Energy policy — nuclear: Locals debate Powertech’s proposed uranium in-situ mine near Nunn

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From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

“People have a misunderstanding about uranium and nuclear power in general,” says Powertech CEO Richard Clement. “People conceive of uranium being a major radioactive substance where if you just become associated with it you’re going to be radiated and killed.”[…]

“People just don’t understand what we’re trying to accomplish here, really it’s a very non invasive type of development,” Clement says. A fire hose would be injected a couple hundred feet below the ground to break up the uranium, and pump it back to the surface…

Colorado environmental officials appear poised to make sure those things won’t happen again, as uranium mining appears poised for a comeback. The state is currently rewriting regulations to protect groundwater from toxic runoff. That could be one more road block in front of President Obama’s push for more nuclear power. But State Department of Natural Resources spokesman Theo Stein says the intent is not to stop uranium mining, but make sure it’s done safely. “Groundwater in that part of the state is precious and limited, and it’s important to make sure that any industrial activity does not adversely impact that groundwater,” Stein says.

[Joe Bagby] says he thinks the mine will happen anyway, because he says it’s a top down push from president Obama, a push that may get more of boost in Colorado and nationwide in light of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

American Rivers: Upper Colorado is sixth most endangered river

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From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Julie Sutor):

“We can’t continue to take and take water from the Upper Colorado without accounting for the serious impacts to fish and wildlife habitat,” said Ken Neubecker of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “This river is on the brink. A vibrant, healthy river system in the Upper Colorado is every bit as important to the future of Colorado as the water it supplies to our farms and cities.” Neubecker nominated the Upper Colorado for its designation on American Rivers’ 2010 list.

The diversions of concern to conservation groups (and headwaters communities like Summit County) are the proposed Moffat Project and Windy Gap Firming Project. Both proposals would expand reservoir storage capacity on the Front Range to move more West Slope water from the Colorado River and its tributaries, including the Blue River in Summit County and the Fraser River and Williams Fork in Grand County.

Denver Water and Northern Water, the two Front Range water providers behind the projects, say habitat protection and water conservation are big priorities, and such principles already figure into their project plans and their daily operations. “I think we’re going to take care of a lot of their concerns,” Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said of the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would increase supply for a number of Front Range communities including Loveland, Broomfield, Longmont and Greeley. “We’ve been working long and hard to reach some West Slope compromises, and we’ve proposed some stuff that’s never been proposed in this state before, in terms of taking care of the Upper Colorado.”[…]

Neubecker doesn’t feel either the Moffat Project or the Windy Gap Project necessarily equates to a death sentence for the Upper Colorado. On the contrary, if done in the right way, both have the potential to enhance protections for the river’s aquatic ecosystem and adjacent riparian habitat. But for that to happen, he says, the projects must do two things: First, they should take into account the cumulative environmental impacts of existing water diversions and not just examine the impacts of the proposed projects in a vacuum. The Colorado headwaters have been subject to major water depletions for more than 100 years, and wildlife has paid the price, according to American Rivers. Second, guidelines for future diversions and flow management should be flexible enough to adjust for unforeseen environmental impacts — a concept called “adaptive management” — something Werner said Northern Water supports. “We need to have some serious and meaningful mitigations and have the proponents of these projects recognize the impacts they’re having on these rivers beyond the narrow legal concepts under Colorado water law. Lawns recover a lot faster than rivers do. For a river to lose that water is a matter of life and death,” Neubecker said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Western Governors Association annual meeting recap

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From the Flathead Beacon (Dan Testa):

In a discussion about the demand for water outstripping supplies, Robert Glennon, author of, “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It,” assailed many state governments, like Georgia’s, for not taking more drastic conservation steps following the severe drought there. “This is about the health of the American economy,” Glennon said. “We may fret about running out of oil, but water lubricates the American economy just as oil does.” The problem is compounded, he added, by the fact that many Americans are migrating from the coasts, where water is more abundant, to Western cities, where it’s scarce. Developing renewable energy sources, like ethanol and solar power, he added, also use vast amounts of water.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, of Idaho, asked whether settling water rights with tribes should be a top priority. “Unless and until these tribal rights are quantified,” Susan Cottingham, of the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, answered. “It is this uncertainty hanging over all the other water rights.”

Runoff news: Arkansas River flows dropping

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

As of Tuesday, more than 50,000 acre-feet of water has moved through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake from the collection system high in the Colorado River basin. “We’re close to our projections,” said Roy Vaughan, Fry-Ark Project manager. The visible snow is largely melted off in the mountains, coming off faster than would be optimal for water production. A slower melt would have allowed more opportunity to capture flows. The good news is that requirements for minimum flows will ease into July, providing better chances to capture water…

Flows in the Arkansas River have dropped dramatically in the last three weeks to about one-third of what they were at the beginning of June. On Tuesday, there was about 1,600 cubic feet per second flowing at Avondale.

Southern Delivery System: Lake Pueblo storage negotiations with Reclamation update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs, in the current negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation for its proposed Southern Delivery System, argues that it would be fair to be granted the same rate Pueblo has for storage in Lake Pueblo, and to not pay an annual fee for conveyance.

Pueblo’s rate and payment arrangements were determined under different circumstances and for different reasons during negotiations in 2000. Pueblo received a 25-year contract to store nonproject water in Lake Pueblo in 2000 for a fixed price of $17.35 per acre-foot. The contract began at 3,000 acre-feet, and increases to 15,000 acre-feet by 2025. At the same time, it agreed to pay its share, 77.58 percent, for construction of the South Outlet Works and Delivery Manifold over a 25-year contract at 3.046 percent — about $169,000 annually, or $4.2 million over time.

Reclamation offered Colorado Springs storage and conveyance for $75 an acre-foot and an exchange contract for $50 per acre-foot, a deal termed “unacceptable” by SDS Project Director John Fredell at the end of a June 15 negotiating session. Throughout the negotiations, Colorado Springs tried to hammer home the point that as part of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, it should be entitled to the same terms Pueblo received in its 2000 contract. Colorado Springs also maintains it should not have to pay to use the North Outlet Works, which it intends to pay for and construct, along with its SDS partners — Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

The North Outlet Works was bumped up in Colorado Springs planning in 2008, after it became apparent the connection on the south end of the dam, either through excess capacity or enlargement, would not be available. Colorado Springs wants the power to sell its own excess capacity in the new connection to help pay for it…

Colorado Springs already benefits from the Fry-Ark Project through the Fountain Valley Conduit, as well as arrangements made for the use of Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake by the Homestake Project, which includes Aurora as a partner. Fountain Valley (Colorado Springs, Security, Widefield, Fountain, Stratmoor Hills) is entitled to 25 percent of the relatively cheap Fry-Ark allocations each year, as well as ample storage space for project water in Lake Pueblo. But Colorado Springs and its SDS partners want more. SDS is seeking to use excess-capacity space in Lake Pueblo that was never part of the Fry-Ark Project to accommodate growth, provide redundancy and fully use water rights obtained after the Fry-Ark Project began. Negotiations continue July 15 in Fountain.

Pueblo, on the other hand, received contracts for parts of the Fry-Ark Project that were envisioned as far back as 1960. At that time, Congress was getting close to passing the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act, and a large treatment plant was envisioned at the base of Pueblo Dam that would provide water for Pueblo and communities below…

Concurrently, Pueblo was improving its own system. In the 1950s, Pueblo’s two water companies, which served either the north or south side of the Arkansas River, merged. Both operated river intakes, which are still used occasionally. There also were wells at the honor farm. When Pueblo Dam was completed in the 1970s, the South Outlet Works was built with a capacity of about 359 cubic feet per second. In all the planning documents, 310 cfs were reserved for Pueblo and the Arkansas Valley Conduit, as part of the Fry-Ark Project. The final allocation gives Pueblo capacity of 278.5 cfs (180 million gallons per day); Fountain Valley, 30.6 cfs; Pueblo West, 18.94 cfs; and future Arkansas Valley Conduit, 30.94 cfs. Pueblo is nowhere near using that full capacity, while Fountain Valley and Pueblo West already occasionally hit the limits. Land was set aside on federal property for a filter plant that would eventually be built to serve Pueblo and the conduit. In addition, there was an understanding throughout the development of the Fry-Ark Project that Pueblo would receive consideration on 20,000 acre-feet of storage space, said Terry Book, deputy director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “When we did our negotiations, we looked at what the legislation said and documented the history and correspondence between the parties,” Book said. Those records show a clear trail back to 1967 of official correspondence between Reclamation, Pueblo water board and the Southeastern district that led up to the 2000 negotiations. Over that time, Pueblo constructed a new water treatment plant north of the Arkansas River in 1977, and completed a major upgrade of the plant in 2003. By about 1999, the water demand in Pueblo was sufficient to construct the pipeline from the South Outlet Works to the water treatment plant…

Since the Pueblo contract, Aurora — a city of 300,000 east of Denver that uses the Fry-Ark Project to move water out of the basin — was given a 40-year contract. Colorado Springs was successful in gaining Reclamation’s approval of a 40-year contract after the first SDS negotiating session in May.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

CWCB: June 23 Water Availability Task Force recap

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Below are my notes from last Wednesday’s meeting:

Drought Plan

Veva Deheza (CWCB) announced that Colorado’s drought plan revision is currently in internal review. Public comments will be solicited starting July 19. Final approval on the mitigation plan is expected by 1/1/2011.

Colorado River Water Availability Study

Comments are trickling in for the study and are due by July 21.

Colorado River mainstem

Currently water storage in Lake Powell is 64% and Lake Mead is at 41% for a system-wide total of 58%, according to Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi (CWCB). This is slightly below last year. So far this year streamflow into Lake Powell is much higher than predicted earlier in the year.

State Climatologist’s report

Colorado’s weather was cool to considerably cooler than average in May, according to Nolan Doesken. This was the, “Coolest May in a number of years,” he said. The one week of warm weather in May kicked off the runoff in a big way.

Klaus Wolter (NOAA) told the group that we are in the, “coolest one year running record on record,” with his 28 years of data.

In May it was dry in the southwestern part of the state with very good moisture on the eastern plains, according to Doesken. The first half of June has been dry as well. Morgan County has already received half their average annual moisture, and, “The northeast corner of the state is doing dandy,” he said.

Doesken reported precipitation news from around the state. He said that Grand Lake got off to a slow start and is tracking with the driest year on record. Grand Junction is tracking along with median precipitation. The Uncompahgre Valley is near normal. Mesa Verde had a surge of mid-winter moisture but has moved from above average to below average since. Del Norte had a wet start as well but is now showing a pattern similar to Arizona in an El Niño year — dry. Pueblo is above average with a big May. Burlington continues at near record precipitation. Doesken added that, “crops are looking fantastic and I hope that hail will leave them alone.” Akron is tracking at near average. Fort Collins in above average as is Boulder.

Report from the NRCS

Mike Gillespie remarked, about Colorado, that we’ve gone, “from floods to fires in the same month,” and the, “remnants of the 2010 snowpack are rapidly melting out.”

The Yampa/White River basin precipitation was at 94% of average for the year and reservoir storage is 113% of average, he said. Streamflow forecasts are below average.

The Colorado Basin precipitation is at 92% of average and reservoir storage is 119% of average while the streamflow forecast anticipates 70-80% of average. Basin storage is the best in a decade. Karen Rademacher (Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District) said that Granby Reservoir will probably start spilling Monday, adding that Northern’s reservoirs on the east slope filled with east slope water rights this year and that no water is currently moving through the Adams Tunnel.

In the South Platte Basin Gillespie noted that precipitation is 93% of average, reservoir storage is at 108% of average and the streamflow forecast is below average. Snowpack had a, “nice late peak with a number of rebounds,” he said.

The Gunnison Basin snowpack started out like gangbusters but experienced an early melt from warm weather and dust events. Precipitation is at 94% of average, reservoir storage is 119% of average. Streamflow is expected to be below average with inflow to Blue Mesa forecasted at 69% of average.

Gillespie said that southwestern Colorado experienced, “a rapid early melt out,” with little precipitation in May and so far in June. Precipitation for the year is at 82% of average and reservoir storage = 115% of average. Streamflow is forecasted to be 70-80% of average. Down in Dolores they are, “worried about the back-end of the season,” with the lack of moisture and early runoff.

In the Rio Grande Basin precipitation is at 92% of average but, “June has been terribly dry,” he said. Reservoir storage is 90% of average but the streamflow forecast is, “fairly good,” at 90-98% of average.

The Arkansas Basin precipitation is sitting at 87% of average. Reservoir storage is 105% of average with below average (75-80%) streamflow expected.


Taryn reported that the current outlook predicts average fire potential with a quieter grass fire season than 2008 and 2009.

Short term and long term weather outlooks

Klaus Wolter told the task force, “La Niña looks inevitable now.” The weather forecast for the next 5 days looks dry. The 2 week forecast is not calling for a, “super heat wave,” he said, and, “Summers after El Niño years tend to be dry.”

The final word came from Nolan Doesken quipping, “The last time reservoir storage looked really good was just before it got really bad.”

More CWCB coverage here.

Western Governors Association annual meeting recap

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From the Associated Press (Matt Gouras) via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

In many states, water claims in entire watersheds remain in limbo without the funding to sort out exactly who owns what, [University of Arizona law professor and author Robert Glennon] said. Then there are the treaty claims by many Native American tribes that can stretch back 150 years. Some of the claims are still the focus of unresolved settlements that ultimately could require the taxpayers to cough up cash to buy the water rights. About three-quarters of the region’s water goes to agriculture. Glennon said prices need to be raised to increase conservation — a notion not quickly embraced by the governors.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said the water claims can only be sorted out locally, even if it’s a laborious process. No would trust outsiders to come in and do it for them, he said. “We are very jealous about our water in Idaho and our use of it,” Otter said.

There is still too little known about the interconnection of different water aquifers, rivers and basins, the governors were told. These relationships will be key in charting out water use agreements. “I think there is general consensus we can’t manage what we can’t measure and we what we don’t understand,” said Michael Connor, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Oh be Joyful Kayak race photos

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Check out the photo essay from last weekend’s Oh Be Joyful Kayak Race from The Colorado Springs Gazette.

More whitewater coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Black Range Minerals says they are 3-5 years out from mining operations

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Charlotte Burrows):

“Before we can make any decision about whether we might have a commercially viable operation by incorporating additional resources, we need to update the work that was done historically.” said Black Range Minerals managing director Mike Haynes during a community meeting Friday at the Abbey. “In order to update that work, we need to drill six to 12 holes down on the northern end of the South T-Bar Ranch. In order to drill those holes, several weeks ago, we launched an amendment to our application a week ago to have the conditional use permit incorporate the South T-Bar Ranch into the existing CUP.” That will take about three months. In anticipation of that application being granted, the additional 12 holes will be drilled in October, which will take about six or eight weeks. Upon completion, the company would then analyze the results to determine whether or not to proceed…

Mining uranium began when it was first discovered in 1954. From 1954 to 1972, there were more than 16 mines operated on Tallahassee Creek District, which consisted of 120,000 acres from the Arkansas River up toward Hartsel, Haynes said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: 2010 Colorado elections

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From the Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning):

At a forum sponsored by the Denver Petroleum Club, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis surveyed the state of the oil and gas industry in Colorado and offered proposals to pull the conversation back from what both characterized as polarized extremes…

Judging by the results of an instant poll conducted among audience members — using hand-held opinion meters — the state’s oil and gas crowd believes its industry is treated unfairly in Colorado and is on the decline. By a large margin, those who registered their opinions said government regulation is the top issue facing the industry, outweighing environmental concerns and commodity prices…

Last year’s tough oil and gas regulations are responsible for driving jobs out of Colorado, McInnis told the crowd of about 250. He also blasted Hickenlooper for allowing the rules to go into effect without protest, despite what he called the industry’s enormous impact on Denver’s economy. “Colorado moved from a state that was very friendly — that also had best practices in place, but also knew how to put people to work,” McInnis said. “All of a sudden, we began to swing and became one of the toughest states to do business in.”[…]

Staking out his own version of a middle course, Hickenlooper — who made frequent reference to his work as a geologist before opening a brewpub in Denver after the oil and gas industry crashed in the 1980s — outlined a series of steps he said would encourage compromise between factions that agree about more than they realize. Noting that he was still a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Hickenlooper argued that his own history gave him “a certain perspective — there’s not so much separating the different sides in this issue.” When it comes down to it, he said, the various sides “agree on 90 to 95 percent of the issues” and can reach positions they can all live with, if only they sit down and talk. “If we can’t get 100 percent of the oil,” he suggested, “how do we get 85 percent, 90 percent?” On the other side, he said, “How do we limit encroachment on the environment to be as little as possible?”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Tamarisk control: Timpas Creek Riparian Restoration Project update

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From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren):

The object of the letter and the grant is to obtain an additional $18,000 in matching funds to continue the tamarisk eradication. The Colorado Forest Service has had good luck with Habitat, a herbicide that can be applied from the air, using a helicopter, or from an ATV. The herbicide takes 3 years to deplete all carbohydrates in the root system. Last year it became substantially more cost effective when the original patent ran out and other sources than the inventor could manufacture it. The cut-stumps method of application is less efficient in that it is extremely labor-intensive and does not leave the tree skeletons for wildlife habitat or beneficial recycling. Mulching and chipping are options to remove the remains of the tamarisk.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Centennial: New $30 million Joint Water Purification Plant completed

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From the Centennial Citizen (Peter Jones):

The facility on Jordan Road, a few miles south of Arapahoe Road, will provide up to 12 million gallons a day of potable water from Cherry Creek to about 12,000 residents and 30,000 employees in the area. [Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority and Cottonwood Water and Sanitation District] say they entered into the cooperative venture to meet customers’ increasing potable water demands and to reduce reliance on nonrenewing deep-ground water supplies. “This plant is a major step in being able to supply our customers with the growing demand of water,” Authority general manager Gary Atkin said. “The new plant will also increase the quality of the water we provide.”

Unlike other reverse-osmosis plants in the state, the Joint Water Purification Plant is incorporating a process for disinfection called “advanced oxidation” that eliminates pharmaceuticals and other industrial chemicals that can show up in a water supply. “Microfiltration” will be used to clean up the portion of the water that is returned to Cherry Creek.

More water treatment coverage here.

Second annual Irrigation Association Water Conference July 13-14

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From the Irrigation Association website:

Join us at IA’s second annual Water Conference, July 13-14, in Williamsburg, Va. The conference will bring strategists, academics, environmentalists and water managers together with irrigation practitioners to create a dialogue about possible solutions to worldwide water issues.

Based on the inaugural event’s success, the conference has been expanded to a day and a half to allow participants more time to absorb and reflect on discussions. The conference will include general sessions and concurrent tracks focused on agriculture and turf/landscape issues.

2010 Colorado elections: U.S. Senate race

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From and interview with Ken Buck from The Colorado Statesman (Jody Hope Strogoff & Ernest Luning):

Are there other local issues that you’ve come across — wilderness area, water issues, things like that in different parts of the state that you didn’t encounter in Weld County or the 4th District?

KB: You know, it’s funny, I was at the Ski Country (forum) and they said something about “Hidden Gems.” And on the campaign we’d always talked about the Polis Wilderness Bill and the DeGette Wilderness Bill. And so they said, “Hidden Gems.”

I was thinking well, I know this has something to do with public land use and what not. So I answered it in terms of public land use but I’m unaware of that and I don’t even know whether that term appears on the bill or whether it’s just some nomenclature that’s been given to it generally. But I have certainly become aware. You know, water is essential in Colorado. It’s essential in Northern Colorado for farmers and development, just like it is anywhere else. But there are unique issues in different parts of the state, and so those unique sub-issues, I have certainly become more aware of as a result of traveling. And it’s the reason I think it’s so important for a senator to travel, because I think it’s constantly informative to learn from people what their challenges are.

More 2010 Colorado elections U.S. Senate race coverage here.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Will Aurora need a change of use from water court to lease water to Nestlé?

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From the Colorado Independent (Scot Kersgaard):

Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, a key Aurora water partner and one angered by the deal, told the Colorado Independent it’s not clear Aurora has the right to lease water to Nestle. “Water is decreed for specific uses in specific areas. Aurora’s water rights in the Arkansas Basin were decreed for their use in their municipality,” he said…

Greg Baker, manager of public relations for Aurora Water, told the Independent that, in fact, the city is leasing only a small percentage of excess capacity to Nestle and that if a situation arises where Aurora needs the water for its own uses, it can temporarily shut down the Nestle operation. Baker said that Aurora has storage capacity of 155,000 acre-feet of water in various reservoirs, so 200 acre-feet may not matter one way or another to the city.

More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.

Grand Island: Platte River Recovery Implementation Program progress report recap

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From the Kearney Hub (Lori Porter):

CPNRD Biologist Mark Czaplewski said recent high streamflows have covered river sandbars and washed away any least tern and piping plover nests that might have been on them. The one possible exception is a “high and dry” artificial sandbar.

Director Dick Mercer of Kearney asked if current flows are more or less than what U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials want to manage habitat for threatened and endangered species. “Both,” Czaplewski said, explaining that the program plan for channel maintenance includes lesser flows at times and higher, short-duration flows at other times. He said higher sandbars can be built by higher river flows, but only if the water is provided by Mother Nature, not reservoir releases. “There are easier, more economical ways to do the same thing with a bulldozer and a few gallons of diesel fuel, without taking water away from people,” Czaplewski said. “… Those birds will use sandpits and artificial sandbars. I have preached that for 20 years, and there are a lot of other people preaching it.”[…]

Czaplewski said staying involved in the program is the only way to chip away with other ideas and to use the program’s adaptive management component — changing methods if they aren’t achieving their goals. “If you look at what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately wants, it’s just overwhelming,” he said, adding that the Endangered Species Act is “a hammer” in the agency’s hands.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday considered its strategy in seeking funding for 2012, and possibly may ask some entities like El Paso and Pueblo counties, as well as cities that signed a 2009 intergovernmental agreement to form the district, for money in next year’s budget.

The district is now funded for $100,000 annually by Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District as part of an agreement they reached in 2007 to complete a Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan. The budget pays the salary of Executive Director Gary Barber and other administrative expenses. That agreement continues in 2011, but nothing is in place for 2012. The board earlier this year agreed that it will not be in a position to ask voters for a mill levy until 2012 at the earliest, so the district would face a gap in funding.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Greeley: Confluence Institute at the Poudre Learning Center recap

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From The Fence Post (Bill Jackson):

The institute’s first effort drew about 20 teachers from Greeley-Evans School District 6, Eaton Re-2 and Adams 12, Bouvette said. It was conducted as part of Project WET — Water Education for Teachers — which is an international teachers training effort. The Great Western Institute is the host organization for Project WET in Colorado, but Bouvette said it exists in 49 states and 26 countries.

Project WET, he said, builds networks to encourage effective and sustainable water education programs, and utilizes the core belief that water is important to all users, including business and industry, earth systems, energy, agriculture and a host of others — basically anyone who uses water, which is everyone. The project has developed and published more than 50 guides, kits and books for teachers and students that address a wide variety of topics.

More education coverage here.

Coyote Gulch outage

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We’re heading down the two-lane blacktop for some rest and recuperation. We may even try our hand at the rod, reel, cornmeal and frying pan method on non-native trout species control. See you on Sunday night.

Arkansas Valley water officials worry that Woodmoor plans will dry up more ag land in the valley

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“These gravel pits are for one thing: To transfer water out of the Arkansas River,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “They scare me.” Winner said gravel pit reservoirs would help communities like Woodmoor, located on the Douglas County line in northern El Paso County, move water rights which have been purchased on canals in the Lower Arkansas Valley.

In fact, Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District board has voted to buy land on the Excelsior Ditch now owned by Stonewall Springs LLC. Stonewall has plans to develop three reservoirs on former farmland. There are also potential reservoir sites at gravel pits near Pueblo Memorial Airport and on other privately owned land on the Excelsior. Woodmoor also intends to purchase water rights on the Holbrook, High Line and Excelsior ditch systems as a way of making up for depletions to the Denver Basin aquifers caused by excessive pumping. The Woodmoor district late last year filed for a decree that would allow it to move water upstream through exchanges…

Winner applauded the commissioners’ recent resolution opposing the dry-up of agriculture. The commissioners in May passed a measure supporting water lease-land fallowing programs, such as Super Ditch, that keep water rights in the hands of irrigators. The resolution supports water leasing — sales of water that do not change ownership — as a way to prevent permanent dry-up of agricultural resources. “The Lower Ark is against these types of buy-and-dry activities,” Winner said.

Aspen: Local conservationists win awards

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From the Aspen Daily News:

[Attorney John Ely] was given a 2010 Conservation Hero Award from the Colorado Environmental Coalition. The coalition cited him for using legislation passed in 2008 to launch a partnership with the state and the Colorado Water Trust which dedicated water rights from county open space properties to local rivers and streams — essentially sidestepping the pitfalls of Colorado water law’s “use it or lose it” rules. In a June 9 ceremony that included remarks by Gov. Bill Ritter, the environmental organization also honored Ely for his work creating the Healthy Rivers and Streams Fund, which voters approved as a sales tax increase in 2008…

…last week the Roaring Fork Conservancy honored Richards as their “River Conservator of the Year.” Richards has developed an expertise in the politics of water and she works regionally on water issues, including representing the county on the Colorado River Basin roundtable and vice-chairs the Northwest Council of Governments Water Quality and Quantity Committee. Like Ely, she was cited for her leadership in the creation of the Healthy Rivers and Streams Fund and the county’s Water Trust agreement, along with measures preparing for drought and fighting transmountain diversions from the Roaring Fork watershed.

More conservation coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

I hope everyone is enjoying the full reservoirs we have this spring. As most of you already know, Carter and Horsetooth are each only a couple of feet down from full. Horsetooth remains at a water level elevation of 5427; Carter is at an elevation of 5757.

We are anticipating these higher levels for a little while, although now that it is starting to get hot, we also anticipate we will start seeing water users begin to pull water from both reservoirs. Some water has already been going out of Carter. Although we had initially projected it would not come on for a few more weeks, we will actually resume pumping water to Carter tomorrow, Friday June 25.

Also, for more information on Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs, please visit our new Webpage. Bookmark it!

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Silverton: Workshop on the effects of dust on snow and ice recap

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Eighteen scientists and graduate students, including representatives from Japan and China, met in Silverton to share their research on the effects of airborne dust and soot on mountain and polar snow and ice. The group, led by Thomas Painter of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Chris Landry from the Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies, known as CSAS and headquartered in Silverton, traveled Wednesday to the top of Red Mountain Pass to a snow-science research site. It was the last day of a three-day workshop in which participants presented research on snow degradation from the Himalayan region, the Tibetan Plateau, Greenland and the United States, including the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada…

Recent research has tied soot from industrial emissions to temperature increases in the Arctic and land-use changes in desert regions to dust that causes early and intense snowmelt in mid-latitude mountains such as the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado, Landry said. Look no further than the San Juans, where dust blowing in from the south and west has turned snow tan. Landry has documented “dust events” annually since 2002-03. The phenomenon is increasingly serious, but it’s way too early to show a trend, Landry said…

Landry said the Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies is supported financially by a variety of sources, including the Animas La Plata Water Conservancy District, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Water-management agencies are becoming increasingly interested in the impact of dust and soot on snow because it directly affects their work, Landry said. A dust storm that blanketed western Colorado on Feb. 15, 2006, made believers of many, Landry said. The dust cover led to an early and intense runoff of what little snow there was that year, he said. “A single event affected the whole state,” Landry said.

CWCB: Proposed floodplain rules public meeting recap

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From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

About 100 people attended a meeting Wednesday to hear from staff members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board concerning the board’s proposal to modify the 100-year flood plain to include a 500-year flood plain for critical facilities. It was the second of four planned meetings around the state prior to a full board meeting Nov. 17, when the board is expected to require municipalities to adopt the plan or suggest they start planning for a 500-year flood plain.

At Wednesday’s meeting at the Southwest Weld County Complex, staff members of the CWCB gave a presentation on the proposal and answered questions. Doug Rademacher, commission chairman, once again expressed the county’s objections to the plan.

More CWCB coverage here.

Pueblo: Construction on new wastewater treatment plant slated to begin in August

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The new cost estimate for the project is $20 million, more than $6.5 million less than originally estimated. Contracts are expected to be awarded in the near future, said Gene Michael, Pueblo wastewater director. “We reaped the benefit of the economic downturn and were able to save on the cost,” Michael explained.

The plant won’t increase the capacity of Pueblo’s wastewater treatment, but immediately will allow for the removal of ammonia from the discharge. Pueblo must meet new state standards for ammonia releases…

The project will have three phases, leveling the ground, constructing the plant and adding a new ultraviolet disinfectant plant. Right now, Pueblo treats an average of 11 million gallons of wastewater daily, with a maximum capacity of 19 million gallons per day. The money for the project came via a 2.5 percent interest loan through the Colorado Water and Power Development Authority.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Great Outdoors Colorado grant application update

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From email from Great Outdoors Colorado (Emily Davies):

The State Board of the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund is pleased to announce its next round of competitive grant cycles. The Board will accept applications for Conservation Excellence, Local Parks and Outdoor Recreation (LPOR), Mini, Open Space and Planning Grants. Additionally, the Board is offering three Special Opportunity grants within the Fall 2010 grant cycle:

· Special Opportunity LPOR Development Grants―The maximum grant request for Special Opportunity LPOR Development Grants is $700,000 for park/outdoor recreation development/enhancement. There is no maximum limit for the total project cost. Applicants seeking grants of $200,000 or less should apply using the regular LPOR Grant application.

· Special Opportunity LPOR Land Acquisition Grants―The maximum grant request for Special Opportunity LPOR Land Acquisition Grants is $1 million. Applicants seeking grants of $200,000 or less should apply using the regular LPOR Land Acquisition Grant application.

· Special Opportunity Trail Grants―Grant requests for Special Opportunity Trail Grants must be no less than $200,000 and cannot exceed $500,000. Applicants seeking grants for less than $200,000 should contact the State Trails Program for potential funding.

Open Space, LPOR, Mini and Planning Grant applications are available online at

All other applications are available by request only. Contact Kathleen Staks at for information about Conservation Excellence Grants.

Contact Aimee Wesley at or Jackie Miller at for information about all Special Opportunity Grants available during the Fall 2010 cycle


JULY 26, 2010: Conservation Excellence applications are due at GOCO.

AUGUST 2, 2010: Open Space applications are due at GOCO.

AUGUST 27, 2010: All other grant applications are due at GOCO.

DECEMBER 8, 2010: All Fall 2010 grant awards will be decided and announced.

For complete information about applying for a GOCO grant, please visit

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Clck here (pdf) for a copy of Henry Reges’ notes from yesterday’s webinar and conference call.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Colorado River Basin: Jonathan Waterman will discuss his journey from the Colorado River headwaters to the Gulf of California June 28

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Here’s the release from Save The Colorado via email from the Save the Poudre email list:

On June 28th at 5:00 pm northern Colorado citizens will get a glimpse of an epic journey by one of America’s foremost explorers at New Belgium Brewing.

In 2008, Jonathan Waterman, a National Geographic Society grantee and award-winning author began a journey by foot and boat down the iconic mother of all western American rivers, the Colorado. Standing at over 10,000 feet in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, Jon emptied his mother’s ashes into its headwaters and began a journey all the way to the river’s last trickle in the Sonoran desert and down the parched Mexican delta to the Pacific Ocean. It was the first time in recorded history that anyone had ever traveled from these headwaters 1,450-miles to the Gulf of California and it was a compelling, complicated, and hugely informative journey.

Waterman chronicles his experience in his new book, Running Dry: A Journey From Source to Sea Down the Colorado River, which the author will sign after his talk and photo presentation at New Belgium. Waterman’s photos offer stunning imagery chronicling the journey. In addition, Waterman interviewed over two dozen Western water leaders and river enthusiasts along his journey – his book and photo presentation offer a rare slice of the Western American culture centering around the Colorado River.

The Colorado, sometimes called the American Nile, supplies water for 30 million people and more than 3 million farm acres, across seven western states and northern Mexico. But the demands made on the river have put its very future at stake – the river has not reached the sea for many years. The City of Fort Collins gets about 30% of its water from the Colorado River, and is involved in additional projects to draw even more water across the divide to the northern Colorado. Hundreds of thousands of farm acres in northern Colorado are irrigated by Colorado River water.

“This real question, once we build awareness, is how will we affect change on the river?” said author and explorer, Jonathan Waterman.

New Belgium Brewing helped fund Waterman’s journey down the Colorado, and then in May of 2010, launched the “Save the Colorado” campaign, a philanthropic endeavor to help fund environmental groups working to save the river. That endeavor – at – will donate over $500,000 to groups working to protect the Colorado over the next three years.

“Jon Waterman really helped bring the plight of the Colorado to our attention,” said New Belgium Brewing’s media relations director, Bryan Simpson. “We encourage all parties to become aware of the issues facing the Colorado and become involved in protecting this invaluable river.”

The event is free to the public and will be held at New Belgium Brewing, 500 Linden St., Fort Collins, CO.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District exchange case update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District faces objections from 21 parties in its quest to obtain an exchange decree that could allow it to use water it intends to purchase in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Three of the objections are from ditches where El Paso County water district already has contracted to buy water rights, the High Line, Holbrook and Excelsior ditch systems. The contracts, which total nearly $4 million and would produce about 1,800 acre-feet of water, are with individual owners and not the ditch companies…

Another is from Stonewall Springs Quarry, owned by Colorado Springs developers Mark and Jim Morley, which has since contracted with Woodmoor for a reservoir site…

The water court objections were filed in February, after Woodmoor filed for an exchange decree in December. Woodmoor proposes to move water up the Arkansas River, Fountain Creek and Monument Creek through exchanges, using some reservoirs they do not own or which have not even been built. An exchange allows water to be taken out of priority, with releases from storage that allow other water rights to be served. At the time, Woodmoor did not have any water rights in the Lower Arkansas Valley, and many of the objections submitted to Division 2 Water Court brought up concerns about speculation.

“The application is speculative, and is inconsistent with statutory and case law requirements for appropriative rights of exchange,” attorney Stephen Leonhardt wrote on behalf of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The Southeastern District also is seeking to protect the use of Lake Pueblo and Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water since Woodmoor is outside the district…

All of the large municipal users on the Arkansas River filed objections to the exchange decree. Also objecting was the city of Pueblo, which seeks to protect the Arkansas River flow program established under a 2004 intergovernmental agreement and its own recreational in-channel diversion water right.

The Woodmoor district serves about 3,300 customers north of Colorado Springs, on the El Paso-Douglas county line east of Interstate 25.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Upper Arkansas Valley: FIBArk recap

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Nearly 100 competitors — from ages younger than 10 to older than 50 — signed up to race the whitewater slalom Saturday through a course of “gates” strung above the Arkansas River at FIBArk Festival, telling veterans of the Olympic paddling discipline that the sport some have written off as dead on the vine remains ripe for a new generation…

As part of the 62-year-old FIBArk Festival, slalom racing was introduced to “America’s oldest and boldest whitewater festival” in the 1950s, joining the 26-mile downriver kayak race as the technical test for the title of “First in Boating on the Arkansas River.” More than 50 years later, it is still attracting top competitors from around the world, including a half- dozen Olympic athletes and world champions from five nations.

In slalom racing, paddlers negotiate a course similar to that of the namesake skiing discipline, the difference being a two-second penalty for touching any of the 20 gates they paddle past. The skill is evident as kayaks and canoes no shorter than 3.5 meters (about 11 1/2 feet) negotiate tricky river currents in order to pass through the gates in both downstream and upstream directions. Miss the move — or pass through upside down — and the penalty is an insurmountable 50 seconds.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Steamboat Springs: Yampa innertube season is starting — glass, littering, styrofoam coolers, dogs, nudity, alcohol and standing in the riverbed are off limits

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From Steamboat Today (Zach Fridell):

This afternoon, the river was running at about 1,000 cubic feet per second, only half the flow measured a week earlier. By Sunday, forecasters say, the river could hit the ideal “safe” flow for tubing of 700 cfs.

National Weather Service forecaster Bryon Lawrence said there is not expected to be much precipitation in the river valley and the river should continue dropping this week.

Peter Van De Carr, president of Backdoor Sports, said even at 700 cfs, tubing the Yampa River in Steamboat can be dangerous. “We’ll evaluate daily, but even 700 cfs is pretty darn ripping for a big, strong guy,” he said.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

Aurora Water wins a ‘Best of the best’ award at AWWA taste test competition

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Here’s the release the AWWA via Earth Times:

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) today announced that Wisconsin’s Stevens Point Water Department won the annual “Best of the Best” Water Taste Test. The event, composed of regional winners from water-tasting competitions across North America, was held at AWWA’s Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE10) in Chicago.

Stevens Point Water Department, now known throughout North America for its tasty water, has reliably provided Stevens Point residents with groundwater since 1922.

Second place in the competition was awarded to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection while Lincoln Water System of Nebraska and Silverdale Water District of Washington tied for third place.

Other “Best of the Best” participants in today’s competition included: City of Allegan, MI; City of Blythe, GA; Aurora (CO) Water [ed. emphasis mine]; Ave Maria (FL) Utility Company; Massachusetts Water Resources Authority; Village of Canajoharie (NY) Water Works; Guaraguao Treatment Plant, Ponce, PR; City of Hamilton, OH; Hardin County (KY) Water District No. 2; Kearns (UT) Improvement District; Marshalltown (IA) Water Works; Moorhead (MN) Public Service; San Patricio (TX) Municipal Water District; St. Charles (LA) Water District No. 1; City of Stratford, ON; Valley City (ND) Public Works; and the Village of Park Forest, IL.

An esteemed judging panel rated each water system on its flavor characteristics. Judges included Dr. Stephen Booth of Kennedy/Jenks, who is also chair of AWWA’s Taste and Odor Committee; Monique Durand, engineer at Hazen and Sawyer, P.C and member of the Taste and Odor Committee; Dr. Pinar Omur-Ozbek, research assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University; and Matt Rodewald, reporter for Chicago’s NBC affiliate.

This is the sixth year AWWA has held the national competition. Previous winners are Macon (GA) Water Authority (2009), the Louisville (KY) Water Company (2008), Oklahoma City Water and Wastewater Utility (2007) and Illinois American Water, Champaign District (2006 and 2005).

ACE10 gives its more than 12,000 attending water professionals a chance to network and stay abreast of innovative technology and best practices for providing safe water. To facilitate professional development, AWWA offers two exhibit hall education sessions, six in-depth Sunday workshops and 92 professional sessions.

AWWA is the authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of water in North America and beyond. AWWA is the largest organization of water professionals in the world. AWWA advances public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the entire water community. Through our collective strength we become better stewards of water for the greatest good of the people and the environment.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Southwestern willow flycatcher boots tamarisk leaf beetles from 13 states

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From The Aspen Times (Mead Gruver):

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service last week formally ended its program of releasing saltcedar leaf beetles to eat saltcedar, also known as tamarisk, in 13 states: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming.

The reason for the program’s demise is the southwestern willow flycatcher, an endangered species found in scattered pockets around the Southwest. The bird nests in saltcedar, as well as in native willows and cottonwoods.

Concern that beetles could destroy much of the bird’s nesting habitat was why the USDA excluded New Mexico, Arizona and California from the beetle-release program, which began in 2005.

Now, scientists think the beetles are likely to spread from the states where they were introduced. They say it could be just a matter of time before the insects chew through saltcedar all the way down the Colorado River drainage in Arizona and eastern California.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Jeff Crane (Colorado Watershed Assembly) named ‘National River Hero’ by the River Network

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From the Summit Daily News:

River Network, along with Tom’s of Maine, presented the River Heroes Awards, which celebrate rivers and those who protect them. The National River Heroes are nominated and selected by peers.

Crane is a hydrologist specializing in stream restoration, irrigation diversion and habitat-enhancement projects with a major emphasis in water resource engineering and hydrology. In 1996, Crane helped establish the North Fork River Improvement Association to help rally support for the restoration of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

Crane’s experience building coalitions to address river issues in the North Fork watershed lead him to partner with other watershed leaders to form the Colorado Watershed Assembly in 1999. The Colorado Watershed Assembly is an advocate and support network for a statewide coalition of over 70 local citizen groups working to protect the health of their unique watersheds. The assembly provides a statewide voice to increase public awareness of watershed issues and plays a variety of roles in supporting grassroots organizations.

More restoration coverage here and here.

Fort Collins: Free sprinkler system audits available

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Fort Collins Utilities is offering free sprinkler system assessments to help residents learn how to water their yards more efficiently, saving water and money. The audits take approximately two hours and are scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis June through August. To qualify, you must live in a single-family home or apply as a homeowner’s association. You also must be a Utilities customer. This includes those served water by Fort Collins Loveland Water District. East Larimer County Water District customers may request an audit by calling (970) 493-2044. To signup or for more information, visit sprinkler-audit, send e-mail to or leave a message with name, address and phone numbers at (970) 416-2666.

More conservation coverage here.

University of Colorado: Gender-Bending Fish Problem in Colorado Creek Mitigated by Treatment Plant Upgrade

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Here’s the release from the University of Colorado (David Norris/Jim Scott):

Male fish are taking longer to be “feminized” by chemical contaminants that act as hormone disrupters in Colorado’s Boulder Creek following the upgrade of a wastewater treatment plant in Boulder in 2008, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

But the problem of fish feminization — which causes males to develop characteristics of females and to decline in numbers — is a global one that is growing as a result of increasing chemicals like natural human reproductive steroids, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, shampoos and soaps making their way into waterways, said CU-Boulder Professor David Norris, who led the study.

Norris, a professor of integrative physiology at CU-Boulder, said the multimillion-dollar general upgrade of the Boulder Wastewater Treatment plant northeast of Boulder, Colo., designed to solve multiple problems has had a dramatic effect on delaying symptoms of male fish feminization. The team compared fish populations below the wastewater treatment plant on Boulder Creek in 2006 before it had upgraded and again after the upgrade had been completed.

Norris participated in a press briefing at the Endocrine Society’s 92nd annual meeting held June 19-22 in San Diego. Other team members included Alan Vajda of the University of Colorado Denver, Ashley Bolden and John Woodling of CU-Boulder, Larry Barber of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Resource Division in Boulder and Heiko Schoenfuss of St. Cloud University in Minnesota.

In the 2006 study Norris and his colleagues used a mobile fish exposure facility situated on Boulder Creek northeast of Boulder that collected both water from upstream of the plant and effluent water directly from the treatment plant. After exposure to equal parts of effluent and upstream water for only seven days, adult male fathead minnows became feminized, looking and acting like females and showing elevated levels of a protein known as vitellogenin that is normally produced by females.

Contaminants identified in Boulder Creek included ethinylestradiol — a chemical used in most contraceptives — as well as other reproductive steroids produced naturally by humans. Estrogen-related chemicals found in the water included bisphenyl A and phthalates associated with plastic, nonylphenols associated with detergents, and pesticides. Most of the compounds came from products flushed down toilets and drains, according to Norris.

In the new study following the treatment plant upgrade, the team studied adult male fathead minnows in 100 percent effluent water, those in a mixture of half effluent and half upstream water, and those in tanks containing all upstream water. Norris and his team saw no effects on male sex characteristics of the minnows in the tank containing 100 percent effluent water directly from the treatment plant until 28 days after exposure.

As part of the study, Norris and his colleagues also analyzed reproductive organs from preserved fish specimens from CU’s Museum of Natural History that had been collected from Boulder Creek between 50 and 100 years ago. The researchers and found no evidence of feminize or intersex fish in the museum specimens, he said.

The CU research team also tested brown trout populations below a wastewater treatment in Vail, Colo., said Norris. The trout showed no increases in vitellogenin.

In addition to chemicals that trigger fish feminization, biologists are finding increased concentrations of fluoxetine, a common antidepressant taken by millions of Americans, in waterways across the nation, said Norris. Fluoxetine has been shown to enter the brains of fish and affect fish behavior, said Norris.

Between 2000 and 2002, Norris and his group were among the first in the nation to document the problem of intersex fish following their stream surveys of Boulder Creek, the South Platte River near Denver and Fountain Creek near Colorado Springs in 2000. The researchers found feminized fish at all of the sites and as well as skewed sex ratios showing there were more females than males. Since that time biologists have been reporting feminized male fish and intersex fish in waterways across the globe.

“I look at the problem of fish feminization in waterways as a canary in a mine shaft,” said Norris. “This is not the problem of water treatment plants, it’s our problem as human beings. We excrete natural and synthetic estrogens and use shampoos, detergents and cosmetics containing a variety of hormone disrupters that wind up in waterways. All of these different chemicals we are putting into the environment have the potential to alter the biology of animals and to affect ecosystems.”

It boils down to a growing human population problem, he said. Ways to mitigate effects of chemicals include using reduced amounts of detergents and shampoos. Another way people can lessen the problem is to avoid antibacterial soaps, which can disrupt thyroid function in fish.

“People have shown they can consciously mitigate some of these issues,” said Norris. “One example is the refusal of some to buy milk from cattle that contain growth hormones.”

He said the bulk of all pharmaceuticals people ingest generally wind up in urine and feces within 24 hours and are flushed or drained into treatment plants. In addition, chemicals from plastics and canned food can pass through humans and travel into waterways, affecting fish populations as well as the health of people. “Our bodies are being exposed every day to a variety of chemicals capable of altering our physiological development, including impacts on sensitive human fetuses.”

The research was supported by grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the city of Boulder. The next step of the team will be to re-survey some of Colorado waterways using a grant from the National Science Foundation.

More water pollution coverage here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From the La Junta Tribune (Bette McFarren):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Board met in regular session at Rocky Ford on Wednesday. Appearing before the Board were two special reports: Update on Fountain Creek and Innovative Water Technologies…

Speaking on behalf of THK Design Associates, Kevin Shanks reported that the Fountain Creek projects have now expanded from four to seven, with a reassuring compliance with the Overall Master Plan Goals, which are as follows:

* Improve watershed health by reducing erosion, sedimentation and flooding and improving water quality.
* Create stable riparian and wetland ecosystems to attract and support native wildlife and vegetation.
* Sustain productive agricultural lands along corridor.
* Lay-out trail from Colorado Springs to Pueblo with recreational and educational opportunities.
* Gain public and private support through partnerships to facilitate future funding

One of the more interesting projects is the Clear Spring Ranch Fish Passage. A type of native three-inch fish was found to be unable to negotiate some of the fish diversions on the creek. New diversion gates are being designed, as economically as possible, and water levels will be controlled to permit the fish to remain mobile through the habitat…

The most popular project at present is the Fountain Creek Greenway, which has secured a GOCO grant.
Wetlands and diversions are important in flood prevention between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and consequently on down the river in the Arkansas Valley.

Another important factor in flood prevention is the removal of sediment, the main job of the Pueblo Side Detention and Sediment Removal Project. This is a Sediment Collector Demonstration Project. The sediment is being collected at the rate of 17 or 18 truckloads a day from under the old railroad bridge in Pueblo. This sediment has value as fill and can be used as leverage for grants as well as mixed with sewer sludge to make organic planting medium. It is funded by a $485K Federal appropriation through NRCS, $75K City of Pueblo Stormwater, $225K Colorado Water Conservation Board, $250K Environmental Protection Agency 319 Grant. Another benefit is 25 acres of new wetlands.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: EPA to hold hydraulic fracturing clinic in Denver on July 13

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Here’s the website with the low down.

Thanks to the Denver Business Journal (Anya Litvak) for the heads up.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — coalbed methane: Lawsuit over the State Engineer’s coalbed produced water rules has been moved to Water Court Division One

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The case involves a challenge by Southwest Colorado ranchers and several other landowners to the water rules for gas and oil wells that the state engineer adopted early this year. Sarah Klahn, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said the rules should be overturned because many affected landowners never received legal notice that the state was about to pass rules that affect their groundwater. “Industry wants to say, here are the rules. We’re done. We win,” Klahn said in a hearing Friday. “It’s only fair that the landowners have the same opportunity to participate in this. We think the only way that’s going to happen is if it’s in Durango.”

If the case had gone to Durango, it would have been heard by Judge Gregory Lyman, who ruled against gas companies in the water rights case that set these events in motion. But lawyers for the state engineer’s office and gas companies argued that the case should be heard in Greeley, which is much closer to Denver – the seat of government and headquarters for many gas companies. “This case should be heard here, where the agency is located,” said First Assistant Attorney General John Cyran. “It is a matter of statewide importance.”[…]

The first lawsuit challenges the legal procedure the state engineer used to pass the rules. It was moved to Greeley on Friday.

The second lawsuit challenges the map the engineer adopted for Southwest Colorado to show where the industry has to take extra steps to replace the water it uses. Lawyers on both sides agreed Friday to put that lawsuit on hold until the first one is decided.

Separately, gas companies have filed 11 different applications for water rights in Durango’s water court. As part of those cases, the industry sent out notices by mail to hundreds of landowners earlier this year. Several landowners – as well as the city of Durango, the U.S. Forest Service and others – filed statements of opposition. Lyman will decide later whether to grant the water rights.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

Colorado River Basin: Annual consumptive use now outstrips flow

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“We’re no longer in a surplus situation,” said Bill McDonald, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s deputy commissioner for policy and budget. “The teeter-totter has tipped.” Federal data show that the average annual use of Colorado River water (15.4 million acre-feet) has surpassed the average annual supply (14.5 million acre-feet) in the river…

“We actually have run up against what the river provides,” said Bart Miller, water program director for Western Resource Advocates, a law and policy firm. “Our choices moving forward have to be very careful ones. Brand new uses are going to have to be displacing other uses.”

Colorado still doesn’t use all of its 3.88 million acre-feet allotment under the interstate compact that governs use of the river. An acre-foot contains 325,851 gallons, enough to sustain two families of four for a year. State officials are trying to calculate the unused share. Estimates range up to 300,000 acre-feet. “Just because the Colorado River as a whole is overused” doesn’t necessarily prevent development in Colorado, said Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “The lower states (California, Nevada, Arizona) are using far more than the upper states.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Whitefish: Western Governors Association annual meeting starts June 27

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From the Flathead Beacon (Dan Testa):

“It will be energy, water and wildlife: That’s the values we share as Western governors,” Gov. Brian Schweitzer, WGA chairman, said. “It’s a continuation of the meetings that we’ve had, at least for the last six years.”

Legendary basketball coach and part-time Montana resident Phil Jackson, coming off the NBA championship, will also be on hand to give a keynote address Sunday, June 27, afternoon on how growing up in the West shaped his career and outlook on life…

The chief executives of 10 Western states are expected to attend the conference, which runs from June 27-29, including Wyoming’s Dave Freudenthal, New Mexico’s Bill Richardson, Colorado’s Bill Ritter and Idaho’s C.L. “Butch” Otter, the WGA’s vice chairman. Though earlier attendee lists included California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, he is no longer planning to make the trip. Gov. Benigno Fitial of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth in political union with the U.S., and Gov. Felix Camacho of Guam, a U.S. territory, are also scheduled to attend. Special guests for the conference include Liang Shengli, lt. governor of China’s Guangxi Province, which is Montana’s sister province, and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk.

NIDIS – Upper Colorado Basin Pilot Project’s “Summary of Weekly precip and water supply”

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A thousand pardons. Henry Reges’ weekly webinar summary got buried in my email.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Recap of Thursday’s FIBArk events

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From the Salida Citizen (Steve Stucko):

Head-to-head Boater X action in the Class-V Pine Creek Rapid section of the Arkansas near Granite was the first river event and resulted in a win by Ben Kvanli of Texas. The festival grounds came alive in the afternoon as the boat ramp and F Street bridge provided great views for several exciting finishes of the raft sprints, the hill climb as well as the hilarious antics of the raft rodeo. The new vendor layout in Riverside Park pleased many as they searched for their favorite festival food and enjoyed the evening music lineup.

More whitewater coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: How will the city’s proposed hydroelectric plant impact the riparian and aquatic environment?

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From The Aspen Times (Aaron Hedge):

“This project is an ecological train wreck,” said Tom Starodoj, a resident of the area, during Wednesday’s public meeting.

The study established that Castle Creek needs at least 13.3 cubic feet per second at its lowest point of the year, which is typically between January and April when the cfs hovers around 20. Phil Overeynder, the city’s public works director, said in the meeting that figure is easily sustainable.

Overeynder said the city remains confident in the numbers the study relies on, which were generate in the early 1990s. Bill Miller of Miller Ecological Consultants, Inc., which conducted the study, said the life of the waterway will remain healthy if the project is completed.

Miller assured skeptics that the vibrancy of the stream depends not on a certain cfs during dry times, but on the complex cycle of peaks and furloughs it goes through every year. He said the city would not have the flexibility to drain the stream, though it is legally within its right to do so.

More coverage from Curtis Wackerle writing for the Aspen Daily News. From the article:

a group of homeowners who live along the creek are skeptical of the effect a proposed hydropower facility would have that would draw up to 25 cfs from the creek. What happens when the creek is running at 50 cfs? Will the plant still take its 25 cfs? And how is that not going to adversely affect the stream?

Those questions and others were posed in a meeting on the Castle Creek hydropower facility Wednesday night at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Most of the 17 or so members of the public in attendance were Castle Creek homeowners who question whether the project is the right thing to do…

Miller noted, however, that in a naturally flowing mountain stream like Castle Creek, the peak flows seen during the spring runoff are the most critical to ecology. Spring flows on Castle Creek tend to peak in the 700 cfs to 800 cfs range. This year, the creek peaked above 900 cfs. This inundation of water helps reinvigorate the channel and the plant life on the sides, Miller said. “Protecting that peak is probably as important or more important than preserving minimum flows,” he said.

Mark Uppendahl with the Colorado Division of Wildlife defended the 13.3 number, calling it the “amount of water we feel preserves the natural environment to a reasonable degree.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek master plan update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There are eight active projects along Fountain Creek, partly as a result of a partnership started three years ago between the Lower Ark district and Colorado Springs Utilities, said consultant Kevin Shanks.

A Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan is being developed as a result of an agreement that is funded by $150,000 annually from both the Lower Ark and Colorado Springs. The groups agreed to fund the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway director’s salary, $100,000 per year this year and next as well.

The Fountain Creek district, formed last year, signed on as a partner in the projects this year. All told, the partners will spend $1.2 million by the end of next year on the Fountain Creek project. That money has leveraged between $3 million and $6 million in other funds, depending on whether some pending applications are approved…

The most dramatic community effort has been the Fountain Creek Greenway project at the confluence with the Arkansas River. Under a Great Outdoors Colorado planning grant, the city of Pueblo is working to increase recreation and access to Fountain Creek. “It’s become the No. 1 project in Pueblo, and is inspired by the efforts to improve the South Platte in Denver,” Shanks said…

Extension of the trail system along Fountain Creek, eventually to the Pinon Bridge is being planned.

There also is nearly $1 million available for a side detention and sediment removal project in Fountain Creek through Pueblo. The side detention pond will be at the North Side Walmart to decrease the intensity of small floods. When it is not flooded, it will create a wetlands area that will help wildlife and improve water quality, Shanks said.

The other large piece moving ahead are improvements at Clear Springs Ranch, south of Fountain. The property is owned by Colorado Springs, and will include a fish passage, wetlands, bank improvements and improved sinuosity. The project, which is required for the Southern Delivery System under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit, will help reduce flood damage downstream, erosion and sedimentation. “Without the agreement, Colorado Springs could have done Clear Springs Ranch and checked off the box,” Shanks said. “It would not have been done up to the standards of the master plan, however.”[…]

Here are active or planned projects along Fountain Creek that have been developed through the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan:

Eco-Fit Park: A park on the southern edge of Colorado Springs would stress youth fitness and environmental values. No cost has been specified, and the project has stalled in a slow economy.

City of Fountain Trailhead: The 8.5-acre site on the Toby Wells property has historic interest because of a Sears mail-order house in good condition. It would provide a trailhead, creek crossing for a trail along the creek and a community center.

Clear Spring Ranch: Part of the old Hanna Ranch, the property is owned by Colorado Springs. It would provide some flood control, wetlands restoration, creek improvements and a fish ladder. Pueblo County is requiring the improvements at the site south of Fountain under its 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System. An estimated $3.7 million is planned from various agencies.

Environmental Stewardship Center: An educational park and wildlife viewing area would be built on land being donated by a developer of a large subdivision near Pinon in Pueblo County.

Front Range Trail: A trail project would extend the existing trail system in Pueblo to the Pinon Bridge.

Side Detention and Sediment Removal: A $1 million project in Pueblo will begin this year to create a side detention pond behind the North Side Walmart, and to demonstrate how the Streamside Systems sediment collector will remove particles from water as it flows, improving water quality.

The Fountain Creek Greenway: Planning efforts for the Pueblo greenway project are being coordinated with improvements on the Historic East Side. In addition to improving access and recreation opportunities, it will improve wildlife habitat and increase the effectiveness of the levee system.

Midland Greenway Trail: A project just getting started on Colorado Springs’ West Side would connect Fountain Creek to existing trails on Upper Fountain Creek along U.S. 24, near Gold Hill Mesa.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Salida: City Council approves $545,000 loan application for water infrastructure project

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From The Mountain Mail (Audrey Gilpin):

The 20-year fixed interest rate is 2 percent. [City finance director Jan Schmidt] said annual debt service will be about $33,500 and will be paid from the water enterprise fund. “Capital reserves aren’t sufficient to pay for the necessary improvements,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said galleries consist of an infiltration gallery, chlorination system and a 1.25 million gallon water tank that feeds water into the city distribution system. Before replacing the roof during phase 1 of the project, Schmidt said failed sections of built-up roofing could be lifted and spaces where water, dirt and debris could potentially enter the tank were visible.

Phase 2, Schmidt said, includes installing a liner inside the concrete tank to stop leakage. A second reading and public hearing on the action will be held during the July 6 regular council meeting.

More water infrastructure coverage here.

Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The district is wrapping up a study of the [Arkansas Valley Conduit] alignment, technical evaluations, environmental reviews, permit scoping and water supply evaluation that began last year under an Environmental Protection Agency grant. That work should be wrapped up in August and will allow the district to move into the more formal environmental impact statement required for the conduit under the National Environmental Policy Act.

At the same time, the district will begin working on a long-term contract for excess-capacity storage at Lake Pueblo that includes both conduit users and suppliers elsewhere in the Southeastern district. The contract essentially is the reoperations portion of the former Preferred Storage Options Plan, although the amount of storage requested and the parties requesting it have changed. “This study is allowing us to be ahead in working on the conduit,” Executive Director Jim Broderick told the Southeastern board Thursday. “We still have to look at the gap between the water now available and the amount of water needed in the future.”

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

The Morgan County Quality Water District wins second place at the National Rural Water Association Rally

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The Morgan County Quality Water District was chosen as having the second-best water in the U.S. at the National Rural Water Association Rally this year. That comes on top of being recognized for the best water in both 2006 and 2009, and as Rural Water District of the Year for 2009 in Colorado by Colorado Rural Water, said MCQWD Manager Mark Kokes during this week’s meeting of the Morgan County Board of Realtors at the Country Steak-Out. Culinary chefs tasted the five finalists at the NRWA rally to choose the best and second-best, he said.

MCQWD is noted for its pure and exceptional water, Kokes said. That does not mean that it is necessarily the softest water around, but there is more to excellent water than softness, and MCQWD believes it has the best water around, he said. For instance, Quality Water exceeds EPA Safe Drinking Water standards, Kokes said.

More water treatment coverage here.

Snowpack/runoff news: Dry summer ahead for the San Luis Valley?

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division III Craig Cotten said on Friday although the basin’s snowpack was above average at its peak, it has dropped substantially since then. The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s forecasts currently are predicting below average run off on the Rio Grande and above average on the Conejos River systems. “We are wondering if those forecasts might be a touch high,” Cotten said. “We are dropping fairly significantly on all of our rivers and creeks right now.” He added there was still some good flow on the rivers and creeks but they are below average for this time of year. “It looks like it’s continuing to go down,” Cotten said…

He said most of the ditches have had a fairly good run during the springtime, but summer could tell a different story. Currently, the Conejos River system is under a 22-percent delivery obligation to the state line and the Rio Grande has a 15-percent delivery obligation to the downstream states under the Rio Grande Compact. Until a few days ago, most of the delivery on the Conejos was being met with return flows. “We had not curtailed any ditches for compact purposes until a few days ago,” Cotten said. Last year, no curtailments on the Conejos were made until July 9.

Curtailments on the Rio Grande are currently 11 percent, similar to the Conejos, Cotten explained. “We are getting some return flows through the system,” he said…

The Beaver Reservoir was causing water watchers some consternation, as a sinkhole was discovered about a month and a half ago at the dam. The water level was subsequently reduced to 40 feet below the spillway to evaluate the sinkhole more closely. “It was determined it did not pose a great danger to the dam,” Cotten said. The reservoir has since been filled to a point about 20 feet below the spillway, which is still fairly low but will allow fish to survive and fishermen a chance to catch them.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Recent high water and fast stream flows caused extensive damage to bridges, roads, water-diversion infrastructure, campgrounds and other facilities in the White River National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday. Forest engineers said the agency may not know for several weeks just how much damage occurred as a result of recent accelerated snowmelt that resulted from high temperatures.

From the Vail Daily:

“We first became aware of the challenges the Forest Service might face when, in the middle of last week a hiker reported to our Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District that the Lower Cross Creek Bridge in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area had been washed out,” said Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “This report was followed by a series of reports of damaged roads and trails, damaged or destroyed bridges in other locations, flooded campgrounds, or high water filling vault toilets along many of the tributaries to the Colorado River.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

In Summit County, the high flows damaged infrastructure associated with water transmission facilities for the Cities of Golden and Colorado Springs. Elsewhere on the forest, damage included a washed-out bridge in the Holy Cross Wilderness area and a mudslide along Piney Ranch Road (FDR 700) just past the Lost Lake Trail. A culvert on the spur road to Woods Lake was over topped by high flows and the surrounding fill was washed out.

Meanwhile Yuma County is still drowning (They’ve gotten 40 inches of rainfall in 18 months.). Here’s a report from Tony Rayl writing for The Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

Officially, Yuma is up to 2.38 inches of rain in June, most of it falling from last Thursday night, which featured a tornado warning complete with sirens and calls from the 911 center, and this past Monday night, when a quiet storm passed overhead and quickly dumped 0.21 of an inch.

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

Such an event of greater than 75 cfs flowing at the Near Granby Gauge would be a long-awaited gift to the Colorado River between the Lake Granby Dam and Windy Gap, said Jon Ewert, DOW aquatics biologist in Hot Sulphur Springs. That section of the Colorado has been deprived of flushing flows because of the dam built for reservoir storage. “It would be beneficial to that stretch,” Ewert said, “it would move sediment out and clean out riffles (stretches of gravel where fish like to spawn and where insect production is).”[…]

With runoff peaking last week, the Northern Water Conservancy District was moving water out of Shadow Mountain Reservoir into Granby Reservoir, releasing by as much as 5,000 cfs for a period of 12 hours. In the Colorado-Big Thompson system, Shadow Mountain Reservoir helps to maintain a constant surface elevation in natural Grand Lake and is a conduit between Granby Reservoir and Grand Lake. Heightened runoff in Grand Lake inlets caused that lake to rise, which by Colorado-Big Thompson decree is not allowed to fluctuate by more than 1 foot. As far as Granby Reservoir’s chances for spilling, “We’re 99 percent sure it’s going to spill,” [Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District spokesperson Brian Werner] said. The lake is rising about .5 feet per day, which means the lake could spill within about 10 days…

Northern is not sending water through the Adams Tunnel with Front Range reservoirs full. Windy Gap, which pumped 6,700 acre-feet, has pumps shut off.