Platte River Recovery Implementation Program J-2 regulating reservoirs project on hold

From the Kearney Hub (Lori Potter):

A report at the Sept. 9 meeting of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program Governance Committee in Kearney estimated the current cost at $170 million. Neither figure includes property acquisition.

“Much of the work is on hold, in particular the negotiations with landowners,” said Mike Drain, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District Natural Resources Manager told the Hub Friday.

The Holdrege-based district would build, own and operate the two shallow reservoirs along the south side of the Platte River between Lexington and Overton that would temporarily hold excess water for later releases back to the river when needed to meet habitat target flows for threatened and endangered birds.

CNPPID’s major benefit would be to operate the upstream J-2 hydropower plant more efficiently.

The Platte Program, which involves the U.S. Department of Interior, Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, would pay the majority of the costs and get the majority of river benefit credits.

Nebraska would pay for 25 percent of the credits, with the Grand Island-based Central Platte Natural Resources District and Holdrege-based Tri-Basin NRD each participating for 20 percent of the Nebraska share.

At Thursday’s CPNRD board meeting in Grand Island, the NRD’s biologist and Governance Committee representative, Mark Czaplewski, was asked what factors had caused the two project estimates to be so far apart.

“The biggest one by far was underestimating what it would take to line the reservoir,” Czaplewski said, explaining that RJH Consultants Inc. of Englewood, Colo., the engineering consultant hired by CNPPID, based the original figure on surveys of off-site areas, while the new number applies to what is known about the actual J-2 project site.

“There were a number of things,” he added, including some redesign on the reservoirs’ ring dikes and that contractors were “a little hungrier” for jobs when the first estimate was made than they are now.

Czaplewski said the J-2 project is an important part of the Platte Program’s first-increment goal to reduce annual Platte River depletions by 130,000-150,000 acre-feet. The J-2 project benefits have been estimated at 48,000 a-f…

The J-2 Regulating Reservoirs project already was behind on several schedule targets. Drain said CNPPID officials had hoped to have full access or ownership of all land within the project footprint by the end of this year, which isn’t going to happen.

“There isn’t any way that we haven’t at least delayed the project now,” he added.

Northern Water Fall Water Users Meeting November 10

From email from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

Northern Water’s Fall Water Users Meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 10 at the Riverside Cultural Center, 3700 Golden St., Evans, CO starting at 8 a.m.

The meeting is a forum to discuss the current water situation and water-related issues, the water year, the Northern Integrated Supply Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project.

Other items on the agenda include the Granby Hydropower Plant project, Northern Water’s water management system and an update from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Dan Haley, the new CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, will be the luncheon speaker.

The afternoon session starts at 1:30 p.m. and will feature the screening of the documentary film The Great Divide. The 90-minute film documents the history of water development in Colorado from the Ancient Puebloan cultures to present day.

See the meeting agenda.

Go to the November Calendar page to register for the meeting online by Tuesday, Nov. 3. If you are unable to register online, please call our registration line at 970-622-2220. Please provide the name(s) of those who will be attending and the organization represented, if applicable. If you register and you later find you cannot attend, please cancel your reservation by calling us at 970-622-2220

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

Septic disposal site in Carr draws opposition

Post Office in Carr, Colorado via Wikimedia

From The Greeley Tribune (Catherine Sweeney):

A proposed septic storage site has caused a big uproar in a tiny Weld County community just south of the Wyoming border.

Sullivan Septic & Excavating, based in Mead, is trying to store sewage from Weld, Boulder and Larimer counties in tanks and on fields in Carr, an unincorporated community of only a few hundred people.

Residents have banded together to write petitions, submit letters and emails and turn out for permit meetings.

Their most prominent fear is the sewage will harm their water quality, both in the nearby streams and surrounding groundwater wells.

“If it destroys our wells … we can’t do anything,” said Mary Fenwick, one of the residents opposing the project.

They also fear air quality and odor problems, tank quality control and traffic issues.

Cynthia Sullivan, who owns the 21-year-old company with her husband, Kevin, said they pitched the project in Carr because they own 240 acres there.

They also already have three 20,000-gallon tanks on site and had to file for a permit with the planning department to start filling them, according to planning commission documents. They also have to file for a permit with the Weld County Health Department to spread the sewage over a field.

They haven’t done so yet, said Director of General Services Trevor Jiricek.

He helps the health department oversee regulations like this.

Applying waste to farmland is somewhat common in Weld County. There are two types of sewage that can be applied: septage and biosolids. Septage (what the Sullivans are trying to store) comes from septic tanks. It’s screened, which means it has plastics and other materials that aren’t biodegradable removed. Biosolids come from waste water treatment facilities. They’re screened, too, but they’re also treated afterward in various ways, which can include chlorination or aeration. Both kinds of waste can be spread over fields.

This practice isn’t only for storage.

“Land applying septage and biosolids is for its beneficial value,” Jiricek said. “It’s like fertilizer.”

In a given year, the health department grants from 180-200 biosolid application permits and maybe a handful of septage permits, he said. This isn’t a year-round process.

“There’s not 200 active sites at a time in our county ever,” he said.

Applying both biosolids and septage is usually a one-and-done deal, not something that happens continuously.

The county commissioners’ vote in a little less than two weeks will ultimately decide whether they can use the tanks. Because the case is ongoing, the commissioners declined to comment on it.

The planning commission, which acts as an adviser to the county commissioners, approved the project 7-2 in September. One of the “no” voters, Gene Stille, said he is familiar with the area and has concerns about water quality effects, according to planning commission documents.

From the beginning, residents have opposed the project.

“All we had was like two days before the meetings to get this organized,” Fenwick said.

Before the meeting, the planning commission received 35 letters and emails against the project. More than a dozen residents attended the meeting, and seven spoke against it.

During the meeting, commissioners added conditions to the permit request, such as required leak detection, and talked with engineers about how to mitigate potential damage.

“They never answered a single question (from residents),” Fenwick said. “They didn’t even ask our opinion, if that was going to satisfy us.”

The residents learned about the project from a notice on a lightly used back road. Fenwick said she thinks they should have put the notice in the post office, where more Carr residents would have seen it.

That’s not what the law calls for, said County Attorney Bruce Barker. It calls for a notice to the adjacent property owners, in the paper and on the property where the project is slated to go.

“They were thinking there should have been notice to — to my impression — everyone in Carr,” Barker said.

The septic storage would be the next link in a chain of industrial permit approvals in Carr, which residents have lamented.

“We moved here about six years ago, and there was nothing around here,” Fenwick said.

She said the only disturbance her family faced was the occasional train. In the past few years, gravel excavators and oil and gas sites have come.

Residents have various complaints about those, but the old developments aren’t their concern right now.

“This latest deal is the one that’s got us all upset,” she said.

The other sites can be loud and generate dust, but those grievances pale in comparison to worries they have about the danger posed to their water supply, she said.

Although she and the other residents plan to continue fighting the project with fervor, she said she doesn’t believe county officials will take their side because of all the projects approved in the past.

“We all have a big investment in our homes and trying to make our community better, and we just keep getting slapped in the face,” she said.

Scholars urge more research on future of Colorado River — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

From the Associated Press via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

A coalition of scholars across the West is urging the federal government to partner with the National Academy of Sciences to study the future of the Colorado River, including if climate change is leading to reduced stream flow.

Twenty-three scholars from Western universities sent a letter Tuesday to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell detailing their request for more scientific research on a host of issues related to the Colorado River.

Chief among the concerns is if there will be enough water in the river to support 36 million users in seven U.S. states and parts of Mexico over the next 50 years.

The scholars argue the federal government is relying on a projection of a 9-percent stream flow decline by 2060, while skimming over other estimates that suggest it could fall by as much as 45 percent by 2050 due to climate change.

Secretary Jewell was expected to receive the letter early Wednesday. The Bureau of Reclamation this summer issued the results of a nearly three-year study that concluded that there will be significant shortfalls between water supply and demand on the Colorado River over the next 50 years.

But the scholars say in the letter that those conclusions “may be insufficient to accommodate the full range of risks that lie ahead,” the letter says.

The scholars who signed the letter include Robert Adler of the University of Utah law school; Victor Baker of the hydrology and water resources department at the University of Arizona; and Tim Barnett at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

Owen Lammers, executive director of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper, said the federal government needs to pursue a wider breadth of scientific projections to ensure it is prepared for all water flow scenarios. His group supports the scholars’ efforts.

“We’re hoping for the best when we should be preparing for the worst,” Lammers said. “We are really putting society at risk without looking at some of these scenarios.”

Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015
Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015

The latest climate briefing from Western Water Assessment is hot off the presses


Click here to go the Western Water Assessment website (scroll down for the latest briefing). Here’s an excerpt:

Latest Monthly Briefing – October 13, 2015


  • September was dry overall for our region, with many areas receiving less than 25% of average precipitation for the month. Temperatures were extremely warm, with both Colorado and Utah recording their record-warmest September.
  • Water-year 2015 ended up with near-average (Utah) and above-average (Colorado and Wyoming) statewide precipitation for the 12-month period. The water-year average temperatures were unusually warm in all three states.
  • Nearly all reservoirs in Colorado and Wyoming had above-average storage as of the end of September; Utah’s reservoirs had mostly below-average storage.
  • El Niño conditions have strengthened further and are virtually certain to continue through the winter. El Niño’s expected influence is seen in seasonal precipitation outlooks showing a wet tilt for most or all of our region through the winter.
  • Americas Latino Eco Festival is coming up on Thursday, October 15th – Saturday, October 17th #PROTECTMITIERRA

    Denver City Park sunrise
    Denver City Park sunrise

    From email from the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter:

    Americas Latino Eco Festival is coming up on Thursday, October 15th – Saturday, October 17th and there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved!

    On Thursday, October 15th there will be a People and Planet First Forum at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, St. Cajetan from 8:15 AM to 5:15 PM. For more details, a map, and to register for free, go here!

    On Friday, October 16th there will be Climate of Hope Leadership Training at the Denver Art Museum Point Hall from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. For more details, a map, and to register for free, go here!

    Also, join us on Saturday, October 17th from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM in front of the History Colorado Center (next to the Denver Art Museum)! We will be tabling with flyers and opportunities for people to sign up for outings, to be a part of our team, and learn more about our mission to explore, enjoy and protect our planet!

    If you’re interest in volunteering to help us table, please go here and add your name, email and phone number and we can assign you a shift to help out.

    For more information and to register for events, please go to! Let me know if you have any questions. Hope to see you there!

    Are our headwaters at risk of a mine leak? — Officials unsure what’s happening in tunnels — the Cortez Journal

    Dolores River watershed
    Dolores River watershed

    From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

    The headwaters of the Dolores River share space with century-old mines similar to the Gold King mine that spilled 3 million gallons of wastewater into the Animas River this August.

    But the long-abandoned Argentine Mine Complex near Rico is receiving proper pollution controls to reduce the risk of such an accident, mining officials say.

    The St. Louis and Blaine mine tunnels once provided access to a vast network of hard-rock tunnels bored into the Rico Mountains.

    Now the tunnels act like drains for snowmelt and rain, which accumulate unnatural levels of heavy metals that has to flow out somewhere.

    The mine entrances have collapsed, but the wastewater continues to drain out of them within yards of the Dolores River.

    “It’s a hazard we need to pay attention to because the Dolores River supplies water for four towns, and for McPhee Reservoir depended on for irrigation,” said Paul Hollar, emergency manager for Montezuma County.

    Mine drainage from St. Louis and Blaine flow through an on-site wastewater treatment system that is working properly, according to the EPA and state mining officials.

    Eleven settling ponds remove heavy metals, and the water meets state health standards when it returns to the river.

    For the past 15 years, the treatment system has being upgraded and maintained under a cooperative effort by former mine owners Atlantic Richfield Co., the EPA, and the Colorado Division of Reclamation and Mine Safety.

    “While you can never be sure what is happening two miles back in these tunnels, we feel the mine entrances are under control,” said Allen Sorenson, project manager and engineer with the state’s inactive mine program…

    It was also discovered in 1996 that a concrete plug in the nearby Blaine Tunnel was failing, releasing orange-colored, toxic water directly into Sliver Creek, a tributary of the Dolores River.

    The Blaine Tunnel plug is designed to redirect drainage through the St. Louis Tunnel, and into the settling ponds.

    In 2013, the Blaine plug was successfully repaired, Sorenson said, at a cost of $350,000.

    “The mine entrance was shored up, and diversion structure installed,” he said. “There is no surface discharge out of Blaine.”[…]

    To monitor whether that is happening at the Rico mines, wells with piezometers that measure water pressure and water level were installed behind the collapsed St. Louis Tunnel.

    “Investigating whether they are backing up is ongoing,” Sorenson said. “It is being tracked, and if problems are observed they will be addressed.”

    The Blaine Tunnel does not have the piezometers, he said, but it is checked several times a year by inspectors to make sure the diversion structure is working and to monitor flow rates.

    Sorenson warned that the nature of underground mine tunnels make them unpredictable, and there are no guarantees a scenario like the Gold King mine won’t happen again.

    “It’s a significant issue,” he said. “We eliminate risk to the extent possible, but you can’t rule out what a massive surge of water will do.”

    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    Boss Lake
    Boss Lake

    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Addressing issues with a leaky Boss Lake dam in southwestern Chaffee County could cost as much as $2 million.

    Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, estimated the cost at $1.5-2 million during the Thursday district board of directors meeting.

    Scanga said an environmental impact statement would need to be prepared in order to construct a road across national forest land to get equipment into the site.
    Confronted with the cost of dam repairs and the cost of an environmental impact statement, Scanga would not recommend moving forward with repair work, saying the lake has “limited utility for the district’s uses.”

    During the Upper Ark district’s March 2014 meeting, district officials mentioned the possibility that the dam could be breached.

    Scanga said he was hopeful the state would take over the reservoir and fund the necessary repairs so Boss Lake could be used to help re-establish endangered greenback cutthroat trout, the Colorado state fish.

    The Upper Ark district stores water in Boss Lake and manages the reservoir pursuant to a 1982 agreement with Chaffee County.

    When the state built Boss Lake, it encompassed the Donnell 1 and 2 reservoirs, and the Donnell water rights include a storage right in what is now Boss Lake.
    Salco Associates, essentially Wanda and Jim Treat and family, own the Donnell water rights, allowing the Treats to store water in Boss Lake.

    In spite of efforts to engage Salco regarding dam repairs, Scanga said the district had received “no response” since the family attended the March 2014 district board meeting to protest maintenance charges billed by the district.

    The board meeting also included:

  • A review of the 2016 district and enterprise budgets with the budget hearing set for 2 p.m. Nov. 12.
  • A presentation entitled “Fry-Ark Project and Current Project Storage” by Roy Vaughan, Pueblo Reservoir facility manager, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
  • District hydrologist Jord Gertson’s water storage, precipitation and streamflow reports, showing full reservoirs and an above-average precipitation outlook for southern Colorado.
  • A progress report from the Upper Arkansas Multi-Use Project Committee indicating the project has gained positive attention from various elements in the water community.
  • A report from Director Greg Felt regarding a Multi-Use Project field trip attended by eight legislators.
  • A Thompson Ditch report from engineer Chris Manera indicating no substantial change in water levels due to groundwater infiltration following a wetter than average summer.
  • An update on planning activities for the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, slated for April 27-28 at Salida SteamPlant.
  • Presentation of the 2016 conservancy district budget.
  • A legislative update from consultant Ken Baker.
  • A legal report updating board members on district applications and oppositions.
  • A treasurer’s report.
  • It’s fluoride in a landslide — The Aspen Daily News

    Calcium fluoride
    Calcium fluoride

    From The Aspen Daily News (Madeleine Osberger):

    Snowmass Village water district users overwhelmingly want fluoride returned to the local water system, according to results released Monday by the public accounting firm hired to tabulate ballots for the 3,099 users.

    Of the 1,168 total surveys received, 753 respondents (64 percent) want fluoridated water, while 404 people (35 percent) are against its return. Eleven responses were considered neutral (either unmarked or marked both “yes” and “no”), according to Dalby Wendland & Co. of Grand Junction.

    “We as a board have no other choice but to reconsider our decision,” said Joe Farrell, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District board member who was the lone fluoride supporter in the 3-1 decision made in July. Those favoring its removal were Dave Dawson, Michael Shore and Willard Humphrey.

    “The whole purpose of the advisory question was to get the pulse of our paying customers, and they have clearly spoken,” Farrell added.

    The board will discuss the results of the non-binding survey during its next regularly scheduled meeting, which is 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 21. The meeting has been moved to the Snowmass Club to accommodate what is anticipated to be a large crowd.