Colorado Water Congress’ Annual Summer Meeting recap: What is a reasonable planning horizon for municipalities?

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A panel of municipal water providers looked at the effect of a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in 2009 that rejected Pagosa Springs’ claims of future water needs in connection with building a reservoir. The case presented new tests for cities to prove claims of future population,water supply needs and conservation of water supplies, said Peter Nichols, a water attorney who moderated the panel…

The controversy started in 2006 when Trout Unlimited challenged a district judge’s approval of a new Pagosa Springs reservoir based on a 100-year planning window. Trout Unlimited argued the need was speculative.
The state Supreme Court overturned approval of the reservoir and sent the case back to the district court. A new claim, based on a 50-year window and alsochallengedby Trout Unlimited, was rejected in 2009. In the court’s opinion, Pagosa Springs failed to prove its case…

For Grand Junction, planning for a water future is difficult because of the boom-and-bust cycles in the local economy that’s tied to energy development.
“The variety of futures is immense,” said Greg Trainor, Grand Junction Utilities manager. “It’s difficult for us to nail down a future.”[…]

[Rod Kuharich, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority] said the South Metro challenge is even more difficult, because in addition to high growth, the area is mining its groundwater reserves.
“I have to plan for future growth and replace groundwater,” Kuharich said. “The greater the restrictions, the harder planning becomes.” Like Trainor, Kuharich said he believes flexibility is needed to find water solutions. Right now, South Metro is negotiating with Denver and Aurora for using return flows. That’s not a sustainable solution, but one that prevents the communities in South Metro from hunting for ag water supplies.

CSU Water Center Monday lecture recap

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From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Allison Sylte):

“Water is the basis of civilization,” said Greg Hobbs, a Colorado Supreme Court Justice. “How we use it, conserve it, and make benefit of it is how we keep our society together.” Hobbs spoke to an assembled group of students and community members in the Natural Resources Building Monday about Colorado’s water policy…

Monday’s lecture was organized by CSU’s Water Center, a collection of different departments in the university, which aims to provide information and research about Colorado’s water policy. “Colorado is in a unique position in terms of water use, because we’re a headwater state,” said Reagan Waskom, the director of the CSU Water Center. “And, according to Colorado law, all water is a public resource.”[…]

Hobbs walked the crowd through various intrastate agreements that have been made regarding water use and the inevitable disputes that come about as a result. He gave attendees a timeline of what led to the creation of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, as well as a case in which Colorado gave Kansas $32 million to compensate for misappropriated water. The only way to reach settlements in water disputes, Hobbs said, lies in impartial resolution by our decision makers. Judges, he said, need to be removed from politics to make tough decisions.

Energy policy — Coalbed methane: State Engineer’s produced water rules lawsuit(s) update

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The case, Vance v. Wolfe, earned plaintiffs Bill and Elizabeth Vance a spot in the history of Colorado water law. The fellow plaintiffs, Jim and Theresa Fitzgerald, of Bayfield, celebrated the ruling as a protection of their water rights and the springs they worked for decades to restore to health. But the Legislature’s bill led to a chain of events that has everyone back in court this summer to fight out three new lawsuits…

The Legislature did two things: It gave the engineer’s office until Aug. 1 this year to process the permits, and it allowed State Engineer Dick Wolfe to make rules that exclude gas wells drilled into deep formations from the need to obtain water permits. Wolfe held hearings last year and early this year and eventually decided that many wells in the San Juan Basin don’t need permits. In general, the wells farther north, closest to where the coal formations climb to the surface, still need water permits.

Sarah Klahn, a water lawyer for the Vance and Fitzgerald families, said the rules threaten to undo the significant victory of the Vance case. Klahn and fellow lawyer Alan Curtis filed two new lawsuits against Wolfe for adopting the rules. The first one will be heard in Greeley this year. It claims the state engineer illegally adopted the rules without notifying landowners that their water might be at risk. “The real people who stand to be injured on the ground because of this stuff did not get notice,” Curtis said.

Their first legal notification that something was up was the huge water-rights application to state Water Court by gas companies that landowners got in the mail this year, he said. They are not alone in the fight this time. Other plaintiffs include heavyweights like the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, the cities of Boulder, Centennial and Sterling, and several other water users.

The second lawsuit, filed in Durango, challenges the map that Wolfe used to decide which wells to regulate. Gas companies paid for the expert who drew the map, and it leaves out wells that should face scrutiny from water regulators, Klahn and Curtis say.

A third lawsuit takes the fight to all of Southwest Colorado. In February, the state engineer amended the rules to include other geological formations, including the shales found in Montezuma, Dolores and western La Plata counties. The rules determined that groundwater in the Paradox formation – which covers a wide swath of Southwest Colorado – is nontributary, meaning gas companies will not have to prepare expensive plans to replace the water they use in their wells. The area has not been drilled for gas yet, but the rocks hold a potentially large amount of shale gas, so it could become an important drilling area in the future. Durango water lawyer Amy Huff filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of several local landowners to challenge the rules over the Paradox formation and other geologic layers. Huff said the state engineer has not done enough to prove that gas companies can take water out of the rock formations without harming surface streams…

An Aspen group, Public Counsel of the Rockies, paid the plaintiffs’ legal fees in the Vance-Fitzgerald lawsuit. In March, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation made a $300,000 grant to Public Counsel of the Rockies to continue the coal-bed methane work, according to the Hewlett Foundation. Public Counsel of the Rockies’ tax forms describe the Vance lawsuit as a test case to bring water regulation to gas wells

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: American Oil Shale is building a processing plant to test their technology

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Oil shale has been the “Next Big Thing” in Colorado for over a 100 years. 2011 could be the year that a company proves to itself and the world that the resource can be produced economically in an environmentally sound way. Here’s a short report from Bloomberg Business Week. From the article:

One of three companies with federal leases to research and develop oil shale in Colorado said it plans to start testing its technology early next year. American Shale Oil said it’s building a processing facility west of Rifle in western Colorado. The company expects to employ about two dozen people during the research phase.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Water for People scores $5.6 million from the Gates Foundation

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Here’s the release from Water for People:

Water For People (www.waterforpeople.org), a nonprofit international development organization, announced today receipt of a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support their innovative Sanitation as a Business program.

The grant represents a significant investment over four years in Water For People’s Sanitation as a Business work, testing possible sustainable sanitation services in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This groundbreaking program seeks to revolutionize the sanitation sector. The program will combine profit incentives for small local companies and income generation programs for poor households and schools, demonstrating a shift from unsustainable, subsidy-based sanitation programs toward sustainable, profitable sanitation services. By merging business principles of market research and segmentation with comprehensive community involvement and thorough evaluation of results, Water For People aims to create a truly scalable model, expanding affordable sanitation coverage in multiple locations worldwide.

“Water For People is honored to receive this grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It will allow us to test, improve and expand our entrepreneurial Sanitation as a Business program,” said Ned Breslin, Water For People CEO. “Ultimately, we seek to do more than bring sanitation to millions of people in developing countries. We seek to do so in a way that fundamentally transforms the sector. This model will challenge subsidy-driven, loan finance and passive private sector approaches to the global sanitation crisis.”

“Identifying profitable business models that engage local communities is critical to creating safe and sustainable sanitation systems,” said Rachel Cardone, program officer with Water, Sanitation & Hygiene at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Water For People is developing and testing these kinds of models, which have the potential to scale up across regions and improve the health, economic, and social conditions of millions of poor people.”

Water For People first began experimenting with Sanitation as a Business principles in Malawi, Africa in 2008. Since then, sanitation entrepreneurs have developed ongoing maintenance relationships with households to service over 1,000 latrines.

Nick Burn, Water For People International Program Director explains, “This program is promising because in many respects it is not just about sanitation. Rather, it is about profit and services, using businesses as a vehicle for reaching far larger numbers of people with sanitation than traditional approaches have been able to do.”

“This is a significant grant for Water For People, and will allow us to build on the initiative already in place in Malawi and increase its capacity to spread beyond Malawi’s borders to benefit communities throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” Burn continued. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant allows us to broaden and deepen our programmatic work. We hope to work in new ways to help increase impact, go to scale and ideally demonstrate to others that Sanitation as a Business is a powerful approach that can be replicated beyond our programs.”

For more information about Water For People and the organization’s initiative Sanitation as a Business, contact Peter Mason, Director of Marketing and Communications at pr@waterforpeople.org or visit the website at http://www.waterforpeople.org

Thanks to the Denver Business Journal for the heads up.

La Salle: Groundwater seepage problems

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From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

[Bill Tulk’s] home is among several in La Salle that have had basement flooding problems in the past couple of weeks, but Tulk and water officials said it’s something they have no control over. It’s caused by too much surface water the past three years, which comes on the heels of nearly five years of dry conditions that drove water tables to near record lows in some cases. “It’s high water levels. There’s nothing anybody can do about it,” Tulk said, except install sump pumps to keep the water out, which he has done in the past week. He said he installed one on the south side of his house about a week ago and put in another on the northwest corner of his house over the weekend. He was pumping the water into his back yard, but when it became saturated, he started pumping into the gutter and letting the water run down the street…

The homes are along the Union Ditch, an irrigation company that supplies water from a point near Milliken to east of La Salle, and some people blamed the ditch company for the problems. But Tulk and others said it’s not the company’s fault. Gary Alles of the Union Ditch Co. said the problem is fields in the area of the neighborhood that have been irrigated all summer long. On top of that, groundwater levels have risen because of an excess of surface water this year and the previous two years. “Our ditch has been running a foot and a half to 2 feet below the ditch bank all year long,” Alles said, noting that he, too, has had problems at his home northeast of La Salle. “We’ve been running two, 3-inch (sump) pumps most of the summer to keep water out of the basement,” he said, adding that his farm is at the east end of the Union Ditch.

Dick Wolfe, head of the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said levels of groundwater aquifers up and down the South Platte River have increased by 2-3 feet and his office has been getting calls throughout the summer from residents with water problems in basements. Those calls, he said, have come from Boulder all along the river to the northeast. There have been similar problems in the Ault and Nunn areas of northern Weld County, as well, Wolfe said, and again, it’s due to rising groundwater tables.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Powertech plans ‘aquifer enhancement’ at proposed Centennial Project operation

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Powertech’s plan for in situ leaching now includes a process called “aquifer enhancement.” The report says aquifer enhancement involves raising the water table beneath the mine site by injecting fresh water into the ground around the perimeter of each field of wells used for uranium extraction. The fresh water, which will likely come from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project once water rights are purchased, will keep the oxygen levels around the uranium ore at the correct level so the ore can be extracted. The aquifer enhancement process will create a “hydraulic fence” around each well field, but the report says, “No modeling has been completed by Powertech to assess the effect of the hydraulic fence on the surrounding water resources during operation.”

David Berry, director of the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Office, said he is uncomfortable speculating on what Powertech’s aquifer enhancement process might mean. “Regardless, state standards apply,” he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The Colorado Water Quality Division hits Colorado Springs with $50,000 in fines for spills

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Water Quality Division of the Department of Public Health and Environment has determined violations of previous compliance orders for sanitary sewer overflows during the last five years resulted in civil penalties of more than $50,000, according to consent decrees on amendments to previous compliance orders. Previous penalties have totaled about $400,000…

The amount of contaminants spilled in the last five years is far less than the discharges from 1998-2005 that led to the compliance orders, but each incident is a violation of state law, according to amendments released this month by the Colorado Water Quality Division.

The division listed eight releases of partially treated wastewater, called reclaimed water, between 50 and 3,500 gallons into Monument Creek or Fountain Creek from 2006-10. Causes ranged from equipment or line failure to contractor damage. Civil penalties for those releases totaled $13,266. The division listed 18 releases of raw sewage into Fountain Creek or its tributaries ranging from 2 to 8,700 gallons from 2006-10. The releases were caused by blockages, vandalism and in one case equipment malfunction. Civil penalties for those releases totalled $43,624…

Colorado Springs has spent $143 million in improvements to comply with state orders on its sanitary sewer system since 2000. The political furor over the continued spills into Fountain Creek resulted in the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force and led to the formation of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. Colorado Springs also committed to spend $75 million over 15 years for additional wastewater system improvements as part of its 1041 permit with Pueblo County for the Southern Delivery System, and reported spending $9 million toward that figure last year.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Conservation: Northern Colorado Water’s Efficiency in Landscaping and Watering seminar Wednesday

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Northern Colorado Water’s Efficiency in Landscaping and Watering series will continue with a session on using less water and still looking good. The free water seminar will take place 12:30-1:15 p.m. Wednesday at Northern Colorado Water, 220 Water Ave., Berthoud. Reserve a spot at registration@ncwcd.org or call 622-2220. Walk-ins are welcome too.

For details, visit www.northernwater.org.

More conservation coverage here.

Colorado State University Professor Developing Anaerobic Digester to Reduce Cost of Waste Disposal, Particularly in Western States

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University:

A Colorado State University professor is developing an anaerobic digester that turns animal waste into methane using much less water than conventional technology, making it more economically feasible and easier for use by feedlots and dairies in Western states.

Anaerobic digesters are often applied at large animal feeding operations elsewhere in the country, largely in the Midwest or on the East Coast, because of the abundance of water resources, said Sybil Sharvelle, assistant professor of civil engineering. High liquid content waste is required by existing technology to enable pumping and mixing of the waste in addition to stimulation of the growth of microorganisms that convert waste into methane.

“In the arid West, you pay for water rights, so water use is very controlled and there’s a financial motivation for producers to conserve water, which is why management practices are different,” Sharvelle said.

Sharvelle and her graduate student, Luke Loetscher, are collaborating with Fort Collins, Colo.-based Stewart Environmental Consultants Inc. and the university’s Agricultural Experiment Stations to evaluate the feasibility of anaerobic digestion at Colorado feeding operations. She has an Extension appointment to help tackle issues related to agricultural waste throughout the state of Colorado.
Stewart Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Stewart Environmental Consults in Fort Collins, is working to commercialize the process and has an exclusive option to license the process from the Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF.

Forbes Guthrie, CEO of Stewart Energy, said, “This process addresses a significant and underserved market of energy production from low-moisture biomass. In addition, the process will ultimately help the agricultural community to meet more stringent environmental regulations with regards to both air and water emissions and, at the same time, provide the operations with stable and predictable energy costs for multiple years in advance.”

Sharvelle’s system is unique because it separates the digestion process into two major steps. How it works: Water is trickled over dry waste in a vessel to capture organic materials and convert nearly 60 percent of the solid material into liquid organic acids. The liquid is put into another reactor which is heated to incubate the bacteria living in the digester. These bacteria then convert waste into methane.
That separation of processes also assists Western farming and ranching operations that must contend with rocks and sand in the waste when they scrape it from their lots. These materials are detrimental to operation of conventional anaerobic digestion technology. With Sharvelle’s system, remaining solids from the first step – known as hydrolysis – are separated and can be composted.

“Feedlots are huge and they produce a lot of manure, and the compost they produce is usually more than the area around them has demand for,” Sharvelle said. “Feedlots are often located in areas where there is not a lot of fertile farmland, so they’re ending up with this extra waste material that there’s nothing to do with.”

The methane produced in the digester can then be used as a source of energy to run a generator and used in a natural gas pipeline once byproducts such as carbon dioxide are removed.

Biological processing through anaerobic digestion became common practice with wastewater treatment in the 1960s and 1970s, Sharvelle said.

Sharvelle is based in the College of Engineering. Her research interests include biological waste processing, water reuse and sustainable water and waste management. She also contributes to the CSU Institute for Livestock and Environment with the goal of finding practical, economical solutions to minimize environmental impacts from the livestock industry.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Governor Ritter Announces Acceleration Of Small Hydro Projects in Colorado

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From The Aspen Times (Aaron Hedge):

It’s too early to tell, however, if that would be a good route for Aspen and its proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric plant, for which the city utilities department plans to seek an exemption from the agency. City spokeswoman Sally Spaulding said the pilot program announced by Gov. Bill Ritter, which would establish a partnership with the federal government, would probably not accommodate the timeline the city is pursuing with the project…

Exemptions are available for projects that would generate five or more megawatts of power or projects that utilize existing pipelines that feed other water usage, such as Aspen’s Thomas Reservoir, which provides residents with drinking water…

Any projects in Ritter’s new program will have to be implemented via existing infrastructure, according to the MOU [between Colorado and FERC]…

City Council indicated earlier this month that it would support the exemption, but asked for more information on how the health of the stream would be maintained after the project is built. David Hornbacher, project director, said the city would conduct yearly studies modeled from a baseline Colorado Division of Wildlife review of the stream after the plant starts operating. The investigation would determine whether the project will damage the stream. The hydropower project would divert 25 cubic feet per second through an existing pipeline from water-intake facilities on Castle and Maroon creeks to Thomas Reservoir. The water would all return to Castle Creek about 300 feet above its confluence with the Roaring Fork River. To qualify for FERC exemption, a hydropower project must allow the water to return to the body it came from or be used again for non-hydropower purposes. Spaulding said that, either way, the water all eventually runs into the Roaring Fork River.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Republican River Basin Water and Drought Portal

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Say hello to the Republican River Basin Water and Drought Portal. From the front page:

Water resources in the Republican River Basin are vital to the sustainability of the life that surrounds them. Not only is it important to the well being of people but it’s also necessary for crop production, animal life, and the hydrological cycle. This portal was created to provide comprehensive information on emerging and ongoing water and drought issues for anyone that has an interest in the Republican River Basin. It will give stakeholders the planning information and tools needed to develop sustainable water strategies as well as information to better prepare for and respond to water shortage and drought.

Thanks to Fox 31 News for the link.

More from the McCook Daily Gazette. From the article:

The river has been a vital lifeline since prehistoric times, providing precious water to a parched prairie since before the region’s earliest European explorers named it in reference to the Kit-ke-hak-i, or Republican Pawnees…

A new website won’t solve the all problems, but should prove to be a valuable resource as the process continues. Created by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources, hosted by the Upper Republican Natural Resources District and created with the help of the Lower, Middle and Tri-Basin Natural Resources Districts, the site is at http://www.rrdp.org

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

Forest to Faucet Partnership: Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service to pony up $33 million for watershed protection

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region announced their plans to equally share an investment of $33 million, over a five-year period, in restoration projects on more than 38,000 acres of National Forest lands, at an event in Dillon, Colo., today.

This partnership will accelerate and expand the U.S. Forest Service’s ability to restore forest health in watersheds critical for Denver Water’s water supplies and infrastructure. Forest thinning and other wildfire fuels reduction projects will take place around and upstream of Strontia Springs, Gross, Antero, Eleven Mile Canyon and Cheesman reservoirs, and in an area near the town of Winter Park. The projects will reduce the risk of wildfires upstream of Denver Water’s reservoirs and other water delivery infrastructure.

“Thirty million Americans depend upon water from Colorado’s public and private forests. Maintaining the health of these forests is everyone’s business,” said Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “I applaud Denver Water for their long-term investment in our National Forest watersheds. By leveraging our shared resources, we are able to do more work, faster, and in the critical areas. This partnership is a model for forest managers and water providers throughout the country.”

“There is a direct connection between healthy forests and sustainable supplies of clean water,” said Greg Austin, vice president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “Denver Water has spent more than $10 million in the aftermath of the Buffalo Creek and Hayman fires. We are taking this proactive step to invest in the future, by keeping our watershed healthy rather than paying for impacts from a catastrophic crown fire in the future. Denver Water is committed to managing water supplies, developing resources and carrying out projects in an environmentally responsible way, and we’re happy this partnership has such mutual benefit.”

Forest health treatments will help protect water resources for Denver Water’s customers as well as millions more downstream beneficiaries, including homes, businesses and agriculture. Restoration also will help the forests become more resistant to future insect and disease, reduce wildfire risks and maintain habitat for fish and wildlife. More resilient forests will also be more adaptive to the impacts of a changing climate.

Gov. Ritter applauded the creation of this partnership between Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service. “The scale of the ongoing mountain pine beetle infestation is well beyond anything anyone of us has experienced,” Gov. Ritter said. “It is going to take unprecedented levels of collaboration to address these serious threats to our forests, our communities and our watersheds. This is an historic commitment and a vital step toward healthier forests in Colorado.”

More coverage from the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen). From the article:

The work is intended to protect critical watersheds against catastrophic wildfires in areas impacted by mountain pine beetle, as well as other tree-killing infestations…

Areas treated are to be include the Blue River watershed as well as forests upstream of Strontia Springs, Gross, Eleven Mile Canyon and Cheesman reservoirs. Colorado has about 3 million acres of dead trees — amid 17-18 million across the West — because of beetle infestation. [Harris Sherman, U.S. Department of Agriculture under secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment] said the problem relates to past fire suppression efforts and climate change.

More coverage from the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn). From the article:

Part of the Forest Service share of the funding will come from money that’s already been allocated to the Rocky Mountain region of the Forest Service, said Harris Sherman, Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. Additionally, several national forests in Colorado competed favorably for a separate slice of forest health funds that will also specifically toward these critical watershed treatments. Denver Water customers will pay for the other half of the work, seen as an effective way to prevent the huge back-end costs associated with cleaning up after a fire. “I don’t think we’ll have any problems selling this to our rate payers,” said Greg Austin, vice president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. Austin explained that Denver Water has already spent $10.5 million on dealing with impacts to Strontia Springs Reservoir after the disastrous Hayman fire. It could cost up to another $30 million to complete the restoration, and more if there are significant rainfall events that lead to more erosion and sedimentation.

“The Forest Service can’t do this alone,” said Sherman, adding that about 33 million people in 13 states depend on water that come from Colorado watersheds. “Maintaining these forests is everybody’s business. I applaud Denver Water for their long-term investment in our national forest watersheds.”

The work will focus in thinning, fuel reduction, creating fire breaks, erosion control decommissioning roads, and, eventually, reforestation. The partnership could serve as a model for similar agreements across the West and with other industries, Sherman added, singling out the ski industry and power companies with infrastructure on forested lands. Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead said the agreement is a critical partnership based on mutual interest, and credited former Denver Water manager Chips Barry with laying the groundwork for the announcement. The work will take place on the Upper South Platte River, in the South Platte River headwaters, the St. Vrain River, and in the Colorado River headwaters, including the Blue River.

More restoration coverage here.

Grand Junction: Colorado Riverfront Project update

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Katie Steele and Bennett Boeschenstein):

Restoration efforts began in 1985 with a clean-up project on the 30-acre weed- and junk-infested Watson Island. For two years, volunteers spent countless hours cleaning the island by hand. They hauled 25 years of salvage yard scrap metal, 4,000 tires and over 400 truckloads of waste to the landfill. It was only the beginning. What began as a local clean-up project expanded into a valleywide effort to reclaim the rivers and their floodplains as social, economic, wildlife and recreational amenities — the highlight of which is the Colorado Riverfront Trail. Today, communities across the Grand Valley are connected by over 30 miles of trails. Over 450,000 visitors enjoy the neighboring Colorado River State Park to bike, fish, swim, camp, hike and boat. There are numerous community events around the rivers, including concerts, triathlons, bike rides, raft races and festivals.

More restoration coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress’ Annual Summer Meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Republican Dan Maes and Democrat John Hickenlooper, the Denver mayor, spoke a day apart at the conference, addressing water conservation and storage as solutions to the state water woes.

Hickenlooper said he is committed to urban water conservation, saying Denver has cut per capita use by 20 percent. “In the end, maybe it’s not Denver’s water, but Colorado’s water,” Hickenlooper said. “Maybe it’s in Denver’s best interest that we keep every drop of water we can in the Colorado River, the Arkansas River, the [Fraser] River and the South Platte River.”

It is important to preserve water for farms, the ski industry and energy production throughout the state to boost Denver’s economy, Hickenlooper said. He called for an end of the adversarial relationship among the state’s water interests and to collaboratively reach solutions to water problems…

Maes focused more on storage. “If it starts in Colorado, it’s our water. The question is how do we keep it here,” Maes said in a Thursday appearance. “We need to store as much of our water in the state as possible.”

He spoke in favor of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would construct two new reservoirs in Northern Colorado. And he favored keeping small farmers in business through state water policy that does not automatically shift water from agricultural to urban purposes.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s third party candidate for governor, Tom Tancredo, is still in the race, according to a report from Gary Harmon writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

He has two words for Colorado water, Tancredo said: “Store it.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: New irrigation efficiency rules

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From the Ag Journal (Bette McFarren):

To avoid another lawsuit [by Kansas over flows in the Arkansas River], rules have been put in place and Kansas is involved in developing the rules for water usage for Colorado farmers and must be compensated for overuse of the water in the Arkansas River. A new rule, Rule 10 Compliance Plan, is said to be better than the previous rule. But farmers are wondering about the fairness of it all. Under Rule 10 farmers who make certain improvements, such as lining ditches and laterals and/or the use of sprinkler systems, would have to provide a fee per farm and per acre, plus maps of acreage and details of irrigation practices.

This will be a problem for Don McBee, who irrigates off the Fort Lyon Canal. McBee has known for a long time that trouble was coming, and he has tried to warn other farmers. McBee said that the water received in the ending part of the Fort Lyon and Amity canals is so full of silt that the farmers have to let the water settle out before it can be used in sprinklers or drip systems. He has advised the farmers to line all of the ditches they can before regulations are put in force next year which may prevent lining of ditches and laterals. Now any improvements he makes could be fined. The pond loss through seepage is extreme. He has proposed a pond study that will establish the water loss to seepage that occurs when water is stored in ponds. When water is short, ponds dry up and crack. He hopes to establish a standard percentage of loss to be credited to farmers.

Dr. Mark Bartolo of the Colorado State University Arkansas Valley Research Center in Rocky Ford is working with an experiment called a lysimeter. The lysimeter is a measurement device rather like an eight-foot cube flower pot buried out in a field, he said. The gauges are on top, but the inward part is reached by going down a ladder underground. The lysimeter measures how much water a plant uses, how much passes through, and how much evaporates. The results from the lysimeter are used as a mathematical basis to correlate with weather data obtained from 12 small meteorological stations located from Pueblo to Holly. New developments in technology are happening all the time, but the lysimeter offers the most scientifically valid data for water consumption available at the present time. McBee hopes that his pond seepage study may receive approval similar to that granted to the lysimeter data…

Farmers who have been increasing the efficiency of their systems by going to sprinklers instead of flood irrigation, and also by other improvements, such as lining of ditches and laterals, are affected by the rules. If and when these rules go into effect, these farmers will be required to submit an application and a contract in order to use irrigation water because their more efficient practices reduce the water going back to the river through surface runoff and first level alluvial drainage. The application form will include 1) owner information, 2) farm information (water shares, acres of flood and sprinkler, headgates), 3) map of the areas, 4) statement and signature. Assessment by the Water Conservancy District must be paid in order that the Water Conservancy may buy the acre feet of water to replace the reduced runoff. New membership applications are proposed to be due on January 1 for the next season coverage, with applications accepted until April with late fees attached. Assessments will be determined by the board of directors annually.

More Arkansas Valley consumptive use rules coverage here.

Lone Tree: City to be recognized for conservation communication efforts

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From the Douglas County News Press:

The City of Lone Tree will be recognized by the City-County Communications and Marketing Association at the organization’s annual conference in September in Atlanta. Lone Tree will receive an award in the category of Go Green Communication Program Efforts for its community outreach during the implementation of its Homeowners’ Association Irrigation Efficiency Grant Program. The Savvies are awarded to skilled and effective city, county, agency or district professionals who have creatively planned and completed successful innovations in communications and marketing.

Lone Tree demonstrated its efforts in reaching out to residents during its Irrigation Efficiency Grant Program that began at the beginning of 2009. Lone Tree partnered with Denver Water to create a program to complete a citywide irrigation system audit of the common areas for each homeowners association. As a result, 2.5 million irrigated square feet were audited and the opportunity for water conservation of an estimated 18 million gallons annually was identified.

More conservation coverage here.

The EPA releases their Draft Clean Water Strategy report

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From the Environmental Protection Agency:

The Coming Together for Clean Water event and online discussion gave us a lot to think about regarding how EPA can most effectively pursue our nation’s clean water goals. After a lot of consideration, we’ve developed this draft strategy to outline how we hope to accomplish those goals.

We’re pleased to share this draft with you and welcome your comments. If you’re commenting about something specific, please include the section title, page and paragraph number to which you’re referring. Also, please indicate whether you’re commenting as a private citizen or on behalf of an organization (and if it’s the latter, please include the name of the organization as well).

The draft strategy will be available for comment until September 17. After that, we’ll start developing the final strategy, which we hope to have ready by late 2010.

Coming Together for Clean Water Disc Draft Aug 2010 FINAL

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

CWCB: Draft State of Colorado Flood Mitigation Plan ready for public comment

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

The State of Colorado’s DRAFT Flood Mitigation Plan is now available on the CWCB website for public comment. The public comment period will officially close on September 9th, 2010.

The Flood Plan was recently updated with input from a Flood Mitigation Advisory Committee to comply with the FEMA’s 3-year planning cycle and is a part of the State’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. The update process has resulted in a revised Plan that includes an updated and comprehensive statewide flood vulnerability assessment, and outlines progress on mitigation strategies that the State has completed or will continue to pursue toward the goal of reducing flood losses.

Please direct all comments to Jeff Brislawn at jeff.brislawn@amec.com by close of business on September 9th, 2010. Should you have any questions regarding the plan or public comment period please contact Tom Browning at the CWCB’s Watershed and Flood Protection Section at 303.866.3441×3208.

More CWCB coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress’ Annual Summer Meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Valley Conduit received top billing in Rep. John Salazar’s address to the Colorado Water Congress summer convention Friday. “The conduit will allow 40 communities to have clean drinking water,” said Salazar, D-Colo. “I’m very proud of that legislation.”[…]

Salazar also talked about other water issues in the state, including pending legislation to deal with pine-bark beetle destruction and successful legislation to renovate the Platoro Reservoir dam on the Conejos River in the San Luis Valley…

The congressman’s opponent for the District 3 seat in the November election, Republican Scott Tipton, spoke on the importance of water for both domestic and agricultural purposes. “Those of us in rural Colorado need to protect our water,” Tipton said. “I will stand up to keep water in the 3rd Congressional District.” Tipton also wants to work with other states in the Colorado River Compact to build new storage in Colorado at the headwaters of the river…

[State Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma] called for a new generation of leadership for water development in Colorado, outlining a platform of water storage, alignment of federal purpose to state needs and conservation. “To provide more storage, we must start now,” Gardner said…

Friday’s speakers followed a series of state lawmakers Thursday who talked about the importance of water. Among their comments:

– “Water storage and structure is as important to the state as the highway system,” said Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.
– “You need to concern yourself with the state budget process,” said Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, saying he will continue to fight the raids on state water project loan funding.
– “We need to increase water literacy in Colorado,” said Rep. Randy Fisher, D-Fort Collins.

More Colorado water coverage here.

Windsor: Town Board approves budget for new finished water tank design

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From the Windsor Beacon (Ashley Keesis-Wood):

The Windsor Town Board passed a resolution seeking a Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant to build a new, 3-million gallon concrete water storage tank. “This will identify the future building of the water tank and meet future demand from the town for the next 20 years,” said Windsor Public Works Director Terry Walker.

The town has tentatively budgeted $600,000 in the 2011 budget to design the tank. “If we do the design and end up getting the grant, we would be shovel-ready for construction,” Walker told the board.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Elk River: Rancher Jay Fetcher named to River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force by Governor Ritter

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From Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

Gov. Bill Ritter named Jay Fet cher on Monday as one of 17 members of the River Access Dis pute Resolution Task Force. The group has until Dec. 31 to prepare a report for Ritter and the state Legislature that recommends methods for resolving disputes among landowners, commercial rafters, boaters and anglers on a case-by-case basis as disputes arise…

Fetcher was a logical choice for the task force, [Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said] said. “Jay (Fetcher) and his family have owned land and ranched in Northwest Colorado for decades and decades,” he said. “They have a unique perspective from a landowner’s viewpoint that will be extremely valuable to this task force and this process.”

Meanwhile, there is a dispute with the members of the dispute task force, according to a report from Shawn Martin writing for The Pulse- of Colorado Farm Bureau. From the article:

“In addition to the Governor making some questionable appointments to this taskforce, I am most disappointed that he clearly and purposely chose to alienate the organization whose members stand to potentially lose the most from this process. The Colorado Farm Bureau represents a large majority of riverfront landowners in Colorado, but our nominees to the task force are absent from the list of voting appointees,” said Alan Foutz, President of Colorado Farm Bureau. “It is disappointing that one of the organizations that was most engaged in the debate surrounding HB- 1188 is excluded from this process.”

In addition to a lack of diversity in political philosophy and vocation, the Governors list is also lacking members who live and work on the land of Colorado’s Western Slope. “Over half of the members of the taskforce reside in Front Range communities. It is apparent that the Governor is not serious about creating an equitable process that will yield fair and workable results for all parties involved. It shows his lack of seriousness about the issue,” continued Foutz.

More whitewater coverage here.

Orchard City: Town officials tour highlights improvements to water system

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

Town officials conducted a tour last week to view a new water diversion project, take a look at the water treatment plant, and follow the route of the soon-to-begin and already-paid-for Phase I West Side main transmission line replacement project.

This year’s completion of the relatively inexpensive and modest looking Ward Creek diversion belies the project’s incalculable importance to the town. For a comparatively paltry $49,000 price of construction, permits, and engineering, the town now has an alternative to drawing reserve water supplies from the difficult-to-process irrigation flows of Big Ditch.

In addition to that, the project, as explained by officials, creates the ability to draw town water reserves from the much cleaner water stored in Ward Creek Reservoir and to divert that water directly into a pipeline to the treatment plant.

There is a third benefit to the town from the project. It is by far the biggest and most valuable advantage, while at the same time being completely invisible to unknowing eyes. That is access to Ward Creek reservoir itself. To explain — the most glaring weak link in the town’s water utility system has long been the lack of a raw water reservoir that could supply needs of the town’s water customers when springs dry up during severe drought. Orchard City has never had a raw water storage reservoir for its domestic supply. When the town’s extensive system of springs is producing water normally, there is ample water for town needs. But, in the frightful drought year of 2002, the flow of clean mountain water from Orchard City’s springs dwindled to a trickle. Trustees and staff scrambled trying to beg or borrow any water at all off the Grand Mesa that they could somehow manage to get into their collection system, or the Big Ditch…

Also during the town trustees’ victory tour last week, water utility superintendent Keith Peterson explained the workings of the town’s water treatment plant. The plant’s two filtration cells are sufficient to supply water users’ needs in normal, day-to-day operations. But, the plant was constructed in 1999 and 2000 with an eye to the future and was built to house two additional filtration cells, doubling the plant’s capacity, if ever needed.

Trustees also got a look at the two one-million-gallon storage tanks at the treatment plant site that will be the beginning of the soon-to-begin, seven-mile-long, $2-plus million West Side Main transmission line project. With an expectation that work will be able to begin in September, the 12-inch-diameter pressurized water line will follow a course across country and along road rights-of-way directly south to connect with the town’s storage tank at Eckert on Happy Hollow Road.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here.

Animas-La Plata Project update

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From The Durango Telegraph (Leslie Swanson):

Whether you were for or against it, Lake Nighthorse is on the way. After decades of debate, the controversial Animas-La Plata Water Project is almost complete. By this time next year, the reservoir could be full. But will there be recreation at Lake Nighthorse? More than 5,000 acres of land, with 1,490 surface acres of water, less than 2 miles from a town full of outdoor sports enthusiasts? Think about it.

A recently released pair of studies from Durango’s RPI Consulting indicate that Lake Nighthorse could draw approximately 163,000 visitors a year to the area with nearly $8 million to spend on food, lodging, gas, supplies and, of course, souvenirs. In addition, 165 local tourism-based jobs could be created. By 2025, the report ventures, Lake Nighthorse’s attractions could bring 230 jobs and $10.8 million a year to area businesses.

But a recreation plan requires funding and there is little available. In 2008, the state announced that it would not be developing or managing a park at the lake, leaving the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District (ALPWCD) and the reservoir’s other sponsors with a choice: either fence it off from the public or come up with a plan – and funding – on their own. The choice was obvious. The potential gains are so solid that the Lake Nighthorse recreation plan is moving forward and gaining momentum.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter, Corp’s cleanup plans at the Schwartzwalder mine fall short according to state regulators

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“Pumping just from the alluvium will not be sufficient to mitigate the uranium-contamination problem,” said Loretta Pineda, Colorado director of mining, reclamation and safety. “(State regulators) have ordered Cotter to pump and treat from both the alluvium and the mine pool.”

State officials recently fined Cotter $55,000, then suspended all but $2,500 on the condition that Cotter initiate a cleanup by Aug. 31. That could include any action, such as positioning the right equipment at the mine. State regulators, Pineda said, “believe the mine pool poses a significant risk to surface water (and are) vigorously pursuing the enforcement action. . . . The state fully intends to hold Cotter accountable for permit violations.”

Of greatest concern is Ralston Creek, which flows into Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir and contains uranium levels exceeding health standards. Cotter “strongly disagrees” with state regulators, according to a June letter sent to the Colorado attorney general from Cotter attorney Charlotte Neitzel. “Although Cotter believes it has not violated the statutes and regulations,” the letter said, the company “recognizes the importance of taking action for the situation at Ralston Creek.”[…]

Cotter contends that the highly toxic groundwater filling the shaft, where uranium levels far exceed health standards, does not reach Ralston Creek.

“(Denver Water) supports the state’s order for Cotter to treat the groundwater in the mine,” spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “We’re very concerned with maintaining the quality of our source waters and hope Cotter complies.” Tests along Ralston Creek indicate uranium concentrations as high as 310 parts per billion, above the 30 ppb standard for drinking water, Chesney said. “Our treated water is meeting drinking-water standards, and our current treatment process is able to handle uranium at these levels. However, that could change in the future,” she said. “Installing a new system would be costly.”

More nuclear coverage here and here. More Schwartzwalder Mine coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress Annual Summer Conference recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Is there a way for the state to encourage private investment in water infrastructure, such as the Million project,” Bob Trout, senior partner in Trout, Raley, Montano, Witwer & Freeman, asked state lawmakers at the Colorado Water Congress summer conference. Trout said the water community and Colorado water law are hostile toward public-private partnerships…

While public water providers want certainty, they also don’t want competition from private developers. “They want ownership, but for hugely expensive projects, ownership might not be an option,” Trout said. “In addition, Colorado water law is antithetical to private water development.”

Prior appropriation, anti-speculation and interstate compacts make it difficult to approve and permit private projects, Trout said. For instance, Aaron Million’s proposal to move water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado triggered discussions about the availability of water under the Colorado River Compact and worries about speculation in the federal permit process.

Public water providers say they need certainty and have to keep water rates low. “We’re not opposed to public-private projects, but we need to maintain control of the supply to consumers,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. “For us, failure is not an option.”[…]

“We have to have certainty that a private project will provide the water, but the question is how do you structure it to guarantee that certainty?” said Bruce McCormick, Colorado Springs Utilities chief of water services. “We’re responsible to our ratepayers, not stockholders.”[…]

“The most important thing the Legislature can do is stay the hell out of the road so you can have those public-private partnerships,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “More than 100 years ago, Sterling Reservoir was built in two years with horses and wagons. It takes more time than that today to get the paperwork out of the way.”

Travis Smith, a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Interbasin Compact Committee, said it is time for the state to support water projects, whether public or private. There may be a role for private development. “Through the IBCC, we’re looking at the question, ‘Does the state have a role in supporting and facilitating water projects?’ ” Smith said. “We have to look at whether the state takes a permissive view of private water projects or a prohibitive view.”

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

“What I was surprised about when I looked at these new quote-unquote normals is they really haven’t changed very much,” [State Climatologist Nolan Doesken] said Thursday in a presentation to the Colorado Water Congress. Climatologists calibrate normal temperatures every 10 years, based temperatures over the last 30 years. So by the end of this year, the “normal” data will kick out the 1970s and introduce the warm 2000s.

Temperatures at a weather station in Mesa Verde National Park are on track to rise 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the new period – in line with most of the rest of the state, according to Doesken’s data about the last 29 years. But compared to the 1951 to 1980 period, temperatures at the Mesa Verde station have fallen 1.3 degrees. Most of the other weather stations in Colorado show slight temperature increases over the same time frames. Doesken knows his numbers don’t match up with the perception of a rapidly warming planet. He watches data gathered at weather stations, while projections of global warming are made through computer models that attempt to predict the future, he said. Despite the models of warmer future weather, he has not seen drastic warming so far in Colorado. “You’ve got to be thinking beyond that to plan for the future, but the current data are showing pretty small changes so far. But it leans in the warm direction,” Doesken said in an interview.

The heat in the 2000s is masked in Doesken’s data, he said, because the two 30-year periods he was comparing overlap by two decades…

The weather created dramatic changes this spring, said Mike Gillespie, who oversees the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s network of snow gauges. The El Niño weather pattern kept Southwest Colorado cool and flush with snow through most of the winter, while northern river basins teetered on the edge of drought, he said. The San Juan River Basin, which drains most of Southwest Colorado, reached its peak snowpack on April 4, when it was exactly 100 percent of the long-term average. Then El Niño left in April, and the storm track shifted north. Suddenly the parched northern part of the state was getting snow, while the south saw rapid melting.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

[Dan Maes and John Hickenlooper] made separate appearances at the group of savvy water lawyers and engineers Thursday and Friday.

Maes, the Republican, went first. He admitted that he has a lot to learn about water, and he invited input from the group. “I have a pretty simple policy on water so far: If it starts in Colorado, it’s our water,” Maes said. He would support new reservoirs to keep Colorado water in state. He also played to Western Slope sentiments about Front Range water grabs. “There is not a head of cattle or a field of crops that will want for water because of a green yard in Denver on my watch, I promise you that,” said Maes, who lives in Evergreen, about 20 minutes west of Denver.

Hickenlooper, the Democratic Denver mayor, said he would help everyone in the state cooperate on water by applying the same skills that helped him rebuild Denver’s adversarial relationships with its suburbs. He tells Denverites who think the city’s senior water rights should give them plentiful, cheap water to think again. “In the end, maybe it’s not Denver’s water. Maybe it’s all of our water,” Hickenlooper said. “Part of what makes Denver Denver is the fact that we are in Colorado.” He pointed proudly to Denver Water’s conservation rate of nearly 20 percent since the 2002 drought. Hickenlooper would not commit to supporting large new reservoirs because public opinion is so divided on what to do about the water supply. “I think right now, the basic level of public sentiment is so fractured that we’re almost not in a position to make reliable decisions,” he said.

More Colorado Water coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: The next step is public comment before the contracts between Reclamation and Colorado Springs Utilities are finalized

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We have a few more edits to make to the contract,” said Kara Lamb, public information officer for the Bureau of Reclamation. “Then, it will be made publicly available for review and comment.” Reclamation is not sure about the timetable, Lamb added…

Negotiations concluded on Wednesday as Colorado Springs and Reclamation wrapped up a process that began in May to allow SDS participants — Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West — to connect a 50-mile pipeline to Pueblo Dam and to store water in Lake Pueblo. Colorado Springs also will receive a contract to move up to 10,000 acre-feet of water annually in a paper trade from Lake Pueblo to Twin Lakes. The storage rate would be $36 per acre-foot annually, increasing by 1.79 percent each year. At the end of the contract term of nearly 40 years, the rate would be doubled. The SDS partners also will receive $5 million in credit over five years for oversizing the $30 million North Outlet Works. Initially, about 28,000 acre-feet of water would be stored. The amount will ramp up to 42,000 acre-feet over several years. That would generate about $1 million in the first year, and more than $3 million annually by 2050. The money goes toward repayment of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, including the Arkansas Valley Conduit, under a law signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

There actually are five contracts involved. Colorado Springs is representing all of its partners on a conveyance contract that would transfer the North Outlet Works title to the federal government and determine how operating, maintenance and replacement costs would be paid. Each of the four communities also would have a storage contract, with Colorado Springs’ exchange included in its contract. Another provision allows Fountain to trade space in the Fountain Valley Conduit for SDS pipeline space with Colorado Springs.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Precipitation news

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From The Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

For the first 22 days of August, for example, Ridgway has seen 3.02 inches of rainfall. That compares with the 0.14 inches for the full month last year. The average since 2007 is just over 1 inch.

According to NWS meteorologist Megan Schweitzer in Grand Junction, the 28-year average August precipitation for Ridgway is 2.12 inches. So, for the last few years, August has been quite dry.

But the 2010 numbers, at more than 150 percent of the long-term average, are still impressive.

Ouray has seen a wet August as well. From Aug. 1-22, the rain gauge has measured 2.6 inches of moisture, compared to the monthly average of 2.34 inches. July was the truly wet month for Ouray, with 3.98 inches against an average 2.13 inches.

Conversely, Ridgway didn’t see nearly as much rainfall in July, with 1.66 inches of water, compared to an average 2.04 inches. It just shows the variability of mountain weather, a few miles up or downstream, from one month to the next.

Statewide the monsoon has delivered varied results as well. According to figures from the Colorado Climate Center in Boulder, July was very wet across parts of southern Colorado and the southeastern plains. Trinidad got drenched by 6.84 inches of rainfall in July, three times the average, while Cortez doubled its monthly average. Denver was wetter than usual, too, logging 3.7 inches of precipitation, 171 percent of normal.

Conversely, parts of central and northern Colorado stayed relatively dry. Grand Junction was only 70 percent of normal for July (though it has been wetter in August). Montrose was average for the month, with just over 1 inch of water. Blue Mesa Lake received a paltry 31 percent of normal rainfall. Greeley and Fort Collins were at 87 and 67 percent respectively. Yampa, in north-central Colorado, received only half its usual 2 inches in July.

Click through and check out the 25 pound puffball.

Cortez micro-hydroelectric plant update

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From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

The aim of the facility is to utilize energy from a McPhee Reservoir pipeline from which Cortez draws its drinking water to be sold to local power companies.

It is estimated that there are up to 5,000 megawatts of untapped small-scale electricity in the U.S., Nickerson said.

The Cortez facility has been operational since May 1. Workers are installing a filter to better harmonize the facility’s electricity with the public power grid, Nickerson said. In addition, dampening devices are being installed to muffle noise generated by the facility, which is located near the city water treatment plant off County Road N.

Although the project will not turn a profit for another 20 years, it is designed to last 100 years, Nickerson said. Water flows through the generator before entering the water treatment plant. The generator is lubricated monthly using food-grade vegetable oil to prevent drinking water contamination. The generator belt is checked annually, and the bearings are replaced every 10 years at a cost of $100,000.

“We designed this for very little maintenance,” [Cortez Public Works Director Jack Nickerson] said…

The facility is monitored remotely from the water treatment plant, where city workers are already on duty.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Fort Collins: The city council is soliciting public comment on new floodplain rules

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The proposed changes stem from a shift in the stormwater utilities’ mission and an emphasis on public safety and protecting lives and property, said Jon Haukass, water engineering and field services manager with Fort Collins Utilities.

Current standards allow for some building within the river’s 100-year floodplain. A 100-year flood is defined as an event that has a 1 percent chance of happening in a given year.

Regulatory options under consideration include setting stricter standards for how much new construction may affect flows in the event of a flood and prohibiting all new construction in the floodplain.

Staff members and the city’s water board support the option of not allowing new structures or extensive remodeling of buildings in the 100-year floodplain, Haukass said.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Saguache County: The EPA and Trout Unlimited reach agreement for cleanup on Kerber Creek

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

The cleanup agreement is for Kerber Creek, at the north end of the San Luis Valley, where Trout Unlimited and the EPA have struck a deal that will shield the conservation group from potential liability as it works to clean up mine tilings along a 17-mile stretch of the creek.

The agreement could serve as a model for similar projects in Summit County, especially in the Snake River Basin, where cleanup efforts have been stymied by strict Clean Water Act provisions that shift liability for any pollution releases after a cleanup to the entity that does the work. The local Blue River Watershed Group, for example, is planning several projects similar to the work being done in the San Luis Valley.

Since 2008, Trout Unlimited and its partners have spent more than $1.3 million on restoration efforts along Kerber Creek. Working with the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado’s Nonpoint Source Program, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and local landowners, the goal is to treat 60 acres of mine tailings using lime, limestone and compost, and to restore the stream for fish and wildlife habitat. “Thousands of miles of headwater streams in the West are either threatened or dead as a result of historic mining pollution, and without Clean Water Act liability protection, Good Samaritans’ hands are tied,” said Russell. “If they try to treat the draining water to remove metals and improve water quality, they become liable for that water for ever. That’s a risk no entity has yet been willing to take.”

More restoration coverage here.

Palisade: 25% wastewater fee increase approved by Town Board

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Wiggins):

Trustees voted 6-1 — Mayor Dave Walker cast the dissenting vote — to raise the single-family residential bill $5 a month from $20.37 to $25.37. Bills for multifamily and commercial customers will go up by a similar percentage. The rate increase takes effect Sept. 1. The money will pay off a $4 million loan the town received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Water and Environmental Program, which distributes money to rural areas to improve water and wastewater infrastructure. In addition to the loan, the town received a $3.8 million grant from the same program. All of the money, along with $755,000 of the town’s own money, will be used for the construction of a lift station and three-mile pipeline that will hook into Clifton Sanitation District’s new treatment plant. Palisade’s lagoons can’t remove enough ammonia from wastewater before it’s discharged back into the Colorado River to comply with new federal standards. Town officials have estimated that single-family residential sewer bills will eventually reach $50 a month in order to generate enough revenue to pay off the loan. Acting on a recommendation from a town resident, the town decided to raise rates incrementally rather than in one fell swoop.

More wastewater coverage here.

2010 Colorado Elections: John Hickenlooper makes a stop in Carbondale

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From the Huffington Post (David Frey):

“Right now,” Hickenlooper said, “there’s been great suspicion between the West Slope and the Front Range. The only way I’m going to be able to help solve that and really resolve some of these issues around water and economic development is if I can build a relationship with the West Slope. I don’t know any other way to do that than to come out here day after day, week after week, and met with people and listen as hard as I can and say, “All right, how do we get from here where we’re kind of struggling to a place where we find agreement?”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Restoration: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announces programs in nine states for reforestation and watershed improvment

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From the Telluride Watch:

“This is welcomed money and will be put to very good use,” says Ron Henderson, chairman of the Montrose County Board of County Commissioners, of the [$446,000] grant. “The goal is to keep our forests healthy by reducing the risk of large wildfires, maintaining and improving water quality, preventing the spread of invasive noxious weeds and enhancing fish and wildlife habitats…

The restoration project is expected to create close to 750 part-time or seasonal jobs, supporting the enlargement of biomass markets for renewable energy and maintaining the viability of regional timber mills, the last remaining large sawmills in Colorado, for which a local and sustainable supply of wood is critical. Work, job-skill training and educational opportunities will be available for local youth and adults…

The restoration projects will focus on 555,300 acres of Forest Service land within a one-million acre landscape. Active restoration projects on 160,000 acres will include controlled burns; timber harvests; native plant establishment; trail and road relocations (to reduce sediment); riparian restoration and improvements for Colorado River cutthroat trout. Multi-party monitoring efforts are proposed for 68,000 acres. The grant provides money for the implementation of restorative work, and for monitoring, as well.

More restoration coverage here.

Steamboat Springs: Local whitewater enthusiasts contemplate replacing manmade water feature know as ‘Charlie’s Hole’

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From Steamboat Today (Joel Reichenberger):

The C-Hole is one of a number of features that have been built into the Yampa River and has long been the biggest and the best. It was named for Charlie Beavers, a local kayaker who died at age 21 in a non-kayak-related accident in North Carolina.

It was built in 2003 and partially washed out by a high runoff in its first season. That damage was repaired, but the Yampa hit its highest mark since that summer in early June this year, and again the hole was damaged. “It’s significantly changed for the worse,” local kayaker Dan Pia no said. “As the river was coming up this year, some thing shifted. There was a big crease in the wave I’ve never felt before. Then when the water came back down, the hole was just gone.”

Some speculate that the boulders moved, likely because the sediment under neath them was eaten away by the ferocious river. The rocks then sank into the hole dug by the flow…

Kent Vertrees, with Friends of the Yampa, said he’s contacted the city and everyone is eager to start work on repairs as soon as Stagecoach Reservoir is finished siphoning excess water into the river. That could mean work in October, though bad weather could push any repairs to the spring or fall 2011. “The city said they’re fully committed. We want to get this done,” Vertrees said. “This is a great amenity that needs to be taken care of.”[…]

The fix envisioned could help avoid similar troubles at the hole in the future. Planners hope to get approval to pour grout between the rocks actually in the river, though that’s not a sure thing and extra boulders might be needed to help lock the feature in place. A new hole won’t necessarily look like the big wave that left even the world’s best kayakers grinning. Organizers said they hope to consult and consider everyone from kayakers to tubers to fly fishers and surfers when deciding what work to do. “Part of the discussion is whether or not the formation should have more of a wave effect. The last feature was built with a little more retentiveness, a little ledgier with a drop-off, to create more of a hydraulic,” Van de Carr said.

More whitewater coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities and Reclamation reach accord on Lake Pueblo storage

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Update: From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Eileen Welsome):

After a 12-hour session Tuesday, the two sides returned to the bargaining table Wednesday morning and agreed on a price of $36 dollar per acre foot to store, convey and exchange water through the federally owned Pueblo Reservoir. That means that SDS and its partners, which include Pueblo West, Fountain and Security, will pay about $70 million over a 38-year period, or approximately one-fifth of the bureau’s opening offer of roughly $350 million. “The contracts are another significant milestone for the project,” said John Fredell, SDS project director and chief negotiator. “This ensures a reliable supply of water for our community well into the century.”[…]

Once the terms of the contracts have been finalized, the public will have 60 days to comment, [Mike Collins, the bureau’s area manager and chief negotiator] said.

The price of the water contracts negotiated by Utilities was within its projected budget and won’t affect already projected water rates, said Janet Rummel, a Utilities spokewoman. If Reclamation had held out for the higher number, it “definitely” would have affected rates, Rummel said. To help pay for the SDS pipeline, the Utilities plans to increase rates by 12 percent a year through 2016.

In a major concession, the bureau offered to give Utilities a $5 million credit for construction of an outlet in the dam for the pipeline. That’s nearly 20 times more than an earlier offer of $287,500. The North Outlet Works, as it’s called, will cost Utilities $31 million to construct and will be available to other water users…

The SDS partners have been seeking contracts to store, convey and transport roughly 42,000 acre feet of water through Pueblo Reservoir…Three types of contracts are involved. One will allow the SDS partners to store nonproject water in the reservoir if and when space is available. A second will enable pipeline participants to convey water through the reservoir. A third will allow Utilities to move water, through paper transfers, to other reservoirs in the Fry-Ark system.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Let’s split the difference,” SDS Program Manager John Fredell said Wednesday, after recapping a marathon session the previous day that left the two sides $2 apart. Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West will pay $36 per acre-foot annually for excess-capacity storage under the SDS contract beginning next year. The rate will increase 1.79 percent annually, and Colorado Springs will get an additional credit of $5 million over five years for sizing the North Outlet Works to allow more capacity than SDS requires. Colorado Springs also will pay the same rate for paper trades of water from Pueblo to Twin Lakes up to 10,000 acre-feet each year…

Throughout the rest of the day in Pueblo West, the two sides ironed out the contract line by line and concluded negotiations…

Currently, there are 24 contracts for nearly 62,000 acre-feet of excess-capacity space in Lake Pueblo, said Roy Vaughan, Fryingpan-Arkansas Project manager. Excess-capacity space is available only when there is not enough Fry-Ark water to fill Lake Pueblo. If the lake’s conservation pool fills, the excess-capacity accounts spill. About 25 percent of the space in Lake Pueblo is set aside for flood control. Only two of the contracts are long-term, Pueblo‘s for 6,000 acre-feet and Aurora’s for 10,000 acre-feet. Aurora’s water would be the first to spill if Fry-Ark water and other accounts begin filling Lake Pueblo. Pueblo’s water is relatively protected from spilling.

Next year, the SDS partners are planning to begin using accounts under the new contract totaling nearly 28,000 acre-feet, meaning revenues of more than $1 million that could be applied to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. In 2011, Colorado Springs plans to store 18,000 acre-feet; Pueblo West, 9,000 acre-feet; Fountain 400 acre-feet; and Security, 250 acre-feet, according to water managers from each community. By 2050, Colorado Springs would ramp up to 28,000 acre-feet; Pueblo West, 10,000 acre-feet; Fountain, 2,500 acre-feet; and Security, 1,500 acre-feet. They would ramp up, over a period of several years, to 42,000 acre feet. A master contract by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District for 28,200 acre-feet is also being considered, and Pueblo’s contract will ramp up to 15,000 acre-feet by 2025. Many of the smaller entities now using one-year excess-capacity contracts would be part of the Southeastern master contract.

Meanwhile, State Representative Sal Pace is concerned that the contract will be used to move water out of the Arkansas Basin, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Democrat also repeated his contention that the demise of the Colorado
Springs stormwater enterprise renders the SDS Environmental Impact Statement invalid, and he wants a new EIS “from scratch.” “It is imperative that Reclamation halt all negotiations immediately and restart the National Environmental and Policy Act process,” Pace wrote in a letter Tuesday to the Bureau of Reclamation and to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Pace said there have been substantial alterations to SDS from both the end of the stormwater enterprise and the potential sale of water to other communities in El Paso County that are not in the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, which straddles the Palmer Divide between the Arkansas and South Platte river basins in northern El Paso County, is among communities interested in working with Colorado Springs to obtain water or carriage of water in the future.
Colorado Springs has made no deals, and is not in active negotiations with any communities other than its SDS partners at this time.

Also, Bob Norris, who owns the T-Cross Ranch, which has been identified as the site for storage reservoirs for both SDS and Aaron Million’s Flaming Gorge Pipeline, was at Tuesday’s negotiations looking for information, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“It’s a little strange that they haven’t nailed down where they’re going to put the water,” said Bob Norris, owner of the T-Cross Ranches in El Paso and Pueblo counties. “They’ve bought and paid for rights of way, but not the reservoir site.”[…]

While Million has offered a letter of intent for the site, Colorado Springs Utilities has not fully shared its plan, Norris said…

The first phase of SDS is scheduled to be completed in 2016, but the terminal storage reservoir is more than a decade away. The first phase of the project will cost $880 million, with $2.3 billion in financing.

Colorado Springs Utilities has not finalized a cost for the second phase, which includes two 30,000 acre-foot reservoirs on Williams Creek. The upper reservoir would be built first and used for terminal storage, while the lower one would regulate flows on Fountain Creek. The upper reservoir is at the site identified in both Million’s plan and SDS. Originally, a site further north on Jimmy Camp Creek was identified for terminal storage, but the Williams Creek option was deemed the least environmentally damaging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, resulting in the supplemental report.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Governor Ritter Announces Acceleration Of Small Hydro Projects in Colorado

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Update From the Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The idea is to identify micro-hydro projects that pose little environmental impacts and can be built swiftly. The state will then shepherd those projects through the annals of approvals, pushing them through faster than they would have been. Surveys have found that Colorado has several hundred sites with a potential output of 5 megawatts or less with a combined generating capacity of more than 1,400 megawatts. One megawatt of small hydro could supply the power equivalent to the electricity needs of 500 to 750 homes, though the lengthy permitting process has prevented many projects from flicking on a light. In the past 30 years, only 24 small hydropower projects in Colorado have received an exemption permit from FERC, according to the state. The small hydro projects usually take advantage of existing dams, ditches, canals and pipelines to make the projects more practical.

Here’s the release from Governor Ritter’s office (Todd Hartman/Myung Oak Kim):

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced that Colorado has signed a significant agreement with the federal government that will make it far easier to develop small hydropower projects.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Colorado will considerably streamline the permitting process, reducing the time and money required to develop a project and opening the door to derive more clean energy from small hydropower sites while maintaining high levels of environmental protections.

“This agreement moves our New Energy Economy another important step forward,” Gov. Ritter said. “Colorado has enormous potential to produce more clean energy from small-scale hydroelectric power. These projects can create local jobs, diversify our energy supplies, reduce emissions and further bolster our energy security.”

Surveys have found that Colorado has several hundred sites with a potential of 5 megawatts or less, with a combined generating capacity of more than 1,400 megawatts. One megawatt of small hydro could supply the power equivalent to the electricity needs of 500 to 750 homes. The lengthy permitting process, however, has prevented many projects from moving forward. In the past 30 years, only 24 small hydropower projects in Colorado have received an exemption permit from FERC.

To alleviate this barrier, the Governor’s Energy Office has worked closely with FERC to find ways to not only shorten, but to simplify the process to obtain a permit so that it’s cost-effective for smaller projects to advance.

“I am proud that Colorado continues to be a leader in the clean energy economy. This agreement will not only create more jobs, but will generate a new source of renewable energy to power our state that will ultimately limit our reliance on foreign oil,” U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said. “The cooperation between our state and federal government demonstrates what a powerful team we can be when we join forces.”

Small hydro projects typically take advantage of existing dams, ditches, canals and pipelines to make the projects more practical. Such projects also avoid additional diversions from Colorado streams, as they use water flows already designated for crops or municipal supplies.

As part of this initiative, GEO has contracted with a group of renewable energy experts, known as the Renewable Energy Development Team (REDT), to assist the best projects in the state in navigating the FERC permitting process. Small hydro developers interested in participating in this program will be able to apply directly at the GEO’s website, rechargecolorado.com, in the fall.

More coverage from International Water Power & Dam Construction. From the article:

Under the MOU, Colorado will develop a pilot program to test options for simplifying and streamlining procedures for authorizing conduit exemptions and small 5MW or less exemption projects while ensuring environmental safeguards. A single point of contact will also be identified for implementation of the pilot program, with both FERC and Colorado to hold quarterly teleconferences to discuss the development and implementation of the pilot program. Both parties will also share and make publicly available all relevant economic, environmental, and technical data.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Water Cycle Jump

New link since the one below is broken:

I don’t often post links to video but this one with kids rapping about the water cycle is great. It’s totally safe for work. Link via Loretta Lohman.

More education coverage here.

The Prowers County commissioners hope to overturn the State Engineer’s decision on seep ditch rights

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We firmly believe that the state engineer and division engineer need to immediately cease curtailment of our local farmers’ seep water rights, restore the rights (and seep ponds) to the level that they were prior to the calls, and provide written assurance that such endeavors will not be pursued against them,” the letter states.

Seep ditch rights are intercepted return flows from other irrigation ditches, which were claimed after the senior water rights were established. Many have been used for more than a century.

Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte said the state wants to enforce the seep ditch rights to bring them into the priority system, which allows use of water when it is available based on when it was first claimed. By making the seep rights accountable to the river call, most would seldom be in priority.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Englewood/Littleton wastewater plant wins two awards

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From the Englewood Herald (Tom Munds):

Dennis Stowe, plant manage, came to the Aug. 16 council meeting to talk about the awards, one from the American Council of Engineering Companies and one from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. “It is the first time we have received these two awards and they are not just recognizing the work of our plant or the plant personnel,” Stowe said. “Rather, these awards recognize the efforts and work of a huge number of people including design engineers, construction crews, our city councils as well as all the people at the plant. It just happened our plant got to accept the awards but they really belong to everyone who worked on these projects…

The plant received one of the eight American Council of Engineering Companies Grand Awards presented this year. The award recognized the engineering and innovation that went into the recently-completed $114 million upgrade and expansion the Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant…

The Littleton/Englewood plant received the award for the eight-year project that expanded the capacity from 36 million gallons per day to 50 million gallons per day which is expected to meet demands for the next two decades. The project also repaired and improved the processes and systems at the plant plus installed new treatment processes to meet federal and state guidelines…

Stowe also told the council about the national research technology the plant received from the National Association of Clear Water Agencies. He said the award recognized the development of an innovative system that enabled the facility to meet the state requirement to remove nitrate before putting the water back into the South Platte River. “A plant employee came up with the concept and the contractor initially didn’t want to use it because of concern it wouldn’t work efficiently,” Stowe said. “But they eventually used the system and it worked so well and so impressed the manufacturer that they patented it and have made it a part of their system.”

More wastewater coverage here.

Restoration: Should the Pennsylvania Mine in the Peru Creek Basin become a superfund site?

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Reclamation experts with the federal agency’s regional office say a Superfund designation could be the best way to get the money needed for a comprehensive cleanup, but some local officials aren’t sure they want the environmental stigma of a Superfund site in their backyard — or a massive industrial water treatment facility and a major service road in the Peru Creek backcountry, which has been the focus of long-term open space preservation efforts…

But focusing resources through the Superfund program could be the best, and maybe the only option to do some sort of meaningful remediation in the tainted basin, especially as some of the latest studies show continued degradation of water quality. “In certain months, the peak concentrations for metals have been increasing … They’re creeping up and we don’t know why,” said U.S. Geological Survey researcher Andrew Todd. “Right now, it’s just looking at dots on a plot,” he said…

Most of the metals pollution in the Snake comes from Peru Creek, both from abandoned mines in the basin, as well as from natural sources, as water trickles over highly mineralized rocks. Concentrations are so high that Peru Creek is biologically barren, with no fish or aquatic insects in the tainted water. Even several miles downstream at Keystone, the concentrations of metals exceed state and federal limits set to protect aquatic life. The pollution in Peru Creek is so intense that there’s probably little chance of establishing a self-sustaining fishery directly in that tributary. Even with a cleanup at the Pennsylvania Mine, many other sources of pollution, including natural ones, remain. “I think even with a cleanup, you’d have a biologically dead situation up there,” said Steve Swanson, head of the Blue River Watershed Group…

But at least some of the experts are convinced that they could design and build a functional treatment system that would reduce metals loading downstream, with the ultimate goal of establishing some sort of self-sustaining fishery in the reach from Keystone downstream to Dillon Reservoir.

More Peru Creek Basin coverage here and here.

Brush: Wastewater fee hikes in the offing

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From the Brush News-Tribune (Jesse Chaney):

Most Brush residents will likely soon face a wastewater fee increase of about $10.80 per month, and those who use large amounts of water could be paying even more. During the Brush City Council’s work session Monday evening, Brush Finance Officer Joanne Gosselink proposed that the council raise the city’s base wastewater rate from $4.20 to $5 and the price per ET unit from $27 to $35. An ET unit is equal to 20,000 gallons per quarter of water used. Gosselink said the increase would help the city pay for construction of a new wastewater facility, which would replace the city’s 45-year-old plant. “Barring anything unforeseen happening, we feel that $10.80 will keep us from having to raise a huge amount again,” she said.

To pay for the plant, Gosselink said, city officials plan to borrow $10 million from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. The agency has offered the city a 20-year loan at 2.5 percent interest, she said. The city will need to make its first semi-annual payment of roughly $319,000 on Feb. 1, 2011, she said. If the council were to implement the new fees on Oct. 1, the city would collect about 42 percent of the amount needed for the first bill by the date it is due, she said. “We need to start building up the reserve for that first payment as soon as possible,” she said…

Brush Administrator Monty Torres said the city has completed the engineering and final design work on the new wastewater plant, which will help the city prepare for the implementation of more stringent requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency. Construction on the new plant is slated for mid November, Gosselink said.

More wastewater coverage here.

Three named as possible successors to Colorado Supreme Court Justice Mary Mullarkey

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Colorado water watchers are interested in Governor Ritter’s nominees because the Colorado Supreme Court is the court of appeals for cases from water court. Here’s a report from Patrick Malone writing in The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

They are Colorado Deputy Attorney General Monica Marquez of Denver, District Judge David Prince of Colorado Springs and Colorado Appeals Court Judge Robert Russel of Denver.

Marquez is the deputy attorney general in charge of the state services section. She was hired by the attorney general’s office in 2002. Marquez graduated from Yale Law School, served as a clerk for 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David Ebel and U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor in Massachusetts. She practiced law as an associate in the firm of Holme Roberts and Owen. Marquez is past president of the Colorado Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Bar Association and a board member of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association. Her father, former Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Jose D.L. Marquez, was the first person of Hispanic descent to serve on that bench.

Prince was appointed to Colorado’s 4th Judicial District as a judge in April 2006. Before that, he was a commercial litigator with the firm of Holland & Hart. He practiced primarily fiduciary, finance, construction, business, real estate and intellectual property law. He graduated from the University of Utah Law School.

Russel attended law school at the University of Colorado. Before being appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, he worked at the Colorado Attorney General’s office and worked as chief of the appellate division of the U.S. Attorney’s office. During the late 1970s and through much of the 1980s, he taught music and English at Kent Denver. His undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Colorado is in music.

Southern Delivery System: Reclamation and Colorado Springs Utilities are close to a deal for storage in Lake Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

After 12 hours of negotiations Tuesday, the two sides ended within $2 per acre-foot annually in payments to store water in Lake Pueblo and in agreement on all other substantial matters…

The major item under negotiation is the cost of storage in Lake Pueblo for SDS partners under a nearly 40-year contract. Colorado Springs is seeking 28,000 acre-feet; Pueblo West, 10,000 acre-feet; Fountain, 2,500 acre-feet; and Security, 1,500 acre-feet. Reclamation ended the day with an offer of $37 per acre-foot annually, about $6 less than its previous low offer. Reclamation also offered to give Colorado a $5 million credit over five years for oversizing the proposed North Outlet Works. An inflation factor of 1.79 percent per year would be added. Colorado Springs’ last offer was $35 an acre-foot, with agreement on the other issues.

Reclamation rejected its previous cost-based model for a market approach that Colorado Springs accepted in July, but came back Tuesday with a modified approach that incorporated overall costs of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. “We’re trying to find a path forward,” replied Michael Collins, area manager for Reclamation. “We’re not looking at a cost-of-service rate. We’re looking for a base number.”

“This is a public negotiating session. You are not entitled to hide behind ‘Trust me,’ ” snapped Colorado Springs attorney David Robbins Robbins also argued for a “normalization” rate that would be applied to future contracts for entities within the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Robbins’ idea was that SDS contracts could be adjusted up or down in future years to reflect changing market rates. Reclamation does not allow that type of deal, because future contracts have not yet been negotiated and the negotiated contract price is a floor that can only be increased, Collins said.

More coverage from Eileen Welsome writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

After nearly 12 hours of talks, the two sides came to agreement on several key aspects of the 38-year contracts that the SDS partners will need to store and convey up to 42,000 acre feet of water through Pueblo Reservoir…

“We’ve made some real progress in a number of areas, and we still have some work to do to reach an agreement,” said John Fredell, SDS project director and chief negotiator. The SDS partners scored a major win, however, when Reclamation increased the amount of financial credit it was willing to give Utilities for construction of an outlet in the dam that will connect with the pipeline. The federal agency initially offered Utilities a $288,000 credit for what’s called the “North Outlet Works.” By the end of the day, it had increased the amount to $5 million.

The major issue still to be resolved is how much per acre-foot the SDS partners will pay for what’s called “excess capacity contracts.” Those contracts will enable the participants to store water in the reservoir if and when the space is available…

In another concession to the SDS partners, Reclamation dropped the annual inflation fee it wants to tack onto the contracts from about 3 percent to 1.79 percent.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs City Councilman, Tom Gallagher, is still banging the drum for Reclamation to redo the Southern Delivery System environmental impact statement, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Gallagher explained that excess-capacity contracts like the one being sought for SDS would not guarantee that space is available every year. He said the EIS is flawed, in part, because it does not weigh the cumulative effect of adding storage from a proposed master contract and the Arkansas Valley Conduit being proposed by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

Judy Rae Carson and her son Jared Diaz spoke about the dangers of Fountain Creek. Diaz, now 26, was curious about the “eight-legged frogs” he would find in Fountain Creek when he was about 8 years old. He developed a brain tumor, which doctors at Children’s Hospital in Denver told Carson were caused by environmental factors. She blames his adventures in Fountain Creek. “You have no business being here until you fix that creek,” she told Colorado Springs and Reclamation officials.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Windy Gap Firming Project update

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From the Longmont Times Call (Scott Rochat):

Tonight, the Longmont City Council will be asked to put another $137,646 into the Windy Gap reservoir project. That would help pay for the project’s final environmental impact statement, one of the last hurdles remaining before the federal government would allow construction to begin. “We would hope the decision comes out within the next few months,” said Dale Rademacher, the city’s director of public works and natural resources…

The project would build a new reservoir at Chimney Hollow near Carter Lake. It’s been a bit of a wait to bring everything together — phase one of the project began back in 2000. Over that time, the city’s share of the bill has come to more than $2.1 million. But it’s the result at the end that’s kept city officials swimming ahead. Once the reservoir is built, Longmont hopes to reserve up to 10,000 acre-feet of water for its own use, increasing the city’s water reserves — now about 30,000 acre-feet — by a third. To put that in perspective, Longmont uses about 18,000 acre-feet of water per year — roughly 5.8 billion gallons.

More Windy Gap coverage here.

Precipitation news

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From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

The [Yampa] river was flowing at 190 cubic feet per second Monday morning at the Fifth Street Bridge, according to a monitoring station operated by the U.S. Geological Survey. The historic mean for the river on Aug. 23 is 116 cfs. “The rain that we have been having and the moisture from the monsoon weather has really kicked in,” said Kent Vertrees, a recreational representative on the Yampa-White River Basin Roundtable. “There isn’t a fear of a closure of the river to tubers because it’s been so full.”[…]

Steamboat has received 2.03 inches of precipitation so far this month, compared to a historic average of 1.54 inches. Local weather spotter Art Judson attributes the increase in rainfall to monsoonal moisture, slow-moving thunderstorms and chance. “It’s as much chance as anything,” he said. “What makes this warm season different is that we have had three separate events where we received more than 1 inch of rain in less than 24 hours. That’s unusual for here.”

While the increase in rainfall is one of the factors keeping tubes from scraping the bottom of the river, water being released from Stagecoach Reservoir continues to keep the Yampa flowing faster than usual. The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District is releasing an average of 140 cfs of water into the river from the reservoir because of a construction project that will increase water storage there by nearly 10 percent. Conservancy District General Manager Kevin McBride said the discharge is expected to continue until mid-September.

Governor Ritter names river access dispute resolution task force

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Here’s the release from Governor Ritter’s office (Theo Stein/Evan Dreyer):

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced he has appointed 17 members to the River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force. The Task Force was created to help craft a dispute-resolution process to resolve future conflicts between river users and private landowners on Colorado waterways.

The Task Force appointments follow heated debate that occurred earlier this year over proposed legislation, a specific dispute along the Taylor River and the introduction of several ballot measures which have since been withdrawn.

The Governor appointed the following 14 members to serve as voting members of the Task Force. The terms expire at the pleasure of the Governor:

– Robert A. Hamel of Howard
– Greg Felt of Salida
– G. David Costlow of Fort Collins
– Thomas J. Klienschnitz of Grand Junction
– Leslie A. Tyson of Denver
– Jay P.K. Kenny of Denver
– Lee L. Spann of Gunnison
– James R. Ford of Pagosa Springs
– John G. Leede of Greenwood Village
– Charles B. White of Denver
– Jay Fetcher of Clark
– Paul C. Crane of Boulder
– Sen. Dan Gibbs of Silverthorne
-Undersheriff Richard D. Besecker of Gunnison

He also appointed three members to serve as non-voting members of the Task Force, also with terms expiring at the please of the Governor:

– Rebecca Swanson of Denver, to serve as a co-chair of the Task Force from the Governor’s Office

– Patrick D. Tooley of Denver, to serve as a non-voting ex-officio member and as a legal advisor to the Task Force

– Carolyn F. Burr of Denver, to serve as a non-voting ex-officio member and as a legal advisor to the Task Force

The executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, or a selected designee, will also serve as a co-chair. The charge of the Task Force is to develop a framework for resolving conflicts among landowners, anglers, commercial rafters, and the boating public on a stretch-by-stretch basis as disputes arise. The group will:

– Hold two public meetings in different parts of the state to gather stakeholder input.

-Hold at least four other open meetings to evaluate the public input and consider options for a dispute-resolution process.

– Prepare a final report with recommendations for the Governor and Legislature by Dec. 31.

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

The task force was created to help craft a dispute-resolution process to resolve future conflicts between river users and private landowners on Colorado waterways. During this year’s legislative session, a bill seeking to clarify whether rafters are entitled to float through rivers on private land failed to settle the question. The issue sprang from a dispute between a landowner along the Taylor River on the Western Slope and commercial rafters who for years had traversed the stretch through the land that the developer recently had acquired. The developer had threatened to halt passage through his property. A compromise was struck, avoiding about two dozen proposed ballot initiatives on the subject. The task force’s objective is to develop a framework for resolving conflicts between landowners, commercial rafters, anglers and the boating public on a stretch-by-stretch basis as disputes arise.

More whitewater coverage here.

Energy policy — coalbed methane: Las Animas County coalbed methane natural gas producers’ substitute water supply plans update

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From The Trinidad Times (Randy Woock):

The proposed SWSP was outlined in a July 22 letter to the companies from the Division of Water Resources. The letter notes that, as of December 2009, about 2,600 CBM wells in the Raton and Vermejo formations were considered to have an impact on tributary waters in the Raton Basin. A total of about 3,068 CBM wells operate within the Central Raton Basin…

The letter gives the average pumping rate of all active CBM wells in the affected areas in 2008 to have been about 2.95 gallons per minute (gpm). “For production through 2008, 95 percent of the pumping rates were below 12.6 gpm per well,” it states. “Estimated water production from potential new tributary CBM wells was determined…(e)ach new well perforated in the Raton Basin was assigned a pumping rate of approximately 12 gpm (6 gpm for the Upper Raton Formation and 6 gpm for the lower Raton Formation.” Depletion amounts were calculated using MODFLOW, an industry standard numeric groundwater flow modeling code also used by the U.S. Geological Survey. A 2008 study of the impact of area CBM wells on the Purgatoire River, commissioned by Pioneer and XTO, had found…

Monthly depletions in the affected area for the SWSP’s effective period of April 2010 to March 2011 were estimated as 0.105 acre-feet of water. Depletions caused by CBM pumping prior to 2008 combined with the estimated depletions, figured as a maximum estimated production of tributary water through the plan’s validity endpoint of March 31, 2011, are projected at 4.126 acre-feet. The SWSP, as approved by the SEO, calls for replacement water to come from, “a lease with the City of Trinidad to supply up to 50 acre-feet of fully consumable water from the city’s storage account in Trinidad Reservoir.”[…]

Karen Brown, Pioneer’s senior public relations adviser, told the Las Animas County Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 17 meeting that Pioneer was considering at least five different methods to measure water produced from its wells, including those purchased over the past 15 years from, “numerous operators who, at the time the wells were drilled, did not foresee such a change in regulations that would give the (SEO) jurisdiction over the CBM water production.” She added that Pioneer did already take flow measurements at its wells, discharge points and injection wells, and that it should have completed in the next 30-60 days the tests on the five aforementioned methods to determine which it would utilize to meet the SEO’s water measuring requirements. “Our job is really to ensure that the accuracy of these methods meets the (SEO’s) standards,” she said. Brown also said that more than 700 of Pioneer’s CBM wells produced less than 1 gpm of water. “It’s hard to really gauge that kind of flow,” she said. “Obviously, we want to really assess all of the different options because any one of these things will pose significant costs to the company.”

Additionally, Pioneer, XTO Energy and Red River Ranches hired earlier this year the environmental engineering and consulting company, Tetra Tech, to install and monitor on the Purgatoire River and its tributaries a system of water data monitoring stations. The system, in place for the next two year, includes nine continuous monitoring stations and 25 monthly monitoring stations to collect data on such things as flow levels, temperature, pH and chloride levels, sodium absorption levels and the water’s electrical conductivity levels.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.