U.S. Representative Scott Tipton takes time at a U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands to bang the drum against water rights ‘taking’ by the USFS


From The Durango Herald (Rocío González):

Last month, Tipton, R-Cortez, expressed his concern about a requirement that would make private water holders sign their water rights over to the U.S. government as a condition for permits for uses such as ski areas or grazing. The congressman wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting that the agency stop interfering in such matters.

While questioning Glenn Porzak, a representative for the National Ski Areas Association, Tipton inquired about compensation for those who would have to sign their water rights away. According to Porzak, it would be “zero.”

This new requirement would be tied to a series of changes including special-use permits and a proposed planning rule that the Department of Agriculture – namely, the Forest Service – has been working on for years. However, the USDA already is enforcing the permit requirement despite the fact that it has yet to be officially implemented.

“I think you underscored a very important point during your comments, saying that all water owners should be concerned,” Tipton told Porzak. “In the 3rd Congressional District, throughout the state of Colorado, water is what we absolutely need, particularly for the grazing.”[…]

When witnesses for the federal agency were asked why it needed the water rights, they answered it is a matter of “control.”

New Colorado Geological Survey study identifies geology as culprit for poor water quality in some headwaters streams


Here’s the release from the Colorado Geological Survey (Matt Sares):

Is high, pristine mountain water always clean and pure? Can streams unaffected by human activities and livestock influences be unfit for human consumption, or fish? A new study by the Colorado Geological Survey (CGS) has some surprising answers. The study examines specific areas in Colorado that have naturally poor, surface-water quality due to the area’s geology.

The report, titled “Natural Acid Rock Drainage Associated with Hydrothermally Altered Terrane in Colorado,” identifies a number of streams in eleven different headwater areas of Colorado where surface water is acidic and has high concentrations of metals upstream of any significant human impacts.

Rocks in these areas were altered by intensely hot water circulating in the earth’s crust, often associated with volcanic activity during Colorado’s geologic past. The “hydrothermal alteration” of the rocks changed their composition by dissolving some minerals and depositing others. In the affected areas, the hydrothermal-alteration process deposited metal-sulfide minerals, commonly pyrite (fool’s gold), in the rocks.

When these rocks are exposed at the surface, they interact with oxygen and the iron sulfide “rusts” to form iron oxide minerals, creating striking yellow, orange, and red colors – similar to the oxidation of metal in an old rusty car. “Acid rock drainage” occurs when the sulfur that is displaced by the oxygen combines with water to form weak sulfuric acid. The acidic water then dissolves minerals from the bedrock, often adding significant amounts of dissolved metals to these headwater streams. Natural acid rock drainage has been active in Colorado for thousands, possibly millions of years.

More coverage from the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Columbus Republic. From the article:

The agency launched the study after working with the U.S. Forest Service to identify Environmental problems related to abandoned mines. Former Colorado Geological Survey Deputy Director Matt Sares says that during that work, researchers found that water upstream of mine sites wasn’t always as pristine as researchers thought it would be.

The Colorado Geological Survey’s new study identifies streams in 11 headwater areas where surface water is acidic and has high concentrations of metals even upstream of any significant human impacts.

More water pollution coverage here.

Drought news: Recent moisture helps obviate the drought in the San Luis Valley


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Much of the valley floor was downgraded from extreme to severe drought conditions following October rain and snow. But that precipitation was not enough to completely alleviate the dry conditions from last fall and winter, the National Weather Service said in a report issued last week…

The agency said precipitation last month was at or below average in much of South-Central and Southeastern Colorado with the exception of higher terrain and the extreme Eastern Plains, which saw above-average precipitation. The [National Weather Service’s] station in Alamosa recorded 0.48 inches of moisture — 0.19 inches below the October average.

Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map.

CWCB: The Two Rivers Water Company is applying for a $1.18 million loan to renovate Orlando Reservoir


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Two Rivers Water Co. has applied for the loan through the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which will vote on the proposal at a meeting today in Berthoud. The money would be used to repair Orlando Reservoir, located 10 miles northeast of Walsenburg…

Two Rivers purchased the Orlando Reservoir earlier this year, along with additional farmland in Huerfano County. The repairs at Orlando Reservoir are part of a new business model that would allow more efficient use of water resources, according to a CWCB staff memo.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.