Grand County: What are the tradeoffs with respect to the Moffat Collection System Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project?

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Folks in Grand County know their water law pretty well. 150 or so showed up to a briefing on the Moffat Collection System Project last Tuesday at Silver Creek. Here’s a report from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. It’s a long article so click through and read the whole thing. Here are a few exerpts:

“What the EIS is proposing to do is take the flows off of the rising level of the hydrograph, and in our wettest times of the year, what our enhancements are proposing to do is to give us water back when our flows are the lowest. Is that an acceptable trade?” she asked.

“There’s skepticism out there, there’s a feeling out there that Grand County has this back-room deal going on,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry at the start of the meeting. “And the more I thought about this, yeah. We do. We really do. It’s a separate negotiating process.”

On its team, the county has assembled water attorneys, engineers, NEPA and Clean Water Act specialists and a professional negotiator to aid in deals and to advise on what to ask for. The county has spent some $2.8 million on water protection since 2003.

In the past year alone, county representatives have attended 65 meetings with the Northern Water Conservancy District, Denver Water and West Slope partners regarding water issues, according to county officials. “We’re going to be much better off than before the project happened,” Newberrry said, optimistically. But success is not guaranteed, at which point the county is prepared to litigate. “And even that is not a guarantee,” he said.

The county has stated it has better legal footing against the Northern Colorado Municipal Subdistrict’s Windy Gap Firming Project — concurrently being proposed — than it does Denver’s…

“We already have a river that is on the brink,” said Mely Whiting, senior attorney for Trout Unlimited. “Is this incremental 20 percent going to push us over the brink?” It’s a question that has been subjected to modeling, charting and graphing in countless studies.

But Jon Ewert, Division of Wildlife area biologist, said even with the most esteemed modeling, biology is really unpredictable. “There are cascading effects that can take years, if not decades to unfold,” he said. Both Denver Water and Northern have endorsed the science behind the [Grand County] Stream Management Plan (pdf), county officials say, although those water users may not agree on the implementation of it…

Attorney Mely Whiting of Trout Unlimited stressed along with county officials that any allowance for Denver to take more water from the river should be tied to a “reopener clause,” in which stakeholders would revisit the project if degradation of the river reached beyond what was predicted in the NEPA process.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable unveils report detailing their accomplishments over the first four years

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

On one hand, most all are pleased with the work so far. At least one other roundtable, the South Platte, acknowledged the thoroughness of the report, called “Projects and Methods to Meet the Needs of the Arkansas Basin.” But some needs are more pressing than others in the minds of roundtable members. Around the table Wednesday, those who attended shared their views on everything from municipal conservation to agricultural leasing programs to tamarisk removal…

More emphasis should be put on developing alteratives for ag water rights owners to realize the value of their water, said Beulah rancher Reeves Brown, who also is a member of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board. He represents ag interests on the roundtable. “Presently, a willing seller results in moving water permanently out-of-basin, resulting in increasing the gap,” Brown wrote. “Surely with earnest effort, more options can be developed that would both meet the needs of the seller and keep the water in the basin, if not all in ag.”

There is strong environmental opposition to transmountain projects that is not adequately reflected in the report, said SeEtta Moss, of the Arkansas Valley Audubon Society and the sole environmental representative on the roundtable. “We oppose ‘Big Straw’ projects that wreak environmental damage by removing large amounts from Western Slope streams for transmountain diversions to the Front Range,” Moss wrote.

There is still too much influence on water-project identification from municipalities and their legal teams, said Jane Rawlings, assistant publisher of The Pueblo Chieftain, and the industrial representative on the roundtable.

“Granted (municipal and industrial) is important, but recreation, tourism, agriculture, wildlife, environment and rural communities are also vitally important constituencies,” Rawlings wrote. “These values and the people who are affected by them must have a method by which they can be part of the larger process. As we all know, water still flows uphill to money. Continued efforts at meaningful mitigation to these values and uses must be supported and moved forward.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Gary Barber: ‘[SDS] infrastructure to deliver water needs to support a regional solution’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The infrastructure to deliver water needs to support a regional solution and the funding must be equitable,” Gary Barber, chairman of the roundtable, said in comments accompanying an official report to the state. “Otherwise, the Arkansas Basin may not be able to meet the gap, and the consequences will be felt beyond the borders of El Paso County.”

The largest portion of a statewide gap in future water supply is 22,600 acre-feet needed to supply communities outside Colorado Springs in El Paso County, according to the needs assessment included in the report. About 40 percent of that will be new demand, while 60 percent is loss of existing water supplies as pumping increases in the Denver Basin aquifers. As roundtable president, Barber pushed for completion of the reports, “Projects and Methods to Meet the Needs of the Arkansas Basin.” The document includes consumptive and nonconsumptive needs studies and represents the consensus of the roundtable’s first four years of meetings. It also begins to rate the relative importance of projects in meeting the state “gap” in water supply identified in 2004 by the Colorado Water Conservation board. It places the highest priority on sustainable projects. The ideas included in the report are rated on three questions: Is it viable? Is it equitable? Is is bearable?…

Every member of the roundtable represents a constituency – special interests – and Barber’s are his clients in El Paso County, which include two water authorities whose members are hunting for future water supplies. Three of them have purchased ranches for water rights in the past three years, one is trying to buy rights on two valley canals and collectively, they unsuccessfully tried to buy control of the Bessemer Ditch in 2008…

Barber’s comments about SDS reflect years of frustration over including other areas of El Paso County besides Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain in the $1 billion-plus project. He has frequently been outspoken on the need for regionalism…

A study by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority concluded it would cost at least $1 billion to build its own pipeline from the lower Arkansas Valley…

Colorado Springs City Council, sitting as the utilities board, has discussed including other El Paso County users as customers of SDS and the possibility of using it as a regional delivery system. No formal decisions on that concept have been made, however.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste and other state conservation groups hope for 2010 legislation to clean up the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Jeff Parsons of the Western Mining Action Project said he believes Colorado taxpayers should not foot the bill for cleanup of “bad uranium operations.” “It is common sense to require all uranium operations to clean up their toxic messes. Period,” Parsons said…

Cotter Mill Manager John Hamrick said the company spends a lot of money on cleanup projects. On tap this year are plans to place a dirt cover over the secondary impoundment, tearing out of old tanks and cleanup of sites where the company used to store ore at the mill.

Also on tap in the Legislature this year is the state health department’s plan to ask for a new penalty section on the state’s radiation-control regulation. Under that proposal, any violator (be it Cotter, an X-ray company or other radiation users) of the radiation-control act could be subject to up to $15,000 daily fines.

In an effort to raise funds for their 2010 legislative effort, Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste and Environment Colorado has scheduled a banquet from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Abbey Event Center, 2951 E. U.S. 50. The event will feature dinner, guest speakers, door prizes, plus a live auction and silent auction. Cost is $50 to $100 per person depending on the level of support desired. Reservations are required by Monday. Call Pam Kiely of Environment Colorado at 1-303-929-8702 or visit online.

More nuclear coverage here and here.