The Town of Fowler plans to study the use of algae in the sewage lagoons instead of mechanical aeration components

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From the Fowler Tribune (Elaine White):

According to Town Manager, Wayne Snider, the technology will allow Fowler’s current system to meet regulatory requirements with far lower cost, far lower power consumption, lower odor and lower environmental impact. It is even possible the current need for nine lagoons could be significantly reduced.
“Our current system is very efficient,” says Snider. “But, new restrictions on selenium and ammonia will continue to rise, and by using the algae system, Fowler could meet those requirements even more effectively at a lower cost.”[…]

If implemented, the system would utilize power from a future 600 watt solar installation near the lagoons. While electric consumption would be minimized, a small amount of power would still be needed to maintain an on site greenhouse as well as a mixing system to effectively disperse algae throughout the water.

More wastewater coverage here.

Report: Five Case Studies on the Effects of the SWANCC and Rapanos Supreme Court Rulings on Colorado Wetlands and Streams

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While national politicians argue and do nothing about the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have muddied enforcement of the Clean Water Act, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation have been doing the science around the issue(s) here in Colorado. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“These are islands of moisture,” said Dennis Buechler, author of the report released Tuesday (pdf) by the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited. The wetlands are important to wildlife. While covering less than 2 percent of the land, they are home to 75 percent of the state’s wildlife species. “A lot of these little streams are ephemeral (flowing intermittently) and off the radar. I like to call them the Rodney Dangerfields of the aquatic world. They don’t get enough respect.”

Buechler, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee who now is a wetlands consultant, looked at five types of wetlands in the South Platte watershed to see how regulatory confusion has set back preservation. The Corps has authority over projects on streams, rivers and lakes in the United States under Section 404 of the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Conflicting U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 cases have led to regulatory confusion. “The result was the effective removal of regulatory oversight and protection of the fish and wildlife habitat and other important functions on 20 million acres of so-called geographically isolated wetlands in the lower 48 states,” Buechler wrote in the report. Under one interpretation, the Corps has jurisdiction only in “navigable waters” or tributaries. That leaves fens (mountain bogs), playas (shallow basins) and intermittent streams at risk, Buechler said.

The groups support federal legislation, S.787, which was introduced last year to clarify the Corps role in enforcing the Clean Water Act, said Jim Murphy of the National Wildlife Federation. The bill, as introduced, would give the Corps permit authority over habitats like those of concern to the wildlife groups…

Buechler looked at fens near Fairplay, a lake in a residential development in Westminster, a playa wetland in Washington County, a dry creek subject to flooding near Broomfield and a creek with urban and industrial encroachment near Aurora…

“We all live downstream. Watersheds are connected systems, and if degradation of wetlands and discharge of pollutants and fill material are allowed in headwater areas, those impacts will over time migrate downstream to mainstream reaches and effect drinking water as well as fish and wildlife habitat,” Buechler wrote in the report.

More S.787 coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Piñon Ridge mill to open in 2012…maybe

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Energy Fuels Corp. plans to build the Piñon Ridge mill in the Paradox Valley of Montrose County, about 12 miles west of Naturita. The company applied to the state health department for a permit to operate last November. By law, the department has until early 2011 to either issue or deny the permit, Energy Fuels President George Glasier said Tuesday at a Colorado Mining Association conference. “If we didn’t think we could get the license, we wouldn’t have spent the time and money,” Glasier said.

The health department has scheduled a public meeting about the mill for Feb. 17 in Montrose…

“One of the things the United States needs badly is new uranium mills, because existing mills just cannot handle all the demand there’s going to be,” Glasier said. Only mills in Blanding, Utah, and Cañon City have processed uranium recently. The Naturita mill would spur new mining in Colorado and would draw workers from Cortez to Grand Junction, Glasier said. After state approval in January 2011, the mill could be built in nine months and operating by early 2012, Glasier said.

Others aren’t so sure. “That may be the plan he’s promoting,” said Travis Stills, a Durango-based lawyer for the mill’s opponents. “That doesn’t sound very realistic.” In addition to state approval, Energy Fuels needs to secure water rights, an air-quality permit and Environmental Protection Agency blessings for the design of its tailing cells, Stills said. The EPA in particular has a track record of being tough with uranium companies, Stills said. “That’s what a promoter does, is promote a best-case scenario,” Stills said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

USDA announces drought relief for Montezuma, Dolores, Mesa and San Miguel counties ag producers

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Feb. 1 that the two counties, along with Mesa, Montrose and San Miguel counties, were granted disaster designation as a result of crop damage due to drought. Fremont County was also granted the designation due to frost and freezing temperatures.

The Western Slope experienced a wet spring that turned into a very dry summer in 2009, according to a statement from the state department of agriculture. As a result of the dramatic shift in moisture levels, various crops in the listed counties were damaged to an extent that warranted disaster designation. The designation was made in recognition of the hardships faced by producers in the midst of adverse conditions, whether drought or frost…

The official designation opens up opportunities for area producers to secure low interest emergency loans and other federal funding, according to Paul White, executive director of the Montezuma County Farm Service Agency. “This designation releases disaster assistance immediately through emergency loans administered by FSA,” White said. “For those producers who had crop insurance or Noninsured Assistance Program coverage on crops, they will be allowed to sign up for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payment Program.”[…]

To qualify for assistance funding, producers must suffer at least a 10 percent production loss to at least one crop of economic significance due to natural disaster…

For more information, contact the Montezuma County Farm Service Agency at 565-8879.

More Montezuma County coverage here.

Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Association open house February 16

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From email from the ACWWA:

ACWWA will be hosting an Open House on Tuesday, February 16 from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM at 13031 East Caley Avenue, Centennial, CO 80111. Please stop by to learn about the ACWWA Flow Project, water conservation tips, construction projects, and water supply. Staff will be here to answer any questions you may have.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Steamboat Springs: Meeting tonight to discuss Yampa regulations for this season

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From Steamboat Today:

The city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission will hold a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center, to discuss last year’s regulation monitoring, education and enforcement efforts on the Yampa River. The commission directed city staff last year to work with volunteers to address concerns expressed by the public about impacts — including trash, illegal parking and alcohol consumption — from a variety of river uses. Wednesday’s meeting will review last year’s efforts and discuss efforts for 2010. Call 879-4300 for more information.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

HB 10-1188 — Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right passes out of committee

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

[Texas developer, Lewis Shaw], who plans to build ranch estates along the river, told the House Judiciary Committee he gave the rafters a year’s notice. “This is a case of, ‘Do good fences make good neighbors?’ ” he said. “We have enjoyed being very good neighbors, but I think I’d like a good fence, too.” But the committee said that proverbial fence is meant to keep people out of private property. Water flows in rivers owned by the public. It approved the bill 7-3…

A 1979 Colorado Supreme Court decision in People v. Emmert said rafters who touch the bank or riverbed are considered criminal trespassers, but subsequent laws changed that to a civil charge. The civil trespassing question has never been tested in court but came close when a Gunnison County landowner along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River sued an outfitter that had been rafting a section of river for decades. The case, however, never made it to trial because the rafting company eventually sold its assets and went out of business, which sent ripple effects throughout the rafting community, said Lori Potter, an attorney for the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

“There is no taking of property,” she said. “There is no taking … because it (predates) the property rights.”

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Pagosa Springs: New whitewater features meeting recap

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Here’s a look at the history and current planning for whitewater features on the San Juan River through Pagosa Springs, from Bill Hudson writing for the Pagosa Daily Post.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.