Parker: Rueter-Hess opening celebration recap, 72,000 acre-feet surrounded by 2,000 acres of open space


From the Parker Chronicle (Rhonda Moore):

District manager Frank Jaeger, who led the charge to build Rueter-Hess, welcomed dignitaries at the March 21 celebration, atop the dam of the 72,000 acre-foot reservoir.

Originally planned as a 16,000 acre-foot reservoir, the project was expanded with the financial support of Castle Rock, Castle Pines and Stonegate to its present capacity in hopes of serving as a regional storage system, Jaeger said.

“We started planning for this 27 years ago when we recognized the need for a renewable source of water for Douglas County and this area,” Jaeger said. “You’re now sitting (along) what will be the jewel of Douglas County and what will be the provider for Parker and its partners. This is one step in a long journey.”

The reservoir project includes 2,000 acres of open space, contingent upon future funding, according to the district. If financing comes through for recreational use, activities could include fishing, hiking, cycling and non-motorized boating.

Completion of Rueter-Hess, which is owned and managed by the Parker Water and Sanitation District, came the same year that the district is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Rueter-Hess Reservoir is about three miles southwest of Parker and, when filled, will have a surface size of 1,140 acres, 50 percent larger than Cherry Creek Reservoir. On grand opening day, the reservoir was filled to a depth of about 57 feet, with enough water to serve 9,000 houses for one year.

More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.

CPDHE cries foul over NRC’s findings with the permit process for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill


From The Telluride Watch (Gus Jarvis):

In responding to that NRC finding, Dr. Christopher Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer at the CDPHE, stated in a March 16 letter to the NRC that his department has not received any formal notification on needed “corrective actions” from the NRC. He went on to say that these claims by the federal agency at this stage of the approval process, and during litigation, is unwarranted.

“The department conducted a robust public process, including two public hearings and six additional public meetings,” Urbina stated. “For a federal agency to come along at this late date and appear to muddy the waters is an outrage to all the community members, stakeholders and others who took the time to participate in the public process regarding the radioactive materials license.”

In its letter to the NRC, the CDPHE requested a retraction or clarification to mitigate any damage done by the distribution of this mischaracterization to the press…

CDPHE Community Involvement Manager Warren Smith said during the most recent NRC review, his department raised the issue as to whether or not the state’s public hearing process follows federal regulations, and up until the March 6 letter, CDPHE understood that its processes were in line with federal standards.

“The NRC has been stunningly inconsistent on the public hearing issue,” Smith said in a statement obtained by The Watch. “We raised the issue with NRC on several occasions around the application process and 2010 program review. As recently as the October 2011 NRC review of the Colorado statute and regulations, no incompatibility or corrective action was identified. Later, we believe federal officials flip-flopped and said they were reconsidering their answer.”

The first time the CDPHE heard of any issue with its public hearing process, according to Smith, came on Feb. 27 when NRC officials sent a letter to the radiation program of the CDPHE’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division that “misstated” our previous conversations with them on the issue, giving the department until the end of March to respond.

“We asked for clarification on March 7, only to learn the NRC already had announced its predetermined decision in the March 6 letter without communicating this information directly to the state,” Smith said.

More coverage from Katie Klingsporn writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

Late last week, the radiation program of the CDPHE responded with a letter to the NRC rebuking the federal agency for interjecting itself into ongoing litigation to which it’s not a party. The letter, signed by CDPHE’s Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Urbina, urges NRC officials to retract or clarify the March 6 letter.

“Given that the NRC is not a party to this litigation and has no regulatory jurisdiction over the Energy Fuels license issued by the State of Colorado … it is inappropriate for the NRC to have interjected itself in this ongoing state litigation,” the letter reads…

[CDPHE’s Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Urbina] also wrote that despite what the NRC wrote, no determination has been made that “corrective action” is required because the CDPHE is in compliance with the Atomic Energy Act. He noted that NRC’s letter “materially mischaracterized the CDPHE’s discussion with the NRC staff.”

Finally, he expressed disappointment that the CDPHE found out about the letter through third parties and after it was shared with the press.

It was unclear on Wednesday how this response will affect licensing process.

But the claim of a flawed public hearing process is a key part of the lawsuit filed by Sheep Mountain Alliance, Towns of Telluride and Ophir against the CDPHE. Litigation for that case is ongoing.

Hilary White, SMA’s executive director, said that the CDPHE failed to offer the public an opportunity to request a public hearing — as required under the Atomic Energy Act — after the agency issued its environmental report and draft license on the project.

“If Energy Fuels and the state really believe that they followed every appropriate procedure and took comment … why not have an official public hearing like they are required to do?” she asked. “Why not let their science and their technology stand on its own? All we’re asking for is a fair venue for our science and our technological information to be considered against theirs, and let the best science win.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Aaron Million files a reconsideration request with FERC in response to their denial


From the Associated Press (Ben Neary) via The Columbus Republic:

Fort Collins businessman Aaron Million on Friday filed the reconsideration request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency last month dismissed his application, saying it was premature and lacked specifics about the proposed pipeline…

Million says his project is essential to helping Colorado meet its increasing demand for water. The state of Colorado also is evaluating the project’s merits.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

As he indicated in late February, Million has submitted a new application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the project, challenging the same agency’s previous rejection of the application by requesting a rehearing and clarification.

In the new document, Million says it would be prohibitively expensive to secure pipeline permits without first “confirming the locations of the associated hydroelectric facilities.” The application also claims that, for the purposes of the preliminary permit he’s seeking, “sufficient information and maps associated with the pipeline alignment have been provided to the Commission.”

Million also charged that FERC’s rejection is inconsistent with other preliminary permits issued by the agency.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: The Arkansas River basin drops below 80% of the thirty year average, Upper Colorado = 68%, South Platte = 74%


Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the latest snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Read it and weep if you are a direct diverter. Be thankful for storage.

Environment Colorado: Over 720,000 Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Dumped into Colorado’s Rivers


Here’s the release from Environment Colorado (Bessie Schwarz):

Industrial facilities dumped over 700,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into Colorado’s waterways, more than a third of which went into the South Platte, according to a new report released today by Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center. Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act also reports that 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals were discharged into 1,400 waterways across the country.

“From the mighty Arkansas river to our smaller streams, Colorado’s waterways are a haven of beauty. However, right now they are also a safe-haven for polluters— where polluters dump over 700,000 pounds of toxic chemicals in 2010 alone,” said Bessie Schwarz, Field Organizer with Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center. “We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.”

“Our business has been serving outdoor enthusiast for over 30 years and we are dependent on clean, flowing water,” said owner of Anglers Covey, David Leinweber. “More than 600,000 people buy Colorado fishing licenses every year and take advantage of the incredible resources we have in this great state. Water quality is paramount to sustaining this resource.”

The Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center report documents and analyzes the dangerous levels of pollutants discharged into America’s waters by compiling toxic chemical releases reported to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2010 (the most recent data available). Cargill Inc. was the biggest polluter in Colorado, dumping over 235,000 of the nearly 250,000 pounds of toxic pollution discharged into The South Platt alone.

Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center’s report summarizes discharges of cancer-causing chemicals, chemicals that persist in the environment, and chemicals with the potential to cause reproductive problems ranging from birth defects to reduced fertility. Among the toxic chemicals discharged by facilities are arsenic, mercury, and benzene. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders.

This pollution affects foundation industries in Colorado with our agriculture and recreation being potential hit the hardest.

“Those in Colorado agriculture know that very few crops can be raised without water for we live in a High Plains Desert,” said Berry Patch Farms owners, Tim and Claudia Ferrell. “Our farm, located in Brighton, depends on water from the South Platte to irrigate from March through October. We all must take whatever steps necessary to protect this invaluable gift.”

Almost 70% of Colorado’s waters and 75,000 miles of our rivers and stream may be un-protected by The Clean Water Act.

“There are common-sense steps that we can take to turn the tide against toxic pollution of our waters,” added Schwarz.

In order to curb the toxic pollution threatening Colorado’s rivers, Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center recommends the following:

1. Pollution Prevention: Industrial facilities should reduce their toxic discharges to waterways by switching from hazardous chemicals to safer alternatives.

2. Protect all waters: The Obama administration should finalize guidelines and conduct a rulemaking to clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to all of our waterways – including the nearly 75,000 miles of streams in Colorado and 3.7 million Coloradans’ drinking water for which jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act has been called into question as a result of two polluter-driven Supreme Court decisions in the last decade.

3. Tough permitting and enforcement: EPA and state agencies should issue permits with tough, numeric limits for each type of toxic pollution discharged, ratchet down those limits over time, and enforce those limits with credible penalties, not just warning letters.

“The bottom line is that Coloradan’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s paradise, they should just be paradise. We need clean water now, and we are counting on the federal government to act to protect our health and our environment,” concluded Schwarz.

Thanks to KWGN for the heads up.

More water pollution coverage here.

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies is facing a funding shortfall


Here’s the release from the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies:

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies was established in Silverton, Colorado in October 2002. IRS 501(c)(3) status was obtained shortly thereafter. CSAS’s director (Landry) bootstrapped the startup, contributing his first full year’s time and effort and $20,700 in weather instrumentation, and raising another $5,000 in seed money. By fall 2003 the 720 acre Senator Beck Basin Study Area (SBBSA) at Red Mountain Pass had been permitted by the USFS, initial instrumentation was installed, and CSAS had received $75,000 in USFS Rural Development funding. A year later the CSAS received its first National Science Foundation research grant to study dust-on-snow. CSAS has operated and enhanced SBBSA since then, collecting an integrative set of “mountain system” data 24/7/365, in support of both active research and our climate change monitoring missions. Four arrays of highly sophisticated instrumentation capture SBBSA weather, snowpack, hydrologic, soils, radiative regime, and plant community data that, in their totality, are unique in the Colorado River Basin. Although these data have already supported breakthrough research in the effects of desert dust on snow hydrology, and 8 years worth of data are archived and available, SBBSA’s greatest potential value is in sustained data capture of actual regional climate change effects. However, although hosted academic researchers do provide nominal support, and we also receive some private and outdoor industry support, due to our chronic lack of adequate general operating support, for operation of Senator Beck Basin, SBBSA operations and CSAS staff may be terminated in summer 2012.

To prevent that, CSAS needs new commitments totaling $100,000 in sustained annual operating support in order to continue high quality data collection at Senator Beck Basin. Numerous federal agencies – USGS, USFS-GMUG, NOAA/NWS/CBRFC, NASA/JPL, USACE, Army CRREL, BLM, and NRCS-Snotel – are among those already receiving and using, or seeking to use, SBBSA data and facilities. The Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Avalanche Information Center also use SBBSA data. All of these agencies understand the scarcity and value of long-term, high quality, integrative datasets which holistically capture systemic mountain system behaviors like snowmelt, at a tractable spatial scale, and the challenges of operating an alpine study area like SBBSA. None of them would prefer to operate their own SBBSA; supporting CSAS is clearly the much more cost-effective way to ensure that these data are available. (Programs like our Colorado Dust-on-Snow work for the Colorado water management community require additional funding, on top of that $100,000 in general operating support, to support the direct costs of those program activities).

Given the absence of federal agency grant programs (including NSF) or private foundations that will fund long-term mountain system monitoring (the equivalent of general operations funding in our case), we have proposed to our federal agency stakeholders that one or several of them provide sustained annual funding totaling $100,000, per year, to contract with CSAS to operate Senator Beck Basin, conduct 24/7/365 mountain system monitoring, and provide those data to their agencies. Because there are no grant programs calling for such a proposal, and because the SBBSA product is such an unique “deliverable”, there may be a need to enable non-compete awards of discretionary funds that sole source the CSAS for these services. Again, in the absence of commitments of this level of stakeholder funding in the near term, the board of directors has determined that CSAS is not viable, as an organization, and anticipates terminating SBBSA operations and staff in summer 2012.

Executive Director Chris Landry is available at, or (970) 387-5080. Please consult our comprehensive website,, for additional details about the CSAS.

Thanks to the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn) for the heads up.

Colorado River basin: ‘Watershed — Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West’ premiers today in Washington D.C.


The film is available for anyone to host a screening. Here’s the release from the Redford Center and Kontent Films via PR Web:

In honor of World Water Day, the Redford Center and Kontent Films are pleased to announce the World Premiere of WATERSHED: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital on March 24, 2012 at the National Museum of American History at 3 pm. The film will be introduced by Robert Redford and will be followed by a panel discussion on the urgency of the problem in the Colorado River Basin and what can be done. Panelists include:

– James Redford, Producer of WATERSHED
– Mark Decena, Director of WATERSHED
– Sandra Postel, National Geographic Freshwater Fellow
– Osvel Hinojosa Huerta, Director of Conservation for Pronatura
– Edith Santiago, Colorado River Delta Project Manager for Sonoran Institute

Narrated by Robert Redford and Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Mark Decena, WATERSHED tells the story of the threats to the once-mighty Colorado River through heartening character vignettes that reveal a new water ethic as well as 21st Century solutions.

Sweeping through seven US and two Mexican states and over 20 major dams, the Colorado River is a lifeline to expanding populations and booming urban centers that demand water for drinking, sanitation and energy generation. The river also faces significant demands from the Agricultural Sector. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 70% of the Colorado River’s water is used to support $45 billion in agricultural crops, a yield that equals 20% of America’s Agricultural output. Combine this demand on the Colorado River with population growth, current energy demands and climate change and an unsustainable picture emerges. As of today, the Colorado River already runs dry before it reaches its natural end at the Gulf of California. Unless action is taken, the river will continue its retreat – a potentially catastrophic scenario for the millions who rely on its availability.

“The Colorado is one of the most iconic natural landmarks of the American West and it’s facing unprecedented demands on its water, a resource historically taken for granted by those of us who have enough,” says Robert Redford. “Films like WATERSHED are a necessary part of the solution. Raising awareness of the problem is a first step. Engaging the masses in taking action comes next, and in this case action means conservation.”

Having made the film with a grassroots campaign in mind, Redford anticipates WATERSHED will be the entry point for viewers who want to engage. Promoting personal water conservation pledges of 5% – symbolic of the small amount of the rivers’ flow required to reconnect the river to its delta – and garnering donations to help purchase the water rights necessary to restore the connectivity, WATERSHED will serve as a central tool in a larger effort. The Redford Center has joined leading environmental organizations in the US and Mexico to foster education and inspire action.

”The content and timing of this film are of critical importance,” said Francisco Zamora, director of the Sonoran Institute’s Colorado River Delta Legacy Project. “Our work in the Colorado River Delta over the past decade has demonstrated that the Delta is very resilient and that even a little additional water can make a dramatic difference. The Delta will not continue to come back to life, though, without the kind of community awareness and support Watershed will engender.”

The Redford Center is making WATERSHED available to anyone interested in hosting a screening. To learn more, visit

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Colorado State University Water Café Series recap: Water conservation and sustainability were front and center at the session


From the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Jordan Kurtz):

Brian Richter, the director of Global Freshwater Strategies for The Nature Conservancy, presented his “Meeting the Global Challenges of Water Scarcity” lecture to a crowd of more than 100 people in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center Thursday night…

Richter focused on sustainability throughout the evening, making it very clear that the definition of this term varies greatly depending upon the location.

“Sustainability to us is to have a reliable supply of water, but also recognize that there are impacts when you use that water,” said Donnie Dustin, the water resources manager for Fort Collins. “You try to find a balance between meeting water needs and reducing demands and developing your water supplies to consider the environment as well.”[…]

According to Richter, our society also consumes water in astounding quantities. A healthy and hydrated human consumes about three quarts of water per day, but the average household usually uses around 12 gallons in the shower, 15 gallons in the washer, 19 gallons for the toilet and hundreds of gallons in landscape watering per day. Richter added, however, that 90 percent of household water that is used, with the exception of landscape watering, is returned.

The water that is used in consumer products is being documented into a measurement called a “water footprint.” The water footprint for the average American is 800 gallons per day – the equivalent of 12 bathtubs, Richter said. “We don’t want you to feel guilty about using water,” he added. Instead, he said he hopes that increasing the awareness of water conservation will spur more effective use of the life-essential resource.

Richter is part of another event at the university today at 10:00 AM. Here’s the announcement from Colorado State University:

Water Sustainability in the 21st Century: Why the world needs what CSU has

Brian Richter of the Nature Conservancy, along with panelists from CSU faculty, will discuss how we can integrate and build cross-campus research and education in water sustainability.

Panel Members

– Leroy Poff, Department of Biology
– Kurt Fausch, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology
– Brian Bledsoe, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
– Gene Kelly, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Recognizing the importance of dialog and planning on this topic, the Colorado State University Water Center and the School of Global Environmental Sustainability have teamed up to host the CSU Water Café.

Water Café is an interdisciplinary, interactive series designed to examine critical water issues and the University’s roles in their solutions.

More conservation coverage here.

Becky Long: ‘Phosphorus and nitrogen are incredibly prevalent…we’ve ignored it for 20 years’


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

“Phosphorus and nitrogen are incredibly prevalent. They’re in animal waste, human waste, fertilizer, and we’ve ignored it for 20 years,” said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. If left unaddressed the pollution causes algae blooms and dead zones in waterways, impacting aquatic wildlife and Colorado’s outdoor recreation opportunities. Long said she’s encouraged by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission’s early support for the new standards limiting nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The rule is still subject to challenge at subsequent hearings, as well EPA review and final approval. Long said the standards go beyond simply protecting aquatic life and human health by addressing potential impacts to recreation…

Phosphorus has been identified as a potential problem in Cherry Creek reservoir. In the high country, effluents from Grand County have affected water quality in Grand Lake. The two pollutants are a problem anywhere there’s a lot of effluent going back to the stream, for example downstream of the metro wastewater treatment facilities east of Denver, Long said, explaining that the new rules are forward looking and will protect water quality for the next 50 years, as the state’s population grows by up to 5 million.

While she expects some challenges from agricultural stakeholders and perhaps some municipalities, Long said the rules are written with built-in flexibility and can be implemented in phases, as waste water treatment plants plan for future upgrades. State water quality regulators were responsive to small- and mid-sized communities as they crafted the rule, she said.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the pollution generated in Colorado have impacts far beyond the borders of the state. Addressing the issue of nutrients here helps tackle the serious issue of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, Long said. “We need to own the fact that this is us causing the problem. It’s not Mr. Burns, it’s us, every time we flush the toilet. If we don’t pass the state rule, we could meet the same fate as Florida. The EPA will write a rule that’s a lot more stringent and we’ll lose our chance to do this at the state level,” she said.

More wastewater coverage here and here.