The South Metro Chamber of Commerce, et al., ask judge to reverse Sterling Ranch decision


From the Denver Business Journal (Dennis Huspeni):

In what’s called an amicus brief — which basically means the parties have no standing in the case, but they’ve asked 18th Judicial District Judge Paul King to reconsider his ruling — the chamber said the case and King’s ruling “raises issues of critical importance to the economic strength of the businesses operating in the State of Colorado.” They said his ruling would strip local governments of their ability to control development and landowners of the right to develop their land, and would have negative economic ramifications for entire state…

The chamber, Colorado Contractors Association, Associated General Contractors of Colorado, Northwest Douglas County Economic Development Corp. and Colorado Association of Realtors stated in the amicus brief they “respectfully urge this Court not to disturb the decision made by the Commission, but rather, allow the operations of the Commission, and hence, local governments in the State of Colorado, to provide certainty and economic reality to land use decisions, especially those of the nature of the Sterling Ranch PD proposal, which, in and of itself, brings great economic and social value to the community.”[…]

The brief said King’s ruling, if allowed to stand, “creates procedural and fiscal uncertainty about the finality of a local government’s decision-making process, has a chilling effect on the confidence of Colorado property owners to develop their properties, destroys the opportunity for major developers, and therefore harms the economic future of the State and its citizens.”

Requiring developers to prove availability of water for the entire life of the project, which could take 20 or 30 years, “will result in small-scale patchwork development and unplanned sprawl.”

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Oct. 18 marks 40 years for CWA; Metro Wastewater upgrades plant


Here’s the release from the Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District (Steve Frank):

Oct. 18 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA established the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, which treats 130 million gallons of wastewater a day for metropolitan Denver, has been a major part locally of a revitalization of urban waterways that’s taken place since the CWA was enacted in 1972.

The Metro District was established in 1961 to provide secondary wastewater treatment for the metro Denver region. The District’s main treatment plant, the Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility at 6450 York Street, came on line in late 1966. It has undergone continual upgrades since then.

A $211 million upgrade project now underway at the Hite facility to remove ammonia and nitrates from the water Metro discharges to the South Platte River passed the 40-percent-complete stage at the end of September. Construction began in early 2011.

Construction documents show that 45,000 cubic yards of concrete have been placed to date for the South Secondary Improvements Project. This represents approximately 60 percent of the total concrete placement scheduled for the project. In addition, approximately 50 percent of the underground utility work has been completed.

“The project is within its approved budget and is also running approximately two weeks ahead of the early completion schedule,” said Director of Engineering Mitch Costanzo.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “Today 92 percent of Americans have round-the-clock access to safe, clean drinking water that meets national health standards, and more than two-thirds of America’s assessed waterways meet water quality standards,” in a speech at the Water Environment Federation’s annual WEFTEC conference and exposition in New Orleans the first week in October.

“Urban waterways have gone from wastelands to centers of redevelopment and activity, and we have doubled the number of American waters that meet safety standards for swimming and fishing,” Jackson said during her presentation.

The predecessor of the CWA was the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, which was enacted in 1948.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Oil and gas producers are banging the drum for water recycling


From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

At the moment, there’s no way to know exactly how much recycling actually takes place in Northern Colorado, though the issue could come into focus when the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission begins to analyze data it has gathered since June on the amount of water recycled in the state.

That’s expected to happen “in the coming months,” said Todd Hartman, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Already, however, “we know that industry is aggressively pursuing recycling opportunities for water, both on the Western Slope and the Front Range, and we’re supportive of that effort,” Hartman said.

There are key differences between drilling in Northern Colorado and the Western Slope to explain why water recycling has not yet gained a greater foothold here.

In Northern Colorado, wells require a gel-like fracturing fluid that makes water-recycling more difficult than on the Western Slope, said Ken Carlson, a CSU professor of environmental engineering who is working with oil and gas companies to study their water use. The fluid used in fracturing here also contains more salt than on the Western Slope, so treating the water here for reuse costs more.

Operators on the Western Slope also recycle more water because the wells that they can use to get rid of their used fluids are farther away and so it costs more to transport.

In Northern Colorado, meanwhile, operators can dispose of their water through nearby deep injection wells.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

CWCB approves funding for projects in the Gunnison and Colorado River basins #coriver


From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

• Grand Valley Riparian Restoration Collaborative Project: The Grand Junction-based Tamarisk Coalition is sponsoring this project, which seeks to comprehensively restore the Colorado River corridor in Mesa County. The project will replace invasive plant species with native vegetation in order to improve habitat for wildlife and fish species. These actions will also improve river access and recreational opportunities. The CWCB approved $250,000 in Water Supply Reserve Account funding for the project; total project costs are expected to total almost $430,000.

• Tenmile Creek Restoration Project: This project, sponsored by the Blue River Watershed Group, seeks to enhance floodplain connectivity, habitat quality, scenery, and wetlands function along Tenmile Creek, near the Copper Mountain Ski Area. This area has been impacted for decades by mining, timbering, ski area development, railroad and highway construction. The project will increase sinuosity and length in the stream channel, increase pool habitat and cover for fish, and increase the total area of vegetated wetlands. It will also create a vegetated buffer between the stream and State Highway 91, reducing stream sedimentation and flood damage to the highway. The CWCB approved $350,000 in Water Supply Reserve Account funds for the project, which is expected to cost a total of $620,000.

• Colorado River Restoration and Conservation Projects: This project, sponsored by the Eagle River Watershed Council, will create baseline information about the stretch of the Colorado River that flows through Eagle County, which has been little studied. The project will prioritize rehabilitation strategies and assess recreational impacts in order to guide recreation to the most suitable sites on the river. The CWCB approved $110,000 in WSRA funding for the $196,501 project.

• Crystal River Watershed – Assessment and Design of Restoration Projects: This project, sponsored by the Roaring Fork Conservancy, will develop a comprehensive restoration plan for the Coal Basin, Coal Creek road corridor, and the Coal Creek/Crystal River confluence area. This area is heavily impacted by historic coal mining. The restoration plan will include the design and prioritization of projects to improve the connection of the channel to the floodplain, restore floodplain function at the Coal Creek/Crystal River confluence area, improve overall riparian and instream habitat and reduce sediment and total iron delivery to the Crystal River from Coal Creek. WSRA funds approved for this project totaled $317,073; total project costs are expected to exceed $500,000.

• Relief Ditch Diversion Modification Construction: Trout Unlimited is sponsoring this project, which will replace a pushup dam on the Gunnison River east of Delta with permanent diversion, equip the ditch with a modern head gate, and rehabilitate the eroded riverbanks at the diversion point. The project will reduce fish loss in the canal, reduce sedimentation from eroding banks, improve the management of the Relief Ditch, and restore impaired habitat. The CWCB approved $50,000 in Water Supply Reserve Account funds for this project. Total project costs are expected to exceed $900,000.

• Gunnison River System Assessment and Restoration Project: This project, sponsored by the City of Gunnison and Colorado Parks & Wildlife, will collect detailed data along a heavily used stretch of the Gunnison River near Gunnison and then develop and implement projects to improve the river channel’s function. Intended project benefits include improved fishery health, water quality, access to irrigation water and recreational user experiences. The project was approved for $220,000 in WSRA funds. The total project budget is $292,600.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here. More Gunnison River Basin coverage here.

Forecast news: Elusive El Niño challenges NOAA’s 2012 U.S. Winter Outlook — NOAA #CODrought




Click on the thumbnail graphics for the forecasted precipitation map, temperature map and the current U.S. Drought Monitor map. Here’s the winter outlook from the NOAA:

The western half of the continental U.S. and central and northern Alaska could be in for a warmer-than-average winter, while most of Florida might be colder-than-normal December through February, according to NOAA’s annual Winter Outlook announced today from the agency’s new Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Md.

Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say a wavering El Niño, expected to have developed by now, makes this year’s winter outlook less certain than previous years.

“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “In fact, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the tropical Pacific.”

When El Niño is present, warmer ocean water in the equatorial Pacific shifts the patterns of tropical rainfall that in turn influence the strength and position of the jetstream and storms over the Pacific Ocean and United States. This climate pattern gives seasonal forecasters confidence in how the U.S. winter will unfold. An El Niño watch remains in effect because there’s still a window for it to emerge.

Other climate factors can influence winter weather across the country. Some of these factors, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, a prominent climate pattern, are difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance. The NAO adds uncertainty to the winter outlook in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic portions of the country.

Areas ravaged by extreme drought over the past year are unlikely to see much relief from drought conditions this winter [ed. emphasis mine].

In the 2012 U.S. Winter Outlook (December through February) odds favor:

– Warmer-than-average temperatures in much of Texas, northward through the Central and Northern Plains and westward across the Southwest, the Northern Rockies, and eastern Washington, Oregon and California, as well as the northern two-thirds of Alaska.
– Cooler-than-average temperatures in Hawaii and in most of Florida, excluding the panhandle.
– Drier-than-average conditions in Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, including Idaho, western Montana, and portions of Wyoming, Utah and most of Nevada.
– Drier-than-average conditions in the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and northern Missouri and eastern parts of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and western Illinois.
– Wetter-than-average conditions across the Gulf Coast states from the northern half of Florida to eastern Texas.

The rest of the country falls into the “equal chance” category, meaning these areas have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.

This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance [ed. emphasis mine].

From USA Today (Doyle Rice):

Almost every state west of the Mississippi is expected to be warmer than average, according to Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md. The CPC is a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The center’s forecast covers the months of December, January and February, which is known as meteorological winter.

The western warmth would continue the amazing heat that the nation has seen this year. So far, the U.S. is enduring its hottest year on record, based on weather records that go back to 1895, reports Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The year 2012 will almost certainly go down as the warmest in U.S. history, he says.

Halpert also says the Pacific Northwest and upper Midwest should see less rain and snow than average, which isn’t good news for those drought-plagued regions.

As of Thursday morning’s U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought, 62% of the lower 48 states are currently in drought conditions, with the worst of the drought centered in the northern and western U.S…

“Climate prediction is still in its infancy,” reminds [Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md.].

From Reuters:

The drought that ravaged the United States this year does not appear to be abating and may spread through the winter, government forecasters said on Thursday.

“The large majority of that drought we expect to persist,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We even see drought expanding westward … into Montana, Idaho and part of Oregon and Washington.”

Clean Water Act 40th anniversary: ‘I actually remember the Cuyahoga River in Ohio catching on fire’ — Lynn Bartels


Lynn Bartels (The Denver Post) is linking to a video about the Clean Water Act. Here’s an excerpt from her blog post:

No one’s ever accused me of being a tree-hugger but I watched from beginning to end this video on the Clean Water Act [Clean Water Act: Better at 40], which celebrates its 40th birthday this month.

I actually remember the Cuyahoga River in Ohio catching on fire.

Interestingly, President Nixon vetoed the Clean Water Act [ed. due to the Congress adding too much spending], but Congress overturned the veto by a stunning 10 to 1 vote.

More water pollution coverage here.