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


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.