Drought news: Low streamflow below Pueblo Dam raises concern for the fishery #CODrought

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Releases of native water from the dam dropped to minimal levels earlier this week as drought continues to strain water resources on the Arkansas River. Flows in the river have stayed above the level needed to keep fish alive because of releases from storage accounts, however. “We’re seeing a lot of fry (young fish) in the river,” said Dan Prenzlow, regional manager for wildlife with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We’re monitoring the temperature below the dam.”

While the state has some water in storage at Lake Pueblo, much of it has been exchanged upstream to assist in keeping recreation flows at acceptable levels between Twin Lakes and Lake Pueblo. If conditions worsen, there may be voluntary or even mandatory restrictions on fishing, Prenzlow said…

Summer river levels through Pueblo have not reached the low points seen in 2002, but are at the lowest point since then…

While native flows in the river were cut out by diversions to Bessemer Ditch, the state fish hatchery and the Pueblo Board of Water Works, there was water in the river because some ditch companies were releasing water from storage accounts.

Meawhile, the Town of Gardner has imposed “indoor uses” only water restrictions as of July 1. Here’s a report from Carol Dunn writing for the Huerfano World Journal. From the article:

The letter, from the County Commissioners and signed by John Galusha, informed water customers that they are on “indoor use only” water restrictions as of July 1, 2012. And indoor use means just that: no watering of gardens, lawns or livestock is permitted using water delivered through Gardner Water & Sanitation Department meters. The letter states that if water users violate the restriction, their meter will be disconnected. The letter was prompted by a complicated water situation in Gardner. The town does not have an adjudicated source of municipal water, so it uses wells for this purpose. Unfortunately, those wells are junior water rights and, by the letter of Colorado Water Law, are not a legal use of water.

Gardner area residents breathed a collective sigh of relief in 2009 when a Rule 14 well augmentation plan was filed by the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District Water Activity Enterprise. The plan brought the out-of-priority use of the wells into compliance using substitute water leased on the Martin Ditch. However, there are a few snags in the plan. The plan is temporary until a permanent source of water can be purchased and an official water court case filed. The current augmentation water is only leased. The enterprise does not own a reservoir to store the water when it is in priority. As Dawson puts it, “We would not have this problem if we had augmentation water in storage that we could release.”

Further, the water rights being leased, #4 and #11, are not high enough in priority this year to withstand the short water conditions caused by the drought. When the water rights go out of priority, then the plan is not in compliance, and the wells used to provide water to Gardner are no longer legal. The Colorado State Water Engineer’s Office could shut down the wells at that point, but it has chosen not to do so at this time, allowing restricted use.

From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Lisa Collacott):

Residents of Palmer Lake and anyone who has driven by the lake knows there is not much left of the lake. The reason for the lack of water in the lake is plain and simple: drought. “We are having the hottest summer on record since 1895, according to CNN,” said Michael Maddox, water trustee for the town of Palmer Lake.

CNN has reported that two-thirds of the United States is experiencing the worst drought in a half-century. Approximately 61 percent of land in the lower 48 states has been experiencing drought conditions, with 1,300 counties across the nation being declared drought disaster zones. Colorado State University climatologists have reported that 98 percent of the state is facing drought conditions.

From Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is announcing a public fish salvage at Barr Lake State Park beginning Monday, July 23. Due to high irrigation demand created by severe drought, the water level in Barr Lake will be drained to a conservation level of 442 acre feet to meet the needs of its intended agricultural use.

The public salvage is being announced in order to optimize use of the fishery resource as outlined:

–A valid Colorado fishing license is required in accordance with state statutes.

–A state parks pass is required ($7 Daily Pass or $70 Annual Pass).

–All legal fishing methods are allowed.

–Bag, possession and size limits are suspended for Barr Lake only until this emergency public salvage is lifted.

The end date of the public salvage effort will be announced by Park Manager Michelle Seubert or Area Wildlife Manager Liza Hunholz.

2012 Colorado November election: The Colorado Water Congress is stepping up its opposition to Initiatives 3 and 45

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

“We’re opposed to them,” said Dan Pfeiffer, director of regional government affairs for Xcel Energy Inc., the state’s largest utility. “They would basically remove our water rights and could raise our costs if we can’t use our water [to generate electricity].”

Xcel is a member of the Colorado Water Congress, whose 350 members include river conservancy districts, environmental groups, cities and towns, water districts, agriculture and other business.

More coverage from John Stroud writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC), whose members include Garfield, Mesa, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Routt counties, voted unanimously to support the River District in its previously stated opposition to Initiatives 3 and 45. Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, who chairs the AGNC board, said the measures would have “massive negative impacts” throughout Colorado. They are also too punitive and would likely result in decades of litigation, he said. “It would be difficult for anyone to understand the consequences and long-term damage to the economic well-being of Colorado,” Samson said in a press release sent out Thursday by AGNC, which has its offices in Rifle…

Routt County Commissioner and AGNC Vice Chairman Doug Monger stated, “All Coloradans must be overprotective of their water rights and cast suspicion on any attempt to throw the true and tested historic Colorado water law into the trash.”

More Initiatives 3 and 45 coverage here.

Cañon City: Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site de-commissioning roadmap unveiled

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

About 130 people attended a public meeting Thursday evening to weigh-in on the plan. The audience was reassured by Dr. Chris Urbina, Colorado Department of Health executive director, that the cleanup is, “a long-term commitment.”[…]

Cotter Corp’s decision to close leaves, “Lots of problems to deal with but a whole lot has been accomplished,” said Steve Tarlton, radioactive program manager for the state. The remaining cleanup work — most notably onsite ground water and soil cleanup — must satisfy three different authorities including the 1988 court-ordered remedial action plan, Cotter’s state Radioactive Materials License and the federal Environmental Protection Agency Superfund program…

The process of decommissioning the mill will start with outlining a conceptual site model consisting of separate operable units that need to be cleaned up. Currently, operable unit 1 is defined as the mill site and the adjacent Shadow Hills Golf Course while operable unit 2 is the portion of the Lincoln Park neighborhood just north of the mill where contaminated groundwater exists…

Once site characterization is complete, a feasibility study will be done to outline a complete remedial action plan and possible alternatives. Following that, state and EPA officials will select a preferred remedy for cleanup called a record of decision.

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