Telluride Regional Wastewater Treatment Master Plan

Dolores River watershed

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Justin Criado):

Gugliemone explained that the price tag is a “conservative” (aka “likely high”) estimate, and the engineering team is looking into alternative wastewater-treatment technologies that could possibly cut the cost by $20 million. (“That would be nice,” she said about the possible price reduction during her presentation.)

Stantec Inc. — a design and consulting company headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta — is the engineer under contract, Gugliemone said. The company’s slogan is “We design with community in mind,” according to its official website (stantec.com).

Gugliemone added that the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village recently tabbed Financial Consulting Services to complete a financial analysis, along with a Financial Analysis Task Force and the town councils. The analysis will “lay out how the community might best meet the financial obligations before us,” she said.

Water and wastewater projects are covered through separate enterprise funds, which use taxes and service fees to raise capital. At a June 2017 wastewater treatment plant update, Telluride Councilman Todd Brown theorized there most likely would be a utility rate increase to help with project costs.

At Monday’s meeting, Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez pondered whether setting up a special taxing district for the treatment plant would be another funding option. Gugliemone said the financial consulting company is looking into that, but nothing has been suggested — let alone decided — yet.

The current wastewater treatment plant at Society Turn serves the communities of Telluride, Mountain Village, Eider Creek, Sunset Ridge, Aldasoro and Lawson Hill.

The plant is reaching its originally designed capacity, officials have explained. Plus, Department of Public Health and Environment regulations through the Colorado Discharge Permit System have been altered over the years. (Colorado Water Quality Control Division stipulations regarding acceptable metal levels in the water also changed in 2017.)

Those variables, in conjunction with an increased waste stream and new treatment options, make updating and eventually expanding the current plant paramount within the next decade. (A 1.5-percent annual population growth has been used to calculate increased wastewater loads until 2047. Basically, if the plant isn’t expanded, the San Miguel River would run with waste, which is a disgusting, vile thought.)

Say hello to the new @CWCB_DNR, DWR, #Colorado’s Decision Support Systems website

Click here to go to the website.

@USGS: Browse/download 38,000+ historic photos on our USGS Photographic Library website

Long bar with multiplex projectors. Photogrammetry, Topographic Division, U.S. Geological Survey. Denver, Colorado. 1955. Photo credit: USGS

Click here to access the site. (Not safe for work unless you are a historian.)

State grants flowing into Colorado, Roaring Fork, and Eagle rivers — @AspenJournalism

The Colorado River, flowing west at the wave in Glenwood Springs. The river, from Dotsero at the upper edge of Glenwood Canyon to DeBeque Canyon, is being studied as part of an integrated water management plan being prepared by the Middle Colorado Watershed Council. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

Five water plans or projects concerning the Roaring Fork, Colorado and Eagle rivers are on track to receive $337,000 in state funds to study water users’ needs, plan for future water use and restore river ecosystems.

The efforts include a web-based information system about the Roaring Fork River watershed, restoration work on the Crystal River near Carbondale, an agricultural-water study in Garfield County and funding for two integrated water management plans for the Eagle River basin and a section of the Colorado River.

All five of the projects are part of a bigger effort toward stream management planning and list that goal in their grant applications. An objective of the 2015 Colorado Water Plan is to cover 80 percent of rivers with stream management plans.

Such plans already exist, or are in process, for the Poudre River, the Crystal River, the North Fork of the Gunnison, the Upper Gunnison Basin and the San Miguel River and have been proposed on the Eagle, Yampa, Upper San Juan and Middle Colorado rivers.

Looking upstream toward the confluence of the Roaring Fork River, left, and the Crystal River, right, just below Carbondale. More information about these and other rivers will be made available to the public with the help of a recent $37,000 state grant to the Roaring Fork Conservancy. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

Roaring info, Crystal headgate

Last month the Colorado River basin roundtable, which meets in Glenwood Springs and reviews and votes on water-project grant requests before sending them to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, approved a $37,000 request from the Roaring Fork Conservancy to create a $50,000 public interactive map and information system.

Anyone from school kids to scientists would be able to access, search and sort data about the Roaring Fork. The project will organize the information contained in the 145-page Roaring Fork Watershed Plan so it’s easier for the public to find and understand.

In March, the CWCB approved a $20,700 grant from the town of Carbondale to restore and enhance a half-mile stretch of the Crystal River near the state fish hatchery, as well as make improvements to the town-owned Weaver Ditch headgate and diversion structure.

The project aims to restore ecological health by reconnecting the river with its flood plain, improve river channel stability and enhance a riverfront park with signs and trails. The project, at a total cost of $200,000, also is being funded by the town, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Aspen Skiing Co.’s environmental fund.

The CWCB also approved grants last month to the Eagle River Watershed Council and the Middle Colorado Watershed Council. Both groups received funding for their respective stream management plans, which emphasize collaboration among water users. Eagle received approval for $75,000 and the Middle Colorado for $103,800.

A rafter on the Colorado River looking upstream toward Glenwood Springs. The Middle Colorado Watershed Council has recently received a $104,000 state grant for its $415,000 integrated water management plan for the Colorado River between Dotsero and DeBeque. It will look at recreational and environmental flows, as well as consumptive use of water by ag and cities. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

The Middle reach

The Middle Colorado stream management plan will cover the main stem of the Colorado River from Dotsero to DeBeque. It will identify water needs for non-consumptive uses, like the environment and recreation, which depend on sufficient water left in a river or stream.

The state funding will be used to evaluate ecosystem health and water quality, and to develop hydrologic flow models.

“The question is if we see any issues that are flow-related and what additional flows do we need to attain a healthier ecosystem,” said Laurie Rink, executive director of the Middle Colorado Watershed Council.

Rink will soon be moving into a project management position so she can devote more time to developing the stream management plan, and the watershed council will hire a new executive director.

In addition to $103,800 from the state, the council is seeking funding from Garfield County, Rifle, Glenwood Springs, the Colorado River District, and the Tamarisk Coalition for a project total of about $415,000.

An irrigation ditch south of Silt, and the Colorado River, moves water toward a field. The state of irrigated agriculture in Garfield County is expected to get a closer look as part of an integrated water management plan being prepared by the Middle Colorado Watershed Council. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

Ag water

A key to understanding the Middle Colorado River and its tributaries is also understanding agriculture’s use of water from the river system. But the ag community has historically been hesitant to participate in studies that focus on recreation and environmental concerns. This study aims to bring them into the fold of stream management planning.

To help get consumptive users involved, three regional conservation districts, the Bookcliff, South Side and Mount Sopris districts, have teamed up to do their own study of ag’s use of water.

“We really want to understand for our watershed both the consumptive and non-consumptive uses we have and what gaps exist,” Rink said.

At its March meeting the Colorado basin roundtable approved a $100,000 grant request for the three conservation districts to create an “agriculture water plan” for Garfield County that will inform the stream management plan being done by the Middle Colorado council.

That grant request now goes to the CWCB in May.

“The dry year is the immediate impetus, and the future of our water rights,” said Liz Chandler, program coordinator of the ag-water study. “With the looming prospect of a compact call, the agriculture community needed to get much more involved with a planning process to make sure agriculture’s voice is heard loudly and clearly.”

The ag-water study would focus on ag lands between Glenwood Springs and DeBeque, and aims to determine the current irrigated acreage and to conduct an inventory of irrigation ditches.

The study also would determine water needs for the crops and develop a plan to protect agriculture water.

A sprinkler irrigating a pasture north of New Castle. Three conservation districts have secured a $100,000 grant from the Colorado River basin roundtable to study consumptive use of water by ag, and cities, between Glenwood and DeBeque. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

“100 percent public”

In 2016, the Eagle County Conservation District completed a similar irrigation asset inventory, the results of which officials said should remain private, although the study was paid for with public funds.

But unlike that study, Chandler said the results of the Garfield County study will be “100 percent public information.”

“The end goal of our project is very different from Eagle,” Chandler said. “They wanted to get shovel-ready projects for their diverters. We want to create an integrated water plan. And we have so much more agriculture down here than Eagle does.”

The dam in the Eagle River headwaters that forms Homestake Reservoir, which diverts water to the Front Range. The Eagle River Watershed Council was granted $75,000 from the CWCB last month toward an integrated water management plan for the Eagle River basin, which faces more transmountain diversions. Photo credit Brent Gardner-Smith

Eagle River Watershed

A few miles upstream, the Eagle River Watershed Council is developing its own stream-management plan.

Its plan aims to develop water management recommendations based on three factors the watershed will face in the coming years: increased municipal demand for water that comes from population growth, climate change, and still-to-be-developed projects related to the “Eagle River MOU” project, which could include new or expanded reservoirs and transmountain diversions to the Front Range.

“Collaboration is absolutely critical to this plan,” said Holly Loff, executive director of the Eagle River Watershed Council. “In creating the scope of work, we reached out to all the people we thought should be participating as a stakeholder and clumped them together in six different groups: local government, agriculture, recreation, conservation, federal and state agencies, East Slope water interests and West Slope water interests.”

Loff said she expects the entire stream-management planning process will take three years to complete.

In addition to the $75,000 from the state, the Eagle River Watershed Council also expects to receive money and in-kind donations from Vail Resorts, Homestake Water Project Partners (Aurora and Colorado Springs), the towns of Avon, Gypsum, Vail and Minturn, Eagle Park Reservoir Company, Climax Mine, Eagle County, and the Colorado River District for a combined total project cost of nearly $390,000.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating on coverage of rivers and water with the Vail Daily, the Summit Daily, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, and The Aspen Times. The Times and the Post Independent published this story on Monday, April 9, 2018.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2018 — @AmericanRivers

Click here to read the report.

From American Rivers (Jessie Thomas-Blate):

Released today, America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2018 spotlights the battery of threats from the Trump administration and its allies in Congress to clean water and rivers nationwide. Take action today on behalf of this year’s endangered rivers.

Is your favorite river endangered? Check out the list below of the 2018 America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.

On this year’s list, zombie projects abound. From draining critical wetlands on Mississippi’s Big Sunflower River to mining in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and the rivers of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, to building a border wall on the Lower Rio Grande, America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2018 illustrates the recurring attacks by the Trump administration and Congress on clean water, people and wildlife.

This is the kind of destruction that will be difficult and, in some cases, impossible to reverse. If the Trump administration and its supporters in Congress succeed in rolling back bedrock environmental protections and handing over our rivers to polluters, the health, well-being and natural heritage of our nation’s families and communities will be impoverished for generations to come.

This is the kind of destruction that will be difficult and, in some cases, impossible to reverse. If the Trump administration and its supporters in Congress succeed in rolling back bedrock environmental protections and handing over our rivers to polluters, the health, well-being and natural heritage of our nation’s families and communities will be impoverished for generations to come.

The following rivers on this year’s list will be directly impacted by decisions from the Trump administration and Congress:

Big Sunflower River (Mississippi), threatened by revival of the Army Corps of Engineers Yazoo Pumps project that would drain critical wetlands at enormous taxpayer expense.

Rivers of Bristol Bay (Alaska), threatened by the world’s biggest open pit mine that could devastate a $1.5 billion salmon fishery.

Boundary Waters (Minnesota), threatened by mining that would pollute pristine waters and harm a thriving recreation economy.

Lower Rio Grande (Texas), threatened by a border wall that would cut off people and communities from the river, exacerbate flooding, and destroy wildlife habitat.

South Fork Salmon River (Idaho), threatened by mining that could have lasting consequences for clean water and the Wild and Scenic mainstem Salmon River.

Mississippi River Gorge (Minnesota), threatened by obsolete locks and dams preventing revitalization of river health and recreation in downtown Minneapolis.

Colville River (Alaska), threatened by oil and gas development that imperils clean water and habitat for polar bears, wolves and caribou.

“Healthy rivers are essential to public health, our economy, and the well-being of our nation. We must insist that those tasked with managing our water resources have the best interests of the public in mind. America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2018 highlights critical upcoming decisions and paints a stark picture of what’s at stake. It’s an important call to action that we must amplify nationwide,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, former Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) and American Rivers board member.

On the #1 river on this year’s list, the Big Sunflower in Mississippi, members of Congress are pushing to undermine the Clean Water Act to resurrect the Yazoo Pumps, one of the most environmentally damaging projects ever proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If allowed to advance, it would be the first time ever that an EPA veto of a Corps project (the George W. Bush EPA stopped the project in 2008) was overturned by Congress, undermining the authority of the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act.

The Yazoo Pumps Project would damage more than 200,000 acres of wetlands in the Big Sunflower River watershed in the heart of the Mississippi River Flyway. More than 450 species of fish and wildlife, including the Louisiana black bear, rely on the wetlands habitat that would be drained by the project.

The Lower Rio Grande, #4 on this year’s list, is threatened by border wall construction that would cut the Rio Grande off from its floodplain, potentially exacerbating flooding and erosion and blocking access to this life-giving resource for people and wildlife.

“There is nothing American about building a border wall that threatens a great river and its wildlife and tears communities apart. This wall is wholly contrary to our nation’s values. Echoing President Reagan in West Berlin in 1987: Mr. Trump, tear down this wall,” said Theodore Roosevelt IV. “Water and rivers are an essential part of our life and if we don’t preserve them we’ll be doing an infinite amount of damage to future generations.”

Threats facing many of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2018 would have a significant impact on indigenous, Latinx, and African American communities. Destroying the Big Sunflower’s wetlands would impact subsistence fishing for low-income families and communities of color. Mining in Bristol Bay and the South Fork Salmon would harm wild salmon runs, which are central to the cultures and livelihoods of Alaska Natives and Native American tribes respectively. A wall along the Rio Grande would prevent people from accessing the river and create additional flood risks and other challenges for border communities.

In its 33rd year, the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Rivers are chosen for the list based on the following criteria: 1) The magnitude of the threat, 2) The significance of the river to people and nature, and 3) A critical decision-point in the coming year.

Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

AMERICA’S MOST ENDANGERED RIVERS® OF 2018:
Big Sunflower River, MS

  • Threat – Army Corps pumping project
  • At Risk – Critical wetlands and wildlife habitat
  • Rivers of Bristol Bay, AK

  • Threat – Mining
  • At risk – Clean water, salmon runs, indigenous culture
  • Boundary Waters, MN

  • Threat – Mining
  • At risk – Clean water, recreation economy
  • Lower Rio Grande, TX

  • Threat – Border wall
  • At risk – River access, public safety, wildlife habitat
  • South Fork Salmon River, ID

  • Threat – Mining
  • At risk – Clean water, salmon habitat
  • Mississippi River Gorge, MN

  • Threat – Dams
  • At risk – Habitat, recreation opportunities
  • Smith River, MT

  • Threat – Mining
  • At risk – Clean water, recreation
  • Colville River, AK

  • Threat – Oil and gas development
  • At risk – Clean water, wildlife
  • https://www.americanrivers.org/endangered-rivers/middle-fork-of-the-vermilion-river-il/

  • Threat – Coal ash pollution
  • At risk – Clean water, Wild and Scenic River values
  • Kinnickinnic River, WI

  • Threat – Dams
  • At risk – Blue-ribbon trout stream
  • Take Action.

    Photo Credit: City of Minneapolis

    Dolores River: Water district lawsuit against in-stream flows fails

    Photo via the Sheep Mountain Alliance

    From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

    In 2015, the state water board appropriated an in-stream flow standard of 900 cubic feet per second on the Dolores River during spring, between the confluence of the San Miguel River and Gateway.

    It is intended to support river health including three species of native fish: the flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker and roundtail chub.

    The Southwestern Water Conservation District filed a legal challenge to the new minimum flow standard, arguing that the flows were too high and could not be met in drought conditions. They further claimed that Colorado Water Conservation Board improperly concluded it could not adopt a 1 percent depletion allowance on the in-stream flow to accommodate future developments as a condition.

    But the Colorado water court rejected the lawsuit claims, and confirmed the newly designated in-stream flow for the Dolores in a ruling Thursday.

    District Court Judge J. Steven Patrick said the water board has the authority to appropriate in-stream flows and that it followed proper procedures.

    “The Court finds nothing in the record to support a finding that CWCB’s action was unreasonable,” the judge wrote in the decision. “The CWCB did not abuse its discretion in refusing to consider … the proposed depletion allowance.”

    Environmental groups applauded the decision. Durango-based San Juan Citizen’s Alliance, Western Resource Advocates and Conservation Colorado had joined the water board in defending the board’s new Dolores in-stream flows.

    “We believe this decision not only protects the beautiful Dolores River, but affirms the use of in-stream flow water rights as a vital tool to leave a legacy of healthy rivers throughout Colorado,” said Jimbo Buickerood, land and forest protection manager for San Juan Citizen’s Alliance.

    The court ruling secures up to 900 cubic feet per second of water during spring peak flows, as well as essential winter flows, for a 33-mile stretch of the river. Environmentalists say the flows will help prevent at-risk native fish species from becoming listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The river anchors a remote desert oasis and has plentiful recreation opportunities, they said…

    The reach slated for the largest in-stream flow protection on the Dolores River is near the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway between Gateway and Uravan, Colorado.

    New in-stream flows are junior to existing water rights, but senior to future water right claims.

    The Dolores Water Conservancy District also objected to the new Dolores in-stream flow, and urged that it should at least have a condition to allow for some future development needs. The district manages McPhee Reservoir and dam, which are upstream from the new appropriation.

    During a previous hearing on the matter, DWCD attorney Barry Spear, said the proposed 1 percent depletion proposal was to “set aside an amount that the small water developer could use to keep the water in the state.”

    […]

    The new in-stream flows for lower Dolores River begin below the San Miguel confluence are as follows: minimum flows of 200 cfs from March 16 to April 14; 900 cfs from April 15 to June 14; 400 cfs from June 15 to July 15; 200 cfs from July 16 to Aug. 14; and 100 cfs from Aug. 15 to March 15.

    Community groups help ease the anxiety of a superfund listing

    One of the many smelters that once operated in the Pueblo area. Photo credit: Environmental Protection Agency

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    The Colorado Smelter processed silver and lead for 25 years before it closed in 1908, leaving behind a toxic footprint that spilled out into the surrounding neighborhoods of Pueblo in southeastern Colorado.

    However, it wasn’t until more than a century later that an inspection found lead and arsenic levels posed a risk to residents. An early study area included more than 1,900 potentially affected homes.

    The need for a cleanup project was clear, but the community of Pueblo was torn.

    Some residents were truly worried about the health effects from lead and arsenic poisoning, while others felt the problem was overblown and a major cleanup project would further strain the community’s struggling economy.

    With seemingly no other options, it became apparent the only true path to cleaning up this legacy of pollution was through the Environmental Protection Agency’s hazardous cleanup project – Superfund.

    One of the community’s demands from the outset was to have a seat at the table with the EPA and other partners at key moments of decision-making, so the community could guide that process from its perspective.

    The people of Pueblo accomplished that by creating, through the EPA’s process, a Community Advisory Group made up of a variety of interested people, residents, landlords, environmental groups and locally elected officials.

    ‘A need to get diverse interests together’

    The situation in Pueblo is eerily similar to Silverton’s and its connection to hard-rock mining, which defined the community a century ago but ultimately left behind a complicated mess.

    The small mountain town north of Durango, with a population of about 600, largely opposed a Superfund listing for two decades, fearing it would deter future mining in the region and adversely affect tourism.

    However, the path toward a Superfund designation became inevitable after the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill, when an EPA-caused mine blowout released a torrent of waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers, turning them orange.

    One of the major selling points in getting Silverton’s support for the Superfund listing was a promise from the EPA that the community, filled with old miners with extensive institutional knowledge, would have a seat at the table.

    Scott Fetchenheir, a geologist, former miner and San Juan County commissioner, said that since the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund was declared in fall 2016, the EPA has made good on this promise…

    How CAGs work
    For a CAG to be formed, a community simply needs to let EPA employees know they are interested in creating a group.

    Then, it’s really up to the residents to decide how many people are in the group (the average CAG has about 15 people) and how often they want to meet.

    “It’s community driven, and EPA wouldn’t want to influence how a CAG might organize or represent itself,” said Cynthia Peterson, an EPA spokeswoman who works with the Superfund site near Silverton.

    Kristi Celico, an organizer and facilitator for CAGs throughout the country, says the groups are usually effective in walking the line of the variety of demands coming from a community.

    “It helps put all those people in a room to help bridge those interests,” she said. “It’s a slow, painful process, but I’ve set up hundreds of (CAGs), and nine out of 10 times, it has a huge impact over time.”