Energy policy coalbed methane: Aguilar town council hears presentation about coalbed methane well produced water

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From The Trinidad Times (Randy Woock):

A presentation at the town council meeting on the water monitoring had been arranged, Pioneer’s Senior Public Relations Advisor, Karen Brown, told the meeting’s attendees, “So you all could hear more about what it is we do to protect the water that is coming off of the discharges CBM production…the intent (of the presentation) is to open the discussion, provide some information about how Pioneer is approaching this, that we want to approach it from a scientific perspective and have documentation to prove that, in fact, water is, in fact, within its permit limits.”

Pioneer has been discharging around the Apishapa River since 2005, though none of its four outfalls are on the Apishapa River’s mainstem. Pioneer is currently discharging at a rate of 1.8 acre-feet of water, or 600,000 gallons, per day. Pioneer has about 2,450 wells in the basin. The National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit it has applied for, according to Pioneer’s senior energy environmental advisor, Gerald Jacob, would allow for a maximum surface discharge amount of 999,999 gallons per day.

The discharge permitting process begins with the preparation of a draft permit, of which are considered possible impacts of the proposed discharge levels, measured against the water quality standards as adopted by the Water Quality Control Commission. The standards consider variables like effluent limits based on in-stream water quality, the quality and types of expected effluents coming from the discharge facility and as well as impacts on the stream at extreme low-flow periods…

The three monitoring stations deployed on the Apishapa River — at Lisonbee, Eichler and Nations — were placed and are monitored by the Norwest Corporation, a environmental consulting firm specializing in hydrology. Norwest’s stations monitor in 15-minute intervals water levels and salinity at their deployment points, as well as conducting flow measurements and water quality sampling every two weeks. Processed data and the resultant charts are uploaded to the website,, after several weeks, though each station also contains a direct display that updates every minute. “I really encourage you to use the website, and if you’re concerned and you want to keep track of stuff…we post all the lab data results, we’re comparing it to what we’re finding in the stream…it’s a really useful tool,” Hyrdrologist Angela Welch of Norwest said. “We really are trying to help you guys out by protecting your assets, which is your stream.”

More coalbed methane here and here.

Wiggins: The town has received approval from the USDA for $5.5 million loan and grant package

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

…[The approval is] good news, and the even better news is that the $5.5 million package comes as 60 percent loan and 40 percent grant, said Mayor Mike Bates. That means rather than an estimated $90 or so cost for household water bills, the average water bill will go up to closer to $60, he said. The current charge is $35.

Wiggins has seen its current well levels dropping for years now, and the water quality has deteriorated to the point that infants are not supposed to consume the water. The plan is to pipe water from a well northwest of the town, where the water table is still clear and plentiful…

The next step is to build ponds to hold augmentation water from the shares of the Weldon Valley Ditch Co. the town owns, and other construction will begin in the spring, he said. He said he hopes to have the new water running in Wiggins next fall, Bates said. The money for the loan and grant come from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding, he said.

More Wiggins coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Aspen city council plans 60 days of mediation efforts to allow more time for input on proposed hydroelectric plant

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From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

At the Sept. 13 City Council meeting on the hydro plant, council members held off on making a decision to advance the project, which would tap the waters of Castle and Maroon creeks to generate electricity. Instead, council followed a suggestion made by Tim McFlynn, a local professional mediator, and Ruthie Brown, chair of the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams board, to spend at least 30 days working with people on both sides of the hydropower issue in a mediation context.

“Because new voices seem to be emerging every day sounding an alarm that there may be potential unintended consequences or collateral damage to these two creeks or other interests of citizens here.” McFlynn told council on Sept. 13 that up to 60 days is needed so environmentalists and residents, as well as experts in relevant disciplines and a neutral facilitator with a lot of experience in water and energy matters can address the issues surrounding the project…

It’s unclear just how public the process will be, however, as McFlynn and Brown, who have volunteered to plan and convene the mediation and meeting, are working with outside experts and private citizens. The idea is to get everybody in the same room, including people with concerns about the project’s economics, noise and environmental effects, together with an experienced mediator. Experts also will be brought in to analyze data available in the public realm about the project.

“Pre-meetings” with some concerned people already are underway. Much of the proceedings are not expected to take place in public. Some private citizens are considering legal action against the city if the hydro plant is approved.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado elections: Do voters remember Referendum A?

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Covering Colorado’s proposed Referendum A in 2003 was the real starting point for Coyote Gulch. I had been blogging since 2002, mostly about state and local politics, but the water issue focus was due to the referendum.

At the same time I was buying a second home down in Montezuma County. When I talked to locals in Mesa Verde country about the referendum the quick answer was, “Water Grab.” There wasn’t much discussion but there was a lot of mistrust expressed about the politicians up in Denver and their plans. Many thought the referendum was a cover up for funding for the “Big Straw” that would move water from the Colorado River on the Utah border and dump it in the headwaters above the Front Range to feed more unbridled growth.

In his column in today’s Denver Post Ed Quillen looks back at some of the politicians that supported the referendum and what happened to them in their electoral careers. He writes:

Jane Norton, then the lieutenant governor, was a Referendum A supporter. And she lost the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. However, also on the supporter list was the fellow she lost to: “Ken Buck, Hensel Phelps Construction Company, Weld County.” I look forward to hearing him explain why he deserves to represent Colorado after he supported a big-spending big-government boondoggle that two-thirds of us opposed.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here. More Referendum A coverage here.

Telluride Institute’s Watershed Education Program overview

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The program offers classes throughout the San Miguel’s watershed, from Telluride’s landmarks (Bridal Veil, etc.) to an ecosystem camping trip on the San Miguel. “That is totally the mission of the watershed program: to being our communities together. We like to call it our ribbon of green. We all share that,” said Laura Kudo, the WEP’s director. “We really try and have it be as local and as central to our watershed as we can. I think that’s the biggest thing that sets us apart.”

The WEP is a non-profit, place-based program that utilizes local resources, experts, talents and surroundings to enable teachers throughout the San Miguel River Watershed (Telluride, Norwood, Nucla/Naturita and Paradox) to get students outside on full-day or overnight field trips. The program provides a very real environmental science curriculum supplement that’s based on Colorado education standards and offers the chance for students to move from desk to a classroom of the living watershed.

The watershed makes up about a 1 million acre basin in which the water starts at more than 14,000 feet and cascades all the way to Dolores’ red rock canyons at 5,000 feet in elevation. Of that 1 million acres, more than 60 percent is public land. The watershed isn’t without its perils, however: The dry, lofty, fragile ecosystem is home to one of the fastest growing areas on the Colorado Plateau…

One trip this fall toured nearly the entire river’s strech of the watershed and included a history and water usage talk by Bridal Veil Plant operator Eric Jacobson, a Nature Conservancy talk by Peter Mueller at Keystone Gorge, a Keystone Gorge hike with San Miguel Parks Director Rich Hamilton, a Deep Creek history talk with Dan Collins, a Down Valley Park ecological talk with Hamilton and a program put on by the Rimrock Historical Mining Museum in Naturita. It ended with a splash at the confluence of the Dolores and San Miguel rivers. Other trips on the agenda include a field trip with the Paradox Valley Charter School 5th and 6th grades supplementing a Patterns in Nature unit, another watershed tour with the Telluride Mountain School’s 3rd and 4th grades and a full watershed tour with the Norwood 6th grade.

More education coverage here.

Raw water operations: Remote supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)

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Here’s a look at a SCADA installation down in Texas from Peter Polson writing for Water World. From the article:

To eliminate the site visits, LCRA leveraged a cellular data solution with broad coverage that can reach across its water distribution network. At critical junctions in the water network, LCRA has installed automated data loggers that dynamically track water flow. LCRA uses a cellular gateway, connected to each data logger via a serial connection, to access meter data. The data is sent to a central office to be analyzed for water flow tracking and predictive analysis to identify potential issues.

With no wireline power to most of the remote locations, LCRA relies on a small solar panel to run each site. The cellular gateway requires approximately 50mA while idle and no more than 200mA for transmissions. The data logger has similar power requirements. A power budget spreadsheet has helped LCRA calculate that a typical deployment can run reliably with a 20-watt solar panel. To ensure 24 hour monitoring, the authority uses a 20-amp battery for nighttime power.

Most water network deployments covering large geographic areas include a mix of multiple cellular carriers, enabling IT managers to ensure sufficient network coverage at every remote location. LCRA, however, was able to select one national carrier with a network large enough to provide adequate coverage. Knowing that each data logger generated logs every 15 minutes, totaling 10KB each day, they purchased a cost-effective metered data plan that met their monthly needs.

“The intelligent cellular gateways that we have deployed are incredibly reliable,” said Andy Verrett, senior systems technician at LCRA. “We have had no connectivity problems to speak of. Although we experience occasional outages due to the data logger, the cellular equipment is rock solid.”

Each cellular gateway is equipped with a static IP address from the cellular carrier, allowing managers and engineers in the central office to query the data logger or cellular gateway at any time for status reports or to change configuration parameters.

LCRA has not needed special cellular antennas or amplifiers to ensure reliability connectivity. However, remote locations with a weak signal that is unreliable for cell phone calls can often still provide cellular data dependably by using a higher-gain antenna or, in some cases, an inexpensive cellular amplifier. Experienced systems integrators can help customers identify the proper accessories for a particular deployment scenario.

Overall, LCRA has found the solution to be effective and dependable, with no connectivity problems to date.

The data logger, intelligent cellular gateway, battery, and solar panel are mounted on a pole with an unobstructed view of the sun in the southern sky. The logger and gateway are then secured inside a plastic enclosure built to NEMA 4 standards for protection from moisture and dust. Mounted out of reach on the pole, the enclosure is protected from vandalism. Because all of the equipment is designed to withstand broad temperature ranges, no heating or cooling systems are needed. Even on a hot Texas day, the equipment performs consistently.

More infrastructure coverage here.

State to provide $900,000 for mitigation of damage to public water system infrastructure from Fourmile Canyon fire

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From the Boulder Daily Camera:

The money comes from the Water Quality Improvement Fund, which is supported by the collection of civil penalties for violations of the Water Quality Control Act. The grant funds are available for repairing public water system infrastructure damaged or destroyed by wildfire, assisting public water systems experiencing operational difficulties due to runoff from storms in burned watersheds, and for watershed restoration and protection projects in burned areas. Any government agency or non-profit group working on behalf of a government agency can apply for a share of the money through Oct. 15.

The city of Boulder, however, issued a statement Sept. 17 saying Boulder’s water reservoirs and pipeline intakes in the Boulder Creek Basin are located west of the Fourmile Fire burn area are at a higher elevation. Any ash and sediment washing into Boulder Creek from the wildfire area would be below the major water sources that run into Barker Reservoir and the Silver Lake Watershed reservoirs. The drainage basins affected by the Fourmile Fire do not drain into Boulder Reservoir.

More Boulder Creek coverage here.