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.

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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.