Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

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Howling At A Waning Moon: "The Supreme Court of the United States is poised to hear a series of cases on February 21, 2006 that could radically reshape the reach of the Clean Water Act, experienced litigators and scholars today told reporters. The cases S.D. Warren v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection, Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. United States Army Corps of Engineers all deal with the ability of states and the federal government to protect water resources in the United States."

Category: Colorado Water

7:35:28 PM    

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The Mountain Mail is running a story about SB37. The bill would set rules for whitewater parks.

From the article, "Chaffee County's application for a recreational water right for whitewater parks in Salida and Buena Vista should be immune to a Senate bill that will devalue such water rights in Colorado, if passed.

"Senate Bill 37 contains restrictions on recreational water rights that would essentially make them a second-class right in Colorado's priority system.

"The bill, which is a revived effort from a similar bill defeated last year, passed out of the Senate agriculture and natural resources committee Feb. 9 and will be up for consideration on the Senate floor this week.

"As currently proposed, the bill would not affect recreational water rights that already have been established, nor pending applications."

Ed Quillen weighs in on Recreational In Channel Diversions in his column in today's Denver Post. He writes, "Colorado's economy has changed considerably since 1876, but some members of our General Assembly apparently haven't figured that out.

"Our 130-year-old state constitution was written in an era when water flowing in its natural stream channel had no economic value or, as they put it, "beneficial use." The water had to be diverted from the channel to irrigate crops, to float mill tailings or to flow from faucets. Otherwise, this scarce resource was going to waste, at least in an economic sense.

"Things are different now. People pay good money for fishing gear and guides on our streams. They spend plenty on float trips down the Arkansas and Colorado rivers. Even cheapskates like me enjoy hanging around municipal river parks to watch the kayakers play, and we spend a few dollars on snacks in the process...

"What we really have here is a culture war. On one side, we've got the old guard Water Buffaloes, who want to be able to move water around as they deem necessary, and recreational flows could keep them from changing the storage and delivery systems. On the other, we have a relatively new industry which needs water flowing down our rivers in a somewhat predictable way.

"In many ways, I sympathize with the old guard. However, we can't turn the calendar back to when their beneficial uses were the only beneficial uses.

"The last time I checked, irrigated agriculture accounted for about $4 million a year in Chaffee County, while river activities put at least $25 million a year in local pockets.

"And if they're trying to save our water for the most traditional and sacred of Colorado uses - real-estate development - they might consider that recreation is one thing that makes Colorado attractive to all those real-estate buyers.

"The marketplace has spoken, and even if the recreational-flow rights need some tweaking, Senate Bill 37 goes too far."

Category: Colorado Water

6:03:14 AM    

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Here's an article from the Pueblo Chieftain with details about snowpack on the Arkansas River. They write, "While water supply in the Arkansas Valley continues to slowly improve, the river still is recovering from the driest spell it's seen in the past 25 years.

"That also means a greater reliance on water imported into the Arkansas River Basin, mainly from the upper reaches of the Colorado River.

"A study of flows at Avondale, considered to be the most reliable indicator of valley water supplies, compared with transmountain water from all sources shows increased dependence on imported water during the drought years.

"The good news, at least for communities on the mainstem of the Arkansas River, is that water supplies on both sides of the Continental Divide so far are better than last year. Snowpack is above average in the Colorado Basin, while almost near average in the Arkansas."

Category: Colorado Water

5:56:56 AM    

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The Denver Post is urging Congress and the President to restore funding for the cleanup of radioactive waste near Moab, Utah. They write, "Buried in President Bush's 2007 budget plan is a funding cut that many Western states will find disquieting, with the potential to affect all seven states that share the Colorado River.

"A 12 million-ton pile of toxic uranium mine waste sits in a flash flood zone right above the Colorado River near Moab, Utah. Scientists warn that a major flood through the site is a near certainty, and one would plunge radioactive material into our region's biggest waterway. Nuclear material could very well contaminate Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell). While most experts believe the tailings would settle in Powell, the river still would flow through the Grand Canyon and eventually into the public drinking water systems of Las Vegas, San Diego, suburban Los Angeles and even parts of Arizona.

"Last year, the Department of Energy announced an eight-year, $472 million plan to move the tailings from the river banks to a site in Utah where they wouldn't threaten environmental harm. The excellent proposal deserved the region-wide applause it got.

"Now the Bush administration wants to reduce spending on the project from $28 million last year to $23 million. If such penny-pinching continues, DOE officials acknowledge that the cleanup will take an additional 14 years. During the delay the tailings would remain vulnerable to gully washers. In a worst case, Uncle Sam could be left with a cleanup bill much larger than the savings, with enormous risk that parks and other public lands could be left unusable."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:41:28 AM    

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