Republican River Water Conservation District board meeting January 11

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

It will be held Thursday, January 13, at the Burlington Community and Education Center, 340 South 14th. The meeting will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with public comment at 1 p.m.

The board recently approved moving forward with the proposed compact compliance pipeline, during a special meeting in Yuma last month. It will review the pipeline schedule at the January 13 meeting, as well as hear a presentation by GEI Consultants, Inc., which is doing the pipeline for the district.

Board members will consider a potential legislative trip to Washington, D.C. They also will review and approve a notice for the position of general manager, as Stan Murphy will be retiring this year. They also will consider actions to prevent diversions by water rights that have been abandoned, look at committee assignments, receive reports on meetings and programs, and designate public places for posting notices of RRWCD meetings.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Irrigation system low-head hydro potential

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From (Russel Ray):

Researchers…have made significant progress in the development of low-head turbine technologies. Today, several companies are experimenting with technologies capable of generating power from small amounts of water that drop as little as five feet. These improvements mean the rushing water in irrigation canals can now be used to produce anywhere from 100 kW to 2 MW of clean energy.

Colorado has 3 million acres of irrigated land and is the nation’s third largest irrigation state, using more than 12 trillion gallons of water a day for irrigation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The potential power that could be wrung from the state’s irrigation canals is being studied by Colorado State University and engineering firm Applegate Group Inc. The study, funded by a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, will identify turbines that could generate power from irrigation water that drops between five feet and 30 feet. The study calls for a survey of roughly 250 ditch companies and individual ditch operators in Colorado. “We’re identifying where hydropower could be applied in those irrigation channels,” said Dan Zimmerie, a mechanical engineering professor at CSU. “There are good places in the irrigation system that will generate significant amounts of power. But we need to explore this issue with utilities, the approval process, interconnection standards and potential revenue.”[…]

“New low-head technologies have potential at sites previously considered unfeasible for hydro development because of a lack of significant elevation drop,” [Lindsay George, a water resource engineer at Applegate] said. “Irrigation canal drop and check structures, as well as existing diversion dams and outflows, may provide the drop necessary to implement these new low-head hydro technologies.”

More low-head hydro coverage here and here. More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Highlands Ranch: ‘Insights on Front Range Water Issues’ forum January 20

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From the Highlands Ranch Herald:

Denver’s dry winter has done nothing if not underscore the tenuous nature of water supplies along the Front Range. Highlands Ranch Library invites the public to participate in a timely forum, “Insights on Front Range Water Issues,” at 7 p.m. Jan. 20.

The forum will be presented by Patty Limerick of the CU Center of the American West, and John Hendrick of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Registration is free at 303-791-7323 or

Limerick and Hendrick will provide a brief history of Denver Water’s development and how it became the state’s largest municipal water supplier. They will also comment on water supplies in our region and how they will serve current and future demands in Colorado.

More education coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: First new uranium mill in the U.S. in 25 years gets the go ahead from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

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Update: From the High Country News Goat blog (Nathan Rice):

At $11.1 million, the Piñon Ridge clean-up bond is half that of the Cotter uranium mill in Cañon City, Colo. — the only other licensed mill in the state…

Having cleared the state’s first bureaucratic bar, Energy Fuels Resources Corp. must complete a handful of other federal, state and local permits, which may be more difficult to obtain, before breaking dirt in the Uravan Mineral Belt. A county land use permit for the mill remains in litigation. But if Piñon Ridge hits its estimated opening date of 2012, the mill could kick the region’s once-thriving uranium industry out of its slumber.

Update: From The Telluride Watch:

Because Colorado is among 37 “agreement states” to which federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission transfers authority to regulate and license uranium, the mill could not be built without the state license approval. It proposes to process 500 tons of ore per day, 350 days per year, to produce uranium and vanadium oxides, for 40 years…

“We’re of course extremely disappointed, and we continue to be very concerned that this mill and the process that approved this mill will allow for pollution of clean air and clean water for the entire region, and undermine the region’s long term prosperity,” said Hilary White, executive director of the Telluride-based conservation group Sheep Mountain Alliance, which opposes the mill, in response to the news. “We think this was a rushed decision and it appears the regulators ignored hundreds of pages of comments from scientific experts that raised concerns about the mill’s impacts.” White said it would take some time for the group to review the decision document and to decide upon its response…

“We’re pleased,” with the initial decision, said Energy Fuels Chief Executive Officer Steve Antony. “We have to wade through the decision to see what they’ve asked us to do to be in compliance to decide whether or not we’re going to appeal.” In the event the company does not pursue an appeal, Antony estimated that construction could begin on the mill no earlier than fall 2011. “We still have fundraising to complete and final engineering to do before you can actually turn the dirt,” he said.

From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Hilary White, executive director of Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, which is already suing Montrose County for its special use permit approval of the project, said it’s too soon to discuss legal action against the state. But she said her organization will weigh all of its options, including appeal, after fully digesting the 432-page license decision…

White argues the state did not fully consider the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts the mill will have on the region’s air and water quality given the outdoor recreation and tourism economy that has grown in the area in the decades since the last major uranium boom in the 1950s and 60s. She pointed to a recently released study commissioned by her organization. “It’s just unfortunate that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that is charged with protecting the public health and the environment of the state of Colorado chose to ignore significant — not only public health — but serious environmental and socio-economic impacts that could result from this mill,” White said.

Warren Smith, community involvement manager of the state’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division, said the concerns raised by the public and groups such as Sheep Mountain Alliance that participated in the review process are addressed in the decision and the Environmental Impact Analysis. “Because Sheep Mountain Alliance has issued this reaction on the same day as our decision was announced, it is unlikely that they have actually read the 432-page decision document that we believe addresses all of these issues,” Smith said in an email. “Therefore, we do not see a reason to respond to these allegations at this time.”

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

A 432-page state analysis concluded that Energy Fuels’ application satisfied state requirements to assess impacts on public health, rivers and groundwater. Health department reviewers decided toxic material escaping from the mill — 12 miles west of Naturita in the Paradox Valley — would be minimal, Tarlton said. Mining industry leaders called the permit a step toward energy independence. Although the U.S. is the largest consumer of nuclear energy, about 95 percent of uranium is imported, said Colorado Mining Association president Stuart Sanderson. Today, about 20 percent of the electricity Americans use comes from nuclear power plants fueled by the uranium “yellowcake” that mills produce. “There’s only one operating uranium mill in the United States, and the issuance of this license should help provide a path to bring production online from other uranium operations in Colorado and along the Colorado- Utah border,” Sanderson said. Energy Fuels would crush 500 tons a day of uranium and vanadium — if the company can line up $140 million. It’s hired a Hong Kong-based agent to hunt for capital in China, South Korea and other Asian nations where demand for uranium to fuel new power plants is growing.

More Pinon Ridge Mill coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Woodmoor District’s exchange application headed to trial

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The application for an exchange by the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District in El Paso County will be referred to Division 2 Water Court Judge Dennis Maes at the end of February, ending a process that allows lawyers to reach settlements prior to a court hearing. Since there was not unanimous agreement to extend the negotiation period, a referral to the water judge is necessary, explained Mardell DiDomenico, Division 2 water referee. She set the deadline for Feb. 28 in order to allow time for those who still wish to settle to work out agreements…

“From our standpoint, we wish to extend the process for another six months,” Woodmoor’s attorney Veronica Sperling said during Wednesday’s status conference. An objection was raised by Pueblo Board of Water Works attorney Beth Ann Parsons, however, that abruptly ended discussions about pushing back the deadline for further settlements. “The Board of Water Works objects and requests that the case be re-referred,” Parsons said during the conference phone call. At that point DiDomenico shut down discussion of future settlement conferences…

The Pueblo water board initially objected to Woodmoor’s application, filed in late 2009, in February 2010 because it was speculative, could injure other water rights and that there is not sufficient physical capacity in the Arkansas River to complete the exchanges.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Pueblo: Arkansas River levee repairs update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The repair project will cost nearly $500,000 and must be completed before river flows increase in March, said Gus Sandstrom, president of the Pueblo Conservancy District, which maintains the levees. “We think it’s a crisis,” Sandstrom said. “If we didn’t do the work, we think we would flood parts of Downtown.”[…]

Although the levees along the Arkansas River and up Wild Horse Creek are maintained annually, the concrete levee along the Pueblo Whitewater Park was damaged during construction of the kayak course. “We noticed two years after the course was completed that the way they changed the flow had damaged part of the levee,” Sandstrom said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accepted responsibility for three of the five areas of concern on the levee, while it determined the district would have faced similar problems at two other spots if no work had been done, Sandstrom said. Repairs will address water backing up at the kayak gates, causing flows to wash away the dirt behind the levee. The repair work will cost between $300,000 and $350,000, and will include piping that will allow water to wash under the levee without carrying dirt away, Sandstrom said.

Diverting the river will cost about $100,000 and work will begin Monday. It will require constructing a small levee in the channel to steer water away from the concrete levee on the north bank. The diversion would be from Fourth Street to the Santa Fe railroad bridge, and will not diminish flows upstream or through the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.