Dust Bowl: ‘…greatest man-made ecological disaster in U.S. history’ — Ken Burns

Click here to watch the trailer from Ken Burns new production The Dust Bowl, from the Huffington Post.

More education coverage here.

The Colorado River District is on board with the Chatfield Reallocation Project

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Here’s a letter from Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River Water Conservancy District, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Thanks to Mark Shively, Douglas County Water Authority, for sending it along in email.):

On behalf of the Colorado River Water Conservation District (River District), I am writing to express the District’s support for the proposed Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project as described in the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement (FR/EIS) for the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Study recently released for public comment.

The River District is the principal water policy and planning agency for the Colorado River Basin within the State of Colorado. The District is a public water policy agency chartered by the Colorado General Assembly in 1937 to be “the appropriate agency for the conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River and its principal tributaries in Colorado.” The River District provides legal, technical, and political representation regarding Colorado River issues for our constituents.

The River District has actively monitored the development of the Chatfield Reallocation Project since its inception. We believe this is a much needed and appropriate water supply opportunity for Colorado water providers.

The U.S. ACOE determined that Chatfield Reservoir can safely store an additional 20,600 acre feet of water without jeopardizing the reservoir’s original and authorized flood control purposes. This water is critically needed by various Colorado Front Range water providers. This reallocated storage space will allow several communities in the southern Denver metro area to more efficiently and effectively use existing water supplies and will reduce their current over-reliance on non-renewable groundwater supplies.

With this letter, the River District joins Colorado’s Congressional delegation, the Colorado General Assembly, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and others in support of this commonsense solution to additional water storage for consumptive use in Colorado. We support the Tentatively Recommended Plan in the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement on the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project and request that our letter be included in the record of public comments on this draft FR/EIS.

Additionally, we respectfully encourage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete its final review of the project and issue a Record of Decision in a timely manner so that requisite mitigation work can begin and additional consumptive use water can be stored in Chatfield Reservoir.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP): The Corps of Engineers delays supplemental draft EIS until the fall of 2013

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Here’s a release from Save The Pourdre/Poudre Waterkeeper (Gary Wockner):

On Friday, July 20, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed Save The Poudre that the next draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) and its Glade Reservoir would not be released to the public for at least another year — “Fall of 2013.” The information came in a letter from the Corps that was written to Governor Hickenlooper. The letter cites “concerns regarding cumulative impacts to the Cache la Poudre River.” The letter goes on to say, “The size of the proposals, types of analysis, and the amount of interest they have generated has resulted in substantial reviews.”

“This is great news for the Poudre River,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Poudre. “This river-destroying scheme has now been delayed for 5 years with no end in sight.”

Save the Poudre has been relentlessly bird-dogging NISP. Over the last 18 months, Save the Poudre has sent the Corp 17 letters, reports, and documents demonstrating the need for more analysis in the NISP EIS, some of that specifically regarding cumulative impacts of NISP with other proposed projects in the basin.

While the next draft of the EIS may be released in the Fall of 2013, NISP has a vast array of hurdles to jump after that. For example:
1. The next draft of the EIS (called the “Supplement Draft” EIS) allows for another public comment period.
2. After that public comment period, the Corps must again consider those comments and re-analyze any significant concerns.
3. After that analysis, the Corps will release a “Final” EIS, which also allows for yet another public comment period and re-analysis of significant concerns.
4. Then NISP must apply for and receive several additional state and federal permits, which may have significant analysis involved, including from the State of Colorado Water Quality Control Division and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
5. Assuming all of those hurdles can be jumped, the Corps will then issue a “Record of Decision” (ROD).
6. After the ROD is released, then anyone can formally challenge the project in court, which could take years to resolve.

As one example of a similar process, the Animas-La Plata dam/reservoir project in southwest Colorado was recently completed after 40 years of permitting and court challenges. As another example, the “Two Forks” dam and reservoir proposal west of Denver on the South Platte River was never completed because it was denied by another federal agency because the project would have irrevocably harmed the river as opposed to alternatives such as increasing water conservation in the Denver metro area.

At a recent public meeting (as reported in Windsor Now), the spokesperson for NISP said he expected NISP to be completed in the year 2022, 10 years from now.

“Ten years is extreme optimism,” responded Gary Wockner. “Our mission is to protect and restore the Poudre River and NISP violates our mission. NISP participants need to invest in alternatives now — such as the “Healthy Rivers Alternative” which focuses on water conservation and efficiency — rather than throwing away more ratepayers’ money on NISP.”

More coverage from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Werner said a recent decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to delay issuing its environmental impact statement for at least another year — sometime in fall 2013 — is not a sign the project is in trouble.
“We are at the mercy of the process, we’ve never been tied to a deadline,” Werner said The Army Corps delivered its latest assessment in a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who wanted to know when the impact statement would be completed. That’s a sign that Hickenlooper and the cities and towns that would benefit from NISP want the project done…

…a comprehensive review of NISP was expected to attract a similar review by the Corps, Werner said. “We’ve never been held to a hard and fast deadline,” he said. “What I am hearing from the 15 communities and the governor, is ‘Hey, let’s get this thing done.’ “

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.