Snowpack/runoff news: Three Grand County lakes set records for ice breakup this year

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Jack Bakken):

Ice break-up on Lake Granby happened on Thursday, April 12, and Farr Pumping Plant officials say they could see no ice between the Plant and Granby Dam on April 10, the earliest dates shown in the plant’s records. The last remnants of ice were on Arapaho Bay at the east end of the lake until last Thursday morning. Most of the lake was free of ice by Monday afternoon, April 9. The ice-off date this year broke the standing record set in 2004, when the lake ice was gone by April 14.

Shadow Mountain Reservoir’s ice-off date was April 10 this year, breaking its April 12, 2004 record. And on Grand Lake, this year the official date for ice off was on April 13, which is four days earlier than the record-setting date in 2004.

Brush: New wastewater treatment plant online

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From the Brush News Tribune (Katie Collins):

The project also is one of the most ambitious that the city has seen in years and as of exactly 10:20 a.m. on April 12, Brush’s newest state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant is up and running, ready for all the dirtiest business that Brush can dish its way.

On hand to get the facility rolling were Brush Mayor Dan Scalise who, along with City Administrator Monty Torres and Wastewater Manger and City of Brush Director of Utilities Dale Colerick, opened the plant in official fashion that morning as Scalise ceremoniously turned the valve to allow wastewater to flow into the facility.
As of the opening ceremony, just 50 percent of the newest portion of the plant is seeing use as a few more processes are in need of completion, including the building of one more settling tank, completion of the UV filtering system, as well as additional fencing, seeding, grating and solids handling assembly…

On March 12, 2012, in fact, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission opened hearings on proposed water quality standards for nutrient concentrations in the state’s rivers and lakes as well as limits on anyone who discharges into those waters. Limits were adopted and will be implemented over the next 10 years and the City of Brush’s newest plant was designed specifically to utilize new technologies in order to remove nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrates from the City’s discharge to the South Platte River.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Conservation: Best billboard of the month so far?

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right to go to the Denver Water FaceBook page to see the photo.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: The Garfield County Commissioners go on record opposing the project

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

…the decision to oppose the proposed 560-mile-long Flaming Gorge pipeline was not a unanimous one. The Garfield Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to take the position against the controversial project. Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said that, although philosophically opposed to Front Range water diversions, it’s too early in the process for the county to be taking a position on the controversial project…

But Commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin disagreed.

Samson has been pushing for the county to take a stance against the project, as other Western Slope governments, water users and conservation groups have done. “We can’t continue to give West Slope water to Eastern Slope entities,” Samson said. “Enough is enough.

“I’m looking down the road to our future needs,” he said. “Western Colorado will grow and expand, and we will need that water. And once it’s over there, there’s no way to get it back.”[…]

Garfield County’s resolution opposing the project questions the costs for the project, as well as the potential threats to the western Colorado and other downstream water users on the west side of the Continental Divide. “The Flaming Gorge pipeline is not feasible without subsidies, with some estimates suggesting that the project would need as much as $370 million in state or federal subsidies,” the resolution states.

“Garfield County urges Colorado water leaders and policymakers to devote the state’s attention and financial resources on water projects and programs that are cost-effective and that do not pit one region of the state against the others,” it concludes.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities plans to file appeal of Judge Victor Reyes’ decision about water quality permit

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

While the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment evaluates its next move, Colorado Springs Utilities said Tuesday it plans to appeal the ruling. “Construction is proceeding,” SDS spokeswoman Janet Rummel said…

The court ruling came after a request for a judicial review from Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition. Thiebaut argued that SDS will lead to potentially damaging water flows back to Pueblo, worsening “the existing flooding and contamination in Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.” Thiebaut has a long history of opposing SDS, and during the permitting process, the labor coalition tried unsuccessfully to get Utilities to promise to use union labor for the construction of SDS…

Rummel said the 401 certification was meant to assure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the SDS project would follow all applicable state water quality regulations and procedures. The certification was a condition of the 404 permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers for SDS. That permit is required under the U.S. Clean Water Act because the project will have permanent and temporary impacts on jurisdictional wetlands.

Thiebaut told the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper this week that Utilities doesn’t have a valid permit for SDS. “In order for the SDS system to proceed, the owners need to obtain one from the state,” Thiebaut told the newspaper. “Approval of a new 401 certification will require a comment period and opportunity for appeal. In the alternative, the defendants can appeal to a higher court. We are prepared either way.”[…]

Rummel said the judge’s ruling means that if the appeal is unsuccessful, the state may be required to do additional water quality evaluation. “That may result in additional mitigation for the project. That is what we believe the worst case scenario to be,” she said.

More coverage from John Hazelhurst writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

…thanks to SDS, we’ll have more water than we’ll ever need. Our future is assured: Our urban forest won’t die, we can keep our lawns green, and sustain ourselves indefinitely … right?

Not quite. Even with some surprising decreases to cost projections, SDS will still run about $1.6 billion total, and has already affected our water rates. To help mitigate costs, Utilities would like to make “temporary” deals with users outside the city.

That’s nuts. Doing so will just enable sprawl, further hollow out our tax base, and put us at risk in the years to come. Temporary deals have a way of becoming permanent. It’s best not to make such deals, and use the water to fuel our infill growth.

More coverage from Pam Zubeck writing for the Colorado Springs Independent. From the article:

Instead of a 120 percent increase [ed. in Colorado Springs water rates] between 2011 and 2017, the hike could be less than half that under a new rate forecast being drafted. The change stems in part from the recession creating more competition among contractors — thus, lower construction costs. But the biggest reason is lower interest rates, which could save $700 million from previous estimates. While officials won’t release new projections until the May 16 Utilities Board meeting, chief financial officer Bill Cherrier says, “What I can tell you is, we probably lopped off several years of rate increases. That would be four years of 12 percent increases, instead of six or seven. Even the ones we need, we believe, will be less than 12 percent. Once we get up to a certain level of rates, we’re likely to see virtually no water increases for quite some time.”[…]

Cherrier says the city will issue more debt for SDS in August, and in 2013 and 2014 to finish Phase 1 funding for the pipeline, construction of three pump stations and a water treatment plant, which continues even as the city spars with opponents over a water quality permit.

In 2010, City Council raised rates by 12 percent for 2011 and 2012. Under the initial plan, the typical residential customer’s average monthly bill would have leaped by 120 percent, from $37 in 2010 to $82 in 2017. If the last three years of 12 percent rate hikes aren’t imposed, the typical increase would be 57 percent, to $58.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Occupy Your Mind of Pueblo will host a free showing of ‘Blue Gold’ Monday

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From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Occupy Your Mind of Pueblo will host a free showing of “Blue Gold” scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday at the Pueblo West Library, 298 S. Joe Martinez Blvd. The movie documents people worldwide fighting for their basic right to water, from protests at local grade schools to court battles and outright revolutions. The film also examines the future of the world’s water supply.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works approves plan to share costs with the City of Pueblo to provide looking water for Lake Minnequa

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“This is definitely a way to make it an amenity and not a liability,” said Tom Autobee, a water board member who made a motion to pursue the plan. It passed 5-0. The 3.7-mile pipeline would connect the St. Charles reservoirs with Lake Minnequa in order to keep fresh water flowing into Minnequa. It would be gravity-fed and would cost about $1 million in materials. The project could start as soon as this summer. Right now, Lake Minnequa fills only with stormwater. Drought for the past two years has created low levels in the lake that have killed fish and created odors for the Bessemer neighborhoods surrounding the lake.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has agreed to flow some of its water through Lake Minnequa and the water board would provide some additional water to account for evaporation or for flow-through, under a separate agreement…

The city would repay the water board through stormwater fees over three years, through a reduction in the amount remitted by the water board. The water board collects stormwater fees for the city on its monthly bills.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.