Energy policy — geothermal: BLM Royal Gorge Field Office releases Determination of NEPA Adequacy for geothermal leasing

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Land Management (Cass Cairns):

The Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office has released the 2010 Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) for the proposed Mt. Princeton Geothermal Lease Parcel. The Mt. Princeton Geothermal Lease Parcel is scheduled for the Nov. 10, 2010 Oil and Gas lease sale in Denver.

The DNA demonstrates that leasing geothermal resources for the RGFO within the Mt. Princeton Geothermal Lease Parcel is compliant with our Resource Management Plan as amended by the December 2008 Record of Decision and Resource Management Plan Amendments for Geothermal Leasing in the Western United States Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

The Mt. Princeton Geothermal Lease Parcel was deferred from the BLM Colorado Oil and Gas Lease Sale in Feb. 2010 to allow for review of comments received during the lease sale protest period. Those comments were taken into consideration and addressed in the DNA.

To view a copy of the DNA go to http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/rgfo.html and click on the Mt. Princeton Geothermal Lease Parcel link under the Frequently Requested section. For further information contact Melissa Smeins, RGFO geologist at 719-269-8523.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Southwestern Wyoming and northwestern Utah point of view

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From the Salt Lake Tribune (Brett Prettyman):

It is the cost of losing the water that people in Utah’s Daggett County and Wyoming’s Sweetwater County are worried about. Trophy fishing for kokanee salmon and lake trout in Flaming Gorge and world-class fly fishing on the Green River below the dam could be severely harmed by the loss of water and that, in turn, would hurt local economies.

“It is almost impossible to visualize the project, it is so big,” said Casey Snider, who is organizing sporting and other communities to oppose the pipeline as the northeastern Utah coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsman’s Conservation Project. “It would cost so much to build, so much to operate and do so much to harm this area. How can you fathom it? It is a huge drain, literally. It will drain the reservoir, drain the river and drain the economy.”[…]

Utah Public Lands Policy Coordination director John Harja sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which is conducting a draft of the environmental impact statement on the project in an effort to determine if it is feasible, listing a number of concerns should the pipeline become a reality.

Among the worries listed in the letter:

• Wide fluctuations of water levels at Flaming Gorge would create ideal conditions for noxious weeds along the shore, affecting waterfowl, mule deer, pronghorn, sage-grouse and other species. Open shorelines may become inaccessible for recreation.

• Diminished flows on the Green River below the dam will affect species of concern like the northern river otter, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, Lewis’ woodpecker, southern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo.

• A reduction of flows into the reservoir will inhibit flow recommendations coming out the dam. The recommendations were agreed upon by multiple agencies to benefit endangered fish (razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and bonytail) in the Green River.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Denver Water, the Colorado River District and others are making progress over the Shoshone water right and Blue River Decree

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Attorneys for Denver Water and other water organizations won a weeklong stay Wednesday in the beginning of a trial on a case in federal court in which Denver Water’s handling of its Blue River decree is at issue. That litigation could be set aside next week once an affidavit attesting to the progress of the parties is filed under seal in the court, River District spokesman Chris Treese said…

Denver Water also wants to get about the business of expanding Gross Reservoir near Boulder, [Denver Water General Manager Jim Lochhead] said. The agency, which serves 1.3 million people and is the state’s oldest and largest water utility, needs the flexibility to move water around its system. It’s looking to the settlement to offer Denver Water the kind of flexibility it needs to manage its system, Lochhead said. In addition to completing the Blue River decree, which refers to the stream that fills Dillon Reservoir, one of Denver’s largest water supplies, the agreement would limit the size of the Denver Water service area. It also would offer the Western Slope assurance that Denver Water would take no action to obtain more water without cooperation from the Western Slope. Once it’s complete, “This will be one of the most comprehensive agreements that’s ever been negotiated in the state of Colorado,” Lochhead said. “I’m looking at this agreement to forge an entirely new paradigm” in relations between the Front Range and Western Slope.

The agreement will give the Western Slope, primarily the River District, a greater voice in the operations of the Shoshone Power Plant. The Shoshone plant generates 14 megawatts of electricity from turbines spun by the Colorado River, and its 1902 water right ensures water will flow from the headwaters of the river to Glenwood Canyon and below. If Shoshone was unable to call water downriver, the Grand Valley’s domestic, agricultural and industrial needs, as well as those of four endangered fish species, would have to be met by other sources, notably the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers. They join above Glenwood Springs, and those waters flow into the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, below the Shoshone plant. Plateau Creek in De Beque Canyon also could be called down to meet the Grand Valley requirements, leaving some of those junior water rights to go unfilled.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Precipitation news

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It’s been dry and drier for the past few weeks. D0 conditions are starting to show up around the state. Click on the thumbnail graphic to view the latest from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Arkansas River through Pueblo has been buoyed by water releases for farms the past few weeks since river levels began to plunge in July. The state is running water to John Martin Reservoir over the next four days that will keep levels up, but that will end…

Pat Edelmann of the local U.S. Geological Survey office said dry conditions have hit the Western United States for the past month, including the Upper Arkansas River…

“Many gauges along the mainstem of the Arkansas River are below 25 percent of average,” Edelmann said. “In the Upper Arkansas, readings are 100 to 250 cubic feet per second below average.” At Avondale, generally the high point of the river, readings were at about 300 cfs Thursday — half of what they usually are. Water storage levels are still above average, barely, at Turquoise and Twin Lakes, and at 134 percent of average in Lake Pueblo, said Roy Vaughan of the Bureau of Reclamation…

It has barely sprinkled in Pueblo so far this month, and the last appreciable rains came in early August. The forecast from the National Weather Service is calling for dry conditions through early next week. Rainfall for the year is slightly above average, but falling behind last year’s relatively high levels of precipitation.

Fountain Creek: Flood mitigation projects, proposed detention ponds may require a trip to water court

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Planners for the project say they are designing structures that would capture flood waters to shave the peak off flood flows, retain the water temporarily and release it over the next 72 hours. A $1 million-plus demonstration project north of Colorado 47 could be the first of a series of flood control structures up and down Fountain Creek.

After reading newspaper accounts about plans for recreation activities and wetlands that would be associated with the project, [Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte] told the Southeastern district it needs to be concerned about the potential to violate water rights…

“There have been discussions in the past of what can and can’t be done,” Witte said. “There is a way to build these in a way that the timing does not injure senior water rights. The proper forum to determine that is in Water Court.” Following the meeting, Witte elaborated, saying that assurances by the planners that flood water would be evacuated within 72 hours are not enough.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.