Energy policy — nuclear: Many eyes are on the proposed electrical generation plant in Pueblo County

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From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

But here’s the hitch, one that Banner freely concedes: There is no money, developer, committed transmission line or customer for the nuclear power plant. What Banner has is an option on the land and a plan, already approved by the county planning commission, to give him sweeping rezoning and development ability. “I don’t know if this is going to work,” Banner said. “It is a new approach. I’m just saying let’s give it a try.”[…]

“Politically this is a tough call because it is going to split the community right down the middle,” said Ross Vincent, chairman of the Sangre de Cristo Group of the Sierra Club…

Banner makes no promises. If the plan is approved, he said he’ll sound out the NRC and U.S. Department of Energy. “If they don’t like it,” Banner said, “I’m not going to pursue it.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Public Scoping Begins on Proposed Hydropower Project at Ridgway Dam

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it will hold a public scoping meeting to provide information and answer questions about a proposed hydropower project at Ridgway Dam in Ouray County, Colo. The project, proposed by the Tri-County Water Conservancy District, would generate electricity using the existing water releases from Ridgway Dam throughout the year.

Ridgway Dam is a feature of the Dallas Creek Project, which is a federal Reclamation project designed to provide irrigation and drinking water to Montrose, Delta, and Ouray counties in western Colorado.

The public meeting will be on April 26, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. at the 4H Event Center located at 22739 Highway 550 in Ridgway.

Reclamation is also seeking comments for preparation of a draft environmental assessment on the proposed project. Comments can include: questions or concerns you have with the proposal; significant issues to be addressed; and any information or data that could help in review of the proposal. Comments can be provided at the meeting or submitted by May 27, 2011 by email or mail to Steve McCall at smccall@usbr.gov or Bureau of Reclamation, 2764 Compass Drive, Suite 106, Grand Junction, CO 81506.

Meanwhile Orchard City is weighing their options with low head hydroelectric generation. Here’s a report from Hank Lohmeyer writing for the Delta County Independent. From the article:

Town administrator David Varley reported during a trustee work session last week that an engineer would begin assessing the project sometime soon…There is a lot of hope for low-head hydro generating projects now because of government grant money available for them.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here. More Uncompahgre River watershed coverage here and here.

Aspinall Unit update: Reclamation plans to open the East Portal Road today

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Ted Dunn):

Reclamation’s Curecanti Field Office announced today that the East Portal Road located east of Montrose is open after being closed for the winter months. The road, beginning at the junction with State Highway 347, provides access to the Gunnison River within the Curecanti National Recreation Area, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Crystal Dam. The East Portal Road will remain open throughout the summer and fall until snow, ice, or rockslides make it unsafe for travel.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

The Colorado Supreme Court upholds water court decision that prevents the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District from diverting water from Morrison Creek

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From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

The district had been looking to firm up its water supply by finding an alternative source to the Yampa River and proposed diverting of water from Morrison Creek. This was met with opposition from the people who owned the land where the diversion equipment and infrastructure would be located. The water court sided with the opposed parties and “found the district’s existing water rights associated with Stagecoach Reservoir to be adequate to meet its reasonably foreseeable demand for water.” The district appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling.

[Steamboat Springs lawyer and Upper Yampa director Tom Sharp] is concerned that because of the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2-year-old lawsuit, the district could potentially have a hard time obtaining additional water rights to help fulfill water contracts it has with customers.

The original lawsuit, heard in water court by District Chief Judge Michael O’Hara, was brought by landowners in the south Yampa Valley and supported by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the state engineer for Water Division 6. “My clients are pleased the Supreme Court affirmed Judge O’Hara’s finding that the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District had no legitimate need for the water that is claimed in this case,” Denver lawyer Barney White said Friday…

The Supreme Court essentially ruled, Sharp said, that having a contract in place does not demonstrate the need for the water. Customers need to actually use the water and cannot speculate on the possibility of needing the water. The Craig power plant, for example, has an annual $300,000 contract for 7,000 acre-feet, but the water is not used, and there are no plans to use it.

Sharp also is concerned because the ruling implies that if the district needs to justify obtaining additional water rights, it must now know how customers plan to use water. “Because the applicant’s evidence of existing demands included contracts for stored water that had admittedly not yet been put to beneficial use and for which no specific plan for beneficial use was offered, and because the applicant failed to adequately demonstrate a reasonably anticipated future need based on projected population growth, its evidence was insufficient to establish that it had made the required first step to obtain a conditional water right,” the water court ruled.

More Yampa River basin coverage here and here.

Greeley: Leprino cheese factory turns dirt for new wastewater plant

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From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

Leprino has also begun construction of the core and shell building for the wastewater treatment plant at 1133 Ash Ave., by Glacier Construction, for a total valuation of $1.56 million. Nick Opper, Leprino’s Greeley plant manager, said the three-phase construction is “on time, and we’ve got a lot of people working on the site right now.”

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Windsor: Town board okays water rate 3.6 percent hike

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From Windsor Now! (Ellie Bean):

For now the board will stick with a two-tiered system, increasing rates by 3.6 percent across the board. They will still consider the three-tiered system for implementation in 2012, as well as looking into alternative options such as what it would take for Windsor to get its own treatment plant.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: Fort Lyon Canal water still on the land for the most part despite Pure Cycle purchase

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The long-term plan for the water is to move it north to new homes east of Denver, but with a weak housing market, no court authority or infrastructure is in place to move water and people still hungry to farm on the Fort Lyon, the water stays.

It’s a matter of time, as the owner still has plans to eventually move the water. “We don’t have any expectations about when the water will be moved,” said Mark Harding, president of Pure Cycle Corp., the Thornton-based company that bought High Plains A&M’s assets on the Fort Lyon in 2006. High Plains purchased about 23 percent of the shares on the Fort Lyon Canal and in many cases the farms associated with them in 2001 for about $1,750 an acre — roughly $40 million. The company won a battle to take the water out of the canal, in rotation in 2003, but lost a Water Court case to change the water rights in 2004 and a state Supreme Court appeal in 2005. Pure Cycle stepped into the picture the next year, buying High Plains out in a $100 million deal. Initially, the company announced plans to build a $400 million pipeline to move the water to the Denver area to serve thousands of future homes. That plan is still in the picture, but Harding is not in any hurry to move the water…

The company’s official line remains moving the water to valuable real estate it owns or holds service rights in the Denver area. “This is a long-term investment for us,” Harding said. ”We will look at the opportunities over a long period of time.” For at least a few more years, at least, it appears the water will be staying with the land…

Pure Cycle leases the water back to farmers for about $70 an acre, with varying terms based on water availability. The 63 tenant farmers, in turn, have sales of about $3.5 million on 14,500 irrigated acres, irrigated by 21,600 shares of the Fort Lyon. Tenants also receive any payments from government farm programs. Another 1,275 acres are leased as grass pasture…

About Pure Cycle

Pure Cycle is a Thornton-based water and wastewater service provider listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

– Last year, Pure Cycle purchased the 940-acre Sky Ranch property east of Denver in the Interstate 70 corridor. The largely undeveloped area is zoned for 4,400 homes and 1.35 million square feet of commercial and retail property. Previously, the company had a service agreement for the property. It also leased oil exploration rights to Anadarko on the property.

– The company has a long-term contract to provide water to portions of the Lowry Range, east of Aurora, that may be developed in the future. As a member of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Pure Cycle is working with Denver Water and Aurora in the WISE partnership that looks at ways to share urban water infrastructure.

– Pure Cycle holds the largest block of agricultural water rights in the Arkansas River basin, with 21,600 shares of the Fort Lyon Canal, almost one-quarter of the ditch. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association owns half of the Amity Canal, which historically irrigated much less ground than the Fort Lyon.

– Besides its Arkansas Valley Water Rights, Pure Cycle has ground water, surface and storage rights in the South Platte River and Colorado River basins.

More Pure Cycle coverage here and here. More Arkansas River basin coverage here.