Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Water district engineer Ivan Walter said the Boss Lake reservoir is being drawn down to augment South Arkansas River stream flow and to assist with inspection and maintenance reports. Walter said releases have lowered water level about 4 feet during the past four weeks and irrigation and augmentation releases will continue until the lake is lowered to its natural level. He said drawdown will assist personnel with an outlet inspection, provide an accurate capacity survey and allow for a dam safety inspection. The plan, he said, is to empty the reservoir, verify dam integrity and conduct appropriate maintenance activities based upon inspection findings.

[The] directors also adopted unanimously adopted a resolution opposing ballot initiatives 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 on the November statewide ballot.

More 2010 Colorado Elections coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board approves new rules for in situ uranium mining

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Update From the Associated Press via Business Week:

The requirements approved Thursday by the Mined Land Reclamation Board include detailed environmental protection plans for uranium mines and maintaining existing groundwater quality or at state standards. Mine applications must include detailed information on the pre-mining water quality. Public input will be allowed.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board on Thursday put its final stamp of approval on a set of rules that will govern how British Columbia-based Powertech Uranium Corp. will be allowed to mine using an in situ leaching process and provide the public with a way to appeal state decisions on uranium prospecting. “It’s been what we’ve been effectively fighting for, for over three years now,” said Jay Davis, whose property is adjacent to the Centennial Project uranium mining site northeast of Fort Collins in Weld County…

The new rules permit the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety to require Powertech and other companies hoping to mine uranium using in situ leaching to establish “baseline” water quality before they begin prospecting for uranium. Baseline water quality is the quality of the groundwater as it exists before any mining or prospecting begins. The rules, which implement a 2008 state mining law, require Powertech, once mining is complete, to return the contaminated groundwater beneath the mine site to its original baseline condition…

“At the end of the day, they’ll realize this will provide additional protection to them and insulate them from assertions that prospecting released uranium into the groundwater,” said Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and a member of the MLRB. “This will provide a level of comfort and insurance to well owners, land owners in the area that they will have all the information (on groundwater quality) up front before the prospecting and mining process.”[…]

“They hit it out of the park,” said Matt Garrington of Environment Colorado, a Denver environmental group championing strong restrictions on mining companies in Colorado. “For the first time ever, local governments can appeal mine prospecting decisions.” King said the rules take effect Sept. 15.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The rules approved by the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board require companies to test groundwater at mining sites before prospecting. Regulators can use test data to ensure companies don’t leave groundwater degraded. The rules also require companies hunting for minerals to disclose more information about when and how mining would be done. And communities affected by mining now have greater rights to appeal state decisions.

“We’ve established an appropriate level of oversight” and also “pulled back some of the veil that has led to concern about these activities,” said Mike King, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “I don’t think we are hostile to mining at all,” King said. “What we are expecting is that mining activity that takes place in this state is done under controls that protect our environment.”[…]

This might mean Colorado is not at the cutting edge of what is called in-situ leach mining, which uses wells instead of tunnels to extract the mineral, King said. “When the industry gets to the point that they can demonstrate that they can do this in an environmentally responsible manner, then they can apply for a prospecting permit in Colorado,” he said.

More nuclear coverage here.

Coyote Gulch archives outage

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The old Radio Userland Coyote Gulch website at (http://radio-weblogs.com/0101170/) is not displaying my old posts correctly so the archives are incomplete or unavailable at this time.

Userland Software closed abruptly last fall but a couple of old employees worked out a deal to host the content with another Internet provider. The archives were working fine until this week.

I’m going to attempt to contact the people that helped get the content moved to see if they can help out again. I’m also going to attempt to publish all the content to another location.

Sorry for the outage.

How will the current La Niña effect Lake Mead’s water level

A full Lake Mead back in the day

From The New York Times (Paul Quinlan):

July not only saw the lake drop to 1956 levels but also brought cooling temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that signaled a developing La Niña system, historically a harbinger of more hot and dry weather. The La Niña “appears to be strong, and it might even last two years,” said Brad Udall, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Western Water Assessment program at the University of Colorado.

In the 75 years since the workers began to hold back the Colorado River behind the Hoover Dam, the lake’s water has taken two precipitous plunges: first during the prolonged drought of the 1950s, which ranks second only to the current dry spell, and again in the mid-1960s, when water managers began filling Mead’s cousin 250 miles upstream, Lake Powell.

Neither dip was as severe or prolonged as that of the past decade. Nearly full in 1999, Mead has shrunken to 40 percent capacity, causing the ominous, bleach-white bathtub ring on the surrounding mountainsides to grow taller by the year. In the past five months, the lake steadily shed another 15 feet, to about 1,087 feet above sea level today. Four more feet and the lake surface will hit what would be the lowest mark since 1937 — something the government projects will happen in October…

Federal water managers have the option, under certain conditions, to boost Mead’s supplies by releasing water from Lake Powell — an option that they may be forced to exercise but that amounts to little more than the water management equivalent of Whac-A-Mole…

Federal officials attempted to address the problem in 2007, striking a landmark “shortage sharing” agreement with Western states that dictates increasing cutbacks to Mead’s water deliveries as the surface drops. Other efforts are under way, including creative water conservation programs like “Cash for Grass” in Las Vegas, which pays homeowners $1-per-square-foot to convert to desert landscaping. The feds are also building new reservoirs, such as the relatively tiny, soon-to-be-completed Drop 2 Storage Reservoir, built to catch and save excess water sent downstream from Mead that would otherwise flow into Mexico, unused by the United States…

Greater cutbacks and impacts follow as Mead’s surface plunges further. When the 28.5-million-acre-foot reservoir’s surface hits 1,050 feet, or about 26 percent capacity, deliveries get slashed by 417,000 acre-feet, Las Vegas shuts down one of its two intakes and Hoover Dam’s massive turbines lose the hydraulic pressure needed to generate electricity. The maximum cutback of 500,000 acre-feet kicks in when Mead’s surface hits 1,025 feet, or about 20 percent capacity…

Studies and models like these prompted Reclamation to launch a two-year study in January that will take a more detailed look at water supply and demand in the region. Fulp said the study will inform decisions about, among other things, how Mead’s water gets meted out in the coming decades. “The risk of losing Lake Mead is negligible,” Fulp said. “We’re not going to drive this lake into the ground, probably. I don’t mean to say it absolutely couldn’t happen, but I believe we’ve got these management options in place so that it wouldn’t happen. We would cut deliveries back.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera is pushing back against Councillor Tom Gallagher over the EIS for the project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Last week, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor responded to a 27-page letter from Colorado Springs City Councilman Tom Gallagher to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar challenging Reclamation’s evaluation of SDS and claiming that MWH, the engineering firm hired to complete an environmental impact statement, had a conflict of interest. Gallagher asked Salazar to suspend negotiations and reopen the EIS…

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera wrote [U.S. Representative John Salazar] to say the other eight members of the city council want to see a contract awarded so that construction can begin and the project come on line by 2016. “We strongly disagree with Mr. Gallagher’s assertions that SDS requires additional analysis through the National Environmental Policy Act,” Rivera said. “The project has been the subject of analysis for more than a decade, including a comprehensive 5-year review process for the EIS which cost our community $17 million.”[…]

Gallagher said the EIS does not take into account changes in the project that have taken place since Reclamation issued its record of decision in March 2009…

Rivera staunchly defends Reclamation’s process in completing the study. “The SDS alignment originating from Pueblo Reservoir was deemed the preferred alternative,” Rivera said, adding that the Colorado Springs City Council voted 8-1 on July 22, 2009, to implement the alternative with the goal of going online in 2016.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.