HB 10-1358 (Water-smart Homes) and HB 10-1051 (Water Efficiency Plans Annual Reports) both head to Governor Ritter’s desk for his signature

A picture named waterefficenttoilet.jpg

From the Summit County Voice (Bob Berwyn):

House Bill 1358 is a pro-active piece of legislation that simply requires homebuilders to give buyers the up-front option for various water-saving options, including low-flow toilets and faucets, high-efficiency washing machines, as well as low-water-use landscaping. House Bill 1051 would help water planners collect more accurate information about water efficiency efforts.

Both the measures appear to enjoy widespread support and have bipartisan backing in the State Legislature, although the homebuilding industry opposes HB 1358′s mandatory requirement that buyers be notified of water-wise options for appliances and landscaping. New homes incorporating water-smart appliances and fixtures could easily use 20 percent less water, said Becky Long, water caucus organizer for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. If, by 2050, 100,000 new homes are built using water-smart measures, it could save up to 2 billion gallons of water, Long said, explaining that the latest generation of low-flow toilets and other water-saving appliances and fixtures are far improved over earlier models.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

CWCB: Board meeting May 18-19 in Denver

A picture named cachelapoudre.jpg

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Lisa Barr):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is meeting on May 18-19, 2010, at 1580 Logan Street, Suite 610, Denver, CO 80203.

The agenda (pdf) is available on the CWCB website. CWCB staff memos and other materials will be available May 14, 2010, on our website.

The meeting will be “streamed” via the internet through the CWCB’s website. Click on the “Listen to the meeting LIVE!” link, found on our home page just before the meeting begins.

Presentations are also being made available. To watch presentations that accompany agenda items, click the “Watch Presentations” link on the CWCB website homepage just before the meeting begins.

The CWCB is implementing a new email system in an effort to improve our communication with citizens, customers, and constituents. If you do not wish to receive notices of Board activities, please let us know.

If you need more information about this Board meeting, please contact Lisa Barr at lisa.barr@state.co.us

More CWCB coverage here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right) dies in conference committee

A picture named raftingarkriver.jpg

From The Denver Post (Jessica Fender):

The six-lawmaker panel deadlocked when members couldn’t settle on rules regarding how, when or whether river enthusiasts should be able to float through private property. The lack of a legislative resolution probably means voters will be asked to settle the fight on the November ballot. Twenty ballot initiatives on the subject are currently waiting in the wings, though that number will certainly be culled before Election Day. Rep. Kathleen Curry, sponsor of House Bill 1188, said none of the initiatives fully address complicated issues such as portage and trespassing that are likely to be glossed over by campaigns on both sides. “We are unable to reach an agreement, but that doesn’t mean the issue goes away,” said Curry, I-Gunnison. “Tensions are up back home, but I couldn’t help them.”[…]

Meanwhile, private mediation on the conflict that brought the bill to the fore continues, according to lobbyist Mike Feeley, who represents land developer Jackson-Shaw. The Texas company purchased both sides of the bank along a 2-mile stretch of the Taylor River and plans an exclusive vacation community. It threatened to bar two Almont rafting outfitters from floating through the property. At Gov. Bill Ritter’s direction, the rafting and land-development companies have started to negotiate a compromise.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

Snowpack/runoff news: Boulder –No water restrictions this summer

A picture named snowpackcolorado05122010.jpg

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

In a news release Monday, the city wrote that the wet weather and low water use across the city so far this year has led to above-average water supplies going into the snow runoff season. Snowpack in the mountain areas that supply Boulder’s municipal water supply was below average through the winter, and peak streamflows will be lower than average as a result. But city officials say the water levels in the reservoirs and water-rights agreements will cover the difference.

The recommended watering guidelines for the summer are as follows: Water your lawn in the evenings or early mornings, after 6 p.m. or before 10 a.m.; Water your lawn every three days; Do not over water; Do not water when it is raining or when the soil is already wet; Trees, shrubs and vegetable gardens can be watered more effectively with a hand-held hose or low-volume non-spray irrigation, after 6 p.m. or before 10 a.m.; Check your sprinkler system and make sure it is working properly and that you are only watering landscaping and not the surrounding areas like streets or sidewalks.

From The Aspen Times (Will Sands):

Generally at this time of the month the Roaring Fork should be in the beginning stages of runoff, especially below the confluence of the Crystal River. Cooler weather this past week has slowed the spring snowmelt, however, and we are experiencing some very good fishing that would not normally be available to us.

Click here to check out the one day precipitation map from the Urban Drainage Flood and Control District. The northern part of the metro area has received more than an inch while a half inch is the norm. If you click on the thumbnail graphic above you can see the effect of this storm on snowpack as a percent of average. Here’s the link to yesterday’s snowpack chart.

From The Greeley Tribune:

People along Colorado’s northern Front Range and in the mountains west of Denver are waking up to several inches or a foot or more of snow. Rain turned to snow Tuesday night amid forecasts of snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour in the foothills of Larimer County and west of Denver. A storm system centered over northern Utah is bringing the spring snow to Colorado and parts of Wyoming.

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

The National Weather Service says 11 inches of snow was reported near Jamestown in Boulder County as of early Wednesday, and there was about an inch of precipitation reported at Denver International Airport. Some areas around Grand Lake are reported to have received as much as 18 inches of snow.

Colorado River District: Colorado River water availability study gets mixed reviews

A picture named coloradoriverbasincgs.jpg

From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The underpinning of the study — to determine how much water remains for Western Slope and Front Range development — came under some fire, however. “Why should we take the risk” of a call on the river from California or Arizona that would fall hardest on the Western Slope, Gunnison Valley rancher Ken Spann asked. Spann sits on the Gunnison River Basin Roundtable, one of four such groups in the Colorado River Basin. All four gathered Monday at the Grand Vista Hotel, 2790 Crossroad Blvd., to discuss the study conducted by AECOM, an international environmental consulting firm.

The study, which can be seen at http://www.crwcd.org, is the first phase of the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s effort to nail down how much water is available in the river. Preliminary conclusions are predicated on computer models based on three sets of assumptions about climate change, AECOM Vice President Blaine Dwyer said…

“What possible incentive could the East Slope provide” to encourage the Western Slope to accommodate water development that could lead to a downstream demand for water, Spann asked. “The Broncos, DIA, the Rockies, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts?” The Front Range would be unlikely to suffer under a call, so, “Why should this basin take the risk?” Spann asked.

The Western Slope should engage in talks that might lead to benefits for the Front Range because to do otherwise would be to court disaster, said Alexandra Davis, director of compact negotiations for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “The risk exists today that money, politics or a crisis will combine forces to pull the water out of the Western Slope in a way that would be far more harmful than if there wasn’t a crisis,” Davis responded.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: State Water Quality Control Division nukes Cotter plan for Schwartzwalder mine mitigation

A picture named uranium.jpg

From the Associated Press via CBS4Denver.com:

Cotter Corp. has submitted a plan to state mining regulators to reduce uranium levels in Ralston Creek from the closed Schwartzwalder Mine. The water flows into a reservoir that supplies some of Denver’s drinking water. The Water Quality Control Division of the state health department told mining regulators in a memo Monday that Cotter’s plan doesn’t reduce uranium in the water to acceptable levels…

The state Office of Mined Land Reclamation expects to decide by May 19 whether to approve or reject Cotter’s plan or seek more information.

Meanwhile here’s a look at HB 10-1348 and how it will impact Cotter’s plans for their mill in Cañon City from Marjorie Childress writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

A controversial plan to open an old uranium mine on Mt. Taylor near Grants, New Mexico, faces an obstacle in the new law passed by the Colorado legislature that forbids increased operations at uranium mills until the mill companies clean up sites contaminated in the past. The Cotter Uranium Mill, just a little over a mile south of Cañon City is owned by the same company that owns the Mt. Taylor mine and is the designated recipient of future Mt. Taylor uranium ore. Under the new law, which Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has yet to sign, Cotter would not be able to accept the ore, at least not any time soon. “This is not unexpected,” John Hamrick, vice president of milling at Cotter, told the Cañon City Daily Record. “This bill will prevent us from processing the Mount Taylor ore.”

Click through and read the whole article — there is a lot of good detail.

More HB 10-1348 coverage from Matthew Beaudin writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The bill will essentially require companies to clean as they go, curtailing the toxic sites that dot the Western landscape and the towering cleanup costs that saddled taxpayers. (Colorado alone has shelled out more than $1 billion to cleanup the industry.) Last week, the Senate voted 24-9 in favor of the bill and the house later readopted the bill resoundingly, 60-3. Now, it waits for Ritter to vault it into law…

Hilary White, Sheep Mountain Alliance’s executive director, helped work on the measure and said Ritter will sign the bill “shortly.”[…]

Taxpayers have spent more than $950 million to clean up toxic pollution at past uranium milling operations located primarily on Colorado’s Western Slope, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. “It means that the bad actors in the uranium industry will not be allowed to operate if they are in violation of contaminating the environment,” White said. “It’s been shown time and time again that uranium companies just walk away from their messes.”[…]

Jeffrey Parsons, a senior attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, which supports the bill, said there’s no guarantee Cotter will be able to get ore from Mount Taylor, which is considered sacred land by as many as 30 Indian tribes. White said the measure will also increase bonding obligations for operators in hopes of stanching the costs of future cleanup. All told, the Naturita mill site cost $67 million to clean up and the Uravan site, designated a Superfund site, cost $120 million to clean, White said. Also according to Sheep Mountain, Energy Fuels, the company planning to build a mill in Paradox Valley, plans to put up $12 million in bonding. Bonding in general, she said, was “less than adequate.” “The industry is a mess and needs to be cleaned up,” she said.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.

Tamarisk control: Tamarisk is not the water hog it has been made out to be

A picture named tamarisk.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“In a few cases, clearing saltcedar has resulted in temporary, measurable increases in streamflow,” a report by the U.S. Geological Survey states. “Most studies, however, have found that although evapotranspiration may be decreased by large-scale removal of saltcedar, no significant long-term changes in streamflow are detected as a result of vegetation removal.” The report is a scientific assessment ordered under the Saltcedar and Russian Olive Control Demonstration Act of 2006. It reviews past studies in order to assess the scientific information available about tamarisks and Russian olives, while providing a common background for those applying for federal grants.

In Colorado, the Arkansas River basin is the most heavily infested with tamarisk, with 69 percent of the state’s total acreage. Many of the trees were planted in the 1900s as a means of erosion control. The trees have spread over time, taking over cottonwood stands in the river beds and colonizing upland areas as well. More than 67,000 acres are affected…

Today, the [Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District] is coordinating efforts throughout the valley under the Arkansas River Watershed Invasive Plant Plan. In addition to water usage, the trees have been identified as crowding out beneficial native plants and restricting flood control channels. According to the project’s website, tamarisk use 76,600 acre-feet of water per year, and infilling of partially infested areas eventually could increase that amount to 198,000 acre-feet…

The report acknowledges that tamarisk stands spread areas of vegetation into upland areas as well as along the banks, but states that simply removing the trees does not increase the water supply. Instead, the natural vegetation that replaces tamarisk may use the same amount or even more water, nullifying any water gain. Evaporation could actually increase if shading by tamarisk is reduced. Water made available to groundwater is used by other plant species, and does not increase long-term streamflow, the USGS report states.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Greeley: City council voices opposition to proposed revised floodplain regulations from the Colorado Water Conservation Board

A picture named southplatteflood.jpg

From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

Council members sharply criticized the flood plain regulation changes being proposed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Under current rules, the city must abide 100-year flood plain precautions for all facilities, whether they’re deemed critical or not. The Conservation Board has suggested modifications that protect “critical facilities” in the event of a 500-year-flood to better ensure public safety and reduce flood losses.

If such rules were enacted, said Derek Glosson, Greeley’s engineering development review manager, the state has “a laundry list of what it considers critical facilities.” For example, he said, a road would be considered critical and thus require a bridge to be built, “which would be a major cost to the city.” He said it would be easy to ensure that new facilities handle a 500-year-flood — of which there is a two-tenths of one percent chance any given year — but retrofitting existing structures is “very dicey.” “In that analysis you have to include the cost of restricting development and the costs of that land” in compensation to private property owners, Norton said. “I think there’s a big legal question that I think is unanswered in their rather arbitrary approach to this.”

More CWCB coverage here.