Coyote Gulch's Climate Change News

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

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We've moved Coyote Gulch to The URL works also. We intend to keep the old weblog and categories up as long as our hosting service is in business.

We apologize for taking so long to get this post up notifying you readers of the change. We couldn't get a post up because we were trying to repair our old blogging software. We were finally successful doing a reinstallation this weekend.

Thanks to the gang at Userland software for getting my Radio installation running again.

5:36:19 PM    

Thursday, February 12, 2009

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From the Summit Daily News: "The Colorado River District and the Blue River Watershed Group are holding an informal water workshop from 6:30-830 p.m. Feb.12 at the Breckenridge Campus of Colorado Mountain College. This workshop is intended for people who want to learn more about western water issues in a nonintimidating workshop setting where no question is too elementary to ask. For more information, contact Pokrandt at or at (970) 945-8522 x 236; or Cora McCold at (970) 485-5581 or"

Category: Colorado Water
6:38:52 AM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's Fremont County Commissioner's meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

"I lean toward favoring the application, but without identifying the conditions, it's difficult," said Commission Chairman Mike Stiehl following a four-hour public hearing Tuesday. Stiehl said the conditions have to be realistic, fair and enforceable.

Stiehl's colleagues, Ed Norden and Larry Lasha, also said they are leaning toward approval, but want more assurances in areas that not only would protect the county, but benefit it. They are looking for possible cooperative efforts with the Beaver Park Water District, Penrose, Florence and the Natural Resources Conservation Service if SDS comes through Fremont County. More than 125 people attended Tuesday's meeting, which spilled out of the commissioners meeting room into the basement lobby of the Fremont County Courthouse. Commissioners hosted the public hearing on the $1.1 billion pipeline proposal after the Fremont County Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend denial last month. Several people, including two former county commissioners, spoke against approving the application, saying Fremont County is only a second choice and that it would be better to know whether Colorado Springs actually intends to build the pipeline there or in the preferred location from Pueblo Dam...

[Dennis Jones, a former commissioner] said Colorado Springs "shouldn't have it both ways" and said at the very least, Fremont County should require the city to resubmit its application only if Pueblo County denies its application. Jones also listed Fremont County regulations that would allow commissioners to deny approval outright, saying Colorado Springs had not proved its project is compatible and harmonious, would not have a detrimental effect on property value, would not impair public welfare and would not adversely affect other property...

The pawn in a chess game theme was picked up by Rick Allen of the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition, which chastised Fremont County for considering an alternative rated second-best by the sponsors and in the Bureau of Reclamation's environmental impact statement. "The SDS application before Fremont County appears to be nothing more than a hedge by the project proponents to leverage Pueblo County," Allen said...

Colorado Springs says it needs easements on about 50 properties along a 17-mile route through Fremont County. It also would need to acquire three sites for pump stations: One on federal, one on state and one on private land, said John Fredell, SDS project director...

Jason Morin, plant manager at Holcim Cement at Portland, east of Florence, said he is convinced Colorado Springs' junior water right won't interfere with the company's existing river intake, based on one of the oldest rights on the river dating to 1861...

Florence would gain improvements to its river park from the project, said Kevin Shanks of THK Associates, which has been contracted by Colorado Springs to assist in planning for the park. Colorado Springs would commit to putting hydrants along the route of the pipeline to assist Penrose volunteer firefighters, said Dan Higgins, SDS construction and delivery manager. The Arkansas River Outfitters Association supports SDS as long as it leaves water in the river, as provided for in all versions of the project, said Tony Keenan, speaking for the outfitters...

Penrose Water has a more problematic situation, said Lissa Pinello, president. The district is working on its own $9.7 million project to deliver water purchased in 2006 from Fremont County Rancher Denzel Goodwin. The plan is to build a well field and enlarge Brush Hollow Reservoir. SDS could provide a simpler way to deliver the water, but that could put an $8.9 million Colorado Water Conservation Board loan at risk and would require an environmental impact statement Penrose can't afford. There are also concerns that the two projects would be using some of the same rights of way.

Meanwhile the Grisenti family, which owns most of the water in the Lester-Atterbury Ditch Colorado Springs proposes to use for the SDS diversion, say they were never contacted by Colorado Springs. Fredell explained the major issue with the ditch has been Bureau of Land Management concerns about wetlands, and assured the commissioners SDS improve the headgate and overall operation of the ditch.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:22:20 AM    

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Here's a look at Tri-State's settlement with Environment Colorado over the change of use for shares of the Amity Canal, from Katharhynn Heidelberg writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

One more legal challenge to power supplier Tri-State's attempt to change water right usage near Lamar was ended by a settlement last week. The result is a study of Tri-State's energy efficiency -- one an environmental group hopes will show Tri-State can meet customer needs without a change in use of 20,000 acre-feet of John Martin Reservoir water.

Environment Colorado sued Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association 18 months ago, after the company, which supplies wholesale power to Delta-Montrose Electrical Association and other cooperatives, filed for a change of water use, from agricultural to industrial, on the reservoir.

Tri-State still hopes to acquire the use-change right, which it says is needed for a proposed new power plant to offset the growth the generation company is seeing among member usage. It has settled with a total of 19 plaintiffs, most recently EC. One challenger remains.

Environment Colorado spokesman Keith Hay said EC wanted to Tri-State to look at the least costly alternative for their power customers first and, "that will always be energy efficiency."[...]

Hay said both parties realized there was no basis to establish where Tri-State was in terms of energy efficiency, so the first logical step was a study. Tri-State and EC signed a settlement Feb. 4 that requires Tri-State to hire a third-party contractor to conduct a demand side management-energy efficiency study and to prepare annual reports on those activities. In return, EC withdrew its statement of opposition and agreed "not to raise water injury issues or the issues raised in EC's motion for summary judgment specific to the Colorado Power Project...We feel this study will show Tri-State doesn't need the plant they have currently proposed," Hay said. "This meets our goal of protecting the water right, or at a minimum, doing it carefully and responsibly if we're going to make that change."[...]

Under the agreement, Tri-State will spend between $500,000 and $1 million on the study, to be completed by 2010. The study is to assess technical, economic and practical potential for efficient energy use and peak load reduction in its service areas through 2020. Environment Colorado has the right to review and comment on the methodology as well as to provide input. The first draft of three reports on testing activities is to be completed in the first quarter of 2010.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
6:10:09 AM    

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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From the Conejos County Citizen: "The Conejos Water Conservancy District is the latest County organization to name a representative to become a part of State Water Engineer Dick Wolfe's proposed well water rules committee. Michael Willett, president of the CWCD has been nominated to the position, but the State has not announced a final list of members of the water advisory committee."


The Conejos Water Conservancy District, with offices at the corner of Fourth and Main, in Manassa, includes more than 100 large volume irrigation wells, dozens of irrigation ditch companies, and more than 100,000 acres of farm land using wells and/or surface water rights for irrigation. The District contains the Conejos and San Antonio Rivers.

District Manager Bob Robins said a major reason the district wants to participate is to control the cost of litigation. Robins echoed the comments of John Shawcroft, an official with the Alamosa and La Jara Creek Water Conservancy District who stated recently that Valley water users spend large amounts of money every year on court battles over water use.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:10:04 PM    

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From the Mineral County Miner (Mary Johnson): "Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) Executive Director Nancy Butler spoke and gave an update on the Rio Grande Initiative. Conservation efforts in Mineral County began in 2003 when Dorothy Steele granted an easement to protect Wright's Ranch. In 2008, Butler said, the initiative and its partners helped conserve Rio Oxbow Ranch, phase 1. According to Butler, an easement does not ensure public access.

"A grant application for a conservation easement along the Silver Thread is currently in process, Butler explained. There are different easement programs and she handed out a page to everyone describing the Rio Grande Initiative and the many issues involved. After consideration, the commissioners voted to donate $300 toward this project."

Category: Colorado Water
7:03:42 PM    

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A while back Pat Mulroy the General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority was out in Washington D.C. pitching the use of Mississippi River high flows to recharge the Ogallala aquifer.

The idea seems to be catching on. Here's a report about a recent meeting of the Rio Grande Basin Roudtable where hay farmer Gary Hausler was talking about moving water from the Mississippi to the Front Range, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

Hausler proposed that Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska form a new interstate compact, the Central Plains Compact, that would run 1,200 miles of 22-inch diameter pipe from the Mississippi River at a point near Hickman, Kentucky, to Colorado at a point between Denver and Colorado Springs on Monument Hill. The pipeline would include laterals along the way to provide water to all of the states between the river and the Rockies. Hausler estimated the cost of the project at $22.5 billion including permits, rights of way (possibly through eminent domain), engineering and construction. He also estimated the project would span 30 years from idea to construction with about 10 years spent on forming the compact, another 10 years on permits and 10 years on the construction itself.

Hausler has a mining and heavy construction background in addition to a stint in corporate finance before becoming a hay farmer and rancher near Gunnison. He said his idea for a water pipeline was sparked by an Exxon presentation years ago, and he has been working on the idea in earnest for the last several years.

More coverage from the Gunnison Times (Michelle Burkhart):

While [Gary Hausler's] idea didn't originally pass many straight face tests, that has begun to change. Gunnison water expert John McClow, longtime attorney for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD), believes the idea has merit. "It's a long range plan that has a lot of moving parts and many obstacles to overcome, but Colorado needs to find some long-range solutions to our water supply," he said. "The state demographer is predicting a large increase in population and our water resources are finite."[...]

Around 70 percent of the state's farms and ranches would need to be dried up to meet population demands by 2050 -- according to a Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) staff analysis -- unless new water is introduced to the state, McClow said. Rep. Kathleen Curry, from Gunnison, agrees the idea is legitimate. "I think it's gaining ground," she said. "I'm willing to look at it as a long-term solution, because I really think it would relieve pressure on our side of the divide." She said that people are realizing the water issues on Colorado's eastern slope are not solvable unless new water is introduced.

Hausler conceived the Mississippi diversion idea about eight years ago while at Union Park, northeast of Almont, he said. He was pondering a trans-mountain diversion that was proposed to take water from that area to the Front Range...

The state's projected gap between water supply and demand by 2050 has widened to approximately 700,000 acre-feet (af) per year, Hausler said, referencing a CWCB study. To fulfill this gap, the CWCB has looked at conservation, trans-mountain diversions and drying up a large portion of agriculture in the state. "But they have not looked outside the state," Hausler said. The Mississippi River, in the area of Hickman, Ky., has average annual flows that exceed 240 million af, he said. Colorado River's annual flow, in comparison, is approximately 15 million af. Hausler wants to divert 1 million af per year, which equates to less than .5 percent of the average flow in the Mississippi, he said...

Hausler's proposed route for the pipeline is 1,200 miles long with 7,000 feet of "total lift." Pumping the water would require an additional 1,600 megawatts of power, which is essentially the equivalent to the power generated at the Hoover Dam, Hausler said. Right-of-way issues would need to be accomplished through eminent domain and purchased at market rates, he advised. Hausler estimates that the total tab for the project would tally up to $22.5 billion, including permitting, land purchases, engineering and construction costs. That equates to $22,500 per af for water delivery...

"I think the beauty of (Hausler's) idea is that it brings in new water, but I don't know about its feasibility with its basin of origin -- how they would feel about it," Curry said. "I think they would have to get something out of it for them to consider it."

Hausler estimates it would take at least 30 years to complete the grand plan. During that time, the project could be financed by those who would benefit from the pipeline. For example, he said there are approximately 3 million active water customers on the eastern slope of Colorado. "If you charged an additional $8 a month to everyone's water bill, that's 300 million dollars," he said, explaining that that money could go towards debt service to borrow money...

Water guru and environmentalist Steve Glazer -- who "adamantly" opposes the idea because of its potential "severe environmental degradation and societal and economic impacts" -- said he believes the idea would take too long to complete. "It would take decades to accomplish, by then other alternatives will have been executed," he said -- surmising that water rationing or drying up agriculture would likely be implemented in the meantime.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:31:22 PM    

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From the Greeley Tribune: "The 2009 Lower South Platte Water Symposium will cover topics related to 'Today's Issues Impacting Tomorrow's Livelihood', and is scheduled March 11 in Sterling...

"Jim Hall with the Colorado Division of Water Resources in Greeley will discuss administration of the South Platte in 2007 and 2008. He also will discuss the water supply from those years and current water supplies in the basin. Hall also will discuss future issues within the basin that may impact water. Several other speakers and topics will be covered throughout the day.

"The symposium will begin at 8 a.m. at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling. Cost is $20 prior to Feb. 27 and $40 after that date. Lunch is included."

Category: Colorado Water
6:02:52 PM    

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Here's a look at the current stimulus package the the money picture for Colorado, from Peter Roper writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Udall and Bennet itemized the federal program money intended for Colorado in the Senate bill, which includes: $775 million to help with increasing Medicaid health insurance coverage; $426 million for highway construction; $487 million in state government "stabilization" aid; $126 million for public transportation; $66 million for water projects; $120 million for Title 1 low-income program funds for public schools; $48 million for weatherizing homes and businesses; and $24 million in Child Care and Development grants.

More coverage from the Rocky Mountain News (Jerd Smith):

At least six major water utilities, including Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs, have lined up to claim a share of the giant spending package working its way through Congress. The water utilities hope to use the money to help construct new water delivery systems, repair aging pipelines and clear trees in fire-prone watersheds. Also in line are dozens of small communities that can't afford to fix aging waterworks. "Everything helps," said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress, a nonpartisan group that represents water interests across the state...

Denver Water, Colorado's largest water utility, is seeking $32.2 million for 12 projects that could generate 825 jobs this year. "In some ways it looks like the world's biggest earmark party," Denver Water Manager Chips Barry said, referring to the practice of Congress doling out money with strings attached. "We're not counting on the availability of that money, but we think these are good stimulus projects." Denver hopes to win grants to help protect forested water sheds on the Upper South Platte River and on the West Slope that are threatened by pine beetles. Denver also has several aging pipelines it hopes to repair.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:55:07 PM    

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The Colorado Independent (David O. Williams) is reporting that water rights are suddenly all the talk along the Yampa River. From the article:

According to the Steamboat Pilot and Today newspaper, the town of Yampa's board of trustees last week voted unanimously to join any organized legal efforts to block the water grab by Shell.

More from the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Melinda Dudley):

Although Yampa does not have the financial resources to mount its own legal battle against Shell Frontier Oil and Gas, the town could become a party to any opposition filed without incurring potentially huge legal costs. In the past, Yampa has piggybacked onto other water rights oppositions with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, Town Clerk Janet Ray said.

"A future demand on this over-adjudicated river will just make things tougher," Trustee Tom Yackey said. "Any new rights that are filed on it stand to make us vulnerable."[...]

Shell Oil's filing for 375 cubic feet per second was made Dec. 30 in the District 6 Water Division office in Steamboat Springs. The water, which would be drawn from the Yampa during high flows fed by snowmelt in the spring and early summer, would fill a proposed 45,000 acre-foot reservoir for use in oil shale development. That amount represents a minority of the Yampa's peak spring flows, which commonly exceed 11,000 cfs west of Maybell, where the river is about to meet its confluence with the Green River. The 375 cfs being sought by Shell is comparable to the typical mid-July flow of the Yampa River at the Fifth Street Bridge in Steamboat Springs. The reservoir would be built off the main stem of the Yampa in the Cedar Springs Draw in Moffat County. The proposed reservoir's potential 45,000 acre-foot size compares to the 33,275 acre-feet in Stagecoach Reservoir and 25,450 acre-feet in the newly expanded Elkhead Reservoir between Hayden and Craig.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Climate Change News
5:46:36 PM    

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Senator Isgar thinks his bill (pdf) would make common practice legal, that is, allow small scale rainwater catchment installations for properties that have an "exempt well."

Here's a report about SB09-080 from K.C. Mason writing for the Telluride Watch. From the article:

Senate Bill 80, which unanimously passed the Senate this week, could legalize a common practice in arid Colorado. "We don't see a lot of people rushing forward to say I'm breaking the law," Isgar said. "But it's possible people have been using runoff in a questionable way that this would make legal."[...]

Isgar's bill would apply only to owners of exempt wells, which are not administered under the priority system. Exempt well permits are issued only to those who can not get water from a municipality or water district but its uses are restricted. "There hasn't been a lot of opposition because it's tied so closely to the well permit," Isgar said. "You cannot expand usage beyond what the well permit allows." Isgar said allowing rainwater catchment actually could reduce injury to downstream users because it would reduce well pumping that draws down the aquifer. SB 80 now goes to the House, where it will be sponsored by Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled later this week to take its first look at the annual "projects bill," which outlines next year's spending on water projects approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Most of the appropriations are to continue projects that previously have been authorized, such as a $1 million appropriation for the Colorado River water availability study or $1.5 million to develop a statewide grant program for water projects that prevent the permanent dry-up of agricultural land. "There's really nothing controversial in it and the money's there because we get 10 percent of the FML (federal mineral lease) dollars," said Isgar, who is sponsoring the bill.

Isgar also said Western Slope concerns about a "water grab" are being addressed in a pair of bills aimed at helping South Platte River irrigators whose wells have been shut off or sharply curtailed because they don't have augmentation plans in place.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:26:05 PM    

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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Parker Water and Sanitation has written a long column for YourHub. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are some excerpts:

Here is the reality: our current water use is reducing our groundwater aquifers by as much as 30 feet per year. Every well in the district records this reduced production. We are essentially mining a non-renewable resource. Once we have pumped the water to the surface, it will not be recaptured and returned to the aquifer. The Rueter-Hess Reservoir is part of the solution to this problem. But with groundwater depletion, PWSD management is working hard to find new sources to meet ongoing demand.

The amount of renewable water supply from Cherry Creek is limited to about 5,000 acre feet annually (an acre foot supplies two average sized families for a year). Currently, our residents and businesses use 8,000 acre feet every year! The District will capture as much surface water as possible in the Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which represents a major component of our future water security.

What is the answer to this mounting challenge? There are several opportunities related to purchasing renewable resources on the South Platte, Arkansas or Colorado rivers. Such buys are feasible but the cost is high because in addition to purchasing the water rights the District must launch major capital projects to construct pipelines and pump stations to transport the water to Parker. These kinds of capital costs are already being incurred by neighboring water districts, including several pipelines of 30 miles or more that will consume literally billions of dollars.

PWSD has also purchased consumptive water rights by buying 12 farms outside the District in Logan County that could supply as many as 9,000 acre feet of water. The good news is that these are performing assets, generating District revenues until the water might be needed. PWSD's foresight in obtaining "senior" water rights here will give Parker residents priority over other uses when the time comes. The District views this option as a last resort insurance policy.

Delivery from the Colorado River would bear the same infrastructure cost but would be less expensive to treat. The District is also looking at water from Flaming Gorge on the Green River, the largest provider of water to the Colorado River. We have also obtained permission to study this option from the Colorado Division of Natural Resources and the Wyoming Water Commission and the Bureau of Reclamation. With this option, 400 miles of pipeline would create significant capital costs and would require partnerships with other agencies.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:31:22 PM    

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Here's a look at HB09-1174 (pdf), Exempt Pre-1974 Well Depletions and SB09-147 (pdf), Water Supply Plans Pre-2003 Depletions, from K.C. Mason writing for the Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

House Bill 1174 affects about 400 wells users that the Central Water Conservancy District accepted into its plan after the demise of the Ground Water Appropriators of the South Platte (GASP).

While the bill garnered no debate on the House floor, it generated a claim during a committee hearing last week that well irrigators are "stealing water from people on the lower South Platte."


Senate Bill 147 would allow the State Engineer to approve substitute water supply plans in permanent augmentation plans for the repayment of out-of-priority depletions from the stream prior to 2003. The bill would apply only to wells in Division I and would expire in 10 years.

"Right now you can't use substitute supply plans for augmentation," said Hodge, who is preparing for a hearing on her bill Thursday before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. "This would just give them a quicker way to get water when it's available."

A similar bill was introduced last spring when water providers said they had some surplus water to sell because of the heavy snowpack. It was immediately opposed by surface water users and Western Slope interests.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:09:59 PM    

From the Sky-Hi Daily News: "Snowpack in the mountains around Middle Park ranges from 81 percent to 157 percent of the 30-year average. Last year at this time it was 92 percent to 133 percent of average. The southern drainages have the most moisture content: Fraser River, 133 percent; Williams Fork, 126 percent; and Blue River, 125 percent. The northern drainages have the least: Corral Creek, 92 percent; Muddy Creek, 112 percent; and Willow Creek, 116 percent. Overall, this is quite similar to Feb. 1, 2006. Snow density is averaging 24 percent, which means that each foot of snow contains about 2.9 inches of water."

Category: Colorado Water
6:51:40 PM    

Monday, February 9, 2009

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We guess its official, La Niña is settling in, according to a report from NOAA. They say, "La Niña is expected to continue into Northern Hemisphere Spring 2009."

Category: Colorado Water
7:15:27 PM    

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From the The Watch (Beverly Corbell): "A decades old water fight with the federal government came to an end for the Ouray City Council Monday when it voted to remove objections to a settlement for reserved water rights at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

"The fight to protect those rights has been going on 'for years and years,' City Manager Patrick Rondinelli said.

"'The federal government tried to wipe out all water rights.'"

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:50:08 PM    

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Here's a look at the Black & Veatch report commissioned by the participants in the proposed Northern Integrate Supply Project, from the Fort Morgan Times.

From the article, "The letter to the Corps, the Black & Veatch study summaries and other related information are available on the NISP Web site ( on the Water Quality Information page."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:59:17 PM    

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Here's a look at HB09-1174, Exempt Pre-1974 Well Depletions. It passed the state house of representatives today, according to a report from the Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The bill, HB 1174 -- carried by Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, passed on final reading in the House Monday morning and will now be heard by the Senate. It would let farmers off the hook for pumping more water in the basin they took out-of-priority if they did so before March 15, 1974. A water judge could review the amended plan for augmentation of the river basin.

Category: Colorado Water
5:45:03 PM    

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From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar): "Boulder County residents considering solar hot water systems for their homes may be eligible for rebates to offset the costs of installing those systems.

The Center for ReSource Conservation, a Boulder-based nonprofit organization, has begun accepting applications for the program. It's expected to provide up to 100 rebates that, when coupled with available tax credits, can save Boulder County homeowners an estimated 50 to 55 percent of the costs of installing solar hot water systems.

"Large systems, those that generate 60,000 or more BTUs a day, can cost between $7,000 and $12,000 to install, according to Debbie Fox, director of the Center for ReSource Conservation's Energy Division.."

Category: Colorado Water
5:36:08 PM    

Sunday, February 8, 2009

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From the Cortez Journal: "The Cortez City Council is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, at City Hall, 210 E. Main St., Cortez...

"Officials will consider approving a bid from URS Corp. to provide the final design and construction service for the city's 2009 Micro-Hydro Electric Unit plan analysis with a power purchase agreement via Empire Electric Association. Purchase of equipment for the city's micro-hydro unit will be considered through Canyon Hydro in the amount of $456,800."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
8:35:26 AM    

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Fremont County and Pueblo County are both holding meetings this week on Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Delivery System, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Fremont and Pueblo county commissioners will take up questions surrounding the Southern Delivery System at separate meetings...

The project looks different in each county, but could have significant impacts for Pueblo County under either scenario.

Under the Pueblo County route, there would be a large pump station added to the buildings already at the base of Pueblo Dam. The pipeline itself would cross seven miles of Pueblo West and another seven miles of Walker Ranches on the west side of Interstate 25. Flows would increase on Fountain Creek, both from more wastewater returns day-to-day and more intense floods aggravated by new development.

The Fremont County route could deplete flows in the Arkansas River above and below Lake Pueblo, while flows in Fountain Creek would increase anyway. Colorado Springs Utilities say that while the river intake would be more costly, it is a feasible way to provide the water users in El Paso County with the water they need. Pueblo West would spend more to build its own river intake below Pueblo Dam if SDS goes through Fremont County.

Fremont County commissioners will get their first look at SDS at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Fremont County Courthouse.

Pueblo County commissioners will continue a public hearing that began in December at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center...

Pueblo County commissioners accepted Colorado Springs' application for a 1041 land use permit last year, and hired consultants Banks & Gesso to help articulate concerns about the impacts to Pueblo County. The consultants have relied on information made public in the Bureau of Reclamation's environmental impact statement, but have reached different conclusions than Reclamation. While the bureau said all seven alternatives have adverse consequences, all are acceptable and the alternative from Pueblo Dam causes the least damage. County staff is arguing that further mitigation is needed to offset the worst impacts. At a hearing last month, county staff outlined mitigation needed for the construction of the pipeline itself in terms of damage to property and roads. The tougher issues of water quality, lake levels, river flows, flooding and further damage to Fountain Creek are expected to be the major topics of Wednesday's meeting.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:12:00 AM    

Saturday, February 7, 2009

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Here's an update on micro-hydropower efforts in Colorado, from Mike McKibbin writing for the Rifle Citizen Telegram. From the article:

Using a farm or ranch's own water to produce power is a natural, according to three people with experience in hydropower projects. They talked about their experiences at the Wednesday, Jan. 28 Ag Day in New Castle...

Tom Golec, a longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident, has been involved with small hydro projects for over 20 years. He has supplied most of his home electrical needs on Ruedi Creek for the last 20 years with a small one-kilowatt generator powered by a spring used for domestic water. "It's basically this old Ford pickup truck alternator," he said as he lifted it onto a table...

Seven years ago, he partnered with a neighbor to develop a larger 25 kilowatt system that sometimes feeds the electric grid. That project's costs broke down into $30,000 for 2,000 feet of eight-inch plastic pipe, $35,000 for the powerhouse and electric grid interface, Golec said. "It'll likely be 15 or 20 years before we have to replace any parts," he stated. "If you maintain these, and they're designed right, they should run for maybe 100 years or more, like some of the ones you've heard about." The 25 kilowatt system produces about 175,000 kilowatt hours a year, and Golec and his neighbor receive $14,000 a year from Holy Cross Energy and $3,000 in federal tax credits...

Hydropower produces no emissions, but 175,000 kilowatt hours of electricity produced from fossil fuels would put 50,000 pounds of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, he said. "So you get a lot more bang for your buck with hydro," he said. "This hasn't complicated our lives at all, and it's been a good income source." Most good agricultural sites are along irrigation ditches, he said...

Joel Scott has lived in Aspen/Snowmass for 33 years with a degree in environmental conservation. He has managed the Quad III Ranch in Old Snowmass since the summer of 2003. In May 2006, the owners built a 5 kilowatt micro-hydro project powered by their 108-pounds per square inch, high-pressure irrigation system. Scott managed the project and currently maintains the system...

The project cost $27,360 to build, but so far, the ranch has received a $10,000 check from Holy Cross Energy and $5,000 from CORE, Scott said, leaving only a $12,360 net outlay.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
10:07:45 AM    

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From the Windsor Beacon: "Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction (C.A.R.D.) will hold a public meeting in Fort Collins on Feb. 11 to provide an update on the status of the proposed in-situ uranium leach mining project near Nunn. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Fort Collins Senior Center, 1200 Raintree Drive."

Category: Climate Change News
9:57:09 AM    

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Aurora is in line to buy the Columbine Ditchfrom the Pueblo Board of Water Works, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The water board opened bids Tuesday on the sale of the Columbine Ditch and long-term leases, both of which it plans to use to raise funds for the Bessemer sales. Staff will review the bids, which contain varying conditions, and present them to the water board for action at its Feb. 17 meeting. Aurora bid $30.5 million for the Columbine Ditch under a six-year payment plan that would require $18 million at closing and $2.5 million annually over the following five years. Alternately, Aurora offered a lump sum of $25 million at closing. Ginn Resorts, which is developing the Battle Mountain Resort near Minturn, offered a cash transfer of $30.48 million, the minimum bid specified, at closing for the Columbine Ditch. The company, which has resorts in several other locations, was the only other bidder for the ditch...

Aurora would capture the water at Twin Lakes, where it would then move it into the South Platte basin through the Otero Pumping Station and Homestake Pipeline, said Gerry Knapp, who manages Aurora's Arkansas Valley assets. Ginn Resorts wants to build a "private, world-class ski mountain" with golf and resort accommodations near Minturn, according to the company's Web site. Water from the Columbine Ditch would not have to be diverted in order to use the water in the development...

The Pueblo water board offered up to 5,000 acre-feet of water for a minimum bid of $350 per acre-foot. Aurora bid on 1,000 acre-feet in 2010, increasing to 3,000 acre-feet by 2015 and continuing as long as 20 years. The city offered only $250 per acre-foot, but would increase the payment by 1.79 percent each year - meaning it would reach the $350 per acre-foot required only at the end of the lease period. Aurora already leases 5,000 acre-feet per year from Pueblo under a 1999 long-term lease that ends in 2013, with an option to extend the lease another 10 years. Aurora now pays about $160 per acre-foot under the lease. Aurora also trades up to 10,000 acre-feet of water per year with Pueblo under a 1992 agreement, but usually trades only about 4,000 acre-feet. That deal expires in 2011...

Evergreen Land Co., which operates the Mount Massive Golf Course near Leadville, offered $350 per acre-foot for 200 acre-feet over a 40-year period. The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District also offered $350 per acre-foot for 200 acre-feet up over a 40-year period. That water would be used to satisfy demands under the district's blanket augmentation plan.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:53:31 AM    

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From The Mountain Mail: "As of Feb. 1, the Arkansas River Basin had a snowpack of 122 percent of average. The South Platte had 103 percent of average, and the Rio Grande was 130 percent of average...

"Statewide, the total is 117 percent of average, a slight decrease from statistics a month ago. Readings are 90 percent of snowpack last year on the same date, state conservationist Allen Green said...

"About the only portion of the state remaining somewhat vulnerable to below average runoff is the Front Range where projections continue to call for slightly below average runoff in the South Platte Basin...

"Reservoir storage remains good throughout most of the state. Basinwide storage volumes range from 84 percent of average in the Rio Grande Basin, to 104 percent of average in the Yampa and Gunnison basins."

From the Durango Herald:

Snowpack totals were higher in southern Colorado basins, which reported moderate to high snowpack levels, compared with northern basins, which were only slightly above average. A record December for southern Colorado is likely responsible for the disparity, though northern basins received more snowfall in January than did southern basins...

The snowpack in the basins that encompass the San Juan, Animas and Dolores rivers is 116 percent of average, but only 75 percent of last year...

Gillespie said Colorado's reservoir storage levels are in good condition across most of the state. The service compiles the averages from Southwest Colorado's four largest river basins - the San Juan, San Miguel, Animas and Dolores rivers. The six regional reservoirs included in the survey are Groundhog, Jackson Gulch, Lemon, McPhee, Narraguinnep and Vallecito.

From the Crested Butte News (Evan Dawson):

The amount of snow resting on hillsides and mountaintops in the Upper Gunnison River Basin is above-average so far this winter, but this year's snowpack isn't quite as thick as it was during the massive snows of last winter...

The snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is holding at 113 percent of average (over 30 years), according to the National Resources Conservation Service...

Following a storm cycle that hit during the last week of January, the Gunnison Basin snowpack's water content rose to 118 percent of average, but some warm days since then have brought it back down. The snowpack is still about 25 percent lower than it was at this time last year. According to SNOTEL data, up on Schofield Pass the snow is 82 inches deep, and holds a water content of 28.5 inches, which is about four inches less than last year...

Kugel says groundwater levels in the Gunnison Basin are lower because of 2008's dry summer, and water that would normally flow downstream to Blue Mesa Reservoir could end up getting sucked into the ground this spring. "We had seven months of below-normal precipitation. We need a strong snowpack to make up for that," Kugel says. "It's a good start."

Category: Colorado Water
9:12:34 AM    

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Here's a look at the problem of ocean acidification due to the rist in CO2 in the atmosphere, from John Pickrell writing for Cosmos. From the article:

In late July, the CSIRO invited me to join a team of 14 scientists, led by oceanographer Bronte Tilbrook and climate modeller Richard Matear, as they collected data to predict the future health of the reef.

The issue on their agenda is ocean acidification, commonly referred to by those in the know as "the other CO2 problem" [^] separate, but linked to climate change. Though acidification has had a lot less press, there is mounting evidence to suggest that it will be a bigger problem for marine life than the warming of the oceans themselves.

Our waste carbon dioxide (CO2) is mostly maligned for causing climate change as it builds up in the atmosphere, trapping heat, but for the past 200 years it's also been quietly dissolving into the oceans, slowly making them more acidic.

In fact, the oceans are in equilibrium with the atmosphere and have been credited with absorbing something like 40 per cent of all the CO2 we've pumped out in the last 200 years. In this way, they have acted as a useful brake on global warming, but experts have slowly come to realise that this service has come at a terrible price.

"The oceans have this huge buffering potential for CO2, and until around a decade ago we thought there was plenty of capacity left and [CO2 dissolving] wouldn't have a big effect," says Tilbrook, a tall man with white hair, pale blue eyes and a gentle disposition. But research in the 1990s on corals and early maps of oceanic CO2 concentrations painted a very different picture...

Category: Climate Change News
8:46:32 AM    

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From (David Ortiviz): "A water conservancy group in Pueblo says an invasive tree is guzzling water from the Arkansas River at an alarming rate and it could cost an estimated $70 million dollars to control the problem. When you flush a toilet, wash your hands in a sink, or take a sip from a drinking fountain you may not think about where your water comes from. But if your care about having enough of it in the future the Southeastern Water Conservancy District says something needs to be done about evasive trees known as tamarisks. Also called salt cedars the non-native species are gulping up water from Arkansas river at an enormous rate. 'At this point it's estimate that over 78,000 acre feet a year is being used by these non-native trees,' said Jean Van Pelt, with the SWCD. That's roughly 25 billion gallons a year, enough for 78,000 families."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:32:14 AM    

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Here's an update on the Army Corps of Engineers decision to issue a supplemental draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, from Rebecca Boyle writing for Fort Collins Now. From the article:

The Northern Integrated Supply Project, known as NISP or the Glade Reservoir project, could be set back another two years after the Army Corps of Engineers said its second study won't be done until June 2010. The Army Corps said it will conduct a supplemental study of NISP, a $420 million plan to divert spring runoff from the Poudre River and store it in a new reservoir to be built north of Ted's Place. A second reservoir planned in Galeton would allow additional use of South Platte River water, in a project designed to preserve agricultural land while providing drinking water to thirsty, growing Front Range cities. "There are some areas in the original analysis that require revision and additional study," said Monique Farmer, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps...

"The whole reason we are going back and doing the supplemental is because some of the issues that came up in the comments that were received, we hadn't considered," Farmer said. "So this is more of a time for us to refine some things."

Environmental activists said it was akin to putting lipstick on a pig, however. "We believe there were major flaws wsith the EIS, but if they are just again re-analyzing the same project, we don't see this necessarily as a positive step," said Gary Wockner, spokesman for the Save the Poudre Coalition, which has been fighting Glade. "We believe that the diversion, the taking the water out of the river and building that reservoir, is the wrong thing to do." The Poudre group favors a "Healthy Rivers Alternative," which would include conservation programs to avoid taking extra water out of the river. Wockner said the group wants the Corps to study that alternative along with the four alternatives it initially studied...

"We're into our 5th year now of this environmental permitting process. The participants have spent almost $6 million, and we're not there yet," [Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District] said. "Despite the frustrations of the process, which is just part and parcel of the process, we can't speed it up; this is what we live with. But we still have a project that can and should be built. That's the bottom line." The Corps expects its supplemental study to be done in June 2010, followed by another three-month window for public input. Werner said if that's the case, it could be 2017 before water fills a new reservoir in Northern Colorado.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:27:14 AM    

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Environment Colorado and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association have settled the water court case over change of use for over half of the shares in the Amity Ditch, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Environment Colorado announced Friday that a systemwide study of energy efficiency will be part of a settlement in a Division 2 Water Court case that seeks to convert nearly half of the Amity Canal to industrial use for a power plant near Holly. The study is expected to cost between $500,000 and $1 million and be completed by 2010. It will assess technical, economic and practical potential for efficient electricity use, including an analysis of ways Tri-State can further shave demand during peak use times. A third-party contractor will be used in order to assure information is impartial...

"This study can help serve as a road map for Tri-State to increase the energy efficiency of homes, businesses, farms and ranches in rural Colorado," said Keith Hay, energy advocate. "As a result, Environment Colorado believes Tri-State can save money for their consumer-owners and reduce the need for new energy-generation facilities." This is a rare chance for Environment Colorado, which was been tackling the state's top environmental problems for 30 years, to be able to work directly with a power provider toward solutions, Hay said. "We're excited to be moving forward with the study," Hay said. "We are not typically in a position to have utilities do this sort of thing, but we both thought it would make sense. I have to give Tri-State credit for working with us."

Tri-State also sees opportunities, said Lee Boughey, Tri-State communications manager. "We believe the study will provide valuable information as we look at enhancements to our efficiency programs," Boughey said...

To date Tri-State has settled with all but one of the objectors, the Verhoeff family, who farm on the Amity and are trying to protect their interests. While there have been settlement discussions, no agreement has been reached, according to court documents. If there is a trial, it is scheduled to begin March 17. "We remain optimistic that we can reach agreement with the Verhoeffs prior to our March court date," Boughey said.

Tri-State settled last month with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District over issues of revegetation that went beyond an October settlement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Last year, Tri-State agreed to conditions that protect the state of Colorado in its dealings with Kansas on the Arkansas River Compact.

More coverage from the Denver Post (Andy Vuong):

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association will conduct an wide-ranging energy-efficiency study as part of a settlement announced Friday with Environment Colorado, a green-energy advocacy group. In return, Environment Colorado agreed to withdraw its legal challenge to Tri-State's application to change the use of 20,000 acre feet of agricultural water to industry use as part of its plans to build a power plant in southeastern Colorado. Westminster-based Tri-State hasn't decided what type of plant it will build at the site in Prowers County, though a nuclear plant is an option.

Tri-State, the state's second-largest utility serving mostly rural areas, said it will collaborate with Environment Colorado on the study, to be completed by February 2010. The study will assess the potential for efficient electricity use, including an analysis of ways Tri-State can further shave demand during peak hours. Environment Colorado will help Tri-State select a contractor to conduct the study and will be allowed to review and comment on the study. Tri-State will use results from the study to help shape its future resource plans. "The study is the next step in our energy efficiency efforts and will provide insight into the benefits of additional energy efficiency and load management programs," said Tri-State spokesman Mac McLennan in a written statement.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:40:10 AM    

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