Whitewater park for Longmont?

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Here’s the release from the City of Longmont (Bill Powell):

The City of Longmont’s Concept Paper, the initial step in a full grant application to Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), has been approved to move to the final application step. It was one of 21 concept papers that were approved for this next step in the grant process by GOCO.

The City is planning a 65 acre river based district park along the banks of the St Vrain River within the Pavlakis Open Space in the heart of Longmont. The park will feature various amenities including a whitewater park on the St Vrain creek. The project is slated to begin design in early 2012.

The City is looking for partners from the community to assist in the grant process. Project partners are critically important in the final approval for grant funding. Partners would ideally provide financial participation. Support of any amount would be welcome!

More coverage from the Longmont Times-Call (Pierrette J. Shields) via the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

City planners hope to nab $500,000 in grant funds from Great Outdoors Colorado for a $3.1-million, 65-acre district park along the St. Vrain Greenway between Main and Martin streets south of the D-Barn. Planned amenities include a white-water course with five drops, a fishing pond, pond observation deck, river overlooks and habitat improvements along the greenway on the Pavlakis Open Space property…

Similar white-water courses are available in Lyons and Boulder, but Fitzgerald said Longmont’s more moderate course likely will be more family friendly because of lower water levels through the city.

Salida wastewater treatment plant update: Project is on schedule for completion in 2013

From The Mountain Mail (Callie McDermott):

Switching the old plant to the new one will be done in stages and handled “with kid gloves,” [Randy Sack plant manager] said, because “we’re changing the way we treat wastewater.”

Sack said the new system, activated sludge process, will replace the existing method of secondary treatment. Pre-treatment and digestive process will remain, but rotating biochemical contactors will be removed, he said. Activated sludge process, also known as Ifast, will speed the purifying process and ammonia won’t be used anymore, he said. A phosphorous filter isn’t yet required for wastewater treatment. However, Sack said it will be required in about four or five years, so it is being added. He said officials are “thinking ahead of the game” with the new treatment plant. Ultraviolet light will be the new disinfection method, replacing the use of chlorine gas and sulfa dioxide…

Included in plans are an office complex, workshop, conference room, showers and a reception area…The laboratory where water samples are tested for the plant, and for more than five other small plants in the area, will be expanded. A sprinkler system and about 150 new trees and shrubs will be added to enhance the landscape around the plant, he said.

More wastewater coverage here.

Snowpack news: South Platte basin is at 85 percent of average, C-BT reservoirs storage sitting at 77 percent of average

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The basins that water officials watch for the Colorado-Big Thompson supply — the Upper Colorado and the Poudre basins — are running about 35 percent below average water content for the end of December. “It is really early, so there’s no beads of sweat on our foreheads yet,” said Dana Strongin, spokeswoman for Northern Water.

But the reservoirs holding water from the past two years are at 77 percent, which is high for this time of year, said Strongin…

Some are more full than others, adding up to the 77 percent. Horsetooth Reservoir is 72 percent filled. Carter Lake is at 55 percent because the level was lowered for maintenance. Lake Granby, the largest in the Colorado-Big Thompson system, is at 85 percent.

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via the Vail Daily:

The snowpack statewide was 73 percent of the long-term average as of midweek. It ranges from 90 to 98 percent in the south and southeast parts of Colorado to just 63 percent in the northwest corner. The jet stream has been steering snow to the south of Colorado and cold weather to the north, despite La Nina conditions that would normally bring the storms over Colorado, said Kyle Fredin, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Boulder…

Klaus Wolter, a climatologist at the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Colorado won’t see a repeat of last season, which brought record snowfall to some parts of the mountains. The last four to six weeks have been dry, but Colorado has had five snowstorms since October, he said. “That’s a pretty good pace,” Wolter said. “I’ve seen bigger, but it’s pretty respectable.”

From the Summit Daily News (Caddie Nath):

“There’s a lot of snow season yet to go,” National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Kyle Fredin said. “That area has four solid months of snow coming up. The weather sometimes flips around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if (you’re) right back to near normal.”

Normal, for the end of December in Breckenridge, would be 64.4 inches of snow, but this season had produced a mere 32.7 inches from September through Wednesday…

So far this season, the mountains east of the Divide and even the Front Range have fared better than Summit County in terms of snowfall. Denver’s weather reporting station near Denver International Airport had seen 29.5 inches of snow as of Wednesday, ahead of its season-to-date average of 21 inches and on par with Breckenridge’s 32.7 inches thus far. Boulder, to the north of Denver and closer to the foothills, has had 53.4 inches so far this season, trouncing both Breckenridge’s year-to-date total and its own typical 28.4 inches this time of year.

Sand Creek: Suncor groundwater contamination prompts additional measures from the CDPHE

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

State health officials ordered additional measures on Friday afternoon to minimize environmental harm and prevent people from ingesting contaminated water. Those measures include posting of “Drinking Water Warning” signs at the refinery. Benzene levels in Sand Creek are fluctuating but reached 670 parts per billion on Dec. 22 — 134 times higher than the 5 ppb national drinking water standard. An anonymous tip from a Suncor employee Thursday alerted state health officials to contamination in tap water on the refinery property…

Denver Water authorities, notified around noon Friday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, immediately began testing the city’s water system for benzene, which can cause anemia, blood problems and cancer. Denver Water reviewed data from recent tests for benzene and found no elevated levels, utility spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said…

Over the past several weeks, however, monitoring along the creek found that petroleum is entering the creek directly without surfacing, said Warren Smith, a state health spokesman. “The dissolved material is coming in through the bottom of the channel, not through a seep on the bank,” Smith said. The state order requires installation of “an air sparging system” in Sand Creek — similar to a fish tank aerator — by Jan. 6. This is meant to help benzene and other contaminants in the creek evaporate into the air, instead of flowing into the South Platte.

The order also requires Suncor to install a soil vapor extraction system and dig a second “interceptor trench” by Jan. 31 to try to trap hydrocarbons floating in groundwater before they enter Sand Creek. Suncor has tried to make the first trench work better and is providing bottled water to workers, Smith said. Company contractors also have tested 50 of 57 buildings at the adjacent Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant for toxic vapors, finding problems in two. Toxic vapor removal systems have been installed along with a filter and a ventilator on other buildings, he said.

More Sand Creek spill coverage here. More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Mike Gillespie retires from the NRCS leaving behind a legacy of reliable water data collection

Manual collection of snowpack data

Here’s a profile of Gillespie from John Ingold writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

“It’s pretty evident that this is one of the drier years,” Gillespie said. “It’s not looking like a good start at all to the year.”

Gillespie, who started doing snow surveys in Wyoming 31 years ago, has the experience to know. But Thursday was the last survey he will do. As of the end of today, Gillespie is retired.

That is a substantial loss of institutional knowledge in the obscure but important world of Colorado snowpack analysis. Gillespie’s snowpack measurements are closely watched by Colorado water managers, who use them to determine how much water will be available in the spring and summer.

Gillespie said his analyses can predict the amount of water in the spring runoff within about 10 percent.

Every year, Gillespie has overseen an effort to manually measure snowpack at more than 100 high-altitude “snow courses” across the state. He also has been instrumental in expanding the state’s use of automated snowpack sensors, which now number about 110 and provide daily snowpack updates…

Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist, said Gillespie brought a sense of competence to the high stakes of water-supply prediction and an aura of calmness to often panicky meetings about drought or flooding. “He was just always steady and reliable,” Doesken said. “You could always count on the data.”

I’ve heard Mike’s presentations on snowpack many times over the years. I’ll miss his sharp wit and steady focus on framing and interpreting the data his team collects.

Mike says, in email today, “On to bigger, and hopefully better, things.”

‘Denver Water is still committed to the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, and we are ready to sign,’ — Stacy Chesney

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

All the key stakeholders remain committed to the overall agreement, pending resolution of the complex water rights issues.

“Denver Water is still committed to the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, and we are ready to sign,” spokesperson Stacy Chesney said via email.

“The parties are working together on finalizing the attachments and detailed wording in the agreement. Denver Water has filed water rights applications in Grand County for the environmental flows provided for in the agreement … (and) making progress with the state related to the operations of Green Mountain Reservoir and Dillon Reservoir – related to the Blue River decree,” Chesney said.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: Colorado River basin — 63 percent of average, Rio Grande basin — 95 percent of average

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right to view the current snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Meanwhile Boulder snowfall is doing just fine. Here’s a report from Eric Metzler writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

[A] Weak La Niña pattern, other oscillations mean more snow for Front Range, less for mountains…

Boulder has received more snow already this season than it did all last season and is well above average, despite this being another La Niña year in which many meteorologists expected similar patterns to prevail…

Boulder has received 53.4 inches of snow so far this season and 33.3 inches in December alone, according to meteorologist Matt Kelsch. In a typical year, Boulder will receive 34 inches by the end of December and 88.6 inches by the end of the snow season…

This year’s La Niña is weaker than last year’s, and weather patterns also are being affected by two other oscillations — the Arctic Oscillation and the Madden-Julian Oscillation — that are less predictable and that fluctuate more rapidly.

One of the effects has been to push storms to the south, with southeastern Colorado getting walloped by several blizzards already this year and New Mexico and Arizona seeing above-average snowfall, [Joel Gratz, of opensnow.com] said.

Kelsch said weather patterns in the Atlantic also have affected the west-to-east flow of storms coming in from the Pacific. Last year, storms sped through and dropped most of their moisture on the mountains, leaving only winds for the Front Range. This year, storms have moved more slowly, with counterclockwise winds that leave more snow on the eastern slopes, Kelsch said.

More coverage from John Ingold writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The first manual snow sampling of the season Thursday confirmed what automated sensors have been suggesting for weeks: that the water available in Colorado’s snowpack is about a quarter below average. Statewide, snowpack is 73 percent of normal. That ranks as the fourth-driest measurement in the last 30 years, according to the conservation service.

No year in the last three decades that has started this far below average has recovered to record normal snowpack by the start of spring, said Mike Gillespie, the snow survey supervisor for the service. “It’s pretty evident that this is one of the drier years,” Gillespie said. “It’s not looking like a good start at all to the year.”[…]

The snowpack measurements are closely watched by Colorado water managers, who use them to determine how much water will be available in the spring and summer. Gillespie said one bright note this year is that last season’s glut of snow kept reservoirs full throughout the summer and fall — providing water suppliers with extra cushion for a dry year.