Pacific Ocean: La Niña strengthening

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

The cyclical swing in Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures could bring above-normal temperatures to much of the rest of U.S. in the next six to 12 months, with exception of the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast. For the southern Rockies, including Summit County, the statistical links between La Niña and temperature and precipitation records are not very clear, so don’t let anyone (especially the ski resort marketing departments) tell you that La Niña means killer dumps. Some records suggest that a strong La Niña does slightly increase the odds for decent snow in our area, but there are many other factors in play, including the positioning of the jet stream, which drives weather systems across the country…

La Niña often features drier than normal conditions in the Southwest in late summer through the subsequent winter. Drier than normal conditions also typically occur in the Central Plains in the fall and in the Southeast in the winter. In contrast, the Pacific Northwest is more likely to be wetter than normal in the late fall and early winter with the presence of a well-established La Niña. On average, La Niña winters are warmer than normal in the Southeast and colder than normal in the Northwest. La Niña conditions typically last approximately 9-12 months. Some episodes may persist for as long as two years.

The Highlands Ranch Metropolitan District Board is looking at implementing a stormwater fee

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From the Highlands Ranch Herald:

Federal and state regulations for municipal stormwater systems have redefined the responsibilities associated with owning and maintaining facilities such as surface drainages, detention and water quality management ponds, and storms sewers and culverts. As the permit holder under the Clean Water Act, the metro district is responsible for public education and outreach, as well as participation.

Money from Centennial Water and Sanitation District, developers and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District have for years helped fund the initial stormwater management projects in Highlands Ranch. However, the long-range plan for stormwater infrastructure, including capital and maintenance costs, requires approximately $30 million over the next 30 years. It is anticipated that UDFCD will continue to partner with the district, but will require matching funds for capital projects. “It is important that the metro district identify a reliable funding source to allow us to stabilize the channels in our natural open space lands and meet our requirements as the holder of the Clean Water Act permit,” a press release from the district says.

Metro district staff will conduct a public workshop at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 at the district office at South Broadway and Plaza Drive to explain the financial implications and the alternatives.

Those with questions should visit or contact director of public works Jeff Case at or at 303-791-0430.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Fourth round of negotiations between Reclamation and Colorado Springs Utilities Tuesday

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Eileen Welsome):

The session is the fourth – and possibly final — in a series of talks over how much the utility should pay to store and convey water through Pueblo Reservoir. Although the utility has managed to whittle down the federal government’s demands, the two sides are still millions of dollars apart. Reclamation wants Utilities to pay about $41.56 per acre foot to store and convey water in Pueblo Reservoir, or about $76.6 million, over the life of a 38-year contract. The utility has countered with an offer to pay $25.31 per acre foot, or about $38.3 million. “We will continue to advocate for a fair and equitable rate for our customers,” John Fredell, SDS project director, said Friday…

Utilities officials want to reach an agreement with Reclamation on pricing before construction begins on the 62-mile pipeline, which will transport water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs. The first phase of the project is expected to cost roughly $2.3 billion in construction and financing costs over the next four decades.

The federal government is a key player in the negotiations because Pueblo Dam is part of the federally owned Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a complex series of dams, reservoirs, tunnels and conduits that deliver water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. The Arkansas River is the main delivery vehicle, and Pueblo Reservoir is the final reservoir in the system. The entities that get to store water in the reservoir, how much water they can store, and whose water spills first in the event the reservoir is full are spelled out in complex rules and regulations.

Colorado Springs, as one of the original beneficiaries of the Fry-Ark Project, has 56,000 acre feet of what’s called firm storage in the reservoir…What the utility is seeking through the current negotiations is the right to store an additional 28,000 acre feet under what’s called “excess capacity storage contracts,” if and when space is available.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A little more than a month ago, Colorado Springs Utilities asked the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for quick action on its proposal for rates for contracts associated with SDS. But in that month, letters from Colorado Springs Councilman Tom Gallagher to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have brought up concerns about how the proposed pipeline from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County was evaluated and the costs to Colorado Springs residents…

Tuesday’s session will be in Pueblo West, a community caught in the crossfire over SDS since it joined the project three years ago. Pueblo West hopes to tap into the proposed pipeline as it travels 50 miles from Pueblo Dam to serve Colorado Springs, Fountain and Security. The connection would expand the capacity of its water system from 12 million gallons per day — a figure already nearly reached on the hottest summer days — by 18 million gallons per day. The pipeline could carry 78 million gallons per day to El Paso County, and there have been discussions about letting other communities to the north use the pipeline when space is available. Colorado Springs has not made any deals, however, and would require any future users to secure their own contracts with Reclamation and comply with all Pueblo County 1041 regulations. Pueblo West needs the higher capacity to serve the number of homes that could be built one day…

As for the contract itself, Reclamation last offered to store and convey water for SDS at $41.56 per acre-foot annually, the rate Aurora pays less a 10 percent discount because all of the pipeline participants are members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which serves the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Colorado Springs last offered to pay $25.31 per acre-foot annually, with an annual adjustment fee of 1.79 percent, about 1 percent lower than Reclamation’s proposal. SDS would use 42,000 acre-feet of excess-capacity storage in Lake Pueblo over a 40-year period: Colorado Springs, 20,000 acre-feet increasing to 28,000 acre-feet over the first 10 years; Pueblo West, 10,000 acre-feet; Fountain, 2,500 acre-feet; and Security, 1,500 acre-feet. Colorado Springs also is requesting an exchange of up to 10,000 acre-feet annually from Pueblo to Turquoise and Twin Lakes, where it could use water through the Homestake Project’s Otero pipeline and pumping station. Colorado Springs would trade space in the Fountain Valley pipeline to Fountain for space in the SDS pipeline.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Hoover Dam retrospective

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Here’s a look at Hoover Dam’s past, present and future, from Michael Hiltzik writing for The Arizona Republic. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The promise of abundant water and power took the brakes off the growth of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and many other Western cities; it encouraged farmers to complacently plant the most water-thirsty crops; and it gave us city dwellers the impression that we can water our lawns every day without worrying about waste and runoff.

Yet the world Hoover Dam made is now facing the era of limits. There isn’t enough water in the Colorado to serve all the demands we place on the river, and there never was. This was evident to some people, like the great Western explorer John Wesley Powell, who at an irrigation congress in 1893 announced, “Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”

Nor did the project assauge all the mutual suspicions that had raged for decades in the seven states of the Colorado basin. What [President Franklin Roosevelt] glossed over in his dedication speech was that only six of the seven basin states had signed the 1922 interstate treaty that enabled the dam to be built. Arizona, whose seven-term governor, George Hunt, was convinced the project was a plot by California to steal its water, had refused to ratify – and would not fall into line until 1944.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation scoping meetings recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“I was struck by the widespread support for the project. I’ve never been in a situation where there wasn’t opposition to a project. . . . At a couple of the meetings, we actually got applause,” said Signe Snortland, environmental specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “People have waited a long time for this — since 1962.”

Reclamation officials and consultants spent last week hearing public comments as it develops the scope of an environmental impact study for the conduit and a 28,200 acre-foot excess-capacity storage contract for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

During all previous discussions of the conduit, it was assumed it would connect to the South Outlet Works, where Pueblo, Pueblo West and the Fountain Valley Conduit already draw water. However, one option could be taking water downstream from Pueblo Dam, Snortland said. Nothing has been decided, and there is still capacity at the dam for 30 cubic feet per second — enough to meet the peak capacity of about 20 million gallons per day. With moderate growth, the conduit is expected to pump an average of 14 million gallons per day by 2050. There also are choices to make on where a filter plant will be built and where the 40 communities involved in the project will connect. While the pipeline is largely gravity-fed, pumping stations would be needed at key points.

After last week’s meetings, Reclamation plans to consolidate and analyze the comments that were made, and develop a scope of what will be studied. Comments are being accepted through mid-September. Through its website and a newsletter, the agency will keep participants and interested parties informed about the progress of the EIS, which is expected to take more than two years to complete.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado elections: Michael Bennet in Greeley

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From The Greeley Tribune (Nate A. Miller):

“We have managed to acquire $13 trillion of debt on our balance sheet,” he said. “In my view we have nothing to show for it. We haven’t invested in our roads, our bridges, our waste-water systems, our sewer systems. We haven’t even maintained the assets that our parents and grandparents built for us.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: How will Aspen’s proposed hydroelectric plant on Castle Creek effect streamflow?

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From The Aspen Times (Aaron Hedge):

Now, with a deal pending to build a new hydropower plant on the same property that would take 52 cubic feet per second (cfs) from both streams, environmentalists and property owners along the affected shoreline say there’s no way to be certain the streams will sustain fish populations and thus remain healthy. If the City Council approves the project, the city plans to divert 25 cfs from Castle Creek, and 27 cfs from Maroon Creek…

As part of the city’s Canary Initiative — an ambitious effort to become carbon-neutral by 2020 — the hydro project is expected in the next decade to save the city $41,000 a year in energy that it would no longer have to purchase from other power authorities. After that decade, when the $3.92 million in bonds for the project are paid off, the city would save twice that amount, said project director David Hornbacher…

Currently, Castle Creek stays at about 14 cfs in February and March, before starting to rise in the spring. The plant would shut down during winter to maintain the minimum flow, and other power resources, including the Ruedi Reservoir hydropower plant and electricity Aspen buys from a Nebraska power authority, would pick up the load. During other times of the year, Castle Creek typically runs between 50 and 70 cfs. But if the project is implemented, the diversions could extend Castle Creek’s low-water period by four months, calling into question how long the stream can sustain itself, and sustain all the creatures that depend on it, at that level…

The city has yet to apply for permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which requires an environmental impact study, to construct the line. In a statement to the City Council this month, project staff recommended that the city not apply for a FERC license because, “Preparation of a an EIS would … delay the project, add to the cost of the project, and jeopardize the project economics.”

More coverage from The Aspen Times (Aaron Hedge). From the article:

City funding for a drainage line from Thomas Reservoir to Castle Creek could go away for the second phase of the construction next year if the Aspen City Council denies the proposed Castle Creek hydropower project, said Phil Overeynder, the city’s public works director. The approximate $2.3 million for the line comes partially from $5.5 million in bonds the city applied for after voters approved the construction of the hydropower plant in 2007. Approximately $126,700 of that money will come from utilities department coffers. The project’s total cost is nearly $6.2 million. The remaining funds will come from a grant of $400,000 and various other sources, Overeynder said. There is no guarantee that the project will stay within that budget, but about $800,000 has been added to it for unforeseen expenditures, according to the City Council application…

The city would have to buy less coal energy from a Nebraska power authority if the plant is approved, project manager David Hornbacher said last week. If the project is not approved, the line will simply empty into Castle Creek just below the Power Plant Road bridge. Efforts to finish the drain line have to wait on approval of the hydropower project because if it is approved, the end of the drain will undergo a completely different construction process, Overeynder said. Either way, the water returns to the stream, through the Penstock drain line if the project is struck down, or through a square concrete tube from the plant to Castle Creek if it is approved. None of the water taken from Maroon Creek will return to it. The hydropower plant is part of the city’s Canary Initiative, a goal to reduce carbon emissions from the city’s energy consumption to zero by 2020. It would draw 52 cubic feet per second from Castle and Maroon creeks. But the drain line will be completed either way, Overeynder said, because the Thomas Reservoir dam poses a threat to the Twin Ridge residential development just down the hill from it. A safety study of the dam, conducted in 1989, said the reservoir posed no public hazard. The Twin Ridge development was not yet built.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter, Corp. intends to keep its license for the mill at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site and they may reopen

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Accelerated efforts to close down contaminated facilities at the Superfund cleanup site are aimed at clearing a path for possible uranium processing in the future and do not indicate Cotter plans to leave the 2,600-acre site, vice president John Hamrick said. “We can decommission parts of the facility without moving towards license termination,” Hamrick said. “Our intention is to clear the path for new construction in the future.”[…]

EPA officials are reviewing Cotter’s letter arguing that the company can stop radon testing at the site as it decommissions it. Federal air-quality overseers “haven’t had that letter very long. They are evaluating the letter and determining what our response will be,” EPA spokeswoman Sonya Pennock said. “Our bottom line is, before this cleanup is complete, it’s going to have to meet all of the Superfund standards,” she said.

Fremont County Commissioner Mike Stiehl pointed out that Cotter’s current license to operate is a “standby” license that would have to be amended to allow any new processing of uranium. “If they were going to operate again, they would need to make it safer,” Stiehl said. “We would have plenty of concerns that they not repeat past practices. I still would prefer that they would do it in a different place. But we don’t have very much control over that.”[…]

Cotter’s dismantling will involve placing dirt on top of existing contaminated uranium tailings ponds. New construction of pads for chemically leaching concentrated uranium from ore could be constructed on top of the capped ponds, Hamrick said. Contaminated processing buildings and offices at the site will be dismantled, he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.