Energy policy — nuclear: Is Cotter, Corp. going to shutter the mill at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site?

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Cotter, Corp. has decided to permanently close the mill at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Cotter Corp. has informed regulators it will close two toxic-waste impoundment ponds at the mill “as soon as reasonably achievable,” according to a letter Cotter sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Cotter, which had previously said the mill would be reopened, now has told state regulators it will stop testing for radon emissions at the site because it is “no longer an active facility” subject to regulation.

The apparent reversal, and Cotter’s decision to stop testing for radon emissions, caught local leaders by surprise. The site has been designated a polluted Superfund site and Cotter has been responsible for monitoring to make sure cancer- causing radon was not escaping the facility.

Fremont County Commissioner Mike Stiehl questioned whether Cotter can stop tests. “That
doesn’t sound right to me.”

More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“They are working toward closing the impoundments and have been dewatering (drying out) the impoundments for years,” said Jeannine Natterman, public information officer for the Colorado Department of Health. “They have not officially notified us they are closing the (entire) facility.”[…]

Manager John Hamrick said the company will close both the primary and secondary waste impoundments, “as soon as reasonably achievable.” The letter goes on to indicate that radon testing will not be carried out on the primary impoundment this year and in subsequent years because it is no longer an active impoundment. “They have planned to close the impoundments all along and they have been taking old structures down. What the letter means is that they are close to permanently capping the impoundments,” Natterman explained. “Even once capped, the primary impoundment can be used for new, more contemporary operations because it would not have the same material going in. If it is appropriately capped and appropriate materials are used for the cap, the primary impoundment could be used again,” Natterman said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Uncompaghre River hydroelectric plant update

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From The Durango Telegraph (Allen Best):

The electrical production will be relatively small, 22 kilowatts, but enough to power the pumps used to circulate water at the nearby Ouray Hot Springs Pool. It is, in the eyes of Bob Risch, the mayor of Ouray, a start of what he hopes to see more broadly – not just in Ouray, but across the San Juans and beyond. “A bunch of small facilities like this can add up to a significant contribution,” says Risch, an astronomy teacher now retired in Ouray, where he was born and raised…

With access to seed money through the federal stimulus program, many small governments and some individuals have been taking a new look at small hydro across the Colorado Rockies and more broadly across the West. A forum held in Ouray during June drew 100 people, and a similar session held in Durango recently attracted 50 participants.

The potential is great. In a broad-brushed survey conducted several years ago, the Idaho National Laboratory concluded that 1,800 megawatts of electricity could be produced within Colorado without invading wilderness, roadless or other sensitive areas. This compares with the 1,500 megawatts output from the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired plant in New Mexico. More selectively, Colorado energy officials did a quick study of 100 sites, with potential for 100 megawatts – without building new dams, they hasten to add.

Congress has also started paying attention. A subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing in July to find out what the federal government could do to expedite development of what Grace F. Napolitano, chairwoman of the subcommittee, characterized as low-hanging fruit. “Small hydropower is not the sole answer to generating enough renewable energy to meet our future needs, but it should be an important part of the solution,” she said in an opening statement…

A small hydro installation in Cortez had been identified as feasible even 20 years ago. But federal money administered through the Governor’s Energy Office recently tipped the scale. The project harnesses the power of water flowing year round in a canal from McPhee Reservoir to the town’s water-treatment plant. The unit produces 240 kilowatts of electricity, more than enough to operate the water-treatment plant and enough to feed back into the electrical grid. The extra power is sold to Empire Electric…

Silverton, too, may get a small hydro plant. There, the San Juan County Historical Society has received $140,000 in grant funding and hopes for another $50,000 to build a generating plant at its Mayflower Mill, located two miles east of Silverton. Even with the low flows of fall and winter, production would more than pay group’s $500 to $600 monthly electrical bills for the historical society’s museum in Silverton. “This is huge for our little old historical society,” says Beverly Rich, the president. “We don’t get any other subsidies or tax moneys.”

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

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

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Here are Henry Reges’ notes from yesterday’s webinar.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Uncompahgre Plateau: West Creek monitoring project update

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

What you might see, once or twice a year, are members of the Grand Valley Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited continuing a creek-monitoring project begun 13 years ago. While there’s no doubt this long-lived project is volunteer citizen science at its best, please don’t think that “citizen” means unscientific. If anything, the project might be one of the most scientific undertakings a volunteer group can take on.

The West Creek project started and continues thanks to the innate scientific curiosity of geologists John Trammell and the late Dan Powell, whose love of knowledge and all things in nature might have made him the complete naturalist. From the start, the project coordinators kept exacting records of things such as water flows and temperatures, presence of contaminants and even the level of brush along the creek, since that has a large impact on the creek habitat in general. The monitoring has been adopted by the Grand Valley Anglers as a twice-yearly event, with the latest round two weeks ago led by Bill and Mary Graham of Grand Junction…

Those early years of monitoring revealed what Trammell and Powell suspected: that the drought and cattle grazing were the creek’s greatest threats. While ranchers were content to see the cattle chew down the creekside brush, that clearing, plus the muddy, beaten-down banks, left the creek hot and murky, something not conducive to viable trout populations. Trammell said that once the drought forced ranchers to cut back cattle grazing (the BLM still allows one grazing permit for the area), the stream’s trout habitat improved quickly. “The brush (willows, alders and a variety of forbs) rebounded dramatically,” Trammell wrote. “In recent years, we’ve seen cattle return, but I’ve not yet tried to quantify their effect.”

Other questions the monitoring examines include the possibility of pollution from increased development upstream as well as impacts on streamflow from increased domestic use of groundwater that feeds the creek.

More restoration coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation scoping meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Water quality is the main concern in the Lower Arkansas Valley, this represents a supplemental supply that will help us stay in compliance,” said Otero County Commissioner Kevin Karney. Karney also is a member of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board, sponsors of both the conduit and a master contract for water storage that are being evaluated by the Bureau of Reclamation during a series of meetings this week.

Of the 40 communities that could participate in the conduit, 12 have elevated levels of radionuclides and must begin to take action in thenext few years to reach compliance. Without the conduit, they will be looking at even more expensive solutions to purify water…

La Junta and Las Animas already are using reverse osmosis systems and discharging brine into the Arkansas River. In the future, those communities could face more costly disposal of the brine, Karney noted. “The conduit also is needed for economic development in the lower valley,” he said…

The environmental impact study, which will determine the best route for the conduit as well as locations of filter plants or pumping stations, is expected to be complete in two years, said Reclamation Environmental Specialist Signe Snortland…

Snortland said population projections will be a part of the impact study.
One environmental impact statement and record of decision will be issued for the conduit and the master contract.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.