Energy policy — nuclear: Environmental groups are increasing opposition to increased uranium mining

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

Here in Telluride, the environmentalist group Sheep Mountain Alliance has taken up arms against a proposed mill just outside of Paradox, Colo., a small town in a big valley near the Utah border.

And just over that border, a host of environmental groups filed a suit in federal court that would halt further uranium exploration in the La Sal, Utah, area, in addition to putting the breaks on more vent holes at ground level for the underground mines. The complaint comes from Uranium Watch, the Center for Water Advocacy and Living Rivers, all conservation groups based in nearby Moab, Utah. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court last week, challenges a “categorical exclusion” through which the Moab/Monticello Ranger District permitted 16 exploration holes and two radon vent holes. The expanded operations are part of Denison Mines Corporation’s existing Pandora Mine. Ore from that site is transported to Denison’s mill on White Mesa, located a few miles south of Blanding, Utah…

Radon is vented to the surface from underground mining so that miners won’t inhale the toxic gas and radioactive particles produced when radon decays. The conservation groups ascertain that the vent holes, while moving the gas from the underground mines, will pipe it too close to the small town of La Sal, on the south slope of the La Sal mountains. In 2009, the amount of radon released from the mines around La Sal went from 300 Curies (a metric for radioactivity) to more than 4,500, according to Denison’s yearly reports to the Utah Division of Air Quality. According to a document from Uranium Watch, the gas is released from vents “not far from the La Sal Elementary School.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Purgatoire River: Cleanup efforts, restoration and invasive plant control

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From The Trinidad Times (Randy Woock):

The project’s origins stretch back to about five years ago with the Trinidad Community Foundation (TCF) and has grown since to include a multitude of active and supporting partners such as Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the Spanish Peaks-Purgatoire River Conservation District, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the City of Trinidad, the Tamarisk Coalition, private landowners and host of other agencies and groups. “We were talking about how the Purgatoire River, from the dam all the way through the town, was a very under-utilized resource. When the (TCF) got together, one of the tenants of their reason for being was recreation within the area,” TCF and Purgatoire Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited member Howard Lackey said. “I took the project with the river as kind of our banner project for recreation.”

The focus on the Purgatoire River commenced with the regular cleanups that are still ongoing through the efforts of a small army of volunteers, including local Comcast employees. “This year, I think we had 232 volunteers,” Lackey said. “Part of what the neglect of the river corridor was, was that a lot of invasive species were allowed to take hold. Russian olive is a very prolific and water-thirsty plant, so it has a tendency to concentrate along wet areas and streams banks. It chokes out the native flora, which was willow, cottonwoods, all that kind of stuff that was here 200 years ago before the Russian olive.”[…]

“It’s not so much that the Purgatoire has been abused, it’s just been ignored,” Lackey said. “We’ve had a lot of people that have kicked in, and then The Nature Conservancy started with it, and the Purgatoire River Conservancy District…got interested in the process to clean up the river, and it helps the delivery of water to their irrigators.”[…]

The second phase of the current project would begin with the repair of the river area from damage caused by illegal ATV traffic, trash and illegal dumping. Examples of the latter two problems are easily seen by even a casual stroll through much of Trinidad‘s river area. “We’d like to bring it back to a natural state that would allow for nature trails on the north side that would include not only the hiking, but also possibly areas where we could define and meet the natural flora and natural wildlife,” Lackey said. “The part of the trail system, called the Boulevard Edition, which is west of I-25…that’s a part of the river that’s been extremely abused; just out of control four-wheel usage that’s torn up the landscape. At our cleanup this year we took two-and-a-half 40 yard rolloff (dumpsters) of crap out of there.”

Plans then call for developing the river to include a fishery, making the stretch around and through Trinidad conducive to recreational fishing. “That’s where the Trout Unlimited comes in,” Lackey said. “The Trout Unlimited group have engaged a stream engineer that is taking a look at the flows of the Purgatoire between low and high to decide how we can design the stream to make it conducive to a trout fishery.”

Lackey described the goal of a successful design as creating “a streambed within a streambed. We have to design for two different flows: one which is a very low flow—anywhere from three (cubic feet per second – cfs) to 10 cfs — then a very high flow up to 400 cfs to 500 cfs,” Lackey said. “We kind of are envisioning a channel following the natural flow of the water, and enhancing it with rock structures, bank structures, things that will have a conducive environment for trout during low water segments, and then once the water (level) comes up, it will go outside those banks and increase more areas for the fish to inhabit.”

During the summer months, plans call for cooperation with the Colorado Department of Wildlife to utilize parts of the river for a stocking program. “That will give access to kids and older adults to deal with the fish within the city limits,” Lackey said. “The state usually stocks rainbow (trout), but we’d like to have a reproducing population of brown trout, eventually. Of course, that will take some time.”

Trout Unlimited hopes to develop fisheries in the river from east Trinidad up to the base of the Culebra Range, through the Purgatoire River’s south, middle and north forks and “anything in between. It’s a large area that’s basically been undeveloped for years and years. The south fork is turning into a pretty decent fishery through the efforts of the Department of Wildlife in the designation Bosque del Oso Wildlife Area,” Lackey said.

More Purgatoire River watershed coverage here and here.

Colorado River District is convening a meeting of water interests in the Gunnison basin to answer questions regarding the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act

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Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Dave Kanzer/Chris Treese):

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO) recently completed a Wild and Scenic Rivers Eligibility Study for the streams and rivers within the UFO’s management area. This study was completed as part of the field office’s update of its Resource Management Plan. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act requires completion of a Wild & Scenic River study when Federal agencies revise their land use plans. The Eligibility Report and an executive summary are available at the UFO’s web site: www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/ufo/wild_and_scenic_river.html

The Eligibility Report identifies 33 segments on 22 streams and rivers as eligible for designation under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The BLM-UFO is beginning the second phase of its Wild and Scenic River study. Called the “suitability analysis,” this analysis is the process of further evaluating each segment identified as eligible in order to develop management plans and possible recommendation for addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system for each segment.

During the initial stage of the suitability process, the BLM will be evaluating a number of suitability criteria such as manageability, land ownership, usage tradeoffs and conflicts, usage levels, and alternative methods for protecting the values that led to the initial eligibility determination.

In cooperation with the UFO, the Colorado River District is convening a meeting of water interests in the Gunnison basin to answer questions regarding the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, to provide additional information on the suitability analysis and its implications, and to determine the group’s interest in exploring consensus management recommendations that provide use and management flexibility while protecting the resource values that qualified river segments as eligible. (NOTE: This effort is limited to the portions of the UFO and Dominguez-Escalante NCA in the Gunnison/Uncompahgre basin and will only be considering streams and rivers within that watershed.) As an interested stakeholder you are invited and encouraged to attend an initial informational and organizational meeting. Your input is critical to developing a thorough draft suitability analysis and to determining stakeholders’ willingness to explore development of consensus recommendations regarding some or all of the stream and river segments identified as eligible.

The meeting will be held:
Date: September 1, 2010
Time: 2:00 – 4:30
Location: Bill Heddles Recreation Center, Delta, CO

To ensure adequate seating please RSVP to Meredith at the River District office at 970 945 -8522, ext. 221 or email mspyker@crwcd.org

To ensure full representation of all interests in Gunnison basin water matters, please pass this invitation along to anyone you believe may be interested in attending.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Cañon City: Replacement well for Park Center Well comes in

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Update: Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (Cass Cairns):

Hydro Resources Colorado alerted the Royal Gorge Field Office yesterday that during normal drilling operations for the new Park Center Well they had encountered water at an unexpected pressure forcing roughly 1,600-2,000 gallons of water per minute from the well’s drill hole. The well is a BLM-leased water resource located five miles north of Cañon City.
Non-toxic drill mud and road base from the drill pad flowed into the Fourmile Creek, causing some discoloration and silt in the stream. The additional water flowing into Fourmile Creek brings the water level to what is similar during a high runoff period. Local officials and Colorado Water Resources have been notified. Hydro Resources ran into technical difficulties in their attempt to mitigate the water flow from the drill hole this afternoon and have a plan that aims to cap water flows by late this evening so additional well development can be completed.

In April, the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office awarded a $1,176,000 contract under ARRA to Hydro Resources Colorado, LLC. to drill a new well to replace the deteriorating 80-year old Park Center Well near Cañon City, Colorado. This well has provided municipal water for more than 40 years to Park Center Water District users.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

High pressure water [was] gushing at a rate of 1,600 to 2,000 gallons per minute Monday from a well being constructed to replace the aging Park Center Well swelled the waters of Fourmile Creek…

In April, the BLM awarded a $1.1 million contract, thanks to federal stimulus dollars, to Hydro Resources to drill the new well. It will replace the deteriorating 80-year-old Park Center Well that has provided municipal water for more than 40 years to Park Center Water District users in North Canon.

More coverage here.

Precipitation news: Monsoon moisture bumps flows in the Arkansas River

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

…a heavy rainstorm Friday brought flows above 1,000 cfs at Wellsville. The higher levels — well short of peak runoff levels of nearly 5,000 cfs — continued through the weekend with more rain and brought an end to supplementary flows.

So far this year, about 6,000 acre-feet has been released from Twin Lakes and moved to Pueblo Reservoir, leaving about 4,000 acre-feet available through Aug. 15, said Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “If the river stays up for a couple of more days, it’s unlikely we’ll need to use it all,” Hamilton said. “We’re into the monsoon season, so we could see more rains.”

In June, Tony Keenan of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association told the Southeastern board as much as 2,000 acre-feet of water might be needed to maintain flows of 700 cfs until Aug. 15, the target flow of the program. The water would eventually have to be moved from Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo anyway, and the 10,000 acre-foot limit was imposed in the flow program to preserve water for use in the upper basin. The water is moved a little at a time in order to optimize recreation flows. The flows are dropped to native levels after Aug. 15 and maintained by controlled releases through the fall and winter months to benefit fish…

Rainfall, as measured at the Pueblo airport, is at more than 9 inches for the year, compared with 7.75 inches on average.