Energy policy — hydroelectric: Delta County is getting a new micro-hydroelectric plant powered by irrigation flows

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

Five cubic feet-per-second of decreed irrigation water which has been irrigating crops for more than a century along Sawmill Mesa Road on the pioneer family Obergfell farm will one day soon be producing electricity as well. The water, which flows in the Uncompahgre Water Users Association F&F Lateral, falls 105 feet from atop California Mesa to the irrigation works of Sandra Tarr, who uses it to water 100 acres of corn and hay along the Gunnison River. At the bottom of that 105-foot fall, Sandra, her husband Pete, and her daughter Janell Dawson are planning to install a small electricity-producing turbine. The turbine will generate electricity, an estimated 15 to 30 kilowatts – more than they expect can be used by three nearby homes of family members. The Tarrs said they are currently in discussions with DMEA for purchase of their excess homemade electricity which, they estimate, will be available 24 hours per day during the eight months of the farm’s irrigating season.

The turbine will be installed on the farm’s headwater. Since the farm has a senior right and is located at the lateral’s end, the water will flow — creating electricity — throughout the irrigating season, even when Sandra is using it for her crops.

More hydroelectric coverage here.

Yuma: City council raises sewer rates

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The council went ahead and moved forward with the proposed sewer rate increase. Sanchez again offered a 33 percent increase, going from the current rate of $12.50 to $16.60. It would raise approximately $90,000 per year in new revenue. Ebert said the increase definitely is needed due to the new sewer truck and some other work that needs to be done. He made a motion to approve the first reading of the ordinance, including making it effective May 1. It was passed on a 6-1 vote with Seward voting against…

The council will have a public hearing regarding this proposed increase at its March 16 meeting, after which it will vote on the second reading of the ordinance.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Sam Houston State University has developed a new bio-reactor water treatment plant

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From Sam Houston State University:

The United States Army has taken delivery of the first two units of a “revolutionary” waste-water treatment system that will clean putrid water within 24 hours and leave no toxic by-products, according to scientists at Sam Houston State University. “The system is based on a proprietary consortium of bacteria – you can find them in a common handful of dirt,” said lead scientist Sabin Holland. “In the right combination and in the right medium, they have the capability to clean polluted water with a very high efficiency very quickly. It truly is a revolutionary solution.” Holland said the physical systems themselves – called “bio-reactors” – use little energy, are transportable, scalable, simple to set-up, simple to operate, come on-line in record time and can be monitored remotely. The first two units, housed in standard 20-foot ISO shipping containers, are being deployed by the Army to Afghanistan.

“The science and engineering technology behind this process have both military and civilian applications,” said Holland. “The technology was developed for remote applications where little infrastructure exists, such as remote military operations, disaster relief and nation-building situations.” “These systems would be immensely useful right now in Haiti,” Holland said. “One of the most pressing threats to public health in the aftermath of the recent earthquake is contaminated water and the lack of infrastructure to clean it up. This technology is an ideal application to mitigate that urgent need.” Holland has managed the research and development of the systems and works for the Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies at Sam Houston State. “We have gone from basic research into the bacteria to actual construction and deployment of the systems in seven years…

“The technology is scalable,” Holland said. “We can make the units as large as required for large scale treatment applications, or as small as a single home unit.” The research has been funded over the last three years by U.S. Department of Defense. The Army’s systems will be deployed in rugged terrain and transported by the Army’s standard heavy trucks using a standard pallet loading system.

More water treatment coverage here.

Montrose: Prescription drug drop off at health fair March 13

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From the Telluride Watch:

Think of it as an annual physical for your medicine cabinet. The public is invited to drop off expired prescription drugs and medicines at the Montrose Memorial Hospital Health Fair on Saturday, March 13 at the Montrose Pavilion.

To help encourage proper disposal of prescription drugs, the Montrose Underage Drinking/Drug Task Force (UDDTF) will host the drug take back as its final public event. The UDDTF has served the Montrose region for seven years and closes its offices in February. MMH staff will provide a pharmacist on site to receive the expired medications and proper disposal will take place thereafter…

The March 13 Montrose Health Fair is open to the public from 6:30 a.m. to noon, offering a multitude of health screenings and blood testing. For more information about the Health Fair, contact the MMH Marketing Department at 970/240-7344.

More water pollution coverage here.

Delta: Seminar on reducing selenium concentrations in local waterways

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From the Telluride Watch:

The Gunnison Basin and Grand Valley Selenium Task Force is hosting a free educational workshop on how land and water users can reduce selenium impacts to local waterways while taking advantage of economic opportunities and agricultural incentives. The “Climbing the Selenium Summit” is scheduled for Feb. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta…

The workshop will feature a host of experts who will present study results that examine the interaction of land, water, development, and wildlife as they relate to selenium. Attendees will learn about the potential effects of growth and development on selenium loading, and about exciting opportunities that exist for landowners, planners and growers to minimize impacts on the environment while taking advantage of economic opportunities and incentives. The agenda includes presentations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the Selenium Task Forces. Interested members of the public, local growers and land use decision makers are encouraged to attend. Lunch and refreshments will be provided and no registration is required.

More Gunnison Basin coverage here and here.

Craig: Willow Creek cutthroat habitat expansion planned for August

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From the Craig Daily Press (Brian Smith):

Currently there is a pure, core conservation population of trout located in northern sections of the creek, but as the river winds toward Moffat County Road 38, the DOW found a mixed population of Brook trout and Yellow trout hybridizing with the cutthroat, DOW representative Boyd Wright said. “We have a conservation strategy for Colorado River cutthroat trout with an agreement between multiple state and federal agencies with the goal to not only protect those populations, but also to expand them where there are opportunities,” Wright said.

The DOW will start the project in August when the water is at its lowest flow. A barrier will be installed first to prevent other trout from entering the area. The project is estimated to cost $15,000. Willow Creek, a catch and release, fly and lure only stream, will see no change in fishing regulations as result of the project.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board meeting recap

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Here’s part one of Bill Hudson’s series about the Pagosas Area Water and Sanitation District board meeting on Monday from the Pagosa Daily Post.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.

Arkansas Basin roundtable recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable had a frank talk about water sales at its monthly meeting Wednesday after Tom Brubaker, a retired gravel business operator from Rocky Ford, told the roundtable in November that most of its members have a poor understanding of the dilemma farmers face. “The economy of the Lower Arkansas basin is in decline,” said Brubaker, whose great-grandfather homesteaded on 160 acres in Bent County. All of the family has left the farming business because it takes increasingly more ground to support a family, he added…

“I’ve farmed on the low end of the High Line for 50 years,” said Don Scofield, a 70-year-old farmer who is talking to a water broker working for the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District in El Paso County. “I’ve got to make a decision.” Scofield has no members to leave the farm to, and would like to retire. “Farming’s a hard life, but it’s a good life,” he said…

Ron Aschermann, a Rocky Ford farmer who now works for Aurora’s revegetation program after selling his farm, talked about a changing landscape farmers on the Rocky Ford Ditch faced. First, they tried to save the sugar beet business when it began to flounder in 1974. A depressed farm market prevented the local purchase of 5,000 acres once owned by the sugar company when it went on the open market. Aschermann helped organized farmers who did not sell to Aurora in 1983, but finally sold to Aurora in 1999. “Our group said ‘no,’ ” Aschermann said. “In those years in between we thought things would get better, but they did not.”[…]

John Schweizer, a Catlin Canal farmer, said his grandfather started farming, his son is taking over the business and two grandsons are also interested. “I have never been interested in selling my water,” Schweizer said. “Then, lo and behold, here comes the Super Ditch. I can lease the water and still own the water rights. It was just what I was hoping for.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The roundtable got an update on a $3 million upgrade to water and sanitary sewer systems in Las Animas, which received a $300,000 grant through the roundtable at its monthly meeting Wednesday. “This is the kind of project they envisioned when they created the roundtables,” said Jeris Danielson, a La Junta water consultant who represents the roundtable on the state Interbasin Compact Committee…

“We need more projects lined up for when there is money available,” Winner said. The roundtable learned that the Joint Budget Committee is looking at taking $25 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board construction fund, and is scheduled to take up the issue today. Thursday…

CWCB Director Jennifer Gimbel, in a letter to roundtables, said the transfer of $25 million from the fund now would leave it about $6 million in the hole. In order to be viable, the fund needs to have a balance of $7.2 million at the end of the fiscal year in June. “Continuing to divert CWCB cash funds to the general fund will reduce the state’s ability to meet water supply needs,” Gimbel said. “CWCB estimates that Colorado’s population will double by 2050 and it will take over $2 billion of projects to help meet the associated water supply needs of that population.” In addition, the proposed water projects bill (HB 1250) is at risk and may have to be withdrawn, Gimbel said. The bill includes funds for satellite monitoring, flood plain mapping and response, weather modification program and the watershed restoration program. “Combined these programs leverage at least $6 million of federal and other nonstate funds,” Gimbel said.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Snowpack news: Colorado River Basin declines 9% since January 1

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

Allen Green, state conservationist with the National Resources Conservation Service, is the latest snow surveys show slightly above average totals in the southwestern mountains while snowpack percentages decreased elsewhere across the state. Green said Colorado’s statewide snowpack was 86 percent of average as of Feb. 1, which is 73 percent of last year’s snowpack totals on this same date. He said this month’s percentage is the lowest since 2003. Snowpack in the Colorado River basin declined by 9 percent since the Jan. 1 snow surveys…

The greatest increase in snowpack percentages was found in the Rio Grande and the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins. “The remainder of the state continued to stagnate with only minor increases during the latter half of January,” Green said. As the winter progresses, the outlook for water supplies continues to point toward below normal runoff volumes, especially in the river basins across northern Colorado, Green said. “The outlook for runoff in the Upper Colorado, North Platte, Yampa, White and South Platte rivers continues to call for well below average flows,” Green said.

During the recent Aspinall Unit Operations meeting in Montrose, the Bureau of Reclamation reported that as of Jan. 20, snowpack in the Gunnison Basin is 79 percent of average and 83 percent of average for the basin upstream of Blue Mesa Reservoir. Blue Mesa Reservoir is expected to fill this spring, said Dan Crabtree, chief of the Water Resources Group in Grand Junction. He also emphasized that with so much of the snow year ahead, the forecast may change between now and May 1.