South Platte Roundtable: Final Upper Mountain Counties needs assessment report released

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Here’s the link to the report.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: The Niobrara oil shale play in eastern Colorado dominates the latest issue of ‘Rock Talk’ from the Colorado Geological Survey

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Here’s the link to the current issue. Here’s a preview:

The Niobrara Formation, one such organic-rich shale, is a particularly hot target here in Colorado. While a large volume of natural gas (>700 billion cubic feet by one estimate) has already been produced, it is now Niobrara oil that is the focus of everyone’s attention. Often mentioned for comparison purposes are the Bakken Formation of North Dakota or the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas. But, as producers are just beginning to ramp up drilling and production, the question of how much oil is really available for exploitation over the long term remains to be answered.

One of the first Niobrara horizontal wells, known as the Jake well, was drilled by EOG Resources in October 2009 and produced 50,000 barrels of oil in its first 90 days. After a year, it is still produc- ing more than 2,500 barrels of oil per month. This is significant given that the average oil well in the U.S. generates just 300 barrels of oil per month. Another well, the Gemini well drilled by Noble Energy in early 2010, produced over 32,000 barrels of oil in 6 months. These early results are certainly promising, but for each of the more prolific wells, there are others that show little or no produc- tion. How quickly the flow of oil declines is very important for looking towards future potential of the resource as a whole.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Moab tailings move slowing down as federal funds dry up

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From the Salt Lake Tribune (Judy Fahys):

In two years, the Department of Energy has hauled away nearly 4 million tons of uranium tailings, which for decades had been leaching into the adjacent Colorado River. The work is about two years ahead of schedule, and makes DOE project manager Don Metzler burst with pride. “Look!” he exclaimed, gazing over the deep gouge excavators have carved into the 130-acre pile. “This pile is disappearing.”

Now, with another 12 million tons still to go, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money that has fueled the accelerated cleanup is about to run out. Progress is expected to slow to a comparative crawl as the Energy Department slashes the cleanup team by two-thirds next month.

Instead of 320 people on the job, there will be funding enough for around 100 under the DOE’s projected budget for cleaning up the old uranium mill started by Charlie Steen and later taken on by the bankrupt Atlas Corp.

More Nuclear coveragehere and here.

Greeley: New raw water line from Bellvue, currently under construction, to cost $180 million

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From the Greeley Gazette (Jack Minor):

Currently the city is building a new 30 mile, 60 inch pipeline from Bellvue. The project began in 2004 and is expected to be completed in 2013. The new pipeline will transmit water rights currently owned by the city and future water purchases.

Monson said the last expansion of the Bellvue pipeline was in the 1950’s and since then Greeley’s population has increased four fold. Current census figures show the current population at almost 93,000 an increase of 20 percent from the 2000 census.

The project will spend $84 million on pipeline construction and $96 million for water acquisition. [Jon Monson, Greeley water and sewer director] said even after spending the $180 million, the project will still not meet the needs for the projected 40 year growth. The city will still need to build additional water storage such as expanding the Milton Seaman reservoir.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Telluride: The Idarado Mining Company is recalling water rights that it gave the town in 1992

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The company said in a press release that it would use the water to generate power at the Bridal Veil Power Station, a turn of the 20th century hydroelectric powerplant that looms at the end of the box canyon. “In 1992, we conditionally deeded our water rights to Telluride because we were not using them at the time, reserving the right to recall them for Idarado’s future needs,” said David Baker, president of Idarado, in a release. “We are now exercising our right to recall these water rights to support electrical power generation and for other possible uses in the future.”[…]

The Bridal Veil Power Station is an uncommon confluence in the channels of groundbreaking utility and improbable beauty. It is one of the oldest operating AC generators in the country (behind the Ames hydroelectric station, just up the highway) and still surges power into the local grid, but it is also a building of a certain esteem, standing sentry to the valley from its perch atop the state’s tallest waterfall.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: ‘Corn-Fallow’ workshop May 18 to discuss rotational fallowing

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat:

Corn-Fallow Workshop … Wednesday beginning at 1 p.m. in the meeting room at the Colorado State University Extension Building, 411 North 10th in Rocky Ford…

Speakers will include John Schweizer, president of the Super Ditch, talking about why the Super Ditch was formed, who is involved and where the Super Ditch is today. Jim Valliant, research scientist, CSU Arkansas Valley Research Center, will present results of a 4-year study of fallowing land for 1, 2 or 3 years and then planting corn as compared to continuous corn. Jeff Tranel, CSU Extension ag and business management economist, will discuss costs and returns based on the results of the 4-year study and ideas for leasing amounts. This study was funded by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Dr. Perry Cabot, CSU water resources specialist, will report on results of two demonstration projects on Corn-Fallow funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

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

One of the problems could be bringing ground back into production after leaving it fallow for as long as three years. Lease agreements could be reached in some cases after farm ground was prepared in the fall. Jim Valliant, a CSU Extension researcher, and Jeff Tranel, a CSU extension economist, will share the results of studies at the Rocky Ford Agriculture Research Center that show the effects of fallowing land for one, two or three years and the costs of bringing the land back into production. This study was funded by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

John Schweizer, president of the Super Ditch, will talk about how it was formed, who is involved and where things now stand with the company.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: $50,000 allocated from Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers and Streams Fund to fund development of a diversion protocol for the proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric plant

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From The Aspen Times:

The result will be something that can be applied to other transbasin diversions, according to John Ely, county attorney. The city’s project, which would divert water from Maroon Creek that would not be returned, constitutes a transbasin transfer of water, he said…

The information will be useful when additional diversions are proposed in the headwaters of Pitkin County, predicted Commissioner Rachel Richards. And, she said, the city contributes to the tax revenue that supports the Healthy Rivers and Streams fund.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

2011 Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference: ‘The First Drop Lands Here’ October 4-6

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Here’s the conference page link from the Colorado Watershed Assembly.

Climate change: Modeling El Niño events using the tree ring record

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Here’s a look at some research from the University of Hawaii, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

An international team of climate scientists used tree-ring records from North America, particularly from the US Southwest, to give a continuous representation of the intensity of El Niño events over the past 1,100 years, developing a model that can be used to improve El Niño prediction in climate models. The study was spearheaded by Jinbao Li, of the International Pacific Research Center at University of Hawai’i at Manoa. It was published in the May 6 issue of Nature Climate Change.

Energy policy — geothermal: Pagosa Springs is moving slowly on geothermal research

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From the Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin):

Later in the meeting, the council was asked to “bless” a decision by the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation to spend $2,000 to fund a work plan that would satisfy council’s concerns regarding details of the study.

In late February, county commissioner and CDC board member Michael Whiting proposed reallocating $30,000 of CDC money to fund the research. Although the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to reallocate their $15,000 portion of CDC funding to pay for research, council has twice rejected reallocating its $15,000 of CDC funding.

Council members opposed to allocating CDC funds for the research have cited discomfort with inadequacies and unanswered questions in the proposed work plan outlining the study.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Gunnison River basin: 10 segments in Delta County deemed not suitable for Wild and Scenic designation by the Lower Gunnison Stakeholders Group

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

The Lower Gunnison Stakeholders Group found a wide range of criteria on which to base its “non-suitable” recommendations. Existing water rights, private property rights, and production agriculture were important. In several cases, streams’ “outstandingly remarkable values” were found already protected by current management regimens. Streams within the NCA and Wilderness especially were found to benefit from the management regimens on their surrounding public lands. Members of the Stakeholders Group felt that official Wild and Scenic designation on some segments would only attract more visitors to them and damage their special characteristics. “The outstanding remarkable values that BLM has identified for these streams and stream corridors are, in many cases, the result of the management practices of local ranchers and, more recently, the BLM’s management practices,” the group found.

The Stakeholders Group did find some conditions in the stream segment corridors it studied to be less than ideal, and they made recommendations for improvement. For example, protection of historical and cultural sites in the corridors should be site-specific. Signage, fencing, and use of volunteer “stewards” to monitor the sites’ conditions were recommended. Other sensitive cultural sites should not be identified publicly to protect their pristine condition…

The 10 stream segments included stretches on the Gunnison River, Rose Creek, Big and Little Dominguez Creeks, Cottonwood Creek, and Escalante Creek.

More Wild and Scenic coverage here. More Gunnison River basin coverage here.

Precipitation news: Denver Metro area rainfall totals are greater than two inches over the last week

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It is still raining a bit this morning at Gulch Manor. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the impressive 7-day rainfall map from the Urban Drainage & Flood Control District. The gauge near here (Hidden Lake) reads 2.24 inches for the week.