Aspen: The city’s Environmental Health Department staff is gearing up to promote tap water as an alternative to bottled water

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From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail):

In a recent memorandum to the council, [Ashley Cantrell, a city environmental health specialist] wrote that the complete elimination of bottled water “is neither an achievable nor a manageable goal at this time.” But a campaign to promote and market Aspen tap water is doable, depending on costs, most council members agreed during Tuesday’s meeting. “Rather than target bottled water as a negative thing, we want to promote Aspen tap water as a positive thing,” Cantrell told council members.

More water treatment coverage here.

Lake Mead news: Reclamation projects another 9 foot rise in water levels even with the summer’s projected draw down

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From The Wall Street Journal (Jim Carlton):

The fierce winter did bring some good news. The vast lake [Lake Mead] is rising for only the second time since the Southwest entered a debilitating drought 12 years ago. The water is 14 feet higher so far, and is projected to rise about nine feet more from the spring’s snowmelt by the end of the current water year in September. That takes into account the expected drawdown…

Lake Mead’s water level now stands at 1,096 feet, near its lowest point since the reservoir began filling in the 1930s and 110 feet below when the drought began in 1999, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The lake last rose in 2005. Already, that low level has forced the bureau to cut power from the lake’s Hoover Dam by 20%.

Colorado River basin: Flaming Gorge pipeline update — Million needs billions

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million announced plans to pursue the project five years ago, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is evaluating his proposal in an environmental impact statement. Last year, the Corps said it could take until 2018 to reach a decision, although Million remains confident he can move the timetable up. About one year ago, the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water General Manager Frank Yeager, announced its own study of the feasibility of the project. Communities with a combined population of more than 500,000 are participating in that group.

Shortly after the announcement, Drew Peternell of Colorado Trout Unlimited, published an article claiming the cost of water from Million’s project was too much for anyone but growing urban areas to afford, and suggested sticking in the fork.

Not long after that, Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable floated the idea of a state task force on either Flaming Gorge idea, modeled after the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force. Within the next few months, the Colorado Water Conservation Board had approved a $40,000 grant to determine whether the task force should be formed. A report is expected in June…

Million was encouraged earlier this month when one of his consultants, former State Engineer Jeris Danielson, asked Gov. John Hickenlooper about the potential for private-public partnerships to develop water projects in the state. Hickenlooper, speaking at the first State Roundtable Summit, said all options need to be considered. “I think Governor Hickenlooper understands the private-public model of cooperation better than many in state government,” Million said. Million’s plan includes setting aside some of the water, whether directly or through return flows, to serve agriculture and fill environmental needs in Colorado. But even if every drop went to cities, he sees the project as beneficial because it relieves the pressure on other water rights in Colorado. “What’s the issue? Do we continue to let water flow down the Colorado River while we dry up farms in Eastern Colorado?” Million said.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Project coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1289 (Water Supply Structure Historic Register)

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

A bill moving briskly through the Legislature could make it more difficult for those old water supply structures to be included in either the Colorado Register of Historic Properties or the National Register of Historic Places. House Bill 1289, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Adams County, would require the consent of everyone with a property or water rights interest in a water supply structure for it to be considered for inclusion in the state or national register.

If any one of possibly many property owners objects, the structure would be ineligible for historic recognition by History Colorado, formerly the Colorado Historical Society, the state’s administrator of the National Register of Historic Places. “The fear was if someone needed to upgrade a diversion or a headgate, if it was on the historic list, then you have to go through extra paperwork or time and may not be able to get that done in a timely manner if you need to fix it,” Sonnenberg said.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado River basin: Are transmountain diversions degrading the Upper Colorado River riparian habitat?

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

“We do a lot of guiding on the Fraser and Colorado rivers, and even before this we’ve lost a lot of insects. The green drakes on the Fraser are completely gone, a whole insect class that’s just disappeared,” said Ehlert, owner of Winter Park Fly Fisher and a 20-year guide with Grand County Fishing Company. “The other one was the salmonfly hatch on the Colorado. We still have them below Kremmling. But we used to get them on the river above Kremmling and now they are completely gone.” Ehlert believes he knows the culprit behind the mystery, and he’s not alone in pointing his finger squarely at trans-mountain water diversions he believes are sucking the life out of the Fraser River and Colorado headwaters. Shallow rivers and rising water temperatures have pushed the ecosystem to the brink, he said. “We’re fighting right now just to keep the water we have in the river, but I personally think we’re not being aggressive enough. We need to get the water back that’s gone,” he said. “If we lose any more, I think the whole system is going to crash. It may be too late now. Once the insects and food are gone, the fish are going to follow.”

Concerns over the health of the entire Upper Colorado River drainage have been magnified in recent months by proposals from Denver Water and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to annually draw an additional 45,000 acre feet from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers through the Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project. If approved, the water that would otherwise make its way into the Upper Colorado will instead be diverted across the Divide primarily for residential use among multiple municipalities along the Front Range from Greeley to Denver.

As part of the proposal, the water districts are expected to submit both a Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plan and an Enhancement Plan to the Colorado Wildlife Commission at the April 7 workshop in Meeker. While the required FWMP addresses expected future impacts from the two projects, the optional enhancement plans are designed to address past and ongoing impacts to the river suffering the combined effects of development, agriculture, sediment loading, whirling disease and diversions, among others. The formal presentation of the plan starts a 60-day clock in which the Wildlife Commission will determine its official recommendation for or against the projects to the state.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs HB 11-1083 (Hydroelectricity and pumped hydro)

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Under HB1083, the Public Utilities Commission can authorize hydro projects and allow rates to be adjusted to recover the costs of the projects, similar to other renewable energy sources like wind and solar…

Concessions to environmental groups that worried about the impact on aquatic life and others who were concerned about its impact on downstream water users paved the way for the bill’s popularity. “When we started out, I was scratching my head wondering how we were going to get this passed. We were butting our heads against a wall,” said sponsor Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West. “We backed up, just started communicating with the people that had concerns, and then it came on board.”

The bill passed through two committees, the Senate and the House twice without a vote against it. Experts testified that hydro is an economical way — except for the hefty up-front investment — to store and generate energy in order to fill gaps in wind and solar generation, and that up to six sites throughout the state have been identified as suitable sites for hydroelectric plants.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here. More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Pro-renewable energy anti-nuclear rally Friday in Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

Opponents of a proposed nuclear power plant in Pueblo County are planning a rally Friday on the steps of the Pueblo County Courthouse, beginning at 4 p.m. A list of speakers has signed up for the event, but organizers describe it more as an “open microphone” rally where the public can voice its opinion on the proposal from local attorney Don Banner to rezone about 24,000 acres in the eastern county for an energy park, including a site for a nuclear power plant. “We’re trying to be positive about alternative energy, not just anti-nuke,” explained Suzanne Morgan, one of the organizers of Pueblo for Safe Energy, the group that has sprung up to oppose any approval of a nuclear power plant here.

More nuclear coverage here and here.