One town tends toward cowboy boots, Stetsons and pickups. The other toward hiking books, knit caps and Subarus. There are a lot of differences between the Montrose and Telluride areas, though they’re located near each other. One more difference was on display in two public meetings Wednesday and Thursday about a uranium mill planned near Paradox. The mill, called Piñon Ridge, would take in 500 tons of uranium ore every day and churn out a small number of metal drums full of yellowcake, a radioactive substance used as nuclear fuel. The historic mining town of Telluride seems, by and large, opposed. The historic ranching community of Montrose seems, by and large, supportive.
From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Dave Vickers):
Nearly all of the 27 entities that provide water to Otero County residents heard [at a meeting at Otero Junior College Tuesday night] Bill Hancock from Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Gary Barber from Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority explain the potential benefits of forming a rural water authority.
Barber said he and Hancock have been working for the past six months to identify problems rural water providers currently face and are expect to encounter in coming years. They have also begun to identify solutions to those various problems, of which compliance with federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards will be paramount in the future and could pose tremendous financial burdens on the water providers, especially the smaller companies that have as few as 20 customers. “Please join us in making this happen,” Barber said, noting that if water providers in Southeastern Colorado move quickly to address the proposal with their separate boards of directors, formation of the quasi-governmental authority could begin as soon as next fall. Barber said the greatest benefit a rural water authority could bring to the region would be the ability to gain access to grants and loans that would help solve the myriad problems water providers face today. Nearly all water providers aren’t eligible to apply for such funding currently because of their status as private, for-profit companies.
The proposed Moffat Project would expand Gross Reservoir near Boulder by as much as 72,000 acre-feet…
The additional water in Gross Reservoir would be diverted from the Fraser River and Williams Fork River basins in Grand County, as well as South Boulder Creek. The project would also impact water bodies in Summit County, including Dillon Reservoir and the Blue River. “In the lead alternative, they’ll remove 4,800 acre feet of water from the Blue,” said Steve Swanson, executive director of the nonprofit Blue River Watershed Group. “Some people say that’s not a lot of water. But for the Blue River, especially during a dry season, it’s a lot of water, and it can translate to a lot of different impacts.” Even during wet months, water diversions can have negative impacts on river basins. High flows create a flushing effect that removes sediment that builds up in the river bed, and such flushing is critical for fish populations. Furthermore, rafting along the Blue River depends on early-season high flows…
Denver Water says it will experience a shortfall in its supply of 34,000 acre-feet per year by 2030. The agency says it will address 16,000 acre-feet of the shortfall through water conservation measures, leaving an annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet…
The Blue River Watershed Group will hold a public forum on the proposal in advance of the comment deadline. Water experts and representatives from local agencies and nonprofit organizations will discuss the project and its impacts for members of the public interested in learning more and weighing in on the proposal. The forum will take place at 6 p.m., March 4 at the Summit County Community and Senior Center near the County Commons.
More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.
The Paonia Town Council is reviewing the water ordinance and the possibility of raising monthly water bills. Kristin Chesnik, Paonia’s finance officer, has told Mayor Neal Schwieterman that a $3 to $3.50 a month increase may be needed to cover expenses. That equals a 20 percent increase. Trustee David Weber said at the Feb. 9 water work session, “Paonia is not the place for heavy use of water.” According to Weber, just 10 taps use 14 percent of the water. Some of the heavy water users are the car wash, schools, Paonia Care and Rehabilitative Center and the laundromat.
Here’s a long article on current and proposed geothermal projects, from Penny Stine writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Geothermal resources fall into three categories: electrical power generation, direct use and geothermal heat exchange systems, also known as geoexchange or ground source heat exchange…
The town of Rico near Telluride is also trying to capitalize on the naturally occurring hot water that lies beneath the town. Unlike some towns with hot springs, Rico doesn’t have surface water, but the same study that identified the Mount Princeton area as the best location in the state for geothermal activity identified Rico as the second best location. “My sense is that people in Rico are gung ho for capitalizing on geothermal in some way that benefits the town,” says Matt Downer with the Rico town council. “People are seeing it as a real benefit.”
Rico will have to drill down to reach the hot water and is still in the idea stage of development. Cost estimates to build a power plant, the amount of electricity that a possible plant could generate and the upgrades that would have to be made to the transmission lines are merely wild guesstimates at this point. Should the citizens of Rico decide a geothermal power plant is out of reach, they’d still like to explore direct use of the resource. Possibilities for direct use include heated sidewalks (not a bad idea in a town that gets abundant snow and sits at an elevation of 8,800 feet), heating commercial or municipal buildings or even creating a hot springs resort.
In order to increase the quality of drinking water in the Norwood water district, the commission will stop using chlorine to disinfect water. On March 3, chloramines will be introduced into the system, which will reduce the amount of trihalomethanes, a carcinogenic by-product that occurs when chlorine is mixed with the organic matter in water…
The public is invited to an information session on Feb. 23, at 7 p.m., at the Norwood Community Center.
More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.
The filing concerns conditional water rights SMVC alleges it retained when the town acquired the 572-acre parcel in June 2008 after a lengthy condemnation battle. “It is SMVC’s understanding, based upon relevant case law concerning the use and enjoyment of water rights, that it therefore has retained all land use interests necessary for the full use and enjoyment of SMVC’s retained water rights, including the SMVC Conditional Water Rights,” attorneys for the company notified the town last February in a letter obtained by The Watch through a public records request. In essence, the company is putting forth a legal argument that maintains it has the right to access the Valley Floor and to construct whatever facilities there it deems necessary in order to exercise its water rights – including buildings or reservoirs.
More coverage from The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):
In January, SMVC filed an application with the District Water Court seeking to make changes regarding points of diversion, conditional water rights, ground water rights and others on the Valley Floor. And on Tuesday afternoon, the Telluride Town Council voted unanimously to file a statement of opposition in the case. The town has until the end of February to file its statement.
The statement of opposition is a legal maneuver that makes the town a party to the proceedings. In water court proceedings, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a dispute. However in this instance, the town is opposed to some of SMVC’s assertions in the application about its water rights on the Valley Floor, according to Town Attorney Kevin Geiger. SMVC may have had water rights on paper that were proposed for the land at one time, Geiger said. But “now that they don’t own that property anymore, it seems highly doubtful that they can move forward on that.”[…]
[Chris Cummins, an attorney who represents SMVC] said the purpose of the application is to make changes to SMVC’s conditional water rights in light of the town’s condemnation. He did not comment on the disagreements the town and SMVC have over those rights.
In a July 2009 letter made public Tuesday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry wrote that, in its environmental review of Million’s project, the Army Corps should seriously consider the harm the pipeline would do to Soapstone Prairie, which was opened as a city natural area just last year. “At Meadow Springs Ranch, the proposed (pipeline) routing could seriously impact water infrastructure critical to ranch cattle operations and would traverse acreage included in a formal watershed protection program designed to protect the local aquifer as a drinking water source,” Atteberry wrote.
He said the city believes the pipeline would be “highly detrimental” to natural resource values at Soapstone Prairie and threaten endangered species and archaeological sites. The city, he said, recommends the pipeline be routed away from Soapstone Prairie. “In short, it makes little sense to bisect the heart of a previously undisturbed area with a major pipeline when viable alternatives exist,” Atteberry wrote.
More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):
In letters written to Million in January, the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and the East Larimer County Water District both said they each want 5,000 acre-feet of water from the pipeline annually…
After the city raised concerns about the pipeline’s impact on Soapstone Prairie, Million said he offered to move the pipeline around the natural area. “He indicated he would try to do that,” said John Stokes, Fort Collins Natural Resources director. “If he can do that, that would be great, if in fact they ever build the project.”
More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.
Bump and update:FromThe Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):
In a 40-25 vote, the House approved a bill that allows licensed river outfitters to briefly touch the riverbanks and portage around obstacles when streams flow through private land. Republicans Ellen Roberts of Durango and Scott Tipton of Cortez voted no because of concerns the bill could violate private property rights…
Two Durango-based rafting companies applauded the decision Tuesday. “I have had problems with landowners and various things they do like stringing fences across the river,” said Stephen Saltsman, who with Robin Fritch owns Flexible Flyers Rafting Co. Saltsman, who is also a landowner along the Animas River, said he understands the property-rights arguments, but he doesn’t have a problem if someone needs to portage around an obstacle in the river…
Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, spoke for many bill opponents. “We can’t have it both ways. Either we understand the value of property rights, or we don’t,” Sonnenberg said.
Agricultural groups oppose HB 1188, and some predicted grave harm to Colorado ranchers. But all other Western states have greater rights for public use of rivers than Curry’s bill would establish, and agriculture is alive and well in those states, Curry said. “In fact, in Montana you can get out of the boat and wade-fish on private land,” Curry said.
“Today’s vote shows that 1188 is a bipartisan solution,” said Ben Davis, spokesman for the Colorado River Outfitters Association, who noted that the House Minority Leader, Republican Mike May, voted for the bill. “Everyone wants to see Colorado’s rivers stay open for business.”
But certainly not everyone thinks HB 10-1188 is a good idea. The bill has attracted the attention and opposition of private-property advocates, including the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Cattleman’s Association because it gives commercial rafting companies the right to portage across private land to avoid hazards in the river, such as a low bridge or a tree across the river. “It’s not about floating the river, it is about trespassing outside of the river,” Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican and a rancher, said on the House floor while urging a “no” vote on the bill.
The bill also gives commercial rafting companies the right to continue to run stretches of river that have been run the last two years on a commercial basis, and it prevents private landowners from blocking their passage down the river, as a landowner along the Taylor River near Gunnison has threatened to do this summer to two rafting companies. The bill requires that commercial rafting companies clearly number their boats so that property owners can identify individual boats if they feel there has been a problem. And it limits liability to landowners from boaters portaging over their land.
The bill is silent on the rights, or lack thereof, of private boaters passing private land…
But Rep. Christine Scanlan, a Democrat representing Eagle, Lake and Summit counties, said on the House floor Tuesday that “you do actually have a right to float in Colorado,” citing language in the state Constitution that “the water of every natural stream, not heretofore appropriated, within the state of Colorado, is hereby declared to be the property of the public …”
But Rep. Gardner said it was important to read the entire constitutional clause that Rep. Scanlan referred to, which is in a section on mining and irrigation rights. He said the Constitution deals with water rights and did not provide a right to float…
[State Representative Kathleen Curry] remarked on the House floor that she has heard from a lot of landowners “who’ve had bad experiences with commercial outfitters” and that she hoped “we can all be honorable and respectful of others.” She also said that there are broader rights to float, and wade, in other Western states such as Montana, Wyoming and Utah and that the agricultural industry in those states has not suffered because it gives boaters those rights. And Curry pointed out that the Supreme Court in People v. Emmert stated that “if the increasing demand for recreational space on the waters of this state is to be accommodated, the legislative process is the proper method to achieve this end.”
More coverage from The Crested Butte News (Seth Manning):
The bill, H.B.10-1188, passed through the subcommittee after three readings on a 7-3 vote and made it out of the House with 40 votes in favor and 25 votes against. Now it is up to the Senate, which hasn’t yet assigned the bill to a subcommittee, to turn Gunnison Rep. Kathleen Curry’s so called “Commercial Rafting Viability Act” into law…
The only stretches of river locally that have been used by outfitters historically and would be affected by the bill would be the Lake Fork from Lake City to Curecanti, the Taylor River from Lotus Creek to Almont and the Gunnison River from Gunnison to Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Sponsored by state Rep. Kathleen Curry, unaffiliated-Gunnison, HB1188 sparked debate over commercial rafters’ rights to travel public waterways and the rights of property owners. In the end, rafters won out, as the bill passed 40-25…
Opponents of the bill said it strips property owners to their right of exclusion. State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said allowing rafters portage is akin to setting aside circumstances that allow trespassing through one’s house, yard or car. “Once you allow government to start saying who can and cannot come on your property, that’s a very dangerous door,” Sonnenberg said…
The bill makes no provision for private rafters or others to float down the state’s rivers, and they are still subject to prosecution for trespassing.
Bump and update: FromThe Durango Herald editorial board:
If they are smart, members of the Durango Water Commission will take Fred Kroeger out to lunch once in a while. That is because his roots in La Plata County are deep, and what he did not experience in local leadership roles after returning from service in World War II, he learned from the older generation. Hearing his perspectives on Durango’s growth and the role water played will always be valuable to younger decision-makers.
Kroeger, 92 this month, will step down from the city’s Water Commission after 64 years advocating for agricultural and Native American water rights. When asked why he decided to step away from public service, Kroeger was succinct: “I’m 92. I’ve been on some of these boards for 40, 50 years, and I thought maybe it’s time to take a break and let someone else do the right things.”
FromThe Durango Herald via an old Coyote Gulch post:
Fred Kroeger, a longtime advocate for the project, said he attended his first meeting to discuss future water needs in 1947, and in numerous subsequent meetings, the idea for the A-LP was born. “I think it’s wonderful,” Kroeger said. “It is tremendous for our community.” A groundbreaking was held in 1991, but because of delays due to environmental impacts, work did not start until 2002. In addition to the dam, other major components of the project include a 2[product]-mile, 76-inch pipeline between the pumping station next to the Animas River and the reservoir, and the Navajo Nation municipal pipeline from Farmington to Shiprock, a distance of about 22 miles.
More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.