Battlement Mesa: Ursa Resources backs off injection well application

Parachute/Battlement Mesa area via the Town of Parachute.
Parachute/Battlement Mesa area via the Town of Parachute.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Ursa Resources and the developer of Battlement Mesa have dropped a zoning change proposal necessary for Ursa to pursue…operating a wastewater injection well near the community’s water intake on the Colorado River.

Battlement Mesa Co. is cutting by about half the size of a proposed zone district that would allow injection wells as a special use. The move eliminates the northern portion of what had been a 37-acre proposed district. That northern portion included a well-pad location where Ursa has approvals to drill for natural gas and had hoped to operate the injection well.

The revised zone district proposal still would encompass another location to the southwest where Ursa has begun the process of seeking approvals for an oil and gas pad that also could hold an injection well if local and state approvals are obtained.

The Garfield County Planning Commission was to have considered the original zone district proposal Wednesday night, but instead agreed to consider the revised application March 8.

Ursa had encountered considerable opposition to its original planned location for the injection well, which would have been about 600 feet from the water intake.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had objected to that location because of concerns that leaks from the well and associated storage tanks could threaten the water supply. That agency’s opposition was a primary factor in Garfield County planning staff also recommending that the Planning Commission and county commissioners reject the zoning change.

On Tuesday, Kent Kuster, an environmental specialist for CDPHE, wrote to the county that in a recent meeting with Ursa representatives his agency was made aware of an alternative injection well location to the west of Ursa’s originally envisioned site. Kuster wrote that the potential location would “reduce the associated risk to the public water supply,” is more protective of that supply and may warrant further local discussion.

Battlement Mesa is an unincorporated community of several thousand people. Dave Devanney of Battlement Concerned Citizens said the group’s members don’t want an injection well anywhere within Battlement Mesa. But the group had been particularly alarmed by the idea of an injection well in the vicinity of the water intake.

In a news release Wednesday, Devanney called the change in Ursa’s plans a victory for residents.

“It was clear that public opinion was against the idea of creating an injection well zone in our community, especially one so close to our drinking water supply,” Devanney said. “Although we may see this proposal resurface in another form, tonight residents of Battlement Mesa can take comfort knowing their water is safe — for now.”

[…]

Matt Honeycutt, Ursa’s operations superintendent, declined to say much Wednesday night about the revision in the injection well plans.

“Ultimately it’s to make a better project,” he said.

Don Simpson, Ursa’s vice president of business development, said earlier Wednesday, “We think we’ve come up with a better plan. We’re always looking at different locations, better locations.”

Eric Schmela, president of Battlement Mesa Co., which as the landowner is the applicant for the zoning change, said a number of considerations played into its decision to revise its proposal, from public input, to its own research and additional due diligence.

One member of the Planning Commission, Greg McKennis, sought unsuccessfully Wednesday night to postpone further consideration of the zoning application for 60 to 90 days to give Battlement Mesa residents a chance to fully learn what’s now being proposed and be able to better comment on it.

“This is a big change and we have no idea what those impacts will be,” he said. “… It’s vital that that community … has more than a couple weeks to do what they need to do to review this,” he said.

However, the applicants had a right to request another hearing sooner unless they waived it, which they weren’t willing to do.

“This timing becomes critical down the road to remove trucks off the road for our development plan,” Honeycutt told the commission.

Ursa says having an injection well will eliminate the need to truck away wastewater from drilling. It currently has approvals to drill more than 50 wells from two pads in Battlement Mesa and now is seeking approvals for three more well pads there.

From The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent (Alex Zorn):

Battlement Mesa Partners, requesting the zoning change for Ursa Resources’ natural gas operations, asked commissioners before a packed hearing room for time to amend the proposal…

The hearing was moved to the March 8 Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission staff last week recommended rejecting the proposal in large part because it is close to the community’s water intake.

“I think it would be in the board’s best interest to allow for a continuance so that we can make changes to our application,” said Eric Schmela, president of Battlement Mesa Co. “A continuance would allow us to bring you more complete information on the request.”

Among the biggest changes would be to change the size of the area requested for rezoning to allow wells to dispose of wastewater from the fracking process. Drilling within the Planned Unit Development already has been approved by Garfield County and the state.

According to Schmela, the revised application will reduce the area of the project by nearly half. The previous proposal sought to rezone 37 acres along the north end of the community by the Colorado River. An updated application will reduce that area by 50 percent, stated Schmela.

Not only will the new application reduce the size of the injection zone, but it will also move the well away from the Colorado River and water treatment intake.

Fluoride dosing is on the April ballot in Durango

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.
Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

The Durango City Council unanimously voted to place the question on the ballot following more than a year of heated meetings and debate. The council’s other option was to adopt an ordinance prohibiting fluoride, and none of the councilors seemed to support it.

The question will ask voters whether they wish to prohibit the addition of fluoride or any chemical containing fluoride to city water…

The city has released a series of documents on its website on the fluoride it adds to the water, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said.

The city does not add pharmaceutical-grade fluoride to the water, he said…

Residents can also review the results of tests done on the water before it’s treated and afterward, he said. The documents can be found at http://bit.ly/2loX6oj or by searching the “fluoride” on the city’s website.

Fountain Creek: Pueblo County Commissioners direct staff to draft motion to join @EPA, CDPHE lawsuit

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):

Pueblo County – having already received a commitment of $460 million in stormwater projects from Colorado Springs over 20 years – now wants to join in a federal and state lawsuit citing Colorado Springs for violating its federal stormwater permit…

Wednesday, Pueblo County commissioners decided to try to join in the lawsuit, following a December effort by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to also become a plaintiff. The motion to include the Lower Ark, as it is known, hasn’t been decided.

The Lower Ark, representing Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties, has seen Colorado Springs break stormwater promises repeatedly, said district Executive Director Jay Winner.

Pueblo County commissioners echoed such complaints, saying the city doesn’t adequately fund its stormwater management program, maintain the infrastructure or reduce discharge of pollutants.

In addition to the $460 million stormwater pact, the city has increased stormwater funding to $19 million a year, including $3 million from Colorado Springs Utilities. That’s up from $5 million in 2015.

Pueblo County and Lower Ark both cite increased E. coli levels, erosion, sedimentation and flooding.

The county’s action was another blow for Mayor John Suthers, who has committed to rectifying the city’s stormwater problems since he took office in June 2015…

Said Pueblo County Commission spokeswoman Paris Carmichael: “This isn’t about picking a fight with Colorado Springs. This is about giving the citizens of Pueblo County a voice.”

The county had threatened last year to withhold a permit essential for completion of the $825 million Southern Delivery System, a massive water project delivering Arkansas River water to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

So Suthers and other city officials worked with Pueblo city and county officials to hammer out the $460 million intergovernmental agreement, which facilitated release of the permit.

Meanwhile, Suthers also got to work reorganizing the city’s Stormwater Division, bringing in new director Richard Mulledy, who had worked in Pueblo; ratcheting up its staff from 28 to an eventual 66; and releasing an inch-thick new Stormwater Program Implementation Plan on Nov. 2, one week before the EPA filed suit.

The mayor now is asking voters to approve an April 4 ballot measure that would let the city retain $6 million in excess sales tax revenues to further improve the stormwater system. The city’s extra tax money is expected to top out at $9 million or more, with any amount above the $6 million request being refunded to residents if the ballot issue passes.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

The Pueblo County commissioners on Wednesday asked staff to file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment against Colorado Springs.

Pueblo County wants to join the case to protect its interest during the litigation.

“We did it primarily to make sure we have a seat at the table,” said Pueblo County Commission Chairman Terry Hart.

“It’s one of those issues that whenever any kind of conversation is going on that concerns Fountain Creek or the water volume or quality that’s in the creek, we feel it affects the citizens in our community.”

[…]

Hart and fellow Commissioners Sal Pace and Garrison Ortiz said although there are pros and cons in entering the lawsuit, representing Pueblo County citizens is the most important issue.

“I feel that we have an obligation as a board, as elected officials and as leaders in Pueblo County to ensure that we are doing absolutely everything we can to protect our infrastructure, quality of water and the health and welfare of our citizens,” Ortiz said.

Pace said he greatly cherishes the relationship the county has developed with Colorado Springs through negotiations over the Southern Delivery System’s 1041 permit agreement and hopes this will not do anything to damage it…

Suthers’ office issued a statement from the mayor when contacted Wednesday.

“In light of the fact that Pueblo County is well aware of the outstanding stormwater program Colorado Springs is putting together and that we are meeting and exceeding our commitments under the intergovernmental agreement between our entities, I am very disappointed in their decision to seek to intervene in the EPA lawsuit. Intervention by parties without regulatory authority will only serve to make the litigation more complex, more lengthy, more expensive for all parties and possibly more unproductive.”

[…]

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also wants to join the case as an intervenor to protect the district’s interest during the litigation.

The district filed the same motion in November. A federal judge has yet to make a decision on if the district can join the suit…

Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki said the city manager will ask Council on Monday to give him direction on the issue…

WHAT IT MEANS

By intervening in the lawsuit Pueblo County hopes to:

Support the EPA and CDPHE in its regulatory mission.

Ensure that stormwater control infrastructure within Colorado Springs is properly operated and maintained.

Ensure that there are no conflicts or inconsistencies between the stormwater intergovernmental agreement recently entered by the county and Colorado Springs and any remedy, judgment or settlement entered in this case.

Require Colorado Springs to become, and then remain, compliant with the Clean Water Act, the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, stormwater regulations and the conditions of Colorado Springs’ MS4 permit, and protect against future violations.

Work with Colorado Springs to develop, implement and enforce its’ Stormwater Management Program as required by the MS4 permit.

Prohibit Colorado Springs from discharging stormwater that is not in compliance with its MS4 permit or its SMP.

@ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver

The Colorado River Basin. The Upper Colorado River Basin is outlined in black.
The Colorado River Basin. The Upper Colorado River Basin is outlined in black.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

US House passes Bolts Ditch bill to aid Colorado towns

Mountains reflect off of Bolts Lake as seen from US 24 S in Colorado. Photo via  LessBeatenPaths.com.
Mountains reflect off of Bolts Lake as seen from US 24 S in Colorado. Photo via
LessBeatenPaths.com.

From The Vail Daily:

The U.S. House of Representatives Monday passed the Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act, and the Arapaho National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act, legislation sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. to help Colorado communities and protect public lands. Several Colorado members of Congress co-sponsored the bills.

Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act will allow the town of Minturn to use its existing water rights to fill Bolts Lake by giving the town special use of the Bolts Ditch headgate and the segment of the Bolts Ditch within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. When Congress designated Holy Cross Wilderness Area in 1980, Bolts Ditch was inadvertently left off the list of existing water facilities.

The Arapaho National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act would expand the Arapaho National Forest to include 10 new parcels of land, informally known as the “Wedge,” which are currently undeveloped. The move enables the U.S. Forest Service to protect and preserve an area were millions of people travel annually.

Polis, who lives near Boulder, represents part of the mountains including Summit County and about one-third of Eagle County.

“Today was a great win for Coloradans,” Polis said. “At a time when it seems that partisanship and divisiveness is at historic levels, it’s heartening to see members of the Colorado delegation work together to protect our public lands and find practical solutions for our communities. We should all be proud of the passage of these bills that will protect our wonderful wilderness and help our local economies.”

TWO ADDITIONAL BILLS APPROVED

The House of Representatives also approved two additional bills that Polis co-sponsored. Both bills settled long-standing land disputes in Colorado. The Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act would resolve a costly title dispute between the federal government and private landowners. It would convey a small portion of land near Rifle to property owners who have used and paid property taxes on the acreage for years. The Crags, Colorado Land Exchange Act would convey 320 acres of land on the west side of Pikes Peak to the U.S. Forest Service. The Broadmoor Hotel currently owns the land, and in exchange, the government will transfer an 83-acre parcel located at Emerald Valley Ranch to the Broadmoor.

Both Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner introduced Senate companion legislation to these four bills this session.

#ColoradoRiver: Check out this breathtaking view of the #Colorado Plateau, as seen from the International Space Station

Nearly the full length of Lake Powell on the Colorado River in southern Utah and northern Arizona is visible in this photograph shot by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, on Sept. 6, 2016. The view is toward the southwest. Water flow is from the lower right toward the top. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)
Nearly the full length of Lake Powell on the Colorado River in southern Utah and northern Arizona is visible in this photograph shot by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, on Sept. 6, 2016. The view is toward the southwest. Water flow is from the lower right toward the top. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

From Discovery Magazine (Tom Yulsman):

Almost the entire lake is visible in this photograph, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station last September. I was really struck by the clarity, the color, and the oblique angle at which it was taken. The photograph almost looks like it was taken from an aircraft — not from orbit almost 25o miles above the surface.