Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

During their business meeting before the [field trip to see new district gauges at Cottonwood Lake and Cottonwood Creek and a tour of Moltz Reservoir on Trout Creek], directors adopted a resolution opposing November ballot Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101.

Discussing the ballot initiatives, district manager Terry Scanga noted water projects are expensive and are generally financed using 30-year loans. Passage of the initiatives, Scanga said, would limit financial agreements to a maximum of 10 years, requiring increased revenue – primarily maintenance and storage fees – to pay off loans within 10 years. For augmentation certificate holders, Scanga said, fees would double from $150 to $300 per unit. For holders of multiple certificates such as Poncha Springs which has about 100, the increase would have significant impact, he said.

District consultant Ken Baker and director Greg Felt suggested the district has obligation notify certificate holders about fiscal consequences of the initiatives, but district legal counsel Julianne Woldridge said such notice isn’t allowed under current law.

District treasurer Jim McCormick, also a Salida City Councilman, said Salida will face a budget shortfall of $250,000 if the initiatives pass…

In other business, directors:

• Learned of a feasibility study for installation of a hydro-electric generating system on DeWeese Reservoir.

• Learned from the treasurer’s report the district general fund has $178,868.15.

• A legislative update from Ken Baker showed calls on the Colorado River are approaching the point they could affect transmountain water diversions into the Arkansas River.

• Heard a report about the Colorado Water Congress summer conference

• Discussed dates and times of upcoming water-related events, including “Managing the Politics of Water,” the Sept. 30 annual conference of Colorado Water Officials Association at Salida SteamPlant.

Other events included the Oct. 1 State Engineer’s Forum at Salida SteamPlant, a Sept. 24 watershed meeting in the district Water Enterprise Building and a Sept. 22 meeting of the governor’s “right-to-float” task force in the Water Enterprise Building.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Alamosa settles Salmonella claims for $360,000

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The city and its former insurance company have reached a settlement with the 29 parties who filed a lawsuit for damages that sprung from the city’s 2008 salmonella outbreak, according to attorneys in the case. While copies of the agreements were not available Thursday from the city, attorneys said the settlement payments totaled $360,000. The damage payments were limited by state law to $600,000 for the entire outbreak and no more than $150,000 for any one individual.

More coverage from the Valley Courier (Julia Wilson):

R. Drew Falkenstein of the Seattle law firm of Marler Clark said all the cases have been resolved. “The settlement was approved by a local judge (District Judge Martin Gonzales) and while I can’t discuss the amount of the settlement I can say it was within the Colorado statutory limit on damages,” Falkenstein said. “We represented 16 children who became ill during the outbreak, and all cases have been resolved.”

More Alamosa coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site cleanup update

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

[Cotter Corp, Inc.] intends to remove the majority of the old mill’s facilities before applying to amend its license to allow it to restart operations, according to John Hamrick, vice president of milling. All 12 of the company’s CCD tanks — large wooden tanks used to settle sediment out of water in the milling process — have been removed and contractors are working on removing the foundations. An interim cover also has been completed over the secondary impoundment. Jim Cain, environmental coordinator/radiation safety officer for Cotter, said the company is about to submit plans for removing some of the other buildings. Hamrick said the company’s next step is to continue remediation efforts at the site and work with the state on a resolution of the water issue.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Grand Lake: Watching Florida water case

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Water suppliers, irrigation companies and others spend a good deal of time and money watching water court and other cases with an eye towards protecting their liquid assets. Here’s a report on the Town of Grand Lake’s involvement with a case in Florida, from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

At least in a legal sense, new attention may be brought to the declining water quality of Grand Lake through a case that could be tried in the U.S. Supreme Court involving Lake Okeechobee, a 730-square-mile lake in southern Florida. The Town of Grand Lake and two citizen groups — with the backing of Grand County — have filed a brief in support of a case that centers on the threatened health of Lake Okeechobee. The amicus curiae (or ‘friend of the court’) brief supports a petition by attorneys and advocacy groups in Florida hoping to overturn a federal court ruling that states water transfers are not subject to the Environmental Protection Agency’s stringent Clean Water Act permitting requirements.

The Friends of the Everglades, Florida Wildlife Federation and Fishermen Against Destruction of the Environment contend that backpumping of water containing pollutants from canals into Lake Okeechobee required permitting through the EPA. In June 2009, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Friends of the Everglades v. South Florida Water Management District ruled in support of the “unitary waters theory,” an EPA-accepted guidance that all waters of a system belong to the United States, therefore pollutants in one body of water do not “add” pollutants to other “waters of the United States.”

That ruling conflicts with another federal court ruling that took place in New York involving a water transfer from Schoharie Reservoir through the Shandaken Tunnel to Esopus Creek, a system that reverses natural flows to supply drinking water to New York City residents. The Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited alleged that the tunnel discharges pollutants into Esopus Creek. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the City of New York should be subject to permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act.

Because of these conflicting decisions, the topic of whether water transfers are subject to Clean Water Act permitting requirements could be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

The outcome of any such ruling could have bearing on Grand Lake’s future, since it is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which pumps water from reservoirs into Grand Lake and through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel to cities and power utilities in Northern Colorado…

In 2008, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission established minimal water-quality standards for Grand Lake, but if the “unitary waters” theory holds up, the brief argues, there would be “no practical way” to ensure that the water quality standards for the lake can be met.

More Grand Lake coverage here and here.

Hoover Dam: 75 years old on September 30

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From CBSNews.com (Susan Spencer):

Even the dam’s most diehard fans concede it probably wouldn’t be built today, but they insist it was both right – and remarkable – to build it then. “The foresight that those folks had to build this structure back in the 30’s, to harness the Colorado, was just amazing at that point in time, that those folks could even think of that,” [Ken Rice] said.

“It’s not the tallest dam, and it’s not the biggest dam, but its got a grace and power that really takes people … really seizes the imagination. The simple lines that it has – you know the artistic beauty of the design is really something unique,” [Michael Hiltzik] said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.