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.
“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.
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.
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.
The company signed a 40-year contract with the Pueblo Board of Water Works last year that would provide enough water for up to seven units at the new plant, located northwest of Pueblo Memorial Airport, said Terry Book, deputy executive director for the water board. The contract is structured so that Black Hills pays for the water it expects to use each year at current rates for treated water. It also pays a fee for readiness to serve on the balance of water up to 2,500 acre-feet…
The new plant is scheduled to come on line by the end of this year, when a lease to purchase electricity from Xcel’s Comanche plant expires. “Black Hills is able to take water now, and will be able to make basic runs by the end of the year,” Book said. Under the contract, Black Hills is expected to pay up to $1 million annually to the Pueblo water board for delivery of water.