Here’s the latest installment in The Pueblo Chieftain’s Colorado Water 2012 series, written by SeEtta Moss. Here’s an excerpt:
In many locations, the amount of water needed to support specified bird species can be quantified. But it is necessary to conduct a site-specific study that is targeted to either high-priority bird species or those that are representative of a guild of birds. Fortunately, birds consume very little of the water and most of the water needed for them is for evaporative or transit loss. Some species of birds, primarily those that migrate into or through Colorado, could avoid those parts of Colorado if there is insufficient water to meet their needs. That would have impacts on both the resident and non-resident bird watchers and would likely result in significant economic impacts to those areas of the state where the birds and bird watchers are absent.
The economic impact of bird watching in Colorado is significant. The 2006 report of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation estimated there were 737,000 bird watchers (only those watching wildlife away from home). Bird watchers spent well over $250 million in Colorado on trip-related expenses during 2006.
The ruling from Judge John N. McMullen dismissed 10 of the environmental, health and safety claims brought against the Colorado Department of Public Heath and Environment concerning the issuance of the materials license. It did, however, determine that the CDPHE failed to offer the opportunity to the public to request a public hearing before it issued the environmental report and draft license for the project to Canadian company Energy Fuels, Inc. The ruling mandates that that such hearing take place.
The claims were first filed in Denver’s district court in February 2011 by Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance; the Towns of Telluride and Ophir later joined the suit. Opponents challenged the CDPHE’s decision to issue the license on the basis that it violated certain federal Atomic Energy Act rules by not allowing required vetting opportunities by the public, among other things.
Energy Fuels and the CDPHE, meanwhile, countered that they performed a rigorous and exhaustive review process, went through all the steps required of them and included the public.
The case has been in court for months now, with final responses filed late this winter.
“It’s not 100 percent of what we wanted, but it’s 95 percent of what we wanted,” said Curtis Moore, director of communications and legal affairs for Energy Fuels. “So we’ll keep moving forward.”
Though nothing has been scheduled, the hearing must be held by the CDPHE within 75 days of July 5. During the hearings, both sides will be given time to present their arguments and even cross examine each other.
As of late this week, SMA project coordinator Jennifer Thurston said the group’s lawyers were reviewing the 20-page court ruling. However, she said the SMA is looking forward to the hearings.
The event, known as “Protect Colorado Water,” is being launched by Be the Change, a grassroots political group with an environmental arm. The initiatives were written by Phil Doe, Be the Change environmental director, and Richard Hamilton, a long-time state environmental and conservation lobbyist.The website for Protect Colorado Water identifies Doe as a former environmental compliance officer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation…
Hamilton told the Colorado Statesman that state law already is explicit that the public owns water in the state. The initiatives would add teeth the citizens’ ability to demand enforcement. Initiative 3 would create the Colorado Public Trust Doctrine. It would make the water of streams public property and instruct the state to protect the public’s rights. Also, it would make the public’s rights superior to contracts or property law.
More 2012 Colorado November Election coverage here.
Click here for race results from The Pueblo Chieftain.
More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Isaac Schmidt of Arizona was all smiles as he sported a pink helmet and paddled his Andy Warhol-inspired “God Bless America” canoe with alternating pink and turquoise stripes. Dave Curran, 54, of Fruita gave a nod to the race’s “Oldest and Boldest” theme by wearing a 1973 helmet and an equally antique French-made life vest as he paddled a 1975 version of a kayak…
The river was running at 400 cubic feet per second Saturday, when it is usually flowing at about 2,000 cfs this time of year.