Runoff from wildfire areas causes increased water treatment concerns, ‘blackwater rafting?’ #CODrought

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From The Denver Post (Yesenia Robles):

“Fortunately we weren’t using Poudre water anyway when the fires started, so our customers haven’t noticed any differences,” [Donna Brosemer] said. “Our main concern is we want to keep as much as we can out of that water because we can’t continue to use the Horsetooth water indefinitely.”

While the ashy Poudre water can’t be used for drinking right now, some of it is being used by farmers, Brosemer said. “It can ultimately become a problem for them too because if there’s too much ash it can clog up their systems,” Brosemer said. “But they don’t have the same complications we do with the drinking water system.”

From The Denver Post (Electa Draper):

A black sludge now coats many river shores once sparkling with white, tan or pink sands. A canyon once heavily scented by pines smells like a smoky campfire. Many miles of this 126-mile-long river now evoke its namesake, the gunpowder buried by French trappers along its banks in the 1820s.

People now enjoy “blackwater rafting,” observed homeowner Mike Smith, whose deck juts over the Poudre.

More water treatment coverage here.

Rio Grande Basin Roundtable meeting recap: Streamflow is not recovering #CODrought

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten told members of the Valley-wide water group, the Rio Grande Roundtable, this week that in a distressing pattern, streams from Conejos to Saguache were running well below average this year.

He said streams and rivers peaked early on and then dropped off significantly. For example, the Rio Grande at Del Norte was only running about 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) the first part of July, when it usually runs 1,500 cfs at that time of year.

Saguache Creek experienced hardly any peak at all this year and peaked about a month earlier than normal. The average peak on Saguache Creek is 200 cfs. This year it peaked at 80 cfs, Cotten said.

Sangre de Cristo had one good peak occurring a month earlier than normal and then dropped off significantly, according to Cotten who said the creek was down to about 100 cfs before the recent rains came and kicked it back up a bit.

Culebra Creek is also running significantly below the long-term average.

On the Conejos River near Mogote early run-off caused the river to peak a month earlier than normal and then drop off significantly, Cotten said…

He added that in terms of Allen Davey’s longitudinal study of the unconfined aquifer storage, this year is shaping up to provide a new low. Last year the study recorded the lowest point in the unconfined aquifer since the study began in 1976…

He said he knew of at least one farmer whose wells had gone dry, so he was done farming for the year.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Cañon City: Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site ‘path forward’ public meeting Thursday

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The community has an opportunity to meet and discuss the proposed path forward for Cotter Corp., at a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Abbey. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Cotter have been working to develop a road map for laying out the most comprehensive and efficient path forward for completing the remediation of the Cotter site…

A public comment period will be open until Aug. 19. The draft document will be available on the CDPHE website, http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/cotter/index.htm, Monday.

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

The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable approves conservation easement request for the Haywood Ranch

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From the Del Norte Prospector (Stan Moyer):

More than 37 percent would be put up by a combination of $25,000 from the local Roundtable and $400,000 from the CWCB’s Water Supply Reserve Account (WSRA).

Focusing on the 400-acre Haywood Ranch, it was noted that the owners “contribute through a charitable portion of the value of of their conservation easement — in this project, an estimated value of $400,000.

“The land and water are available for the long term, and the environmental and recreational water benefits are sustained in perpetuity,” according to the application submitted by the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT). Nancy Butler is executive director of the Del Norte-based organization…

The potential catch in the creation of the conservation easement is that the Roundtable proposal for funding is contingent on receipt of about $300,000 in funding coming from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), to meet the total estimated purchase costs of $1.125 million…

Among theses benefits are the “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently produced habitat maps that show the Haywood Ranch as being within a zone of irreplaceable habitat,” including quite likely the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and the Yellow Billed Cuckoo, which are in the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD)’s effort to create a “Habitat Conservation Plan.”

The application emphatically details the importance of the success of the easement in protecting wildlife:

The project parcel submitted is within the Rio Grande’s floodplain and includes approximately 2/10 of a mile of the river, 160 acres of important wetlands and the No.1 senior water right on the river that sustains them. Riparian areas and wetlands along the river corridor provide highly important habitat for Haywood Ranch wins Roundtable nodall the area’s wildlife and several endangered species.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: 620 cfs in the Gunnison River through Black Canyon #CODrought

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From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Even with the last couple release increases at Crystal, flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage are still below the 900 cfs target. Therefore releases at Crystal Dam will be increased by another 50 cfs today, July 13th. Hopefully with some help from rainfall over the weekend, this will be enough to push flows back up to the target level. This operation should cause flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon to increase to about 620 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Telluride water system update: Raw water pipeline construction has started

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From The Telluride Watch (Gus Jarvis):

Telluride Town Attorney Kevin Geiger was happy to report last week that work on the raw water pipeline near the Bridal Veil Hydroelectric Power Plant has commenced, and once completed it will be the final piece of pipeline infrastructure needed to transport fresh water from Blue Lake, above Bridal Veil Falls, down to the two-acre site below the falls where the Pandora Water Treatment Facility will be located.

Crews will install a new horizontal water pipeline along with new trestles about 250 feet away from the Bridal Veil plant and then install vertical pipe that will transport the water to the bottom of a cliff. At that point, the line will be connected to a raw water pipeline that was installed last summer, just below Black Bear Pass Road, that runs to the water treatment facility site.

While the water pipeline infrastructure inches toward completion, Geiger said construction of the actual water treatment plant will start soon, as well.

“Most of the infrastructure is in from Blue Lake to the power house,” Geiger said. “A little segment, which will be difficult and challenging, needs to be completed and then actual construction of the water treatment plant needs to be completed. We think we will be breaking ground on that later this summer or fall.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Fort Collins Weather Station: 45,750 days of weather reports

Drought news: ‘The scary part is, where’s all this water coming from next year?’ — Bill Markham #CODrought

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan. (Bobby Magill):

With the season’s low humidity and high winds, it’s been difficult just to get water on crops, said Minerva Lee, a Berthoud landowner who sits on the Larimer County Agricultural Advisory Board.

“I have some corn under a center pivot that is maybe knee high, but it just can’t grow because we just can’t get it wet enough,” she said. “According to the center pivot, you’re putting on an inch, but that inch isn’t getting down to the plant.”

The heat curled the leaves on the corn, and recent rain and cooler temperatures didn’t heal them, she said.

The drought has been so damaging to crops across both Colorado and the entire country that last week the federal government declared Larimer County and more than 1,000 other counties in 26 states a massive natural disaster area…

“The scary part is, where’s all this water coming from next year?” Markham said…

Nolan Doesken looks at Northern Coloardo’s long history of years swinging between wet and dry to determine how optimistic he is about the future of the 2012 drought.

There’s reason to be optimistic: You’ll be hard pressed to find an extremely dry year followed by another extremely dry year, said Doesken, the Colorado state climatologist.

“We’re fortunate in that there historically tends to be, if you’ve had a dry year, the chances are the next year (is) likely to be wetter,” he said.

So, 2011 was very wet and 2012 was very dry, so chances are 2013 will be wetter than this year…

Doesken said long-term climate prediction is still “tenuous,” and that means you can’t bank on statistics or changes in ocean temperatures when betting on the future of this year’s drought. In other words, you can’t be certain the drought will go away anytime soon. There’s always a chance it could get worse…

“When our corn burns up and we’re out of water, it’s kind of like this: You get up some morning, you walk outside and you look up in the air, look around the sky and say, good Lord, we did the best we could with what we had,” Markham said.

Denver District Court Judge Christina Habas dismisses Powertech’s challenge to Colorado’s in situ mining rules

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

In its lawsuit against the state, Powertech Uranium Corp. claimed that the Colorado exceeded its legal authority and that adoption of the rules was arbitrary and capricious.

By dismissing the lawsuit, the court also ensured that local communities will have a chance to be involved in the permitting of uranium mines.

“The Colorado uranium mining industry is wrong to keep fighting water quality protections and better public involvement,” said Western Mining Action Project attorney Jeff Parsons, who represented local communities that intervened on the side of the State in defending the rules against the Powertech lawsuit.

“The people of Colorado have a right to be heard and will not accept mining projects that cannot protect the water,” he said.

The lawsuit challenged a list of specific rules, each designed to ensure ground water protection as well as require public and local government involvement in the mine permit process. The rules were crafted over a two-year process and were supported by a diverse range of groups, including Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction (C.A.R.D.), Environment Colorado and other conservation groups statewide, Denver Water, multiple local governments and affected communities.