Aurora: City council receives water infrastructure news

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Aaron Cole):

According to Greg Baker, spokesman for the city’s water department, much of the city’s current sewage and water pipes are ending their 50-year life cycle within the next 10 years, and may need significant maintenance. “They all have aging infrastructure,” he said. “We’re coming up on a perfect storm in 10 years.”

That perfect storm includes aging sewer mains underneath the city’s streets, as well as other delivery systems within the city.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Animas-La Plata Project: Sponsors are keeping operations and maintenance in-house

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

An association created by the sponsors signed a contract Dec. 30, 2009, with the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the project facilities. The project, which will provide water for three Native American tribes and other entities, consists of a man-made reservoir in Ridges Basin southwest of Bodo Park, a pumping station on the Animas River and a water-distribution system in New Mexico.

Project sponsors are the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, the La Plata Water Conservancy District, the Navajo Nation and the San Juan Water Commission, all of New Mexico, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe…

Pat Page at the Bureau of Reclamation said Russ How-ard, maintenance manager for the Central Arizona Project, has been hired as general manager to oversee A-LP operations and maintenance. Howard will have a staff and will answer to the Animas-La Plata Operations, Maintenance and Replacement Association on which all partners will have representation…

All A-LP water is for household or industrial use. Water earmarked for agriculture was deleted when the project was downsized in 2000. The Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority’s share in the A-LP is being held for the Animas La Plata Water Conservancy District, which in turn will provide water for the city of Durango and the La Plata West Water Authority. The latter would supply water to the dry southwest corner of La Plata County…

After test runs, filling the reservoir began in earnest on May 4, 2009. The lake is about 20 percent full…

It hasn’t been determined who will develop recreation at Lake Nighthorse. The Animas La Plata Water Conservancy District is negotiating with a consultant on a recreation master plan but has almost no money to carry the project forward.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Million Resources group details interest in project to Corps of Engineers

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From Westword (Joel Warner):

Many people believed Million didn’t have enough customers for his Regional Watershed Supply Project to satisfy the Corps, and even one of his consultants admitted in November he had only three or four users lined up. This week, however, Million got the last laugh when he submitted statements of interest from fifteen water users in Wyoming and Colorado. While these weren’t formal commitments to buy Million’s potential water, he believes they prove there’s more than enough demand to justify the pipeline. “We’re very pleased with the level of interest at this juncture,” says Million. “I would argue that probably from a historic perspective there’s never been a water project that’s had such a diverse and numerous list of potential end users.”[…]

“It was a great milestone for moving the project forward,” he says. Million adds there have been other promising developments too in his ambitious plan, which, if it gets the permits it needs, is still many years away from being able to break ground. Those include interest from the Department of Defense in the potential hydropower the pipeline could generate as the water running through it flows downhill, which could be used as part of a secure energy grid. Million says he’s also working to secure permits needed to take part of the pipeline’s water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming and address the vocal concerns communities around the reservoir have expressed about the project…

Still he can’t resist at least one reference to favorite outlaw Butch Cassidy and his famous sidekick: “Like the Sundance Kid said, ‘I’m better when I move.’ And we’re on the move.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District in northern El Paso County wants 3,000 acre-feet per year, according to a letter from President Benny Nasser. “The district obviously cannot commit to the project at the present time, nor can it commit future boards of directors to acquire water,” Nasser wrote…

T-Cross Ranches, owned by Robert and Steven Norris, indicated they are interested in negotiating with Million on a reservoir site included in the pipeline plan and for the purchase of up to 20,000 acre-feet of water.

Million is proposing a reservoir site on Williams Creek that is in the same location as a terminal storage reservoir envisioned for the Southern Delivery System, a plan by Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West to build a pipeline from Pueblo Dam. Million’s proposed contract to the Norris family would lease the space in the reservoir at $3,000-$5,000 per acre-foot and could include the sale of the ground under any reservoir built at the site.

The El Paso County Water Authority did not commit to use Million’s Project, but indicated it is interested in exploring a regional vision task force to look at how water might be used. The El Paso County group, which includes most water users outside Colorado Springs in the county, wants to see how the water from Flaming Gorge could fit into addressing a 22,600 acre-foot gap in its future water supplies. El Paso County also wants to look at whether its plan to store groundwater in the Upper Black Squirrel Creek designated groundwater basin could be incorporated. Million said he is still talking to the El Paso County group and its members, but does not know if a vision process fits into his timeline…

In the South Platte Basin, several water districts indicated an interest in negotiating with Million for more than 200,000 acre-feet of water. Many are irrigation districts, which typically buy water for far less than municipalities. Their letters indicate that many areas are anticipating reduced supplies because of growth or pressure on existing sources.

More Flaming gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

2010 Leopold Conservation Award nominations to be accepted until March 17

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From the Western Farmer-Stockman:

Sand County Foundation of Colorado, in partnership with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust and EnCana Oil & Gas, is seeking nominations for the 2010 Leopold Conservation Award.
The prize, which awards $10,000 and a crystal Aldo Leopold trophy to the winner, recognizes Colorado landowners who demonstrate outstanding stewardship and sustainable management of natural resources. The Leopold is named in honor of author Aldo Leopold, who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they manage.

“Conserving landscapes isn’t just about land conservation, but rather about people and their relationship with the land,” says Terry Fankhauser, CCA executive vice president. “The Leopold Conservation Award seeks to recognize the highest of conservation ethics whereby the rancher cares for the land and the land, in turn, cares for the rancher.” The conservation partnership established in such a relationship has long been recognized by the Sand County Foundation and is exemplified through the association’s award commitment. “The health of Colorado’s landscape is dependent on hard-working farmers and ranchers across the state who dedicate themselves to ensuring that Colorado’s natural resources are in better shape than when they found them,” says Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation president. “Year after year, the quality of award nominations for the Leopold Conservation Award proves that Colorado’s land, water and wildlife are in great hands,” he adds. The Leopold honor ceremony is scheduled during the CCA annual convention on June 14 in Pueblo. Nominations must be made no later than March 17. For information, go to www.leopoldconservationaward.org or contact Amy Bader at amy@coloradocattle.org or (303) 431-6422.

More conservation coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Proposed BLM geothermal lease near Buena Vista update

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From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

On Feb. 11, the Bureau of Land Management is scheduled to offer the first lease for geothermal development in Colorado — 800 acres in the Chalk Creek Valley. Why the valley? Because an unidentified party nominated the land for lease sale. It is bureau policy not to reveal the nominator until after the sale. And following a congressional mandate, the bureau is trying to expedite geothermal leases in the West. “Congress voted for us to identify the low-hanging fruit, get out of the way and let the market decide,” said Kermit Witherbee, manager of the bureau’s national geothermal program…

“The whole process seems to have been fast-tracked without a lot of details being worked out,” said [Syd Schieren who uses the geothermal water to heat his organic-vegetable greenhouse and], who lives and has hot spring vacation rentals in the valley…

The Chalk Creek Valley sits above the Rio Grande rift, which runs as deep as 10,000 feet and enables enough heat to reach within 3,000 feet of the surface to heat groundwater to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Colorado Geological Survey. A geothermal electricity plant can tap into that hot water and bring it to the surface, where it is used to heat a fluid, such as isobutane, which boils at a lower temperature than water. The isobutane steam is used to turn an electric turbine, and is then condensed and collected for reuse. The water is reinjected into the deep rock reservoir to be reheated. A geothermal plant can run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That makes it about five times as valuable as wind or solar, utility industry officials say. “It is baseload, and that is huge. It emits no pollutants or greenhouse gases,” said Jeff Lyng, renewable energy manager at the Governor’s Energy Office.

Based on the limited drilling and geochemistry data for Colorado, the current data show there are about five likely sites for geothermal plants, said Matt Sares, deputy director of the state Geological Survey:

• Strawberry Hot Springs, north of Steamboat Springs.
• The San Juan Mountains near Ouray and Rico.
• Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County.
• Waunita Springs, Gunnison County.
• Mount Princeton Hot Springs in Chaffee County.

…at least two 2,500-foot test wells are needed to determine whether the heat and water flow are sufficient for a commercial project and show that the water table and other wells won’t be damaged, [Fred Henderson, a geologist and Nathrop resident, created Mount Princeton Geothermal LLC] said. That work could cost $2 million to $3 million, Henderson estimates.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

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From the Associated Press via the Grand Junction Free Press:

As of Friday, Durango had received nearly 3 feet since Monday – nearly double the city’s average snowfall for January- while Wolf Creek Pass received 4 feet. A total of three storms moved through the region beginning Monday with 12- to 18-hour breaks between each one…Four of the five major mountain passes on highways in southwest Colorado remained closed Saturday.