Drought/snowpack news:

Here’s a report from 9News.com (Blair Shiff) about current conditions (bad). Here’s an excerpt:

Denver Water says because of drought conditions in 2012, Colorado is starting the year with reservoirs only 65 percent full. They would like levels to be at 81 percent. It would take a lot of snow over the next few weeks to make that up, so residents could see restrictions this summer.

“It really will take a lot of big snows to where we have a water supply that really will serve us, so we are talking about what this might mean for customers moving into the spring,” Stacy Chesney with Denver Water said.

No decision has been made, but customers could see mandatory restrictions. They could include only watering certain amounts or on certain days.

Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention starts today with full workshop schedule, Colorado Water 2012 celebration


I’ll be attending the shindig through Friday so posting may be intermittent. I’m hoping to live-Tweet the high points @CoyoteGulch.

Snowpack news: Beulah nets five inches of snow from yesterday’s storm #codrought


From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Pueblo West reported 21⁄ 2 inches of snow as well. The mountains saw more. Beulah, Colorado City and Rye all reported at least 5 inches of snow while Walsenburg reported 4 inches. The snow was wet and sorely needed. Randy Gray, meteorological technician at the weather service, said the city received 0.19 inch of precipitation but it put no measurable dent in the county’s extreme drought…

The storm system arrived earlier in the San Juan Mountains than the rest of Southern Colorado. Since Friday, it dropped 40 inches of snow on Wolf Creek Ski Area including 13 inches Tuesday. Lesser amounts fell on the western edge of the valley Monday as 4 inches were reported south of Monte Vista and 3 inches in the foothills west of Saguache. The sustained snowfall in the San Juans boosted the year-to-date precipitation in the Upper Rio Grande Basin from 60 percent of average last week to 74 percent of average Tuesday. Fremont and Custer counties residents reported between 1 and 2 inches of snow in the lower elevation areas of their communities. Monarch Mountain reported 10 inches of new snow Tuesday.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Snow piled up in a big way at some Colorado ski areas and more is on the way. National Weather Service forecasters are tracking a moist flow off the Pacific that favors the northwestern mountains…

The snow is a huge relief for ski areas and water managers. Already, some resorts have picked up multiple feet of snow. According to Colorado Ski Country, Silverton Mountain in the San Juans reported 78 inches of snow in the past few days, about double of the 36 inches reported at Wolf Creek…

Steamboat reported 26 inches and Telluride welcomed 23 inches. In the Central Mountains Sunlight Mountain saw 20 inches fall, Monarch boasted 18 inches, and Crested Butte 17 inches. Aspen Highlands and Snowmass both reported 12 inches of new snow from the storm while Aspen and Buttermilk both reported 8 inches.

CWCB: ‘Zombie Pipeline’ Takes Critical Wound in Vote — Jason Bane


From email from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) today voted overwhelmingly to end funding for the ‘Flaming Gorge Task Force,’ which had been considering future large-scale water diversion projects such as the ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline.’ The decision is in line with public opinion; a recent Colorado water poll found that four-in-five Colorado voters favor focusing on water conservation efforts rather than water diversions.

In response to today’s decision, Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager at Western Resource Advocates, issued the following statement:

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been called the ‘zombie pipeline’ from years of lumbering around trying to latch onto anything that might keep it alive. Today’s CWCB vote sends a strong message that it’s time to move on to other water demand solutions. No amount of discussion is going to make the pipeline less expensive or more realistic, and we applaud the CWCB for recognizing the need to move forward.”

The ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) is a proposal to pump 81 million gallons of water a year across more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—all at a projected cost of $9 billion dollars (according to CWCB calculations). Western Resource Advocates has consistently opposed the idea as unreasonable and unnecessary.

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

The task force funding drew criticism from conservation groups, who said the money would be better spent studying realistic conservation and reuse options for water. By some state estimates, the pipeline could have cost as much as $9 billion. The CWCB denied a request for $100,000 of state water money for continued study…

We applaud Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board for their decision to turn down spending additional money to examine new water diversions as a solution to meet Colorado’s water challenges, said Protect Our Flows director Molly Mugglestone. “It’s the right decision for what Coloradans want as reflected overwhelmingly in a recent bipartisan poll commissioned by Protect the Flows.

The poll showed that more than 80 percent of Colorado voters would tell state officials to spend their time and resources focusing on conservation efforts, rather than water diversions; a majority of voters across political and geographic lines oppose building additional pipelines; and almost all express strong regard for Colorado rivers and a desire to protect them.

[Aaron Million] has said the pipeline could actually help protect flows in over-used sections of the Colorado, especially in years like this, with abundant moisture in Wyoming, but well below average snowpack in Colorado.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

Cañon City: Cotter Corp, Inc. gets Colorado’s blessing to decommission their mill site at Lincoln Park


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

otter Corp. has the green light to decommission its uranium mill. “The Colorado Department of Public Health has issued an amended radioactive materials license to Cotter to reflect current activities,” said Jeannie Natterman, public information specialist. “It is a housekeeping measure since they are not processing ore anymore. “Now it is a decommissioning and reclamation license,” she said.

Cotter officials will continue to address radon releases from the impoundments, daily perimeter inspections as well as groundwater testing. In addition, Cotter workers are finishing the demolition of old buildings, which are being placed into the primary impoundment, Natterman said. “Amending Cotter’s license coordinates regulatory activities with the decommissioning and closure process,” explained Gary Baughman, hazardous materials division director.

State, federal and Cotter officials now will focus on the planning and work that needs to be done to successfully terminate the license and remove the site from the federal Superfund list. The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been a Superfund site since 1988. A steering committee also is revamping the Community Advisory Group, whose 12 to 15 members will review cleanup studies and proposed methods of cleanup to the regulatory agencies.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: Mill levy on the horizon for Pueblo and El Paso counties?


Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

A report from the Trust for Public Lands next month could help solidify plans by a Fountain Creek improvement district to ask voters for a mill levy. “Our current funding runs out at the end of this year,” said El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey. “We may be passing the hat next year.”

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District last year signed an agreement to work with the trust to poll voters about what kind of ballot issue would likely be supported to provide more sustainable funding for the district. “When we get to the big question, we have to find out what the will of the people is,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart.

Under state law, the district can ask voters in Pueblo and El Paso counties for up to 5 mills. Apparently, the majority of voters in both counties would decide the issue. In other words, a mill could not be passed in one county and rejected in another.

Hisey said the size of the mill levy could depend on whether the district intends to fund its basic operations, leverage grant money or tackle larger problems. The distribution of funding could be arranged in such a way that El Paso County could pay more than Pueblo County and use money to address its nearly $1 billion in backlogged stormwater projects, the board agreed during discussion.

“But Pueblo money cannot go north,” Hisey said. Hart agreed.

“The formula has to make sure the money is being spent in the county being taxed,” he said.

The district so far has survived largely on funding from Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Under its 1041 permit with Pueblo County, the district would receive the remainder of $50 million promised from Colorado Springs over five years after the Southern Delivery System is completed in 2016.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to improve Fountain Creek will put some additional money into a project designed to showcase methods to reduce erosion.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable earlier this month kicked back a grant for an erosion control project on the Frost Ranch south of Fountain in El Paso County saying more matching funds were needed.

Last week, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board agreed to pay another $35,000 toward the project, while landowner Jay Frost agreed to contribute $7,000. The district is seeking $105,000 in funds — reduced from a $150,000 request — from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with a $31,000 inkind contribution from Colorado Springs Utilities. The district, which already committed $10,000 to the project, will use money from the Fountain Creek master plan fund to pay its share. The fund is equally supported by Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Engineer Graham Thompson explained the project would use natural methods and native plants to create a healthy channel. The Frost Ranch was chosen because the ranch is within an area that is otherwise healthy.
“It opens the door for other grant cycles,” Thompson said. “More and more I’m convinced that the sediment load in Pueblo County is coming from the banks (of Fountain Creek).”

While the board has limited money left in the master plan fund, about $100,000, projects like the Frost Ranch will provide leverage for future grants as well as show other landowners what can be done, said Executive Director Larry Small. “We have the money, so we need to do the work,” said board member Richard Skorman.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

During a hand­off of seats on a board dedicated to protecting Fountain Creek Friday, Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart nearly fumbled the baton. Otherwise, things went smoothly.

Hart, who replaced District Attorney Jeff Chostner on the board, told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board he was pleased to be sitting at the “adults’ table,” invoking an analogy of Thanksgiving dinner. There were some amused groans from the “children’s table” in the audience and one committee member laughingly quipped he would have to “take out his pacifier” before addressing the board. Hart formerly chaired the citizens advisory group and has attended Fountain Creek meetings for the past year.

Chostner was lauded by his fellow board members for his service and involvement since the formation of the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force in 2006. “You’ve been the glue for this board in a lot of ways,” Richard Skorman, a former Colorado Springs councilman, told Chostner. “You’ve come to El Paso County a lot and reached out in a way no one else has.”

“The beauty of this board is that we can be friends,” Chostner replied.

The board elected officers for the coming year. Fountain Mayor Pro Tem Gabe Ortega was elected chairman; Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya, vice chairman; Colorado Springs Councilwoman Brandy Williams, secretary; and Fountain Creek Pueblo County resident Jane Rhodes, treasurer. Other members are Palmer Lake Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maddux, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board member Melissa Esquibel, El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and Hart. The district was formed by the state Legislature in 2009 to address common Fountain Creek concerns in El Paso and Pueblo counties.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.