The Colorado River District board ‘April 2011 News Summary’ is hot off the press

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Jim Pokrandt from the River District was kind enough to forward the summary. Here’s a preview:

The Colorado River District Board of Directors awarded nearly $250,000 in financial assistance to a variety of water projects at its April Board meeting.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 750 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Starting today [June 19], we’ll be doing a little work on one of the hydro-electric generating units at the Green Mountain Power Plant on Green Mountain Dam. As a result, releases from the dam to the Lower Blue began cutting back late last night/early this morning. By early afternoon today (June 19) we anticipate having releases down to around 750 cubic feet per second.

Releases are scaling back in 100 cfs increments. The first change was at 10 p.m. last night, then 1 a.m. this morning, and again this morning at 6 a.m. Early this afternoon, when the unit is removed from service for maintenance, we will drop the last 100 cfs. That last change will leave about 750 cfs going through the other generating unit and flowing down the Lower Blue.

Right now, we are estimating the work will complete by Wednesday. Once the unit is returned to service, we will start ramping releases up again. However, with new snow in the mountains lately, we are not yet sure how high the releases will go later this week. I will update you once we have a better idea.

As for the reservoir, it is currently at a water level elevation of 7930 feet. That’s about 20 feet down from full. The reservoir has been filling pretty steadily for the last two weeks. It has gone up half a foot since midnight.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Secretary Salazar places Grand Canyon off limits to uranium mining for the time being, hopes for a 20 year ban

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Here’s a release from the Environmental Working Group (Lauren Pagel/Leeann Brown):

The Obama administration today took an emergency measure to bar new mining claims on a 1-million-acre area around the Grand Canyon until December. At that time, administration officials indicated they hope to come up with a more comprehensive solution to protect one million acres around Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims for the next 20 years.

The million-acre area has been off limits to mining for the past two years. That moratorium, issued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is set to expire July 20.

“The 26 million Americans who rely on the Colorado River for drinking water have some breathing room,” said EWG senior counsel Dusty Horwitt. “Now we need to work to ensure the Interior Department follows through” with a permanent ban on new mining claims.

“This decision will help protect our most famous natural landmark and the lifeblood of the Southwest,” Horwitt said. “Congress must ensure that this land is permanently put off-limits to new mining claims.”

“The Grand Canyon is an American icon and part of a water network that provides the most basic need of a vast area of the Southwest,” said Lauren Pagel, policy director of Earthworks, an international mining reform organization. “The Canyon and the Colorado River deserve permanent protection from uranium mining.”

A study by Environmental Working Group and Earthworks published last week called uranium mining near the park “a gamble with our most treasured national park and the drinking water for 26 million Americans” who rely on Colorado River water.

Thirty-five hundred uranium mining claims lie within the protected area. The White House cannot legally nullify existing claims, but barring new claims makes mining on existing claims more difficult.

Sixty-one of these claims are held by Karen Wenrich, a mining industry consultant whose analysis of mining impacts on the Colorado river was used by the Bureau of Land Management in an environmental impact analysis released earlier this year. The BLM relied on Wenrich’s research to downplay risks to the river, but did not disclose Wenrich’s status as a claimholder or that she stood to make $225,000 by selling her claims to a uranium mining company if the Interior Department left the million-acre area open to new claims.

EWG and Earthworks’ recent report highlighted this conflict of interest in addition to other concerns surrounding mining in the area, including the fact that foreign companies hold hundreds of claims near the park. Under the current mining law, written in 1872, companies do not have to pay any royalties to the U.S. government for mining on public lands.

More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

Speaking at Grand Canyon National Park today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims as the “preferred alternative” in an ongoing federal review of hardrock mining on the 1 million acres of public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon.

Salazar immediately issued a “temporary emergency withdrawal” through December of this year as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management prepares an environmental impact statement on mining around the Grand Canyon that’s expected to be released this fall.

Other alternatives include leaving all 1 million acres open to new mining claims, withdrawing 300,000 acres, withdrawing 650,000 acres or withdrawing the full 1 million acres.

In announcing the full withdrawal as the preferred alternative, Salazar cited water quality concerns and the economic benefit of the more than 4 million visitors a year and $3.5 billion in tourism and outdoor recreation spending in the Grand Canyon region of northern Arizona.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Runoff/precipitation news: A beautiful rain up and down eastern Colorado

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a screen shot of the rainfall out of yesterday’s end of spring rainstorm in the Denver Metro area from the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District. Rainfall near Gulch Manor (Little Dry Creek at 64th) was nearly an inch.

Pueblo County received good moisture as well, ending 26 days without precipitation. Here’s a report from Gayle Perez writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The National Weather Service reported approximately 0.94 of an inch of rain fell at the Pueblo Memorial Airport by Monday afternoon from a storm that brought much-needed moisture to the region. The last time Pueblo had any measurable precipitation was May 24. That’s when 0.04 of an inch of rain was reported at the airport. A trace of rain was reported June 1 and again June 17…

North of Pueblo there was 0.80 inches of rain reported, while 0.60 was reported in University Park and 0.38 inches in Pueblo West, according to weather spotters.

Here’s the link to the precipitation reports from the Community Cooperative Rain Hail and Snow Network.

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

“We’ve had anywhere from 0.8 to 1.5 inches along the ditch,” said Manny Torrez, superintendent of the Fort Lyon Canal, which stretches 113 miles from La Junta to Lamar. “It’s the first big rain we’ve had since last July over such a big area.” Coupled with the third week of a big runoff in the Arkansas River as snow melts — levels have been above 3,000 cubic feet per second at Avondale — the rain is a welcome relief…

On the High Line Canal, which irrigates farms in Pueblo and Otero counties, rain measured 1-2 inches Monday, helping to offset dry conditions, said Superintendent Dan Henrichs…

The call on the Arkansas River was at the Colorado Canal’s 1890 appropriation date on Monday, a relatively junior water right, and releases from Pueblo Dam were increased to reflect more water coming into the system upstream. Flows in the Arkansas River at Parkdale still are hovering around 3,500 cfs, where they have been for the past two weeks. High-water advisories for Pine Creek, the Numbers and the Royal Gorge continued this week for rafters in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area…

“We got 2 inches of new snow last night,” said Roy Vaughan, the Bureau of Reclamation’s manager for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. “There is still a lot of snow on both sides in the deep valleys and on the northern slopes. There is still quite a bit up there.” So far, the Fry-Ark Project has brought more than 39,200 acre-feet of water across the Continental Divide, about 40 percent of what is ultimately expected this year.

From 9News.com (Brooke Thacker):

[Monday] Sections of the Cherry Creek bike path in downtown Denver are closed off due to high water. The Creek is swollen with water and is overflowing onto its banks in places. On Monday morning, the City of Denver sent out crews to clear debris out of drains such as trash, branches and tree limbs.

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Much of the rainfall in the Denver Metro area runs off into the storm sewer system and ends up in the South Platte River. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a hydrograph of the the South Platte at Denver gage from the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

From The Greeley Tribune:

Because of recent heavy rains, the National Weather Service has issued a flood advisory for Poudre River in the Greeley area and South Platte River near Kersey. The advisory is in effect until Wednesday afternoon for the South Platte and Saturday afternoon for the Poudre.

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

The National Weather Service is warning of minor flooding after advisories were issued for rivers in northern and central Colorado. The flood advisories were issued for the Cache La Poudre, South Platte, the Colorado, the North Platte, Eagle and Elk rivers.

Durango: City council adopts new water management plan to raise efficiency in the system

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From The Durango Herald (Jordyn Dahl):

According to information provided by the Department of Public Works, Durango has seen more efficient water delivery. While the population has increased by more than 40 percent in the last 30 years, the city treated the same amount of water in 2010 as it did in 1980. But water is consumed in Durango at a total rate of 209 gallons per capita daily, which is higher than the Colorado average.

The Water Efficiency Management Plan was originally developed in the fall of 2010, and city staff members say the plan will not directly affect the city’s 2011 budget. Eventually, implementation of the plan will cost about $75,000 a year.

The first step will be a systemwide audit to determine how to conduct new meter testing and develop more efficient repair and installation activities.

More infrastructure coverage here.