‘We have had it good in the Yampa Valley for a long time when it comes to water’ — Todd Hagenbuch

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From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

Some of the state’s leading water experts are coming to Steamboat Springs to share their knowledge during a forum Thursday at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus…

The discussion Thursday will focus on the future and how to meet the legal and financial demands given mounting pressures to supply water to the populated areas east of the Continental Divide.

“We have had it good in the Yampa Valley for a long time when it comes to water, but this summer’s water shortages and the ensuing administration we saw on stretches of the Yampa and Elk rivers is just the beginning,” Routt County Extension agent Todd Hagenbuch wrote in an email Tuesday.

Community Agriculture Alliance Executive Director Marsha Daughenbaugh said she expects the event will be well-attended, especially by CMC students who are studying sustainability. The event is free for CMC and high school students with a school ID, $15 for the general public and $10 for Community Agriculture Alliance members. Registration starts at 5:30 p.m., and the program is from 6 to 9 p.m. People are encouraged to carpool or use alternative transportation because of limited parking at the college.

Daughenbaugh said the focus of the event is not so much to debate the issues, but to focus on financial or legal obstacles the Western Slope may face. That could include the distribution of agricultural water rights for industrial or recreational purposes.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

Drought news: Snow possible in the mountains #CODrought

The COGCC re-opens setback and water quality rules

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The timetable for the rulemaking process ideally would conclude in early January in advance of the beginning of the new legislative session, Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said Monday during a hearing in Steamboat Springs.

COGCC member Mike King, who also is the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said he would support going forward with the rulemaking process…

He fended off any notion that the state’s recent lawsuit filed against the city of Longmont over its oil and gas regulations signals that the governor’s office is not looking out for the interests of local communities…

The COGCC met before more than 60 people in a meeting room at the Routt County Justice Center and listened to comments from about 20 people, including 15 Routt County residents. The first nine to speak either were members of the local Citizens Supporting Property Rights group or sympathized with the view that Routt County’s Board of Commissioners is obstructing their right to develop the subsurface mineral rights they own…

Lepore told the oil and gas commissioners that the timetable for the rulemaking process requires a statewide public notice to be published by Oct. 15 to allow the rules to be taken up during a regularly schedule commission meeting Nov. 15. He anticipated an additional special meeting in December followed by a vote on whether to adopt any new rules Jan. 3.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Commissioner DeAnn Craig, an industry consultant, called for weighing costs and benefits before any change is made. “What are we trying to achieve by changing the setback rules?” Craig asked during a commission meeting held in Steamboat Springs. “What risks are we trying to mitigate?”

Requiring greater setbacks of wells from buildings could prevent extraction of oil, she said. “If there’s a loss of value to the owner of these resources, will there be a reduction in taxes?” she asked…

The decision reflects widening public opposition and efforts by more than a dozen municipalities and counties to impose local restrictions as oil and gas drilling moves closer to urban communities. State officials are concerned that unless state rules get tougher, a patchwork of local government rules will create uncertainty and delay.

A proposal floated by COGCC staffers, after 11 sessions with stakeholders, addresses setbacks and calls for mandatory monitoring of groundwater. The proposal doesn’t increase existing setback distances, which allow wells as close as 150 feet from buildings in rural areas and 350 feet in high-density areas. However, the proposal would require more consultation with residents who might be affected by doubling the period for public comment to 40 days for wells proposed within 700 feet of buildings. It also would require companies to mitigate noise, dust, odor, traffic and industrial lighting.

More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

The state already requires groundwater tests around drilling sites in parts of La Plata and Weld counties. The Colorado Oil & Gas Association, which represents the industry, promotes a voluntary statewide program that the association says covers about 93 percent of the wells drilled across the state. The COGCC is proposing to expand its mandatory program statewide.

The COGCC’s setback proposal increases the minimum possible distance between a well and a building to 350 feet, from 150 feet, unless all landowners within the 350-foot radius give their written consent to the location. It also adds more requirements for operations.

Meanwhile Governor Hickenlooper is standing fast in the State’s lawsuit against the City of Longmont over their oil and gas regulations. Here’s a report from Scott Rochat writing for the Longmont Times-Call via the Boulder Daily Camera. Here’s an excerpt:

Gov. John Hickenlooper said that Longmont would do better to address its oil and gas concerns through agreements instead of regulation, in a return letter this week to 82 town, city and county officials that included Mayor Dennis Coombs.

The 82 had written Hickenlooper last week as a show of support for Longmont, which has been sued by the state over the city’s new oil and gas rules. State officials object to eight different aspects of the regulations, including a restriction on drilling in residential zones…

But Hickenlooper, in a letter dated Wednesday and released Thursday, said the state already had sufficiently strict regulation and that it preferred to work directly with communities, or have them work with the oil and gas companies, to address any local concerns.

“To be clear at the outset, suing Longmont was last — and not a first — resort for our administration,” Hickenlooper said. “This decision was only made after attempts to resolve the State’s concerns were unsuccessful.”

On the same day Longmont adopted its new regulations, it also announced an agreement with the area’s largest drilling company, TOP Operating. In that agreement, TOP agreed to observe several restrictions citywide, including mandatory water quality monitoring and a 750-foot separation, or “setback,” between their wells and any buildings.

Hickenlooper said he was pleased to see the agreement, but that the city’s determination to “harden jurisdictional lines” by adopting its new rules made a legal response necessary.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

2012 Colorado November election: Rifle city officials pitch sales tax hike as relief for water rate payers

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From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Question 2A on the Nov. 6 general election ballot asks Rifle city voters if a 0.75 percent sales and use tax hike should be approved. It would take effect in January and increase the city’s sales and use tax rate from 3.5 percent to 4.25 percent. The added tax would raise an estimated $1.65 million a year. The issue has not led to any organized opposition…

In a memo to City Council, City Manager John Hier recommended that if the sales tax is approved, the city should eliminate a second water rate increase planned for April 2013, and lower the recent increase, “so the combined revenue from the sales tax and new rates will generate only that revenue needed to pay the debt service and increased operation and maintenance cost on the new plant.”

Due to the rock-bottom loan rate received from the state agency, Hier wrote in the memo, “it may be possible to lower … monthly base rates to $23 per month and significantly reduce the … tier rates.”

When the debt on the water plant is paid off, the 0.75 percent sales and use tax will end.

More Rifle coverage here and here.

NWS: Statistical preview of Denver’s October weather

Here’s the link to the preview from the National Weather Service Denver/Boulder office. Here’s an excerpt:

DENVER’S MONTHLY MEAN TEMPERATURE FOR OCTOBER IS 50.9 DEGREES (1981-2010 AVERAGES) AND IS DENVER’S FIFTH WARMEST MONTH OF THE YEAR BEHIND JULY, AUGUST, JUNE AND MAY RESPECTIVELY. THE MONTH STARTS WITH A NORMAL HIGH OF 72 DEGREES AND ENDS WITH A NORMAL HIGH OF 59 DEGREES. FOR LOW TEMPERATURES, THE MONTH BEGINS WITH A NORMAL OF 42 DEGREES AND TRENDS BELOW THE FREEZING MARK TO FINISH WITH A NORMAL OF 31.

THE WARMEST TEMPERATURE EVER RECORDED DURING THE MONTH OF OCTOBER, SINCE RECORDS BEGAN IN 1872, WAS 90 DEGREES AND OCCURRED ON THE FIRST DAY ON THE MONTH WAY BACK IN 1892. THIS IS ALSO THE LATEST 90 DEGREE OR HIGHER TEMPERATURE DENVER HAS RECORDED. THE COLDEST TEMPERATURE EVER RECORDED IN DENVER FOR OCTOBER WAS A FRIGID -2 DEGREES AND OCCURRED ON THE 29TH DAY OF 1917…

ALTHOUGH SEPTEMBER IS THE FIRST MONTH OF THE SNOW SEASON IN DENVER, OCTOBER IS THE MONTH WHEN DENVER AND THE ENTIRE FRONT RANGE BEGIN TO SEE THE STRONG LIKELIHOOD OF COLD PACIFIC STORM SYSTEMS BRINGING THE SEASON’S FIRST REAL SNOWFALL. SINCE SNOW MEASURING BEGAN IN DENVER IN 1882, MONTHLY SNOW TOTALS OF GREATER THAN 0.1″ HAS OCCURRED 100 TIMES WITH 15 YEARS RECEIVING A TRACE AND THE 15 YEARS MISSING OUT ENTIRELY FROM ANY SNOW…

AFTER 7 CONSECUTIVE MONTHS OF ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES IN THE DENVER AREA ALONG WITH BELOW NORMAL PRECIPITATION TOTALS FOR SPRING AND SUMMER PERIOD, THE MID TO LONG RANGE FORECAST MODELS CONTINUE TO INDICATE A BIAS TOWARD THE STABLE DRY WEST TO SOUTHWESTERLY FLOW ALOFT OVER COLORADO. THE CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER’S LONG RANGE OUTLOOK INDICATES A BIAS TOWARD ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES WITH PRECIPITATION PROBABILITIES HOLDING NEAR SEASONAL NORMALS REGION WIDE.

IBCC: Should Colorado take a more active role in the Flaming Gorge Pipeline?

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Here’s the meeting summary from email from Heather Bergman. Here’s an excerpt:

After the last meeting, Jacob Bornstein and Tim Murrell conducted research on state involvement in water projects in Colorado and other states in West. Jacob and Tim presented information to Committee members regarding the role of the following states in existing and future new supply projects: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Following the Committee members’ discussion about this presentation, they considered the pros and cons of the State of Colorado having a role in a potential Flaming Gorge project. This information was provided as research only and was not intended as support for a particular type of state role in a water project in Colorado…

Based on Committee members’ discussion regarding potential options for a State role in water storage projects, most of the group agreed that the State is currently doing well with its overall involvement in water project planning, development, and implementation. However, Committee members discussed potential expansions or improvements that could be made to the State’s function in the areas of leadership, research, and coordinating efforts related to new water projects in Colorado. Several other ideas for how the State could improve its role in water projects emerged during the Committee’s discussion…

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: 300 cfs in the Black Canyon

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From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Gunnison River flows at the Whitewater gage continue to stay above 1000 cfs and are forecast to remain that way for the upcoming weeks. The baseflow target for endangered fish, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 790 cfs for the month of October. With tributary flows continuing to support flows in the lower mainstem of the Gunnison River, now seems like a good time to reduce releases from the Aspinall Unit to save the limited storage remaining in Blue Mesa Reservoir. Therefore releases at Crystal Dam will be reduced today, October 1st, by 150 cfs. This will bring flows on the Gunnison River within the Black Canyon down from 450 cfs to 300 cfs. Flows at the Whitewater gage are expected to decline towards 800 cfs after this release change.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation started banking water Monday for next spring, squeezing releases from Crystal Dam.

Officials with the Aspinall Unit on the Gunnison River reduced flows down the river by 150 cubic feet per second, an amount that will cut flows on the river through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from 450 cfs to 300 cfs.

“We’ll be down near minimum flows as the river goes through the park,” said Erik Knight, a hydrologist with the bureau’s Grand Junction office.

The bureau usually begins restricting flows Oct. 1, but this year it also has to factor endangered fish downstream into its management of the river.

Tributary flows are contributing enough water to the river below the Gunnison Forks that the river was running at 1,000 cfs at Whitewater.

The change will reduce flows at Whitewater to about 800 cfs.

The bureau is hoping to end December with about 315,000 acre-feet of water stored behind Blue Mesa Dam.

The maximum wintertime storage is 581,000 acre feet and, “We’re well below that,” Knight said.

“We’re just hoping for next springtime” to swell the reservoirs again.

Paonia Reservoir, which is used for irrigation, will begin filling this November.

It generally fills each year and is expected to do so again this winter and spring, Knight said.

“It’s the bigger reservoirs where we have a problem,” he said.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.