Update on new hydro generating facility at Pueblo Dam

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From HydroWorld.com (Elizabeth Ingram):

Construction of the 7.5-MW Pueblo small hydro project is well under way, with operations expected to begin in the spring of 2018, according to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The plant is the first hydroelectric feature added to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project since the completion of the 233-MW Mount Elbert pump-back hydroelectric plant at Twin Lakes in 1981.

This new facility, on the Arkansas River, will be able to generate electricity at flows ranging from 35 cubic feet per second to 810 cfs. The powerhouse will contain three turbine-generator units and will use the authorized release from the dam to the Arkansas River to generate an average of 28 million kWh of electricity annually, which will equate to about $1.5 million in average revenue per year. Electricity generated will be purchase by the city of Fountain and by Colorado Springs Utilities. After 10 years, Fountain will purchase all of the power generated for the following 20 years.

The total capital cost of the project is estimated to be $19.5 million, which includes a $17.2 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The planning and permitting process for this hydro facility began in 2011. Because this facility is located at Pueblo Dam, owned by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and will connect to a pipeline also owned by Reclamation, the project required a Lease of Power Privilege. The preliminary LOPP was granted in February 2012, and the final LOPP was granted in April 2017.

The final design of the facility was completed in June 2016, and the construction contract was awarded to Mountain States Hydro in August 2017.

The district says construction complete and commissioning will occur in August 2018.

The San Juan Basin Public Health Board of Health adopts new 2018 regulations governing on-site wastewater treatment systems

Septic system

From The Pagosa Sun (Claire Ninde):

On Thursday, Nov. 16, the San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) Board of Health adopted new regu- lations governing on-site wastewa- ter treatment systems (OWTS) in Archuleta, La Plata and San Juan counties following a long stake- holder outreach process. These regulations will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

On June 30, new statewide regu- lations went into effect for OWTS in Colorado. These regulations required all local public health agencies in the state, including SJBPH, to revise their local OWTS regulations to meet or exceed the minimum statewide standard. SJBPH conducted outreach beginning in the fall of 2016 with wastewater industry professionals, county planning commissioners, state regulators, the real estate community and many others to write a regulation that protects public health and water quality while providing certainty to the industry and to homeowners.

The 2018 regulations include three major changes toward these goals:

• Direct adoption of statewide design and construction standards to reduce confusion and provide consistency with neighboring counties;

• Allowing more design options, including smaller active treatment systems, which may reduce costs for some homeowners and allow for septic systems to be more easily installed on dif cult sites;

• Beginning in 2019, requiring that most properties served by an OWTS be inspected prior to sale, to identify and quickly repair fail- ing or hazardous systems, and to protect buyers from unforeseen and costly repairs. This require- ment is delayed to allow more time for property owners, real estate professionals and the wastewater industry to prepare for the new requirements.

#COP23: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Bonn —

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

Two US delegations

After Trump’s decision in June that he wanted to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, all eyes were on the US official delegation to see how they would navigate the negotiations.

During the first week of the talks, a civil society group known as the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance called for the US delegation to be barred from attending the negotiations, due to its decision to leave the Paris deal.

Meanwhile, a seemingly pointed message was sent on day two of the COP, when Syria announced it would sign the Paris Agreement. This now leaves the US as the only country in the world stating it doesn’t intend to honour the landmark deal.

However, the delegation itself kept a relatively low profile – bar a now infamous “cleaner fossil fuels” side event which anti-Trump protesters disrupted for seven minutes, singing: “We proudly stand up until you keep it in the ground…”).

The US delegation co-chaired a working group with China on Nationally Determined Contributions (country pledges, often known by the acronym NDCs) with reportedly high success. It’s worth noting, though, that many of the US negotiators are the same officials who have been representing the US at COPs for years. They seemingly continued their negotiations with little change in attitude, albeit possibly taking harder stances on issues such as “loss and damage” and finance.

There was a further chaotic appearance in the media centre by Trump adviser George David Banks, who vowed that his priority at COP23 was to fight “differentiation” (sometimes called “bifurcation”), namely, the division of countries into industrialised “annex one” countries and the rest in the UN climate arena. However, beyond this, the behaviour of the US delegation did not differ significantly from previous years.

Importantly, though, the official US delegation were not the only group from the US drawing attention at the COP.

An alternative “We Are Still In” delegation set up a large pavilion at their US Climate Action Centre just outside the main venue for the talks.

This group included major sub-national actors, such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California governor Jerry Brown, keen to prove there are many US voices against Trump’s anti-climate policies.

Their “America’s Pledge” report outlined how their coalition of cities, states and businesses represented over half the US economy. At the report’s packed launch event, Bloomberg even argued the group should should be given a seat at the climate negotiating table.

Western Water and Livestock Production: A Destructive Past and Unsustainable Future — University of Denver Water Law Review

From the University of Denver Water Law Review (Matthew Kilby):

This panel discussed the destructive impacts of large-scale cattle operations on landscapes and ecosystems. The panel focused on cattle grazing and industrial farming as some of the lead causes of environmental destruction in the American West.

Josh Osher spoke about the widespread damages caused by cattle grazing. Not only does cattle grazing affect more than two hundred million acres of land in the American West, but it has also contributed to the damage of eighty percent of streams and riparian areas in the region, which he described as “corridors for plant and animal species.” One way cattle destroy riparian areas is through “step-down,” which occurs when cattle walk over streams and incise stream or riverbanks. When cattle destroy banks, water channels become flat, which degrades instream flows and alters stream morphology. This, along with a reduction in water quality, can fundamentally change landscapes and eliminate local plant and animal species. Osher contended that the only way to prevent further degradation of western ecosystems through cattle grazing is to remove the cattle from the land. Once cattle are removed, he argued, lands have shown a surprising resilience and ability to rebound from substantial degradation.

George Wuerthner discussed how legislators and government agencies have failed to combat the cattle industry. Wuerthner highlighted this failure by exploring the Clean Water Act’s exception that allows industrial agricultural producers to operate without obtaining discharge permits, despite the fact that a single cow can produce up to one hundred pounds of feces in one day. He noted that cattle in Montana produce waste equivalent to a human population of 100 million. In addition to allowing the cattle industry to thrive without necessary environmental regulations, Wuerthner also discussed the disproportionate access the industry has to water. In Nevada for example, the cattle industry only provides some 25,000 jobs but it may take up to eighty-five percent of the state’s water. Wuerthner concluded his segment by imploring the attendees to fight this inequity by eating more fruits and vegetables.

Last, Julia DeGraw presented on how important it is for society to shift how we use water. To highlight this importance, DeGraw explored two mega-dairy farms, one in operation and the other slated for future operation, near Boardman, Oregon. The groundwater underneath Boardman has long been in decline, yet the combined dairy farms could withdraw an estimated 1.4 million gallons of water a day to support 100,000 cattle. This would not only severely affect local hydrologic conditions, but would also reduce local air and water quality. The cost of beef does not internalize its environmental destruction. To solve this conundrum, DeGraw, like Wuerthner, called on attendees to change their diet to help dismantle the industrial cattle industry.

@AmericanRivers: Organize your own river cleanup

Click here for a look at the resources that will help you get started, from American Rivers:

Interested in starting a cleanup? If this is the first time you are hosting a River Cleanup we highly encourage you to read the National River Cleanup Handbook.

It has everything you need to organize and host a successful cleanup along with some added benefits like direct downloads of forms to print out.

Even if you have been hosting cleanups for many years, you may find new and useful tips for your event.

@ColoradoWater: #Drought planning showed to lower risks at #LakePowell #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Lake Powell April 12, 2017. Photo credit Patti Weeks via Earth Science Picture of the day.

From the Colorado River District:

The Colorado River Risk Study, commissioned by the Colorado River District and other West Slope parties, forecasts that if another drought like 2002-04 recurs,Lake Powell, now about half full rather than full as it was then, could fall below power generation levels or be drained unless Drought Contingency Plans (DCP) can be put in place.

Should the worst happen, Colorado and its sister Upper Division states (Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico) that are party to the Colorado River Compact of 1922 would be hard pressed to meet compact obligations to the Lower Division states (California, Nevada and Arizona).

The Risk Study is now in Phase II, which is a technical process to learn if federal and state Colorado River computer models can be used conjunctively to better predict what could happen in the state of Colorado. Other partners in the study are the four West Slope Basin Roundtables (Colorado Basin, Gunnison, Yampa-White and South- west) and the Southwestern Water Conservation District– with assistance from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

At its quarterly meeting on Oct. 17, the Colorado River District Board received an update on the work. John Carron of Hydros Consulting, the study contractor, said the takeaways from the study so far are:

• Should a drought on the order of 2002-04 recur with Lake Powell at its current half-full level, hydroelectric power generation is jeopardized;

• Hydrology, demands and future development levels matter — the higher the consumptive use in the Upper Division states, the higher the risk to existing users;

• The most successful Drought Contingency Planning requires joint participation by both Upper and Lower Division states;

• Drought Contingency Planning is essential;re-operations of reservoirs, such as Flaming Gorge, to move water down to Powell reduces the risk, but in more severe droughts (e.g., 1988-1993 and 2001-2005),demand management (reduced water use) would be necessary in addition to any
reservoir re-operations;

• Some of the volumes of demand management that the model is forecasting are large and may not be feasible, thus the need to consider the trade-offs and alternative strategies;

• Demand management combined with a water bank could limit the impact by spreading conservation over many years and providing greater control over conserved water — a must- have condition.

The four West Slope Basin Roundtables called for the Risk Study at a joint meeting held in December 2014 in order for the West Slope to better under- stand the risks to current water users of future water development and how development, basin by basin, might look against the risk. As Colorado River water is also used on the Front Range of Colorado, drought risk is important to Front Range Roundtables and their future development, but they opted not to participate in the study.

How we got here

Even though there had been some good snow years in the years 2000- 2013, it was clear that dry conditions and overuse of the Colorado River were driving down reservoir levels at Lakes Powell and Mead.

In July 2013, then U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asked the seven Colorado River basin states if they were prepared to deal with a continuation of these conditions. The answer was no, and the challenge was for the basin states to develop their own DCPs or have the work done for them.

The Upper Division states and the Lower Division states each started work on DCPs for their regions.

Against this backdrop, the four West Slope Basin Roundtables commissioned the Risk Study. In the meantime, Colorado’s Water Plan, released in 2015, calls for actions that will minimize the risk of compact curtailment, embodied in Point 4 of the Seven Point Framework of the plan.

The Upper Basin DCP

The Upper Basin States have a three-pronged DCP, that 1) entails moving water stored in Flaming Gorge, Aspinall and Navajo Reservoirs to Lake Powell as the first line of defense against critical Powell elevations being breached, and modifying releases from Powell to Mead; 2) institutes demand management (reduction of use); and 3) augments river flows through cloud seeding and phreatophyte (primarily tamarisk) reduction.

An agreement between the four Upper Division states and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is in the works on how to re-operate the reservoirs. The demand management piece will be controversial among the states and within each state; details are still to be worked out. One policy contention in Colorado is that municipal water users, including those on the Front Range, share the burden of reduced use – and that the reduced uses not all fall on West Slope agriculture.

Demand management in the Upper Basin would be the last action to implement in the “worst of the worst droughts,” General Manager Eric Kuhn said. “The goal is to limit it to that.”

General Counsel Peter Fleming said a Colorado River District policy issue would be implementing demand management at the same time as new and increasing water uses are being developed in the River District, the state of Colorado and throughout the Upper Basin.

Kuhn said that for Colorado, the Seven Point Framework in the 2015 Colorado Water Plan addresses that — calling for any new transmountain diversion to not increase the risk of curtailment, because of Compact or Lake Powell low levels, on current water users.

“It is a major milestone that the state has adopted that in its plan,” Kuhn said. “This is an issue for the Front Range as well. Existing users do not want to see the risk to their projects increase due to new diversions.”

The Lower Basin DCP

The overall goal of DCP in the Lower Division states is to erase the so-called “structural deficit” that over time has showed those three states depleting about 1.2 million acre feet (maf) annually more than their compact entitlement of 7.5 maf, due to use and evaporation. A section of the 2007 Interim Guidelines that pertains to the three states calls for reduction of water use equal to about half of the structural deficit once Lake Meads falls below certain thresholds. Current Drought Contingency Planning specifies further cutbacks would achieve the 1.2 maf goal.

The Lower Division states are nearing finalizing their DCP. As Mother Nature would have it, big rains in California helped to reduce depletions in the Low- er Basin to 6.6 maf this past water year.