Grand Junction: ‘Water Law In a Nutshell’ at Colorado Mesa University October 14


Here’s the link to the details and registration information

From email from the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and the Mesa County Water Association (Hannah Holm):

The Water Center at Colorado Mesa University is pleased to host “Water Law in a Nutshell,” an 8-hour seminar presented by Mr. Aaron Clay, Attorney at Law and former 26-year Water Referee for the Colorado Water Court, Division 4. This seminar will cover all aspects of the law related to water rights and ditch rights as applied in Colorado. Subject matter includes the appropriation, perfection, use, limitations, attributes, abandonment and enforcement of various types of water rights. Additional subject matter will include special rules for groundwater, public rights in appropriated water, Federal and interstate compacts and more. This seminar is open to all interested persons. Fee is $69, or $114 for those seeking graduate inservice credit. Registration deadline is Oct 7, but class size is limited, and it may fill up before then.

More water law coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: The Town of Telluride town council approves lawsuit over operating license for the proposed Piñon Ridge mill


From The Telluride Watch:

On Tuesday, the Telluride Town Council voted unanimously to retain the legal services of a national public interest law firm, Public Justice, to litigate the case…

In January, the CDPHE issued a Radioactive Materials License to Energy Fuels Resources Corporation as a result of Colorado being an “Agreement State” under the Federal Atomic Energy Act. Shortly after it was issued, the licensing decision by CDPHE was first challenged by the Telluride-based environmental group Sheep Mountain Alliance. Following careful deliberation, members of council also expressed concerns over the potential negative impacts of an operational uranium mill in the area. According to Telluride Town Attorney Kevin Geiger and Public Justice, these possible impacts were given little or no consideration by the state in its review process.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Environmentalists are concerned that taxpayer dough is being spent frivolously on study


From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

A coalition of environmental groups that include Western Resource Advocates, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and Save the Colorado, object to spending taxpayer money to study the feasibility of the trans-mountain diversion of water.

“Our concern is that it adds credibility to the project,” CEC water coordinator Becky Long said.

Ken Neubecker is director of Western Rivers Institute, past president of Trout Unlimited, and a member of the task force. The state legislature set aside money for projects like the task force study to look at what needs to be done regarding water supply and Colorado’s future, Neubecker said.

“Any significant reduction from the Green River could potentially affect all users in the basin,” said Hannah Holm, coordinator of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University. The Water Center’s purpose is to “help communities in the upper Colorado River Basin understand how to be smart about water, do more with less to meet the needs going forward due to scarcity and tightened competition,” Holm said.

Additional water for projected shortages could come from purchase of agricultural rights, increased conservation, and alternative agricultural rights purchases — temporary arrangements with farmers so water could be obtained “without drying up the land forever,” Holm said.

The environmental coalition released a statement Wednesday protesting the vote: “While smaller, the proposal would still spend thousands of dollars in state funds to investigate a controversial and environmentally damaging project which thousands of Colorado citizens believe should not be funded at all.”

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

Board Chairman Eric Wilkinson castigated the environmental groups for trying to “sabotage” the study, and asked them to work with the state toward finding solutions. “The CWCB has the dirty, ugly discussions. That’s its responsibility. . . . I’m tired of all the disinformation about what the CWCB does,” Wilkinson said. “This board is trying to move the state forward, and, by golly, we’re going to turn this state around.”[…]

The CWCB approved a $72,000 grant — cut from the original $250,000 proposal — to identify statewide issues or interests from the proposed project. It would establish a task force of roundtable members from throughout the state as well as environmental representatives. The grant primarily covers the cost of 12 facilitated meetings during the process. Wilkinson asked the board to consider keeping the remainder of the money available if more discussion is warranted, but the board for now approved only the initial study. Part of the purpose of the task force would be to create a framework for studying future large projects.

The proposal was reworked Tuesday night after several environmental groups attempted to kill the project, said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, who represented the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at the meeting.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: No drillers responded to Aspen’s RFP for a geothermal test project


From The Aspen Daily News (Andrew Travers):

The city’s Open Space and Trails Board in July unanimously approved a temporary test-drilling site on the gravel parking lot of the city-owned Prockter Open Space, beside the Roaring Fork River and across Neale Avenue from Heron Park. The city has dedicated $150,000 to the exploration project, and also won a $50,000 grant from the Governor’s Energy Office to help fund the test drilling…

Drilling had been slated for mid-September, but no drillers responded to a city request for proposals (RFP). An Aug. 29 deadline for proposals came and went without any interested contractors coming forward.

“We didn’t get any bids, so we’re trying again,” said [Canary Initiative] director Lauren McDonnell. The city has put the project out for proposals again, with a new deadline set for this Monday, Sept. 19.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Lamar pipeline: Former University of Colorado researcher urges in-depth analysis of the proposed project


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“If an area is in economic decline, you want to slow the decline, you don’t want to make it worse,” said Ken Weber, an anthropologist who wrote numerous reports on economic changes in Crowley County and the Great Plains as a researcher at the University of Colorado from 1986-1996. Weber, 67, grew up in LaJunta in the 1950s, and returned to the area a few years ago to live in Pueblo after working for two federal agencies. Weber frequently attends area water meetings and had a hand in creating the Arkansas Basin Roundtable agriculture-urban transfers report and tipping-point study…

Crowley County already was in decline by the time Colorado Springs and Aurora purchased most of the remaining water rights on the Colorado Canal in the 1980s. Its population dropped to less than 3,000 in the 1980 Census, less than half of its peak in 1920. Prowers County is on a similar path. Its population peaked in 1950 at nearly 15,000. In 2010, the population dropped to its lowest point, 12,551. Irrigated agriculture in Prowers County has suffered through decades of economic turbulence, as witnessed by the sale of many farms on the Fort Lyon Canal to water developers and half of the farms on the Amity Canal to Tri-State Generation and Transmission…

Unlike past water grabs, the GP plan has included an incentive for Prowers County — a water treatment plant. Bill Grasmick, a longtime farmer whose family sold water rights to GP Water, called the plan “economic development” for Lamar. An economic analysis, prepared by GP as part of a water-service bid, says the equivalent of 41 full-time farm-labor jobs would be lost when the water is taken off 4,000 acres of ground. Those jobs would be replaced by 13 jobs in the water treatment plant and seven jobs at a gravel mining operation. The payroll would increase to $3.3 million a year with the new jobs from the existing $2 million paid annually from the present farming operation. Property taxes would go up to more than $600,000 from $15,000 on the land, with the water treatment plant and gravel operations, according to Peter Elzi, of THK Associates, a GP planning consultant…

“We can know the engineering and technical parts of a project, but not the economic and social part,” Weber said. “All of this operates in a social and historical context, and to the extent we ignore that context, our decisions are somewhat blind.”

More coverage from the Castle Rock News Press (Ashley Dieterle):

A 12-month moratorium on service plans and service-plan amendments related to water districts was passed by the Elbert Board of County Commissioners during the Sept. 14 board meeting. The moratorium also applies to water sanitation districts and metropolitan districts that provide water services. The moratorium stemmed from the application withdrawal of an amendment to the service plan for the Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District during an Aug. 24 board meeting. The controversial petition, which would have allowed a 150-mile pipeline transporting water from Lamar to the county, was withdrawn when county residents were unhappy with the commissioners for allowing the petition to reach public hearing.

More Lamar Pipeline coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation is on board with compromise for the spending of project revenues


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The plan pays off the South Outlet Works connection to Pueblo Dam, about $2 million, using revenues from 2010-11 this year, and begin paying down federal debt on the Fountain Valley Conduit and Ruedi Reservoir next year. During that time, the groups will work on a mutually acceptable plan for future years…

The new plan backs off the Southeastern’s insistence that Arkansas River basin parts of the project be paid down before Ruedi, a compensatory storage reservoir for the Western Slope above Basalt near Aspen…

The South Outlet Works delivers water from the Pueblo Dam to the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Fountain Valley Authority, Pueblo West and the future Arkansas Valley Conduit. Payment of the debt on the South Outlet Works benefits Pueblo water customers, who otherwise would have to pay about $169,000 a year over the next 12 years. More than $52 million is owed on the Fountain Valley Conduit, which serves Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security, Widefield and Stratmoor Hills. Payments for those users total $5.6 million a year, through property tax assessment. More than $32 million is owed on Ruedi, and interest payments increase the amount by $2 million annually. The reservoir was built larger than necessary at the request of Western Slope interests, and the large debt is a result of unused accounts at the reservoir.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.