Water court case for Glenwood whitewater parks gets two new players — Aspen Journalism #ColoradoRiver

City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism
City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

Click through for the graphics. From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

American Whitewater and Western Resource Advocates have joined a long list of other parties in state water court now scrutinizing an application from Glenwood Springs to create water rights for three new whitewater parks on the Colorado River.

The two conservation groups were allowed on June 6 by water court judge James Boyd to intervene in the case, even though they had missed the original deadline to do so.

Glenwood Springs applied for a new water right on Dec. 31, 2013. The 60-day deadline to file a “statement of opposition” in the case was Feb. 28.

The court received 13 such statements, which despite their name, also can be a way for other parties to conveniently monitor a case or actually be in support of an application.

Both American Whitewater and Western Resource Advocates support Glenwood’s application, which would secure a right to a “recreational in-channel diversion,” or RICD, in which river water is diverted through concrete structures embedded in a river channel, but otherwise not diverted or consumed.

The conservation groups said they should be allowed to join the case because they were concerned, in part, about Glenwood’s resolve in water court “to pursue a full suite of flows” after seeing statements of opposition come in from Aurora, Colorado Springs and other powerful water interests.

“We were a little surprised by how much opposition there was, especially from some of the heavy hitters on the Front Range,” said Rob Harris, a staff attorney with Colorado Resource Advocates who was the lead attorney for both his organization and American Whitewater. “We just wanted to make sure that the city had some allies and that voices in support of recreation were heard.”

Three parks, six waves

Each of the three whitewater parks Glenwood Springs is proposing to build on the Colorado River would have two concrete control structures embedded into the river to create ridable waves — as well as clear passage — for everything from commercial rafts to pool toys.

The uppermost park on the river would be at the No Name rest stop on I-70, at exit 121. The rest stop area includes both CDOT property and private land along the river.

The next spot downstream is at Horseshoe Bend, where I-70 goes into a short tunnel. The location can be accessed off of exit 118 at No Name, or from the bike path that runs along the river.

“The city of Glenwood Springs owns the land along both banks of, and under, the river where the RICD control structures would be constructed,” says a report by S2o Design & Engineering about the Horseshoe Bend site. “Immediately upstream, the Bureau of Land Management manages the property and has developed a covered picnic area and boulder weir to produce a large river eddy.”

Expressions of concern

The concerns of the parties in the case that had filed statements of opposition were shared in a case management conference in late April. The water court referee, Holly Kirsner Strablizky, filed minutes from the conference call with the court on April 24.

The attorney for the Homestake Steering Committee, which is an entity jointly controlled by the Front Range cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs, “stated that it is an upstream water rights owner,” according to Strablizky’s minutes. “It is [involved in case] to ensure that there are appropriate terms and conditions to address impacts on compact and compact carve-outs.”

Such “carve-outs” allow for flexibility in the face of a “compact call” or a demand from downriver states for more water, while another type of “carve-out” allows for some future level of new water development by upstream parties outside of any new restrictions created by a proposed RICD. Such carve-outs were agreed to in the decrees for recently completed RICDs in Basalt, Carbondale and Grand County.

“It was an approach to settle those cases short of litigation,” said Chris Thorne, an attorney with Holland and Hart, which is representing Glenwood Springs in the water court application and also represented Carbondale in its RICD case. “The carve-outs preserve the ability for some reasonable additional water development upstream of the proposed boating parks. And to address concerns of upstream municipal water suppliers about protection of future water supply.”

Thorne added that he wasn’t suggesting that such a carve-out would be necessary or appropriate in the case of the Glenwood RICD.

On April 30, American Whitewater and Western Resource advocates filed a joint statement of opposition and a motion to intervene.

The two nonprofits, referring to themselves as “the conservation groups,” told the court they “should be afforded the opportunity to defend this important proposed RICD.”

Under state law, only certain governmental entities, such as cities and counties, can apply for a RICD, which means that conservation groups cannot do so on their own.

The two groups told the court they “cannot rely on the city of Glenwood Springs to adequately represent their interests in this litigation” and that it “is feasible that changes in policy or administration may cause the city of Glenwood Springs to shift away from a zealous defense of the full suite of flows.”

Harris, the attorney for the conservation groups, said it was important in the motion to draw a distinction between the interests of the city and the conservation groups, but that he currently doesn’t doubt Glenwood’s resolve in the case.

All the other parties in the case consented to the effort by American Whitewater and Western Resource Advocates to join the case. However, in consenting, Aurora and Colorado Springs also went on record stating legal reasons why the motion to intervene should be denied.

The two Front Range cities said the conservation groups role in the case should be “limited accordingly” and that they would “monitor the participation” of the conservation groups to make sure they didn’t “take over” the case.

Over 1,250 cfs

Denver Water, another powerful Front Range water entity, also consented to the groups joining the case, but it did so without formal comment.

At the April 24 case management conference, an attorney for Denver Water “stated that it is OK with 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) and it is not sure about the larger flow claims,” the referee wrote in her minutes.

The reference to 1,250 cfs is a reference to the proposed base flow of the three whitewater parks, and, not coincidentally, also to the 1,250 cfs water right that has been exercised by the Shoshone hydropower plant, six miles up river of the proposed parks, since 1907.

A base-level instream flow right of 1,250 cfs is proposed for all three of the whitewater parks, and that flow would be in effect from April 1 to Sept. 30.

A secondary flow right of 2,500 cfs would be in place for 46 days, between April 30 and July 23. And a flow of 4,000 cfs would be in place for five days between May 11 and July 6.

“Based upon interviews with the boating community, the response was a desire to maintain a flow of 2,500 cfs as long as possible and to have a late season event around the Fourth of July when other whitewater parks do not have reliable flows,” says a report from Wright Water Engineers.

The proposed 183-day water-right season includes 46 days at levels above the base flow of 1,250 cfs, and it’s not clear if that will be acceptable to Denver Water, which agreed to the 1,250 cfs level for a new Glenwood RICD in the recently signed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, but not to new water rights above that level.

No threat to water developers

The report also concluded that “there are numerous existing transmountain diversion projects upstream of the Glenwood Spring’s RICD that are senior to 2013. Ongoing efforts to firm up the yield of these projects would not be adversely affected by the city’s RCID claims.”

And it concluded that the RICD “has no effect on the ability to develop additional water supplies on the lower Colorado River, including the Roaring Fork River, the White River, the Yampa River, or the Gunnison River.”

In the April 24 case management conference, an attorney for CDOT said “it needs to ensure that proper channels are pursued in obtaining right to access,” according to the water referee.

An updated report on the design and engineering of the parks, submitted to the court by S2o Design & Engineering on May 30, noted that “a collaborative process with CDOT has been initiated to identify cooperative management opportunities at the rest area to provide for parking, access and site facilities use.”

There is another agency that is concerned about the Horseshoe Bend proposal.

An attorney representing the Bureau of Land Management said “it is [involved in] the case to ensure that the applicant obtains access properly,” according to the water referee.

The location of the third whitewater park is at the upper end of Two Rivers Park, just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River, which flows into the Colorado a few blocks west of downtown Glenwood.

In all, the three parks are located across 3.25 miles of the Colorado River. The “Glenwood wave,” an existing whitewater park in West Glenwood, is downstream of the three proposed parks.

The parties in the water court case now have until Sept. 12 to provide comments to Glenwood Springs on the new reports about the proposed parks. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has been granted until Feb. 2015 to submit its required findings on the city’s application.

And, perhaps optimistically, the water referee’s April 24 minutes state that “all parties believe the case can remain in front of the referee” and not require the involvement of James Boyd, the water court judge in Division 5.

“We’re optimistic that when folks sit down at the table, they can see that they can protect their own interests with little impact on the application,” said Harris of Western Resource Advocates. “And we’re certainly open to hearing any good faith concerns the opposers might have.”

More whitewater coverage here.

Roaring Fork wetland planting project August 23

The EPA has finished mercury-decontamination efforts at the Red Arrow Gold Corp. mill site on Grand Ave. in Mancos

Drought news: Last area of D4 removed from Colorado #COdrought

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Far West
It was seasonably dry along the West Coast, with measurable precipitation limited to parts of the Sierra Nevada and northeastern California. To wit, areas of dryness and drought remained unchanged. The major reservoirs in California are in aggregate at 59% of the historical average, still above the 41% of average recorded during the 1976-77 drought. But some reservoirs are below 1977 levels, especially in west-central parts of the state, and water restrictions have been imposed statewide…

The Rockies and Intermountain West
Generally moderate to heavy rains of 0.5 to locally over 3.0 inches fell from central Idaho and northwestern Wyoming southward through northeastern Nevada and adjacent Utah. Farther north, little or no rain fell, and across the southern half of the Rockies and Intermountain West, only scattered totals of over 0.5 inch and isolated reports topping one inch were noted.

Monsoonal rainfall was relatively light in most locations, and with little or no rain affecting the southern deserts of Arizona, D3 conditions were expanded throughout that region. Farther north, increasing deficits led to deterioration in several areas of Utah, and dryness and drought expanded in central and western Montana, where streamflows and vegetative health were declining. Across Utah, most of Arizona, and adjacent sections of New Mexico and southwestern Colorado, only one-half to two-thirds of normal precipitation has fallen during the last 6 to 9 months.

The elevation of the Lake Mead water level has dropped to 1080 ft. (54% of the historical average), the lowest since the lake was being filled in the 1930’s. This is closest Lake Mead has come to dropping to its “ration level one” of 1075 ft. It has been below its “drought” level of 1l25 ft. for 28 of the past 33 months.

Lake Powell is low, but faring better. After reaching a level of 3574 ft. in mid-April (just over the 3rd percentile since 1964, and 64% of the historical average), the lake rebounded to 3608 ft. at the end of July (20th percentile)…

The Western Great Lakes and the Plains States
Moderate to very heavy rain, 4 to 8 inches in some areas, fell on many locations from the northeastern half of Oklahoma, Kansas, and southern Missouri northward through southern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, and the southwestern half of Iowa. Moderate rain was more scattered through the rest of this large region, with 0.5 inch or less falling on most of the upper Midwest, the central High Plains, southwestern Oklahoma, and central through northeastern Texas.

As a result, areas of dryness and drought improved significantly across south-central South Dakota, central Nebraska, central Missouri, southeastern Kansas, central through eastern Oklahoma, and parts of central and northern Texas, plus a few smaller, isolated locations. The small area of exceptional drought was removed in eastern Colorado, and extreme dryness was eliminated in southern New Mexico, with additional improvements in other central and eastern parts of the state. However, in areas that missed the heavier precipitation, some areas of abnormal dryness were introduced, specifically in western Nebraska, western South Dakota, southwestern Wisconsin, north-central Iowa and adjacent Minnesota, and north-central Missouri. These areas generally received well under half of normal rainfall since mid-July, and 60-day shortages of 2 to almost 4 inches affect north-central Missouri, north-central Iowa and adjacent Minnesota, and southwestern Wisconsin…

Looking Ahead
August 14 – 18, 2014 is expected to bring a swath of moderate to locally heavy rain (0.5 to 2.5 inches) from the northernmost reaches of the Cascades, Intermountain West, and Rockies southeastward through most of the Dakotas, the upper Mississippi Valley, the southern Great Lakes Region, and the Ohio Valley. Light rainfall is expected for most other regions of dryness and drought, with scattered moderate rains dampening the Rockies. Little if any precipitation is expected in much of Georgia and South Carolina, central and southern Texas, the Great Basin, and the Far West south of the Cascades.

The ensuing 5 days (August 19 – 23) favor above-median rainfall from the northern Rockies eastward through the northern Plains, the middle and upper Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley, the upper South, and the Northeast outside of New England. Below-median precipitation is anticipated for Oregon, Nevada, Utah, the Four Corners States, Texas, and adjacent parts of neighboring states. Elsewhere, neither unusually dry nor wet weather is favored.

Climate.gov: What’s the hottest Earth’s ever been?

56millionyearsagocartoonvianoaa

From Climate.gov (NOAA):

Our planet probably experienced its hottest temperatures in its earliest days, when it was still colliding with other rocky debris (planetesimals) careening around the solar system. The heat of these collisions would have kept Earth molten, with top-of-the-atmosphere temperatures upward of 3,600° Fahrenheit.

Even after those first scorching millennia, however, the planet has sometimes been much warmer than it is now. One of the warmest times was during the geologic period known as the Neoproterozoic, between 600 and 800 million years ago. Another “warm age” is a period geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, which occurred about 56 million years ago…

History of hot
Temperature records from thermometers and weather stations exist only for a tiny portion of our planet’s 4.54-billion-year-long life. By studying indirect clues—the chemical and structural signatures of rocks, fossils, and crystals, ocean sediments, fossilized reefs, tree rings, and ice cores—however, scientists can infer past temperatures.

None of that helps with the very early Earth, however. During the time known as the Hadean (yes, because it was like Hades), Earth’s collisions with other large planetesimals in our young solar system—including a Mars-sized one whose impact with Earth is thought to have created the Moon—would have melted and vaporized most rock at the surface. Because no rocks on Earth have survived from so long ago, scientists have estimated early Earth conditions based on observations of the Moon and on astronomical models. Following the collision that spawned the Moon, the planet was estimated to have been around 2,300 Kelvin (3,680°F).

Even after collisions stopped, and the planet had tens of millions of years to cool, surface temperatures were likely more than 400° Fahrenheit. Zircon crystals from Australia, only about 150 million years younger than the Earth itself, hint that our planet may have cooled faster than scientists previously thought. Still, in its infancy, Earth would have experienced temperatures far higher than we humans could possibly survive.

But suppose we exclude the violent and scorching years when Earth first formed. When else has Earth’s surface sweltered?

Thawing the freezer
Between 600 and 800 million years ago—a period of time geologists call the Neoproterozoic—evidence suggests the Earth underwent an ice age so cold that ice sheets not only capped the polar latitudes, but may have extended all the way to sea level near the equator. Reflecting ever more sunlight back into space as they expanded, the ice sheets cooled the climate and reinforced their own growth. Obviously, the Earth didn’t remain stuck in the freezer, so how did the planet thaw?

Even while ice sheets covered more and more of Earth’s surface, tectonic plates continued to drift and collide, so volcanic activity also continued. Volcanoes emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. In our current, ice-age-free world, the natural weathering of silicate rock by rainfall consumes carbon dioxide over geologic time scales. During the frigid conditions of the Neoproterozoic, rainfall became rare. With volcanoes churning out carbon dioxide and little or no rainfall to weather rocks and consume the greenhouse gas, temperatures climbed.

What evidence do scientists have that all this actually happened some 700 million years ago? Some of the best evidence is “cap carbonates” lying directly over Neoproterozoic-age glacial deposits. Cap carbonates—layers of calcium-rich rock such as limestone—only form in warm water.

The fact that these thick, calcium-rich rock layers sat directly on top of rock deposits left behind by retreating glaciers indicate that temperatures rose significantly near the end of the Neoproterozoic, perhaps reaching a global average higher than 90° Fahrenheit. (Today’s global average is lower than 60°F.)

The tropical Arctic
Another stretch of Earth history that scientists count among the planet’s warmest occurred about 55-56 million years ago. The episode is known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

Stretching from about 66-34 million years ago, the Paleocene and Eocene were the first geologic epochs following the end of the Mesozoic Era. (The Mesozoic—the age of dinosaurs—was itself an era punctuated by “hothouse” conditions.) Geologists and paleontologists think that during much of the Paleocene and early Eocene, the poles were free of ice caps, and palm trees and crocodiles lived above the Arctic Circle. The transition between the two epochs around 56 million years ago was marked by a rapid spike in global temperature.

During the PETM, the global mean temperature appears to have risen by as much as 5-8°C (9-14°F) to an average temperature as high as 73°F. (Again, today’s global average is shy of 60°F.) At roughly the same time, paleoclimate data like fossilized phytoplankton and ocean sediments record a massive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, at least doubling or possibly even quadrupling the background concentrations.

It is still uncertain where all the carbon dioxide came from and what the exact sequence of events was. Scientists have considered the drying up of large inland seas, volcanic activity, thawing permafrost, release of methane from warming ocean sediments, huge wildfires, and even—briefly—a comet.

Like nothing we’ve ever seen
Earth’s hottest periods—the Hadean, the late Neoproterozoic, the PETM—occurred before humans existed. Those ancient climates would have been like nothing our species has ever seen.

Modern human civilization, with its permanent agriculture and settlements, has developed over just the past 10,000 years or so. The period has generally been one of low temperatures and relative global (if not regional) climate stability. In our next Q&A, then, we’ll tackle this same question on a more Homo sapien-scale time frame: What’s the hottest Earth has been “lately”?

Climax water treatment plant is open for business — Leadville Herald

Climax mine
Climax mine

From the Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

Many locals were among the 500 guests who toured the new $200 million Climax Molybdenum Water Treatment Plant during its grand opening on Thursday, Aug. 7. The new plant is located in Summit County and is visible from Colorado 91 on the left heading toward Copper Mountain from Leadville.

Prior to the tours, a number of local and state officials made comments, beginning with Fred Menzer, vice president of Colorado Operations for Climax Molybdenum, who called the water treatment plant another milestone for the company. He outlined how the Climax Mine had gone from 30 people up to the 360 employed today with a target number of 4000.

Since January 2012, Freeport-McMoRan has spent $550 million on the mine, and $300 million of this was spent in Colorado, he said. He also noted Climax has paid $145.5 million in taxes in both Lake and Summit counties.

Dave Thornton, president of Climax, added that since 2008, $1 billion has been spent at the Climax Mine site and more than $75 million has been spent in reclamation at both the Henderson and Climax sites.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton noted that the mine was both providing jobs and taking care of the environment.

“We all are environmentalists in Colorado,” Tipton said.

State Rep. Millie Hamner echoed those thoughts saying Climax is a model on how to do things right. She read a tribute to the mining company from the Colorado General Assembly.

Other speakers included Lake County Commissioner Bruce Hix who read a letter from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. His also expressed regret that the water treatment plant was not built in Lake County.

The Climax Mine started producing molybdenum in 2012, but the feasibility design for the water treatment plant began in March 2011. Climax has treated water since 1983, initially using the Tenmile and Mayflower ponds with lime addition, according to information distributed at the grand opening. The system received an upgrade in 1998; at that time the pH was increased in the Tenmile Pond, which began Stage 1 metals removal (removing iron, aluminum and copper). Stage 2 metals removal took place at the Mayflower Pond (removing manganese with traces of zinc and lead). An additional treatment plant was added in 2007.

Now the new treatment plant replaces the Mayflower pond as Stage 2 metals removal. Treated water is discharged into Tenmile Creek. The treatment plant has an Events Pond on-site to capture overflows and prevent unwanted discharges into Tenmile Creek.

More water treatment coverage here.

New Mushroom Species Discovered Near Fort Collins — Grace Hood