Aurora: Prairie Waters Project update

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From The Denver Post (Carlos Illescas):

Prairie Waters, the city’s new $659 million water-purification and -recycling system, will be completed ahead of schedule and almost $100 million under budget. Project managers attribute the savings to good planning and trimming nonessential features from the plant. They also say the bad economy helped ratchet costs down. Contractors desperate for work submitted low bids for many of the jobs in the construction of the system, Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker said. “We took advantage of a strong bidding environment,” he said…

The city has raised residential water prices, nearly quadrupled tap fees and issued $450 million in bonds to pay for the project…

In good-water years, Aurora could lease water to communities such as Douglas County that are searching for new water sources. “Aurora Water has found something that of course will answer their concerns but also something to help the metropolitan area,” said Rocky Wiley, a former water-management planner for Denver Water who now works for a consulting firm. “It’s a viable answer, and it’s wet water,” Wiley said…

Up to 50 million gallons of water a day will be treated at the purification facility. During peak-demand periods, water treated at the facility will be mixed with mountain water and piped to homes.
“You’re always planning for the hottest day in July, when people are watering their lawns, taking showers, washing their cars, when every spigot is open,” Baker said. “We had to make sure our water supply would meet that demand.”

Aurora Water officials expect to dedicate the facility in September and will begin testing the system by December. It is scheduled to be running in full by the late spring or early summer of next year.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Jackson Lake open to boaters

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From The Greeley Tribune:

The reservoir is free of ice and the boating dock is installed. All vessels will need to be inspected for aquatic nuisance species before launching. That station will open at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on the weekends. The water temperature is in the low 40s, which is dangerous for long-term exposure, so boaters should take precautions. Camping is also open and the shower buildings will open in the beginning of April. Bald eagles have also been spotted at the park lately. Contact Jackson Lake State Park for more information at (970) 645-2551.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right) makes it out of the Senate Judiciary committee 4-3

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Only a last-second decision by Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, kept the bill alive. “I was undecided until the very last second. I’m not kidding you,” Hudak told reporters moments after the vote on House Bill 1188. The bill has pitted rafting companies against private property owners in a legal entanglement that is more than three decades old. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 for HB 1188. It now goes to the full Senate…

Hudak said she remains very concerned that the bill could hurt private property rights. She voted yes only because she thinks the public believes people have a right to float. “This bill is a bad bill, but to kill it is probably bad as well,” Hudak said.

Testimony stretched for more than seven hours, much of it from ranchers and other landowners who argued the bill took away their property rights. Opposition also came from lawyers for a Gunnison developer who is blocking rafting companies from floating a river through his property. Mike Feeley, who represented the developer, said there is no such thing as a “right to float.”[…]

Colorado’s boating law is clear as mud. The constitution specifies that the waters of the state belong to the people. A state Supreme Court case in 1979 found a man guilty of trespassing for treading on the riverbed. In the same decision, the court encouraged the Legislature to clarify the law – something it has not done. The House already has passed HB 1188 in a much different form. Originally, it extended rights only to commercial rafting companies.

Major changes to the bill Monday night were:

– Removing references to English Common Law on the right to navigate rivers.

– Removing the right to portage around obstacles.

– Expanding the scope of the bill to any river that has been floated by a commercial company at any time since 2000.

– Including private boaters among the people with a right to float.

A University of Colorado law professor and several of his students spoke for the rights of private boaters. But the professor, Mark Squillace, wasn’t satisfied with Monday’s changes because the bill does not fully recognize a constitutional right to use the rivers. Colorado has one of the country’s most restrictive floating laws, Squillace said. “Private property rights are alive and well in many other states that recognize broad rights of access – Utah, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico,” he said.

More coverage from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

The measure cleared the Colorado House last month almost entirely on a 40-25 party-line vote, with Democrats arguing that rafters have a right to float, while Republicans said it violated the property rights of local landowners. On a similar party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee sided 4-3 with the floaters’ argument, saying the bill struck a good balance between the two. As a result, some long-establish rafting companies along the Taylor River in Gunnison County said the bill could help keep them from being forced out of business…

Lori Potter, an attorney for the Colorado River Outfitters’ Association, said 42 other states have right-to-float laws, all broader than this bill. “Many (other states) allow fishing, many allow stream access for fishing, some allow hunting,” Potter said. “(HB) 1188 is much more limited … and still ensures that these two rights, the rights of the boater and the rights of the landowner, could still exist.”

More coverage from The Pulse- of Colorado Farm Bureau (Garin Vorthmann):

Amendment language was added to the bill that broadened the bill to include all boaters, not just commercial outfitters. The amendment also expanded the bill to affect more waterways – those that have been commercially ran at least once between the years 2000-2009. Controversial language regarding portaging was removed from the bill but boaters will now be able to get away with incidental touch in order to continue to have forward progress on the river. The right-to-float was also codified in the bill with the new amendment language. The bill was passed 4-3 with Senators Renfroe, King and Lundberg voting in opposition. Colorado Farm Bureau continues to OPPOSE HB 1188 as amended…

Testimony that was given by CFB members was extremely helpful in highlighting the problems with the proposal. Without your help, the bill would have likely passed by a much greater margin.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Jessica Fender):

Kayakers, anglers and all variety of private and commercial boaters could gain the right to float through private land after a state Senate committee on Monday overhauled a bill that has pitted property owners against outdoor enthusiasts. The last-minute amendment addressed a concern of Front Range Democrats, whose constituents’ biggest complaints have been that the original version of House Bill 1188 unfairly applied to commercial outfitters only. But the sweeping changes may have lost the legislation some Republican support in the House. In the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, the revised proposal passed on a 4-3 party-line vote after more than seven hours of debate.

Landowners argued it will be too easy for a stretch of river to be open to public traffic and predicted a deluge of new boaters damaging their property, their river improvements and the businesses they run along Colorado’s waterways. Rafters and other users said that without the legislation, property owners could close off a stretch of river by buying both banks. That could jeopardize the industry and enjoyment of boaters elsewhere, said Jack Bombardier, a landowner and river guide. “This says you can’t be sued and eliminated,” Bombardier said. “That’s all that we’re hoping. The bill will stop the lawsuits, stop the controversy.”

Under the amended HB 1188, river users would not be able to touch the bottom or banks, except to free themselves from snags or to bypass bridges and other obstacles spanning the water. And as amended, any stretch of river that was commercially rafted at least once between 2000 and 2009 would be affected. Bill backers were unclear on whether a state agency or courts through civil lawsuits would ultimately decide which sections qualify…

At one point, Democratic Sen. Linda Newell of Littleton seemed to agree that the complex legal matter deserved a more in-depth look. “What’s working now is fine. It’s my understanding we’re here because of one landowner,” she said during committee. “Why are we creating a law (because of) one landowner?”

More HB 10-1188 coverage here. More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Hayman Restoration Partnership update

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From the Pikes Peak Courier (Norma Engelberg):

Workers from the Coalition for the Upper South Platte are clearing woody debris left by severe flooding last year. They’re hoping to complete the work before another flood washes the jumbled timbers downstream where it can wipe out the bridge at Deckers. Clearing debris along streams in and near the Hayman Fire burn area is the immediate goal chosen by a recently formed Hayman Restoration Partnership that includes Vail Resorts, the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service and smaller local organization such as CUSP. The partnership has, so far, infused $4 million into the Hayman watershed recovery effort. Over the next three years the partnership will focus on meeting its long term goal of stabilizing and restoring the streams in the burn area. Forest service project manager Brian Banks said Horse Creek is emblematic of the what has happened to the forest and waterways after the Hayman Fire in 2002…

Eventually, the sediment washed down during floods will end up in reservoirs, displacing drinking water, he said. “Were taking a holistic approach to the problem,” said forest service project coordinator Bob Leaverton. “We’ll do a variety of things — removing debris, riparian planting, bank stabilization — but we’ll also look up slope where the erosion is happening and at the roads and trails that might be adding to the problem.” Bob Cole, representing the National Forest Foundation, explained that the foundation is the nonprofit arm of the U.S. Forest Service…

Carol Ekarius, director of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte said the four-person crew working in the creek bed is part of the coalition’s paid staff. “We have a thousand volunteers but we don’t let the volunteers play with chainsaws,” she said. She explained that some of the larger pieces of debris will be piled up at the edge of the alluvial fans where sediment is deposited at the mouth of ravines leading into the main stream. The timbers will stabilize the fans’ edges and will later be used to restore the stream banks. She explained that restoration will include placing timbers and J-shaped lines of rocks in places at the edges of the stream. These structures will direct the water and its energy into the middle of the stream, instead of allowing it to spread out and eat away at the banks. Nationally renowned hydrologist Dave Rosgen has been hired to work with the project. “Rosgen literally wrote the book on hydrology,” Ekarius said. “We’re lucky to have him. CUSP couldn’t have afforded him. Even the forest service couldn’t afford a guy like him.”

More restoration coverage here.

Arkansas River streamflow update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

On Sunday, gates on Lake Pueblo dam were releasing about 70 cubic feet per second, while another 36 cfs came through the Pueblo State Fish Hatchery. Monday, the gates were pouring 250 cfs into the river. Winter water is a court-decreed program that allows farmers to store water from Nov. 15-March 15 instead of irrigating fields. This year, about 150,000 acre-feet of water was stored in Lake Pueblo dam, John Martin Reservoir and reservoirs operated by the Colorado, Holbrook, Fort Lyon and Amity canals. That was above the 20-year average of about 143,000 acre-feet. As of Monday, the priority in the Arkansas River was at March 1, 1887, at the Fort Lyon headgate, Witte said…

Releasing water from Lake Pueblo dam will begin to lower the lake’s elevation to flood-control levels by May 1. This month, Lake Pueblo dam reached its highest volume of water in the past 10 years, causing concern that water stored by Aurora in its excess-capacity account might be spilled.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works agrees to supply new Black Hills Energy power plant

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The agreement will mean $5.6 million in revenues to the Pueblo water board, as well as construction of water lines and a backup pumping station at Black Hills’ expense. The water board is expected to approve the agreement at its meeting today. Black Hills plans to have the plant running by June 2011, but there are provisions in the agreement that could lead to some sales of water later this year. Water is used for steam and cooling in electric generation. By 2012, the water board could be realizing more than $1 million a year in revenue for water service to the plant. The initial term of the contract is 20 years, but there are provisions for two 10-year extensions. “We don’t know yet what the demand will be,” said Terry Book, deputy executive director of the water board. Black Hills could take up to 2,530 acre-feet a year under the contract, but would be obligated to “take or pay” for 1,440 acre-feet, Book said. There would be a reservation fee as well for the full amount in case it is needed…

The water used in the Black Hills operation will be fully consumable, either from transmountain supplies or sources within the basin where the consumptive use has been transferred from agricultural purposes.

More coal coverage here.

Snowpack news: Upper Ark and the Spanish Valley get a dumping

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon/Anthony A. Mestas):

Canon City residents awoke Monday to 2-3 inches of snow which yielded 0.63 of an inch of moisture. Custer County residents in the Westcliffe area also reported 3 inches of snow.

Salida residents also measured 3 inches of heavy, wet snow. Monarch Mountain reported 5 inches of new snow providing a nice cushion on the 77-inch base of snow ideal for spring skiers and snowboarders. Monarch has received a total of 275 inches of snow so far this season or nearly 23 feet of snow in five months.

Residents in the Spanish Peaks area were greeted with a white blanket of wet snow Monday morning. A weather spotter in Trinidad reported 4 inches of snow falling overnight Sunday. Residents in Cuchara reported more than 8 inches of snow. Nearby Walsenburg picked up about 6 inches of snow by early Monday.