Curtis Kimbel (EPA): ‘The material appears to be coming from Suncor property, migrating under the Metro Wastewater property and daylighting in Sand Creek’

sandcreekspill11292011

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“The material appears to be coming from Suncor property, migrating under the Metro Wastewater property and daylighting in Sand Creek,” said EPA emergency response manager Curtis Kimbel.

State health department managers today told the Associated Press that Suncor Energy reported a break in a spur of an underground pipe that runs between a storage tank and refinery about a half mile from where the oily ooze is leaking into the creek.

Hazardous Waste Corrective Action Unit supervisor Walter Avramenko said more tests are needed to confirm the break is the source…

The EPA also has launched comprehensive water and soil sampling along Sand Creek and the South Platte. The first lab results from earlier tests are expected this afternoon, and EPA contractor said.

First responders are still using vapor monitors that indicate an ongoing need for respirators.

Meawhile Reuters Africa is reporting the Suncorp says they’ve stanched the leak. Here’s an excerpt:

Suncor Energy said on Wednesday it has contained a leak of an oily substance near its Commerce City refinery in Colorado that was running into Sand Creek…

The Canadian energy firm said it had not yet identified the source of the leak, but acknowledged it was likely coming from its 93,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the area. It said plant operations were unaffected…

EPA spokeswoman Karen Edson said workers were using absorbent booms to contain the substance along a 200- to 300-meter stretch of the Sand Creek. Suncor workers are also building a ditch to keep it from flowing further, she said…

Suncor’s Commerce City plant recently underwent a $540 million upgrade to enable it to handle more heavy oil sands crude from Canada.

While minor spills and leaks are not uncommon near major energy facilities, a series of larger pipeline leaks in recent years and fierce resistance to a proposed major new conduit from Canada has heightened awareness of the environmental risks they pose.

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment issued Suncor’s Commerce City plant a compliance order on October 26, 2011, a copy of which was sent to Reuters.

The order says that a department investigation indicated “that recent releases of hazardous waste and hazardous constituents on-site, are now migrating off-site in excess of applicable standards.”

The order set specific dates for Suncor to show it was complying with health and safety orders at its facility.

“The seeps that began on Sunday would appear to be different from the issues that are discussed in the compliance order,” said Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “However, that is going to be subject to investigation.”

More coverage from Anthony Swift writing for the Switchboard. From the article:

The spill was discovered on Sunday morning by Trevor Tanner, a fisherman who saw sheen on the South Platte River and said the area smelled like a gas station. In his account:

“I walked several hundred feet up Sand-Creek and there was an oil sheen the whole way and there was even a weird milky chocolaty sludge trapped in the small back-eddy below the confluence. My fly smelled like gasoline. My fingers smelled like gasoline. I could see micro-currents and upwells in the water column that you usually just can’t see. Something was terribly wrong.”

When Mr. Tanner found the hotline number and called it, the spill response coordinator initially wanted him to call back in twenty minutes. On Monday officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arrived onsite and Suncor reported a leak. On Tuesday evening Suncor and EPA officials decided to dig a trench. This afternoon, EPA officials announced that three small booms erected on a bank of Sannd Creek appear to be containing the oil and preventing further contamination.

More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates linked the spill, which is now being investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to the recent announcement by Anadarko Petroleum that up to a billion barrels of oil may be recoverable in the Wattenberg Field over the Niobrara Shale formation in Weld County.

WRA officials are concerned that the Suncor spill into Sand Creek north of Denver has already made it into the South Platte, which is a major water source for Colorado’s Front Range. Stepped up drilling by Anadarko and other companies in the state’s most populous areas could have similar consequences, the group argues.

“Municipal water systems are designed to treat bacteria and pathogens, but not hydrocarbons like those that might come from an oil refinery,” said Drew Beckwith, WRA’s water policy manager. “That’s not to say that the water can’t be kept safe, but we need to consider the potential consequences before something like this happens on a larger scale. The potential for problems becomes exponentially greater as drilling moves closer to population centers.”

suncorrefinerycommercecity.jpg

More coverage from the Environmental News Service. Here’s an excerpt:

Suncor is the oldest of the tar sands producers; up to 90 percent of its production is derived from tar sands bitumen. Suncor recently upgraded the Commerce City facility so it could refine more heavy tar sands crude coming in from northern Alberta, Canada via the Express and Platte pipelines.

The extent of the contamination is still unclear, said Mogerman, who says much of the spill could be escaping the booms set out to contain it. “If the leak involves tar sands diluted bitumen, the contamination could be more severe,” he said. “Tar sands diluted bitumen spills are associated with significantly more submerged oil, which cannot be contained by surface booms.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

lowerarkansasriver.jpg

From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Bette McFarren):

The financial report was presented by Director Wayne Whitaker, treasurer. October revenues were $17.91. Expenses were $37,575.37, for a net deficit of $37,557.46 for the month of October. “Sounds like farming,” commented Director Leroy Mauch. There are other assets, as shown on the LAVWCD Enterprise-Activity Account Balance Sheet as of Oct. 31, 2011. Total current assets are $462,903.82 and total property and equipment are $16,916,269.78. Total current liabilities are $125,686.97.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here and here.

The Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District has approved its 2012 budget

wetmountainvalley.jpg

I could not find a deep link to the article from the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner). Here’s an excerpt:

Projected revenues total $522,575 and expected expenditures total $521,905.

Of the anticipated revenues, $246,062 or 48 percent is from metered water sales and $167,759 or 32 percent is from metered sewer charges. The remaining dollars — $108,754 or 20 percent will come from property taxes, the sale of new taps, leases and interest.

On the expense side, $192,908 or 32 percent are salaries, $97,625 or 19 percent are administrative, $62,500 or 12 percent is water costs , $60,377 or 12 percent is the Johnson Place Ranch lease payment, $59,000 is wastewater/sewer system costs, $34,740 or seven percent is loan payments and $14,755 or three percent is health insurance.

Proposed projects to be completed in 2012 are adding four new fire hydrants and replacing two existing ones for a cost of $12,000; various wastewater plant maintenance including sludge dredging, grit and grease removal, and odor prevention at a cost of $35,000; a seepage study for $5,000; water and sewer line mapping at a cost of $2,000 to $5,000; and billing upgrade for $2,000 to $5,000.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Final EIS for Windy Gap Firming Available to Public

chimneyhollowreservoir.jpg

Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Bureau of Reclamation announces the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project.

To access the Final EIS, Executive Summary, and supporting technical reports please visit www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao. A list of libraries where the Final EIS is available is also included on the website.

To receive a copy of the Final EIS on compact disk, please submit a written request to the attention of Lucy Maldonado through regular mail or e-mail:
Bureau of Reclamation
11056 W. County Rd. 18E
Loveland, Colorado 80537
lmaldonado@usbr.gov

The Windy Gap Firming Project was proposed to Reclamation by the Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Reclamation prepared the Final EIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

The Final EIS discloses and summarizes the anticipated effects of the proposed project and four alternatives, including a No Action Alternative. It also recommends a preferred alternative and outlines environmental commitments and mitigations.

More coverage from Tom Hacker writing for the Loveland Reporter-Herald. From the article:

Chimney Hollow, just west of and slightly smaller than Carter Lake, is the key feature of the Windy Gap Firming Project and would store 30,000 acre feet of water. Thirteen municipalities and utilities, including Loveland, share ownership of the project…

The project, like its Colorado-Big Thompson predecessor, would divert Western Slope water from the upper Colorado River Basin to the east slope, where it would be stored at Chimney Hollow and delivered to Front Range water users.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

Sand Creek: The Environmental Protection Agency has taken over at the spill site near Commerce City

sandcreekspill11292011

Here’s an in-depth report about the spill and cleanup efforts from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Click through and read the whole thing, check out the cool video and photo slide show. Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials have known about hazardous leakages in the area for at least a month, documents show. And for a week, toxic vapors at the nearby Metro Wastewater Reclamation District facility have forced workers to wear respirators. But nobody checked the rivers or tried to stop the seepage. Damage remains unassessed.

Suncor Energy cleanup crews slogged through the muck and used vacuum trucks Tuesday to remove surface material caught in booms strung across Sand Creek northwest of the company’s oil refinery. Late Tuesday, they began digging a trench to try to catch the muck as it leaks out of the bank of Sand Creek.

“We want to keep that out of the river — protect the river,” said Curtis Kimbel, the Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator.

Lab tests of water and soil samples taken late Monday and early Tuesday have not been completed, and the source remained a mystery in an industrial area where refineries have existed since 1938. “But based on the odor and the sheen, we don’t want it to go in the river,” Kimbel said.

More coverage from 9News.com (Jeffrey Wolf/Brandon Rittiman/Kyle Clark):

State officials say the refinery suspected of leaking the possibly hazardous liquids into Sand Creek has been under a corrective order for several decades because of contaminated groundwater. Colorado health department spokesman Warren Smith says the state has been monitoring contaminated plumes from the Suncor Energy refinery and he says it’s likely the source of an oily liquid that has been seeping into the creek about a mile from the refinery…

“We don’t how much went downstream. We do know now that it is contained,” Karen Edson with the EPA said. The EPA says the amount that went downstream isn’t enough to cause major alarm, but it’s still worth taking precautions around the South Platte near Commerce City…

“There’s a good possibility the material could be from us. We don’t know for sure. But we’re not gonna mess around with that. We’re going to take responsibility. The environment needs to be protected,” John Gallagher with Suncor said.

More water pollution coverage here.

Restoration: CCC ditch site mitigation on the San Miguel River helps fish, irrigators and improves boating safety

cccditchsanmiguelriverheadgatewallcoloradowatertrust.jpg

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Benjamin Preston):

Built in the 1950s, the diversion had wreaked havoc on the riparian ecosystem, posed a hazard to boaters and kept a 1,500-foot stretch of the riverbed dry. Noting the need to reestablish fish habitat and improve safety for boaters, a coalition of environmental groups, state and federal agencies, and the CCC embarked on a 10-year restoration project. That project is now complete.

“There were a whole lot of partners in this, the most important of which was the CCC,” said Dan Kowalski, an aquatic biologist with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “They own the diversion structure and the water rights, so without them this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Construction, which entailed building a fish ladder and a low-flow channel, wrapped up last month. When it was built, the dam bypassed several thousand feet of the river before reentering downstream. To fish, the low concrete structure seemed an impenetrable wall, particularly to the Flannelmouth sucker, which aren’t particularly good jumpers. The fish ladder was designed to accommodate both nonathletic fish like suckers and agile sport fish like brown and rainbow trout.

As with any project involving water rights and multiple jurisdictions, hatching a practical venture involved careful planning and piecemeal fundraising by environmental groups, as well as cooperation between them, the owner, and state and federal agencies…

“This was one of those projects where different people pushed the rock up the hill at different times,” said Amy Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust. “Over 10 years, people came and went.”

Funding came from a variety of sources, including the Nature Conservancy, the Southwest Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Walton Family Foundation, the Telluride Foundation and a sizeable grant from the state’s Fishing is Fun program, which uses money from federal excise taxes on boating and fishing.

Here’s the Coyote Gulch post with the announcement from the Colorado Water Trust

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board approves a $2.9 million budget for 2012

upperarkansasvalley.jpg

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Directors approved a budget resolution adopting the $2.9 million 2012 budget prepared by Swartz and Young Certified Public Accountants [November 10] during the monthly Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting in Salida. The total budget includes the general fund and the enterprise fund, and Rich Young of Swartz and Young said the 2012 budget includes $465,779 in projected property tax revenue, an increase of $2,000-3,000 compared with this year.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Teller County Environmental Health and Colorado State University Extension are hosting a septic and well system workshop December 10

septicsystemtellercounty.jpg

From the Pikes Peak Courier View:

Ground water is an important resource in Colorado, supplying approximately 18 percent of the water used in the state. Nineteen of Colorado’s 64 counties rely solely on ground water for drinking water and domestic uses. Private wells are the primary source of water for many Colorado families, farms and ranches. Protecting these private water supplies is essential to the welfare of those who depend upon ground water. Good quality water is an invaluable resource.

Since wells are directly linked to ground water, they can become contaminated if agricultural chemicals, runoff from animal enclosures, fuels, household wastes or other contaminates accidently enter them. Because of this, all rural residents should view their well as a vital asset that needs to be protected.

This program is intended to help you understand more about your water and septic system and help you evaluate activities around the home or ranch that may contaminate wells and ground water…

Directly related to water quality is the maintenance of your septic system. We will explore the basic structure of the septic system, what it does, how it works, and how to maintain it. A septic system record folder will be provided as well as what should be recorded and how often.

More water pollution coverage here.

LaFarge settles Clean Water Act violations in five states, including Colorado

lafargeconcreteplantbucharest.jpg

From The Denver Post:

Following federal inspections of Lafarge facilities that involved a pattern of violations since 2006, Lafarge and its four U.S. subsidiaries will evaluate all its 189 concrete facilities to ensure they meet federal Clean Water Act standards and will pay $740,000 in penalties. The work will insure that stormwater that flows over Lafarge concrete manufacturing facilities does not carry pollutants that impact water quality in nearby watersheds.

Lafarge also will protect land using conservation easements in Maryland and Colorado on l66 acres valued at $2.95 million.

The comprehensive evaluation will involve permit reviews at each facility and an analysis of all discharges into U.S. waters. Lafarge also will install an environmental team of managers and directors overseeing stormwater compliance standards at its facilities. Lafarge will spend about $8 million over five years developing and maintaining its new environmental compliance program.

More water pollution coverage here.

The strategy of switching federal agencies for the permitting of the Flaming Gorge pipeline project may not lead to a faster approval

flaminggorgepipelinemillion.jpg

From WyoFile (Allen Best):

“(Million) has been suggesting that he could get this project done in a significantly shorter amount of time (through FERC). My [Matt Rice, director of Colorado conservation for American Rivers] first reaction is this: He’s totally forgetting about the federal hydropower licensing requirements under the Federal Power Act. The process can be incredibly complex, especially for a project of this size, geographic scope and complexity.”

Based on his experience working on hydropower projects seeking permits in South Carolina and Alabama, Rice expects a process that lasts at least a decade. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this project took at least 10 years…and more like 12 to 15 years,” he says. “Augusta, Ga., just got a license for a small project, and that process took more than 30 years.”

And before a permit is awarded by FERC, it must also get review under the applicable environmental laws – possibly including the Clean Water Act, which is what had triggered the original review by the Army Corps.

Million needed a section 404 dredge-and-fill permit under the provisions of that law because of proposed use of fill at Flaming Gorge Reservoir for his proposed take-out structure and possibly at other wetlands locations along the pipeline route.

A spokeswoman for the Army Corps describes a process that was delayed because of Million’s foot-dragging. “It had to do with the many delays and the applicant continuing to ask for more extensions and more time,” says regulatory specialist Rena Brand. “Toward the end of July, his group explained that they were thinking about moving to energy production.” And that, she said, meant a new purpose and need.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Aquate Group reservoir covers lessen evaporation and generate solar energy in Israel

watercyclewikipedia.jpg

Here’s the release from the Aquate Group:

ISRAELI COMPANY RESOLVES NATIONAL RESOURCE CHALLENGES IN GENERATING RENEWABLE ENERGY

Aquate Group Ltd. signs landmark agreement with Chevrat Moshve Hanegev to increase national water resources, enable increased agricultural production in the Negev, and generate clean energy without exploiting land

 Aquate’s infrastructure investment will total approximately NIS 300,000,000 (U.S. $80 million)

 Through Aquate’s reservoir enhancement services the four Chevrat Moshve Hanegev reservoirs can increase their total water availability by 900,000 cubic meters of water each year

 Aquate’s infrastructure will add 1500 dunams [now defined as exactly one decare (1000 m²)] of irrigated agricultural land in the Negev

 Aquate’s infrastructure, which is installed only on a reservoir’s water surface, will preserve over 460 dunams of land from exploitation

 Aquate’s infrastructure will provide 16 megawatts of clean solar energy capacity

Aquate Group Ltd. (“Aquate”) and Chevrat Moshve Hanegev have entered into an unprecedented long-term cooperation agreement this week under which Aquate will provide Israel’s largest agricultural company with Aquate’s reservoir enhancement and clean energy infrastructure and services. Under the agreement, Aquate’s services will increase the volume and quality of water available for irrigation from Chevrat Moshve Hanegev reclaimed water reservoirs.

Aquate regional companies provide water reservoir enhancement and clean energy infrastructure and services throughout the world. Under this initial agreement in Israel, Aquate plans to invest NIS 300 million ($80 million). This investment by Aquate will increase the total amount of water available in the Chevrat Moshve Hanegev reservoirs, improve water quality in the reservoirs, enable the irrigation of new land devoted to agriculture, and prevent overuse of open areas.

Shimon Tal, Israel’s former Water Commissioner, Director of Aquate Group Ltd., and President of Aquate’s operations in Israel remarked, “Israel’s numerous irrigation reservoirs are critical to supporting agricultural production in Israel as well as to reducing pressure on supplies of drinking water. The services Aquate is providing Israel will produce clean electricity on a large scale and enhance the capacity of these reservoirs to support agricultural production without interfering with the operation of the reservoirs. The Aquate team has experience planning and installing cover systems on hundreds of reservoirs around the world, and that experience spans over more than thirty years. By implementing existing knowledge and methods in the design and installation of reservoir covers, we can provide a system-wide solution that will preserve and enhance the original designation of the reservoirs for agriculture.”

Aquate provides reservoir enhancement services by installing on water reservoirs a proprietary flexible floating cover, durable for twenty-five years or more, that incorporates photovoltaic cells and water quality monitoring and treatment systems. The company will begin installing reservoir enhancement and clean energy infrastructure and services in Israel this year.

“We believe that this cooperation is one of the most important ones we have undertaken,” said Ilan Peretz, CEO of Chevrat Moshve Hanegev. “For our company, Aquate’s reservoir enhancement infrastructure and services will prevent income loss that we have suffered in the past due to declining water quality and evaporation. At the local and national level, the Negev and Israel will benefit from increased agricultural outputs and an increase in water availability. Of equal importance, our farmers can proudly play a leading role in achieving the country’s ambitious renewable energy goals without having to relinquish precious farm land to do so.”

According to Barak Yekutiely, the Chairman and CEO of Aquate Group Ltd., “We believe this is the right approach to predictable development of large scale renewable energy sources that reduce dependence on fossil fuel generated electricity while increasing food and water supplies and preserving green open spaces. Aquate provides proven solutions that enhance and maintain national resources – in Israel’s case significantly increasing national water resources and agricultural output and protecting rather than exploiting scarce land for clean energy generation.”

* Aquate Group Ltd. develops sustainable assets on a global basis through regional operating companies that provide both climate change mitigation and adaptation services. Aquate’s regional operating companies deliver two primary services: reservoir enhancement to reservoir owners and operators and clean energy generation for electric utility companies. Through the delivery of these two bundled services, Aquate provides additional climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits such as reducing the need to build new power generation facilities on scarce agricultural land; promoting biodiversity; and stimulating increased agricultural production through greater availability of water at higher quality levels.

** Chevrat Moshve Hanegev is Israel’s largest agricultural company and is a partnership between 34 Moshavim which cultivate over 150,000 dunams. The company was established in 1958 and specializes in field crops (wheat, potatoes, peanuts, sunflower, chickpeas, corn and carrots), citrus fruits, almonds, pomegranates and more.

More coverage from GreenProphet.com (Shifra Mincer). From the article:

At Watec Israel, an international conference and exhibition on water technologies, renewable energy and environmental control, hosted from November 15-17 this year in Tel Aviv, Israeli national water company Mekorot agreed to a 20-year lease of a 100,000 square meter reservoir to Israel-based Aquate Group. Aquate specializes in floating reservoir covers that prevent a significant amount of the water from evaporating while providing a platform for renewable energy generation.

According to Aquate, the 20-year project with Mekorot will save 4 million cubic meters of water from evaporating and will create about 6 MW of clean power for the Israeli grid. Aquate will bear the operations and maintenance costs of the project.

“Signed in the national level and alongside national committees for assessing best options for green growth, this agreement may position Israel as a leading national actor that quantifies the economic costs of alternative solutions as well as conventional solutions with the aim of maximizing national long-term economic benefits,” said Aquate Group Marketing Communications Director Maya Ben Dror.

More conservation coverage here. More solar coverage here.

Reflections on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — W.D. Farr

wdfarrcoloradobigthompsonprojectgreeleywater.jpg

Here’s a video with W.D. Farr explaining the origins of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Thanks to Greeley Water for posting the video.

Next year is the 75th anniversary of the 1937 act that established the water conservancy districts and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Farr explains that Congressman Taylor would not support the project unless Green Mountain Reservoir — for west slope supplies — was built first.

“The biggest cloud of dust I ever saw came out of that tunnel [Adams Tunnel],” Farr says, “I never saw men so happy in my life.”

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

CWCB Proposed 2012 Instream Flow Appropriations Water Divisions 1,2,3,4, 5 and 6

apishapariver.jpg

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

This notice complements previous notice, made pursuant to ISF Rule 5c., which identified the streams to be considered for instream flow appropriations in 2012. At the January or March 2012 meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), staff may request that the Board form its intent to appropriate Instream Flow (ISF) water rights for the streams listed on the attached Instream Flow Appropriation List. The attached list contains a description of the ISF recommendations including: water division, stream name, county, and recommending entity.

Copies of the Instream Flow Stakeholder Recommendations and Appendices submitted into the Official CWCB Record are available for review by the public during regular business hours (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) at the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Office, located at 1313 Sherman Street, Room 721, Denver, Colorado, 80203. In addition to the CWCB office, copies of the Instream Flow Stakeholder Recommendations are available on the CWCB website at

Here’s the announcement from the CWCB website.

More instream flow coverage here.

Restoration: An objective for the Mancos Conservation District is to achieve a greater balance between ranching and healthy ecosystems and especially water

mancosrivermontezumacountyconservationdistricts.jpg

Here’s an in-depth look at restoration and conservation efforts in the Mancos River watershed from Jeanne Archambeault writing for The Mancos Times via The Durango Herald. From the article:

There are many organizations in Mancos that have a direct influence on the river, the watershed that surrounds it and the condition and health of the river itself. The Mancos Conservation District is concerned with the river water and soil that is moved by the water.

The Mancos Valley Watershed Project was started in 2005 by the Mancos Valley Watershed Group, formed because of a need to conserve soil and water in the Mancos River. Integral partners of the watershed project are the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Mancos Conservation District (formerly the Mancos Soil Conservation District) and the town of Mancos. The project also has brought together riverfront landowners, farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, irrigation companies, recreationalists and community members to address a number of goals.

Goals include improving fishing along the river, reducing the loading of dissolved copper from the east fork, working with irrigators and irrigation companies and landowners along the river to rebuild and restore functioning of the diversion systems, and improving the riparian ecosystem and in-stream flows through the summer…

The Mancos River supplies water to the town of Mancos and outlying residents, to ranchlands and farms for irrigation, to Mesa Verde National Park, and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe and its agricultural interests. It also provides essential habitat for wildlife.

Ann Oliver is the watershed project manager contracted by the MCD. She has been instrumental in bringing interested parties together.

Russell Klatt, conservation technician for the project, also serves the landowners in the Mancos Watershed. Klatt designs the way the river is going to flow, and Keith Duncan Construction helps him move the rocks and do the work. “The large boulders in the water block and divert the water to where you want it to go,” Klatt said…

The project is a further positive step toward the MCD’s objective of achieving a greater balance between ranching and healthy ecosystems and especially our water.

The MCD also offers workshops and classes throughout the year, all free to the public, on such subjects as irrigation-water management, weeds and rangeland.

More Mancos River watershed coverage here and here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

wyutcoprecipitationnovember13to192011

Here are the summaries for this week from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the precipitation summary.

Buena Vista: Mount Princeton Geothermal is hosting a public meeting November 30 about a planned magnetotelluric survey of the Chalk Creek area

geothermalassessmentmtprincetonmagnetotelluric.jpg

Here’s the link to a brochure about the upcoming assessment. Thanks to Mt. Princeton Geothermal, LLC for sending it over to me.

Precipitation news: Snowfall in the central mountains has been about average

snowpackcolorado11252011

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

For the season so far, precipitation is close to average, and winter hasn’t even started yet. And Friday night’s storm exceeded expectations, dropping a few inches (at least in Frisco) before 10 p.m.

Let’s recap. Beginning last August, the Climate Prediction Center forecast warmer-than-average temperatures for Colorado, along with equal chances for above- or below-normal precipitation. That outlook remained unchanged through the late summer and into autumn.

The biggest storms came before most of the ski areas opened. Since early November, the weather pattern has been a bit moribund, characterized by a pesky split-flow pattern that breaks approaching Pacific systems apart, with the biggest snowfall in the far south and far north.

Both Steamboat and Wolf Creek have benefited from this pattern, tallying the biggest snow totals so far, while the mountains in the central part of the state are, for the most part, near average.

The Glen Canyon Institute has a new website

glencanyonconst.jpg

Say hello to the shiny new Glen Canyon Institute website. They’re working tirelessly to decommission Glen Canyon Dam and restore the reach of the Colorado River from Cataract Canyon to Lake Mead.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Gothic shale play in Southwestern Colorado is in the early stages of leasing, conservationists are using the lull in activity to plan

gothicshaleplayboudaycenterfornativeecosystems.jpg

From the Cortez Journal (Nathalie Winch):

“I think it’s possible to have natural gas development and to do it right,” [San Juan Citizens Alliance’s leader Jimbo Buickerood] said. “I think it can be a helpful economic drive. I think we can protect the water and the air quality and wildlife values and take good care of resources, if there’s adequate structure and integrity to the plan the agency puts together.”

Buickerood supports a master leasing plan in order to make this happen. Ideally, he’d like everyone at the table for discussion, including the energy developers, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, citizens, environmentalists, etc.

A portion of the plan suggests fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, through shale within Dolores and Montezuma counties.

The public has until Nov. 25 to comment on this plan. Comments should be mailed to comments-planrevision-sanjuan@fs.fed.us or SJPL Supplement Comments, Attn: Shannon Manfredi, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO, 81301-4216, or faxed to (970) 375-2331.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Public scoping begins on Paradox Valley salinity control projects, scoping meetings announced

paradoxvalley.jpg

Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it will hold public scoping meetings concerning the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Unit, located near Bedrock, Colo. The meetings will be held 1) in Paradox, Colo. at the Paradox Community Center, 21665 6.00 Road on December 6, 2011 with a presentation at 6 p.m. and an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. and 2) in Montrose, Colo. at the Holiday Inn Express, 1391 S Townsend Ave, on December 8, with a presentation at 6 p.m., followed by a question and answer session.

Historically, the Dolores River picked up an estimated 205,000 tons of salt annually as it passed through the Paradox Valley. Since the mid-1990’s much of this salt has been collected by shallow wells and then injected into deep subsurface geologic formations. The deep well injection program has removed about 110,000 tons of salt annually from the Dolores and Colorado rivers.

The existing deep well injection facility may be approaching the end of its useful life and alternatives are being considered to continue the successful efforts to prevent salt from entering the river. One initial alternative is to collect brine from shallow wells along the Dolores River and evaporate the brine and encapsulate the produced salts in surface evaporation ponds. The Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum, representing the seven basin states, has recommended that an evaporation pond pilot study be conducted in order to better evaluate potential future large scale evaporation ponds as an alternative to deep well injection.

Reclamation will host public scoping meetings to discuss the pilot study. The project will be described and questions will be answered at the meetings; comments may be provided at the scoping meeting, emailed to tstroh@usbr.gov or mailed to Bureau of Reclamation, 2764 Compass Drive, Suite 106, Grand Junction CO 81506.

More coverage from the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public input on whether to continue using deep-well injection methods to reduce salinity loads where the river flows through the Paradox Valley, or to consider evaporative ponds. The evap ponds are among alternatives BuRec is considering to prevent salt from entering the river, and area scoping meetings are slated in Montrose County for next month (see below for details).

More Dolores River watershed coverage here.

Pitkin, Delta, Routt and San Miguel county commissioners and Boulder County Public Health officials all provide hydraulic fracturing comments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

marcellushydraulicfracturing.jpg

From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Denver Post. From the article:

In written comments submitted before a deadline Friday, Pitkin County commissioners pushed for full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing, not just the nonproprietary ones. Gunnison County Democrats, Citizens for Huerfano County and others have criticized the rule for protecting trade secrets rather than requiring full disclosure…

County commissioners for Delta, Routt and San Miguel counties and Boulder County Public Health officials said the rule should clarify how operators declare something to be a trade secret.

And companies should be held responsible for inaccurate or incomplete information, county commissioners in Pitkin and Routt counties said. Operators have said they shouldn’t be held responsible for inaccurate information provided by third-party vendors…

Delta County commissioners praised a provision that would have companies provide 48 hours’ notice of fracking activity but requested that local authorities be notified too.

Routt County commissioners requested that the rule also apply to fracking by non-liquid means, because at least one company has used technology involving fracking using butane and propane in gel form.

San Miguel County commissioners and Boulder County health officials are among those pushing for disclosures to be posted directly on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website rather than http://www.FracFocus.org.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

There are differing opinions to be found in eastern and western Wyoming counties with respect to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline

flaminggorgepipelinemillion.jpg

From WyoFile (Allen Best):

Yet the idea of a pipeline has a certain allure in Torrington, Cheyenne, and in Laramie County, each of which has chipped in $25,000 as members of the Colorado/Wyoming Coalition, a rival to Million’s plan.

“If someone is going to provide water through a pipeline near our water system, we are going to be interested,” says Tim Wilson, director of the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities.

The Cheyenne urban area, with 70,000 people, has sufficient water to meet growth during the next 15 to 25 years, Wilson says. Most of the city’s water comes from snowmelt in streams west of the city, including some water from the Colorado River headwaters near the Colorado-Wyoming border, with water brought through a tunnel and then an exchange of rights.

Cheyenne’s Wilson says many unanswered questions remain about a possible new supply piped in from Flaming Gorge, including the costs and the water rights.

Laramie County has a similar position. “If, in fact, there is additional (Colorado River) Compact water, and it can be brought into Laramie County, we want to tap into that,” says Gary Kranse, planning director. Almost exclusively dependent on groundwater, the county wants more diversity of supplies as population growth continues.

Torrington, population 6,000, is also at the prospective pipeline table. City engineer Bob Juve says conservation and efficiency measures have dampened demand in Torrington 30 percent, with more savings possible. But with the city growing 1 percent annually, those savings will have been exhausted in a few decades. And the North Platte River, which flows through the town, is already spoken for. Nebraska and Wyoming in 2001 signed a legal settlement that reaffirmed the longstanding arrangement that majority of the water in the river goes to Nebraska. A current expansion of the Pathfinder reservoir west of Casper, however, will allow some future new water supplies from the river for Wyoming communities along the Platte, along with some water to sustain whooping cranes, least terns and other endangered species downstream in Nebraska.

Supporting a Flaming Gorge pipeline has not, Juve acknowledges, made him popular in Southwestern Wyoming. He’s OK with that. “I don’t mind fighting with anybody, but I first want to know what we’re fighting about,” he says. “We are not trying to be adversarial with people in Sweetwater County. Obviously, they have interests that they have not fully defined yet.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Noble joins Anadarko with exploration plans in the Wattenberg Field, they plan to pony up $1 to $1.5 billion

derrick.jpg

From The Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Noble plans to invest $8 billion over the next five years in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, an area that includes northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, said Ted Brown, Noble’s Denver-based senior vice president in charge of its northern region operations, which includes Colorado.

In the Wattenberg area of the play, “it will be $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year,” Brown said in an interview Wednesday…

Noble said it think its can get 1.3 billion barrels of oil from its 840,000 net acres of mineral rights in the Wattenberg. The company said its wells in the area are currently producing oil and natural gas equivalent to 67,000 barrels of oil per day, and expects production to double by 2016.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The Colorado Farm Bureau wants to see non-augmented out of priority pumping from the South Platte alluvial aquifer permitted in wet years

irrigation.jpg

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via Windsor Now!:

…the farm bureau’s approved policy also supports allowing “pumping of existing wells to lower ground water level, creating space for Alluvial aquifers to be recharged during spring run off.”

The Colorado Farm Bureau supporting such policy likely comes as a relief for farmers in Weld County and elsewhere. Many in the region are dealing with high groundwater issues, stemming from what they and others believe is caused by the state curtailing the pumping of about 8,000 groundwater wells — 2,000 of which were completely shut down — all along the South Platte River…

Arnusch and others understand that shutting down the wells at a time of drought was necessary, but they say that common sense is needed now, and the state’s water courts need to allow the state engineer’s office to turn on those wells when water in the basin is abundant to lower groundwater levels in the area before further damage is done.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

CNET: The Department of Homeland Security and FBI today dismissed the conclusions of a report that a cyber intrusion caused a pump at an Illinois water utility to burn out

cyberattackmaximumpc.jpg

From CNET (Elinor Mills):

“After detailed analysis, DHS and the FBI have found no evidence of a cyber intrusion into the SCADA system of the Curran-Gardner Public Water District in Springfield, Illinois,” DHS spokesman Chris Ortman said in the statement provided to CNET. “There is no evidence to support claims made in initial reports–which were based on raw, unconfirmed data and subsequently leaked to the media–that any credentials were stolen, or that the vendor was involved in any malicious activity that led to a pump failure at the water plant. In addition, DHS and FBI have concluded that there was no malicious traffic from Russia or any foreign entities, as previously reported. Analysis of the incident is ongoing and additional relevant information will be released as it becomes available.”

Control systems expert Joe Weiss unearthed what appeared to be the first report of an attack on a U.S. water utility last week. According to a report titled “Public Water District Cyber Intrusion” and released in the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center Daily Intelligence Notes of November 10, a pump at a water utility in Illinois burned out when a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system was repeatedly switched on and off. The report said an intruder was apparently able to get access to the SCADA system after stealing customer usernames and passwords from a SCADA vendor.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works has the correct security strategy in place according to this report from John Norton writing for The Pueblo Chieftain.

The average Colorado Springs Utilities rate payer will see an $8.32 increase in 2012

pipeline.jpg

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

Including a previously approved 12 percent water rate increase to help pay for the massive Southern Delivery System water pipeline, the typical residential bill next year would go up $8.22 a month, or 4.3 percent. Wastewater rates are proposed to stay the same…

Bill Cherrier, Utilities’ chief planning and finance officer, said the key drivers for the proposed rate adjustments are primarily capital projects. “The largest of these capital projects is Southern Delivery System, and it has a $141 million increase in capital for 2012,” he said. “Also included with 2012 is the NeuStream scrubbers for the Drake Power Plant. That is approximately $44 million, or 14.5 percent of the capital budget. These two projects represent nearly 60 percent of the capital budget.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Buena Vista: Mount Princeton Geothermal is hosting a public meeting November 30 about a planned magnetotelluric survey of the Chalk Creek area

magnetotelluricsurveynewmexico.jpg

From The Mountain Mail:

A public meeting to discuss the survey and surface measurements is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 30 in the Sangre De Cristo Electric Association community room, 29780 N. U.S. 24 in Buena Vista. The purpose of the survey is to verify the existence of a deep, highly conductive geothermal water reservoir…The survey consists of 125-150 noninvasive surface measurements of deep natural electrical currents in the earth. Measurements require two 1-meter-long magnetic sensors laid on the ground and four probes positioned in the ground at depths less than 1 foot. Magnetotelluric measurements require 2-12 hours to complete and can provide geological data to depths of 5,000 feet.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Steamboat Springs: Black hair count on Wooly Bear caterpillars is a good sign for the snowpack in water year 2012

woolybearcaterpillarwinterforecasttool.jpg

From Steamboat Today (Eugene Buchanan):

…The following indicators show we’re due for some shoveling:

Woolly [Bear] caterpillars

Sure, there were more of these little buggers out than usual this year. But more important than their sighting is the number of black hairs at each end — the more the merrier for powder buffs. More orange means a milder winter. Some believe that each of the caterpillar’s 13 segments represents one week of winter. Orange segments predict mild weeks, and black ones predict snowy weeks. Also pay attention to the direction it’s traveling: If it’s heading north, it’ll be mild; south, break out the shovel. “All I know is that usually I don’t see too many of them, and this year I saw them all over the place,” [Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane] says.

Skunk cabbage height

According to Native Americans, the height of skunk cabbage leaves predicts the season’s snowfall. And while not Jack-and-the-Beanstalk high, this year’s crop in Routt County seemed to trend skyward. “It got pretty big this fall along Steamboat Boulevard,” Lane says. “I noticed it every day driving home.” Skunk cabbage is far more than a snowfall soothsayer. Native Americans ground its roots to treat wounds and draw out splinters; used its root hairs to soothe toothaches, colds and headaches; and mixed its powder with vegetable pigments to be used as prevention tattoos. It’s also well-adapted to Steamboat’s winters. It can live for 100 years and has winter shoots that morph into reddish-brown, slippery sheaths called spathes, which protect the blooms and whisk unsuspecting insects down to the pollen-filled bottom. It also has its own heating system, trapping heat generated by the flower spike and using it to melt the snow around it (its inside is as much as 36 degrees warmer than the outside air). The heat also attracts insects, which come for the warmth and pollinate in the process. As for its skunk-like smell? It protects the plant from grazing animals and fools such insects as carrion beetles into thinking they’ve found a carcass while they’re in fact distributing pollen.

Birds and the bees

Steamboat sages also look skyward. Rumor has it that an early blackbird migration signifies a strong winter (locals report seeing them heading south in September). The height of beehives also can predict snowfall. The lower the hive the less snow, and the higher the hive the more snow. “This year, they’re about saddle-horn high,” says Marsha Daughenbaugh, of the Community Agriculture Alliance. “That means the snowfall should be about medium, which is still pretty good.”

More wives’ tales

Even beavers have insight into Old Man Winter. Old-timers maintain that the height of a beaver dam indicates how cold the winter will be (they seem about average this year). The same holds true for cobwebs. Bigger than normal or more in your house means a bigger-than-normal winter. And don’t ignore the old persimmon seed. Cut a persimmon fruit in half: A knife-shaped seed spells cold, spoon-shaped means heavy snow and fork-shaped means mild. Other indicators of a big winter include pigs gathering sticks, insects marching in a straight line and more mice than usual inside your home.

Bayfield: Town trustees are considering a 5% sewer rate hike

bayfield.jpg

From The Durango Herald:

In a statement, Town Manager Chris La May said he understands the impact of the increase on business and residential customers, but the revenue is needed to comply with Clean Water Act requirements. The town built a new wastewater treatment plant but faces more challenges to comply with health regulations. Groundwater infiltration from irrigation ditches and rising groundwater plagues the sewage collection system, La May said. The infiltration pushes the capacity of the treatment plant toward its limit and flushes bacteria used to break down fecal matter through the plant more rapidly.

More wastewater coverage here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works enters into a lease to supply 500 acre-feet per year to the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District

lowerarkansasriver.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The water will be used by the district to augment water under new rules requiring irrigators to prevent improvements from increasing consumptive use and depleting return flows. Rule 10 allows for group programs. The rules were adopted last year and apply to surface-fed sprinklers, drip irrigation systems and off-farm canal lining that could reduce return flows, possibly in violation of the Arkansas River Compact. Systems fed by wells are covered by 1996 rules adopted after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Colorado in a lawsuit brought by Kansas over the compact. The Lower Ark District, with the help of state grants, started a group program that allows farmers to pay a fee for basic engineering and calculation of deficits to the river.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Rick Cables, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, ‘When I look at the 21st century, the issue will be water’

coloradoparkswildlifelogonovember2011

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Early this year, Rick Cables took the job as director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife after serving as regional forester for the National Forest Service. It has meant a change of perspective. “The Forest Service had management responsibilities and, as a state, we’re the recipients,” said Cables, a Pueblo native who went to the work for the state in June.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Cables’ belief that a healthy forest is necessary to maintain water quality in Colorado. That quality is important in his new job, which oversees how both people and animals fit into the natural world. “When I look at the 21st century, the issue will be water,” Cables said. “Everything in Colorado is associated with water.”

Disclosure of the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids will be the subject for discussion at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rule-making hearing on December 5

gelledhyrdraulicfracturingfluid.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will have a rule-making hearing on Dec. 5. One of the changes would require companies to divulge the chemical used in fracking…

State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, is planning legislation that would estimate water use for fracking, and she is also concerned about potential contamination of groundwater sources from fracking operations…

“Governor Hickenlooper was right to demand full disclosure of fracking chemicals as a means of creating greater transparency in industry operations,” said Elise Jones, director of coalition. “It would be a shame if a wide loophole for unlimited trade secret claims undermined the governor’s goal.”

The Colorado Environmental Coalition, the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, the National Wildlife Federation, the San Juan Citizens Alliance and the High Country Citizens Alliance, represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, will press the Commission at the Dec. 5 hearing to close the trade-secret loophole.

“The draft rule’s trade secret provisions highlight the oil and gas industry’s resistance to full public disclosure,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman. “Adopting this approach in the final rule would feed existing public skepticism that the oil and gas industry only supports disclosure to the extent it is limited to window dressing that allows companies to continue withholding information at their discretion.”

Here’s a look at the water required for hydraulic fracturing from Catharine Tsai writing for the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, estimates that it would take 6.5 billion gallons of water a year to drill the Niobrara formation. The state as a whole uses more than 100 times that a year.

“Even with a vastly increased drilling program, the quantity of water used is still small in the overall scheme of Colorado’s water use,” said COGA president Tisha Schuller. She said COGA plans to work with communities on planning for oil and gas development, including infrastructure and water needs.

Natural resource planners said they’re working with state regulators to find out how much water may be available for oil and gas drilling.

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has proposed requiring companies to publicly disclose their fracking chemicals, but ingredients considered to be a “trade secret” would be disclosed only to state regulators and certain county officials and health professionals on request. Delta County commissioners have suggested clarifying how operators declare something to be a trade secret, while Pitkin County commissioners are pushing for public disclosure of all chemicals.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Commerce City Mayor pro tem Dom inick Moreno and state Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, joined environment groups Tuesday, saying that while trade secrets are important safeguards for business, letting companies avoid disclosure by invoking trade secrets would defeat the purpose of the rule. “Our residents deserve to know what chemicals are being used only yards away from their homes,” Moreno said. Wyoming and Texas already require companies to disclose the chemicals they inject.

While full disclosure “is definitely not a silver bullet,” it would be “a good foundation to make sure fracking is happening safely,” Earthjustice attorney Mike Freeman said. “If they deal with the trade-secrets issue, this will do a lot to improve transparency in Colorado.”

gothicshaleplayboudaycenterfornativeecosystems.jpg

Finally, here’s a report about Southwestern Colorado’s potential Gothic Shale play, from Benjamin Preston writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The document outlining the development potential of the Paradox Basin portion of the San Juan Public Lands planning area estimates a potential for construction of 2,954 new gas wells there by 2021. At 646,000 acres, Paradox Basin comprises 18 percent of the San Juan Public Lands planning area. Right now there are six wells in the area, only one of which — the Koskie-Brumley well — is producing anything. Because the well is on a non-federal lease, BLM does not keep records of its production numbers.

The federal assessment also indicates that the new wells could produce 9 million barrels of oil and nearly 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from the Gothic Shale Gas Formation — enough natural gas to power more than a million American homes for a year. Construction of new drill pads, processing plants, compressor stations and pipelines associated with the development would cause an estimated 9,072 acres — 1.4 percent of the Paradox Basin’s total land area — of well-related surface disturbance.

“The [Bill Barrett Corp.] is the main driver we’ve seen so far for gas development in the Paradox Basin,” said Rick Rymerson, Minerals Staff Chief at BLM’s Durango office.

[Dan Randolph, Executive Director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance] said that environmental groups like his are concerned that gas development will cause wildlife habitat fragmentation, soil erosion and air and water quality impacts.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Happy Thanksgiving

mrsgulchsvegetablegardenaugust172011

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I hope you’re sitting down today to a feast with friends and family.

Mrs. Gulch has been busy baking pies using the sugar pumpkins she grew with all that treated Denver water over the summer.

The water in Boulder’s distribution system wins award

watertreatment.jpg

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

The city of Boulder’s water treatment facilities at Betasso and Boulder Reservoir have earned the Partnership for Safe Water Director’s Award for their commitment to water quality and consumer safety. Boulder joins the ranks of seven other Colorado water treatment facilities that have received the award for optimizing water treatment facility performance.

More water treatment coverage here.

Two Rivers is hoping to develop enough storage to benefit ag operations and municipalites that have water to store

cucharasriver.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

John McKowen, CEO of Two Rivers Water Co., says farms owned and controlled by the company will only become more valuable as Two Rivers develops storage that could also benefit municipalities. A report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City shows a 12.6 percent increase in farmland value in mountain states over the past year, and that confirms the Two Rivers business model, McKowen said. “Soaring population growth worldwide coupled with Two Rivers’ plans to develop irrigated farmland at below-market rates make this an excellent time to execute on our business model,” said John McKowen, CEO of Two Rivers Water Co., in a press release.

Two Rivers Water has purchased or controls 4,700 acres of irrigated farmland under the Huerfano-Cucharas Ditch and Orlando Reservoir system. The company expects to have 3,000 acres in production for the spring 2012 growing season.

The company also plans to redevelop Cucharas and Orlando reservoirs in Huerfano County, providing storage on both the Cucharas and Huerfano rivers. While its agriculture rights are junior, the company is able to store during winter months in order to stretch its water supply, President Gary Barber told the Colorado Water Conservation Board last week.

Here’s the release from Two Rivers Water Company via PRNewswire.com:

Two Rivers Water Company Chairman and CEO John McKowen said that a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City showing a 12.6% increase in mountain states farmland values over the past year confirms Two River’s unique business model that combines operating irrigated farmland with its wholesale water business. In addition, Two Rivers has enduring economic advantages inside its two river basins which allow it to solely develop high yield irrigated farmland at half the cost of comparable farmland in its operating area. The report for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City can be found here

“Soaring population growth worldwide coupled with Two Rivers’ plans to develop irrigated farmland at below-market rates make this an excellent time to execute on our business model,” McKowen said. In 2011, Two Rivers Water acquired or placed under its control 4,700 gross acres of irrigated farmland and expects to have 3,000 acres in production for the spring 2012 growing season. “We’ll be planting organic corn and alfalfa which provide excellent gross revenue and profit margins in this economic environment,” McKowen said. “Yields should exceed 200+ bushels of corn or 6 ton of alfalfa per acre.”

Two Rivers also has the capability to provide water to municipalities currently suffering from water shortages in southeastern Colorado. Two Rivers controls 70,000 acre-feet of storage capacity in reservoirs and expects to develop more than 50,000 acre-feet of average annual stream diversion and aquifer production in the next 3 to 5 years. Two Rivers can support its farming operations without permanently drying up prime farmland by providing water to municipalities by fallowing its fields on a rotating basis.

In addition, McKowen noted that Americans are experiencing an accelerated debasing of the U.S. Dollar as the Federal Reserve continues policies intended to make U.S. exports more competitive in world markets. Investors can protect against US Dollar debasement and provide for good current income by investing in high quality irrigated farmland. Two Rivers provides an opportunity for investors to participate in farmland who do not have the capital or skill set to invest directly in the asset themselves.

New USFS permit rules: Ski industry claims a ‘taking’ of water rights, the Forest Service wants to keep water rights with the land

snowmakingbobberwyn.jpg

From The Vail Business Journal (Bob Berwyn):

[Boulder-based attorney Glenn Porzak] said the change would prevent ski areas from selling water rights they developed and perfected — and this violates a basic principle of Colorado water law.

He used several specific examples to illustrate impacts of the change.

The clause could prevent a ski area like Arapahoe Basin from selling unneeded water in an offsite Reservoir (Clinton Gulch) to another ski area, he explained.

Or, one of the Vail Resorts-owned areas in Summit County might decide it doesn’t need all the water rights it has acquired over the years for snowmaking. Instead, the area might want to sell those water rights to be used for irrigation on private base area lands. Once again, the language could prevent such a transfer, he said.

More water law coverage here and here.

Udall Bill Would Help Farmers, Ranchers Hand Down Lands Intact Through Conservation Easements

sdspreferredalternative.jpg

From U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s blog:

Last week, Mark Udall reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to help rural families avoid the pressure to sell, break up or develop their property, keeping farms and ranches intact and in the family when handing it down to the next generation. The American Family Farm and Ranchland Protection Act would help families permanently protect their lands for agricultural and conservation use by changing the estate tax code to incentivize permanently conserving the land under easement.

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that permanently limits certain development on the land while allowing farming and ranching to continue. Under current law, if a property is placed in a conservation easement, 40 percent of the value of the land can be exempted from the taxable estate, but the amount is capped at $500,000 – despite rising land prices. For example, if an estate included a property in a conservation easement worth $2 million, $500,000 could be exempted from the taxable estate, but if the property were worth $1 million, only $400,000 could be exempted. Udall’s bill would raise the exclusion rate to 50 percent of the total value and cap it to $5 million, giving families tax relief when they choose to preserve portions of their lands for agricultural and conservation use.

“Colorado’s farmers and ranchers are the custodians of our rural and natural heritage, but outdated exemptions in estate tax law are sometimes forcing the loss of valuable agricultural lands,” Udall said. “My bill would make a simple fix to our tax code to help make it more consistent and fair, while encouraging more robust conservation of our open spaces. More important, it will encourage families to permanently protect the natural value of their lands through conservation easements so that they can be handed down to the next generation.”

The bill has broad local support, including from the American Farm Bureau, U.S. Cattlemen Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Land Trust Alliance and the Nature Conservancy. Udall introduced similar legislation last year.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain.

More conservation easements coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update: Over $100 million in contracts for construction of the project have been awarded by Colorado Springs Utilities

sdspreferredalternative.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Approximately 75 contractors and vendors with operations in Southern Colorado are working on SDS. More than 30 of these companies are from Pueblo County, and about $50 million in contracts have been committed to Pueblo County contractors so far,” said Janet Rummel, spokeswoman for Colorado Springs Utilities.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

NSF International Publishes First American National Standard for Water Reuse Systems

graywatersystem.jpg

Here’s the release from NSF International:

NSF International, a global public health and environmental organization, has published the first American national standard for commercial and residential onsite water reuse treatment systems, NSF/ANSI 350: Onsite Residential and Commercial Reuse Treatment Systems. The new standard complements NSF’s expanding scope of environmental standards and sustainable product standards, which help establish criteria for and clear methods of evaluating environmental and sustainable product claims.

NSF/ANSI 350: Onsite Residential and Commercial Reuse Treatment Systems establishes criteria to improve awareness and acceptance of water reuse technologies that reduce impacts on the environment, municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities, and energy costs. According to the American Water Works Association, 84 percent of residential water is used in non-drinking (non-potable) water applications such as lawn irrigation, laundry and toilet flushing. Residential and commercial builders, architects and regulators are turning to onsite wastewater reuse systems as a solution to increasing water scarcity and energy costs associated with the treatment and distribution of municipal water and wastewater.

Certifying a water reuse system to NSF/ANSI 350 also satisfies requirements for leading green building programs. The U.S. Green Building Council has included reference to NSF/ANSI 350 in their LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Building Design & Construction 2012 Draft Standard. Products certified to NSF/ANSI 350 also could satisfy graywater use strategies under the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) National Green Building Certification program as an innovative practice.

NSF developed this American national standard for evaluating onsite water reuse technologies to ensure the systems properly treat graywater (i.e. wastewater generated from activities such as laundry and bathing) and combined wastewater (i.e. all sources of wastewater generated within a residence or building) for reuse in non-potable applications. NSF/ANSI 350 establishes materials, design and construction, and performance requirements for onsite residential and commercial water reuse treatment systems and sets water quality requirements for the reduction of chemical and microbiological contaminants for non-potable water use. Treated wastewater (i.e. treated effluent) can be used for restricted indoor water use, such as toilet and urinal flushing, and outdoor unrestricted water use, such as lawn irrigation.

Shawnee, Kansas-based Bio-Microbics, Inc., a manufacturer of clean technologies, is the first company to earn NSF/ANSI 350 certification for their Bio-Barrier® membrane bioreactor (MBR). NSF scientists conducted an evaluation spanning more than six months of continuous operation of the Bio-Microbics Bio-Barrier® MBR treatment system at one of NSF’s approved wastewater testing facilities.

“Certification to NSF/ANSI 350 positions onsite water reuse technologies as a viable solution to increasingly overburdened water and wastewater treatment facilities, water scarcity, and increasing costs associated with energy and water use,” said Tom Bruursema, General Manager of NSF Sustainability. “Innovative clean technology manufacturers, such as Bio-Microbics, can now demonstrate the acceptability and effectiveness of their products, helping these technologies to be adopted more quickly into the marketplace.”

“Bio-Microbics is proud to be the first to earn certification against the new NSF water reuse treatment standard, which provides a sustainability benchmark to certify water reuse products,” said Bob Rebori, President of Bio-Microbics. “With green building and sustainable products becoming the focus of regulators, commercial and residential builders, and consumers, this new standard provides the water reuse industry with a way to meet the needs of their customers and set their products apart from those with unsubstantiated environmental claims.”

To learn more about NSF/ANSI Standard 350, contact Tom Bruursema at nsf350@nsf.org, +1.734.769.5575 or visit nsf.org/info/nsf350. Click here to purchase a copy of the standard…

About NSF International (NSF): NSF International (nsf.org) has been testing and certifying products for safety, health and the environment since 1944. As an independent public health and safety organization, NSF’s mission is to protect human health and the environment through standards development, auditing, testing and certification for the food, water, build/construction, retail, consumer products, chemical and health science industries. Operating in more than 150 countries, NSF is committed to protecting human health worldwide and is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment. NSF Sustainability draws upon this expertise in standards development, product assurance and certification to help companies green their products, operations, systems and supply chains. NSF also founded the National Center for Sustainability Standards, a national initiative to support the development of sustainability standard activities.

More graywater reclamation coverage here.

Statewide snowpack is 100% of average, the Southwest basins are lagging behind at 81%

usdroughtmonitor11152011.jpg

snowpackcolorado11222011.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for the snowpack and U.S. Drought Monitor.

Monarch and Ski Cooper are delaying their opening due to a lack of snow. Here’s a report from R. Scott Rappold writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Ski Cooper, a family-oriented ski hill near Leadville, won’t open, and there is doubt Monarch Mountain will meet its planned Wednesday opening. “It’s not very likely for Wednesday,” said Monarch marketing manager Greg Ralph. “Maybe later in the week, maybe Saturday and Sunday, but who knows?” While the area has a “solid 12-inch base,” too many early-season snowstorms have been accompanied by high winds. “It took more snow away than it left behind,” Ralph said of a recent storm.

The weekend storm that brought a few inches of snow to some Colorado ski areas delivered just a trace to Monarch. Though it was snowing lightly at the ski area Monday, only 1 to 4 inches were expected, and Ralph said at least a foot is needed to open Wednesday.

Ski Cooper has received 22 inches of snow, and warm days between storms have melted some of what has fallen, said employee Becca Brandau. So the ski area won’t open on Thanksgiving as planned. Managers hope to open Ski Cooper on weekends by Dec. 2, “snow permitting.”[…]

Meteorologists have predicted that a La Niña weather pattern, a cooling of the Pacific Ocean that last winter brought record snowfall to Colorado, will mean a snowy winter for Colorado’s central and northern mountains. Boulder meteorologist Joel Gratz, who runs ski-oriented weather website opensnow.com, said the slow start to the season doesn’t change that prediction, though the La Niña is two-thirds as strong as last year.

The Denver Post takes an in-depth look at the water requirements from hydraulic fracturing

anadarkohydraulicfracturingapril2011.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Each well drilled requires 1 million to 5 million gallons of water, and more when they are refracked. Drillers “may need more water than we have,” said John McGee, water manager for the city of Loveland, which has leased municipal water. In Fort Lupton, tanker trucks tap hydrants to fill up. It’s the same in Greeley, Frederick, Firestone and other communities amid the expanding oil fields north of Denver. The trucks haul the water to rigs, where fracking crews mix it with sand and chemicals and pump it thousands of feet underground to release oil and gas. But as companies propose new deals with utilities, including Aurora Water, they’re finding that a resource often scarce for people and agriculture may be limited for fracking too.

State natural resources planners say they’re working with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to calculate, within the next week or so, how much water may be available for oil and gas drilling…

“It’s up to each municipality to see how much available water they have to sell,” said Sean Conway, a Weld County commissioner who helped launch a “Niobrara Working Group” to deal with water and other issues. “We must ensure that we don’t jeopardize our agricultural heritage.” Drillers tapping town and city water for fracking “is going to further put pressure on Colorado,” Conway said. “We really need to be capturing that unallocated compact water that now is flowing out of the state…

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, estimates that tapping the Niobrara would require 6.5 billion gallons a year — about 20,000 acre-feet. Colorado uses more than 100 times that amount. “Even with a vastly increased drilling program, the quantity of water used is still small in the overall scheme of Colorado’s water use,” COGA president Tisha Schuller said…

Greeley this year sold more than 1,150 acre-feet of excess water from fire hydrants, mostly to oil and gas companies, earning more than $1 million, said city water and sewer director Jon Monson. The city also leased 26,000 acre-feet of surplus surface water to farmers. This was a wet year…

Here are a few of the towns and cities that leased water for fracking of wells to extract oil and gas along Colorado’s Front Range.

Greeley — 1,150 acre-feet

Longmont — About 400 acre-feet

Longmont has a 20-year supply agreement that will increase to 540 acre-feet in 2012 with a cap of 600 acre-feet a year

Fort Lupton — 441 acre-feet

Loveland — amount not disclosed

Frederick — 100 acre-feet

Firestone — amount undetermined

South Adams County Water and Sanitation District — amount undetermined

Walsenburg — arranged deal for at least 5 acre-feet this year for Shell Oil, but the company has not moved ahead

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Though Anadarko plans to drill in the Wattenberg Field primarily northeast of Denver, some of that oil development might move into Larimer County, making it an active player rather than just an economic beneficiary relegated to the sidelines of a new oil boom. “We are encouraged by the potential that Larimer County could hold, but right now, it’s too soon to say what our activity there could look like,” Anadarko spokesman Brian Cain said Friday. “It goes slowly as you look meticulously to determine how much potential there is in terms of resources in different areas.”[…]

The company has access to hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Weld County and along Larimer County’s eastern border. So far, Anadarko’s exploration has been limited to 11 horizontal wells drilled in southwest Weld County, which have been producing between 300 and 1,100 barrels of oil per day, according to Anadarko’s announcement Monday…

“This is the sort of thing that transforms the life of landowners (with property in the drilling area),” he said. “It creates wealth in the region. It’s not so much the drilling that matters; it’s the long stream of production that creates wealth for the region.”[…]

“Ozone is already a serious problem in Northern Colorado,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save the Poudre and Clean Water Action in Fort Collins. “Drilling releases hydrogen sulfide, methane, cancer-causing benzene and volatile organic compounds into the air which will cause even more ozone pollution. This drilling will make our air quality worse, cause more asthma attacks and negatively impact the public’s health.”

Mike Chiropolos, lands program director for Western Resource Advocates in Boulder, said Anadarko and other companies drilling the Niobrara should be required to use chemical “tracers” in hydraulic fracturing fluids so that state regulators will be able to tell without a doubt whether “fracking” is contaminating ground and domestic well water.

Meanwhile, Commerce City area residents are worried about a hydraulic fracturing operation near their homes. Here’s a report from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

They mostly blamed Adams County for not telling them that oil and gas companies would begin using a controversial exploration method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, near their backyards in an unincorporated portion of the county. “Adams County let us down,” said Commerce City Councilwoman Jadie Carson. “It’s almost like we were violated.”

The well site is located near the intersection of Tower Road and East 104th Avenue near the Reunion subdivision in Commerce City. It was originally permitted in 1972. The state owns the mineral rights to the well, while a private owner maintains the surface ownership. Adams County is overseeing the project but did not notify Commerce City that the fracking would occur over the weekend, city officials said. In fact, no one in the city knew about the drilling until City Councilman Steven Douglas drove by the site early one morning and saw equipment.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works green lights a 3.5% water rate hike

wirelessmeterreadingexplained.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“This was a challenging year,” said Executive Director Alan Hamel, who reviewed the budget for the board. “We’ve been able to hold costs down and keep our rates reasonable. . . . We have the lowest rates of any major utility along the Front Range.” The $31.78 budget reflects a smaller rate increase than the 9 percent projected a few months ago or the 5 percent the board was looking at just two weeks ago…

The budget increased largely because of $3.56 million more in utility costs, mostly driven by a 24 percent jump in rates by Black Hills Energy. Other major expenses include $910,000 for an ongoing program to convert meters to automated reading, $628,000 for main expansion projects and $550,000 to rehabilitate the Hellbeck water tank.

The 3.5 percent rate hike means a homeowner with a 1-inch tap would pay an additional $1.15 per month in the winter, based on using 11,000 gallons, and $2.83 per month in summer months with water use of 32,000 gallons.

Meanwhile, the board heard from customers about the shut off policy for non-payment. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The water board was sympathetic to their plight, but also took the time to explain the safeguards already put into place to avoid shutoffs if possible. So far this year, 2,246 accounts have been shut off for nonpayment. That’s less than 10 percent of those who receive shut-off notices that advise customers water will be turned off if payment is not received within 42 days of the bill, explained Seth Clayton, manager of the finance division. The water board next year will increase funding of the Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Service, a program administered by Catholic Charities, to $100,000. In September, the board increased funding of the program because of the need in the communities…

The water board also is considering a budget billing program that would even out payments throughout the years. Shutoffs increase during summer months when water usage is higher, and payments could be averaged out by looking at historic use and making annual adjustments.

Finally, congratulations to Mike Cafasso who was elected President of the board at the Tuesday meeting, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Cafasso, vice president of operations for St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and a long-time bank executive, was named to the water board in 2007 to replace Vera Ortegon, who resigned to join Pueblo City Council. He was elected to his first full term, six years, on the board later that year. He is also a past president of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and has been active in numerous church and civic activities. Cafasso will take over for Tom Autobee, a dentist who served for three years as president.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

Chevron is evaluating a new method of hydraulic fracturing that uses liquid petroleum gas as a substitute for water

derrick.jpg

I wonder if they can detonate the LPG? Here’s a report from Isabel Ordonez writing for Nasdaq. From the article:

“This fall, Chevron tested the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a fracturing agent in five natural gas wells in its Piceance Basin development in northwestern Colorado,” Chevron spokesman Russell Johnson said in an email. “We are now evaluating the test results to determine the potential usefulness of the technique.”

Chevron’s test comes at a time when hydraulic fracturing–a technique also known as “fracking”–has come under scrutiny from environmentalists and others who fear it poses a threat to public health through groundwater contamination and air pollution. It also uses massive quantities of water, a concern in many Southwestern states currently affected by drought. Finding an alternative for water in the fracking process could be key for Chevron and other oil companies that have recently acquired large land positions in shale formations across the U.S. and Canada.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

wyutcoprecipitation111to11122011.jpg

Here are last week’s presentations from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the precipitation summary.

Dennis Gelvin retires from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Linn Brooks promoted to General Manager

eagleriver.jpg

Here’s the release about Dennis Gelvin’s retirement.

From email from the district (Diane Johnson):

The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District board promoted Linn Brooks to General Manager at their November 17 meeting. Brooks takes over immediately from 18-year GM, Dennis Gelvin, who is retiring.

Board chairman Rick Sackbauer noted Brooks’ readiness for the position, in part due to Gelvin’s succession planning efforts. Brooks, a 12-year employee, has been the assistant general manager for four years.

Brooks has worked closely with local governments on water and wastewater matters. “I’ve learned a lot about water management from Linn. She is a professional,” said Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, who also serves on the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I can’t imagine a better leader for the district for the future.”

Originally hired as the Staff Engineer, Brooks developed a proactive approach to upgrade and replace most of the water and sewer mains in Vail Village during Vail’s redevelopment and streetscape improvements. Later, as Technical Services Director, she initiated a comprehensive upgrade to the District’s information technology services. Once she became AGM, water and wastewater operations also came under her purview.

“We will all benefit not only from her substantial expertise, but the institutional knowledge she brings to her new position,” said Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks (no relation). “Linn’s appointment as General Manager is an excellent fit for the ERWSD. We are fortunate to have someone of her caliber in this position.”

Brooks has successfully navigated local and federal permitting processes to develop water system infrastructure and has been instrumental in raising awareness of non-point source pollution and its effects on the aquatic environment in Gore Creek and Eagle River. She brings stakeholders together, looking beyond just District interests, to address mutual issues such as water quality and wilderness legislation.

Brooks looks forward to sustained challenges associated with a changing regulatory environment and providing high quality water and wastewater services during difficult economic conditions.

“I’m grateful to the board for its confidence in me,” said Brooks, “Dennis Gelvin leaves an organization that is a model for how good government should work. We have a great team at the District that is positioned to continue that legacy.”

More coverage from the Vail Daily:

Brooks, a 12-year employee, has been the assistant general manager for four years.

Brooks has worked closely with local governments on water and wastewater matters.

“I’ve learned a lot about water management from Linn. She is a professional,” said Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, who also serves on the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I can’t imagine a better leader for the district for the future.”

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Winter refill for Carter Lake should start up in December

coloradobigthompsonprojecteastslopesystemncwcd.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb) that was buried in my inbox since last Friday:

As we move into the weekend, we have several operational changes taking place across the Colorado-Big Thompson Project on the east slope.

Visitors to and residents of Estes Park will likely notice that Marys Lake and Lake Estes are gradually going down in water elevation. By the end of next week, Marys Lake will be dropped down for maintenance and inspections. It is anticipated that its water level will begin to rise again by mid-to-late December.

At Lake Estes, the drop in water level is to accommodate some annual maintenance and inspection at Olympus Dam. The reservoir is expected to drop about 12 vertical feet by Monday morning, November 21. It will begin to rise again by late Monday afternoon.

As the water level at Lake Estes drops, the release from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River through the canyon will also slowly decline. Today, it dropped approximately 30 cfs from 300 to about 270 cfs. Releases will continue to drop through the weekend and into the top of next week. By Monday night, November 21, releases to the Big Thompson River should be back to normal flows for this time of year, which are approximately 25 cfs.

Diversion from Olympus Dam to the southern power arm of the C-BT is currently off-line while other project maintenance is underway. The contractor continues to work on the replacement of the open-faced Pole Hill Canal, installing closed box culverts. This work is split into two phases, the first of which is being completed this fall and is scheduled to wrap up in mid-December. Attached you will find a photo of the work currently underway along the Pole Hill Canal.

With Pole Hill off-line, no water has been flowing into Pinewood Reservoir, which has maintained a high water elevation through October and well into November. This will change starting Monday, November 21. On Monday, we will begin to draw Pinewood’s water elevation down to accommodate a maintenance project on the Bald Mountain Pressure Tunnel, which carries water from the reservoir to the Flatiron Penstocks. Residents of and visitors to Pinewood will see the water elevation decline through the week, hitting a low of about 6550 by the the following Monday, November 28. It will remain at the low level well into December, until the work on the Pressure Tunnel is complete. We have been in close contact with the Newell-Warnock Water Association at Pinewood so they are aware of these changes to the maintenance schedule.

We are anticipating that the southern power arm of the C-BT will start to “water up” by mid-to-late December.

Meanwhile, water elevations at Horsetooth are still climbing slightly, but will level off as these changes across the project go into effect.

Water levels at Carter Lake are likely to continue dropping, as is typical for this time of year. We anticipate the start of refill for Carter to begin in mid-to-late December, as normal.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb, November 16):

In order to accommodate on-going maintenance at the Shoshone plant, we will reduce our releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River from 300 to 200 cfs. The reduction will be made in two steps of 50 cfs each. This afternoon, we dropped releases to around 250 cfs. Tomorrow morning around 8 a.m. we’ll drop releases to about 200 cfs. We will keep 200 cfs in the Lower Blue through Thanksgiving.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Hydraulic fracturing: ‘All it is, is really a fracture of the bedrock below the surface.” — Stan Dempsey, Jr. with the Colorado Petroleum Association

marcellushydraulicfracturing.jpg

From 9News.com (Kyle Cabodi):

On Monday night, Commerce City residents met to talk about a new fracking project near the intersection of 104th Street and Tower Road. Their biggest concerns are over water contamination and exposure to chemicals used in the extraction process. Petroleum experts say the process has a proven safety record, and say the key to understanding fracking is knowing exactly how it works.

Professor Will Fleckenstein with the Colorado School of Mines says most fracking operations take place between 5,000 and 10,000 feet below ground. That can be the equivalent of more than eight Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other. In all cases, the fracking operation takes place below the water-saturated aquifer. “All it is, is really a fracture of the bedrock below the surface,” Stan Dempsey, Jr. with the Colorado Petroleum Association said…

“You’ve got multiple defenses of contamination of surface aquifers,” Fleckenstein said. He says every fracking well is lined with thick pipe and cement, which makes it virtually impossible for the chemicals to ever come into contact with underground water. “From Pennsylvania to New Mexico to Colorado and Texas – all of them have not found a single instance of contamination of aquifers,” Fleckenstein said [ed. maybe not]…

“We are all environmentalists and we want to make sure Colorado’s land and water are safe,” Dempsey said. Currently, petroleum companies are not legally required to reveal the mixture of chemicals they use in fracking. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission plans to vote on a measure in December that would make that mandatory.

More coverage from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Anadarko applied in August to drill up to 36 wells in a 30-square-mile patch of land near Aurora’s eastern edge. The area stretches from Gun Club Road east to Watkins Road and from East Yale Avenue north to East Colfax Avenue. Anadarko also hopes to drill as many as 24 other wells around rural Arapahoe County.

The mood in the room at Arapahoe County Centre Point Plaza, where more than 50 people gathered, was much calmer than previous meetings on the topic of fracking like the one held last month at the Community College of Aurora.
Still, opponents of fracking said they’re concerned the technique will pollute drinking water, cause property values to decrease, and contaminate the environment. And they said Arapahoe County officials should be concerned about those things as well.

“I just don’t understand how they’re going to protect our water,” said Sandy Toland, who lives in southeast Aurora.
Aurora Water officials have said in previous fracking meetings that they will take all measures necessary to ensure that drinking water is safe. Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said at a meeting last month that fracking occurs between 6,000 and 8,000 feet below the earth’s surface, whereas drinking water aquifers are typically less than 1,000 feet deep…

“I think it’s wonderful so many people care,” said Nancy Jackson, Arapahoe County Commissioner. “There’s really so much uncertainty and so much nervousness around this that I think it’s really important that we have these kind of educational opportunities for folks.” She said the county will be sifting through residents’ suggestions before the county approves the Oil and Gas Regulations proposal after the final public hearing on Dec. 13.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System update: Construction for the new stainless steel liner for the Pueblo Dam north outlet works starts up

southerndeliverysystemnorthoutletworksconstructionpueblodampueblochieftain.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We have poured more than 2,500 cubic yards of concrete to form the foundation for the new connection,” said Janet Rummel, spokeswoman for Colorado Springs Utilities. The $6 million project is being done by ASI Constructors of Pueblo West and is on target to be completed in mid-2012…

One line from the North Outlet Works will feed the Juniper Pump Station, which will be built nearby. The other will feed the Arkansas River. There is also the potential to interconnect the new outlet with the existing South Outlet Works, which serves Pueblo, Pueblo West and the Fountain Valley Authority. It would also serve the future Arkansas Valley Conduit, which is now under environmental review.

Trenching has begun in Pueblo West for the 66-inch-diameter pipeline that will be installed as part of the project.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Aspinall Unit update: Reclamation’s winter target for Blue Mesa Reservoir — down to 7490 ft by December 31

aspinallunit.jpg

From email from Reclamtion (Erik Knight):

Over the last couple months, releases at the Aspinall Unit have been lowered to accommodate maintenance activities at the powerplants at Blue Mesa and Morrow Point reservoirs, as well as for the brown trout spawn. These events have concluded and releases will now be increased to bring the elevation in Blue Mesa Reservoir down to the winter ice target elevation of 7490 ft by December 31st.

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased by 200 cfs on Monday, November 21st. Another increase of 200 cfs is expected to be made the following Monday, November 28th. This will bring the total release up to 1000 cfs. Additional increases will be made in the first days of December to bring the total release from Crystal to 1550 cfs. Since there are no diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel at this time of year, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be in the 1500 to 1600 cfs range after the completion of these release changes.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

The Colorado River District’s fourth quarterly board meeting summary is available online

coloradoriverbasincgs.jpg

Here’s the link to the summary. Here’s an excerpt:

Supply and demand on an imbalanced Colorado River was the theme of the Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar held in Grand Junction on Sept. 15, 2011.

Nearly 200 people heard from Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn on his risk manage- ment strategy for guiding future water development; Colorado University School of Law Professor Mark Squillace on the “Rethinking the Future of the Colorado River” project and Colorado River Basin Forecast

Center Hydrologist Kevin Werner who examined the recent big runoff. In addition, Denver Water Director of Planning Dave Little and Colorado River District General Counsel Peter Fleming gave an update on the historic proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 34 West Slope water interests.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.