Chaffee County commissioners continue 1041 hearings for geothermal regulations

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From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

Chaffee County commissioners instructed staff Tuesday to incorporate most of the Chaffee County Planning Commission’s recommendations for the county’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations. During their Tuesday regular meeting, county commissioners also voted to continue hearings on the 1041 regulations for “Use of Geothermal Resources for the Commercial Production of Electricity.”

Commissioners continued the hearing so staff could gather more information about existing use of geothermal resources and to allow time for the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County to review the recommendations.

The commissioners did not make a decision on a recommendation to add the words “legal uses” before “geothermal resources” in the environmental impact analysis section of the application process.

With a domestic well, the owner has no legal right to the water’s heat – only the water itself, Fred Henderson, chief scientific officer for Mt. Princeton Geothermal, said. People using the hot water illegally can change their permits to define and allow use of the heat, he said.

Some businesses, such as bed and breakfasts or vacation rentals, may have used the hot water from their wells for years not knowing they need to change their permit to authorize their use, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said.

The original language of the draft 1041 regulations did not specify “legal” geothermal resources because its vagueness could offer more protection to county residents who use a geothermal resource, Jenny Davis, county attorney, said.

In some cases people may have used the resource before a process to define and authorize the use existed, she said. If people who rely on the hot water can change their well permits and make their use legal “without breaking their backs,” Chaffee County Commissioner Frank Holman said he would “like to place some onus” on the users to do so.

He asked staff to get more information, such as what is involved in the process, how much it costs and how long it takes.

Of the Planning Commission’s more than 20 recommended changes, most consisted of small changes such as correcting errors and clarifying language, Reimer said.

The substantial change recommendations the commissioners instructed staff to add to the draft include:

• Making all surface use go through a county land-use change permit, instead of addressing the uses in the 1041 process.
• Making exploration going less than 2,500 feet deep require only a notice to the county and no decision.
• Allowing for the appeal of decisions made by the director on activity notices to the board of commissioners.

County commissioners told staff not to incorporate a recommendation allowing for a discharging system. County commissioners started public hearings on the geothermal 1041 regulations in May. During a July 30 public hearing on the proposed new land-use code, planning commissioners decided to ask county commissioners to hold any decisions on the 1041 regulations until the Planning Commission could review and comment on them. The county commissioners agreed Aug. 6 to hold any decision on the regulations and continued their public hearing. The county commissioners will hold their next hearing on the draft regulations Oct. 1. “We’re really close,” Commissioner Dave Potts said.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

NSAA vs. USFS: US Rep. Scott Tipton hopes to thwart any new federal water grabs by codifying western water law

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Legislation recognizing the water laws of Colorado and other western states could discourage federal efforts to claim water, said U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo. Tipton will introduce legislation aimed at codifying western water law to deter federal pre-emption of water rights, he said. “The West is under assault at this time,” Tipton said Saturday at the fall meeting of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy organization.

The most recent battleground over water is a demand that ski areas surrender water rights to the U.S. Forest Service as a condition of obtaining their permits to operate on lands administered by the Forest Service.

Forest Service officials said the requirement was necessary to assure the continued use of the water for skiing. Many ski areas use their water rights to make snow.

Ski areas, and others, sued the Forest Service and gained a temporary victory when a federal judge ruled that the agency hadn’t followed federal procedures when it applied the directive in 2011 to the new owners of Powderhorn Mountain Resort near Grand Junction. The new owners were required to agree to the directive before they could open the mountain that ski season. The National Ski Areas Association said the demand amounted to a federal taking of private property.

Tipton said he will unveil the legislation, which will amount to a simple, two-page bill, in September.

More water law coverage here and here.

CWCB: The next Water Availability Task Force meeting is September 12

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):

The next Water Availability Task Force meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 18 from 9:30-11:45am & will be held at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver in the Bighorn Room.

More CWCB coverage here.

US Representative Cory Gardner plans legislation ‘that fixes the broken permitting system’

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Many water providers and users in Weld County say they’re elated that one of their representatives in Washington is trying to fix the “cumbersome” and “inefficient” federal permitting process for new water-storage projects. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., has proposed legislation that would require federal regulators to approve or deny permits for reservoir projects within 270 days after a state’s governor endorses a water project. If a decision isn’t made within 365 days of the governor’s endorsement, the project would be automatically approved, according to Gardner’s proposed legislation, which also looks to create a federal “Office of Water Storage.”

“We’re thrilled that there are efforts in place to address this,” said Jon Monson, water and sewer director for the city of Greeley.

He noted that one of the city’s planned projects — a 30-mile pipeline that would transport more drinking water from its Bellvue Water Treatment Plant northwest of Fort Collins to Greeley — has been in the federal permitting process for about five years, and the city’s planned Milton-Seaman Reservoir has been in the federal permitting stage for nearly 10 years. “(The federal permitting process) we have just doesn’t work in meeting the challenges we face,” he said.

While touring Weld County on Aug. 30, Gardner said he plans to introduce his water-storage legislation in Washington this month.

Monson added that he and others with the city of Greeley are eager to learn more specific details of Gardner’s proposed legislation, and hope to take part in discussions with him. Many water users and experts — particularly in the South Platte River basin, where Greeley and other rapidly growing communities try to coexist with large, water-dependent agriculture and oil and gas industries — stress the need for building more reservoirs, and building them in a timely manner.

According to the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative report, Colorado could face as much as a 600,000 acre-foot supply gap by 2050.

Most water experts, like Monson, agree that a variety of efforts, including water-conversation measures, will be needed to address the issue.

But many also say building new water-storage projects will be as critical as any other efforts.

Water has been in tight supply for many Front Range users recently, largely due to the widespread drought of 2012.

Many users, particularly farmers, have expressed frustration that during the above-average snowpack years of 2009, 2010 and 2011, the South Platte River basin watched about 1.4 million acre-feet of water above what’s legally required flow into Nebraska, according to numbers provided by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud. That much extra water was flowing into Nebraska because there weren’t enough reservoirs in the basin to capture the abundant snowmelt, they say, and having more reservoirs would have made a huge difference in enduring the 2012 drought.

But because the federal permitting process can take several years, if not longer, many needed projects aren’t in place yet, farmers and others say.

While many in Weld County are in favor of Gardner’s efforts to speed up the federal permitting process, some have raised concerns. Environmentalists, including the Fort Collins-based Save the Poudre organization, said last week that Gardner’s bill would “gut” the National Environmental Policy Act and create a new bureaucracy within the Army Corps of Engineers.

To the disappointment of many water users and officials in Weld County, Gardner’s proposed legislation wouldn’t impact the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which calls for building two new reservoirs — one northwest of Fort Collins, and one in northern Weld County — to supply 15 providers with 40,000 acre feet of new water each year. Gov. John Hickenlooper has not endorsed the project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been reviewing the project since 2004, when the Northern Water officials first submitted an application for the project.

“It wouldn’t solve everything, but we certainly need something to speed up this process,” said Frank Eckhardt, a LaSalle-area farmer. Eckhardt, a board member for the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley and for local irrigation-ditch companies, has long been involved in discussions regarding water-storage endeavors, like the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project.

Despite its support from Gov. Hickenlooper and other state water officials, the Chatfield project — which would nearly double the size of the reservoir south of Denver, and deliver more water downstream to local farmers in the Central district and other water users — has been in the federal permitting process for more than a decade, Eckhardt said. Eckhardt is grateful that Chatfield’s federal permitting process is reportedly nearing the finish line, but said the additional water provided by the project was already needed in recent years. Central Water, which provides augmentation water to more than 100,000 acres of irrigated farm ground in the area, is one of 11 water-providers participating in the proposed Chatfield project. The $184 million endeavor would raise the Denver-area lake by as much as 12 feet, and, in doing so, would provide an additional 2,849 acre-feet of water annually to some of Central’s users.

Local farmers, like Eckhardt, say they need to secure such water supplies, and quickly, because the cities around them are growing and are increasing their own water needs. Central Water and the farmers within its boundaries have long been dependent on leasing excess water from local cities, but those supplies are becoming more limited, and expensive. “We’re running out of time,” Eckhardt said. “We need more storage quickly.”

Keystone: 2013 RMSAWWA/RMWEA Joint Annual Conference September 8 to 11

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Click here to go to the website. Here’s the pitch:

The 2013 Joint Annual Conference of the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association (RMSAWWA) and the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association (RMWEA) will be held in Keystone, Colorado, from September 8 to 11.

Join over 800 of your peers and colleagues in the water industry for 4 days of exhibits, technical presentations and networking opportunities. Dedicated volunteers from the RMSAWWA and RMWEA have worked countless hours to make this years conference a tremendous success. From the Exhibit Hall featuring more than 100 booths to the technical sessions jam-packed with the most up-to-date information, you’ll join over 800 representatives of the Rocky Mountain water industry who have concluded…if you’re only going to attend one conference this year, the 2013 RMSAWWA/RMWEA Joint Annual Conference is the place to be.

From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

Water utility workers and engineers from Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming are gathering in Keystone this weekend to brush up on their skills and compete in a water taste test. Members of the Rocky Mountain American Water Works Association and the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association are holding the competition at a joint regional conference Sept. 8-11. Large and small municipal water utilities will put their tap water to the test on Tuesday. Each sample will be judged on its appearance, smell, taste and overall impression…

The taste test is only one component of the annual event for water- and waste-treatment workers. The conference is held to broaden the pool of knowledge, give utility workers access to resources and gain certifications to become compliant with rules and regulations.

More water treatment coverage here.