Denver Botanic Gardens in advisory role with Sterling Ranch developers

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From The Denver Post (Margaret Jackson):

The botanic gardens will provide technical services focused on Water-Smart Gardening applications, such as selecting plants that use little water for landscaping. The botanic gardens also will help Sterling Ranch create a community garden using heirloom plants to maintain sustainable agriculture within the development.

The botanic gardens is working on the landscape design for a house on Titan Road, said Brian Vogt, chief executive of the organization. “We will advise on the right pallet of plants . . . and create a prototype to show you can have a lush looking garden, Vogt said.

More conservation coverage here.

CDC: Don’t drink the water near the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Members of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste voiced disappointment in a recent health assessment relating to exposure to Cotter Uranium Mill contamination…

The study found that long-term ingestion of contaminated private well water may have put some people in the Lincoln Park neighborhood adjacent to the mill at risk for health problems. Most neighborhood residents use the public water supply and are not exposed to the contaminant, according to the report. “I’m disappointed that the agency ignored our local doctors’ request,” said Carol Dunn, co-chair of Colorado Citizen Against Toxic Waste. “Instead of recommending a study of real people with real health problems, they studied the Cotter Mill’s self-sampling data to see if there was a risk to our health…

The agency will host two open houses to present findings from noon to 2 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Holy Cross Abbey, 2951 E. U.S. 50. Written public comment on the report will be accepted until Nov. 9.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

2010 Colorado elections: Proposition 101

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Local services provided by school districts, cities, counties and special districts (such as fire, water, sewer and public transportation) could be affected by the revenue reduction. The state’s budget would lose 6 percent of its revenue in the first year of implementation, and an estimated 23 percent of its revenue upon full implementation. Meanwhile, the state’s obligation to reimburse school districts for the revenue they would lose on vehicle taxes was estimated at $47 million in the first year of implementation and could climb as high as $200 million at full implementation. The state’s transportation budget, which funds road safety, construction and maintenance, would be decreased by 28 percent if Proposition 101 passes…

The cons as identified by Legislative Council include reductions in services citizens depend on for a high quality of life, many of which already have been trimmed because of the budget crisis. “Public health and safety may also be affected due to fewer resources for emergency medical services, vehicle emission programs and road maintenance,” Legislative Council reported. Tuition at colleges likely would increase, and services to low-income and disabled Coloradans also could suffer.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Demonstration project for flood mitigation in north Pueblo launched yesterday

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

After more than three years of effort by local, state and federal interests, the demonstration project in North Pueblo is designed to show how to control flooding, create wetlands and reduce erosion. “If only Washington would learn to work together like this,” U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., told a small gathering of politicians and technical advisers gathered at the site of a future off-channel flood detention pond and wetlands in Fountain Creek, north of Colorado Highway 47 near Dillon Drive. “This is a great example of everyone working together.”

Salazar listed $1 million in earmarks — half this year and half next — for the Fountain Creek Project at the request of Jay Winner, executive director of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The money will come through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a federal agency dedicated to land and water conservation. Lower Ark Chairman Pete Moore also praised the cooperation of the Colorado Springs and Pueblo city councils, El Paso and Pueblo County commissioners and state lawmakers who formed the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District to get the project off the ground…

In addition to the federal money, the Colorado Water Conservation Board is contributing $225,000; the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, $250,000; and the city of Pueblo $75,000 in cash and $125,000 of in-kind services.

The project will capture peak flows during minor flooding, control erosion or sedimentation and establish wetlands, all listed as high priorities in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study and the Fountain Creek Master plan. It will serve as a classroom to determine the best ways to achieve those goals, said Allen Green, state conservationist for the NRCS…

Besides the flood detention pond, a sediment collection system will be tested further downstream, Shanks said. “If this works, we can apply the concepts upstream and provide real mitigation,” he said. “We need to learn from this one.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: The Aspen City Council has put off the decision about the Castle Creek hydroelectric plant until October 12

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From The Aspen Times (Aaron Hedge):

The decision to extend the conversation comes after the city received a significant amount of feedback from residents who live along the stream saying the project will have disastrous effects on the ecosystem there…

Mayor Mick Ireland decided to postpone the vote after the City Council visited the site of the proposed hydropower building on Thursday. “There’s several people … who have approached us about having a stakeholder’s process” to find a middle ground between the city and residents who are opposed to the initiative, Ireland said. The city’s utilities department drew Maroon Creek down to 14 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Tuesday, which is the level Castle Creek will run at for about six months of the year if the project is approved. The average level the stream runs at currently is about 50 cfs, but it plummets to about 14 cfs for the months of February and March. At peak runoff, it holds up to 975 cfs…

Aspen officials say the health of the stream will remain intact, citing a city-commissioned environmental impact study of Castle Creek done by Bill Miller, of Miller Environmental Consultants. The study concluded that the stream would remain healthy as long as it doesn’t go below 13.3 cfs…

The project would take 25 cfs from 2 1/2 miles of Castle Creek and 27 cfs from Maroon Creek. All that water would return to Castle Creek about 300 feet above its merging point with the Roaring Fork River.

More coverage from The Aspen Times (Aaron Hedge):

The main incentive the city cites in building the hydropower plant is that it would save the city from paying energy fees to a Nebraska power authority. The project, they say, would localize Aspen’s energy economy and move it closer to its goal of becoming completely carbon-neutral. But City Manager Steve Barwick said if the city were to divert less water from Castle Creek than originally planned — not letting it go below 19 cfs — the project would still have a huge economic benefit. The city has already spent about $400,000 on the project, building a drainline from Thomas Reservoir that would feed the power turbines, as well as purchasing the turbines for the power plant, which would be located under the Highway 82 bridge that spans Castle Creek on Power Plant Road.

More coverage from the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

What the city hasn’t put off is developing infrastructure for the project, which still requires a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as land use approval by the City Council.

The penstock — a steel reinforced pipe that would carry water from Thomas Reservoir to the hydro plant’s turbine — has been under construction all summer. City officials maintain, however, that the pipe also serves as an emergency drainline for Thomas Reservoir, which has more water coming into it than could be drained if something happened to the dam. That project is costing the city $2.3 million.

In addition, the city already has ordered the turbine which would generate the power at the yet-to-be-approved “Castle Creek Energy Center,” public works director Phil Overeynder told council at Monday’s meeting. He has said previously that the turbine costs $1.4 million, which includes a pressure releasing valve.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.