Animas River Days — Annual Celebration of Durango’s River June 10-12

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Here’s the link to the website.

From email from the San Juan Citizens Alliance:

Animas River Days is a community celebration on and around The Animas River, which reflects and honors our connection to this vital resource flowing through the heart of our town.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

The operators of Wellington Lake say $100,000 tax bill from Jefferson County is akin to a 2,700% increase

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From The Fairplay Flume (Mike Potter):

In a May 25 press release, the company said that “the Jefferson County Assessor advised Wellington that due to the recreation and camping uses that Wellington permitted at the Lake, the tax assessment would be increased by 2,700%.” The tax bill went from about $3,7000 per year to $100,000 per year.

However, Jefferson County Assessor Jim Everson told The Flume on May 31 that the tax increase is not related to the use of the lake for recreational or camping purposes…

“The Wellington Company is evaluating the effects of the County’s denial of public access as a pre-existing lawful use and the very substantial new concern with the unprecedented tax increase,” said the May 25 press release. “Until these matters are resolved, Wellington intends to continue to allow limited access for youth groups; but will not be able to re-open the Lake to general public access without the approval of the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning authority and resolution of the tax assessment.”[…]

“The big change, I think that you’re experiencing there, is that a lot of the property in there had been inappropriately classified as exempt property,” he said. Colorado law allows for reservoirs and surrounding property that supports the operation of the reservoir to be tax-exempt if the water is used for agricultural purposes. According to the May 25 press release, the water in Wellington Lake is used for irrigation of lands and for municipal use in the northern Denver metropolitan area. “Really, there’s a lot of land there that’s far removed from the reservoir itself, and it never really was appropriate for exemption because it simply wasn’t used as part of the reservoir operation,” Everson said.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Speakers at EPA hearing at the Nunn Community Center are mostly against Powertech’s proposed pump test

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From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

About 60 people attended the public hearing at the Nunn Community Center. It was the second time around for the test permit application, which the EPA, after hearing public comment and reviewing Powertech Uranium Corp.’s previous pump tests, approved late last year. But the agency withdrew the permit in February when it received a couple of petitions for the final permit to go before the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board. The withdrawal allowed the agency to rewrite the permit as draft language, thereby addressing some petitioner concerns, such as the lack of language about zero pressure requirements — in other words, water will flow back into the well by gravity alone — in the previous permit. Those are pertinent because it makes clear that there’s no chance of the pump test breaching the confined area of the test, said Richard Mylott, EPA spokesman. Valois Shea, an EPA geologist, emphasized this permit would not allow any uranium to be extracted. Powertech, a Canadian company, would need to apply for a class III permit for in-situ leaching and go through a similar process of EPA review and public comment, she said…

Nearly every speaker — more than 15 spoke — expressed worries that the groundwater would be permanently tainted should uranium mining occur. Most also said in-situ leaching has a poor track record of safety worldwide, to the point it has been banned in some areas, including a couple of Canadian provinces.

Randy King said he is the manager of a drinking water treatment plant in a major northern Colorado community. “All of us understand the relevance and importance of source protection,” he said. “Don’t let it get polluted in the first place. Once it’s been polluted, people will never touch it again.”

Howard Williams of Carr said contamination is a certainty. “It’s like removing a brain tumor with a meat cleaver. The operation will be successful, but the host will die.” He said 30,000 people get water from the Fox Hill aquifer…

Williams said there are many unplugged wells from the 1970s and 1980s in the Centennial area that were not properly sealed. That allows for the possible migration of contaminants through vertical pathways. The EPA should require Powertech to ensure the integrity of the historic wells before issuance of any permit, he said, and the results of an investigation into the wells should be made public.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Water pollution: A new report suggests the best strategy for eliminating endocrine disruptors in the water supply may be at the source

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Here’s the release from Texas Tech University (Tina Dechausay):

Researchers have known for more than 40 years that pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) such as hormones, prescription drugs and insecticides, can end up in drinking water systems. A report prepared by the Texas Tech University’s Center for Water & Law Policy leaves aside the question of what, if anything, should be done, and asks instead, what can be done?

The report, “Alternative Strategies for Managing Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products in Water Resources,” is the third phase of a long-term project funded by a $450,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report acknowledges the difficulty of addressing PPCPs through the legal system and legislation/ government action. Authors Gabriel Eckstein and George William Sherk propose that a more effective way of responding to PPCPs in drinking water supplies may be to focus on alternative strategies that stress removing PPCPs from the source. For example, pharmaceutical and personal care product manufacturers could create take-back programs, potentially reducing the amount of PPCPs that are thrown away.

In addition to the alternative strategies, the report also includes a summary of current research, a review of short- and long-term impacts on human and environmental health, and current legal and governmental mechanisms by which water supplies are protected. Furthermore, the research discusses a case study – phase two of the EPA funded project – in which studies were conducted in West Texas on the presence of PPCPs in treated water returned to the environment.

A website, http://www.micropollutants.org, was created in phase one of this project, and houses the complete report (available for download in PDF format). The website is also a clearinghouse for data and reports about PPCPs in drinking water systems across the country.

Eckstein, a professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, is a senior fellow with the Texas Tech Center for Water Law & Policy. Prior to joining the law faculty of Texas Wesleyan, Eckstein held the George W. McCleskey Chair in Water Law at the Texas Tech School of Law where he also served as the first director of the Center for Water Law & Policy. An internationally recognized expert in water law, Eckstein has worked directly with the United Nations and other world bodies on water-related issues and laws.

Sherk is chief operating officer of the International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide (IPAC-CO2) in Regina, Saskatchewan. Prior to joining IPAC-CO2, Sherk was Managing Director of the Colorado Energy Research Institute at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo. and an adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He is also of counsel to the law firm of Sullivan & Worcester in Washington, D.C., and an honorary associate at the UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

The Center for Water Law & Policy at Texas Tech University was created in 2005 in response to the growing need for research into and information about global water issues. It was designed to create and nurture opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration on legal and policy issues related to the use, allocation, management, regulation, and conservation of fresh water resources at all levels of civil society – from the purely local to the decisively global. The center is part of the Texas Tech interdisciplinary water initiative, which involves faculty and students representing the disciplines of law, public policy, economics, agriculture, geosciences, engineering, biological sciences and health sciences.

More water pollution coverage here.

Runoff news: 3,080 cfs in the Arkansas River near Buena Vista

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From the Associated Press (John Jaques) via The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flows [in the Arkansas River] near Buena Vista and at Parkdale reached 3,000 cubic feet per second on Monday, the highest levels this year, and minor flooding is expected in sparsely populated parts of Lake County and could affect some roads over the next few days. Canon City will reach the action stage, but is not expected to see any flooding, according to projections by the National Weather Service.

High-water advisories have been issued for Pine Creek and the Numbers near Buena Vista in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation area, meaning only the most experienced kayakers should attempt running those rapids. As of Monday, there was no high-water advisory for the Royal Gorge, although the level of water is steadily rising toward that point…

Authorities also said the Eagle River west of the Continental Divide is forecast to cause some nuisance flooding onto its flood plain. Stacey Stegman, a Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said one lane of westbound Interstate 70 has been closed due to flooding on the Colorado River near Fruita. Officials also expect to close the eastbound lane…

The weekend’s high temperatures had officials issuing flood warnings in Moffat and Routt counties, but Fredin said the flood plains might be able to avoid flash floods because of cooler weather forecast for the rest of the week.

From KJCT8.com (Jeremy Alm):

On Friday, CDOT closed one lane heading westbound. Tonight they say they’ll be closing one lane eastbound. If the water continues to rise another foot, they’ll be forced to shut down a section of the interstate for crews to watch for debris. “If the water rises and we should get larger debris, rocks, logs and things like that… crews from both sides will be able to pull any larger debris that we feel could be causing damage to the girders,” says Nancy Shanks with CDOT.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Wiggins):

The Colorado River near Cameo in De Beque Canyon is under a flood warning until Friday afternoon, as a spate of hot weather pushes snowmelt into an already swollen river. The forecast calls for rising water today possibly reaching moderate flood stage by Tuesday evening, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. A flood warning means flooding is imminent or occurring. Officials say the river at Cameo was at 12.2 feet Sunday evening, which is a few inches above flood stage. At 14.5 feet, major flooding is occurring, according to the Weather Service.

From NorthernColorado5.com (Erin Fry):

The National Weather Service says low lying areas in north central Colorado — including Larimer and Weld counties — will see rising water levels early this week. In the High County, the Arkansas River around Leadville is expected to see high stream flows. The weather service said Monday that the Arkansas will be around the minor flood stage for several days.

From EMailWire.com:

Through the month of June and early July the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park is expected to peak between 83,000 and 115,000 CFS, a staggering flow rate compared to the river’s average peak flow of 52,000 CFS. This potentially record-breaking year is the result of a snowpack in the Rockies that currently exceeds 200% of average. The previous record on the Colorado was set in 1984 when the flow in Cataract Canyon peaked at 114,000 CFS. This year, the late approach of warm summer temperatures is expected to open the flood gates as the snow melt commences.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Janet Urquhart):

A weekend spate of hot weather that extended into Monday boosted flows on the Roaring Fork. Aspen’s signature Slaughterhouse section was running at 1,380 cubic feet per second at about 3 a.m. Monday, according to Jim Ingram, owner of Aspen Whitewater Rafting. High flows typically come in the middle of the night, as the prior day’s high-country melt hits the gauge. The stretch, which Ingram said only reached levels high enough to navigate on a raft about a week ago, was giving some paddlers a run for their money Monday. Several went for a swim in the aptly named Entrance Exam, a rapid just below Aspen’s Stein Park put-in…

Local lore has it that the river peaks at Slaughterhouse when the snow disappears from Bell Mountain on Aspen Mountain, as viewed from town. Bell, the center peak that carries the gondola to the summit, was covered in snow Monday from its highest reaches down to the spot where it disappears from view, from the vantage point of Main Street.

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Flooding appears imminent in parts of Routt, Moffat and Lake counties, forecasters said. “Significant rises and flooding” were reported today along the Elk river near Routt County Road 42, the confluence of the Elk and Yampa rivers near Milner, including flooding near U.S. Highway 40…

The flood warning for the Elk River is in effect until Friday. Other areas that could flood include the Yampa River near Craig, Deerlodge Park, Oak Creek, Maybell and Elkhead Creek near Hayden, and other areas close to the Yampa River, forecasters said. The Arkansas River near Leadville is under a flooding warning until further notice, as the Lake County waterway met its 7-foot flood stage this afternoon…

Numerous areas under the advisory could flood. In Larimer County minor flooding is expected along the Laramie, Cache La Poudre and Big Thompson rivers. Estes Park is under the threat of flooding by early Tuesday as the snowmelt engorges the Big Thompson, the National Weather Service said.

Colorado-Big Thompson update: Increased flows into Horsetooth Reservoir

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This evening [June 6], with the snow melt run-off picking up some more, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project’s junior water rights for east slope water have come into priority. This means we can cut back on project imports from Granby Reservoir via the Adams Tunnel and pull some of the native, i.e. east slope, inflow coming into Estes into the southern power arm of the project. It also means we can pull some water from the mouth of the Big Thompson canyon and send it over to Horsetooth Reservoir. As a result, tonight (early Tuesday morning) at 2 a.m., we will reduce the release from Olympus Dam to the lower Big Thompson River by 40 cfs. That means the release will be around 905 cfs.

Also, at 7 tomorrow [June 7] morning, we will increase the inflow to Horstooth Reservoir from 381 cfs to around 515 cfs. Horsetooth has been rising steadily, but slowly. This will speed the rate of fill just a little bit.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

NRCS: June 2011 Colorado Basin Outlook Report

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Here’s the June 2011 Basin Outlook Report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Here’s an excerpt:

Weather patterns during May continued those established in late April, with intense storm activity across most of western and northern Colorado’s river basins. Coupled with the moisture was much cooler than normal temperatures which reduced snowmelt even at lower elevations in most basins. While the added moisture will continue to improve water supplies, now into late summer, temperatures in June will determine runoff rates. With the strong end to the snow accumulation season, 2011 will be one of the most productive runoff years in several decades. Just to remind us all that Colorado’s climate offers profuse variety, portions of the state are still expected to see runoff shortages from an extremely dry winter.