From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud) via The Aspen Times:
A process that began nearly 19 years ago to have Deep Creek in far eastern Garfield County designated as a Wild and Scenic waterway is nearing the end of a formal suitability analysis as part of the BLM’s new Resource Management Plan.
“We are conducting our suitability analysis for Wild and Scenic Rivers through our RMP,” said David Boyd, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Northwest Colorado District. “We anticipate the proposed plan/alternative will be released late this fall or early next year,” he said.
In addition, the White River National Forest is working with the BLM to analyze eligible segments of Deep Creek as it passes through forest lands.
“The draft plan has identified both the BLM and Forest Service segments of Deep Creek as suitable for Wild and Scenic in two alternatives,” Boyd said, including a conservation alternative and a less-restrictive “preferred alternative.”[…]
One other area waterway, the Crystal River south of Carbondale, is in the preliminary stages of being proposed by conservation groups for Wild and Scenic designation as well.
With the end of the irrigation season upon us, diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel have been shut down for the winter as of yesterday, October 30. Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced to 300 cfs today, October 31, at 11 AM. This will leave 300 cfs in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon for the winter months.
Colorado’s flood-recovery chief says there are yawning gaps in the funding available and the funding needed to help home and business owners trying to rebound from the September deluges. As many as 26,000 flood victims have applied for individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which usually gives out about $6,000 in flood aid.
“But many people are getting much less,” said Jerre Stead, appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in September as the state’s chief recovery officer.
Stead said his most important job is to listen carefully to the victims of the flooding to make sure they get the resources, and money, to get back to their lives.
“They’ve got to know people care about them, that they are being heard,” said the 70-year-old.
Through the work of local, state and federal recovery teams, as well as the website http://ColoradoUnited.com, information about help is filtering out to people in 24 counties nearly washed away by floodwaters, Stead said.
That help includes raising nearly $12 million for housing for flood victims through groups such as United Way and Red Cross.
About $46 million has been approved for Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans for about 1,000 homeowners and 121 business, primarily in Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties, he said.
Still, one the biggest problems facing recovery efforts is that officials are still assessing the damage, Stead said. For instance, the toll on the state’s farms and ranches is just now being tallied.
But it’s known that 1,200 farms were impacted by the floods, including 32,000 acres of cropland.
“Piece by piece, we are getting things together, making progress,” Stead said. “But these numbers change daily as we get further and further into the recovery.”
Stead, an Iowa native, has been the executive chairman at Englewood-based IHS since December 2000, a job he took shortly after retiring as the top executive at Ingram Micro. He also has held top jobs at AT&T, Honeywell, Square D and Legent. Stead took over as CEO of IHS in September 2006. The company is a Douglas County provider of information and analysis to businesses and governments across the globe.
In September, Hickenlooper praised Stead as one of the more talented executives in the state, saying “Jerre was really sent from heaven to do this task.”
Stead and his staff are not being paid for their work, which has included touring flood-ravaged areas of the state.
He found the cooperation among local, state and federal agencies heartening, which is helping speed the rebuilding. At least 78 percent of the state’s roadways are now open, and he’s confident the rest will be ready for use by Dec. 1.
“It’s amazing the work being done out there,” Stead said.
“We just started hearing a lot about it from local fishing guides that they just weren’t seeing the hatches on the river, from local anglers, and even from residents on the Fryingpan,” he says. The problem was the bugs weren’t hatching. The hatches are key to good fishing because the bugs are dinner for trout.
A winter-time phenomenon called anchor ice could be to blame. It’s ice that builds up on the riverbed instead of on the river’s surface and it happens in cold temperatures and shallow waters.
“The river ran at 39 cubic feet per second for almost four months last winter and you probably remember we had a pretty cold winter as well, so there was a lot of concern,” Lofaro says.
The Roaring Fork Conservancy is so concerned it decided to replicate a study done following the 2002 drought. This multi-year analysis will examine bugs in the river, take water temperatures throughout the winter and look at the economic impact of a slower fishing season.
Today a team is collecting bug samples from the Fryingpan River as part of the study. Bill Miller is a biologist from Fort Collins. He is carefully moving bugs and mud into a small container. The contents will be taken to a lab and examined under a microscope.
“In a sample like this, there’ll be hundreds of bugs, so we can’t really tell what the diversity is until we get it into the lab and then go through and sort the sample, and get all the identifications and put them in their classifications,” he says.
The more diversity and the higher amount of bugs mean the stream is healthy. The team is taking samples from three sites along the river and will compare the findings to previous years.
A few miles downriver, a separate team is decked in waders and spread across the width of the river. They’re slowly trudging upstream and catching fish in nets.
This is called “fish shocking” but the team isn’t really shocking the fish. They’re dipping long, metal poles into the river that send out an electrical current. The current attracts fish. For the team of ten, it’s hard work.
More Roaring Fork River Watershed coverage here and here.
“We appreciate the participation of our partners and stakeholders in this very important process,” said Eastern Colorado Area Manager, Mike Collins. “It has helped us streamline the process and take an important step forward.”
The purpose of the Technical Review is to provide a roadmap outlining the steps required to transition numerous proposed alternatives to improve the clarity of Grand Lake into a 30% engineering design. The Technical Review considers non-construction operational changes, as well as potential constructed alternatives.
The International Bottled Water Association, ever sensitive to criticism that it’s wasting precious resources, has commissioned its first ever study to figure out how much water goes into producing one liter. The results, released this month, show that for North American companies, it takes 1.39 liters to make one liter of water.
That’s less than the global averages of a liter of soda, which requires 2.02 liters of water. A liter of beer, meanwhile, needs 4 liters of water, wine demands 4.74 liters. Hard alcohol, it turns out, is the greediest, guzzling 34.55 liters of water for every liter.
This, the bottled water industry says, is evidence that its product isn’t so bad. “Bottled water products are extremely efficient in terms of water use compared to some other packaged beverages,” says Chris Hogan, spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association…
Bottled water companies (along with many other beverage companies) should include the water in their supply chain, says Ertug Ercin with the Water Footprint Network. Ercin says a true water footprint includes all freshwater used in production, including the water used for packaging.
“Packaging makes a significant footprint,” he says, adding that three liters of water might be used to make a half-liter bottle. In other words, the amount of water going into making the bottle could be up to six or seven times what’s inside the bottle.
Drilling for oil to make plastic, Ercin says, uses a substantial amount of groundwater. And you need water to make the paper, too, he adds.
Still, Ercin notes, bottled water packaging uses far less water than soda, which needs extra water to grow sugar and make dyes.
Update: The editorial board of The Greeley Tribune are blasting the Weld County Council over their decision:
If the members of the Weld County Council were trying to throw away their credibility and violate the public’s trust, they accomplished their goals when they voted in secret to table an inquiry into the Board of Weld County Commissioners’ secession efforts and then withheld that decision from the public for more than a week.
From the start three weeks ago, when a group of Greeley attorneys sent a letter to the council questioning the authority of the Weld County commissioners to initiate the 51st state movement and seeking a decision from an independent attorney, the council faced a minefield of potential conflicts of interest and questions about fairness.
» One member of the council, Jeffrey Hare, is a vocal supporter of secession who has played a key role in organizing the 51st state initiative.
» Two other members of the five-member council also have publicly voiced support for secession, the Greeley attorneys said.
» The council’s attorney, Bruce Barker, also represents the commissioners, which calls into question his ability to offer an impartial decision.
Late Wednesday, the council, which is charged with overseeing the commissioners, announced its decision to drop the inquiry in a news release, stating commissioners were acting within their authority. Council Chairman Don Mueller said the decision was made following executive session deliberations, which came at the end of an Oct. 21 public meeting.
However, by the time council members made their announcement about going into executive session — and made their decision — nearly all of the roughly 100 people who had turned up for the meeting were gone, including the council’s attorney. They were gone because Mueller said during the meeting that the council would not make a decision that night. Additionally, the agenda for the meeting made no reference to an executive decision or to a vote.
On Tuesday, Mueller told the Tribune that no decision had been made.
The next day, after announcing the decision, Mueller said council members had debated keeping the decision secret until after Tuesday’s election, when voters would make a decision on a secession-related ballot question.
The council’s behavior evokes the worst kind of back-room dealings and shady politics that have led many Americans to feel jaded about their government. But it’s worse than that. The council’s decision to go into executive session raises a host of questions about whether council members acted legally. According to Colorado open records law, local executive sessions are limited to discussions on security arrangements, property transactions, negotiations (such as with employee organizations), personnel or to seek the advice of legal counsel.
The council did not get legal advice — the only justification for an executive session in this context — because its attorney wasn’t there.
It’s easy, of course, to view these actions as a cynical, calculated and overt effort to keep the public from knowing what its elected representatives were doing. However, we know the members of the county council, and we know they are honest, hardworking public servants. That suggests simple incompetence is the most likely explanation for the council’s blatant breach of the public’s trust.
Still, that doesn’t excuse it.
The members of the council trampled upon the most basic tenant of democracy, which state’s that the people’s business must be conducted in public. In doing so, they stooped to the same kind of closed-door tactics that supporters of secession claim spurred them to seek a split from the state.
To say that we’re bitterly disappointed is an understatement. We all deserve much better from our elected representatives.
The Weld County Council on Wednesday announced a decision that Weld County Commissioners can advocate for the 51st state question, bringing to light a legally questionable procedure before the council voted on the matter and misleading statements about when a decision would be made. Council members voted at an Oct. 21 hearing that county commissioners have legal authority to advocate for the 51st state movement, even though they said during the hearing and again this week that they had not yet made a decision on the matter. Don Mueller, chairman of the county council, said members called a short recess after the Oct. 21 hearing and then went into an executive session to discuss it. They then came out of the executive session and voted in favor of a statement that says the ballot initiative does not increase or expand Weld County commissioners’ power beyond what is statutorily allowed.
According to Colorado open meeting law, local governmental executive sessions are limited to discussions on security arrangements, property transactions, negotiations, such as with employee organizations, personnel, or to seek the advice of legal counsel, and entities must announce that they are going into a session and why.
Mueller said the county council did announce publicly that they would go into executive session. But the council had called a recess first and most people who attended the hearing had left by the time the executive session was announced. Council members only discussed the 51st state issue but did not seek any legal advice, he said.
Weld County Attorney Bruce Barker said he was not present for the discussion.
During the hearing on Oct. 21, Mueller said council members would digest the information presented to them and that they would not make a decision that night.
“Our function this evening is that of listeners,” Mueller said at the hearing.
In the agenda posted for that Weld County Council meeting, there is also no indication the council would go into an executive session.
Mueller said four members of the five-member council voted in favor of the action, with Bernard Kinnick voting against it because he wanted to wait to take any action until after Election Day. One member of the county council, Jeffrey Hare, helped organize the 51st state initiative and serves as its spokesman.
Mueller told The Tribune in an interview on Tuesday that members had still not taken any official action on the matter, and that council members would not hire an independent attorney or make any decision until sometime next week.
Mueller said on Wednesday the council was, in fact, waiting to announce its vote, and later decided the vote should be made public. He said the vote will not technically be final until recorded minutes are approved at the county council’s next meeting.
Bob Ruyle, one of three Greeley attorneys who called on the Weld County Council to review commissioners’ authority regarding the 51st state initiative, said they had recently submitted written responses to Barker’s arguments, so it’s a shame those arguments won’t ever be reviewed.
The three men argued that Weld commissioners can’t legally spend time and money exploring the 51st state and lobbying state lawmakers to push it forward. They said the state Constitution explicitly says only Colorado citizens have the authority to alter or dissolve their government, but the power of commissioners is limited to what is listed in state statute.
“All I can tell you is, we tried, and are disappointed in the results,” Ruyle said.
Barker said at the council meeting last week that there are ways for commissioners to legally express support for the 51st state to lawmakers if it passes, and he said the only official action commissioners have taken on the movement so far was a resolution to put it on the ballot, which is within their scope of power.
Some environmental groups are gearing up for a fight against proposed changes to emissions regulations on the oil and gas industry.
Weld Air and Water and the Colorado Progressive Coalition issued press releases this week citing concerns that the proposed changes to emissions regulations in the state don’t go far enough to regulate the oil and gas industry.
But state officials at the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division say no formal draft rules will be released until November and they will not comment on the draft until then. The division in the last few months has sought comment from those involved based on a loose draft set of rules forwarded to “stakeholders.”
The division will issue a formal draft, taking into account suggestions from those stakeholders, in November, with a rule-making process to begin in February, said Christopher Dann, spokesman for the Air Pollution Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The environmental groups, however, have already sharpened their pencils for a revamp.
“The new regulations (Gov. John) Hickenlooper’s team is recommending will continue to allow significant amounts of methane to escape into Coloradoan’s air,” Progress Now’s Joe Boven stated in a news release this week. “A recent study found that air pollution is a stronger environmental cause of cancer than second-hand smoke, yet while eliminating smoking from public facilities has gained momentum, this proposal would reduce many regulations for oil and gas emissions.”
Weld Air and Water members wrote they were “bitterly disappointed” at the proposed language in the rules.
“This proposal fails to solve any of our state’s pressing air quality problems,” said Matt Sura, an attorney who is representing communities in the rule-making process, in a news release. “These regulations do nothing to address the threat of toxic emissions of oil and gas facilities that are near homes. The proposed regulations will also be ineffective at bringing down dangerous levels of smog and ozone on the Front Range, and do little to reduce methane emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Current rules regarding emissions control are tailored around reducing emissions so that 90 percent are controlled; the rules contain extensive documentation of emissions control equipment. The new rules will implement new Environmental Protection Agency rules.
“State and federal air quality laws do not currently require formal self-inspections to the degree that the state is going to propose,” said Will Allison, director of the Air Pollution Control Division, in an e-mail response to questions. “For example, the use of infrared cameras is an emerging technology that improves upon existing inspection methods. The proposal will include a statewide leak inspection and repair program to further reduce emissions and complement the existing inspection framework. The proposal will be one of the first of its kind in the country, and will significantly strengthen existing rules.”
Doug Flanders, of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said Colorado has some of the toughest regulations on the industry throughout the country.
“Common sense and innovative standards are necessary to control air pollution, which is exactly why the new EPA rules, which CDPHE’s air rulemaking will implement, are based on Colorado existing rules and regulations,” Flanders wrote in an email. “As we have found in Colorado, there are positive aspects of the draft rule that promote conservation through the capture of natural gas and the resulting emissions reductions, and while methane is not considered an ozone precursor, it is captured by these devices as well.”
The environmental groups say the draft language would only weaken existing state law because they require inspections of tanks, based on their sizes, quarterly to annually. The groups say they will advocate for monthly inspections instead.
Emission controls on oil and gas companies have been in existence for the last decade in the state, updated every few years with more restrictions, but required storage tank inspections haven’t yet been a part of the mix. Operators are required to weekly inspect their emissions control equipment, according to the existing rules.
The environmental groups say they will seek more frequent inspections, quicker turnarounds on required repairs, and greater emissions control standards for wells within a quarter mile of homes and schools.
The parallel presentations converge from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at the center, 802 East Second Ave., to mark the second annual collaboration between the Southwestern Water Conservation District, DAC, Mountain Studies Institute and the Water Information Program, which is sponsored by 17 water agencies in the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel river drainages…
The oral presentations run from 5 to 8 p.m. in the DAC theater. After opening remarks, presentations will made by:
Marcie Demy Bidwell of the Mountain Studies Institute will present research done by Imtiaz Rangwala from Western Water Assessment that covers a century of data from weather stations in Southwest Colorado.
Kristen Averyt, director of Western Water Assessment, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, will speak about the connection between energy demand and production, the availability of water and complications from changing climate.
Mike Nolan, owner of Mountain Roots Farm, in Mancos, will describe his efforts as a farmer to understand the limits and opportunities of water.
Taryn Finnessey from the water-supply planning section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will analyze water variability and how it affects businesses that rely on water and snow.
Gregory J. Hobbs Jr., a Colorado Supreme Court justice, will talk about how current discussions of water shortages relate to state water law that is based on anti-speculation and actual need.