#AnimasRiver: Experts say mine spill has not affected fish — The Farmington Daily Times

Health and environmental officials in San Juan County are evaluating the Animas River after roughly 1 million gallons of mine waste water were released Wednesday. August 6, 2015. (Photo courtesy San Juan Basin Health Department)
Health and environmental officials in San Juan County are evaluating the Animas River after roughly 1 million gallons of mine waste water were released Wednesday. August 6, 2015. (Photo courtesy San Juan Basin Health Department)

From The Farmington Daily Times (Brent Bentsen):

Speaking at the monthly Gold King Mine Spill Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting tonight , Eric Frey with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, said a lack of baseline data and pre-event comparisons have limited the conclusions monitoring efforts can draw.

Frey said samples taken shortly after the Aug. 5 spill showed the presence of heavy metals, such as aluminum and arsenic, in fish tissue but at levels far below the standards for human consumption. Further tests conducted in March showed toxin levels continued to drop. Frey attributed this decline, however, to the fact that fish are often dormant in the winter and less likely to take up contaminants through feeding and other activities. He said additional tests will shed more light on the issue…

Frey said his department still receives calls from people wondering if it’s safe to fish the world-famous San Juan River near Navajo Dam, even though that stretch of the river was not contaminated by the spill.

And for other local communities, fishing is way of life, rather than recreation.

Rick Nez, president of the San Juan Chapter of the Navajo Nation, said many tribal members used to catch channel catfish in the San Juan River for subsistence. He said that activity has now ground to a halt.

“A lot of people are scared to eat the fish,” he said.

To provide answers moving forward, Frey said the state will continue to conduct tests every six months as part of its long-term monitoring plan.

The efforts will essentially be the first of their kind. Frey said studies in the past have focused on mercury — the most notorious contaminant found in fish. But the 880,000 pounds of heavy metals, such as lead and copper, released from the Gold King Mine present new concerns.

“This was an eye opener and let us know maybe we should be monitoring other heavy metals,” Frey said.

#ColoradoRiver: The June 2016 eNews is hot off the presses from Northern Water #COriver

View of the Granby Hydropower Plant with Granby Dam in the background. Photo via Northern Water.
View of the Granby Hydropower Plant with Granby Dam in the background. Photo via Northern Water.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Granby Hydropower Plant dedication ceremony

Northern Water’s second hydropower plant is operating and producing clean, renewable power. The Granby Hydropower Plant located at the base of Lake Granby Dam began producing hydroelectric power in May. On June 3, Northern Water hosted a dedication ceremony at the plant. Attendees included Colorado water leaders, state representatives, Grand County commissioners and representatives from Mountain Parks Electric (recipient and distributor of the hydroelectric power). Speakers included Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson, Northern Water President Mike Applegate, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund, Mountain Parks Electric General Manager Tom Sifers, Grand County District 2 Commissioner Merrit Linke and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager Signe Snortland.

Weld County commissioners approve User Special Review rules for water infrastructure

Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library http://photoswest.org/cgi-bin/imager?10009071+X-9071
Greeley in 1870 via Denver Public Library http://photoswest.org/cgi-bin/imager?10009071+X-9071

From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

Weld County officials adopted new water line regulations Monday morning, but some say the rules meddle where they don’t belong.

The Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 to require almost anyone building a water pipeline through Weld to go through a public hearing process.

Cities, towns, water districts or ditch companies will have to get a use by special review permit, or USR, which requires a lengthy written application and two public hearings. Organizations within Weld County, such as the city of Greeley, are exempt from the rules and won’t have to go through the hearings. Only organizations pumping water out of the county or across it to somewhere else will have to get the permit. For example, the city of Thornton has been buying Weld County farmland and intends to drain its water, pumping it down to the city.

One county commissioner thinks no organization should have to go through such hearings.

“For me, philosophically, I just can’t support it,” said Commissioner Julie Cozad, the sole commissioner voting against the plan. “For me, it is a private property right issue.”

When companies and other organizations build a pipeline through someone’s property, they have to get what’s called an easement. That means the organization has to work with the property owner on a legal access agreement, and often, the owner gets paid.

That process ensures the property owner is protected, Cozad said.

“I don’t think the government should get in the middle of it,” she said.

If companies have to go through hearings, it gives the county commissioners control over some of the project’s specifics. They can require mitigation efforts, which the regulations’ proponents say is vital to anyone who has a pipeline going through their yard.

But it also gives county officials bargaining chips on other parts of the project. For example, they could tell a company it will only get permission if it changes its route. Cozad said this violated the company’s private property rights.

The USR process can be expensive. The application itself can cost $2,500, and it requires studies that some companies would have to contract out. Cozad said those costs get passed down to water users.

“When we add regulation to things, it does increase the cost to consumers,” she said.

She also said this regulation was crafted to address one issue in particular. The city of Thornton bought Weld farmland in the 1980s with the intention [to move the water]…

Other commissioners voiced concerns about Weld’s future access to water and lack of resident protection.

“Right now it’s one (city), I agree,” Commissioner Sean Conway said about Thornton. “But it’s going to be others. … Up and down the South Platte, the Poudre, we’re seeing more thirsty municipalities.”

Officials believe projects like these are going to become more common, so the county needs some kind of mechanism to give input and let neighboring residents do the same.

There are already regulations on pipelines, Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said. But there’s nothing that allows residents to speak up for themselves to regulators.

“I’ve been in those negotiations with pipelines on my property,” she said. ”I don’t know if any of you have been through it. I have.”

She said it was tough, and having another way to negotiate with the companies would help.

Although no current commissioners fell on Cozad’s side of the argument, a former one did.

Bill Jerke, who was also a state legislator and is now the executive director of energy industry advocate group FUEL Colorado, was the only resident who took the stand during the meeting.

“Obviously, I’m here because I oppose this,” he said. “I just have a number of issues.”

The state already has its regulations on water transactions, and people already go through water court, he said. Under these rules, the county commissioners could go against all those other agencies and decline a USR permit, which would block projects.

“I’m not sure you’re granted that right as the county government,” he said.

He also doubted the USR process could protect residents. Usually, a landowner has to file for the permit, not the developer. Residents and the entity working to get the pipeline would have to work on the application together.

“If (the residents are) agreeing to be represented by the entity, how are they being abused?” he said.

Last, he accused the board of interfering with business.

“As much as I dislike Weld water leaving Weld, … I think getting county government interfering … is even more bothersome to me,” he said.

Tribal Water Rights a Component to Unraveling #Drought on the #ColoradoRiver — CPR #COriver

West Drought Monitor June 21, 2016.
West Drought Monitor June 21, 2016.

From Colorado Public Radio (Jim Trotter):

Native American tribes in the Colorado River basin already have legally quantified rights to roughly one-fifth of the river’s flow, according to a new report from the non-partisan Colorado River Research Group.

CCRG said that tribal water rights are a misunderstood and underpublicized facet in dealing with water shortages in the Southwestern United States.

Of the seven Colorado River basin states, signatories to the Compact of 1922, the so-called Law of the River, only California and Colorado have larger paper rights to water than the tribes. The compact more or less canonized the “first in time, first in line” principle of water usage, meaning that the first jurisdiction to have claimed the water has the most senior rights.

But, according to the CRRG report, the U.S. Supreme Court first recognized tribal reserved water rights in a 1908 decision, Winters v. United States, some 14 years prior to the compact. The Court ruled that the rights came into existence with the formation of the reservations because, without water, much of the territories included would not have been habitable as permanent homelands.

The 1922 compact acknowledged tribal water rights, but made no specific allocations. In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that water consumed under tribal rights be counted as part of the allocation made to the state in which the reservation is located. That’s a bigger deal in Arizona and other lower basin states than it is in Colorado.

While tribal rights “concern many non-Indian water users, especially those already reliant on unused tribal allocations, the reality is that many tribes have long expressed an interest in exploring novel ways to benefit from those rights in ways that limit impacts to other users or ecosystems,” said Doug Kinney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado Law School and a CRRG member.

Specifically, the tribes have discussed leasing and forbearance agreements, as well as dedicating some rights to instream flows. “That’s a long overdue conversation,” Kinney said.

Only two of the basin tribes are located in Colorado, the Southern Utes and the Ute Mountain Utes, and their diversion rights are relatively small compared to the total of tribal rights. The Southern Utes have access to 137,090 acre feet per year and the Ute Mountain Utes have 88,358 acre feet. Tribes in Arizona, by comparison, have diversion entitlements to 614,806 acre feet per year.

“Moving forward with efforts to provide the Colorado River tribes with the water needed to sustain communities and build economies is both a legal and moral imperative,” the CRRG study states. “The challenge is to do so in a way that embraces creative, flexible, and efficient uses of water, often in partnership with non‐Indian water users.”

Some 40 percent of residents on the sprawling 27,000-square mile Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah don’t have running water in their homes, as an example. The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, approved in 2009, will bring some relief, but it is based on the tribe’s water rights on the San Juan River. The Navajo still have unresolved claims to the Little Colorado and the main Colorado, said the CRRG’s Larry MacDonnell.

Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.
Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Meeting will address concerns about #Colorado Springs-area water issues — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers and Ellie Mulder):

Representatives from the EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Air Force, El Paso County Public Health and local water systems will discuss drinking water in the area and answer residents’ questions, El Paso County Public Health announced.

The meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 7 in Mesa Ridge High School’s auditorium, 6070 Mesa Ridge Parkway.

The meeting comes amid rising concern about the presence of perfluorinated compounds – toxic chemicals that may cause low infant birth weight and certain cancers, which have been found in the Widefield aquifer. The EPA suspects those conditions may happen after years of using contaminated water.

Local water system managers have been working to dilute water taken from the aquifer, to lower the prevalence of those toxic chemicals.

A website established by Colorado’s health department shows three areas along the western edges of Security and Widefield where the water in public systems may exceed the EPA’s recommended levels for the toxic chemicals. Private wells also are at particular risk of being over the EPA’s recommended level.

From KOAA.com:

The utilities department says they are reaching peak demand, and in order to avoid using well water have implemented the water restrictions.

City irrigation is limited to Monday and Friday. Residential irrigation for even numbered addresses is limited to Sunday and Wednesday, irrigation for odd number address is limited to Tuesday and Saturday. Commercial and industrial irrigation is limited to Monday and Friday.

The utilities department is also encouraging customer to irrigate between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on designated irrigation days.

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

#COWaterPlan: Time to get started on implementation

James Eklund and Governor Hickenlooper roll out the Colorado Water Plan, Thursday, November 19, 2015 via The Colorado Independent
James Eklund and Governor Hickenlooper roll out the Colorado Water Plan, Thursday, November 19, 2015 via The Colorado Independent

From The Denver Post (Jim Lochhead, Jon Goldin-Dubois):

The big question now is, what steps do we need to take to secure Colorado’s water future? The answer lies in Chapter 10: the “Critical Action Plan” that includes important, measurable objectives, goals and actions.

This chapter calls for reducing the future gap between water supply and demand by continuing water conservation and reuse efforts, incorporating water-saving actions into land-use planning, working to preserve agricultural economies while increasing flexibility and efficiency, creating stream and watershed protection plans, and increasing education and outreach.

These ideas are well thought out, reasoned and critical to implement. And the legislature took a few baby steps on some of these earlier this year. It legalized capturing rainwater through residential rain barrels, and it increased the ability of Front Range agricultural water users to retain their water rights but share some of their water with other users in times of need. The legislature also allocated $5 million to the CWCB to begin implementing the water plan.

However, now is not the time to claim success or, conversely, to throw in the towel. Now is the time to use the collective attention, work and energy of the tens of thousands of citizens who helped shape the plan and those who work daily on water issues in the state to push through critical parts of the plan to ensure a secure water future for Colorado.

Fortunately, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get this done. We have proven examples on how to kick-start, incubate, and work cooperatively to implement the water plan’s suggested actions.

For instance, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and West Slope local governments, water providers and ski areas will enhance the health of streams in the Colorado River Basin while allowing Denver Water to strengthen its system against drought and climate change by enlarging Gross Reservoir. As a result, the project actually benefits both sides of the Great Divide. Future projects like the expansion of Gross Reservoir that include appropriate mitigation are part of the solution. They should receive state support and funding because they can align with the state’s water values and the plan’s well-articulated criteria for being sustainable, collaborative and cost-effective. Indeed, the plan’s criteria should be applied to all project proposals — including the $5 million noted above — to ensure public funds are spent wisely.

Most importantly, we can take simple, immediate actions to increase water-use efficiency. The governor can accelerate reuse, graywater, and green infrastructure by funding the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to update its regulations. He can work to remove barriers to water reuse and green stormwater management and use. He can improve river health by setting a time frame for the CWCB and basin roundtables to establish priority lists of rivers that should have local stream management plans done. And, he can support water banks — to better facilitate sharing water for a multitude of purposes — in key river basins…

Jon Goldin-Dubois is president of Western Resource Advocates. Jim Lochhead was appointed Denver Water’s CEO and manager in 2010.

#Runoff news: Granby spill over, early exit for #Colorado #snowpack, whither late season direct water?

Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR
Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

All the runoff is receding in the upper Colorado River and it is allowing the releases from Granby Reservoir to be lowered.

The spillway gates are being closed at Granby and will be slowing releases through the outlet works.

The current releases are:

Currently moving 550 cfs through the Adams Tunnel to the east slope.
Releases from Lake Granby are currently 431 cfs.
Releases from Willow Creek Reservoir are 109 cfs.

From CBS Denver:

It doesn’t happen every year, but Lake Granby’s overflow spillway is a sight to see.

Water gushes from 320 feet in the air, out of the lake and into the headwater of the Colorado River. Water was flowing at 800 cubic feet per second as of Friday afternoon. The big wave at the base of the fall is caused by massive concrete blocks.

The big spill means Lake Granby — the water body that supplies Fort Collins, Greeley and Boulder — is full. Water experts say that because they’re able to do this spill it will be a good water year for Colorado.

“This signals that there’s still a lot of water, a lot of snowpack up in Rocky Mountain National Park that’s coming into our reservoirs and we don’t have enough room to capture it all. So good water year, we’re smiling in the water business today,” said Brian Werner of Northern Water.

Water pouring down the spillway will eventually end up in Lake Powell.