Cloud-seeding update

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From The Durango Telegraph (Allen Best):

A half-century after cloud-seeding began in the West, it continues to be regarded by many as something akin to chicken-noodle soup for colds. Or, on the more sinister side, snake oil. But water authorities in thirsty states of the American Southwest have no such doubts. For several winters, they have been increasing their budgets for seeding clouds passing over the mountains of Colorado, where about half of the total volume in the Colorado River originates. “We’re believers down here,” says Tom Ryan, resource specialist with the Metropolitan Water District of Southwestern California. “The lower-basin folks believe it works. We believe that the science is adequate to move forward.”

While still relatively small, just $152,000 this winter, the money from lower-basin states has more than tripled since 2006. The money has been used to spew silver iodide particles into clouds over the San Juan Mountains, the Gunnison Basin, and Grand Mesa, all regions with ski areas. The states also contributed to renewed seeding operations at Winter Park in partnership with ski-area operator Intrawest. Vail Resorts also continued its seeding operation for Vail and Beaver Creek, a program that began in 1978. It’s Colorado’s longest-continuous seeding operation.

More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Aaron Million pitches the project at the University of Wyoming

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From the Laramie Boomerang (Carrie Haderlie):

“Certainly, this project we looked at initially from an environmental standpoint, first and foremost,” Million told a packed crowd during a panel discussion hosted by the Potter Law Club of the University of Wyoming College of Law Wednesday. “If it doesn’t stand ground on (environmental) merits, then the project should not move forward.” Million said the agricultural community along the Front Range and in other parts of Colorado are facing a need for water that isn’t being addressed. “We have present problems today that I think will be unmitigatable (sic) two decades from now,” Million said…

[Environmental scientist and hydrologist Dan Luecke] said there are a number of issues that might be raised during pipeline discussions, not the least of which include the impact water removal would have on the Green River itself, compact issues and what Luecke called the “demand for water versus the desire for water.” “All of these are related to what I see as one of the most environmentally damaging kinds of water projects that one can conceive of, and that is a trans-basin diversion. That is taking water out of one system and putting it into another,” Luecke said.

Albany County Sen. Kermit Brown was present Wednesday, and he said he thinks the pipeline project poses two major risks. The first is climatological and the other is environmental. “That risk falls … on the unappropriated water that is left in the river,” Brown said, noting that the unappropriated water left in the Green River, if this project moves forward, will belong to Wyoming. “The appropriators fix their take from the river and leave the risk with the unappropriated water. We have seen that in Wyoming, Nebraska,” Brown said.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 — Cotter has spent $15 million on cleanup since the plant shut down in 2006

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

John Hamrick, vice president of milling, said the company has spent between $10 and $15 million on clean-up efforts since the mill shut down operations in 2006. However, continuous efforts were taking place at the mill while operations were under way, he said…

Cotter’s staff and local contractors are working on putting the first layer of the final closure on the secondary tailings impoundment. Slightly contaminated soil from the old ponds area is being used to fill the layer, Hamrick said. The company also is conducting several efforts to protect groundwater. About 18 months ago, Cotter received a notice of violation stating a plume of contaminated groundwater had been identified beneath the Shadow Hills Golf Course, just north of the plant. Cotter has been working to identify the source of that plume since it received the NOV, Hamrick said. The company has drilled several wells on the line between the two properties and tested the groundwater there. All the wells came out clean, Hamrick said. “We’re regrouping on that,” he said…

A soil conservation service, or SCS, hydraulic barrier was built in 1989 and has a pump that brings groundwater back on site for evaporation and prevents it from adding to the contamination plume in Lincoln Park. Just below that dam is the Permeable Reactive Treatment Wall, or PRTW, which catches any water that manages to bypass the SCS. Hamrick said on average, the PRTW catches 0.1 gallon of water per hour. Hamrick said irrigation in Lincoln Park has begun to dilute areas of the Lincoln Park plume. The company is planning this year to begin work on the plume just below the SCS where irrigation is not happening.

Clean up on site this year in addition to topping off the secondary impoundment will include the removal of the wooden CCD tanks and multiple ore pads. The 12 tanks are scheduled to be removed by the end of the summer. Along with the wood portion of the tanks, the company will remove the concrete foundations and excavate the soil underneath to determine leakage of the tanks. Materials from the tanks will be disposed of in the impoundments.

Cotter already has removed four feet of soil at the front gate ore pad and will continue that excavation.

The company also will remove an ore pad from 1958, breaking up the concrete and excavating the soil.

There also are piles of ore from the Western Slope that was not processed before the mill shut down in 2006. Cotter plans to sell the ore and then excavate that pad, as well.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news: This winter could be the seventh-driest ever for Summit County

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From the Summit County Voice (Bob Berwyn):

At the Dillon site, where Denver Water measures snowfall and temperatures, observers reported .66 inches of precipitation in March — less than half the long-term average (1.44 inches). Normal snowfall for March at the Dillon site is 22 inches, this year, 15 inches. The biggest single measurable snowfall was 5 inches on March 27. Temperatures recorded in Dillon were much closer to the historic norms, with the average daily high for the months at 39.6 degrees (normal, 39 degrees) and the daily average minimum temperature at 7.4 degrees (normal, 7.6 degrees)…

In Breckenridge, long-time weather watcher Rick Bly recorded 18.8 inches of snow in March compared to the historic average of 2.5 inches, or about 73 percent of average. That snow melted down to 1.58 inches of water, about 82 percent of the historic average 1.91 inches. For the weather year to-date, which started Oct. 1, 2009, precip at Bly’s weather station totals 7.62 inches of precipitation, compared to the historic average 9.1 inches. Bly has tallied 98.2 inches of snow, 78 percent of the average 127 inches for the year-to-date. But that’s still a little ahead of 2001-2002, the last major drought year, when he recorded 87 inches of snow at this point in the winter…

For our snowpack, that all translates to a 76 percent of average reading in the Blue River Basin, said water commissioner Scott Hummer. For the entire Colorado River Basin, the snowpack was 78 percent of normal as of April 2. “We’re still behind the eight-ball. “We’d need nine times the average amount of snow (in April) to hit the peak,” Hummer said.

South Platte Basin Roundable: Northern Integrated Supply Project presentation

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Judy Debus):

Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District gave an update on the status and the scope of projects and processes that have been identified by the roundtables. “We’re living on people that fought for the systems and infrastructure that we benefit from today — 50, 60 and 75, 80, 90 years ago, we are living on today,” he said. “It’s been decades since we’ve done much in terms of water infrastructure in northern Colorado.”[…]

There are 33 cities and towns that get at least part of their water from the Big Thompson Project, and the need is to find out how to add to that without drying up all the agriculture land. “Even if all the proposals we have on the board were completed, there is still going to be a gap out there,” he said. At this time, most of the projects being considered will take many years to complete and there is more pressure on the ag water supplies.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Wiggins election: Most candidates name the water supply problem as the number one issue

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Wiggins has seen its municipal water grow more mineral-laden as the water table sinks, and it has been dropping steadily for the past few years all through the local water basin. For months, the council wrangled over whether or not to have the town build its own new water system, join up with the Morgan County Quality Water District or buy water from the city of Fort Morgan. Eventually, town council members decided the least expensive method would be to build its own system and started buying water and working on designs. Now they are waiting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve a grant and/or loan package to get the project started.

More Wiggins coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Charles W. Howe — ‘Water coming out this end of the pipeline will be very expensive’

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From The Denver Post opinion page (Charles W. Howe):

The Million project would be a costly undertaking. As proposed, it would pump 81 billion gallons of water a year (250,000 acre-feet per year, slightly less than Denver Water’s annual use) a distance of nearly 600 miles, requiring at least three new reservoirs and 16 pumping stations to lift the water uphill 3,000 feet. The Colorado Water Conservation Board estimates the project’s construction cost to be in excess of $7 billion. To cover construction and operating costs, the price of project water would have to be at least $2,200 for each acre-foot provided — which no farmer and few cities can afford.

In late 2009, the Corps of Engineers required Million to demonstrate the project’s purpose and need by providing information on interested customers. In response, Million recently produced a series of non-binding form letters from a few cities and agricultural districts in Colorado and Wyoming saying they could use extra water. Notably absent from Million’s list of interested customers are the three biggest water providers on the Front Range — Denver Water, Aurora Water, and Colorado Springs Utilities…

Perhaps the greatest cost of Million’s proposal will be borne by all Colorado water users, since Million’s project would lock up most of the state’s remaining Colorado River allocation. This removal of water from the Colorado River system would also increase the probability that Colorado will not be able to meet its obligation to the Lower Basin under the Colorado River Compact of 1922, an event that would jeopardize existing Western Slope exports to the Front Range.

More Flaming Gore pipeline coverage here and here.

2010 elections: Hickenlooper tours the west slope

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said on Friday that, if elected governor of Colorado, he would work to cut government red tape for businesses and to get warring factions of the state’s water users to work together on critical water issues…

“There must be some way to protect the heritage landscapes that make Colorado what it is, but at the same time … maybe we end up with a little bit of oil and gas in a few places where it might really mar the landscape,” he mused. “But in most cases, the oil and gas is where we’ve already got roads, we’ve already got oil production. And the question is, how to we do it and make sure that we don’t harm the ranches or the citizens around it?”

Examples of his environmental ethic, he said, include efforts to get natural gas companies to reveal all the chemical components they use in hydraulic fracturing fluids, which has been the focus of intense debate concerning possible contamination of ground water supplies in the drilling process.

Also, he pointed to what he described as a 20 percent reduction, per capita, in water consumption rates in Denver, as a way of avoiding the need to poach water from the Western Slope.

More coverage from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

“What makes Denver Denver is the success of the West Slope,” Hickenlooper said at the Mesa County Democratic Assembly in the Central High School auditorium. “You would be amazed at how many people who live in Denver would really rather live in Grand Junction.”

During his tenure as mayor of Denver, he changed the culture of the Denver Water board to encourage water conservation, a development cheered by the Mesa County Democrats. “Every drop of water that can possibly be kept on the West Slope should be kept on the West Slope,” Hickenlooper said.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Cañon City: Water rates set to decline for the first time ever

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Charlotte Burrous):

“Most people will either see no change or a decrease in their water rates,” said City Administrator Steve Rabe. “Minimum water users will see an incredible drop. Overall, when we come back with a cost of service review, it showed us we needed to make a 5 percent increase in the amount of revenue that we make. We needed to do that over about three years.” “We will go from $5.4 million in 2009 to $5.7 million in 2010,” Rabe said. The bulk of the 5 percent hike will be made up with the change in the rates for Cotter and the two golf courses, based on cost of service rather than water contracts.

Customers inside city limits pay $40.68 without even using any water, he said. The rate will drop to $27.90, which is a 31.4 percent decrease.

However, customers, who use up to 80,000 gallons in a three-month period will pay $222.50 rather than $202.50 for the quarter because they are high water users.

On the non-residential side, customers using an average of 5,000 gallons per quarter will pay $9.30, compared to the current rate of $21.77, which is a decrease of 57.3 percent.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Cañon City: 2010 Arkansas Basin Water Forum — April 6 and 7

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From the Leadville Herald Democrat:

Along with updates on the Arkansas Basin Round Table and the various Water Conservancy Districts along the river, presentation topics will include:

• Planning for future impacts on water availability and timing in the Arkansas River basin

• Economic benefits of irrigated agriculture and water-based recreation in the Upper Arkansas basin

• Small municipal water provider panel

• Water quality issues in the Upper Basin

• Updates on Lower Basin major projects

• Announcement of the annual Bob Appel award.

Registration information and a complete program can be found at:

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Estes Park: Public invited to tour new St. Mary’s water treatment plant on April 8

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From the Estes Park Trail Gazette (Kate Rusch):

Town Trustees and staff invite the public to an open house to celebrate the completion of this state-of-the-art facility on Thursday, April 8 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 10:00 a.m. From 10:15 a.m. until 1:45 p.m., staff will be stationed throughout the facility to explain the water treatment process…

The Marys Lake Water Treatment Plant is located at 899 Lakewood Court near the southeast side of Marys Lake. Parking is limited and carpooling is encouraged. A shuttle will be available for those who park along Lakewood Court and Marys Lake Road. The facility now uses state-of-the-art membrane technology to treat water for the residents and visitors of the Estes Valley. The new system improves filtration to exclude particles less than 1 micron in size and requires fewer chemical additives to treat water. It also prepares Estes Park to meet more stringent water treatment regulations in the future. The plant`s treatment capacity has doubled to 4 million gallons per day (MGD) in the summer and at least 2.5 MGD in the winter. The membrane filtration systems are fully automated and water plant operators will be able to focus on maintaining the system which is cleaned several times a day.

More water treatment coverage here.

Carbondale and other entities are pooling their dough to preserve Roaring Fork public fishing access

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

The land, approximately 7.8 acres owned by Stanley and Valerie Koziel, stretches for roughly 1,300 linear feet along the river, from the Highway 133 bridge to the north. It includes the land now occupied by a truck turnaround and a boat ramp, as well as an upper bench used for trailers and campers, known as the Sopris RV Park, according to Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel…

The town, through grants and contributions, has raised a total of $2.5 million, and will be making an offer soon, Jackel told the board of county commissioners…

The county is kicking in $100,000, and Jackel said that he has gotten $950,000 in grants from the state Division of Wildlife and $1 million from the Great Outdoors Colorado lottery fund. In addition, he said, the town of Carbondale is putting $450,000 into the deal. According to Jackel, the uses of the property will be recreational, based on a master plan he hopes to draw up with the agreement of the town’s “partners” in the purchase. He said the boat ramp ultimately is to be paved, along with a parking area, and that a riverside trail will be maintained for fishermen. Jackel also hopes to retain the camping uses, although all of it will need to be studied as the master plan is drawn up.

More conservation coverage here.

Greeley: Mandatory watering restrictions start April 15

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From The Greeley Tribune:

Throughout the watering season, lawn watering is not allowed between noon and 5 p.m. because it wastes water. Odd-numbered addresses are allowed to water lawns on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, while even-numbered addresses may water Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Nonresidential properties and multifamily residential properties, such as apartments and homeowner association common areas, may water lawns on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Residents who don’t comply face possible fines of up to $100 for a first violation. Outdoor use, mostly lawn watering, accounts for 55 percent of Greeley’s annual water use. The city estimates that 25 percent of the water is wasted by inefficient irrigation practices. The city offers free audits of residents’ irrigation systems, including a custom water schedule. To sign up, go to and fill out the online form. For more on the city’s watering regulations, go to or call (970) 336-4134.

More conservation coverage here.

Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir are open to boating

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

Larimer County has hired and trained about 34 inspectors who, on days when weather won’t prevent boating, will be at the docks 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. The inspectors give each boat a careful once over before it is allowed to launch to make sure no nuisance mussels are attached…

Last summer, the county started inspections on every boat going into its reservoirs. Inspectors checked 56,000 boats and found [invasive] mussels attached to three before they hit the waters at Horsetooth Reservoir. This will be the third year for inspections at Boyd Lake State Park. During that time, no invasive mussels have been found on boats.

More invasive species coverage here and here.