Here’s a report about the hearings from Samantha Wright writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:
HR 3680 passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee with bipartisan support about two weeks ago, but its ultimate fate is still unclear. Companion legislation passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in April 2011. If it becomes law, the bill could have a huge positive impact on exactly the kinds of projects that are Kurt Johnson’s bread and butter. Johnson is the President of the Colorado Small Hydro Association (COSHA) and principal at Telluride Energy, a small hydro development and consulting firm. Most of his clients simply seek to take advantage of existing infrastructure, including dams, pipelines and irrigation canals, to create a small steady stream of green electricity.
Johnson recently traveled to Washington DC to testify on the bill’s behalf. As the nation embarks on an “all-of the-above” domestic energy strategy, Johnson told legislators, “We need to dramatically step up the pace of utilizing the massive, currently-untapped resource of small hydro.
“The problem is, the FERC process is particularly burdensome for very small projects, where the cost of FERC compliance can potentially exceed the cost of hydro equipment,” he testified. “Many projects do not get built once people understand the law.” Or, they get built under the radar – in what Johnson calls “guerrilla hydro.”
More coverage from Michael Harris writing for RenewableEnergy.com. From the article:
The bipartisan bill — called the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012 — was introduced by representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Diane DeGette (D-Colo.).
Contained in the bill are measures that would “facilitate the development of hydropower and conduit projects through several common-sense reforms,” including:
–Updating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license exemption standard to streamline the development of more hydro projects;
–Giving FERC the option to exempt hydro projects with a capacity of less than 10 MW and conduit projects with capacity between 5 and 40 MW from the permitting process; and
–Allowing FERC to extend the terms of a preliminary permit for up to two years, for a total of five years, in order to allow a permittee sufficient time to develop and file a license application.
Currently, the licensing of hydropower projects can take longer than other forms of renewable energy, according to testimony given by former National Hydropower Association (NHA) president and Grant County Public Utility District official Andrew Munro…
The bill is similar to one co-sponsored by senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) that passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a voice vote in April 2011.
As a valued member of Colorado’s conservation community, we wanted to share some exciting news with you: Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC) and Colorado Conservation Voters (CCV) have decided to join together and merge their groups.
The idea of CEC and CCV merging has been talked about on and off for a number of years. However, 2012 presented unique opportunities and now is the perfect time to form a new organization combining the strengths of both groups –- CEC’s strong policy, advocacy and organizing work, with CCV’s focus on electing pro-environment candidates to public office and holding them accountable.
This is a tremendously exciting opportunity and will create a strong, unified and powerful voice to champion Colorado’s land, water, air and people. CEC and CCV have a long and successful history of collaborating on the key environmental issues of the day, working collectively at the State Capitol, and forging strategic partnerships, like:
– Playing a central role in establishing the strongest public health, drinking water and wildlife protections from oil and gas drilling in the country.
– Ensuring that more than three million acres of wilderness will stay forever wild. Setting a statewide renewable energy standard, then increasing it to 30% and making it one of the strongest in the nation.
– Passing more than 130 different conservation bills at the state legislature in the past six years on a host of environmental issues ranging from water efficiency to air quality to energy efficiency to transit.
Pete Maysmith, current Executive Director of Colorado Conservation Voters, will lead the new organization. Elise Jones, CEC’s Executive Director for over twelve years, will be leaving to run for political office.
Ground was officially and symbolically broken Friday along Montrose’s South Canal just below the outflow of the Gunnison Tunnel for a $22 million hydroelectric project…The project will actually consist of two sites separated by a little more than a mile. The sites were selected from five identified more than 20 years ago as having a gradient steep enough to efficiently generate power without requiring a dam. From those two sites, DMEA will produce more than 6,000 kilowatts of power, which converts to 27 million kilowatt hours of electricity — enough to power more than 3,000 homes.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Paul Shockley):
The decision, which Palisade Public Works Director Frank Watt said became effective March 14, also comes amid new national health discussion on proper community fluoridation levels. “My job is to make safe, clean drinking water for the town, and the addition of fluoride does not make the water safer or cleaner,” Watt said.
The health benefits — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in a 2010 study roughly 74 percent of the U.S. population drinks from fluorinated water systems — can be argued, Watt said. “Let’s say it’s better for your oral health,” Watt said. “There are a lot of other nutritional deficiencies out there for which I’m not adding anything to the water. An informed public can make decisions on their own health.”
Naturally occurring fluoride in Palisade’s water on average is half of recommended levels, Palisade town officials said in a news release. The decision to stop adding fluoride was made by Watt in consultation with the town’s board of trustees, the release said.
In other town business, the Town of Norwood Board of Trustees, in a joint meeting with the Norwood Water Commission (NWC) on May 1, agreed to support the NWC in entering an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) with Montrose County. The motion passed unanimously with four of the five trustees present. The Water Commission, also with a unanimous vote, also with four of its five members present, to enter into the IGA with Montrose County “to enable both parties to work together to secure a 50-year water supply plan,” according to the meeting minutes.
For more town information, agendas, town calendar, and other documents, visit http://www.norwoodtown.com, or stop by Town Hall on Naturita Street.
Here’s the drought update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Veva DeHeza):
April 2012 was the fourth warmest on record (records date back to 1895). While May has been slightly cooler, temperatures remain above average, exacerbating persistently dry conditions on the west slope and throughout the San Luis Valley. May precipitation along the Front Range corridor has improved. However, municipalities are reporting increased demand and expect to see storage levels drop if conditions persist. Evapotranspiration rates on the Eastern Plains resemble levels expected for mid-summer months. Many irrigators are using more water than normal for this time of year. All major basins have seen significant declines in snowpack. All continue to be below normal for the year. Extreme drought conditions have been introduced in the Yampa, Colorado and Gunnison River basins per the U.S. Drought Monitor. Governor Hickenlooper has expanded Drought Mitigation and Response Plan to include this region.
The last two months temperatures have been five degrees above average for most of Colorado, with some areas experiencing temperatures 6-10 degrees above normal.
The Colorado and Yampa River basins both have the lowest May 1st snowpack on record (45 year record), with 21% and 17% of average respectively. Both were also near record high this time last year.
Reservoir storage remains strong throughout most of the state, at 112% of average. The Gunnison River Bain has thehighest percent of average storage at 124%, while the Rio Grande has the lowest at 70% of average.
As of the May 22, 2012 US Drought Monitor, 96% of Colorado is experiencing some level of drought classification.D1, moderate drought, conditions remain in much of the southern Colorado, while the northern and central mountains are now classified as D2, severe, and D3 extreme drought conditions. Pockets of D2 also exist in the San Luis Valley and Crowley County.
The Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values range from -4 in the North Platte headwaters to -1.93 in the Big Thompson. The South Platte River Basin, which encompasses the Big Thompson sub-basin, is the only river basin that is predominantly weighted with reservoir storage this time of the year. With storage strong values appear slightly higher. All SWSI values throughout the state, utilizing the revised methodology, are negative.
Some drought indicators, in portions of the state, show conditions worse than 2002, such as the SWSI for Yampa/White and Arkansas basins, which indicates less surface water supply in 2012 than 2002.
La Niña conditions weakened to neutral. A full transition to El Niño is not expected this spring, but could occur later this summer. El Niño conditions would favor more moisture for the state.
The long term forecast for late summer (July-September) shows a tilt towards wet conditions covering most of southern Colorado, near-normal moisture over the northwestern portion of our state, and a slight tilt towards wetness in northeast Colorado.
Producers are already anticipating a low wheat harvest and rangeland conditions are poor. Dry land farmers are the most impacted at this time, although irrigators are reporting needing more water than normal for this time of year.
Fire danger remains above normal for the western portion of the state.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
In response to conditions, Gov, John Hickenlooper has ordered expanded activation of the statewide drought mitigation and response plan. Counties in the Yampa, White, Colorado and Gunnison basins could see severe drought-related economic impacts, and other sectors of the state’s economy may also be affected if current weather trends continue, Hickenlooper wrote in a May 21 memo the heads all state government agencies.
Based on Hickenlooper’s order, a drought task force will start to meet regularly and state departments will assign senior-level managers to coordinate the drought response. More information on Colorado’s drought plans are online at the Colorado Water Conservation Board website.
A May 21 update from the Colorado Water Availability Task Force outlines other effects of the warm, dry spring, including evapotranspiration rates on the eastern plains that are normally seen in mid-summer. That means the soil is losing moisture fast, upping demand from irrigators. Some drought indicators, including water supply and runoff forecasts, are worse than in 2002, the last significant drought in the state. Producers in the agricultural sector are already anticipating a low wheat harvest and rangeland conditions are poor. Dry land farmers are the most impacted at this time, although irrigators are reporting needing more water than normal for this time of year.
Here’s a release from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District (Diane Johnson):
Eagle River Water and Sanitation District customers are reminded that the normal Water Use Regulations apply year-round. The regulations govern how water is used, particularly outdoors, within Eagle River Water & Sanitation District’s service area.
“The district is responsible for protecting an adequate supply of water to its customers,” said General Manager Linn Brooks. “We promote efficient use of water at all times, but given this year’s potential water supply challenges, every customer can lessen the impact of the drought to our community by carefully considering their outdoor water needs.”
As part of the district’s general rules and regulations, the Water Use Regulations are rooted in Colorado water law and state that “water shall be used for beneficial purposes only and shall not be wasted.” This is primarily achieved by watering no more than three days per week and avoiding outdoor water use during hot and windy times of day, when water is lost to evaporation.
The complete Water Use Regulations are available at www.erwsd.org…
The district encourages customers to have their irrigation systems properly maintained because water is wasted if sprinkler heads or lines are broken or are spraying onto driveways or roads.
“We’re getting customers ready for whatever’s coming down the pike,” said Town of Norwood Administrator Patti Grafmyer. The water situation this year isn’t much different from 2002, the year of the Burn Canyon Fire and town water restrictions that eventually allowed only indoor water use. That summer, the town pulled water from the San Miguel River under its conditional water right, and trucked it up to the mesa, where customers could fill tanks to water trees and shrubs.
As for gardeners in this dry year, Grafmyer said, “Hopefully they will think about how and what they plant.”
With the low amount of snow this year, it’s a bit early to run commercial rafting trips on area rivers fed by runoff. But Snowmass-based Blazing Adventures is taking trips on the Colorado River, which has the best whitewater in the state right now, according to rafting guide Ben Whitaker. “Because it’s dam-controlled they can release the water,” Whitaker said. “They get it to a decent flow, and they can maintain that flow.”
Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction forecast office, said a strong low-pressure system that moved through Nevada and into northern Utah before pushing its way toward Idaho overnight Saturday brought the strong and sustained winds that plagued much of Colorado, including Routt County, on Saturday. Those winds also blew dust into the sky, significantly reducing visibility in cities like Steamboat Springs. Aleksa said smoke from wildfires in neighboring states could have contributed to the haze but that the primary cause is airborne dust.
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott N. Miller):
Diane Johnson, communications manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said people in her office have said Gore Creek through Vail seems to have peaked for the season. The same is true farther down the Colorado River system. Eagle County Public Works Director Tom Johnson has been told the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs peaked earlier in May. Rivers are running at a relative trickle for this time of year across Western Colorado. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey’s streamflow map showed just one local stream — Homestake Creek — running above its normal flow for May 25.
Streamflow is important for Eagle County, since there are only a few high-elevation reservoirs for use later in the season. That’s why water managers are keeping a close eye on streamflows.
Steamboat weather observer Art Judson said Thursday that he has recorded 0.62 inches of precipitation in May at his weather station between downtown and the ski area. That leaves a little less than a week to catch up to the average May precipitation of 2.08 inches. In a typical month of May, a little snow on Mount Werner translates into cold rain at lower elevations and hits the sweet spot for the grass hay that dominates the meadows of the Yampa Valley. This year is a little different.
“The soil temperatures have climbed to the point that the growth pattern is different this year,” Hagenbuch said. The hay is further along in its growth cycle than normal, and farmers and ranchers are scrambling to irrigate earlier than they typically would. Water is in the creeks and rivers now, but it won’t be for much longer.
If there’s a silver lining, Hagenbuch said, it’s that calving season was easy this spring and the fences didn’t need mending because of the scarcity of the snowpack. That gives hay growers more time to monitor their irrigation ditches…
He is wary that a little later in the summer, the return flows from hay fields that replenish the river in most seasons won’t restore enough water to the stream for each successive hay grower down the chain to get the water their fields need.