Steamboat Springs: Public Works director pitches $34 million for proposed water infrastructure

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Mike Lawrence):

Philo Shelton said Thursday that he is confident in the city’s updated plan for $34 million worth of potential water infrastructure that would service future development west of Steamboat Springs. Shelton is director of Steam boat Springs’ public works department. On Tuesday, he presented a study by McLaughlin Water Engineers, of Denver, “Water and Wastewater Master Plan Updates,” to the Steamboat Springs City Council. The study includes projected water and wastewater demands and details the infrastructure needed to service those demands should potential development — including the proposed Steamboat 700 and 360 Village annexations — occur west of current city limits. “It does not raise concerns for me,” Shelton said about the city’s ability to meet future water capacity demands, costs and infrastructure plans. “This plan is a good plan to allow for treated water, as well as nonpotable irrigation water. … The other piece is that it allows for a new source of water and provides needed redundancy in our region.”[…]

The McLaughlin study projects a maximum water demand of 7.34 million gallons per day, or mgd, after build-out within city limits and in the west of Steamboat area, including potential annexations and other development. The city’s current water treatment capacity is 4.55 mgd, and the current city demand is 3.3 mgd, according to the study. Those figures do not include demands serviced by the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District. Expanding existing city facilities — including additional filtration at the Fish Creek water treatment plant, which the city shares with the Mount Werner district — could boost the city’s treatment capacity to 7.65 mgd, just more than the 7.34 mgd future demand…

The $34 million cost of developing that service includes $5 million to buy the 1,000-acre site for a reservoir; $7.5 million to build the reservoir; $4.75 million to build a water treatment plant that initially would provide 2.5 mgd, and ultimately could provide 5 mgd; and other land, construction, legal and administrative costs…

The McLaughlin study said water infrastructure on the west side of the city is needed regardless of future development, to provide redundancy for what it called a “dead-end” city water treatment system that comes only from one side of the city. McLaughlin said building a 1-million-gallon storage tank near Steamboat Springs Airport is a high priority for the city and that a booster pump station will be needed if the Elk River supply is not developed.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Republican River Water Conservation Board of Directors meeting recap

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The day included presentations on the Colorado Ground Water Management Act, the history and development of Colorado Ground Water Commission rules, distinct rules by ground water management districts, and the new mandatory water metering. And that was just in the morning. Then came the afternoon, featuring a compact accounting update by RRWCD engineer Jim Slattery, State Engineer Dick Wolfe and Assistant State Engineer Mike Sullivan giving an update on getting approval for the proposed pipeline by the Republican River Compact Administration, and RRWCD leaders explaining the district’s current stance in continuing with the pipeline, and why they have done what they have to date.

Colorado invoked fast-track arbitration with fellow compact states Kansas and Nebraska after the RRCA rejected the pipeline on a 1-2 vote last August. It was the second time the RRCA, which consists of the state engineer from each state, rejected Colorado’s proposed pipeline, the first vote coming last April. Wolfe reported Monday that the state still had not selected an arbitrator, which was supposed to have been done two months ago. He later explained Kansas did not want to keep the arbitrator that decided another fast-track arbitration case earlier this year between Kansas and Nebraska. Wolfe said the new finalists all were expensive, particularly with all the states going through budget crunches, and Nebraska wanted to interview all of the finalists in person. He said he had hoped to announce the arbitrator Monday because Nebraska was done with the interviews. However, he had not heard on a final selection before coming to Yuma. When asked about sticking to the fast-track arbitration deadline, Wolfe said Colorado could force the other states to stick to the timeline with the hearings in February, and a final decision in March. However, he left the door open for Colorado allowing a slight extension…

Wolfe revisited the many concerns held by either Kansas or Nebraska in regards to the pipeline. Those include worries Colorado would pump too much one year and then not pump any water into the North Fork in following years, groundwater depletions by the use of the pipeline, the impact depletions could have on the Haigler Ditch in Nebraska, and Kansas’ continued assertion that Colorado must satisfy the South Fork obligations by pumping water into the South Fork, rather than satisfying that by pumping all of the water into the North Fork. Kansas has expressed its wishes that Colorado would extend the pipeline about 15 miles further south to pump water into a South Fork tributary. David Barfield from Kansas has told Colorado his state in theory supports the pipeline, but issues need to be resolved. There is a concern from Colorado’s end about the compact model dictating that groundwater depletions by the pipeline could result in Colorado receiving up to 20 percent less credit. Wolfe said the situation comes down to Kansas and Nebraska being worried they would lose all leverage in future negotiations if they approved the pipeline — even though Colorado has added provisions stating the other two can still seek compensation for past damages, as well as Colorado being obligated to any potential ruling on the sub-basin test…

David Robbins, legal counsel for the RRWCD, said Monday that when the district was formed earlier this decade, the understanding that removing about 30,000 acres from production would about do it in regards to Colorado coming into compliance, with Mother Nature taking care of the rest. With that in mind, the district immediately began working toward CREP and EQIP programs, which pay producers to turn off their wells — CREP for permanent retirement and EQIP temporary turnoffs of a certain amount of years. Robbins said all along Colorado knew it would eventually have to build a pipeline at some time in the future. However, he said that by 2007 it was clear the well retirements alone would not be enough, and the pipeline needed to be done sooner rather than later. Robbins explained why the RRWCD went ahead with purchasing the water rights earlier this year from the Cure family. The water rights are to 62 wells north of Laird, where a pipeline will be built to discharge the water into the North Fork within a half-mile of the Colorado-Nebraska state line…

He said there are a lot of problems with Kansas’ proposal of extending the pipeline to the South Fork. It would entail putting water into a dry creek bed, where it would then have to travel more than 40 miles getting to the gage in Benkleman…

Slattery, during his presentation, explained the importance of draining Bonny Reservoir to help Colorado come into compliance. It would be eliminate 3,300 acre feet per year currently counted against Colorado due to evaporation and seepage from the reservoir’s water. The figure used to be higher, but the reservoir is now being kept around 10,000 acre feet. In fact, Wolfe said he ordered the release of water from the reservoir again earlier this month, sending water down the South Fork, while also keeping Bonny’s level down. The state engineer said there are a lot of issues surrounding the Bonny situation that have to be worked out with a variety of agencies before it could ever be drained. He said he feels is getting close in coming months to getting all those issues settled…

Slattery’s presentations, letters from Kansas and Nebraska concerning the proposed pipeline, Colorado’s proposed resolutions and other important information concerning the pipeline and Republican River Compact, can be found at

Ouray: Stimulus dough to help with funding 20 kilowatt micro hydroelectric generation plant

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From The Telluride Watch:

The City of Ouray has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Colorado Governors Energy Office to install a 20 kilowatt micro-hydro generating unit to be located at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool…

The project will take advantage of an existing, currently underutilized pipeline adjacent to the pool site. The electrical output from the system will be net-metered to offset the electricity use of the pool complex, saving the city approximately $12,000 in annual electricity expenditures. The powerhouse for the project will be constructed by a shop class from Ouray High School. Once completed, the project will provide an added tourist attraction to visitors to Ouray Hot Springs. Over the 30 year life of the project, the city will save approximately $370,000 – not accounting for expected electricity price increases. The project will also provide an opportunity for local students to participate in development of a clean energy project, and will avoid approximately 224,000 pounds of annual carbon dioxide emissions.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Palmer Lake: Town Council approves water rate increase

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Lisa Collacott):

The basic rate will increase from $33.53 to $40.07. The increase is needed to fund the new water plant. There will be an $11.51 increase per tap per month. An additional $6.54 will be added to maintain a three-month reserve. The state has required the Town of Palmer Lake to create an emergency fund with the $6.54 that is collected. At the end of 2010 the $6.54 will be taken off the bill. The $11.51 will stay until the loan is paid off, which will be in 20 years. “We needed the money for the new plant,” said water commissioner, Max Stafford. “The old one was 30-years-old and it was hard to get parts for it.”

Palmer Lake has taken a $1.8 million loan from the state’s revolving fund for improvements. The loan is a low-interest subsidized loan. “There was no raise in the budget or employee benefits. It’s all about the loan,” Stafford said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Dolores: Water and sewer rates to go up next year

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From the Cortez Journal (Shannon Livick):

Dolores residents will see their water and sewer bills go up next year, following a Monday-night decision by town board members to increase rates 3 percent. Interim Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said the increase was a must, to keep up with the rising costs of labor, chemical supplies and additional testing. The 3 percent increase will cost the average customer about $17 a year…

The base rate for water for in town residents up to 4,000 gallons will now be $24.36. The base rate for residential, in-town sewer will be $24.72…

Green said because the water and sewer rates are having difficulty paying for themselves, the increase was the only way to keep up with costs and continue to maintain the system. “We are not keeping up in the sewer fund,” Mayor Val Truelson said. The increase would give the town about $10,800 of additional revenue, Mahoney said. The revenue will go to the water and sewer enterprise funds because of escalating costs of doing business, needed maintenance and ongoing improvements.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Environment Colorado obtains email correspondence between Powertech and the EPA over possible permitted pollution in the Fox Hills aquifer

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents show the EPA has been working closely with uranium mine developer Powertech USA for nearly two years on a permit application that would allow the company to contaminate an aquifer beneath its proposed Centennial Project in Weld County. All of the consultation was closed to the public, said Matthew Garrington of Environment Colorado, the group that obtained the documents from the EPA. According to the documents, the EPA, with the help of Powertech, has been developing internal guidance documents that will govern how the agency reviews Powertech’s application for a mine permit. The permit will allow Powertech to contaminate a portion of an aquifer with the company’s in situ leach uranium mining process…

“One reason the Centennial Project is receiving this level of technical scrutiny is because many residences located near the proposed Centennial Project rely on private wells for their drinking water, and many of those drinking water wells are completed in the same Fox Hills Formation aquifer [ed. the Fox Hills is part of the Denver Basin Aquifer system] as the mining zone aquifer,” according to one October 2008 internal EPA document. EPA spokesman Richard Mylott said Thursday that document does not reflect the agency’s current approach to Class III permitting.

Most of the e-mails Environment Colorado obtained regard an “aquifer exemption,” and “aquifer exemption boundary,” which is the extent to which the EPA may allow Powertech to contaminate the aquifer as part of the uranium mining process. The e-mails between the EPA and Powertech partners, Knight Piesold Consulting and R2 Incorporated, discuss where the aquifer exemption boundary should be placed.

In an April 2008 e-mail between EPA Underground Injection Control staffer Valois Shea and an R2 Incorporated employee, Shea asks if draft figures in a Class III permit application checklist comport with R2’s expectations. “You will get to be the pioneering guinea pig that will make life easier for others following in your path,” Shea writes.

Powertech Vice President Richard Blubaugh said Thursday such consultation with the EPA was both informal and standard practice. Class III permit applicants are “encouraged to go in and meet with the agency to understand what the requirements are,” he said. “Their regulations are complex. It really is something everybody does. It’s just routine to go in and talk to find out how they interpret the rule and what they expect to see in the application.”

Mylott agreed, saying it’s both normal and in the public’s best interest for the EPA to discuss the technical aspects of in situ leaching with Powertech. The EPA’s underground injection control program, he said, is designed to protect drinking water. “Achieving that goal depends on a solid understanding of what the permit applicant intends to do and the steps that will be taken to protect drinking water sources,” Mylott said.

Thanks to the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams) for the heads up.

More nuclear coverage here and here.