Energy policy — oil and gas: Energy wonks ask for more time to comment on the proposed EPA air pollution rules

derrick.jpg

From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Environmentalists who attended a public hearing on the proposal argued the agency’s proposed rules could go further. The meeting was the second of three on the agency’s plan, which includes what would be its first regulations for wells that are hydraulically fractured by blasting water, chemicals and sand underground…

Dozens of people spoke at hearings Tuesday in Pittsburgh and Wednesday in Denver. More planned to speak Thursday in Arlington, Texas…

The new rules would focus on having operators capture and sell natural gas that now escapes into the air.

The EPA estimated its fully implemented proposal could reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds by about 540,000 tons, or 25 percent. It would reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by about 26 percent and reduce hazardous air pollutants, including benzene, by almost 30 percent, the EPA estimates.

You can follow Ms. Tsai on Twitter @ctsai_denver.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust recently put 800 acres in the San Luis Valley under conservation easements

riogranderiverstateengineersoffice.jpg

Here’s the release from the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust via The Del Norte Prospector:

In the last two months, RiGHT protected the Rocky River Ranch west of Del Norte, the Howard Lester Ranch outside of Monte Vista and the Clark Ranch south of Alamosa.

These projects are a continuation of the local land trust’s Rio Grande Initiative, an ambitious effort to protect private land along the river corridor through voluntary, incentive-based conservation easements.

Collectively these ranches contain irrigated fields, wet meadows and prime farmland soils. Their protection helps keep land and water dedicated to agriculture, one of the core pieces of our local economy and the way of life we enjoy here in the Valley. These ranches also protect the cottonwoods and willows along the banks of the Rio Grande, which provide vital habitat for migratory songbirds, raptors, waterfowl and waterbirds, mule deer, elk and many other wildlife species. Equally as important, conservation of these lands protects the scenic views that both residents and visitors treasure here in the San Luis Valley…

Funding for these projects came from a variety of resources, including lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Conservation Resource Center and the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife’s San Luis Valley Habitat Partnership Program Committee.

These projects would not be possible without the dedication and generosity of the landowners who are protecting what they love about the San Luis Valley for future generations. “Thanks to their vision and commitment to conservation, we are helping ensure that the San Luis Valley we love today will still be here tomorrow,” commented RiGHT’s Executive Director, Nancy Butler.

While RiGHT works with landowners throughout the entire San Luis Valley, they have a special focus on protecting land and water resources in the Rio Grande corridor through the Rio Grande Initiative. RiGHT began the Initiative in 2007 in partnership with Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy. At the outset, there were 6,000 acres protected between 1986 and 2006.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here and here.

Denver: Metropolitan State College scores $1 million for new urban water center

metrostateroadrunner.jpg

Here’s the release from Metropolitan State College via The Denver Post:

An anonymous donor has given Metropolitan State College $1 million to establish an interdisciplinary water studies program.

Metro State officials on Tuesday said they’ll embark on creating the One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship — or OWOW — and that new courses next year will explore water issues.

OWOW’s mission will be to develop “urban water stewards” with an understanding of how to conserve critical resources. Students who study hydrology, politics, history, water law and conflict resolution then are to be guided toward internships and other volunteer opportunities to help meet statewide water needs.

The donor previously funded creation of a raindrop-shaped bronze sculpture on campus – meant to depict water cycles from mountains to oceans.

The new program will “bring recognition to Metro State. Part of Metro State’s mission is to help the community solve community related issues. Clearly, water is a huge issue in the West,” said Sandra Haynes, Metro State’s dean of professional studies. “We’ll be helping to create change in the way the Denver community views and uses water.”

More coverage from the Denver Business Journal (Bruce Goldberg):

The center, which is scheduled to offer a minor in water studies in fall 2012, will address Colorado’s growing demand for water and foster public education about it. The center also will implement water-stewardship activities both on campus and off, and connect students to internships, service learning and volunteer opportunities. The center also will help facilitate public education seminars and water-conservation initiatives.

Course topics will include hydrology, water law, history, economics, politics, conflict resolution and negotiation.

More coverage from Melanie Asmar writing for Westword. From the article:

“When we researched the potential for this program, we found that there wasn’t much being done at the undergraduate level to incorporate a variety of disciplines in water education,” says Sandra Haynes, dean of Metro State’s School of Professional Studies in a statement. “Through the interdisciplinary model, our graduates have the potential to make lasting impacts on water issues in our communities across the state.”

More education coverage here.

The Denver Water Board approves a 5.5% rate increase for 2012

2011frontrangecomparsion.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the Denver Water comparison chart for yearly charges in the Denver Metropolitan area. Here’s the release from Denver Water:

At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners voted on a water rate increase for 2012 to provide necessary funding for the utility’s capital projects. The new water rates will take effect January 2012 and will help the utility stay on top of needed projects to address its aging infrastructure.

“The increase is about half of what the Board had anticipated last year,” said Angela Bricmont, director of finance. “We looked very closely at our capital plan and found a balance between projects that could wait and projects we had to undertake to avoid putting reliable service at risk. We also implemented additional efficiency measures throughout the organization.”

The water rates for 2012 will reflect a 5.5 percent increase for all customers. The effects of the proposed changes on customer bills will vary depending upon the amount of water the customer uses and whether the customer lives in Denver or is served by a suburban distributor under contract with Denver Water. The more customers use, the more they will pay. Under the current rate proposal, average Denver residential customers would see their bills increase by $19.43 a year — an average of $1.62 per month. Typical suburban residential customers served by Denver Water would see an increase of $34.11 per year — an average of $2.84 per month. Commercial, industrial and government customers also would see a 5.5 percent increase.

Next year, the utility’s major projects include its pipe rehabilitation and replacement program to improve water flow, water quality and pipe integrity in communities; the expansion of its recycled water system, which helps free up drinking water and extend water supplies into the future; the completion of major valve projects at Cheesman and Williams Fork dams; and the protection of the watershed through its From Forests to Faucets Partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

Denver Water owns and maintains more than 3,000 miles of distribution pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 12 raw water reservoirs, 22 pump stations and four treatment plants. Ongoing rehabilitation and replacement of infrastructure is needed throughout the water distribution system, much of which dates back to post-World War II installation or earlier.

The utility plans to expand its system capacity over the next decade to meet the future needs of its customers by expanding the utility’s recycled water system, enlarging Gross Reservoir by 18,000 acre-feet, developing gravel pits that store reusable water, and exploring ways to work with other water providers to bring more supplies to its system.

Rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water residential customers in the suburbs would still fall at or below the median among area water providers.

“We are sensitive to the economy and the need to spend our customers’ dollars wisely,” Bricmont said. “We remain committed to organization-wide efficiency, sound financial management and fiscal responsibility. Our AAA bond rating allows us to build projects at lower cost — savings we are able to pass along to our customers.”

The water department is funded through rates and new tap fees, not taxes. Its rates are designed to recover the costs of providing reliable, high-quality water service and to encourage efficiency by charging higher prices for increased water use. A significant portion of Denver Water’s annual costs do not vary with the amount of water sold and include maintenance of the system’s distribution pipes, reservoirs, pump stations and treatment plants. Denver Water also examines and adjusts its capital plan as necessary each year.

Details of the 2012 rates can be found on Denver Water’s website (denverwater.org). Members of the public who have questions about the 2012 water rates may call 303-628-6320.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 200 cfs in the river below Olympus dam

coloradobigthompsonprojecteastslopesystemncwcd.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As we move into fall, we’re seeing some of our late season demands come on downstream of the Big Thompson River. As a result, we’ve been moving some water down from Pinewood, Flatiron and Lake Estes. Each reservoir has seen a slight drop in water elevation.

We have also increased releases from Lake Estes through Oly Dam. Monday night, we bumped releases up 75 cfs. Last night, we bumped up another 50 cfs. Consequently, this morning the Big Thompson through the canyon is flowing at about 200 cfs.

It is possible we could go up another 25 cfs late tonight. But, it is also likely flows will drop back down to below 100 cfs by Saturday morning when it is anticipated delivery of water down the Big T will drop off.

Also from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Flows on the Colorado River continue to drop. That means, calls for water along the 15 Mile Reach of critical habitat for the endangered fish are up slightly. As a result we have increased our release from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue. Yesterday around 5 p.m. we released another 50 cfs. That means the Lower Blue is currently around 650 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

The Parker Water and Sanitation District may lower their mil levy 31%

rueter-hessplans.jpg

From the Parker Chronicle:

Said Mary Spencer, President of the [Parker Water and Sanitation District] Board, “The tap fee income PWSD has received from new development allows us to pay debt and reduce property taxes from 14.925 mills to 10.172 mills in 2012. This translates to a savings on property taxes. The reduction in the mil levy also includes a onetime reduction in the operating portion of the mill levy by 0.925 mills to payback property taxes plus interest that were collected in excess of limits allowed under TABOR. In addition, the Board is presenting to their customers, at the October 17, 2011 budget hearing, that there be no increase in the 2012 wastewater rates and only a 4% increase in water rates. The 4% increase for the average in house use of 6,000 gallons is $1.59 per month…

The Board will consider the proposed budget for approval at the October 17, 2011 Board meeting to be held at 7 PM at the District’s North Water Reclamation Plant located at 18100 E. Woodman Dr., Parker , CO 80134.

More Parker coverage here.

Ben Noreen: ‘A sustainable future costs money’

denveraquifer.jpg

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ben Noreen):

The [Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District] plans informational meetings during the next several days for its 3,300 ratepayers, but Manager Jesse Shaffer said information about the deal began to be mailed to customers months ago. As early as Oct. 16 the district’s board may decide to spend between $25 million and $31 million for the JV Ranch and the 3,500 acre feet of Fountain Creek water that go with it. Shaffer said the final purchase price will depend upon how much of that water can be converted to municipal use; it’s now used as agricultural water. A water court case would determine those numbers, but Woodmoor customers would see about $48 a month in additional charges to pay off revenue bonds sold by the district…

…a sustainable future costs money and the general notion of any water district reducing its dependence on disappearing groundwater in favor of annually renewable supplies is good for the entire Pikes Peak region. At some point, our nonrenewable water in the ground will be gone and long before that happens, cities towns and districts have to figure out how to avoid being left high and dry. “The JV Ranch purchase represents the greatest milestone in our district’s quest for renewable water,” Board President Barrie Town said…

Woodmoor customers can hear more details about the proposal at a meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Monument Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Road, or on Oct. 8 at 8 a.m. at The Mozaic Restaurant at the Inn at Palmer Divide, 443 S. Highway 105, Palmer Lake.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here. More Denver basin aquifer system coverage here.

A fishery exists on the South Platte River through the Denver Metro area despite the non-natural flows and years of abuse as the city grew

commoncarp.jpg

Flyfishing for carp in the South Platte is not easy. Sight fishing for actively feeding carp takes a bit of skill, a little luck, clear water and a fundamental understanding of this species’ finicky behavior. Once thought of as only a trash fish, carp have developed a cult-like following on the South Platte, from Chatfield Reservoir to Commerce City. Carp are a challenging species, but the river they inhabit in Denver has problems like few others.

“The South Platte River from Chatfield downstream through the city of Denver and even beyond doesn’t always have adequate flows to provide optimum amounts of water for sport fish,” said Paul Winkle, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Even so, populations of fish are thriving. With every new trip to the water, the carp and other species caught by steadfast anglers are proof of the river’s potential as a healthy, sustainable fishery. One reason there is such belief in this section of the South Platte is because of the numbers produced each year at the carp tourney. In addition to the 16 carp landed by different teams (and numerous others that broke off light tippet or spit improperly set hooks), a number of trout also were caught and released, including a 22-inch rainbow…

In addition to a thriving carp population and pockets of healthy trout, anglers have reported increasing numbers of smallmouth bass. During this year’s carp slam, for the second year in a row, another frequently caught species was smallmouth bass. Smalleys can sustain higher water temperatures than other sport fish such as rainbows or browns, and they have a higher chance of survival and natural reproduction.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Drought news: Walsh sets record for lowest precipitation in August

usdroughtmonitor09202011.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The long-term seasonal climate forecast indicates that the return of La Nina conditions will likely result in drier conditions than last year,” said Veva DeHeza of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Below average conditions in the southeastern portion of the state are likely to persist with a chance of normal precipitation in the mountains for the midwinter.” The U.S. Drought Monitor still lists most of the Rio Grande, Pueblo and Baca counties as in extreme drought, with parts of Baca County still in exceptional drought. About 39 percent of the state is in drought. A record low for precipitation was recorded at Walsh in August, and September is on pace as well. Pueblo County has seen its lowest levels for precipitation since 2002, with 6.83 inches recorded so far this year at the airport weather station — roughly 60 percent of average.

Click here for the Colorado Water Conservation Board presentations from last week’s Water Availability Task Force meeting.