From Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Pueblo Chieftain:
A $30 million budget was approved Thursday by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board of directors.
The budget is the largest in the history of the district because it reflects spending $12 million in the first phase of a hydropower project at Pueblo Dam. The board is scheduled to consider approval of that project at a special meeting later this month.
“This is an exciting time for the district, with many new opportunities coming to fruition after years of effort by the district board and staff,” said Jim Broderick, executive director. “Every day we are coming closer to fulfilling the vision of those who came before us almost 60 years ago when the district was formed.”
The hydropower project now includes the district and Colorado Springs. The Pueblo Board of Water Works pulled out as partners last month, because it would realize few benefits from the project. When completed, the $20 million project will generate 7.5 megawatts of electric power and become a source of revenue for the district’s Water Activity Enterprise.
The budget’s other large-ticket items include repayment of federal funds for construction of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, $7 million, and Fountain Valley Conduit, $5.8 million.
About $24 million is still owed for construction of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which began in 1965. The project includes Ruedi Reservoir, a collection system in the Hunter Creek-Fryingpan River watersheds, the 5.4-mile Boustead Tunnel that brings water across the Continental Divide, Turquoise Lake, the Mount Elbert Forebay and Power Plant, Twin Lakes and Pueblo Reservoir.
The Fry-Ark debt is repaid through a 0.9-mill property tax in the nine-county area covered by the district.
The Fountain Valley Conduit serves Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security, Stratmoor Hills and Widefield, which pay a special property tax.
The operating fund of the district will be $2.3 million, and is funded by a 0.03 mill levy and transfers from the Enterprise fund. The Enterprise operating fund will be $1.8 million, and is mostly funded by fees and surcharges on water activities.
Other than hydropower, the Enterprise will administer excess-capacity storage contracts for district participants for the first time in 2017. The Enterprise also expects the federal feasibility study for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and an interconnection of the north and south outlets on Pueblo Dam to be completed later in 2017. The feasibility study is the final step that must be taken before construction begins.
Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently completed an assessment of our Nation’s geothermal resources. Geothermal power plants are currently operating in six states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. The assessment indicates that the electric power generation potential from identified geothermal systems is 9,057 Megawatts-electric (MWe), distributed over 13 states. The mean estimated power production potential from undiscovered geothermal resources is 30,033 MWe. Additionally, another estimated 517,800 MWe could be generated through implementation of technology for creating geothermal reservoirs in regions characterized by high temperature, but low permeability, rock formations.
On Monday at 5:30 pm of this week diversions through the Adams Tunnel to the east slope of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project began. While this picks up, Lake Estes will rise slightly and is expected to be return to typical levels by next mid-week.
The Olympus Dam slide gate remains set to release low-level winter flows to the Big Thompson River.
This rate of fill will be maintained for several days to ensure safe operations below the Estes Power Plant. The majority of the water in Lake Estes enters through the power plant via the C-BT Project.
Farmers and ranchers who work in close proximity to oil and gas production, especially if that extraction involves fracking, need to be aware of the effects of that process on their operations, according to a presentation made Tuesday morning during the Eastern Colorado Crop Production Conference in Fort Morgan.
While the boom in hydrologic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” began a decade ago, researchers are just now asking serious questions about the impact of fracking fluids on crops, livestock and people. Molly McLaughlin, a doctoral candidate at Colorado State University, told the 80-plus attendees at the Fort Morgan conference that she hopes her research will answer some of those questions.
The most surprising revelation from McLaughlin’s presentation is that some “produced water” from oil and gas wells is actually used to irrigate crops and water livestock.
The researcher explained that there are two kinds of fluids involved in fracking. The first is the fracturing fluid that is forced into the drilled well to widen fractures in the bore hole. The fluid consists mainly of water but also contains chemicals to reduce friction of fluids against the well casing, biocides to kill bacteria that may grow in the warm, wet environment, and “proppants” that hold the fractures open so oil and gas can flow into them to be extracted. McLoughlin said wells in eastern Colorado use an average of about 3 million gallons of water per well during the fracturing process, mixed with about 30,000 gallons of chemicals.
The other fluid is the produced water, or fluid that flows back out of the well during the extraction of oil and gas. McLoughlin said most of the fracturing fluids are expelled from the well in the first few years of production, but that water will flow out for the life of the well, or about 30 years in most cases. During later years, most of the water is what was already in the geologic formation that contains the oil or gas being pumped out. She pointed out that this is not water from aquifers that supply water for human consumption. As oil and gas production decreases, she said, water production increases.
Most of the exposure to fracking fluids and produced water happens during spills, McLoughlin said, and virtually all spills must be reported to state authorities. She said contamination can come from spilled chemicals getting into surface water, such as nearby lakes and streams, or by leaching through soil into shallow aquifers.
McLoughlin said most of the chemicals used in fracking will degrade fairly rapidly if they are spilled into soil, but that combinations of chemicals degrade at different rates. She said the presence of salts in the produced water can retard degradation by six months or more. Her research is aimed at determining the degradation rates of various chemical combinations, and the effects those combinations have on soil, crops, livestock, and people.
Wastewater from oil and gas wells is treated, McLoughlin said, by skimming pollutants off of the top of holding ponds, by heating the wastewater, or by adding neutralizing chemicals. She said increasingly, treated water is being used to irrigate some crops and water some livestock.
McLaughlin showed research being done at the University of California at Davis that uses produced water to irrigate switch grass for biofuels or cotton for textiles.
An online article from the California Environmental Protection Agency states that produced water from oil and gas wells there is treated and then blended with other water to irrigate crops in the arid inland areas of the state. The CEPA closely monitors that water, the article said, and the state’s Food Safety Expert Panel monitors the crops grown with that water.
McLoughlin concluded her presentation by saying that much more research needs to be done on potential impacts of oil and gas wastewater on food production.
Top officials of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year made critical changes at the eleventh hour to a highly anticipated, five-year scientific study of hydraulic fracturing’s effect on the nation’s drinking water. The changes, later criticized by scientists for lacking evidence, played down the risk of pollution that can result from the well-drilling technique known as fracking.
Documents obtained by APM Reports and Marketplace show that in the six weeks before the study’s public release, officials inserted a key phrase into the executive summary that said researchers did not find evidence of “widespread systemic impacts” of fracking by the oil and gas industry on the nation’s drinking water.
Earlier draft versions emphasized more directly that fracking has contaminated drinking water in some places.
The documents also show that the news release accompanying the scientific study was changed on June 3, 2015, the day before it was made public. A draft displayed a conclusion that the EPA had identified “potential vulnerabilities” to drinking water. But the final release dated June 4, concluded: “Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.”
In a conference call with reporters about the study on the day it was released, the EPA’s deputy administrator, Tom Burke, highlighted the lack of “widespread, systemic impacts” as the agency’s top finding.
In fact, scientists had found evidence in some places that fracking activity had polluted drinking water supplies.
In all, the agency identified more than two dozen instances in which hydraulic fracturing had an impact on water resources. The agency also identified hundreds of other spills, many of which reached soil and water.
It’s not clear precisely who inserted or ordered the new phrasing. But emails acquired via the Freedom of Information Act show EPA officials, including press officers, met with key advisers to President Obama to discuss marketing strategy a month before the study’s release. The emails also show EPA public relations people exchanging a flurry of messages between 4 and 11 p.m. on the eve of the study’s release.
tevan López released a report today that provides a status update on the actions Reclamation is undertaking to meet the challenges of climate change on Western water supplies. This includes meeting the four goals established in the strategy, increasing water management flexibility, enhancing climate adaptation planning, improving infrastructure resiliency, and expanding information sharing.
“Climate change poses clear risks to our ability to deliver water and power,” Commissioner López said. “In light of those risks, Reclamation and our partners will take key steps that line up with the goals of this strategy, helping to ensure a sustainable water supply across the West.”
The strategy identifies four primary goals to improve Reclamation’s ability to consider climate change information in its decision making:
Goal 1 – Increase Water Management Flexibility
Goal 2 – Enhance Climate Adaptation Planning
Goal 3 – Improve Infrastructure Resiliency
Goal 4 – Expand Information Sharing
Reclamation is making progress on the activities identified in the four goals of the strategy. These activities include:
five reservoir operation pilot studies that are evaluating how weather, hydrology and climate change information can better inform reservoir operations;
implementing hydropower optimizations that could increase generation by 410,000 to 1.2 million megawatt hours per year, enough electricity for between 37,000 to 109,000 households;
Reclamation is supporting integration of climate change information across planning activities through approaches developed through the basin studies and the drought response program;
the Western Watershed Enhancement Program that has provided nearly $1.2 million to cost-share seven wildfire resiliency projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho and Washington; and
Reclamation working with its partners to offer climate change training courses for technical water resource professionals and for general audience on integrating climate change considerations into water resources planning.
The actions identified in the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy are part of the Department of the Interior’s implementation of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the strategy provides a framework in which Reclamation managers can develop and adopt innovative solutions that provide a more reliable water supply in a changing climate. It also supports the Nov. 1, 2013, Executive Order, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change.
To view the progress report and learn more about how Reclamation is incorporating climate change into its efforts, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/climate.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
The C-BT Project water year ended on Oct. 31. C-BT Project storage levels on Nov. 1 were above average for a third consecutive year, with 548,274 acre-feet in active storage. The Nov. 1 average is 444,177 AF. Deliveries increased in 2016 over 2015 levels, with 204,078 AF delivered (including quota, Carryover Program and Regional Pool Program water). Forty-six percent of the deliveries were from Horsetooth Reservoir, 40 percent from Carter Lake and the remaining 14 percent went to the Big Thompson River, Hansen Feeder Canal and the South Platte River. Estimated deliveries to municipal and industrial users totaled 102,157 AF, while agricultural deliveries were approximately 101,921 AF.
For more than two years, BLM officials who manage much of South Park have been developing a plan to balance conservation with economic activities including oil and gas drilling that can degrade the environment. The work begun in 2014 was aimed at setting out where companies could drill, where wildlife would prevail, and where houses could be built to maximize protection of delicate ecosystems across South Park, an inter-mountain valley southwest of Denver…
At a public meeting this month, no draft was available.
“Planning and public involvement does take a considerable amount of time,” Hall said. “It’s not going to be completed in the next two months, certainly.”
Current target date: 2021.
BLM officials at first refused but eventually agreed to hash out a master plan after controversial leases were issued to oil and gas companies to drill for oil and gas adjacent to reservoirs that hold drinking water for residents of metro Denver. The South Platte River — northeastern Colorado’s main waterway, essential for cities and agriculture — forms in South Park.
A broader BLM plan guiding land use across eastern Colorado, which will incorporate South Park oil and gas leasing, also is in the works. A current regional plan is more than 20 years old.
BLM Colorado director Ruth Welch said grassroots sentiments of South Park residents drove the planning in progress. “I know they are anxious,” Welch said…
Among those keen to implement protection are the three Park County commissioners, all Republicans, who have pressed for federal foresight to ensure appropriate development.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who oversees the BLM, has pushed better landscape-scale planning to guide smarter land use and balance competing interests.
“There are benefits to this type of planning and, as we saw from the major opposition to the thoughtless attempts to lease lands in this area, which set off a lot of the community concerns, those benefits include directing leasing and development to the right places,” Wilderness Society spokeswoman Anastasia Greene said.
Setting out rules in advance for where oil and gas wells could be drilled “just makes more sense,” Greene said.