EPA rejects $20.4 million in requests for mine spill costs — @AP

The Animas flows orange through Durango on Aug. 7, 2015, two days after the Gold King Mine spill. (Photo by Esm Cadiente www.terraprojectdiaries.com)
The Animas flows orange through Durango on Aug. 7, 2015, two days after the Gold King Mine spill. (Photo by Esm Cadiente http://www.terraprojectdiaries.com)

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it will pay $4.5 million to state, local and tribal governments for their emergency response to a mine spill that the EPA triggered, but the agency turned down $20.4 million in other requests for past and future expenses.

The EPA provided the figures to The Associated Press a day after informing two Indian tribes and more than a dozen state and local agencies in Colorado and New Mexico…

The EPA said in a statement Friday it is following federal law that dictates what it can pay…

The EPA said the Navajo Nation had requested $1.4 million and would be reimbursed $603,000. The difference in the EPA and Navajo figures couldn’t immediately be reconciled.

Navajo Nation officials had no immediate comment Friday on the EPA’s reimbursement decisions.

Among the Navajos’ costs that EPA rejected was more than $250,000 to haul drinking water to replace supplies taken from the San Juan. The EPA did agree to pay more than $90,000 to transport water to two areas until early September 2015 but said the river quality had returned to pre-spill levels by then.

The EPA turned down requests from several local and tribal governments to be repaid for such spill-related expenses as attorney fees, future water quality monitoring and travel to testify before Congress.

The EPA agreed to pay New Mexico $1.1 million but rejected $236,000 in requests. The reimbursements are for the San Juan County cities of Aztec and Farmington, and 11 state agencies.

State Environment Secretary Butch Tongate said he was pleased the EPA was repaying the costs and said the state will pursue reimbursement for long-term monitoring as well.

The EPA’s reimbursement decisions can be appealed. None of the governments reached Friday had decided whether to do so.

La Plata County, Colorado, may decide next week, County Manager Joe Kerby said.

“We are extremely disappointed in their response,” Kerby said. “Disappointed but not surprised.”

EPA rejected some of the county’s costs because they came after Oct. 31, 2015, the day the EPA closed down its incident command center. But Kerby said the county kept accumulating response costs after that.

Kerby said the EPA has repaid the county about $377,000, and he believes the agency owes it another $29,000 in expenses.

Poem: Nicole — Greg Hobbs

CFWE's executive director, Nicole Seltzer

Nicole

Your favorite place?

Any place along, beside, within, upon the waters
with others you have helped get there!

You joined us nine full years ago when
our boat seemed as if to splinter on the rocks.

Your righted us! Woman at the oars
and a legacy of leadership to carry on!

Your smile, when you let it go when your
eyes dance, goes the killer mile.

And so, in all, we’ve watched you coax, cajole,
implore, extend the most worthy of all Colorado

Conversations. How to become in grace and
beauty a person whose water heart belongs

Among us.

Greg Hobbs

Nicole Seltzer is leaving the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and moving to the Yampa valley. Here’s her announcement from the October edition of Headwaters Pulse:

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.

Good luck from Coyote Gulch Nicole!

The Yampa River flows through the Carpenter Ranch. Photo courtesy of John Fielder from his new book, “Colorado’s Yampa River: Free Flowing & Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green.”
The Yampa River flows through the Carpenter Ranch. Photo courtesy of John Fielder from his new book, “Colorado’s Yampa River: Free Flowing & Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green.”

#ENSO: The latest discussion is hot off the presses from the Climate Prediction Center

midnovember2016plumeofensopredictions

Click here to read the discussion. Here’s the synopsis:

ENSO Alert System Status: La Niña Advisory

Synopsis: La Niña conditions are present, with a transition to ENSO-neutral favored during January-March 2017.

La Niña conditions persisted during November, with negative sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies present across most of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. The Niño indices remained negative during November, except for the Niño1+2 index which reflected near-average SSTs in the extreme eastern Pacific late in the month. Also, the upper-ocean heat content remained below average in association with cooler temperatures at depth, although this cooling lessened somewhat during the month. Atmospheric convection remained suppressed over the central tropical Pacific and enhanced over part of Indonesia. The low-level easterly winds remained enhanced in the west-central tropical Pacific, and upper-level westerly winds persisted across the tropical Pacific. However, these signals were masked at times by intra-seasonal activity. Overall, the ocean and atmosphere system during November reflected a continuation of weak La Niña conditions.

The multi-model averages favor La Niña (3-month average Niño-3.4 index ≤ -0.5°C) to continue through December – February (DJF) 2016-17. Given the current conditions and the model forecasts, the forecaster consensus also favors the continuation of weak La Niña conditions through DJF 2016-17.

In summary,LaNiñaconditionsarepresent,withatransitiontoENSO-neutralfavoredduring January – March 2017 (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3- month period).

La Niña is anticipated to affect temperature and precipitation across the United States during the upcoming months (NOAA’s 3-month seasonal outlook will be updated on Thursday December 15th). The current seasonal outlook for DJF 2016-17 favors above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation across much of the southern tier of the U.S., and below-average temperatures and above- median precipitation in portions of the northern tier of the U.S.

The latest briefing from Western Water Assessment is hot off the presses

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal November 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.
Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal November 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.

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

Latest Monthly Briefing – December 8, 2016

  • November was drier than normal for most of the region, with wetter spots in central and southern Wyoming, southern Utah, and eastern ColoradoWestern US Seasonal Precipitation. Statewide, Wyoming was in the 32nd percentile for precipitation, Colorado was in the 39th percentile, while Utah was in the 52nd percentile.
  • November continued what has been an extremely warm fall seasonWestern US Seasonal Precipitation, with most of the region coming in at 4-8°F above normal for the month. Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming each had their 3rd-warmest November on record.
  • Since early November, there has been some additional degradation of drought conditions in eastern Colorado and southern and eastern Wyoming US Drought Monitor. Colorado has D1 or D2 conditions over 38% of the state, compared to 15% in Utah and 14% in Wyoming.
  • The pattern change in mid-November finally opened the door to more storms and a big boost in snowpack conditions. As of December 8, most basins across the region have 55-80% of median SWE Western US Seasonal Precipitation. Central and southern Utah and northeastern Wyoming have near- or above-normal SWE.
  • Weak La Niña conditions are just hanging on in the tropical Pacific ENSO Nino Regions Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies. The ENSO forecast models are now tipped towards a return to ENSO-neutral conditions by late winter ENSO Prediction Plume. NOAA CPC seasonal forecasts show a wet tilt in the odds for Wyoming over the next three months 1-month precip forecast, 0.5-mo lead 3-mo precip forecast, 0.5-mo lead.
  • #California #Drought is a U.S. Problem — AGPRO #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    West Drought Monitor December 6, 2016.
    West Drought Monitor December 6, 2016.

    From AGProfessional.com (Rhonda Brooks):

    Dreams were made and lost in the 1840s by prospectors looking to make it big in the California Gold Rush. Today, people there prospect for a liquid gold that’s even more valuable. It’s water, and the lack of it is slowly strangling agriculture in the state.

    The U.S. Drought Monitor shows the state has suffered from drought conditions for five years. But that’s only part of the story, says Steve Runyan, a farm and rural real estate appraiser based in Bakersfield. The other parts of the story have to do with water use and distribution problems.

    Runyan addressed California’s water woes during the annual meeting of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA), earlier this month, in Indian Wells, Calif. He says a big issue is there’s water in the northern half of the state, while a large portion of production agriculture is in the southern half.

    He explains the snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountain range each spring flows into rivers, streams and reservoirs. A good portion of the runoff also winds up in the Pacific Ocean. Many farmers would like to see more of the water captured and used for crop production. But an aging infrastructure, long-held water rights and political red tape (not to mention push-back from environmentalists with their own agendas) are preventing that.

    For now, many farmers in the Golden State are staying in business by pumping groundwater to keep their fruit, nut and vegetable crops alive. But that can’t continue forever. Without intervention from government agencies, the long-term future for farming looks bleak in California–currently the No. 1 agricultural state in the U.S. and the fifth-largest agricultural producer in the world.

    As goes California. If what’s happening in California doesn’t worry you, it should, says Matt Marschall, senior vice president for CBRE, Inc., a real estate firm in San Diego. He says the state’s water issues are germane to the rest of the country.

    Other individuals and organizations hold similar views. In April 2015 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that “40 out of 50 states have at least one region that’s expected to face some kind of water shortage in the next 10 years.”

    Specific to California, Marschall says the cost of production in parts of the state have become so high that he anticipates some vegetable and fruit crops grown there will soon be produced in the Midwest.

    That’s already happening in Michigan, according to Mark Williams, ARA, and president of the real-estate firm Value Midwest, Marlette, Mich. Williams says some of his farmer clients say the soil quality, water supplies and lower costs—relative to California—make Michigan an ideal state to pick up additional acres of fruits and vegetables.

    “We have several areas with muck soils that are a great fit for cucumbers, tomatoes and celery,” he says, for example.

    At first blush, some producers and retailers in the Midwest might expect to simply profit from California’s misfortunes. But Williams’ perspective is that the regulations California is experiencing—not to mention its water woes–are likely to reach the rest of the U.S. as well.

    #Snowpack news: Snowing N and Central today, good snowfall expected this weekend

    Statewide snowpack map December 9, 2016 via the NRCS.
    Statewide snowpack map December 9, 2016 via the NRCS.
    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map December 9, 2016 via the NRCS.
    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map December 9, 2016 via the NRCS.

    #AnimasRiver: House OKs bill that would speed claims from #GoldKingMine spill — The Durango Herald

    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 Durango Herald (Alejandro Alvarez):

    The U.S. House of Representatives approved a provision Thursday aimed at speeding up the process for damage claims from last year’s Gold King Mine spill into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.

    The provision would require the Environmental Protection Agency to submit all claims from states, local governments and tribes within 180 days of the bill being enacted. Part of a broader legislative package addressing improvements to the nation’s water infrastructure, it also would authorize federal funding for a water quality monitoring program for bodies of water contaminated by the August 2015 mine spill. The plume of toxic sludge traveled from the mine down the Animas and into the San Juan River, affecting communities in four states.

    The goal of the provision is to establish a quicker procedure for reimbursing claimants on damages resulting from government negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The EPA has admitted responsibility for the accident and has already granted more than a quarter million dollars to state and local officials to cover cleanup costs…

    The water infrastructure act, which also includes emergency funding for the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and drought relief, moves to the Senate for a vote expected before the end of the year.