Energy policy — geothermal: Governor’s Energy Office San Luis Valley geothermal workshop recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

…a group of state officials, business owners and the just plain curious sat down Saturday to talk about a resource beneath their feet at a geothermal workshop hosted by the Governor’s Energy Office…

Nearly 150 million acre-feet of water, much of it hot, sits beneath the valley in the confined aquifer, the deeper of the valley’s two major groundwater formations. Paul Morgan, senior geothermal geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey, said the state was gifted with a high heat flow. That characterization included the Rio Grande Rift, the geological formation that runs beneath much of its namesake river, but Morgan said there is not a lot of specific data about the resource in the area. “We don’t know a lot about most of the San Luis Basin,” he said.

What is known suggests that hot water at a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit can be found in most parts of the valley at about 5,000 feet below the surface. The depth and temperature qualify it as a low grade and likely not of the quality that would be needed to produce electricity. Morgan suggested that the depth to the resource could be as shallow as 2,000 feet in areas where the aquifer had up-flow zones. But he added that the valley’s resource would be suitable for ground-source heat pumps. “They’re very good at heating, but they can’t compete with swamp coolers in terms of the economics of cooling,” Morgan said…

The water use that comes with geothermal development would be regulated by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Users who don’t reinject the water they’ve used to harvest the heat will face a requirement to replace or augment their depletions, said Pat McDermott, staff engineer for the department in the valley. And eventually, should enough users tap the resource, McDermott said his office would have to ensure that new users don’t impact the temperatures of existing wells. “As it gets more and more evolved over time, well-to-well impact on temperature is going to become a big deal,” he said.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Hot Springs in the Upper Arkansas Valley topic of lecture March 8

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From the Salida Citizen:

The geothermal phenomenon in the Upper Arkansas Valley is the topic of a lecture at 7 p.m., March 8 at the Buena Vista Community Center, Pinon Room. This lecture is offered to the public as part of [Greater Arkansas River Nature Association] GARNA’s ongoing “Our Sense of Place”, a year long program teaching about our place in respect to the Arkansas River bioregion. Each topic explores a different topic of the natural world of the Upper Arkansas River Valley to acquaint and promote a ‘rootedness’ in the place we call home.

Dr. F. B. Henderson III, will delve into the geological explanation and history of the multiple Arkansas Valley hot springs. He will talk about what ‘geothermal’ means, where the sources are located, and how they have been used. Fred will also talk about the potential uses of geothermal energy in the future as well as Federal and State regulations and land owner rights protection…

Program cost is free for GARNA members and $5 for non-members. Please call 539-5106 for additional information.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Sterling: Council sets water rate structure

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Judy Debus):

A schedule of revised rates will be determined and presented at the next meeting as exhibits A and B of the previously tabled resolution. The rates will include a minimum charge based on meter size and a volume surcharge of 5 cents per 1,000 gallons beyond the minimum usage. The rate increases will be phased in over the next three years. For example, the proposed minimum charges for a 1-inch meter are $34 in 2010, $54.36 in 2011 and $67.97 in 2012. The minimum volume for a meter of that size is 2,000 gallons.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir ready to store water

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From The Denver Post:

Parker Water & Sanitation District officials announced that construction of the Rueter-Hess Reservoir — which is 180 feet deep and spans 1,400 acres — has reached a stage where water can be received. State officials have approved a request to allow water in nearby Newlin Gulch to be stored in the reservoir.

More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway Board approves project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board voted unanimously to approve the $1.4 billion water delivery project, and to recommend approval to the El Paso County Commissioners, one of the final agencies that must approve the project before contract negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation begin…

SDS requires contracts with Reclamation to use Fryingpan-Arkansas Project facilities. Reclamation approved the project in a record of decision last year, but has not set a date to begin contract talks. “We can begin contract negotiations without those approvals, but we can’t sign a contract until everything else is done,” said Kara Lamb, Reclamation public information officer.

The Fountain Creek board approval came with a couple of new conditions, approved by the board in January. Its approval signifies that the project is in compliance with the district’s visions and goals and serves the best interests of health safety and welfare in the district, according to the resolution passed by the board. The district includes all of Pueblo and El Paso counties.

On the advice of its technical advisory committee and citizens advisory group, the board requested detailed site development plans for the parts of the project that are in the Fountain Creek floodplain between Fountain and Pueblo. The district was given land-use authority in the corridor when the state Legislature created it last year. The district also requested that it be included in the integrated adaptive management plan, which is a requirement of Reclamation approval. The process reviews water quality and quantity issues periodically to determine if further mitigation is needed. The district also included Pueblo County’s permit condition that requires stormwater controls to ensure that SDS does not increase flooding potential beyond current conditions.

Meanwhile, Chris Woodka (The Pueblo Chieftain) sat down recently with Gary Barber, the interim director of the district, to look at what’s happened so far and what the board looks to do in the future. From the article:

The board has had eight months of intense on-the-job training, cooperating with Fountain to permit a new subdivision and recommending against locating a gravel mine near Pikes Peak International Raceway between Interstate 25 and Fountain Creek. The El Paso County Commissioners later approved the gravel pit, contrary to the recommendations of the district and its own planning commission. While all of the members of the district board are experienced public officials, they were in new territory, acting on the advice of attorneys from both counties.

Now, they have an administrator to work on some sticky issues. Barber has plunged into his role, and stresses the “interim” nature of it. Without more funding, the district itself could be interim, he told the board Friday at its monthly meeting. The district only has $100,000 funding this year and a like amount in 2011, thanks to an agreement with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs. It is also cooperating in a two-year, $400,000 effort with Lower Ark and Colorado Springs to complete a corridor master plan. Additionally, Colorado Springs is paying the district $300,000 over three years to study flood-control options on Fountain Creek.

The board also adopted a fee schedule for evaluating land-use proposals and agreed to administer Pueblo grants on Fountain Creek Friday…

The big payday for the district would come in 2016, when the Southern Delivery System is scheduled to be completed. Under Pueblo County’s 1041 agreement, the district would get $49.4 million more over five years from Colorado Springs…

Showing a map with three stars identifying two ongoing projects in Pueblo — a side retention at the North Side Walmart and the Fountain Creek confluence park — and Colorado Springs’ Clear Springs Ranch, Barber said more should be added. “I call it ‘the string of pearls offense.’ I would like to see a dozen projects up and down the creek,” Barber said. He told the board the next year should be spent planning the projects, and the district should launch them in 2011. Without other sources of funding in sight, 2012 could be the year to ask voters to chip in with a tax, he said.

Finally, the district is in line to manage $1 million in grants that Pueblo County garnered for Fountain Creek, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The city is not saying we can’t do these grants,” Scott Hobson, assistant city manager for community development, told the board. “We applied for these grants prior to the formation of the district. We would have partnered with the district.” The grants are for demonstration of a streamside sediment removal system, work toward creating a greenway park on Fountain Creek from Eighth Street to the Arkansas River confluence and for a side retention pond near the North Side Walmart. The district is in a better position to organize the projects, because the city is involved with other projects as well. The city would have to use contractors to coordinate the projects anyway, Hobson said. “It’s difficult for us to move forward aggressively,” he said.

Gary Barber, the interim executive director of the Fountain Creek district, said it is a natural fit for him to get involved with the active management of the Pueblo projects. “I’m going to do the job anyway, spend my time doing this,” Barber said, saying he has already attended about a half dozen planning meetings.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Southern part of state looking average, northern part not so much

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas River basin was at 98 percent of average following a storm that left a foot or more of new snow in the mountains. Statewide, snowfalls are about 90 percent, with 80 percent for basins in the northern half of the state.

After the storms, 3-4 feet of snow with snow water equivalent of 8-10 inches were recorded at most upper elevation Central Colorado measurement points by the Natural Resources Conservation Service…

While the Colorado River Basin was at 82 percent of average, the Roaring Fork basin was at 93 percent…

In the southern mountains, snowfall totals are more impressive, according to the NRCS. Totals measure 60-100 inches, and 15-30 inches in snow water equivalent, in the upper measurement sites on the western slopes of the San Juan Mountains in the Southwest corner of the state. The Rio Grande Basin was at 110 percent of average, with the heaviest snowpack on the west side of the basin in the San Juans.

For the Pueblo area, snowfall has totalled almost 20 inches so far this year, slightly below normal. Precipitation, however, is above normal at nearly 1 inch, compared with 0.56 inches on average. Lake Pueblo continues to fill and is reaching its limits for the flood conservation pool…

Streamflows throughout the region continued to be at about average levels overall, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. Other than the Northwest corner, the state is safe from drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Katie Westervelt):

Nolan Doesken, state climatologist, said such numbers [low snow water equivalent] aren’t uncommon. He also said larger storms typically occur in March and early April and that snow levels can improve.

Noah Newman, a research associate at the Colorado Climate Center, says it is all about wait and see. “We like to track things on a longer-term basis,” said Newman. “Reservoir storage is close to its average. No one is dependent on just one water source.”[…]

Dana Strongin, spokes-woman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the two large river basins, Upper Colorado and South Platte, are at 82 percent and 83 percent of the average, respectively. With the snowiest months approaching, she said it is too early to hit the panic button.

Oak Creek: Looking for answers about treatment plant performance

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From the Steamboat Pilot (Zach Fridell):

During an Oak Creek Town Board meeting Thursday night, Public Works Director Bob Red ding said the treatment facility is strained as it produces 400,000 gallons per day in the summer. When the plant was built in 2004, however, the town was told the plant should be able to produce 1 million gallons. Engineering consultants from the Civil Design firm in Steam boat Springs visited the plant Thursday morning, Redding said, and found that at least a portion of the pipe feeding into the plant is 8 inches in diameter, though it should be 12 inches. The line feeding the plant is about 2 miles long, Redding said, and Board Member Chuck Wisecup said most of that was 10- or 12-inch pipe, but it apparently drops to 8-inch pipe either at the plant or just before. Mayor J Elliott said the worst-case scenario is that the town would have to replace a portion of that pipe, though it’s not clear whether that would solve the problem or if the plant would have to be expanded to meet the expected output. Engineers are working to find a copy of the original blueprints from the state because the state originally funded a portion the plant’s construction, Redding said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Senate Joint Resolution 10-004 passes state house

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The federal government puts up the money in low-interest loans as long as the state pays for a fifth of the costs and the state Legislature OKs the projects on the list. The list includes dozens of projects around the state, including sanitation systems in Cortez, Durango, Bayfield and Pagosa Springs, plus water delivery systems in Cortez, Mancos, Durango, western La Plata County and Pagosa.

This year’s resolution [Senate Joint Resolution 10-004: Water Projects Eligibility Lists] (pdf), though, turned into a partisan fight over wages. The Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency insisted that high wages, on par with union paychecks, be paid on the federally funded projects, even those already in progress. “We’re in pretty tough times here, and to add 5 to 20 percent cost increases to projects that are already under way, it’s unbearable,” said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma.

The sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 4 called the EPA’s conditions “regrettable,” but he has heard from many cities that they can handle the extra cost with little trouble. Cortez, for example, faces a $43,000 cost increase, said Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins…

In the end, SJR 4 passed the House 62-3. It was a different story earlier this month in the Senate, where the sponsor was Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus. The resolution passed the Senate, but only on a 20-14 party-line vote – rare for a resolution that usually gets near-unanimous support.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.