Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

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Southern California is seeking new sources of water instead of looking to the over-appropriated Colorado River. Here's an article from the Los Angeles Times with details about what will become the country's largest desalination plant.

From the article, "A controversial proposal to build what would be the largest desalination plant in the nation along the Huntington Beach coastline was approved early today after months of raucous debate.

"The Huntington Beach City Council voted 4 to 3 to approve permits for Poseidon Resources Corp. to build a $250-million desalination facility next to the AES power station on Pacific Coast Highway at the city's southern edge.

"The desalination plant would produce as much as 50 million gallons of fresh water daily by tapping ocean water already pumped into the power station to cool the huge electrical facility.

"The plant still must receive approvals from several state agencies, including the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission.

"Most of the water would be sold to as yet unknown buyers, though Huntington Beach agreed to buy a modest amount - 3.2 million gallon a day - at a rate less than what it now pays for imported water from the Metropolitan Water District. About a third of the city's water is imported; the rest comes from groundwater...

"The close vote was a huge victory for Poseidon, a small, privately held firm based in Connecticut that has fought for two years to build a landmark desalination plant on the Southern California coast. The company's plant in Tampa Bay, Fla. - half the size of the one approved by Huntington Beach - was taken over by a public water agency and has been beset with financial and technical problems.

"Another Poseidon facility proposed in Carlsbad is expected to go before a City Council vote in May.

"The desalination proposal was vigorously opposed by some residents and environmental groups, who lamented building more unsightly industrial plants along the city's tourist-heavy beaches. They also cautioned that the plant's briny discharge could kill fish and sea life. Other critics said the project was an improper use of a public resource - the ocean - for private profit...

"The firm wants to build its Huntington Beach and Carlsbad plants next to power stations to use their cooling water pipes, which range from 12 feet to 25 feet in diameter, to draw in ocean water for their operations.

"Piggy-backing on the electric plants has drawn additional opposition from environmentalists, who believe the facilities are outdated eyesores that harm the marine environment by killing fish, plankton and crustaceans by sucking in millions of gallons of seawater.

"Environmentalists are pressuring the state to phase out all ocean cooling pipes for coastal power plants by 2020."

Category: Colorado Water

7:34:36 AM    

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New West: "In most places, water is for swimming, for drinking, for growing crops, for keeping the grass green and the flowers pretty. In Colorado, though, it's also for fighting. This is the lesson the City of Durango is in for as it joins several other municipalities in the state looking to set aside a water right to guarantee in-town river recreation.

"Following a vote by the city council last week to create a boat park on the Animas River, the city decided it will apply to a local water court to have recreational in-stream water rights adjudicated to maintain flows through the park. The city is seeking to be assured 1,400 cfs in flows during June's high water, and 185 cfs in low-water seasons.

"The city's application will be met with resistance, though. The Southwestern Water Conservation District has warned that it is ready to engage in an expensive legal battle to block the rights, which it says would harm upstream users who now use river water without court-assigned rights, and would hinder future development in the Animas Valley upstream of the town.

"Under the Colorado state constitution, water rights are granted for 'beneficial uses' in a 'first in time, first in right' fashion. Water rights are awarded through a system of seven water courts, one for each major basin in the state. Applications for water rights can be challenged for 45 days, and a 'water referee' settles the disputes.

"Historically 'beneficial use' meant the water must be diverted and developed for the water right to remain valid. Since 1973, though, the state has recognized some in-stream flows as water rights for environmental protection. In 2001, in a nod to the growing economic value of recreational boating and fishing, the Colorado legislature expanded the legal definition of 'beneficial uses' to include 'the diversion of water by [some local government agencies] for recreational in-channel diversion purposes.' These in-stream rights are held by the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the governmental applicants; and, unlike other water rights, which can be bought, sold, and inherited like property, the Board cannot acquire senior water rights."

Category: Colorado Water

7:21:24 AM    

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HB 1311 - Species Conservation Trust Fund is the subject of this article from the Fort Morgan Times. They write, "Water attorney Phil Sims said it all when Rep. Diane Hoppe, R-Sterling, asked him what happens if Colorado doesn't uphold its end of a three-state agreement to protect endangered species on the South Platte River.

"'Every water user with a federal nexus -- that means every existing water permit subject to any federal action of any sort -- would have to go out on their own and acquire the additional water to deliver to the state line as a replacement for depletions,' Sims replied during a recent legislative committee hearing.

"'Just the process would be more expensive than the program itself,' he said.

"Sims testified before the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee in support of a bill co-sponsored by Hoppe and Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, that seeks $12.8 million to fund Colorado's endangered and threatened species recovery programs.

"$5 million of the total would be Colorado's initial payment toward an historic agreement with Wyoming, Nebraska and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore river habitat for the whooping crane, least tern, piping plover and the pallid sturgeon...

"Both the state Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture are solidly behind the Hoppe/Curry proposal to recapitalize the Endangered Species Trust Fund, which has only $700,000 left from the state's initial investment of $15 million.

"Previous funding from the trust fund was used to construct the Tamarack recharge project near Julesburg which is timed to deliver water from wells into the Platte as part of the interstate agreement.

"Assistant DNR Director Tom Blickensderfer said money from the trust fund also had been used successfully to recover habitat and prevent endangered listings of several species, including the mountain plover, the Gunnison prairie dog and Preble's Meadow jumping mouse...

"The agriculture committee, which Curry chairs, gave its unanimous endorsement to House Bill 1311. However, it is being held up in the House Appropriations Committee with several other bills competing for funding from rapidly growing oil and gas severance tax revenue.

"'We have to look at all these bills to make sure we don't over-appropriate from the (severance tax) fund,' said Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Plant, D-Nederland. 'We also don't want to appropriate based on projected revenue but on what actually is there.'

"Of the $232.9 million anticipated to be collected in severance tax revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, half goes to the Department of Local Affairs for distribution to areas that are heavily impacted by energy development. The other half is split between DNR's perpetual base account that funds water projects and the operational account that pays for all other DNR programs."

Category: Colorado Water

7:14:49 AM    

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Pueblo Chieftain: "A proposal to use an inflatable dam on Fountain Creek to contain sewage spills would not address floods on the creek and still must pass several layers of approval...

"Colorado Springs Utilities staff is evaluating a plan to build an inflatable dam using air bags to lift metal plates into place to divert contaminated water after a sewage spill. The water would be diverted into a holding pond.

"The dam and pond would be located near the Sand Creek lift station, located about three miles south of the Las Vegas Treatment Plant, said spokesman Steve Berry.

"Since the proposal is still just a concept, no firm cost figures have been developed. A figure of $10 million was quoted in a Colorado Springs newspaper, but that figure might include more than just the dam and pond, Berry said.

"The dam would protect southern El Paso County communities downstream, as well as Pueblo County for spills caused by vandalism or equipment failure, Berry said...

"There is at least one inflatable dam in operation in the Arkansas Valley, operated by the Fort Lyon Canal at its storage headgate on the Arkansas River north of Rocky Ford. The storage canal feeds Blue Lake, located north of Las Animas.

"That dam was installed in 2001, at a cost of $140,000, said Manny Torres, canal superintendent. It hasn't been used until this year, when Fort Lyon decided to store its winter water in Blue Lake.

"The dam is a 100-foot long, 4-foot-tall series of connected metal plates. Eight 10-foot-long, thick-rubber tubes filled by air compressors prop it up when it's needed. The tubes can be deflated when the dam is not in use.

"Torres said the dam inflated without any problems when Fort Lyon began storing water last fall, but the dam was routinely maintained during the years it sat idle.

"Fort Lyon has not had to deflate the dam this year, because it has not been cold enough to cause ice problems."

Category: Colorado Water

7:00:12 AM    

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