Runoff news: The upper Colorado River could be running at 9,000 cfs by the second week in June, McPhee Reservoir to spill this weekend

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Armstrong):

But this is only the start of what is setting up to be a historic season on the river — unlike anything seen since the 1980s. The betting types are beginning to cast their wagers on when and at what level the river will peak this year. Some are saying that, with the right combination of dam releases and warm weather, the flow past the Kremmling gauge could double yet again in the next few weeks, possibly even breaking the 13,600 cfs record set in 1984. Even conservative betters are estimating that the Upper Colorado will be running at around 9,000 cfs by the second week in June.

Meanwhile, Larimer County is gearing up for flooding at Laporte according to Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Fears of flash flooding of the Cache La Poudre River near Laporte has prompted the Larimer County sheriff to call for a public meeting to map out a strategy. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the Cache La Poudre Elementary School, 3511 West County Road 54G, in Laporte.

Sheriff Justin Smith said a similar meeting may be held in the Big Thompson River area. On July 31, 1976, the Big Thompson flash flooded, killing 139 people.

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From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

After being postponed for fish spawning and dreary weather, Dolores Water Conservancy District Manager Mike Preston said the water release will begin gradually below the McPhee Reservoir and should reach 1,000 cubic feet per second by Friday afternoon…

After this weekend, the water district plans to reduce the flow to a navigable 800 cfs. Depending on water supply, the 800 cfs could last until June 6 or beyond, Preston said. Recent high-altitude snowstorms provided enough water for a release for recreational boating on the Lower Dolores River…

“Last year, because of all the monsoon rains, people weren’t irrigating as heavily,” Preston has said. “We ended up about 25,000 acre-feet in the reservoir higher than the previous year, and that’s what we’re going to spill. Water managers are always trying to hold on to as much carry-over storage as possible.”

Energy policy — nuclear: Denver District Judge Brian Whitney rejects motions to dismiss the Sheep Mountain Alliance’s lawsuit over the proposed Piñon Ridge mill

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Denver District Judge Brian Whitney sided with the Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance, which contends the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) may have violated various state and federal laws in issuing a permit for the mill. The lawsuit can now move forward. The state and the project developer, Toronto-based Energy Fuels, had argued that the court had no role in reviewing the radioactive materials license for the proposed mill or jurisdiction in the case.

“For too long, state radiation regulators and the uranium industry has had a cozy relationship that has caused long-term contamination to continue unabated here on the Western Slope and on the Front Range,” said Hilary White, executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance.

“That questionable relationship continues today as both Energy Fuels and the state try to argue Colorado residents have no seat at the table in trying to protect our clean air and water from uranium mining and milling. Thankfully, the court has rejected those arguments.”[…]

In his ruling on Wednesday, Whitney wrote that Sheep Mountain Alliance “members’ property interests, monetary interests, recreational interests, agricultural interests, and ecological interests are adversely affected by the issuance of the license” and that their “interests are those of an organization whose members are or will be injured, not an organization with mere interest in a problem.”

More coverage from Katie Klinsporn writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

In early February, SMA filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in the wake of the agency’s decision to grant a radioactive materials permit to Canadian company Energy Fuels. The suit argued that Colorado regulators violated state and federal laws when they issued the license, which allows Energy Fuels to move forward on plans to build and operate a uranium mill in the remote and beautiful Paradox Valley near the Utah border. The CDPHE and Energy Fuels both shot back, filing motions urging the court to dismiss SMA’s suit, alleging that the environmental organization lacks standing in the case…

The judge determined that Sheep Mountain Alliance has legal standing in the matter and has properly established that the property, monetary, recreational, agricultural, and ecological interests of its members are affected by the issuance of the license. “To dismiss at this juncture would deny [SMA] the opportunity to present the Court with their evidence concerning improper procedure for review and would prevent the Court the opportunity to fashion appropriate relief if [SMA’s] claims have merit,” the filing reads…

“It’s good that we’re going to get a review of the decision and the decision-making process by someone other than the folks who wrote the permit,” said Travis Stills, the Durango attorney representing SMA. “This [judicial review] will be the first outside look into whether or not they actually did what they said, which is to protect health, protect the water and protect the air.” Stills said one of the biggest takeaways from the ruling is that “there’s a lot of time and effort wasted by the state trying to tell its citizens that they have no business in reviewing its actions.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Front Range runoff watch: The runoff has not started on Clear Creek

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Clear Creek is still running at less than 50% of the historic mean as of this morning. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a screen shot from the USGS gage earlier today.

San Luis Valley: Southern Colorado Farms has reapplied for a permit with the Colorado Water Conservation Board for operation of their hail cannon

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Southern Colorado Farms, which has used the program for 15 years on its ground northwest of town, has reapplied for a permit with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The farm uses the cannons to pelt storm clouds with sound waves. In a cloud in which hailstorms have yet to form, the practice prevents them from forming. But if the clouds coming over the farm are already latent with hailstones, the cannons aren’t able to break them down, said Amy Kunugi, the farm’s general manager. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” she told 14 people who attended the permit hearing.

The cannons are a way to protect the farm given that crop insurance for lettuce and spinach are not available, she said. Since their last permit hearing five years ago, the farm has recorded its use of the cannons and set up a system of rain and hail gauges on the property During that span, the farm deployed the cannons an average of 11 times per year, with a high of 22 times in 2007 and a low of once last year.

Opponents and skeptics of the hail cannon plan raised concerns that there wasn’t enough monitoring downwind of the farm to know the full impact of the use of cannons.

More coverage here. (Scroll down.)

Conservation: President Obama’s ‘Americas Great Outdoors Initiative’ initial projects include the San Luis Valley, Yampa Valley and a trail system from the northeastern metro area to Rocky Mountain National Park

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

“For me the valley is a very sacred place,” said [U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar], who was raised in Manassa, where his family homesteaded about 150 years ago.

The San Luis Valley, the Yampa Valley in Northwestern Colorado and a network of trails and greenbelts envisioned to stretch from the northeastern portion of the Denver metro area to Rocky Mountain National Park will be the first three projects under President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

“It’s an honor for Colorado to have the first three projects around America’s Great Outdoors be in Colorado, and especially I’m especially proud to recognize that there are going to be projects like this — just as powerful and just as wonderful — all over the country,” Hickenlooper said. “This becomes a gateway and a pathway to national treasures.”[…]

Architects of the Denver metro greenway project under America’s Great Outdoors envision bison herds on the former munitions site to welcome visitors to the state as they drive from Denver International Airport into the city.

The Yampa Valley project aims to conserve the lands and waters of the Yampa River basin to preserve working ranches and farms and wildlife habitats and to promote outdoor recreation and tourism.

The San Luis Valley project is similar. Its objective is to protect the area’s natural heritage and the lifestyle that spawns. Keeping alive wildlife habitats, wetlands and agriculture, restoring the Rio Grande corridor and promoting tourism and recreation in the area through conservation easements and efforts of federal and state agencies in conjunction with farmers, ranchers and other property owners is the goal.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

This morning Salazar said the federal government has committed $350,000 to the Denver Metro Greenway Project to link trail systems and wildlife refuges in the Denver area with Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Denver Metro Greenway Project and the two others announced today will be “the flagships of President Obama’s Great Outdoors America Initiative,” Salazar said, describing the vision as “a network of trails” building on existing trails connect areas…

The projects announced [May 26] are:

Denver Metro Greenway Project: This project will create an uninterrupted network of trails between Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, Rocky
Flats National Wildlife Refuge near Golden and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Yampa River Basin Project: This project will use conservation easements, stewardship projects and other tools to preserve working ranches and farms and wildlife habitat while promoting outdoor recreation and tourism in northwest Colorado.

San Luis Valley Project: This project will work to conserve healthy lands and waters and promote tourism in the San Luis Valley and the Rio Grande River Corridor, focusing on the conservation of the ranching community and protection of wildlife and wetlands resources.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The Rocky Mountain Greenway Project might include a new shuttle bus linking the Regional Transportation District bus route to Lyons with Estes Park. Riders then could take another shuttle into the national park, Salazar staffers and park officials said. A commission created to guide that project also will explore linking park hiking trails to the Front Range via trails through the Arapaho National Forest and existing city and county open space. Rocky Mountain National Park officials have been working at “improving our connection to the Front Range, especially the underserved inner-city kids,” said park spokesman Rick Frost. A bus-link test program could be started by next summer, he said.

Hickenlooper cited Great Outdoors Colorado as an example of the state’s emerging forte as a center of ideas and innovation. “What happens when you do that right is that those ideas go forward and get taken up,” Hickenlooper said, adding that people’s ability to connect with nature remains “a basic core value of America.”

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The trail system he proposed will be called the Denver Metro Greenway Project, and it will first connect Rocky Mountain Arsenal with Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Denver and the metro area’s many trail systems…

A trail link to Rocky Mountain Arsenal is slated for completion in 2012, and the department is looking for additional funds for other links in the Denver Metro Greenway Project. When the greenway’s trails would connect Rocky Mountain National Park with the metro area hasn’t been determined.

More conservation coverage here.