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

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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.

Custer County groundwater study update

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From the The Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

For a number of years, the county has been participating in a water quantity survey with USGS. In the study, USGS officials monitor 60 wells spread throughout Custer County. Each well is monitored twice a year—in the spring and fall—to check water level changes. Cost to the county is some $7,000 a year. The study is paid for through 2010. The county commissioners are considering suspending the study thereafter…

[United States Geological Survey official Ken Watts of Pueblo] told the county bosses the study helps to determine what will happen to water here in the future, therefore, it was a good idea to continue. ‘You need the background information to determine future water needs,” said Watts. Watts also said it might be a good idea to add some newly drilled wells to the study and take out of the study some of the wells in the Sangres. Scanga agreed saying the data received from the local monitoring of the 60 wells will benefit a water study the UAWCD is completing to study the quantity of water in the Upper Arkansas Basin.

The study will begin in 2010 and continue through 2012. Total cost is $406,912 with USGS paying $134,281. Kicking in $6,000 is Custer County. Other entities helping to pay for the study include the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District at $3,000, Fremont County at $15,000, Chaffee County and municipalities at $30,000, Penrose Water District at $6,000, and Canon City at $3,000. The UAWCD is paying some $226,912 plus administration costs valued at approximately $24,000.

More groundwater coverage here and here.

Pitkin County is stepping up efforts at septic system inspections

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From The Aspen Times:

The county is stepping up efforts to inspect such systems and, effective July 1, 2010, a permit for a septic system will be required before a property can be sold or before a building permit will be issued for development on such properties. “Malfunctioning septic systems release pathogens and contribute to heavy nutrient loading which can contaminate both ground and surface water,” said Carla Ostberg, Pitkin County Environmental Health program supervisor, in a press release. Boulder, Jefferson and Summit counties already have similar programs in place, and have found the inspection/permit process leads to the identification and repair of problem systems that might otherwise have gone unnoticed, she said.

One-hour informational meetings on the inspection and permit process will be held Nov. 24 at 1:30 p.m. at the Schultz Health and Human Services Building in Aspen and at 4:30 p.m. at the El Jebel Community Center. Future meetings will also be scheduled.

More wastewater coverage here.

La Plata County: New water authority pitching options for dry western side of county

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

A couple of dozen skeptical Dryside residents heard the assessment Tuesday evening from La Plata West Water Authority board members Roy Horvath, Tom Brossia, Mae Morley and Kirk Peine. The board is starting to unveil the project publicly, which has been the subject of three reports since 2003.
“We want to familiarize you with the options,” Horvath, the board vice chairman, said. “A lot of issues remain to be resolved.” The La Plata West Water Authority was created in 2007 to draw water from Lake Nighthorse, located a mile southwest of Bodo Industrial Park in Durango, for use in western La Plata County…

At build-out in 20 to 40 years, the system would have 35 million gallons of water a day available for an estimated 8,100 taps. Residents now use well water for bathing or washing dishes and clothes, while trucking in drinking water. So far, however, only a $5.7 million intake structure has been built on Lake Nighthorse. Missing are a water-treatment plant, a storage tank, a trunk line and lateral distribution lines. Total capital costs exceed $96 million. An estimated $2 million must be found to pay the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority for the 700 acre-feet of water the authority would use.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Norwood: CWCB instream flow meeting recap

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From The Norwood Post (Ellen Metrick):

Currently, the stream segments being considered for instream flow protection are Red Canyon Creek, North Fork Tabeguache Creek, San Miguel River, and Tabeguache Creek, as well as Alpine Gulch, Big Dominguez Creek, Blue Creek, Cebolla Creek, Cochetopa Creek, East Beaver Creek, Little Dominguez Creek, Spring Creek, and Willow Creek. “This segment of the San Miguel River has been identified as being an outstanding population of three fish that are species of concern,” said Mark Uppendahl of the State DOW office. According to the draft stakeholder recommendations (available online at http://www.cwcb.state.co.us, 2010 instream flow appropriations (proposed)), “The lower San Miguel River is known to provide habitat for globally imperiled riparian communities and other important riparian communities, because of the free-flowing hydrology of the river.” These communities include New Mexico Privet riparian shrubland and Skunkbrush riparian shrubland, Narrowleaf Cottonwood Communities and Fremont Cottonwood communities.

One thing that is certain, “A lot of water is lost in spring run-off,” said Goodtimes. “We need storage.” It is also true that in a dry year, there’s no water for anyone. Biologists say the fish can survive a year or two before they need water in order to repopulate and get strong again. Most of the flow in the San Miguel River (240,000 acre-feet per year, according to CWCB Web site) does come from snowmelt. Because of its relatively low, human population density and lack of large, water storage impoundments, the San Miguel Basin is considered to be one of the few ecologically and hydrologically intact river basins in Colorado. Goodtimes proposed to the Lone Cone and Gurley ditch users that they and the County band together. “Maybe we can get a grant from Southwest Water Commission to quantify and identify selected off-stem small sites for storage,” he said. “I wanna see if we can get our groups together and try and figure out a way to ask jointly.”[…]

CWCB had planned to file an application for these instream flows in January 2010, but Goodtimes said, “There was discussion about delaying that date of filing / appropriation to December 2010 to let people have a year to really look into it.” The streams mentioned in the proposed appropriations were presented by the recommending entities at the annual Instream Flow Workshop on Feb. 24, 2009.

More instream flow coverage here.

Telluride Energy scores $20,000 for hydroelectric plant at Mayflower Mill

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From the Silverton Standard & The Miner (Mark Esper):

Telluride Energy has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the USDA Rural Development Renewable Energy for America Program to install an 8-kilowatt micro-hydro turbine at the Mayflower Mill near Silverton. The San Juan County Historical Society is in the process of developing the small power plant. “I am excited that USDA Rural Development can play a part in this project,” said Jim Isgar, USDA Colorado State director. “Through the REAP program, loan guarantees and grants can be used for renewable energy systems, energy efficiency improvements, feasibility studies and energy audits.” The project will utilize the currently unused energy available in the existing water supply pipeline which flows down Arrastra Gulch to supply water to the Mayflower Mill. “Once completed, the project will generate local clean energy, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 80,000 pounds annually and enhancing fire protection for a National Historic Landmark,” said Kurt Johnson of Telluride Energy.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Glenwood Springs: Requirements of federal funding bill put new wastewater treatment plant on hold

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Gardner):

According to city officials, the word came last week that the project would have to be put on hold, indefinitely, awaiting further clarification from the Environmental Protection Agency. City Manager Jeff Hecksel, who was out of the office last week, returned Monday to be blindsided by the development. “We are not sure if this applies to us or not,” Hecksel said. “If it does we are not sure what we are going to do about it.” Hecksel said that he was unsure as to why the Glenwood project would be included because the project was not seeking federal funding. However, according to Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority Finance Director Mike Brod, the new law imposes certain requirements on state funds as well as federal funds. The funds, which are used to buy down the interest rate on the loan, come through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds program. The intent of the bill, in the context of the Clean Drinking Water and Wastewater programs, was to appropriate $3.9 billion to help more than 1,500 communities improve their drinking water and wastewater systems, according to a document from the Committee on Appropriations. But the bill includes language requiring projects using funds through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds to include the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirement. That is where the problem arises for Glenwood. The city did not include the Davis-Bacon requirement in the wastewater contract because it was not required when the contract went out to bid on Oct. 23.

More wastewater coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: SECWCD gets into case for new irrigation rules

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The district will enter the case as an opposer, not to stop the rules, but to make sure water under its supervision is used correctly. Under the rules, filed in Division 2 water court on Sept. 30 by State Engineer Dick Wolfe, Fryingpan-Arkansas return flows can be used as replacement water to assure compliance with the Arkansas River Compact between Colorado and Kansas. However, not all of the farmland in the Lower Arkansas Valley is in the Southeastern district, explained Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor. The district also wants to assure winter water is correctly accounted for. Winter water is stored from Nov. 15 to March 15 in lieu of irrigation…

More Ark Valley consumptive use rules coverage here and here.

Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District: Regional water pool should be online next season

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From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

Municipal and industrial water users may have another source of water next year when a regional water pool program proposed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District comes online. Brad Wind, deputy manager of the operations division for Northern, said the regional pool was first approved by the district’s board of directors in 2003, but this year has been the first year when sufficient carryover water will be available to offer the pool in 2010. The main reason the carry over is available is because of an abnormally wet spring and summer. For example, Greeley has received 18.5 inches of precipitation this year at the University of Northern Colorado, which is more than 5 inches more than the long-term average. In some areas of Northern’s boundaries, that has been doubled or even tripled in some cases. Wind, speaking at Northern’s recent annual fall water users meeting in Loveland, said the pool will be implemented in years when the district has at least 200,000 acre-feet of water in reserve. The pool will be limited to a maximum of 62,000 acre-feet each year. For 2010, it is expected there will be 37,000 acre-feet available, he said. An acre-foot is enough water to supply two families with a year’s supply of water. That water will be made available on a competitive lease basis and will be open to any qualified water user within Northern’s eight-county district…

Wind said ownership of Colorado-Big Thompson water has changed through the years. The largest transmountain water diversion in the state was built between 1938 and 1957. Originally, it was intended to provide a supplemental supply of irrigation water to farmers in northern Colorado by bringing water over the Continental Divide from the Colorado River, but now it provides supplemental water to 30 cities and towns as well. Currently, about 65 percent of the units of C-BT are owned by municipal and industrial users. “As time goes on, the water portfolios of municipalities is more robust,” Wind said, noting the demand for that water for municipalities is spread out over a longer time than that still used for irrigation of farmland. So the board began to think about ways to better optimize things and the regional pool became a reality. “The objective is to better optimize things between those who get the water and those who manage water,” Wind said. The result, he added, “will be more flexibility for those who use that water.”

More NCWCD coverage here.

Aspen: City and area residents debating the benefits and possible streamflow loss of proposed hydroelectric facility

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From the Associated Press via The Aspen Times via the Grand Junction Free Press:

City officials are taking public comments on the proposal and say a more comprehensive review is possible if there is enough concern or there are issues they haven’t considered. Aspen wants to build a 1,880-square-foot hydropower plant that would draw water from Castle and Maroon creeks to generate electricity. The 1.05 megawatt plant is expected to increase production of electricity by 5.5 million kilowatt hours annually. That would provide energy for several hundred households. City officials say getting that much electricity from a renewable source would eliminate an estimated 5,167 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power for a 0.6 percent communitywide decrease.

Some area residents, however, are concerned about the potential effects on wildlife and water rights if too much water is diverted from the creeks. Paul Noto, an Aspen-based water attorney, who represents several residents who live along Castle Creek, said if Aspen touts itself as an environmental leader, it ought to submit the project to a full environmental review.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.