Delta: Selenium summit recap

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

The day-long seminar brought an estimated 100 people to hear a lineup of geologists, biologists and water and soil specialists discuss the difficulty of managing selenium, a naturally occurring mineral found in high concentrations in Mancos Shale. It’s estimated the selenium-rich Mancos Shale in the Gunnison River Basin and the Uncompahgre Valley accounts for 61 percent of the selenium deposited in Lake Powell each year, said Sonya Chavez de Baca, task force coordinator.

Denis Reich of the Colorado State University Extension Service in Grand Junction showed a Google Earth map showing selenium concentrations in the Uncompahgre Valley. Although most of Uncompahgre Valley is an area of concern, “Loutzenheizer Arroyo (near Delta) is considered the largest concentration of selenium in the Uncompahgre area,” said Reich. “If we could find a way that allows us (to cut down selenium contributions from the Uncompahgre Valley), that would go a long ways to solving the selenium problem in the Colorado River,” Reich said.

Land use change, particularly when previously unirrigated lands have water put on them, is a big contributor of selenium to the waterways, said David Dearstyne of the Natural Resource Conservation Service. An example is the development of unfarmed lands around Montrose and Delta, where lawns, ponds and septic systems now are putting water on selenium-rich soils…

…managing selenium is important, Osmundson explained, because it accumulates and causes defects and reproductive problems in fish and wildlife, including endangered native fish in the Colorado River.

One way to manage selenium transportation in irrigated fields is lining ditches to prevent seepage into deeper soils where selenium is found. Ditches were lined in the Grand Valley starting in 1988 through the Colorado River Salinity Control Program. There currently is no federal program to deal with selenium but lining ditches to control salt transport and leaching also controls selenium. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association is lining ditches in the area it serves, said association manager Marc Catlin, but it’s very expensive.

More water pollution coverage here.

Juniata Reservoir fish consumption advisory due to mercury

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Emily Anderson):

The statement adds that the city “is extremely concerned about public misinterpretations of the potential listing of its pristine terminal drinking water source reservoir as being impaired by mercury,” because the reservoir is at risk for addition to a state list of bodies of water that don’t meet water quality standards. The reservoir was adopted as a “high priority” on the list when it received preliminary approval from the state Water Quality Control Commission on Feb. 8. Although most bodies of water on the list are included because of water contamination, Juniata Reservoir and a few other bodies were included solely for having a fish-consumption advisory, according to Steve Gunderson, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s water quality division. “The levels of mercury in the water, you wouldn’t be able to detect them,” Gunderson said. “You’re talking extremely low mercury, but it accumulates in the fish. Gunderson said state health officials are meeting with city officials about taking Juniata off the list if they can get rid of all contaminated fish or isolate the reservoir. The final list will not be adopted until March 9.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Manassa and Monte Vista ordered to chlorinate

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Monte Vista and Manassa, like nine other valley communities, had operated their domestic water systems for decades with a disinfection waiver from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. But the state health department has withdrawn the waivers for Monte Vista and Manassa after the two towns submitted a series of positive tests for coliform stretching back to the first half of the decade. Coliform is a broad class of bacteria, whose presence may be a preliminary indicator of disease-causing agents in the water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the case of Manassa, testing also revealed a positive for E. coli in Oct. 2008, said Ron Falco, safe drinking water program manager for the state health department. Monte Vista has been chlorinating its water with a temporary treatment system since May, although the town, which serves 2,200 taps, has been weighing whether to appeal the state’s chlorination order. The town is waiting for a report from its engineers before making a decision and hopes to respond to the state by the end of next month, City Manager Don Van Wormer said.

More water treatment coverage here.

Copper Mountain Metropolitan District and Upper Blue Sanitation District board member elections coming up

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From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen):

The [Copper Mountain Metropolitan District] provides water, sewer, fire and television services to the Copper area. The board sets policy carried out by about 22 full-time employees. Regular board meetings occur at 8:30 a.m. on the last Friday of each month at Copper Mountain Chapel, 630 Copper Road. Four-year seats held by incumbents Ben Broughton and Karl Anutaare up for election. Eligible candidates — who must be qualified electors — may pick up self-nomination forms at 0477 Copper Road on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. All forms must be received by 5 p.m. on Friday.

Meanwhile the Upper Blue Sanitation District also needs to fill two seats this spring. Here’s a report from Robert Allen writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

The Upper Blue Sanitation District board will oversee completion of a $34 million treatment plant expansion as well as extension of sewer lines into Blue River in the coming years…it’s not too late for others to sign up and run for either of the four-year terms. Self-nomination forms must be filed by Feb. 26. Call (970) 453-27 The board meets at 5:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at 1605 Airport Road in Breckenridge.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Douglas County Commissioners are on board for the project no matter who builds it

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A conflict between entrepreneur Aaron Million and the South Metro Water Supply Authority has spilled over into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ evaluation of a 560-mile pipeline proposed from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado’s Front Range. After Douglas County commissioners wrote a letter expressing interest in the project, South Metro President Charlie Krogh and Executive Director Rod Kuharich sent a letter to the Corps saying the district has “no interest” in the Million Project. “The South Metro Water Supply Authority future water supply plans do not include, nor do we wish to be considered part of this project,” the letter stated…

Last year, Million accused Parker Water Director Frank Jaeger and the South Metro district of attempting to “high-jack” the project.

Douglas County commissioners in a Dec. 29 letter to the Corps said the project would be interested in 40,000 acre-feet from the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline. It was one of a series of letters identifying the need for more than 375,000 acre-feet of municipal or agricultural water in Colorado and Wyoming…

[Commissioner Steve Boand] confirmed that Douglas County remains interested in any water supply that brings in more water. “We view the Flaming Gorge Project(s) as a single enterprise regardless of whether it is called the ‘Million’ or ‘Jaeger’ project,” Boand said.

Meanwhile the project’s visionary, Aaron Million, is touting the potential for preventing ag dry-ups as a reason that the Arkansas Valley should get on board, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The project has tremendous benefits to preventing ag dry-ups,” said Aaron Million, who heads a group of investors hoping to build the 560-mile pipeline. “The water coming into the Arkansas River basin would have conservation restrictions that would benefit agriculture.”[…]

“This is a tremendous opportunity to alleviate pressure on the water supply around Denver and up north,” Million said, adding this would also reduce the chances of more diversions from the Arkansas basin. “The Corps of Engineers has agreed to move the project forward. This is without question the largest base of water users in Colorado that has come together for a project.”[…]

Million wants to develop the project privately, but tailor its use for public benefit, in the same way toll roads like E-470 have been developed. Private efficiencies can reduce costs and clear hurdles that have stifled public water development, Million said. “Other projects have been postponed because they rely on public funding,” he said.

Tim Walsh, a partner in the project, said the comments raised during the Corps scoping period already have changed the project. The route of the pipeline will come from the west side near the northern end of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, hooking up with a river intake just above the reservoir, but below Green River. That eliminates other points above Green River and a southerly route that would take water from the southern part of Flaming Gorge Reservoir near the dam. “The route we’re looking at addresses about 85 percent of the negative comments,” Walsh said.

Because the water is coming in from another basin, there would be increased reliability of supply. Also, once the water is used in Colorado, the return flows could benefit downstream users because imported water can be used to extinction. There also are possibilities for hydroelectric power generation because of the drop in elevation of 3,500 feet at one point along the pipeline route as it moves from Lake Hattie in Wyoming to the South Platte River, and again as the pipeline drops after crossing the Palmer Divide into the Arkansas River basin.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Lower Ark and Southeastern working to get Aurora federal legislative approval to use the project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District sued the Bureau of Reclamation in federal court over a 2007 contract that allows Aurora to store and exchange water at Lake Pueblo. As part of a settlement last year, the Lower Ark and Aurora agreed to try to persuade Congress to adopt legislation that officially lets Aurora into the Fry-Ark project. The federal court case was put on hold for two years. Thursday, the South- eastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board was given a progress report on how that legislation is developing. “It all will depend on whether Rep. (John) Salazar is ready to move or not,” Executive Director Jim Broderick said. Reps. Salazar, Betsy Markey and Ed Perlmutter — all Colorado Democrats — hosted meetings about the possibility of legislation and other water issues in Rocky Ford and Lamar last year. By the end of the year, no legislation had been introduced. The Southeastern district has supported the Aurora legislation since 2003, as part of its own agreement with the suburban Denver city of 300,000…

Meanwhile, the two districts took slightly different tacks this week in dealing with two water court filings by Aurora. Aurora is seeking a change of use for water in the Busk-Ivanhoe Ditch, which it shares with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The ditch was once agricultural and owned by the High Line Canal. Pueblo already has a decree for uses other than agriculture. Aurora and Climax Molybdenum have formed the Fremont Pass Ditch Co. after buying the Columbine Ditch from the Pueblo Board of Water Works last year. They are seeking a change of use related to their own operations. Both are transmountain diversions, and identical water court cases have been filed in Water Divisions 1, 2 and 5.

The Lower Ark board Wednesday voted to enter the cases in order to monitor them and to protect the interests of their own transmountain diversion, the Larkspur Ditch. Lower Ark is buying Larkspur, which imports water from the Gunnison River basin, from the Catlin Canal. The Southeastern board voted to file a statement of opposition in the Busk-Ivanhoe case because the diversion for that tunnel is above the Fry-Ark collection system on the Western Slope.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Upper Ark data collection project moving along swimmingly

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From The Mountain Mail (Audrey Gilpin):

The $815,000 project began in September 2008. Seven of 15 collection platforms have been installed as of Feb. 11, district general manager Terry Scanga said. Using Campbell Scientific Equipment of Utah, platforms measure surface water and will be used for reservoir regulation in connection with filling and releasing. Data platforms on reservoirs will also have weather stations. A transmitter on the platform sends data via Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, administered by the National Environmental Satellite Data Information Service. Scanga said measurements are collected every 15 seconds and are used with a computer program providing scenarios for water exchanges. The information, Scanga said, will help with reservoir operation and assist in exercising exchanges to storage without injury to water rights.

Data collection platforms are completed and on-line at North Fork Reservoir on the North Fork of the South Arkansas River, Lester-Attebery augmentation station in Fremont County, Cottonwood Reservoir on the South Fork of Cottonwood Creek; Rainbow Lake Reservoir, North Fork of the South Arkansas River gauge, Cottonwood Creek stream gauge near the hot springs and on the South Arkansas River below Tenassee Ditch. Scanga said the platform on the Tenassee Ditch cost $90,000. It will be administered by the state and was paid for jointly by Salida, Poncha Springs, Lower and Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy districts and Mount Massive Lakes…

Additional platforms set for installation by September are the Texas Creek stream gauge in Fremont County, Trout Creek Ditch, Poncha Creek stream gauge, Gray’s Creek-O’Haver Reservoir, Boss Lake, South Arkansas River near Hydro No. I below Garfield, Deweese Reservoir in Custer County and the Grape Creek gauge in Custer County.

More Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.

2010 Colorado legislation update

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Lawmakers were busy trying to balance the budget this week. Here’s a report on the week’s happenings at the state capitol in Denver, from Marianne Goodland writing for the Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

The General Assembly this week is working on HB 1327, which initially planned to transfer the CWCB construction funds, $19.6 million that it gets from federal mineral lease revenues, into the general fund to help shore up the state’s 2009-10 budget. HB 1327 was amended by the House on second reading Wednesday to restore the funds for the construction fund. The vote to restore the funds drew strong support from legislators of every party: 24 of the House’s 27 Republicans voted in favor of restoring the dollars, as did 14 of the chamber’s 37 Democrats and Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison…

SB 27, which would impose a $500-per-day fine for illegal diversions of surface water, sailed through the Senate in the past week. The bill got unanimous support from the Senate on Monday and is now awaiting action from the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. It is sponsored in the House by Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango. SB 27 would impose the same fine for illegal diversions of surface water that is in place for illegal diversions of ground water. Supporters say that not having a fine for surface water diversions means those who divert water illegally are slow to stop when they are notified of the violations; the potential of a fine means resolving the problem in weeks versus months.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The state’s water construction funds have been a model of self-reliance, allowing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to operate without taking a dollar from the state’s general fund. But after $107 million of the funds were taken to balance the state budget last year, the agency’s ability to continue making loans was hamstrung, CWCB Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news

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From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

“Runoff volume from snowmelt later this spring and early this summer is expected to range from 70 to 90 percent of normal over much of the upper Colorado River and its tributaries in central and northern Colorado, Bryon Lawrence [a hydrologist with the National Weather Service] wrote this week…

The runoff forecast for the Roaring Fork River from April through July is that the river will flow at 83 percent of its thirty-year average at its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Last year at this time, the National Weather Service expected the Roaring Fork to run at 116 percent of average. The Fryingpan River is expected to flow into Ruedi Reservoir at 74 percent of the 30-year average. The Colorado River is expected to run at 76 percent of average through Glenwood Springs and 79 percent of average at Cisco, which is near the Westwater Canyon boat ramp. And the Colorado River flowing through Cataract Canyon and into Lake Powell is expected to be running at 73 percent of average this spring and summer. The Yampa River is expected to be 72 percent of average at Maybell, Colo., as is the Eagle River at Gypsum. And the Gunnison River is expected to be at 83 percent of average at its confluence with the Colorado River in Grand Junction.

Meanwhile storage is in such good shape in the Arkansas Valley that 5,500 acre-feet of Aurora’s excess capacity contract storage water may spill. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Aurora, as an out-of-basin user of the project, has the lowest priority in accounts that would be evacuated by April 15 to ensure the dam has adequate capacity to contain a flood. The spill could be avoided if other water users call for water before that time, Vaughan added. Levels in Lake Pueblo are higher than last year, and that has caused some juggling by water planners. Earlier this week, the Pueblo Board of Water Works discussed contingencies if a wet spring put some of its water stored in Lake Pueblo in danger of a spill — a remote possibility, according to Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the water board…

Snowpack is at 90 percent in the Arkansas River basin, 73 percent in the Colorado River basin and 82 percent in the Roaring Fork sub-basin, where Fry-Ark Project water is exported.

Grand County Commissioners present Grand County Stream Management Plan to Denver Water Board

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Commissioners, the county manager and their water experts attended a Denver Water Board meeting on Wednesday to officially present the Stream Management Plan to the utility’s board members. Their team of water consultants has been checking the methodology behind the Grand County-initiated plan since the start, but some board members have only a vague knowledge about Grand County’s direction, according to Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. “I thought it went well,” said Newberry on Thursday. “The Stream Management Plan was well-received.”[…]

From the use of widely-accepted practices studying 80 miles of river system including seven tributaries in Grand County, the draft report of the Stream Management Plan paints a sobering picture of the area’s rivers. It shows that adult trout habitat is in short supply. Late-summer flows on the rivers are too low, causing late-summer water temperatures to frequently exceed state standards. Rapid flow changes near dams are problematic. And, the rivers suffer from too much sediment (most severe on the upper Fraser). Flushing flows — high-magnitude flows that flush sediment, bring needed oxygen to spawning beds and carry away waste— are too low and infrequent on some reaches, and control structures in the system create barriers for fish to pass. “There is a high PH on the Fraser upstream of Ranch Creek, we don’t know why but we’re monitoring it,” Wesche said of some key findings in the study, adding that a stretch of the Fraser River was flagged for pollutants from leaked discharge at the Moffat Tunnel’s west portal.

Target flows, or flows needed for stream health during winter and summer, as well as flushing flows, are specifically identified in the draft stream plan to mark what is needed to improve river health. There is also a working list of restoration projects, such as channel bar improvements, improved spawning habitat at Ranch Creek, culvert enlargements and implementation of sediment ponds on the upper Fraser.

The “million-dollar question,” however, centers on phase three of the plan, according to county officials who at Wednesday’s meeting with Denver aimed to get a nod of agreement that the city water providers were willing to work with Grand County in recognition that the plan is a valid testament of river health. Denver Water is “comfortable working within that science,” as long as the plan is used as a “guidance” document and not used in “some sort of regulatory fashion,” said Denver Water’s Director of Planning Dave Little on Thursday. “Science is subjective,” he said. “Some think that putting the word ‘science’ on it means it’s absolute, but there is a lot of personal judgment and personal opinion involved in interpreting data.”

Denver Water has not objected to the county’s approach in using the stream management plan as a basis for negotiating ways to manage impacts to the river system. “We’ve agreed not to argue the science but to concentrate on providing solutions for the impacts,” Little said, adding that the Denver Water Board is behind using the plan on “how to best apply limited resources to get the best value from a stream-health point.”[…]

While phase one of the plan included inventory and review of stream data and phase two presents scientifically-based recommendations of stream flow, phase three will take the involvement of Denver Water and the Northern Water Conservancy District, the Division of Wildlife and others to ensure coordination of diversions, reservoir releases and restoration of river reaches actually happen. Grand County officials call it “sharing the risk.” For part of phase three of the plan, they are also sharing the cost. Denver Water and Northern each put in $100,000 to help pay for the study.

As part of Denver and county negotiations in regard to the Moffat Firming project, a list of enhancements to river health has been offered by Denver Water, and how those items fit into the findings of the stream management plan are still being talked about among stakeholders.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Dillon: Water and sewer rate hike

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From the Summit Daily News (Caitlin Row):

Because Dillon’s water and sewer costs aren’t covered by its revenues, treasurer Carrie McDonald said the town must increase its rates. “The No. 1 reason to increase rates is to maintain the water and sewer fund into the future — including operation, maintenance and capital projects,” McDonald said…Rate increase information won’t be available to the public until Feb. 26. McDonald however noted that rather than have one rate across the board, the town will use different rate structures based on three types of customers — single-family, multi-family (like condominium complexes) and non-residential. New rates will be posted on Dillon’s website and made available at the town hall.

More infrastructure coverage here.