Durango: Smelter Mountain disposal site monitoring well data shows a spike in uranium

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From The Durango Telegraph (Tracy Chamberlin):

Readings from one of the wells at the uranium mill tailings disposal site have almost doubled in the past year, according to a report from the Department of Energy, and agency officials don’t know why. “It is high, and we don’t have a good explanation for it at the moment,” said David Shafer, an Environmental Team Leader with the DOE’s Office of Legacy Management, in Grand Junction.

The last time levels jumped up in 2009, the sight was redeveloped. Subsequently, uranium concentrations dropped. But the numbers began rising again and recently peaked at the highest concentration to date.

The DOE monitors the groundwater at the disposal site in order to detect any possible leaks from the containment cell and is required to publish an annual report on its maintenance, repair and testing results. In the 2011 Site Inspection and Monitoring Report, uranium levels in a monitoring well located near the northeast corner of the cell were far above standards and have been on the rise for the past year. Levels hovered below the site-specific standard of 0.077 milligrams per liter for most of 2010, but shot past that minimum mark in 2011. They recently hit an all-time high of 0.14 milligrams per liter. Shafer said the most recent reading, taken in the beginning of February, showed the levels back down to the 2009 highs of 0.12 milligrams per liter, but still well above the site standard and the EPA standard, which is 0.004.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Englewood: Council briefed on proposed South Platte River corridor improvements from South Platte Park to the Denver city limits

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From The Englewood Herald (Tom Munds):

Bob Searns, president of the Greenway Team, and Dave Lorenz, director of South Suburban Parks and Recreation, briefed the council on proposed projects during the Feb. 13 study session. “The concept is to extend the east-side trail from Big Dry Creek to Oxford,” said Searns, who heads the consulting firm working on the project. “Additionally, the concept is to make channel and bank improvements to make create a high quality water recreation area for people in canoes and kayaks.”[…]

“The Mary Carter Greenway is heavily used by cyclists, runners and walkers,” he said. “There are safety concerns because of the number of people using the trail and the fact the fast speeds of many cyclists could cause problems when they encounter slower moving walkers, parents pushing strollers or joggers.” The proposed answer is a gravel trail on the east bank of the river for walkers and joggers. The first section from Prince to Big Dry Creek was completed last summer.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Tuesday: Two Eagle River area utilities and Eagle county will be the first entities to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

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Here’s the release from Eagle County (Diane Johnson/Kris Friel):

Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company will gather at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Eagle County Building to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Five years in the making, the agreement between Denver Water and 41 Western Slope water providers, local governments and ski resort operators ensures statewide cooperation on Colorado River water issues and is the broadest in scope of its kind in state history.

The signing in Eagle will be the first to take place in the state as the agreement makes its way from the Colorado River headwaters to the Utah state line. The draft document is available on the Colorado River District website at www.crwcd.org/page_336.

Focused on cooperation, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement brings traditional water foes together as partners for responsible water development benefiting both Denver Water and the Western Slope. According to its authors, it prevents future transmountain diversions from the Eagle River Basin, achieves better environmental health in the Colorado River Basin, promotes high-quality recreational use, and improves economics for many cities, counties and businesses impacted by the river.

The Eagle County entities were instrumental in both initiating and completing the complicated negotiations that ultimately created the agreement. “The cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper during the April 28, 2011 announcement of the agreement. “It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.”

In addition to its benefits for Denver Water and the Western Slope, the agreement will trigger a major water-sharing and conservation arrangement between Denver Water and Aurora Water and water providers in the South Denver Metro Area.

The agreement focuses on enhancing the environmental river health in much of the Colorado River Basin and its tributaries upstream of Grand Junction, and supporting many Western Slope communities and water providers to improve the quality and quantity of water through new municipal water projects and river management initiatives.

Locally, benefits to the Eagle River Basin include provisions that preclude Denver Water and any entity served by Denver from developing any future water projects in the Eagle River Basin without the approval of the Eagle County entities. Additionally, a Shoshone outage protocol will ensure sufficient flows in the Colorado River through Eagle County during times when the Shoshone Power Plant may not be operational.

Supporters agree that the historic agreement will lead to better management and protection of the Colorado River and its tributaries for years to come. Representatives of the Eagle County entities will be on hand to discuss the agreement in more detail at Tuesday’s meeting. The event will be broadcast live on ecotv18 as well as streamed live and archived for future viewing at http://www.ecotv18.com.

From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Co. are scheduled to meet Tuesday to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement…

The Eagle County entities are among parties that announced the agreement last year with Denver Water, but the parties still have to ratify it. The Eagle County entities would be the first to do so.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

Drought news: The Pueblo Board of Water Works is forecasting $1,033,382 from one-year water sales this season

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

For years, the Pueblo Board of Water Works has been the primary supplier of water sold on the spot market in the Arkansas River basin, making projections early in the year and sometimes amending them as conditions change. On Tuesday, the water board will consider a staff recommendation to sell, through one-year leases, nearly 14,000 acre-feet of water for about $1 million.

What’s unusual is that the average price for an acre-foot of water jumped more than 60 percent this year to more than $70. For the past five years, it was in the $40 to $50 range. The minimum bid increased to $67.55 from $35 last year. “It’s interesting what can happen in a sealed-bid process,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the water board.

Click through for the cool chart of past water sale history and the details about many of the bidders.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Well groups last month complained that the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District was competing for augmentation water and potentially driving the price up on the spot market. This week, the Lower Ark district released a report that predicts at least 50,000 acre-feet of water will be needed to augment wells, surface-fed sprinklers and the Arkansas Valley Conduit by the year 2050. The report indicated water prices probably will increase anyway as the resource becomes more scarce.

On Wednesday, the Lower Ark board met with three large well augmentation groups to look at ways they could help each other, rather than fight over a shrinking water supply. “The worst thing is to realize we are all in the same boat and the boat is sinking,” said Scott Lorenz, manager of the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association. “The Lower Ark is in the same boat we’re in. We want to work with you to create a win-win situation.”

Two other well groups, the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association and the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, also sent representatives to the meeting.

The three well groups provide replacement water for 117,000 acres of farm ground under 1996 state rules adopted to satisfy requirements of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Kansas v. Colorado case. The groups use various strategies involving water rights they own, water leases or purchase of water on the spot market…

About 240,000 acres of ground are typically irrigated each year in the Lower Ark Valley, according to reports from the Division of Water Resources. “The number of sprinklers (under the surface rules) grew 12 percent last year,” said Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Ark District. “How are we going to get water for the next generation?”[…]

The well groups are looking at a state-line credit of 44,000 acre-feet that has built up over the last 10 years. Next year, the state will look at lowering a presumptive depletion factor that could reduce the amount of replacement water that is needed.

The Lower Ark board Wednesday learned of a $105,000 state grant to look at the amount of water that leaks from ponds used to feed sprinklers. The savings in water, if accepted by the state, would reduce the amount of water that irrigators are required to repay.

The studies also could be useful to determining recharge rates, which could benefit well owners as well as the fledgling Arkansas Valley Super Ditch…

“We have to work together. We need storage. Water is wasted every day and is moving toward Kansas,” said John Sliman, an AGUA member who has plans to build reservoirs on the Excelsior Ditch. “Finding an answer 20 years from today is too late.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.