Earth Day 2012: Take the time today to plan your strategy for reducing your water and carbon footprints

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Here’s the link to the Earth Day Network website.

Here’s the link to the EPA website for Earth Day.

Drought/snowpack/runoff news: Upper Colorado River Basin down to 36% of average

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Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for the statewide snowpack map and the basin high/low graph for the Upper Colorado River basin from the Natural Resources Conservation Service along with the current U.S. Drought Monitor map.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

At 37 percent of average snowpack so far in April, which is when snowpack levels hit their maximum in the Colorado mountains, 2012 in the Upper Colorado River Basin is looking even drier than its two drought-ridden companion years. In 1977, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, snowpack readings in April fell from 54 percent of average to 38 percent in May. In 2002, April snowpack dropped off more precipitously, from 63 percent of average to 27 percent in May. The water content of snowpack on Grand Mesa, which supplies water to two utilities in the Grand Valley, is better, 59 percent of the 24-year average, as measured on April 4…

The Colorado River already is running “so low that we’re not being able to get a full ditch of water” into the canals that lace the Grand Valley, connecting the Colorado River to the fields and orchards along its path, Proctor said…

One factor that could play a role in how the summer plays out is whether Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling fills this year, [ Ute Water Conservancy District General Manager Larry Clever] said. Green Mountain Reservoir is frequently a source of water for the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River through the Grand Valley, to aid four endangered fish species, including the Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.

“We’re not going into this summer empty,” said Greg Trainor, utilities director for the city of Grand Junction, noting Juniata and Purdy reservoirs are full right now.

From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

Aspen City Council will hold a preliminary hearing Monday on an amendment to the city’s water shortage ordinance. The existing legislation allows the city to enact temporary higher water rates if a user takes more than a prescribed level, and it spells out policies to be enacted corresponding to three stages of drought severity. For example, if council declares a “Stage 2” drought, no lawn or garden watering is allowed between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“It is too early to know if actual conditions this year will cause streamflows to drop below [drought stage], but initial snowpack estimates indicate this will be a very dry year,” according to a memo to the council from the city’s water department, which notes that precipitation on Independence Pass is 61 percent of average this year as of April 16.

With the water rates, the ordinance aims to encourage conservation in drought years by instituting surcharges if water usage goes above a certain level for individual accounts. But the ordinance has not been updated in more than a decade, and the higher fees it provides for are lower than existing rates, according to the city’s memo.

The proposal would allow the city to impose surcharges of 175 and 200 percent, respectively, for users in “Tier 3” or “Tier 4,” which are the highest categories of water use for city customers.

The city last enacted the water shortage ordinance in 2002, the last severe drought year, when council declared a “Stage 1” drought.

Stage 1 seeks to cut city water usage by 10 percent, Stage 2 sets the target at 20 percent and Stage 3 aims for 50 percent. City Council must vote on whether Aspen falls under those categories.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

To-date, April precipitation at the Dillon weather observation site is 88 percent of average, at .65 inches. For January through March, the Dillon site has measured 1.94 inches of water compared to the average 2.74 inches, which is 71 percent of the historic average. On April 1st, 17 Colorado SNOTEL sites set new record lows, while 16 others were near-record lows. By April 9th, several sites had either melted out with record early melt-out dates or were on a likely trajectory to do so.Spring and summer runoff in some areas may approach record-low volumes…

In Colorado, April 1 streamflow forecasts call for much-below-average runoff conditions throughout the state. Most forecasts fall in the 40 percent to 60 percent of average range. The highest forecasts in the state are barely above 70 percent of average, for areas of the Upper Rio Grande and portions of the Front Range near Boulder. The lowest forecast in the state is for the North Platte near Northgate, at 20 percent of average. Forecasts decreased very significantly in most areas from the March 1st forecasts due to extremely poor conditions in March. Spring and summer runoff in some areas may approach record-low volumes.

Sand Creek: Suncor Energy hopes to volatize benzene into the atmosphere to reduce levels in the creek and the South Platte River

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

This poses a regulatory dilemma: Is it worse to release benzene into the air or into the water? Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulators haven’t decided. “It’s an important balancing act,” spokesman Warren Smith said. “We want to protect both as best we can.”

The latest test data show benzene concentrations in the South Platte River remain more than 30 times higher than the federal drinking-water standard of 5 parts per billion. In an attempt to reduce those levels, a diesel-powered pump pulls 500 gallons a minute out of Sand Creek and returns it to the stream in an aerial arc. The action is designed to free the benzene from the water before it lands back in the stream…

The fountain aeration — a temporary fix — is part of Suncor’s overall cleanup efforts following the discovery in November of an underground plume of hydrocarbon material from the refinery oozing into the water from creek banks.

Suncor recently completed two underground walls designed to intercept toxic material spreading from the refinery. Sump pumps and vacuum systems near the walls are designed to remove liquid hydrocarbons and toxic vapors from contaminated soil. A Suncor environmental contractor’s map, released by CDPHE, shows an underground plume of benzene and other contaminants spreading under the adjacent Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant and nearly reaching the South Platte directly upriver from the confluence with Sand Creek. This plume also is spreading under the open space greenway bicycle corridor toward Interstate 270. Four monitoring wells — a fifth is planned — may help monitor the eastern edge of the plume. Benzene concentrations are low and decreasing at far edges of the plume but reach as high as 10,000 parts per billion (ppb) at the center. Suncor crews have completed a 1,000-foot wall on Metro Wastewater property to shield Sand Creek. They built a 2,100-foot wall at the western edge of Suncor’s property.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The Republican River compliance pipeline is slightly below budget

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

Currently, the whole project, including the purchase of more than 50 wells, is on track to be completed for $67.4 million. The RRWCD is recouping a total of $1.6 million in lease payments, putting the net cost at $65.722 million. Willard noted that GEI Consultants estimated in November 2007 that the total cost would fall between $61.3 million and $71.3 million…

Willard noted that the RRWCD’s goal is compact compliance and to protect agricultural production within the basin. He said his opinion is the district should be careful about taking any more land out of production; to keep this in mind when making future decisions.

More Republican River basin coverage here and here.

Denver: The city scores $350,000 from the EPA for restoration work along the South Platte River corridor

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As a bicyclist I just want them to get rid of the goat heads [puncturevine] along the bike path. Here’s a report about the grant from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The Environmental Protection Agency grant prioritized Denver as one of seven U.S. cities committed to revitalizing urban waterways. These projects “will increase access to a clean and healthy South Platte River,” EPA assistant administrator Nancy Stoner said Thursday. The EPA aims “to extend the vitality that we see along Lower Downtown’s riverfront to neighborhoods that still struggle with economic and environmental challenges,” Stoner said.

Denver officials are to use $262,500 for restoration work — improving the meandering characteristics of river, reducing erosion and stormwater runoff, filtering pollution through vegetation — near the Sun Valley neighborhood west of the river between Sports Authority Field at Mile High and West Sixth Avenue. Officials also will accelerate recreation-oriented improvements at the Johnson Habitat Park area along Interstate 25 and Santa Fe Drive…

“When you have a healthy park system, it adds to the economic vitality and quality of life in adjacent neighborhoods,” foundation director Jeff Shoemaker said.”The South Platte is Denver’s greatest natural resource.”

More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.

Fraser: Part of the Fraser River may be designated as the ‘Eisenhower Memorial Reach’

Eisenhower fishing “little boy falls” in 1955 in Maine.
Eisenhower fishing “little boy falls” in 1955 in Maine.

Back when I was a kid I remember folks talking about how much President Eisenhower loved fishing the Fraser River. We thought it was cool that he came to Colorado once in a while. His wife Mamie spent part of her time growing up in Denver and Colorado Springs. Here’s a report about the proposed “Eisenhower Memorial Reach” from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

State Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R-Cowdrey), is sponsering the bill that could authorize the Colorado Department of Transportation to accept and expend gifts, grants, donations and federal funds for sign placement on US Highway 40 in downtown Fraser, directing motorists to the river’s newly designated “point of interest.”[…]

The effort to designate the Fraser River’s two-mile stretch from the bridge-crossing at Rendezvous Road to the bridge-crossing at County Road 8 was spearheaded by the Grand County chapter of Trout Unlimited. TU plans to pay for additional signage to direct visitors to the Eisenhower statue along the river and to talk about the river designation, according to chapter president Kirk Klancke of Fraser. The designation, Klancke said, “is to draw attention to the fact that the Fraser River is a pristine environment, pristine enough to have drawn the leader of the free world back in the ’50s.”

Naming this reach of the Fraser after 34th president Dwight David Eisenhower makes a “historical and political statement,” Klancke said. River advocates hope the resolution highlights “what’s being sacrificed for the sake of municipal water supplies,” he said…

According to a draft of the resolution, Eisenhower first made his way to Byers Peak Ranch in the Fraser Valley as late as 1952 and returned each year until his heart attack in 1955. Eisenhower enjoyed fishing in the Fraser River and its tributary St. Louis Creek, which he referred to as his “home water” when visiting Colorado.

More Fraser River coverage here and here.

The National Weather Service is recruiting volunteer weather spotters

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

If, for example, you look at the latest updated table of seasonal snowfall totals for the year-to-date compiled by the Boulder office, you’ll find statistics from Nederland and Niwot, Broomfield, St, Mary’s Glacier and Evergreen, but not a single reading from Summit or Eagle County. Spotter reports are especially important in the mountains because the Doppler radar system has a hard time making accurate readings in the rugged topography of the Rockies.

So instead of complaining about how wrong the Denver-based TV forecasts are, consider becoming a volunteer for the spotter program. “We always need more help in data-sparse regions. Summit county is fairly void of spotters except maybe a half dozen. I haven’t had anybody who wanted to do this. You will see other void counties in the mountains, like Jackson and Grand counties,” said Scott Entrekin, who coordinates the program. Volunteers don’t need specialized equipment, but do have to attend one of the spotter training classes, several of which are scheduled around the Front Range during the next few months.

From the National Weather Service:

Colorado All-Season Spotter Team

Weather reports from spotters will help save lives and property during the years to come. The volunteer spotter team is an essential part of the warning decision process of the National Weather Service. Ground truth reports from spotters are used in conjunction with Doppler radar, satellite, and other sources to determine the need for weather warnings and advisories.

We are continuously recruiting spotters living in Northeast Colorado, and across the Northern mountains, Front Range Foothills, and high mountain valleys. If you are a weather enthusiast and enjoy measuring rain and snowfall, or you find yourself drooling at the bit for severe weather, this team is for YOU! Folks living in mountain locations such as Jackson, Grand, Summit, Larimer, and Park counties are especially needed!

Typical reports you would provide include; snowfall, snow depth, freezing rain, dense fog, high winds, and road conditions. Examples of summertime weather reporting would include information on tornadoes, hail, heavy rainfall and flooding. A dedicated, toll free number is available to call the National Weather Service in Boulder, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Reporting can also be done on your computer via the Denver/Boulder Home page to submit weather reports.

You can be involved in the Spotter Team! Here’s what’s involved:

– To become a member of the team you must attend one of the severe weather/spotter training classes which are offered in the Spring and early Summer. We will usually start posting training sites and times in late January and February with the link. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/bou/?n=spot_training
– You must be at least 18 years old to participate in the program. However, we do encourage children and youth to help adults, while learning the science of meteorology.
– Once you have been trained, you will receive your own spotter number and information sheets on how to report.
– We recommend refresher training every 2 years once you have been initially trained.
-Supplemental Skywarn training is available through COMET at https://www.meted.ucar.edu/training_course.php?id=23
-No Special equipment is needed!
-For current members, updated information and changes on the program can be found on our web page, via the “news of the day” at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=bou&storyid=63779&source=0

Pagosa Springs: The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership scores $25,000 for greenhouse project

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Elaine Feeney Wood):

The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Laura Jane Musser Fund to contribute to the implementation of the greenhouse initiative in Centennial Park. The Musser Foundation encourages the collaborative and participatory efforts among citizens in rural communities to strengthen their towns in civic areas including economic development, arts and humanities, public space improvement and education…

The GGP aims to:
1) create a center for lifelong education as well as for advanced study in agriculture and renewable technology;
2) provide a test site for the commercialization of year-round organic crops at high altitude using renewable energy;
3) provide affordable, organic, locally grown food for people and businesses; and
4) provide year-round community gardens.

The greenhouse domes will be built in Centennial Park on the banks of the San Juan River. This park will invite locals and visitors alike to pause, enjoy the natural setting, pursue environmental education, experience sustainable agriculture, and appreciate renewable energy technologies.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Energy Fuels Corp announces a merger with Denison Mines Corp: Will they build the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill now?

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The merger with Denison Mines Corp. also gives Energy Fuels an operating uranium mill in Utah and raises the prospect that it might not build the Montrose County mill. Denver-based Energy Fuels wants to build the Piñon Ridge uranium mill in the Paradox Valley, outside the town of Naturita. It would be the first new uranium mill in the United States in 30 years.

Colorado’s health department approved Energy Fuels’ permit to build the Piñon Ridge mill, but opponents have sued to stop it. The company has spent $11 million on getting the mill permitted and is committed to securing approval to build it, Energy Fuels CEO Steve Antony said on a Tuesday conference call. But whether Piñon Ridge actually gets built is another question altogether. “We intend to complete the defense of the license, and at that time, depending on market conditions, any kind of decisions to go forward with actual construction will most likely be market-driven and based on market opportunity,” Antony said…

Denison runs the country’s only operating uranium mill, the White Mesa mill near Blanding, Utah. The merger gives Energy Fuels access to a mill right away, instead of waiting for the regulatory and legal process to be settled with Piñon Ridge, Moore said. Denison milled only ore from its own mines at the White Mesa mill, so Energy Fuels did not have a place to process uranium from the mines it owns before the merger…

Energy Fuels plans to acquire Denison in a stock deal worth about $107 million based on Monday’s share price. The deal is set to close June 30, Moore said. Denison shareholders, led by Korea Electric Power Corp., will own about two-thirds of Energy Fuels stock once the deal is completed. Denison lost $71 million last year as the uranium market plunged after the power plant meltdown in Fukushima, Japan…

Earlier this month, Energy Fuels completed its merger with Titan Uranium, which nearly tripled the Denver company’s uranium reserves. The purchase of Titan gave Energy Fuels the “critical mass” it needed to acquire Denison, Moore said.

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

The merger would mean that Energy Fuels would acquire the White Mesa Mill in Blanding, Utah — the only conventional uranium mill currently operating in the U.S. — as well as four working uranium mines in the area. The working mines include the Beaver Shaft and Pandora mines near La Sal, Utah, as well as the Daneros Mill west of Blanding and a mill in northern Arizona. Denison’s assets also include 11 mines in the Colorado Plateau region that are not currently producing uranium, according to Energy Fuels. Denison Mines Corp. is a uranium and vanadium producer with projects in the U.S., Mongolia, Canada and Zambia…

“This transaction is transformational for Energy Fuels and reshapes the landscape of the uranium sector within the U.S.,” [Steve Antony, President and CEO of Energy Fuels] said, adding that the move will combine the asset of the only operating uranium mill in the U.S., White Mesa, with a significant resource base that can feed it. “The result is an unmatched production growth profile and the opportunity for both Energy Fuels and Denison shareholders to benefit from the clear operational synergies that result from this transaction,” he said. “I look forward to working with Denison’s U.S. team to maximize the benefits of this important combination.”[…]

Moore said the transaction is largely unrelated to the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill, and said Energy Fuels will continue to defend the licensing process in court and pursue the project…

Moore added that the deal will allow Energy Fuels to evaluate opening two of its mines, the Energy Queen and Whirlwind, in order to accelerate the economic development Energy Fuels wants to get started in the region. According to Denison Mines’ website, the White Mesa Mill, which is located six miles south of Blanding, is licensed to process of average of 2,000 tons of ore per day. In full operation, the mill employs approximately 150 people…

Energy Fuels also recently acquired Titan Uranium Inc., which includes the Sheep Mountain Project in the Crooks Gap District of Wyoming. Energy Fuels announced an updated Preliminary Feasibility Study for Sheep Mountain on March 1.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Nolan Doesken (Colorado State Climatologist) was down in the San Luis Valley last week talking climate and weather

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

While the valley’s weather may be different than other parts of the state, it’s driven by many of the same factors. High elevation, latitude, a landlocked location in the middle of the continent and the surrounding mountain topography are drivers. It’s the last factor that plays the biggest role that ensures Alamosa receives an average of roughly 7 inches of precipitation a year, which is less than the Front Range and even Phoenix. Storm systems lose much of their muster once they make it past the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges. “Descending air is drying air,” he said. “You are on the short end of the stick.”

Salida: The city is putting voluntary watering restrictions in place for the summer

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Here’s the release from the City of Salida (Lonnie Oversole):

Water restrictions for the 2012 irrigation season will again be on a voluntary basis. Citizens are encouraged to follow the same restrictions that had been in place in past years, which includes even/odd day watering and no watering between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Should you choose not to follow voluntary water restrictions, there will be no enforcement or penalty.

Keep in mind if you water during the heat of the day, you will loose 50% of the water you apply to evaporation, which is the reasoning behind not watering between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The even/odd day system has half the city watering on one day and the other half on the next day. This provides better water pressure for all customers and fire fighting personnel.