Wild and Scenic designation for the Crystal River?


Here’s an in-depth report from Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith). Click through for all the detail and some great photos, as well. Here’s an excerpt:

Wild and Scenic status, which ultimately requires an act of Congress to obtain, prevents a federal agency from approving, or funding, a new dam or reservoir on a Wild and Scenic-designated river.

And that’s one big reason why Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) and American Rivers are exploring Wild and Scenic status for the Crystal — because it would likely block a potential dam and reservoir from being built at Placita, an old coal town between Marble and Redstone…

The West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River District are fighting to retain conditional water rights that could allow for a dam across the Crystal and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir.

The river district says such a reservoir could put more water in the often parched lower Crystal River in the fall and could also provide hydropower.

But the county, CVEPA and American Rivers are actively opposing the renewal of the conditional water rights tied to the dam and a 21-day trial in district water court is scheduled for August.

In the meantime those groups, plus the Conservancy, are testing local sentiment about seeking Wild and Scenic designation.

“We want to disseminate as much information as possible to the public about the Wild and Scenic program, and then ask the folks in the Crystal River Valley if they think it is a good idea to pursue,” said Pitkin County Attorney John Ely, who leads most of the county’s water-related initiatives.

To that end, the groups held two public meetings in mid-November, one in Redstone attended by 57 people and one in Carbondale with 35 people there…

What the Wild and Scenic Act does do is let the river run — by preventing federal agencies from permitting or funding “any dam, water conduit, reservoir, powerhouse, transmission line or other project,” according to its language.

It would prevent, for example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from issuing a permit for a hydropower project on the river or along its banks.

“Some rivers need to be left alone,” said David Moryc, senior director of river protection at American Rivers, describing the underlying intent of the law, according to a summary of the meeting prepared by the Roaring Fork Conservancy…

When asked about that via email, Ely of Pitkin County said he thought Colorado had only one designated river because of the “lack of information as to the benefits and restrictions of the designation, and the time and dedication it takes to get it through Congress.”

Another reason may be that once a river is designated Wild and Scenic, the federal government becomes a stakeholder on the river and has a chance to review potential changes to it, such as any new water rights. Some may feel that Colorado water law is complicated enough already…

“I think the Crystal has the potential to be a nice clean straightforward effort because there are no out-of-basin uses yet,” Ely wrote. “If there is interest in going forward, we’re happy to be the laboring oar and do that work.”

More Crystal River Watershed coverage here and here.

Sterling: New reverse osmosis water treatment plant online and ramping up to full production

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (David Martinez):

…by the end of February, [city engineers] say, 80 percent of the city’s water will run through dozens of stacked reverse osmosis (RO) filters, squeezing out pollutants to meet state standards.

“It’s not something you call in and say, ‘Hey, deliver this to us,'” said Mark Youker, construction manager for Hatch Mott McDonald, which has overseen the architecture and engineering of the project. “It’s a lot more complicated than that.”

Plans to build the plant started around September 2008, when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an enforcement order to get the city’s water standards up to compliance within a given time frame. The main contaminant, among others, was the water’s naturally-occurring uranium levels, which could increase an individual’s cancer risks over longer exposures.

Youker said before the plant was constructed, Sterling’s water was pumped directly from wells across the county, treated with chlorine at four separate stations and delivered directly to city homes, farms and businesses.

When the plant becomes fully operational, the city’s raw well water will all instead flow straight to the one spot for treatment. It’s capable of providing 9.5 million gallons of water to the city per day, though the average demand is only about 4 million gallons.

The water will run through a filtration system before it’s chlorinated, and be pumped out as a 80/20 mix of RO-treated to untreated water; Youker said the city has been receiving the “20 percent,” filtered water for about two months already.

Workers at the new Sterling Water Treatment Plant monitor every aspect of the treatment process through a monitor in their control room. (David Martinez/Journal-Advocate)
Ryan Walsh, the project engineer, said the mix holds several structural and taste benefits.

“The first goal (of treatment) is to bring the city’s water to compliance with the new state standards,” Walsh said. “The second is to bring water that more aesthetically pleasing and requires less maintenance.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Eagle County: Two parcels along the Colorado River protected from development #COriver


From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

The certainty of closing came this week to two big parcels of open space along the Colorado River north of Dotsero. One — a 228-acre parcel owned by the Nottingham family — was purchased outright. The other parcel, the 1,017-acre Colorado River Ranch was protected via a contract — called a “conservation easement,” that prohibits the land owners from any future development on the land.

Those contracts come at a price — land owners essentially sell the rights to any future development.

In the case of the Colorado River Ranch, the cost of the deal was about $6 million. The cost of the deals for both parcels was shared, roughly equally, by Eagle County’s open space fund and Great Outdoors Colorado, which uses money from the sale of lottery tickets to help fund open space and parks projects…

Under the deal for the Colorado River Ranch, the water rights now owned by the ranch can never be sold or transferred. The same is true for the smaller parcel.

While the Colorado River Ranch will remain in the hands of its current owners — and will remain a working cattle ranch raising organic beef — both pieces of property have preservation contracts attached. Those contracts will be managed and enforced by Colorado Open Lands, a Denver area-based land trust.

More conservation easements coverage here.

Denver: Free energy and water workshop for residents and business owners January 8


Here’s the announcement from the Denver Energy Challenge:

Looking to make energy improvements at home (or in your Denver business) but unsure where to start?

Come to a free educational workshop at The Center. A representative from the City’s Denver Energy Challenge will discuss ways to cut energy waste and about other free resources provided by the City for Denver residents and businesses.

We will also cover ways to conserve water at home and what rebates and resources are available through Denver Water.

Over 5200 residents and 1100 businesses are participating, so the only thing to lose is wasted energy!

Date: Jan. 8th
Time: 6p-7p
Location: 1301 E. Colfax Ave. Denver 80218

More conservation coverage here.

2013 Colorado legislation: The Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance will support water storage bills during the upcoming session


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

…a local business organization, the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, is prepared to support bills dealing with both issues if they match its agenda, which includes developing more water storage facilities and encouraging growth in the energy economy.

Growth in the oil and gas industry should be encouraged, along with innovative approaches to energy, said Sandra Hagen Solin, the NCLA’s issues manager, during the organization’s annual legislative preview on Friday. The event at the Budweiser Event Center was attended by local business leaders and elected officials. The energy sector is critical to Northern Colorado and the state, she said.

“We want to protect those interests and ensure that both sides of that energy equation are protected and are encouraged and are enhanced,” Solin said…

The NCLA is the public policy arm of regional chambers of commerce and economic development agencies. Its priority remains supporting “business vitality first,” Solin said. Its interests include developing additional water storage, especially the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, and Glade Reservoir.

More coverage from Steve Lynn writing for the Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

Representatives of the lobbying arm of Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland chambers of commerce and the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation outlined their goals at a luncheon Friday at the Ranch in Loveland.

The alliance will seek funding for expansion of the interstate, said Sandra Hagen Solin, the alliance’s lobbyist. It also will take steps to encourage development of the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

NISP, led by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, is expected to supply cities and towns with 40,000 acre-feet of water annually if approved by the federal government.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Many eyes are on Aurora’s proposed lease for 10,000 acre-feet from the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Negotiations will proceed between the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch and Aurora for a proposed lease of water this year.

“We’re still unified and this is a big step forward,” said Super Ditch President John Schweizer. “The whole idea of the Super Ditch is to begin to get the ditches working together.”

The Super Ditch board, which includes some shareholders from seven Arkansas Valley ditches, met Wednesday with the boards of the High Line and Catlin canals in Rocky Ford.

Aurora has proposed leasing up to 10,000 acrefeet of water from Super Ditch under the terms of a 2010 agreement at a rate of $500 per acre­foot delivered to Lake Pueblo. The boards of both ditch companies, as well as the Super Ditch board, say the rate is too low.

“Commodity prices are different than when we made the agreement,” Schweizer said. The Super Ditch board instructed attorney Peter Nichols to negotiate with Aurora on the rate, as well as engineering costs and other details. Aurora has not officially changed its position. “We negotiated the price in the term sheet and we expect them to stand by it,” said Gerry Knapp, manager of Aurora’s Arkansas Valley operations. “We’re always willing to talk to them.”

The water would be generated by drying up some of the irrigated farm ground on the High Line and Catlin canals for one year. Aurora has a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to store water in Lake Pueblo and move it through a paper trade to Twin Lakes, where it is pumped through the Otero Pumping Station and Homestake pipeline into the South Platte River basin.

The boards do not expect all shareholders on the two ditches to participate. About 25 to 30 percent of the ground of any participating shareholder could be dried up, Schweizer said. No one is certain that the Arkansas Valley will snap out of its two­year drought in 2013, so deliveries could fall short, as they did when Aurora leased water from the High Line Canal in 2004­-05 Aurora owns water rights in Otero, Crowley and Lake counties, and in dry years water deliveries from those rights fall well below average.

Under 2003 agreements with the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts, Aurora may lease additional water when its systemwide reservoir storage falls below 60 percent. Current storage is at 51 percent, and dropping by 1 percent weekly.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

U.S. Forest Service Files Several Small Water Rights to Protect Historical Uses on the San Juan National Forest


Here’s the release from the U.S. Forest Service:

The U.S. Forest Service has filed an application to perfect a portion of the Animas Service Area water right owned by La Plata County and the Southwestern Water Conservation District. The application was filed in District Court, Water Division 7, on November 29th as confirmation of a number of historic existing water uses in the Animas River basin on the San Juan National Forest, Columbine Ranger District.

The Animas Service Area water right is a unique Colorado water right acquired in response to the recreational in-channel diversion water right owned by the City of Durango for whitewater recreation. A settlement between the City of Durango, La Plata County and the Southwestern Water Conservation District allowed for water to support a whitewater park on the Animas River, while setting aside two large water rights that are senior to the city’s allotment for current and future development.

The Animas Service Area water right is for the beneficial uses of irrigation, wetlands and wetland
irrigation, domestic, municipal, pond, reservoir, water feature and other evaporation, industrial, manufacturing, power, geothermal, commercial, gravel and other mining, stock, wildlife, firefighting, recreation, snow and ice making, fisheries, recharge of aquifers, and augmentation and exchange to protect other water right holders.

The U.S. Forest Service filing will confirm 153 water rights for the San Juan National Forest, representing a cumulative total of about 2.3 cubic feet per second (cfs) of flow amounts in springs, and an additional 57.8 acre-feet of storage in Henderson Lake. To put the amounts into perspective, approximately 1 cfs of water per year is typically used to irrigate 30 acres of land in the Animas Valley. An acre-foot of water is enough water to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot.

Most of the Forest Service claims are for surface-water rights to protect water for livestock at 137 small natural springs on National Forest grazing allotments in the Animas Basin. These uses have been in effect on the National Forest since the early 1900s, and altogether represent a cumulative total of almost 2.2 cfs.

Other claims being filed by the Forest Service will protect existing domestic water use and lawn watering at cabins on the National Forest. These represent only about 0.13 cfs cumulative total. Claims are also being filed to confirm the ability of the Forest Service to provide drinking water to campers at South Mineral Campground (0.0043 cfs) and to continue to provide for recreation and fisheries at Henderson Lake (57.8 acre feet).

More Animas River Watershed coverage here.

Surface Creek Valley Water Meetings — January 29 and 31 #COriver


Here’s the announcement from the organizers — the Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District and the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University. The public is invited to come and learn about water issues facing Colorado, the
Gunnison River Basin and the Surface Creek Valley.

More Surface Creek Watershed coverage here.

Rifle water rates are going down after approval of a three quarter of a cent sales tax hike


From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

Water rates will be substantially lower, after City Council approved an emergency ordinance on Dec. 19 that modifies the water rates that were implemented in September. Those rates were more than double the previous rates in some cases, and were increased to help repay a $25.5 million loan to build a new water treatment plant.

City Manager John Hier said the reduction follows voter passage of a 3/4 of a cent sales and use tax hike at the Nov. 6 general election. That tax hike was proposed by the city to help ease the financial burden on water users.

Hier noted the ordinance also eliminates a second round of water rate increases planned for April 1.

“I think these are very reasonable rates and represent a significant reduction in water bills,” Hier said.

However, he noted the new rates are still higher overall than the rates that were in effect for the first half of 2012. But, he added, tiers one and two ($3.20 and $3.40 per 1,000 gallons) are less than the old rate of $3.54 per 1,000 gallons.

“I believe these new rates will give water customers the relief they are seeking,” Hier wrote in a memo to the council.

Meanwhile, the city council has started awarding contracts for the construction of the new water treatment plant. Here’s a report from Mike McKibbin writing for The Rifle Citizen Telegram. Here’s an excerpt:

At its Dec. 19 meeting, Rifle City Council unanimously approved a construction management contract with ARCADIS and Malcolm Pirnie for up to $690,000, and agreed to hire Phil Vaughan Construction Management of Rifle as the owners advisor for up to $203,750. The city recently hired Jim Miller as the resident engineer for the project, officially the Rifle Regional Water Purification Facility.

The total cost of the contract, agreement and hiring of Miller is $1.1 million, Utilities Director Dick Deussen explained to the council in a written report. Funds will come from the $25.5 million loan the city received from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Authority to pay for the project.

The total cost compares to $1.4 million for these purposes in the loan agreement, Deussen said, and added the city spent about $1.2 million at the wastewater plant for these services.

Deussen said the average daily cost of the contract with ARCADIS and Malcolm Pirnie is estimated to range from $52,000 to $78,000 a day.

With offices in Highlands Ranch, ARCADIS has water management, engineering, and environmental restoration expertise, according to their website. Malcolm Pirnie focuses on water quality, process, planning and delivery and has expertise in water science and engineering.

The city has had a contract with the two companies since April 30, 2009, for design and construction engineering services, including resident engineering. Action by the council on Dec. 19 amended that contract.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Orchard City: Lots of snags for proposed hydroelectric generation station at the water treatment plant


From the Delta County Independent:

The town board conducted a public hearing on Dec. 12 to discuss the project. The hearing is part of the public process mandated by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for obtaining necessary federal approvals.

The town wants to install a 22 kilowatt generating turbine at the water treatment plant that hopefully would save up to $10,000 in propane costs for heat that the town has spent in previous years.

The cost of propane has recently come down, reducing the cost of heating the treatment plant. That has negated some savings originally calculated in the project and extended even further the estimated payback period for the hydro installation.

A regulatory snag has also crept into plans. The 22 kilowatt generator the town plans to install will actually generate more electricity than the treatment plant needs. But a regulation prohibits the town from getting credit for the excess electricity generated.

If the town isn’t able to get credit for its excess produced electricity through credits on other meters it owns, then the project may collapse because the payback could disappear altogether.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

CWCB: Alternative Agricultural Water Transfers Method Grant Program grant applications due April 15


From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is seeking proposals for its Alternative Agricultural Water Transfers Method (ATM) Grant Program. The ATM Grant Program is focused at advancing alternatives to the permanent transfer of agricultural irrigation water rights to municipal and industrial purposes. It is expected that this grant cycle will fund projects that build upon work performed in past funding cycles and encourage more “on-the-ground” projects (i.e. pilot/demonstration projects, facilitating agreements between municipal water providers and irrigators, etc.). Descriptions, summary reports and/or findings of past work can be found in the technical memorandum: Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program Summary and Status Update (November 2012).

Grant applications must be received by the CWCB by April 15, 2013 for consideration by the Board at their May 14-15, 2013 meeting.

To obtain additional information, copies of the technical memorandum, ATM Grant Program Criteria and Guidelines and grant application, please go to the following webpage: http://cwcb.state.co.us/LoansGrants/alternative-agricultural-water-transfer-methods-grants/Pages/main.aspx.

More CWCB coverage here.

Denver: The next meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board is January 28 and 29


From email from the CWCB:

Notice is hereby given that a meeting of the CWCB will be held on Monday, January 28, 2013, commencing at 8:30 a.m. and continuing through Tuesday, January 29, 2013.This meeting will be held at the Marriott Denver Tech Center, located at 4900 South Syracuse Street, Denver, CO 80237.The Board will hold a workshop on Wednesday, January 30th, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the same location.

More CWCB coverage here.

Water Resource Education Curriculum (WREC) students are developing conservation programs at 3 Southern Colorado high schools


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anne Casey):

Three area science teachers — Fran Weber at Pueblo West High School, Alec Walter at the School of Engineering and Biomedical Science at Pueblo County High School and Nate Chisholm at Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs — are leading the efforts on their campuses with teams of students who meet after school to address issues ranging from raising water conservation awareness among the student body to planning and creating xeriscape demonstration gardens.

The primary goal of the WRECking Crew is to help students figure out how to conserve water and understand that saving water means saving money which can be put to other uses. They will present their findings to their school boards and give their recommendations for how to best spend the savings.

Other goals include providing an opportunity to allow students to learn about water issues locally, statewide and globally; to involve students in the workings of their campuses, creating a sense of ownership and responsibility for their building and grounds; and ultimately to create a curriculum for water education that can be implemented at other high schools.

If necessary, these student groups will be wrecking the old conventions and creating innovative new ways of managing water usage on campus and in communities. WRECking Crew members rely on their facilities managers to provide guidance as they learn how water is used on their campuses and how they might best conserve it both on campus and in other areas of their life.

Working together with students, teachers, administrators and facilities managers at these three schools, CSU Extension will document the experience and use it to create a template for other schools that wish to present a similar hands-on, experiential water education program.

This second year of the program has concentrated on baseline data gathering through water awareness surveys and water usage audits.

Currently the three WRECking Crews are engaged in learning techniques to map their schools in the context of their watersheds. They have all had the opportunity to visit a demonstration xeriscape garden with CSU Water Specialist Perry Cabot in order to start planning their own campus gardens.

More conservation coverage here.