A rise in alternative energy demand has led to a fourth hydroelectric power facility on South Canal — The Watch


From The Watch (William Woody):

A rise in alternative energy demand has led to a fourth hydroelectric power facility now in the planning stages for the South Canal, east of Montrose.

The Delta-Montrose Electrical Association currently operates two facilities, at Drop 1 and Drop 3, with plans for a facility on Drop 2.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its draft environmental assessment for yet another proposed hydropower project, at Drop 4. Drops 1 and 3 is currently producing approximately 6.5 megawatts of power this summer, according to James Heneghan, renewable energy engineer for DMEA.

The proposed Drop 4 location, 0.8 miles downstream from the existing Drop 3 hydropower plant that was completed last year, drops approximately 71 ft. from Drop 3 to Drop 4. With a fourth facility, water would be diverted into a penstock and through the hydropower plant and returned to the canal to meet mounting irrigation delivery demands downstream.

The project also includes 1.27 miles of new overhead interconnection line across federal Bureau of Land Management and Reclamation lands.

“The purpose of the Drop 4 Hydropower Project is to develop a 4.8 megawatt (MW) hydropower plant on the South Canal at Drop 4 to provide a clean, renewable energy source that is locally controlled,” according to the bureau’s assessment. “Current federal policy encourages non-federal development of environmentally sustainable hydropower potential of Federal water resource related projects.”

The project, proposed by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association and a private developer, and would not affect the seasonal delivery of irrigation water.

Like Drops 1 and 3, the power generated at Drop 4 would be handled by DMEA, and transmitted to the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska.

“The electricity generated by the Project would provide the UVWUA with an additional source of revenue that can be used to defray annual operating expenses and assist in the maintenance and improvement of the Uncompahgre Project,” according to the assessment.

Structural plans for Drop 4 call for a new concrete intake canal connecting to an intake structure; a metal bar trash screen would remove debris as the water is forced into a 10-ft. pipe and flushed 1,347-ft. downstream to a new 30-ft. by 40-ft. powerhouse with a power generating turbine. It’s the same method now used in Drops 1 and 3…

When completed, the Drop 4 station could produce about 15,744 megawatt hours of energy per year, with an offset reduction of 32,000,000 to 34,000,000 pounds of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

On May 14 of this year, a Preliminary Lease of Power Privilege was entered into by the UVWUA and the Bureau of Reclamation for the project, putting it on the fast track. “I would say with the promise of privilege being drafted, Drop 4 will be competed before Drop 2,” Heneghan told The Watch this week…

Amendment 37 to the Colorado Constitution established a Renewable Energy Standard, an initiated state statute approved by voters in 2004, requires Colorado providers of retail electric services serving over 40,000 customers to secure a minimum percentage of electricity from renewable energy sources (such as wind, solar, and hydroelectricity to be 10 percent) by 2020. DMEA is close to achieving that standard, thanks in large part to the two existing South Canal projects. The Drop 2 project could be the next addition of renewable energy to DMEA’s portfolio, Heneghan said.

Wholesalers, like Tri-State Generation have to reach 20 percent by 2020.

The draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/index.html, or a copy can be received by contacting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Comments can be submitted to the Terry Stroh at the email address above, or to Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501, up until Aug. 8. The bureau will consider all comments received by that date, prior to preparing a final environmental assessment.

More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here.

Stormwater: Camp Creek mitigation pond working

Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs
Camp Creek channel via City of Colorado Springs

From KRDO.com (Carl Winder):

The City of Colorado Springs has seen their flood project in Camp Creek go through hail, heavy rain and flash flooding. The good news is the water has stayed within the banks of the creek protecting people, but maintaining the flood project will not be cheap.

City Stormwater Engineer Tim Mitros said after the sediment and debris came down from last September’s floods, Camp Creek became a top priority for the city. A year later after the floods, Mother Nature put the flood project to the test. This time there is a pond to stop a majority of the debris, and a steady stream going through the Colorado Springs neighborhood near the creek…

He said if the sediment pond is full, about $100,000 will have to be spent to clean the pond, which will come from the city’s general fund.

Gary Rombeck lives in the neighborhood near Camp Creek. He said he took a look at the flood project saving his life, along with other people down stream; he said you can’t put a price on safety.

Mitros said the sediment removed from Camp Creek is put in North Douglas Creek, which is meant to slow down water during flooding.

The city wants to put another $4 million toward improving the Camp Creek flood project, but it’s waiting for the grant money.

More stormwater coverage here.

“We all want to protect Colorado’s iconic mountain streams” — Karn Stiegelmeier

Tabeguache Creek via the USFS
Tabeguache Creek via the USFS

Here’s a guest column in favor of the EPA’s proposed rule clarifying the “waters of the US” under the Clean Water Act, from Karn Stiegelmeier writing in The Denver Post:

We all want to protect Colorado’s iconic mountain streams that provide clean water to drink and clean water to fish, without unnecessary overregulation. A recent proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps strikes that balance. The new rule would restore important protections for waterways and reduce administrative burdens in permitting processes. While admittedly technical, this is an important step forward.

The Clean Water Act is all about restoring and maintaining healthy waterways throughout the United States. But it protects only those waters that meet the definition of “waters of the United States.” Two Supreme Court rulings over the last 15 years muddled the distinction between waters that were covered under the Clean Water Act and those that weren’t. Those rulings resulted in significant additional red tape, time and expense to the permitting processes.

Specifically, in 2009, Denver-based officials with the EPA reported that it takes their office three times as long to process a permit request after the Supreme Court decisions.

Many in Colorado and around the nation clamored for a remedy for the confusion and delays. The federal agencies issuing the proposed rule are currently accepting comments on how this first draft might be improved. The proposed rule, while not perfect, seeks to bring some clarity back to the process. Local governments and individuals around the state should submit comments on how the rule could be made better.

Many government and agricultural leaders have already opposed the rule-making in its entirety, providing little or no feedback on how the rule might be improved. There has been broad misinterpretation of this rule clarification as burdensome “over-regulation.” In fact, the proposal is precisely the opposite.

The proposed rule does not expand federal jurisdiction beyond its historic limits, but instead restores protections for some waters brought into question after the Supreme Court rulings. For example, in 2009 the Corps determined a 12-acre high altitude wetland in Park County was outside of federal jurisdiction because a manmade ditch interrupted the historic connection with the nearby stream. This wetland certainly would have received protection from water pollution before the Supreme Court decisions, and rightfully should under the proposed rule. Without protection under the Act, pristine sites like this wetland may be dredged, filled, and developed without any federal agency oversight, to the detriment not only of the wetland but also the neighboring stream, communities, and economies.

Second, many ditches have been under Clean Water Act jurisdiction since the 1970’s. The Act requires permits for some activities occurring on some ditches because they drain into natural waterways and affect the health of those waters. These ditches should be regulated under the Act, as they have historically, to protect the rivers into which they drain.

In fact, for the first time, the proposed rule would clearly exempt ditches which had been a concern. The rule actually explicitly restricts applicability of the Act to only those ditches that flow into another waterway, exempting ditches that do not flow annually or irrigate only dry lands without returning flows to another waterway.

Finally, the federal agencies also maintain a long list of activities that can receive expedited permits because those activities do not pose a significant threat of water pollution, such as small-scale road maintenance. The proposed rule will not change which activities receive expedited permits.

Healthy waterways benefit the whole state by protecting and enhancing recreational opportunities. For those of us living and working in Summit County, protecting our waters means protecting our clean water and our tourism economy. The proposed rule is a thoughtfully crafted, urgently needed clarification to protect Colorado’s waterways.

Karn Stiegelmeier is a Summit County commissioner.

Three-year cleanup targets Summit County’s Pennsylvania Mine — Summit Daily News

Pennsylvania Mine Upper Peru Creek Basin
Pennsylvania Mine Upper Peru Creek Basin

From the Summit Daily News via The Denver Post:

About 8 miles east of Keystone and a couple of miles south of the 14,000-foot-plus Grays and Torreys peaks, the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine is considered the worst mine in the state. The mine adds toxic heavy metal concentrations and acidifies water flowing into the Peru Creek, a tributary of the Snake River, which feeds Dillon Reservoir.

A three-year, $3 million cleanup project aims to stop that pollution. The project could serve as a model for future mine reclamation efforts around the state, said Paul Peronard, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The collaborative effort is currently under budget and ahead of schedule, he said, even with the added cost of helping Summit County fix the part of Montezuma Road that washed away in early June.

“This is very much a huge partnership,” said Jeff Graves, senior project manager with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

For decades, government agencies and other interested parties faced issues of liability and funding when trying to tackle the mine’s cleanup.

“It’s quite a conundrum,” said Lane Wyatt, a water-quality expert with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “The problem is you don’t really have anybody to point your finger to in places like this to say, ‘You’re responsible. You got to go clean this up.’ ”

This year the state is working to place one of two bulkheads, or giant concrete plugs, about 500 feet inside the mine. The bulkheads will block water from leaving through one large entry and stop water from flowing freely through the mine, Graves said.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.

“Summit County has a huge stake in this with Denver Water” — Jim Lochhead #ColoradoRiver

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley):

The Colorado River System Conservation program is an effort to address a long-term imbalance on the Colorado River caused by years of drought and water demands that exceed supply.

Denver Water, Central Arizona Project, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority each contributed $2 million and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation pitched in $3 million to create an $11 million fund for Colorado River water conservation pilot projects.

The projects will demonstrate the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated measures for reducing water demand in agricultural, municipal, industrial and other areas. [ed. emphasis mine]

“Summit County has a huge stake in this with Denver Water,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO.

The county is a headwaters community for the Colorado River, and Lochhead said Summit shares a common interest with the utility in water conservation and in meeting collective obligations to the people and ecosystems down river.

One of the biggest causes for concern, he said, is the dangerously low water level at Lake Powell…

That has a host of consequences for communities up river from the lake, including increased energy bills due to less productive hydroelectric power plants, reduced agricultural output, diminished snowmaking capabilities at ski resorts, water quality issues and loss of funding for protections under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Plus, he said, “we might have to be cut off from our water supply in order to meet our obligations to the lower basin.”

Summit County especially would see the effects in Dillon Reservoir, which Denver Water constructed in 1963 to supply its customers in the Denver metro area.

“Dillon could be literally drained in that scenario,” he said…

“This situation is becoming increasingly critical. We are already dealing with unprecedented pressure on the southern California region’s water system,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager for The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This innovative program is aimed at expanding conservation efforts from a local level to a collaborative system-wide program.”[…]

“I applaud the far sighted municipal water providers for beginning to address the imbalance in supply and demand on the Colorado River that could seriously affect the economy and the people who rely upon the river,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor in a press release. “There is still much work to be done, and the Interior Department is committed to supporting the efforts of the Colorado River Basin states and other stakeholders as partners in improving water management and operations, particularly during this historic drought.”

The program’s pilot projects will include residential and industrial water conservation programs and in the agricultural sector, something called “temporary compensated borrowing,” which Lochhead said would pay farmers not to irrigate or to irrigate less than they were.

The pilot projects are in the planning stages but should start next year, he said, and the two-year program will fund them into 2016. Successful ideas could then be expanded or extended.

To ensure that local concerns are addressed and that there is equity and fairness among all parties, the Bureau of Reclamation will manage the conservation actions in the Lower Colorado River Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada in a manner consistent with past programs. In the Upper Basin, the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming and the Upper Colorado River Commission will have a direct role in program efforts.

Denver Water plans to do a broad outreach program and partner with agricultural and environmental groups, Lochhead said.

“I think it’s important that we engage all of those groups in this effort,” he said. “We just set up the funds. Now we got to figure out how to make it work.”

More Blue River watershed coverage here.