South Platte River basin: Greeley city council green-lights easement acquisition for pipeline route in LaPorte

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Last week, the Greeley City Council gave its water department permission to pursue construction and access easements for the pipeline along a disputed route from Shields Street west to the city’s water treatment plant in Bellvue. The council previously had given authorization for easements and the use of eminent domain, if necessary, to acquire them. But city officials wanted to revisit the issue given changes in plans for installing the pipeline and requirements for easements, said Jon Monson, water and sewer director for Greeley. The go-ahead from the council means Greeley officials soon will send offers to affected property owners and begin negotiations on temporary and permanent easements, he said.

But some property owners along the route and local residents say they will continue to fight the project, which they say would be overly disruptive to the land. “I’m not sure what we will do,” said Rose Brinks, whose property sits west of Overland Trail and south of the river. “We’re getting people from Bellvue involved and hopefully bringing some new energy to this over concerns about the environment and the impact this would have on wildlife habitat.”

The route around LaPorte is known as the Northern Segment of a 30-mile project that would carry water from the Bellvue plant to Greeley.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

South Platte River basin: The manager of the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority counters allegations in recent Denver Post article

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Gary Atkin has penned a rebuttal to The Denver Post’s investigation of the ACWWA’s deal for South Platte water. From the article:

The contracts were discussed in ACWWA board meetings, which are open to the public, and the minutes are posted online. The “Water System Investment Fee” of $26.50 per month, first added to customer bills in 2010, was discussed in public meetings for months, and appears in the bond documents. ACWWA also had three open houses for citizens to discuss the project. The idea that this was sprung on customers is false.

The deal has all the elements to make it work: a sufficient quantity of long-term renewable water; the ability to collect and deliver treated, potable water to ACWWA; and the ability to negotiate a suitable price.

The transaction has all those elements, including water voluntarily sold by farmers being delivered to a well field near Brighton, being treated to drinking water standards and moved down a massive pipeline along E-470. The water will be integrated into ACWWA’s system.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

El Paso County: Upper Black Squirrel alluvial aquifer study will be the subject of a public meeting April 25

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

The results of a study of water quality will be outlined at a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 25, in the Falcon High School Cafeteria/Commons area, 10255 Lambert Road. The main target of the study was the alluvial (shallow) aquifer of the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Basin, which spreads out over a vast area northeast and east of the city. General information and handouts on groundwater use and quality will be available at the meeting. A formal presentation will be made from 6 to 6:30 p.m., followed by a question-answer period.

More groundwater coverage here.

Snowpack news: Snowpack as a percent of average is declining in southern mountains

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From the Leadville Herald-Democrat:

The April 1 surveys show statewide snowpack is 113 percent of average, and is 28 percent above the state’s readings of one year ago. Although these statistics show a slight decline from last month, they continue the trend of above-average totals measured throughout the winter of 2011…

For those river basins with their source in the northern mountains, including the Colorado, Yampa, White and South Platte Rivers, this year’s April 1 snowpack is the highest since back in 1996. At 135 percent of average, the North Platte River Basin had the highest basinwide total in the state. These totals are the highest for April 1 since the computation of basinwide totals began in 1968.

Meanwhile, the latest readings show snowpack conditions across the southern mountains continued to decline for the third consecutive month. Percentages have now declined to the lowest readings of the year and are consistently below average in the Rio Grande and combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins. In striking contrast to the snowpack readings across northern Colorado, some smaller tributary basins in the Rio Grande Basin have dropped to nearly 50 percent of average.

Conservation: The Mesa Land Trust adds 115 acres of orchard land to their ‘Fruitlands Forever Initiative’

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

“We feel for our children, and our children’s children, we really don’t want this valley to be totally without fruit farms,” Guy Parker said. “We feel the ability to grow food in western Colorado is too important to leave to chance, or the economy.”

The Parkers joined three other family farms in conserving 115 acres of peach and wine grape producing lands, as part of the Land Trust’s Fruitlands Forever Initiative, which seeks to conserve a critical mass of farmland sufficient to support fruit growing into the future. The families sold their development rights, but retain ownership and may continue to live on and farm the land. They can even sell the property, although it can never be subdivided or developed.

Sons of longtime farmer Harry Talbott agreed to conserve their 37-acre Riverview Vineyard which sits atop a Colorado River bluff, and which buffers the Tillie Bishop Wildlife Area. Talbott was one of the original founders in 1980 of the Mesa County Land Conservancy, whose name later changed to Mesa Land Trust. “We were first in the United States to conserve agricultural land,” Talbott said.

Meanwhile the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust has completed a conservation easement for the Soward Ranch near the headwaters. Here’s a report from Toni Steffens-Steward writing for The Mineral County Miner. From the article:

The first easement of 580 acres on the land was through the Wetland Preserve Program and set aside much of the “moving water” on the ranch. Then they started to look at a way to preserve at least some of the lakes. After a great deal of planning and negotiations, they now have 268 acres under a conservation easement with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust.

The project was made possible through funding through Great Outdoors Colorado, the Gates Family Foundation, The Brown Family Foundation and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and a donation from the Soward Ranch, LLC.

More conservation easements coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: The perpetual fuel of the future is an, ‘interesting and high potential area’

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

“All of the major companies are doing oil shale because they think it’s an interesting and high-potential area, but they’re not in a hurry to make it productive,” said Jeremy Boak, director of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research (COSTAR) at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. COSTAR’s research is described on its website as “industry-driven and science-guided.”

“With [oil] prices going back up through the roof again,” Boak said, “[companies have] an awful lot of things to spend their money on and some of them more near-term than oil shale. The big budgets tend to move toward things that are a little closer in.”

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Two Aspen city councillors as well as the mayor are looking for a more stringent environmental review for the proposed Castle Creek generation plant

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From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

At least two Aspen City Council members have voiced support for the municipal government to withdraw its application to the federal government for a conduit exemption on the proposed Castle/Maroon creek hydroplant. Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland is instead proposing the city seek a license for a “small hydro facility of 5 megawatts or less,” which is a separate designation offered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and would require a more stringent environmental review, Ireland said.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.