#Brush holds informational open house regarding Watershed Protection Ordinance — The #FortMorgan Times #SouthPlatteRiver

Credit: Morgan County Quality Water Source Water Protection Plan

Click the link to read the article on The Fort Morgan Times website (Katie Roth). Here’s an excerpt:

Members of the Brush community got a chance to bring forward concerns and questions about the Watershed Protection Ordinance during a two-hour informational open house Wednesday, Feb. 23 with City of Brush staff and City Attorney Dan Krob.

City Administrator Monty Torres began the meeting with a presentation providing information like the historical context of the City’s water and goals of the ordinance. Torres listed the goals: protect water quality, protect water quantity, protect agricultural and historical uses, minimize impact to quality of life, ensure a streamlined permitting process and coordinating with other permitting entities as needed.

He also mentioned the Source Water Protection Plan, which was put together beginning in 2008 with the help of Morgan County Commissioners, Morgan County Quality Water and even some landowners…

City staff members are trying to fight to protect water from any potential contaminants on behalf of all Brush residents, but frustrated landowners spent much of the open house engaging in passionate discussions in opposition to the ordinance. Many argued that their families, who have lived in Brush for generations, have kept the water clean. Like the city, they do highly value clean drinking water. However, they do not want restrictions on their land and are opposed to potential permit application fees (though staff does already have the power to waive or refund application fees when they see fit).

Staff does understand that current owners have kept the water clean but are concerned about future owners who may not be as careful and courteous. Staff members are also trying to avoid major costs for the city, such as a water treatment plant that would cost millions.

Morgan Conservation District annual meeting recap

The Platte River is formed in western Nebraska east of the city of North Platte, Nebraska by the confluence of the North Platte and the South Platte Rivers, which both arise from snowmelt in the eastern Rockies east of the Continental Divide. Map via Wikimedia.

From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Competition for the limited water resources used to be a primary, if not the primary, issue for agriculture in northeastern Colorado.

While quantity is still a major issue, water quality is increasingly important, particularly with deterioration of that quality.

That was apparent at an annual locally led meeting hosted Wednesday in Brush by the Morgan Conservation District…

The Morgan Conservation District works with the Fort Morgan NRCS field office and is a member of the Lower South Platte watershed of Morgan, Centennial, Sedgwick and Haxtun Conservation Districts.

C.W. Scott, team leader for Morgan and Logan County NRCS, was among the leaders of the discussion, as were Madeline Hagen, Morgan district manager, and Todd Wickstrom, district board president.

Groundwater, human consumption and whether water is safe for livestock are all concerns, participants said.

The question is at what point does the quality deteriorate so much that water kills the crops instead of growing them.

With more runoff this year than in recent years, water will have more foreign material in it.

Municipalities such as Wiggins using reverse osmosis are allowed to flush the by-products of that process into the river when the flow in the river is sufficient, participants said, but that is far from the only concern.

Human hormone supplements in the water are on the rise, as are total dissolved solids.

Salt people put on sidewalks and residue from water softeners are also factors.

#Colorado Open Lands and Morgan County rancher ink conservation easement deal for 1,218 acres

A view of Washington Avenue in Orchard, Colorado. Orchard is in Morgan County. Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Kara Morgan):

Morgan County resident John Yocam and Colorado Open Lands ended 2018 with a deal.

Yocam decided about a year ago that he wanted to conserve his family’s ranchland to make sure it stayed the thriving ranch land and habitat site that they had worked for many years to maintain. He approached Colorado Open Lands, a nonprofit land trust, to figure out how best to ensure the land would continue on as it has…

Yocam said in the past his land has been a site of interest by outside parties, and he wanted to ensure that it stayed the ranchland it has been. As both Yocam and Farmer explain, the land is both ranchland and an important habitat site for local and migrating wildlife…

Yocam explained some of the history of his land and why a conservation easement made sense for him.

“It’s been a long time coming actually. It started back in the ’70s when they were going to put in Centennial Wildlife Refuge here,” he said.

Yocam said the land has been in his family for about 70 years or so, since the mid-1950s, and he himself has lived there since 1976.

“Pressure has just got to so much here from different water projects, recharge projects. I’ve been in court about three times and so I just got tired of fighting off everybody,” he explained. “So I donated it into a land trust.”


‘Rare and Unusual’

Describing the recently conserved land, Yocam said with some pride, “It was deemed rare and unusual and must be protected, was the rating they gave it.”

Farmer explained how this land is valuable in many ways, more than ranchland.

“In addition to being highly productive, the ranch also provides excellent waterfowl habitat with its wetland and upland features,” she said.

The land is located outside of the town of Orchard, Farmer said, and it plays an important role for the wildlife living in the area, especially birds.

“Occurring within the ‘Golden Triangle,’ an area in Morgan and Weld counties defined by Empire Reservoir, Jackson Reservoir and Riverside Reservoir, the ranch and surrounding agricultural lands provide populations of ducks and geese with important upland/agricultural foraging grounds during their migration and over-wintering in the South Platte Basin,” Farmer explained.

For bird migration in the area, this location is critical, she said.

“This region is one of the most important wetland complexes in the South Platte Basin along the Central Flyway Migration Corridor,” Farmer said.

Yocam painted a picture of the land diversity across his property: “It’s river bottom, into a riparian habitat. I’ve got a large sub-irrigated meadow. It’s got a big chunk of wetlands on it and then it goes into the uplands.”

Credit Wikimedia.com.

Morgan County Commissioners give green light to #solar farm #ActOnClimate

Photovoltaic Solar Array

From The Fort Morgan Times (Paul Albani-Burgio):

The Morgan County Commissioners voted 3 to 0 Tuesday to approve a conditional use permit and variance for the construction of a solar farm on 20 acres of land near the intersection of County Road 21 and County Road N southeast of Fort Morgan.

The farm is being built by Starlight Energy Corporation on land owned by Peter V. and Karen V. Anderson. Commissioner Mark Arndt said Starlight is proposing to sell the electricity that is generated from the farm to the Morgan County Rural Electric Association to provide power for Morgan County residents but a power purchase agreement has not been finalized. Arndt said Starlight has also talked about Fort Morgan Light and Power as a possible buyer of the electricity that will be generated.

The facility is expected to generate about 2 megawatts of solar power per year and a half of a megawatt of natural gas power. Though the number of homes powered by a megawatt of solar energy depends on average sunshine, electricity consumption, temperature and wind in a given area, it is estimated that one megawatt can power about 650 homes.

Starlight Energy CEO Brian Bentley said the company was hoping to have the solar farm constructed and operational in the first quarter of 2018. Bentley said a portion of the facility that will generate natural gas when not enough solar power is being generated should be operational by the fourth quarter of this year.

Fort Morgan should be able to avoid watering restrictions this season

First water through the Adams Tunnel. Photo credit Northern Water.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board of Directors on Thursday approved increasing the Colorado-Big Thompson Project water pipeline quota to 80 percent, according to a news release.

Fort Morgan receives its water from that [source], with water availability subject to the quota set periodically by the Northern Water Board. It had been adjusted to 50 percent last November.

Such quota changes do not affect city water rates, which are set by the Fort Morgan City Council. But it does affect the amount of water available to the city for use.

This new quota is one that means good news for Fort Morgan water customers, according to Nation…

Lots of data was taken into account by the Northern Water Board in setting this latest quota, according to the news release.

“The Board considered snowpack totals, stream flow runoff projections and input from farmers and municipal and industrial water providers in setting the quota,” the release stated. “C-BT supplements other sources of water for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area.”

That includes Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District.

For Fort Morgan, the increased quota likely even means having more C-BT water available than will be needed by city residents and businesses, according to Nation.

“The higher quota also allows the city to lease out excess water above our projected needs for the year,” Nation said. “In most cases this water is leased by farmers to help complete their water supplies for the year.”

…the precipitation that fell in March within the water district’s collection area was 27 percent below what would be considered normal for that month, according to Northern Water.

Wiggins trustees approve hitching up with the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative…augmentation credits

Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.
Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The Wiggins Board of Trustees voted to buy a share of the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative during its monthly meeting Wednesday night. That will cost $2,000.

On any one day, an individual or group with an augmentation plan might have more water credits than the person or group can use or less than it needs, and having the option of sharing credits could help those who are part of the cooperative, said agricultural producer Mike Groves. As it is, if a person or group has excess water credits, the individual or group has to just let it go down the river without use, but the cooperative may change that, he noted.

“It’s something that’s never been done before, but I get sick and tired” of seeing water lost because it cannot be used, Groves said.

Members could transfer water credits to help out those who need them, he said.

Even a little bit of water can make a difference at times, Groves said.

The copperative became official as of Jan. 1, after about seven years of work to put it together, he said. So far, a number of people and groups have become members, said Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District. There are two kinds of members: voting and non-voting, which cost $2,000 or $1,000 respectively for shares. That money becomes capital, and would buy one share of cooperative stock, just like other agricultural cooperatives, Frank said.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Morgan County Conservation District annual meeting recap #COWaterPlan


From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

As the Colorado population grows — from people moving here or new families starting — water must be found to meet that hugely increasing demand, said Jim Yahn, manager of the North Sterling and Prewitt reservoirs.

He was speaking during the annual meeting of the Morgan Conservation District at the Country Steak Out in Fort Morgan on Thursday evening. After speaking on the history of Colorado water-law, he addressed the challenges facing water use in the state.

Between the year 2000 and today, Colorado’s population grew by about 500,000, and is expected to grow another 5 million by 2050, Yahn said.

More specifically for Morgan County, demographers project that the population will increase by 73 percent along the South Platte River Basin, he said.

Water leaders are trying to find ways to meet the water needs of the state, but also trying to avoid just selling off agricultural water rights to meet the needs of Colorado’s cities, Yahn noted.

If agricultural water rights were just bought up and transferred to city use, as has been the historical trend, from 22 to 32 percent of agricultural water along the South Platte River would be taken for use by cities by 2050, he warned.

That would mean the loss of production on 180,000 to 270,000 acres, Yahn said.

It is the state population that uses the water, not agriculture, because the water that goes into agricultural products eventually goes back to people in the form of food, he said. Water that does not go into the food largely soaks back into the underground aquifers after use for crops.

That means the state needs to develop new water strategies, and that is underway as various groups work on a state water plan, Yahn said.

Those working on the plan hope to address the expected water shortages in ways that will not dry up farm land and still preserves the state’s rivers.

The basin implementation plans which will be part of the overall plan are due back to Gov. John Hickenlooper this coming summer, and the draft of a state water plan is expected by the end of the year, Yahn said.

The trick is creating a plan that will be of actual use, not just another glossy report on the shelf, he said.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting February 6 #COWaterPlan

Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody's Vintage Collectible Postcards
Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody’s Vintage Collectible Postcards

From The Fort Morgan Times:

Jim Yahn, manager of North Sterling and Prewitt Reservoirs and the past chairman of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, will be speaking at the Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6.

Yahn will speak on the Past, Present and Future of Colorado’s Water.

This is a very important meeting to attend if you are concerned about your water rights.

Yahn is responsible for overseeing the diversion and distribution of water to farmers. He also serves as one of the two South Platte Basin Roundtable representatives Statewide Interbasin Compact Committee.

It is not too late to RSVP to Morgan Conservation District’s Annual meeting which will be held at the Country Steak-Out Restaurant in Fort Morgan at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $25.

Please RSVP to the conservation district office at 970-867-9659, x 3.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Fort Morgan: City Council hopes to score some grant money to study stormwater needs


From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The Fort Morgan City Council on Tuesday directed city staff to seek out grants to cover the cost of a study for how to implement a stormwater fee.
“The recommendation from the (Stormwater) Ad Hoc Committee was to assess a fee to address stormwater issues,” Wells said. But he said that staff were not sure yet what fee would need to be to cover everything it would need to cover, or if that was what the council wanted.

“If we do this, we want to make sure we do it the right way,” he said, suggesting a study. He said that some Colorado municipalities had put in place stormwater fees without studies, leading to questions from the people paying fees and even ballot issues eliminating the fees…

The third option, which was the one that was recommended by the committee, would be to create a stormwater utility and assess a monthly fee to city residents. Wells explained that a big issue with this was how the money would be allocated in the budget between a new enterprise fund and where it used to come out of the general fund…

The council did direct Wells and staff to find out more about the costs of study for stormwater fees, as well as seek grants to pay for that type of study. Wells did say that a stormwater fee study likely would cost between $30,000 to $50,000, but that grants may be available to cover about half of that cost.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Sterling: The 2013 draft budget is out, staff recommends spending down excess revenues in the water fund


From the Sterling Journal Advocate (David Marinez):

Water fund

Some major changes are coming to the water fund, as the city weans off major water line expenditures and increases its water plant expenditures.

Total expenditures for water line construction and improvements will drop from $16.5 million in 2011 and $14.3 million in 2012 to only $2.65 million in $2013.

The biggest changes in that budget come from a combined $786,000 drop in consultant fees and legal expenses. The city paid $236,000 this year for water consultants during construction — $25,000 in 2013 — and $575,000 in water court issues.

Kiolbasa said the city, like farms or other water users, has to protect its rights to use water for 15 to 20 years into the future. The court fees this year reflect an effort to secure the city’s rights to water until 2035.

On the other side, expenditures on the water plant will increase from $198,000 in 2012 to about $4.5 million in 2013, as almost every budget expenditure item will either be new or greatly increased for the coming year.

All things considered, the total water fund equity will decrease from about $10.6 million in 2012 to about $8.9 million next year.

More infrastructure coverage here and here.

Morgan County dairy tour highlights importance of water to agriculture


From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Lawyers, Front Range city council members, a grain elevator operator, water purification company executives and a power company representative were among the others making the trip.

The group also heard from Joe Frank of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District about efforts by people from Kersey to the Colorado-Nebraska state line to work together and better manage water, particularly augmentation plans.
The group would like to partner with some Front Range municipalities to do some leases and exchanges of water instead of the “buy and dry” philosophy some Front Range entities are pursuing…

Morgan County Quality Water District started in the mid-1970s from efforts by dairy farmers Paul McDill and Bob Samples to get better water for their cattle, Kip Barthlama of the district’s board of directors said.

Water quality gets worse as one moves downstream along the Platte, it was noted. Frank pointed out that Sterling is in the process of building a $30 million reverse osmosis plant.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan: Water rate hike on the council agenda for tonight


From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

…first they will hear a presentation from Tom Ullman of the Farnsworth Group about the city’s water fund resources, commitments and likely future expenditure requirements. Ullman conducted a recent water rate study for the city.

His presentation in late April showed his study indicated the city likely would need to increase water and sewer rates in coming years just to keep up with operation and maintenance costs, let alone pay for new infrastructure projects, such as the Northern Integrated Supply Project and stormwater drainage projects. The council did recently approve higher sewer rates.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Fort Morgan and the Morgan County Quality Water District hammer out IGA


From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The agreements pave the way for an emergency tie-in between the city’s water system and that of Quality Water.

This would provide water to the city from Quality Water or to Quality Water from the city if there were an emergency.

The agreements also will allow the city to treat and deliver to Quality Water “a portion of Quality Water’s water from the Colorado-Big Thompson project operated by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District,” which are sometimes referred to as C-BT units. Quality Water would be responsible for paying the city for the treatment and delivery, according to the agreement.

“Our treatment plant operates off of a direct source” of water,” City Manager Jeff Wells said. “There are very minimal byproducts from what we do to clean the water.” Because the city and Quality Water share a pipeline, Wells said it makes sense to share use of the treatment plant, as well. Wells said that treating Quality Water’s water at the Fort Morgan plant will bring in $60,000 to $100,000 per year, but that it shouldn’t mean a big rate increase for Quality Water customers.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan City Council approves water rate changes


From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The water rates had been scheduled to increase by 4 percent in January, but Acting City Manager Jeff Wells told the council Tuesday night that an increase of 5 percent was necessary to cover the cost of running water and wastewater treatment operations in the city, as well as the purchase of water and other water-enterprise-related costs, such as complying with Environmental Protection Agency regulations. “We initially thought the regular increase would be enough, but it wasn’t,” Wells said. “Where we’re at is not where we expected to be.” The council approved the suggested 5 percent increase, which Wells said likely would amount to about $3 per month for average residential users.

More infrastructure coverage here and here.

The Fort Morgan Town Council approves $685,000 for treatment plant upgrades


From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The new filter media and under-drain system at the water plant was the most expensive of the council’s votes, which allowed expenditures of up to $685,000 for material and installation. “It needed to be done,” Mayor Terry McAlister told the Times of the filter media system upgrade after the meeting.

The council members decided to go with plant Superintendent John Turner’s recommendation of upgrading the filter media system, rather than only fixing the old system repeatedly, which still would have cost several hundred thousand dollars over a number of years. The new system the council voted to get is one that has been proven to be “the gold standard” in such equipment and is used at water treatment plants around the state.

More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.

Wiggins: No outside watering allowed


From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Wiggins residents are not allowed to water their lawns until further notice. Town wells are just not keeping up with the demand for sprinklers, and the water level in the water tower fell until the pipes were sucking air, said Wiggins Town Administrator Bill Rogers. That may be partly due to people watering more due to a lack of rain and intense heat lately, but also perhaps because the wells are falling off in water production, he said. Wiggins’ well levels have been falling consistently for years now, which is why the town is buying water rights, has a new well site in another area and is building a pipeline to bring water from the new source to town.

More Wiggins coverage here.

Fort Morgan: City council will likely form committee to explore funding for stormwater projects

A picture named detentionpond.jpg

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

At their regular meeting next week, Fort Morgan City Council members likely will establish an ad hoc committee to study and put together some sort of financing mechanism for city voters to consider for dealing with financing stormwater infrastructure. That was what came out of the discussion the council members had Tuesday night about how to pay for needed stormwater system upgrades, as well as system maintenance. Several months ago, the members of the Fort Morgan City Council listed the stormwater system improvements as a major need for the city at their brainstorming session. Studies are currently underway by outside design contractors for the northwest and south quadrants of the city, and public meetings have been held to discuss the findings and possible plans. Those studies have made it clear to council that millions of dollars would be needed for long-term infrastructure upgrades that would alleviate all storm-related flooding in the city…

Current estimates have the total cost of infrastructure projects at around $50 million. The very preliminary cost estimates Curtis has received from the contractor for the big version of the possible northwest quadrant project was $3 million to $6 million. Figures weren`t known on a possible south quadrant project…

They settled on the idea of creating an ad hoc committee that likely will include council members and citizens to study the issue in-depth and create a plan of action, possibly including a ballot issue or ballot issues for a 2012 general election. The issue of creating a study committee will likely be on the agenda next week as a regular item.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Wiggins: The town is gearing up to file a substitute water supply plan for their new well

A picture named typicalwaterwell.jpg

From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The ditch company [Weldon Valley] also did not have any objections to discharging the concentrated remains after the town uses reverse osmosis to clarify its water, said Tim Holbrook of Industrial Facilities Engineering, which is overseeing the project. Once Weldon Valley gives its approval, the town can file its water plan with the water court, Nation said.

That begins a time of waiting on a number of issues.

The case will wait for 60 days while other water users have a chance to file objections to the plan, and then a substitute water plan will be filed, Nation said. Usually, a town cannot file for a well permit until the substitute plan is filed, but it is possible Wiggins could receive an exception through an emergency filing, he said. If that happened, Wiggins could have authority for a well as quickly as two to three weeks after filing, but otherwise it will take longer, Holbrook said.

Wiggins can probably begin pumping water as soon as the substitute water plan is filed, but the best-case scenario for that is three months, Nation said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Fort Morgan: Council okays lease price for Colorado-Big Thompson shares

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The Fort Morgan City Council voted Tuesday night to set the prices for shares of Colorado-Big Thompson water owned by the city, which could be purchased by local businesses.
The price has been set based on a rolling three-year weighted average of C-BT shares bought by the city. Over the course of three years, the city bought 199 shares for a total cost of $1,479,250. That averages out to $7,433.42, which is the price council members approved for the current year. That rate would be adjusted in the future based on future averages. The $7,433.42 per share covers the cost of “the water rights portion of a tap fee, when C-BT water must be purchased to cover increased water use by an existing customer, and for new business purchases,” according to a memo to the council from City Water Resources Director Gary Dreessen. In addition, council members approved a $500 service fee per related transaction, except for certain tap fees that have all fees included in one price.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan: City council sets C-BT share costs for businesses

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

When smaller businesses need to buy C-BT water shares, they are not always knowledgeable about buying it on the open market, said City Water Resources Director Gary Dreessen.

Under those circumstances, it would be business-friendly to help them out by selling them shares of the water that the city owns, said Acting City Manager Jeff Wells.

Council members seemed to reach a consensus that the city would sell water shares at a price based on the average cost over the past three years.

However, Councilman Scott Bryan wondered if the city should charge the going price, instead of the average of three years.

Giving local businesses a break is part of being business-friendly, said Councilman Brent Nation.

Councilman James Powers urged city officials to keep an eye on how businesses are buying water shares, so they would not be able to speculate on them to make a profit.

Any company which would want to buy a large amount of water, say 40 or 50 shares, would be helped by the city acting as a kind of broker, but the city would not sell that many shares directly, Wells said.

Powers also insisted that any money the city receives from water share sales go into a fund for purchasing more water, not just into the general water department revenue. In the past, that happened and the money seemed to get lost. Different organizations handle water sales differently, but the Morgan County Quality Water District does use the proceeds to buy more water and that seems to work, Nation said.

Businesses which bought water from the city directly would pay a $500 transaction fee for the work the city put into the sale — over and above the cost of the water, Dreessen said. Given the water market, this policy would likely change in the future, but it should work for now, Nation said.

The price for a business buying a city share of water would be $7,433 this year, which would be an average of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 prices.

This was a work session, which meant the council could not vote on the policy, but it will go on the agenda for the next meeting in two weeks.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan: New water code approved by the city council

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

In the past, the city expected any business which used significant amounts of water to purchase shares of Colorado-Big Thompson water to use, he said. However, sometimes a business needed just over an even amount of shares, and it was a burden for it to buy a whole new share, the council was told Jan. 4. Under a new internal policy, the city will round that off the water shares to the nearest half-share in order to be business friendly, Wells said.

Also, the city will decide on a case-by-case basis on how to convert inside water meters to outside water meters, but that will not be part of the code itself, he said. For the most part, changes to the water code are things the council has already done in the past by resolution, but were not included in the code itself, said Acting City Manager Jeff Wells.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan flooding discussion

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Residents of the Eighth Avenue area near Main Street blame flooding in the last two years at least partially on the downtown improvement project completed in the summer of 2009. The project has moved a flooding problem from downtown to Eighth, some residents said at a meeting called by city officials Wednesday to discuss the flooding and try to reassure residents that they were working on a solution.

And while city engineer Brad Curtis acknowledged that runoff from the downtown area “didn`t help” the long-standing flooding situation on Eighth, Scott Bryan of the city council pointed out that the area had not seen in a long time rainstorms like it has seen the last two years. Bryan, who owns a cleaning and service business, said that flooding problems in Fort Morgan are not isolated to Eighth. He said he and his workers pump out 50 to 60 houses after every big storm. He has had the business since 1995, he said, and has not seen anything to compare with the storms of the last two years.

More stormwater coverage here.

Fort Morgan: U.S. Representative-elect Cory Gardner listens to locals

A picture named nisp2

From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Gardner said one of his top priorities is to make sure the Northern Integrated Supply Project reservoirs get built near Fort Collins, and to work with water suppliers to build more storage. Although there are contending views on NISP, everyone needs to work through the issues, Gardner said. It is not a zero sum game to find ways to meet all water needs, and without NISP agriculture will suffer, he said.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan: Water rates go up January 1

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The monthly base charge for water will rise from $34.13 a month to $35.83 per month, and the volume charge will go from $2.52 per 1,000 gallons to $2.65 as of Jan. 1, said water resources Director Gary Dreessen. However, the wastewater rates will not rise, City Manager Pat Merrill said.

A water and wastewater study completed by The Engineering Company indicates that a rate adjustment is needed to balance the water department budget, he said. Like other departments, the water department has limited its capital projects this year to help balance the 2011 budget, Dreessen said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: U.S. Senator Bennet and U.S. Representative Markey will host an agriculture forum Thursday

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From The Fort Morgan Times:

The offices of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Betsy Markey, along with the USDA, are hosting a forum on agriculture, conservation and rural development in Fort Morgan on Thursday, Sept. 9. The event is to be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Morgan Community College in the Founders Room in Spruce Hall. MCC is at 920 Barlow Road. The forum will allow participants to provide feedback on agriculture, conservation and rural development issues and will include a conversation about the 2012 farm bill…

Key questions for discussion include how to cultivate the next generation of farmers and ranchers, how to provide Colorado producers with the risk management tools and safety net they need in a fiscally responsible manner, and how to address natural resource concerns, such as water quantity and quality, erodible soils and wildlife habitat, while keeping land in production and opportunities open for rural economic development. Those interested in attending should RSVP to agriculture@bennet.senate.gov.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Wiggins scores nine shares of the Weldon Valley Ditch Company

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Wiggins Town Council members voted unanimously during their monthly meeting Wednesday night to contract with Tom and Donna Deganhart to buy nine shares of Weldon Valley Ditch Co. water at a cost of $720,000. That contract required $20,000 of earnest money, but that will give the town the right to look at records on the water use and a chance to figure out how much water those shares would yield for use by the town. Since the town already bought shares of Weldon Valley Ditch water which should give it 103 acre-feet, and this purchase may yield 150 acre-feet, that might be all the water the town`s water project will need, said Wiggins Town Administrator Bill Rogers.

More Wiggins coverage here.

The Morgan County Quality Water District wins second place at the National Rural Water Association Rally

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The Morgan County Quality Water District was chosen as having the second-best water in the U.S. at the National Rural Water Association Rally this year. That comes on top of being recognized for the best water in both 2006 and 2009, and as Rural Water District of the Year for 2009 in Colorado by Colorado Rural Water, said MCQWD Manager Mark Kokes during this week’s meeting of the Morgan County Board of Realtors at the Country Steak-Out. Culinary chefs tasted the five finalists at the NRWA rally to choose the best and second-best, he said.

MCQWD is noted for its pure and exceptional water, Kokes said. That does not mean that it is necessarily the softest water around, but there is more to excellent water than softness, and MCQWD believes it has the best water around, he said. For instance, Quality Water exceeds EPA Safe Drinking Water standards, Kokes said.

More water treatment coverage here.

Fort Morgan: Council hears that the city needs to bump rates 5% in each of the next two years

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

Council members seemed to agree on the need for the water rate increases, and Mayor Terry McAlister directed the city staff to bring back a proposal soon that the council could vote on.

The biggest reason for the rate hikes is the looming $40 million debt that the city will incur when its share of the cost of the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) starts coming due in the next several years, Ullman noted.

The good news, which came out of an accompanying study of city sewer rates presented by Ullman at Tuesday’s council work session, is that he sees no need for an increase in those rates at this time. He did, however, suggest that the city raise its plant investment fee, or sewer tap fee, for new hookups to the sewer system.

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

Brush: City council approves first application for wastewater services for outside the town limits

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jesse Chaney):

The Brush City Council on Monday approved the first application it received for wastewater utility service outside the city limits. Robert Pennington applied for service to his rural Brush property, 16038 County Road 28. “I do appreciate it, that’s the main thing,” Pennington told the council. “I’m somewhat frustrated by the length of time it took to get the job done.” Brush Attorney Robert Chapin said Pennington and others who receive the rural utility service must pay double the normal fees and agree to have their land annexed into the city when possible.

More wastewater coverage here.

The town of Wiggins is still shopping for water rights

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

At the end of the Wiggins Town Council meeting Wednesday night, after a closed-door executive session, Town Administrator Bill Rogers was instructed to meet with an undisclosed person to discuss the sale of water rights. Although Wiggins has begun building its new water pipeline and may soon have U.S. Department of Agriculture approval for a loan to finance it, the town still only has about half of the new water supply it needs to replace its failing wells.

Water levels in the town wells have fallen for years now, and mineral levels have risen. The same has been true in the rest of the Bijou-Kiowa water basin. Wiggins bought 10 shares of Weldon Valley Ditch Co. water, but that will only provide about half of what it will need, Rogers has said in the past. At its height of use, Wiggins was consuming about 240 acre-feet of water each year, although the town only used 193 acre-feet last year, partly because of water restrictions, he said.

More Wiggins coverage here and here.

Great Outdoors Colorado’s latest ‘GOCO Update’

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Here’s the link to the January 2010 GOCO Update (pdf).

Emily Davies writes in an email, “GOCO played a critical role in helping the Colorado Division of Wildlife purchase the 710-acre Andrick Ponds State Wildlife Area in Morgan County.”

From the Colorado Division of Wildlife website:

[The Andrick Ponds State Wildlife Area]: 711 acre fee title; critical fall and spring migration stopover for waterfowl and other migratory birds; supports breeding and wintering mallards and geese; includes open water, wetland vegetation, grassland, sand sage and open woodland.

More conservation coverage here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Fort Morgan Water Advisory Board still on board

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

“The more we sit and discuss these things, the more NISP sounds like the best option,” said Fort Morgan City Council member James Powers, who represents the council as an ex officio member of the water advisory board.

At Wednesday’s session the water board heard a presentation from Tom Ullman of The Engineering Company, who is also in the process of performing a water and sewer rate study for the city. Ullman’s presentation Wednesday, however, was an analysis of the impact on city water rates of NISP as compared to what he called “the C-BT alternative.” That alternative would have the city purchasing an equivalent amount of Colorado-Big Thompson water — the city’s primary supply now — to equal the amount of water NISP is expected to yield to the city when it is built and operational. Based on what Ullman presented, though, the C-BT proposal hardly seemed to be an alternative at all — and several in the room said so. “Maybe we should take the C-BT option off the table, because it’s not viable,” Powers said…

In addition to costing the city millions of dollars more than NISP, according to the latest and best estimates Ullman had, the C-BT alternative assumes that the city would be able to purchase the additional C-BT water it needs. That assumption is by no means a safe one. The amount of C-BT water is finite, and shrinking all the time, water board members have said. And while prices for C-BT shares are attractive now, because of a slowdown in development due to the recession, nobody knows whether sufficient C-BT water to supply the city’s needs will be available at any price in the future…

Another variable is that the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District — which supplies the city with its C-BT water and is also spearheading NISP — has announced plans to cap the ownership level of C-BT shares for any one owner, but the city does not yet know what its cap will be. Even if enough C-BT water were available, the price fluctuates greatly with demand and it’s impossible to predict what prices may do. C-BT water has been selling in the range of about $8,000 to $9,000 a share in the past year, and Dreessen suggested that any C-BT water to be had at less than $10,000 a share was “just gravy.”[…]

The average city residential customer who uses 10,000 gallons of water a month pays a monthly bill of $56.30 now, Ullman said. Under the NISP scenario, that bill would increase by about 30 percent — or about $16.95 a month — between now and 2024. Those increases would come in 10 percent increments, in 2015, 2016 and 2023. Under the C-BT alternative — if it were even feasible — the cost for the average homeowner would go up by an additional $9.35 more than the NISP increase, or closer to 50 percent higher than today, by 2027…

The water advisory board also welcomed a new member at Wednesday’s meeting. Heath Kuntz has taken the place of former member Brent Nation, who assumed his position on the Fort Morgan City Council on Tuesday. Nation, a water engineer who owns Nation Engineering, had resigned at last month’s water board meeting because of his election to the city council. Kuntz is a city resident who has extensive experience in water issues. He has worked for water advisory board Chairman Jack Odor at General Appropriators of the South Platte as well as for Nation in the past, and now works for Leonard Rice Water Consulting Engineers on the Front Range. The board also re-elected Odor as its chairman, Jim Green as vice chairman and Bill Baker as secretary, and reviewed revisions to its bylaws. The bylaws will be forwarded to the city council for approval.

More Morgan County coverage here. More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan: New city council to get chance to voice support for the Northern Integrated Supply Project

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

The one item of business on the organizational meeting agenda that is not tied to city organizing matters is a resolution that will test the new council’s commitment to the NISP water project. The resolution would authorize the mayor to “execute the fifth interim agreement with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) Water Activity Enterprise,” for continued participation in NISP.

The city’s share of NISP expenses in 2010 is projected at $135,000, according to the agreement. Each of the 15 participants in the project contributes money based on its percentage share of the water from the project, to fund the work necessary to design and obtain permits for the water project. The total expenditure on these efforts for 2010 is expected to be $1.5 million, the agreement says.

The NISP project is now in its third phase, years 7 through 9, according to the agreement. The project has been delayed by a drawn-out permitting process through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as opposition to the project from some environmental groups. Northern Water officials have said they expect NISP to receive a permit this year. The Fort Morgan City Council, as well as the city’s water advisory board, have been solidly behind NISP as the best answer to the city’s long-range water supply needs. The city’s participation in the project is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $40 million over about 12 to 15 years, with the highest payments coming due when actual construction of the water storage project starts.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Fort Morgan: Renaissance Land and Water Management LLC pitches partnership to change agricultural rights to municipal

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

Representatives of Renaissance Land and Water Management LLC pitched their proposal as an alternative to the Northern Integrated Water Supply Project, a water storage project in which Fort Morgan plans to be one of 15 participants. Renaissance spokesman Rod Guerrieri, a member of the organization’s principal team, said the company controls or has access to some 15,000 acre-feet of senior water rights and is looking for partners to develop those rights. Guerrieri said Renaissance could begin delivering water to Fort Morgan by 2014, but acknowledged that the company’s water rights would have to make it through water court and obtain a change of use from agricultural to domestic. Members of the water board and city staff as well as several local agriculture operators and water company officials repeatedly pointed out that doing so could be a very long process with a very uncertain outcome. Renaissance made an initial presentation to the water board several months ago, board chairman Jack Odor noted, and the board had asked at that time for clarification on a number of issues. It appeared many of the questions still had not been resolved to the satisfaction of the water board.

Renaissance’s plan would call for pumping water from “three different sources in multiple locations” from Greeley to the Sterling area, using what it called “high-quality wells” and senior water rights. Several different scenarios were presented that involved building pipelines varying in length from about eight to more than 40 miles to get the water to the Fort Morgan water treatment plant. The quality of the water that would be delivered to the city plant was another one of the concerns of the water board and city Water Superintendent John Turner. Guerrieri said the water would be below 500 in total dissolved solids, but Turner said the water the city now receives from the Colorado-Big Thompson project is about 50 TDS, and improving the quality to match the city’s current supply would not be feasible. “There’s a lot of things to be figured out, but if there’s enough interest, then we get engineers and attorneys in a room and figure it out,” Guerrieri said. “There’s a lot of technical issues, but we have done millions of dollars in engineering, and I think our engineers and attorneys could probably convince your engineers and attorneys.”

The Renaissance plan would also involve the “drying” of agricultural land — or taking water away from agriculture for city use — and Odor pointed out the board and city officials have long been against that practice. “It’s always been the city’s position that drying up ag land is not a good idea,” Odor said.

Ed. Note: I interviewed Mr. Guerrieri quite a while back. At the time Renaissance was planning a large housing development in Weld County which was where he planned to use the water they had purchased. The development would have led to the buy and dry as well. The development had an interesting side to it. Some common areas were to be used for high value agriculture such as grapes. Grape belt instead of green belt — i liked the idea.

More Morgan County coverage here.

South Platte River Basin: Fort Morgan farmer that pumped without an augmentation plan now doing jail time

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From 9News.com (Jeffrey Wolf/ Eric Kahnert):

The state says this is the first time someone in Colorado has had to do jail time for taking water illegally. State water authorities say the owner of Kroskob Farms in Fort Morgan stole water from wells for about a year and a half. Craig Kroskob, 44, was sentenced to six months in the Weld County Jail. All but 20 days were suspended. Water division engineers say Kroskob used five wells on his property to steal water. After he was caught, the fines against him totaled $128,000.

“When he violated our order, I think he was trying to grow crops, and therefore he wanted to use the water even though it was creating injury to other water users,” Jim Hall with the Division of Water Resources said. “It’s the first time the court has ever put someone in jail for violating an order and continuing to violate. So it is unique in that way.”

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Fort Morgan: Council retreat participants talk water

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From The Forgan Morgan Times (John Brennan):

Current council members, as well senior city staff and two new members who will join the council next month, discussed the city’s water situation and a variety of other topics during a council retreat Saturday morning at Memories Restaurant. Other topics on the meeting agenda included discussion of the city’s financial reserves; a review of the council’s rules of procedure; and the goals for the city’s new director of marketing and economic development. The first matter of business, though, was water…

[Director of Water Resources Gary Dreessen] presented charts showing the city’s supply compared to current demand in three different scenarios: with only the C-BT shares the city actually owns; with both owned and leased C-BT shares; and with a new supply from another project proposed by NCWCD, the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP).

“With NISP, we’re OK almost to 2050,” Dreessen said. “With just C-BT and leased (water), were in trouble by 2025.” Dreessen also noted that cost of C-BT water fluctuates with demand. While the price per unit has ranged as high as $16,000 to $18,000, the city was able to buy some shares this year for between $7,500 and $8,000 a share. The supply of C-BT water, however, is finite, and NCWCD officials expect it to run out of shares in about 10 years, he said.

The council has already agreed to participate in NISP, but the project will be costly — the city’s portion is expected to cost nearly $40 million. Water rates will have to be increased to help pay for the new supply.

“You’re going to have to make some tough decisions soon,” said Mayor Jack Darnell, who will leave office on Jan. 12 when new mayor-elect Terry McAlister takes over the mayor’s post. “Are you going to go with NISP? Is the council going to decide, or are you going to put it to a vote?”

Although the city would likely issue bonds to finance its share of NISP, Darnell also suggested the council consider starting with smaller increases in water rates soon, rather than waiting until the city’s NISP payments are due and hitting residents with a large increase all at once.

Projections included in Dreessen’s presentation showed the city will need to impose rate increases of 10 percent in 2015 and again in 2016, and another 7 percent in 2023.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Fort Morgan: Rate hike?

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

The utility enterprise funds are essentially in good shape, City Manager Pat Merrill told the council, but the water fund currently shows revenue falling short of expenses by about $622,000 for 2009.
Water Resources Director Gary Dreessen pointed out that the weather this year has played a large role in that shortfall. “The reason the water fund is in the shape it’s in is that we didn’t sell any water,” Dreessen said, referring to the fact that consumption was down significantly because, for example, people did not water lawns nearly as much as usual last summer. He said he has been told by water consultants that “every water fund in the state is in basically the same situation.”

More Morgan County coverage here and here.

Wiggins Town Council delays rate increase

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

The Wiggins Town Council decided at its meeting Wednesday to delay a planned rate increase from $36 a month to $56 a month per household…

Town Administrator Bill Rogers said the town could impose the first $20 of the increase as soon as construction begins, or delay any increase until the project is completed. Councilman Vince Longcor said he felt the town should wait to impose even a partial rate hike until the town starts work like digging trenches or laying pipe. “There’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes (on the water project), but for a lot of people seeing is believing,” Longcor said. Rogers said he expects to be able to start construction on the project as soon as the town receives a letter of authorization from USDA Rural Development, which is loaning money for the project. That letter should come shortly after the first of the year, Rogers said. The town also decided to finalize a contract with IFE, the engineering firm doing preliminary design work on the water project. Town attorney Melinda Culley told the council she understood that the design work had been approved, but no funding had been appropriated yet. She said state law requires that funding be approved before authorizing any work, so Culley recommended that the town either hold off on approving any design work, or only authorize work for which it had funding available. Rogers said the town had about $100,000 that it could dedicate for the design work, and the expense would be reimbursable through the USDA. A representative of IFE said the agreement to be approved Wednesday would allow the firm to do some initial geotechnical and surveying work, for which there is some urgency because the town can only bore under the Bijou ditch when it is not filled with water. Rogers said that leaves the town just a “very short window” in January or February to complete that work, or face delaying the project for an entire year.

The council unanimously approved the agreement with IFE and the appropriation of the $100,000, with the understanding that it would be reimbursed by USDA for whatever portion of that money is spent.

More Wiggins coverage here.

Log Lane utilities bills to rise $10 per month

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The Log Lane Village Board of Trustees approved two ordinances Thursday night, one raising the basic cost for water by $5 and the other raising the basic cost for sewer services by $5. New town attorney Carl McGuire — who was sworn in that evening — said the rise in costs was necessary because the town needed larger reserves to ensure it could pay the loan it got for the recent overhaul of those utility systems. Log Lane took out a loan from the Colorado Drinking Water Revolving Fund through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority for the work on the systems, he said. However, the authority is demanding that Log Lane have a certain level of reserves to make sure it can pay its loan, and the current reserves are not acceptable.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Morgan County Water Quality District board meeting recap

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

City Water Superintendent John Turner told the water board during its monthly meeting that an agreement with Quality Water could help the city in the event the supply of water from the city’s treatment plant west of town is somehow shut down. At least one connection already exists between the two water systems, Turner said, and an additional connection would be advisable. The city’s current emergency plan in the event of the loss of its water supply calls for the city to revert to the use of several wells that are still online in the city, Turner said. But the city stopped using those wells because of the high concentration of nitrates, uranium and other contaminants in the water, he noted…

Water board member Bill Baker raised the issue of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, which many Fort Morgan residents support through a mill levy tax. LSP officials made a presentation to the water board last spring, outlining all of the water measuring and data collection the group does, Baker recalled. But he said none of the things the LSP district does have anything to do with the city of Fort Morgan. “Northern (Colorado Water Conservancy District) is our water district as far as I’m concerned,” Baker said. “But I looked at (LSP’s) budget and most of their revenue is our money. I think we should look at withdrawing (from LSP).” Powers pointed out that while individual property owners in Fort Morgan are assessed the mill levy for the LSP water district, Fort Morgan as a city does not “belong” to the district and therefore cannot withdraw…A motion by water board member Jeff Canfield, to ask the council to instruct Wells to look into possible options for withdrawing from the LSP water district, was approved unanimously…

The water board also discussed proposed bylaws governing its structure and function. Although the board has essentially been operating without bylaws since its inception, Wells said the city council approved a resolution this year that all city boards and commissions must have formal bylaws. Some exceptions were made, including the city planning commission, which is governed by state law. One of the elements of the bylaws dictated by the council is term limits. But several members of the water board felt the complex nature of the water issues it deals with make the knowledge and experience of the board members more crucial than on some other city boards, and might qualify it for such an exception. Board member Jim Green said longevity and historical knowledge are especially important on the water board. “That perspective is invaluable,” Green said. “We’re looking at things, projects, plans 20 years from now, but a lot of that depends on things that happened 20, 30, 50 years ago.”

More Morgan County coverage here.

Fort Morgan: Emergency teams train to respond to chlorine leak

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

This was not a real leak, but a training exercise meant to prepare those at the water plant and emergency responders in case there is ever a leak of the deadly gas, and a chance to see how well everyone had prepared for it. Tanks of liquid and gaseous chlorine are stored in an air-tight bay at the plant, used to make sure bacteria are killed before water goes to users in Fort Morgan, said employee Matt Padgett.

More water treatment coverage here.

Morgan County source water protection plan drafting committee meeting recap

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Colleen Williams, a source water specialist with the Colorado Rural Water Association, a nonprofit organization that helps water districts and other groups with source water protection plans, presented the group with a draft of a plan for the Morgan County area. Members of the group will review the plan and suggest revisions. A final version of the plan is to be presented at the group’s next meeting Nov. 12 at 1:30 p.m. at the quality water district’s headquarters.

County buy-in to source water protection plans appears likely — Tony Carlson, one of the county commissioners; Barb Gorrell, zoning administrator; and Steve Enfante, emergency management coordinator, have been attending committee meetings. The plan will address a wide range of concerns about the protection of source water and ways of addressing those concerns. Public education looms large as a means of protecting water. In addition to county officials, the Northeast Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the city of Brush, Log Lane Village, the Morgan Conservation District and other entities have been involved in working on the plan.

The group is focusing on three areas — Hay Gulch near the border between Morgan and Weld counties, San Arroyo Creek southwest of Fort Morgan and Beaver Creek south of Brush. There are more than 600 oil and gas wells within the areas, but most of them are abandoned and capped. Regulations now call for oil and gas companies to use liners in water pits when drilling wells. In addition to oil and gas wells, other areas of possible concern to source water quality include transportation (particularly spills from vehicles), growth and development, septic systems, agricultural practices (especially fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides), private water wells, underground water storage, recharge ponds, residential practices and the Clean Harbors hazardous waste storage facility on Highway 36.

More Morgan County coverage here.

Fort Morgan: City council looking at plan B for stalled Northern Integrated Supply Project

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

The city’s participation in the project would cost it more than $30 million over about 12 years after the project gains a permit, and city and water board officials have said it would ensure a reliable supply of water sufficient for future growth of the city. The project has been stalled, however, in the permitting process by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, due at least in part to objections from opponents of the project who claim NISP will damage the Poudre River. The city water advisory board has always strongly recommended that the city continue to be a part of NISP. No further information on the discussion regarding alternate options was provided in the council agenda packet for Tuesday’s meeting.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Fort Morgan: Downtown water and storm sewer installations complete

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From The Fort Morgan Times: “As the Fort Morgan downtown infrastructure improvement project moves into its third and final month, water line and storm drain installations are complete, according to the weekly update from Municipal Engineer Brad Curtis.”

More Morgan County coverage here.

Morgan County: Source water quality protection plan to be final in October

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Having the plan will help the district have an “in” to be informed of any new proposed land uses in areas affecting its well fields and an opportunity for input regarding such changes, said MCQWD manager Mark Kokes. Those areas include the Hay Gulch area west of Wiggins hill and the San Arroyo and Beaver Creek drainages. The Colorado Department of Health and Environment has reviewed those areas, Kokes noted. The area of most immediate concern, Kokes said, is Hay Gulch, which is the most economically feasible area for underground storage.

Front Range interests, including the city of Parker, have been buying up water in Morgan County and other northeastern Colorado counties for possible underground storage and eventual transport to their facilities via pipelines, Kokes and Brush landowner Steve Treadway said. Underground storage has a couple of advantages — storage for later use with minimal loss to evaporation and built-in pre-treatment of the water, with some impurities taken out as the water percolates through the ground, Kokes said.

Water district officials and others are concerned, however, about possible degradation of water in their well fields as other water is brought in. Water taken from the South Platte River is high in nitrates and total dissolved solids, and the impurities grow worse as one moves downstream, Kokes said. “The further downstream you get, the less desirable the water is,” he stated…

Oil and gas activity is less of a concern than degradation due to inferior water being stored near well fields, Kokes said, pointing out that oil and gas is heavily regulated. Steve Enfante, county emergency management coordinator, noted that regulations on hazardous materials spills include requirements to report and clean up any spill of more than 25 gallons of any petroleum-based product. For crude oil, reporting and cleanup requirements start at five gallons, said Ken Strauch of the Northeast Chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Surprisingly, Kokes said, there is not much agricultural activity or many septic tanks near the district’s well fields.

More Coyote Gulch Morgan County coverage here.

Brush/Fort Morgan: Effluent mixing study on tap?

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jesse Chaney):

The study would help the cities determine whether to send effluent from their wastewater treatment facilities through a mixer before releasing it into the South Platte River. The mixer would disperse the water, which could prevent the effluent from releasing a potentially harmful plume into the river, said Brush Clerk Cathy Smith. The city of Brush has already budgeted for its portion of the study, she said.

More Coyote Gulch wastewater coverage here.

Log Lane Village: Water and sewer rates to rise

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From the Fort Morgan Times (John La Porte):

Members of the town’s board of trustees said Wednesday that while funds were sufficient to keep up with payments on loans on the systems, more reserves are needed to have money available when repairs are needed. Currently the monthly base rates are $60 for water and $45 for sewer; owners of vacant homes pay a $25 monthly fee for fire protection, said Town Clerk Kim Alva. “We don’t have that rainy day fund,” said town attorney Bo Chapin…

With the age of the town’s pipes, money should be set aside for maintenance and replacement, said board member Martha Manion. Five valves in the water system are not operational, and any leaks in areas controlled by them would mean shutting water off all over town for repairs, said board member Chuck Lakatos. A reserve fund could be established for pipe and valve repair and replacement, salaries for town staff and outside contractors and repairs to streets when pipe work is finished, Hotchkiss said.

Morgan County Quality Water District source water protection plan

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From the Fort Morgan Times:

During the team’s monthly planning meeting Tuesday, MCQWD Manager Mark Kokes said there is currently a strong push to pump water underground for storage. The water would percolate through natural sands into an underground gravel pit, he said, where it would be pumped back to the surface when needed. If water from less pure sources such as the South Platte River were pumped into areas near the MCQWD well fields, he said, it could affect the quality of the cleaner water. “With poor quality water entering an aquifer, it doesn’t take long for water to infiltrate through the soil profile,” he said. Kokes said any water that may affect the MCQWD well fields should meet local qualifications, but he fears that legislators will implement criteria for all of the state’s underground water storage…

Identified as a considerable source of concern for the well field near Brush was the Prairie Ponds augmentation recharge area and the Clean Harbors hazardous waste facility. The Clean Harbors facility is a good distance from the protection area, Williams said, but it is in the same drainage basin.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Brush: Groundwater level causing concern

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From the Fort Morgan Times (Jesse Chaney):

The Brush City Council on Monday will hear the concerns of landowners about water issues related to the Prairie Ponds and Bolinger and Henry Discharge. In a letter to the city, Arla, Herman and Jeff Cook said the water table at the northwest corner of their family farm has risen considerably. The water table is now six feet below ground, they said, and they are concerned that their profitable land is being threatened.

Fort Morgan Water Advisory Board recommends single rate

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From The Fort Morgan Times:

City officials asked the water board for opinions and feedback on several water-related issues Thursday.

Among the topics discussed were commercial/industrial water rates, improvements to the city water system, options for an emergency backup water source and long-term debt in the city water fund.

City officials also presented the water board with information on the cost to the city of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, including scenarios outlining the annual debt payments for that project if paid off over 20 years and over 30 years.

City Manager Pat Merrill told the board he was looking for input, opinions and suggestions regarding each of the issues on the agenda. The discussion of commercial/industrial water rates took up about half of the nearly two-hour session.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.