WISE water arrives in Castle Rock; join the celebration June 8 — @crgov

WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority

Here’s the release from the Town of Castle Rock:

For years, Castle Rock Water has made providing long term, renewable water a priority. Now, a major milestone has been reached and the first drops of WISE water are headed to Town. Join the celebration to help commemorate this accomplishment and take a look at what’s coming up next for water in Castle Rock.

The fun-filled family celebration will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 8. Bring the kids, sunscreen and a great attitude to Gemstone Park, 6148 Sapphire Pointe Blvd., to join the festivities and celebrate the WISE water partnership.

After stakeholders officially cut the ribbon, the community is invited for a festival full of games, food trucks, bump soccer, bounce houses, a foam party, giant bubbles, water colors and more. Plus, get a chance to meet the Most Hydrated Man in Castle Rock.

Learn more about the celebration at http://CRgov.com/WISEWater.

The celebration will help mark more than 9 years of planning and $50 million in infrastructure to help ensure the community’s strong water future. When the WISE partnership was created, many communities in Colorado were faced with a drought. With limited, non-renewable resources, communities knew they needed to come up with a plan. Regional water providers saw the opportunity to partner in a solution and share in the expense to buy, transport and treat renewable water.

The WISE partnership is an arrangement between Denver Water, Aurora Water and 10 other south metro water providers to import renewable water. Castle Rock is the southernmost community partner.

Castle Rock Water finished the last piece of infrastructure – connecting a pipeline from Outter Marker Road to Ray Waterman Treatment Plant – in late 2017. The first drops of imported WISE water came to Town in late April.

Follow the entire journey for WISE water with the Most Hydrated Man at http://CRgov.com/WISEWater.

Native Waters at Risk: Learning to Listen

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 Stanford University: Water in the West (Sibyl Diver):

In 2015, 3 million gallons of drainage water came rushing out of the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, spewing 190 tons of heavy metals and other contaminants into a tributary of the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which had been doing some excavation of the passage leading into the mine during an investigation at the site, had triggered pressurized water stored behind a plug at the mine portal. The damage was significant, taking a heavy toll on one community in particular: the Navajo Nation.

“When the spill occurred, it was economically devastating to the region, which is the bread basket of the Navajo Nation,” said Karletta Chief, Assistant Professor of Soil, Water, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona. “It also had a traumatic impact on people. They view the river as the male deity of the Navajo homeland. Seeing it turn yellow really devastated the people.”

Indigenous Knowledge and Water Science

Chief, a hydrologist and a member of the Navajo Nation herself, has spent her career integrating rigorous scientific study with Indigenous knowledge to address urgent water quality problems. Raised in a remote community of Black Mesa, Arizona, where she often served as a translator for her family, Chief went on to receive undergraduate and master’s degrees from Stanford and a PhD from the University of Arizona. Her work on the Navajo Nation on water issues has earned her a place in Stanford’s Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame.

“I grew up in a tribal community where we were taught to just listen to elders,” says Chief. “When I came to Stanford I had to unlearn that. You were expected to debate your issue, and we are trained to do that as western scientists. You want to interject. A lot of times this is for good reason. Scientists are curious and interested. But it’s important to sit back and just listen.”

Working closely with Navajo Nation community members, Chief focuses on spill response, water quality testing, and supporting local decision-making on key water resource issues.

Water quality is an important issue for the Navajo people, yet access to clean water is a real challenge. More than 8,000 homes on the Navajo reservation do not have access to potable water. Navajo people on the reservation travel an average of 24 miles each way to haul their drinking water. Groundwater contamination and depletion on native lands from mining activities is also a serious concern.

After the Gold King Mine spill, many local Navajo farmers either couldn’t irrigate their fields due to the closure of irrigation intakes or chose not to for fear of contamination. As a result, crop yields were seriously impacted. As many as 2,000 Navajo farmers and ranchers are estimated to have been affected by the spill. Chief, who has been an active force in understanding the Gold King Mine disaster and its impacts, developed a study with tribal members on short-term exposure to mining contaminants.

Typical environmental assessment methodologies do not adequately account for the social and cultural impacts of mining nor integrate Indigenous ways of knowing. “The elders gave us guidance and asked us to incorporate the fundamental Diné (Navajo) philosophy of hózhó,” Chief explains. Sa’ah Naaghái Bik’eh Hózhóón has to do with harmony, restoration, and healing, as well as following the Navajo approach to problem solving.

“I don’t think the EPA considered traditional knowledge in their approach,” says Chief. “In ours, we did this through listening sessions and allowing people to talk and write down their experiences. We had the help of the traditional cultural experts and elders that were involved when we were writing the proposal. This is important because it raises the need to have more accurate ways to do these risk assessments, particularly with Indigenous communities where they use rivers in many more ways than recreation. They revere the river in spiritual ways.”

Community-engaged research also requires communicating scientific findings back to communities in a language and format that is accessible. “When we reported back, we needed the help of cultural experts to make sure that we were doing that effectively,” says Chief. The goal for this work is to support tribal members in using research to make their own assessments, draw their own conclusions, and determine how to heal their community and environment. “Not everyone has gone back to farming,” explains Chief. “But [the research] has definitely helped in answering some questions.”

Communicating the details of spill response to non-English speakers was a challenge. When the Navajo language lacked a word to describe a water contaminant like manganese, Chief and her team worked with traditional knowledge holders and medicine people to name the element. The community outreach “really helped in terms of people understanding what we’re doing and the results that we share; coming back to restoring harmony and healing for the people as a result of this traumatic event,” explained Chief.

To share their results, Chief’s team participated in teach-ins organized by community environmental organizations. They broadcasted their findings over radio forums in Navajo language and presented at various chapter meetings, representing different parts of Navajo Nation.

More recently, Chief has co-organized a conference on Indigenous perspectives on water, with community leaders taking a prominent role. Chief has also developed short 1-2 minute videos that can be streamed in the waiting rooms of hospitals. “When you’re engaging tribes, not everybody is the same. There are different sectors of the tribal community that need to be considered,” says Chief. “It is not always the young people. There are health experts and elders. It is not always the tribal leaders.”

“I am still learning about how to report back to the community,” Chief explains. “There is such a large number of people in different sectors of the Navajo population, so it is a really daunting task to reach out to everybody.”

Responding to the Gold King Mine Spill

Chief is continuing her community-based research with tribal partners. This includes the Navajo Gold King Mine Exposure Project, a household-level biomonitoring initiative to investigate biological accumulation of toxins in community members over time. Initial findings have shown no significant evidence of long-term health impacts from the spill, although the research team did find slightly elevated arsenic levels for Navajo people compared to the general U.S. population. It remains to be seen what these results will look like as time goes on.

Recent investigation by the EPA has also detected elevated lead levels at sites near the mine up to 100 times higher than the danger level for wildlife. There are approximately 5,105 abandoned mines in Colorado, 3,989 in New Mexico, 10,697 in Utah, and 24,183 in Arizona.

“It’s a sleeping giant, and a wake-up call for everybody to act quickly on stabilizing the area and reducing risk in the future,” cautions Chief. “There are thousands of abandoned mines in the region and the risk of a spill like this is really high.”

In 2016, about one year after the Gold King Mine disaster, the EPA added the Bonita Peak Mining District as a Superfund site. The district is made up of 48 mining-related sites including Gold King.

Although the EPA has declared Superfund cleanups a priority the Gold King Mine cleanup remains lingering in the study stages. Meanwhile, the legal fight for fair compensation for the Navajo Nation continues. A ruling in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico against Environmental Restoration, LLC. (the contract company that excavated the mine and caused the spill) upheld the Nation’s claims of negligence and also upheld their right to seek punitive damages. All of which harkens back to the importance of Chief’s meaningful engagement with Indigenous knowledge in her research. The issue in seeking damages for the Navajo is keeping accurate records and receipts, which may not fully reflect their losses in terms of the cultural importance of the river and surrounding lands.

Chief’s next project supported by a million dollar grant through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship program is to develop a new training program at the University of Arizona. The program, which is currently accepting applications for graduate students, will include learning the fundamentals of energy and water efficiency and a project-based class working with Indigenous communities. The emphasis is on interdisciplinary thinking to encourage “a holistic view of problem solving that is needed to bring water to Native American communities,” says Chief.

One of the principles that the program will cover is the importance of understanding the diversity of Native American tribes. “Across hundreds of tribal communities, they are diverse in many ways,” Chief explains. “Within a tribal community, there are many more ways that the tribal community is diverse. It’s not one size fits fit all. So, when scientists are working with tribal communities it’s important to remember that. We need to make sure that we do not apply other tribal experiences to the tribes we’re working with,” says Chief. “More and more it is really about listening, and especially working with grassroots organizations that are the movers and shakers.”

New #Colorado rules prompt Garfield County to update septic system rules

Septic system

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Jon Nicolodi):

Garfield County is revising its onsite wastewater treatment system regulations following new regulations put forth by the state. Does this impact you? Considering the consequences of a poorly maintained onsite wastewater treatment system, and with approximately 3,500 out of about 17,000 housing units in Garfield County relying on onsite wastewater treatment systems, the answer could be “yes.”

Some homeowners like septic systems because they don’t have a regular sewage bill from their municipality. Instead, they must properly maintain their system, but they have control, and more ownership, of what goes into their system and how much and how regularly they have to pay for maintenance. By only flushing human waste and toilet paper, by properly disposing of chemicals, and by using a compost collection service or backyard system to break down cooking grease and other food waste, all maintenance is preventative. With care and preventative maintenance, septic system owners can save in the long run.

Septic systems go astray, however, when they aren’t cared for. Septic system leakage isn’t a foreign concept to health and environment officials. Toilet water leaking into the ground untreated might make its innocent way down through hundreds of feet of soil before being neutralized by the soil microbes. More likely, the wastewater will leak into a nearby stream, creating algal blooms and wreaking havoc on the balance of water quality in the ecosystem.

If your home isn’t connected to a public sanitary sewer system, you may be utilizing a private drinking water well. This water source may be near your septic system. Phosphorus, nitrogen and bacteria aren’t exactly the constituents of quality drinking water.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division adopted Regulation 43 nearly a year ago, and counties have until June 30th of this year to adopt versions of this regulation that are at least as stringent as the state’s. Among other items, the regulation specifies the categories and type of material installed in and around the leach field, and it requires additional inspection of systems to ensure that they meet industry standards.

Septic systems should be inspected at least every three years, and typically pumped free of their settled solids every three to five years. Contact your local county officials to learn what you have on your site, and to learn who to call for a quality service provider. Be thoughtful about what you put down the drain and how much you use your garbage disposal. Mark the free hazardous waste collection day at the local landfill on your calendar. Practice water conservation by installing high-efficiency toilets, shower heads and laundry machines. Take one more step to being considerate of your local streams, and of your own and your community’s drinking water supply.

@NASA: Twin Spacecraft to Weigh in on Earth’s Changing Water

Here’s the release from NASA (Steve Cole, Alan Buis):

A pair of new spacecraft that will observe our planet’s ever-changing water cycle, ice sheets, and crust is in final preparations for a California launch no earlier than Saturday, May 19. The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), will take over where the first GRACE mission left off when it completed its 15-year mission in 2017.

GRACE-FO will continue monitoring monthly changes in the distribution of mass within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within the solid Earth itself. These data will provide unique insights into Earth’s changing climate, Earth system processes and even the impacts of some human activities, and will have far-reaching benefits to society, such as improving water resource management.

“Water is critical to every aspect of life on Earth – for health, for agriculture, for maintaining our way of living,” said Michael Watkins, GRACE-FO science lead and director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “You can’t manage it well until you can measure it. GRACE-FO provides a unique way to measure water in many of its phases, allowing us to manage water resources more effectively.”

Illustration of the NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) spacecraft, which will track changes in the distribution of Earth’s mass, providing insights into climate, Earth system processes and the impacts of some human activities. GRACE-FO is a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Like GRACE, GRACE-FO will use an innovative technique to observe something that can’t be seen directly from space. It uses the weight of water to measure its movement – even water hidden far below Earth’s surface. GRACE-FO will do this by very precisely measuring the changes in the shape of Earth’s gravity field caused by the movement of massive amounts of water, ice, and solid Earth.

“When water is underground, it’s impossible to directly observe from space. There’s no picture you can take or radar you can bounce off the surface to measure changes in that deep water,” said Watkins. “But it has mass, and GRACE-FO is almost the only way we have of observing it on large scales. Similarly, tracking changes in the total mass of the polar ice sheets is also very difficult, but GRACE-FO essentially puts a ‘scale’ under them to track their changes over time.”

At the Harris facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, one of the twin GRACE-FO satellites is integrated with the multi-satellite dispenser structure that will be used to deploy the satellites during launch.
Credits: Airbus

A Legacy of Discoveries

GRACE-FO will extend the GRACE data record an additional five years and expand its legacy of scientific achievements. GRACE chronicled the ongoing loss of mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and mountain glaciers. That wealth of data shed light on the key processes, short-term variability, and long-term trends that impact sea level rise, helping to improve sea level projections. The estimates of total water storage on land derived from GRACE data, from groundwater changes in deep aquifers to changes in soil moisture and surface water, are giving water managers new tools to measure the impact of droughts and monitor and forecast floods.

GRACE data also have been used to infer changes in deep ocean currents, a driving force in Earth’s climate. Its atmospheric temperature profile data, derived from measurements of how signals from the constellation of GPS satellites were bent as they traveled through the atmosphere and received by antennas on the GRACE satellites, have contributed to U.S. and European weather forecast products. GRACE data have even been used to measure changes within the solid Earth itself, including the response of Earth’s crust to the retreat of glaciers since the last Ice Age, and the impact of large earthquakes.

According to Frank Webb, GRACE-FO project scientist at JPL, the new mission will provide invaluable observations of long-term climate-related mass changes.

“The only way to know for sure whether observed multi-year trends represent long-term changes in mass balance is to extend the length of the observations,” Webb said.

An Orbiting Cat and Mouse

Like its predecessors, the two identical GRACE-FO satellites will function as a single instrument. The satellites orbit Earth about 137 miles (220 kilometers) apart, at an initial altitude of about 305 miles (490 kilometers). Each satellite continually sends microwave signals to the other to accurately measure changes in the distance between them. As they fly over a massive Earth feature, such as a mountain range or underground aquifer, the gravitational pull of that feature tugs on the satellites, changing the distance separating them. By tracking changes in their separation distance with incredible accuracy – to less than the thickness of a human hair – the satellites are able to map these regional gravity changes.

A global positioning system receiver is used to track each spacecraft’s position relative to Earth’s surface, and onboard accelerometers record non-gravitational forces on the spacecraft, such as atmospheric drag and solar radiation. These data are combined to produce monthly maps of the regional changes in global gravity and corresponding near-surface mass variations, which primarily reflect changes in the distribution of water mass in Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets.

In addition, GRACE-FO will test an experimental Laser Ranging Interferometer, an instrument that could increase the precision of measurements between the two spacecraft, by a factor of 10 or more, for future missions similar to GRACE. The interferometer, developed by a German/American instrument team, will be the first in-space demonstration of laser interferometry between satellites.

“The Laser Ranging Interferometer is an excellent example of a great partnership,” said Frank Flechtner, GFZ’s GRACE-FO project manager. “I’m looking forward to analyzing these innovative inter-satellite ranging data and their impact on gravity field modeling.”

GRACE-FO will be launched into orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites on a commercially procured SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This unique “rideshare” launch will first deploy GRACE-FO, then the Falcon 9 second stage will continue to a higher orbit to deploy the Iridium satellites.

GRACE-FO continues a successful partnership between NASA and Germany’s GFZ, with participation by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). JPL manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information on GRACE-FO, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/gracefo

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.

2018 #COleg: HB18-1199 (Aquifer Storage-and-recovery Plans)

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Don Coram):

Most people do not realize that managing water in the West represents a larger effort than putting a man on the moon.

The wells, reservoirs and ditches needed to direct water for both agriculture and municipal uses have been a major accomplishment of mankind. Many forget that the land we live on was once abandoned by civilizations because of drought. To secure the future of water in the West, there is much more work to be done.

I am happy to be introducing legislation this year that both directs funds to the advancement of water projects in Colorado, and legislation that would allow for aquifer storage and recovery — two major components in the immediate future for Colorado water.

For years we have been drilling wells and pulling water out of the aquifers bellow us. In states like California and Texas, the aquifers have been overused, leading to compaction. This compaction destroys one of our most important natural resources. Colorado needs to work toward saving these natural reservoirs so that we can use them in the future.

Rep. Marc Catlin, of Montrose, and I began a very important bill when he introduced HB 18-1199. This bill is referred to as the aquifer recovery and storage bill here at the capitol. What it creates is a process for the Ground Water Commission to approve aquifer storage and recovery plans. This is very important to offsetting how much water we are pulling from our wells and it will help avoid the compaction and eventual collapse of our aquifers in Colorado.

HB18-1199 was signed by the governor on April 9.

Above the ground, Rep. Jeni Arndt, of Fort Collins, and I have been hard at work trying to fund water resources projects in Colorado. SB18-218 appropriates $36 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board construction fund or the Department of Natural Resources to fund projects such as satellite monitoring systems, water forecast programs and the continuation of watershed restoration programs.

The advancement of these projects allows us to have more control over water resources in the state of Colorado, allowing for us to control our own future. This year’s water forecasts are grim and are concerning to many. It is important — even in years when we are fortunate to have adequate water — that we continue to plan and build for the worst. Appropriating these funds will allow us to continue to do so. It will allow our cities to grow, our farmers to farm, mines to mine and our rivers to flow.

Water is very important for the Western Slope. Multiple states, millions of people and another nation rely on us being responsible with our water. This is why we work so hard to bring legislation to further our water interest, and we thank you for the opportunity to make this happen.