review (Chalan Harper):

On Nov. 9, city officials will gather to break ground on the town’s next significant upgrade — a 3.5 million gallons-per-day wastewater treatment facility. When the facility opens — construction is set to be completed by April 2011, according to officials — it will begin operation with a 1.5 million gallons-per-day capacity which will be increased over time. The planned facility will be constructed on an 11-acre plot north of State Highway 52 and east of County Line Road. The site will also include 51 acres for a reclaimed water reservoir and an additional 23-acre open space buffer. The building has also been designed to have a low impact, in case of future development in surrounding areas. “We’re going with a low-impact, ranch-style design that will fit in with the environment,” town spokesperson Fred Diehl said. The project has been in the works for about five or six years, Diehl said this week. Recently, the town’s trustees accepted a proposal for a guaranteed maximum price of $20,112,262 for the facility.

More wastewater coverage here.

Colorado Supreme Court rules against Pagosa Water and Sanitation District conditional water rights while holding that a 2055 planning horizon is reasonable

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From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chuck McGuire):

In this most recent ruling, the high court upheld the districts’ 50-year planning horizon decreed by Judge Gregory G. Lyman of District Court, Water Division 7 in a September 2008 ruling, and endorsed the districts’ planning approach to maintain a one-year water safety supply margin in its storage reservoirs. For a second time, however, the Supreme Court also remanded the case back to the District 7 Water Court for additional evidence regarding specified decree provisions and determination of “water amounts reasonably necessary to serve the districts’ reasonably anticipated needs in the 2055 period, above its current water supply.”[…]

In a press release issued Tuesday, a districts representative stated, “In its opinion, the Supreme Court endorsed statewide water rights planning efforts recently coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Supreme Court opinion also linked land use planning requirements recently enacted by the Colorado General Assembly to water court determinations of conditional water rights. In doing so, the Court introduced unprecedented legal elements into future water court determinations. “Additional trial before the Water Court will enable the Districts to extend their evidence of long-term growth patterns within Archuleta County in support of their 50-year water rights planning horizon and to demonstrate the actual reliability of water rights upon which the Districts currently depend.”[…]

From TU’s point of view, however, the Supreme Court decision reinforced the principle that Colorado municipalities must base water projects on clearly demonstrated and credible projections of future need. “The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that it will not tolerate public utilities speculating in water,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project, who argued the case before the state’s highest court. “This is a victory for reality-based water planning.”[…]

In its most recent appeal, TU argued that the districts’ revised figures were still not in line with credible future water use projections and amounted to speculation. In Monday’s decision, the high court unanimously agreed, finding insufficient evidence to support the quantities of water Lyman awarded, either in direct flow rights or storage. In its decree, the Supreme Court ruled that the 23,500-acre-foot size approved by the water court is based on “speculative claims, at least in part.” In response, TU insists that, “Unless the Pagosa districts can now demonstrate a ‘substantial probability’ that a reservoir of that size is needed to meet future needs, the water court must reduce the amount of their claimed water.”

More water law coverage here.

Meanwhile, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board approved a change in the diversion plan for Dry Gulch Reservoir recently. Here’s a report from Chuck McQuire writing for The Pagosa Springs Sun. From the article:

According to engineers, the modified plan will reduce water treatment costs while meeting current and short-term future demands, preserve senior West Fork water rights and allow incremental system development as needed…

As designed, Option 6A involves reconstruction of the Snowball pipeline from the West Fork diversion to a proposed treatment plant at Dry Gulch. Until development of the Dry Gulch plant is necessary, the Snowball treatment plant will be upgraded and expanded, while a segment of the Snowball pipeline (leading to the Snowball plant) is maintained. As the Dry Gulch plant is eventually built, workers will connect both plants with a new pipeline, and construct the pipeline from Dry Gulch to the cemetery tank. Meanwhile, as engineers further scrutinized the original options, they also realized that the quality of water coming from the West Fork was notably superior to that found in the main stem of the San Juan. By continuing to utilize West Fork water, PAWSD could reduce projected water purification costs, while maintaining stringent water quality requirements. Also, because the elevation of the West Fork diversion is hundreds of feet higher than the proposed Dry Gulch treatment plant, it will naturally pressurize the plant, thereby reducing the cost of building and operating expensive pumps. Too, building a new diversion at the Dry Gulch site would require transfer of the Snowball water rights from the West Fork to the main stem, through a Colorado Water Conservation Board in-stream flow water right. Based on discussions with the CWCB, doing so would likely result in subordinating the Snowball rights to the CWCB right, thus removing them from priority much of the year. The end result would be a less-than-firm water supply for District Two. According to PAWSD, Option 6A will allow system development in stages, as funding and demand dictates. An upgraded Snowball treatment plant and a newly-aligned Snowball pipeline segment around the Jackson Mountain slide area would come first, with an upgraded stretch between the slide area and the West Fork diversion next. Eventually, as the Dry Gulch treatment plant is built, an extended line would connect it and the Snowball treatment plant.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Sheep Mountain Alliance files lawsuit against Montrose County Commissioners over Piñon Ridge uranium mill special use permit

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From The Telluride Watch (Karen James):

In a complaint filed in District Court last week local conservation group Sheep Mountain Alliance alleged that the Montrose County Commissioners violated county zoning rules and abused their discretion when in September they unanimously approved a special use permit allowing the construction and operation of a uranium mill on 880 acres in Paradox Valley zoned for agricultural use. “Our main point is the industrial use in an agricultural zone,” said plaintiff’s attorney Travis Stills of the Durango-based Energy Minerals Law Center describing the grounds for the lawsuit against Chairman David White, Vice Chairman Gary Ellis, and Commissioner Ron Henderson…

The suit also charged that Montrose County Planning and Development Director Steve White abused his discretion and acted beyond his authority when making decisions regarding the special use permit application filed in July 2008 by Energy Fuels Resources Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toronto-based Energy Fuels Inc…

Finally the complaint alleges that a meeting took place in March 2008 between EFRC representatives, the BOCC, three Montrose County employees, a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment employee, and one member of the public in violation of state open meetings laws. At that meeting transportation, water, use of uranium, jobs and salaries, and the contents of the special use permit application were discussed, according to the complaint. The Colorado Sunshine Law states that, “All meetings of a quorum or three or more members of any local public body, whichever is fewer, at which any public business is discussed or at which any formal action may be taken are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.” Although no minutes were taken nor a recording made, the BOCC made several decisions regarding the proposed mill at that meeting including one to seek a special use permit for the agricultural district as a means to approve the EFRC proposal, according to the complaint. “As best as we can tell the decisions were arrived at outside the public process,” said Stills, who wrote in the court filing that “These decisions predetermined the outcome of the challenged [special use permit] proceedings and constitute an abuse of discretion and actions in exceedance of authority.”

Meanwhile, nuclear power plant developer Alternate Energy Holdings is shopping a combination nuclear/solar plant to state lawmakers, according to The Durango Telegraph. From the article:

The company has spotlighted Colorado because of its commitment to clean energy and replacing aging coal plants. Alternate Energy Holdings CEO Don Gillispie told Colorado Energy News, said the company was encouraged by the support from businessmen, labor leaders, politicians and members of the state’s administration. “They clearly understand that nuclear plants not only create clean power necessary to help with environmental challenges, but low-cost, reliable energy to stabilize the electric grid while creating thousands of high-paying jobs,” he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

CWCB meeting November 16-18 in Denver

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Lisa Barr):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is meeting on November 16-18, 2009, at the CWCB Offices, 1580 Logan Street, Suite 610, Denver, CO 80203.

The agenda is available on the CWCB website. CWCB staff memos and other materials will be available November 13, 2009, on our website.

The meeting will be “streamed” via the internet through the CWCB’s website. Click on the “Listen to the meeting LIVE!” link, found on our home page.

If you need more information about this Board meeting, please contact Lisa Barr at lisa.barr@state.co.us.

More CWCB coverage here.

Public comment sought on Moffat Project

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

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project, which proposes to enlarge Gross Reservoir north of Boulder.

Denver Water is proposing the project to help resolve three major water supply challenges it is facing:

1. the risk of a near-term water supply shortfall;
2. the risk of running out of water in the north end of its system during a single dry year;
3. and a serious imbalance in its water collection system, in which about 80 percent of the supply exists on the south side of the system.

The project is part of Denver Water’s multi-pronged water strategy to increase supply and decrease demand by implementing an aggressive conservation plan, completing and expanding its recycled water distribution system and developing additional water supply.

“Our customers have done an excellent job of conserving water, and we have been completing our recycled water system,” said David Little, director of planning. “These strategies are helping extend our supplies into the future. It is imperative, however, that we develop additional supply to correct the imbalance in our system and secure water for our future. We believe the best solution is to produce new water supply by expanding an existing reservoir instead of building a new reservoir.”

The Moffat Collection System Project proposes raising Gross Dam by approximately 125 feet. Gross Reservoir is fed by tributaries of the Colorado River and South Boulder Creek, and feeds the north side of Denver Water’s system. If approved, the Moffat Project would produce 18,000 acre-feet of new supply — enough water for roughly 45,000 households annually.

“We have been working with interest groups and local agencies to develop plans to offset environmental impacts of the Moffat Project and to provide significant environmental enhancements for the communities affected by the project,” said Little. “Denver Water is committed to encouraging wise use of the water we serve and to using our facilities and resources to enhance the environment in the watersheds we use.”

Denver Water, Grand County, the cities of Boulder and Lafayette, environmental groups and others still are discussing the proposed environmental enhancements, which go far beyond what the Corps requires for mitigating impacts caused by the Moffat Collection System Project. These enhancements will benefit tributaries to the Colorado River in Grand County and South Boulder Creek in Boulder County, among other locations.

The enhancements offered by Denver Water include:

– up to 2,000 acre-feet of additional water for augmenting streamflow in Grand County;
– $2 million for improving water quality in Grand County;
– $2 million for stream modifications to improve aquatic habitat in Grand County; and
– a partnership with Boulder and Lafayette to provide 5,000 acre-feet of storage space in an enlarged Gross Reservoir to improve aquatic habitat in South Boulder Creek.

Denver Water is encouraging public participation in the two federal regulatory processes occurring for the Moffat Collection System Project. The two processes are:

An amendment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Gross Reservoir hydropower license<br.
An application for a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The Draft EIS and Draft FERC Hydropower License Amendment were published Friday, Oct. 30. Each document has a 90-day comment period ending Jan. 28, 2010.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold three 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

See more information on how to comment on the Draft EIS and Draft FERC Amendment.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.