Energy policy — geothermal: Mt. Princeton Geothermal, LLC, update

A picture named geothermalenergy

From Yahoo! (Joe Stone):

Interest in the location is motivated in part by Colorado’s mandated goal of generating 30 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2020. Another motivating factor is new technology that has lowered the
temperature threshold at which geothermal power generation becomes feasible. The new technology — already in use at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska and Thermo, Utah — works like an air conditioner in reverse. Instead of using a refrigerant to cool air, it uses hot water to vaporize the refrigerant, which then turns turbines attached to electrical generators. Once the heat is transferred from the water to the refrigerant, the water is returned to the underground reservoir, maintaining existing water levels…

Henderson said the feasibility of the project is unknown without drilling deep wells to obtain data on the underlying geothermal reservoir. Henderson hopes to find temperatures of 250 degrees in the deep exploratory wells, but the project will also need to prove “no damage to water quality, quantity or temperature.” Otherwise, the Colorado Division of Water Resources will not issue a permit for production, said Henderson. He believes that tapping the geothermal resource at depths greater than 2,000 feet will prevent any damage to the shallow aquifer that feeds local wells and hot springs.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Steamboat Springs: Yampa River Water Festival recap

A picture named yampariver

From Steamboat Today (Joel Reichenberger):

Steamboaters Luke Farny and Karsten Thompson tied for first place in the juniors rodeo, while 16-year-old Denver boater JP Griffith cut through the morning’s slalom course to win that competition…

Action was intense at Charlie’s Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs on the Yampa River for the second consecutive day. Saturday was about area veterans plying their trade on the water, but Sunday was about the children. They shined. Nearly a dozen kayakers took part, top performers ranging in age from 8 to 16. Farny stood out with his ride in the finals. He landed a kick flip as an entry move, then hung in front of the wave, spinning and twisting in the surf for nearly his entire allotted 90-second ride time. When he finally washed out, a second before a whistle signaled his time was over, he was able to paddle to shore with a wide smile.

More whitewater coverage here.

Rocky Flats: The Department of Energy hopes to breach dams located on the propoerty

A picture named rockyflats2007

From the Broomfield Enterprise:

The DOE wants to demolish several dams on the site that hold surface water in retention ponds. Breaching the dams will allow water to flow and restore the wetlands and riparian habitat.

Local communities, including Broomfield, oppose the plan…

Comments will be accepted through June 1. They can be e-mailed to or mailed to Rocky Flats EA Comments, 11025 Dover St., Suite 1000, Westminster, CO 80021. For more information, call 720-377-9672.

Here’s the link (pdf) to the draft version of the DOE`s environmental assessment.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

La Plata County: 640 households sign up for water supply service

A picture named fountainpavementdrawing

From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The 640 commitments gathered in a month – each backed by a deposit of $500 – are encouraging, Mae Morley and Gene Bradley said last week in separate interviews. But nothing concrete will be known until engineers finish a feasibility study, they said. “I’m fifth generation out here,” said Morley, a resident of unincorporated Breen. “The commitments show true need and desire because very few people have abundant well water that is drinkable. There are wells with bad water and there are dry holes. We want drinkable water.” There are an estimated 1,300 property owners and 930 residences in the targeted area, most of them clustered along the La Plata River and Colorado Highway 140 from Breen to Redmesa. Except for a lucky few residents like Morley who has well water good enough to drink (her brother who lives a mile away fills water jugs at her place), well water is used only for bathing and washing dishes and clothes. Potable water is purchased in town or at the Marvel spring.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.

Tamarisk control: Tamarisk consumptive use is on a par with native cottonwoods and willows

A picture named goatmunchingtamarisk

From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

…decades and millions of dollars of eradication projects later, a report released April 28 says that conventional wisdom had it all wrong. Tamarisk was getting a bad rap – it doesn’t use any more water than the native species it crowds out – cottonwood and willows. The report, done jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation, contains no new research. Rather, it’s a review and compilation of research dating back half a century. “The report is a review of the science starting in the 1960s,” said David Merritt, a riparian plant ecologist with the Forest Service in Fort Collins. The review found the premise that tamarisk was a water hog just didn’t wash, Merritt said.

Eradication efforts worked from the assumption that if tamarisk were removed there would be more water for other users, including plant species, wildlife, livestock and humans. “They weren’t able to quantify any real water savings by removing tamarisk,” Merritt said. “In certain cases, apparent (water) increases disappeared when vegetation came back…

There is relatively little tamarisk around Durango but it flourishes along the banks of the Animas, La Plata and San Juan rivers at the New Mexico line, La Plata County Weed Manager Rod Cook said. In Montezuma County where tamarisk is more abundant, a leaf beetle is munching tamarisk to death. The beetle is believed to have migrated to Montezuma County from Utah or from a beetle release four years ago on the Dolores River. Merritt said tamarisk peters out at around 7,000 feet elevation. Durango is at 6,512 feet elevation.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Sierra club official pans environmental protections in proposed SDS contract with Reclamation

A picture named arkansasfountainconverge

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“They appear to me to be very weak,” said Ross Vincent, president of the local Sierra Club chapter. “My impression is that they fall far short of the protection that is needed. The language is fuzzy and does not require much of anything.” The Sierra Club and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition have continued to question the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement’s adequacy and to raise questions about the impact SDS will have on Fountain Creek…

The problem, as Vincent sees it, is that water-quality conditions spelled out in Reclamation’s proposed contract require a determination by the Colorado Department of Public HealthandEnvironment that SDS is causing “significant adverse effects” before any action is taken. The requirements talk about “elevated concentrations” of selenium, E. coli and sulfates attributed to SDS. “What triggers it?” Vincent said. “We all know there are elevated concentrations now, so any increase at all would be a violation. My guess is the CDPHE would not reach a formal determination, so in effect there is no procedure.”

Vincent disagrees with Reclamation’s adaptive management plan as the way to handle unexpected changes in water quality or quantity due to SDS. “The Bureau of Reclamation is passing the buck to other agencies for its responsibility to protect water quality,” Vincent said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Rivers are running high and fast all over Colorado

A picture named clearcreekwatershed

I drove down Clear Creek Canyon from Idaho Springs yesterday and the creek was boiling. It’s runoff time in earnest now. The Golden gage is showing 878 cfs this morning.

Here’s a report from Joey Bunch writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Rivers were running at more than twice their historic mean, and the Eagle River below Gypsum and the Arkansas River near Parkdale were nearing records…

Flows on the Poudre were nearly three times faster than normal for the date. “I’m afraid we may not have reached the high-flow period yet,” said Heidi Koontz, spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey in Colorado “Typically, the high-flow period comes in the middle of June.”[…]

In southern Colorado, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning Sunday afternoon for low-lying areas in the Cañon City area, as the Arkansas River and tributaries became gorged with runoff. The city of Boulder issued a bulletin Sunday morning urging caution, with Barker Reservoir by Nederland expected to spill heavily into Boulder Creek during the next few days. Boulder Creek was flowing at 120 cubic feet per second Sunday, but as the spill begins, flows could spike as high as 420. “A flow of 300 to 400 cfs is considered dangerous for swimming and wading,” the city warned in its bulletin…

Brenda Worley, owner of Colorado River Guides in Yampa, said the Colorado and Eagle rivers were a study in contrasts. She operates tours on both. The Colorado River is regulated by dams, meaning it rarely gets too mild or too wild, and the season can last until August. The Eagle is fed by snowmelt, which means frigid temperatures and gushing flows in June, Worley said. “We may be lucky to still have water by the Fourth of July,” she said, “but it may be pretty fast between then and now.”