From the Associated Press via the Artesia News:
New Mexico’s congressional delegation has concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over delays in compensation for expenses and damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill.
The delegation announced Monday that it sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. It asks her agency to process millions of dollars in reimbursement claims submitted by the state and the Navajo Nation and to set up a claims office to begin processing compensation for victims.
The lawmakers also want EPA to adopt a robust, long-term plan for the independent monitoring of the area’s water quality.
“We are deeply troubled that these two issues are still far from resolved six months after the spill,” the lawmakers wrote.
The delegation also warned that the spring snowmelt will increase water flow in the Animas and San Juan rivers and that could stir up lead, arsenic and other contaminants deposited in the wake of August 2015 spill.
The EPA recently announced that it plans to return to the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado this spring or early summer to resume preliminary cleanup work after it triggered the 3-million-gallon spill of wastewater that fouled rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah…
The EPA is considering Superfund status for the Gold King and 47 other mining sites in the Bonita Peak Mining District north of Silverton, which would free up millions of dollars in federal funds for an extensive cleanup.
The EPA estimates that about 5.4 million gallons of acidic mine waste flows from those sites each day, eventually reaching the Animas River.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
A Western Slope lawmaker wants to help folks on the eastern side of the state store more water.
Doing so not only would help serve the growing water demands of thirsty Front Range cities, but also take pressure off other areas of the state from transmountain diversions, said Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio.
Brown, along with Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, introduced a bill to do a comprehensive study on how much water is leaving the South Platte River basin into Nebraska, particularly when there are heavy flood years, such as the massive floods that devastated the state in 2013.
Because of a lack of any additional storage on the Eastern Plains, some of that water ended up in the aquifers, but most of it flowed downstream into Nebraska and Kansas.
The House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee agreed, unanimously approving the measure, HB1256.
It calls for the Colorado Water Conservation Board to receive $250,000 from the state’s Water Supply Reserve Fund to conduct a hydrology study of the river basin, specifically estimating for each of the past 20 years the volume of water that has been diverted to Nebraska in excess of what the state is required to send downstream.
That study is also to examine how to save that water, either in recharging aquifers or in a new reservoir.
“It’s just one little step in the direction of what we need to do, and that is to manage our water properly,” Brown told the committee. “If we can do that over here (on the Eastern Plains), we will need less Western Slope water, we won’t dry up area farm land (and) we’ll have a bigger supply for municipal, industrial, environmental and agricultural.”
Several groups around the state spoke in favor of the measure, including Christian Reece, executive director of Club 20, who said her group has long advocated for more water storage projects statewide.
“One potential location for a water storage project is the South Platte River,” she told the committee, testifying remotely from Grand Junction. “In 2015, more than 2 million acre feet of water left the state that could have been stored for use here in Colorado. Club 20 has been a long advocate of pursuing additional water storage throughout Colorado, but specifically on the Front Range, where the population demand is the highest.”
Brown said he’s hopeful the study can find new ways to store any excess water, which he said would go a long way in addressing the state’s long-range water needs.
“We’ll increase agricultural production, we’ll have enough water for growth in the state, and that will be good for business and for the environment,” he said.
The bill heads to the House Appropriations Committee for more debate.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Colorado Springs is upping the ante for what it would pay for stormwater control on Fountain Creek after getting a cold shoulder by Pueblo officials from presentations in January.
“I’ve dug and dug and dug,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board Monday. “This is an enforceable contract.”
Colorado Springs is offering to spend at least $445 million over 20 years on 73 critical projects that have benefit both to the city and Pueblo County. That is more than double than the $190 million over 10 years If the projects are not done by that time, Colorado Springs would spend another $24 million annually until they are complete.
The offer was made Friday to Pueblo County commissioners as part of negotiations over the 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.
In addition, the city is offering to make EPA requirements enforceable by Pueblo County, to pay for $125,000 in administrative costs of the Fountain Creek district, offer more help with dredging and provide $3 million more for dredging Fountain Creek in Pueblo.
Finally, it would release the first $10 million for Fountain Creek dams to the district as part of the condition to provide $50 million over a 5-year period.
Colorado Springs wants to tie up all of the loose ends with the 1041 permit by the end of April, when testing of SDS will be complete.
“The city is not going to delay operating the system and let warranties expire on a $900 million project,” Suthers said, adding that litigation would be the next step if an agreement with Pueblo County cannot be reached.
Pueblo County commissioners must decide whether commitments made in the 1041 permit have been met before SDS is turned on. There is no timetable for when that would happen.
In January, Suthers and other Colorado Springs officials met with the commissioners, Pueblo City Council and the Pueblo Board of Water Works on the stormwater issue. Commissioners asked for more long-term assurances and more commitment to resolving Fountain Creek concerns. City Council asked for $500 million over 10 years, along with other conditions. Even the water board, which works cooperatively with Colorado Springs Utilities, backed the county.
Suthers outlined how the $445 million would be spent over the 20year period, escalating from about $20 million annually to $25 million per year. It would not include any outside grants. Payments would be guaranteed by excess revenue payments from Colorado Springs Utilities that total about $32 million a year.
Pueblo County engineers, at Colorado Springs’ expense, would be able to jointly review projects in order to ascertain benefits.
“CSU is an enterprise, and will guarantee the expenditures if we fall short,” Suthers said. [ed. emphasis mine]
There would be fines of up to $1 million annually if the required amounts were not spent, he added. Provisions for dispute resolution are included, and Colorado Springs would pick up the legal tab if Pueblo County prevailed in a court case.
Initially, the money would come from city cutbacks, refinancing and Utilities. That would not preclude Colorado Springs from identifying a permanent source of funding.
“Also, whatever we resolve with the EPA by court order or consent decree would be incorporated in the IGA, so is enforceable by Pueblo County,” Suthers said, referring to the city’s current violation of its stormwater permit under the Clean Water Act.