#WaterintheWest2018 Day 1 recap @CSUDenverCenter

From Colorado State University (Tiana Nelson):

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack opened the first day of the inaugural Water in the West Symposium likening the situation around water to a book he reads to his grandchildren – a book where there was a problem. First, the children’s book characters try to avoid the problem, then they try to ignore the problem, then they try to bury the problem.

“All without realizing that within each problem there is enormous opportunity,” said Vilsack, who serves as a special advisor to Colorado State University. “There is an incredible opportunity to lead a national and global effort in this area, that’s why this convening is so important.”
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Watch Colorado State University Denver Center social media for live updates at #WaterintheWest2018 as the Water in the West Symposium continues through Friday, April 27.

The symposium, presented by CSU and held at the McNichols Civic Center Building in downtown Denver, sold out with 400 attendees, and showcased more than 30 speakers from across the state and nation representing diverse perspectives in water. Farmers, policy makers, researchers and educators, conservationists, associations, consortiums, corporate professionals, cities, utilities, municipalities, agribusinesses and hundreds of businesses and individuals who rely on water for the production of their goods and services filled the room, representing more than 200 different organizations.

The Symposium is the initial step as CSU prepares to begin construction on the Water Resources Center, the first building to be constructed on the new National Western Center campus, in Spring 2019.

The discussion at the Symposium mirrors what will happen at the Water Resources Center – mirrors the effort to educate, mirrors that innovation will play a key role, and mirrors that policy will continue to be important, Vilsack said.

The lineup

Vilsack joked that the Symposium is the first conference he’s ever been to without built-in breaks, which will “show how serious we are about this.”

A full day of programming on Thursday included speakers and panels around:

  • Water challenges and opportunities
  • The Colorado Water Plan
  • Colorado water successes and challenges
  • A forum featuring Colorado gubernatorial candidates
  • Dr. Tony Frank, president of CSU and chancellor of the CSU System, noted the University’s importance as a convener for the conversation around water – a conversation furthered by the Symposium and the future Water Resources Center.

    Land grant universities such as CSU are about breaking down boundaries, creating new knowledge, and disseminating that knowledge, Frank said.

    “We’re going to see that really apply at the Water Resources Center. You’ll see a robust application of innovation,” he said. By listening to one another and respecting diverse perspectives, “I’m confident that the conversations we will have will be fruitful.”.

    Speakers echoed Frank’s charge of the importance of the issue of water having an impact on everyone and having the power to galvanize diverse interests to collaborate around it.

    “We do realize that every drop counts. We all live here, we breathe the same air that you breathe, we drink the same water that you drink,” said Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.

    “Yes, I’m a CSU graduate; yes, I’m the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, but at the end of the day, I’m a farmer and rancher from Yuma County, Colorado,” said Don Brown. “Water is a great connector; we all need it, we all use it.”

    Mizraim Cordero, vice president of Government Affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said water is important to the entire state, and water policy and sustainability is key to attracting businesses.

    “We care about our agriculture industry, our tourism industry, our beverage production industry, our energy industry,” said Cordero. “We want to make sure that in Colorado – not just Denver but all of Colorado – the economy is thriving.”

    The conversation commencing because of the Symposium is in essence “a beginning of the virtual water center,” Vilsack said.

    Brown agreed.

    “It hasn’t even been built and look what it’s already doing … this is just the beginning.”

    Click here to view the #WaterintheWest2018 hash tag. (Click on the “Latest” button.)

    What the Everyone Else in the #ColoradoRiver Basin v. @CAPArizona fracas is really all about — @jfleck #COriver

    The Central Arizona Aqueduct delivers water from the Colorado River to underground aquifers in southern Arizona. UT researcher Bridget Scanlon recommends more water storage projects like the aqueduct to help protect against variability in the river’s water supply. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    From InkStain (John Fleck):

    It’s reasonable to ask whether the fracas over Colorado River water management, which has pitted the Central Arizona Project against just about everyone else in the basin, is evidence that the thesis of my book – that we are in an era of unprecedented collaboration in Colorado River governance, that water is not really for fighting over – was wrong.

    I think it’s the opposite. There would have been a time when it would have simply been assumed that of course the Central Arizona Project would optimize its water orders (a smart friend has steered me away from some of the more incendiary language I had used – “manipulated” or “gamed”) to maximize releases from Lake Powell. The uproar this month is striking precisely because the uproar is happening at all – that in a new era of collaboration, what CAP was doing is an offense to a new cooperative, collaborative norm.

    DoD: At least 126 bases report water contaminants linked to cancer, birth defects

    Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

    From the Military Times (Tara Copp):

    The water at or around 126 military installations contains potentially harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds, which have been linked to cancers and developmental delays for fetuses and infants, the Pentagon has found.

    In a March report provided to the House Armed Services Committee, the Pentagon for the first time publicly listed the full scope of the known contamination. The Defense Department identified 401 active and Base Closure and Realignment installations in the United States with at least one area where there was a known or suspected release of perfluorinated compounds.

    These included 36 sites with drinking water contamination on-base, and more than 90 sites that reported either on-base or off-base drinking water or groundwater contamination., in which the water source tested above the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOS and PFOAs.

    The man-made chemicals, which can be used to make items heat or water resistant, are found in everyday household, food and clothing items, even take-out food wrappers.

    At military bases, however, they are concentrated in the foam used to put out aircraft fires.

    Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment, safety and occupational health, said DoD has already made safety changes at affected bases, including installing filters and providing bottled water to families living there. It has also released the full list of installations, reported in a lengthy chart attached toward the end of the congressional report, and will be working with the Centers for Disease Control next year on a study of the potential long-term effects of exposure.

    Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson was asked about the exposure this week on Capitol HIll, where she was testifying about the service’s fiscal 2019 budget needs.

    “It’s an issue not just in New Hampshire, but at military installations across this country,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire. “We have 1,500 people who have been tested with elevated levels in the Portsmouth area, who are anxious about their future and their children’s future. And I know there are many people throughout the Air Force and our other military installations who share that concern.”

    In all, 25 Army bases; 50 Air Force bases, 49 Navy or Marine Corps bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites have tested at higher than acceptable levels for the compounds in either their drinking water or groundwater sources. Additionally, DoD tested 2,668 groundwater wells both on and in the surrounding off-base community and found that 61 percent of them tested above the EPA’s recommended levels.

    In 2016 the EPA established a new, lower guideline for acceptable levels of PFOS or PFOA levels in water supplies: no more 70 parts per trillion. While the EPA did not make the guidelines enforceable, DoD decided to test all of its locations and work toward complying with the new standards.

    It won’t be a quick fix, Sullivan said.

    The first target for the department was to address the 36 direct drinking water sources that are contaminated and “cut off that human exposure as soon as possible,” Sullivan said. DoD was only able to do that quickly at the 24 locations where it manages the water supply. At those locations it has installed filters at the water source or inside base housing, relocated water usage to another well, or provided alternate drinking water, such as water bottles, for personnel, Sullivan said.

    For the other 12 drinking water sources, provided either by a contracted vendor or through the local utility, it’s a harder fix, because the EPA’s guidelines are not enforceable. For example, commercial airports and industrial sites also use the foam, which could impact a municipality’s drinking water, but it will be up to that municipality to determine if it will test and make fixes to comply with the EPA’s guidelines, Sullivan said.

    “It’s up to the owner of that system to make a decision on what they’re going to do,” Sullivan “So we’re on a fine line of trying to provide drinking water to our folks when we’re buying it from somebody else.”

    In those cases the department is working with the vendors or utilities on a solution, and providing bottled water or filters as needed, Sullivan said.

    Each base should have its water information posted, Sullivan said. Families with any concerns should be able to go to the base’s restoration program manager — an on-site point person tasked with addressing environmental cleanup issues ― with their questions.

    DoD has already spent $200 million studying and testing its water supply, and also providing either filters, alternate wells or bottled water to address contamination.

    For the groundwater sources, both on-base and off-base, however, cleanup will take years to address, Sullivan said. Those groundwater sites will be added to the department’s long list of environmental cleanup responsibilities it has at each of its more than 2,900 facilities around the world, and will prioritize that cleanup based on risk. Sullivan estimates the groundwater perfluorinate cleanup will add about $2 billion to the $27 billion previously identified cleanup projects for which the department is responsible.

    The services are also phasing out the firefighting foam they use and working on replacements that do not contain perfluorinated compounds, Sullivan said.

    Drinking water impacts cited by Mining and Land Board in denial of El Paso County gravel mine permit

    Mexican Spotted Owl photo credit US National Park Service.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Rachel Riley):

    The Mined Land Reclamation Board voted 3 to 2 to deny Transit Mix Concrete’s application for a permit for the proposed Hitch Rack Ranch quarry following more than 10 hours of testimony at a two-day hearing in Colorado Springs.

    The decision is a major blow for the company and a victory for nearby residents and environmental groups, who have argued the proposed quarry off Colorado 115 could threaten the area’s groundwater and wildlife habitat, including that of the threatened Mexican spotted owl…

    The state’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety allows applicants to ask for reconsideration, and the courts may offer other avenues for the company.

    Driven by concerns that mining could disrupt the fragile underground system of rock cracks that holds the area’s water supply, board members John Singletary, Jill Van Noord and Bob Randall voted to deny the application. During deliberations ahead of the vote, Randall said there were no guarantees that mining wouldn’t impact groundwater that supplies residents’ wells and those impacts could “be difficult to minimize.”

    Karin Utterback-Normann and Forrest Luke voted to approve the application, saying that they believe Transit Mix met or exceeded state requirements related to assessing the quarry’s potential effects.

    Lauren Duncan and Tom Brubaker recused themselves from the decision.

    After the board’s vote, opponents shook hands and hugged one another…

    Transit Mix initially applied for a permit from the state in 2016. The board rejected that by the same vote as it did the second, 3-2, citing some of the concerns raised by neighboring residents – the threat to water and wildlife habitat.

    The state board also found that the company hadn’t proved it had the legal right to access Little Turkey Creek Road, which serves as the only access for a group of residents.

    After the board denied its first application, Transit Mix filed a petition for reconsideration to the state Mining Division, arguing that opponents improperly presented new evidence at the application hearing.

    The company later withdrew that petition and filed another, with the 4th Judicial District Court in Colorado Springs, asking a judge to review the board’s decision. The board, as well as more than 90 individuals and organizations who objected to the initial proposal, were named as defendants.

    Quarry foes have called the lawsuit an attempt by Transit Mix to intimidate opponents and scare them into silence.

    Earlier this month, Transit Mix attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Liz Titus, an attorney representing Transit Mix, testified that the company wanted to avoid the “procedural quagmire” that might occur if the board approved its second application, but the court invalidated the board’s denial of its first application.

    Transit Mix submitted a second application to the state in the fall, reducing the size and life of the proposed quarry and moving the operation south of Little Turkey Creek Road.

    More than 500 letters of objection and about 150 letters of support were filed with the state’s Mining Diviison, which recommended that the board approve the application.

    Project opponents include the El Pomar Foundation and the Nature Conservancy, which manages the Aiken Canyon Preserve neighboring the quarry site. Both organizations have been deeded pieces of land along the quarry’s proposed boundaries that are destined to one day become preservation areas.

    The company publicized new offers in exchange for approval of the quarry, winning endorsements from several Colorado Springs City Council members and state legislators. Transit Mix said it would close and reclaim the Pikeview Quarry, an unsightly scar on the foothills of northwest Colorado Springs, if it was able to open the new mine. The company also announced earlier this month that, if it got permission to mine the Hitch Rack Ranch, it would sell the Pikeview property to the city at a discounted rate so that a “world-class” mountain bike park could be built on the land.

    When asked about the bike park proposal on Thursday, Cole said: “Pikeview has another 10 to 20 years of life left, and there’s no indication that Transit Mix would close it without another source of aggregate.”

    Here’s a backgrounder from Pikes Peak Trout Unlimited (Michele White):

    In early 2016, Transit Mix submitted an application with the Division of Mined Land Reclamation Board to develop a new quarry on the Hitch Rack Ranch. This historic ranch is known for 1,200-acres of prime mountain wilderness bordered by the Nature Conservancy’s Aiken Canyon and also bordered by the protected landscape of the Ingersoll Ranch. Therefore, the initial application faced opposition from the conservancy, from the trustees of the Ingersoll estate, and from homeowners along Highway 115.

    The Colorado State Land Board owns the mineral rights beneath the Hitch Rack Ranch and had already issued a mineral lease to the Transit Mix Company for exploration purposes, which is their legal right. Subsequently, the Division of Mined Land Reclamation (DMLR) initially recommended that Transit Mix be automatically be granted approval for submitting a mining plan.

    Opponents to this quarry were able to successfully present their argument (included impacts upon wildlife, threatened and endangered species, traffic on Highway 115, impacts on neighborhoods, road access, safety issues, and possible degradation of water quality and availability) and stop the quarry at that time. Therefore, a year ago, DMLR Board denied Tranist Mix permission to open the quarry.

    Transit Mix requested the board to reconsider citing the objectors’ lack of evidence in support of their statements. The result is that the original application has been augmented to address the local concerns and the mine plan is currently under renewed judicial review.

    Enter Pikes Peak Trout Unlimited

    In September, 2017, Kris McCowen, Chairman of the Highway 115 Citizens Advisory Committee, contacted David Nickum, of Colorado Trout Unlimited, to enlist TU’s support in opposing the quarry. Nickum forwarded the documents for review to Pikes Peak Trout Unlimited.

    NOTE: Pikes Peak Trout Unlimited is not against mining and Transit Mix has a history of successfully mining aggregate at other quarries within the bounds of specified regulations.

    In November, 2017, PPTU President, Allyn Kratz, and V.P. of Government Affairs, Michele White, reviewed the documents in support of the mine plan and made a recommendation to the PPTU board that we, as a chapter, write a letter in opposition of the quarry based on its location and the adverse impact on trout population in Little Turkey Creek.

    In December, 2017, PPTU wrote a letter to Ms. Amy Eschberger of Colorado Division of Mining and Safety stating that in our professional opinion, the site is too sensitive an area to operate a mine near trout habitat. The quarry operation and its footprint, as proposed in the application, is remiss in addressing the trout population. Another adverse discovery is the geologic hazards at the proposed site. Michele White is a certified professional geologist with an extensive background in evaluating mining proposals. Her evaluation of the drilled core logs and regional structures (faults) precludes positive support of the quarry at this location.

    From KOAA.com (Bill Folsom):

    There is now a major barrier to the proposed quarry at the old Hitch Rack Ranch on the southwest side of El Paso County. With a close vote three to two vote the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board (CMLRB) denied a mining permit for the quarry.

    Transit Mix wants to close a current quarry on the northwest side of Colorado Springs and open a new one on the old ranch property. It is private property and owners want to go ahead with the deal. There are also some business and political leaders who believe this is good for the local economy.

    Neighbors, environmentalist and other political leaders are strongly opposed. Their list of reasons include, the scar it would create on the mountainside, environmental impact on wildlife, traffic safety, and the potential threat to fragile ground water.

    In the end, just one issue influenced the vote. The board said they had too many questions about the threat to ground water.

    Hitch Rack Ranch quarry proposed site via Pikes Peak Trout Unlimited.