The Huerfano County Water Conservancy District scores Huerfano River water rights via purchase of the Camp Ranch


From the Huerfano World Journal:

The Huerfano County Water Conservancy District has contracted to purchase the thousand-acre Camp Ranch in Huerfano County, together with its senior water rights on the Huerfano River, for a total purchase price of $1.85 million. Closing of the purchase is expected by early next year, after district lawyers and engineers ensure that the water rights meet the district’s needs…

The district anticipates the use of the water rights in a Huerfano River Basin Regional Plan for Augmentation to be filed with the Water Court for Division 2. The plan would allow the continuance of junior water uses within the basin that are otherwise at risk of being curtailed due to water rights administration under the Colorado prior appropriation doctrine.

Until now the district has provided augmentation water on a temporary basis using leased water rights. With the current drought, however, water users on the Huerfano River faced the real prospect of being shut down by the state. “The water rights now under contract provide a solution, being a strong basis for a permanent, court-approved water augmentation plan that will work during the driest of years,” said Kent Mace, HCWCD Board president. “Credit goes to the Huerfano County voters who approved a mill levy increase in 2012, thus making this purchase possible. It will not only provide reliable augmentation water, but it will also serve to keep Huerfano County water in Huerfano County.” Having found a solution to the most pressing water problem on the Huerfano River, the district will now focus on the Cucharas River Basin.

In a letter to the district, Division Water Engineer Steve Witte enthusiastically supported “the district in its efforts to develop the regional augmentation plan through acquisition of senior water rights.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

Moab uranium mill tailings cleanup includes 200 million gallons of groundwater #ColoradoRiver


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The cleanup of a uranium mill-tailings pile along the Colorado River in Utah has removed 200 million gallons of contaminated groundwater as well, officials said. In removing about one-third of the 16 million-ton pile, the Moab, Utah, uranium mill tailings removal project also extracted the contaminated groundwater. The groundwater contained more than 785,000 pounds of ammonia and 3,900 pounds of uranium.

The project in 2003 installed a collection system aimed at removing water from the pile using eight extraction wells. The extracted groundwater is pumped to a lined four-acre pond on top of the tailings pile and sent to forced-air evaporators. The extraction system “efficiently and cost-effectively protects the river, which is a drinking-water source for millions of downstream users,” Donald Metzler, federal project director, said. “We intercepted it before it got to the river.”

The uranium is stored in the bottom of the evaporation pond, where it will remain unless he can find a market for it, Metzler said. If he can’t, it eventually will be buried in the disposal cell, Metzler said.

More than 38 percent of the tailings pile, which was left over from the Cold War, has been taken by rail to a disposal site below the Book Cliffs near Crescent Junction, 30 miles north of the river.

Removal of the entire pile and the contaminated groundwater is expected to be complete in 12 years.

High concentrations of ammonia can harm endangered fish in the Colorado River.

Project officials estimate that removal of the contaminated water from the 130-acre site has cost less than 10 cents per gallon of water removed.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Udall, Tipton Introduce Legislation to Further Help Private Groups Clean Abandoned Mines, Protect Colorado Water


Here’s the release from Senator Udall’s office:

In an effort to speed the cleanup of abandoned mines throughout Colorado, Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton introduced bipartisan legislation today to give Good Samaritan groups additional binding legal safeguards they need to remediate the sites and keep Colorado’s streams and water clean. There are more than 7,000 abandoned hard rock mine sites located in Colorado and thousands more throughout the West.

“Runoff from abandoned mines throughout Colorado and the West threaten our water quality, wildlife and local economies. This common-sense, bipartisan legislation will further unleash so-called Good Samaritan groups and allow them to help address this problem,” Udall said. “A policy the EPA unveiled last year as a result of my leadership took a step in the right direction. This bill is the logical next step to speed the cleanup of these mines and address their toxic runoff.”

“It’s a good thing for all of us when mining companies and local conservation groups want to make an effort to cleanup abandoned mine pollution. This is something that the federal government should be encouraging, not restricting by putting up hurdles to those willing to do the needed work,” Tipton said. “We’re looking to provide momentum to these important efforts by removing existing hurdles that discourage Good Samaritan groups from cleaning up Colorado’s abandoned mines and providing our communities and environment with a valuable service.”

The Udall-Tipton bill, which Sen. Michael Bennet is co-sponsoring, is similar to legislation Udall introduced in 2009. The Udall-Tipton bill would:

  • Create a new program under the Clean Water Act to help promote the Good Samaritan efforts of those who have no legal responsibility for abandoned hard rock mines by allowing them to qualify for cleanup permits.
  • Provide some liability protections for those who complete volunteer cleanups of abandoned mine sites pursuant to pre-approved restoration plans.
  • Allow the EPA, state government or tribal governments to issue permits for cleanups.
  • From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

    A measure that would insulate individuals and organizations hoping to clean up abandoned mines was introduced Thursday by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

    The measure would offer binding legal protections for “Good Samaritans” and aid in the cleanup of more than 7,000 abandoned hard-rock mines in Colorado and thousands more throughout the West.

    The bill, which U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is co-sponsoring, is similar to legislation Udall introduced in 2009.

    It would establish a program under the Clean Water Act to help promote the Good Samaritan efforts of those who have no legal responsibility for abandoned hard-rock mines by allowing them to qualify for cleanup permits.

    It also would offer some liability protections for those who complete volunteer cleanups of abandoned mine sites pursuant to approved restoration plans.

    The Environmental Protection Agency, state government or tribal agencies could issue cleanup permits under the legislation.

    More Good Samaritan mine cleanup coverage here. More water pollution coverage here and here.