Colorado Springs: Stormwater proposal = $12.8 million to protect Colorado Springs Utilities’ infrastructure

Earliest closing of Trail Ridge Road in RMNP in at least a decade #cowx

October 18 — Happy Birthday Clean Water Act


From The New York Times (Robert B. Sempla Jr.):

Thursday, Oct. 18, marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a critical turning point in the nation’s efforts to rescue its rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands from centuries of industrial, municipal and agricultural pollution. But what should be a moment of celebration is also a moment of apprehension: Republicans in the House have spent the last two years trying to undercut the law, and should they gain control of the White House and Congress in next month’s elections, they could well succeed.

These same Republicans are either ignorant of their political heritage or have no use for it. Richard Nixon, a savvy Republican who appreciated the raw force behind an environmental movement that had coalesced only two years before around Earth Day, was among those pushing hardest for the law. Nixon sent a clean water bill to Congress, then vetoed the final product on Oct. 17 after it had nearly doubled in size, forcing Congress to override the next day. But he did so on budgetary grounds, not because he objected to its substance. “The pollution of our rivers, lakes and streams degrades the quality of American life,” he said. “Cleaning up the nation’s waterways is a matter of urgent concern to me.”

More Clean Water Act coverage here.

2013 Colorado Legislation: Interim Water Resources Review Committee: Legislative Report

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: Change in state molybdenum standards slated for February 2013


From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

In February 2013, the size and shape of the molybdenum plume in Lincoln Park ground water will shrink because of changes in state standards.
Previously, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission had set the standard at 35 micrograms of molybdenum per liter of water. Effective Feb. 1, 2013, that will change to 210 micrograms per liter of water. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s enforcement level is 100 micrograms per liter of water.

In addition to Colorado Standard, the Cotter Mill, which is the original source of the Lincoln Park plume, also must comply with NRC standard. The levels must be at least as restrictive as the state standards. Because the NRC level is now more restrictive than the state standards the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment will require Cotter to meet the 100 micrograms per liter of water level.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A new cleanup standard for molybdenum levels in groundwater has drastically reduced the size of a cleanup area contaminated by the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community became a part of a federal Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup site in 1984 after molybdenum and uranium contamination seeped from unlined tailings ponds into the groundwater.

As of Feb. 1, the state Water Quality Control Commission standard for cleanup of molybdenum in water will be 210 micrograms per liter, up from the previous standard of 35 micrograms per liter, according to a fact sheet issued by state health officials Tuesday.

Despite the change, Cotter will be required to clean up groundwater at any reading above 100 micrograms per liter because that standard is required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A map included with the fact sheet shows two small plumes targeted for cleanup.

“This means that 16 wells previously included in the more conservative standard are now outside the plume boundary. Only six wells are inside the Lincoln Park plume,” according to the fact sheet.
“I object to this change in the moly standard for groundwater as I believe from studies I’ve read that it will have an adverse impact on health (of people) through bones, gout and arthritis when drinking well water at this level,” said Sharyn Cunningham, co­chair of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. “This will allow Cotter to avoid protective cleanup.”

The fact sheet indicates the most common negative health effect from consuming too much molybdenum for a long period of time is gout.

Wells that are located within the contamination area are not being used for human consumption. Instead residents have been hooked up to the city water supply.

“Groundwater contaminate levels in most areas have been decreasing even though there is no active groundwater cleanup action in place in the area,” according to the fact sheet.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper Colorado River Basin #coriver


Here’s the link to the summaries from the Colorado Climate Center. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary including a water year 2012 map of the Upper Colorado River Basin.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

The Cherokee Metropolitan District scores a 600 acre-feet water lease from the Pueblo Board of Water Works


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved a two­year lease of water to the Cherokee Metropolitan District in Colorado Springs.

The district is located just north of the Colorado Springs airport and serves about 18,000 people, said Sean Chambers, general manager of the district.

“When we were formed, Colorado Springs did not think it would extend services,” Chambers said. “Now, we are an island within the city.”

The district formed in 1957, and went through a series of reorganizations, consolidations and expansions until 1995. It lost water court cases that have reduced its ability to pump from the Upper Black Squirrel Creek and Chico Creek aquifers.

The district will lease 600 acre­feet of water (almost 200 million gallons) yearly from Pueblo in 2013 and 2014 at a rate $366.25 per acre­foot or $219,750 per year. Any rate increases for Pueblo water would increase the payment by the same percentage. The amount is within Pueblo’s projected surplus, but in an emergency the delivery could be canceled “This is just a bridge for us,” Chambers said. “We would not be relying on short­term leases such as this for a water supply.”

Cherokee is drilling wells and building a pipeline in northern El Paso County to deliver 1,000 acre­feet annually to meet its long­term needs, Chambers said.

The district has implemented conservation measures, which include outdoor watering no more than three times per week, and sometimes has banned outdoor watering altogether.

Cherokee has an agreement with Colorado Springs to deliver water to its system. The water would be exchanged from Pueblo’s accounts into the Colorado Springs system at Twin Lakes for delivery, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is investigating an idea to create wetlands banks at its Tennessee Creek Ranches property north of Leadville in Lake County.

The water board Tuesday approved a contract of up to $25,000 with Johnson Environmental Consulting to look at the concept of mitigating wetlands in order to offset impacts from projects elsewhere.

The idea is to replace wetland areas destroyed by activities such as highway projects or reservoir construction by creating permanent areas to “bank” wetlands, said Executive Director Terry Book.

“I like the intent,” said board member Tom Autobee, in making a motion to approve the contract.

The Pueblo Water Board has looked at building a reservoir on the Tennessee Creek site since 1950, but those plans hit a snag in the late 1990s when fens — ancient marshy areas — were located on the site.

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

Former ponds west of Pueblo once owned by Valco are now incorporated into Lake Pueblo State Park.
Keeping water in them has become the responsibility of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, and a pending water court case will allow more efficient use of old ditch rights to meet that need.

The water board acquired the Hamp-Bell Ditch water rights from Valco in 2004. The ditch diverted a relatively small amount of water, accruing more credits in the irrigation season than at other times of year.

To balance the credits year-round, the water board will apply for storage rights.

“Currently, the board replaces the nonirrigation season depletions from its other water supplies and the excess Hamp-Bell

Ditch water from the irrigation season often goes unused,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager, in a memo.
The complex historic use issues surrounding the ditch — which has 1870, 1878 and 1880 water rights — were settled in Valco’s 2003 court case, making the new case fairly straightforward, Ward added.

“We should get a net gain of water to store,” added Executive Director Terry Book.

The water board unanimously approved to enter a water court application to complete the plan.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

State drought recovery workshop recap: ‘It’s time to get more storage for this basin [Arkansas]’ — Jim Broderick #CODrought


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Mother Nature can be a harsh, but effective, teacher.

A panel at the state’s drought recovery workshop Monday at the Colorado State Fairgrounds said lessons from this year’s drought should include the need for more agricultural water storage and cooperative programs that share water resources for multiple uses.

Changes in how water is managed after the 2002 drought also were reviewed at a meeting designed to improve state, local and federal actions in future droughts.

“It’s time to get more storage for this basin. The time has come that agriculture deserves storage,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “This year’s bad, but next year could be worse, because municipalities won’t have water to share.” One of the worst years on record for precipitation followed one of the wettest in terms of water available to the Arkansas River basin from the Colorado River. But two years of drought have depleted the water farmers hold back to either start crops in a dry spring or finish them in a dry autumn, he said.

Cities, on the other hand, increased water in storage after the 2002 drought, and were even able to share some this year.

“In good times, we are able to deliver water to canals,” said Gerry Knapp, manager of Aurora’s operations in the Colorado and Arkansas River basins. “Long­term relationships need to be built.”

Aurora currently has agreements with the High Line and Holbrook canals, as well as the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The city east of Denver began directly reusing flows through the Prairie Waters Project, a direct outcome of the 2002 drought.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two­ thirds of the United States is suffering from the impacts of drought, and it’s anyone’s guess whether things will improve next year. So federal, state and local officials gathered Monday at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo to plan for action should drought persist. “This is not just an agricultural event or a Colorado issue,” said Thomas Guevara, who heads the federal Economic Development Agency’s regional affairs office. “The federal government is taking an all ­hands on­ deck approach.”

At the regional drought recovery meeting Monday, those hands included representatives from a dozen federal agencies, state officials from several agencies, farm agency representatives, water district officials and county commissioners. More than 100 people attended the event, hosted by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

“I don’t think there has even been a real coordinated effort like this in reference to drought,” Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar said. The daylong workshop was one of four — others are in Nebraska, Arkansas and Ohio — designed to share information about how states are responding to drought.

“The drought affects two thirds of the U.S., but it’s all local,” said Colleen Callahan, who is coordinating the workshops for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We have to work across state and federal lines. . . . We are more effective when we are flexible, rather than rigid.” Paul Wolyn, science operations officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said

Southern Colorado has been in a two ­year drought that would be expected to occur only once every 50 years.

Forecasts through mid­ 2013 predict it will be warmer, with equal chance of precipitation.

“Drought could persist over much of the nation,” he said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.