2011 Colorado River Cleanup Day August 11 #CORiver


Click here for all the inside skinny for the project.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Judge rules that the EPA stepped on state authority when promulgating waste rules for coal mines


From the Associated Press (John Raby) via The Denver Post:

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton in Washington ruled that the EPA infringed on the authority given to state regulators by federal clean- water and surface-mining laws. A coal mining industry coalition sued the EPA and Administrator Lisa Jackson, and the lawsuit was joined by West Virginia and Kentucky.

The ruling represents the latest setback to the Obama administration’s attempts to crack down on mountaintop removal coal mining.

Last year, the EPA revised standards issued in April 2010 by tightening guidelines on the practice of dumping waste from surface mine blasting into Appalachian valley waterways. Critics say that practice destroys the environment. The mining industry defends it as an efficient way to produce cheap power and employ thousands in well-paying jobs.

The EPA had written that the fundamental premise of its new guidelines was that “no discharge of dredged or fill material may be permitted” under any of three conditions: if the nation’s waters would be “significantly degraded”; if it causes or contributes to violations of a state’s water quality standard; or “if a practicable alternative exists that is less damaging to the aquatic environment.”

The National Mining Association, one of the plaintiffs, denounced the guidelines as a “jobs destroyer” and hailed Walton’s decision as a way to get miners back to work “by allowing the state permitting agencies to do their jobs.”

Meanwhile, it’s the forty third anniversary of the Time Magazine article that became a call to arms for conservationists. The EPA grew out of the legislation from that time. Here’s a the August 1, 1969 article from Time. Here’s an excerpt:

Cleveland’s great industries have lately made efforts to dump fewer noxious effluents into the Cuyahoga. If their record is still not good, the city’s has been far worse. Whenever it rains hard, the archaic sanitary storm system floods the sewer mains, sending untreated household wastes into the river. Sometimes the old mains break, as recently happened on the Big Creek interceptor line. Each day for the past month, 25 million gallons of raw sewage have cascaded from a ruptured pipe, spilling a gray-green torrent into the Cuyahoga and thence into Lake Erie.

Some lake! Industrial wastes from Detroit’s auto companies, Toledo’s steel mills and the paper plants of Erie, Pa., have helped turn Lake Erie into a gigantic cesspool. Of 62 beaches along its U.S. shores, only three are rated completely safe for swimming. Even wading is unpleasant; as many as 30,000 sludge worms carpet each square yard of lake bottom.

Each day, Detroit, Cleveland and 120 other municipalities fill Erie with 1.5 billion gallons of inadequately treated wastes, including nitrates and phosphates. These chemicals act as fertilizer for growths of algae that suck oxygen from the lower depths and rise to the surface as odoriferous green scum. Commercial and game fish—blue pike, whitefish, sturgeon, northern pike—have nearly vanished, yielding the waters to trash fish that need less oxygen. Weeds proliferate, turning water frontage into swamp. In short, Lake Erie is in danger of dying by suffocation…

Like Apple Pie. “We have some of the lowest sewer tax rates in the country,” says Stefanski. “I figured we’d double the rates to amortize our bonds.” To persuade the people to pay, Stefanski enlisted newspaper support, lined up citizen groups and got 33 suburban governments to endorse the plan. “It became like apple pie and motherhood,” he recalls. “No one could be against clean water.” Last fall Clevelanders approved the bond issue by a vote of 2 to 1, giving it more “yes” votes than any other proposal on the ballot. In five years, Cleveland should have the best sewage system in the U.S., one capable of handling even industrial wastes.

The accomplishment, huge as it is, only fixes the price of optimism. Unfortunately, water pollution knows no political boundaries. The Cuyahoga can be cleaned up in Cleveland, but as long as other cities keep dumping wastes upriver, it will remain exactly what it is today—an open sewer filling Lake Erie with scummy wavelets, sullen reminders that even a great lake can die.

More water pollution coverage here.

Precipitation news: July is likely Boulder’s third wettest on record


Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Urban Drainage precipitation map for the Boulder area for the last 30 days.

From the Longmont Times-Call:

Matt Kelsch, a meteorologist at the University Corp. for Atmospheric Research, said Boulder, as of Monday, had received 4.99 inches of rain this month. The record was set in July 1919 with 7.46 inches, followed by the second-wettest July in 1965, with 5.2 inches. The thunderstorms also cooled off the city enough to keep this July from breaking heat records — unlike Denver, which is expected to close out its hottest month ever recorded.

Pueblo County (Commissioner Jeff Chostner) rattles its sabers over Colorado Springs’ stormwater policies


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“When I looked at Fountain Creek this morning, I thought, ‘Here we are about to be hit by another flood, possibly this week, and they are doing nothing,’ ” Chostner said. “We need to see a good outline of next year’s (Colorado Springs) city budget that has $15 million directed toward stormwater funding.” When commissioners approved the 1041 permit for SDS in 2009, Colorado Springs had a stormwater enterprise in place. Council voted to end the enterprise in late 2009 after voters approved a ballot issue promoted by Doug Bruce, who called the stormwater fee a “rain tax.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A Chieftain editorial Monday asked Pueblo County commissioners to insist on a surcharge to Colorado Springs water rates on water provided by the Southern Delivery System that would raise $18 million a year to address the city’s $500 million in stormwater needs. Commissioners have some control through the county’s 1041 land-use regulations.

There are practical, but not insurmountable, hurdles to implementing a stormwater fee through water bills.
Colorado Springs Utilities policies, set by the Colorado Springs City Council, do not allow for a surcharge for stormwater fees. Fees for water service have to directly affect the water system, said spokesman Steve Berry.
“Utilities would not be able to do what the editorial suggested,” he said. “Stormwater would have to be a separate service, which we are open to if our customers and board directed us to do so.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

The Grand County Commissioners are pondering the Windy Gap Firming Project 1041 permit this week


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The Windy Gap Project consists of a diversion dam on the Colorado River, a 445-acre-foot reservoir, a pumping plant, and a six-mile pipeline to Lake Granby. Windy Gap water is pumped and stored in Lake Granby before it is delivered to water users via the Colorado-Big Thompson Project’s East Slope distribution system…

“The Upper Colorado River is under severe stress from multiple impacts, from drought to diversions,” said Kirk Klancke, president of Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters chapter. “This is the last best opportunity for Grand County officials to push for stronger protections to ensure that the Windy Gap project doesn’t destroy the health of our rivers.”[…]

The Grand County Commissioners are currently accepting comments and have scheduled a two-day hearing in Hot Sulphur Springs that will include public testimony on August 1-2…

State studies show that the Upper Colorado below Windy Gap Reservoir has suffered a sharp decline since the construction of the reservoir , including an almost total loss of once-plentiful stoneflies and mottled sculpin — key aquatic species that are an important link in the food chain for trout and other fish. The studies point to the reservoir’s contribution of silt combined with a lack of healthy flows, which has caused a spike in water temperatures, algae, sediment and other negative impacts on river and fishery health.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.