Colorado River basin: Eric Kuhn profile

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Here’s a profile of Colorado River District general manager, Eric Kuhn, from Dennis Webb writing for Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

For someone who has spent 30 years involved with water issues himself, Kuhn’s pres ent career was something of a fluke. Previously employed as a nuclear engineer for Bechtel Power Corp. in California, he had gone to meet a fellow employee to drive to a nuclear power plant and started leafing through a Wall Street Journal while waiting outside the coworker’s office. There he saw an advertisement for assistant secretary engineer at the river district. He decided to apply, and got the job.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Gunnison River basin: The High Country Citizen’s Alliance files lawsuit over Mt. Emmons mine plans

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From the Associated Press via Bloomberg Businessweek:

The High Country Citizens’ Alliance filed a lawsuit in Denver last week over work planned at Mount Emmons. It says Colorado mining officials should have required U.S. Energy Corp. to post a large enough bond to cover water treatment costs from its proposed work before approving the company’s plans.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Energy Fuels, Inc. scores their license for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

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From Reuters (Keith Coffman):

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued a radioactive materials license to Toronto-based Energy Fuels Inc (EFR.TO) allowing the company to process up to 500 tons of uranium ore per day at the site in western Colorado.

The agency gave the project initial approval in January. But the Sheep Mountain Alliance, an environmental coalition in Telluride, Colorado, then sued the state, claiming Colorado regulators failed to follow federal and state law in permitting the mill. The group has asked a Denver judge to revoke the license, and the state has filed a motion seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. A judge has yet to rule in the case.

More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Energy Fuels Corp., the Canadian company that hopes to build the mill near Naturita, had until Friday to seek an appeal of the preliminary license. The company sought no appeal, so the license became final today, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said. The license includes a several conditions regarding construction, operations and maintenance.

From the Montrose Daily Press:

The license was issued because Energy Fuels did not request a formal hearing on the state’s decision analysis, though it can request such a hearing under the Colorado Administrative Procedures Act. The mill would be the first built in the nation in about 25 years, and many West End residents have spoken in favor of the operation, as well as the jobs it is projected to bring.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

CWCB: Next Water Availability Task Force meeting March 17

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From email from the CWCB (Ben Wade):

The meeting is scheduled from 9:30-11:45am at the Colorado Division of Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO, in the Bighorn Room. [Here’s the link to the WATF/FTF web page. Please note that the Colorado State Forest Service will provide an important update on wildfire conditions in the state.

More CWCB coverage here.

Snowpack/precipitation news

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Snowpack in the Arkansas River basin increased during February, to 108 percent of average by March 1 compared to 103 percent Feb. 1. The monthly Basin Outlook Report by the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported mountain precipitation in February rebounded to monthly totals of 124 percent of average – enough to maintain above-average March 1 snowpack during four of the last five years…

Based upon current snowpack measurements, the report predicts above-average to well-above-average runoff for headwater tributaries of the Arkansas River. Southern tributaries, however, will likely experience below-average stream flow. Highest April-September flow volume in the basin is expected in Chalk Creek at Nathrop, where flow may reach 141 percent of average. Reservoir storage in the basin is about 90 percent of average or 58,000 acre-feet below normal for this time of year…

Colorado statewide snowpack by March 1 was 115 percent of average making it the highest March 1 percentage since 2008. Statewide totals are at 131 percent of last year’s statewide readings. Statewide, water year precipitation is now at 118 percent of average, and the South Platte basin is reporting the highest water year percentage in the state at 130-percent of average.

From the Arizona Daily Star (Tony Davis):

if the current numbers hold up, the feds will have enough water to release some extra from Lake Powell to Lake Mead, thereby forestalling shortages on the Central Arizona Project for a few years. Without good runoff, the first shortage could occur as soon as 2012 or 2013.

Locally, however, Tucson’s drought seems worse than ever. We’ve reaped only 1.17 inch of rain since Oct. 1 — the start of the unofficial “water year” used by forecasters — compared to a norm of 4.78 inches.

Aspinall Unit operations update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center has released the March 1st Blue Mesa Reservoir April through July inflow forecast in the amount of 800,000 af. The March Colorado River Basin 24 Month-Study Model is calling for increased releases during March and April to provide capacity in Blue Mesa to accommodate this runoff.

Reclamation will be holding off on this release increase in order to allow time for the City of Delta to complete work in the Gunnison River at the wastewater treatment plant. The completion of this work is anticipated to occur within two weeks, at which time the mid-month forecast will have been provided. This will give us a better idea of required increases.

The Black Canyon Water Right 24 hour peak flow target for an April through July forecasted runoff of 800,000 af is 6,369 cfs. Reclamation plans to continue to operate the Aspinall Unit with the intent of allowing this flow target to be met.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Longmont: Water rights and the Beckwith Ditch

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From The Longmont Times Call (Scott Rochat):

Tuesday marks a century and a half since the beginning of the Beckwith Ditch, the oldest water rights that Longmont owns. In fact, the rights are so old, they predate the city, which wasn’t founded until 1871. It’s not a dramatic spot — just a couple of miles near Golden Ponds that eventually drains into Left Hand Creek. Its water volume is steady but not prodigious — enough to fill one of those ponds given a four-day head start. But it’s the age that matters. Only two other rights on that stretch of the St. Vrain are older. And since Colorado water law is first-come, first-served, that means a steady 14 CFS (cubic feet per second) even in the most drought-ridden of summers…

The Beckwith Ditch, by contrast, had its start with the pre-Longmont homesteaders. More precisely, it had its start with the gold hunters interested in Clear Creek and James Creek — and those who decided there was surer money to be had in selling food and feed to the prospectors…

The city itself didn’t actually own the Beckwith Ditch until 1965, when it acquired a majority of the ditch’s shares. (Today, it holds 83 percent ownership.) This was part of a new policy focus — to acquire the water rights for any area it annexed, partly as a buffer against bad times. The Beckwith, which had started out as a source purely for agricultural supply, would help provide residential water as well.

More St. Vrain Creek coverage here and here.