Energy policy — geothermal: Chaffee County geothermal update

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Here’s an update on the geothermal picture in Chaffee County, from Ron Sering writing for Colorado Central Magazine. It’s a long piece so click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

New technology makes it possible to generate power with water at a temperature below 400 degrees. These plants pump the water to the surface, where it passes through a heat exchanger containing a binary fluid that boils at a lower temperature than water. This in turn produces the steam that drives the generators…

The extent of Chaffee County’s geothermal resources was measured by Amax Exploration in the 1970s. The effort ceased with the return of cheap petroleum in the 80s, and because the technology of the time required natural steam to generate power, rather than the hot water found in Colorado. Subsequent research in the area around Mt. Princeton by the Colorado School of Mines indicate favorable potential for geothermal development using binary technology. “It is an area of exceptional heat flow,” [Matt Sares, Deputy Director of the Colorado Geological Survey] said.

More geothermal coverage here and here. Disclaimer: I write a water column for the print edition of Colorado Central.

Coyote Gulch archives

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It looks like the scare over losing my archives from the old weblog is over. Jake Savin was able to transfer all of the Radio Userland hosted weblogs over to a new domain hosted by WordPress in a deal worked out by Dave Winer the former CEO of Userland Software.

You can still use the Google search text box on the home page at the old Coyote Gulch to search the archives. The calendar works as well if you just want to stroll backwards or forwards in time through the archives. I’m pretty happy that the situation has worked out so well. Thanks Dave and Jake. You guys are the best.

SB 10-025: Extend Funding Water Efficiency Grants

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From The Durango Herald (State Senator Bruce Whitehead):

I’m happy to report Senate bill 25…[SB 10-025: Concerning the Long-term Funding of the Water Efficiency Grant Program extends the long-term funding of the water efficiency grant program to 2020 (currently set to expire in 2012).

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Sheep Mountain Alliance files statement of opposition in water court case for proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Dick Kamp):

The filing of a “statement of opposition” by Sheep Mountain Alliance (SMA) of Telluride, preceded a separate filing last Tuesday by two groups in Moab, Utah based on similar issues…

Excerpting from Colorado state statutes, the law requires that “Applicants must demonstrate the legal and physical availability of the water -(show that rights are not) speculative -prove that waters can and will be diverted, stored or otherwise captured, possessed and controlled and will be beneficially used – with diligence within a reasonable time under their claimed conditional water rights..”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Glenwood Springs: Glenwood Whitewater Events is huddling up with the city council over the hosting the 2013 World Freestyle Kayaking Championships

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From The Aspen Times (John Gardner):

President of Glenwood Whitewater Events, Davis Farrar, and Bob Campbell, managing director for Whitewater Parks International, which is also based in Glenwood Springs, asked for the City Council’s support in applying for the pinnacle event of the kayaking world. “This is a partnership,” Farrar said. “It’s a big project. We are excited about it and we think that we can pull it off, but we will need some excited partners.”

While council members were excited at the prospect of Glenwood hosting a world championship, they were also concerned that, without having ever held an event as large as the world championships, it’s hard to know if Glenwood is ready. “I really would like to host a world-class event in Glenwood,” said Councilwoman Shelley Kaup. “But I have to question if we are ready for that yet.”

Glenwood could expect more than 300 competitors from 40 participating countries, five days of competition, one week of training prior to the event, and a minimum of 3,000 spectators at the site each day, according to Campbell’s calculations. The park is located on the Colorado River, on Glenwood’s west side…

Campbell estimated the cost of hosting the world championships at about $430,000, of which the city would be responsible for $160,000 up front; the rest would possibly be paid by sponsors. However, the city could be on the hook for more if sponsors didn’t ante up. That did not set well with Councilman Matt Steckler.

More whitewater coverage here.

Consumptive use primer

When changing agricultural water to municipal use the water courts require an analysis of historical consumptive use. Here’s a report on the difficulties of obtaining that information, from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The [New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Co. and Reservoir Co] recently released a draft report on a ditchwide historical use analysis, which Don Magnuson, superintendent, said will probably become necessary for all irrigation companies in the future. The report, he told members of the Greeley Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee last week, really focused on consumptive use of water, which he predicted will become more important in future years. “The true value of water is how much you consume and not what is diverted,” Magnuson said. So that becomes even more important when that water is changed from agricultural to another use, and that change drove the need for the analysis.

Consumptive use is that water consumed by plants in a given field. Typically, under a flood irrigation system, about 50 percent of irrigation water is consumed while the other 50 percent either runs off the end of a field, evaporates or escapes past the root zone of the plants and goes into an aquifer. However, each crop consumes different amounts of water. Eventually, that water not consumed by plants returns to streams and rivers both on the surface and through aquifers. But the time that takes varies widely, from a matter of a few hours in the case of surface runoff to months or even years through an aquifer.

Over a 15-year period, the analysis tracked water requirements by crop type throughout the Cache la Poudre system. Those figures show the complicated job of growing and irrigating crops. Over that 15-year period, water requirements, on average, for alfalfa were slightly more than 26 inches through the season, grain corn about 18 inches, dry beans about 10.5 inches, grass more than 26 inches, small vegetables 13 inches, spring grain 17.5 inches and sugar beets 20 inches. The average annual combined diversion and reservoir releases for the study period was about 57,900 acre-feet, or about 1.79 acre-feet per irrigated acre. The average consumptive use was about 26,900 acre-feet or about 0.8 of an acre-foot per acre, so that means a lot of water went downstream for someone else to use. An acre-foot is about the equivalent of covering a football field with 12 inches of water. Throw into the mix the different types of soils, weather conditions and increased demands from growth, and things just get more complicated.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: First rumblings about summer shortages from the Vail Valley

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From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

Vail Mountain snowpack is at 57 percent of last year’s level, and 69 percent of average levels. Beaver Creek’s snowpack is at 45 percent of last year’s level, and 72 percent of average levels…

“I think it’s kind of time to get concerned about this low of a snowpack for this time of year,” said Mike Gillespie, the snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “It’s considerably below average.”[…]

The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District analysts aren’t as concerned with snow depths as they are with snow water equivalents, or the amount of moisture found in snow. The District measures levels at each of the snow survey stations that directly affect local water supplies, with Vail Mountain’s site as one of them. The survey station on Vail Mountain just hit the 2002 drought level, meaning levels have been less than they were in 2002 until now, where they’re about even. The District compares levels to 2002 because that was a really dry year. A graph showing both 2002 and current levels proves there’s something to be concerned about.

Gillespie thinks this year is starting to look like 2002, but there’s still some room for hope. “The wild card is still for what El Nino could bring to the state in the late spring,” Gillespie said.

More coverage from (James Hopkins):

The majority of the storms this winter have favored the south west mountain ranges leaving the rest of the state wanting. “The central mountains are around 80% of snow pack and the northern mountains tend to be 70–75 percent of normal,” says Brian Lawrence of the National Weather Service. Weather patterns, like the ones we are seeing this winter, are typical of an El Nino pattern. The sub–tropical jet, which normally tracks right through Colorado, pushes to the south. “Bringing quite a bit of precipitation to the southern mountains, while the northern mountains miss out on a lot of the action,” says Lawrence.

This pattern, not only benefits the Grand Valley when it comes to skiing in the winter , but also this coming spring. “So far we’re looking pretty good, kinda running along average, we’re at about 94%,” says Bret Guillory. Guillory is the Grand Junction Utility Engineer and his job is to keep a close eye on the city’s water supply. While the rest of the state is relatively dry, it’s a different story on the western slope. “The city of Grand Junction’s water shed is very healthy,” says Guillory.

Fort Morgan: CDPHE individual sewage disposal system stakeholder process meeting recap

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

The Fort Morgan meeting was part of an individual sewage disposal system stakeholder process coordinated by the state health department. Numerous committees with representatives from all over the state have been meeting, and plans call for making a recommendation for state legislation. Some involved in septic system installation and inspection, and some local government officials, believe state officials have their minds made up to adopt statewide regulations. “There’s a large group of people that think the die is cast on the direction that this group is going and the direction that the Department of Health is going,” said Dave Akers of the water quality control division of the state health department. The department’s goals, he said, are to protect ground water and public health…

“No matter how you look at it, you’re looking at an increased cost to the homeowner,” Carlson said. He asked about the possibility of tax credits to help defray those costs. Digging up septic systems for inspections could cost $1,500 to $1,800, excluding any landscaping costs, one Northeast Colorado Health Department official said…

Certification, licensing and registration of people involved in installing, inspecting and repairing systems is under study, said Kim Seipp, co-chair of the training and certification committee. She noted that many agencies have run into homeowners who are unaware of how a septic system works…

Costs, administration and implementation would be the big obstacles to a statewide licensing or certification system, she said. There is also concern that with increased requirements, some contractors who do a variety of jobs might drop septic systems, reducing the number of firms available to do them. That could hike costs. Several audience members indicated that inspections might help people buying homes to do so more confidently, knowing that the septic system was operating properly. Seipp said such inspections would present opportunities to educate homeowners on how to take care of a septic system. Some agencies think that inspections at the time of sale of a property would be a good idea.

More wastewater coverage here.

Special meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board Monday

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From the Pagosa Sun:

A special meeting of the Board of Directors of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District has been scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8. The primary purpose of this meeting is for discussions with the Board of Directors of the San Juan Water Conservancy District on water matters and the development of raw water projects. Towards the end of the meeting, the boards of directors are expected to enter into executive session for the purposes of conferences with legal counsel for receiving legal advice on litigation and discussing matters related to land acquisition for development of raw water facilities and other matters subject to negotiation involving both districts pursuant to Sections 24-6-402(4)(a), 24-6-402(4)(b), and 24-6-402(4)(e), C.R.S. The meeting will be held at the district’s administrative office located at 100 Lyn Ave.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.

HB 10-1159 dies on the state house floor

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Rep. Sal Pace’s HB1159 was killed on second reading, with 23 members in support and 36 opposed. Two members were absent, and Pace said they may have voted on his side, but wouldn’t have affected the outcome…

Pace hurried the bill along this week. He wanted it to move quickly because he said he was losing votes with each passing day as metropolitan water interests lobbied lawmakers against it. “I think about 10 (representatives) understood the bill,” Pace said. “(Denver legislators) acted like they were deeply concerned for (what the bill would do to) their districts, but they couldn’t say why.”[…]

Pace said the bill would have extended the same consideration to mitigation statewide that presently exists only in transfers that come from the Western Slope to the Front Range and Eastern Plains under the 1937 Conservancy District Act. Opponents said sufficient mechanisms are in place to address mitigation through the roundtables established by legislation five years ago. Pace countered that the roundtables would continue, and only be enhanced by his proposal…

With overwhelming opposition from metro lawmakers in the Legislature, Pace said he believes a ballot initiative, though challenging from a standpoint of expense, might be the most likely way to affect change in the way water transfers impact communities in the state. He cited a poll that shows state residents are more receptive to such changes than the Legislature is.

More coverage from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

…that was because Denver Water lobbied hard against the bill and managed to turn some lawmakers to its side, said Rep. Sal Pace, who introduced House Bill 1159…

The issue is not a new one for the Legislature, but each time it comes up, urban lawmakers along the Front Range and even rural ones on the South Platte River Basin manage to find ways to kill it, Western Slope lawmakers said. “We on the Western Slope have seen how the water’s been taken and used, so we’re just trying to get some mitigation things going here,” said Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs. “We’re really concerned about the amount of water that leaves our districts and goes to other areas, and we’re just trying to protect those interests.”

Opponents of the measure said that’s all they’re trying to do, too. Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said the bill’s true intent was to end all transmountain water diversions in the state, which would put more pressure on smaller communities downstream of the Denver metropolitan area.

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

[State Representative Sal Pace] got help from the strangest coalition the Legislature has seen this year. Supporters included local Republicans Ellen Roberts of Durango and Scott Tipton of Cortez, the other Republicans and Democrats on the Western Slope, and environmentalist Democrats from Boulder and Denver.

But a larger coalition opposed the bill, including many Denver Democrats plus Republicans from the suburbs and Eastern Plains. Major metro utilities like Denver Water and Aurora Water lobbied against the bill. The bill failed 40-21. Pace decided to ask for a vote Friday, even though he didn’t have commitments from the 33 lawmakers needed to pass a bill. “Every day, I was losing votes to Denver Water. It was better to do it quicker,” Pace said.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.