Community Open House & Reception: Edwards wastewater facility improvements, September 26, 2017

Edwards Wastewater Treatment Facility photo credit Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

Click here to view the Eagle River Water & Sanitation event page and to register:

Join us for a reception and tour of the $25 million Edwards wastewater treatment facility solids handling improvement project. Now that the landscaping is done, we’re ready for visitors!

Please register so we can plan enough food for all participants.

  • 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Open house, facility tours, and complimentary food.
  • Noon to 1 p.m. – Welcome, acknowledgements, speakers, and short tour.
  • […]

    Improvements include:

  • Preliminary treatment enhancements.
  • Expansion of the solids digestion process.
  • Rehabilitation of solids dewatering.
  • Landscaping and aesthetic updates.
  • New odor control systems.
  • #AnimasRiver: #GoldKingMine update

    On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
    Eric Baker

    From The Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

    The 12-inch (30-centimeter) valve will regulate wastewater pouring from the Gold King Mine in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, where the EPA inadvertently triggered a wastewater spill while excavating at the mine entrance in August 2015…

    The valve will be mounted in a steel-and concrete barrier about 70 feet (20 meters) inside the mine. The barrier will have water-tight access doors so workers and equipment can get deeper into the mine for cleanup and investigation.

    The EPA is also drilling a 170-foot (50-meter) horizontal well into another part of the Gold King to drain any water building up there. That water would be routed through a temporary treatment plant below the mine where wastewater draining from the main entrance is cleaned up.

    The EPA said it can control the flow of wastewater from the new drain to avoid another blowout.

    The documents did not say say how much the work will cost and the EPA did not immediately respond to emails and a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.

    The work is expected to be completed next month.

    Peter Butler, a leader of the volunteer Animas River Stakeholders Group, which works to improve water quality in the area, said he agreed with the EPA’s decision to install the barrier and drainage well.

    “It’s probably a good idea,” he said. “They are showing an abundance of caution.”

    Wastewater has flowed from the Gold King for years, and since the 2015 blowout, it has poured out at a rate of about 500 gallons (1,900 liters) a minute.

    Mine waste flows are unpredictable In the San Juan Mountains, where underground water flows through an interconnected warren of mine tunnels and natural faults.

    Precautions such as the barrier, valve and horizontal drain will make it safer for investigators to enter the mines and try to figure out the water flows, Butler said.

    The Gold King and dozens of other mining-related sites in the region were designated a Superfund district in 2016.

    Pleasant View: Experimental “Water Dragon” drip system trial

    Photo credit: AgriExpo.com.

    From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

    The High Desert Conservation District has teamed up with farmer Brian Wilson and Teeter Irrigation, of Johnson City, Kansas, to determine if the company’s trademarked Dragon-Line system will work for this area.

    Instead of using the nozzles on the center pivot to irrigate, a row of drip lines are attached that drag behind the sprinkler watering the crop at its base instead of from above.

    “It saves water and reduces evaporation, erosion and runoff,” said Travis Custer, agricultural consultant with High Desert. “It is the first trial of the technology in the area.”

    To compare crop yields, one section of the center pivot irrigates a field of wheat normally from spray nozzles, and an adjacent section utilizes a series of drip lines attached to the nozzles. After harvest, the yields will be compared. Soil moisture monitors have also been installed in areas watered by the drip and nozzle sections of the sprinkler.

    The hybrid center pivot and drip line technology was created by Teeter Irrigation, and launched in 2015. The technology has proven effective in Kansas and other plain states that irrigate from an underground aquifer, Custer said.

    But since local farms use surface water delivered via ditches and pipelines that carry more debris, a filter system had to be installed on the center pivot being used on the Pleasant View trial…

    Farmers have switched to center-pivot sprinkler technology because it is less labor-intensive than side-roll sprinklers, which must be moved by hand. Center pivots are automated, and move in a circular pattern, watering from a row of nozzle heads. Water flow and speed are adjustable and can be controlled remotely.

    But center pivots work best on flatter ground. On undulating farmland and fields with steeper slopes, center pivots can cause water to pool in low spots and run off the field or drain into the sprinkler’s wheel tracks, creating muddy conditions.

    What’s exciting is that the drip-system attachment to the center-pivot could eliminate those problems because the water is delivered at ground level, said Steve Miles, board member of the High Desert Conservation District…

    It appears to be working in the test plots. The lower areas of the drip-line section are not getting waterlogged, and there is less runoff the field. How often the filter-system has to be flushed is also part of the experiment.

    Water managers seek certainty in #ColoradoRiver Basin — @AspenJournalism #CRDseminar #COriver

    The end of the tunnel that brings water from Hunter Creek to the Fryingpan River drainage, and then on to the eastern slope. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism.

    From Aspen Journalism (Sarah Tory) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

    Bringing more certainty to an unruly and unpredictable Colorado River system was a common theme among water managers speaking at the Colorado River District’s annual seminar Friday­­.

    Although the drought that has gripped much of the Colorado River basin for the past 16 years has eased up a bit, population growth and the long dry spell have pushed the river’s supplies to the limit, with every drop of water in the system now accounted for.

    Meanwhile, the effects of climate change on the Colorado’s future flows are still a big question mark, and it could mean wide variability in the years to come, with periods of punishing drought followed by a sudden record-setting wet year, as California recently experienced.

    Bill Hasencamp, general manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, described how in April 2015, snowpack in the Sierras was at an all-time low. But by this spring, it was at an all-time high, after a winter of heavy precipitation.

    The change in snowpack eventually lead to huge fluctuations in water prices – from $1,800 per acre-foot at the height of the drought to just $18 per acre-foot this year, Hasencamp said.

    That kind of turbulence places enormous pressure on the Colorado River Basin’s big municipalities, which must secure their water supplies for millions of people, said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the River District, which is based in Glenwood Springs and helps protect Western Colorado’s water resources.

    Kuhn is retiring next year and was making his last formal presentation as general manager of the river district. As he heads into retirement, he’s working on a book with author John Fleck about the history of managing the Colorado River and the creation of the Colorado Compact.

    “The reality is — and we all have to accept this — big-city providers need certainty,” he said. However, Kuhn said he didn’t think that means more transmountain diversions from the West Slope.

    The most obvious source of additional water for cities is agriculture, which holds the lion’s share of senior water rights on the Colorado River, but no one is eager to see rural areas sacrificed for urban growth, Kuhn said.

    So, he added, water managers throughout the basin are figuring out ways to adapt 19th century water laws to a 21st century reality.

    Cooperative agreements between irrigators and municipalities are one option, providing cities with additional sources of water during dry periods.

    Already, a three-year pilot initiative called the System Conservation Pilot Program has shown that farmers and ranchers are open to using less water in exchange for compensation.

    Beginning in 2014, four of the big Colorado River Basin municipalities and the Bureau of Reclamation contributed $15 million to fund water conservation projects throughout the basin.

    The program was in limbo after this year while officials worked out some issues, but Hasencamp said Friday that the funders have agreed to continue the pilot program for another year, in 2018.

    For water managers, these kinds of flexible arrangements, along with rigorous water efficiency, recycling and reuse efforts, are the key to finding “certainty” on an inherently volatile river system.

    Still, those solutions will not be easy.

    As Bill Trampe, a longtime rancher from Gunnison County, explained, less irrigation often comes with unintended consequences such as diminished return flows to the river and nearby fields.

    And as Lurline Underbrink Curran, the former county manager for Grand County, described, efforts to heal the destructive impacts of existing water diversions on the Fraser River, a tributary of the Colorado, means accepting that future diversions will in fact take place.

    “We tried to form friendships that would help us do more with what we had,” she said.

    California’s Salton Sea presents another dilemma, which reaches back up into Colorado River system.

    The salty inland lake, created by an accidental breach in an irrigation canal, is drying up.

    Since 2002, the state of California has been paying the Imperial Valley Irrigation District to keep the Salton Sea on life support by delivering 800,000 acre-feet of water, but that initiative expires at the end of this year.

    Continuing the water deliveries means using up more of the Colorado River’s dwindling supplies, but letting it dry up means exposing local residents to a lakebed full of toxic dust.

    None of these problems is new, but as many of the speakers at the river district’s annual seminar explained, water managers now have more tools than ever before to address those challenges — and new urgency with which to apply them.

    Recent successes include the successful negotiation of an updated binational water agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, called Minute 232, that is expected to be signed this month. It will outline how the two countries share future shortages on the Colorado River.

    “We’re at a point where we can work together, and the success we’ve had is from collaboration,” said Becky Mitchell, the new director of the Colorado River Conservation Board. “It’s really all hands on deck.”

    Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

    @CWCB_DNR stream recovery work nears completion four years after 2013 floods

    Air search for flood victims September 2013 via Pediment Publishing

    From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Todd Hartman):

    Colorado Water Conservation Board joins partners for innovative approach to restore stream channels, protect property and improve ecological conditions

    The record-smashing floods of 2013 ravaged Front Range waterways, rerouting and flattening stream channels, eroding streambanks, degrading fish habitat and stripping trees and vegetation from riparian areas.

    Four years later, many of those waterways have been repaired, restored and even improved due to efforts led by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and myriad partners at the state, federal and community level.

    With most attention properly focused on the recovery of communities, reconstruction of homes and property as well as road, bridge and infrastructure repair, CWCB and its partners have quietly redesigned and rebuilt stream channels in a way that has improved stream flows, boosted fish habitat and created more resilient waterways in the event of future floods.

    Work is expected to be largely complete by the spring of 2018 on numerous waterways well-known and important to many communities. Coal Creek, Fountain Creek, the St. Vrain, Fish Creek, Fall River, the South Platte and other streams have benefited from intensive planning and channel construction work that reflects unprecedented collaboration to recreate streams in a way not only protective of nearby property, but with high ecological function.

    That meant not only repairing and replanting streamside habitat but also creating stream channels that work for a variety of flows. A narrow interior channel allows for better passage of sediment and healthier flows even during periods of low water, a feature that can also benefit aquatic life. Those channels were constructed within wider channels to accommodate larger flows that might fill the banks or extend onto floodplains.

    “This was a new way of doing business,” said Kevin Houck, chief of CWCB’s watershed and flood protection section. “Typically, after events like this, you’ll see efforts to simply armor the stream bank quickly, for purpose of safety and protecting property. We took a different, more holistic approach and we’re excited to see the results on the ground.”

    Shortly after the floods, the CWCB assembled a team of experts at all levels of government to help communities develop short-term and long-term plans to stabilize and recreate damaged stream channels. This team quickly determined that stream rehabilitation would best be guided by a master-planning process at the watershed level, directed by an array of local stakeholders.

    Master plans were developed for Fish Creek and Fall River by the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition, Big Thompson River (Big Thompson River Coalition), Little Thompson River (Little Thompson River Coalition), St. Vrain Creek (St. Vrain Creek Coalition), Left Hand Creek (Left Hand Watershed Oversight Group), Fourmile Creek (Fourmile Creek Coalition), Coal Creek (Coal Creek Canyon Watershed Partnership), Middle South Platte (Middle South Platte Watershed Alliance), and Fountain Creek (Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District).

    Since the development of the master plans, the CWCB has partnered with the State Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and local sponsors to implement projects identified within the plans. The CWCB and DOLA are managing over $100 million in recovery funds directed towards stream rehabilitation. Money for the work has come from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (NRCS) and Housing and Urban Development, state and local entities and private foundations. The majority of the funding is going towards implementation, but some of it has supported project design and capacity for the local watershed coalitions that are managing many of the projects.

    As of the four-year anniversary, most of the projects are complete or under active construction at this time. A detailed description of all projects and many images of the work can be found at the website for the Colorado Emergency Watershed Protection Plan, http://www.coloradoewp.com. The public can also follow progress on Twitter by following @ColoradoEWP.

    I don’t know how I missed the great website and Twitter feed.

    Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre Irrigation Company, talks about how his agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

    Fountain Creek: #Colorado Springs Nov. 7 stormwater ballot measure cost

    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    The city’s stormwater measure on the Nov. 7 ballot has stirred a lot of debate. Some don’t like the flat-fee concept — $5 per household, and $30 per acre for commercial land. Others say too many details remain unresolved.

    But one thing is beyond dispute: Colorado Springs’ stormwater system sucks, and it’s going to take many years and a lot of dough to fix it. Far from a sexy topic, stormwater drainage gets no respect, and the consequences of that came into full focus during a tag-along with Water Resources Engineering Division Manager Rich Mulledy on Aug. 31.

    To grasp the gravity of the problem, you have to get down in the weeds, literally, to see what’s going on along channels that border roads where tens of thousands of cars whiz by daily, their drivers unaware of possible catastrophes waiting to happen.
    Monument Creek

    Mulledy, a slim 38-year-old engineer and Colorado Springs native sporting a Chicago Cubs cap, leads the way on a short hike behind the Goose Gossage Youth Sports Complex on Mark Dabling Boulevard. “So if you’re playing ball out here,” he quips, “you wouldn’t know about it.”

    Beyond the outfield fences, he passes through trees before scampering down a steep embankment to a sandbar where Monument Creek gurgles its way along an embankment prone to sloughing, which sends sand, gravel and trash careening down the creek to its confluence with Fountain Creek, which, in turn, flows south to the Arkansas River east of Pueblo.

    Fountain Creek, Mulledy says, is unlike any other in the United States due to its wild fluctuations in flows, from 125 cubic feet per second during normal times to 25,000 cfs in heavy storms. “There’s no other creek that’s a sand bottom creek that sees that kind of flash,” Mulledy says. “It’s a tough creek.”

    Rushing runoff from Colorado Springs crumbles banks and sends hundreds of thousands of tons of sediment to Pueblo County, whose officials are none too pleased. There, sediment clogs levees and befouls the Arkansas River. After a 2014 regional ballot measure to fund drainage projects failed at the polls, Pueblo County officials threatened to rescind their construction permit for Colorado Springs’ Southern Delivery System (SDS) pipeline that delivers water from Pueblo Reservoir, unless the city dealt with stormwater. A deal approved by City Council in April 2016 enabled SDS’s activation in exchange for the city spending $460 million on drainage over the next 20 years. That spending eats into the general fund budget, which Mayor John Suthers says is needed to hire more cops and firefighters. Hence, the stormwater fee measure, which is intended to lift that burden.

    On this August day, Mulledy doesn’t have to point out damage from Monument Creek’s raging waters. A 20- to 25-foot dirt wall towers along the east side of the creek, where waters carve the banks and threaten to undermine the wall, triggering a collapse of a plateau above. That could bring a storage business crashing down.

    “The natural tendency of a stream is to move,” Mulledy explains. “Point [sand] bars move and push the water into the bank. It’s a built environment, so we built up next to it. Now, there’s nowhere for the river to move.”

    The city plans to install grouted boulders along a 350-foot stretch at the base of the wall, tying into bedrock. Then, the area will be backfilled with dirt to create a slope, which will be sown with seed to encourage vegetation. “Then it can hold itself, even in big storms,” he says.

    Sounds simple, but getting the right kind of heavy equipment into the creek area poses a challenge. “With road work, you can drive up, mill it and pave it,” Mulledy says. “Here, we have to create an access point. We have to bring material in, then we have to armor it for a 100-year [flood] event.” Moreover, the stream’s path itself will need to be moved west to allow workers to construct the project. Lastly, drop structures will be built to flatten the creek bed and retard the water’s flow.

    Cost: $750,000.

    After the project is completed in 2020, Mulledy says, the site should be inspected annually to assure it holds.

    North Douglas Creek

    As cars speed by on Interstate 25 just yards away, Mulledy hikes down a slope, through sunflowers and thistle, to the edge of North Douglas Creek where he warns visitors to stay away from the edge — a drop of 30 feet to the creek bed.

    Here, the creek has eroded soils so dramatically that part of a concrete box culvert has broken off and been carried about 20 yards downstream. Gas and water lines are exposed, along with a drainage pipe, which juts some 10 feet from the canyon wall, acting as a yardstick for how far the banks have been chipped away.

    “Colorado Springs Utilities is worried about that gas line and so are we,” Mulledy says.
    To the north is Johnson Storage and Moving, while on the south side lies a construction materials business. Both are threatened.

    “Johnson Storage is losing their lot,” Mulledy says, noting the embankment is chipping off several feet per year. Erosion is so bad, Sinton Road adjacent to the culvert could topple some day.

    One of the problems stems from development practices in the 1960s and ’70s that followed the then-conventional wisdom to simply move storm flows out of the city as fast as possible. Now, best management practices call for slowing down those flows using detention ponds and drop structures. “We have a better understanding than we used to,” Mulledy says.

    This segment of Douglas Creek is part of the city’s network of 270 miles of open channels and 500 miles of storm sewers — subject to inspection by federal regulators of the city’s municipal separate storm sewer system, or MS4, permit, issued through the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Violations of that permit and the Clean Water Act led the EPA and the state to sue the city last year. The case is pending and could take years to resolve as the city reconstitutes its program to address water quality and conveyance, compliance with plan review and site inspection for new developments, and maintenance of its entire system.

    This particular spot is so tenuous that Mulledy says crews visit it whenever heavy rains come. The fix, he says, will require installation of concrete walls along the bend in the creek to stop sloughing earth, structural fill and grouted rock. A crane will be employed to remove chunks of the concrete culvert.

    Cost: $3.5 million.

    Like many other projects, this undertaking will require the approval of federal flood plain managers and the Army Corps of Engineers. Work is slated for 2020.

    Pine Creek

    The most spectacular sight of the day comes at a canyon just north of the Margarita at Pine Creek restaurant, which sits dangerously close to a roughly 50-foot drop-off to Pine Creek below. Another on the city’s list of 71 projects included in the intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo, this site will require stacking boulders to create a wall at least 10 feet high, from the creek bed to the bottom of an exposed limestone shear. Below that limestone is a clay layer notoriously susceptible to erosion. Under that lies pure shale, easily crumbled, especially when the creek runs up to 10 feet deep during 10-year storms. “It’s a little stream,” Mulledy says, “until it rains.”

    The project was specifically identified by Pueblo County due to the large amounts of sediment washing into the creek and on to Pueblo via Fountain Creek. Pine Creek starts in Black Forest, winds through Falcon Estates and finally barrels through this canyon before it meets with Monument Creek about a quarter mile away. Power lines along the ridge top are mere feet from the canyon’s lip, and about 100 yards upstream, a bridge might be in danger eventually, Mulledy says.

    Like the others, this site will be challenging to access, driving the cost up, he adds.

    Cost: $2 million.

    The project will be designed next year, and construction is due to begin in 2019.
    Green Crest Channel

    Green Crest Channel almost claimed a couple of businesses and a portion of Austin Bluffs Parkway back in 2010 before the city shored up the dissolving embankment with a project completed in 2015.

    Mulledy worked on the solution to the problem while he was an engineer with Matrix Design Group, later joining the city in February 2016. By buttressing the banks and installing drop structures and grouted boulders, the stream is now healthy and lined with vegetation, such as willows, that appears historic but was placed there by Matrix as part of the project.

    Because the new features, including four drop structures, slow the stream’s flow in Templeton Gap, erosion is dramatically curtailed downstream.

    Cost: $2.8 million.

    Another project upstream from Green Crest will further secure the waterway. At Siferd Street in Park Vista, just east of Academy Boulevard, even a small rain creates monster flooding from an over-topped Templeton Gap waterway. Plans call for crews to raise the road by several feet, lower the creek, and install a box culvert and five drop structures downstream. Work begins in 2020.

    Cost: $3.75 million.

    Those projects just scratch the surface of problems that become evident when face-to-face with the city’s stream system. With the price tag in the high millions, Mulledy notes he wants to maximize those dollars. That’s why his staff works hand-in-glove with Utilities and the Parks Department to find opportunities to incorporate trails and recreation facilities where plausible.

    “Most of our projects are on green corridors,” he says, “so we look for opportunities for green spaces.”

    @EPA delays coal plant wastewater rule #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

    Diagram of a typical steam-cycle coal power plant (proceeding from left to right). Graphic credit: Wikipedia.

    From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

    The rule requires steam electric power plants to control the amount of coal ash-contaminated wastewater flushed from their plants.

    The water contains toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury, and while it’s pumped to holding ponds it often ends up in rivers and lakes. The rule sets the first specific limits on those toxins.

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says postponing the rule for two years would give utilities relief from deadlines to upgrade pollution-control equipment while the agency revisits the requirements.

    Environmental groups sued over an earlier effort to postpone the rule. They say they’ll challenge this move as well.