Drought news: Colorado Springs Utilities is helping out with water for fighting the #waldofire #CODrought

Rocky Mountain Area has moved to preparedness level 5 according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site: The EPA, et al., are hoping to chart out a new project roadmap


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Wrangling over cleanup of radioactive waste at one of Colorado’s worst environmental disasters grew so irksome this past spring that Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Environmental Protection Agency, Cotter Corp. and Cañon City residents have declared a timeout. The official purpose is to reset the whole process for dealing with Cotter’s former uranium mill near the Arkansas River. The EPA deployed a private facilitator to create a new “road map” for finally completing a Superfund cleanup started in 1984. But the “pause” in cleanup actions, which otherwise were supposed to be done in March, is failing to quell conflict.

Cañon City residents point to recent data — collected by Cotter and accepted by state regulators — that show uranium contamination in groundwater exceeding health standards. “My well has been contaminated for decades, and they have no plans to actively clean up the groundwater, which could be done,” said Sharyn Cunningham, 65, who runs Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste and whose family previously produced alfalfa on irrigated land.

And accusations fly alleging that decisions may already have been made to bury waste permanently in an impoundment pond at the mill site, rather than considering its removal. The citizens group contends that the impoundment is leaking. Cotter’s top official said in a recent interview that the company favors burying waste in the impoundment, capping it with clay and turning over the site to the federal government…

The “pause” declared by Hickenlooper “was needed so we could provide a clear road map for how all of the actions taking place as part of the cleanup fit together,” spokesman Eric Brown wrote in an e-mailed response to queries.
This was done partly “so the community would not worry that important cleanup work was being done without their input.”

Some monitoring and cleanup activites continue.

“Once we have a road map, we will lift the pause and the community will have a better sense for how each cleanup document and proposal fits with the larger cleanup efforts under all laws and programs,” Brown wrote.
Eventually, the CDPHE and Cotter will conduct an analysis of alternatives, including costs and environmental aspects of moving waste to off-site disposal locations, he said.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan and the Morgan County Quality Water District hammer out IGA


From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The agreements pave the way for an emergency tie-in between the city’s water system and that of Quality Water.

This would provide water to the city from Quality Water or to Quality Water from the city if there were an emergency.

The agreements also will allow the city to treat and deliver to Quality Water “a portion of Quality Water’s water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project operated by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District,” which are sometimes referred to as C-BT units. Quality Water would be responsible for paying the city for the treatment and delivery, according to the agreement.

“Our treatment plant operates off of a direct source” of water,” City Manager Jeff Wells said. “There are very minimal byproducts from what we do to clean the water.” Because the city and Quality Water share a pipeline, Wells said it makes sense to share use of the treatment plant, as well. Wells said that treating Quality Water’s water at the Fort Morgan plant will bring in $60,000 to $100,000 per year, but that it shouldn’t mean a big rate increase for Quality Water customers.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

Drought news: Get the latest fire news from Twitter


Twitter is a fantastic source for news. Here are a few of the Twitter trends to use to follow the fire news.

Update: Waldo Canyon Fire hashtag is now #waldofire.

Woodland Heights Fire (Estes Park): #woodlandheightsfire

Waldo Canyon Fire (Manitou Springs): #waldocanyonfire

Treasure Fire (Leadville): #treasurefire

Weber Fire (Mancos): #weberfire

State Line Fire (Cortez): #statelinefire

Little Sand Fire (Pagosa Springs): #littlesandfire

Springer Fire (Lake George): #springerfire

Here’s a report about the Weber Fire from Shane Benjamin writing for The Durango Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

The blaze was about three-quarters of a mile from crossing U.S. Highway 160 near Mancos Hill at 8 p.m. Saturday, Wilson said. “There’s certainly a good possibility” the fire will cross the highway and disrupt transportation and movement of fire resources between Durango and Cortez, she said.

Firefighters spent the day on the defensive protecting homes. They said the blaze was zero percent contained Saturday night.

While the town of Mancos was not immediately threatened, it was placed on a pre-evacuation notice as a precaution.

Here’s a report about the Weber Fire from Kimberly Benedict writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management response teams, La Plata County Emergency Management, Pine River Emergency Response, Colorado State Patrol and Hot Shot crews from various locations all descended on the Mancos Valley Friday and Saturday to battle the fast-moving blaze.

Fire continued to spread Saturday, with active blazes across Weber Canyon and East Canyon. Mandatory evacuations were issued to 110 homes in the area, with many other residents being told to prepare to leave if the situation worsens.

Firefighting crews, with air support from helicopters, air tankers and slurry bombers, were fighting valiantly to save homes in the Elk Springs Ranch subdivision on the top of Mancos Hill Saturday afternoon as well as structures in Weber Canyon, south of Mancos, where the fire originated.

“We have brought a lot of resources in here,” said Incident Commander Craig Goodell, fire mitigation and education specialist with the Forest Service. “We have half of the large air tanker fleet in the nation working this fire. This is a high priority.”[…]

“It will get bigger in the next several days,” he said. “We will continue to see it grow and we are just going to try and keep it to the east of Weber Canyon, to the south of U.S. Highway 160 and to the west of Cherry Creek Road. If we can do that in the next few days, we will consider it a success.”

Information on the fire is available at 970-564-4999 and at www.inciweb.org.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

As the High Park Fire exploded to 81,190 acres Saturday, becoming the second-largest wildfire in Colorado’s recorded history, firefighters made progress in protecting unburned areas in Rist and Redstone canyons despite extremely dry and hot conditions.

That progress came a day after a spot fire traveled through Glacier View Meadows’ 12th filing on Friday, burning an unknown number of homes.

Larimer County under-Sheriff Bill Nelson told evacuees Saturday evening that the spot fire did not spread during the day and filings 9, 10 and 11 remained unburned. And, he said, the High Park Fire did not claim any more homes on Saturday.

From The Denver Post (Jeremy P. Meyer) via the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

On the hottest day of the year so far, wildfires erupted throughout Colorado on Saturday, producing fast-moving blazes that burned down homes in Estes Park, forced evacuations in Colorado Springs and shut down state highways in southern Colorado. Firefighting officials are girding for more of the same as a hot and dry weather pattern probably won’t lift until midweek…

Fire managers use the “Haines Index” that looks at temperatures and moisture content to determine the fire potential on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the worst possible conditions for large fire growth. Saturday was a “super 6.” Today is expected to be the same, Segin said. “We have got a couple of critical fire days ahead,” he said. “We are going to see fire activity (today) much like (Saturday). It is going to be very active. We haven’t had a fire season this bad since certainly 2002.”

Eight large-scale fires were burning in Colorado on Saturday, including the large High Park fire in Larimer County that grew to 81,190 acres after a large flareup on Friday.

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Colorado Springs residents got a close-up view of a wildfire on Saturday when a new blaze sent a plume of smoke high into the sky west of the Garden of the Gods. The wildland blaze started in the area near Waldo Canyon just after noon and quickly spread across more than 2,000 acres. It was zero percent contained late Saturday…

Evacuations were ordered on the west side of Colorado Springs and in the towns of Cascade, Ute Pass and Manitou Springs. Hundreds of other residents were under voluntary evacuation orders and have been packing up. Colorado Springs police cruisers rolled down streets in some neighborhoods, issuing the order to leave through a loudspeaker. “Colorado Springs Police Department,” an officer said, according to Chieftain news partner Channel 13 News. “This is a mandatory evacuation notice. Evacuate now.”

From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

[Governor Hickenlooper] announced three executive orders Friday declaring the three areas a disaster and allocating money for firefighting efforts. The High Park fire will get $5 million under the order. That’s in addition to a previous order that authorized $20 million in aid.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold/Jakob Rodgers):

“I’m really darn scared and really sad. We built this house 18 years ago,” said Dianna Wagner, helpless as the flames crept over the nearby ridge and ever closer to her home. Fire crews were furiously cutting trees around her land while her family was taking photos of the valuables they couldn’t get out. By late Saturday afternoon, mandatory evacuation orders were given. So it went for residents in the fire’s path, from the neighborhoods north of U.S. Highway 24 in Cascade to the west side of Colorado Springs. The fire spread into a dangerous threat so quickly, Saturday afternoon plans were abruptly canceled as residents hosed down houses and packed their things.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Winter Park Ranch Water and Sanitation District will implement water use restrictions starting July 1 by limiting outdoor watering.

Minimizing lawn watering is the biggest step toward saving water, said Kirk Klanke, water district manager.

“Grass needs far less water than what people put on it,” he said. “This is the worst year I’ve seen to date. I really fear for what is going to happen to the river once we get in the warm months.”

Recommendation: Leave the grass 3 inches tall so that it doesn’t burn and need more water. Plus, it can provide shade, and can survive on less water.

Restriction: Watering will be allowed only on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m.

Bruce Hutchins, manager of Grand County Water and Sanitation District 1, is asking for a voluntary reduction of water use in his district to outdoor watering just three days per week from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m..

“The more users cut back on water use the more water is left in the stream,” he said.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A worst-case fire scenario is unfolding in Colorado. In addition to the 80,000-acre High Park Fire, several new starts are growing rapidly and may stretch firefighting resources across the state.