Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities pledges not to back down from stormwater commitments for Fountain Creek

A picture named fountaincreek.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

McCormick said Colorado Springs’ commitments on stormwater do not depend on the enterprise. Those commitments are contained within both the conditions of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit and the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement. “We clearly have a stormwater commitment to SDS and we will maintain that,” McCormick said. “The EIS requires us to annually evaluate flows in Fountain Creek. If they exceed historic flows, we have to sit down with Reclamation to address that.” At the same time, there are other benefits to Fountain Creek f r o m SDS, he said. Those include $50 million that will be paid directly to the district after SDS is complete in 2016 and $75 million in continued improvements to the wastewater system, including stream crossing susceptible to flooding. McCormick said dredging the channel in Pueblo and wetlands enhancement projects are planned for 2010. “Fountain Creek is better off with SDS than without it,” McCormick said.

In other Fountain Creek news the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District has chosen an interim manager, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Gary Barber, who worked on a grant to fund the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force and helped craft legislation to form a district, was chosen as interim director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

Meanwhile here’s a recap of a study of selenium in Fountain Creek by Colorado State University – Pueblo, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Selenium is definitely in the water. It is definitely taken in by plants, and it increases as you go downstream,” said Del Nimmo, a biology research associate leading the study. “What was a surprise to us was the relationship between selenium and the hardness of water.”

Selenium, an element essential to life but toxic at elevated levels, is being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA finding on selenium levels could lead to new state standards. While the standards could mean higher compliance levels for sewage discharge permits in the area, including Pueblo’s and all those along Fountain Creek, there could also be consequences to wildlife. Selenium was listed as a cause of wildlife death and deformity in the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley in California, largely due to agricultural sources. Selenium in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River have been identified in past studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado State University-Fort Collins.

The CSU-Pueblo study, however, is the first to establish a link between selenium and living organisms, in this case bryophytes, mossy plants that are exceptionally good at absorbing minerals from water. That’s important because the EPA criteria most likely will be based on levels in fish or bird tissues, rather than concentrations in the water…

The clearest trend was the accumulation of selenium in the water as it moves downstream. “While we cannot detect an impact on Fountain Creek, the Arkansas River flowing into John Martin Reservoir may cause loading systems to become toxic,” Nimmo said. “If the EPA criterion is based on tissue levels, we should have levels all along the river to John Martin.” John Martin Reservoir is home to two threatened and endangered bird species, the piping plover and least tern, said Scott Herrmann, a CSU-Pueblo biology professor.

Another part of the Fountain Creek study is looking at concentrations of selenium in fish tissue, but has not yet been completed, Herrmann said. “If we can find the money to do the (Arkansas River) bryophytes study, we can collect fish at the same time,” Herrmann said…

The Fountain Creek study is important for several reasons. It could serve in future state water quality ratings for stream segments in the watershed. That affects the discharge permits for water treatment plants. The study also could provide a baseline for monitoring the environmental impacts of the Southern Delivery System, which will provide more water to Colorado Springs, Fountain and Security, and increase discharges into Fountain Creek.

The life span of Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise is getting shorter. Here’s a report from Daniel Chaćon writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

A majority of the City Council now favors immediately eliminating the controversial city-owned agency that levies a fee to pay for drainage projects. City Councilman Bernie Herpin announced Monday he no longer supports a two-year phase-out, indicating there are now five votes on the nine-member panel to get rid of the enterprise at the end of this year.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here. More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Energy policy — coalbed methane: Produced water rules for Colorado update

A picture named groundwater.jpg

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

State Engineer Dick Wolfe held hearings last week to develop a computer model that will tell him which gas wells need extra attention. The hearings will conclude Dec. 16 with a discussion of wells in the San Juan Basin…

Wolfe hopes to make a decision on the model by the end of the year, in order to get the rules on the books by Feb. 1. Last week’s debate concerned only Colorado’s 5,000 coalbed methane wells, which are more likely to interact with water claimed by senior water rights. A separate rulemaking in January will deal with noncoalbed methane wells, but it’s likely most of those do not affect surface water, Wolfe said. Under the bill the Legislature passed this year, all coalbed methane wells will have to get a permit from Wolfe’s office. But only the wells his model identifies as a problem will have to file substitute water-supply plans to make sure they don’t harm senior water rights.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

Colorado: Stimulus dough projects announced

A picture named summitvillemine.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The six counties in the San Luis Valley stand to get $58.9 million from the federal stimulus bill signed into law at the beginning of the year…

The Summitville Superfund site in the mountains southwest of Del Norte will get $10 million to build a new water treatment plant…

The town of Blanca received $50,000 in loan forgiveness for a project to install water meters…

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Upper Arkansas Valley agencies have reaped the benefit of $29.8 million in President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act…

Other huge boons include $2 million to Fremont Sanitation District to extend sanitary sewer service to 178 homes in North Canon and $3 million in loans to Florence to upgrade its water treatment facility…

In addition, an 80-year-old water well that is showing signs of failing will be replaced by early 2010, thanks to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds received by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The artesian well is located on BLM land near Canon City and supplies water for 4,000 users in the Park Center Water District.

Colorado River Basin: What does the future hold?

A picture named glencanyondamconst.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Alan Best):

The centuries are different, and so are the challenges. Looking back to when the water first began gushing into the Uncompaghre Valley from the 5.8-mile Gunnison Tunnel, it is amazing to think that only humans and horses were available to scrape those canals out from the hillsides. In a way, the achievement is only slightly less impressive than the building of the pyramids in Egypt. In 1909, President William Howard Taft blessed the opening of the Gunnison Tunnel with his voluminous presence. The new water he caused to flow expanded the irrigated acreage of the valley by 160 percent, enabling the community’s population to double in 10 years. This was among the first projects launched by the Bureau of Reclamation. The agency went on to build Hoover Dam — producing both electricity and a reliable water supply for burgeoning Los Angeles — as well as Grand Coulee on the Columbia River and then, in the 1960s, that sprawling reservoir on the Colorado River called “Lake” Powell. In all, BuRec built 180 projects in the 17 Western states. Water delivered by all of that plumbing grows 60 percent of the nation’s vegetables and 25 percent of its fruits and nuts.

But then, the dam building sputtered to a halt. President Jimmy Carter in 1977 issued what critics called a Hit List but what he contended were financially ridiculous projects. Indignant Westerners brayed that Carter, hailing from Georgia, couldn’t possibly understand the West’s problems. Yet Ronald Reagan, a Californian, did nothing to overturn Carter’s action. The Age of Dams had come to an end.

The challenges of our new era seem biblical in nature. At issue is whether this massive hydraulic system to deliver water to semi-arid lands will continue to work. Evidence from a millennia ago describes droughts far more prolonged than anything we’ve experienced in the last century. Global climate models concur that increasing greenhouse gas emissions will cause sharply rising temperatures in the American Southwest.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Salida: Third international conference for professionals creating whitewater river parks May 24-27

A picture named hooliganrace.jpg

Here’s a release from the Paddle Sports Industry Association via PRWeb:

The third international conference for professionals creating whitewater river parks will convene in Salida, Colorado, USA May 24-27, 2010 to learn how over 100 projects similar to theirs around the world are improving rivers, offering new outdoor recreation opportunities and growing local economies. Projects range in size from a single river surfing wave with bank side access to large capacity stadiums that pump water through a self-contained system, and they are all showcasing paddling to the general public. Conference sponsors include the McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group and Recreation Engineering and Planning.

“Sharing whitewater course experiences will enlighten participants and should dismantle misconceptions about the whitewater park concept, sometimes discounted as expensive projects built for a few kayakers,” notes Risa Shimoda, of The Shimoda Group, LLC. “Paddlers catalyze whitewater park projects because they see opportunities before others might. However, cities realize their value from their use by bikers, walkers and runners; river-based events, new retail establishments and value enhanced real estate.”

Here’s the website for registration, etc.:

More whitewater coverage here.

Long Draw Reservoir: Decision on reservoir’s future and greenback habitat restoration due January 2010

A picture named longdrawreservoir.jpg

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Sitting between [Rocky Mountain National Park] and the [Roosevelt] national forest, Long Draw Reservoir, built in 1929 and enlarged in 1974, was up for a land-use permit renewal from the Forest Service in the early 1990s. After the agency issued the permit in 1994, Colorado Trout Unlimited sued because it included a plan that would keep La Poudre Pass Creek below the reservoir dry during the winter, damaging trout habitat. A decade later, a court sided with Trout Unlimited and threw out the permit, forcing the Forest Service to start the permitting process over again and to come up with a plan that would protect trout habitat.

Long Draw Reservoir, which sits below the Continental Divide on the northwest boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park, stores spring runoff and releases it during the summer and fall. The dam does not operate in the winter, drying up the stream below it. Forest Service officials said during a public involvement phase of planning for the project in 2008 that releasing water from the reservoir into La Poudre Pass Creek during the winter would be dangerous for workers having to operate the icy dam in the winter and might cause the dam to fail.

The new plan requires a compromise: Keep La Poudre Pass Creek dry during the winter, but restore more than 43 miles of trout habitat in the Poudre River Watershed, mostly in Rocky Mountain National Park. “It’s something scientists have been pushing for, for a long time,” said David Nickum, director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “The chance to try to put that science in action and do what would be the largest native cutthroat trout restoration project ever in Colorado – we’re excited about that prospect.”

The restoration project, he said, would take more than a decade and requires poisoning existing brook trout fisheries and restocking them with cutthroats. Instead of restoring La Poudre Pass Creek, which has no trout habitat, “we’ll do something different with greater biological benefit,” Nickum said…

Rocky Mountain National Park is allowing public comment on the proposal through Dec. 31, with a decision expected to follow in early 2010.

More Long Draw Reservoir coverage here

Copenhagen: United Nations climate change policy conference underway

A picture named coalfiredpowerplant.jpg

The big United Nations climate change shindig kicked off today in Copenhagen. Around Coyote Gulch we’re pretty jaded as to whether there is enough political will to formulate policy or an action plan. Here’s a report on the University of Colorado connection to the conference from Laura Snider writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

The researchers headed to the United Nations talks — which include scientists from the University of Colorado, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — are not strangers to international conferences. But the meeting in Copenhagen will be different. “It’s not like going to just any conference,” said Waleed Abdalati, director of CU’s Earth Science and Observation Center. “It’s a policy conference, and I’m not a prominent player. I’m there to deliver information that’s of use and provide context.”

Abdalati, whose center is housed at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, will present information at several side events on satellite data that illustrate how the Earth’s ice cover, including the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and Arctic sea ice, has been affected by climate change. “We have tools from space that can look at the entire ice sheet now and observe how fast the ice is flowing, how much melt is occurring and where the mass is changing,” he said. “The satellites can really look at those facets collectively and provide and integrated picture.”

The work of climate scientists is often the target of intense scrutiny compared to their peers in other disciplines, since their research findings are informing political decisions about whether or how to wean the global economy off of its dependence on carbon-rich fossil fuels. But Abdalati said he welcomes the opportunity to share his research in Copenhagen, and he tries to divorce his personal views on climate change policies from his scientific results. “I’m very clear at these talks to say, ‘I’m not trying to win you over to one side or another,'” he said. “‘I’m going to lay out the information that scientists are seeing and explain what we think it means and explain why we think it means that. You can process that in your own way.'”

More Coyote Gulch Climate Change coverage here and here.