Fort Morgan: Meeting to review proposed wastewater regulations February 4

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From The Fort Morgan Times:

The meeting will be held at 1 p.m. in the large meeting room at the Morgan County Administration building at 231 Ensign St.

More wastewater coverage here.

Benefits of controlled flood in Grand Canyon are short-lived

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Here’s the release from the USGS:

Resources along the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park generally benefited from a high-flow experiment conducted in March 2008 from Glen Canyon Dam, near Page, Ariz., according to research findings released today by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The 2008 experiment, designed to mimic natural pre-dam flooding, tested the ability of high flows to rebuild eroded Grand Canyon sandbars, create habitat for the endangered humpback chub, and benefit other resources such as archaeological sites, rainbow trout, aquatic food for fish, and riverside vegetation.

Before the dam’s completion in 1963, spring snowmelt produced floods that carried large quantities of sand that created and maintained Grand Canyon Sandbars. Today, because Glen Canyon Dam, which provides hydropower to customers in six States, traps approximately 90 percent of the sand once available to maintain Grand Canyon sandbars, high flows are the only way to rebuild these important resources.

The studies’ key findings follow:

— The 2008 experiment resulted in widespread increases in the area and volume of sandbars, expansions of camping areas, and increases in the number and size of backwater habitats (areas of low-velocity flow thought to be used as rearing habitat by native fish).

— Six months after the experiment, the new sandbars had been largely eroded by typical fluctuating flow dam operations driven by electrical energy demand; however, median sandbar elevation was still slightly higher and backwater habitats still slightly more abundant than before the experiment. Although stable and relatively lower monthly volume releases are the most effective at limiting sandbar erosion, the volume of water that must be released from Glen Canyon Dam annually is determined by basin hydrology and legal requirements to deliver water from the upper to lower Colorado River Basin.

— Timing the 2008 experiment in March likely reduced successful nonnative seedling germination and created new sandbars during the spring windy season, which allowed for the greatest transport of windblown sand to archeological sites where it protects sites from weathering and erosion.

–In the Lees Ferry rainbow trout fishery, high flows reduced the New Zealand mud snail population by about 80 percent. This nonnative species is considered a nuisance species because the snails cannot be digested when eaten by trout. In contrast, midges and black flies, high-quality food items for fish, increased.

–Young rainbow trout in the Lees Ferry river reach had better survival and growth rates following the experiment, which scientist think may have resulted from improved habitat conditions and better food quality. Additionally, data show that rainbow trout did not move downstream in significant numbers as the result of the high flows.

“Insights gained about the effects of the 2008 experiment will be invaluable in helping decision makers determine the best frequency, timing, duration, and magnitude for future high flows to benefit resources in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area and Grand Canyon National Park,” noted John Hamill, Chief of the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center.

On March 5, 2008, the Bureau of Reclamation began a 60-hour high-flow experiment at Glen Canyon Dam. Water was released through the dam’s powerplant and bypass tubes to a peak of about 41,500 cubic feet per second, about twice the normal peak. Two previous experiments were conducted in 1996 and 2004.

Research completed by the U.S. Geological Survey and cooperating scientists about the effects of the 2008 high-flow experiment will be discussed at the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program meeting February 3–4, 2010, in Phoenix, Ariz. The findings will also be taken into consideration in development of a new protocol for conducting additional high-flow experiments, announced by Secretary Salazar in December 2009.

The USGS Southwest Biological Science Center’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center is responsible for scientific research and monitoring activities for the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Research activities are undertaken in close cooperation with a wide range of federal, State, and tribal resource management agencies; academic institutions; and private consultants.

A USGS Fact Sheet summarizing the results of the 2008 high-flow experiment is available online.

More coverage from the Associated Press (Felicia Fonseca) via the Deseret News. From the article:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has called for more of the man-made floods. A plan on when and how such high-flow experiments should be conducted will be based partly on the USGS report released Tuesday.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Snowpack news

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From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

While most areas of the Poudre Canyon snowpack is well below the long-term average and readings from a year ago, one survey field at Deadman Hill, which is at 10,220 feet in elevation, is well ahead of previous readings. In the Big Thompson, readings are near average, with the exception of Hidden Valley, at 9,480 feet, which is about 35 percent below average. “That illustrates the hopscotch nature of snowstorms,” [Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District] said. On the Western Slope, the snowpack in the upper Colorado River where the C-BT gets its water to bring to the east side is 75 percent of average, Werner added…

Werner said storage in northern Colorado reservoirs is excellent going into the spring and summer months. Storage in C-BT reservoirs, he said, is 15 percent above average, while storage in farmer reservoirs throughout the region is 36 percent above average.

Water Utility Climate Alliance: Decision Support Planning Methods: Incorporating Climate Change Uncertainties into Water Planning

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Here’s the release from WUCA:

The Water Utility Climate Alliance released a white paper today that outlines planning approaches to help water utilities adapt to climate change. Planning methods are necessary because many water utilities cannot afford to delay significant decisions and wait until the range of potential climate change impacts is substantially narrowed.

The report, Decision Support Planning Methods: Incorporating Climate Change Uncertainties into Water Planning (pdf) was produced to help water utilities consider and evaluate traditional and emerging planning techniques for use in their own climate adaptation efforts. Integrating climate change information into water utility planning is one of the most intricate aspects in the climate change adaptation process and this paper will help water utilities identify the method(s) most suitable for their planning needs.

“Climate change is shaking up our fundamental water planning assumptions,” said Chips Barry, manager of Denver Water. “Many agencies will need new planning techniques to address uncertainties associated with climate change. This white paper is a guide for those water utilities. We hope it will lead to a greater use and refinement of these methods,” said Barry.

The report found that there are few examples of applying these methods specifically to climate change planning. WUCA encourages collaboration on the development of water utility case studies that document the use and application of these methods.

For more information about WUCA, or to access a copy of “Decision Support Planning Methods: Incorporating Climate Change Uncertainties into Water Planning,” visit

Thanks to Denver Water (Stacy Chesney) for the link. Here’s their release.

More climate change coverage here and here.

HB 10-1159, HB 10-1188, HB 10-1190 and SB 10-052

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Here’s an analysis of the 3 House bills, from Joe Hanel writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Lawyers, rafts and money. Those are the debates in store for Colorado’s water community this year at the Legislature. A Pueblo Democrat wants to make sure that water imports from wet basins to dry ones don’t harm people in the original basin. And a Gunnison representative wants to make sure rafting guides can float the state’s rivers, no matter who owns the riverbank. Both bills, though, could be overshadowed by the money crunch, which could hit irrigators and water users just as hard as the rest of the state.

More coverage from the Yuma Pioneer (Marianne Goodland). From the article:

The first water bill of the 2010 session got its first hearing last Thursday, January 21. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-1 to approve SB 10-52, which would make it clear that a final permit for ground water wells in a designated basin is final. It is on the Senate calendar for further debate in the Senate this week. SB 52 is sponsored by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray and Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison. Brophy said this week that SB 52 is designed to provide assurance for people who own large capacity ground water wells that those wells cannot be pulled out of the designated basin area. Under SB 52, the Ground Water Commission, which manages the eight designated basins along the eastern plains and the Front Range, could revise the basin’s boundaries to remove previously-included areas only if the area does not include wells that have had final permits issued…

Michael Bohnen of Bethune testified that his family’s surface water rights on the Republican River date back to 1904 and likened the bill to eminent domain. “Well users can pump the river dry,” he said. “Every well in the basin affects the flow of the river.” However, when questioned by Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, both said they or their families did not object when the original boundaries were drawn back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Steve Sims, former water counsel for the attorney general and now with Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, testified that senior water rights in the basin are not based on flowing streams and there would be no quantifiable injury to those surface water rights holders. SB 52 also provides strong language on the intent of the legislature regarding challenges to ground water well permits. The bill says that after a certain amount of time has passed, any request to pull out a well for which a permit has been issued should be considered a “collateral attack” on the original designation of the basin. However, the bill does not specify how long that time should be.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board releases draft rules for uranium mining

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining & Safety:

The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board will consider new rules and amendments proposed by the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety regarding uranium mining, permit fees and the disclosure of prospecting information this spring. The Division submitted the necessary paperwork for the rulemaking with the Secretary of State’s Office on January 26.

The rulemaking is primarily being conducted to implement three bills the General Assembly passed in 2008. House Bill 08-1161 concerns reclamation standards for in-situ uranium mining. Senate Bill 08-228 establishes provisions regarding information about prospecting operations. Senate Bill 08-169 concerns fees for certain hardrock mining operations. In addition, the proposed rules implement fees the General Assembly passed in 2007 in Senate Bill 07-185. The Board may accept, reject or modify any or all of the Division’s proposed rules and amendments, or may propose its own rules and amendments.

A draft of the proposed rules, along with a Statement of Basis, Specific Authority and Purpose, may be found at the DRMS web site at:

More coverage from The Denver Post (Monte Whaley). From the article:

Among the things that the proposed regulations would require are:

• A baseline study to show the quality of the groundwater in an area a company wants to operate.
• Proof that the company is using the best available technology.
• Notification to all landowners within 3 miles of the proposed mining project.
• Reclamation of the site to the standards in the baseline study after mining is completed.

After a period for public comment testimony and rebuttal, an eight-hour public hearing has been set for April 15 at Loveland’s Embassy Suites Hotel, 4706 Clydesdale Parkway. A second public hearing is likely, said Mined Land Reclamation Office Director David Berry. “There will be another one, but we don’t know exactly when,” he said. There also is no timetable for a final decision by the state Mined Land Reclamation Board, which must vote on the rules, Berry said.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the mill tailings problem in the west, from Sharon Sullivan writing for the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

The sand-like mill tailings were widely used in the Grand Valley during the 1950s and 1960s as fill dirt until federal officials halted the practice, citing health risks from exposure to gamma radiation and radon gas. [FCI Constructors Inc] employees have hauled nearly 500 cubic yards of tailings to the temporary storage facility at the city yard along West Avenue, where the material awaits permanent disposal at the Cheney disposal cell, south of Grand Junction.

“There are other tailings that are just as high or higher (in gamma radiation readings),” that are being left in place, said Mike Cosby, Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation Manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “On private property that would not be allowed,” Cosby said…

“The state (health department) would prefer to pull all (the tailings) out right now, but that’s not our call,” Cosby said. “The city’s paying for it.” Expense was one factor in deciding to leave some of the tailings in place, said city engineering manager Trent Prall. The disruption and time it would take to haul all of it away was another factor in not removing all of the radioactive material, Prall said. The federal government determined three decades ago that it didn’t make economic sense to remove all the tailings underneath a public right-of-way, Prall said.

The sandy tailings were widely used across the valley in cement for foundations, in stucco and bricks, and in sidewalks and streets. It was also added as a soil amendment to yards and gardens. State and federal clean-up programs that lasted more than 25 years removed tailings from underneath thousands of homes and in yards across the valley. Tailings underneath roadways however, were typically left in place.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Mesa County Water Association’s 2010 Water Course wraps up tonight

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

Balancing competing demands for water is the topic of the third and final session of the Mesa County Water Association’s 2010 Water Course, offered Tuesday night at the Grand Junction City Hall auditorium, 250 N. 5th St…

Denis Reich of the Colorado State University Extension, is going to discuss challenges for agriculture as urban water demands grow. Ken Neubecker of Colorado Trout Unlimited, is to address efforts to meet environmental and recreational needs for water. Also, Greg Trainor, the city’s Utility and Street System Director, is going to lead a discussion on the “big picture” of increasing demands clashing with the possibility of diminishing future water supplies.

More education coverage here.

Secretary Salazar requests $9 million for ‘Water Smart’ projects

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From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

Specifically, as part of President Obama’s budget, the Interior Secretary is requesting $30 million for climate change mitigation programs and $9 million for so-called Water Smart projects across the West. Secretary Salazar says those will fund basin studies and future reservoirs and other storage plans…Salazar says his agency plans to pay for these funding increases, by implementing cost savings measures in certain departments, which he says will cut hundreds of millions of dollars in government waste. The budget now goes to Congress for scrutiny.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Trust for Public Land study reveals $3.51 billion of economic benefit from conservation easements

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

The study [A Return On Investment: Colorado’s Conservation Easement Tax Credit (pdf)] was done by Jessica Sargent-Michaud, a staff economist for the land conservation organization. It looked at the investments and returns in Colorado’s conservation easements since 1995. Over that time, the state invested an estimated $511 million in conservation easements, including $373 million through tax credits and another $138 million through the lottery-funded Great Colorado Outdoors (GOCO) grants. That’s equal to $595 million in today’s dollars, the study said…

The study separated the easement land by type of ecosystem and looked at the value such ecosystems offer on a per-acre basis. It concluded that Colorado’s land in easements gave $3.51 billion in economic benefits to the state through water-supply protection, waste treatment and flood control; farm and ranch production; and recreation, including hunting, fishing and hiking…

In 2009, conservation easements claimed between $50 million and $55 million in tax credits, said Greg Yankee, the policy director at the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts.

More coverage from the Associated Press (Judith Kohler) via Business Week. From the article:

Jessica Sargent-Michaud, an economist with the national Trust for Public Land, said she used geographic data to group Colorado’s conservation easements into 16 distinct ecosystems. She then assigned the land a per-acre dollar value based on figures used in about 10 published studies and consultations with state agriculture extension agents. Examples include the premiums people pay to live next to open space, costs of cleaning up polluted water or money spent on recreation and tourism. John Swartout, executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, said leaders in the Glenwood Springs area have determined that protecting open space along the Colorado River for trails leading into the city has been an economic boon for tourism. “Wildlife watching is a huge industry now,” he added…

The land trust’s report is a welcome first attempt to estimate the worth of conserving Colorado’s natural heritage, something that doesn’t fit neatly in the marketplace, said Andrew Seidl, associate professor at Colorado State University’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “This study makes explicit what all Coloradans know implicitly — what is good for Colorado’s native landscapes is good for Colorado,” Seidl said.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Kate Drazner). From the article:

…every landowner I visited told me that, if it weren’t for the tax credits, they could not have afforded to keep their land. These landowners had agreed to preserve their land for eternity for a small fraction of what they could have been paid for developing it. In some cases, the money from the tax credits mostly just helped them pay off the estate taxes they owed when they inherited the land. The simplest reason to keep the conservation easement tax credit program alive is that private landowners are the best stewards of the land. They will give up the chance to receive millions of dollars to sell off their property in exchange for a few hundred thousand dollars and the promise that their land will be forever protected.

But I soon realized that the conservation easements benefit everyone, even city girls like me. Colorado farms and ranches help preserve the landscapes that make Colorado distinct, as visitors travel around the state. And they provide the locally grown produce and meat that sustains us. Perhaps most important, these farmers and ranchers, through their financial hardships and back-breaking labor, preserve the independent and hardy lifestyle that serves as Colorado’s cultural heritage.

More conservation easement coverage here and here.

$3 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit shows up in President Obama’s budget

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It’s the first time conduit funds have been in the presidential budget since the project was authorized in 1962 as part of the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project. “We’re pleased we are finally part of the proposed budget without having to go to the legislators, but we will keep working for the full amount of our request,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, conduit sponsors. “The $3 million in the budget is very much appreciated.”

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.