Rifle: “State of the River” meeting, May 25 #ColoradoRiver #COriver

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Colorado River in Eagle County via the Colorado River District
Colorado River in Eagle County via the Colorado River District

From the Middle Colorado Watershed Council:

How much snowmelt will eventually flow into our reservoirs and rivers? Join us to learn all about this year’s snowpack figures, water supply forecasts and anticipated stream flows & conditions.

The Colorado River District and the Middle Colorado Watershed Council will co-sponsor the annual “State of the River” meeting on Wednesday, May 25 from 6-8pm at the Ute Events Center in Rifle. The public meeting will provide an overview of expected river flows in the Colorado River, as well as other topics pertaining to the Watershed. The packed lineup will include:

  • Victor Lee, Hydrologic Monitoring Program Coordinator, Bureau of Reclamation
  • Laurie Rink, Executive Director, Middle Colorado Watershed Council
  • Jim Miller, Utility Director, City of Rifle
  • Eric Kuhn, General Manager, Colorado River District
  • Nolan Doesken, Colorado State Climatologist, Colorado Climate Center
  • WHEN Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (MDT)

    WHERE: Ute Theater and Events Center – 132 East 4th Street, Rifle, CO 81650

    #AnimasRiver: EPA moves in, local river groups seek role — The Denver Post

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    For two decades, the local Animas River Stakeholder Group drove efforts to deal with acid metals draining from the hundreds of mines drilled into mountains above Silverton. And the EPA-triggered Aug. 5 Gold King disaster prompted formation of more groups motivated to clean the river and restore riparian habitat.

    But with the EPA launching a federal bureaucratic process, locals are asking how, if at all, they will fit. Residents want a role beyond sitting at meetings.

    “It definitely has taken the wind out of our sails,” stakeholder group coordinator Peter Butler said. “It’s unclear what the Animas River Stakeholder Group’s future will be.”

    This jumble of inactive mines ranks among the worst in the West, draining more than 1,000 gallons a minute of arsenic, cadmium, zinc, lead and other contaminants into streams.

    The locals hired mining engineers and identified major polluters, tested soil and water at 160 mines, and began to route water away from exposed minerals.

    But the job is huge, and locals, even with the state and federal support they received, hit limits.

    Butler said they “ran out of steam” due to high costs of plugging mines and treating water and liability under the Clean Water Act for projects that only partially reduce pollution — a legal catch Congress has not addressed.

    An EPA takeover means more federal funding may be available.

    The issue is whether momentum, buy-in and funding for grassroots stewardship will suffer.

    At a recent EPA briefing on the Superfund process, San Juan County Commissioner Pete McKay asked about the role for locals.

    EPA officials say they want to include residents and propose creating a Community Advisory Group that the EPA could use for communication and dialogue.

    “I certainly appreciate the opportunity to learn from all the information they have,” EPA project manager Rebecca Thomas said. “There are a lot of different stakeholder groups. We’re looking forward to working with all of them.”

    At other mining Superfund sites — around Leadville, Central City and Creede — the EPA established advisory groups. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials, who work with the EPA, embrace this approach.

    “We’ve learned it’s better to get people involved on the front end. It makes for a smoother process,” CDPHE Superfund unit leader Doug Jamison said in an interview.

    Yet mistrust of the EPA runs deep in Silverton — all the deeper because it was an EPA-contractor crew that botched work at the Gold King, triggering the 3 million-gallon blowout that turned the Animas mustard-yellow…

    When the last mine closed in 1991 (the Sunnyside), old-timers couldn’t accept falling behind. They resisted an EPA-run cleanup, dreading federal control, and hoped for a mining revival.

    That has changed after the Gold King disaster. More residents are involved, demanding cleanup, launching new projects that build on work done by the Animas stakeholders and conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited. At the recent meeting, Silverton town manager Bill Gardner challenged EPA assurances that sufficient federal funds are available and said he wants the EPA to make sure research scientists are involved in developing solutions at mines.

    A new Animas River Community Forum has drawn on expertise at Fort Lewis College in Durango. San Juan Basin Health officials recently installed one of the nation’s most-advanced river monitoring systems on the Animas. Sensors in the river send acidity, turbidity and metals information every 15 minutes that local officials can monitor on computers.

    “We have a lot more attention to the health of our watershed than we’ve had for a long time, maybe ever. We have a lot more focus on getting things done since the river turned orange,” county health spokesman Brian Devine said…

    Superfund cleanups are slow and can last decades.

    “We’re all going to die before this thing’s over,” [Marcie Bidwell] said.

    “But this is a great opportunity for the EPA to innovate in how they go about the process of involving communities.”

    #Colorado Springs pays first $10M to Fountain Creek district — The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek
    Fountain Creek

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs Utilities presented the first of five $10 million payments to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District this week.

    The check was actually for $9,578,817, in order to reflect prepayment of $600,000 and interest payments.

    The payment of $50 million to the district is a condition of the Pueblo County 1041 agreement with Pueblo County, reached in 2009 for the construction of the Southern Delivery System.

    The district has plans to spend about $2.5 million this year, as it continues studies of where the best sites for dams or detention ponds are located. The money could be used to leverage funds for large projects such as a dam.

    The second $10 million payment is due Jan. 15.

    The money is to be used for Fountain Creek flood control projects, including a possible dam, that have a primary, not incidental benefit to Pueblo.

    The release of the money was made possible by the settlement of stormwater control issues that arose after Colorado Springs abolished its stormwater enterprise in 2009. That agreement requires Colorado Springs to spend an additional $460 million to control stormwater in the city.

    The enterprise was in place when Pueblo County issued its 1041 permit in 2009, which allowed Colorado Springs Utilities to construct the 17-mile portion of the pipeline in Pueblo County.

    SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West all benefit from the $825 million project.

    Meanwhile, Fountain Creek keeps knocking out Colorado Springs’ stormwater control projects. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Two projects meant to improve Fountain Creek through Pueblo have not held up well, but the city is not in a position to simply walk away from them.

    Both were kicked off with a great deal of fanfare in 2011 as part of a $1.5 million demonstration project, but neither was able to withstand high water that came in single events in 2011 and 2013 or in a prolonged deluge in 2015.

    Jeff Bailey, Pueblo’s stormwater director, gave a bleak assessment to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District Friday of the side detention pond that was built behind the North Side Walmart and the sediment collector located just north of the confluence with the Arkansas River.

    He inherited both projects two years ago, and didn’t sound thrilled with either. But because of the investment put into the collector and the environmental implications of the detention pond, he is obligated to try to make them work.

    The pond was designed to collect water as it backs up from a full channel, then slowly release it as the water recedes.

    But the detention pond flooded in September 2011 before the project was completely finished. That scoured the ground too deeply, causing the pond to intercept groundwater. There wasn’t enough money to fill the pond, so the city — through an arrangement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works — must repay the evaporation costs each year.

    The floods in 2013 and 2015 damaged the east retaining wall of the pond and took out most of the service road to the north bank. Disaster funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency can be applied to repairing the embankment, but the money is slow in coming, Bailey explained.

    The Army Corps of Engineers won’t allow the city to disturb the wetlands that were created as part of the project. Finally, sediment has clogged the inlet/outlet pipe.

    “Because of all this stuff, it’s difficult to maintain,” Bailey said.

    The sediment collector was put in by Streamside Systems, and billed as a way to continuously dredge Fountain Creek by removing sediment as water washed over the large concrete structure. But differing opinions about where it should be placed and how it should be operating led to failure after it initially collected a pile of sand.

    The device relies on pumps to remove sediment laden water, then return the water to the exact point where it was taken out. But when it is turned off, sediment continues to fall into it.

    “It’s very labor intensive to clean out the collector and the pipes,” Bailey said.

    No sediment has been collected since July 2013, and the collector is buried under 3-4 feet of sand.
    “Since I came into stormwater, I’ve decided to give it one more college try and attempt to make it operational at low flows,” Bailey said. “We’re hoping to do it this winter. But we have to get it set up before we can turn it back on.”

    Bailey said collectors work in other places, and there’s still a chance Pueblo’s could be functional. He plans to install a concrete “forebay” that could be easily cleaned, and then perhaps it could begin collecting large amounts of sediment.

    During the initial installation, there were discussions about what to do with the sediment.

    “That’s a problem I’d love to have,” Bailey said.

    Some of the funding for the project could come from $3 million that Colorado Springs Utilities made available through its recent settlement with Pueblo County and $2.2 million that it paid earlier to settle dredging issues under the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System. Already, $350,000 has been spent on the sediment collector.

    Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart, chairman of the Fountain Creek board, said that money also has to be used for such things as debris removal as well.

    “But some of the money could go for (the collector),” Hart said, “We’ve invested a lot of money in it already.”