Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Reclamation and Northern Water are curtailing releases from Granby Reservoir to top it off

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

It is starting to look like we may have seen the peak of snow melt run-off inflow into the Three Lakes Area. As a result today, June 28, we and Northern Water have agreed to begin curtailing releases from Granby Dam to the Colorado River.

Earlier today, releases from the dam were as high as 2200 cfs. Starting this afternoon, we will cut releases back by 200 cfs a day until the release from the dam reaches about 1000 cfs. The reduced releases will speed the filling of Lake Granby.

Click here to view the cool video — shot by Tonya Bina who writes for the Sky-Hi Daily News — of the spill at Granby Reservoir from last week.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Forecasts are showing that snow melt run-off inflows into Lake Estes from the Big Thompson River are likely to drop off tonight. As a result, we’ll be cutting back our releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon by about 40 cfs later tonight.

Around midnight tonight, June 28, releases from the dam to the canyon will drop to about 650 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Pitkin County: Hope Mine restoration project update

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From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

Hints of possible success poked through the landscape this spring, where three cameras are snapping photos every three hours while there’s daylight, capturing what will become time-lapse footage of native grasses taking hold in the challenging landscape. Or not. Though pockets of green dot the expansive tailings pile now, it’s too early to predict any lasting success, according to the man keeping close tabs on the vegetation’s progress. “The next question is how these seedlings will survive in the next few months, over the heat of the summer,” said Morgan Williams, executive director of the Flux Farm Foundation. The organization has an interest in a broader application of the methods used at the Hope Mine — advancing the viability of agriculture in the West…

On the flat area atop the tailings pile, thick grass has filled in among dandelions. The steepest slopes of the pile are showing the least amount of new growth, but other areas are greener, and 42 test plots on a more gently sloping area of the mine waste are producing even more telling results. Revegetating the tailings pile involved the placement of biodegradable netting to hold the application in place; it was covered by a seed mix, compost, biochar, hydromulch and naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi, which help plant roots take in nutrients, particularly in sterile soils. Most of the pile received the same treatment, but in the 7-by-7-foot test plots, each delineated with orange flags poking upward among the grasses, the mix of components is varied. The idea is to identify the optimal mixture, Williams explained. Already, some plots are faring better than others. On test plots that received no application of the growth mixture, the difference is startling. They are essentially bare…

So far, Williams has noted a considerable difference in the condition of the test plots that contain biochar versus those that don’t. On a recent afternoon, with the sun baking the southwest-facing slope, the soil temperature in one test plot treated with biochar was 58 degrees. It’s moisture level stood at 12 percent. Six feet away, on a plot that had not received any application, the soil temperature was 79 degrees and the moisture content was 3 percent. While the monitoring of the Hope Mine reclamation is ongoing, Williams is already a believer in biochar, joining Denver-based soil scientist Andrew Harley in a business venture, Biochar Solutions Inc. Harley was a consultant on the Hope Mine project…

The public will have a chance to see the reclamation project on July 23, during a field trip to the Hope Mine hosted by For the Forest and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. The cost is $15 for ACES members and $20 for non-members. Go to to register and for more information.

More restoration coverage here.

Brighton: New Metro Wastewater Reclamation District wastewater treatment plant update

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From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

The site is just west of U.S. 85 and Weld County Road 2 and was purchased by the district this year for $12 million. Officials say the new plant will treat between 22 million and 26 million gallons of water per day for at least a decade when it opens in the fall of 2015. Construction is set to start next spring.

The new plant will eliminate seven lift stations in seven neighborhoods and the need for complicated and expensive repairs to existing plants.

More wastewater coverage here.

Runoff news: Elk River expected to peak (again) Thursday

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From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

The National Weather Service is predicting that the higher temperatures forecast for Steamboat Springs this week will cause rivers to rise again, bringing the Elk River near Milner above flood stage during its peak later in the week. The Elk was running at just under its flood stage of 7.5 feet at about noon Sunday, and it briefly rose above it to 7.64 feet early Saturday. Hydrologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association have forecast the river to peak at about 8 feet early Thursday. Their forecast is weather dependent and is not as dependable as a short-term prediction…

Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said Sunday that rivers and streams in the area should flow steadily around their current levels this week until they begin a slow, gradual decline heading into July. The Elk was flowing at 5,370 cubic feet per second Sunday afternoon, well below its peak of 7,000 cfs a couple of weeks ago. However, hydrologists at the National Weather Service are forecasting that the flow could increase to 7,810 cfs briefly when the river is forecast to reach a peak of 8 feet early Friday near Milner. After that, the Elk and the Yampa are expected to gradually recede…

He said the Yampa is peaking between 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. and isn’t expected to rise above its action stage of 7 feet this week. The river is forecast to peak in Steamboat at 6.6 feet at about midnight Thursday…

The continued elevated river flows of the Yampa in town caused the Routt County Sheriff’s Office to forbid recreational floating in single-chamber inflatable boats — which includes inner tubes — until July.

From The Greeley Tribune:

The flood advisory for the Poudre River issued by the National Weather Service in Denver remains in effect as water levels rise. The advisory notes that temperatures will climb above seasonal norms, prompting very high flows on the Poudre through next week. A flow between 3,500 and 4,500 cubic feet per second in Greeley could cause flooding in some areas. Last year’s flooding topped out at 4,770 cfs. Greeley’s river depths hit just over 7.5 feet this morning [June 25] with the river topping out at 1,880 cfs at 7:30 a.m.

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From the Canyon Courier (Vicky Gits):

Despite statewide reports of snowpack levels well above average for 2011, the Upper Bear Creek Watershed is flowing at about half of average this year due to an unfavorable snow pattern that affected the east slope of Mount Evans. “We have never, ever been this out of whack with the rest of the state before,” said Gerry Schulte, general manager of the Evergreen Metro District for 29 years.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado and Cotter, Corp don’t agree on cleanup at the Schwartzwalder Mine in the Ralston Creek watershed

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter has filed a lawsuit challenging the state order…

State mining regulators “continue to coordinate closely with CDPHE in reviewing and monitoring on-site activities, as well as ensuring environmental protections are in place to protect drinking water supplies,” Pineda said. “Cotter has submitted a proposal to install a bypass that would divert ground and surface water around the mine, and the company is continuing to provide DRMS with information needed to fully review this proposal.”

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Meanwhile, Cotter has received permission to use an impoundment pond that the state of Colorado claims leaks, according to a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The tailings impoundment at Cotter is about 157 acres and includes two retention areas. One is closed and contains about 2 million cubic yards of material. The second area is open and receiving materials related to the mill demolition, including the 90,000 gallons of sludge. It contains about 2 million cubic yards of material and is about half full, according to the health department. Cotter’s vice president for milling operations, John Hamrick, said the sludge is about 95 percent kerosene, used to process uranium. Before the sludge is moved to the impoundment, it will be mixed with another material. “It’s like kitty litter,” Hamrick said Monday. “It becomes a solid.”

Eventually, new sludge and solvents dumped into the leaky impoundment will be neutralized, health department spokeswoman Jeannine Natterman said. “More contamination is not going into that (Cañon City) area.” Hamrick said Cotter disputes the health department’s assessment of the impoundment. “We disagree with the state, that the impoundments are leaking,” he said…

Toxic plumes have been detected moving underground toward Cañon City and the Arkansas River. Most recently, officials disclosed that the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene has been detected in groundwater at concentrations up to 360 times federal health limits.
“It has been confirmed that no trichlroethylene has gotten into Lincoln Park (neighborhood in Cañon City),” Natterman said. Cotter officials “are still poking holes, taking samples” to characterize that plume, she said. “Cotter is responsible for all the sampling and analysis. All data have to be quality-controlled by us.”

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge Task Force is meeting Wednesday in Silverthorne

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The meeting is being organized by Peak Facilitation Group and the Keystone Center under a Colorado Water Conservation Board grant requested by the Arkansas Basin and Metro roundtables. The task force would study whether a plan by Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million would be a viable solution to Colorado’s projected municipal water gap. Million proposes building a pipeline more than 575 miles down the Interstate 80 corridor, with reservoirs near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs…

“We’ll do everything we can to collaborate with a state task force,” [Aaron] Million said Monday.

A competing plan has been suggested by the South Metro Water Authority, but is still in the study phase. It is a collaboration among communities in Colorado and Wyoming being led by Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.

The project already has met opposition from Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited and the Colorado River District. “I believe that moving forward with a stakeholder dialogue at this time makes no sense,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the district said in a May memo. “It will divert attention and resources from more realistic solutions.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here.