Nestlé Waters North America 1041 permit renewal hearings on tap October 20, 22, 2020 — The Ark Valley Voice

Location map for Nestlé operations near Nathrop via The Denver Post.

From The Ark Valley Voice (Daniel Smith):

Editors note: This is the first of a three-part series examining the proposal to renew the county 1041 permit for Nestlé Waters North America.

For two days later this month, Oct. 20 and 22, Chaffee County Commissioners will hear from citizens and organizations in public hearings on the proposal to renew a 1041 permit granted to international conglomerate Nestlé Waters North America. If approved, the permit would allow Nestlé to continue to pump and truck local spring water it later sells as bottled water.

The original permit, granted by then-commissioners in 2009 was a controversial decision and the renewal has also generated opposition from activists who want the county to end the agreement.

Basically, the company pumps millions of gallons of water from the Ruby Mountain Spring in the north county annually, pipes it to a collection tank and pump station at Johnson Village, where it is loaded onto tankers, driven to a Denver bottling plant, and sold as Arrowhead Spring Water in plastic bottles.

The original (and current) agreement allows Nestlé to withdraw as much as 65 million gallons of water from the aquifer. However, company officials say Nestlé draws less than half that amount currently.

The original permit granted to Nestlé in 2009 was opposed by many residents, and an organized resistance to renewing the agreement has recently been mounted.

Larry Lawrence, Resource Manager for Nestlé Waters North America spoke with Ark Valley Voice recently about the agreement, what it provided both the company and community, and how the company has met the 1041 permit requirements, which some opponents of renewal dispute.

An engineer by profession, Lawrence has been with Nestlé Waters since 2003, and came to Colorado in 2019. He says he was already aware of the project through technical reviews with earlier resource managers prior to joining this assignment.

Lawrence said an earlier resource manager (Bruce Lauerman) was assigned to this area, and Lawrence took over in 2019. Looking for a water source closer to Denver, he said was a priority.

“The Arrowhead brand was marketed in New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho and a portion of Montana, all from California,” said Lawrence. “In reviews of not only our physical footprint but our carbon footprint and other aspects, where would we want to locate another factory? So Denver was chosen because of the reach we would have from this factory and to cover this market, which was a pretty good size bottled water market,” he added.

The factory was built in 2006, producing Nestlé Pure Life, a purified water from the municipal water system in Denver. Nestlé soon realized they wanted to produce the Arrowhead spring water brand. The prior Nestlé representative reviewed area springs and contacted various water agencies to see if they knew of any potential spring sources.

The Hagen Fish Hatchery on the Arkansas River, no longer in operation, was identified by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Nestlé reached out to the Hagen family and reached a letter of intent for purchase at that time.

Lawrence said that at that time, they did several different studies. These included hydrological, environmental, and biological, to determine the impact of water collection there, water level withdrawal potential, and to determine the sustainability and volume of the site.

“A-number one for us is we never want to be in a position to where we recommend to the company to purchase a spring source that is non-sustainable,” said Lawrence. “…that would be a huge mistake for us, and it’s not a good business decision at all.”

The sites were studied to confirm a reasonable withdrawal rate to allow for replenishment at a sustainable rate. Another site, Bighorn Spring was reviewed, and because it did not meet replenishment rates, was not developed with Nestlé opting in favor of Ruby Mountain Springs.

Prior to that, Lawrence said other resource managers had looked at many other sites but they were ruled out for various reasons. In some cases it was because the water rights had been sold, even though there was a viable spring. According to Lawrence, springs in the eastern and southern U.S. are quite different than those generally found in the west.

It is an understatement to say that water issues are complex, especially in the west. Once the local site was selected, Nestlé reviewed what local and state government rules were for the permitting process.

The 1041 process in Colorado and in Chaffee County at the time was fairly new, and Nestlé, said Lawrence, was one of the first companies to enter that process.

“The spring here at Ruby Mountain Springs is similar to other mountain springs we see in the west. One of the differences here is we do have the Arkansas River running adjacent to the spring source,” he said.

The Nestlé operation includes the pumping stations at the spring site and long lengths of piping underground connecting to the Johnson Village property. That facility includes a large 30,000-gallon storage tank and pumps. Here, the water is loaded to tanker trucks that weigh about 87,000 pounds when full, which make the trips to the Denver bottling facility.

According to the permit, about 25 truckloads are allowed to run on U.S. 285 daily.

Next, we’ll review some of the issues and local opposition to the Nestlé 1041 renewal.

GOCO awards $1.6 to conserve local ranches — The Mountain Mail

Uncompahgre Fritillary butterfly. By USFWS Mountain-Prairie – Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74757856

From Great Outdoors Colorado via The Mountain Mail:

The Great Outdoors Colorado board awarded a $1,625,000 grant this month to Central Colorado Conservancy in partnership with The Trust for Public Land and Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust to help conserve four ranches covering more than 2,400 acres in Chaffee County.

The project is part of the Heart of the Arkansas Initiative, aiming to protect water resources and diverse landscapes surrounding the Arkansas River.

The grant is part of GOCO’s Special Opportunity Open Space grant program, which funds high-value conservation projects that seek funding beyond the $1 million maximum request amount set in GOCO’s ongoing Open Space grant program.

Those projects help give outdoor recreationists places to play and enjoy scenic views, protect wildlife habitat, safeguard the state’s water supply and watersheds and sustain local agriculture.

“This GOCO grant will help match the conservancy’s easement awards received through Chaffee County’s new Common Ground Fund, which supports community-based conservation projects for local agriculture, healthy forests and managing recreation impacts,” Adam Beh, conservancy executive director, said.

“Our local communities value these ranchland conservation projects and have shown their support through generous donations to match our other fundraising efforts. We appreciate and respect the local landowners who have made the choice to help protect this beautiful valley.”

The three organizations will protect four ranches: Centerville Ranch, Arrowpoint Ranch, Pridemore Ranch and Tri Lazy W Ranch. The cattlemen’s trust will hold the conservation easement on Pridemore Ranch, while the conservancy will hold the conservation easements for the other three ranches.

This conservation work is also supported by funding from the Gates Family Foundation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The properties boast several miles of stream and riparian corridors along the Upper Arkansas River as well as significant water rights that support agricultural production while contributing to overall watershed health. They also support outdoor recreation experiences for visitors to Browns Canyon National Monument and nearby public lands along the Arkansas River.

In conjunction with surrounding private and public lands, the properties create a continuous corridor of open space that serves as a seasonal migration route for big game species.

The riparian areas and surrounding wetlands support several species listed as “greatest conservation need” by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and birds of “conservation concern” as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Data from the Fish and Wildlife Service also indicates the landscape is suitable for several federally threatened or endangered species, including North American wolverine, Mexican spotted owl and Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly.

The properties operate as working ranches and will continue to do so after conservation easements are in place. Tri Lazy W Ranch has won numerous awards for exceptional stewardship of the land, and Arrowpoint Ranch provides natural beef to several local restaurants.

Centerville Ranch and Pridemore Ranch both feature several hundred acres of irrigated land and produce thousands of tons of hay each year.

While unrestricted public access is not permitted on any of the properties, visitors can access and fish a section of the Arkansas River that flows through Pridemore Ranch via the adjacent Pridemore State Wildlife Area.

Centerville Ranch and Arrowpoint Ranch will feature limited opportunities for guided hikes, 4-H programs and volunteer work days.

To date, GOCO has invested more than $14.2 million in projects in Chaffee County and conserved more than 3,500 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported conservation of Steel Ranch, Buena Vista River Park, Ruby Mountain Campground and Salida River Trail, among other projects.

Great Outdoors Colorado invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces.

GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,300 projects in all 64 Colorado counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

Arkansas River headwaters. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Greg Felt appointed to #Colorado #Water #Conservation Board — The Ark Valley Voice @CWCB_DNR

From The Ark Valley Voice (Jan Wondra):

Greg Felt via his Facebook page February 2020.

Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt has been appointed by Governor Jared Polis to serve on the Colorado Water Conservation Board; a three year term of office effective February 12, 2020 to February 12, 2023. According to Felt, the appointment represents a shift from what has traditionally been a Front Range focus.

“The Front range gets more attention than we do. But what has been happening is a recognition and an understanding that these upper basins of our major river systems of the state are where the big, forested watersheds are,” said Felt earlier this week. “A lot of those are like ours – not in the best of health and at risk for wildfire. We need to focus more attention on those challenges, as we’ve done through the Envision process here.”

Felt’s viewpoint; that our water infrastructure is dependent upon a healthy forest. “The forest is our greatest reservoir [of water] of all and if we don’t give it some attention, all the dams, and pipelines and ditches aren’t going to be nearly as effective. Watershed health is becoming a big part of the picture.”

While he sees progress ahead, Felt says there are challenges. “How do we achieve those greater goods, without compromising the property? There are trade-offs – what are we willing to do to protect what we value? It will take some creative thinking – getting folks involved who aren’t purely part of the institutions of water management.”

Felt, who still faces Colorado Senate confirmation, says that the role he is taking on is only possible because of the great mentorship he has received over the past several years. “I think I been fortunate to have some great mentors in this field. People like Terry Skanga, Ken Baker and Jim Broderick down at Southeastern [Colorado Water Conservancy] – Alan Hamel of Pueblo board of Waterworks – without their help and guidance I don’t think I’d be at the point where I’m ready to try this. It takes a long time to learn this stuff, and it’s important that we keep passing on the knowledge.”

[…]

Three appointments were made to the CWCB. Felt is unaffiliated. Also reappointed to the CWCB were Celene Nicole Hawkins of Durango, Colorado, a resident of the San Miguel-Dolores-San Juan drainage basin and a Democrat, and Heather Renae Dutton, a Republican of Del Norte, Colorado, representing the Rio Grande drainage basin.

Chaffee County applies for new #Colorado state fire resiliency grant — Ark Valley Voice

From the Ark Valley Voice (Jan Wondra):

Chaffee County’s proactive steps to address our community’s wildfire challenges is getting noticed. Because of the work of Envision Chaffee County, combined with the resulting 1A Ballot question known as Chaffee Common Ground, Chaffee County has been asked to participate in a very large and brand new statewide grant program that, if awarded, would super-size the county’s efforts toward fire resilience, forest health action and watershed protection.

A pre-grant joint proposal of Chaffee and Lake counties was submitted and the counties were invited to formally submit their joint grant proposal to the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative (RMRI). The full proposal was completed Nov. 3. Only eight communities are competing for funding from the three focal areas for the grant: two are in Southwest Colorado, four in Central Colorado and two along the I-70 Corridor. One of the other communities is Durango, which experienced severe fire during the summer of 2018.

Now the county is moving to the next stage of the grant process, with a Nov. 13 presentation in Golden to about 40 representatives of the various agencies and entities involved in the grant award. The comprehensive grant review board includes a mix of agencies. Among them: representatives of the forest service, water resources, the energy and power grids, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The team from Chaffee County will include Commissioner Greg Felt, U.S. Forest Service District Manger Jim Pitts, and Cindy Williams representing the Central Colorado Conservancy. According to Williams, Chaffee is the only county showing up represented by a cohesive group including a County Commissioner, the forestry agency and the private non-profit sector.

Think of it as a sprint toward resiliency – with the state, as well as other Colorado communities and counties taking notice.

“This probably wouldn’t have happened if Chaffee County hadn’t passed the funding for forest health,” said Williams. “This is the first time we’ve been invited to do something like this. We understand that the likely thing is that three of the eight applications will be selected. We’re not sure how much money is available, we think somewhere between one and four million a year for the county. But as a 10 year plan we’re presenting for $40 million over ten years, not just for Chaffee, but we are working together with Lake County on this grant proposal. Together we’re the Arkansas River watershed.”

Paired historical and current photographs of the Cheesman Reservoir landscape (near Denver CO) illustrating the general increase in forest density and loss of openings that occurred from the late 1890’s to 2000. These types of paired photos can help us to give scientists a broad idea of how forests have changed over time (photos from 2000 by M. Kaufmann) via the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Chaffee County: Nestlé Waters 1041 permit renewal extended six months to allow for public comment

Location map for Nestlé operations near Nathrop via The Denver Post.

From The Ark Valley Voice (Jan Wondra):

In a decision reflecting the complicated process of renewing a Colorado 1041 Permit, the Board of Chaffee County Commissioners moved to direct staff to extend the Nestlé Water (NWNA) permit and set a hearing six months down the road, due to the need for proper public notification. The six month time frame was requested by Nestlé to prepare for the required public hearing.

The hearing to consider renewal of the permit under which Nestlé has operated since 2009 had been initially scheduled based on the county’s standard 15 day public hearing notice requirements. But the process of renewing a Colorado 1041 permit requires at least a 30 day notice of public hearing, which did not occur in this case. Nestlé is requesting a 10-year extension.

“The extension is the simplest for us and the county,”said Nestlé Western U.S. Director Larry Lawrence, who attended the Oct. 15 meeting. “ We have been in good standing for the past ten years. When we reviewed our 1041 permit we had a couple different methods we could do: modify it [the agreement], or extend for 10 years. The process as I understood it was simply, all we had to do was file a formal written request, which we did on Sept. 16. We’re happy to work on other modifications as allowed.”

[…]

In 2009, after a comprehensive two-year permitting process that included significant stakeholder input, Nestlé was given unanimous approval by the Board of Chaffee County Commissioners to operate and source water from the Ruby Mountain Springs site in Chaffee County. At that time, the county required two permits in order for NWNA to operate in Chaffee County:

  • a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) to develop a water supply in an area currently zoned as rural or commercial and,
  • a 1041 Permit to identify and mitigate any potential impacts from the proposed project.
  • The last-minute discovery that the scheduling of the Nestlé 1041 permit process was made in error, required formal action. While the BoCC initially discussed continuing the matter to its Nov. 19 regular meeting, “This does require notice to the public and public comment,” said Tom…

    A motion was made by Commissioner Keith Baker to extend the current Nestlé permit for six months, to the time of the public hearing regarding the 1041 permit, which should occur in April, 2020. Commissioner Rusty Granzella seconded and it passed unanimously.

    Chaffee County voters to decide on sales tax for watershed health in November #vote

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Mountain Mail (Merle Baranczyk):

    If voters approve the proposed 0.25 percent countywide sales tax at the November general election, a portion of funds would be used to treat forest lands.

    The U.S. Forest Service currently treats about 1,200 acres per year. With additional funding, that number would grow to 4,000 acres annually, nearly triple the number of acres that could see mitigation.

    The sales tax would generate about $1 million per year and would be used to:

    • Strengthen forest health;

    • Conserve and support working ranches, farms and rural landscapes; and

    • Manage impacts of growth in outdoor recreation.

    Cindy Williams, co-lead with County Commissioner Greg Felt of Envision Chaffee County, the entity that is the impetus behind the proposal, said the goal would be to treat 2 percent of forested public lands, about 4,000 acres, in the county each year.

    Responsibility for maintaining public lands in the county rests with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managment and state of Colorado. But, Felt said, the agencies do not have the budget or the staff to properly maintain lands under their jurisdiction.

    An example of how funding would be used is the current project on Monarch Pass. In concert with the U.S. Forest Service, a number of entities have joined forces in an effort to remove beetle-killed dead standing trees to improve forest health, reduce the danger of wildfires and protect water supplies.

    Williams said various entities, including the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, Monarch Mountain, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Pueblo and Colorado Springs water utilities, are supporting the project.

    Monarch Pass is the headwaters of the South Arkansas River, which is a source of water for the city of Salida and dozens of irrigators.

    Mitigation work, she said, would protect towns, water supplies, water infrastructure, the recreation economy, wildlife and wildlife habitat.

    Felt said Chaffee County has contributed $48,000 from the Conservation Trust Fund to the program.

    The idea behind this element of the sales tax, he said, “is to leverage interests of other water-related organizations” who have an interest in water quality and the resource.

    If the county puts $500,000 from the proposed conservation tax toward forest mitigation work, Felt said the goal would be to generate an additional $5 million from other sources.

    “The goal,” Felt said, “is not to spend a million dollars a year on conservation, but to leverage that into $5 million” to benefit the county.

    He said if there is local interest, the county will be able to do more by drawing money from other organizations and agencies…

    Williams said the net result of the tax would be to bring additional dollars through grants and participating partners into the county to be used to benefit county resources.

    Williams said representatives of agencies and foundations she has talked to about the county conservation project have said they typically do not see communities coming together like this, including governments, businesses and citizens.

    The Gates Family Foundation, she said, is monitoring the county as a possible development model with new tools for other Western states.

    Felt said Envision has “blown out of the water” representatives of foundations and government agencies who have become aware of the project and now want to play a part in the program as it evolves.</blockquote.

    FEMA open house draws large crowd in Buena Vista — The Chaffee County Times

    From The Chaffee County Times (Mason Miller):

    Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Chaffee County and the town of Buena Vista were in attendance April 27 for an open house meeting and presentation on the recently completed preliminary Flood Insurance Study and its accompanying Draft Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

    The maps includes base flood information and areas subject to significant flood hazards along Cottonwood Creek within Chaffee County and the town of Buena Vista.

    Before the presentation, representatives from FEMA and CWCB met with residents to go over impacts the FIRM and FIS will have on property owners.

    During the presentation, Thuy Patton with CWCB said the map updates had been ongoing for 7 years and said the primary focus of the updates was to digitize the maps and provide information on flood risks.

    She said the map updates were currently in the post-preliminary processing phase and said the town and county’s 90-day appeal period had begun March 10, noting it would be around another year before the FIRM and FIS became effective, following a 6-month compliance period after the 90-day appeal window. Town administrator Brandy Reitter said the compliance period was required for the Buena Vista board of trustees to pass and adopt an ordinance approving the FIRM.

    During the appeal period, Patton said residents will need scientific evidence proving FEMA’s original flood hazard determinations were technically or scientifically incorrect.

    “With our new studies and hydrology, we’ve been able to put that on a map so you can know what the (flood) risks are,” Patton said about the map updates and said the FIRM and FIS allows for current and future residents to assess flood risks on their property.

    During the question and answer portion of the meeting, residents expressed frustration over the amount of time left in the 90-day appeal period and the fact that town and county administration were not more proactive in informing residents sooner about the potential impacts the studies will have on their properties.

    “Our 90 days is halfway over and we’re just getting good information,” one resident said.

    While there were several questions submitted throughout the meeting, organizers did not ask residents to state their name or write their name on question cards, so question askers remained anonymous.

    “This is probably a lesson for us,” Diana Herrera with FEMA said. “We need to look at the timing of our community meetings and (consider) moving those up.”

    While going over information on flood insurance rates through the National Flood Insurance Program residents asked why property owners in the high risk flood areas would be paying the same rates as residents in places like New Orleans and Houston, some of which are below sea level. Herrera said it was a national rate and said the potential for flooding was the same.

    “This area is nothing like Houston, yet we’ll be paying the same rate?” one resident asked, noting places like Houston and New Orleans flood more frequently and more significantly than Buena Vista. Herrera said depending on the FIS and FIRM, residents may pay the same rates as those areas.

    In regards to if residents would be able to rebuild or build on a floodway or floodplain, Jamie Prochno with CWCB said residents would be able to rebuild on the same footprint as the previous structure if flooding was to happen, but said if residents want to expand or build within a floodplain or floodway, they would need to work with local government to obtain a permit.

    “There’s nothing that says you can’t build in a floodplain. However, you have to get a permit from your local government, meet all those standards, meet any local standards that could be higher than our state standards,” Prochno said. “Generally in a floodplain that’s going to be much simpler because you just have to build your structure high enough … if it’s in a floodway, it’s a little more difficult because that’s a hazardous area, you have to show that there’s no rise to the base flood elevation. Keep in mind, these aren’t just lines on a map, that water has to go somewhere.”

    Doering said in March that according to the maps, there are 276 residents inside of Buena Vista town limits affected by the floodways or floodplains. He said the majority of those residents are on the east side of the railroad, along Cottonwood Creek.

    Buena Vista
    Buena Vista

    The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation
    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

    Here’s part one of an in-depth look at the Southern Delivery System from John Hazlehurst writing for the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Contending that the denial [of Homestake II] had been arbitrary and capricious, the two cities [Aurora and Colorado Springs] appealed the decision to the courts. In a comprehensive description of the city’s water system and possible future sources of supply given to City Council in 1991, CSU managers said that “extensive litigation is expected to continue.”

    Denied by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court, the cities appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

    City officials were stunned. They couldn’t believe that a coalition of Western Slope “enviros” and ski towns had prevented them from developing water to which the city had an undisputed right. They had believed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1990 decision to scuttle Denver’s proposed Two Forks Dam near Deckers on the South Platte River was an outlier, not a sign of things to come…

    Slow to recognize that mountain communities now had the power to kill their water development plans, Utilities officials looked at another alternative. Instead of taking water directly from the wilderness area, the city proposed to build a dam on the mainstem of the Arkansas at Elephant Rock, a few miles upstream of Buena Vista.

    A grassroots rebellion against the project was soon evident, as hand-lettered signs appeared along U.S. Highway 24, which parallels the Arkansas. The signs carried a simple message: “Don’t Let Colorado Springs Dam this River!”

    It soon became clear that Chaffee County commissioners would not issue a construction permit for any such project, dooming it before the first planning documents were created…

    If trans-mountain diversions or dams on the Arkansas were no longer feasible, that left a single alternative for developing the city’s water rights. CSU would have to let its water flow down to Pueblo Reservoir, construct a diversion structure on the dam, and pump it uphill to Colorado Springs.

    It would be, water managers believed, the easiest project to build and permit.

    “It was just a pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom, who has worked 35 years for Utilities. “What could go wrong?”[…]

    “We didn’t really understand the importance of partnering with and involving the public in decision-making,” said [Gary Bostrom], “until the Southern Water Project.”[…]

    The plan for the Southern Delivery System was presented to City Council in 1992. Among the material submitted to councilmembers was a comprehensive description of the city’s existing water system. Water managers made sure Council was aware of the importance of the task before them.

    “The massive scope of this project,” CSU staff noted, “requires a very long lead time to allow for complexities of numerous permitting processes, land acquisition, litigation, design, financing and construction.”

    Of all the variables, CSU managers and elected officials gave the least weight to those that may have been the most significant…

    “We weren’t worried about hydrology,” said Bostrom. “The years between 1980 and 2000 were some of the wettest years on record. The water was there for the taking. Shortages on the Colorado weren’t part of the discussion.

    “We knew about the Colorado River Water Compact of 1922 (which allocated Colorado River water between Mexico and the upper and lower basin states), but it wasn’t something we worried about.”

    Then as now, 70 percent of the city’s water supply came from the Colorado River. SDS would tap the city’s rights on the Arkansas, diversifying the portfolio.

    “We have to plan for growth,” said Bostrom. “That’s what history tells us. We know that it will be expensive, but the cost of not building a system well in advance of need would be much greater. People complained about the cost of the Blue River (trans-mountain diversion) project in the 1950s, but we wouldn’t have a city without it — we wouldn’t have the Air Force Academy.”

    But even as the project moved slowly forward, the comfortable assumptions of a wet, prosperous future began to unravel.

    “Exactly 15 years ago today (April 29, 1999),” said Bostrom, “we were in the middle of a flood — remember? We didn’t know it, but that was the day the drought began.”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

    Colorado River Outfitters Association: Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River = $55 million

    raftingarkriver

    From The Mountain Mail (Nick Jumey):

    Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River brought an economic impact of more than $55 million from 179,535 user days in 2013, according to an end-of-year report by Colorado River Outfitters Association.

    The association defines a “user day” as “a paying guest on a river for any part of a day.”

    To calculate economic impact, the association multiplies user days by “direct expenditures” and the “economic multiplier.”

    Direct expenditures are the total cash outlay for rafting, food, lodging, etc., spent in the local area by one river rafting customer in one day. The economic multiplier is the number of times a dollar is spent in the local area before being spent outside that area – 2.56 times, according to the Colorado Tourism Board.

    Overall, the report showed rivers in Colorado had an economic impact of more than $145 million in 2013, an increase of 13.5 percent from 2012’s $127 million. In addition, rafters spent nearly 50,000 more user days on Colorado rivers in 2013, including an increase of 10,000 user days on the Arkansas River alone.

    The Arkansas River accounted for 38.89 percent of the market share of river rafting impact in 2013, the largest share by a wide margin. The next closest rivers in terms of market shares were the Colorado River (23 percent combined) and Clear Creek River (13.2 percent), according to the report.

    Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) recently cited the association report as a reason to cosponsor S. 1794, also known as the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013.

    In a press release, Bennet cited the report’s findings, including the $55 million economic impact, and noted that the Arkansas River is particularly popular for whitewater rafters.

    The bill, introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), aims to protect the Browns Canyon region as “an invaluable economic and natural resource for Chaffee County and the state” and would preserve 22,000 acres along the Arkansas River as a national monument.

    “The rugged and unique beauty of Browns Canyon attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world who come to hike, camp, climb and raft,” Bennet said in a press release. “This generates millions of dollars of revenue for our local economies.
    “Designating Browns Canyon as a national monument will not only allow future generations to enjoy the whitewater rapids in the heart of the Rockies, but it will also ensure that the area remains an economic driver and job creator for the region.”
    Keith Baker, Buena Vista, executive director of Friends of Browns Canyon and a retired Navy commander, said he was pleased to hear Bennet’s decision to cosponsor the bill.

    “We’re pleased and honored to have Sen. Bennet on board with this important legislation, which not only protects one of Colorado’s world-class recreational destinations, but was built from the ground up by local people who do business, recreate and make their homes in this part of the state,” Baker said.

    More whitewater coverage here.

    Restoration: Pueblo West is working with Chaffee County to revegetate the Hill Ranch buy and dry property

    Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine -- Mike Rosso
    Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine — Mike Rosso

    From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

    After receiving information from soil tests, Pueblo West officials will meet with Chaffee County officials to develop the next steps for revegetation and weed control efforts at the Hill Ranch, next to U.S. 285 north of Centerville. Alan Leak, a consultant for Pueblo West from RESPEC Water & Natural Resources, met with Chaffee County commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday.

    Pueblo West had soil samples from the Hill Ranch sent off for analysis, Leak said. The analysis showed that seed mixes used by Pueblo West more than a year ago “were not suitable” to soil acidic levels at the Hill Ranch. He said he does not have the complete analysis yet.

    Larry Walker, Chaffee County Weed Department supervisor, said he would like to see the complete results once Leak has them.

    From the soil analysis, Leak said they will get recommendations on what seeds to use on the property. Once he gets that information and the full report, which should happen by the end of the year, he will meet with people in Chaffee County and develop a plan for next year.

    Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese said he would like to have Leak meet with the commissioners at their February work session to discuss the plan.

    For next year, instead of just trying two test sites with the same idea, Pueblo West might try “a bunch of different things” and see what works. That way if one idea does not work, they do not waste the whole year, he said.

    Pueblo West purchased the Hill Ranch water rights, and part of the purchase conditions require the municipality to revegetate the land with local grass before it can use the water right, county officials said previously.

    Leak said he last met with the county commissioners during the summer, when they discussed Pueblo West’s summer and fall plan for the Hill Ranch. At the time he told commissioners about a proposed plan for weed control and two sites for test crops. He explained a process consisting of tilling two test sites, planting a sterile sorghum and mowing the property to keep weeds down. Each of the two approximately 50-acre test sites was tilled to mix peat in with the soil and planted with a sterile sorghum. Sorghum was planted to help reduce the acidity and build root mass in the soil. The efforts resulted in “a fair sorghum crop” at the test sites, Leak said. They also found that “in most parts the peat is not as deep as we thought,” he said. The test sites had irrigation water run onto them, about 1,500 acre-feet, Leak said. So far Pueblo West “has expended $115,000” this year on its Hill Ranch efforts, he said.

    Walker said, considering the work he has done to help with the Hill Ranch revegetation and weed control efforts, he wonders if the county should perhaps get compensated as a consultant.

    “Weed control was somewhat successful,” Leak said. The Hill Ranch was mowed three times, and the area had some selective grazing.

    “The guy mowing did a great job – a month too late,” Frank McMurry, a rancher who lives near the Hill Ranch, said at the meeting. “We have a monumental weed problem, due to the timing.” When it comes to mowing to keep weeds down, timing matters, he said.

    “We probably got up here a little late a few times,” Leak said. However, Pueblo West did make an effort to get Hill Ranch mowed. Next year, they want to get to the mowing earlier, he said.

    Because the weather can change and affect the growth of weeds without much warning, McMurry said he thinks Pueblo West should hire someone local to monitor and manage the Hill Ranch site, not someone from Walsenburg. A local person could stay apprised of the conditions and know what they mean for growth on the site, Commissioner Dave Potts said.

    Here’s some background from Ron Sering writing for Colorado Central Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

    Rights to irrigate the area known today as Hill Ranch predate Chaffee County by more than a decade. Decreed in 1868, the rights permitted diversion of water for agriculture and ranching. And so it remained for more than a century, even after sale of the rights by the Hill family to Western Water Rights Limited Liability Partnership in 1986.

    That all changed with the subsequent sale of the rights to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District (PWMD) in 2008. The PWMD, home to nearly 30,000 thirsty people, needed the rights to fuel a growth rate that remains among the fastest in the state. The rights are significant, totaling nearly 1,900 acre feet of water. An acre foot totals nearly 326,000 gallons. Under the decree, the rights would convert from agricultural to municipal. Included in the terms was the cessation of irrigation activities. The land would be dried up and restored to its pre-irrigation state.

    The irrigation made growth possible for more water-loving vegetation, including aspen and cottonwood trees, and Russian thistle, a non-native species also known as tumbleweed. Under the rights transfer, the intrusive weeds must be removed and native grasses restored.

    PWMD contracted with Denver-based WRC Engineering to perform the dry-up. The plan was to cease irrigation to dry up the land, defoliate the intrusive species and minimize windblown weeds and dust, followed by the introduction of a prescribed seed mixture from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

    Chaffee County green-lights geothermal 1041 regulations

    Geothermal Electrical Generation concept -- via the British Geological Survey
    Geothermal Electrical Generation concept — via the British Geological Survey

    From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

    Chaffee County commissioners passed a resolution approving the county’s new geothermal 1041 regulations and lifting the moratorium on geothermal development in the county during their meeting Tuesday. The county commissioners heard and incorporated comments from Chaffee County attorney Jenny Davis on the proposed geothermal 1041 regulations. Her recommendations changed some of the recommendations made to county commissioners by the Chaffee County Planning Commission.

    In July the planning commissioners asked the county commissioners to postpone any decision on their draft 1041 regulations for “Use of Geothermal Resources for the Commercial Production of Electricity.”

    At the county commissioners’ Sept. 3 hearing on the proposed 1041 regulations, commissioners instructed staff members to incorporate most of the Chaffee County Planning Commission recommendations.

    The Planning Commission had recommended that the 1041 regulations not govern surface uses related to geothermal development, leaving surface uses to be addressed through a county land-use change permit. Davis recommend the 1041 regulations include surface uses and not require the applicants to go through both the 1041 and the land-use change processes. Having an applicant go through both “would be a redundant process,” Davis said. Having the 1041 process address the above-ground uses would allow for more flexibility in a process tailored for geothermal projects.

    Davis also recommended the commissioners keep existing language regarding use of geothermal resources in the environmental impact analysis section of the application process and not limit those uses to “legal uses.” With a domestic well, the owner has no legal right to the water’s heat, only the water itself, Fred Henderson, chief scientific officer for Mt. Princeton Geothermal, said previously. People using heat from geothermal water without a legal right to the heat can change their well permits to define and allow use of the heat, he said. Some businesses, such as bed and breakfasts or vacation rentals, may have used the heat from their wells for years, not realizing they need to change their permit to authorize that use, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said previously.

    Leaving the language open to all uses allows the commissioners to hear comment from all users, Davis said.
    Henderson spoke in favor of keeping the change that requires a notification for exploratory drilling to a depth of less 2,500 feet, and the commissioners concurred.

    Jeanne Younghaus with Chaffee County League of Women Voters, said the league has concerns about companies drilling and leaving without cleaning up their exploration.

    More information about the county’s geothermal 1041 process is at http://chaffeecounty.org/Geothermal-1041.

    In other business, Chaffee County commissioners instructed staff to draft a resolution that would amend Nestlé Waters North America Inc.’s 1041 and special land use permits to allow them to switch their augmentation agreement from the city of Aurora to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.

    More geothermal coverage here and here.

    Chaffee County commissioners continue 1041 hearings for geothermal regulations

    geothermaltempswesternususgs.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

    Chaffee County commissioners instructed staff Tuesday to incorporate most of the Chaffee County Planning Commission’s recommendations for the county’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations. During their Tuesday regular meeting, county commissioners also voted to continue hearings on the 1041 regulations for “Use of Geothermal Resources for the Commercial Production of Electricity.”

    Commissioners continued the hearing so staff could gather more information about existing use of geothermal resources and to allow time for the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County to review the recommendations.

    The commissioners did not make a decision on a recommendation to add the words “legal uses” before “geothermal resources” in the environmental impact analysis section of the application process.

    With a domestic well, the owner has no legal right to the water’s heat – only the water itself, Fred Henderson, chief scientific officer for Mt. Princeton Geothermal, said. People using the hot water illegally can change their permits to define and allow use of the heat, he said.

    Some businesses, such as bed and breakfasts or vacation rentals, may have used the hot water from their wells for years not knowing they need to change their permit to authorize their use, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said.

    The original language of the draft 1041 regulations did not specify “legal” geothermal resources because its vagueness could offer more protection to county residents who use a geothermal resource, Jenny Davis, county attorney, said.

    In some cases people may have used the resource before a process to define and authorize the use existed, she said. If people who rely on the hot water can change their well permits and make their use legal “without breaking their backs,” Chaffee County Commissioner Frank Holman said he would “like to place some onus” on the users to do so.

    He asked staff to get more information, such as what is involved in the process, how much it costs and how long it takes.

    Of the Planning Commission’s more than 20 recommended changes, most consisted of small changes such as correcting errors and clarifying language, Reimer said.

    The substantial change recommendations the commissioners instructed staff to add to the draft include:

    • Making all surface use go through a county land-use change permit, instead of addressing the uses in the 1041 process.
    • Making exploration going less than 2,500 feet deep require only a notice to the county and no decision.
    • Allowing for the appeal of decisions made by the director on activity notices to the board of commissioners.

    County commissioners told staff not to incorporate a recommendation allowing for a discharging system. County commissioners started public hearings on the geothermal 1041 regulations in May. During a July 30 public hearing on the proposed new land-use code, planning commissioners decided to ask county commissioners to hold any decisions on the 1041 regulations until the Planning Commission could review and comment on them. The county commissioners agreed Aug. 6 to hold any decision on the regulations and continued their public hearing. The county commissioners will hold their next hearing on the draft regulations Oct. 1. “We’re really close,” Commissioner Dave Potts said.

    More geothermal coverage here and here.

    Chaffee County continues hearing 1041 regulations for geothermal exploration and production efforts

    mountprincetonfrommtprincetonorg.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

    Area residents expressed concerns during a public hearing Tuesday about the amount of regulation Chaffee County’s proposed geothermal 1041 regulations would impose.

    The draft 1041 regulations would create a special permit-driven process that gives the county some power to regulate use of geothermal resources for commercial production of electricity, Dennis Giese, Chaffee County commissioner, said. Some residents feared that too little regulation in parts of the draft would leave the county open to adverse situations. The county should protect itself, Melanie Roth, Buena Vista, said.

    One section of the draft regulations requires the applicant to submit “documentation of the applicant’s financial and technical capability to develop and operate the proposed project, including a description of the applicant’s experience developing and operating similar projects.”

    The commissioners discussed removing or changing the language. “Why is that our business?” Giese asked.

    The consultant the county hired to draft the regulations, Barbra Green, partner at Sullivan Green Seavy LLC, said a company may come in and start geothermal electricity production that it cannot finish. If the business then just leaves the county or goes bankrupt, the county could end up having to clean up the project and restore the land.

    “I would rather have a pool (of money) or bond to reclaim the land,” Commissioner Frank Holman said.

    Whether the county addresses the issue by requiring the applicant to prove feasibility or with a bond, the commissioners should work up front to protect the county, Roth said.

    Commissioners also discussed how the draft language could regulate geothermal exploration drilling. At a May 7 work session commissioners gave direction to explore language that would require, subject to some regulations, an activity notice from the county for exploration drilling, Green said. The state engineer’s office applies regulations to the drilling of exploration holes.
    Cheryl Brown-Kovacic, representing the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County, said the county should have regulations for all phases of geothermal development, including exploration.

    “I have some concerns with no permitting required for exploration,” Syd Schieren, Salida, said.

    The regulations should have clear language defining and separating exploration and exploration drilling from production drilling, Green said.

    However, during the public comment period, some speakers expressed concerns that the draft overregulated.

    “After having read (the) draft regulations, we don’t need them,” John “Hank” Held, principal of Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC, said. The regulations proposed in the draft duplicate state and federal regulations and “are overly restrictive,” he said.
    Held said he thinks he has already missed the drilling season for this year, so the commissioners should take their time to make sure they get the regulations right.

    The commissioners made a motion to hold the next public hearing on the draft geothermal 1041 regulations during their July 2 meeting. Commissioner Dave Potts said he would like to have the Chaffee County Planning Commission review the draft before the next hearing. Green said she should have the next version of the draft finished by June 21.

    More geothermal coverage here and here.

    Chaffee County is still hammering away at 1041 regulations for geothermal exploration and production

    geothermalenergy.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

    When developing Chaffee County’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations, the consultant aimed to support geothermal development while protecting property rights, as the county requested, officials said at a special work session Tuesday. The 1041 regulations, when passed by the commissioners, will govern the use of geothermal resources for commercial production of electricity.

    The consultant who drafted the regulations, Barbra Green, partner at Sullivan Green Seavy LLC, said the draft contains flexible language that will give the county tools to handle all applications, from simple to controversial. “No one else in the state has geothermal regulations yet,” Green said. The process “is not easy and never perfect,” but she said she wants to talk through the draft with the county, hear feedback and get the regulations as close to the goals of the county as possible.

    The county’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations create a “permit-driven” process, Mary Keyes, Sullivan Green Seavy LLC paralegal, said. Unless staff makes a “finding of no impact,” any use of geothermal for commercial electricity will require a 1041 permit, she said.

    Chaffee County Commissioner Dave Potts asked when a project would get a finding of no impact. Green said she did not know how a geothermal project could actually get a finding of no impact. To do so, the project would have to cause no change on the site or surrounding properties in a number of areas. She said the draft has the no-impact language because in the future new technology or processes could possibly have no impact.

    The draft regulations include a mandatory pre-application meeting, Green said. Such meetings help all parties involved, by getting everyone on the same page, clarifying and answering questions about the application process. The meeting lets applicants determine their responsibilities and how to ensure their applications have everything they need up front instead of dealing with it later, she said.

    Once staff declares the application complete, the information goes to all reviewing agencies or consultants determined necessary, Keyes said. Then staff will compile all findings from the review agencies and consultants into a staff report prior to the public hearing for the application, she said.

    After the walkthrough of the process, the commissioners, consultant, county staff and others attending the meeting addressed areas of the draft they thought had issues or conflicts, and discussed possible solutions.

    The county will have to decide if it wants the drilling of exploration holes to fall into the definition of geothermal 1041 regulations, and therefore require a 1041 application, Green said. Hank Held and Fred Henderson, both of Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC, spoke during public comments, saying the county should consider less regulation, not only on the drilling of exploration holes, but also on the entire geothermal 1041 regulations. Held said the county’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations duplicate both state and federal regulations. In cases such as drilling exploration holes, a company already must go through a regulatory process at the state level that could cover the need for regulation, he said.

    Green said in some cases the county has different standards than the federal or state regulations, so it may appear the county has redundant regulations.

    Paul Morgan, with the Colorado Geological Survey, warned commissioners that the west side of the Upper Arkansas River Valley has a large fault line running along it. He said, “I don’t think (county geothermal 1041 regulations) should have an option of a (finding of no impact). If an earthquake happens near geothermal development, “someone will sue the county,” he said.

    The county will hold a public hearing to start the process of approving the draft geothermal 1041 regulations during the May 21 regular commissioners meeting in Buena Vista, Jenny Davis, Chaffee County attorney, said. While the public hearing will start the process, the commissioners do not have to make a decision then, she said. Green will take comments and recommendations from the commissioners after the public hearing to work any requested changes into the draft document, she said.

    To develop geothermal 1041 regulations, Chaffee County partnered with Archuleta and Ouray counties and Pagosa Springs to hire the consultant for the process, Davis said previously. After the partners received a grant, Chaffee County’s portion of the contract for the consultant comes to $2,937.50, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said previously.

    The county will have the most current version of its geothermal 1041 draft regulations on its website, chaffeecounty.org

    From The Mountail Mail (Joe Stone):

    The 800-acre Mount Princeton geothermal lease was recently terminated for nonpayment of rent. The lease owner, 3E Geothermal LLC in Colorado Springs, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Young Life, which also owns the Frontier Ranch youth camp on the flanks of Mount Princeton. The Bureau of Land Management Colorado leased the parcel to 3E Geothermal during its November 2010 oil, gas and geothermal lease sale. The lease was issued Jan. 1, 2011. As reported at that time by The Mountain Mail, Young Life officials made clear their intention to use the lease to protect the camping experience at Frontier Ranch by preventing development that would affect the natural beauty of the area.

    Denise Adamic, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office in Cañon City, said, “Rent needs to be received every year by the Office of Natural Resources Revenue by the anniversary date … the date the lease went into effect.”
    Adamic said, when the rental amount of $2,400 was not received by Jan. 1, officials with the Office of Natural Resources Revenue issued a notice to 3E Geothermal giving the company 15 days to pay. When the company did not respond to that notice, Adamic said officials issued a second notice giving the company 45 days from the anniversary date to pay the rental amount plus a 10-percent late fee. When 3E Geothermal failed to pay within the 45-day period, Adamic said, the lease was terminated.

    Adamic said the company then had 30 days from the time they received the termination letter to appeal the termination to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. Terry Swanson, Young Life vice president of communications, said failure to pay the lease was “an administrative oversight” by Young Life that is “being corrected.”

    Adamic said, if 3E Geothermal loses the appeal, the company would have to place the winning bid at another lease sale in order to retain the lease. BLM officials are “reviewing what, if anything, we will do with the area in question. We may or may not offer it for lease again,” Adamic said. She added that BLM officials are investigating whether or not a new lease-sale nomination would be required to offer the parcel for lease again.

    Adamic said the BLM had not received a plan of development for the lease and that 3E Geothermal had not begun any ground-disturbing work on developing the lease.

    This geothermal lease was the first sold in Colorado since the 1980s.

    More geothermal coverage here and here.