RGWCD Groundwater Sub-district 1 public meeting recap: ‘The perception is there’s a magic box that isn’t working’ — attorney Steve Atencio

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

he subdistrict’s plan and a state computer model project that 4,706 acre-feet of water must be put back in the Rio Grande to make up for the harm caused by pumping. Toward that end the group has acquired access to water, which would be sent down the river from reservoirs near its headwaters. The subdistrict also hopes to use up to 2,500 acre-feet from the Bureau of Reclamation’s Closed Basin Project, which pumps groundwater from the eastern side of the valley and sends it to the Rio Grande…

Wells from both the subdistrict and the project draw from the unconfined aquifer — the shallower of the valley’s two major groundwater bodies. That aspect of the plan drew objections from five parties, including Del Norte-area water user Norman Slade. “Who pays that 2,500 acre-feet to make up for the compact?” he asked.

Critics of the plan also include surface water users who fought the formation of the subdistricts in court for four years. Their attorneys have questioned how the state’s computer model could come up with such a small figure for injurious depletions given that subdistrict wells are expected to pump 308,000 acre-feet of water this year. “The perception is there’s a magic box that isn’t working,” attorney Steve Atencio said.

More coverage from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

Everyone speaking, whether for or against the proposed plan to replace well pumpers’ injurious depletions to streams this year, also agreed this was a historic moment for the San Luis Valley. “We have the opportunity to change the course of history,” Wolfe said.

The state engineer added, “It really comes down to all of us as being stewards of this precious resource that we have here … We have all got to work together.” Wolfe’s approval of the annual replacement plan for the San Luis Valley’s first water management sub-district is the final step before the sub-district begins putting water into the system to begin repairing damages from well pumping to surface water users, the aquifer and the Rio Grande Compact. That process must begin May 1. With the short time frame for Wolfe to make a decision on the replacement plan, he will only be accepting comments on the plan through April 23. His decision may be to approve, deny or approve the plan with conditions…

[Sub-district 1 Program Manager Rob Phillips] listed several sources the sub-district is using this year to provide water to the streams including the Santa Maria/Continental Reservoirs, Rio Grande Water Users and the Closed Basin Project, with all of those combined sources providing 10,074 acre feet. The Closed Basin Project will provide 2,500 acre feet of that.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

16 Organizations Praised for Environmental Compliance: Perfect compliance with industrial wastewater discharge permits

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Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District (Steve Frank):

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District has named 16 metro area organizations Gold Award winners for perfect compliance with their industrial wastewater discharge permits during 2011. The awards will be presented [today] at a ceremony at the Metro District’s headquarters at 6450 York Street north of Denver. Chairman of the Board Curt Aldstadt will also commend the organizations the Metro District oversees for a full year in which all of them demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence. A Gold Award represents one year of perfect compliance. All 16 organizations discharge wastewater under industrial discharge permits issued by the Metro District. Metro issues the permits under authority granted by the Clean Water Act.

The 16 organizations being honored not only had perfect industrial wastewater discharge compliance records for 2011 but were also good all-around environmental citizens, said Lori Maag, industrial waste pretreatment supervisor for Metro. She noted that, in 1990, 37 companies were in what’s called significant non-compliance, which means they seriously violated pretreatment standards.

“The number of companies in significant non-compliance has shrunk substantially. Five companies were in significant non-compliance for 2009, none in 2010, and two in 2011,” she said.

The non-compliant companies were Advanced Circuits and 7-Eleven, Inc., both located in Aurora. Advanced Circuits implemented corrective measures and has returned to compliance. The other firm, 7-Eleven, failed to maintain their system, perform the required monitoring, have an authorized representative sign all reports, and didn’t provide all information/data on time. They were required to cease discharge and were penalized $35,900.

Ball Metal Beverage Container Group will receive its 15th Gold Award tomorrow, and both RJR Circuits Inc. and Goldberg Brothers Inc. will receive their 12th.

“We are extremely happy with the performance of our 16 award-winning companies and hope everyone congratulates them on a job well done,” Maag said. “Performance like theirs deserves to be recognized.”

Here (in alphabetical order) are the Gold Award winners and where they’re located:

· Advanced Surface Technologies, Inc. (Arvada )
· Ball Metal Beverage Container Corporation (North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District)
· C W Elaborations, Inc. (Crestview Water and Sanitation District)
· Denver Metal Finishing (Denver)
· Industrialex Manufacturing Corporation (Arvada)
· International Paper – Golden Container Plant (North Table Mountain)
· KBP Coil Coaters, Inc. (Denver)
· Majestic Metals, Inc. (North Washington Street Water and Sanitation District)
· Pepsi Beverages Company (Denver)
· Quality Corporation (Denver)
· RJR Circuits, Inc. (Denver)
· Safeway, Inc., Denver Beverage Plant (Denver)
· Structural Coatings (Denver)
· United States Mint (Denver)
· U.S. Geological Survey – National Water Quality Lab (City of Lakewood)
· Wanco, Inc. (Arvada)

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District serves most of the metro Denver region and is the largest wastewater treatment agency in the Rocky Mountain West. It treats about 140 million gallons of wastewater a day for 1.7 million metro Denver residents in its 715-square-mile service area.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

2012 Colorado legislation: HB12-1161’Nutrients Scientific Advisory Bd Water Quality’ would suspend nutrient rules from the CWQCC

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

…the Pueblo Board of Water Works broke ranks with the Colorado Water Congress and the city of Pueblo Tuesday and voted 5-0 to oppose HB1161. The bill has cleared committee and is awaiting action by the state House of Representatives. The bill would suspend rules adopted by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission last month for review by the legislative Water Resources Committee later this year. A recommendation to the commission would be made by Nov. 1…

The Colorado Water Congress represents broad interests, many of which operate both drinking water and wastewater systems, explained Paul Fanning, legislative liaison for the water board. “It’s cheaper for drinking water providers to treat it than for dischargers,” he told the board.

Using political means to answer scientific questions could risk federal Environmental Protection Agency intervention in Colorado water quality regulations, Fanning said.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

The Dillon Valley Water District stops fluoride dosing

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From the Summit Daily News (Kathryn Corazzelli):

The fluoride was stopped last month because of worn-out equipment — and a capital expenditure to replace it — and limited space, according to district manager Francis Winston. After the district’s board members did some research on the subject, Winston said they couldn’t find anything definitive on the benefits of the mineral, and weighing the equipment cost and space limitations, decided to stop it for the time being.

Winston said the Environmental Protection Agency has a limit of 1.1 milligrams of fluoride per liter, which the district has been told they’re getting ready to lower to .7; the natural fluoride levels in Dillon Valley’s water are .5 to .6.

The Dillon Valley Water District isn’t alone. A few other neighboring districts like East Dillon Water, the Snake River Water District, Copper Mountain Metro and the Town of Frisco don’t add the mineral. There’s one well in Frisco where it naturally occurs, but that source is used infrequently, said water foreman Dave Koop…

The Town of Dillon still adds fluoride to its water. Both Winston and Dillon utilities superintendent Trevor Giles said the mineral isn’t expensive to add each month — it’s about 50 cents per pound, and Dillon adds about 40 pounds per month, Giles said. The cost isn’t much compared to the $25-30 per month it costs to buy fluoride pills for an individual, he said.

More water treatment coverage here.

Snowpack news: Every basin is below 50% of the three-year average, what was there is running off early this water year

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Whoa Nellie! Snowpack is a thing of the past. Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for the statewide map and the statewide Basin High/Low graph along with the hydrograph for Clear Creek at Golden.

Clear Creek was running 10 CFS higher than median yesterday.

Meanwhile, here’s the executive summary from last week’s Water Availability Task Force from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Here’s an excerpt:

March 2012 tied 1966 for the driest on record and it was the third warmest March for Colorado. Records date back to 1895. April has seen some improvement in precipitation with beneficial precipitation on the eastern plains that has lessened extreme and severe drought conditions. However, much of Colorado remains well above average for temperature and below average for precipitation. All major basins of the state have seen significant declines in snowpack. All continue to be below normal for the year. Statewide snow water equivalent at SNOTEL sites is 39%. Severe drought conditions have been reintroduced in the San Luis Valley and established throughout portions of the Yampa/White, Colorado and Gunnison River basins. Water providers are watching the situation very closely.

 To date, April temperatures have been 2-8 degrees above average for most of Colorado, with multiple areas experiencing temperatures 10 degrees above normal.

 Historically, Colorado reaches its average peak snow water equivalent for the season by April 12. However, this year only 68% of average was achieved and that peak occurred a full month early on March 12, 2012. Some basins, including the South Platte and the San Miguel/ Dolores/ Animas/ San Juan peaked as early as March 4.

 Reservoir storage remains above average in the Yampa/White, Gunnison, Colorado, South Platte Basins, and San Miguel/ Dolores/ Animas/ San Juan. Statewide, reservoir storage is 108% of average. The Rio Grande and the Arkansas River basins continue to be the regions with the lowest reservoir storage levels in the state, at 73% and 86% of average, respectively.

 As of the April 17 US Drought Monitor, 95% of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought classification, down from 100% two weeks earlier. D1, moderate drought, conditions remain in much of the Arkansas River basin and the northern and central mountains, while D2, severe drought conditions, have been introduced in the northwestern part of the state and the Rio Grande River basins. D0, abnormally dry conditions, account for the rest of the impacted areas of the state (35%). Removal of D0 on the central plains and a reduction of D2 in the southeastern plains resulted from early April storms that brought substantial precipitation.

 The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values range from -3.86 in the Arkansas headwaters sub-basin to -0.13 in the Upper Arkansas sub-basin. The Arkansas headwaters’ low value is, in part, due to operational drawdown of Homestake Reservoir. All SWSI values throughout the state are negative.

 La Niña conditions have weakened, and the long term forecast for late spring (April-June) shows a shift towards dryness covering southwest Colorado, near-normal moisture over the eastern plains, and a slight shift towards wetness in northwest Colorado.

 There is about a 40% chance that we could see a transition towards El Niño within the next few months, which would favor more moisture for the state.

 On the West Slope, combinations of prevalent fine fuels and the possibility of a drier than normal season could lead to significant fire potential concerns as the season progresses.

More CWCB coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: FERC grants a rehearing for the project’s preliminary permit

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Update: FERC did not grant a request for a rehearing. They need more time to review the request.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced Monday it will grant a rehearing for Aaron Million’s Wyco Power and Water Co., over the objections of environmental groups and Colorado Springs Utilities…

Among those opposing the rehearing were the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the National Parks Conservation Association, Western Resource Advocates and the Sierra Club.

Colorado Springs Utilities on April 6 filed a motion asking FERC to exclude consideration of a reservoir in El Paso County at the same site where it plans to build a reservoir for the Southern Delivery System. The Norris family, owners of T-Cross Ranches, are family friends of Million. They have filed an application with El Paso County for the Marlborough Metropolitan District with the intention of building a regional reservoir on Upper Williams Creek, southeast of Colorado Springs.

Million also could have competition in building the pipeline from the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Frank Jaeger, manager of Parker Water, which is studying its own plan for a Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

Meanwhile, a state task force continues to meet to identify issues that could arise if either project is built. Its next meeting is Wednesday in Grand Junction.

Here’s the agenda for the next task force meeting via email from the IBCC facilitator.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Trust Employs New, Unique Tactics In Drought Response

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Click here to to the Colorado Water Trust website to download the materials for the program. Here’s the announcement:

The Colorado Water Trust (CWT), a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring streamflows in Colorado, is making a Request for Water. CWT uses market-based, voluntary mechanisms to ensure that water flows in Colorado’s rivers and streams. At this point in time, reports show statewide snowpack at 38% of average, and streamflow forecasts indicate flows are likely to be below average to well below average in all basins. These low flow conditions can stress important aquatic ecosystems. This Request for Water is a pilot program released in limited fashion to address both the drought impacts to streams and the financial needs of Colorado’s water users this summer and fall.

To maintain sufficient streamflows in Colorado’s rivers and streams, we are seeking direct flow or storage water rights for short-term lease into Colorado’s Instream Flow Program for the coming summer and fall seasons. Leasing water into the Instream Flow Program during a dry year will help protect streams and aquatic habitat when it is most critical. We intend to lease appropriate water rights and offer water users the opportunity to both protect Colorado’s natural heritage and generate revenue this year—lease your water for instream flow use, obtain compensation, and grow a crop of fish habitat.

CWT has coordinated this process with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (“CWCB”), which runs the state’s Instream Flow Program. CWT will be paying for and facilitating these leases under a state law specifically designed for this purpose. The law provides several protections for those who choose to lease their water. It also protects other water users from injury when these leases are implemented.

With this Request for Water, we are requesting offers of water from interested water right holders. To lease your water through this pilot program, please read carefully the “Leasing Terms and Conditions” and the “Guide to Initial Offer Form & Frequently Asked Questions” and submit an Initial Offer Form as soon as possible; time is of the essence. Please be diligent in following all Initial Offer Form instructions. Many restrictions are based upon the legal tools available.

Initial Offer Forms and associated documents must be received by the Colorado Water Trust, by mail or by e-mail, by close of business on Friday, May 11, 2012.

More coverage from Grace Hood writing for KUNC. From the article:

Today the Colorado Water Trust announced plans to lease water from willing users to boost stream flows. The idea is to take advantage of a state statute created after the 2002 drought, which allows agencies to lease water short-term from willing sellers to help preserve wildlife, fish, bugs and plants. Amy Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust, says this will be the first time an organization has taken advantage of the 2002 statute.

“What we’re trying to do is keep low-flow streams alive during what we anticipate to be a fairly dry summer,” she says. For example, fish in low-water flow hunker down in pools where they are more susceptible to parasitism and disease, says Beatie.

CWT is planning on purchasing water rights and initiating projects in all seven of Colorado’s river basins.

More instream flow coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 124 CFS in the river below Olympus dam

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The continuing heat is generating some early season run-off. With highs in the low 80s, we are anticipating some run-off tonight down the Big Thompson River and into Lake Estes. We will bypass that increase through the dam, on down the Big Thompson Canyon. Around midnight tonight, April 23, we anticipate bumping releases up to about 150 cfs.

Earlier this month, I e-mailed that we were increasing releases from Olympus Dam to the lower Big Thompson River for similar reasons. Since that time, releases from Olympus Dam have averaged about 127 cfs. They’ve gotten as high as 159 cfs and dropped down to about 112 cfs. Currently, we are releasing about 124 cfs.

It is likely these types of fluctuations will carry on into May.

Please keep in mind that we typically make our adjustments late at night; so, the river might look different in the morning than it did the night before.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.