2012’s last harvest at Gulch Manor

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for a photo of the bounty. With all this cold weather Mrs. Gulch went through the vegetable garden one last time.

The Colorado Water 2012 Newsletter is hot off the press — Have you signed up for the Great Colorado River Cleanup?

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You can read it here.

Here’s the link to GreatColoradoCleanup.org.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Say hello to Conservation Colorado

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Here’s the link to the website.

From the Fowler Tribune:

“Conservation Colorado represents the next chapter in protecting Colorado’s air, land, water and people,” said Pete Maysmith, future Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “Different times require more nimble, strategic and effective organizations to address our conservation challenges. For Conservation Colorado – as we recognize our past accomplishments – we must move forward, knowing that The Future is Worth the Fight. Conservation Colorado’s new logo represents our priority issues – addressing climate change, transitioning to a clean energy future, protecting our rivers and outdoor heritage, and saving our few remaining public wildlands. These pressing priorities require us to engage Colorado citizens and policy makers in new ways to preserve the Colorado we love today for our kids and grandkids.”

Conservation Colorado is a result of the merging of two leading Colorado conservation groups – Colorado Conservation Voters (CCV) and Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC). The merger combines the strengths of both groups — CEC’s strong policy, advocacy and organizing work, with CCV’s focus on electing pro-environment candidates to public office and holding them accountable.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The…merger has also resulted in some downsizing, partly through attrition and also through some layoffs on the administrative side of the operation, according to spokesman Chris Arend.

“Part of the benefit of the merger is that you create efficiencies,” Arend said, adding that there will be some “refocusing,” but that the new group has pledged to maintain a Western Slope presence to continue advocacy for the protection of wild lands.

Fundraising, which is a challenge for nonprofits in the best of times, has been especially tough during the stubborn recession and painfully slow recovery of the past few years.

The new organization announced this week that Pete Maysmith, formerly the head of Colorado Conservation Voters, will lead the new organization as director. Elise Jones, director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, will run for elected office.

More conservation coverage here.

Water used for oil and gas operations is recycled, reused and then pumped underground for disposal

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

“At some point, is unusable,” [Doug Dennison, environmental and governmental affairs representative for the Bill Barrett Corp] said of the water that is being recycled and reused.

When that point is reached, he said, the liquid, which is high in salts, heavy metals and other dissolved solids, is either piped or trucked to disposal sites elsewhere in the West, or it is pumped into injection wells.

He said injection wells normally reach deeper into the ground than wells used to extract oil and gas, so that produced water does not mix with the oil and gas pools.

Injection wells are coming into increasing use in the Piceance Basin, which covers western Colorado, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming, Dennison said.

Barrett has four injection wells south of Silt, and may sink more into the ground if increased storage is needed.

He conceded that some companies still use evaporation ponds to dispose of waste water, but added, “I think that’s a thing of the past.”

The full presentations by Dennison and Bittner, as well as the remainder of the EAB meeting, will be televised on Rifle’s Cable Channel 10 at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

San Luis Valley: Groundwater Subdistrict No. 1 implementation plan trial scheduled for October 29

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Chief District Judge Pattie Swift on Thursday decided some of the pending motions in the water cases involving the San Luis Valley’s first water management sub-district operating plan and the state’s approval of it. She scheduled another hearing for October 24 to deal with more of the pending motions and is still planning to go forward with the scheduled October 29th trial to hear evidence and testimony.

This is the first year of operation for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District sponsored sub-district that involves hundreds of irrigators in the Valley’s closed basin area north of the Rio Grande. The sub-district was designed to repair injuries to senior surface water rights and replenish the Valley’s aquifers, and to that end the sub-district board developed an annual replacement plan for this year.

Objectors asked the court to invoke retained jurisdiction over the sub-district and deal with concerns they have over its first annual replacement plan. Judge Swift earlier this summer denied a motion from objectors that would have shut down wells in the sub-district until concerns over the operating plan were resolved.

Given that decision by the court, the objectors recently filed a motion to amend their invocation to retain jurisdiction and asked the judge to vacate the trial. Sub-district supporters and the state engineer’s office asked the judge to make an immediate decision on these motions and argued in favor of going forward with the trial.

Since the trial is scheduled for the end of this month, Judge Swift agreed to make a quick decision.

“The objectors seek to amend their claims, to remove them from consideration of the court and vacate the trial because they believe the primary issues remaining to be determined are contained within the amended motion before the court,” Judge Swift summed up the situation Thursday afternoon in court.

She said there are two motions for summary judgment: 1) concerning augmentation plan wells; and 2) concerning the Closed Basin Project.

Two other motions are also outstanding: 1) to strike expert witness designations and reports; and 2) to appoint a special master…

Also on Thursday, Judge Swift ruled on the objectors’ motion opposing the use of Closed Basin Project water for replacement water for the sub-district. She denied the objectors’ motion, “as I find there are disputed issues of material fact that must be determined to decide whether the Closed Basin Project water is adequate and suitable to prevent injuries to senior water rights under the district plan.”

The judge outlined objectors’ concerns with Closed Basin Project water being used to replace injurious depletions to senior water rights, with the objectors arguing that the 1963 Closed Basin Project itself represented a junior water right that in the priority system of water administration was causing injury to senior water rights so could not be used to replace injurious depletions in the sub-district…

Also on Thursday the judge asked attorneys from both sides to give her some guidance by Friday, Oct. 19 on how they believed the retained jurisdiction process should work. She said she saw the court’s primary functions in its retained jurisdiction over the sub-district as reviewing: 1) whether the plan of water management is operated in conformance with the terms of the court’s decree; and 2) whether injury is prevented in conformity with the court’s decree.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Water Court Judge Pattie Swift ruled Thursday that opponents of a groundwater plan could withdraw some of their claims if they were willing to pay the attorney costs for the supporters. The court has scheduled a five-day trial beginning Oct. 29 to examine the state’s approval of a plan that laid out how groundwater irrigators in the north-central part of the San Luis Valley would mitigate the harm their pumping caused to senior surface water rights owners during the current irrigation season. One group of objectors made up of surface water users in the southwestern and northwestern parts of the valley had asked the court to rule on their clams without trial in the name of saving time and expense.

But Swift pointed to one issue — the proposed use of groundwater from the federal Closed Basin Project as a source of replacement water for the plan— as one that could not be resolved without trial. “I can only decide that issue after hearing evidence,” she said.

Opponents have argued against the plan’s call to use up to 2,500 acre-feet of water from the project, which pumps groundwater on the east side of the valley and sends it to the Rio Grande to help the state comply with the downstream obligations to Texas and New Mexico.

The opponents have until Tuesday to inform the court of whether they will withdraw any of their claims.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.