Besides the goal of a high density network of quality precipitation data, CoCoRaHS also has a goal of education and outreach. The most recent effort has been to train teachers and equip schools with rain gauges, having the students collect and report the data. The kick-off for ‘CoCoRaHS for Schools’ has been successful in large part due to the statewide campaign hosted by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education called ‘Colorado Water 2012′ (http://water2012.org/).
Oil shale has been the “Next Big Thing” in energy in Colorado for over a hundred years now. Chevron is the latest victim of the non-economic energy source. Here’s a report from the Associated Press via The Denver Post. From the article:
Chevron Corp. is giving up its experimental oil shale lease in northwest Colorado, saying it wants to free up its resources for other priorities. The company is working with the Bureau of Land Management to figure out what to do with the lease, including possibly transferring it to another company, The Grand Junction Sentinel reported Tuesday…
Chevron had been studying using carbon dioxide to draw out kerogen, a petroleum-like substance, from rock. The company said in a statement that the research was “productive.”
Council members at the meeting informally approved a draft ordinance regulating oil and gas development amidst growing tensions from the community about the environmental impacts of fracking. City staff members in the coming weeks are slated to meet with major oil and gas developers to discuss the proposed draft, and council members will have to formally vote on the draft at a later date. The draft ordinance puts stricter regulations on oil and gas developers than the city’s current ordinance, but concerned residents still say council should have done more…
Aurora’s proposed regulations include requiring oil and gas companies to obtain a conditional use permit if they are considering drilling within 1,000 feet from a residential subdivision. Aurora’s current ordinance allows drilling in all zone districts. “This is a recognition that as you get closer to residential (areas) there may be impacts,” said Jim Sayre, manager of zoning and development review for the city. “There may be light, glare, traffic, vibration, noise and things we do look at with industrial activity.”[…]
The city’s draft also requires the use of best industry practices for water quality monitoring, “green” fracturing fluids and closed-loop systems. Another tenet of the draft requires traffic impact studies and haul routes…
The draft regulations would also require an emergency response plan to deal with any hazardous spills, which current ordinances do not require.
Meanwhile, Commerce City has delayed their ordinance again. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
The City Council on Monday temporarily shelved a six-month moratorium on all oil and gas drilling in the city — including the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — to allow for more talks with oil and gas interests. The council unanimously voted Monday night to hold off on a moratorium for at least 60 days while city officials continued work on an agreement that could lead to fracking regulation. Council members say the negotiations could reap broader and more effective standards than a simple ban.
Voting in the affirmative, Fort Lupton City Councilors approved the seventh in a series of payments for the Northern Integrated Supply Project Feb. 13. For 2012, the prorated portion for the city comes to $75,000, the amount necessary to retain a stake in the water supply project.
The overall 2012 price tag for NISP among all participants is $1.5 million for some 40,000 acre-feet, 3.000 of which is earmarked for the city upon completion. That amount is in addition to $10.8 million already spent by all participants on the project since inception, the majority of which centers around permitting preparations and cost.
Plagued by opposition from environmental groups such as Save The Poudre, final permitting and construction has repeatedly been pushed back until 2025 and possibly farther in the event of lawsuits, likely as the project gains ground.
While there are no guarantees that NISP will ever move past the planning stages, if the city dropped its payment schedule, any monies invested in the project thus far would be forfeited. For Fort Lupton, that total before the upcoming payment is approximately $825,000
More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.
Here’s the latest installment in the Valley Courier’s (Craig Cotten) Colorado Water 2012 series. From the article:
Early settlers to the Valley relied on both shallow and artesian flowing wells for household and livestock use and even today, more than 90 percent of the Valley’s domestic water supply comes from wells.
But all that groundwater use does not come without an impact to the stream systems and vested water rights within the Valley.
The State Engineer is currently working on developing rules and regulations for the administration of groundwater here in the San Luis Valley to mitigate injury caused by groundwater use. This development has been going on for several years, but the story of rules and regulations actually begins in 1969. That is the year in which the Colorado legislature passed the Water Rights Determination and Administration Act. This Act, for the first time ever, gave the State Engineer the legal authority to administer wells within the priority system, which is based upon the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation. Prior to the 1969 Act, the use of groundwater was not linked to surface water rights.
The State Engineer at that time, C.J. Kuiper, wasted no time in developing rules and regulations for various parts of the state. He first developed rules for wells within the South Platte Basin, then rules for wells within the Arkansas Basin, and then he moved on to the Rio Grande Basin.
In 1975, rules and regulations were developed for wells within the San Luis Valley. These rules mandated that all large capacity wells (greater than 50 gallons per minute) were to be shut down unless they had an augmentation plan to replace their depletions. Needless to say, the SLV well owners were less than thrilled with the new rules. Many individuals and groups objected to the rules, and so, those rules were the subject of years of debate, a 12-week trial, and finally a trip to the Colorado Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled that the State Engineer did have the authority to establish rules and regulations, but that there might be some better options rather than shutting all of the wells completely off. They encouraged the State Engineer to look at alternatives, specifically mentioning the Closed Basin Project. At that time, there was a belief that the Project could produce enough water to cover all of the depletions from the wells.
The heaviest snowfall came in the foothills above South Fork, where a spotter for the National Weather Service reported 24 inches of snow. Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 20 inches of powder from the storm, while 14 inches fell southwest of Creede, according to another weather service spotter.
From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:
Kari Bowen of the National Weather Service in Boulder said Coal Bank Pass already recorded a foot of snow by Tuesday morning. Other parts of central Colorado have gotten a half foot.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
“Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation,” said Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech. “The circulation changes result in more frequent episodes of atmospheric blocking patterns, which lead to increased cold surges and snow over large parts of the northern continents.”
The researchers analyzed observational data collected between 1979 and 2010 and found that a decrease in autumn Arctic sea ice of 1 million square kilometers — the size of the surface area of Egypt — corresponded to significantly above-normal winter snow cover in large parts of the northern United States, northwestern and central Europe, and northern and central China.
The analysis revealed two major factors that could be contributing to the unusually large snowfall in recent winters — changes in atmospheric circulation and changes in atmospheric water vapor content — both linked to diminishing Arctic sea ice. Strong warming in the Arctic through the late summer and autumn appears to be enhancing the melting of sea ice.
“We think the recent snowy winters could be caused by the retreating Arctic ice altering atmospheric circulation patterns by weakening westerly winds, increasing the amplitude of the jet stream and increasing the amount of moisture in the atmosphere,” said Jiping Liu, a senior research scientist in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech. “These pattern changes enhance blocking patterns that favor more frequent movement of cold air masses to middle and lower latitudes, leading to increased heavy snowfall in Europe and the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States.”
Here’s an article by Zak Podmore about the State of the Rockies Source to Sea adventure where he and Will Stauffer-Norris paddled from the headwaters of the Green River to the Colorado River Delta. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for short bios of both paddlers. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
Over the past 108 days, we’ve paddled more than 1,600 miles down the Colorado River and its longest tributary, the Green River. Our journey is part of Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project, an outreach research effort which this year focuses on environmental issues surrounding the Colorado River Basin…
From the time we launched until we crossed into Mexico in mid-January, asking where the river was would have been absurd. We always knew where the river was. That changed, however, when Stauffer-Norris and I, recent Colorado College graduates and field researchers for the project, reached the Mexican border. In southern Arizona, we traded our kayaks for five-pound, inflatable rafts, and paddled up to the Morales Dam, the 11th and final dam we would have to portage on the trip. There, we found a shocking sight.
On one side of the dam was the Colorado River. On the other was a trickle of water — much too shallow to float — which disappeared into the sand within a couple of miles. The mighty river that had carried us across six states and into another country had been entirely diverted out of its former riverbed 90 miles from the sea. For the next five days, we paddled through irrigation canals and pools of agricultural runoff so polluted we took pains to avoid touching it.
When the canals dried up, we attempted to follow the historical course of the river that hasn’t reached the sea since the 1998. We spent several days fighting our way through miles of invasive tamarisk and mud-cracked desert before finally reaching salt water. En route, we learned that our attempts to find the “original riverbed” were driven by a cartographer’s dream. The Colorado River once nourished more than 3,000 square miles of desert land from the Gulf of California in Mexico to the Imperial Valley in United States. The delta had no stable, narrow watercourse that could be easily converted to a blue line on a map. Instead, the river spread out into vast network of lagoons, wetlands and riparian areas, making the delta one of the most biologically diverse areas in the region.
But today, most of the delta is farmland, and the 320 remaining bird species must rely on pockets of agricultural discharge, too salty for continued use in agriculture. Before the river even reaches the Morales Dam near Yuma, Arizona, 90 percent of the water already has been diverted to the taps of cities as distant as Denver and San Diego, or converted into helping grow our wintertime supply of lettuce, carrots and other produce. At the border, the remaining water is funneled into a canal system and taken to the cities of Tijuana and Mexicali, in addition to hundreds of square miles of farms.
Chlorine, hero and villain element, saves the day again with regard to disinfection of the San Luis water system. Here’s a report from Matt Hildner writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:
The move allows the town’s roughly 630 residents to use their tap water, which will now be chlorinated by the San Luis Water and Sanitation District. Linda Smith, a public information officer for the emergency team handling the outbreak, said no cause was found for the contamination, nor have any illnesses related to the outbreak been reported. Public officials also left one last chore for residents, asking that anyone with appliances that dispense ice or water to replace their filters prior to using them again…
The water and sanitation district had operated under a state disinfection waiver before the outbreak, distributing untreated groundwater to residents from two wells. It decided last week to abandon the waiver and begin chlorinating the town’s water.
Filling the Gap: Meeting Future Urban Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin is the second report in a series from Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, and the Colorado Environmental Coalition. In this report, we outline a realistic and balanced water supply portfolio to meet the urban water needs in the Arkansas Basin while protecting Colorado’s waterways, economy, and quality of life. Employing widely accepted data, we explore four water supply strategies: acceptable planned projects, water conservation, reuse, and voluntary water sharing with the agriculture sector. Importantly, our portfolio more than meets future demands of the urban counties of the Arkansas Basin without the need for large, costly, and environmentally damaging transbasin diversions that have been a hallmark of traditional water supply planning.
Our balanced portfolio of water supply strategies more than fills the projected needs of Arkansas Basin communities…
The strategy relies on conservation, including reuse and cooperation between urban and rural water providers. During the TelePress call today it sounded to me like the groups would support more storage in the Arkansas Valley as long as it isn’t for another transmountain diversion from the west slope. They also indicated a “bank account” for conserved water, but did not know where the water would be stored. Colorado water law so far does not recognize “conserved consumptive use” so any bank would require a trip to water court — just the same as the rotational fallowing plans for the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch. Most ditch companies will tell you that they get killed in a change of use case in water court.
Also, in the South Platte basin at least, much of the water acquired over the years by municipalities is still in agriculture. I wonder if the report considered these changed rights that have not been implemented yet?
Update: Here’s a correction sent in by Jason Bane (Western Resource Advocates):
There was a misunderstanding it appears between what Jorge Figueroa was trying to say and how it may have come across to you. He was trying to use an analogy of a savings account in regards to the catch-all category of system reliability. Utilities generally do not sell off all of the water saved from conservation; rather, they allocated a specific percentage to the catch-all category. The analogy was intended to apply only in the context of system reliability (and definitely wasn’t meant to imply a monetary type of banking gain).
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The report “Meeting Future Needs in the Arkansas River Basin” was released Tuesday by Western Resource Advocates, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and Trout Unlimited. It follows a similar report last year on the South Platte River basin.
Both reports counter a statewide effort by the Interbasin Compact Committee that also includes one or more projects to bring Colorado River water to the Front Range. The environmental groups timed the report to coincide with today’s meeting of the IBCC and a statewide water roundtable summit Thursday in Broomfield.
There may be a question whether water providers accept the figures used in the reports. The Pueblo Board of Water Works is still reviewing the final report for accuracy, said Alan Ward, water resources manager.
The environmental groups said the timing was opportune since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week rejected Aaron Million’s application for a Wyoming-Colorado pipeline. The groups oppose multibillion water projects that run the risk of depleting Colorado River flows.
The report does not address two major threats to Arkansas River basin water supplies — future water raids by South Platte users, such as Aurora’s purchases on the Rocky Ford Ditch and Colorado Canal in the 1980s and ’90s, and water needed for energy development, such as shale oil fracking.
On the other hand, it does not include additional supplies the Pueblo Board of Water Works gained from its purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares, Figueroa said. It also excluded any storage benefit from reservoir enlargement under the Preferred Storage Options Plan, which has been stalled for several years.
Becky Long, of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said the environmental groups support rotational fallowing programs, such as the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, as a way of keeping farms in production and while filling temporary needs of cities. “Ag transfers are the smallest piece of the pie,” she said. “There are increasing pressures on farmers and ranchers. We certainly do think there are additional ways to keep farmers on the land.”
More coverage from Kirk Siegler writing for KUNC. From the article:
The report recommends a mix of conservation and water reuse programs and small water development projects, namely a proposal around the Eagle River. Author Jorge Figueroa says if policy managers adopted these strategies, they could actually exceed projected water supply demands by 2050. “A huge amount of water can be kept in the system and resold at a much cheaper price than new, expensive and environmentally damaging infrastructure projects,” Figueroa said.
Most of Colorado is now classified as under drought conditions, according to a report by the state’s water availability task force, which met last week in Denver. “Early February precipitation in parts of the state has helped to increase snowpack levels somewhat. However, all major basins of the state remain below normal,” the task force report states. “Severe drought conditions still remain in Baca County as well as the San Luis Valley.”[…]
…streamflows in the Arkansas River basin are below average as the region enters its 18th month of drought. The surface water supply index is well below average, partly because of weather conditions and the drawdown of Homestake Reservoir for repairs…
The outlook for water imported to the Arkansas River basin from the Colorado River basin is not good, either. Yields are expected to be only 75-80 percent of average, even if snowfall is average the rest of the season. In the Upper Colorado River basin snowpack is only at 71 percent. It is the source of water for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Twin Lakes, Homestake and other diversions that can bring as much as one-fourth of water supplies into the Arkansas basin.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
In [an] ad, posted on the Colorado Oil & Gas Association website, Hickenlooper makes a flat-out claim that there hasn’t been any groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing since 2008. You can listen to Hickenlooper’s message here.
The message touted Colorado’s new oil and gas drilling regulations which are intended to protect the environment as well as to give industry regulatory certainty. The context of the message was to advertise Colorado as open for the oil and gas business business, but the problem is that Hickenlooper’s statement is not completely accurate or truthful. In fact, there have been dozens of documented cases of groundwater contamination in the state since 2008 from leaky pipes, corroded tanks and other problems that are common in any industrial setting. “There are spills on a weekly basis that affect groundwater,” said Earthjustice attorney Mike Freeman, adding that state records show there were 58 spills from oil and gas operations in 2011.
“The first step is admitting we have a problem,” Freeman said. “It’s safe to say, the disclosure rules are not preventing drilling operations from contaminating water,” he said, adding that the state’s rules are only a first step toward ensuring environmental protection. “The state’s own records show that spills and releases routinely affect ground water. Statements like those in the COGA ad will only hurt the state’s efforts to show it is responsive to legitimate concerns about and gas development in Colorado communities.”
More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
“It is certainly true that spills and releases associated with equipment failures at drilling sites have occurred and have impacted shallow groundwater,” Hickenlooper spokeswoman Megan Castle said. “That’s a very different process from drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”[…]
A letter to Hickenlooper from 13 environmental groups says the COGA ad “misleads the public by ignoring the high incidence of groundwater contamination from spills and releases of toxic chemicals at or near drilling sites.” The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, charged with regulating and simultaneously encouraging oil and gas activity, has documented numerous spills that have contaminated soil and water. These include instances where petroleum liquids and fracking wastewater were spilled. Corroding tanks and pipelines and leaking waste pits have led to spills of toxic material, including cancer-causing benzene.
More coverage from the Switchboard (Amy Mall). From the article:
In Colorado, archaic rules allow toxic oil and gas facilities to be as close as 150 feet to a child’s bedroom window. These operations can be in someone’s backyard and on their property without consent if a family does not own the rights to the oil and gas beneath its land–and most Coloradans do not.
The COGA ads tout the latest Colorado rule requiring disclosure of fracking chemicals. While disclosure is essential to preserve the public’s right to know about chemicals in their community, and NRDC calls for nationwide disclosure of fracking chemicals for better regulation of this industry, disclosure is only one part of what’s needed in a comprehensive regulatory structure to protect health and the environment from the dangers of fracking. Disclosure alone does not prevent drinking water contamination–rather it lets citizens know what chemicals might be in their drinking water after it has been contaminated. And many of the chemicals can still be kept secret by oil and gas companies.
The risks are real. From 2009-2011, there were more than a thousand spills related to oil and gas operations in Colorado–many of which impacted groundwater and/or surface water with potentially highly toxic materials. Last September, the Denver Post reported that four oil and gas companies alone had 350 spills in Colorado in less than two years. The Post highlighted one spill that contaminated groundwater with benzene–a known carcinogen. In 2010, a Las Animas County landowner found approximately 500 gallons of grayish brown murky water in his cistern that he believes is linked to nearby hydraulic fracturing. This family has extensive water testing documentation going back many years, verifying that their water was always clean and clear until the nearby fracking took place.
The newspaper ad states it is “brought to you as a public service,” which makes it sound like a “public service announcement,” but this is misleading. While the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission decided that it is okay for elected officials to use their personal credibility and the position of their office to better educate the public on issues relating to their government position, in its decision, the Ethics Commissions used examples of public service announcements that discuss the importance of voting, filling out the census form, retrieving unclaimed property, and discouraging the illegal use of alcohol.
None of those examples promote one industry or mislead the public with a false sense of security about considerable and well-documented public health and environmental threats.
I missed this opinion piece in favor of tougher nutrient standards from Ross Vincent and Seve Glazer that is running in The Pueblo Chieftain. It was part of a point/counterpoint that the Chieftain ran on Sunday. Here’s my original post. Thanks to Desmid for the heads up in the comments for the post. Here’s an excerpt from the article I missed:
…imagine our disappointment at learning that the city of Pueblo has joined forces with some other municipal dischargers in attempting to weaken new clean water protections proposed by the state health department. The issue in this case is nutrients — predominantly chemicals containing nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients are commonly found in lawn and agricultural fertilizers, in some commercial products (such as cleaners), in some industrial discharges, and in human and animal excrement. They find their way into our streams and lakes primarily in urban, suburban, and industrial discharges, and in urban and agricultural runoff. Here on the Front Range, the biggest sources are municipal sewage and stormwater discharges.
When nutrient pollution is allowed to accumulate in our lakes and rivers, it can harm aquatic life, sometimes causing fish kills. In drinking water, it can compromise human health because some nitrogen and phosphorus compounds are toxic and others can react with disinfectants used to kill bacteria in drinking water treatment facilities to form cancer-causing disinfection by-products. Levels of both nitrogen and phosphorus in parts of the Arkansas River basin are already more than 10 times higher than what should occur naturally, and we should expect those levels to get worse if Colorado’s Front Range population continues to grow as expected.
Some cities, like Pueblo, are arguing that the cost of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus levels in their discharges will be too high, that no one will want to pay for the necessary treatment, and that we should only address part of the problem — the phosphorus part — because only treating for phosphorus will be cheaper.
That is a stunningly shortsighted and ultimately self-defeating argument. It is eerily reminiscent of the complaints we sometimes hear from big industrial polluters when science reveals problems with pollutants in their discharges. If the state fails to act responsibly on both phosphorus and nitrogen pollution now, it is likely that the federal government will step in with more stringent requirements, with shorter fuses and even more costly solutions.
If the city’s arguments prevail, all the city will have succeeded in doing is to delay the inevitable. The nitrogen pollution problem will not go away. As ratepayers, we will be required to invest in phosphorus-only treatment now and then we will be hit again later with additional and duplicative improvements in our city’s wastewater treatment systems to deal with nitrogen.
Linda Smith, a public information officer for the Alamosa County Emergency Operations Center, said if the tests came back negative it would then be up to officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on whether to lift a boiled water advisory…
Crews worked through the weekend flushing chlorinated water through the town’s pipes and Smith said monitoring revealed the chlorination had run at proper levels. “All of that is looking good so far,” she said…
Should the advisory be lifted this week, Smith did not know if the San Luis Water and Sanitation District would immediately begin chlorinating the town’s water. The district decided Friday to abandon a disinfection waiver that had allowed it to distribute untreated groundwater from two wells. Tommy Rodriguez, the district’s water operator, said earlier the district had the equipment it needed to move forward with chlorination.
The Colorado Geological Survey (CGS) is a state government agency within the Department of Natural Resources whose mission is to:
– Help reduce the impact of geologic hazards on the citizens of Colorado,
– Promote responsible economic development of mineral and energy resources,
– Provide geologic insight into water resources,
– Provide avalanche safety training and forecasting, and
– Provide geologic advice and information to a variety of constituencies.
By providing sound information and new knowledge, the Colorado Geological Survey contributes to economic growth and improvement in the quality of life for Colorado’s citizens.
Here’s the announcement from the Colorado Basin Roundtable (Jacob Bornstein):
What: The Colorado River Basin Roundtable (CBRT) is soliciting projects for environmental and recreational water needs. Funding for these projects is from the CWCB Water Supply Reserve Account. As much as $2M may be available for competitive grants statewide. Although there is no limitation to grant requests, typical grants are about $200,000. CBRT hopes to identify 3 to 5 projects for near term funding and implementation, other projects may be considered for long term prioritization.
The CBRT is sponsoring an informal workshop to help potential project applicants in the Colorado River Basin determine if their project is appropriate and guide them through the application process.
How: Parties interested in apply for these grants should prepare a short summary of their project and bring it to the workshop. The summary should briefly address the criteria that will be used by the CBRT to select projects, see attachment A.
When: The CBRT Project planning workshop is March 15, 10:00 to 12:30. Projects will be approved for funding by the CWCB in September, 2012. Complete project applications must be approved by the CBRT 60 days prior to the CWCB meeting.
Where: The Blue River Room in the North Branch Summit County Library, 651 Center Circle, Silverthorne 80498.
For More Information: Contact Jacob Bornstein, CWCB (303-866-3441) or Lane Wyatt, CBRT (970-468-0295 ext 116).
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Coleman Cornelius):
CSU and the Colorado Department of Agriculture are teaming up to provide a new look at Colorado’s critical agricultural industry with a study that maps economic relationships among sectors tied – perhaps unexpectedly – to farm and ranch production.
Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the project Thursday during the annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture at the Renaissance Denver Hotel. The agriculture project is part of the Colorado Blueprint, the state’s bottom-up approach to economic development.
Called the Agricultural Value-Chain Analysis, the new study will illustrate linkages within Colorado’s broad agricultural industry. It will highlight sectors many Coloradans might not immediately associate with agriculture, including biotechnology, finance, ag tourism, and the food and beverage sector.
Colorado agriculture annually contributes an estimated $40 billion in sales to the state economy. Depicting the industry’s economic connections is a key step in shedding light on critical issues, common challenges, emerging policy needs and opportunities for growth in agriculture.
The Agricultural Value-Chain Analysis will support work of the newly forming Colorado Agricultural Cluster, one of the broad-based industry clusters working with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to develop the Colorado Blueprint. These groups are forming to help spark innovation, national and global competitiveness, ongoing prosperity, and sustainable job growth in Colorado.
Tom Yulsman, co-director of CU-Boulder’s Center for Environmental Journalism, co-authored a two-part article with journalism master’s student Brendon Bosworth called “Running Toward Empty” [ed. Part One and Part Two] in early 2011. One of the questions they asked was whether last winter’s heavy snowpack made a dent in reversing the effects of a decade-long drought that has created “bathtub rings” at shrinking Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Their response was, yes, but it was a small dent, and most signs point to the problem getting worse, not better.
“We are taking more water out of the Colorado River basin than actually flows out of the Colorado River basin,” Yulsman tells Boulder Weekly, adding that “savings banks” like Mead and Powell have been the only thing keeping the lower reaches of the Colorado from drying up even more.
Click through and read the whole article including an interview with Jennifer Pitt Colorado River Project director for the Environmental Defense Fund. Here’s an excerpt:
Boulder Weekly: For those here in Boulder County who may not be intimately familiar with the water management challenges that we’re facing on the Colorado, would you give a quick snapshot of what you’re working on right now?
Jennifer Pitt: From a basin-wide perspective, I think there’s been a recent realization that demands on the river for water actually have been exceeding supply. That’s in part caused by the fact that we’ve been in an 11or 12-year drought.
But drought notwithstanding, especially if demands keep rising, we’re at the point where use of the river’s water is unsustainable. Everybody believes that the region will continue to grow, there’s a great quality of life in the mountain West, in the Southwest, and people are attracted to this region for a variety of reasons. And there’s no reason to think that’s going to stop or that it’s not going to pick up as the economy improves.
That will cause water demands to continue to increase, and there’s a lot of concern that climate change will cause supply to decrease, possibly because of decreased precipitation in the region, but certainly because of increased temperatures that will increase evaporation rates and demands for water.
BW: So it’s kind of like a perfect storm where supply is dwindling and demand is increasing.
JP: Exactly. So that’s the essence of the challenge. Every institution and agency that is a stakeholder in the river and the river’s water is concerned about it. From the environmental perspective, we are concerned that because there is no inherent right to water for the river itself, and because of historically how the river has been managed — where the environment usually gets last dibs — if we are not proactive, there will be bad outcomes for the river. We have the first look at that kind of outcome in the delta of the Colorado River down at the U.S./ Mexico border.
From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education:
Get a glimpse of Colorado’s crazy climate and Antarctic adventures at an annual workshop of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education…
On March 9, 2012 at the Denver Federal Center, educators, consultants and researchers will spend a day learning about climate science and the related impacts on water resources and the environment. The workshop includes an exclusive tour of the National Ice Core Lab, distinguished speakers and hands-on teaching tools. Space is limited so sign up today!
Here’s the release from the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and Colorado State University via the Delta County Independent:
Are you looking for ways to improve energy efficiency on your farm, ranch, or small acreage? Are you looking to enhance your soil health with a new tool for your irrigation management toolbox?
If so, then you might want to register for a free workshop focused on ag energy and the local agricultural weather station network.
The workshop is from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, in Montrose with a complimentary lunch from Camp Robber for all who register by Monday, Feb. 27.
The workshop — co-hosted by Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) and Colorado State University (CSU) — will be held in the DMEA’s classroom at 11925 6300 Rd, near the airport just north of Montrose. Staff of both DMEA and CSU will outline local and statewide programs that can improve efficiencies with energy and water use, and provide a foundation for a more profitable and sustainable agricultural operation.
Included in the program is a visit from state climatologist Nolan Doesken, whose enthusiasm for all things weather has helped raise the profile of water — particularly in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail — on both sides of the divide.
Recently Doesken was in western Colorado advancing his campaign to place a rain gauge in every school around Colorado. Now he’s back to engage with local producers and promote CSU’s imminent upgrades to the Colorado Agricultural Meteorological (CoAgMet) network. CoAgMet is a network of about 65 weather stations around the state that provide accurate crop water use and disease pressure data for farmers and ranchers. Doesken describes CoAgMet’s importance to the irrigation community as “the primary source of local and accurate crop water use information.”
Troy Bauder, the state water quality specialist at CSU, adds, “This information is one tool we’d like to get in the hands of irrigators that are interested in more precise irrigation scheduling, particularly those who might have a newer system and want to fully utilize its capabilities to deliver water according to crop needs.”
Indeed the entire afternoon session of the workshop will provide local irrigators a golden opportunity to become more familiar with CoAgMet, learn how CSU intends to make it work better, and to provide much needed feedback to Doesken, Bauder, and CSU staff on the upcoming improvements.
Jim Heneghan of DMEA and Abbie Brewer with the Governors Energy Office at DMEA (Fore Alliance), along with Cary Weiner, clean energy specialist with CSU Extension, will be hosting the morning session. Weiner will be discussing the benefits of on-farm energy audits, while Heneghan and Brewer will outline DMEA initiatives such as progress with the South Canal micro-hydro feasibility study, and the Business Energy Assessment Team (BEAT) program available to business owners and managers in the Delta-Montrose area. Heneghan — who also farms near Olathe — explains his support for the workshop, “DMEA is very interested in smart energy products for its service area. We believe that helping local residents understand where the opportunities lie for energy savings can help them be more successful with their agricultural operations, businesses, and home maintenance.”
If you are interested in attending the workshop (remember the workshop and lunch are free — please register in advance), or learning more about DMEA and CSU’s programs please contact Jim Heneghan at DMEA: 240-1269 or e-mail jim.heneghan@
dmea.com; or Denis Reich (CSU water resources specialist) in Grand Junction: 201-8467 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In September 2008, an enforcement order was issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The order identified specific tasks the city would have to perform within a specified compliance schedule and identified civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance. Sterling is the largest system of 32 communities across the state to receive the high uranium and TTHM’s rating. After looking at various technology for primary (the uranium, TTHM’s and nitrate) and secondary standards (total dissolved solids, sulfate, manganese and hardness ) treatment, a reverse osmosis (RO) with blend stream filtration was the selected method to mitigate the problems. Demis noted that the selection removes those primary and secondary contaminants, is the lowest overall water cost impact to the average Sterling citizen and provides the best overall water quality.
To dispose of the concentrates that are filtered out, a deep well injection system was selected. The well injection is approximately 7,000 feet deep, is permitted through EPA Region 8 and is the least costly alternative, Demis said…
Noticeable changes will be in taste (less salty), less gastro-intestinal discomfort for visitors, less metallic taste, and a reduction in hardness, lessening the need for in-home softening.
Hatch Mott MacDonald Company is the architect/engineer of the project and contractor is Hydro Construction Company.
Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (Megan Crandall):
The Bureau of Land Management announced today that it is hosting public meetings in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to answer questions about and solicit comments on its oil shale and tar sands Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft PEIS). The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. at the locations and dates listed below:
Monday, March 12, 2012
BLM Colorado River Valley Office
2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, Colorado
7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Westin Plaza Hotel
1684 West Highway 40, Vernal, Utah
7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Grand America Hotel
555 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, Utah
7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
BLM Rock Springs Field Office
280 Highway 191 North, Rock Springs, Wyoming
7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
BLM officials will be on hand to take written comments and assist with the commenting process. The Draft PEIS is being prepared by the BLM to assess a range of management alternatives for future oil-shale and tar-sands activities on public lands. The Notice of Availability of the Draft PEIS was issued in the Federal Register on February 3, 2012. A 90-day public comment period began that day and will close on May 4, 2012.
Written comments on the Draft PEIS should be submitted by May 4 using an online comment form on the Draft PEIS Website at http://ostseis.anl.gov. This is the preferred method for commenting. Comments may also be submitted by regular mail to: Oil Shale and Tar Sands Draft Programmatic EIS, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass Avenue, EVS 240, Argonne, IL 60439.
The Bureau of Land Management will host meetings in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to answer questions about and solicit comments on its oil shale and tar sands Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft PEIS). The Colorado meeting will be held from 7-9:30 p.m. on Monday, March 12, at the BLM Colorado River Valley Office, 2300 River Frontage Road, in Silt.
From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:
Notice is hereby given that a meeting of the CWCB will be held on Tuesday March 20th, 2012, commencing at 8:30 a.m. and continuing through Wednesday, March 21st, 2012. This meeting will be held at the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority offices located at 1580 Logan Street, Ste # 620, Denver CO.
Wyco Power and Water Inc. downplayed the denial as a glitch that it can address by submitting a better application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but opponents say it effectively kills the pipeline until the company gets environmental permits and secures the water — approvals they doubt are coming. “We think that’s going to be impossible,” said McCrystie Adams, an Earthjustice attorney who represented the Sierra Club, Utah Rivers Council and other groups that intervened to oppose the federal permit…
A FERC official ruled Thursday that the route was too uncertain and the application premature. Although Wyco’s application maps show only federal rights of way, FERC Office of Energy Projects Director Jeff Wright wrote in his decision, the pipeline would also have to cross state, county and private lands. “Until some certainty regarding the authorization of the pipeline is presented,” Wright wrote, “Wyco will not be able to gather and obtain the information required to prepare a license application for a proposed hydropower project.” He also noted that the hydropower stations on which the application is based require water from a pipeline that doesn’t exist, and the application provides no timeline for seeking other agencies’ authorizations to build it…
The proposal has drawn criticism from a number of sectors, including Wyoming’s governor, environmentalists opposing trans-basin diversions, Utahns fearing effects on their state’s water supply, advocates for the Green River’s endangered and sport fish, and those who question private control of 200,000 acre-feet of scarce Colorado River Basin water…
Million insisted Thursday’s decision just means he needs to fill in more details before resubmitting a FERC application. Gaining permission to cross lands on the map isn’t an issue, he said, given that water projects are entitled to condemnation rights…
Identifying an exact route means getting permission from other federal agencies more suited to studying water projects, said Adams, the Earthjustice attorney. The Bureau of Reclamation likely would not consent, she said, because there’s insufficient water at its Flaming Gorge Reservoir, and endangered fish would suffer downstream.
More coverage from The Salt Lake Tribune via Power Engineering. From the article:
Million has said the water is there and, if not, Utah’s plans for a Lake Powell pipeline likely are doomed. In fact, he said he modeled his proposal after Utah’s project, which also is before FERC because it includes hydropower production. FERC’s decision on the Flaming Gorge pipeline may indicate the agency learned a lesson after approving an initial permit for study of the Lake Powell pipeline, Harris said. Maybe the energy regulators will no longer take the lead on projects that are primarily about supply. A FERC spokeswoman did not respond to a question about whether the Powell project was more complete.
Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, said Utah’s proposal to supply water to St. George likely carries more weight with federal regulators than does Million’s “speculative” concept. Still, he was surprised FERC shot down the Flaming Gorge proposal before even granting a permit for further study. “They give those out like candy,” he said.
Gov. Gary Herbert has said he would not stand for the Green River project if it threatens Utah’s supply, but he did not intervene in the FERC application as Wyoming’s governor did.
More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.
Join the Eagle River Watershed Council and Chris Treese from the Colorado River District on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Dusty Boot in Eagle to hear a free presentation about where Colorado’s water history is taking us…
The Colorado River flows through Eagle County for nearly 60 miles. The county’s Open Space Fund has recently acquired public access points on the Colorado for recreational use. The section of the Colorado River in Eagle County is being considered for federal “wild and scenic” designation. Colorado’s Water Conservation Board recently approved a motion to appropriate in-stream flow rights — the first ever legal protection designed to ensure a minimum amount of water is maintained in the river to sustain healthy fish populations. The Eagle River Watershed Council is initiating a science-based study with CSU of Eagle County’s section of this little studied river. The Eagle River is one of the Colorado’s principal tributaries.
The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District on Friday agreed to discuss the timing of a mill levy for the district at its April 27 meeting, when it expects to review a comprehensive report on stormwater and related issues being developed by Summit Economics. The stormwater study was suggested after Colorado Springs City Council eliminated its stormwater enterprise fee in 2009, saying it was the will of voters. It is being paid for by El Paso County communities along Monument and Fountain creeks…
“We should have a discussion of the scope (of district funding) and what the mill levy should be,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, who serves as president of the Fountain Creek board. Chostner has said the mill levy is the district’s top priority this year…
Under the legislation that formed the district, it may levy up to a 5-mill tax with voter approval. While its primary responsibility is the flood plain of Fountain Creek, it is also charged to make drainage recommendations throughout the entire watershed. All of Pueblo and El Paso counties are included in the district for property tax purposes, however.
“The courts are taking a harsher look,” Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs told the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance last week. “We are seeing a doctrine of scarcity and an effort to fix the time, place and use of water.”[…]
The amount of consumptive use depends on past weather conditions, crop yields or temporary transfers of water that might have taken land out of production, [attorney Jeffrey Kahn] explained. Hobbs put a sharper point on it, saying that while the state constitution states that a water right shall never be denied and sets beneficial use by historical priority, the water must actually have been used to retain a water right’s place in line. “The one true water right is water put to beneficial use. Conditional use is a place-holder in that system,” Hobbs said…
In 2005, the court upheld a decision by Pueblo District Judge Dennis Maes that ruled against a change on the Fort Lyon Canal sought by High Plains A&M. “A group of investors bought one-third of the Fort Lyon Canal and sought to market it to 21 counties,” said Hobbs, the only justice who specialized in water law prior to appointment. “We said the obvious, that this water right arose from beneficial use of water on actual ground.”
Hobbs also mentioned 2007 and 2009 decisions on Pagosa Water and Sanitation District v. Trout Unlimited ruling that cities must show reasonable needs for water in a specific time period before in order to claim a conditional water right…
“When you market a water right, it’s a double-edged sword,” Hobbs said. “It’s limited to consumptive use and needs to be quantified.”
The Colorado River Basin snowpack, Eagle County’s river basin, started February at 69 percent of average, slightly lower than the statewide 72 percent average, but managed to creep up a few percentage points to 74 percent due to a few snow storms here and there, said Mage Skordahl, the assistant snow survey supervisor at the National Resources Conservation Center’s Snow Survey Office in Denver…
“We finally started getting some snow storms on the western side of the (Continental) Divide, which we hadn’t had much of that,” Skordahl said. “Conditions are improving, but at this point in the season you really have to be well above average for the rest of the season to meet our April 1 average numbers. I would say at this point, that’s pretty unlikely.” The forecast for stream flow volumes from April through July are all below average as of now, at about 70 percent for the state, she said. But luckily, this winter comes on the heels of a really good winter in 2010-11, so many of the reservoirs are full. “Statewide, (water) storage is average or above average,” Skordahl said. “About 80 percent of spring and summer stream flow comes from mountain snowpack.”[…]
Locally, reservoir storage is healthy, but reservoirs are less important to Eagle County than they are to other areas in the state. Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said reservoirs here are “more strategic — they do not serve as a direct water supply.” “Our reservoirs serve to replace our depletion in the streams,” Johnson said. “It’s still important for us to have them full — we expect them to fill this year.”
While many people I talk to think that we have had a good winter, the true information is that we are quite a bit behind on our snowpack and water supply in Southwest Colorado, as is most of the rest of the state. As of Tuesday, the San Juan Mountains are only holding about 81 percent of the average snowpack and stored water. From this data, the NRCS forecasts that we will have only 70 to 80 percent of our average stream flows this spring.
As an irrigator on the La Plata River, I could be in for a tough year if we continue in the current La Niña weather patterns that have prevailed this winter. With warm storms and limited precipitation, the outlook for everyone who depends on our rivers could be disappointing. With the threat of an early spring and possible dust storms to coat the snow, we could see our runoff gone before it can be enjoyed.
As I make my plans for the summer, the limited irrigation supply will affect how I fertilize, irrigate and make pasture rotations. As I look forward to spring, I will have to wait and see just how much irrigation water the mountains will give us. Until then, I will keep busy: It is almost shearing time, and then there will be baby lambs greeting me in the mornings.
Reed Dils of Salida is serving on the 20-member committee studying issues related to the proposed 578-mile pipeline to move water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to the Colorado Front Range…
Dils said he has served on the Arkansas Basin Round Table as a recreational-environmental representative since its inception…
Dils said the committee’s task is to study all related issues, but “it’s not a process of determining whether the project is good or bad.” Effects to Western Slope water providers, environmental impacts to endangered fish in the Green River and the effects of water leaving the gorge are a few issues, he said.
So far, Dils has attended one meeting and said about four more are planned. He said anticipation is for study completion in the fall.
More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.
The city will review an ordinance to place a six-month moratorium on oil and gas activities at its Feb. 27 meeting. The measure passed unanimously on first reading in December, but council has delayed the second reading to allow more time for dialogue.
The issue comes largely in response to public outcry over plans for an existing well at East 96th Avenue and Tower Road in Commerce City…
The oil and gas review committee, which is comprised of residents, industry, interest groups and council members, has been meeting for the past month and a half, but has not come to a consensus on any recommendations for City Council, she said.
The Republican River Water Conservation District is offering a tour of the pipeline project for the public on Friday, March 9, beginning at 1:30 pm at the District meeting room located at 410 Main Street in Wray. Due to safety concerns, there will be a limited number of participants allowed to attend the tour.
Garney Construction will be installing 36 inch ductile-iron transmission pipe during the tour. Sessions Construction of Wray will be installing pvc pipe connecting the collection lines in the well field.
Anyone interested in attending the tour must contact the District office at (970) 332-3552. The District is limiting the number of participants for the tour and will offer additional tour dates if there is enough interest expressed from the public. If you have any questions concerning the pipeline or the tour please contact the District office at 970-332-3552.
More Republican River basin coverage here and here.
Although groundwater testing is currently done on a voluntary basis by the energy industry, Kerr said the COGCC will mandate baseline testing of water wells, groundwater aquifers and springs as a condition of drilling permit approval.
The circumstances under which baseline testing must occur varies, Kerr said. Sometimes the COGCC requires groundwater testing based on the recommendations of local government officials, as was the case in the Raton Field of southeastern Colorado, the Piceance Basin near Rifle and the San Juan Basin outside of Durango. “In the San Juan Basin we wanted to do testing because they are working shallow coal seams, which are very close to the ground water aquifers,” Kerr said…
“We like to have baseline testing done in areas that are new to exploration and development,” Kerr said. “That part of the Niobrara is right in the midst of the exploration play, and we have made (baseline) testing a requirement for most of the companies working there.”
So far, the big players in Moffat County are Shell Oil Company, Quicksilver Resources and Gulfport Energy…
Baseline testing is simply choosing water wells near a proposed drill site and checking for the presence of certain chemicals and natural gas. Chemical presence may occur naturally along with natural gas, but companies are required to return to water well test sites a year after drilling is complete to see if chemical or natural gas levels have changed. In some instances, companies may be required to return to test water wells again three and six years after drilling is complete.
Last Wednesday, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District (PSSGID) received word from the USDA that an application for those funds had been considered, “voluntarily withdrawn” and that the money would be, “de-obligated.” Over a year ago, the Town of Pagosa Springs received notice from the USDA that it would receive funds for the construction of a wastewater treatment facility. The money included $3,145,000 in loans (at 2-percent interest) and $787,000 in grants. Along with other funds secured three years ago (a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs), the Town of Pagosa Springs had just over $7 million to construct the plant…
Bids for construction of the wastewater treatment plant, submitted in mid-April 2009, ranged from $5.9 million to $8.8 million. Unfortunately for PSSGID, even low bids for the project came in around $1.15 million over budget.
USDA funds, although obligating the town to nearly four decades of debt and town sewer customers to fees almost 130 percent above Colorado average rates, would have allowed the PSSGID to construct a plant meeting CDPHE standards for wastewater treatment.
With that funding pulled, it is unclear how the town will treat its sewage, despite a plan proposed late last year by Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District representatives to pump the town’s sewage to a newly-constructed $9.3 million facility operated by PAWSD.
Here’s a guest column written by Gene Michael [wastewater director for the city of Pueblo] running in The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
The state’s original proposal, Regulation 31, would set stringent standards for phosphorus and nitrogen that would cost approximately $25 billion to implement statewide, according to a cost-benefit study conducted by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority.
An alternative, Regulation 85, would reduce the immediate cost to about $2.5 billion statewide by postponing the more stringent requirement for 10 years. In addition to cost considerations, there are flaws in the scientific methods used to develop the proposed standards that are too complex to discuss here.
Either of these alternatives would require a greater level of wastewater treatment than Pueblo’s water reclamation facility can provide. It will be necessary to raise wastewater rates to comply.
Pueblo supports the third alternative, which sets standards for phosphorus only. The phosphorus-only alternative would cost only about $521 million statewide, because removing nitrogen to low levels is much more costly than removing phosphorus. We know it will work because Colorado has successfully used phosphorus-only controls to protect large lakes and drinking water reservoirs, including Lake Dillon, Chatfield Reservoir, and Cherry Creek Reservoir for more than 20 years. Pueblo’s water reclamation facility will be able to meet a phosphorus-only limit without taking on more debt for construction of new facilities.
Pueblo and the United States in general have a split personality when it comes to water quality. On one hand, everyone knows we need and want clean water. On the other hand, nobody wants to pay. And therein lies the issue. The living cells of your body produce waste products that the body has to eliminate. And when we do, the materials we flush away are rich in phosphorus and nitrogen. With nutrients, you cause the issue, and you have to pay for it.
As gas producers expand their operations into the western fringe of the Wattenberg field in Larimer and Boulder counties, their demands for water reach into municipalities up and down the Front Range, Loveland among them. “We’re not selling as much as other providers, because we’re further away from most of the activity,” said Loveland water resources engineer Greg Dewey. “But it has become a significant source of income for us.”[…]
Loveland does not disclose names of water customers for privacy reasons, nor do other cities in the region. But the dominant supplier of water to the industry, Fort Lupton-based A&W Water Service Inc., sends its tanker trucks to Loveland on a regular basis to load water at designated city hydrants to take to drilling sites…
Loveland water manager Dewey said A&W and other suppliers draw about 2 million gallons monthly, a tiny fraction of what other municipalities in the region provide. They pay at the rate of $1 for 300 gallons, more than twice what Loveland homeowners pay for their usage. And, the industry’s purchases from Loveland make scarcely a dent in the city’s supply…
Greeley, located in the heart of the Wattenberg field, has a long history of providing water to the petroleum industry and its supply share is vastly greater than Loveland’s. That city’s sales are measured in acre-feet rather than gallons. “The amount has risen rather dramatically in the past couple of years,” Greeley water manager Jon Monson said. “And, the industry is telling us to expect something like a 30 percent increase this year.” In 2010, the city sold 860 acre-feet of water, equal to 280 million gallons. Last year, the number climbed to 1,500 acre-feet, or just under half a billion gallons. By comparison, the city used 22,000 acre-feet last year and rented another 26 acre-feet to farmers.
Readers will recognize Chris Woodka’s name from the numerous mentions here’s on Coyote Gulch. Prolific, accurate and professional are words that come to mind to describe Chris and his work. He picked up three well-deserved awards this week from the Colorado Press Association. Here’s a report from The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:
– The Chieftain’s special report “Coming Up Short,” examining the plight of Southern Colorado’s water supply, was a double-winner. It placed first in the series category and doubled up with a second place as a special section. The stories were written by Chris Woodka, photographs were taken by Bryan Kelsen and the pages were designed by Cheri Zanotelli.
– Woodka also received a third place for agriculture reporting.
Congratulations Chris and keep that incisive eye on water issues across the state. The Chieftain has become the paper of record for water issues in Colorado — largely due to your efforts.
Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane) sent this release via email:
In an unusual denial report, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) officially dismissed a preliminary permit application for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline this morning. This marks the second federal agency to dismiss an application from Aaron Million (in July 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers terminated its review of the pipeline proposal) and casts new doubts on whether the State of Colorado should continue to spend taxpayer money studying the flawed plan.
“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a zombie,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, Water & Energy Policy Analyst at Western Resource Advocates. “It’s just staggering around looking for anything to latch onto to keep it alive, while everyone else is running away screaming.”
In its order dismissing a preliminary permit application from Aaron Million and Wyco Power and Water, Inc., FERC was clear that the project is nowhere near being ready for even an introductory review:
“Until some certainty regarding the authorization of the pipeline is presented, Wyco will not be able to gather and obtain the information required to prepare a license application for a proposed hydropower project. Therefore, there is no purpose under the FPA for issuing a permit to Wyco for its proposed hydropower project at this time. For this reason, Wyco’s preliminary permit application is dismissed as premature.”
Said Robert Harris, Staff Attorney with Western Resource Advocates: “I can’t recall ever seeing a similar decision. The rejection here isn’t being made on minor technical deficiencies, which is what happens most commonly. We’re pleased with this ruling because it essentially acknowledges that there are significant, fundamental holes in the basic premise of the pipeline proposal.”
The decision from FERC that the pipeline is not ready for additional review should inform other studies on this project, including discussion via an “exploratory committee” funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB ) last fall. Governor John Hickenlooper should take a new look at the necessity of continuing to use taxpayer-funded resources to explore the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.
“There are a lot of local governments, nonprofit organizations and individual stakeholders who came to this same conclusion a long time ago,” said Becky Long with Colorado Environmental Coalition. “The Flaming Gorge Pipeline idea just doesn’t make sense no matter how many different times you look at it, and that’s not going to change.”
Million had been seeking a federal permit from FERC to review his ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) proposal to pump 81 billion gallons of water a year for more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—all at a projected cost of $9 billion dollars (according to CWCB calculations). Western Resource Advocates (WRA) filed objections to the application in representing itself, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC); in total, more than 5,000 objections were filed in December 2011 to Wyco’s proposal.
Opposition to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline has continued to grow since December. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has formally objected to the proposal, as have numerous local governments in both Colorado and Wyoming (such as Grand Junction, CO and Laramie, WY).
State regulators say they’re working with Suncor to find a way to block the toxic material from burbling into the bed of Sand Creek. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data — from samples taken by Suncor — showed benzene concentrations at 720 parts per billion on Jan. 9 at the point where Sand Creek meets the South Platte, up from 190 on Jan. 6, and 144 times higher than the 5 ppb national drinking-water standard. Benzene is a chemical found in crude oil that is classified as cancer-causing, especially affecting blood. Downriver on the South Platte, the data show benzene at 240 ppb on Jan. 9, a decrease from 590 on Jan. 6 but still 48 times higher than the standard…
Spilled contaminants from decades of refinery operations at the site have seeped underground, “and it is snaking through. The pressures change. It finds the path of least resistance, and that’s apparently what has happened: It has found the path of least resistance to get into Sand Creek,” Colorado health department environmental-programs director Martha Rudolph said in an interview last week…
Preventing further pollution of Sand Creek has become a top-tier priority, Rudolph said. “We need to accelerate our responding to that particular issue — to get it out of Sand Creek, to stop that.”[…]
OSHA lacks jurisdiction to look into the situation at the nearby Metro Wastewater plant, where toxic vapors forced workers to wear respirators and the closure of a technical-services building.
That building was reopened last week. Workers no longer wear respirators, and after three rounds of drinking-water tests, no benzene has been detected, Metro Wastewater spokesman Steve Frank said…
Suncor will build a large slurry wall made of claylike material along Sand Creek and collector trenches to protect waterways — as well as a trench system and wall on Suncor’s property to prevent the spread of hydrocarbons, she said.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife:
To pay tribute to two former community leaders who advocated for land and water conservation in the San Luis Valley, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has renamed a portion of the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area in their honor.
Doug Shriver and Ray Wright, native sons of the San Luis Valley who were farmers, conservationists and sportsmen, died together in an unfortunate winter accident in 2010.
The new Shriver-Wright State Wildlife Area, encompassing 121 acres, is on the western side of the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area near Monte Vista. Parks and Wildlife is working with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust to develop the site as a watchable wildlife area, and as a place where people can learn about the convergence of water, agriculture and wildlife in the San Luis Valley.
“This important wildlife area on the Rio Grande is adjacent to a major agricultural area and shows how these two important land-uses coexist throughout the San Luis Valley,” said Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager in Monte Vista. “The memorial established in this place is fitting for men who were farmers, sportsmen and leaders in the world of water.”
The San Luis Valley community is invited to a dedication ceremony at the site at 2:30 p.m., March 10 during the annual Monte Vista Crane Festival. The dedication is a joint effort of Parks and Wildlife and the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust.
“These men were an inspiration to our organization,” said Rio de la Vista, project coordinator for the land trust. “They provided much-needed guidance about the importance of keeping water connected to the land through our conservation efforts.”
Wright, who grew up in Monte Vista and lived in the area his whole life, served for many years as president of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and as a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Shriver, also a lifelong resident, was president of the Rio Grande Water Users Association, and served on the Colorado Groundwater Commission.
Besides their roots in agriculture, both were avid outdoorsmen and valued wildlife, de la Vista said.
The land trust, founded in 1999, is dedicated to preserving working ranches and farms, with a focus on the riparian zones along the Rio Grande throughout the San Luis Valley. With the participation of many partners through its Rio Grande Initiative, the trust has secured conservation easements on more than 22,000 acres of land encompassing 36 miles of the Rio Grande.
“This is a way that the community can come together to provide a special place where people can enjoy the river corridor and the wildlife that depends upon it, along with appreciating the precious water that sustains so much of what we all care about here,” de la Vista said.
Some state officials are scheduled to speak at the ceremony: John Salazar, a native of the valley and Colorado’s agricultural commissioner; Mike King, director of the state Department of Natural Resources; and Roxanne White, chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper.
For more information about the dedication or to learn more about the land trust, see http://www.riograndelandtrust.org, or call its Del Norte office at 719-657-0800.
WHAT: Dedication of the new Shriver-Wright State Wildlife Area
WHEN: 2:30 p.m., Saturday, March 10
WHERE: Shriver-Wright State Wildlife Areas (west side of Rio Grande State Wildlife Area) East of Monte Vista, Rio Grande County Road 3E, just north of the Home Lake Veteran’s Home.
Forecasters are expecting a storm to move through the state Monday and Tuesday. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the current snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:
The highest totals are still east of the Continenal Divide — unusual for a La Niña year — with an 87 percent reading in the Arkansas Basin, 85 percent in the upper Rio Grande, 75 percent in the North Platte and 90 percent in the South Platte Basin, which is a crucial basin for Front Range water supplies and affects how much water will need to be diverted from the Western Slope. West of the Continental Divide, the Colorado River Basin snowpack is now at 75 percent of average, up slightly from the beginning of the month. The northwest corner of the state made the biggest gains, as the Yampa and White River basins saw the biggest dumps of snow in the past few weeks, lifting the snowpack to 75 percent of average. And in the southwestern corner of the state, the San Miguel, Dolores and Animas basins are now at a respectable 79 percent of average, with the Gunnnison Basin at 75 percent.
“Irrigated land in Colorado is looking very good to investors,” Gary Barber, president of the Two Rivers Water Co. told the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance annual conference Thursday. “Colorado, being at the top of the system, is looking better.” Barber explained that water supply for food is a global problem, with China controlling farms in Africa to grow food for its people. Investors are looking at opportunities for food production worldwide…
Two Rivers, a company that is trying to redevelop Huerfano-Cucharas Irrigation Co. farms in Pueblo County and reservoirs in Huerfano County, has entered into a lease for water at $200 per acre-foot from the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The price is higher than typical spot market purchases by farms in the valley…
Since the historic drought of 2002, the state has focused on a gap in municipal supplies, with the goal of avoiding drying up more farmland. The roundtable formed a committee headed by Beulah rancher Reeves Brown to look at ways to put the gap in ag water on the same plane as the municipal need.
There is a need. This year, the Pueblo Board of Water Works received offers to purchase more than 50,000 acre-feet of water from ditches and farmers, but filled only one-quarter of them. The average price for successful bidders was $74 per acre-foot, about 60 percent higher than recent years.
Steamboat Smokehouse owner Fritz Aurin said the snowstorm that has left behind more than 3 feet of snow in the past two days is nothing but good news, not only for him but also for many local businesses.
And he’s not alone in attributing the potential for local businesses to generate more revenue to the recent snowfall — nearly 6 feet in the past two weeks. Some local business owners said more snow leads to more visitors who become customers and provide a boost for Steamboat’s economy.
“From my point of view, people who come to Steamboat for any reason are good possible restaurant customers,” he said. “The key is to get them here and to have a reason to get them here. … There’s no doubt that it’s never too late to get the big snow.”
Here’s the latest installment in their Water 2012 series from the Valley Courier. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
For the Rio Grande Compact, seven streamflow gaging stations are operated in the San Luis Valley to account for the water originating in the Conejos and Rio Grande systems and the water delivered from these systems to New Mexico. The Hydrographic Branch of the Colorado Division of Water Resources operates these seven gaging stations along with 73 other gaging stations across the San Luis Valley.
In addition to the Compact gages, stations are operated on natural streams and creeks to help water commissioners allocate the available water to water users, maintain a historic record of water in the stream, account for trans-mountain water brought into the basin, record water diverted at critical diversion structures, and provide valuable information to recreational enthusiasts such as kayakers and fishermen.
The data from these sites may be later used for water supply planning, flood warning, environmental studies, and basin modeling, such as the Rio Grande Decision Support System (RGDSS).
Meanwhile, USGS streamflow gages are facing funding cuts. Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:
…for years, ranchers, town planners and even angler and kayakers have relied on a huge network of streamflow gages maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey to help monitor water quality, measure and predict peak spring runoff and flooding potential, or even just the best time run some whitewater or to go fishing. In some places, the streamflow information is critical to helping protect endangered species.
But that network is shrinking, due mainly to budget constraints that already forced the USGS to shut down stations around the country. Just in the past few years, the agency stopped operating 133 water quality stations, many in New Mexico and Florida.
Initiatives 3 and 45, sponsored by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay and his attorney Phil Doe, seek to apply the public trust doctrine to Colorado water rights with a constitutional change.
The Water Congress, which represents varied statewide water interests, has hired Steve Leonhardt to appeal a state title board decision on the grounds that the initiatives do not adhere to the single-subject rule, said Doug Kemper, CWC executive director.
If the initiative reaches the [ballot], CWC as a group will have less ability to fight it, because the group has many members from public-funded entities. Other groups, such as the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Pueblo Board of Water Works have expressed similar concerns in recent weeks.
More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.
From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:
…Million says he’ll resubmit the application in a couple of weeks. The commission said Million’s application was premature because there is no pipeline and no specifics about the proposed pipeline. Million says he sees FERC’s objections as relatively minor…
The idea has drawn strong opposition from the state of Wyoming, local governments and various conservation groups…
Million this week issued a request for proposals to permit and build the project. He said he plans to continue working to develop the project and resubmit the application with updated information.
More coverage from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:
Opponents of the proposal, which include the state of Wyoming, hope any subsequent applications meet the same demise. “FERC is still going to have to consider public comment, and I think maybe this guy’s not listening to what people are trying to tell him,” Green River Mayor Hank Castillon said.
The commission on Thursday issued an order through Jeff Wright, director of FERC’s office of energy projects, saying Million’s application was premature and lacked specifics about the proposed pipeline.
Opponents hailed the decision while Million downplayed its significance…
The state of Wyoming, local governments and various groups have opposed the plan, worrying it would draw down Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is fed mainly by the Green River. They maintain recreation, the local economy and the environment would all be hurt. “This is a pipeline that’s going to devastate the Green River,” said McCrystie Adams, staff attorney for Earthjustice…
Steve Jones, watershed protection program attorney with the Wyoming Outdoor Council in Lander, said the “hydropower part of this project was more sort of a subterfuge than anything else” in order for Million to avoid going through the Army Corps of Engineers. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead also questioned whether FERC was the proper agency to handle the permitting.
Thursday’s FERC order did not specifically say it was not the proper agency to review the project, but it noted that it could not properly consider Million’s application because no pipeline exists and there was no information from Million about seeking authorization for a pipeline.
More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a zombie. It’s just staggering around looking for anything to latch onto to keep it alive,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, a Western Resources Advocates energy policy analyst. But Aaron Million says he’s undaunted and soliciting bids after investing millions in planning the pipeline. He’ll submit new engineering and pipeline details within two weeks.
And Parker water manager Frank Jaeger is moving ahead with a rival project to divert water from Wyoming. Jaeger says he has 19 water utilities committed — mostly in southern suburbs dependent on depleted underground aquifers. State natural resources planners also are exploring possibilities for diverting unallocated water from Wyoming and have planned a forum featuring both Million and Jaeger…
[Population growth] control is one possibility, said Zeke Hersh, owner of Blue River Anglers in Frisco, part of a recreation-oriented business coalition opposed to a permit for Million’s project. “Growth’s great, but we need jobs. People come here for a reason and, if there’s no water in rivers, people aren’t going to be coming here.”[…]
Meanwhile Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, has enlisted 19 public water providers in Cheyenne, Castle Rock, Parker and elsewhere around south metro Denver who have committed to buy 105,000 acre-feet of diverted water. Jaeger said he’ll complete a full investigation before applying for permits. “Conservation is not the solution. Conservation is a management tool.”
A state task force, launched last year using funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, is exploring water diversions from Wyoming despite opposition from Wyoming’s governor. Task force leaders invited Million and Jaeger to discuss their ideas on March 27. “FERC’s action does not affect Colorado’s plans, which at this stage are simply to learn more about the project proposal as part of our ongoing conversation about addressing the challenge of meeting the state’s long-term water needs,” state natural resources spokesman Todd Hartman said.
More coverage from Troy Hooper writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:
“Our region’s economy depends upon river flows that can support recreation and tourism,” said Arvin Ramgoolam, owner of Rumors Coffee and Townie Books in Crested Butte. “The state should be working to protect and promote jobs out here rather than pursuing dead end projects that will rob the resources on which our jobs depend,” Ramgoolam said.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board recently funded a “project exploration committee” that is considering the Flaming Gorge pipeline. The task force held its first meeting Jan. 12 in Silverthorne, and is scheduled to continue meeting to discuss the pipeline through the end of the year…
A Western Resource Advocates study said the pipeline would deprive the Green River of almost a quarter of its flow, and result in a $58.5 million annual loss to the region’s recreation economy. The same study said it would produce the most expensive water ever seen in Colorado.
Protect the Flows, a coalition of over 370 businesses who depend upon the Colorado River system, says it is rounding up resolutions opposing the pipeline from local governments. “This is a victory for Colorado’s economy, the West Slope’s Economy, water users and our communities. It’s time to get past this proposal once and for all,” Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.
More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:
After the proposal faltered and languished in the early review stages by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Million suddenly tried to reinvent the pipeline as an energy project, switching the review process to the FERC.
The pipeline was controversial from day one, drawing opposition from the environmental community as well as from the Colorado River Water Conservation District, representing the Colorado Western Slope. The River District characterized the project as speculative and said there was no evidence that any of the projected users could pay for the pipeline. Environmental groups tabbed it as a boondoggle that would result in the most expensive water developement project ever in Colorado. The agency said it received more than 200 comments.
Proponent Aaron Million said his understanding is that FERC wanted more details on the exact route. He plans to resubmit his plans well within the 60-[day] rehearing period. “We’ll have something in within a couple of weeks. We’ve cowboyed through worse,” he said, describing the rejection as just another step in the permitting process.
More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:
Since Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water, submitted its application to FERC in September, the federal government’s chief hydropower regulator received hundreds of public comments from residents, city governments and a host of environmental groups in Wyoming and Colorado objecting to the pipeline partly because of the volume of water it would remove from the Green River and its possible impact on Fort Collins’ Soapstone Prairie Natural Area…
“These hydropower projects are exclusively dependent on water from the proposed water supply pipeline,” FERC Energy Projects Office Director Jeff Wright said in the agency’s dismissal letter Thursday. “However, this pipeline does not currently exist, and Wyco’s application does not provide any information about the timeline for seeking and obtaining the necessary authorizations for the construction and operation of such a pipeline.” Until the pipeline is built, permissions for its route obtained or the process to establish the pipeline’s route nearly completed, Million has no ability to provide the information necessary for FERC to issue him a permit, Wright said…
He said he’s so confident the project will move ahead that Wyco issued a request for proposals this week, “a $3 billion RFP for design-build-finance-operate.” “Our first call was out of Australia,” he said. “The big national and international engineering and construction firms have shown tremendous interest in this project. We’re getting calls from all over the world.”[…]
McCrystie Adams, an attorney for Earthjustice in Denver, called the pipeline a “water grab.” “This pipeline would have devastated the Green River – one of the West’s last great rivers – to enable unfettered development and sprawl. FERC made the right decision,” Adams said.
More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. From the article:
FERC’s permission was needed for the pipeline’s water to be used to generate electricity. FERC isn’t the only federal agency to review the project. In May 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted its review of the pipeline proposal. At the time, Million told the Corps that he was shifting the pipeline’s focus from moving water to generating electricity and was shifting his focus from the Corps’ permitting process to FERC.
More coverage from MJ Clark writing for the Wyoming Business Report. From the article:
The $7 billion, 501-mile long pipeline, the brainchild of Fort Collins businessman Aaron Million, had initially applied for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. After working on the application for two years, the Corps cancelled his application on July 14, 2011. A number of claims about this pipeline proposal, such as the amount of power it could potentially generate and the water demand in Colorado necessitating such a project, are not backed by the facts on the ground and deserve further investigation, the corps said.
Million called reporters on July 15, 2011, announcing he would apply instead to the FERC, because of the potential hydro-power component of the project. At the time, he said the FERC application would shorten the time line “dramatically.”[…]
On Oct. 18, 2011 the FERC issued public notice of Wyco’s proposal. Motions to intervene were filed by conservationists, utility companies, outfitting associations, conservation districts and by Sweetwater County in Wyoming (home to both the Green River and most of Flaming Gorge). The pipeline was also opposed by the state of Wyoming. By January, more than 250 businesses from seven states had announced their opposition to the pipeline.
More coverage from Amy Joi O’Donoghue writing for the Deseret News. From the article:
[Aaron Million] added the agency seemed most uncertain over the location of the seven hydropower components in his proposal. “We thought we had addressed them, but obviously not well enough,” he said. “They left open the window to get the documentation that is needed.”
More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:
“This is kind of a non-issue,” Million said, saying he expected the rejection. It won’t be difficult to provide “finality” about the pipeline routing or to complete an environmental report over the next 18 months, he said.
Hailing the decision as “a victory for West Slope communities and water users,” [Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca] said the pipeline poses a threat to Colorado’s water future and wellbeing.
The rejection “amounted to a pretty dramatic statement for a federal agency,” said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. It was as if the agency looked at the project and decided: “How many resources should we be spending on this?” Treese said.[…]
Grand Junction, Fruita, the [Colorado] River District and several other agencies in western Colorado all opposed the project…
“It’s a natural evolution of the development of water in the western U.S.,” Million said. To make it work, “You need to be as tough as they are on the Utah desert.”
Here’s a release from Earth Justice (McCrystie/Taylor McKinnon)
Today, a scheme to build the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline—one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States—was dismissed by a federal agency. The pipeline would have devastated the Green River, one of the West’s last great rivers and a sanctuary for native fish and wildlife, and severely harmed the Colorado River downstream. The dismissal of the preliminary permit application by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is a significant setback for the plans of a private developer to turn water into profits.
“FERC made the right call,” said McCrystie Adams, Earthjustice staff attorney in Denver. “This proposal would have drained the Green River, placing local economies, recreation, fish and wildlife in jeopardy. We are confident that this project will never be approved. We will continue to oppose any project that threatens the West’s rivers and way of life like the Flaming Gorge proposal did.”
The applicant, Aaron Million, previously sought a permit for the pipeline from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). In July of 2011, the Corps terminated its review of the project because the applicant missed multiple deadlines and did not provide information requested by the Corps. A few months later, the applicant redesigned the project to include some incidental hydropower components and requested review through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Despite the modifications, the project remained a huge energy hog—the proposal included at least nine air-polluting natural gas-fired pumping stations that would be required to pump the water uphill across Wyoming and over the Continental Divide. Million has acknowledged that pumping the water uphill would have used more energy than the project would have created through hydropower.
“It’s hard to imagine a worse idea, in this era of global warming, than burning fossil fuels to pump already-imperiled rivers hundreds of miles across mountains to fuel sprawl,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Today’s decision is a victory for rivers, endangered fish and people—a victory we hope proves fatal for the pipeline proposal.”
A coalition of 10 conservation groups from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona, the Colorado River Protection Coalition, intervened in the FERC review of the pipeline project. The coalition, represented by Earthjustice, called upon FERC to deny the permit on numerous grounds.
The coalition’s lead argument—and the one that FERC adopted in its decision—was that the pipeline was a water supply project requiring environmental review and approval of a massive pipeline and diversion, not merely a “hydropower project,” and thus FERC’s involvement in the process was premature. The Colorado River Protection Coalition argued that the pipeline was unlikely to gain necessary approvals due to the irrevocable harm to the Green and Colorado Rivers and other extreme environmental damage that would be associated with the pipeline’s construction and operation. Specifically, the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline would likely violate the Endangered Species Act, would adversely affect four national wildlife refuges, and would be located in a U.S. Forest Service roadless area, in addition to a number of other impacts.
Earthjustice is representing Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, Living Rivers: Colorado Riverkeeper, Utah Rivers Council, Rocky Mountain Wild, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, and Glen Canyon Institute.
Here’s a short audio clip from Wyoming Governor Matt Mead commenting on the FERC action.
More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.
Tyson Ingels, lead drinking water engineer with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said crews planned to fill the system’s 300,000-gallon storage tank with chlorinated water then run it through the distribution pipes that serve 414 taps. Routine sampling of the town’s water supply came back positive for E. coli Wednesday, prompting a boiled water advisory for all of the town’s residents.
As of Thursday evening, there had been no reported illnesses from the contamination, according to the Costilla County Public Health Department…
Still to be determined, is whether the water and sanitation district will have to chlorinate its water after this week. Ron Falco, manager of the state health department’s drinking water program, said the positive test didn’t automatically mean the district would lose its disinfection waiver. But he said the district’s waiver and the contamination would be up for a thorough review once the system is up and operating again. The sanitation district, like six other distribution systems in the valley, delivers untreated groundwater to its customers.
Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has officially dismissed a preliminary permit application for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline in an order released this morning. This marks the second federal agency to dismiss an application from Aaron Million; in July 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers terminated its review of the pipeline proposal.
“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is no closer to reality today than it was 10 years ago,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, Water & Energy Policy Analyst at Western Resource Advocates. “This denial essentially says that the pipeline proposal is nowhere near being ready for even a preliminary permit. We have always argued that there is no reason to spend taxpayer resources studying such a flawed idea, and we are pleased to see today’s ruling.”
Aaron Million, President of Wyco Power and Water, Inc., was seeking a federal permit from FERC to review his ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) proposal to pump water more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—at a projected cost of $7-9 billion dollars. Western Resource Advocates (WRA) filed objections representing itself, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Colorado Environmental Coalition.
It would only make sense that it was one of the major focuses of Wednesday’s Club 20 meeting. One issue that hit particularly close to home was the Ski Area Water Rights Clause. “For years the ski areas and the forest service have gotten along fine with the ski areas acquiring their own water rights to operates, whether it’s wells for mountain restaurants or base areas or water supplies for base making,” [water law practitioner Scott Balcomb] said. But that changed last year. Club 20 is concerned the forest service is now looking to enforce a rule that would require ski areas to put any new water rights it develops in the name of the federal government in order to get a new permit…
This issue affects Powderhorn Mountain Resort because of its recent change in management. “Powderhorn is right on the cutting edge of this issue because of the change in ownership and the need to get a new permit last fall,” Balcomb said. Club 20 argues this would be taking the mountain’s property and worries similar rules could be implemented in other industries if it survives in the ski industry. One other reason Club 20 is concerned? An effort to change water rights in the state.
“[There are] two initiatives, Initiative no. 3 and no. 45,” Colorado Water Congress executive director Doug Kemper said. Kemper says these initiatives would make water rights subject to a second look, and could ultimately change who has access to public and private water. An appeal has been filed with the Colorado Supreme Court and Kemper says he’s concerned about three things. “The property rights, the access to land. It deals with the Appropriation Doctrine, so it deals with water rights and also with water quality act as well,” he said. This could be bad news for some property owners, because water running through private land could be open to the public.