Pourdre Learning Center’s ‘Caring for the Watershed’ contest recap

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From The Greeley Tribune (Dan England):

Tori Billings and Michael Masi recently won the first Caring for the Watershed contest hosted by the Poudre Learning Center, and their classmates Ailie Young, Megan Skees and Colin Jorgensen took second. The contest charged high school students to come up with a workable idea to help protect our watershed. This was not a competition that encouraged dreams, said Ray Tschillard, executive director of the Poudre Learning Center. One idea was to level Greeley and replace it with grass seed. Sure, that would be great for the watershed, but it’s not very practical Others simply encouraged recycling. Recycling is also a good thing for the watershed, but it’s not exactly original.

The Poudre Learning Center and Agrium, a company that produces fertilizers and other agricultural products, wanted feasible, original ideas because they wanted to see those ideas come to life once the students won their competitions. Agrium, in fact, gave out cash prizes for the winners with no strings attached. But the company also will match up to $1,000 in donations to get the ideas accomplished. Agrium also offers up the services of its own workers to help the students…

Billings and Masi, who won the competition for their plan to raise awareness about the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals, need to raise about $400. Young, Skees and Jorgensen need about half that. Agrium’s matching donation will take care of the rest.

Billings and Masi thought of the idea after a couple of news reports surfaced about the issue. Those medicines, they learned, were getting into the water supply, possibly harming those who get their drinking water from the rivers and streams that are polluted (and that would include just about everyone). They thought it fit perfectly with their lifetime goals as well as goals to care for the watershed. Billings wants to be an environmental engineer, and Masi wants to be a doctor. They hope to create flyers that will inform those who get their medications of the proper ways to dispose of them. They thought handing out the flyers with every prescription would help, but working through the national chains’ red tape is challenging, they said. “Now we are thinking we could get doctors to hand them a flyer along with the prescription,” Masi said. “They have to give you something anyway.”

Young, Skees and Jorgensen, who took second for raising awareness about aerated water fixtures, wanted something simple to save water and yet something that would be significant. “We wanted something that people could do without making a huge conscious decision to do it,” Jorgensen said. “They don’t even have to pick up the trash or something. Once they install it, it’s over, and they’re already saving water.” The city, in fact, already has free aerated water supplies available, so the students just want to create postcards informing the public of that. The postcards can be sent out with water bills…

Regardless of the results, Tschillard was encouraged by the number of students who learned about how a watershed works — and how to care for one. “Some students didn’t know what a watershed was,” Tschillard said, “and that mirrors our society. We don’t think like a watershed. We need to start thinking that way.”

More education coverage here.

Severance: FEMA explains their side of new floodplain plans

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From The Greeley Tribune (Sherrie Peif):

Dawn Gladwell, a mapping specialist with FEMA, and Jerry DeFelice in FEMA external affairs both say if everyone understood FEMA’s role and what the expansion really means, there would be no problems. The plan says that in the event of a big storm, more water will flow into Severance faster than was originally anticipated.

The new plan could cause long-term development problems, some say. “I don’t want to say it will stop development all together,” longtime Severance Developer Stan Everett said recently. “But it will have severe consequences for the future of the town.”[…]/p>

Federal Emergency Management Agency’s preliminary map to expand the flood plain in the Severance area should be done by the end of the year. A final plan is then, on average, another 14-month process that includes public comment and appeals.

More floodplain rule coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

Several county commissioners and officials from cities and towns first heard of the proposal last month in a meeting. They were told a rulemaking session on the proposal would be conducted next month. Several of those officials said they were led to understand the state intended to expand flood plains from the current 100-year flood to 500-year-flood levels.

But that’s not the intent of the plan, said Theo Stein, communications director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Instead, Stein said, the plan would require only critical facilities, such as hospitals, schools and fire stations, to be built with stronger flood protections than other buildings. It would not require homeowners to purchase flood insurance, and only those facilities designated by local officials would be included. The new rules would not prohibit development in either the 100-year or 500-year flood plains.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Aspinall Unit Operations meeting recap

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The summary of the April 22, 2010 meeting to coordinate Reclamation’s operation of the Aspinall Unit can be found at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/water/rsvrs/mtgs/amcurrnt.html. Presentations, handouts, and archived meeting summaries can be found by scrolling to the “Archives: Meeting Minutes/handouts” section located near the bottom of the page at the above link. The meeting was held at Reclamation’s Grand Junction Office. Highlights of the operation meeting include:

April through July inflow to Blue Mesa is forecasted at 530,000 af or approximately 73 percent of the 31 year average. The 31-year average is 720,000 af.

Based on projected forecast, the one day peak flow target for the Black Canyon water right is calculated at 3425 cfs. Final calculations will be made based on May 1 forecasted inflow.

Blue Mesa is not expected to fill this year with live storage reaching approximately 760,000 af.

Following a spring peak, probably in mid-May, Gunnison Gorge flows should be around 700-900 cfs, dropping to 500-700 cfs later in August.

If you have any suggestions on improving the operation meetings or summaries, please let us know. The next operation meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 26, 2010 at the Elk Creek Visitor Center on Blue Mesa. If you have any questions, please call me at 970 248-0652.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

USGS Fort Collins Science Center: Saltcedar and Russian Olive control demonstration act science assessment

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Click through to if you want to download the report. Here’s the pitch from the authors:

The primary intent of this document is to provide the science assessment called for under The Saltcedar and Russian Olive Control Demonstration Act of 2006 (Public Law 109–320; the Act). A secondary purpose is to provide a common background for applicants for prospective demonstration projects, should funds be appropriated for this second phase of the Act. This document synthesizes the state-of-the-science on the following topics: the distribution and abundance (extent) of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) and Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in the Western United States, potential for water savings associated with controlling saltcedar and Russian olive and the associated restoration of occupied sites, considerations related to wildlife use of saltcedar and Russian olive habitat or restored habitats, methods to control saltcedar and Russian olive, possible utilization of dead biomass following removal of saltcedar and Russian olive, and approaches and challenges associated with revegetation or restoration following control efforts. A concluding chapter discusses possible long-term management strategies, needs for additional study, potentially useful field demonstration projects, and a planning process for on-the-ground projects involving removal of saltcedar and Russian olive.

From the Los Angeles Times (Bettina Boxall):

Federal, state and county agencies across the West have uprooted saltcedar in the belief that erasing it from riverbanks would save water. “In the West we’re always looking for ways to stretch our water supply,” Brown said. “And sometimes it takes a while for the science to catch up with the common belief.”

“If the primary interest was in stretching water supply,” he added, “there are a number of other ways to conserve and augment water supply … that are much more reliable and predictable.”

Here’s a look at the costs involved in beating down the weed, from The Lamar Ledger. From the article:

In 2009, 1,414 acres of Tamarisk were sprayed at a cost of $116,748.60. Of that amount, $83,686.86 came from the NRCS EQIP, $7,500 came from NRCS WHIP, $7,405 from the State Land Board, $2,949.69 from the Division of Wildlife and $13,156 from the Colorado Water Conservancy Board. Per acre, tamarisk spraying cost $82.57. Five percent of EQIP dollars were reserved for maintenance on NRCS funded areas and WHIP funds will be used for maintenance on CWCB funded areas.

Areas under consideration for tamarisk removal include the Clay Creek tributary and the Arkansas River west between Holly and Granada.

Here’s the release from the USGS (Peter Soeth, Pat Shafroth, Curt Brown):

Long considered heavy water users and poor wildlife habitat, non-native saltcedar and Russian olive trees that have spread along streams and water bodies in the West may not be as detrimental to wildlife and water availability as believed.

In a U.S. Geological Survey report requested by Congress and released today, scientists conducted a review of the scientific literature to assess the existing state of the science on the distribution and spread, water consumption, and control methods for saltcedar (also called tamarisk) and Russian olive. They also assessed the considerations related to wildlife use and the challenges associated with revegetation and restoration following control efforts.

The report was a collaboration among the USGS, the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and other federal agencies and universities to assess and summarize a large number of previously published studies.
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One notable finding is that native trees such as cottonwoods and willows along western rivers typically consume as much water as non-native saltcedar and Russian olive. Generally, the report noted, removal of saltcedar from floodplain areas along rivers leads to replacement by other vegetation that consumes roughly equal amounts of water. Therefore, removal of saltcedar from these areas is unlikely to produce measurable water savings once replacement revegetation becomes established, report authors wrote.

“None of the published studies to date, which include projects removing very large areas of saltcedar, have demonstrated production of significant additional water for human use,” said Curt Brown, Director of Research for the Bureau of Reclamation. However, the authors note that saltcedar and Russian olive can also grow on river terraces that are too high and dry for cottonwoods and willows. Some scientists have suggested that, on these sites, revegetation with native dry-site species could save some water for human use. But, the effectiveness of such an approach has not been demonstrated.

Similarly, although it has long been assumed that these non-native trees harm streamside habitat and wildlife productivity, research evaluated in the report indicates this isn’t always true. Many reptiles, amphibians, and birds use habitat dominated by saltcedar and Russian olive. Even the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher frequently breeds in saltcedar stands.

However, according to the report, saltcedar-dominated landscapes do not provide suitable habitat for more specialized birds, such as woodpeckers and birds that live in cavities. Dense tracts of pure saltcedar are typically unfavorable for most wildlife, and the report notes that many birds still prefer native cottonwood or willow habitat. Other negative impacts of dense stands of these introduced species can include impeded access to riverside recreational areas, increased wildfire hazard, and clogging of irrigation ditches.

Saltcedar and Russian olives are now the third and fourth most common streamside plants in 17 western states. The species have been the focus of significant removal efforts along some western rivers, such as the Rio Grande and Pecos River.

Plant removal techniques range from use of herbicides and bulldozers to biological controls such as insects. Once the invasive plants are killed or removed, effective restoration depends on replacing them with plant species that meet the specific goals of the planned restoration, the report said.

“The vegetation that replaces salt cedar following its removal, with or without restoration actions, will influence the quality of wildlife habitat, amount of water use and other ecological conditions,” said Pat Shafroth, a USGS scientist and lead editor of the report.

Site restoration, however, can be challenging and costly, depending on the size of the area and the methods used. Restoring key river processes, such as natural patterns of high and low flows, can help re-establish native vegetation and other important ecosystem features over larger areas than is possible with site-specific restoration, he added.

The authors highlight areas where further study could advance understanding of invasive plant control and restoration, including effects on wildlife habitat and water use. “Research and monitoring could be particularly important in the context of biological control of saltcedar,” Shafroth said. “The beetle that has been released for biological control has been defoliating saltcedar and spreading rapidly in some watersheds. We really need to understand the effects of biocontrol on these ecosystems, to better inform river and riparian restoration.”

The report provides a summary of the latest science and is expected to be helpful to organizations that undertake the management of saltcedar and Russian olive.

The report, Saltcedar and Russian Olive Control Demonstration Act Science Assessment, was completed to fulfill requirements in the Salt Cedar and Russian Olive Control Demonstration Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-320).

The full report, USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5247, is available online along with USGS Fact Sheet 2009-3110 that summarizes the findings.

More Tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) passes out of the state senate

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From The Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

Colorado lawmakers passed the Uranium Processing Accountability Act, House Bill 1348, on a vote of 24 to nine Wednesday…

Cotter Corp. mill officials have said the bill will make it impossible for them to begin processing ore again in the future. In 2009, the company announced a plan to reopen as a heap leach facility in 2014, processing ore from the Mount Taylor mine in New Mexico. “This is not unexpected,” said John Hamrick, vice president of milling at Cotter. “This bill will prevent us from processing the Mount Taylor ore.”

Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste, a local group that has opposed Cotter restarting operations, was partnered with Environment Colorado in developing the bill. “We are thrilled the Senate sided with the people of Cañon City,” said Sharyn Cunningham of CCAT, through the same release. “It’s about time uranium companies are held responsible for cleaning up their toxic mess.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone). From the article:

The Senate on Wednesday passed HB1348 by a 22-11 margin. It now awaits the governor’s signature to become law…

Two groundwater plumes — in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Canon City and around the city’s golf course — have been identified as groundwater contamination sites. The most recent was found in 1992, and Cotter has largely addressed the problem through “natural remediation,” or simply letting it dissipate on its own. “I just know that the water where I live has been contaminated since the 1960s, and Cotter had no plans to clean it,” said Sharyn Cunningham, co-chair of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. “They just planned to watch it, monitor it and let nature clean it.”

From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

The bill, which also requires companies to notify homeowners with drinking wells near contaminated groundwater and provides for more public input in the state regulatory process, now heads back to the House to work out amendments adopted in Senate. A concurrence vote could happen later this week.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado natural resources and health regulators don’t yet agree with Cotter for proposed remediation at the Schwartzwalder Mine

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Denver Water and environmentalists on Wednesday demanded an aggressive cleanup to protect public health. They say drinking water is safe because water treatment plants remove uranium. State natural resources and health regulators are reviewing a cleanup proposal that Cotter submitted eight days ago. Cotter’s proposed options include:

• Rerouting Ralston Creek through pipes around the mine. This could harm aquatic life but prevent contamination from reaching Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir.

• Creating an artificial wetland that gradually could filter out uranium. Critics said this could be too slow.

• Installing a barrier to filter the uranium from water before it gets to the creek or groundwater.

• Digging out toxic soil 20 feet deep at the mine and hauling it to a disposal site. That remedy may depend on whether groundwater links to the mine, more than 2,000 feet deep…

“If we can demonstrate there’s no communication between the mine pool and the groundwater that results in a measurable impact, then we may not have to do anything with the mine pool,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We all agree there’s a problem. We’re working to address it.”[…]

“If (Cotter’s proposal) is determined to be deficient, (state regulators) will ask for the deficiencies to be corrected,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Theo Stein said. State inspectors documented contamination in 2007, records show. They negotiated with Cotter, which argued that the mine was not a facility subject to state law. The law was changed in 2008 to include uranium mines. In 2009, regulators rejected Cotter’s initial cleanup plan as inadequate…

Denver Water officials are waiting for results from water tests done last week at Ralston Creek and Ralston Reservoir, spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “The faster the parties can agree on a plan, the better it will be for everyone,” she said.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Alamosa: State of the Rio Grande levee meeting

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From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

As a result of the mammoth 2005 storm [Katrina] and the levee breaches that occurred in its wake in the South, the federal government has revised river levee standards nationwide, a move that is now affecting the Rio Grande levee through Alamosa. The Rio Grande levee, constructed under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction, is now substandard by post-Katrina guidelines. Bringing the river dike up to the new 2009 standards will likely cost Alamosa hundreds of thousands, city officials told residents attending a levee forum Monday night…

William Trujillo, levee safety program manager out of the Albuquerque Corps of Engineers office, told the group that the levee repairs facing Alamosa are due in part to post-Katrina standards, but Alamosa’s river dike has other deficiencies that must be addressed, such as beaver infiltration of the levee system.

City Public Works Director Don Koskelin and City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said the city is addressing the beaver problem. Trujillo said the city could request a compliance extension, but Koskelin said even during a potential grace period the city would have to begin levee repairs. “As a city we have a set of rules we have to abide by right now,” he said. “This isn’t some time in the future. We can apply for an extension … but during those years we have to be taking actions.” Trujillo said a vegetation variance guideline is also being drafted and may be approved by headquarters in September. The city could request a variance on vegetation, he explained. Although he did not have definitive cost estimates for levee repairs, Koskelin said a tree removal project already in the works for city-owned river frontage is going to cost about $10,000 to remove 10 trees. “If it would only cost $1 million I would be happy,” Cherpeski said.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Left unanswered were how the corps’ new rules would affect residents along the levee who negotiated individual agreements with the agency in the late 1990s and how the status of the barrier would affect federal flood insurance requirements. Nor did the forum provide a clearer picture of what steps the city might take or how much those steps would cost…

Nor did it appear likely that Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., would be able to steer the levee rules affecting Alamosa. Erin Minks, a staffer for Salazar in the San Luis Valley, said the congressman would likely not be able to find an out from the corps’ rules for Alamosa, given that Pueblo, Grand Junction and Durango also had problems with the regulations but over different aspects. “It’s not a matter of John going into the committee chair and saying this shouldn’t affect Alamosa. It just doesn’t work that way,” she said…

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s regional office in Denver did not return calls for this story, but Cherpeski said the agency could begin a re-examination of the Alamosa flood plain maps within the next year. Some city residents questioned the need for the levee, stating that in their lifetimes the Rio Grande has never approached the barrier’s capacity, which was designed to withstand 11,000 cubic feet per second or the equivalent of a 100-year flood. But the highest recorded flows through Alamosa came on July 1, 1927, when 14,000 cfs came down the river, according to the corps’ 1990 Interim Feasibility Report on the levee…

The one effort that appeared likely to move forward Monday sprung from a suggestion by Alamosa County Emergency Manager Pete Magee, who urged the city to form a citizens task force to review the city’s options.

More Alamosa coverage here.

Snowpack news: Arkansas River — head to the Pueblo kayak park this weekend

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“They’re talking about increasing flows by 1,500 cubic feet per second,” said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project for the Bureau of Reclamation. Flows this week have been about 700 cfs through Pueblo, and 1,200 cfs at Avondale, well above average for this time of year.

The release would be winter water carried over from 2009 that reverts to state waters under the court decree that governs the program. “It’s basically been so wet out east that farmers couldn’t use it,” Vaughan said.

Otherwise, Lake Pueblo has almost reached levels necessary to provide flood control in the event of spring storms, about 257,000 acre-feet as of Wednesday.

While snowpack in the state has dropped to 75 percent after an early runoff came in mid-April, things have slowed down with new snow and cooler temperatures in the high country, Vaughan said. “It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Vaughan said. “After that one early peak last Friday, things have really cooled down. It’s cold at the upper elevations. There’s a new storm coming in tonight that’s supposed to leave 6 to 12 inches.” Still, dust and winds have beaten down the snowpack this year. The Colorado River basin was at 68 percent of average Wednesday. The Roaring Fork basin, the source of water imported by the Fry-Ark Project, was at 63 percent. The Arkansas River basin was at 91 percent…

“We know the snowpack is diminishing, but we don’t know what will happen with these next few storms,” Vaughan said. An early snowmelt in the Southern mountains is contributing to above-average flows in the Lower Arkansas River as well, with John Martin Reservoir filling to more than 92,000 acre-feet Wednesday, its highest level since 2001. The Huerfano River was running four times its normal April flow as of Wednesday, and high flows were also seen in the Apishipa and Purgatoire Rivers, said Pat Edelmann, of the Pueblo U.S. Geological Survey.

Governor Ritter appoints Alan Schwartz of Snowmass Village to the board of the Great Outdoors Colorado trust fund

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Here’s the release from the Governor’s office (Evan Dreyer/Megan Castle):

Gov. Bill Ritter announced today he has appointed Alan Schwartz of Snowmass Village to the board of the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Trust Fund. Schwartz, an attorney, has devoted much of his career to land preservation and natural resource conservation.

“Colorado is home to vast and unique environmental and outdoor treasures, and Alan is truly a stubborn steward of Colorado’s breathtaking natural heritage,” Gov. Ritter said. “The people of Colorado and the generations to follow will be well-served by having someone like Alan who is so passionate, dedicated and experienced on the GOCO board.”

Schwartz has served on the boards of the Colorado Conservation Trust and the Rocky Mountain chapter of Environmental Defense. He co-authored the “Danish Plan,” adopted by Boulder voters as one of the first growth-management plans in the country. He also served as special counsel to the City of Aspen, Town of Snowmass Village, Pitkin County and other Colorado municipalities in the creation, implementation and successful defense of some of the country’s most innovative land-use plans. He is married to state Sen. Gail Schwartz.

Created by Colorado voters in 1992, GOCO uses a portion of Lottery proceeds to help preserve, protect, enhance and manage Colorado’s wildlife, park, river, trail and open space heritage. It has awarded almost $550 million for more than 2,700 projects throughout the state.

Schwartz’s appointment to the 17-member GOCO board is for a term expiring April 15, 2013, and would fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of James S. Lochhead of Glenwood Springs. The appointment requires state Senate confirmation.

For more information about Colorado boards and commissions, or to obtain an application, visit the Boards and Commission website, e-mail boards@state.co.us or call 303.866.6380.

More conservation coverage here.

Many eyes are on the 1250 cfs Shoshone water right

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

Owned by Xcel Energy, the plant’s calls for water enhance stream flows in Grand County, benefit fish and river recreation such as rafting enterprises at Gore and Glenwood canyons, and maintain historic flows that help meet the needs of downstream towns and irrigators. The Shoshone Station generates 14 megawatts of “green” power from flows, each megawatt of which services 1,000 customers, including industry and business. The 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water the power plant uses is returned to the river to the benefit of others downstream. This nonconsumptive water use makes up about 20 percent of Colorado River flows carried out of the state in an average year…

During [the 10 months in 2007 when the Shoshone powerplant was offline], reservoir operators, stewards of the endangered fish program, The Colorado River Conservation District, the Bureau of Reclamation, the state’s major water utilities and other water users came together to draw up a plan to ensure adequate flows were in the river during the absence of the Shoshone call, especially during the dryer late-summer months. Efforts proved successful, according to Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District. “Everyone cooperated to make sure there were enough flows,” he said. “The West Slope wasn’t economically damaged.”[…]

By way of a 2006 franchise agreement with Xcel Energy, Denver Water would have a fair chance to buy the Shoshone power plant and its connected water rights, were the plant to be put up for sale, according to Denver Water’s Director of Planning David Little. For this reason, West Slope water users hope to someday gain control of the plant rather than Denver Water gaining control of it.

“The West Slope sees it as a concern in the long run,” Kuhn said. “We want to keep the plant on the river as long as we can.” Both Little and Kuhn confirmed it is not even known if Xcel Energy wants to depart with its Shoshone power plant, especially with an increasing value in green power in Colorado. Even so, conversations with Denver Water have been initiated about its willingness to work with a West Slope coalition of water users and county governments about the destiny of the plant, Kuhn said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Gypsum: Trash ‘N Splash

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From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Derek Franz):

Students of The New America School had about one week to collect a bunch of trash and build a boat for an Earth Day contest April 23 at the Gypsum Recreation Center. Their boat didn’t hold the most weight — the winning boat floated 1,000 pounds — but it did win $200 for “Best use of junk.”

More education coverage here.

Aspinall Unit: Blue Mesa Reservoir open for the season

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

Blue Mesa Reservoir is now mostly ice free and the Lake Fork and Elk Creek boat ramps are open. The National Park Service will have inspection stations at the ramps from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through April 30. Beginning May 1, hours will extend to 6 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. The Iola boat ramp will open May 1, 6 a.m. until 8:30 p.m daily. Curecanti National Recreation Area Superintendent Connie Rudd announced the Ponderosa boat ramp will open under limited hours after June 18. Boaters should be aware that the only decontamination station open through May 20 will be at Elk Creek. That station opens May 1. Boats that are cleaned, drained and dry, with plugs pulled, move through inspection more rapidly.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: June 8 public comment meeting for proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill

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From The Telluride Watch:

The radiation program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has received comments from the Montrose County Commissioners on the Environmental Report section of the Energy Fuels Resources Corp. radioactive materials license application. The license is required before the company can construct its proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill about 12 miles west of Naturita, in the Paradox Valley. Receipt of the comments establishes a deadline of Jan. 17, 2011 for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to issue a decision on the license application.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will hold a public meeting to accept public comments and to discuss the ongoing licensing process from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 8 at the Montrose Pavilion auditorium.

Here’s an update on the permitting process with Montrose County from Katharhynn Heidelberg writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

Montrose County wants Energy Fuels to clarify expansion plans for its proposed uranium and vanadium mill on the West End. In documents released last week, county commissioners also said mitigation plans for mill closure are lacking, and they detailed the mill’s likely socioeconomic impact, good and bad. The documents drew “a major question mark” over aquifer response and groundwater sustainability. “We just want to make sure those are spoken to in the application process,” said County Commissioner Gary Ellis. But, he said, the county still supports the Piñon Ridge Mill, which Energy Fuels plans to build in the Paradox Valley.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board Uranium mining, permit fees and the disclosure of prospecting information rules meeting schedule

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From email from the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board (Deb Bell):

The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board has revised the hearing schedule announced earlier this month to consider new rules and amendments proposed by the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety regarding uranium mining, permit fees and the disclosure of prospecting information. The revised schedule is as follows:

– May 13, 2010 -The Board will receive oral public comments by non-parties at the Courtyard and Residence Inn by Marriott, 765 Horizon Drive, Grand Junction. The Rulemaking Hearing will begin after the Board concludes its regularly scheduled non-rulemaking matters at its May 13 Board Meeting which is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. The Rulemaking Hearing will run until 7:00 p.m., though it may conclude earlier if all interested citizens have had an opportunity to speak. Time: Upon adjournment of the Mined Land Reclamation Board meeting until 7:00 p.m. (may conclude earlier as noted above). Place: Courtyard and Residence Inn by Marriott, 765 Horizon Drive, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Telephone No. 970-263-4414.

– May 26, 2010- The Board will hold its third session in Salida, Colorado. On such date, the Board will receive oral public comments by non-parties. Time: 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Place: John Held Auditorium, Salida High School, 905 “D” Street, Salida, CO 81201. Telephone No. 719-530-5400.

– June 10, 2010 – The Board will hold its fourth session in Denver, Colorado. On such date, the Board will receive oral public comments by non-parties. (The Board will hear regularly scheduled, non-rulemaking matters on June 9, 2010 also in Denver) Time: 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Place: TBD

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Montrose: Annual ‘State of the Gunnison River’ meeting May 3

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From the Ouray County Talk:

Andy Mueller of Ridgway, president of the Colorado River District Board of Directors, is the keynote speaker at the annual “Gunnison State of the River” meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 3, at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose. The annual event provided by the Colorado River District as an opportunity for the public to learn why water is the number one issue for western Colorado.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities pitches rate hike to city council

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Eileen Welsome):

Colorado Springs Utilities presented a formal rate case to the City Council Tuesday, asking for two consecutive rate hikes of 12 percent each that would go into effect in 2011 and 2012 and would be used to begin construction on the $1.2 billion Southern Delivery System. Jerry Forte, chief executive officer of the municipal utility, said the pipeline is needed not only to ensure a water supply for future customers, but also to create hundreds of jobs. “It’ll be an economic boost to the region,” he said.

Meanwhile Colorado Springs Utilities is spreading the word about the jobs side of the project to El Paso, Pueblo and Fremont counties. Here’s a report from Pam Zubeck writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

And Utilities wants contractors and businesses to know how to get a piece of the action, compliments of its ratepayers, which will see rates swell by 12 percent per year from 2011 through 2016. So, the city has set up workshops in El Paso, Pueblo and Fremont counties to spread information about how to bid on the massive pipeline project that will bring about 70 million gallons a day to Colorado Springs, increasing the city’s water supply by a third…

All meetings are from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Dates and locations:

Colorado Springs: May 6, Leon Young Service Center, 1521 Hancock Expressway, Pikes Peak Room

Pueblo: May 10, El Pueblo History Museum, 301 N. Union Ave.

Canon City: May 13, Pueblo Community College, Fremont Campus – 51320 W. Hwy 50

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Colorado Wildlife Federation annual banquet Saturday

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From The Denver Post:

The Colorado Wildlife Federation’s annual banquet is Saturday at the Plaza of the Mart, just east of the Interstate 25 and 58th Avenue in Denver. As the state’s oldest conservation organization, the CWF continues to work as a voice for sportsmen and others who value Colorado’s wildlife heritage and tradition of stewardship. Ongoing efforts include key energy development legislation and protection of wildlife habitat, as well as more traditional hunting and fishing issues. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., with dinner at 6 p.m. The evening will include an auction for wildlife items, archery instruction and a rafting trip. All proceeds go toward the CWF’s efforts on behalf of wildlife.

Banquet honorees include Polly Reetz of the Audubon Society of Greater Denver; Dave Petersen, an outdoor writer, avid bow hunter and most recently a Trout Unlimited spokesman; and Judith Kohler, a veteran Associated Press reporter whose in-depth coverage of Western natural resource issues has brought nationwide attention to efforts to protect the Rocky Mountain region’s wildlife.

“We urge all those who care about the wildlife heritage of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West to join us,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the CWF. “The banquet will be a fun evening that will encourage us for the important work ahead to sustain the wildlife that defines Colorado as one of the most treasured places in our nation and the world.”

Cost is $40 per person. For more information, go to the CWF website at coloradowildlife.org.

La Salle: Godfrey ditch diverts for 141st year

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It’s the time of year when the irrigation ditches start running. Bill Jackson has a short article about the Godfrey ditch located between Evans and La Salle running in The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

Officials with the ditch company celebrated the 140th anniversary of the 1870 water right that takes water from the South Platte River east of here to irrigate about 1,000 acres of farmland. That farmland is along what is known as the Godfrey Bottoms, a fertile piece of ground that separates Evans and La Salle. The ditch was started by Holun Godfrey, who came to the area in the 1860s from eastern Colorado and started an irrigated farming operation.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) clears preliminary vote in the state senate

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

The state Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would require Cotter uranium mill to clean up its pollution before taking on new jobs. Proponents of the bill contend Cotter has been poisoning the environment for decades and done little about it, while representatives of the company have said the proposed legislation would be a poison pill for its operation…

The House already has passed the bill, and a final vote on it in the Senate could come as soon as today.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We need to get this group back together (in June) to talk about the cost estimates before the district goes to each city and water utility,” Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District President Bill Long told the conduit advisory committee Tuesday. The committee has met for years discussing the engineering, route and benefits of the conduit. Now, with $5 million in federal funding this year, the project is finally approaching reality. Southeastern is trying to secure $8 million from Congress to continue work next year.

Revised cost estimates are expected next month, and cities or districts east of Pueblo will be formally asked to sign funding agreements later this year. The local share of funding for construction would be offset by federal legislation that allows payment from excess-capacity contracts to defray those costs. Area water suppliers would still have to fund operation and maintenance, said Phil Reynolds, project director. The conduit could be built as soon as 2018, if the environmental review process is not drawn out, if Congress fully funds it and if no major snags develop, said Kevin Meador of Black & Veatch, the lead consultants. With any luck, the National Environmental Policy Act review — most likely an Environmental Impact Statement — by the Bureau of Reclamation will take about 2 years, Meador said…

Four alternatives have been identified either along U.S. 50 or north of the Arkansas River. More than 200 miles of pipeline, a treatment plant to filter the water, storage tanks and pumping stations are part of the plans…

Making its way through Pueblo, the conduit’s route would either cut through the city in a more-or-less straight shot from the Whitlock plant on the north-of-the-river route, or follow the Bessemer Ditch to the St. Charles Mesa, hooking up with U.S. 50 near Avondale…

East of Las Animas, the routes to Lamar and Eads are fairly well determined…

The Southeastern District has determined there are 41 water providers serving 57,655 people who are still interested in participating in the conduit, said Hal Simpson, a former state engineer who is working as a water resources consultant on the conduit. By 2050, the population is projected to increase to between 76,000-82,000. Because some cities are projecting mixing their current supplies with the conduit water, the projected demand from the conduit would be about 9.3 million gallons per day now, increasing to 12.3 million gallons per day by 2050. The pipeline would be sized to deliver for the peak day. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project supplies, on average, would amount to about three-fifths of the water delivered through the conduit. The rest would come from already identified sources, with some potential gaps that could mean the purchase of agricultural water rights, Simpson said.

More Arkanasas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Pueblo: Action 22 Summit Friday

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Pablo Carlos Mora):

The future of agriculture, the latest news in the ongoing battle over water and other issues important to Southern Colorado will be discussed Friday at the Pueblo Convention Center. Action 22, an organization comprised of 22 Southern Colorado communities, is hosting the event “to work on issues that affect our area,” said Cathy Garcia, the agency’s president and chief executive officer. “We want organizations, people and government representatives to participate in this committee summit,” she said…

IF YOU GO:

What: Action 22 Committee Summit.

Where: Pueblo Convention Center.

When: Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Tickets: $25 registration fee includes lunch; $10 without lunch.

Information and reservations: call 888-799-1799; by e-mail to Kate@action22.org; or make a reservation through Pay Pal at http://www.action22.org/events.html.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Colorado State University Water Resources Archive ‘Water Tables’ event recap

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Here’s the release from the Water Resources Archive:

Water Tables 2010 was the biggest and most successful annual fundraiser for the Water Resources Archive yet, hosting 170 guests and raising more than $45,000. The Colorado water community enjoyed a night of archival treasures, collegiality, and dinner conversation at the Colorado State University Libraries in February.

The event’s theme was “Across State Lines: Sharing the Resource,” and the 19 table hosts included not only Colorado water experts, but also experts from Wyoming, Nevada, and Montana. Mario Lopez Perez, Engineering and Technical Standards Manager at the National Water Commission of Mexico, brought an international view to the event with his table topic “The Colorado River as an International River: Mexico’s Perspective.” This unprecedented gathering enabled collegial discussions about the sharing of western water in a historical context.

The evening began with a reception in Morgan Library and tours of the Water Resources Archive. An exhibit, “Finding Buried Treasures: Maps of the Colorado River,” was on view, displaying a small portion of the historical maps, publications, and photographs of this highly used western river held by the archive. Also on display were highlights from new collections donated in 2009, including materials from the Papers of Arthur L. Littleworth.

Following the reception, guests made their way through accumulating snow to the Lory Student Center ballroom for dinner and topical conversations. “This event is a unique forum for educating people on a variety of subjects in a small venue which provides a very personal dialogue with the participants,” said Steve Vandiver, general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and table host.

Thanks to the generosity of many individual and corporate sponsors, 30 graduate students were able to attend the event and interact with current leaders in the water industry. The funds raised will help the archive continue to prepare historical materials for public use, digitize and deliver materials online, and increase outreach to potential donors and researchers.

Colorado Springs to host The Conference of Western Attorneys General’s water law conference Thursday and Friday

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From CBS4Denver.com:

Speakers include U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Alaska Attorney General Daniel Sullivan and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor.

More water law coverage here.

Englewood: ‘South Platte River Cleanup Day’ recap

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From the Associated Press via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

More than 200 people participated in the 4th annual South Platte River Clean Up on Sunday. Some took to the water in kayaks and on rafts to pluck debris from the river and dump it in floating trash cans. Others walked or biked along the bank, cleaning up a parallel path. Organizers say they’ve removed more than six tons of garbage over the years.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby). From the article:

With support from a host of river-centric sponsors, the intrepid team of volunteers has paddled the channel and fanned out along the banks of 6-10 miles of the South Platte to collect 6 tons of trash in the past three years. The official weigh-in from Sunday’s offerings is still pending. Boaters piled into rafts, canoes and kayaks to gather debris wrapped in the reeds and floating in eddies for 6 miles below the Union Street Whitewater Park put-in, while cyclists and pedestrians walked the recreation path to snatch trash littering the riverside down to Habitat Park…

With that in mind, Confluence Kayaks has teamed up with Denver Parks and Recreation partners at The Greenway Foundation and river stakeholders such as Colorado Whitewater and Denver Trout Unlimited (TU) to form an entity known as Protect our Urban River Environment, or PURE. PURE has initiated efforts to work with municipal leaders along the South Platte in Arapahoe, Denver and Adams counties to increase the focus on preventing trash and debris from getting into the river and its tributaries, as well as the actual removal. The first step, organizers say, is to retrofit sewage and storm-water outfall pipes with pollutant traps designed to collect the garbage before it flows into the river, rather than pulling it out piece by piece. The group has approached the state’s Water Quality Control Commission about listing the river as “impaired” because of the amount of trash. The river is undergoing an EPA-enforced effort to reduce levels of E. coli and other pathogens, and PURE would like to see a similar Total Maximum Daily Load established for trash…

“We’re asking the entities that are responsible for the water quality on the Platte to take responsibility for it without a regulatory or enforcement body coming down and saying that from above. The city governments of Denver, of Englewood and of Littleton — anybody who has a storm-water discharge permit — we’re asking those entities to take responsibility for the situation,” Kahn said. “The Greenway Foundation has developed this plan for the South Platte River, and we don’t really feel like it can live up to its potential until the water quality is dealt with.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

El Paso County purchases Rainbow Falls land near Manitou Springs for open space

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From the Associated Press via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The county acquired Rainbow Falls last week for $10 from Mansfield Development Corp., which owns nearby land. The waterfall was once a tourist draw, but officials say it’s now frequented by drug users and plagued by vandals, and highway construction work dumped silt into the stream. L’Aura Montgomery, who led a citizens campaign to make the falls public property, says it will take time and money to restore the area. A volunteer cleanup day is scheduled for June 5.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado University grad student to map groundwater flow at Powertech’s Centennial Project

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

CU master’s student Miori Yoshino is studying groundwater flow at Powertech’s Centennial Project site, a project she expects to be complete by the end of the year…

Yoshino said her study will look at only how groundwater flows directly above the uranium ore body at the mine site, but not beyond it. The study will involve “synthesizing modeling results and assessing potential impact on groundwater quality,” CU geological sciences professor Shemin Ge said. Yoshino said she will look at the horizontal flow of water to find out if the mining solution will be pulled down-gradient. She also will study the vertical flow of water at the mine site to find out if there is a connection between the aquifer above the uranium ore and the aquifer beneath it. As part of the study, she said she’ll try to learn how the geochemistry of the water in the underlying rock will be changed by the uranium mining. Yoshino is using data from five wells at the site. The data, she said, will be provided by Powertech.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District elects George Whitten president

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From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Whitten, a Saguache rancher, has served as vice president of the water board and served as acting president during the Tuesday meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting the board unanimously voted Whitten as president. Greg Higel was voted vice president and Dwight Martin secretary/treasurer. Whitten said he and [Ray Wright, board president who died last month in a snow-slide accident near Creede] had talked about the water district’s role and the importance of educating the public, and he wanted to continue that legacy. “We have been mired down in court cases,” Whitten said. “I think the thing to do is to get back out in the public and air these things out.”

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

HB 10-1051 (Water Efficiency Plans Annual Reports) passes out of state senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee

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From The Durango Herald (State Senator Bruce Whitehead):

Senate Bill 1051 was heard in the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee last week. This is a bill I have mentioned before that requires large water providers to report annually on water use. The data collected from this bill will be used to improve water-conservation efforts. After much work and discussions with the Colorado Water Congress, Colorado Water Conservation Board, conservation groups and municipal water providers, we were able to craft a bill that was acceptable to the various organizations. The bill passed out of committee unanimously.

More HB 10-1051 coverage here.

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District plans to raise Stagecoach Dam four feet this year

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From Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District has been permitting and planning to raise the South Routt County reservoir for about five years. The expansion will add about 3,185 acre-feet to the reservoir, which currently holds about 33,275 acre-feet and supplies water to local municipalities, agricultural users and Tri-State Generation and Transmission’s Craig Station power plant. District General Manager Kevin McBride said the expansion now has the go-ahead from numerous federal, state and local entities, with the remaining negotiations — including those with owners of reservoir water — nearing their final stages…

“After the middle of July, we’ll start releasing (water) — I think it’ll be most noticeable in August, when flows are typically down,” McBride said. “We could be up to 7 feet down by Labor Day.” The release of water will send flows of 100 cubic feet per second or greater down the river from mid-July through mid-September, McBride said…

Structural work on the dam and its 60-foot-wide spillway, where water flows out of the reservoir and into the river, will begin after Labor Day, McBride said. That work will require a separate contract with a contractor qualified for the specialized work. Tearing out the spillway’s crest and replacing it with a new crest that is 4 feet higher will result in the reservoir’s expanded capacity. Wind and other factors funnel water to the dam and its spillway on the reservoir’s northeast side. “The (water’s) elevation gets controlled by the lowest point in the bucket,” McBride said.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here.

Durango: High Water 2010 contest

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From The Durango Herald (Jeff Moorehead):

The High Water 2010 contest, presented by the Durango Discovery Museum in association with Animas River Days, is now in full swing. Rules, ticket outlets, prize descriptions and help with statistical hydrology are now featured at www.Highwater2010.com. To participate, purchase a ticket (it’s only $5), make a guess for the day of spring peak runoff (round 1) and also submit your prediction for peak flow (round 2) to break any ties. The most accurate guess will have top choice among prizes.

The contest closes on May 15.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

IBCC: Looking for the ‘tipping point’ for ag water sales to cities

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The discussion has been, ‘What really happens when you have a dry-up of ag land?’ ’’ said Peter Nichols, water attorney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Intuitively, we know that you can’t have nine-tenths of a drug store or three-tenths of an auto store. At some point, they’re not able to remain in business.” A draft report by Honey Creek Resources looked at what happened to Crowley County after water transfers in the 1970s and 1980s decreased irrigated crop land to 7,000 acres from 42,000 acres in order to find a “tipping point” that caused local businesses to close. The study uses the same method of analysis to predict the impact of losing 30,000 acres in the Lamar area, a possible scenario if land sold to Pure Cycle on the Fort Lyon Canal is taken out of production. The study area includes ag lands in eastern Bent and western Prowers counties. The study did not consider additional future losses on the Amity Canal if Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association develops power plants that could take half of the ditch out of production over time.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board funded the study as part of ongoing discussions of the Interbasin Compact Committee, but the research was coordinated with the assistance of the Lower Ark district. Nichols also is an IBCC member. “This is groundbreaking work in the United States and could be applied in other areas with a declining water supply,” Nichols said. “It could also be used to study decline in rural areas for reasons other than water transfers.”

The goal is to develop a model that could apply to water transfers from any rural area, particularly in the Arkansas River basin, where taking the water would leave a hole in the local economy.

More IBCC — Basin Roundtables coverage here.

Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More than 20 questions relating to river flows, measurement, consumptive use, exchanges and the scope of the company were relayed to the engineers working on the project at meetings with the Upper Arkansas and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts and the roundtable earlier this year. Some also wanted to know how leases would be structured and if they had any implications for water deliveries to Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact. “These questions will be answered in the report,” Greg Ten Eyck, of Leonard Rice Engineers, told the Lower Ark board Wednesday…

Only the consumptive use of the water could be sold, with the acreage it irrigates dried up for the period of the lease. The water would have to be exchanged upstream, and the Super Ditch has filed an application for the exchange in Division 2 Water Court…

Ten Eyck also updated the Lower Ark board on policies that would be used to replace depletions under proposed consumption rules for surface irrigation in the Arkansas Valley. The Colorado Division of Water Resources has filed the rules in Water Court with the intent to implement them by 2011. Using a state grant, the Lower Ark district is developing a plan that would allow a large group of irrigators to enter a plan to account for depletions. The idea is to reduce the engineering and paperwork requirements for irrigators, while preserving flows to the river…

In other business, the board:

– Adopted a ballot resolution opposing Initiatives Nos. 10, 12 and 21. The issues would affect the district’s ability to collect property tax, vehicle fees and accrue debt, attorney Peter Nichols said. He added that the district cannot spend money or actively campaign against the November ballot proposals.

– Agreed to stop leasing Twin Lakes shares at a loss from Ordway, Crowley and Sugar City this year under terms of a contract. The district was losing money on the leases.

More Lower Ark coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

There will be some slight changes across the C-BT this weekend, but most will not notice. We are testing some of our equipment in the power plants and temporarily slowing down the flow through the project.

April 24, we will slow the rate of flow from the Estes Plant into Lake Estes. Lake Estes is currently at an elevation of 7472–only 3 feet below full. It will not be affected and should see its water elevation remain close to 7472 through the weekend.

Our releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River are not changing and will remain about 50 cfs.

Pinewood is currently rising–it is at 6575 today. Tomorrow (Saturday), it will drop again, stabalizing Sunday around a water level elevation of 6572–about 8 feet down from completely full.

Carter Lake is completely full and will remain that way for some time.

Horsetooth will continue to rise, but beginning Saturday, the inflow to Horsetooth will slow down, slightly. It is currently filling at a rate of about half a foot a day. By Monday, it will be rising a quarter of a foot a day. Currently, Horsetooth is at an elevation of 5415.75.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Colorado Springs Utilities shows off new plant

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

The newest mini-plant, the Cascade Hydroelectric Plant, began operating three weeks ago. Thursday, to mark Earth Day, Utilities showed off the facility. South of U.S. Highway 24 near Cascade, it’s no bigger than a two-car garage, and the power is enough for just 450 homes, but officials say this and its three other small hydroelectric plants are a key part of Utilities’ renewable energy portfolio. “It just makes sense. You’ve got this water coming down the hill, you break pressure with it and you generate electricity with it,” said Drew Rankin, general manager of energy supply.

The water comes by pipeline from the North Slope reservoirs on Pikes Peak. Before, there was a pressure release valve at the site, to slow the rushing water as it runs to French Creek, then Fountain Creek, and then by pipeline to the hydroelectric plant in Manitou Springs. The new plant cost $5 million, funded by interest-free renewable energy bonds, and generates 850 kilowatts.

Hydroelectric power is cheap, about $35 per megawatt hour, compared to $140 for wind power, Rankin said. Utilities gets 8 percent of its power from hydroelectric energy, but 80 percent of that is bought from the Western Area Power Administration.

More hydroelectric power here.

Snowpack news

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From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

Up to 30 inches of snow fell near the Continental Divide and most of the Denver metro area got between 2 and 3 inches of moisture, said Kyle Fredin, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder. “Farmers like this kind of stuff,” Fredin said. “It was slow and steady. Once we heat up, it’ll green up real fast.

From The Aspen Times:

The Aspen Skiing Co. reported 7 inches of new snow fell overnight Thursday on Aspen Mountain, which opens for two final days of skiing on Saturday and Sunday. The weather service is calling for 10 to 20 inches in the Elk Mountains surrounding Aspen by noon on Saturday, when a winter storm warning is set to expire…

Although the low-pressure system causing the storms was drifting east toward Kansas, up to a half-foot of snow was forecast overnight for the mountains west of Colorado Springs. Water levels in several creeks and rivers in the Denver area were close to overflowing. A flood warning was issued for the South Platte River north of Denver.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Erica Meltzer):

With 2.6 inches of snow so far this month, Boulder is well behind the April average of a foot of snow, Kelsch said. That puts the total snowfall for the 2009-10 season at 125.5 inches, the seventh snowiest winter on record. The snowiest winter ever was 1908-09, with 142.9 inches. Boulder’s two snowpack locations in the Silver Lake watershed measured at 70 percent and 77 percent of the long-term averages on March 31, said Ned Williams, director of public works for utilities. The snowpack won’t be measured again until the end of the month. While snowfall has been below average this April, this week’s rains already have put the city at 2.86 inches of rain for the month, Kelsch said. The average for the month is 3 inches.

From the Pikes Peak Courier View:

Woodland Park recieved six inches overnight, while Cripple Creek and other parts of the county have been hit by between eight and 12 inches.

High Country Hustle recap

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From The Mineral County Miner (Toni Seffens):

The High Country Hustle began as a school project for 17-year-old Forrest Getz from Creede. When he contacted Heather Messick and told her he wanted to organize the walk, she decided to co-organize the event with him. Getz and Messick both spoke to the participants about the worldwide Live Earth project and the global water crisis…

Former Colorado Senator Lewis Entz and Mike Gibson of the Rio Grande Headwater Restoration project also spoke at the event. Race participants walked from the Creede Ball Park to Airport Road then down to Deep Creek Bridge. The hustle was organized in conjunction with The Live Earth series of 6k run/walks taking place over the course of 24 hours in 150 countries across the world.

The 6k distance is important because it is the average distance many women and children throughout the world walk every day to secure drinking water.

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

Pueblo Area Council of Governments denies Pueblo West’s request to discharge effluent into tributary of Lake Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Area Council of Governments voted 8-2 to deny a change in the county’s regulations under Section 208 of the Clean Water Act. Pueblo West and Colorado City representatives voted in the minority. In October, PACOG voted 11-1 against a permit for Pueblo West’s plan for a pumpback project to return flows from the sewer plant to the golf course wash because it did not conform to the county’s 208 water quality management plan. Pueblo West proposed to update the plan to include the wash as an alternate discharge point. Right now, treated effluent is discharged into Pesthouse Gulch, which flows into Wildhorse Creek below Lake Pueblo. “The 208 regulations were last updated in 1993 when Pueblo West had a population of 3,800 and projected that there would be 6,600 people by 2010,” said Larry Howe-Kerr, manager of the Pueblo West Metro District. Pueblo West now has more than 30,000 people. “We’ve grown and our needs have changed.”

Pueblo West looked at four alternatives to golf course wash at the request of Pueblo County in December, and determined that only one — a pipeline down Wild Horse Creek to the Arkansas River — would work. It would actually cost less than the $6.5 million to discharge into Lake Pueblo. Pueblo West wants to use Lake Pueblo to recycle return flows from transmountain water. Most of the community’s water is brought in from the Colorado River basin and can be reused to extinction, stretching its water supply. “The cost would be less if we don’t lose water from the flow management program,” Howe-Kerr said. “The water itself is worth more than the cost of either of the options.”

More Pueblo West coverage here.

Broomfield: Flushing the pipes

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From the Broomfield Enterprise:

Broomfield Public Works Utility Services on Monday began flushing the city`s water system. Flushing operations are expected to take four weeks. The procedure is necessary to help maintain the water quality in the distribution system. It is performed by systematically opening fire hydrants throughout the city, according to the Utilities Web site. “Flushing requires a large amount of water to create a scouring effect on the inside of the pipes to remove the sediment in which bacteria may form. The process improves the taste and odor qualities of the water and helps maintain chlorine residual in the system,” the Web site states.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Wellington Reservoir: Access for 2010 season limited to youth and civic groups

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From The Fairplay Flume (Mike Potter):

John Akolt, attorney for the Wellington Reservoir Co., said groups such as church youth groups and Boy Scouts would be allowed to camp at the area this summer. Next summer, permission could be expanded to allow the general public, but that decision hasn’t been finalized yet. “We’re not set up [now] to reinstate any kind of public, general access,” he said. Akolt said it would be next summer at the earliest before access to the lake is returned to levels it had before it was closed…

In January, the Wellington Reservoir Co. board of directors heard a presentation for one possible use of the property, Akolt said. A private company was proposing to lease the lake and turn it into a private fishing spot. But the access under the proposal was greater than it might sound, because of easy access to membership. “It would be private in that only members would be allowed, but membership would be open to the public,” he said. Akolt said the proposal would be considered by the board, but it hadn’t been accepted.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

The Summit County Citizen’s Voice and the Colorado River District to collaborate on Water Blog

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Water touches everything and in recognition of that fact the Summit County Citizen’s Voice and the Colorado River District plan to collaborate on a new weblog — The Water Blog. I’ve linked to Bob Berwyn’s stories often over the years. He has a good understanding of water issues in the Colorado River Basin. So click through and sign up to receive notice when they post a water story. Here’s an excerpt:

We’re starting with a water blog, which we’ll update two or three times a week with local news about water, and links to state, regional and even global stories about the same topic. We’ll include photos, short reports about important meetings and conferences, including the May 12 State of the River presentation in Frisco. We may even throw in some poetry every now and then just to keep things fresh.

We’re also interested in any interesting stories and photos about water that our readers may want to share. If you have a story about your favorite fishing hole or a scenic snapshot of your favorite lakeside picnic spot or kayaking run, send it to us with a description and we’ll post it right here. Send us links to your favorite water-related websites and blogs, and we’ll post them here. Do have concerns or questions about your backyard brook, or the water you drink? Send them to us, and we’ll try to answer them, or find people who can.

We’ll start our water blog with a link to the Blue River Watershed Group, formed locally to “protect, restore, and promote a healthy watershed through cooperative community education, stewardship, and resource management.” Supporting the watershed group is a great way to act locally on this important issue. Summit County is unique when it comes to water resources because its political boundary coincides with the Blue River watershed boundary nearly along the entire perimeter of the county.

Think about it. From the Continental Divide above the Eisenhower Tunnel, to Loveland Pass, across to Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge and to Vail Pass in the west, all our mountain streams flow down from the county line to a confluence (now submerged by Dillon Reservoir) at the heart of Summit County. The place we live is defined by these vital arterials, filtered by alpine willow wetlands, burbling over mossy rocks and slicing through sage-covered shale bluffs before flowing down and out of our realm in a meeting with the mighty Colorado.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: State Representative Sal Pace wants Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to reevaluate project in light of Colorado Springs’ dissoulution of their stormwater enterprise

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

State Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, has asked the Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency to develop supplemental environmental studies to determine the impact of SDS without the assumption that stormwater flows would be restricted to current conditions. “This had to happen before the process is closed,” Pace said, when asked about the timing of the letter.

In the letter, Pace uses a quote from Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, which appeared in The Pueblo Chieftain in 2005 when the stormwater enterprise was created and again late last year after the stormwater enterprise was ended following interpretation of a ballot question in November: “We’re looking at a population of 900,000 in 35 years,” Rivera said. “If we’re not willing to address stormwater today, I don’t think it’s fair to ask others in the region to endorse the Southern Delivery System.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) passes out of state Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee

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From The Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee passed the bill out on a vote of six to one. Matt Garrington, of Environment Colorado, one of the groups supporting the bill, said it could be taken to the floor as early as Monday.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): Bill heads to house/senate conference committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

On Friday, the House voted to refer HB1188 as amended in the Senate to a conference committee with representatives from both chambers. The bill as originally passed by the House sought to allow commercial rafters to float through private property. In the Senate, it first was amended to open rivers through private property to anyone who wanted to use them — including anglers and individual, noncommercial rafters — and then amended to become a study by the Colorado Water Congress with no action to be taken this session by the Legislature. The Colorado Water Congress is the pre-eminent lobby in the state on issues pertaining to water use. Those changes on Friday faced a vote of the House, where the bill was referred to a conference committee.

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

When House Bill 1188 cleared the Colorado House in mid-February, it allowed rafters to cross private property but limited how often people can make contact with land. When the Senate debated the bill in March, however, the measure was reduced to a study, and then by a nongovernmental panel that focuses on water issues rather than recreation or landowner rights. As a result, its chief sponsor, unaffiliated Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, got the House to vote 41-21 Friday to send it to a conference committee of three representatives and three senators. There she hopes a compromise can be drafted. There are 24 proposed ballot questions addressing the issue, and Gov. Bill Ritter even got involved in trying to negotiate a compromise. At issue is the right to float on publicly owned water versus concerns over private property rights.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Curry asked Friday that the bill go to a conference committee to continue the discussion. The House granted her request on a 41-21 vote. The Senate had adjourned for the day and must agree before a conference committee could begin.

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, urged the House to follow the Senate’s lead and turn the bill into a study. “They had the sense to say, you know what, this is much bigger than what we can deal with right now,” Sonnenberg said.

Curry introduced the bill because of a dispute between a rafting company and a developer in her district. The two sides are trying to negotiate a settlement. “Even if they reach an agreement, the problem still persists throughout the state, and the ballot initiative process is out of our reach,” Curry said in a letter to her colleagues Tuesday.

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

Representative Kathleen Curry, the House sponsor of the measure, did not support the Senate version of the bill which directed the Colorado Water Congress to facilitate a study regarding the issue of rafting through private property and to report back to the legislature in November. Rep. Curry asked for permission to have a conference committee established, which will be made up of 3 members from the House of Representatives and 3 members from the Senate. The committee will then be charged with trying to draft a compromise between the two versions of the bill.

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

R.I.P. Floyd Dominy

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The longest serving Commissioner in the history of Reclamation, Floyd Dominy, has passed away at the age of 100. Dominy served as Reclamation Commissioner from 1959 to 1969 serving under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

“Reclamation has a long history of ‘larger than life’ Commissioners and Floyd was certainly at the top of that list,” said Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor. “I hope I have the strength, determination, and tenacity to carry on the legacy that Floyd set in this position to implement my agenda for Reclamation, as he was with his.”

Dominy joined Reclamation in 1946 as a land settlement specialist. He supervised the Allocations and Repayment Branch, Division of Irrigation in 1950. He rose to Assistant Commissioner in 1957 and was named Associate Commissioner in 1958. He retired from Reclamation in 1969.

Notable events that occurred during his term as Commissioner include the completion of Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, and Navajo Dams of the Colorado River Storage Project. He also played a role in the authorization and initiation of construction of the San Luis Unit and pushed for the completion of the Trinity River Division, Central Valley Project.

Dominy was born and grew up on a farm in Adams County, Neb., and graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1932.

“This is definitely the end of an era. His was a life full of great accomplishments and he will definitely be missed,” added Connor.

More Reclamation coverage here.

Beautiful storm

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What a beautiful storm. Here’s the 3 day rainfall map from Urban Drainage.

Here’s a report from The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker). From the article:

A series of cloudbursts throughout the day dropped about two inches of rain on the area in 24 hours…

Farmers are happy because the moisture will help the crops and the benefit outweighs the relatively small amount of damage, said Morgan County Extension Agent Marlin Eisenach. The official Morgan County weather monitor at the Fort Morgan Cemetery showed the area received about 2-1/4 inches of rain during the 24 hours ending this morning…

Probably about 10 percent of the corn was in the ground, which may mean some delays getting the rest planted, but even that planted later will be going into moist soil to help it get started, Eisenach said. Corn that was already planted will especially benefit from the rain, he said…

The city of Brush saw some high water in some intersections, but no real flooding, said City Administrator Monty Torres.

Grand Junction: National Weather service tweaks flood stage level for the Colorado mainstem

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From KKCO (Grand Junction):

[The National Weather Service] talked to emergency management, police and local residents, used flood data from past years and even looked at aerial photos. The conclusion they came up with: change the flood stage from 12 feet to 12.5 feet. “This means is that when we issue a warning we’re more confident that it’s not going to be a false alarm and it will actually be at a point which it can impact lives and property,” says Lawrence.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 makes it through state senate committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

A Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that would require the Cotter uranium mill to clean up its mess before it could take in new materials. Cotter officials had told the panel if the bill passes, it would limit the mill’s ability to mitigate existing pollution. The bill’s proponents said better mitigation steps should have been taken to date if its operators didn’t want the Legislature to step in. The committee advanced the measure with a 10-1 vote.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): Rafting companies and developer agree to try mediation at the behest of Governor Ritter

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From the Crested Butte News (Seth Mensing):

The trick will be to find a way a two-mile section of the Taylor River can be shared by two disparate groups of rafting and fishing clientele who expect something completely different from their respective river experiences.

Mark Schumacher, owner of Three Rivers Tours, representatives from Scenic River Tours and the Colorado River Outfitters’ Association, along with attorney Lori Potter, will sit down with developer Lewis Shaw and his lawyers Thursday, April 22 to make another attempt finding that common ground, with the help of the Judicial Arbiter Group Inc., a team of retired trial and appellate court judges who mediate such disputes.

Schumacher says the mediation is non-binding and either party can walk away at anytime. If that happens without a resolution, his company’s future on the middle section of the Taylor River will rest largely on the passage of House Bill 1188, the Commercial Rafting Viability Act, which was introduced by Gunnison Rep. Kathleen Curry in the last legislative session, or with a November ballot measure.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

Snowpack news: Southwestern Colorado reservoir level update, Yampa runoff

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The snowpack in the San Juan Mountains that feeds the Animas, Dolores, Pine and San Juan rivers and fills reservoirs peaked at 101 percent of average on April 1. But bare tree trunks and rocks were visible in Vallecito and Lemon reservoirs where, on March 30, the water level stood at only 33 percent of capacity in Vallecito (the 30-year average for the period is 49 percent) and at 20 percent of capacity in Lemon (the 30-year average being almost 54 percent). Runoff from snowmelt should fill the reservoirs. But the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center predicts that Vallecito will receive only 80 percent of the amount it normally receives from April through July and that the inflow to Lemon for the same period will be only 78 percent of normal. When full, Vallecito holds 125,000 acre-feet of water. The capacity of Lemon is 40,000 acre-feet…

Hal Pierce, the dam superintendent at Vallecito Reservoir, expects the lake, despite its current status, to fill this year. “I felt a lot more confident a month ago,” Pierce said Thursday. “But the water level is rising a foot a day, and the 80 percent (of normal) inflow should still fill it.”[…]

In comparison to Vallecito and Lemon reservoirs, Navajo Reservoir is 72 percent full, and McPhee Reservoir is 66 percent full. The predicted April-July runoff at Navajo is 81 percent of normal and 72 percent of normal at McPhee…

Because snow levels reach their peaks in April, the outlook for near-average snowpack is less than 10 percent, the report said. March provided little significant improvement in the snowpack, the report said. “Given the marginal snowpack conditions across much of the state, the outlook for spring and summer water supplies remain below average for most of Colorado,” the report said. “At least reservoir storage continues to track near-average volumes across most of the state. This water should help alleviate late-summer shortages in basins producing below-average runoff this year.”

Meanwhile March was the warmest month on record around the world, according to a report from Randolph E. Schmid writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Last month was the warmest March on record worldwide, based on records back to 1880, scientists reported last week. The average temperature for the month was 56.3 degrees Fahrenheit (13.5 degrees Celsius), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. That was 1.39 degrees F above the average for the month over the 20th century. NOAA researchers said the warmer-than-normal conditions were especially notable in northern Africa, South Asia, Tibet, Delhi, India and Canada. Cooler-than-normal regions included Mongolia and eastern Russia, northern and western Europe, Mexico, northern Australia, western Alaska and the southeastern United States…

NOAA also reported that in March Arctic sea ice, which normally reaches its maximum in that month, covered an average of 5.8 million square miles. That was 4.1 percent below the 1979-2000 average expanse, and the fifth-smallest March coverage since records began in 1979.

From Steamboat Today (Joe Reichenberger):

A spike in the river’s discharge turned the still-lazy Yampa into a kayaker’s delight earlier this week. The river was running at about 300 cubic feet per second as recently as Monday afternoon. A surge of water doubled that mark in the next 48 hours, however, and by Wednesday afternoon the river was running at nearly 650 cfs in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Just because the river was running Wednesday doesn’t mean much for the season, however. Local kayakers said just what the spring of 2010 will hold remains to be seen…

A warm streak could melt off the high-country snow and send all that water crashing into the Yampa in a short span. A more tempered weather cycle could lead to a longer season but no overwhelming whitewater.