In the grand scheme of progress and water projects, it’s difficult to know the full impact of Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million’s Flaming Gorge Pipeline proposal. But at face value, the 580-mile long pipeline he envisions transporting 250,000 acre feet of water a year between Flaming Gorge and Pueblo seems overly ambitious at best and, some say, an unnecessary evil at worst.
Million claims the water is there and Colorado needs it. Critics say the price is too high and that such diversions would degrade water quality, destroy important habitat for both endangered and sport fish and potentially interfere with water rights downstream. Multiple Wyoming and Utah counties insist such use of upper Colorado Basin water resources simply cannot be sustained.
More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.
On September 9, join a diverse group of water professionals, public officials and educators for a day on northeastern Colorado farms! Expect to learn how agricultural water is distributed and used, the challenges associated with keeping water on farms while meeting other water demands and opportunities to secure a plentiful future for agriculture.
8:00 Welcome and Introductions Colorado’s future water needs and the threat to agriculture
John Stulp, Governor’s Special Policy Advisor on Water Water distribution in the South Platte Basin
Brad Wind, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Local economic connections to agriculture
Professor James Pritchett, Colorado State University
9:30 Bus route through LaSalle area and stop at Eckhardt farm Shut‐down of groundwater wells and impacts to the landscape
Frank Eckhardt, Eckhardt Farms Inc. Recharge potential on dried up agricultural lands
Kathy Parker, Central Colorado Water Conservancy District
11:30 Lunch at Glen Fritzler’s Corn Maize
12:45 Bus route to illustrate major diversions and exchange limitations Legal and engineering requirements for ag‐to‐urban water transfers
Andy Jones, Lawrence Jones Custer & Grasmick
1:45 Thornton farm property near Ault Strategies for meeting municipal water demands
Emily Hunt, City of Thornton Re‐vegetation methods on agricultural lands
Kate Green, Native Seeders and Brian Foss, City of Thornton
2:45 Bus route to USDA site Alternative solutions to meeting future water needs in Northeast Colorado
Jim Yahn, South Platte Roundtable and North Sterling Irrigation District
3:00 Limited Irrigation Research Farm Efficiencies in irrigation and measuring crop water use
Tom Trout, USDA and Stephen Smith, Regenesis Management Group
4:15 Arrive in Greeley
More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.
El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen and state Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, convened the conference because oil in the near eastern plains is booming again, and Coloradans need to know how they can profit from it without endangering their water. State officials spent hours explaining how the oil and gas industry is regulated, how horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing operate, and what kind of rights are afforded to landowners trying to decide whether to lease their rights to oil companies.
The most vital message was that protecting Colorado’s groundwater should be the highest priority for both the state and landowners, said Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. To that end, the state requires hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”) pipes not only to be made of stainless steel, but also to be encased in concrete, said Neslin…The concrete casings are just one of dozens of requirements placed on the industry, Neslin told the crowd. Complaints can be filed by anyone at any time for any reason, and one of COGCC’s 15 inspectors around the state will respond within 24 hours, he said…
Looper called the conference the “beginning of an education,” and said there will be a lot of issues going forward. She said she doubts that a perfect balance will ever be struck between all the stakeholders. “The question is, how much water is in the ground? Is there enough for the energy companies and all of the 500,000-plus residents on the Front Range? I don’t think so,” said Looper.
Meanwhile, Greeley oil company, Ranchers Exploration, held a public meeting Monday night to inform residents about their plans for the Niobrara shale play near Windsor. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:
Ranchers Exploration intends to drill for oil 1½ miles directly beneath the neighborhoods [150 River West and Ridge West subdivision], which are in Larimer County along the Poudre River, using a drilling technique called directional drilling. That method allows drilling rigs to drill away from homes, preventing them from having to drill down into the oil from above. The specific drilling site hasn’t been determined yet, said the company’s chief operating officer Michael Ward. Each well also will be fracked, he said. Fracking companies use a granular substance and a cocktail of possibly carcinogenic chemicals to fracture an underground natural gas- or oil-saturated rock formation, helping to release the fuel into the well…
“Just reading this, I got the impression that if haste makes waste, we’re dealing with a cesspool of a company,” said resident and Colorado State University forest ecology professor Thomas Stohlgren, who received his lease in the mail Monday, after it was sent Saturday…
“This was a plan to keep us ill-informed,” he said. “We were not informed whatsoever about the chemicals used in the process, some of which may be carcinogenic. No list of chemicals came with the documents. We are not advised of whether a bond would be posted for any possible long-term environmental or health effects from fracking in a subdivision. “There are no peer reviewed studies that show no long-term effects of fracking. So, they are experimenting, and you are the guinea pigs. We are the guinea pigs.”[…]
Residents also said they are concerned about a practice called forced pooling, under which homeowners who decline to lease their minerals could be forced to by the COGCC. “If nobody signs the lease, do you still have the right to drill?” another woman asked Ward.
“Yes,” he responded. “But it’s not going to be fun.”
More coverage from T. M. Fasano writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:
Harold Smith owns 50 percent of the mineral rights and the homeowners own the other 50 percent. [Mike Ward, the chief operating officer for Ranchers Exploration Partners] said even if the homeowners do not sign a lease to turn over their mineral rights, which amounts to about $70 per year per property owner, the drilling will still go on because of Smith’s 50 percent ownership of mineral rights. “My job is to drill wells for people who want to access their mineral rights,” Ward said…
Ward, whose company is drilling four wells on open space farmland in Eaton, said there won’t be any drilling for at least six months, and the plan is to drill the first well on open space on the north side of River West. Ward said it’s the first time his company has drilled near a subdivision, and if the first well doesn’t produce oil or gas, the project will be stopped.
“The best hope we have to not get drilled on is if they hit a dry hole down below on River West,” [Donn Brubaker, the president of the Ridge West HOA board of directors,] said.
According to Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Rose Davis, excess water from Lake Powell is being sent to Lake Mead under conditions established in the Colorado River Compact. Lake Mead’s elevation had plunged nearly 100 feet over the past decade, as a lingering drought choked the Colorado River. The lake came within six feet of dropping below the point that would have caused a water shortage. Further drops would have triggered limits on water use in the valley, but the recent increase has pushed the date of a possible shortage back to at least 2014, Davis said. “It’s too early to say the drought is over, but we’ve had a great year,” Davis said.
Karl Nyquist, one of the partners in the GP group, outlined the scope of the project for about 75 people, including local water rights owners, county commissioners from throughout the area, state water officials and attorneys. Prowers County would gain full-time jobs, tax base and economic diversity from the project, while losing seasonal farm labor and water, Nyquist said. “We think we can provide benefits on this end, in Prowers County,” he told the group. “We have tried to engineer a project that can be supportable in Prowers County and supportable on the Front Range and good for everyone.”
Those attending the meeting questioned whether GP could treat the water in a cost-effective manner, how the brine from treatment would be dealt with and whether the tax benefits of a privately built project would last if it were turned over to a public district at some point. Nyquist explained that Water Court, the Arkansas River Compact Administration and Prowers County 1041 regulations would sort out those kinds of issues. The project is being aired at a series of public meetings in Lamar, Elbert and El Paso counties as Nyquist and his partners seek approval for expansion of their Elbert County water district.