Sterling Ranch update: If you have water they (builders) will come

Sterling Ranch
Sterling Ranch

From The Denver Post (Aldo Svaldi):

Five homebuilders have snapped up 90 percent of the available lots for the first phase of a huge residential development in northwestern Douglas County.

Brookfield Residential, CalAtlantic Homes, Lennar Homes, Meritage Homes and Richmond American Homes purchased the Providence Village sites in early November, Sterling Ranch Colorado announced Thursday.

Providence Village is the first of nine communities expected in the 12,050 home master-planned community, which spans 3,400 acres south of C-470 and the Chatfield Reservoir and west of Santa Fe Drive.

Land development is now underway, and construction is expected to start in the second quarter of 2016, with models available for viewing by the fall.

State releases final version of #COWaterPlan — The Pine River Times

From The Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

Colorado now has a plan for its water supply future, motivated by the prediction of state population doubling to around 10 million people by 2050. The plan was released on Nov. 19. It contains well over 400 pages…

Sustainable funding for plan implementation is another objective. It says, “the State will investigate options to raise additional revenue in the amount of $100 million annually ($3 billion by 2050) starting in 2020.” CWCB would start this with $50 million from the Severance Tax Perpetual Fund. CWCB proposes to use this money to establish a repayment guarantee fund to help finance projects, also a green bond fund for large scale environmental and recreational projects.

Using these funds as proposed, the plan says, “an initial $50 million investment could leverage half a billion dollars of regional projects.”

Education to improve public awareness of water issues is the final objective, for better decision making about balanced water solutions.

The plan introduction lists steps that can be taken immediately:

Proactively protect the state’s interstate water interests; apply and strengthen the doctrine of prior appropriation.

Stress that every water conversation starts with conservation and includes water storage.

Investigate options to raise additional revenue to help implement the plan, with an estimated $20 billion needed over the next 30 years for water supply, infrastructure, recreation, and the environment.

Coordinate water uses and encourage projects that provide multiple benefits, including environmental flows, irrigation that also improves wildlife habitat, recreation, and interstate water compact compliance.

Increase efficiency and effectiveness of water project permitting while properly mitigating negative environmental impacts.

Strengthen outreach and education to the general public about water issues.

The plan’s objectives, goals, and critical action steps are consolidated in the plan’s chapter 10. While this was released as the final plan, it can have ongoing updates.

A screenshot from the website for Colorado's Water Plan.
A screenshot from the website for Colorado’s Water Plan.

The importance of designing industrial locations for spill containment, they will happen

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

From The Canon City Daily Record (Sarah Rose):

The Cotter Corp. reported a water spill at their site [November 26, 2015] to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the CDPHE said.

“(Cotter) discovered a spill of approximately 1,800 gallons of water at the pumpback line immediately upstream of the SCS dam on Cotter property,” a CDPHE email states. “They believe that the spill occurred overnight or early that morning. All water was drained back to the sump and no standing water was left on the ground. The leak has been repaired and the pumps have been turned back on.”

The CDPHE stated this incident is currently under investigation, but they believe water did not go beyond the property.

“A multi-part containment system keeps surface water and groundwater on Cotter property from entering Lincoln Park,” the email stated. “System features include a compacted clay barrier extending to non-porous shale on the upstream side of the Soil Conservation Service Dam, a water collection pipe and three pumps. An underground cutoff wall downstream adds another layer of protection.”

Meanwhile there was another spill yesterday, December 3, 2015. Here’s a report from Sarah Rose writing for The Canon City Daily Record. Here’s an excerpt:

Thursday morning Cotter employees discovered that the pumping system shut down, CDPHE said.

“Cotter personnel then inspected the SCS pumpback line and found the location of the break,” a CDPHE email stated. “Based on the amount of time between the morning inspection and observing the 10 a.m. shutdown, Cotter estimates that approximately 500 gallons of water leaked from the pipe line. Leaked water flowed approximately 20 feet, ponded in a slight depression and infiltrated into the soil. It appears that the water stayed on Cotter property.”

#Colorado to host meetings on the #CleanPowerPlan

Photo via
Photo via

From the Colorado Department of Public and and Environment:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized new rules designed to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants across the country. Known collectively as the Clean Power Plan, the rules are designed to maintain an affordable, reliable energy system while cutting pollution and protecting public health and the environment. The Clean Power Plan includes new source performance standards and emission guidelines for both new and existing electric generating units.

Colorado has already taken a number of regulatory initiatives to reduce carbon pollution, including retiring or repowering coal-fired units, increasing renewable energy use and energy efficiency, and reducing energy demand. The state will develop a plan that meets Colorado’s needs.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Coal-fired power plants are estimated to account for as much as 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. The new federal rules call for a significant reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030.

Public involvement

Colorado is developing a Clean Power Plan through a public process. The process includes opportunities for input from diverse stakeholders across Colorado. Watch this website for more information about upcoming public meetings.

  • Sign up on the Clean Power Plan email list to receive announcements.
  • Public process and meeting timeline.
  • Summary of comments heard and input needed.
  • Public comments may be sent to
  • Upcoming meetings

  • January 14, 2016
    Commerce City Civic Center, 7887 E. 60th Ave., Commerce City, CO 80022
    6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
    Focus: Urban low income communities and the Clean Energy Incentive Program
  • ​January 27, 2016
    ​Brush High School Auditorium, 400 West Ave., Brush, CO 80723
    5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Focus: Rural low income communities and the Clean Energy Incentive Program​
    February 22, 2016
    Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Sabing Cleere Room, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246
    8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
    Potential focus: Colorado’s compliance status and compliance options
  • March 2016
    Craig, CO (Details Pending)
    Potential Focus: Demand growth, cost and reliability
  • #COWaterPlan: Nearing bottom of its water barrel, Colorado changes the conversation — The Mountain Town News #ColoradoRiver

    The meadow along the Fraser River, about 70 miles northwest of Denver, with Byers Peak in the background. 2007photo/Allen Best -
    The meadow along the Fraser River, about 70 miles northwest of Denver, with Byers Peak in the background. 2007photo/Allen Best –

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    In 1893, after reviewing census records of settlement in the West three years prior, the historian Frederick Jackson Turner proclaimed the frontier closed. In Colorado, the new State Water Plan says much the same thing about the water frontier.

    After almost 150 years of yoking its rivers with dams, canals and other water infrastructures, the state is substantially out of raw water to develop. If Colorado doesn’t have an empty water bucket, it can at see the bottom.

    This might seem odd, given that Colorado is located at the crest of the continent. No state has a higher mean elevation than Colorado, 6,800 feet. Snowmelt from the silvery peaks make it the mother lode of rivers: the Arkansas, the Rio Grande, and the Platte, among others, plus the namesake Colorado, all of them slashing down through canyons of black gneiss and red sandstone toward gentle plains and scorching deserts.

    Interstate compacts mandate two-thirds be allowed to flow downstream to Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico, and also Nevada, Arizona and California. Of what Colorado can legally keep, farmers claim the vast majority, about 85 percent, with the balance going to cities and industry.

    But the compelling water statistic is told in acre-feet. One is needed every year for two single-family households. Of the 13.7 million acre-feet that originate in Colorado, only an estimated 150,000 acre-feet remain for development. Even that figure is suspect, because it assumes the climate of the 20th century. That’s a risky assumption, given what we now know about the impact of warming temperatures in the Southwest. [ed. emphasis mine]

    Still, the old ways die hard. One idea calls for Colorado to develop that final share of the Colorado River by building a $5 billion pipeline to divert water 400 miles from the state’s northwest corner to the rapidly growing cities at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

    This latter idea provokes Colorado’s traditional antagonisms about transmountain diversions. Some 80 percent of water originates west of the Continental Divide, such as near the resorts of Aspen and Vail, while 89 percent of residents live east of the divide, mostly in the Front Range urban corridor. The imbalance is addressed—and created—by the 25 tunnels, canals and ditches that altogether export 450,000 to 600,000 acre-feet per year from the Pacific Ocean side of the mountains eastward to the Great Plains.

    While the state plan does envision new reservoirs, to store flood waters, it also emphasizes a new frontier of sharing. For decades, Colorado’s cities have been tapping agriculture water. Many farmers have been only too happy to sell their farms – and water, too, a practice called buy and dry. But Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, at the plan’s adoption in late November, made it clear that this is unacceptable. “It’s in the self-interest of everyone in this state that we don’t dry up the state’s agricultural counties,” he said in introducing the new state plan. But Colorado needs to figure out ways to keep farms even as Colorado’s current population, 5.3 million, to expand to 9 or 10 million by mid-century. The new plan doesn’t spell out how this water can be shared. Innovation—technological and legal—will be needed.

    Another new frontier of water will be conservation. The plan identifies a goal of wringing 400,00 acre-feet per year of savings without sacrificing uses. That’s about as much as the natural flow of the South Platte River. Just talking about limiting the length of showers misses the point, said Hickenlooper. Conservation is a broader and deeper ambition. Many argue for a new cultural norm about what constitutes an aesthetically pleasing urban and suburban landscape.

    Denver has been leading the way. Just a few decades ago the city’s water agency was reviled as both gluttonous and imperious, prompting a bumper sticker that said: “Damn the Denver Water Board.” But in recent years, it has been leading the way in conservation, with a 20 percent per capita reduction in water consumption in the last decade. “And we can do more,” says Jim Lochhead, the agency’s chief executive, without sacrificing quality of life.

    Colorado’s new ambitions should be viewed within the context of the seven states of the Southwest that share the Colorado River. Surpluses during the 1990s dissolved as drought left bathtub rings on the river’s two giant reservoirs, Mead and Powell. Now, even after good snow years in the headwaters, water levels in Mead continue to fall, now to 35 percent of capacity, the lowest since the 1930s, soon after Hoover Dam was completed in 1935.

    Some predict even further declines as temperatures rise and population demands increase. Calculating the odds, Las Vegas bet on a new tunnel, its third into Mead, the city’s major source of water. The new tunnel, which was completed in September at a cost of $817 million, bores to the very bottom of the reservoir—just in case the reservoir empties altogether.

    Water laws and infrastructure in Colorado and other Western states were created to share abundance. “Today that pendulum has swung to how ‘do you manage shortages for all?’ That’s a big difference,” says Russell George, a former state legislator in Colorado who is credited by many as the father of his state’s new plan. “So what we have to do now is sort of reinvent the total decision-making methodology based on scarcity.”

    That’s a different conversation from the past, when the major argument was always that prosperity depended upon developing water and other natural resources. But with the water barrel empty, it’s time for a new conversation. In Colorado, the conversation has already begun.

    Allen Best writes about energy and water issues from a base in Colorado.

    Click on the graphic below to read the Colorado Water Plan Executive Summary.


    Community Ag Alliance: Colorado, ag groups scrutinize EPA rule


    From the Community Ag Alliance (Ren Martyn) via Steamboat Today:

    Last summer, Colorado, along with 18 other states, sued the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers across the proposed rule expanding the reach of “Waters of the U.S.,” or WOTUS, under the Clean Water Act.

    The WOTUS rule was intended to clarify which bodies of water are regulated under the Clean Water Act in light of Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that decided U.S. Navigable Waters were not intended to be all waters and that the federal agencies had adopted an overly broad interpretation of the scope of their authority.

    Colorado, along with the other states, contended the new rule was unnecessary, infringed on state sovereignty and defined waters of the U.S. so expansively the federal government could apply jurisdiction and regulation to all forms of surface water, including ephemeral streams and creeks, isolated small ponds and seasonal irrigational ditches.

    The EPA indicated the rule’s goal was to provide clarity for waters of the U.S., but opponents pointed to language such as the revised definition of a tributary, which included that “land features may be deemed to be tributaries, even if they are invisible to the landowner and no longer exist on the landscape.”

    Critical to Colorado at a time when the state was developing a state water plan, the concern was the WOTUS rule could undermine Colorado’s water law and threaten both agricultural water rights and the water rights of countless municipal, industrial and commercial water users.

    In addition to the 18 states, more than 90 state and national agricultural organizations opposed the WOTUS rule as an overreach of federal power and an impact to historical agricultural practices and property rights. The rule differs from the current Clean Water Act, in which certain agriculture exemptions exist for “dredge and fill materials” that allow farmers and ranchers to work the land without the requirement for federal permits.

    The primary objections across the agricultural community were the WOTUS rule’s proposed expansion of federally regulated waters and the fact that farming practices, such as fertilizer applications, weed control and soil conditioning, would now be regulated for discharge. Colorado’s lawsuit stated, “the rule fails to account for duration of water flow, suggesting federal agencies can assert jurisdiction over dry ponds, ephemeral streams, intermittent channels and even man-made ditches.”

    In August, one day before the WOTUS rule took effect, a federal judge ruled the WOTUS rule was to be halted within the states named in the lawsuits. The EPA contended the rule would be enforced in all other states, and, on Oct. 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals expanded the stay on the WOTUS rule to the entire nation.

    Colorado’s representatives and agricultural interests will continue to monitor this contentious modification to the Clean Water Act. How long the lawsuits will take to flow through the courts is unclear, and there is speculation the U.S. Supreme Court may take up the WOTUS rule June 2016.

    Ren Martyn is a ranch real estate broker with Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty and Community Ag Alliance Board member.

    #AnimasRiver: Gold King Superfund talks loom; local officials favor narrow EPA role — The Denver Post

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]
    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday they are looking forward to talks with Silverton and San Juan County officials about a possible Superfund designation to spur cleanup of leaking inactive mines contaminating Animas River headwaters.

    The locals who faced the EPA-triggered Gold King Mine disaster above Silverton Aug. 5 said any designation would have to be narrow covering only the upper Cement Creek drainage — not the town or other heavily mined parts of the county.

    They sent a notice to the EPA requesting talks about a priority designation but haven’t heard back, Commissioner Ernest Kuhlman said.

    “We don’t want anything bigger than we have to have,” Kuhlman said. “The EPA was thinking about something much bigger.”

    Gov. John Hickenlooper would have to endorse any push for a Superfund designation but has indicated he’d support local wishes.

    “The EPA would like to expand it to cover a lot of our county,” though not the town, said Peter Butler, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, which was founded in 1994 to pursue non-Superfund alternatives to get cleanup done. “People are worried about what happens to your property value. Can you get a loan? Can you sell your house?”

    No date for talks has been set after a local resolution last week to discuss Superfund possibilities.

    The EPA declined Thursday to address the scope of a possible Superfund cleanup. EPA staffers have been studying mining-related contamination of the upper Animas watershed for years and at one point asked to test children in Silverton for lead poisoning…

    The local officials said they’d prefer to deal with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, rather than the EPA, but recognize that a Superfund designation would entail an EPA role.

    Floodplain changes threaten tide of insurance hikes — The Glenwood Springs Post Independent

    Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia
    Glenwood Springs via Wikipedia

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Ryan Summerlin):

    As the Federal Emergency Management Agency redraws Garfield County’s floodplain boundaries, residents and local businesses may end up paying bigger insurance bills.

    The latest revisions to FEMA’s floodplain maps — reviewed Thursday in a forum for local government, residents and businesses — show that several businesses and neighborhoods will be enveloped in the new 100-year floodplain boundary.

    However, since the 2011 revision of those maps, several appeals have succeeded in pushing back the boundaries in some locations, such as Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, El Rocko Mobile Home Park, Riverside Cottages north of Cardiff and Mitchell Creek just north of Sixth Street.

    In these locations, residents found errors in FEMA’s elevation data.

    But in many of these locations and others, the most recent revised maps still show growing floodplain boundaries.

    For example, the floodplain running down a horseshoe street off of Center Drive in West Glenwood has expanded to encompass the entire neighborhood.

    Ryan Pietramali, FEMA’s risk analysis branch chief, said these updates have come along as mapping technology has advanced — bringing data collected with technology from the 1960s and ’70s into “the digitized world.”

    Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool has already begun protesting. In a Nov. 12 letter to FEMA, the Hot Springs’ attorney disputed whether the newest maps were indeed more comprehensive and accurate.

    FEMA’s current floodplain shows Glenwood Hot Springs is outside the 100-year flood boundary. But it was included in the floodplain in the 2011 revision. And while the boundary around the springs has receded after successful appeals, the tourist attraction is still encompassed in the 100-year boundary…

    The sudden change came with a change in policy, Pietramali said. Prior floodplain maps had considered Interstate 70 as a flood mitigation structure. But under its new policy, FEMA cannot consider the interstate as such.

    Pietramali said FEMA is dealing with the issue of non-levy embankments all over the country since the implementation of that policy.

    But the interstate was designed and built for transportation, not to restrain flood waters, said Pietramali.

    FEMA, therefore, treats the area as though the interstate is not there at all, extending the floodplain as far as the water would go without the interstate as an obstacle.

    So regardless of whether I-70 would block floodwaters from the Colorado River, Glenwood Hot Springs could get stuck with much higher insurance costs.

    Pietramali noted that while the floodplain maps are used by lenders to determine where to make flood insurance mandatory and how to set insurance rates, they’re also used for land management decisions.

    Following the forums Thursday, FEMA will open a 90-day period during which residents and businesses can submit appeals. That period is slated to begin in February.

    Following that process, FEMA prepares the final floodplain maps, a flood insurance study and flood insurance rate maps. Those maps and reports go into effect 10 months after they’re finalized, and local governments are required to have passed ordinances adopting those maps beforehand.