‘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Colorado River Governance Initiative studied long-term trends in Colorado River flows, and the amount of water being withdrawn for human use.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.