Non-motorized boats will be allowed on Narraguinnep Reservoir

Narraguinnep Reservoir. Photo credit Andreas Hitzig.

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. on Tuesday retreated from its boating ban at Narraguinnep Reservoir and agreed to allow some hand-launched, non-motorized watercraft.

The revised ban still includes motorized and trailered boats, including jet skis. Such watercraft can carry water from infected lakes in the engines, bilges and ballasts, according to the MVIC.

The specific list of nine non-motorized boats that are allowed on the lake include kayaks, canoes, rafts, belly boats, windsurfer boards, sailboards, float tubes, inner tubes and paddle boards.

“The board is in agreement on allowing those crafts,” Gerald Koppenhafer, president of the MVIC board, said on Tuesday.

Totten Lake, which is owned by the Dolores Water Conservancy District, also recently banned boating, but is also expected to allow the specific list of non-motorized boats, general manager Mike Preston said on Tuesday.

“The intention of our board is to be consistent with MVI and allow the exempted watercraft,” he said…

The boating ban triggered an outcry from the boating community, and generated complaints to the Montezuma county commission. Dozens of comments for and against the policy were posted on The Journal’s Facebook page.

McPhee Reservoir allows all types of boating, but trailered and motorized watercraft can only enter the lake through two boat inspection stations at the McPhee boat ramp and the House Creek boat ramp. The list of nine, hand-launched boats can launch from anywhere. Funding is available for boat inspection stations at McPhee but not other area lakes.

Irrigation companies and lake managers are trying to prevent the invasive mussel from entering Colorado waterways. Once a lake becomes contaminated with the mussels, they cannot be eliminated and cause damage to irrigation infrastructure, including dams, municipal systems and power plants. Mitigating a mussel contamination year-to-year also dramatically increases operation costs.

A decision is pending on how to prevent a mussel contamination at Groundhog Reservoir, which also is owned by MVIC.

Boating halted at Totten Reservoir, prevention of quagga and zebra infestation cited

Zebra and Quagga Mussels

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The Dolores Water Conservancy District board voted unanimously on Thursday to close Totten Lake to all boating to prevent contamination by non-native quagga and zebra mussels…

The Totten closure follows a boating ban on Narraguinnep Reservoir, enacted last week by the privately owned Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., which also cited the mussel threat.

“To prevent a mussel contamination, and to be consistent with MVIC’s decision, the board voted to prohibit all boating on Totten,” said DWCD general manager Mike Preston.

The boating ban on the two lakes is for all non-motorized and motorized, and includes kayaks, canoes, stand-up boards, windsurfers, oar boats, rafts and jet-skis. Fishing at the popular lake will be allowed from the shore.

“There was a lot of debate on our board about possible exceptions, but the board decided that to be clear, and best protect our irrigators, the ban will be to all boating,” said MVIC manager Brandon Johnson.

A boating closure order for Totten is being drawn up in cooperation with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which manages the fishery. A locked gate on the boat ramp will be installed soon. Narraguinnep already has a locked gate installed. Violators at Totten and Narraguinnep will be issued tickets by Parks and Wildlife and the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office.

Boat inspection stations are effective at preventing a mussel contamination in lakes. But there is no funding for inspection stations at Totten or Narraguinnep, so managers say their only other option is to close them to boating because the contamination risk is too great.

The Dolores Water Conservancy District is also tightening up boating access on McPhee this year to better prevent the mussels from entering the regional irrigation reservoir.

Boating is still allowed at McPhee because there is funding for boat inspections. But access for motorized and trailered watercraft is only allowed during the season through two boat inspection stations at the McPhee and House Creek boat ramps.

When the stations are closed, newly installed locked gates will prevent lake access. In the past, boats could still launch when the inspection stations were closed.

To accommodate boaters who return to the ramps after the boat stations are locked, one-way spike strips will be installed this season to allow boaters to exit the lake after hours.

“We made that concession to prevent boaters from becoming stranded on the lake,” said McPhee engineer Ken Curtis.

McPhee managers adopted the state standard for preventing the mussel that requires trailered and motorized boats to be inspected, but allows non-motorized, hand-launched craft to enter the lake anywhere without inspection.

In general, non-motorized kayaks, canoes, rowboats, stand-up boards, and windsurfers pose less of a risk or contaminating a waterway with mussels.

However, mussels on a boat from an infected lake can be transported to another waterway.

All boats and their motors should be cleaned, drained and dried before entering a waterway and after leaving a waterway.

MVIC also owns Groundhog Reservoir, and is considering closing it to boating. A decision is expected soon.

Boating halted at Narraguinnep Reservoir to prevent quagga infestation

Quaggas on sandal at Lake Mead

From The Durango Herald (Jim Mimiaga):

The permanent boating ban went into effect Tuesday, said Brandon Johnson, general manager of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., which owns the reservoir.

“We can’t afford to get the mussel in there because of the damage they cause to our infrastructure,” he said. “We had to take drastic action against this threat because we’re in the irrigation business, not the recreation business.”

Mussels from infected lakes, including Lake Powell, can travel in standing water of boats and contaminate other lakes, clogging pipes, valves and canals.

“If they get in there, we can’t deliver water to our stockholders, costs will increase to mitigate them, and they will get into side rolls and pipes,” Johnson said.

The Narraguinnep ban is for all boats, motorized and non-motorized, and includes jet skis, fishing boats, row boats, kayaks and canoes. Colorado Parks and Wildlife would enforce the ban and issue tickets.

Whether paddle boards and windsurfing would be allowed is not clear. “The board decided on a boating ban,” Johnson said. “Whether those two are boats is up to the enforcement agencies.”

MVIC also owns Groundhog Reservoir and is evaluating whether it will close that lake to boating, Johnson said.

Boating could possibly continue at Narraguinnep if there were a boat inspection program, he said, but the irrigation company cannot afford it.

“Recreation is the responsibility of Colorado Parks and Wildlife,” Johnson said.

Parks and Wildlife operates local boat inspection programs, including for McPhee Reservoir, to check for the mussel and decontaminate boats.

But CPW spokesman Joe Lewandowski said the agency does not have the funding to add more boat inspection programs.

“We’re scrambling for funding for the lakes where we do have inspection stations. They are costly to operate,” he said…

McPhee Reservoir is also restricting access to the lake beginning this year to prevent a mussel contamination. Boat ramps at McPhee and House Creek will be gated, and trailered boats can launch only when boat inspection stations are open.

The McPhee boating restriction does not include hand-launched, non-motorized boats such as canoes, kayaks, rafts, windsurfers and paddle boards. Non-motorized, hand-launched boats are free to launch anytime from anywhere on McPhee. However, all boat owners should make sure to clean, drain and dry all boats before and after entering any waterway to avoid invasive species contamination.

#AnimasRiver: @EPA — Cement Creek, #GoldKingMine, summer project plan

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

At the Animas River Stakeholders Group meeting in Silverton on Thursday, Superfund site project manager Rebecca Thomas told the 20 or so attendees the EPA has laid out a work plan for the summer.

Thomas said much of the work will be a continuation of last year’s activities, including collecting data and water samples, as well as looking at flow control structures at the Gold King Mine, the site of the EPA-triggered mine spill in August 2015.

The EPA also will install a pressure gauge system to monitor the bulkhead at the Mogul Mine, adjacent to the Gold King, which are both significant contributors of heavy metals into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.

The EPA wants to install a ground monitoring well between the inner and outermost bulkheads at the American Tunnel, the drain for the Sunnyside Mine workings. It’s suspected the American Tunnel’s water level has reached capacity and could be responsible for increased discharges out of adjacent mines, such as the Gold King.

Thomas said crews will compile more data for the possible closure of the bulkhead at the Red & Bonita Mine, another contributor into Cement Creek. Specifically, EPA wants to better understand the water hydrology of the mine workings.

As for the EPA’s interim water-treatment plant at Gladstone that treats discharges out of the Gold King Mine, Thomas said the agency is looking at about six sites to store the mine waste.

“This is increasingly more important for us as we start to run out of room for sludge management (at Gladstone),” Thomas said.

She said there may be more than one location for the mine waste, and that the agency hopes to have that finalized by May.

Thomas added that the EPA is planning a few quick-action remediation projects at sites within the Superfund listing where there is an immediate benefit to the environment, water quality and managing adit discharges.

She said 27 of the 48 sites qualify for early-action remediation, which could include fixing mine waste ponds, remediating waste rock dumps or redirecting clean surface water away from known polluted areas.

“There’s no way we’re going to get all the work done, but the hope is to get some of the work done,” Thomas said.

The Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Forest Service – all working on the Superfund site – also listed a few projects they have planned for this year.

Most notably, the BLM has permission to undergo a pilot project with Texas-based Green Age Technologies to test a new treatment on mine wastewater that many in the stakeholders group have said holds promise for low-cost water treatment.

The BLM and Green Age will spend 21 days treating discharges out of the American Tunnel and Gold King Mine with a technology known as cavitation, which separates metal ions from water.

The EPA had promised the town of Silverton before the community supported Superfund designation that the agency would embrace new technologies for mine-waste treatment.

#Animas River: Feds seek dismissal of #NM and Navajo Nation #GoldKingMine lawsuits

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)
The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

From the Associated Press (Susan Montoya Bryan) via The Durango Herald:

The Justice Department filed its motion Monday, following up on arguments first made by the Obama administration that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is protected by sovereign immunity.

The federal government contends the agency doesn’t fit the definition of a liable party.

New Mexico was first to sue over the mine spill, alleging that the agency had not taken full responsibility for triggering the spill of 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater from the mine near Silverton. The plume coursed through the Animas and San Juan rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

New Mexico officials say the government’s motion was expected.

February 2017 Water Information Program newsletter

Pagosa Skyrocket via Native Ecosystems
Pagosa Skyrocket via Native Ecosystems

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

Justin Ramsey Takes Over as PAWSD Manager

In January 2017 the PAWSD Board of Directors promoted Justin Ramsey to District Manager, replacing Renee Lewis. Mr. Ramsey had served as the District Engineer since May 2015. He has over twenty years of water and wastewater design and construction administration experience. Mr. Ramsey has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental Engineering and a Masters of Engineering in Civil Engineering both from Northern Arizona University. He is a registered professional engineer in four states and has designed and overseen the construction of water and wastewater treatment, conveyance and disposal facilities throughout the southwest.

Prior to coming to PAWSD, Mr. Ramsey lived and worked in Arizona and sat on the City of Flagstaff’s Water Commission where he reviewed and provided recommendations on a variety of utility assessments including capital improvement project budgets, inflow and infiltration studies, water leakage studies, rate studies and energy audits. Mr. Ramsey has also consulted with multiple regulatory agencies to provide training, develop regulations and represent agencies in a variety of venues. Congratulations, and welcome!

Southwestern Water Conservation District board shuffled

San Juan wildflowers.

From The Durango Herald (Jessica Pace):

Board President John Porter and Vice President Steve Fearn, representatives of Montezuma and San Juan counties, respectively, were voted off the board by commissioners in their respective counties.

Fearn, a prominent longtime coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, has represented San Juan County on the water conservation board since 1990 and served as vice president since 2007.

But San Juan County commissioners said Fearn’s representation no longer reflects county values, which have changed significantly since Silverton’s mining days to include more recreational interests with respect to water, county attorney Paul Sunderland said…

Commissioners voted to appoint Charlie Smith, part-time Silverton resident and eight-year general manager of the Lake Durango Water Authority, as Fearn’s replacement.

“Commissioners thought Charlie Smith would better represent San Juan County,” Sunderland said. “He has a lot of water expertise, and he’s probably more in tune with the wants of the current board. Historically, San Juan County has been largely dominated by mining interests, and Steve Fearn is very much associated with those interests, but the board’s interests have shifted more toward recreation.”

The fact that the state of New Mexico named Fearn in a lawsuit as a “potentially responsible party” for mine pollution in the Gladstone area was noted in the county’s decision, Sunderland said.

“It’s definitely something we’re aware of, given his ownership interests around Gladstone,” he said…

The board consists of nine members representing Archuleta, Dolores, Hinsdale, La Plata, Mineral, Montezuma, Montrose, San Juan and San Miguel counties. Board directors can serve an unlimited number of three-year terms.

“I want to make sure the county’s views are represented,” Smith told The Durango Herald. “I have an understanding of their water rights, and a lot of work needs to be done to secure those rights and make sure the uses align with what the county envisions.”

Montezuma County commissioners selected Don Schwindt to replace Porter, who was general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District for 22 years and a Southwestern board director for 26.

Schwindt is a director on the Dolores Water Conservancy District board and a critic of the Dolores National Conservation Area, a controversial proposal in Montezuma County to congressionally protect land and water along the lower Dolores…

Porter thinks the proposal, criticized by Montezuma County commissioners, influenced his removal. Under Porter’s leadership, Southwestern Water Conservation District contributed funds to hire a water attorney to rewrite draft National Conservation Area legislation, which Porter thinks was perceived as support for the bill.

“I perceived the funding as an effort so everyone involved knew all the problems, the facts on both sides and could intelligently make a decision,” Porter said. “I think Southwestern’s involvement was perceived by others that we were very much in favor of the NCA legislation. That had something to do with it, and the fact that I’m 80-plus, and my 26 years on the board.”

Montezuma County Commissioner Larry Suckla said the commission chose Schwindt because of his water knowledge, and the conservation area proposal did not play a part in the decision.

“Don has shown ways that he would save water and retain water for farmers and ranchers,” Suckla said. “John Porter is an icon for Montezuma County. He was involved in the management of the lake (McPhee Reservoir), and all the benefits the county has received from that is because of the work he did, but it felt like it was time for new eyes.”

When Porter joined the board in 1990, he said water storage and dam construction were the district’s primary focus, including such projects as Lake Nighthorse. But gradually, the focus broadened to consider recreational water use and water quality.

Porter refers to his tenure as a career highlight, and said the importance of inter-basin relations and dialogue will only increase as time goes on, water supply dwindles and population grows.

“You’re asking someone who’s biased, but I’ve always felt that the Southwestern board tried its very best to represent all interests,” Porter said. “True, the majority of the members, including myself, were and still are agriculture-oriented. Yet to me, as Colorado’s population grows, it’s inevitable that our water supply will be drying up agriculture. And that’s not in our best interest, but I don’t see a way of satisfying municipal needs that we’re going to have without drying up some ag use. Irrigation takes a lot of water, and just that amount converted to municipal use will take care of a lot of families in an urban situation.”