Republican River Water Conservation District meeting November 18-19

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From The Holyoke Enterprise:

The Board of Directors of the Republican River Water Conservation District will be holding a special meeting in Greeley on Nov. 18-19. Times are 1-5 p.m. on Nov. 18 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 19. The agenda includes a report from the District’s General Manager; reports from Colorado Rural Development, Farm Service Agency, and Natural Resource Conservation Service; updates on the CREP and AWEP programs; reports from the District’s lobbyists on legislative issues; presentation by the District’s engineer on the status of the Compact Compliance Pipeline project; report from Mike Sullivan, Assistant State Engineer, on the status of RRCA pipeline approval; report from the District’s legal counsel; and District staff performance review; presentation by the Colorado Division of Local Affairs, and Board discussion and action items, including whether to proceed with construction of the Compact Compliance Pipeline in 2010. Public comment will be held at 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 18. The RRWCD Board of Directors will hold an executive session to discuss personnel issues and water supply agreements, determine positions and instruct negotiators, and receive legal advice on legal questions related to such agreements, compact compliance, the Compact compliance pipeline. The meeting will take place at the Greeley Guest House.

For further information concerning the details of this meeting, contact Stan Murphy, General Manager Republican River Water Conservation District at 970-332-3552.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to host celebration for $5 million in funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Friday November 13

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A dedication for the Arkansas Valley Conduit will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the base of the Pueblo Dam. The $300 million conduit received $5 million in funding from Congress in October as part of an energy and water appropriations bill signed by President Barack Obama last week. U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, all Colorado Democrats, have been asked to speak at the event. The public is invited to attend, and may enter through the south entrance to Lake Pueblo State Park, and follow signs indicating where the ceremony will be.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Reclamation’s summer releases into Fryingpan River catching flack from anglers

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From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Basalt town government, Ruedi Water and Power Authority, and fishing guides want a detailed review and explanation of the reclamation bureau’s releases from Ruedi Reservoir. The releases created water levels that were too high for fishing in the gold-medal trout habitat of the Fryingpan River from late July to early September. The water level in Ruedi dropped too low to allow use of the Aspen Yacht Club docks on Labor Day weekend. “In short, the six weeks between approximately July 26 and Sept. 6 was a disaster for water-related recreation in the Fryingpan Valley,” says a letter from Basalt and the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. The latter entity operates a small hyrdo-electric project at the reservoir and closely monitors Ruedi water issues for local governments. The letter was released to the public at a Basalt Town Council meeting Tuesday night. The Bureau of Reclamation office in Loveland, which manages Ruedi releases, was closed for Veterans Day so no immediate reaction was available.

Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, said the releases were handled differently this year than over the last decade or so. The flow in the Fryingpan River is generally maintained at 250 cubic feet per second during summer months. It has rarely exceeded 300 cfs during summers and if it did, it was only for a day or two, he said. This year the flow in the Fryingpan topped 250 cfs the week of July 29 and kept climbing. It topped 400 cfs by Aug. 12 and 500 cfs by Aug. 19. Flows didn’t drop below 250 cfs until the week of Sept. 9…

[Bruce Gabow] quizzed reclamation officials about the flow and was told a “perfect storm” of circumstances affected the releases. Ruedi is one of a handful of reservoirs used to meet the demands of downstream users who purchase water. A variety of factors affected releases this summer when there were “calls” for water. There was a brief shutdown of the Shoshone Power Plant on the Colorado River, which affected water required from Ruedi; there was a delay in declaring a surplus of water from Green Mountain Reservoir, requiring more water releases from Ruedi while Green Mountain couldn’t answer the calls; and there was the usual contribution by Ruedi to a program to benefit endangered fish species on the Colorado River east of Grand Junction. The reaction of the federal agency to concerns in the Fryingpan Valley have been frustrating Gabow for years. Officials hold the necessary public hearings to collect input and they act concerned about the points raised by local residents, Gabow said, but they don’t alter their operations. “They do whatever they want,” he said. “They’re not really accountable to anyone here. They’re the government.”

More Fryingpan River watershed coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Five finalists remain for executive director of the Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The interviews will be at the board’s next meeting, 1 p.m. Dec. 4 at Fountain City Hall. The finalists chosen are:

Gary Barber, a Colorado Springs water rights and real estate broker. Barber also is the manager of the El Paso County Water Authority and chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. He helped lawmakers write the legislation that created the Fountain Creek District.

Former Pueblo County Administrator Mark Carmel. In his more than 30-year career with Pueblo County, Carmel served as the county engineer and public works director as well.

Pueblo businessman Kevin McCarthy, whose letter explained that after working with some of those involved in projects on Fountain Creek, he is interested in becoming the “point person” for projects. He is a member of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

Pueblo Stormwater Director Dennis Maroney, who will be retiring in January. Maroney is familiar with Fountain Creek issues after eight years working with the Corps of Engineers watershed study. He is on the Fountain Creek district’s technical advisory committee. Maroney has worked for the city since 1982.

James Munch, former head of planning for the city of Pueblo. After almost 30 years with the city, Munch became director of development for the Pueblo Springs Ranch development north of Pueblo in 2007. He is now a consultant…

The board is required to give the public at least two weeks to comment on finalists, and the Dec. 4 interviews will be conducted in public session, explained Pueblo County Attorney Dan Kogovsek.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

S. 787: Clean Water Restoration Act

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“What we’ve offered is a compromise position on legislation governing the jurisdictional waters of the United States. The question is: What type of projects need a 404 permit?” Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable on Wednesday. Pifher has worked for the Colorado Water Congress and the Western Urban Water Coalition on proposed legislation by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., which attempts to restore Clean Water Act guidelines to policies that were in place prior to a pair of United States Supreme Court decisions. The controversy centers on the definition of “navigable waters” and which federal laws need to be considered in issuing permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

The Supreme Court cases are Rapanos v. the United States, decided in 2006, which involved filling in wetlands near ditches in Wisconsin; and the 2001 decision in the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which centered on the city’s plans to create landfills on old gravel pits the government deemed wetlands. The effect of both decisions was to muddy the distinction of whether water projects in areas marginally connected to a watershed required a 404 permit. “After the decisions, Congress said, ‘We’re going to fix it,’ ” Pifher said.

The first attempt at fixing it caused an uproar because of a lengthy series of findings that some felt expanded the Clean Water Act into land use authority, international treaties and other areas of federal jurisdiction. Others objected to the removal of “navigable waters” from the language of the law, saying it broadened the federal authority…

“The Western Urban Water Coalition drafted a compromise that leaves in navigable waters, but defines what they are,” Pifher said. It also included exemptions for both municipal and agricultural systems in the West, and protects administration of water rights according to state laws.

More S. 787 coverage here.

EPA Study Reveals Widespread Contamination of Fish in U.S. Lakes and Reservoirs

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As a nation we’re rapidly polluting our sources of fresh water. Here’s a release from the EPA:

A new EPA study shows concentrations of toxic chemicals in fish tissue from lakes and reservoirs in nearly all 50 U.S. states. For the first time, EPA is able to estimate the percentage of lakes and reservoirs nationwide that have fish containing potentially harmful levels of chemicals such as mercury and PCBs.

“These results reinforce Administrator Jackson’s strong call for revitalized protection of our nation’s waterways and long-overdue action to protect the American people,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “EPA is aggressively tackling the issues the report highlights. Before the results were even finalized, the agency initiated efforts to further reduce toxic mercury pollution and strengthen enforcement of the Clean Water Act – all part of a renewed effort to protect the nation’s health and environment.”

The data showed mercury concentrations in game fish exceeding EPA’s recommended levels at 49 percent of lakes and reservoirs nationwide, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in game fish at levels of potential concern at 17 percent of lakes and reservoirs. These findings are based on a comprehensive national study using more data on levels of contamination in fish tissue than any previous study.

Burning fossil fuels, primarily coal, accounts for nearly half of mercury air emissions caused by human activity in the U.S., and those emissions are a significant contributor to mercury in water bodies. From 1990 through 2005, emissions of mercury into the air decreased by 58 percent. EPA is committed to developing a new rule to substantially reduce mercury emissions from power plants, and the Obama Administration is actively supporting a new international agreement that will reduce mercury emissions worldwide.

The study also confirms the widespread occurrence of PCBs and dioxins in fish, illustrating the need for federal, state and local government to continue efforts to reduce the presence of these harmful chemicals in our lakes and reservoirs and ensure that fish advisory information is readily available.

It is important that women of child-bearing age and children continue to follow the advice of EPA and the Food and Drug Administration on fish consumption as it relates to mercury. This study is also a strong message to state and local governments to redouble their efforts in looking for opportunities to reduce mercury discharges, as well as developing fish advisories, especially to reach those in sensitive and vulnerable populations.

Results from the four-year National Study of Chemical Residues in Lake Fish Tissue show that mercury and PCBs are widely distributed in U.S. lakes and reservoirs. Mercury and PCBs were detected in all of the fish samples collected from the nationally representative sample of 500 lakes and reservoirs in the study. Because these findings apply to fish caught in lakes and reservoirs, it is particularly important for recreational and subsistence fishers to follow their state and local fish advisories.

EPA is conducting other statistically based national aquatic surveys that include assessment of fish contamination, such as the National Rivers and Streams Assessment and the National Coastal Assessment. Sampling for the National Rivers and Streams Assessment is underway, and results from this two-year study are expected to be available in 2011. Collection of fish samples for the National Coastal Assessment will begin in 2010.

More information:

More information on local fish advisories:

More water pollution coverage here.