#ColoradoRiver: Windy Gap Firming Project update #COriver

Site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir via Northern Water.
Site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir via Northern Water.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

“Chimney Hollow dam will be the tallest one constructed in Colorado in the last 50 years,” said Don Mongomery, the principal engineer who will design the reservoir project, drawing on experience from dams around the globe.

“It will be in the order of 360 feet tall,” he said, with a crest estimated at 3,500 feet long.

Final design of Chimney Hollow will pare down the specific height and construction details for the dam, spillway, pipeline and inlets that will allow Northern Water to store as much as 90,000 acre-feet of Windy Gap Firming Project water.

Northern Water, the agency coordinating the project, recently hired the Broomfield-based MWH Global with an $11.9 million contract for engineering and design. Montgomery, who was raised and went to college in Boulder and Larimer counties, is leading that process.

He said he is excited to use the skills he has honed worldwide, working on projects on the Panama Canal and in Peru among other locations, in his home state to build a reservoir that will provide recreation that he, among many others, enjoys with his family.

“To be able to bring that home is pretty amazing,” said Montgomery. “To be able to help my community is pretty exciting. Once they’re done, they become these great resources to the community.”

Chimney Hollow Reservoir is expected to be completed by 2021 to begin storing water for 13 participants including Loveland, Longmont and the Little Thompson Water District. And it will become a new recreation area managed by the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources.

The reservoir and surrounding park will be located west of Loveland near Carter Lake, Flatiron Reservoir and Pinewood Reservoir, which are all managed by Northern Water for water storage and by Larimer County for recreation.

Specific recreation plans are still in the works, but Larimer County Department of Natural Resources officials are looking at a mix of camping, hiking and non-motorized boating, including paddle boats and sail boats. Campsites reachable only by boat also are in the initial plans.

The design of Chimney Hollow should take about two years and will include determining the best type of structure to be built, whether it will have a clay core made from materials on site, a concrete face or an asphalt core, noted Montgomery. This will be determined by drilling, sampling and studying the area.

The process will fine-tune the construction details and the costs as well as the exact height of the dam at Chimney Hollow. It will, however, be around 360 feet tall, which will make it the tallest in Larimer County,.

Construction of Chimney Hollow will be the biggest reservoir project in Larimer County in about six decades.

Northern Water began applying for permits in 2003, and the federal government approved the project in December 2014. Since then, the water district has been working on the rest of its needed permits. All that is left is a federal wetlands permit, which Werner expects to be approved this year.

“This is the very last piece in the puzzle,” said Werner. “At this point, there’s nothing else. No other permits, no other agreements that we have to do. We’ve done it all.”

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

The latest “Headwaters Pulse” is hot off the presses from the #Colorado Foundation for Water Education

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Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt (Nicole Seltzer):

The time I’ve spent at the helm of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education has given me so much more than I would have ever expected. As the organization grew, so did my leadership and management skills, my community of friends and colleagues and my knowledge of Colorado water issues. I have the utmost respect for this organization, its staff and board, and the village of people who support us both intellectually and financially. Being CFWE’s executive director has been the best job I could have asked for, no question, and I am eternally grateful to the board who, 9 years ago, took a chance on me.

And yet, with all that, I still know that it’s time to turn over the reins to someone new. Someone who can take what we’ve built, infuse it with new energy and ideas, and write the next great chapter for Colorado water education. I am excited to see where CFWE goes next, and what possibilities new leadership will unearth.

This is where you, dear supporter, come in. Here is the position announcement for CFWE’s next executive director. Share it widely, consider it yourself, and help us find the best possible person to lead this amazing team. Between all of us, I know we can find the right person.

How much water can a reservoir really hold?

Mile High Water Talk

With its sophisticated sonar equipment, ‘Reservoir Dog’ presents a clearer picture of our water storage capacity.  

Jason Ellis, survey senior tech, conduct bathymetric survey on Cheesman Reservoir. Jason Ellis, survey senior tech, conducts a bathymetric survey on Cheesman Reservoir.

By Kristi Delynko

With a likeness to Captain Nemo and his Nautilus submarine, Angelo Martinez expertly steers his vessel — known as “Reservoir Dog” — through Cheesman Reservoir. But unlike Nemo, survey supervisor Martinez doesn’t need a submarine to see what’s at the bottom. Denver Water uses bathymetric surveying, sonar and GPS technology to map the contours of the reservoir floor.

Like the Nautilus — depicted as ahead of its time in Jules Verne’s classic novel — Reservoir Dog houses some pretty sophisticated equipment. The department upgraded its survey instruments this year, allowing the team to more efficiently gather data with a more expansive sonar reach.

In a single day, surveyors can now gather up to 10 million data points…

View original post 291 more words

Paper: Characterization of Ammonia, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Northeastern Colorado — CIRES

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Here’s the abstract (Scott J. Eilerman, Jeff Peischl, J. Andrew Neuman, Thomas B. Ryerso, Kenneth C. Aikin, Maxwell W. Holloway, Mark A. Zondlo, Levi M. Golston, Da Pan, Cody Floerchinger, and Scott Herndon):

Atmospheric emissions from animal husbandry are important to both air quality and climate, but are hard to characterize and quantify as they differ significantly due to management practices and livestock type, and they can vary substantially throughout diurnal and seasonal cycles. Using a new mobile laboratory, ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and other trace gas emissions were measured from four concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in northeastern Colorado. Two dairies, a beef cattle feedlot, and a sheep feedlot were chosen for repeated diurnal and seasonal measurements. A consistent diurnal pattern in the NH3 to CH4 enhancement ratio is clearly observed, with midday enhancement ratios approximately four times greater than nighttime values. This diurnal pattern is similar, with slight variations in magnitude, at the four CAFOs and across seasons. The average NH3 to CH4 enhancement ratio from all seasons and CAFOs studied is 0.17 (+0.13/–0.08) mol/mol, in agreement with statewide inventory averages and previous literature. Enhancement ratios for NH3 to N2O and N2O to CH4 are also reported. The enhancement ratios can be used as a source signature to distinguish feedlot emissions from other NH3 and CH4 sources, such as fertilizer application and fossil fuel development, and the large diurnal variability is important for refining inventories, models, and emission estimates.

#Colorado, #Wyoming Move Forward with #ColoradoRiver Diversions — Public News Service #COriver

Fontenelle Reservoir and Dam, at Green River. Kemmerer, WY - USA March 12, 2016. Photo credit ruimc77 via Flickr.
Fontenelle Reservoir and Dam, at Green River. Kemmerer, WY – USA March 12, 2016. Photo credit ruimc77 via Flickr.

From The Public News Service:

Wyoming has moved one step closer to getting more water for ranching, agriculture and industrial development.

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources has advanced a bill that would allow the state to take an additional 125,000 acre-feet of water from the Green River at the Fontenelle Dam…

State officials say expanding the Fontenelle is necessary for farmers and ranchers who need a reliable water supply to keep crops and livestock healthy.

They feel the measure would also be an economic incentive for new businesses to grow and create jobs in southwestern Wyoming…

[Gary Wockner] notes Wyoming isn’t the only state trying to get more water from a shrinking source.

He points to a proposal by Denver Water to expand the Gross Dam that would remove an additional 5 billion gallons annually from the Colorado.

While upper-basin states may technically have rights to the water, Wockner says the challenges of a changing climate and 16 years of drought can’t be ignored.

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

EPA probes toxic Colorado mine tunnels, investigates possible harm to human health — The Denver Post

On April 7,  2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear. Eric Baker
On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Crews are debating whether to try to contain toxic mine drainage or funnel it out and clean it perpetually at huge expense

Colorado and federal authorities want to resolve the issue as soon as possible because today’s untreated flow into Animas headwaters — averaging 3,750 gallons a minute — may be hurting not only the environment but human health, officials said recently.

All it would take inside this abandoned Red and Bonita Mine tunnel is a turn of the blue screw on that bulkhead plug to stop hundreds of gallons of the [acid mine drainage] from leaking. But if the EPA crew does turn that screw, shutting a valve, the blockage could cause new toxic blowouts from other mountainside tunnels, veins, faults and fissures.

So, for now, the feds are letting Animas River mines drain, tolerating the massive toxic discharge that equates to more than a dozen Gold King disasters every week.

“We don’t want to discount the Gold King spill, but it is good to keep it in perspective,” said EPA project chief Rebecca Thomas, who’s managing cleanup at the now-stabilized Gold King Mine and 47 other mining sites above Silverton.

“Think about the millions of gallons draining each day. It’s something we should be paying attention to as a society – because of the impact on water quality,” Thomas said.

The environmental damage from contaminants such as zinc and aluminum (measured at levels up to tens of thousands of parts per billion) already has been documented: fish in Animas headwaters cannot reproduce. But questions remain about harm caused by lead in water at exceptionally elevated levels up to 1,800 parts per billion, cadmium at up to 200 ppb, arsenic at up to 1,800 ppb and other heavy metals.

The EPA this month intensified an investigation of possible effects on people at 15 U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, American Indians whose traditions take them to high valleys, and vehicle riders who churn dust along roads.

Lead contamination at the Kittimack Tailings, a popular 8-acre course for off-road riding, has been measured at 3,800 parts per million, which is 7.6 times higher than the federal health limit. EPA scientists, collecting water and dirt samples this month, planned to interview campground hosts, all-terrain vehicle tour guides and southern Ute tribe members — assessing possible exposures.

If people inhale or ingest contaminants around any of the 48 mine sites, cleanup at that site would be prioritized, EPA officials said.

The federal Superfund cleanup of toxic mines across 80 square miles in southwestern Colorado is shaping up as one of the EPA’s largest mining legacy projects, contingent on Congress and agency chiefs lining up funds. EPA restoration work here is expected to set the standard for dealing with a wide western problem involving tens of thousands of toxic mines contaminating streams and rivers, for which total cleanup costs have been estimated at more than $20 billion.

In the past, cleanup work at toxic mines in Colorado stalled because of technical difficulty, lack of will and scarce funds. No work has been done for years at the collapsing Nelson Tunnel above Creede, where millions of gallons of some of the West’s worst unchecked acid mine drainage contaminates headwaters of the Rio Grande River, despite a 2008 federal designation as a Superfund environmental disaster.

But EPA officials are pushing for this post-Gold King cleanup including 48 Animas sites, concentrated around Bonita Peak above Silverton, because an EPA-led team in August 2015 accidentally triggered a blowout — setting off a 3 million-gallon spill that turned the river mustard-yellow in three states and sent contaminants nearly as far as the Grand Canyon.

This month, EPA project leaders, bracing for winter snowfall that limits what they can do until summer, anticipated a mix of different solutions at the various sites — each unique with different conditions. They’re considering construction of water treatment plants, like the temporary plant set up to neutralize and filter drainage from the Gold King Mine.

That plant has cleaned 273 million gallons of water over the past year before discharging it into Cement Creek, one of three main headwaters creeks flowing into the Animas River. Meanwhile, six surrounding toxic mines along Cement Creek drain an untreated sulfuric acid flow measured at 1,476 gallons per minute to 7,590 gallons.

A water treatment plant can cost up to $100 million with annual operational costs as high as $1 million.

EPA officials said they’ll combine installation of water treatment systems with bulkhead plugs to hold acid muck inside mountains. And the feds also are exploring use of “bio-treatment” systems using plants and plastic devices to filter and remove contaminants.

The overall cleanup is expected to take years.

“Ideally, we would come up with a way to take care of the water that did not involve a lot of very expensive, in-perpetuity water treatment,” Thomas said.

There are questions dogging hydrologists and toxicologists as they embark on remediation studies.They want to know how mining tunnels, dozens of natural fissures and faults, and mineral veins are connected.

“That is a big puzzle piece,” Thomas said, because subsurface links will determine whether bulkhead plugs safely can be used to contain toxic muck without raising water tables and triggering new blowouts.

They want to know how much acid water is backed up in major tunnels, including the American Tunnel and the Terry Tunnel, and in the Sunnyside Mine. The Sunnyside was the largest mine in the area and the last to close in 1991. EPA officials said natural faults or fissures may connect acid water backed-up Sunnyside water in the American Tunnel, where bulkheads have been installed, with the Gold King Mine.

Canada-based Kinross Corp., which owns Sunnyside, is considered a potentially responsible party, along with Gold King owner Todd Hennis, liable for a share of cleanup costs.

And EPA officials say they are monitoring underground changes that may be affecting flows from at least 27 draining tunnels — called adits — that contribute to contamination of Animas headwaters. The state-backed installation of plugs over the past decade may have triggered the rising groundwater levels that documents show the EPA and state agencies have known about for years.

For example, orange sludge oozed from a grate at the Natalie Occidental Mine — one of the worst sources of untreated mine waste — north of the Silverton Mountain ski area.

EPA on-scene coordinator Joyel Dhieux inspected it this month, hiking beneath snow-dusted mountain peaks. The backed-up sludge obscured a culvert installed years ago by state mining regulators. A huge tailings heap, leaching contaminants into a creek, suggested significant underground tunnels.

“The sludge could create a blockage in the mine that could increase the risk of a blowout. … This will require thoughtful planning,” Dhieux said. “Kittimack could be easy. You go in and remove the mine tailings. This one, it could be a more complex solution because of the risk. … This is an ‘unknown unknown.’ I honestly don’t know what the mine works look like behind this grate.”

And then there’s the problem inside that Red and Bonita Mine tunnel where a bulkhead plug is installed but not closed. Dhieux and her crew determined the plug, installed in 2015, 15 feet thick and framed in steel, appears solid.

If the EPA closes the bulkhead, she and other EPA officials said, it will be done very slowly. They’re considering a partial closure, as a test, next summer. The plan is for dozens of researchers to fan out across green mountain valleys, while contractors inside the tunnel turn the screw, watching for sudden orange spurts.

Lyons residents on flood recovery process: ‘We’re just starting to get it together’ — The Boulder Daily Camera

Bohn Park was flooded by the St. Vrain River in Lyons, CO September 18, 2013 via Getty Images
Bohn Park was flooded by the St. Vrain River in Lyons, CO September 18, 2013 via Getty Images

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Amelia Arvesen):

As Lyons entered its fourth year of reconstruction following the devastating September 2013 flood, the FBI and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stopped by to seize documents and computers to probe the handling of federal flood-recovery funding.

Communities savaged by the rushing waters have been receiving fund allocations, totaling millions of dollars from several federal sources, such as HUD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Late Friday, Mayor Connie Sullivan released a statement on behalf of the town’s Board of Trustees, stating that the FBI had concluded its portion of the investigation and would not be proceeding with a case.

Also posted to the town’s website was a copy of a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, stating that a focus of its investigation was documents relating to negotiations and grant services contracts between Lyons and Longmont-based Front Range Land Solutions.