Animas-La Plata Project: Reclamation wraps up Lake Nighthorse first fill

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The Bureau of Reclamation has pronounced the reservoir full at 123,541 acre-feet. The reservoir is a key component in the Animas-La Plata Project, which Congress authorized 43 years ago.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here.

Custer County: Committee recommends against signing up for Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District augmentation plan

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

The ad hoc committee determined there is no immediate need for any new water augmentation in the county. The committee used U.S Census Bureau statistics to determine there would be no need for any new water augmentation plan within the next ten years. The projected growth the unincorporated portion of the county for the next ten years, said the committee, is 63-to 99 new households, which is less than two percent a year.

Also, said committee members, the trend for those newcomers is to buy existing homes instead of vacant land, according to recent Custer County Sales Transaction History statistics.

In conclusion, the ad hoc committee said they would be making recommendations to the county commissioners:

–The county continue to work with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District to address potential water needs and to insure county conditions are included in any new augmentation plan being considered.
–The commissioners become more informed and proactive in regards to local water issues.
–The commissioners convene the ad hoc committee as needed to re-evaluate the situation.
–The commissioners continue to support the current U.S. Geological Survey organization’s survey of some 60 wells in the county.

Those recommendations will be presented during the commissioners meeting slated for…Thursday, June 30.

More Custer County coverage here.

Fort Morgan: City council will likely form committee to explore funding for stormwater projects

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

At their regular meeting next week, Fort Morgan City Council members likely will establish an ad hoc committee to study and put together some sort of financing mechanism for city voters to consider for dealing with financing stormwater infrastructure. That was what came out of the discussion the council members had Tuesday night about how to pay for needed stormwater system upgrades, as well as system maintenance. Several months ago, the members of the Fort Morgan City Council listed the stormwater system improvements as a major need for the city at their brainstorming session. Studies are currently underway by outside design contractors for the northwest and south quadrants of the city, and public meetings have been held to discuss the findings and possible plans. Those studies have made it clear to council that millions of dollars would be needed for long-term infrastructure upgrades that would alleviate all storm-related flooding in the city…

Current estimates have the total cost of infrastructure projects at around $50 million. The very preliminary cost estimates Curtis has received from the contractor for the big version of the possible northwest quadrant project was $3 million to $6 million. Figures weren`t known on a possible south quadrant project…

They settled on the idea of creating an ad hoc committee that likely will include council members and citizens to study the issue in-depth and create a plan of action, possibly including a ballot issue or ballot issues for a 2012 general election. The issue of creating a study committee will likely be on the agenda next week as a regular item.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Energy Fuels plans to spend $1 million over the next 18 months in preparation to process uranium at the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill

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From The Durango Telegraph (Will Sands):

The Toronto-based uranium and vanadium mining company received approval from Colorado regulators for Piñon Ridge in January. The company plans to site the mill in the middle of Western Colorado’s uranium belt on 1,000 acres of privately owned land not far from the Dolores River. The facility would be the nation’s first uranium mill in a quarter century and located close to the only other operating mill in the country, the White Mesa Mill in Blanding.

However, Piñon Ridge faces its share of opposition. The Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance has filed a lawsuit that could derail the facility. The suit contends that Colorado regulators violated the Atomic Energy Act by not allowing the public to ask technical questions about the project and is being heard in Denver District Court. In addition, SMA and Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, a citizens group in Cañon City, have asked the EPA to withhold its approval of the mill’s construction plan until Clean Air Act regulations can be brought up to speed. The 1989 Clean Air Act allows radioactive uranium tailings to be dumped without protections or emissions limits.

“We cannot afford the dangers of uranium milling and mining of the past to be repeated again on the Western Slope,” said Hilary White, executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance.

However, Energy Fuels is confident that Piñon Ridge will become a reality after the company prevails in court. The company closed on an $11.5 million loan in March, has plans to break ground on the mill in the near term and is actively acquiring mines and unearthing ore not far from Paradox Valley…

Energy Fuels already owns two mines with vast uranium and vanadium resources – the Whirlwind and Energy Queen mines, just across the Colorado border in Utah. The company now plans to purchase abandoned uranium mines in the vicinity of Paradox Valley, bring them into compliance and use them to feed Piñon Ridge…

Energy Fuels plans to begin construction on the facility in 2012 and have the mill operational early in 2013.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Colorado River basin: Mitigating further declines to the riparian and stream environment from transmountain diversions in the upper river watersheds

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A while back Trout Unlimited signaled pretty strongly that the Moffat Collection System Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project were in for a fight, even as Denver Water and Northern Water were making efforts to appease west slope concerns with increased diversions from the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers. Despite the historic agreement between Denver Water and west slope water wonks and the recently announced Colorado Division of Wildlife approval for mitigation there may be a long battle ahead for the two Front Range providers to move more water through the Adams and Moffat tunnels.

Here’s a guest commentary about new proposed diversions from Drew Peternell running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Earlier this month, Denver Water and the Northern District presented to the Colorado Wildlife Commission plans to mitigate the impacts of their projects. While the plans do include some meaningful provisions, they do not go far enough.

First, under the proposed mitigation, Denver can divert from the Fraser River even when diversions violate stream temperature standards designed to prevent fish mortality.

Second, the increased diversions could eliminate the spring high-water flows necessary to flush stream channels of sediment, which is choking many stretches of the river to death.

Third, the mitigation plans do not include a bypass of Windy Gap Reservoir, a measure that would reduce rainbow trout whirling disease and significantly improve conditions in the Colorado River downstream of the reservoir.

And fourth, while the mitigation plans include some funding for habitat projects to adapt the streams to the new, lower flow reality, the dollar figures fall short of what is needed by nearly $10 million, according to estimates by independent restoration contractors.

Yes, protecting the health of the upper Colorado River basin from the impacts of the proposed water diversions requires money. And $10 million may sound like a lot. But for Denver Water customers, it would be less than $1 a year per household, according to an analysis by Western Resource Advocates.

Denver Water and the Northern District won’t have to pay a nickel for the water they propose to take from the upper Colorado River basin, and they refuse to pony up the money needed to offset the impacts of their diversions, arguing that their customers won’t tolerate the rate increase.

Is saving our state’s namesake river worth a buck a year to you?

More Colorado River basin coverage here.