San Luis Valley: Groundwater sub-district #1 trial concluded


From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

A couple of points in the sub-district’s operating plan, which was implemented for the first time this year, were the focus of the two-day trial this week before Judge Swift. Most of the discussion revolved around the inclusion of augmentation plan wells in the sub-district’s 2012 operating plan and the use of Closed Basin Project water in the 2012 plan…

In his closing argument on Tuesday afternoon, RGWCD Attorney David Robbins said the district acknowledged it made two errors of omission in the 2012 Annual Operating Plan (ARP): 1) list of augmentation wells; and 2) map of those wells’ locations. Robbins said the un-augmented well depletions from those wells within the sub-district were identified and replaced, however. Robbins suggested the way to handle the compliance errors this year would be for the court to enjoin the sub-district in the future to ensure it complies with the required information.

Attorney Tim Buchanan, representing surface water users who filed objections in this case, said he believed the court should go a step further. He said a message must be sent that the court decrees must be complied with. “The 2012 plan did not comply with the plan as decreed by this court and as approved by the Supreme Court,” Buchanan said. “Therefore in my view we need to fashion a remedy that does not approve the plan but directs the plan be amended to reflect the augmentation wells were not properly included, that they should have been separately identified and they should be separately accounted for.”[…]

The other contested topic in this trial was the use of Closed Basin Project water to replace well depletions to streams this year.

In his closing argument attorney Bill Paddock, representing sub-district supporters, reminded the court the judge’s October 4 order resolved the question of legal suitability of Closed Basin Project water for use in the plan of management. The question argued during the trial was a factual question regarding whether the water was an appropriate source of replacement water for injurious depletions, he said. Paddock argued the project water was appropriate to replace depletions and said the state engineer agreed.

When [State Engineer Dick Wolfe] was on the stand on Tuesday, he said he and his staff, with advice from their legal counsel, determined the sources of replacement water in the sub-district’s 2012 ARP, including the Closed Basin Project water, were suitable. Wolfe said the water court’s May 2010 decree stated this possible source of replacement water was not prohibited. He testified the sub-district’s plan of water management approved by the water court and Supreme Court specifically referenced Closed Basin Project water as a replacement water source.

More SLV groundwater coverage here and here.

Latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows continued widespread dryness west of the Mississippi #CODrought



Click on the thumbnail graphics for the latest map and the November 1, 2011 map from the U.S. Drought Monitor .

Quaggas in the pipes? — Lake Powell’s waters yield Quagga mussel DNA and veligers


Here’s the release from the National Park Service:

Recent monitoring samples from Lake Powell have revealed evidence of microscopic Quagga mussel larvae and the National Park Service (NPS) has accelerated laboratory and field efforts to identify the source, reported Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Superintendent Todd Brindle. Quagga mussel larvae and DNA were found in separate water samples collected near Antelope Point and Glen Canyon Dam. “We don’t know yet if there is a population trying to establish in the lake,” said Brindle. “The DNA can last after the organism is dead, so there is a possibility that it could have washed off boats that had been in other infested waters.”

NPS aquatic ecologist Mark Anderson provided additional details on the sampling results. “The bodies of four larval mussels were found in four different samples near the Glen Canyon Dam. The sampling process kills mussel larvae so it is not known if any of them were alive in the lake,” stated Anderson. “One of them had a broken shell, suggesting that it was dead when it was collected.”

Anderson explained that testing occurs using two separate methods: DNA and microscopy. The DNA method is more sensitive and potentially detects the presence earlier, but can be less accurate. Detection using microscopes is more accurate but requires an organism or piece of organism that is large enough to be visible in the microscope. Samples are taken using both methods at multiple sites around Lake Powell.

Superintendent Brindle remains hopeful that the monitoring results are not evidence of an established population of mussels. If it is an early detection, the mussels may not establish and grow into adults, said Brindle. “Scientists are not sure why but many western waters have shown similar findings and then never developed a noticeable population, such as at Lake Granby, Lake Pueblo, Electric Lake, Red Fleet, Navajo Lake, Grand, Shadow Mountain, Willow Creek, and even Lake Powell in 2007.”

In the meantime, monitoring and testing by the NPS will continue. “It is possible that these results will not be duplicated and a population of Quagga mussels is not developing,” said Anderson. In addition to the water sampling, NPS divers and underwater remote operated vessels will be used to search for adult mussels. “However, if test results continue to show positive for DNA or if there are adult mussels visible, it could indicate that a population is starting,” Anderson said.

If there is a population of mussels, Superintendent Brindle said he is committed to working with all agencies and partners to determine the extent of the population and investigate and implement strategies for control. Depending on the extent of an early population, removing, wrapping or burying the mussel colony might be effective in preventing additional reproduction.

“We will continue the boat inspections that are currently in place,” Anderson stated. “Prevention is still the most effective way to fight invasive species. Continue to clean, drain, and dry your boat and equipment after every use.”

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic. From the article:

The National Park Service said Thursday that samples taken near Glen Canyon Dam and Antelope Point show the presence of mussel larvae and DNA. Glen Canyon Recreation Area Superintendent Todd Brindle says it’s possible the larvae could have washed off boats that had been in mussel-infested waters. He says divers and remote-controlled vessels will be searching for adult mussels that would signal the startup of a population.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.