Precipitation news

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The early-week moisture helped bring total precipitation so far in January to six-tenths of an inc (o.60 inch). The moisture has been widespread, bringing hope for this year’s winter wheat crop that had been struggling along under extremely dry conditions since being planted early last fall. The first 18 days of 2011 have been the wettest stretch in the region since early August, and has been the wettest early January since 2007.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The board is concerned that the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District is contemplating diverting money from the Corridor Master Plan and concentrating more on land-use review rather than completing projects to improve Fountain Creek. “If you aren’t seeing any progress, you won’t have people going forward with you,” said Leroy Mauch, the Lower Ark board member who also sits on the Fountain Creek board…

Under an intergovernmental agreement, the district is using $100,000 annually from Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Ark district to fund its activities. Those two sources are also funding the master plan at $200,000 annually. Funding ends this year. The district has no other source of funding until at least 2016, when Colorado Springs would pay the balance of $50 million pledged to the district under conditions of the Pueblo County 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System…

The district board will look at the Lower Ark’s response at its next meeting, 1 p.m. Jan. 28 at Fountain City Hall, said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, chairman of the Fountain Creek board.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Peak water

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From Circle of Blue: Water News (Peter Gleick):

Water Number: Three (3) definitions of “peak water.”

Peak Renewable Water: This is the limit reached when humans take the entire renewable flow of a river or stream for our use. Water is renewable, but there is a limit to how much can be used. Humans have already reached “peak renewable water” limits on the Colorado River. We use it all and can’t take any more. In fact, of course, we probably shouldn’t even take as much as we do, for ecological reasons (see “Peak Ecological Water” below). Increasingly, we are reaching peak renewable limits on many of our rivers and streams. The Yellow River in China no longer reaches the sea much of the year. The Aral Sea has been devastated because the entire flows of the Amu and Syr Darya rivers have been consumed. The Nile Delta is typically dry much of the year.

Peak Non-Renewable Water: While much of our water supply is renewable, there are “non-renewable” water sources as well, where our use of water depletes or degrades the source. This most typically takes the form of groundwater aquifers that we pump out faster than nature recharges them — exactly like the concept of “peak oil.” Over time, groundwater becomes depleted, more expensive to tap, or effectively exhausted. Central Valley aquifers are overpumped, unsustainably, to the tune of 1-to-2 million acre-feet a year. So are groundwater aquifers in India, China, the Great Plains, and other places. This cannot continue indefinitely — it runs into peak non-renewable water limits.

Peak Ecological Water: The third definition, and perhaps the most important (and difficult) one, is peak “ecological” water — the point where any additional human uses cause more harm (economic, ecological, or social) than benefit. We’re good at measuring the “benefits” of more human use of water (semiconductors manufactured, or food produced, or economic value generated), but we’re bad at measuring on an equal footing, the ecological “costs” or harm caused by that same use of water. As a result, species are driven to extinction, habitat is destroyed, water purification capabilities of marshes and wetlands are lost. For many watersheds around the world, we are reaching, or exceeding, the point of “peak ecological water.”

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities is moving dirt but contract negotiations with Reclamation are delaying the construction start at the Pueblo Dam

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

…a late-in-the-game tangle with the federal government means Utilities still doesn’t have key contracts it needs to start construction at the Pueblo Reservoir, the mouth of the 62-mile pipeline…

Utilities officials insist the unfinished contracts won’t stop or delay construction. They point to a 4,000-foot section of pipeline that workers recently laid along Marksheffel Road, marking the unofficial start of the project. And, they say, a 4-mile stretch of construction will start in El Paso County in February or March. Utilities has already invested more than $100 million in the project. “It’s important that we take the time to get these final details resolved in a way that protects our customers’ best interests,” John Fredell, SDS project manager, said Friday.

Although it’s unclear when Utilities and the bureau will reach agreement on the contracts, it’s primarily “lawyerly language” that needs to be ironed out, said David Robbins, outside legal counsel for Utilities. “I hope we’re pretty close,” he said this week.

According to interviews and e-mails between Utilities officials and bureau representatives, three significant issues remain unresolved:

• A termination, or “subject to appropriation of funds,” provision.

• A desire by Utilities officials to take advantage of lower water storage rates if other entities get such rates in the future.

• A schedule detailing how much water each of the SDS partners needs to store each year and the cost over the life of the contracts.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: State Senator Gail Schwartz to sponsor bill that will allow the State Engineer to approve groundwater sub-district management plans as substitute water supply plans in the San Luis Valley

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The valley’s first version of the voluntary plan, Subdistrict No. 1, is currently under review by the Colorado State Supreme Court and, if approved, could lead to as many as seven other subdistricts in the valley. If the subdistricts aren’t implemented before Wolfe’s rules, groundwater users with no surface water to offset their pumping would face shutting down. The legislation would allow subdistrict members to purchase surface water to offset their pumping. State Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, said Saturday that he and state Sen. Gayle Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, would continue to take comments from valley water users before the bill is introduced…

Tim Buchanan, an attorney who represents some of the appellants in the state Supreme Court case, said the experience of water users on the South Platte has shown that the plans won’t work…

Wolfe objected to Buchanan’s description of efforts on the South Platte, noting that many of the plans came up short on replacement water because users were in the midst of the 2002 drought. “There’s others who believe the process has worked quite well and it’s very valuable,” he said.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2011 Morgan Conservation District Annual Meeting recap

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

[Robert] Longenbaugh said he has done research on water levels and South Platte River flows over the past few years with the assistance of John Halepaska. Longenbaugh has looked back at groundwater level records and contemporary well measurements — as well as South Platte River flow as it leaves the state near Julesburg — with the help of some funding from corn growers, he said. There is no state agency responsible for collecting groundwater data, and no state funding for the job, but there ought to be, Longenbaugh said. Growers had noticed springs in their fields where none had ever been seen before, as well as wet basements, he said.

Longenbaugh said he found that water levels fluctuate during the year due to a variety of factors such as pumping, augmentation water recharge, natural recharge and deep percolation. Continuous monitoring of wells in the South Platte basin seems to show that there are no long-term effects of previous pumping, he said. When nearby wells stop pumping, water levels quickly begin to rise and may return to pre-pumping levels within a few days or months, Longenbaugh said. In fact, water levels seem to return to equilibrium each spring, he said. Generally, levels will fall, during the spring and summer, but rise again during the fall. Groundwater levels have risen since wells were closed, and that shows artificial recharge has helped, but even areas where there was no recharge have seen water levels rise, Longenbaugh said.

He said well pumping seems to cause local cones of depression around the well, and continuous pumping causes those cones to deepen and expand outward. That causes less flow into the river. But when wells stop pumping, the cones begin to fill and river depletions to decrease, Longenbaugh said.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers and Streams Board is concerned with Aspen’s proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric plan

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From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

The board, which met Monday, forwarded a two-page letter to David Hornbacher, the city’s deputy director of utilities and renewable energy, on Friday — the final day the city was accepting comments on its draft application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the hydro plant. Attached were 58 pages of attachments comprising the analyses of four experts hired by the county rivers board to review the city’s studies of the project. The county spent $50,000 on the review, which involved a Denver water attorney, Boulder engineering consulting firm, an aquatic specialist based in Eagle and a Telluride firm hired to review the expected energy output of the plant.

“We have significant concerns about the health and quantity of the waters in Castle and Maroon creeks,” said the board’s letter, signed by Chairman Greg Poschman. “The city’s hydroelectric project represents a potential conflict with the mission of our board.”

Among the board’s suggestions: The city should define and preserve a “healthy” streamflow as opposed to merely adhering to minimum streamflows.

The board also called on the city to make a legal commitment to maintain stream quality and quantity throughout the year as part of its operation of the hydro plant, and concluded that more complete data is needed over a longer period of time in order to assess the impacts associated with the hydroelectric facility.

Aspen is seeking a “conduit exemption” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its project. Such exemptions, granted for small hydroelectric projects that use infrastructure that is primarily used for other purposes, involve less onerous environmental reviews.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Avon: The Eagle River Watershed Council discussion of the Eagle River fishery Wednesday

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From the Vail Daily:

“Fish Tales” will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Salt Water Cowboy in Avon.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

2010 Colorado gubernatorial election transition: What should Colorado’s water strategy look like under a Hickenlooper administration?

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Water policy is surfacing as the top issue for the incoming administration. The governor has appointed John Stulp to a top-level water position and has repeatedly mentioned water as a priority. Mr. Stulp’s role will be to shape water policy. From email from Mr. Stulp via the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

As the new IBCC director, I am looking forward to a lively discussion regarding the report the IBCC sent to former Governor Ritter and Governor Hickenlooper. As part of my new charge, I’m seeking to engage not only the roundtables, a process that is underway, but also a wider set of the water community on this emerging framework. My goal is to have enough information on this framework that we can have a productive conversation at the March 3rd Statewide Roundtable Summit to improve the document with a geographically and politically diverse group of people in the room.

I have asked CWCB staff and the IBCC facilitator Heather Bergman, in support of the IBCC, to coordinate a public input process. You are officially invited to provide feedback in one or more of the following ways:

Facilitated Public Forums for detailed feedback on the Framework on both the West and East Slopes

o Feb. 4th 3:30-5:30 at the Warwick Denver Hotel, 1776 Grant Street, Denver, CO 80203

o Feb. 25th 1-4 , Glenwood Springs, CO (exact location for this meeting will be sent out next week)

Written Feedback Survey and Comment Opportunity, available at the Statewide Roundtable Summit webpage in the additional information section on the right side of the page. Additional comment emails or attachments may be sent to Viola.Bralish@state.co.us, but all are encouraged to take the survey. Surveys and written public feedback are due February 24th.

The March 3rd Statewide Roundtable Summit at the Doubletree Hotel Denver – North, 8773 Yates Drive, Westminster, CO 80031. Participants in the Summit are expected to participate in one of the above forums first. Registration is $25 for non-roundtable members to cover conference costs. Please register by clicking here.

In order to download a copy of the report, or hear IBCC members’ discussion with Governor Ritter, please visit the Statewide Roundtable Summit webpage.

Please let Jacob Bornstein know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns…

I look forward to learning from all of you,

John Stulp

Special Policy Advisor to the Governor / IBCC Director

I expect that Trout Unlimited will heed the call to help shape the framework since Drew Peternell has already offered an opinion in a recent Boulder Daily Camera guest column. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

In an age of water limits, can Colorado meet its water needs for agriculture, industry, and growing cities while also protecting its rivers and quality of life?

Yes – but only with creative solutions and strong leadership. Gov. Hickenlooper has a golden opportunity to move Colorado away from reliance on costly and destructive large dams and pipelines toward a smart water future built on low-impact alternatives such as conservation and reuse, small-scale storage, and innovative sharing arrangements between cities and farms.

We urge the new governor to seize the moment.

Governor Hickenlooper is the keynote speaker at Friday’s Wayne Aspinall Awards Luncheon to close out the Colorado Water Congress’ Annual Convention.

More 2010 Colorado election coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: State Representative Marsha Looper hopes to allow conservation easement disputes to bypass the Department of Revenue

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From the Associated Press via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Rep. Marsha Looper, a Republican from Calhan, wants to allow property owners given tax credits not to develop their property that were later denied, to take their appeals straight to court. The property owners are now required to appeal to the state Department of Revenue. She plans to meet with property owners and judges to discuss the plan on Friday.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District quarterly board meeting recap

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

[The fees are hitting for] the Valley’s first sub-district, which encompasses about 175,000 irrigated acres owned by 500-plus individual property owners in an area north of the Rio Grande. It is the first of several water management sub-districts under the auspices of the sponsoring district, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, that will eventually cover the San Luis Valley…

Last October the sub-district board of managers approved an administrative fee of $5 per irrigated acre (to generate about $875,000) and CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) fee of $1 per irrigated acre to be assessed well users within the boundaries of the first sub-district this year. A variable fee of $45 per acre foot of groundwater pumped (less surface water credits), will not be collected until 2012 but will be based on 2011 pumping. This year’s fees will be held in escrow until the sub-district receives a decision from the Colorado Supreme Court regarding an appeal over the sub-district’s management plan…

[Cory Off] suggested the state should be bearing some of the cost of the sub-districts. He said he knew the state did not have any money, but neither did the Valley residents, and if the Valley water districts did not ask the state for help now, the Valley would not be considered for funding in the future when the state’s financial situation improved. He said although Valley farmers will benefit through the sub-districts by not having to pay for their own augmentation plans, the state will also benefit by not having to process thousands of augmentation plans in the Valley.

[RGWCD Attorney David Robbins] said he was not arguing that point, and if Off could get the state to help pay for the sub-districts, “God bless you and I will do whatever I can to help,” but the other river basins in the state had not had any luck getting the state to help with their costs. He said water users in the Republican River Basin are going to spend $80 million to acquire water and put in a pipeline.

RGWCD board member Lewis Entz, a former long-time state legislator, said the sub-district legislation was created as a way for the Valley to solve its own problems without the state’s interference. “It’s on us to solve our problem and not the state,” he said…

RGWCD Manager Steve Vandiver reported to the board on Tuesday the district’s costs associated with the first sub-district alone have totaled $1.13 million. This is a cumulative figure encompassing all of the expenses over the past several years. The district has also spent about $240,000 on the other sub-districts proposed throughout the Valley. Vandiver said those figures include court time, engineering time, legal time, administrative time, etc…

He and District Engineer Allen Davey said the efforts, and expenses, will not let up any time soon, either. “Obviously we are doing a lot of work on sub-districts, particularly Sub-district #1,” Davey said. “That’s been primarily our focus in the past year.”

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here.

BLM Uncompahgre Field Office Wild and Scenic review update

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

There was unanimous agreement that Deep Creek and West Fork Terror Creek segments in the BLM’s North Fork Gunnison River Unit were unsuitable for BLM management as wild and scenic waters. The stakeholder group’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO) for consideration when BLM managers evaluate 11 stream segments in Delta County for “suitability,” the next stage in the wild and scenic evaluation process. Five other stream segments under consideration at the Jan. 10 meeting also received near unanimous agreement to be excluded from the BLM’s wild and scenic inventory. However, four individuals representing various environmental groups including The Wilderness Society and North Fork Valley-based WSERC did not want the five stream segments removed at this time. The five are Potter Creek, Monitor Creek, Roubideau Creek segments 1 and 2, and Gunnison River segment 2. The five will be looked at in more detail by a subcommittee of the full stakeholders group scheduled to meet this month, and then presented for reconsideration at an upcoming stakeholders meeting. A total of seven eligible stream segments were being evaluated on Jan 10. All of them are located outside of the new Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. The stakeholders group is trying to meet a Feb. 15 deadline for submitting its recommendations on the seven. In addition to the seven non-NCA stream segments, six other stream segments located within the NCA boundaries must have a stakeholders recommendation by April 15.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here.

Boulder is considering lowering fluoride dosing in light of proposed recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

City Manager Jane Brautigam wrote in a recent memo to the City Council that the city is “reviewing its current processes in light of the proposed recommendations and considering changes to its fluoride levels.” Ned Williams, Boulder’s director of public works for utilities, said the jury is still out on how much fluoride is too much, and whether it should be added to drinking water at all. “Fluoride has a wide range of advocacy, from totally in support to totally against,” he said. “It’s one of the national health debates that has been ongoing for several decades.”

Fluoride is now added at both of Boulder’s water treatment plants in the form of liquid hydrofluorosilicic acid, Williams said. It’s been used since 1969, when Boulder voters approved increasing natural fluoride levels to about 1 milligram per liter. The additive costs the city about $36,000 annually, or about 70 cents per household…

In 2008, Erie residents narrowly approved adding fluoride to the town’s water supply for the first time. Erie was one of the last municipalities in the Denver metro area that did not use fluoride in its drinking water.

Meanwhile, the Public Works.com is pointing to this release from the Fluoride Action Network about a study that shows lower IQ levels in children as a result of fluoridation. Here’s the release:

Exposure to fluoride may lower children’s intelligence says a study pre-published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (online December 17, 2010).

Fluoride is added to 70% of U.S. public drinking water supplies.

According to Paul Connett, Ph.D., director of the Fluoride Action Network, “This is the 24th study that has found this association, but this study is stronger than the rest because the authors have controlled for key confounding variables and in addition to correlating lowered IQ with levels of fluoride in the water, the authors found a correlation between lowered IQ and fluoride levels in children’s blood. This brings us closer to a cause and effect relationship between fluoride exposure and brain damage in children.”

“What is also striking is that the levels of the fluoride in the community where the lowered IQs were recorded were lower than the EPA’s so-called ‘safe’ drinking water standard for fluoride of 4 ppm and far too close for comfort to the levels used in artificial fluoridation programs (0.7 – 1.2 ppm),” says Connett.

In this study, 512 children aged 8-13 years in two Chinese villages were studied and tested – Wamaio with an average of 2.47 mg/L water fluoride (range 0.57-4.50 mg/L) and Xinhuai averaging 0.36 mg/L (range 0.18-0.76 mg/L).

The authors eliminated both lead exposure and iodine deficiency as possible causes for the lowered IQs. They also excluded any children who had a history of brain disease or head injury and none drank brick tea, known to contain high fluoride levels. Neither village is exposed to fluoride pollution from burning coal or other industrial sources. About 28% of the children in the low-fluoride area scored as bright, normal or higher intelligence compared to only 8% in the “high” fluoride area of Wamaio.

In the high-fluoride city, 15% had scores indicating mental retardation and only 6% in the low-fluoride city.

The study authors write: “In this study we found a significant dose-response relation between fluoride level in serum and children’s IQ.”

In addition to this study, and the 23 other IQ studies, there have been over 100 animal studies linking fluoride to brain damage (all the IQ and animal brain studies are listed in Appendix 1 in The Case Against Fluoride available online at http://fluoridealert.org/caseagainstfluoride.appendices.html).

One of the earliest animal studies of fluoride’s impact on the brain was published in the U.S. This study by Mullenix et. al (1995) led to the firing of the lead author by the Forsyth Dental Center. “This sent a clear message to other researchers in the U.S. that it was not good for their careers to look into the health effects of fluoride – particularly on the brain,” says Connett.

Connett adds, “The result is that while the issue of fluoride’s impact on IQ is being aggressively pursued around the world, practically no work has been done in the U.S. or other fluoridating countries to repeat their findings. Sadly, health agencies in fluoridated countries seem to be more intent on protecting the fluoridation program than protecting children’s brains.”

When the National Research Council of the National Academies reviewed this topic in their 507-page report “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Review of EPA’s Standards” published in 2006, only 5 of the 24 IQ studies were available in English. Even so the panel found the link between fluoride exposure and lowered IQ both consistent and “plausible.”

According to Tara Blank, Ph.D., the Science and Health Officer for the Fluoride Action Network, “This should be the study that finally ends water fluoridation. Millions of American children are being exposed unnecessarily to this neurotoxin on a daily basis. Who in their right minds would risk lowering their child’s intelligence in order to reduce a small amount of tooth decay, for which the evidence is very weak.” (see The Case Against Fluoride, Chelsea Green, October 2010) http://www.FluorideAction.org

More water treatment coverage here.

The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board upholds the approval additional prospecting for the Mt. Emmons molybdenum mine near Crested Butte

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From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

The state last week rejected an appeal by the High Country Citizens’ Alliance to overturn a decision approving a proposal for additional prospecting at the proposed Mt. Emmons molybdenum mine. With a 4-1 vote, the Colorado Mined Reclamation Board agreed to allow a new mine tunnel, or drift, to be constructed as part of the proposed prospecting activities by the Mt. Emmons Moly Company (MEMCO). The original decision was approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety (DRMS). The hearing lasted almost five and a half hours. With the MLRB’s ruling in place, MEMCO is now authorized by the state of Colorado to pursue prospecting activities, which will allow for further exploration to better define the molybdenum deposit at Mount Emmons. In a press release from MEMCO, Larry Clark, vice president and general manager of the Mount Emmons Project for Thompson Creek said, “MEMCO will continue to work through permitting requirements as we proceed with these activities, and we will continue keeping the Gunnison Country community apprised of our progress.”

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

U.S. Energy Corp. responds to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s clean up order for the Mt. Emmons mine

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Here’s the letter via The Crested Butte News. Here’s the article previewing Friday’s meeting between U.S. Energy Corp. and the state, from Mark Reaman writing for The Crested Butte News. From the article:

U.S. Energy Corp. will be meeting Friday with representatives from the state’s Water Quality Control Division to get some clarification of the state’s pollution concerns.

The mining company responded last week to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over concerns Coal Creek is being polluted with heavy metals from the mine on Mt. Emmons. The response basically disagrees with the ultimate conclusions of the state. “In short, U.S. Energy disagrees with the Division’s suggestion that stormwater discharges from the Mt. Emmons Project are causing or threatening to cause degradation of Coal Creek,” a letter dated January 11 from the mining company states.

The state had sent U.S. Energy a “Compliance Advisory Letter” at the end of December warning of “possible violations of the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.” It demanded the company formulate a plan to bring down the levels of heavy metals measured in the creek and have a progress report ready by February 1. Sampling over the last few years on the mine property showed huge spikes in the heavy metal levels in Coal Creek.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Orchard City: The town hopes to work with private water suppliers to upgrade their water systems to town standards

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

In conjunction with the construction of the new West Main transmission line, the town has offered to share some expenses with the private companies along the line for the cost of upgrading their systems to the town’s current construction standards. But Mayor Don Suppes reported at the town board’s Jan. 12 meeting that most of the companies have declined the town offer. Cost was cited as a reason for shying away from the deal, even in light of the 50/50 cost split being discussed. Orchard City finds itself in a situation where, even though it simply supplies treated water to the private pipeline companies master meter and does nothing with the water after that point, the town may still have liability for water quality as delivered at a customer’s tap by a private pipeline company. Town officials would like to see the private lines upgraded to town engineering and safety standards in order to lessen any potential for liability, and also looking ahead to a day when the town might adopt the private pipelines into its own system and administration.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Ridgway: The town council is wrestling with the right mix of fees to accommodate future growth

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From The Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

The town currently requires that new development contribute either water rights or money in lieu of water rights, before it can be annexed into the town limits. The idea when the policy was adopted in 2000 (and amended in 2009), [Town Engineer Joanne Fagan] said, was to protect the town’s access to municipal water, even as population grows, and even in the event of a call on Ridgway’s water by more senior water users. One option was to use the up-front money to purchase Ridgway Reservoir water from Tri-County Water Conservancy District…

The two systems Fagan described for calculating how much a new development should pay were complicated by, among other things, the escalating value of water. The policy refers to purchases of reservoir water at “present values.” But present value in 2000 was about $350/acre foot, Fagan said, and is now at $850/acre foot. The cost to a potential developer has soared. “Council folks,” she asked, “is this what you think we should be doing? And is this impact what you had in mind?”

Mayor Pat Willits responded. “My recollection is that when we first started talking about this, back 10 years ago when River Park was financing, we didn’t anticipate this much of an impact [on the developer]…

Fagan then said that she and staff were working on a “Plan B.” “For somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million,” she said, the town could improve its storage of Beaver Creek water at Lake Otonawanda and avoid the purchase of Tri-County water. Lake Otonawanda is on Miller Mesa south of town. The town owns it but has no way to get water out of the lake into the town ditch. Fagan’s Plan B would properly plumb the lake and then “We could be in a position to fill it in the winter when the water would not be subject to a call” by ranchers and others who might override the town’s priority during irrigating season. Fagan said her rough calculations for payment in lieu of water rights using the “Lake O” plan came to about $66,000 per 10-acre development, or about $1,100 per unit, far less than $100,000 to $300,000 a developer would have to pay under the current plan. “We’re reviewing a draft plan now,” she told council. But, she said, “We don’t think this fits with the policy and might require amending the policy we have.”

More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.