Aspen: Locals form group to promote the proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric generation plant

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From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

The “Backyard Energy Campaign” is set to kick off Monday with a press conference at the Marolt Barn at 2 p.m. The group is pushing for a “yes” vote on the recently approved ballot question asking voters if they want the city to continue pursuing the project, which would use water from Castle and Maroon creeks to generate hydropower.

Longtime Aspenite Jim Markalunas, who ran the city’s historic Castle Creek hydropower plant before it shutdown in the late 1950s, is chair of the committee. Ruthie Brown, a member of Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers and Streams Board whose family pioneered hydropower in the region, is a co-chair, along with climate change expert Randy Udall. Aspen Skiing Co. environmental sustainability vice president Auden Schendler also has signed on in support, according to a press release the group issued Thursday.

“The committee message is clear: Aspen has the opportunity to stop burning 6 million pounds of dirty coal and instead can produce clean, renewable energy in our own backyard while ensuring healthy stream flows,” the group’s statement says, referring to the amount of coal-fired power currently purchased by Aspen the city claims the hydro project would supplant.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Drought news: Eagle River Water and Sanitation is going to use Vali Resorts snow-making infrastructure to supplement streamflow in Gore Creek

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From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

In the agreement signed Aug. 23, the Water District can pump water out of the Eagle River, until Oct. 15, at Dowd Junction via Vail Mountain’s snowmaking pipeline and then through the resort’s on-mountain snowmaking system and into Mill Creek. In return, Vail Mountain will have access to as much as 100 acre-feet of water in Black Lakes, atop Vail Pass, for snowmaking through Dec. 31.

The Water District wants to pump the water through Vail Mountain’s snowmaking system and into Mill Creek because it will help flows in Gore Creek, which is experiencing low streamflows that could negatively affect river health.

Rick Sackbauer, chairman of the Water District’s board of directors, told the Vail Town Council Tuesday night the agreement is “historical.”[…]

He said the movement of the water — which makes a loop by going through Vail’s snowmaking pipes from Dowd Junction to the Water District building in Lionshead, and then up through the resort’s on-mountain snowmaking system before entering Mill Creek near Manor Vail and eventually Gore Creek and on to the Eagle River — helps Gore Creek’s overall health.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.

The San Miguel County Commissioners alert the CDPHE to four concerns with respect to the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Heather Sackett):

The county’s four issues are: Whether the claimed socio-economic benefits of the project would outweigh the negative socio-economic impacts; if the milling and mining would result in the accumulation of airborne radioactive contaminants in the surrounding high mountain basins; if the company would be able to cover the cost of decontamination, decommissioning, reclamation and long term monitoring of the facility and whether the company could protect the public from the hazards of accidents when hauling radioactive yellowcake on Highway 141…

County commissioner Art Goodtimes said air quality is a concern since Telluride and much of San Miguel County is downwind from the proposed mill site. But Goodtimes said the mill itself is not as much of a concern to him as the many mines from which the mill will get its uranium.

“The mill can operate without bringing a large amount of dust into the air, but when you have a lot of different mines, the small outfits may or may not have sufficient controls to control dust,” Goodtimes said. “The regulatory agencies don’t consider that when licensing a mill like this.”

In anticipation of Piñon Ridge becoming operational, the county has begun collecting snow samples from near Alta Lakes, Ophir and Telluride Ski Resort to get baseline data about radioactive particles in the area.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

South Park: Richard Hamilton, et al., are seeking ‘sole source aquifer’ protection from the EPA

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The designation would require more in-depth review of any proposed activities that could affect water supplies. Of special concern is uranium mining near Hartsel, as well as potential development of oil and gas resources. The designation could also result in buffers and other protective measures.

Gaining the EPA designation is a multi-step process beginning Sept. 11 with a meeting of the local environmental advisory board. Citizens will offer a petition requesting the South Park county commissioners to sponsor a formal request for the designation to regional, state and federal authorities. Get an overview of the regional sole source aquifer program at this EPA website. To qualify, an aquifer must supply at least 50 percent of the drinking water consumed in the area overlying the aquifer. EPA guidelines also stipulate that these areas can have no alternative drinking water source that could physically, legally, and economically supply all those who depend upon the aquifer for drinking water.

As part of the petitioning process, South Park residents are also asking for an immediate moratorium on all mineral leasing activity until there are comprehensive studies on the relationship between ground water and mineral resource development.

There are currently no designated sole source aquifers in Colorado, but there are several in surrounding states, including Montana and Utah. For example, the Missoula Valley aquifer is protected because it provides 100 percent of Missoula’s drinking water. Information on regional sole source aquifers is online here.

Drought news: The North American Monsoon blessed Breckenridge over the summer

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Breckenridge-based weather watcher Rick Bly reported 4.21 inches of rain in July, well above the average 2.32 inches. That moisture boosted the year-to-date total to 92 percent of average, amazing considering the widespread drought conditions in Colorado.

More than 1 inch of that rain came in a single 24-hour period during a particularly heavy mid-month downpour. “It’s only the sixth or seventh time I’ve recorded over an inch of 24-hour moisture in July,” Bly said. “It seems like we’re having bigger events.Bly’s observation ties in with global weather patterns, which have been trending to more extreme events — heavier rainfall, sustained blizzards, cold spells and drought — all believed to be linked with a warming climate.

Even with the dip back down to below normal totals in August, year-to-date precipitation was still at 91 percent of average in Breckenridge, a small regional anomaly in the statewide picture.