Kayakers, sportsmen, conservationists deliver 23,887 clean water comments to EPA Regional Administrator Jim Martin

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

Supreme Court rulings have put intermittent and ephemeral streams at risk, said David Nickum of Trout Unlimited, which includes most of Colorado’s waterways. In their rulings, judges narrowed protection to “navigable” waterways, under which classification a section of the Colorado River and a small portion of the Navajo Reservoir are the only protected waters in the state, Nickum said. There isn’t necessarily a provision for navigable waterways for commercial rafts, he added. It’s an extreme position, Nickum said, adding, “It’s the wrong direction to be moving and we don’t believe Congress intended (the law to read) that way.”

To respond to the call for clarity, the federal EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have developed draft guidance for determining whether a waterway, water body, or wetland is protected by the Clean Water Act. Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver, said the uncertainty means his staff can spend hours determining if they can step in during a case of a spill, when they’d rather be cleaning them up and preventing them. According to the Associated Press, the American Farm Bureau Federation says it’s concerned farmers and ranchers will be saddled with more regulations, but Martin says stock ponds and irrigated land are exempt.

Pam Kiely of Environment Colorado estimated that a minimum of 450 Summit County residents took the time to support the draft guidance revisions.

Nickum said the reaffirmation of protection affects critical tributaries for drinking water, but it also affects downstream fisheries and recreational waterways — including intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams.

In Colorado, these types of waterways account for 62 percent of the total river miles that feed into public drinking supplies and supports more than 3.7 million Coloradans, according to Environment Colorado. Essentially, the new guidance puts 30 years of historic protection back in “good standing,” Nickum said.

Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

Runoff news: Streamflow increases at night due to the day’s snowmelt and travel time for the meltwater

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

It’s not because the moon somehow heats the snow more than the sun. Experts say it’s because Colorado’s waterways are largely fed by snowpack high on mountain peaks. It takes until about mid-afternoon for the higher elevations to warm up enough to start melting snow, and it takes even longer for that water to flow down the hillside into rivers and streams.

“During the daytime, the water that melts up on the higher slopes melts at about (3 p.m.),” Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson said. “It takes several hours for that water to make its way down from 13,000 feet to about 9,000 feet. By the time we get to nighttime hours it’s making its way down the mountain” to the streambed.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: 7,400 Coloradans took part in Wednesday’s ‘telephone town hall’ event

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

During the town hall meeting, the groups said they oppose the Colorado Water Conserva-tion Board allocating $150,000 in grant money to local river basin roundtables to form the Flaming Gorge Pipeline Task Force. The CWCB is expected to discuss the grant at its next meeting in September in Grand Junction.

“If 81 billion gallons of water are drained from the West Slope’s Green River, it could damage the river’s world class trout fishery, further threaten the population of four fish species on the endangered species list and hurt the ecosystem within Dinosaur National Monument,” said Bart Miller of Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates…

Million said Tuesday environmental impacts of the pipeline have been considered from its inception, and if its toll on the environment is too great, the project should not go forth. The environmental impacts of his project might soon be evaluated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission if the agency accepts Million’s permit application.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Sediment collector project rolled out Friday, Union Pacific will remove part of abandoned trestle over the creek

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The railroad will take out six spans — the iron and lumber that form a deck across the creek — by May. The city of Pueblo would be responsible for the iron truss bridge on the west side, Pueblo stormwater consultant Dennis Maroney told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday.

He said the Technology Test Center may be interested in taking out the truss section of the bridge as a training exercise, but those talks are still in progress. “The piers would remain in the river,” Maroney said, adding they do not represent a serious impediment to flows.

The fear is that during a major flood the bridge would act as a dam as debris from upstream clogged the passage. That would cause water to back up over levees and flood commercial or residential areas…

The city of Pueblo, Pueblo County, the Fountain Creek district and numerous state and federal agencies launched a demonstration project Friday of an in-stream sediment collector that could be a less expensive alternative to dredging, if the technology works as advertised.

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

The name [Dirt-A-Tracter] for a sediment collector in Fountain Creek was chosen by children at the Boys & Girls Club, beating out “Hoovanator” and “Dr. Sandy Cheeks” in a contest sponsored by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District…

Basically, it works by attracting sand and small gravel that fall through a screen and are extracted with a pump to a storage site by the side of the creek…

The collector is equipped with a variable speed motor capable of pumping up to 800 gallons per minute of slurry that is 30 to 60 percent solids. A mining screw and conveyor belt pile up material pumped from the collector, while a second hose returns water to the collector. At maximum capacity, the collector is capable of removing 130 12-yard truckloads of sediment in a 24-hour period. Of course, it won’t be operated 24 hours a day, and flows will vary. One purpose of the yearlong project is to see how it performs under various conditions, and engineers were hoping for a cloudburst later in the afternoon. “Really, it will produce only what the river delivers,” said Streamside Systems CEO Randy Tucker.

More coverage from John Schroyer writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The machine, which took only three months to construct, is surprisingly simple — as creek water passes through a bottleneck in the creek, sediment is sucked down out into a pipe and then carried roughly 600 feet away from the creek, where it’s piled and then lugged away by dump trucks.

The point, said Fountain Creek Watershed Executive Director Larry Small, is to prevent sediment from building up at any one place. In the past, sediment buildup has led to flash flooding, which happens when a sudden rush of water down the creek is diverted into a neighborhood or town…

The $836,000 machine is the result of a partnership between Pueblo, Pueblo County and the Fountain Creek Watershed. All three had a hand in the design, construction and implementation of the Dirt Attractor.

Of the cost, $353,000 was covered by Colorado Springs Utilities, which paid $2.2 million to the county of Pueblo as part of the deal to allow it to build the Southern Delivery System, said Pueblo’s Assistant City Manager Scott Hobson.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment chipped in another $250,000, and the city of Pueblo paid the rest, said Hobson. The city also will supervise the ongoing operation of the Dirt Attractor and pay its electricity bill.

The machine will require minimal oversight and will operate almost exclusively via electronic monitors that sense the water level of the creek.

The Dirt Attractor also has environmental benefits, said Hobson. The sediment pulled from the creek probably will be used by the city’s wastewater plant to dilute the chemical content of the plant’s leftover “sludge.” That way, the material can be reused naturally instead of buried in a landfill.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.