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

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.