IBCC Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program draft report available online

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From email from the IBCC:

The draft report on the Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program is now available on the CWCB homepage http://cwcb.state.co.us/Pages/CWCBHome.aspx. This draft report provides an overview of the CWCB’s program and projects geared towards the advancement of alternative agricultural water transfer methods.

The CWCB appreciates public input on the draft report and will accept comments through Friday, April 15, 2011. Submit comments to Todd Doherty or call 303-866-3441 x3210.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: The FRAC act is back — S. 587 (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act)

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, both Colorado Democrats, have once again introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act) to regain federal regulatory authority over the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

DeGette and Polis unsuccessfully ran the legislation last session, seeking to close the so-called “Halliburton Loophole” named for the oil and gas services company previously headed up by former Vice President Dick Cheney. It was during the Bush-Cheney administration in 2005 that Congress granted hydraulic fracturing an exemption from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Here’s the GovTrack page for the bill.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

CWCB: March 17 Water Availability Task Force presentations available online

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From email from the CWCB (Ben Wade):

All of the presentations from the meeting can be found on the CWCB website. If you have any questions regarding the drought update, please email Veva Deheza.

The next scheduled meeting for the Water Availability Task Force is April 14, 2011 at the Colorado Division of Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO.

More CWCB coverage here.

The Stockholm Water Institute: American Environmental Scientist — Stephen R. Carpenter — Named the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate

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Here’s the announcement from the Stockholm Water Institute.

Thanks to Loretta Lohman for the link.

Energy policy — nuclear: Japan’s disaster sinks uranium futures

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The disaster shook the world’s uranium market the same week that Energy Fuels Inc. was wrapping up a financing deal for its proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill, between Naturita and Paradox, said Gary Steele, the company’s vice president for corporate marketing. “I’ve had better weeks than the last one, believe me,” Steele said. Tuesday’s weekly spot price of uranium fell to $60 per pound, according to UxC Consulting, a company that tracks global uranium prices. That’s down $6.50 from a week earlier and $12 from the end of January…

Already, China and Germany have announced moratoriums on new nuclear plants, and U.S. congressmen like Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey are calling for the same thing here. Italy will hold a national referendum on building more nuclear plants in June. Reaction to the disaster has played havoc with Energy Fuels and other uranium companies, which mostly are headquartered in Canada. “It is sell now, ask questions later for the uranium market,” Canada’s Financial Post said Tuesday.

Energy Fuels wrapped up its plan Thursday to sell $10 million in shares of the company. The price was dependent on market conditions at the time, and Energy Fuels stock had dropped to 41.5 cents per share at Thursday’s close on the Toronto stock exchange, down from 87 cents the day before the earthquake.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs SB 11-021 (Term Limits Water Facility Operators Boards)

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From the Longmont Times:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today signed Black Hawk Democratic Sen. Jeanne Nicholson’s Senate Bill 21, removing term limits for people serving on the state’s Water and Wastewater Facility Operators Certification Board. Previously, members of that panel had been capped at serving two consecutive four-year terms.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: What is the future of nuclear power generation in Colorado?

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall has long been a proponent of launching a nuclear power renaissance in the United States to combat the climate change impacts of carbon-spewing fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, which currently dominate as the nation’s preferred and cheapest methods of generating electricity. Nuclear, largely on hold in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island incident in Pennsylvania in 1979, still produces 20 percent of the nation’s electrical power. Udall would not directly address [Pueblo Attorney Don Banner’s] nuclear power plant concept in Pueblo, but the Democratic senator did say the earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant should serve as a serious wake-up call for the nation’s new-found nuclear ambitions. “The tragedy in Japan should give us all pause,” Udall told the Colorado Independent this week. “It’s a reminder of how important it is to ensure we proceed carefully and cautiously on nuclear energy, especially regarding spent fuel storage. We need to review our own nuclear facilities and future plans to ensure we’re prepared not only for disaster, but also to deal with the waste.”

Spent nuclear fuel rods stored onsite at Fukushima Daiichi have exacerbated the crisis and hampered response efforts, and the New York Times this week reported similar waste-storage situations exist at many of the 104 nuclear reactors currently operating in the United States. Efforts to establish a national repository for spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain in Nevada have been derailed by politics.

Mr. Williams reporting got him a recent gig on Rocky Mountain PBS show Colorado State of Mind.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1286 (Clarify State Engineer Nontributary Rule Authority) passes the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee

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From The Colorado Statesman (Marianne Goodland):

The state is made up of groundwater basins, designed by the Colorado Ground Water Commission. Nontributary groundwater is located outside those basins, and is defined as places where water withdrawal, within 100 years, will not “deplete the flow of a natural stream at an annual rate greater than one-tenth of one percent” per year. It is water that is so deep and isolated from surface water that the impact of its withdrawal would be minimal.

More importantly, nontributary groundwater is not subject to the doctrine of prior appropriation. That’s a fundamental concept within Colorado water law, and in its simplest form says whomever was there first gets the water right. According to the HB 1286 fiscal note, nontributary groundwater “is based on ownership of the overlying land and a 100-year aquifer life expectancy.”

According to [State Engineer Dick Wolfe’s] presentation, a domestic water well generally drills down to about 300 feet. An oil or gas well may need to drill down by 3,000 feet or more, and in Southwestern Colorado, they’re drilling for coal bed methane at levels up to 7,000 feet deep. When an oil or gas well is drilled, it results in “produced water.” That’s water that is removed from a geologic formation during the extraction process of mining for oil or gas. Once the water reaches the surface it must be separated from the mineral. If the state engineer determines that groundwater is coming from a tributary source, then the oil and gas company must get a water permit. No permit is needed if the water comes from a nontributary source.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Lake Pueblo master storage contract update

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Here’s an in-depth look at what it’s going to take to get a contract in place, including an environmental impact statement, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

The EIS will study the cumulative impacts of storing non-project water in Fry-Ark reservoirs, which could total close to 100,000 acre-feet in the next 50 years. A 2006 Reclamation study determined there is about 130,000 acre-feet of storage space available annually. Current contracts account for about 50,000 acre-feet of storage annually, and Southern Delivery System contracts now under final review would amount to 40,000 acre-feet. Security, Fountain and Pueblo West are in both the SDS and Arkansas Valley Conduit contract processes. Many other current users who rely on one-year contracts are in the Southeastern’s master contract proposal.

Thursday’s meeting was primarily about the cost of the EIS to each participant, and there was some wrangling about how some participants had reduced the amount requested, thus increasing bills for smaller districts…

Joe Kelley, La Junta water superintendent, asked if communities could expect to see as much or more of the water they signed up for in determining their share of the EIS cost. [Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District general manager Jim Broderick] and [Southeastern attorney Lee Miller] said the numbers used for the EIS are most likely a minimum that communities can expect to receive if they participate in the later phases of building and operating the conduit. Some communities may drop out, and the final decision will be made by future Southeastern boards. “We have spent four to five years in this process to determine use,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern board. “It’s not likely that the board would make changes.”

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

Under operating guidelines, an estimated 12,800 acre-feet of water would have to be released from the dam beginning April 15 to maintain flood storage capacity in the reservoir. But the Corps has agreed to allow 25,000 acre-feet of the flood control pool to be used to store water until May 1, and 12,500 acre-feet until May 15, said Roy Vaughan, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. “Unless something unusual happens, we shouldn’t have to release anyone’s water,” Vaughan told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

Here’s a look at the Arkansas Valley’s winter water program from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The winter water program was first envisioned in the 1930s, and began after completion of Pueblo Dam in 1975. It was formalized in a Water Court decree in 1987. It allows irrigators to store water from Nov. 15 to March 15. “One of the multiple purposes of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project was to store . . . irrigation water for summer use,” attorney Alix Joseph told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The southeastern district oversees the operation of the program, which benefits most of the major ditches between Pueblo and John Martin Reservoir, as well as the Amity Canal. The glaring exception is the Rocky Ford Ditch, which is now almost largely owned and controlled by Aurora. Rocky Ford always had the opportunity to join the winter water program, but Aurora’s decrees have changed how it uses the water.

The use of winter water, or Fry-Ark water, is frequently referenced in Water Court applications, which is always a red flag for southeastern district lawyers. When water changes from agricultural to urban uses, the accounting becomes complicated. “Any decree that uses winter water for purposes other than agriculture cannot store in Pueblo Reservoir,” Joseph said. That provision relates to the repayment of the Fry-Ark Project.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Snowpack news: The snowpack as a percent of average is declining across the state with the southern basins leading the way

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Arkansas River basin snowpack slipped below average for the first time this season, while snowpack throughout the state declined slightly. Dry conditions continued to worsen in the Rio Grande basin as well, according to measurements by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Statewide, snowpack is 111 percent of average, about 10 percent less than it has been most of the year. The Arkansas River basin is a mixed bag of snow conditions, listed at 91 percent of average, but not as bleak as the numbers would appear. “We’ve seen no appreciable increase in snowpack since the second week of March,” said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor, of the Arkansas River basin conditions. “Dry periods right near the peak of snowpack are not good. A wet trend is needed to get back to average, and one good storm could do that.”[…]

Near the Arkansas River headwaters above 10,000 feet in elevation, snowpack has already surpassed the average peak, which usually occurs in mid-April or early May. The readings are running 114-132 percent of average. In the headwaters of tributaries lower in the basin — the Purgatoire, Apishapa and Huerfano rivers — readings are only 20-80 percent of average.

It’s part of the continuing La Nina weather pattern — cooling in the Pacific Ocean — that keeps sending storms through the northern part of the state, missing the southern mountains…

The bright spot is that reservoir storage remains high and imports from the Western Slope are expected to be above average. “We’ll have enough space to store the water we bring over,” said Roy Vaughn, Bureau of Reclamation manager for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Over the next week, Reclamation will cut back its releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo to make room for an expected 70,000 acre-feet of imports. The water is brought in from the Hunter-Fryingpan watershed in the Upper Colorado River, where snowpack remains well above average. On average, about 54,000 acre-feet is imported.