“How is that poor, mutilated stream doing these days?” [Former Denver Post outdoors editor Bob Saile] queried upon reading the success story of the river through Eleven Mile Canyon last week. “Maybe another follow-up is in order on what is surely going to be a long, long recovery for what used to be the most important section of trout stream in the state.” Like most of the South Platte River, the Deckers section below Cheesman Canyon has seen its share of ups and downs. Along with the upstream reaches of Eleven Mile Canyon profiled on these pages last Wednesday, this downstream segment of the river is on the upswing these days. But a full decade after the fire, it still has a long way to go.
“I thought maybe after 10 years that the sediment would pass, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be,” said Jeff Spohn, Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist for the region. “The lower (Cheesman) canyon is holding up pretty well. But once you get down into that Deckers reach — below Wigwam Creek and Horse Creek — there’s still a lot of sediment coming down. It’s definitely making progress, but if you look at the fish data pre- and post-fire, it’s nowhere close to what it was.”
The most telling statistics relate to brown and rainbow trout size. In 2001, the year before the Hayman Fire, CPW biologists measured the biomass, or pounds of fish per acre, at 216, with 89 fish measuring greater than 14 inches. In 2010, the biomass fell to 88 pounds per acre, 24 fish longer than 14 inches.
The greatest impact is being felt in the lower portion of the 8-mile unit, where the river flattens out. Upstream, from Cheesman Reservoir down to Deckers, the fishery is rebounding, benefiting in part from trophy trout escaping from the privately owned Wigwam Club separating the two reaches.
Alan Hamel was honored for his 50+ years serving the rate payers of Pueblo Board of Water Works. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum gave Hamel the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas award Thursday at the culmination of a two-day event at Colorado Mountain College. “I’m humbled,” Hamel said. “I’ve been blessed to work in the field of water.”
Hamel is retiring in August as executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, and in an April 22 Pueblo Chieftain opinion piece he tried to get people excited about tap water for the Water 2012 celebration.
Must have worked.
Actually, his accomplishments in water circles have gone far beyond the water board’s mission to provide safe, reliable drinking water for Pueblo. Hamel currently serves on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and is the governor’s appointee to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. He also has represented the Arkansas River basin on other state water panels, including the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Interbasin Compact Committee.
“I’m surprised we don’t protect our agricultural resources like it was our only child,” said Mike Bartolo, who has a small farm east of Pueblo and is manager of the Colorado State University Research Center in Rocky Ford. Water is the front line of defense, and needs to be incorporated even in urban water planning, he said. “Are we willing to say no to a particular industry to protect agricultural?” he asked, while discussing urban economic development. “How does locating a water-intensive business in a municipality affect agricultural water users 50-60 miles downstream?”
Bartolo said the Arkansas Valley’s climate and soil make it an ideal place to grow fruits and vegetables, and urged city-rural partnerships to encourage farming.
Young farmers need to be encouraged with financial help to get started in agriculture.
From the Montrose Daiy Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):
In support of water rights it has filed against an instream flow, the county earlier this week released expert reports prepared by Deere & Ault Consultants Inc. and related documents from GEI Consultants and Economic & Planning Systems. Montrose County wants to secure water rights to meet future anticipated needs in the West End. It has identified six possible sites where reservoirs could be built to capture the water. But securing the rights — a bid that is contested by Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance and other objectors — would be only part of the battle.
More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.
Broomfield will hire a private company to assess the fees residents pay for water, sewer and reclamation water systems. In the past few years, costs have continually risen for water treatment supplies, electricity costs and the cost of buying water. Yet there has not been an increase in water and sewer fees since 2008, said City and County Manager Charles Ozaki.
“We need to conduct this study to determine the appropriate rates going forward,” he said.
Public Works Director David Allen said the city will likely have to raise water rates, because it has been more than three years since rates were adjusted to reflect current costs. Yet the report also might look at better ways to conserve water and provide better rate equity for past, present and future residents.
Staff initially proposed raising water license fees several years ago, but City Council members were hesitant to raise fees before doing a full assessment to see if the water operations were operating at maximum efficiency. They asked for a two-part study to examine both the city’s operations and water rate structure, Allen said.
The first part, which examined operations, was completed late last year. The report showed the city was close to maximum efficiency, Ozaki said. The water rate and fee study is a second part to the assessment.
The report, set to be complete in October, could change the way residents are charged and billed for their water and wastewater usage, because the city has not done a full assessment of the rates since 1996.
The temperature hit 75 degrees Monday afternoon, setting not only a record high for the date but a record high for the month of April, according to local weather blogger Ryan Boudreau, who maintains the local forecasting website aspenweather.net along with Cory Gates. The previous record for April was 73 degrees, according to data maintained at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, he said. The weather records date back to 1945…
In Grand Junction, the high hit 89 degrees on Monday afternoon, setting a new daily record for the date and tying the record for the month, according to the National Weather Service. It hit 89 degrees in Grand Junction again Tuesday, a record for the month first set in 1992, according to the weather service. The weather service said Denver International Airport hit 88 degrees Tuesday afternoon, breaking the previous record for April 24 of 85 degrees, set in 1949. Pueblo had a high of 92 degrees Tuesday to break the old mark of 89 degrees, set in 1996.
From the Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canteburry):
Students in Dave Laughlin’s biology class at Cañon City High School got an up-close look at the process from coagulation to disinfection during a tour of the plant Wednesday.
“I take my students here because their final in the spring semester is a project on the quality of our water,” he said. “We are intimately tied to its health and the ecosystems that surround us. We come up here to see what the people do for us on a daily basis that we take for granted.”
The plant is a 7-day a week, 24-hour operation that runs throughout the year, and it is required to meet the most stringent and updated state and federal water quality regulations as identified under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Plant operator Travis Payne said the time it takes for the water to make it from the Arkansas River to a home can be as little as two days.
The site was developed in 1908 and served as a slow sand filtration system for several years. Today, the plant has a 22-million gallon per day capacity. The average use is about 5.5 million gallons per day. During summer months, when more people water their lawns and gardens, fill swimming pools, wash cars and run swamp coolers, the plant supplies close to 12 million gallons of water each day.
More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
“As water resources are getting smaller and smaller, we have a very small amount of water to use every day for our needs,” Bob Hartzman, plant manager told the students. He talked to students about the “fascinating chemistry” of the water treatment process and how jobs in the field can be high paying — about $25 an hour. “We have the capacity to treat 22 million gallons of water a day, but the city uses 5.5 million gallons a day on average. So we can probably meet demand for the next 10 to 15 years,” Hartzman said.
The water treatment plant featured two football-field sized slow sand filters when it opened in 1908. Today it is a surface water treatment plant. Plant operator Travis Payne told the students that once particles settle out of water in the sedimentation tanks it would have been “sent out the door with some chlorine 20 years ago but things have changed.” Nowadays the intense process includes a coal filtering system and lab testing. During spring runoff, the workers have to take water that has a particle reading as high as 2,200 and clean it up to a reading between 0.06 and 0.09 on the turbidity scale.
Oil stains extend from Lone Pine Gas facilities for about 1.25 miles along shorelines of Spring Gulch Creek. Besides oil, Englewood-based Lone Pine — with state permission — has been releasing 200,000 to 400,000 gallons a day of treated drilling wastewater directly into creek waters, raising landowner concerns. The Environmental Protection Agency has begun to assess the damage along the creek, which flows into Hell Creek and then into the North Fork of the North Platte River.
A Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission inspector will join an EPA coordinator today. “We got a call from concerned landowners on April 3. We were up there by April 5,” EPA spokesman Matthew Allen said. “(The EPA) is categorizing the types of damage along the shoreline to determine the best cleanup actions for the responsible party to take.” This is the latest of crude-oil spills dating to 2006 at Lone Pine’s gas and oil field about 14 miles west of Walden — near protected state wildlife areas.
A COGCC inspector in December found the spill, and agency officials met with Lone Pine managers in January. Lone Pine’s operations are somewhat uncommon because the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has allowed the company, through a discharge permit, to release up to 420,000 gallons of drilling wastewater per day into the creek from settling ponds. A couple of years ago, CDPHE learned that Lone Pine’s drilling wastewater did not meet state water-quality standards and, in September 2010, ordered the company to stop polluting the creek.
The CDPHE “cease-and-desist” order, however, “does not require that Lone Pine cease its operations while they return to compliance,” agency spokesman Mark Salley said. CDPHE’s water-quality division “is primarily concerned with the wastewater treatment facility’s ongoing inability to reliably and consistently comply with the terms and conditions of its discharge permit.”
Wyoming water quality director John Wagner says the water is not from fracking or drilling and he believes it’s not harmful to Wyoming streams and wildlife.
Colorado water officials said Lone Pine Gas violated water quality standards a number of times since 2007, including dumping water with excess levels of copper and iron. The company says it shut down the plant in March and did a complete cleanup.
Great Western Oil and Gas Co. is proposing to drill 19 new natural gas wells within the town of Windsor near the shore of the Poudre River. The wells will be drilled from two separate sites southwest of downtown near the Larimer-Weld county line, allowing the company to drill beneath residential neighborhoods remotely.
Some of the wells will be drilled beneath the Poudre River, and some will be drilled beneath homes using a method called “directional drilling.”
Here’s a report about oil and gas exploration and production produced water from Andrew Wineke writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:
After the well is drilled, after the target formation is fractured and as the oil and gas begins flowing up the well, wastewater comes along with it. As Colorado Springs and El Paso County wrestle with the sudden interest in drilling in the area, what to do with that wastewater is a big concern.
As much as half of the fluid used to fracture the rock gradually returns to the surface as flowback water, emerging from the well along with the oil and gas over a period of weeks. Many rock formations, including the Niobrara, also contain water, often briny and laden with minerals, that comes out of the well as what is called produced water, over several years. “Produced water can be nasty, nasty stuff; other places you can drink it,” said Thom Kerr, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which oversees oil and gas drilling in the state.
Getting rid of flowback and produced water is a challenge for drilling companies, since it’s generally too toxic to simply be poured out on the ground — although the state allows drillers to spread produced water on roads if it meets a purity standard. Some of the flowback fluid can be put through filters and reused at the next well.
Ultra Resources, a Houston, Texas-based oil company, is drilling three exploratory wells in El Paso County and has applied for permits to drill three more, two of those on Banning Lewis Ranch in Colorado Springs. The company isn’t recycling the water for those initial wells, officials say, but company officials say it will if it moves on to large-scale drilling.
Meanwhile, water providers are looking to cash in on sales to water haulers. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:
[Platte River Power Authority] often sells its water for agricultural uses, but because all the region’s reservoirs are full, irrigators didn’t come to the utility looking to buy excess water this year, said Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat, who sits on the PRPA board of directors. “We’re sitting with surplus water,” she said. “There are several places that have asked us for excess water. Some are municipalities and others are the oil and gas industry directly.”
“We’re sitting with surplus water,” she said. “There are several places that have asked us for excess water. Some are municipalities and others are the oil and gas industry directly.” Now, she said, the PRPA board members must ask themselves if they’re comfortable with determining specifically where the excess water should go. “Do we sell it, or do we need the resources?” Weitkunat said. “I don’t know where everybody stands on this.”
Environmentalists, including Save the Poudre, are taking umbrage at the idea of selling the water to the energy industry because they’re unhappy that PRPA water from the Colorado River could be used for hydraulic fracturing, a water-intensive process they believe is harmful to human health and the environment.
Oil and gas exploration is heating up down by Del Norte. Here’s a report from Judith Stone writing for the Del Norte Prospector. From the article:
According to Wilson, oil companies often have the absolute right to drill, especially in connection with split estates, when the minerals are owned by the oil company and land by a surface owner. In that case, he said, oil companies can drill regardless of zoning or homeowner’s association laws. On the front range, Wilson said, companies are drilling within 300 feet of schools; in rural areas, the state limit is 150 feet within any property by right.
According to Wilson, the owner fares better when the mineral rights are part of the property, but he or she but can still have those rights taken by what is known as a “forced pool.” A forced pool says that part of the objector’s product is being extracted, so the rights must be pooled in order to determine each person’s share of revenues.
The only way to avoid any of this,Wilson emphasized, is to effect local county commissioner control now via home rule. By enacting home rule, Wilson said the commissioners can protect the land for its water users, citizens who like to breathe clean air, and everyone who enjoys a peaceful Valley.
Here’s the link to the conference webpage with registration information. From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):
Registration for the 2012 CWCB Statewide Drought Conference: Building a Drought Resilient Economy through Innovation, begins May 1, 2012. This two-day conference is on September 19-20, 2012, and will be held at the Colorado History Museum, 1200 Broadway Denver, CO 80203. Please visit the CWCB website for information on registration, the conference agenda, hotel arrangements, parking and other conference related items.
This interactive conference will be focused on the latest and innovative information, techniques and policies to prepare for and adapt to drought in Colorado. Governmental, private sector and non-profit professionals are encouraged to attend.
Conference space will be limited. Please register early. Registration will begin May 1 and will close on September 14, 2012 at 5p. Registration fees are non-refundable.