2014 Boulder County Water Tour 6/7/14

Did fracking fluid cause Greeley quake? — 9 News

Deep injection well
Deep injection well

From 9News.com (Laurie Cipriano and Brandon Rittiman):

Scientists are investigating whether a rare 3.4 magnitude earthquake near Greeley, Colorado this weekend may have been caused by the disposal of fracking fluid.

The quake was centered in an area of Weld County located near four underground injection sites, in which used fracking fluid is forced deep underground as a method of disposal…

“I think we have a good reason to suspect there may be a link,” said Shemin Ge, a hydrologist with the University of Colorado. “We’re still looking into it.”

Ge says there are several injection wells very close to the epicenter of the earthquake.

“One of them is relatively high volume,” Ge said.

Ge is part of a team of scientists that are responding to the Greeley quake by placing a series of seismometers in the area to get more detailed data.

A team from the University of Colorado at Boulder was sent out to scout locations for the measurement devices on Monday.

Colorado Takes Steps to Expand Geothermal Development — Energy.gov

Geothermal Electrical Generation concept -- via the British Geological Survey
Geothermal Electrical Generation concept — via the British Geological Survey

Here’s the release from Energy.gov:

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a geothermal bond bill May 30, providing $1.98 million in state funding and matching the Energy Department’s investment in geothermal energy exploration at Pagosa Springs. The project, which demonstrates Colorado’s strong support for geothermal energy development, leverages a $3.8 million award from the Department for evaluating and exploring the geothermal resource potential at Pagosa Springs.

Pagosa Springs has long been recognized as a potential target for geothermal energy development, based on surface evidence and assessments such as geophysical exploration conducted by the Colorado School of Mines. The Pagosa Verde project proposes a cost-effective, phased approach for locating and evaluating the viability of geothermal resources in the southern end of the Pagosa Springs area. The project will assess the potential for power production as well as direct use applications for residential, industrial and other purposes.

The collaborative framework at Pagosa Verde provides a replicable model of public-private partnership and grassroots support. The company has engaged the local community to garner support and promote future geothermal development that could create jobs and generate clean, renewable energy for the region. Landowners, city and county officials, utilities, and private investors worked with the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado Energy Office to demonstrate the value of this project and its vital role in bringing geothermal energy development to the state.

Learn more about how geothermal energy systems work through this new Energy 101 video.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Runoff/snowpack news: High water in the Cache la Poudre leads to road closures

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Erin Udell):

Windsor Police Chief John Michaels said officers will be watching the river all week, monitoring its flow and hoping to see it go down a bit.

It’s not uncommon for Weld County roads 13 and 17 to be closed periodically as spring runoff causes the river to come across the roads, Michaels said. But with added rain, other roads — like Colorado Highway 257 — see closures as well. Amid the rising water, sections of WCR 13, WCR 17 and Colorado 257 remained closed Monday.

“(Closing Colorado 257) doesn’t happen every year, but it happened in September and it’s happening now,” Michaels said, adding that CDOT closed the road around 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross) via Craig Daily Press:

The Elk River west of Steamboat Springs is under a flood warning, likely continuing through Wednesday when there are preliminary signs the rivers in Northwest Colorado will peak for the season. The National Weather Service posted the warning at 7:37 p.m. Sunday saying that the Elk’s flows could be expected to rebound from the weekend when cool, cloudy weather kept the river below flood stage. The Elk was expected to go back above flood stage Monday night into Tuesday morning for the second time this season.

The Yampa River in Steamboat Springs is expected to follow a similar trend but will remain well below flood stage…

The Weather Service said the river still could go higher in the next few days. It was predicting the Elk could reach nearly 7.8 feet early Wednesday morning with “additional rises possible thereafter. At 7.9 feet elevation, backwater flooding is possible due to any debris blocking culverts under U.S. Highway 40 at the East Fork of the Elk.”[…]

A tentative projection by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, suggests both the Yampa and the Elk will reach their final peaks of the season later this week, possibly Wednesday night for the Elk and Thursday night for the Yampa in Steamboat. Beyond Thursday, projections show both rivers gradually falling below bank-full.

The Yampa could fall to 3,200 cubic feet per second at Fifth Street by June 9 or 10. It was flowing at 4,770 cfs at Fifth Street at midnight Sunday and well above 5,000 cfs eight blocks downstream below Soda Creek…

Walton Creek was running almost a foot deep Monday morning on a section of concrete public trail that links Chinook Lane to the vicinity of Whistler Park with the help of two pedestrian bridges over the creek. The water rose to within about 20 feet of several single-family homes between Meadowood Court and Meadowood Lane.

From The Greeley Tribune:

Greeley officials have issued a second voluntary evacuation notice.

The boundaries are 5th Street on the north (includes addresses on both sides of the street), 7th Street on the south (includes addresses on both sides of the street), 6th Avenue on the west (includes addresses on both sides of the street), and the Poudre River on the east.

Greeley Public Works Director Joel Hemesath said reports are coming in that the water is recedeing in west Greeley. It should be several hours before east Greeley sees anything similar, Hemesath said.

From CBS Denver:

A breach along the Cache la Poudre River sent rushing flood waters into Greeley on Monday and prompted voluntary evacuations into the evening. Officials don’t consider the flooding to be life-threatening and said they expect the water in Greeley to recede Monday evening. Two homes and a contractor supply business near 5th Street suffered some of the worst damage.

From the Chaffee County Times (Maisie Ramsay):

The closure of a 2-mile section of the Arkansas River south of Buena Vista does not apply to all users, Colorado Parks and Wildlife clarified Monday. CPW and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area announced May 30 that a stretch of river near the Silver Bullet rapid had been closed because of safety concerns. On June 2, CPW explained that the closure did not apply to whitewater canoes or kayaks under Colorado law. However, the closure does apply to individual rafters and rafting outfitters, CPW public information officer Abbie Walls said. Walls noted that regardless of the legalities involved, paddlers are strongly advised against boating that section of the Arkansas River.

“We still are highly recommending people avoid that area,” Walls said.

A reconstruction project at the Silver Bullet rapid completed last winter is resulting in problematic hydraulics that can cause boats to capsize, AHRA park manager Rob White said.

“For whatever reason, it’s causing a massive recirculating wave that’s tending to hold boats and potentially cause a flip,” White said.

White said reopening the river would depend largely upon receding water flows.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the Arkansas River was running at nearly 3,600 cfs at the gage below Granite as of Monday afternoon.

High water advisories are in effect for the Pine Creek Rapid, the Numbers and the Royal Gorge.

The advisories do not bar boaters, but it is standard practice for commercial outfitters to stop running river sections with high water advisories in place, Arkansas River Outfitters Association president Mike Kissack said.

Meanwhile, outfitters report that other sections of the Arkansas River are prime for rafting at high water levels, especially Browns Canyon and Big Horn Sheep Canyon.

Audit: Division of Water Resources needs to step up pace of dam inspections

Barker Reservoir
Barker Reservoir

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

State engineers should move faster on inspecting Colorado’s largest and most critical dams, according to an audit made public Monday. Despite the tardiness, however, the dams in question weathered last September’s record floods in good shape, according to the report. Auditors reviewed paperwork on 213 high-hazard dams and found that the Division of Water Resources failed to inspect 27 during the 2012 “water year,” measured as Nov. 1 to Oct. 31. Twelve others were at least six months past their annual inspection dates, auditors found.

“Regular inspections help ensure that dams operate safely and identify when a dam’s water level should be restricted for safe operation,” the Office of State Auditors said in a statement about the review.

Only 27 of the more than 1,800 dams under the state’s authority were affected by the rainfall and flooding, resulting in an estimated $5 million for repairs related to cracking, erosion and collected debris.

Auditors and representatives of the state engineer’s office agreed on the findings and recommendations for improvement during a hearing before the legislature’s audit committee Monday morning.

“So the public knows, what we’ve found here is we don’t have an issue regarding public safety for our dams, but we can work on our process, our paper trail, to make sure we have them inspected in a timely manner,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.

Inspectors also need to pick up the pace on reviewing dams that could be reclassified for their hazard risks. The review completed last July that elevated Droz Creek Dam in Chaffee County from low risk to significant risk, for example, took 14 years to complete, auditors found.

“Delays in reclassifying dams to a higher hazard rating could pose a risk to public safety,” auditors stated.

And although state regulations require dam owners to update emergency action plans annually, those on file with the division are, on average, 7½ years old, and one had not been updated in 31 years, according to the auditors.

The agency also has not updated some of its fees for dam design review since 1990, so taxpayers pick up about 80 percent of the cost. Auditors recommended that the agency work with legislators to find a solution.

More Division of Water Resources coverage here.

“This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by [Colorado Springs Utilities]” — Ray Petros

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo County officials believe Colorado Springs Utilities is trying to pressure Pueblo West for help in meeting 1041 permit requirements for the Southern Delivery System. After obtaining a copy of a draft memorandum of understanding that was to be considered by the Pueblo West metro board in executive session last month, two commissioners and the county’s water attorney say it’s the same type of coercion Utilities tried to exert on the county earlier.

“It’s bully tactics. I think it’s terrible and totally inappropriate,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the county commissioners. “This is the second time in a couple of months where Utilities is trying to negotiate approval of 1041 conditions. In this case, it pits Pueblo West against Pueblo County, when there’s no good reason to do it.”

Commissioner Sal Pace agreed: “Whether Pueblo West has access to its own water has nothing to do with conditions on Fountain Creek.”

Water attorney Ray Petros was equally blunt: “This proposed MOU is a heavy-handed tactic by Utilities to withhold water deliveries to Pueblo West as a lever against the county in the event the county had to consid­er suspending the SDS permit.”

Pueblo West has not approved the MOU, and Jack Johnston, the metro district manager, portrayed it as a working document “at the staff and attorney level.”

However, newly elected Pueblo West board member Mark Carmel objected at his first official meeting to considering the deal in executive session. He was backed by Chairman Lew Quigley and board member Judy Leonard.

Johnston said a document for public consideration would be ready for discussion in open session, probably in mid-June.

But the document provided to The Chieftain by Carmel, and shared with the county, asks Pueblo West to get the county to sign off on several conditions of the 1041 permit before Pueblo West can turn on SDS.

Among other things, the agreement instructs Pueblo West to obtain written confirmation from Pueblo County that four politically charged conditions of the county’s 1041 permit have been met or “will not be triggered . . . by use of SDS facilities.”

Those conditions include the payment of $50 million to a special district for Fountain Creek flood control, the Pueblo Arkansas River flow program, the adaptive management scenario for Fountain Creek and Colorado Springs stormwater management. Each of those has led to complicated political negotiations or even court cases for Colorado Springs. Pueblo West has been in court with Pueblo County over the flow program.

Pueblo County ran into the same tactics when it asked Utilities to release interest money from the $50 million early to fund dam studies on Fountain Creek, Hart and Pace noted.

“In any event, holding Pueblo West hostage casts Springs’ Utilities as a bully,” Petros said. “It’s certainly counterproductive to a cooperative approach for addressing environmental mitigation of the SDS Project.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.