Colorado Trout Unlimited Annual Auction and Gala

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Every now and then it’s good for the soul to hobnob with a crowd that supports healthy trout waters and riparian areas. That was the common hook for the crowd at Trout Unlimited’s bash last night at the Arvada Center.

It was a hoot.

A TU member from the Wet Mountain Valley told me, “I moved to the Wet Mountain Valley after living under the Redwoods all my life. Now I have 324 days of sunshine per year and miles and miles of trout streams nearby.”

Miles and miles of trout streams indeed.

South Fork of the Republican River restoration efforts update

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Bethleen McCall-Griffiths):

The target area for restoration is southern Washington and Yuma counties, and northern Kit Carson County. In 2002 the YCPCD, USGS and the Tamarisk Coalition mapped the Russian Olive infestation on the North and South Fork of the Republican.

On the North Fork they found that approximately 351 acres were infested. The South Fork had roughly 2,900 acres. A grad student will monitor vegetation return rates and aquatic insects. A total of 283 acres were treated on the North Fork last year.

The YCPCD has developed a comprehensive restoration plan. The restoration steps planned for acreages enrolled to restore the river include planning, control work, bio-mass reduction, re-vegetation, long term monitoring and maintenance. Currently YCPCD has raised roughly $253,000 through grants and other sources. The district also has applications for more than $750,000 still pending. The current program, which is open for enrollment, covers 75 percent of the cost, and the landowner matches that with the remaining twenty-five percent.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments green light lift station project for Wakonda Hills

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

The lift stations will pump wastewater to the Tri-Lakes wastewater treatment facility, according to information from the council. One station will be located south of Hunters Glen Road and the other will be located at the south end of Crestwood Drive. The homes in the area are on septic systems presently, but there is a state requirement that homeowners go on the central sewage system if there is a central wastewater line within 400 feet of their property, said Rich Muzzy, environmental program manager for the council.

Mike Wicklund, manager of the Monument Sanitation District, said the property owners can hook up when they want to. If a homeowner’s septic system is working properly, the owner does not have to hook into the central sewer line. “If their septic system fails the El Paso County Health Department will compel them to hook up,” he said.

More wastewater coverage here.

The Woodmoor Water & Sanitation District wants to drop out of Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority’s negotiations with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

Woodmoor district manager Jessie Shaffer wrote a letter addressed to the authority suggesting the district stay out of the negotiations with the ditch due to a possible conflict with a recent filing for an exchange plan for water in the Lower Arkansas Valley. The letter was written under the direction of the water and sanitation district’s governing board, said assistant district manager Randy Gillette. “They have given us direction that we don’t have to be involved with these negotiations,” Gillette said. “We do want to be a part of the Super Ditch concept […] but it’s always been stated, at least what I’ve heard, is that individual contracts are going to be the bottom line.” In exchange for stepping away from the issue, the water purveyor also wanted to be excluded from the costs associated with the authority’s negotiations with the Super Ditch.

More Super Ditch coverage here and here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): State Senate changes bill to a study

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Technically, the bill is still alive, but all it does now is ask the Colorado Water Congress to study the issue by Oct. 1. The Water Congress is a private group made up of people interested in water. It is the most prominent water lobbying group in Colorado. Seven Democratic senators, including Bruce Whitehead of Hesperus, voted for a plan by Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, to turn the bill into a study Friday morning in the Senate…

[State Senator Mary Hodge] opposed White’s move to do a study. A previous study led by the Department of Natural Resources began in 2000. It took three years and left the issue unresolved. “A study gets us nowhere,” Hodge said.

Only one Republican, Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray, sided with Hodge. Brophy argued against “another blue-ribbon study instead of solving real problems for people in Colorado.” Brophy said the Water Congress should not handle this issue because anyone who pays for a membership can join. “It’s pay to play,” he said.

Whitehead defended the Water Congress as an established group with a good reputation. “I think they would be open to anybody sitting at the table trying to sort out the mess that this bill has created,” he said…

Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress, was in Washington, D.C., on Friday and did not know the Senate handed responsibility for the study to his group. “It’s one of those things – if you don’t attend a meeting, you get put in charge,” Kemper said in a phone interview…

Rep. Kathleen Curry, U-Gunnison, introduced HB 1188 after a developer in her district closed a stretch of the Taylor River to rafting companies. She said Friday if the study passes the Senate, she will risk killing the bill by sticking to her original position.

More coverage from Charles Ashby writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

House Bill 1188, introduced by unaffiliated Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, instead was converted into a study that is to be done by a non-governmental group that primarily focuses on agriculture and municipal water use, not recreation or tourism. The Senate still must formally vote on the bill, which could happen as early as Monday, giving Curry and its Senate sponsor, Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, the weekend to get the votes they need to change it back into its original form…

“There are problems with the bill … in regards to water rights development in the future,” Whitehead said. “The way the bill is currently drafted, it could prohibit future appropriations on these rivers that will be our future supplies in this state.”

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

The CWC is directed to study the issue, taking into account the “legal, economic, environmental and law enforcement issues related to boating through private property.” The amended version of the bill has one more vote to go through in the Senate then it will be sent back to the House. At that time, the House must decide whether to accept the Senate version of the bill. If they do, the bill will be sent to the Governor. If the House does not accept the updated version, the bill may be sent to a conference committee for additional debate.

More coverage from The Mountain Mail (Audrey Gilpin):

Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, said, “These 11th hour amendments [added last Monday in committee] could directly impact water rights.” He referenced an amended landowner liability section of the bill in which a waterway obstruction doesn’t include “in the least restrictive manner necessary” the following structures: diversions, storage, any fence reasonably necessary for livestock, any existing bridge or any fish habitat. Scanga said “necessary” waterway obstruction is unclear. “This could have an impact on water rights if a landowner can’t divert water to get the full decree. “Sometimes a landowner needs to dam an entire stream to get his full decree.”

Before the amendments Monday, the bill stated, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to create a water right or affect any existing water right in any way.” Scanga said because the bill didn’t involve water rights, the district didn’t take a position. He said he’s asking the district water attorney to draft a memo for the board, and members will determine if the district should become involved. “They snuck amendments into the bill that have nothing to do with its purpose,” he said.

Tim Canterbury, president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, echoed Scanga. “A paramount concern to the association is that the bill, as amended Monday, doesn’t protect senior water rights,” he said. Worried about the minimum obstruction to waterway language of the bill, Canterbury said, “Often, during low water, we have to extend our fence into the river to keep livestock contained. If fences are cut, that’s bad for our business.” He said, “The bill’s never been about a right to navigate or float. Frankly, it’s about the right to trespass.”[…]

Greg Felt, co-owner of ArkAnglers and also a water district board member, said the bill could be less controversial if historically run rivers were listed. “Most commercially run rivers are permitted by state and federal agencies. The master list should consist of about 17 or so rivers. Rivers we’ve all heard of.” Small, rarely run creeks, non-commercially run rivers or future floatable rivers, Felt said, aren’t included in the bill. “Boaters aren’t going to be cutting fences or destroying diversion structures. Boaters are about forward progress. We’re about floating.” Felt mentioned local diversions boaters sometimes portage including a dam near Clear Creek, an area below the Royal Gorge during low flow and a diversion dam at the Division of Wildlife Mount Shavano fish hatchery. “We’re talking about the same rivers and diversions we’ve dealt with before,” he said.

Additional major amendments include omitting reference to English Common Law in connection with navigation rights. Other changes omitted “portage,” replacing it with “incidental contact;” clarifying waterway as a “segment of river on which one or more regulated trips have been run in any year from 2000 through 2009” and extending the bill to private boaters.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Supporters of HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) rally in Denver

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Proponents of the comparatively carbon-free nuclear power industry, including Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, maintain the state’s toxic past was born of ignorance about the dangers and new technology makes mining and processing much safer. State lawmakers clearly want more concrete assurances. “Our number one goal as a legislature should be public safety,” Rep. McFadyen said in a release. “This no nonsense legislation ensures toxic waste cleanup and the health of our citizens.”

HB 1348 would require uranium operators to clean up existing problems before applying for expansion permits; allow local governments, the public and other stakeholders to provide input during the Colorado Department of Putlic Health and Environment’s annual reviews of cleanup financing; require uranium companies to notify residents with water wells near groundwater contamination; and require state licensing when companies accept “alternate feed,” or toxic waste from industrial or medical operations.

“Actions have consequences, and uranium companies need to clean up their mess,” said Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, another sponsor of the bill.

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

Though the measure could affect one operating near Canon City, the planned Piñon Ridge mill 12 miles west of Naturita already would be required under existing laws to do much of what House Bill 1348 calls for, said George Glasier, president and CEO of Energy Fuels Inc., which is hoping to open the first uranium mill in the nation in 25 years.

Glasier said the measure, introduced by several southern Colorado lawmakers, is aimed at the Cotter Uranium Mill in Fremont County, which has been plagued with contamination problems since the late 1950s. The lawmakers said they introduced the measure to deal with long-standing concerns over cleanup of that mill, parts of which already are a federal Superfund cleanup site. The bill is aimed at existing mills that release radioactive material into the groundwater, requiring them not only to report how it is being cleaned up, but also ensuring they have set aside enough cash to pay for it, said Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, and the bill’s sponsor. It would bar mills from expanding operations until the contamination is removed, she said…

The bill would make it harder for Cotter to get the site cleaned and make it impossible for other sites, including ones not yet opened, to stay in business, [John Hamrick, Cotter’s vice president of milling] said. “The bill as written essentially will prevent uranium milling within the state because of language concerning release of materials,” Hamrick said. “If you have a shovel full of uranium ore and you dump it on the ground, at that point you have a release that would exceed standards. That’s a poison pill for uranium mills.”

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — solar: Central City Town Council approves solar installation for the water treatment plant

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From the Weekly Register-Call/ Gilpin County News (Lynn Volkens):

The Aldermen approved a purchasing agreement with Sun Spot Solar, LLC to install and maintain solar panels at the Boodle Mill site to power the City’s water treatment plant which is adjacent to the Boodle. 312 panels, each about 3’ x 5’ will cover approximately 6,000 square feet of surface area. The solar system is designed to generate 135,000 Kilowatt hours per year (Kwh/yr), 125% of the monthly average energy consumption needed to operate the water plant. The 70 Kilowatt system will cost $285,000 which the City will pay to Sun Spot over a five year period. The City expects to save 57% in energy costs over the five year period ($10,499 per year, totaling $52,494). At the end of the five year period, the City will purchase the system for $9,975 (3.5% of the installation cost). Energy costs, after purchasing the system, are reduced to $0.00 (based on current consumption). The life cycle of the system is 20-25 years. The water plant remains connected to XCEL as a back-up so the plant will never be without power, however, while the solar panels generate energy, all excess power reversed the XCEL energy meter at the plant and build up a credit that the City can use if needed. With this system the City will pay a fixed rate of approximately 6.5 cents kwh ($7,935 annually) compared to the 2010 XCEL rate of 15.056 cents kwh…

Last October the Council directed the City Manager to look into outsourcing day-to-day operations of the City’s water system. The Council considered two companies and ultimately selected Ramey Environmental Compliance, Inc. (REC) to take over operations of the water plant, pumps, reservoirs and general water distribution system. REC is a Colorado certified operator. The City will pay REC $8,050 per month until the contract is terminated, which can be done by either party with 30 days’ notice. REC is to provide a certified operator daily who is to prepare a hand written report and each visit. The operator will also assist in budget preparation. Operations had been handled by an employee of the City’s Public Works Department. That employee will return to duties with that department.

Thanks to Loretta Lohman at Nonpoint Source Colorado for the link.

More solar coverage here and here.

South Grand Mesa Planning Team is forming to draft a source water protection plan

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

The objective of the effort is to create an official, documented record of watershed areas which are of critical concern to the domestic water providers in the Surface Creek and Ward Creek drainages. Then, with their watershed areas of interest clearly defined, it is hoped the group will continue working cooperatively to identify and mitigate potential impacts to the quality of their domestic source water supplies.

Representatives of a steering committee that will take the work forward, once a final plan is completed, is expected to include representatives from the following domestic water suppliers and others: The towns of Cedaredge and Orchard City, Upper Surface Creek Domestic Water Users Association, Coalby Domestic Water Company, Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District, Grand Valley Ranger District, and WSERC.

According to a draft of the source water protection plan which was distributed last week, the planning team identified the following issues of concern to water quality within the South Grand Mesa source water protection area: agricultural practices, oil and gas development and operations, septic systems, transportation on gravel roads and unimproved trails, private water wells, residential landscaping practices and chemicals, zebra and quagga mussels, reservoir operations and repairs, noxious weeds and invasive plant species, livestock grazing, various routine forestry practices including logging for needed timber sales, recreational vehicle use, wild land fires, above ground fuel storage tanks, Sudden Aspen Decline Syndrome and spruce beetle infestation on Grand Mesa old growth forest, and forest land management practices.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here.

Durango: East Animas Road mudslide video

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Check out the video of the mudslide that has East Animas road in La Plata County closed indefinitely, from The Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews).

Durango: City Council is considering drying up the Animas River through town — proposed river floating rules would ban alcohol

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From The Durango Telegraph:

In a study session next Tuesday, the Durango City Council will consider changes to existing city ordinance that would ban alcohol on the river and at the put-ins and take-outs; put and end to late-night boating missions; and require personal flotation devices for all private boaters. The City is pursuing the clampdown in light of the exploding number of private boaters, most notably tubers, and escalating tensions between them and residents, particularly at the 32nd Street put in. There are also safety concerns over unprepared or inebriated boaters. Over the last few years, Durango Fire and Rescue has responded to a growing number of stranded river users, most of who are not wearing PFDs or proper foot wear.

If commercial traffic is any indication, the Animas River was the third-busiest in the state last year, with 42,000 paying to get their feet wet. Commercial outfitters were not the only ones keeping busy. In 2009, Durango police arrested 38 people at the 32nd Street put-in and issued 68 citations for everything from drunk and disorderly to open container, indecent exposure and littering. “For a while, it’s been unclear if the river is considered a public place where you can’t have an open container,” said Durango Director of Parks and Recreation Cathy Metz. “These proposed changes would make it clear that, yes, it is a public place.”[…]

And while tubers and rafters can expect big changes this summer, kayakers awaiting the much-talked about Whitewater Park upgrades shouldn’t hold their breath. Although hope was to begin construction late this summer, work on the park has been pushed back, possibly as far as 2012 “We haven’t budgeted yet for 2011, but there is a chance the city might not be able to afford it in 2011 because of budget constraints,” said Metz.

In addition to funding, work on the Whitewater Park is also dependent on approval of a 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. The City is in the process of making revisions to the final permit application and hopes to resubmit it this spring. Metz said the permit is for in-stream work as well as work along the eroded river left bank, paralleling the Animas River Trail. “The plan calls for bank enhancement between the river and trail to stabilize the bank, re-vegetate it and provide better access,” she said. Money for the park, expected to cost upwards to $2 million, would come from the ¼-cent sales tax for park improvements approved by city voters in 2005. The City set aside $550,000 for the project in 2010.

As per provisions of the city’s recreational in-channel diversion water rights, which were secured in 2007, the city must build permanent structures to direct the flow. With its RICD, Durango is allowed use of 185 to 1,400 cubic feet per second, depending on time of year, for the 1,200-foot stretch from Smelter Rapid down.

The design includes four river-wide features as well as various smaller ones, was the end result of numerous public meetings and river-user input, and was completed by Scott Shipley, of S20 Engineering, in Boulder.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Pagosa Springs: Dry Gulch Reservoir update

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) boards of directors met in joint session Monday afternoon, with talks centering around acquiring rights to flood land owned by the Laverty family two miles northeast of Pagosa Springs. While uncertainty appeared paramount throughout the discussion, both boards and their attending legal counsel appeared intent on assisting the Lavertys in creating two separate conservation easements on their property, with hope of eventually acquiring fee title ownership of the inundated portion…

By agreeing to conservation easements on Laverty land, Whiting said the districts will also gain the right to store water up to the 7,400-foot contour line — a level that would constitute a reservoir of 35,300 acre feet. Though few people envision the need for an impoundment of that size in the foreseeable future, the districts feel it prudent to plan for the maximum allowed by court decree.

Problem is, the original court decree, which initially granted the districts sufficient water rights to develop a 35,300-acre-foot lake, has been appealed by Trout Unlimited multiple times. While both sides await yet another decision by Judge Gregory G. Lyman of District Court, Water Division 7, State of Colorado, the court has already reduced district water rights to allow a reservoir of just 25,300 acre feet, including 6,300 acre feet currently held by the SJWCD. Nevertheless, as previously guided by former SJWCD board president Fred Schmidt, the districts believe they must secure a site adequate for expansion, should future growth dictate a need for additional water storage. To do so, according to Whiting, the districts’ only two options have always been to either grab the Laverty land through eminent domain, or agree to conservation easements that will prohibit any future development, other than the reservoir…

On Tuesday, [Southwest Land Alliance (SLA) Executive Director Michael Whiting] insisted easements will give the districts what they need, while avoiding higher costs and the pubic relations nightmares associated with taking land through eminent domain. Given two separate easements, they could eventually flood the portion up to the 7,400 contour line, while resting assured the land above 7,400 feet would not bring residential or commercial development along the Dry Gulch shoreline…

At Monday’s meeting, however, districts’ attorney Evan Ela expressed concern with what he envisioned as their agreeing to a “partner in their lake.” While referring to the SLA, who will hold, maintain and enforce the easements in perpetuity, he feared an SLA board 20 or 30 years down the road that could interpret the agreement terms differently. Further, he suggested the districts try and find some way of eventually “purchasing” the easement on the inundated portion from the SLA. With that, they could eventually gain fee title ownership.

But, Whiting insists that’s not possible. “Only a land trust can hold whatever easements are created,” he said. “The Lavertys selected the Southwest Land Alliance to do these easements. They could’ve used another land trust, but we’re the only game in town. “The districts are a developer,” he continued. “No developers can ever hold an easement that encumbers a property that they themselves would develop, it’s illegal. Water districts can hold easements, but not on property they will develop, and Dry Gulch will be a development of that land.” That said, it appears the only real option the districts have in eventually developing Dry Gulch to the fullest extent possible is to agree to the conservation easements as proposed.

Meanwhile here’s Part VII of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet which is running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

As we will see in today’s article, the numbers that PAWSD shows us — or that it shows to lenders like the Colorado Water Conservation Board — are never complete numbers, nor are they always “up to date” numbers. PAWSD has at hand numerous reports and studies, dating from various years, and is able to select projections and water usage data as needed from those various reports.

Our readers may have noticed in yesterday’s article that the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District put the district’s taxpayers another $11 million in debt by submitting a 2008 loan application to the CWCB — and then used most of that money to pay off a previous loan they’d already used to purchase land for their proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, to be built, PAWSD says, some time in the next 50 years.

Here’s Part IV of the series.

Here’s Part V of the series.

Here’s Part VI of the series.

Here’s Part VIII of the series.

More Dry Gulch coverage here and here.