Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 2011 Annual Gala & Auction March 11

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Click here to register. From email from Colorado Trout Unlimited:

Please join us on Friday, March 11th at the Arvada Center for our biggest event of the year – the 2011 CTU Annual Auction & Gala! Last year’s event was our most successful to date and raised over $37,000 for river conservation. This year we hope to raise over $40,000 in support of our growing youth conservation education program, river advocacy, and native fish restoration efforts across Colorado.

The evening kicks off at 5pm with a cocktail reception featuring live music, complimentary beer and wine, and opportunities to bid on a wide range of silent auction items of interest to the angler and nonangler alike. The festivities continue with a sit-down dinner and a live auction featuring some remarkable packages from a Key West getaway, to a South African safari, to a party suite for a Rockies game at Coors Field.

Conservation: Ann and Mike Luark named ‘Conservationists of the Year’ by the Eagle County Conservation District

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From the Eagle Valley Enterprise (Mike Lederhause):

This year, the Eagle County Conservation District recognized Mike and Ann for their continued stewardship of their ranch. The ranch is highly visible from the Colorado River Road and the first glance reveals the level, well-cared-for fields of alfalfa, which border the Colorado River, and the neat appearance of the ranch. The Luarks have planted varieties that produce exceptionally well on their ranch along with taking steps to maximize the efficient use and conservation of their irrigation water. They have installed a combination of pivot sprinkler and gated pipe irrigation to irrigate their land. Doing so reduces the runoff and silting of the river and the overall amount of water needed to grow a crop. To improve the riparian area along the river, they first installed livestock troughs, then installed more than 6,000 feet of fence to keep cattle off the river bank. This year they will be planting more than 150 trees along the river. Mike and Ann also manage a large colony of honey bees that pollinate almonds in California, fruit in the Palisade area and the various crops in Eagle and Routt Counties, and complete the cycle of life for the various plants. The excess honey and wax is recovered and sold locally.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Snowpack news

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

The figures for the Big Thompson mirror those for the rest of the South Platte River basin, which slakes the thirst of the state’s biggest urban areas and most-productive farmland. Federal figures show the basin at 122 percent of its 30-year average. Statewide, all of the major river basins are close to or above their historical averages. Leading the way is the North Platte basin, at 132 percent, with the Colorado River basin at 127 percent, Yampa at 125 percent and Gunnison at 120 percent. In the southern half of the state, the Arkansas River basin is at 105 percent of average, the Animas/San Juan basin is at 99 percent and Rio Grande at 90 percent.

Cloudseeding update

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From (Dann Cianca):

George Stowell lives in Gunnison and is the operator of one of the many cloud seeding generators in the county. The generator is actually located in his back yard and works by injecting the cloud seeding solution into a propane burner. The heat carries the particulate that results into the upper levels of the atmosphere where the particles act, in simple terms, as an attractive place for tiny water vapor droplets to gather. Could seeding works by increasing the efficiency by which rain drops or ice crystals form within the cloud. Atmospheric conditions have to be just right for this to work, however, so the generator is typically only turned on a few times per season. The state issues permits through the Colorado Water Conservation Board and these permits only allow the operators to seed at when the permit area will be affected. This basically happens when the wind is blowing a certain way.

The Gunnison County program has been ongoing for about ten years and is partially sponsored by the county itself. The county isn’t actually the largest source of funding for the program however as many other interests which include agriculture groups, municipal water districts and even ski resorts contribute…

Operators of these programs say that the science is sound and that it provides good results. With Colorado’s dependency on water, they say that having extra snow-pack can make a huge difference on the economy of the state. That is why these programs have expanded over the years to include many areas of Western Colorado. Generators exist in the San Juans, the Upper Gunnison River Basin, the Grand Mesa area and even near Vail to name a few.

More cloud seeding coverage here and here.

Denver: ‘Save the American Dream’ rally

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I was at the rally yesterday. Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for a couple of photos. Some of the riot police were stationed at 14th and Sherman.

Here’s a tweet from email:

Earlier today, the Sheet Metal Workers tweeted, “America would like to thank Scott Walker for waking a sleeping giant-our labor movement! #p2 #wiunion #solidarity.”

The very first time that I stood near the west steps of the capitol building, exercising my free political speech, was in 1968 when Coloradans greeted former Governor George Wallace of Alabama during that tumultuous summer. An organized section of the crowd shouted — in unison — something that sounded like, “I can still pluck my yew,” each time the governor started to speak. That really got his goat so he started yelling back at them. We never did hear what he came to say.

Snowpack news

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This time of year Arizonans are looking upriver at the snowpack in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. They are welcoming big releases from Lake Powell for the farms and cities of the desert southwest and hoping for more. Here’s a report from Tony Davis writing for the The Arizona Daily Star. From the article:

The Colorado River Basin Forecasting Center predicts that April-July runoff into Lake Powell, which straddles the Arizona-Utah border, will be about 113 percent of normal. That’s about 9 million acre-feet of water. An acre-foot is about 325,850 gallons. Last year’s April-June runoff was only 73 percent of average, or 5.79 million acre-feet, said Brenda Alcorn, a forecaster for the center in Salt Lake City. For the decade of 2000-2009, the Colorado’s average annual flow into Lee’s Ferry, just below Lake Powell, was the lowest for any decade since authorities started keeping records on the river more than a century ago…

Lake Mead is now about 40 percent full, while Lake Powell is about 60 percent full. But the bureau’s Buck adds that forecasts change monthly and could go up or down by April, the start of the spring-runoff season. “We want to err on the side of caution in these forecasts,” Buck said. “In the past, we’ve looked pretty good up to this point, but by the time April rolled around, it wasn’t so good.”

Arkansas Basin Roundtable update meeting March 1

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A progress report on the activities of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable is set for 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at Otero Junior College in La Junta. The meeting is part of an outreach by the roundtable to explain how it has dealt with water issues in the Arkansas River basin since the roundtable was created by the Legislature in 2005. Previous meetings have been in Colorado Springs and Salida.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Orchard City: Private water systems in the area face steep costs and loss of control to connect to the municipal system

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From the Delta County Indpendent (Hank Lohmeyer):

The town has offered to pay half the materials costs if 19 of 39 Bull Mesa Pipeline members pay the other half, and also pay all installation to bring their local system up to current town specifications. The town then wants to tap those 19 members into the new West Side transmission line and take them over as town water customers. At the Bull Mesa Pipeline Company’s annual meeting on Feb. 18, members found little advantage to their system from the town’s offer. But, the offer is delivered with a velvet hammer touch: If the pipeline company doesn’t accept the town’s offer now, then if future state regulations allow or require the town to take the pipeline over, it could be on terms far less favorable than the ones being offered now…

Orchard City’s offer appears straightforward on its face. But it passes without mention of several thorny issues it raises.

• Only 19 water taps of 39 on the Bull Mesa pipeline would be affected. Accepting the town’s offer would mean splitting the company in half with those 19 members leaving to become water customers of the town directly. Members at the annual meeting saw possible legal issues involved with splitting the company. The town’s offer applies only to the 19 members on the lower portion of the pipeline, and not to the upper 20 members.

• The idea of “abandoning” the upper pipeline members, who in many cases are friends and neighbors, was objectionable to members. The move would leave th eother 20 to their own reduced-resource fate after many decades of working together to build and maintain the Bull Mesa system.

• The town’s offer would mean, by rough calculations, spending an estimated $3,000 by each of the 19 members to bring their current water service lines up to town specifications. And, it would mean draining half of the company’s $20,000 bank account to help pay for the upgrades.

• The town’s offer means that after the local system is upgraded, all the new investment along with more than a half century of work building the system would be given to the town, for free – a major sticking point.

• The 19 tap owners would still pay the same higher outside rates as others do, along with getting lower monthly “minimums.” And they would be completely at the mercy of whatever water policy is adopted by the town board, a board they have no vote on.

• Important also is the sense of freedom of self determination that members of the Bull Mesa company derive from being able to manage their own water supply.

• There were also some unanswered technical questions in the town’s offer.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Wastewater: Englewood and Littleton are considering a $10 million disinfection system for their combined plant

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From the Littleton Independent (Tom Munds):

The plant is jointly owned by the cities of Englewood and Littleton. It is a regional facility that serves the foothills area from Interstate 25 to the foothills and from Highlands Ranch north to Evans Avenue. The plant provides treatment services to about 160,000 accounts, which serve about 300,000 people. A recent four-year modernization and expansion project cost more than $113 million and expanded the size of the plant by about 39 percent. However, more stringent federal and state regulations are coming that require additional disinfection treatment. Plant officials and representatives of the engineering consulting firm met with both city councils to explain how the evaluation was done that resulted in the recommendation to install the ultraviolet system at a cost of about $10 million. Stu Fonda, utility director, said the bonds to install the system would be paid for through small increases in service fees that would total about $4 to about $12 a month.

The team met with the Littleton City Council on Feb. 8. The council debated the issue and then the consensus was to seek a second opinion. “We wanted a second firm to look at the proposal and tell us whether the change to a different disinfection process is necessary and, if it is necessary, is the ultraviolet system the best way to go?” Littleton Mayor Doug Clark said…

The types of disinfection evaluated included chlorine dioxide, ozone, peracetic acid, chlorination and ultraviolet. Kurt Petrik, supervising engineer for consultant Brown and Caldwell, said the ultraviolet system was selected because it offered significantly more benefits than the other systems evaluated. Some of the benefits included no toxic disinfection by-products, elimination of the need to store and handle toxic chemicals and a lower operating cost. Fonda said the ultraviolet system’s operating expenses would be about $70,000 less than now spent to operate the chlorine-based system.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Grand Junction Energy Forum & Expo recap

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Anton “Tony” Dammer, senior vice president of Red Leaf Resources Inc., said a spike in oil prices related to concerns about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s response to unrest there shows how vulnerable the United States is because of its reliance on foreign oil. “He’s holding us up. He just cost us $20 a barrel. I mean, come on, we can’t do this anymore,” Dammer said at Friday’s Energy Forum & Expo at Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center.

Dammer is the former director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves, and he founded the DOE’s Unconventional Fuels Program. At Red Leaf, he’s helping pursue a process of producing kerogen from shallow oil shale deposits in northeastern Utah. Red Leaf has shale leases covering 17,000 acres of state school trust lands, and the company plans to undertake a 9,500-barrel-a-day project there that will employ 200 people, Dammer said. Utah welcomes oil shale development, Dammer said.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education: ‘Climate & Colorado’s Water Future’ Workshop March 11

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Don’t forget to sign up for the workshop. It should be a hoot. The workshop is at the National Ice Core Lab at the Denver Federal Center. It’s a treat to go into the freezers where they store and work with the ice cores.

More coverage from the Summit County Citizen’s Voice. From the article:

Ice cores from the right sites can contain an uninterrupted, detailed climate record extending back hundreds of thousands of years, including temperature, precipitation, chemistry and gas composition of the lower atmosphere, volcanic eruptions, solar variability, sea-surface productivity and a variety of other climate indicators. In an ice core, all that information is stored in one place, making it much easier for researchers to pinpoint the timing of specific events or changes in the atmosphere.

One of the biggest collections of ice cores is maintained at the National Ice Core Laboratory in Denver, and early next month, participants in the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Climate & Colorado’s Water Future’ Workshop will have a chance to tour the lab as part of an interactive workshop on climate science.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

Castle Rock: Water discussion March 6

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From The Parker Chronicle:

For residents of the Front Range, water is always an issue. At 2 p.m. March 6, the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock will have an open discussion about this topic with those in the know. Castle Rock utilities director Ron Redd and local water conservation specialist Rick Schultz will help attendees learn where our water comes from, why Castle Rock water rates differ from Denver water rates and more. Registration is free at 303-791-7323 or at

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Here are the notes and slides from this week’s webinar, from the Colorado Climate Center.

More forecast news from the Summit County Citizen’s Voice. From the article:

For the next few months, forecasters expect the jet stream to begin tracking farther north, both in response to the weakening La Niña and to the gradual springtime warming of the northern hemisphere. La Niña’s influence should last at least through March, with periods of moderate to heavy snowfall, while drier than average conditions, along with gusty winds, will prevail east of the Continental Divide.

Energy policy — nuclear: Moab uranium mill tailings mitigation project update

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From the Associated Press via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Originally, the department budgeted $108 million for the removal of 2 million tons. But when the project reached that benchmark, only $83 million had been spent. Moab Federal Project Director Donald Metzler says the remaining money will be used to remove at least 300,000 more tons of tailings to the permanent disposal site near Crescent Junction, about 30 miles south of Moab.

More Moab tailings coverage here and here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Charlotte Burrous):

“(The project) will provide water through 2050, depending on growth and potentially a decade or two beyond that,” said Colorado Springs Utilities SDS program director John Fredell, who spoke at the Fremont County Engineering Scholarship Foundation annual fundraiser dinner Thursday at the Abbey. “One key fact about Colorado Springs is more than half of our growth is from within. And we have a lot of military expansion.”[…]

“The majority of our water is transmountain water so it comes from the Western Slope,” Fredell said. “Under water law, when we have water pumped into another basin, we’re taking water from the west slope that wasn’t in the Fountain Creek-Arkansas River Basin, you actually have a right to use that water to extinction that wasn’t on this side of the Divide to start with so it gives us a real opportunity.” What the organization can do is treat the water, release it down Fountain Creek, trade that water with an agricultural interest east of Pueblo. The communities and farmers get that water and SDS takes its share of water from the Pueblo Reservoir, Twin Lakes or Turquoise Lake then run the water through a pipeline to complete the process again. “We found we can get two to two and a half uses out of that water,” Fredell said. “As you can imagine, that water is very valuable versus water that is native to this basin which by law you can only use it once.” Currently, the water runs down Fountain Creek 24/7, but it can not be exchanged all the time. Instead, SDS can store the water to coincide with releases from the reservoirs as it needed.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

A look at the challenges facing the users and managers of the Upper Colorado River

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

When proposed projects to firm the Front Range water supply move forward — pumping just a small portion of what’s already removed — the Upper Colorado will be at less than 20 percent of its original flow, said Nathan Fey, American Whitewater’s Colorado stewardship director. And that prospect poses significant threats to the river’s wildlife and ecological health as well as the tourism industry in Summit County, Grand County and beyond, he said. The Colorado River is a mecca for fishermen, with prized trout fisheries. Whitewater boaters take to the rapids at all times of the year. Hikers enjoy the scenic panoramas and riverside hot pools. Wildlife is abundant in the headwaters area and as the river meanders down the Western Slope…

Such values have qualified the river, from near its source to its confluence with the Roaring Fork in Glenwood Springs, as a candidate for federal Wild and Scenic River designation, American Rivers’ report states. To continue to enjoy recreational activities and discourage environmental and ecological breakdown of the river, it’s all about flow, American Rivers’ Colorado conservation director Matt Rice said. The Upper Colorado River is going to be a focal point for the organization, which opens a Denver office in the near future. Between hydropower reform and partnering to develop Wild and Scenic River designations, the group has a lot on its plate.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“This is an El Paso County problem, and I’m reluctant to give a penny to solve a problem caused when your voters rejected the stormwater enterprise,” Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner said Friday. Chostner was addressing Colorado Springs Vice Mayor Larry Small, who heads the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board and supported the idea. The request for funding was pulled before the board had a chance to vote.

Summit Economics, a Colorado Springs firm, has submitted a proposal to look at an integrated stormwater plan that would address a complex web of issues tied to the future water supply of El Paso County through Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs already has committed $20,000; El Paso County, $10,000; and four other communities $1,000 each to fund the study. The study would look at setting up a stable source of funding for stormwater projects in El Paso County, compliance by future SDS partners with Pueblo County 1041 regulations and an integrated solution that also involves parks. One of the study’s goals is to avoid impacts on water rates as well.“We need a watershed-wide integrated approach to stormwater management,” [Colorado Springs Vice Mayor Larry Small] said, in arguing for funding the study. “The only way to do it is watershed-wide.”

Chostner objected, however, saying that when Pueblo County commissioners negotiated the 1041 land-use agreement with Colorado Springs, the stormwater enterprise was in place. The 1041 conditions require future users of SDS to have “a funding mechanism similar to the Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise.”

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.

Colorado entrepreneur modifies GE membrane water treatment plant to use solar for use in developing countries

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From (Marc Gunther):

Jack Barker and his wife, Carmen, have been in the water business for years, providing maintenance and support to small water systems in Colorado. “It’s always been a passion of mine, drinking water,” he told me. About four years ago, Barker got the local distributorship for the GE Homespring, which uses thousands of tiny, fibre membrane strands to block out contaminants like bacteria, parasites and viruses. He thought: “Wouldn’t it be neat to get this technology to places in the world that need it the most?”

Easier said than done. Costs were one issue, he knew, and the availability of parts and technicians was another. What’s more, places that lack safe drinking water often also lack electricity.

It was then that Barker decided to design and build the Sunspring, which incorporates GE’s technology, but runs on solar power. “It’s probably 96 percent assembled when you get it,” he says. “From crate to making water takes about two hours.” Surplus electricity can even be used to charge a mobile phone…

Barker’s company, Innovative Water Technologies, has deployed about 20 Sunsprings in Haiti. He says they should last 10 years and can purify up to 5,000 gallons of water a day, at a cost as low as $.0013 per gallon.
“It’s one of the most cost-effective water treatment systems in the world,” he says.

Here’s a A Q&A with Jack Barker on Solar Powered Water Purification from R&D Magazine.

More water treatment coverage here.

Colorado College State of the Rockies Project releases ‘Conservation in the West’ survey: Westerners favor environmental protection

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Here’s the release from the State of the Rockies Project:

Majority of Western Voters Believe Environmental Protections, Strong Economy Can Co-Exist

First-ever “Conservation in the West Survey” measures voters’ environmental attitudes in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — A new bi-partisan poll of inter-mountain West voters shows that a strong majority (77 percent) believe that environmental standards and a strong economy can co- exist. The findings, from the first-ever “Conservation in the West Survey,” reveal differences and many points of agreement among voters on issues such as conservation, regulations, renewable energy and other environmental issues.

The poll, conducted by Lori Weigel at Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz at Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), measured environmental attitudes of 2,200 voters in the five Western states January 23-27, 2011. The survey is being released by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, which, for the past eight years, has worked to increase public understanding of vital issues affecting the Rockies through annual report cards, free events, discussions and other activities.

“This research underscores an interesting and important trend in these five states,” said Walt Hecox, Ph.D., professor at Colorado College and director of the State of the Rockies Project. “While there are differences of opinion on a range of issues, there are true common values shared between each state, including a commitment to protect the important natural resources that make this region so unique.”

“Particularly interesting is the emergence of renewable energy sources – such as solar and wind power – as a much more attractive option over traditional fossil fuels,” added Hecox. (According to the results, voters indicate more positive impressions of solar and wind power as energy sources than they do for coal or oil.) “Voters see renewable energy as producing jobs, and they have ambitious goals for using more of these sources to supply their states’ overall energy needs.”

[Click here for] some of the key findings. To view the executive summary or entire report, please visit:

More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

Conducted by both a Republican and Democratic polling firm and produced for the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, the “Conservation in the West” survey found that voters thought the average percentage of their state’s electricity coming from renewable resources should be about 65 percent.

Generally expressing more positive impressions of solar and wind power than coal or oil (with the exception of Wyoming residents), 77 percent of all those surveyed felt environmental standards and a strong economy can co-exist. And 65 percent said they disagree that renewable energy is “too unreliable to be a significant part of our energy supply.”

And a majority of voters in all five states (70 percent), which also included New Mexico, Montana and Utah, said it’s “time to start replacing coal with other energy sources like wind and solar power.”

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The “Conservation in the West” survey, commissioned by Colorado College and released this morning, also found that two thirds of voters believe current laws protecting air, land and water should be strengthened or better enforced. Even when offered an economic rationale for relaxing environmental standards, 77 percent of voters surveyed said standards that apply to major industries must be maintained. Only 18 percent favored relaxing standards in an effort to boost the economy and generate jobs. The survey indicates most voters consider environmental protection and a strong economy to be compatible goals.

A majority in every state where voters were surveyed – Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – said they favor replacing coal with other energy sources such as wind and solar power. And 54 percent indicated they’d be willing to pay at least ten dollars more per month to increase the use of renewable energy to generate electricity in their state.

Conservation front and center for Donala Water and Sanitation District — Xeriscape Expo February 26

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Lisa Collacott):

In an effort to help its customers switch to xeriscape gardening and landscaping Donala has hired Susan McLean, a professional horticulturist and designer, as conservation manager. McLean’s plans are to take Donala customers from the existing irrigation rationing program to a xeriscape design. In doing so, she will offer training and assistance. “We are really trying to encourage water conservation,” McLean said. “Xeriscape is an excellent way to save water.”

She said there is enough water now but Donala is looking toward the future. As a kickoff to the new program, the company is having a Xeriscape Expo Feb. 26 at Antelope Trails Elementary School. There will be presentations on xeriscape, displays of water-wise gardening resources, efficient irrigation and lawn care, and door prizes…

Another project in the works is the Donala Gardens, a xeriscape demonstration garden on Gleneagle Drive. The garden, which will start at the Gleneagle subdivision sign and extend to the shopping center, will give customers ideas for putting their own xeriscape garden together. “You can have a fabulous garden on very little water,” McLean said. “You can really make a big difference with xeriscape.”

The Xeriscape Expo is free and intended for Donala customers, but everyone is welcome to attend. It will be from 1-3 p.m. on Feb. 26.

More conservation coverage here.

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District hires Edwin Winton as their new director

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From the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District via the Pagosa Daily Post:

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors are pleased to announce the hiring of Mr. Edwin (Ed) Winton to fill the position of District Manager. Mr. Winton was selected from a group of four well qualified finalists. His career history includes extensive experience not only in the water/wastewater utility field, but also in management. He will be relocating from Topeka, Kansas, and is expected to assume his new post with PAWSD on approximately March 14, 2011.

The PAWSD Board believes Mr. Winton will be a positive addition to our staff, the District and the community we serve. We look forward to his arrival.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.

Grand County files for a Recreational In Channel Diversion right on the Upper Colorado River

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Appropriated on Dec. 21, the 2010 water rights, if realized, may give Grand County traction with future water cases affecting the Fraser and Colorado Rivers, according to county officials. A recreational in-channel diversion allows for a call in a certain place and time for the benefit of “boating, rafting, kayaking, tubing, floating, canoeing, paddling, and all other non-motorized recreational uses” as “part of (the county’s) ongoing effort to improve water-based recreational and economic opportunities for its citizens and the general public,” states the water rights application. The “byproduct” would be allowing Grand County to be “in the conversation” when it comes to decisions about future river uses, according to Grand County Commissioner James Newberry…

Objectors to the Division 5 conditional water rights filing in Garfield County’s 9th Judicial District Court, Glenwood Springs, have until the end of February to oppose the application. Town boards and rights holders from Kremmling to Winter Park are considering opposing the filing as a means to join the case to ensure their water interests are protected — in some cases, a position of objection could be viewed as “friendly opposition,” and in others, genuine opposition…

Grand County’s application for conditional rights names a Hot Sulphur Springs Whitewater Park in Pioneer Park near the town, with no rights at flows above 900 cubic feet per second (cfs), and a Gore Canyon Whitewater Park in two locations, one above and one below Pumphouse recreation area west of Kremmling, with no rights at flows above 2,500 cfs. One or more of these sites could be the source of calls for recreation water in the river from the headwaters of the Colorado and in the length of the Fraser River…

The county’s 2010 water right would be junior to existing rights and may only influence future development and diversions on the river, [Grand County Commissioner Gary Bumgarner] said.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: The Colorado Department of Wildlife agrees to look at water projects

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From the Summit County Citizen’s Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The five-year program was announced a few weeks after State Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) proposed a bill that would have diverted revenue from hunting and fishing licenses to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The wildlife agency now says it will work with Becker to explore opportunities that will first and foremost benefit wildlife and wildlife recreation, but will also help other entities and individuals who depend on water resources in the state.

“In the face of budget issues that are creating challenges throughout state government, it is especially challenging to plan for increasing water demand while protecting natural resources over the long term,” Department of Natural Resources director Mike King said. “There is a lot of overlap between healthy wildlife habitat and what sportsmen and agricultural communities need. We welcome the opportunity to combine these goals and find ways to make limited state funding go further.”

“We have several critical water development needs, such as repairing the dam at Beaver Reservoir to allow us to store water again,” said Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington. ”We also have some great opportunities, such as reaching a storage agreement with Rio Grande Reservoir operators to store Division of Wildlife water critical to our needs in the San Luis Valley.”

More coverage from The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

The bill’s [HB 11-1150] problem, and Becker`s too, was that diverting the money from DOW would have cost the agency $200 million over the next 10 years in federal funds. That money, according to DOW, funds hunter and aquatic education, sportfish and wildlife restoration, and boating access. Lisa Dale of DOW told this reporter that the money represents 25 percent of the division`s annual funding. Losing it “would have touched everything we do,” she said. And that put Becker on the radar for hunters and fishermen and women, and not in a good way, and as a result HB 1150 faced a probable defeat on Monday. Instead, Becker got a little help from Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and the cooperation of a new Citizen`s Wildlife Advisory Council that Sonnenberg heads. Sonnenberg told this reporter that he made sure the “right people were in the right room at the right time” to hammer out the issues, and eventually, the agreement.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Water and the Niobrara oil play in northern Colorado

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Weld County companies involved in supplying, delivering, treating and recycling water are among many benefiting from the economic boom rippling from the billions of oil and gas dollars being invested in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming to find and extract oil and gas from the Niobrara shale.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Rio Grande Basin Roundtable meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

…local officials pointed to the rehabilitation of local reservoirs as an important step in getting more water for basin users. The state has imposed storage restrictions on six of them, including Continental, Terrace and Sanchez reservoirs. The latter three each have storage capacities of over 10,000 acre feet.

But getting funding for reservoirs that need repair and are owned by private irrigation companies is a tricky proposition. “Its out of the realm for the ag users,” said Travis Smith, who sits on both the statewide roundtable and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The most likely source of infrastructure funds would be the federal government…

Greg Johnson, a water resource planning specialist for the conservation board, said the desire to avoid having to deal with the [National Environmental Policy Act] was an important reason for the increase in agricultural transfers on the Front Range over the last two decades. He added that repairing the state’s reservoirs so they can store at full capacity ranks first among already-identified projects that could help the state meet its shortfall. He cited a recent media report that such repairs could result in nearly one million acre-feet of additional water. The board also called for more work to be done on the analysis of the valley’s nonconsumptive needs, such as the water required to maintain fisheries.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Southern Delivery System update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The final review of the proposed excess capacity contracts for the Southern Delivery System is now open, Reclamation announced today. Reclamation will be accepting written comments on the proposed final version of the contracts through Monday, April 25, 2011.

The excess capacity contracts were publicly negotiated between Reclamation and the SDS Participants.

To receive a copy of the draft contracts or to provide written comments, contact Carmen Boggs via mail, fax, or e-mail:

Bureau of Reclamation
11056 West CR18E
Loveland, CO 80537
(fax) 970-663-3212

SDS is a water delivery project designed to provide the communities of Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Fountain and Security a reliable way to deliver water. The system consists of 62 miles of pipeline, a water treatment plant, three water pump stations, and two reservoirs. The project is scheduled to deliver water to these communities in 2016.

The draft contracts are available at

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

As part of SDS, however, each community will store water in excess-capacity accounts in Lake Pueblo beginning this year. Lake Pueblo was built as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, authorized by Congress in 1962. Non-project water can be stored in most years. During negotiations last year, a rate of $36 per acre-foot was negotiated, with an increase of 1.79 percent annually over the 40-year life of the contract. Participants have spent the last few months deciding the timing of storage and other minor details. For the first seven years of storage, the bills will be reduced by a total of $6 million in recognition of oversizing the initial quarter-mile of pipeline from Pueblo Dam to the Juniper Pump Station. Once that section of pipeline is completed, it will be deeded to Reclamation. Consequently, payments through 2017 will total about $760,000. Payments from the four communities will total more than $1.25 million in 2018, and will increase each year by terms of the contract and as more water is stored…

Construction on the North Outlet Works will begin in May. ASI Constructors of Pueblo West is the lead contractor. The first section of pipeline will be 7 miles through Pueblo West, beginning in July. The pipe will be 5-feet in diameter, buried in a 12-foot deep trench. The total construction easement will be about 100 feet wide, with a permanent 50-foot easement. The Pueblo County north section of the line, mostly through 7 miles of Walker Ranches, will begin in September. The line from Pueblo Dam will begin in October. Construction on the Juniper Pump Station will begin by October 2013, Fredell said.

Meanwhile, rancher Gary Walker is concerned that Colorado Springs Utilities is bullying landowners along the SDS route, including Walker, who still holds out hope of keeping the pipeline away from his family’s holdings. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado Springs officials said there have been discussions with Walker about moving cattle and conducting revegetation tests along the route of the Fountain Valley Conduit, another buried water line that cuts across Walker Ranches. They said the tests are being conducted on Walker’s recommendation by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program at Colorado State University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “There have been delays to getting on the property,” [Project Manager Keith Riley] said, adding that the delays have been on Walker’s end. “At a meeting yesterday, he showed excitement to get going.”

From Walker’s point of view, it’s more like agitation than excitement. He said he wants the revegetation tests done if he loses his bid to keep SDS off his property. He wants Colorado Springs to pay the costs of relocating his cattle to a nearby location, and he bristles at an offer by Colorado Springs to move them to a site owned by Utilities several miles away during construction. “The purchase of the land is just a small part of this transaction,” Walker said, when told about the meeting. “They are liars. They have never tried to meet with me on doing what needs to be done to protect the environment and Walker Ranches.” Some delays with the test plots have occurred because of weather or the availability of Colorado Springs contractors, Walker said. “We never allow them to enter if it’s muddy or snow-covered,” he said. “We’ve had several meetings and they’ve been productive.” Walker said he wants Colorado Springs to pay for moving the cattle to his Turkey Creek Ranch during construction because it would be less expensive than relocating operations to another site. “There’s $1 million worth of cattle out there,” Walker said. “That’s our livelihood.” Walker also objects to the route of the pipeline. The existing Fountain Valley Conduit jogs to the west after entering Walker Ranches, while the SDS route cuts straight across the land, crossing several deep arroyos. “The route is the wrong way to go,” Walker said. “It’s going to be causing problems for the rest of my lifetime and for the rest of Colorado Springs’ lifetime. If they had followed the old route, there probably wouldn’t have been a problem.”

Pueblo County is looking closely at appraisals done on behalf of Colorado Springs Utilities and the Southern Delivery System pipeline, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“There’s a moral obligation to treat people in Pueblo County the same as in El Paso County,” Commissioner Anthony Nunez told officials for the Southern Delivery System during an update of commitments Colorado Springs agreed to under a 1041 land-use permit. “If you’re willing to pay more in El Paso County, why can’t Pueblo County be treated the same?” Nunez said the project largely benefits El Paso County, so the values in Pueblo County should be on a par all along the line. Instead, Colorado Springs is offering more in many El Paso County cases. Easements or purchases are needed along the route of a buried pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs.

Nunez’s comments came after County Attorney Dan Kogovsek asked SDS Project Director John Fredell about how property values were determined. “When you say you’ve offered 30 cents a square foot, is it one size fits all?” Kogovsek asked, adding that homeowners who live on the property would have to live with construction impacts. “Your contracts on the El Paso County, are they 30 cents a square foot?”

Some El Paso County contracts have been for more money, because comparable property sales in that area are higher. Sales in the immediate area were used, Fredell replied. He also defended the 30 cents per square foot offer, saying real estate professionals hired by Colorado Springs used actual sales data. Utilities has also worked with property owners who had fences, buildings, trees or pets on the lots by increasing the amount offered.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

‘The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future’ education sessions today, March 10 and March 24

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The public education sessions will begin today. Who has the right to use the water flowing in the Poudre River? Why is the Poudre streamflow so variable? What are the projections for how much more water will be needed in the future and where will that water come from? What is the role of storage in meeting future water needs? Questions like these will be the subject of three upcoming water education sessions offered free to the public as part of “The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future.”

The three education sessions will take place today, March 10 and March 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Larimer County Courthouse Office Building, 200 W. Oak St. Today’s session will cover Colorado water law, sources and uses of local water, and how our water is managed and regulated.

The second session will cover current and future water needs, as well as Poudre River stream flow and water quality. The third session will cover the topics of water supply, basinwide planning and address the question, “Where will our future water come from?”

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here.

Colorado River basin: Is there a supply crisis coming?

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Here’s a guest column about the Colorado River Basin and future supplies, written by Douglas Kenney that is running in The Denver Post. From the column:

First, the bad news — the Colorado is indeed in trouble. In the first phase of our new report, Rethinking the Future of the Colorado River, the Colorado River Governance Initiative studied long-term trends in Colorado River flows, and the amount of water being withdrawn for human use. Our work shows that even under normal conditions, river flows have been just barely sufficient to meet human needs. In other words, the river’s much-publicized recent troubles — like Lake Mead dropping to low levels not seen since the 1960s — can’t be entirely blamed on the recent string of dry years. Rather, they are the result of steady increases in the amount of water humans are taking from the river. Even if the basin were to suddenly return to historically normal conditions, the prospect of looming water shortages would not go away. To make matters worse, the basin will probably not return to the wetter conditions we have come to think of as “normal.” Although climate models can be maddeningly uncertain, in the Colorado basin they display a rare degree of unanimity: a recent review shows that 18 of 19 models predict the region will get drier in the coming decades, perhaps decreasing river flows by 10 percent to 30 percent by 2060…

Fortunately, momentum is building for a better approach. A growing body of studies is both documenting the current predicament and beginning to assess a range of possible solutions. To be politically viable, any such solutions must not require altering the core provisions of the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which most parties consider inviolate. But what is viable is the concept of using those provisions as a foundation upon which to build new agreements that more effectively achieve the original goals of the Compact. The states have a history of doing just that. Just three years ago, for example, they negotiated the 2007 Colorado River Accord, which established new rules to improve river management under dry conditions. It’s a notable start, although not enough to constitute a long-term solution to the river’s woes.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar, was at the Center for American Progress this morning and touched on the problems surrounding the Colorado River. Here’s a report from Karoun Demirjian writing for the Las Vegas Sun. From the article:

In comments he delivered at a symposium hosted by the progressive Center for American Progress Thursday morning, Salazar said the worsening situation with the Colorado River — where the water level has dropped about 20 percent in the last decade — is serving as a powerful wake-up call to conservatives to do something about climate change.

“The seven states … are a bastion of conservatism. They recognize … that the…supplies of the Colorado River are directly related to the changing of the climate,” Salazar said. “You further reduce that by 20 percent, what’s that going to mean for the cities of Los Angeles and Las Vegas?”

“They get it,” Salazar continued. “And so what they’re saying to us is ‘we support, understand, the changes climate change is going to bring to our communities and our states, and we want to get ahead of it.’ ”[…]

But Salazar’s suppositions aside, it doesn’t seem like mounting concern for the fate of the Colorado River has been translating into a rush of proactive moves when it comes to combating climate change. In fact, earlier this month, two of the region’s most powerful Republican senators, Orrin Hatch of Utah and John Barrasso of Wyoming, introduced legislation to limit President Obama’s ability to take steps to combat global warming. The measure is intended to prevent federal agencies from introducing carbon-dioxide emissions limits without authorization from Congress, and according to a press release, “prevent any legal action from being taken against greenhouse gas emitters for their contribution to climate change.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Pueblo County ‘Clean Energy Park’ update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Strescino):

Today, [Don Banner] will present his case in front of the Pueblo Area Council of Governments at noon at the Pueblo County Conference Room, 1001 N. Santa Fe Ave.

The planning commission votes came at the end of an almost seven-hour meeting that ended just before midnight. A passionate but respectful crowd of at least 100 people attended the meeting, many staying until the end. Following the meeting Banner said the commission decision, which also adopted recommendations from the planning staff, was simply a move in the right direction. He pointed out the county recommendation states that spent nuclear fuel must be moved off the power-plant property — which conflicts with federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules that require spent fuel must be stored on site. “(The recommendation) is a killer,” Banner said. “But now it’s on to the county commissioners.”[…]

Banner asked the planning commission to approve two requests. The first was to change the zoning of the proposed 24,000-acre site south of Grape Road and east of Huerfano Road from agricultural to a planned unit development. The other request, the one under fire from many opponents Tuesday, was to fast-track the process of county approval. Banner wants the county to waive many fees and procedures. He also asked the county not to duplicate hearings the NRC will conduct. Banner said the federal regulatory process is rigorous and many of the public hearings that they will hold would duplicate local meetings…

In his Clean Energy Park idea, Banner has formed Puebloans For Energizing Our Community, a limited liability company. Banner told the commission that he plans to have solar, wind and geothermal producers on the huge site, just a fraction of which would be taken up by the nuclear plant. Banner said the first phase of his project, if approved by the county commissioners, would last two years. In that time, his LLC would identify developers, certify the land (which he already has contracted for) and find suitable water rights, which he says are there with the Welton Ditch and two wells on the property. “I may not find anyone,” Banner said. “We need a $5 billion to $8 billion investment. The second thing (which the NRC would investigate) would be if the land is suitable.”

The water used for a nuclear plant is one-tenth of what is needed for Xcel Energy’s new Comanche plant, he said…

“This would have more impact on the Pueblo economy than the steel mill did in 1900,” he said. Much of Banner’s presentation focused on the safety of nuclear plants, and the fact that France and other nations obtain much of their energy from nuclear plants. And the United States has more stringent safety rules than any other nation…

Fourteen people spoke in support of Banner’s plan, including a wildlife biologist who worked near a plant in Georgia, a couple of retirees from the nuclear field with advanced degrees, a labor representative, local business people and a CSU-Pueblo marketing professor. They echoed and amplified Banner’s contentions, but did not seem to be coached or unified in their testimonials.

More coverage from Peter Strescino writing for The Pueblo Chieftain

A sampling of the highlights of some of the 15 responders to Don Banner’s long presentation in hopes of getting a nuclear power plant:

Carolyn Herzberger, who helped formulate the county’s regional development plan, took issue to Banner wishing to change the zoning of 2,400 acres south of Grape Road and east of Huerfano Road. In response to a Banner contention, she said, “Nuclear power is not safe, not clean, not cheap.” Herzberger also read headlines disputing Banner’s claim of plant safety, and said in 2008 alone, there were 51 supported problems at plants in the United States…

Roy Wiley, an organic farmer and member of a longtime farming family, doubted Banner could find enough water, and said the site will be a, “nuclear waste dump. Period.”

Janet Johnson said a plant would place a stigma on the county, and recounted growing up in a family that worked in uranium mines near Grand Junction. Many in her family did not live to see their mid-50s. “If there’s an accident here, Mr. Banner and his investors will not pay because federal law protects them,” she said. She said Cotter Corp. in Canon City has escaped paying for its pollution of the area. “The people around Rocky Flats were collateral damage of the Cold War and the people of Canon City are collateral damage of the energy industry.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update

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Colorado Springs Utilities and some 13 property owners in Pueblo West are still dealing with respect to easements for the Southern Delivery System. Not everyone is happy with the situation, including the Pueblo County Commissioners. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Commissioners on Feb. 8 wrote a letter to SDS project Director John Fredell that pointed to conditions in the 1041 land-use permit requiring Colorado Springs to pay for a second appraisal if any landowner disagrees with the SDS appraisal. Colorado Springs is expected to discuss issues raised in the letter at the commissioners meeting at 9 a.m. today, said John Cordova, Pueblo County Commission chairman…

On Tuesday, Fredell told Colorado Springs City Council that Utilities had agreed to pay for second appraisals in any case, but Maxwell made a point of bringing up the letter from commissioners. Council members indicated they had copies of the letter as well. All three of the property owners spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting and said Colorado Springs had offered to pay for new appraisals only in the past few days, telling them that up until that time they were told the option wasn’t available…

Commissioners indicated Colorado Springs may not be in compliance with the land acquisition portion of the [1041 permit from Pueblo County]. In his reply to commissioners, Fredell said all of the concerns brought up by commissioners have been addressed. In the case of the action that already was filed, he said Utilities has tried for more than a year to contact the heirs of the deceased landowner…

This is the second time in recent months commissioners have contacted Colorado Springs about 1041 issues. In December, the commissioners asked Colorado Springs to pay almost $150,000 in legal fees for a Pueblo West lawsuit against the county over SDS issues. Colorado Springs declined to pay.

More coverage from Daniel Chaćon writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

A reluctant City Council authorized the use of eminent domain Tuesday to acquire 15 property easements in Pueblo West that Colorado Springs Utilities needs to build the 62-mile Southern Delivery System water pipeline. The council voted 7-1 to move forward with condemnation proceedings but instructed the city-owned utility to continue to negotiate with property owners until after appraisals on their land have been completed…

Despite a month of phone calls, letters and two group meetings with property owners to try to reach agreement, including an explanation on how the offers were developed, Utilities officials said the two sides were at an impasse. “We need to move forward,” Fredell said. “There has to be a point where we decide we can’t reach agreement.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: A look at the current state of the uranium industry in western Colorado

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Here’s an in-depth look at the proposed Piñon Ridge mill and George Glasier a long-time uranium industry worker, rancher and the owner of Energy Fuels, from Penny Stine writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Uranium prices began climbing in 2000. By 2005, Glasier decided to jump back into the uranium business and formed Energy Fuels, naming the new company after the old one as a tribute to the reputation of the former company and its founder, Bob Adams. Several members of the former Energy Fuels Nuclear Company joined the new Energy Fuels, including the current Chief Executive Officer Steven Antony, and Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Vigil. “I started the company for my own benefit, but also for the benefit of the community,” Glasier said. “I see the community dying, our schools are shrinking. We had 80 graduates when uranium was booming. Last year there were 12 or 13. Our community needs to survive.”[…]

Many locals support the mill, anticipating more jobs, higher wages and more services. Others, especially those with ties to the Telluride tourism industry, are opposed. “The White Mesa Mill is about the same distance from Telluride,” Glasier said. “It’s been there 30 years; it hasn’t done anything to air quality.”

In addressing concerns from organic producers in the area, Glasier notes that there are large certified organic farms near the decommissioned Cotter uranium mill near Cañon City. The Cotter mill didn’t ruin local agriculture by proximity. At this point, those who oppose the mill could file suit. Gary Steele, vice-president of Energy Fuels, says it won’t deter the company from pursuing financing to build the mill. “We’re highly confident in the process we went through,” said Steele, “the due diligence, the issues raised by CDPHE and the answers we gave.”

The company hopes to start construction of the mill within the next year.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Colorado steps up investigation of hydraulic fracturing

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From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees drilling, asked the [U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce] for the Colorado data [from their recent investigation]. “The committee said that for confidentiality reasons they could not share it,” said Dave Neslin, the commission director…

The commission has asked the 12 field-service companies that do “fracking” and the principal oil and gas companies in the state for the information. Neslin said the industry is cooperating. “We support the review because the oil-and-gas industry works and plays in the same communities where we operate, so protecting groundwater is important to us,” said Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a trade group…

The commission also decided Tuesday to have an independent agency — the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations — audit the state’s regulations on fracking.

More coverage from Mark Jaffe writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Tracy Dahl, who owns a home in the North Fork Ranch subdivision in Las Animas County, was seeking a judgment from the commission against Pioneer Natural Resources for fouling his well. Dahl’s case centered on the fact that his well filled with sediment last June 30 — the same day Pioneer fracked its Alibi well about 1,300 feet away…

Peter Gintautus, a commission environmental specialist, inspected the Dahl property July 1, took samples and returned for additional samples. There were no traces of fracking fluid or natural gas in the well, Gintautus said. And the well’s turbidity and bacterial counts were within the acceptable standards, he said. Gintautus told the commission that some of the problems may have been caused by a chlorination treatment Dahl had done to the well a few weeks earlier. Kevin Tanner, a Pioneer engineer, testified that the distance from the fracture zone to Dahl’s well was 1,283 feet and that a frac on average extends 150 to 200 feet horizontally and about 30 feet vertically. The process would have lost pressure if it had gone farther or hit a natural fracture, he said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

[Colorado Springs City Council] voted 7-1 to proceed with eminent domain, believing Utilities staff has exhausted all other avenues to solve the problem. Even at that, Mayor Lionel Rivera questioned Project Director John Fredell after it was revealed that Colorado Springs could spend up to $5,000 to help settle disputes of easement payments as low as $1,550. “There has to be flexibility in the real estate manual,” Rivera said. “You, the project director, can use your discretion.”

Fredell earlier explained that 120 of 133 properties or easements in Pueblo West are under contract, with new settlements on Monday with 2 of the 15 holdouts. All of the remaining properties are for easements valued at $1,550-$5,000. While Utilities will continue to work with the remaining 13, Fredell said they appear to have reached a dead end. There has already been one condemnation filed, approved at a meeting last October. “I believe we’ve reached a point where we cannot agree on compensation with the remaining properties,” Fredell said.

More coverage of the city council meeting, and the opposition to SDS, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Councilman Tom Gallagher, who has been at odds with the rest of council for years over SDS, took the opportunity to call SDS, “The greatest boondoggle that’s ever been conceived by this community.” At one point Gallagher, who is running for mayor in the April election, called SDS Project Director John Fredell to task for not including options to locate the pipeline in a less disruptive manner during the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement that evaluated the project. Fredell started to defend the EIS process, which determined the ultimate route of the pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, when Gallagher cut him off. “This is a case of you deciding where you wanted it to go,” Gallagher said.

Dwain Maxwell, a property owner in Pueblo West whose Kirkwood Drive property is likely to be condemned for an SDS easement, goaded council by saying they were in a hurry to wrap up land deals quickly because the makeup of the council could change dramatically in the April elections. There are nine candidates for a new position of strong mayor and 22 candidates for seven open council seats. “I know you’re trying to get this done before the first of April,” Maxwell said…

[Sean Paige] later said Colorado Springs has gone out of its way to make accommodations on all parts of SDS. The first phase of the project will cost $880 million, including more than $133 million in concessions during the Pueblo County 1041 process. Scheduled for completion in 2016, the project will cost ratepayers $2.3 billion over the next 40 years in financing.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Pueblo County planning commission approves two measures for proposed nuclear power plant

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Colorado is a past, present and future source of uranium. Developer Dan Banner hopes that the state will become a bigger consumer of the fuel to generate electricity. Here’s a report from Peter Strescino writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

After a passionate almost seven-hour meeting which included an executive session, the commission lodged identical 5-3 votes to change a 24,000 acre site south of Grape Road and east of Huerfano Road from agrucultural zoning to that of a planned unit development and give developer Don Banner some leeway in variances and waivers for the initial part of the process. The commissioners will hear Banner’s plans on March 15. He will make a presentation to the Pueblo Area Council of Governments on Thursday. Before a packed house at the Pueblo County Conference Room, Banner laid plans to find a developer for a “clean energy park,” he said will include solar, wind and geothermal energy producing outlets as well as a nuclear plant.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Purgatoire River cleanup April 30

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From The Trinidad Times (Steve Block):

The designer of the river enhancement project is FIN-UP Habitat Consultants, of Manitou Springs, and the project is titled “Trinidad/Purgatoire River Reach 4 Demonstration Project.” The design process is unique in that it doesn’t use much water. The design utilizes existing water during low-flow periods and accentuates the water available during the irrigation season. Lackey said bringing off a project of this size is difficult during tough economic times but said the partnership that has been put together has managed to fund the project with no public funding. The river reclamation project is estimated to cost between $120,000 to $150,000.

“That’s a very big deal for us. The partnership has been with the Purgatoire River Conservancy District, which actually owns the water. The dam up there was built in the 1970s to irrigate the farmland east of town. They have committed $90,000, and that’s a lot of money. Then Pioneer Natural Resources got on board. They are a big contributor to the county and to its economy, and they are also very interested in this river project because it reflects on their stewardship of the watersheds west of town and east. Pioneer has come to the table with $40,000. So at this point we have acquired enough funding and in-kind services to complete the project from I-25 all the way to North Commercial Street and a little bit east. That’s an exciting start. Comcast has been on board with us since the second year with the river cleanup and they have been a big part of that. Trout Unlimited, without their contacts and the people who were visited, this probably would not have happened. The Trinidad Community Foundation has also been very important.” Other partners include Purgatoire Valley Construction, MFS Forestry, Colorado State Forest Services, the Soil and Conservation Services, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and, most importantly, the citizens of Trinidad.

April 30 marks the fifth annual river cleanup. Last year 232 volunteers helped with the cleanup, and this year Lackey said he hopes for 250 or more volunteers. “It’s a fun thing to do for everybody involved. Bring the kids. They can learn about some of the river ecology, pick up a lot of trash, and learn a little bit about what it’s going to take care of a jewel that Trinidad has never really abused, it has just never used. It’s going to be a great addition to the downtown area. So, we’ll see everybody on April 30 with their irrigation boots on and a trash bag, and we’ll ‘git ’er done’”

More Purgatoire River watershed coverage here and here.

Water Availability Task Force Meeting recap

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Here are the notes from the meeting last Wednesday (via Ben Wade at the CWCB). Here’s an excerpt:

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 58% of the state is now experiencing D0, D1 or D2 status, which represents abnormally dry, drought moderate and drought severe conditions respectively. The drought conditions that have covered the eastern plains of the state throughout the fall have continued to deteriorate with D0, D1 and D2 covering much of Colorado east of the divide. A small portion of Huerfano County has recently experienced moisture that has brought some relief from the D2 conditions. However this region is still experiencing D1 conditions.

Don’t forget to donate to the ‘Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund’

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From the Colorado Watershed Assembly:

Formerly the Colorado Watershed Protection Fund, the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund is financed by the Colorado checkoff program which provides tax payers the opportunity to contribute a portion of their tax return or to make a donation to assist locally-based conservation groups in their efforts to protect our land and water resources.

– Since the establishment of the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund in 2003, over 95,000 citizens donated more than $720,000 from their tax returns to fund 50 local water enhancement projects in Colorado.

– The Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund has granted funding to 50 projects statewide.

– Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund grant projects contribute to cleaner water, healthier wildlife habitat, and improved recreation throughout the State.

– The Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund has contributed to the restoration of stream channels in the South Platte, Arkansas, Colorado, Gunnison, Rio Grande, and San Juan River Basins.

– Projects funded by the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund are matched with an average of $7 for every $1 donated.

– The money donated to the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund is spent on projects that improve water quality and habitat for fish and other aquatic species.

More CWCB coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: State Representative Becker asks the House agriculture committee to bury HB 11-1150

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From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels):

The Fort Morgan Republican [Jon Becker] asked the House agriculture committee to kill his proposal involving water storage and Colorado Division of Wildlife fees, saying it wasn’t needed because the parties involved had reached a compromise…

Becker said he has no regrets running the bill because it got sportsmen, wildlife officials, farmers, water groups and others to the table. He credited Mike King, director of the Department of Natural Resources, for helping pull together a compromise. Becker would kill his bill and the Division of Wildlife would spend $6 million over five years for water projects. “This agreement will help DOW to pay for water projects that not only help wildlife but have a secondary benefit for agriculture, cities and municipalities,” Becker told the committee Monday. “I feel that this agreement is going to be much more beneficial than pursuing legislation that may have pitted groups against each other.”

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: Two Rivers Water Co. hires Gary Barber

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two Rivers Water Co. has hired Gary Barber, a figure in many key Arkansas River basin water issues, as its president and chief operating officer. Barber, a real estate and water broker from Colorado Springs, has been working for Two Rivers as its water rights consultant since July, said John McKowen, chairman and CEO of the company. “I’m excited,” Barber said. “The thing that makes it work for me is that we have a chance to restore some of the historic agriculture in the valley, it’s a good place to start.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The stated goal of the Two Rivers Water Co. is to bring about 20,000 acres back into production by acquiring and consolidating water rights along the Huerfano and Cucharas rivers. The project also envisions developing solar energy on part of the land it owns in Pueblo County. Two Rivers has purchased two reservoirs and thousands of acres of farm land for the project…

In November, the Colorado Water Conservation Board approved Two Rivers’ application for a $9.9 million loan toward rehabilitation of Cucharas Dam. The dam, 10 miles northeast of Walsenburg, eventually will be rebuilt just downstream on the Cucharas River. This spring, the existing earthen dam will be repaired to meet state dam safety standards in a $240,000 project. The construction of the concrete dam downstream of the earthen dam will be a $30 million project, and will begin this fall, [John McKowen, Two River chairman and CEO] said. The dam will store water from other sources in Huerfano County, including other rights that are purchased and potentially produced water from natural gas production.

Two Rivers also has purchased more than 90 percent of the Huerfano-Cucharas Irrigation Co., which once irrigated 40,000 acres in southern Pueblo County. Tests last year showed irrigated corn production still is viable on the land and McKowen is looking at higher value vegetable crops if markets can be found. “We tried several irrigation methods, but the dryland wheat did not work. Any farming will be irrigated,” McKowen said. “We plan to expand to 20,000 acres over time, and we’ve been able to obtain financing to do that. As we acquire the water resources, we plan to apply it and to consolidate the water assets.”

Recently, Two Rivers completed the $3.1 million purchase of a second reservoir in Huerfano County, Orlando Reservoir, 10 miles north of Walsenburg. The reservoir once was used to irrigate 1,000 acres of land in Huerfano County, but like Cucharas is in bad shape.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Colorado Agricultural Preservation Association annual meeting recap

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Agricultural Preservation Association (Bethleen McCall). Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado Agriculture Preservation Association (CAPA) hosted their annual meeting…Thursday evening, February 2, 2011 at the Burlington Scout Center. Approximately seventy members of the public were present. The meeting started off with a panel that included the Colorado State Engineer Dick Wolfe, Peter Ampe First Assistant Attorney General, Alex Davis Assistant Director for Water DNR, Mike Sullivan Deputy State Engineer, Dave Keeler Republican River Basin Water Commissioner, Dennis Coryell President of the RRWCD and Dave Robbins.

Alex Davis provided a brief history of the ownership and leases that effect Bonny Reservoir and then went on to explain that federal funding for projects across the state are tied to those leases. She explained that the State has been working to change the leases to assist the State of Colorado with Compact Compliance and that they had submitted a proposal to amend the contract. They were recently notified that their proposal was accepted however there is a Public Process that is required prior to the completion of the amendment. There will be a meeting on March 7th to fulfill that requirement. The State will be issuing notice of that meeting in the coming weeks. She also explained that the Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks have formed a joint commission to create an action plan of how to manage the Bonny area after the amendment is complete. The area will still be available for public access however they are not sure what that will consist of yet. They will also be required to have some water in the reservoir for flow though purposes. Another concern that came up was the estimated 50,000 waterfowl that stop in the Bonny Reservoir during their migration each year. Davis then went on to say how much she appreciated the work that the CAPA board has been doing on behalf of its members and said that through the complex issues of compact compliance the board is thoughtful and sees the larger picture.

La Niña update

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From Climate Central (Andrew Freedman):

La Niña conditions, which have played a key role in influencing recent winter weather in the U.S. and other parts of the world, are beginning to wane, and will likely be gone by early to mid-summer, according to the latest outlook from forecasters at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). La Niña is a natural climate phenomenon that is characterized by cooler than average waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Like its sibling El Niño, La Niña influences global weather patterns by altering air pressure and predominant winds over the Pacific, which have ripple effects — known to meteorologists as “teleconnections” — in far flung locations. It can make certain conditions — such as drought in the American Southwest — more likely to take place, while lessening the odds of other outcomes.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Hydraulic fracturing meeting recap

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From the Denver (Michele Melio):

The keynote speaker at the event was Wes Wilson, an Environmental Protection Agency whistle blower, who brought to light the dangers of hydraulic fracturing fluids (called fracking) to the public found in our air and water in 2004.

Phil Doe, a board member of Be the Change USA, introduced Wilson and stated that Wilson’s background included years of experience as a geological engineer, water resource manager, worked for the EPA for many years, served in the Vietnam War, and during the Bush administration became a whistle blower due to the “misinformation” from the oil and gas industry. Wilson was also involved in the two documentaries on this subject called Split Estate and this year’s Oscar nominated film Gasland.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Sterling Ranch update

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From The Denver Post (Drew Beckwith):

The residential portion of Sterling Ranch will be designed to use an average of 0.22 acre-feet of water per unit per year, or about 71,500 gallons — even though Sterling Ranch has agreed to bring additional water for the first phase of development. This low-use target has proved feasible at several residential developments across the West and is less than a third of the county’s current planning standard. Using readily available technology, Sterling Ranch will be able to meet this target without requiring residents to modify their normal behavior.

There is an array of practices that can be used to conserve water in new developments, many of which are exemplified in Sterling Ranch’s proposal. Indoors, all new homes will be built with water-efficient appliances and fixtures, such as low-flow showerheads and high-efficiency toilets. Outdoors, small yards will be planted with water-wise, drought-tolerant vegetation and watered with efficient irrigation systems.

Across the development, homes will be clustered in villages with parks and open spaces providing ample recreation opportunities. Homeowners will be charged for their water using a conservation-oriented rate structure, the most powerful water-conservation tool. In addition, ongoing reporting of water use will enable the tracking of water-conservation savings and adjustment of management practices as new technologies become available.

More conservation coverage here. More Sterling Ranch coverage here.

Twilight for Bonny Reservoir?

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The state agencies will hold the meeting at the Burlington Community and Education Center, located at 340 S. 14th Street, on March 7 at 6 p.m. Future management of Bonny will also be discussed at a joint meeting of the Colorado State Parks Board and the Colorado Wildlife Commission on March 10 in Denver at the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Hunter Education Building at 6060 Broadway in Denver.

Over the past several years, the amount of water available for storage in Bonny has decreased significantly. At the same time, Republican River compact obligations and other pressures require Colorado to reconsider recreation and reservoir management. Based on current and expected conditions, state officials anticipate that Bonny will shift from an actively managed flat water reservoir to a more passively managed State Wildlife Area with a much smaller or non-existent reservoir.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Colorado Farm Bureau legislative update

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From The Pulse-of Colorado Farm Bureau:

HB 1068 – Rep. Fischer’s “State Engineer to approve Ag water transfers” bill was killed in the House Ag Committee by the Sponsor’s request as the controversy around how this would be handled has increased and there was an agreement for a task force to further look into and study the options for doing long term transfers via administrative approval. – CFB supportive

More 2011 Colorado legislation here.

Animas-La Plata Project: Reclamation says that Colorado is on the hook for $36.5 million

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

As a starting point for negotiations, the federal agency says the state owes $36.5 million for its share of water – 10,460 acre-feet. The bureau attributes $28 million to construction and almost $8.5 million to interest through Sept. 10. Members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will negotiate for the state. Former Gov. Bill Ritter in June 2010 signed House Bill 1250 that authorized the state to spend $36 million on A-LP.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Chaffee County League of Women Voters meeting recap

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From The Chaffee County Times (Kathy Davis):

During the meeting at the Sangre De Cristo Electric Association community meeting room, Colorado Division of Water Resources and state water engineer Kevin Rein spoke about the effects of Colorado water law on the development of geothermal energy. Bureau of Land Management geologist Melissa Smeins spoke about the process of obtaining a lease of federal or public land and the permit processes.

Rein, who is the water administrator for surface water or geothermal water, said, “Geothermal energy is energy that is extracted from the natural heat of the earth.” On a map of Colorado he pointed out what he described as a “hot spot” for geothermal energy in Chaffee County, Mount Princeton Hot Springs. “It is the best spot for geothermal potential,” he said. Interest in the development of geothermal energy includes the possibility of development of a power plant for electricity, Rein said. Thirty-five test wells have been drilled and Cyprus Amax, the former owner of the Climax mine, did most of these several years ago. “A geothermal power plant for electricity would have no mining fossil fuels and no boiler and no transportation,” Rein said. In answer to a question about whether or not the process cools the resource, Rein said it is not known exactly much it would cool the resource. “Some have been operating for a long time and the resource is not affected. We have to look at it case by case,” he said.

Geothermal energy also could be a direct use such as heating greenhouses or hot springs pools. Other potential areas for geothermal energy development are Poncha Hot Springs near Poncha Springs and Waunita Hot Springs near Doyleville.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1150 sponsor agrees to pull bill if new Department of Natural Resources agreement to fund water projects is adopted

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

DOW announced Thursday that it would put at least $6 million into a five-year plan for water storage projects that will primarily benefit wildlife purposes. The water projects under the agreement target 17 dams statewide that need repairs and improvements, including Two Buttes, in southeastern Colorado; and Beaver Park Reservoir in Boulder County. DNR spokesman Todd Hartman said Thursday that three dams need millions of dollars in restoration work; five others require funding of at least $500,000 each, and the last nine will need about $300,000 each. The five-year plan will be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for review, according to DNR officials. Water projects can be pursued by the division “so long as they have the primary purpose of protecting wildlife,” the division said in a Thursday statement, but those projects can have other benefits, such as water supply for irrigation and other agricultural needs. “I believe any water project that saves or increases our water storage is good for all of Colorado,” Becker said Thursday. It’s not the first time DOW has put money into water projects; the division has spent about $2 million on fish and wildlife water projects in the last five years, and owns 104 dams. But under the agreement, water projects will become a higher priority for the division, according to Sonnenberg.

DNR Executive Director Mike King and Becker unveiled the agreement Thursday morning to a gathering of sports and wildlife enthusiasts who were at the capitol for “Sportsmen’s Day,” and the announcement got a positive reception from the group. Becker said he was happy to get the water projects funded through agreement rather than through legislation. It’s an agreement that will be “beneficial to everyone,” he said, one that will keep everyone at the table talking.

That’s also one of the purposes of the Citizen’s Wildlife Advisory Council, which Sonnenberg said was started to resolve the often-adversarial relationship between the sportsmen community and landowners. The 23-member group includes Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Adams County, who chairs the legislative sportsmen’s caucus at the capitol.

More HB 11-1150 coverage here. More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Native drops out of lawsuit against Reclamation over Aurora’s use of Fryingpan-Arkansas facilities to move water out of basin

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Arkansas Valley Native has dropped out of a federal lawsuit over federal authority to allow Aurora to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas River basin. Arkansas Native, a group led by Pueblo Chieftain Publisher and Editor Bob Rawlings, filed a motion to dismiss its complaint in a lawsuit brought by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District against the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Pueblo: Arkansas River levee repairs update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Repairs are needed in the channel downstream of the West Fourth Street bridge because flows were altered by construction of kayak course gates in Pueblo Whitewater Park. That caused the potential for washing out the base of the concrete levee on the north side of the Arkansas River. “The good news is that the tow of the levee has not been denigrated,” said Gus Sandstrom, president of the Pueblo Conservancy District, which is responsible for inspection, repairs and maintenance of the levee. “That will help us in getting the levees certified (by the Federal Emergency Management Agency).” The current project also will allow the district to install drains that will make future repairs less of a challenge. Voids of up to 3 feet deep have developed behind parts of the concrete facing, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still determining whether to replace or simply reinforce the facing with grout.

The concrete initially was poured in the 1920s and has become a canvas of whimsical paintings over the years.

Workers have constructed a temporary bridge across the river to reach the areas that need to be repaired. Originally, the plan had been to divert water along the river with a small levee at several gates. Now efforts will be concentrated on smaller sections in the most critical areas using coffer dams.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.