Formerly of Eaton, Colo., Magnuson served as superintendant of The New Cache La Poudre Irrigating Co. north of Greeley…
Magnuson said he had a huge learning curve to learn about local irrigation system, which differs from the Cache La Poudre. “They’re exactly alike and completely different,” he said…
MVIC oversees a vast network of reservoirs, canals and irrigation pipelines responsible for providing water to a majority of Montezuma County. “Without MVIC we would have no Cortez,” [MVIC President Randy Carver] said.
The California-based Newport Trial Group brought the suit in a U.S. District Court on behalf of individuals seeking restitution for these false [from greenwashing claims that its products are carbon-negative], which are thought to be responsible for a significant amount of Fiji’s increased market share.
For the second straight day snow pummeled the high country in the San Juan Mountains, dropping 24 inches on Wolf Creek Ski Area.
From the Loveland Reporter Herald (Sarah Bultema):
Those living along the Front Range have been a bit spoiled this winter, said Nolan Doesken, a climatologist at Colorado State University…
Yet Thursday, the mild winter was buried in as many as 5 inches of snow during the first major storm of the season. A cold front coming down from Wyoming paired with a Pacific storm moving over the Rockies created snowfall that’s expected to continue through this afternoon, Doesken said.
From the Associated Press (Catherine Tsai) via the Seattle Times:
The Silverton Mountain resort in Colorado reported 22 inches of snow, but only about 120 people were on the mountain because officials closed highways leading to the ski area for avalanche control and because of adverse conditions, resort co-founder Jen Brill said…
The National Weather Service said snow could fall at a rate close to an inch an hour starting Thursday evening in the Denver area, which usually has around 25 inches of snow by this time of the season but had just 1.5 inches before Thursday.
A total of 3 inches had fallen by late Thursday at DIA, 5 inches in Conifer, 3.2 in Wheat Ridge and 6 inches in Ken-Caryl. Forecasters expected the snow to intensify during the night. Before Thursday, Denver had seen just 1.5 inches of snow this fall and winter. Last year, Denver had more than 11 inches of snowfall in December alone. The average total snowfall for the season by the end of December is more than 2 feet.
Colorado Springs had received 4 to 5 inches of snow as of 7:45 p.m. Thursday, while Monument Hill and Woodland Park had recorded 5 to 8 inches of powder, said Kyle Mozley, National Weather Service meteorologist.
In the 24 hours ending at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Coal Bank Pass received 31 inches of snow, [National Weather Service meteorologist Ellen Heffernan] said. Molas Pass got 21 inches and Red Mountain 19 inches in the same period.
Some Durango-area weather observers recorded two-day snow totals in the high teens.
– Bill Butler said 18.1 inches fell in Durango West II.
– Maureen Keilty recorded 22 inches at her home in Rafter J.
– Pam Snyder in Hesperus found 13 inches.
– Briggen Wrinkle, who reports rain and snow readings to the National Weather Service, collected 14 inches of snow in the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Called the Super Ditch, it’s not really a ditch at all. Instead, the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch is a corporation formed in 2008 that hopes to gain the support of ditch companies in the Arkansas Valley to stop the pattern of buy-and-dry that has ravaged agriculture in the valley for 60 years. The basic philosophy of the Super Ditch is to pool water rights from seven ditches to create one-stop shopping for municipalities or others hunting for water. Backers say this will lessen the chances that water rights are purchased, and the water permanently taken from the land.
A study by The Pueblo Chieftain earlier this year found that at least 145,000 acres — a third of the valley’s farmland — could be dried up if cities were using all of the agricultural rights they already have purchased.
“It may be 30 years, 100 years or 150 years, but there will be a time. . . . As short as we are on water, there will be a day when it will not be economical to run water from the Continental Divide through dirt rivers and dirt ditches to my headgate,” said Lamar farmer Dale Mauch. “You can wish and think you can make ’em go away. They’re going to keep coming because they need this water.”[…]
“If anyone in this country thinks the cities are not going to try and buy the whole thing, they haven’t been paying attention,” [John Schweizer, president of the Super Ditch] said. “This way the farmer gets to keep the water to sell as another crop.”[…]
Ray Smith, president of the Oxford Canal, was asked to resign from the Super Ditch board after he opposed the company’s application for a right to exchange water in Division 2 Water Court. Smith still contends that taking any of the water out of the river would reduce the water needed to carry water to his fields. “Once this water is removed from the river, there will be a direct effect on the amount of water and water quality to the major ditches in the Arkansas Valley,” Smith said. He also said the amount farmers are being offered in initial leases of the Super Ditch are insultingly low and the 40-year terms tie up the water too long.
Smith brought his concerns to the October meeting of the Super Ditch board, but other members argued no farmers are required to participate in any lease, and that it will be valuable in the long run to have a mechanism in place that avoids the historic buy-and-dry deals…
By the year’s end, ditch companies and their shareholders were debating the pros and cons of the Super Ditch. Interest is especially high — 80 percent or more — on the Fort Lyon Canal, which already has seen many of its shares sold to outside water interests. The Catlin Canal changed its bylaws to allow for leasing outside the ditch. The Fort Lyon, Bessemer, High Line and Holbrook canals already allow for lease programs, while the Otero will consider the proposal in January. Of the seven ditches envisioned to participate, only the Oxford has rejected the idea, although some individual shareholders of the Oxford have expressed an interest.
Be sure to click through and read Mr. Woodka’s short bio of John Schweizer.
Here’s a report from MIT Technology Review (Kevin Bullis):
Oasys Water, a company that has been developing a novel, inexpensive desalination technology, showed off a new development facility in Boston this week. The company, which has been demonstrating commercial-scale components of its system in recent months, plans to begin testing a complete system early next year and to start selling the systems by the end of 2011.
Currently, desalination is done mainly in one of two ways: water is either heated until it evaporates (called a thermal process) or forced through a membrane that allows water molecules but not salt ions to pass (known as reverse osmosis). Oasys’s method uses a combination of ordinary (or forward) osmosis and heat to turn sea water into drinking water.
On one side of a membrane is sea water; on the other is a solution containing high concentrations of carbon dioxide and ammonia. Water naturally moves toward this more concentrated “draw” solution, and the membrane blocks salt and other impurities as it does so. The resulting mixture is then heated, causing the carbon dioxide and ammonia to evaporate. Fresh water is left behind, and the ammonia and carbon dioxide are captured and reused.
Oasys says the technology could make desalination economically attractive not only in arid regions where there are no alternatives to desalination, but also in places where fresh water must be transported long distances.
If all goes according to plan, the Custer County commissioners and Upper Arkansas Conservancy District will meet after the first of the year to talk about the implementation of a blanket water augmentation plan for the county.
According to Jim Culichia, the attorney who represented the Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District, one of six entities that challenged the application, Leadville Water sought 2 cubic feet per second of water, or about 2,880 gallons of water per day. The water was coming from the Dauntless Tunnel in between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan, located at the headwaters of Fourmile Creek west of Fairplay. According to Culichia, Leadville Water sought to get the water and had a contract to sell it to United Water and Sanitation for more than $20 million…
Culichia told The Flume that the water judge [James F. Hartmann] rejected the Leadville Water arguments after it failed to prove “alleged lack of any subsurface hydraulic connection between the water captured by the Dauntless Tunnel and Fourmile Creek.”[…]
The two entities in the Leadville Water joint venture are Leadville Corp., which owns the mining claims on Mount Sherman, and Dakota Water Resources, which is a Centennial-based water acquisition firm.
…the outfitters weren’t asking for any water. They just wanted it to come during the warm days of summer when tourism was at its peak. “What turned things around was the attitude of the Bureau of Reclamation, which in 1989-90 drained Twin Lakes for maintenance,” Dils said. The release during the summer months showed that water could be moved without damaging water rights. The details of how much water was enough for rafting or too much for fish had to be worked out.
Beginning in 1990, a voluntary flow agreement that balanced the needs of boaters and fishermen began, and it’s been renewed every year. It came a year after the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area was formed. Since the formation of the recreation area, the river has become the most heavily commercially rafted river in the world. The river has also been the site of the annual FIBArk boat races since 1949. “Colorado water law allowed for the water to be moved, and the agreement requires the state to replace the evaporative loss, so no one loses water,” Dils said.
Meanwhile the Pueblo Board of Water Works has approved the recent settlement between Pueblo County and Pueblo West in the lawsuit over the Pueblo Winter Flow Program. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
“The water board’s staff is the one group that looks out for that stretch of the Arkansas River, from the dam to Fountain Creek,” said board member Jim Gardner. The agreement was important to the water board not only because it protects the flow program and puts on hold a Pueblo West plan to pump effluent into a wash that leads directly into Lake Pueblo, said Alan Hamel, executive director of the water board. “Importantly, for the entire Pueblo community, we’ve enhanced the flow program without disturbing the three-party and six-party agreements,” Hamel said.
He was referring to 2004 agreements that settled issues relating to SDS and the Preferred Storage Options Program. Those pacts also set up a program that maintains seasonal flows through Pueblo by curtailing exchanges.
John Kreski, who owns the Creekside Hot Springs vacation rental in the lease area, is among private landowners breathing a sigh of relief. “They (3E Geothermal) have 10 years to develop it and I think the reason they bought it was to protect the drinking water supply in the area and keep the aesthetics of the area pristine,” Kreski said…
The lease will not be issued until the 16 protest letters have been resolved. If the lease is issued, it would be the first step in any geothermal development process, according to Keith Berger, BLM field manager. “The BLM’s next action would come if the lessee submits a project proposal. The BLM would then initiate an environmental review of the proposal and seek public input for concerns and potential issues related to that proposal,” Berger explained.
Here’s the announcement from the City of Fort Collins webiste:
Announcing the formation of a new, exciting industry cluster focused on water-related issues and innovation! The future of water safety, water supply and water management is a global issue; Fort Collins area companies, Colorado State University and industry partners around the state are ready to take on water challenges and discover solutions that are best for the planet, for business and our societies.
The newly organized industry cluster unites these companies and organizations as they contribute to the economic vitality of our area and beyond.
From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:
Notice is hereby given that a workshop for members of the CWCB will be held on Monday, January 24, 2011. This workshop will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, Denver Tech Center, located at 7675 E. Union Ave., Denver, CO 80237, commencing at 1:00 p.m.
Notice is hereby given that a meeting of the CWCB will be held on Tuesday January 25, 2011, commencing at 8:00 a.m. and continuing through Wednesday, January 26, 2011. This meeting will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn, Denver Tech Center, located at 7675 E. Union Ave., Denver, CO 80237.
Here’s a look at the work of SeEtta Moss’ work to preserve water for wildlife, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Moss, who lives in Canon City, is the conservation chairwoman for the Arkansas Valley Audobon and Colorado Audubon societies, and her influence in water issues has grown in the past five years. In 2005, she joined the Arkansas Basin Roundtable as the representative for nonconsumptive needs — the water that provides landscape and habitat for birds and other wildlife. In that time, she has taught other members of the roundtable the importance of wildlife-related activities, helped develop a groundbreaking method of measuring the relative importance of nonconsumptive use in the basin and worked for state grants to study wildlife habitat throughout the basin…
So, what do all those animals have to do with the value of water?
“Protecting the environmental values is a job creator,” Moss said. “Protecting these assets is important to creating jobs in Colorado. People come to see pretty landscapes and the birds. Not many want to come here to see dry mountain streams.” Watching wildlife, hunting and fishing have an estimated $3 billion impact on the state’s economy…
Moss gives the creatures who cannot own a water right a place at the table as decisions are made.
To create a habitat that would support trout in the valley reaches of the Rio Blanco, it was necessary to slow the river enough to stem erosion and create deeper pockets of water to provide shelter for the fish. Before he could begin to create a blueprint to engineer the necessary changes, Rosgen needed to find a river in the region that would provide a natural model.
“I looked for a system that had a similar flow regime and hence was naturally stable,” he said. Once such a model was found — the East Fork of the San Juan in an adjoining valley — Rosgen set to work, hauling in boulders and parts of old trees to rejuvenate the Blanco’s banks and direct its waters toward a more defined channel.
“My goal was to develop a naturally meandering stream that has a close connection to the surrounding riparian environs,” Rosgen said. “In the past, methods included using junked cars and concrete to shore up stream banks. That doesn’t exactly give the river a natural feel.”
One of the main challenges Rosgen faced on the Rio Blanco was filtering out the massive amounts of sediment that is carried down from the mountains during spring runoff. If the sediment was not diverted, the stream bed would be clogged and water would flow outside of the primary channel. Rosgen and his team constructed a tube to divert cobble, gravel and sand away from the river channel; water flows through, and sediment is routed to a holding area that can be periodically emptied. The excess gravel — which during my visit rivaled the sand piles along highways during the snow season — is used to supplement the roads and trails around the ranch.
Because of Rosgen’s efforts, there are three miles of the Rio Blanco that may be fished by guests of El Rancho Pinoso, which is owned by Robert Lindner Sr., the founder of United Dairy Farms. The price tag for the renovation was about $1 million.
…a few, like Chapter President Howard Lackey, could see beyond the trash and invasive plants and envision the potential of the Purgatoire River as a trout steam. Howard’s grandfather taught him the best way to recover from a stressful day of work is to take out the fly rod, and that is easier to do with a stream near where you work and live. The Trinidad Community Foundation was founded in 2006, with a mission to improve the quality of life in Trinidad and Las Animas County. Howard was on the board of directors, and one of the first projects tackled was improving the river corridor. The Foundation began a spring clean-up of the river corridor. They partnered with The Comcast Foundation, and this spring over 230 people volunteered at the Comcast Cares clean-up event.
Members from Chapter 509 Southern Colorado Greenbacks in Pueblo had become interested in the Purgatoire River a couple of years ago, and toured it with city officials and Kim Pacheco Schultz, the Executive Director of the Trinidad-Las Animas County Chamber of Commerce. They were excited by the possibilities but knew it would be difficult to work on a project 75 miles away. Chapter 509 generously off ered to allow a new TU chapter to form in their southeastern Colorado territory. A meeting was held in September 2009 to measure the local interest, and Chapter 100, Purgatoire River Anglers, came into being that night.
More Purgatoire River watershed coverage here and here.
Here’s a look at the water requirements for electrical generation and the current state of power plants in the Arkansas Valley, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The purchase of half of one of the valley’s largest irrigation systems, the Amity Canal, by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association shines a new light on how water and electricity are connected. “The system is out of balance. We really had the need for power-generation resources on the eastern side of our system,” said Lee Boughey, communications director for Tri-State. “We did it differently, because we saw the need for having the water on-site with options for any number of technologies.”[…]
While initial plans called for a pair of coal-burning power plants that would generate 1,400 megawatts of power, Tri-State now is looking at options that could incorporate coal, natural gas, wind, solar or even nuclear technology. Until then, the water that eventually will be used in electric power generation remains in agriculture, on farms that Tri-State bought along with the water and now leases to tenant farmers. “When we do build a power plant, the transmission lines associated with it will help facilitate renewable energy because you will have a more stable infrastructure,” Boughey explained. “At the same time, it’s important to maintain the land and keep it in production.”[…]
An even larger share of the electricity generated at Pueblo will go to Denver metro area customers beginning in 2012. Black Hills Energy is building a gas-fired plant near Pueblo, also with water supplied by the Pueblo water board, and is planning on closing its Canon City generating plant. Colorado Springs Utilities, which supplies the largest customer base in the basin, controls its own water supply, and reuses nonpotable water as part of the supply for its coal and gas plants. It also produces some electricity by hydropower. The city will increase its power demands when it builds the Southern Delivery System, because it will have to pump water uphill from Pueblo Dam. Right now, Colorado Springs has the capacity to produce more electricity than it uses, said Bruce McCormick, chief energy officer for Colorado Springs Utilities. Colorado Springs controls its own water, wastewater, electric and gas utilities.
Click through for Mr. Woodka short bio of Mr. Boughey.
The Bureau of Reclamation issued a Federal Register Notice announcing the availability for public review and comment the Hydropower Resource Assessment at Existing Reclamation Facilities Draft Report on November 4, 2010. This draft report is an assessment of the economic and technical potential for hydropower development at existing Reclamation owned non-powered dams and structures.
It provides an inventory of hydropower potential at existing Reclamation sites using broad energy and economic criteria. It does not make any recommendation for development of the sites included in the report.
Comments may be submitted by mail or email no later than January 27, 2011 to:
Bureau of Reclamation
Denver Federal Center, Bldg 67
PO Box 25007
Denver, CO 80225<
The draft report and Federal Register Notice are available for download on Reclamation’s website at www.usbr.gov/power/.
Writer, Bobby Magill, whose work often appears in the Fort Collins Coloradoan has a post up on the High Country News blog A Just West about the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill and the industry in general in Colorado. He’s pointing to The New York Times article I linked to on Monday (now behind the NYT paywall). From Magill’s post:
So, when a company proposes a new uranium mill, those wary of the industry’s trustworthiness have volumes of Colorado history supporting a conclusion that it’s reasonable to turn a skeptical eye toward new uranium projects and the regulations created to safeguard people and the environment.
But does rigorous skepticism toward the Piñon Ridge Mill necessarily lead to saying “Not in my backyard”? The answer will become clear if Colorado regulators give the mill a green light in January, when western Colorado’s nuclear legacy could be set on a course for a new era in uranium production.
Meanwhile winter wheat crops are threatened by the drought on the eastern plains, according to Sharon Dunn writing for The Fence Post. From the article:
“Now, it’s probably the worst we’ve seen in 30 years,” said Jim Cooksey of Cooksey Farms southeast of Roggen. Four months of little to no moisture is taking its toll on the crop, which blankets fields across northern Colorado. That means hopes for even an average harvest next summer are starting to dwindle. The Cooksey family’s 3,600 acres of winter wheat so far are patchy at best. By now, the winter wheat crop should be up a good 3-4 inches heading into its winter dormancy, Cooksey said. Winter wheat is planted in the fall so it shoots up into a nice ground cover before it hits the winter dormancy. The crop will wake back up in the spring and is harvested in the summer. While hardy, it also depends on moisture, which should be kick-started in the fall. Subsoil moisture is a good 6 inches below the surface. Without moisture to bridge that gap, the crop struggles.
“We usually have at least one storm in fall, but that hasn’t happened this year,” Cooksey said. “As a farmer, you live a lot on hope. You put a lot of faith in mother nature and God to bring moisture to make a crop.”[…]
“They say the winter wheat crop has nine lives,” [Darrell Hanavan, executive director of Colorado Wheat in Fort Collins] said. “Some of the farmers have said we’ve used two or three so far. It’s not over yet. … If we can get the right conditions, we could still have the potential for an average crop.”
“It isn’t just us,” said Norwood Town Administrator Patti Grafmyer. “The water court is going to be inundated by filings from San Miguel and Montrose counties, too.”
The town and Norwood Water Commission (NWC) are working to plan ahead for the area, and figure they’ll need another 1,056 acre-feet of water by the year 2060 to cover the projected growth. “We have to plan ahead that far, at least,” said NWC president Mark Muniz. Right now, the town and water commission have an agreement with Farmers Ditch Company for 300 acre-feet, and have the option to purchase more, but the ditch company has been waiting to hear back from the Forest Service on a new ditch bill that may change regulations on municipal water being carried through Forest Service property.
The town owns water rights in the San Miguel River, but the problem — and the expense — lie in getting the water up the hill. The proposal that is being worked on is to move the location where Norwood can draw its water from, which is currently near the bridge at the bottom of Norwood Hill. The town has several areas they are looking at, and several possible plans for enlargement of ditches, new ditches, and reservoir sites, though none is yet set in stone. Grafmyer said the filing for the water has to be finalized by this Friday. “It’s still in draft form right now. The engineers and legal firms are still working on the final draft.”
More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.
While only two comments having been submitted so far — both in favor of the project, which could generate power for up to 600 homes — a committee of experts hired by Pitkin County’s tax-supported Healthy Rivers and Streams Board is in the process of reviewing thousands of pages of documents on the proposed hydro facility. The board is aiming to complete its report in advance of the Jan. 18 deadline for comments on the draft application. The public has a 90-day window to submit comments to the city on the draft application, which was filed in mid-October. Once comments have been submitted, the city will consider them prior to finalizing its application to FERC. “The idea behind that is once we’ve had the 90 days, we’ll take those comments, and if there are any comments that might constitute making a change to the application, we would make those revisions,” City of Aspen Deputy Director of Utilities and Environmental Initiatives Dave Hornbacher said, adding that nothing has come in yet that would lead to any changes.
According to Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Rationing Coordinator John Kreski, boating client use was up 2.56 percent over last year with a total of 262,122 people taking to the river on commercial rafting trips. A total of 254,431 clients rafted the river in 2009. “That’s good news,” said Bob Hamel of Cotopaxi, owner of Arkansas River Tours and president of Colorado River Outfitters Association. “That is what you would predict or hope for even in a good economy, so Colorado continues to hang in there.”
Hamel said he attributes the good numbers to several economic factors. He said shorter trips are still affordable for families, pricing has held for two to three years and discounts are available. The biggest jump in users came among anglers. Float fishing raft trips are a segment of the industry that bring in business during shoulder season months before and after the main rafting season of June, July and August.
IN A MEMORABLE PERIOD OF BLIZZARDS…FIRES…FLOODS…SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS AND TORNADOES…FROM 2001 THROUGH 2010…THE MARCH BLIZZARD OF 2003 WAS A CONSENSUS TOP EVENT AS DETERMINED BY A TEAM OF METEOROLOGISTS SERVING THE STATE OF COLORADO.
FOLLOWING ARE THE SURVEY RESULTS OF THE TOP TEN WEATHER EVENTS AS RANKED BY METEOROLOGICAL INTENSITY AND HUMAN/ECONOMIC IMPACT….
1. MARCH BLIZZARD OF 2003…MARCH 17-19…2003. ACCORDING TO THE DENVER MAYOR…THIS STORM IS THE STORM OF THE CENTURY…A BACK BREAKER…A RECORD BREAKER…A ROOF BREAKER. DENVER EXPERIENCED THE SNOWIEST MARCH IN ITS HISTORY…AND THE STORM BROKE A STREAK OF 19 CONSECUTIVE MONTHS OF BELOW NORMAL PRECIPITATION IN DENVER. THE FOOTHILLS AND PALMER DIVIDE RECEIVED 3 TO 8 FEET OF SNOW…WITH 2 TO 3 FEET IN THE URBAN CORRIDOR AND METRO DENVER. DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT WAS CLOSED…AS WAS INTERSTATE 70 IN BOTH DIRECTIONS FROM DENVER…AND HUNDREDS OF ROOFS COLLAPSED DUE TO THE WEIGHT OF THE SNOW.
2. CHRISTMAS BLIZZARDS OF 2006…DECEMBER 20-21 AND DECEMBER 28-30 2006. MOTHER NATURE DELIVERED A ONE-TWO PUNCH AS LARGE SLOW MOVING STORMS DROPPED HEAVY SNOW ALONG WITH STRONG WINDS TO PRODUCE BLIZZARD CONDITIONS ON THE PLAINS. TOTAL COST OF LOST REVENUE…SNOW REMOVAL AND LIVESTOCK LOSSES FOR BOTH STORMS WAS ESTIMATED IN THE TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. THE RESIDUAL EFFECTS OF THE STORMS INCLUDED HUGE RUTS ON LOCAL STREETS IN THE DENVER METRO AREA FOR WEEKS…AND THE HEAVY SNOWPACK CREATED AN EXTREMELY COLD WINTER INTO EARLY SPRING FOLLOWED BY A FLOOD THREAT OVER SOUTHEAST COLORADO.
3. 2002 SUMMER OF FIRE…AS A RESULT OF RECORD DRYNESS FROM EARLY SPRING THROUGH THE SUMMER OF 2002…DOZENS OF WILDFIRES ERUPTED ACROSS THE STATE DURING THE LATE SPRING AND SUMMER. IN JUNE DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE FIRE ACTIVITY…THE GOVERNOR OF COLORADO PRONOUNCED…IT LOOKS AS IF ALL OF COLORADO IS BURNING TODAY…THE FIRES SCORCHED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ACRES…WITH COSTS IN THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. SOME OF THESE FIRES INCLUDED TRINIDAD COMPLEX…THE HAYMAN FIRE…SOUTHWEST OF DENVER WHICH SET A RECORD AS THE LARGEST FIRE IN THE HISTORY OF COLORADO…THE MISSIONARY RIDGE FIRE NORTHEAST OF DURANGO…THE MILLION FIRE SOUTH OF SOUTH FORK…AND THE MOUNT ZIRKEL COMPLEX FIRE…NORTH OF STEAMBOAT SPRINGS.
4. THE WINDSOR TORNADO…MAY 22…2008. IN THE LATE MORNING A POWERFUL TORNADO RACED NORTH NORTHWEST FOR 39 MILES ACROSS WELD COUNTY BEFORE MOVING INTO EASTERN LARIMER COUNTY. DAMAGE WAS EXTENSIVE IN EASTERN WINDSOR AND WEST OF GREELEY. ONE PERSON WAS KILLED AT THE MISSILE SILO CAMPGROUND AND THERE WERE 78 INJURIES. THE TORNADO WAS RATED EF3 ON THE ENHANCED FUJITA SCALE DUE TO THE EXTENT OF DAMAGE NEAR THE MISSILE SILO CAMPGROUND. WITH INSURED DAMAGES REACHING 147 MILLION DOLLARS…THIS WAS THE FOURTH COSTLIEST DISASTER FOR COLORADO.
5. 2002 DROUGHT…DENVER EXPERIENCED 19 CONSECUTIVE MONTHS OF BELOW NORMAL PRECIPITATION…MUCH OF THE STATE SHARED IN THE DRY CONDITIONS. IN APRIL 2002…THE GOVERNOR REQUESTED A STATEWIDE EMERGENCY DROUGHT DECLARATION FROM THE U.S. AGRICULTURAL SECRETARY. AT THE END OF THAT MONTH THE SNOWPACK IN THE SOUTH PLATTE RIVER BASIN WAS 44 PERCENT…OTHER BASINS WERE EVEN LOWER. THE DRY CONDITIONS DIRECTLY SET THE STAGE FOR THE 2002 SUMMER OF FIRE.
6. HOLLY TORNADO…MARCH 28…2007. A LARGE TORNADO DEVELOPED JUST SOUTH OF HOLLY IN PROWERS COUNTY AND MOVED NORTH AT 50 MPH…INTO KIOWA COUNTY. IN HOLLY…THE TORNADO PRODUCED EF3 DAMAGE…WITH 200 STRUCTURES IN THE TOWN HEAVILY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. THE TORNADO REMAINED ON THE GROUND FOR 28 MILES. TWO PEOPLE WERE KILLED…THE FIRST TORNADO FATALITIES IN COLORADO SINCE 1960.
7. 4 MILE FIRE…SEPTEMBER 5-13…2010. A WILDFIRE SPREAD RAPIDLY …FANNED BY ERRATIC 45 MPH WIND GUSTS…BURNING 3500 ACRES THE FIRST DAY…WITH A FINAL TALLY OF 6181 SCORCHED ACRES. THE FIRE BECAME THE MOST DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN COLORADO HISTORY…DESTROYING 171 HOMES AND AND ESTIMATED COST OF 217 MILLION DOLLARS IN DAMAGE.
8. NORTHWEST METRO AREA HAILSTORM…JULY 20…2009. AFTER A CLEAR EVENING…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM DEVELOPED RAPIDLY OVER THE NORTHWEST DENVER METRO AREA…TRACKING SOUTHEAST ACROSS ARVADA…WHEAT RIDGE …AND LAKEWOOD. DOWNBURST WIND GUSTS TO 80 MPH COMBINED WITH GOLFBALL HAIL PRODUCED DAMAGES OF 350 MILLION DOLLARS TO HOMES AND CARS. AS MANY AS NINETY THOUSAND HOMES AND BUSINESSES LOST POWER.
9. DIA HAILSTORM…JUNE 21…2001. A SEVERE HAILSTORM TRACKED ACROSS DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AND THE TOWN OF WATKINS…DROPPING GOLFBALL TO BASEBALL SIZED HAIL. PLANES AND A GROUND SURVEILLANCE RADAR WERE DAMAGED AT THE AIRPORT…WHILE 200 PEOPLE WERE LEFT HOMELESS WHEN THE SAME STORM MOVED THROUGH A MOBILE HOME PARK IN WATKINS. STATE FARM INSURANCE ESTIMATED THE HAILSTORM CAUSED NEARLY 17 MILLION DOLLARS IN DAMAGES.
“AND THERE WERE TWO EVENTS THAT WERE TIED FOR 10TH.”
10. ELLICOTT TORNADO…MAY 28…2001. MICROBURSTS AND TORNADOES RAGED ACROSS EASTERN EL PASO COUNTY THAT EVENING. ONE TORNADO DESTROYED NEARLY HALF OF THE JUNIOR-SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. NEARLY 100 MOBILE HOMES…SOME OCCUPIED…WERE DESTROYED.
10. JULY 2005 HEAT WAVE…IN DENVER FROM THE 19TH TO THE 23RD THE HIGH TEMPERATURE EACH DAY CLIMBED ABOVE 100 DEGREES…WITH A HIGH OF 105 DEGREES ON THE 20TH WHICH TIED THE ALL TIME RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR DENVER. IN THE MONTH THERE WERE 7 NEW RECORD MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES AT DENVER AND 4 NEW RECORD MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE RECORDS AT BOTH PUEBLO AND COLORADO SPRINGS. PUEBLO HAD 20 DAYS OF 90 DEGREES OR HIGHER …AND 12 DAYS OF 100 OR HIGHER.
Thanks to the Summit County Citizens Voice for the link.
The master plan update, expected some time in the spring of 2011, will bring the master plan in line with current goals for limiting potential development and density in the interest of preserving the existing community character and backcountry land. It will also take into account the current status of development in the Upper Blue basin and initial goals in the plan that have already been achieved. A seven-member advisory committee, formed in October, will take the lead on the update. The committee, along with planning staff members and local governments, will determine how to revise the master plan to maintain a comfortable carrying capacity in the valley without impeding economic development or risking the environment and community character. “Given current development patterns and levels, there’s a feeling that we’re either at or very close to capacity,” county planner Kate Berg said. “You want to have a sustainable economy, but you also want to protect the resource that people are coming to enjoy.”
“Snowpack totals early in the season aren’t generally considered a reliable indicator of the following year’s water supply,” Baker said. “Most of Colorado’s snow falls in the late winter and early spring.” [Greg Baker, spokesman for the city’s water department] said when snow falls in December it either melts off or evaporates, so it’s not necessary to test the levels until February. While parts of Colorado’s High Country have been pummeled with snow, some parts of southern Colorado are showing signs of drought, which may pose threats to the water supply in some cities. The U.S. Drought Monitor lists the entire Lower Arkansas Valley east of Pueblo as having severe drought conditions. The Rio Grande basin is categorized as abnormally dry. The areas have not seen significant rainfall since mid-summer.
The Pueblo Chieftain reports that the snowpack in the Rio Grande is the lowest in the state at 77 percent of average. In western Colorado, meanwhile, the Upper Colorado River basin is at 142 percent.
The four ski areas are running between 13 and 22 percent above the 30-year average for snowfall in November and December to date, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Monday. Snowmass has received 98 inches of snow in November and so far in December, with another storm forecast to hit before the new year…
Aspen Mountain received 90 inches of snow in November and December. The December storms that rolled in one right after another before Christmas deposited loads of wet, heavy snow that drastically boosted the ski areas beyond their 30-year averages, Hanle said. Snowfall totals were about average in November, although many locals felt it was wetter because the last few Novembers had been so dry. But December’s snowfall was between 16 and 42 percent above average for all local ski areas, according to Hanle. Snowmass enjoyed a particularly high bounty…
Snowpack figures tracked by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency, are consistent with the Skico’s findings on its slopes. The agency measures snowpack at seven places in the Roaring Fork River basin, including a site between Aspen and the summit of Independence Pass. That site showed the snowpack was 132 percent of average on Monday. The sites include three in the Crystal River Valley and three in the Fryingpan River Valley. All were considerably above the 30-year average. In the Fryingpan, the Ivanhoe site was 136 percent of average; the Kiln site was 139 percent of average; and the Nast Lake site was at 139 percent of average. In the Crystal Valley, Schofield was at 149 percent of average; North Lost Trail near Marble was at 164 percent of average; and McClure Pass was at 147 percent of average. As a whole, the Roaring Fork River basin was at 145 percent of average on Monday. The NRCS data shows other impressive snowpack totals in other parts of the state as well. Rabbit Ears Pass near Steamboat was at 180 percent of average while Copper Mountain was at 191 percent of average. Wolf Creek was at 139 percent of average. Vail Mountain was at 103 percent of its average.
Here’s a look at agriculture in the Arkansas Valley, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
With less water available, there might be a return to the type of crops that were once more prolific in the Arkansas Valley: melons, vegetables and fruits. Those crops generally take less water than the hay and grain grown for livestock feed that now dominate the landscape east of Pueblo in an era when cities are claiming a larger share of water that could be less plentiful if the climate changes in ways predicted by some models. “We really, as a community, need to take a better interest. There are health benefits to eating locally grown food that don’t show up on water department spreadsheets,” said Mike Bartolo, manager of the Colorado State University Arkansas Valley Research Center at Rocky Ford. “And there will be things happening in the future of agriculture that we can’t even envision today.”
Bartolo has spent 20 years at the research center, coordinating many studies of new ways to make farming more profitable — “looking for the perfect pepper.” The valley’s climate helps sugar production in fruits and vegetables, but has always needed the help of irrigation water to nurture the crops. Events over the years have conspired to reduce the production of fruits and vegetables, however. Crowley County once was famous for its cantaloupes and orchards. The Arkansas Valley once was the top green bean producer in the state. Sugar beets were a major crop for communities up and down the valley. But as sugar beet factories and canneries closed, farmers found ready buyers in the form of Colorado’s second and third largest cities — Colorado Springs and Aurora — to buy the water rig
Click through to read Mr. Woodka’s short bio of Mr. Bartolo.
Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Jalil Isa):
Today, EPA issued the following statement and background information in response to a study released on December 20, 2010 by the Environmental Working Group:
“EPA absolutely has a drinking water standard for total chromium, which includes chromium-6 (also known as Hexavalent Chromium), and we require water systems to test for it. This standard is based on the best available science and is enforceable by law. Ensuring safe drinking water for all Americans is a top priority for EPA. The agency regularly re-evaluates drinking water standards and, based on new science on chromium-6, had already begun a rigorous and comprehensive review of its health effects. In September, we released a draft of that scientific review for public comment. When this human health assessment is finalized in 2011, EPA will carefully review the conclusions and consider all relevant information, including the Environmental Working Group’s study, to determine if a new standard needs to be set.”
Currently, the total chromium standard is 0.1 mg/L (100 parts per billion).
Our latest data shows no U.S. utilities are in violation of the standard.
The draft plan is available for review and public comment through Feb. 23. Informational presentations are scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Steamboat Springs City Council meeting and Jan. 20 at the Mount Werner Water board meeting. The public is welcome to attend these meetings and comment on the plan; written input and suggestions are encouraged.
Once the plan is approved by the [Colorado Water Conservation Board], the districts are eligible for state grants to fund the implementation of water saving programs and measures.
The laboratory site, one of three temporary labs at and around Steamboat Ski Area, is part of the Storm Peak Laboratory Cloud Property Validation Experiment, or Stormvex, a Department of Energy-funded project that brings atmospheric scientists such as Shupe from across the country to study liquid, mixed-phase and precipitating clouds. “Understanding clouds is an important part of climate,” Shupe said. “We want to characterize them, give them personality.”[…]
… the study has a larger purpose. Scientists want to understand the physical properties of clouds and their particles and how they fit into a larger global model. “Our ability to predict what’s going to happen in the future depends on our ability to understand the physics,” said Stephen Springston, an aerosol scientist from Long Island in New York. “It requires us to look at these things in great detail.” It began Nov. 15. Instruments outside the barn site, called the valley site, looked to the sky and began recording solar radiation, temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, light scattering and light absorption. A group of volunteers launches weather balloons with radio transmitters attached into the sky twice a day from the valley site, adding multiple angles to the wealth of data. A second site at the top of Christie Peak Express measures particle concentration, a specialty of Springston’s. A third at the top of the Thunderhead Express pointed lasers and radar into the sky to try to get a vertical profile of the clouds…
Because the Storm Peak Lab is often immersed in clouds, the scientists can validate the data found below with the actual data inside the clouds atop the mountain. “That’s what anchors this whole thing is this validation,” ARM Mobile Facility Site Manager Brad Orr said. “You can put it all together theoretically, but to actually validate that is so important.”
…in this depressed corner of western Colorado — one of the first places in the world that uranium, nuclear energy’s primary fuel, was ever dug from the ground in industrial scale — the debate is both simpler and more complicated. A proposal for a new mill to process uranium ore, which would lead to the opening of long-shuttered mines in Colorado and Utah, has brought global and local concerns into collision — jobs, health, class-consciousness and historical memory among them — in ways that suggest, if the pattern here holds, a bitter national debate to come.
Telluride, the rich ski town an hour away by car and a universe apart in terms of money and clout, has emerged as a main base of opposition to the proposed mill, called Piñon Ridge, which would be the first new uranium-processing facility in the United States in more than 25 years if it is approved by Colorado regulators next month…
Here in Naturita and the cluster of tiny communities in and around the Paradox Valley, where the mill could be built (cumulative population about 2,000), people disagree not just about the wisdom of the mill, but about whether uranium, laid down here in tufts of volcanic ash more than 100 million years ago, was a blessing or a curse. Minerals found in association with uranium, especially vanadium, which is used in hardening steel, sparked the first real rush in the 1930s; uranium for bombs and energy then followed in a stuttering pattern of boom and bust into the 1980s, when the nation’s nuclear energy program mostly went into mothballs.
Opponents say that the nostalgia many residents here cherish about the boom years is the product of willful forgetfulness about the well-documented cancer deaths and environmental destruction the uranium mines produced. They also say that the mill company is cynically exploiting the idea of a return to simpler times.
“They say it’s going to be different this time around,” said Craig Pirazzi, a carpenter who moved to the Naturita area from Telluride a few years ago and is now a member of the Paradox Valley Sustainability Association, which opposes the mill. “But our opposition to this proposal is based on the performance of historic uranium mining, because that’s all we have to go on — and that record is not good.”
Supporters, meanwhile, say that the opponents of Piñon Ridge are guilty of promulgating ignorant fears about something they do not understand.
Even the question of who has a right to speak up has become a point of contention. Is the mill purely a local concern in a sparsely populated area, or a broader regional issue that would affect people much farther away, through, say, radioactive dust particles that might be thrown aloft?
More coverage from The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
The federal governments’ and utilities’ failure to encourage nuclear energy “just about requires us to look overseas (for funding),” Gary Steele, Energy Fuels’ vice president for investor relations, told The Denver Post. “You have to go where the market is. Just pick an Asian country.”
Energy Fuels has hired a Hong Kong agent to solicit bankers in China and elsewhere. “The product we provide is essentially totally fungible and can be used at any nuclear facility in the world,” said chief executive Steve Antony. “We’d like to see it used here in the United States.”[…]
Only one conventional uranium mill operates in the U.S., near Blanding, Utah, forcing nuclear power plants to import most of their fuel from abroad. Energy Fuels proposes to build its Piñon Ridge mill in Colorado’s Paradox Valley near Naturita, an agricultural area, drawing water from the Dolores River.
More coverage from The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):
A new report estimates that the employment impact of the mill near Paradox, Colo., will be small and its socioeconomic impacts more bad than good. The report comes on the heels of another filing that asks the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to not approve the mill on the grounds that the company that plans to build it hasn’t prepared for less-than-perfect environmental scenarios. Those reports were prepared for a local environmental group, Sheep Mountain Alliance, which has stood in solid opposition to the idea of revitalizing the uranium industry in an area once famous for it. SMA and other opponents question its environmental impacts and aren’t sure the jobs created will be significant.
There is another side to the uranium story, though, and one that isn’t going quietly: That of those who grew up in the boom towns now busted. Those who say the mill should at least have a fighting chance. Those who say the economies need the opportunity. “I kind of feel that the articles that are coming out of the are pretty one-sided. We as an area know both sides,” said Naturita’s Tammy Sutherland, who lived in the little boom-town of Uravan. Her father and grandfather both worked for Union Carbide, the company that ran Uravan. That town has since been kneaded back into the earth itself, its buildings torn down and its radioactive history buried. Today, it isn’t much more than a fence and a sign warning the passerby of radioactivity…
…it’s that economic impact that a new study debates, and it could be smaller than anticipated, according to a consulting firm. According to the report, prepared by Missoula, Mont.-based Power Consulting, the local economic impact on the West End of Montrose County would be “quite modest.” The firm estimates that the mill would create only 116 jobs, “multiplier impacts” included. Other models predicted much more: 315 well-paying jobs according to Energy Fuels and 600 according to a Montrose-County commissioned study. Why is the Power estimate so small? “First, the rural West End does not have the commercial infrastructure to hold and circulate the spending associated with the mill, regional mines, and employee spending. Most of the expenditures will immediately leak out of the local economy to the larger trade centers such as Grand Junction in Mesa County,” it reads. The paper goes on to say that “none” of the uranium mining is likely to take place near the mill. “Energy Fuels will draw on its mines in Mesa and San Miguel counties in Colorado and Grand and San Juan Counties in Utah. The mining and haul jobs are unlikely to be primarily filled by residents of the Montrose West End,” it reads. The mill will provide about 85 jobs within its confines, according to estimates. The Power report claims it’s “unlikely” that a bulk of those jobs would go to currently unemployed workers in the West End.
“Impacts from oil shale development to water resources could result from disturbing the ground surface during the construction of roads and production facilities, withdrawing water from streams and aquifers for oil shale operations, underground mining and extraction, and discharging waste waters from oil shale operations,” states the GAO report, which was released in October.
The report was prepared at the request of the U.S. House Science Committee, according to Mark Gaffigan, the GAO director of natural resources and environment. “With oil shale, there is a lot of uncertainty,” Gaffigan said, especially as the technology needed to turn rock into oil is expensive and complicated…
“Oil shale development could have significant impacts on the quality and quantity of water resources, but the magnitude of these impacts is unknown because technologies are years from being commercially proven, the size of a future oil shale industry is uncertain, and knowledge of current water conditions and groundwater flow is limited,” the report found. “In the absence of effective mitigation measures, water resources could be impacted from ground disturbances caused by the construction of roads and production facilities, withdrawing water from streams and aquifers for oil shale production, underground mining and extraction; and discharging waters produced from or used in operations.”
It takes water to extract and process the oil shale, water to upgrade the oil shale so it can be transported to a refinery, water to reclaim mine sites, water to generate electricity for the extraction process, and water to meet the residential needs of a growing workforce in the oil shale industry. “Water for most of these activities is likely to come from nearby streams and rivers because it is more easily accessible and less costly to obtain than groundwater,” the report states. “Withdrawing water from streams and rivers would decrease flows downstream and could temporarily degrade downstream water quality by depositing sediment within the stream channels as flows decrease.” The White, Yampa, and Colorado rivers could all be affected by oil shale production, either by serving as the source for water or as the catch-all for polluted surface and ground water…
The GAO also found that ExxonMobil owns “conditional storage capacities of over 161,000 acre-feet on 17 proposed reservoirs in the area.” And if there is not enough water in the White and the Yampa, the Colorado River is just south of the Western Colorado’s oil shale epicenter. “At least one company has considered obtaining surface water from the even-more-distant Colorado River, about 30 to 50 miles to the south of the research, demonstration, and development leases where oil shale companies already hold considerable water rights,” the report states, noting that the costs of transporting and pumping water from the Colorado River would be higher than using water from the White and the Yampa rivers. And it says that some experts think the Green River could be a source of water for oil shale development in eastern Utah…
The GAO report recommends that the Department of Interior “establish comprehensive baseline conditions for water resources” in oil shale country, that it produce a model of groundwater movement in the region, and that it coordinate water research with the Department of Energy.
While the trace contaminants — called endocrine disruptors — have captured headlines in recent years, there are all sorts of other potential threats to water supply. Cholesterol tablets, birth control pills, mood enhancers and pain killers can be flushed in toilets or move through the human body without being fully used. Other toxins are washed off streets, fields or lawns into the waterways. No federal standards for these compounds in either drinking water or bottled water exist because tests have not been conclusive on how much of the chemicals would be harmful to people.
“The thing you’re at risk for in drinking water is bacteria, which could kill you or make you sick almost immediately,” [Don Colalancia, division manager for water treatment and quality at the Pueblo Board of Water Works] said. “They haven’t demonstrated that any of these (endocrine disruptors) are harmful, even over the long run. A tiny bit may not have much of an effect.”
Pueblo has the good fortune to be located below a large reservoir, which does much of the work of settling out harmful substances from its drinking water. “Lake Pueblo has a high-quality raw water supply,” Colalancia said. “A reservoir that supports a healthy population of fish and algae has a high quality of water. We have a healthy reservoir.”
Click through for Mr. Woodka’s profile of Mr. Colalancia.
The contaminated tailings comprised about 100,000 cubic yards of gravel. An existing depression large enough to hold the tailings was utilized to contain this material. Griswold says lead carbonate is chemically different from lead sulfide found in most mine cleanup situations, so there’s little concern about it leaching into the groundwater. Thus, the depression holding the tailings was not lined.
However, acidic runoff from the surrounding pine forests poses a potential problem. So the next step was to cover the tailings with a thick evaporative cap, including a drainage layer of coarse gravel, topsoil and vegetation. In all, this cap will be about 3 feet thick. The site will be shored up with boulder rip-rap to keep the soil in place and guard against flash floods from Oak Creek. Finally, the topsoil will be seeded with a native grass mix recommended by the Soil Conservation District.
Andy Kagan, owner of Kagan and Son, said a cooperative effort between his company and Tezak Heavy Equipment is supplying the 70,000 tons of material for the cap. About 45,000 tons of gravel was provided from his pit located in Fremont County, and the balance of topsoil will come from another pit 12 miles south of Westcliffe. Tezak is supplying the boulder rip-rap.
Here’s the release from Governor Ritter’s office (Myung Oak Kim/Todd Hartman):
Gov. Bill Ritter today issued a report outlining a series of proposals for resolving disputes between landowners and rafters in Colorado. He also signed an executive order creating the River Access Mediation Commission to provide a way for some of the most contentious conflicts between boaters and property owners to be addressed.
“I’m pleased to announce this report, and the formation of a mediation commission, so we can move forward in resolving these issues fairly and thoughtfully,” Gov. Ritter said. “I believe a mediation commission can work its way through these matters in a civil, reasoned way where all parties’ views are respected and considered in developing a resolution that could alleviate the need for litigation.”
The Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force was a 17-member group created in July to help craft ways to sort out conflicts on Colorado rivers on a stretch-by-stretch basis as those disputes arise. Gov. Ritter created the task force through executive order as part of an agreement with stakeholders to set aside numerous conflicting ballot measures on the issue.
The task force report includes eight unanimous recommendations to the Governor on ways to limit disputes between various parties. The recommendations include creation of the River Access Mediation Commission to address the thorniest disagreements. Participation by disputing parties would be voluntary, and the commission would not have the power of arbitration. The report can be accessed on the website of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources at http://dnr.state.co.us/
“I commend the hard work of the task force in developing this report, and extend my thanks for its effort in working through difficult issues that required members to find common ground,” Gov. Ritter said. “The report includes a host of recommendations with great potential to reduce friction between rafters and landowners. I look forward to sharing the recommendations with Governor-Elect John Hickenlooper, and urge him, along with the State Legislature, to thoughtfully review the report.”
More coverage from the Associated Press via The Durango Herald:
The bill was prompted by disputes between landowners who don’t want boaters using waterways flowing through their property and boaters who say the state’s waters belong to the public. The conflict came to a head on western Colorado’s Taylor River last year when a developer told commercial rafters they could no longer float through his property.
“I believe a mediation commission can work its way through these matters in a civil, reasoned way where all the parties’ views are respected and considered in developing a resolution that could alleviate the need for litigation,” Ritter said in a statement.
More whitewater coverage here. More HB 10-1188 coverage here.
Following an exhaustive process in which the BLM inventoried every known river with a perennial or intermittent flow within the 675,000-acre Uncompahgre Planning Area, it determined that more than 30 segments of 22 rivers possessed the qualities necessary for eligibility. That is, they must be free-flowing as defined by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, and also contain one or more “outstandingly remarkable values.”
Those values must be river related and may be scenic, recreational, geologic, cultural or historic in nature, or result from large quantities or rare species of fish, wildlife or vegetation, or similar values. The river evaluation was required as the agency revises its Resource Management Plan for the planning area. “We’re not doing because we think it’s a good time to do it, or because we want to get involved in some river controversy,” laughed BLM Water Rights and Instream Flow Coordinator Roy Smith at an introductory meeting held a few weeks ago. “Under the [WRSA] we are required to whenever we do land use planning.”[…]
Wild segments are essentially undeveloped, while recreational areas can have extensive development along their shorelines. Scenic areas fall in between the two. Eligible river segments are given interim protection until the suitability analysis is completed and a Record of Decision is issued, with the intent of protecting the values for which a section was determined eligible. While the BLM makes recommendations on the suitability of the segments, ultimately only the U.S. Congress or the Secretary of the Interior can make the final designation. “Federal designation is a huge process that goes through a massive amount of input,” said Hilary White, Executive Director of local environmental organization Sheep Mountain Alliance, who is following the process closely. Ultimately, “It most likely will not happen for five to 10 years.”[…]
“The designation is meant to ensure that the river runs freely and that future development doesn’t deplete the river to the point of killing the values that live within it, explained Peter Mueller, a member of the BLM Southwest Colorado Regional Advisory Committee and, with Naturita’s John Reams, one of two local members of the Southwest Colorado RAC subgroup composed of area residents representing diverse interests within the Uncompahgre Field Office. The eight-member subgroup is responsible for forwarding consensus-based recommendations regarding Wild and Scenic River suitability by February 2011 to the Southwest Colorado RAC…
The Southwest Regional Advisory Committee will hold public meetings concerning private property impacts and the remaining sections of the San Miguel River at the Wilkinson Public Library on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m., and the Norwood Community Center on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m. The following week open discussions will take place at the Placerville Fire Department on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. and the Naturita Community Center on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.
It sounds like Aaron Million is hoping to implement Reclamation’s time-honored strategy — moving water through hydroelectric facilities on it’s way to consumers. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:
So far, only a handful of water suppliers have been revealed to the public, but Million said Wednesday “there’s some significant major interest from nationally recognized entities in the project.” He declined to identify them or say whether or not they might be revealed next year.
Regardless, Million is convinced 2011 will be a significant year in shaping the plans for the pipeline, which is under environmental review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “What you should expect is a major expansion of the alternative energy, the hydropower for the project,” he said. That’s hydropower to the amperage of 1,000 megawatts that would be generated as the water in the pipeline falls from Laramie to Fort Collins, he said. “One thousand megawatts would be one of the biggest hydro projects in the country,” he said.
The Hoover Dam, by comparison, produces just over 2,000 megawatts of electricity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.
“If we don’t get the conduit, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project will be the worst thing we’ve ever done. The Fry-Ark will be used to dry up this valley. We will have had a benefit for a short time with the ag water and the storage, but it will have done the damage,” said Bill Long, a member of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board in 2006.
This year, Congress for the first time approved funding for the conduit, finally launching a long-awaited study. Corresponding legislation also opened the door to using other revenues from the Fry-Ark Project to pay for the conduit.
That’s important to Long, a Las Animas businessman who now is president of the Southeastern district.
“This is an opportunity to put forth a very valuable project that will be repaid,” Long said. “We will be contributing to the funding stream ourselves as we store more water.”
Click through for Mr. Woodka’s short bio of Bill Long.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Arizona’s plan to leave water in Lake Mead was devised as such a trade-off, officials say. The idea is almost as simple as it sounds. With the approval of its elected board, the CAP would reduce by as much as 80,000 acre-feet of the water diverted from the river into the 336-mile canal that connects the Colorado to Phoenix and Tucson…
The amount is a fraction of the 1.6 million acre-feet the canal moves annually, but it would save 1 foot of elevation at Lake Mead, whose water levels determine when and if drought restrictions take effect under a 2007 agreement among the seven Colorado River states…
The first shortage trigger is at elevation 1,075 feet above sea level, about 10 feet below the reservoir’s current level. At that trigger level, water deliveries to the river’s lower basin – Arizona, Nevada and California – are reduced by 323,000 acre-feet for at least one year. Almost all of that water would be taken from the CAP’s allocation for Arizona because of an agreement forged with California more than 40 years ago. To secure California’s votes in Congress for construction of the CAP Canal, Arizona agreed that the water in the canal could be used to guarantee California’s full allocation in any future shortages. Nevada agreed to absorb a small amount of the shortage as part of a separate water-banking arrangement with Arizona. The water Arizona would forgo would have gone toward the state water bank, which stores unallocated water from the Colorado River as a hedge against long-term water shortages. If Lake Mead sinks low enough to trigger a shortage, some water users would feel the effects, but the CAP supply still has a big enough cushion to protect Phoenix, Tucson and the other cities that use the water. Even in a third-stage shortage, which would be declared if the reservoir dropped an additional 50 feet, the primary municipal supplies would remain untouched. Phoenix, Tucson and other cities would give up no water.
Here’s a look at Fountain Creek’s current status with a bit of historical context, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
…a couple of things make the Fountain Creek watershed unique:
Water cascades from 14,115 feet above sea level at the top of Pikes Peak to 4,630 feet at the confluence with the Arkansas River. That’s a huge drop that cuts away banks and washes sediment downstream. It’s a population magnet. More than 525,000 people live within its boundaries, most of them in Colorado Springs or in neighboring El Paso County communities. The flows in the stream have changed as the area has developed and base flows in Fountain Creek are now mostly treated effluent. By the time Fountain Creek joins the Arkansas River, it’s a muddy brown river in its own right, a sign of the constant load of sediment it carries as it erodes its banks…
“A lot of people felt the creation of the [Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District] was the end, when in fact it’s just the beginning,” [Gary Barber, who will leave in January after nearly a year as interim director] said. The district operates on a shoestring budget for now, using funds contributed through the Master Corridor Plan agreement, legal services donated by the counties and miscellaneous revenues for things such as grant management.
Here’s a look at current municipal water supply planning from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing, it’s a nice synopsis up and down the Front Range and Arkansas Valley. Here’s an excerpt:
“I think it was my most embarrassing moment professionally. I used to say we were drought-proof,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “Now we were in the middle of a 350-year drought; 2002 was a wake-up call.”
The water board had a drought plan at the time, based on records that went back to 1874, when it was formed. “Bud (O’Hara) and Alan (Ward) came into my office, but called first and asked me if I was sitting down,” Hamel recalled, talking about a meeting in 2002 with his water resources staff. ”They said our 1874 rights were about to be called out. I asked, ‘For how many days?’ They said, ‘At least six weeks.’ It was a good thing we were sitting down.”
After 2002 and the relatively dry years that followed, the Pueblo water board adopted a new strategy, planning for 100 years down the road. Immediately, the board doubled the amount of water it keeps in storage, and has since increased the amount in order to supply area power plants. Then, it went looking for new water rights, and found them in 2009, when it completed the purchase of more than a quarter of the Bessemer Ditch, Pueblo County’s largest irrigation canal.
More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.
[Salazar] contends that Secretarial Order 3310, announced during a press conference at Confluence Park, does both [create jobs and protect the beauty of the land in perptuity]. Salazar pointed to the 6.5 million outdoor recreation jobs held by Americans as an example of an industry that would benefit from his latest action. “Wise stewardship isn’t just the right thing to do,” Salazar said. “It’s good for business and it’s good for jobs.”
The order establishes a third class of protected lands — wildlands — and calls for an inventory of U.S. Bureau of Land Management sites with wilderness characteristics. Already, wilderness areas as designated by Congress and wilderness study areas under consideration for that designation are protected from development uses. Wildlands will enjoy the same protection, but Salazar’s land-use decisions about wildlands will be flexible and take into consideration economic interests and other factors impacting the communities where they reside. “It does not lock up the Western lands across America from other uses, as I am sure some people who will be critics of this order will claim,” Salazar said. The designation is subject to change through the existing public planning land use process, and does not affect lands that are not under BLM jurisdiction.
Here’s an look at how the sides are lining up with respect to the strategy report from the Interbasin Compack Committee presented to Governor Ritter and Governor-elect Hickenlooper, from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:
The report says water suppliers and interests from across the state need to work together to get that done. But Fort Collins-based Save the Poudre is opposing those efforts, saying the IBCC doesn’t represent environmental interests and its policies harm the Poudre River.
Save the Poudre Executive Director Gary Wockner said in a statement that if the IBCC were to include more environmental groups, harm to the Poudre from new water projects might be averted. The group opposes the Halligan and Seaman reservoir expansion proposals, the Windy Gap Firming Project and the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP. An environmental review of each project is expected to be released in 2011. “The Poudre River is at ‘ground zero’ for river destruction in the southwest U.S.,” Wockner said, adding that the IBCC doesn’t represent diverse interests in Colorado because it doesn’t include any members of the groups that form the Save the Poudre Coalition…
Several South Platte Roundtable members represent environmental interests, including Bob Streeter, who is retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was nominated to the board by Trout Unlimited. Streeter said roundtable and IBCC meetings are open and transparent to the public and have involved members of the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited and the Audubon Society. “I don’t recall ever seeing any representative from the Save the Poudre organization itself in Fort Collins, though they’re welcome to attend (the roundtable meetings),” Streeter said…
But some of those water projects aren’t likely to do the damage to the Poudre River that Wockner fears, Streeter said. “I don’t think Halligan-Seaman is a Poudre-killing project,” he said, adding that he wants to withhold judgment on NISP, which proposes to construct Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins, until all the facts on its potential impacts are in.
Update: Here’s a response to Mr. Magill’s article from Gary Wockner at Save The Poudre.
Thank you again for covering these important environmental articles in the Coloradoan. It is great that you are reporting on these stories, and it is wonderful that the Coloradoan prioritizes environmental stories in the newspaper.
Today’s article about water is a complicated issue and it’s a hard story to fit into an easy-to-tell framework…Thank you for taking a shot at covering it.
I’d like to offer a few suggestions for improvements:
1. Your sentence that states, “But Fort Collins-based Save the Poudre is opposing those efforts…” is not accurate. Please note that in the letter to the Governors, we thank the IBCC for their work, we say they made a good start at a very difficult topic, and we strongly suggest “improvements” to the product and process. We do not “oppose” the IBCC or the South Platte Roundtable’s work. We do believe, however, that they desperately need more environmental input — if they do not get more environmental input, it may represent a fatal flaw in their work.
2. Your next sentence says, “The group opposes Halligan and Seaman reservoir expansion proposals, Windy Gap Firming Project and the Northern Integrated Supply Project….” Please note that in the letter to the Governors and in the press release, we do not say we oppose these projects. Officially, our organization only opposes NISP. We have not taken an official position for or against Halligan, Seaman, or WGFP yet. We are awaiting the EIS releases before we do that on those three projects. Our official position on Halligan and Seaman is here: http://poudreriver.home.comcast.net/~poudreriver/STP_Alternatives_to_Halligan-Seaman_7-18-2010.pdf (I believe I gave this document to you when I visited with your editorial board last year). We have not issued a formal position on WGFP yet, but we did insert very serious concerns into the public comment period for the DEIS.
3. Your article states, “Several South Platte Roundtable members
represent environmental interests…” My understanding is that there
are only two — Bob Streeter representing TU, and and Greg Kernohan
representing Ducks Unlimited (DU). They are both excellent men doing excellent work. Ducks Unlimited, officially, is a “recreational”
representative on the Roundtable (not “environmental”), but since they
do such excellent environmental work, I prefer to call them environmentalists. Officially, there is only one “environmental” representative on the Rountable. The list of people on the Roundtable is here on the CWCB’s website: http://cwcbweblink.state.co.us/weblink/0/doc/126395/Page1.aspx?searchid=aacce0cc-a3ef-4b7b-85bd-fa08f748588f
4. Bob Streeter’s statement about not recollecting seeing reps from STP at the Roundtable is not accurate. We are a part of a big coalition, and we have had coalition partners attend several South Platte Roundtable meetings and report back to us. In addition, our Board and staff have attended his Roundtable meetings a few times.
5. Your sentence that starts, “While the IBCC suggests….” is not
a. We quite adamantly do support water conservation.
b. We absolutely do not say that “instead” of focusing on water conservation, the state should control population growth.
c. We do not say anything about “controlling” population growth.
We say “managing” population growth. “Managing” is different than “controlling.” The IBCC report mentions managing population growth and land-use planning several times — we agree, and we want to support that direction of thinking and see more of it in their future work.
6. Bob Streeter says that he doesn’t think Halligan-Seaman is a
Poudre-killing project. We are awaiting to see the EIS before we make
any such statement. The science that came out of the Halligan-Seaman SVP process that we participated in suggested that the projects would have profound negative impacts on the North Fork of the Poudre, and have some negative impacts on the mainstem of the Poudre River through Fort Collins. A list of those impacts is here in our letter to the CWCB (which provided the grant for Shared Vision Planning): http://poudreriver.home.comcast.net/~poudreriver/STP_letter_to_CWCB_SVP_7-18-2010.pdf
7. Finally, Brian Werner’s statement is accurate — the bill was passed 5 years ago under a different Governor and a different legislature. However, at that time, environmentalists did voice opinions about having more environmental representation into the committees, but our environmental community’s opinions were not adopted into the law.
Thank you again for taking a shot at this complex story. I am
continually striving to improve the way that I communicate with public
officials, agencies, and the press, and I think that this story shows
that I need to work harder to do that. I should have called you and
talked this over. Feel free to call me anytime.
p.s. Because this Coloradoan story contains some inaccurate statements saying we “oppose” projects and processes that we do not, I also have to forward this email to specific representatives at the EPA, the Army Corps, the Bureau of Rec, the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley, and the IBCC leaders at the State (I will Cc you on that email). We are involved in some official and legal processes with these regulatory agencies, and with these EIS applicants, and we have to make sure that our positions are conveyed accurately.
More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here and here.
The snows, which started over the weekend, continued to pound the high country, dropping 12 inches of new snow at Wolf Creek Ski Area by midafternoon. So far, this storm system has dropped 82 inches of snow on the ski area…
The snow also has been a welcome site for irrigators and water managers to the east in the San Luis Valley, boosting snowpack above the valley’s two major river systems. “The Rio Grande and the Conejos, they’re looking good right now,” said Craig Cotten, the division engineer for the valley. That’s a change from just a week ago when the snowpack in the upper Rio Grande was at 71 percent of average. Wednesday that figure was at 105 percent, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
Snowpack totals around the state also climbed as reported by automated SNOTEL sites, with the deepest reading, 89 inches, at Schofield Pass, between Crested Butte and Aspen, which passed the Tower site (85 inches), northeast of Steamboat along the Continental Divide — that’s about eight feet of snow on the ground.
Interestingly, the Zirkel site, west of Walden, reported 65 inches of snow on the ground, even though it’s been generally dry east of the Divide. The Spud Mountain site, just south of Silverton, reported 75 inches. A little closer to home, the Grizzly Peak SNOTEL station, reported 53 inches, with 41 inches at Copper Mountain and 46 inches at Fremont Pass.
The Telluride Ski Resort reported three inches of new snow between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, and 6 inches total between Sunday morning and Tuesday morning. Others have been in the path of the storm as well. Crested Butte had received more than two feet of snow by Tuesday. Wolf Creek Ski Area in Pagosa Springs reported 50 inches between Saturday and Tuesday with more snow on its way. Ramey blames the huge discrepancy on the characteristics of this unique weather pattern. The storm is bringing tropical moisture from the southwest, off the coast of Hawaii, a pattern that is known as “Pineapple Express.” “This is real unusual, to get this moisture right off the Pacific,” [Joe Ramey, a forecaster and meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Grand Junction] said. “That deep tropical moisture that slowly gets cold as it approaches — that’s pretty unusual for a La Niña year.”
Therefore southwest facing slopes and valleys are receiving the brunt of this storm, whereas Telluride’s valley, which points due west, isn’t the ideal orientation to catch this storm’s wrath. The direction of the storm has left Telluride in a snow shadow while just on the other side of the mountains, on Coal Bank Pass, two feet of snow fell as of Tuesday afternoon.
Colorado’s population now stands at 5,029,196, an increase of 16.9 percent from 2000 when the population totaled 4.3 million. That year, Colorado gained a congressional seat after seeing a growth rate of 30.6 percent in the 1990s. The seat is the 7th Congressional District in suburban Denver currently held by Democrat Ed Perlmutter.
Elizabeth Garner, Colorado’s demographer, said the state’s growth rate this decade may have been affected by the economic slowdowns brought by the 2001 dot-com bust and the Great Recession. Other states that have seen big growth in the West, like Arizona and Nevada, have benefited from having a large retiree base. Arizona grew by 24.6 percent and Nevada by 35.1 percent, the highest in the country…
[Andrew Goetz, the head of the geography department at the University of Denver] says during the 1990s, Colorado’s population grew by 30 percent. He says the 17 percent increase is easier to handle. “I would say 17 percent is sustainable, at least in the short run. There are some longer run issues that we’re going to have to deal with – water being one of them,” he said. “Accommodating the growth in a more sustainable way is a challenge, but it’s not a new challenge. It’s something that we’ve known about, we’re planning for it.”
Nearly 2,000 miles of waterways in Colorado are affected by acid rock drainage, said Diane McKnight, who co-authored the study. “Spring runoff is happening longer,” Shaw said, which means the water runs slowly into the ground instead of along its surface in one spring melt. It passes over mineralized rocks, leeching the minerals into the streamflow as it moves. Crouch said the earlier snowmelt also means drier streambeds in September and October, which could increase metal concentrations. It’s a smaller scale of what was observed during the 2002 drought, in which prolonged dry conditions allowed the harmful chemical reactions to occur in areas where water once was, and will be again.