Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Friday, March 31, 2006

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Here's an article from the North Forty News about the groups opposing reservoir construction and expansion in northern Colorado. From the article, "An alliance of environmental groups is raising concerns about the proposed Halligan-Seaman reservoir expansions, as well as other large reservoir projects on the drawing board. The coalition, called the Sustainable Water Interest Group or SWIG, claims that efficiency and conservation measures could provide enough drought protection for northern Colorado, without the large expense of new dams and reservoirs. SWIG has concerns about environmental impacts, fiscal responsibility and threats to the recreation industry from Halligan-Seaman and other projects, including the proposed Glade Reservoir north of LaPorte...

"Partners in the Halligan-Seaman project want to enlarge Halligan from 6,400 to 40,000 acre-feet and Seaman from 5,000 to 60,000 acre-feet. Both reservoirs sit on the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River. Glade Reservoir, as envisioned, would have a capacity of about 177,000 acre-feet...

"[Mark] Easter said one of the coalition's primary concerns is the health of the Poudre River. Both Halligan-Seaman and Glade would skim some of the peak off the spring runoff to fill the reservoirs. In fact, Easter thinks that the river would probably never flood again below the mouth of the Poudre canyon if both projects are built. Peak flows, Easter explained, are 'key for maintaining the health of the river ecosystem' because they flush out silt, recharge groundwater, maintain wetlands and create spawning habitat for fish. They are also important for water quality. 'Water quality will get much worse without these peaking flows,' Easter said, noting that water quality in the lower stretches of the Poudre is already bad. Easter said the coalition is also concerned about the fiscal impacts of building large reservoirs. 'We're convinced we could meet the needs for drought protection and growth by tuning the system we have now to peak efficiency,' he said. The current water delivery system could be made more efficient, Easter said, by lining irrigation ditches, using pipelines where possible and repairing leaks. These measures would ensure that most of the water from the river reaches its intended destination...

"Both Fort Collins and Greeley, principal partners in the Halligan-Seaman project, are looking at streamflow issues, and officials hope that the project could actually improve wintertime flows on the North Fork of the Poudre. Donnie Dustin, a water resources engineer with Fort Collins Utilities, said the bulk of the water that Fort Collins would use to fill Halligan comes from agricultural rights, already purchased by the city and converted to municipal use. Most of this water would be taken from the river during the peak runoff in the spring. However, he said, the project could result in greater streamflow on the North Fork during the winter months."

Category: Colorado Water

7:18:37 AM    

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Several groups have been working on grading the San Miguel River watershed, according to the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article, "The sheer size and enormous variety of its landscapes makes gauging the health of the one-million-acre San Miguel Watershed an enormous and arduous task. But having a grip on its well being is a necessary first step before decisions can be made on how best to manage the land, which encompasses all the paths of travel for water that eventually finds its way to the San Miguel River. A number of local agencies and organizations - in a collaborative effort that took several months - have created a report card of the health of the watershed with just that in mind. Individuals, organizations and a wide range of experts will be on hand today from noon to 2 p.m. at the Wilkinson Public Library program room to unveil the 2006 San Miguel Watershed Report Card, explain how the grades were derived and facilitate talks on how to move forward from this baseline. San Miguel Watershed Coalition Director Bob Delves said the reasoning behind the report card is pretty simple. 'In order to change something, you must first understand it,' Delves said. 'In order to understand it, you must first measure it.' The report card looks at five themes: water, aquatic life, wildlife, vegetation and soils, and assigns each a grade based on recent data, expert opinion and indicators. Liz Hatzenbuehler, Western Slope project coordinator for The Nature Conservancy, said it's easy to consider the watershed as a pristine place. After all, it's home to unspoiled, beautiful and biologically intact land, and at its heart is the free-flowing San Miguel River. However, she said, many man-made impacts over the last century and a half that have taken their toll, such as logging and mining, have to be also taken into consideration...

"Representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management, San Miguel County, Colorado Division of Wildlife - which are the entities that contributed to the report card - will all be present to offer their opinions and explanations. The Nature Conservancy acted as the lead agency in the process of putting the report card together. Delves said the report card will offer a good over-all evaluation of an area that is often just examined in a piecemeal fashion. This way, every aspect - from high alpine meadows, creeks, waterfalls, soggy alpine bogs and low-lying sandstone canyons through which the fattened San Miguel River flows - will be encompassed It will also take into consideration the towns that sit in the watershed and the variety of uses, including agriculture, development, recreation and resort skiing, that take place within the area. Delves said the report card, more than any thing, aims at getting people together to talk about the future of the watershed and hone in on what directions to go in."

Category: Colorado Water

7:07:59 AM    

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Farmington Daily Times: "Colorado took swift, severe action Tuesday when it banned new construction in Bayfield, Colo., according to affected parties who until then thought they had met the state's demands. After the Bayfield Sanitation District received state notice pointing out permit violations in April 2005, it started planning to expand its waste water treatment plant and shared its agenda with the state, said sanitation district attorney Bud Smith. The district assumed it was in compliance because it heard nothing from the state, which repermitted the plant in January, Smith said. The district knew there were problems, Smith said, but thought it was taking appropriate steps to remedy them. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, which takes its drinking water 1.5 miles downstream from the plant on the Los Pinos River, only learned of the violations because of the repermitting application, said tribal attorney Sam W. Maynes. Once informed, they immediately asked for a cease and desist order until the plant could operate within permit parameters, and also requested notification when the plant violates its permit. Dave Akers, who represents the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), said the state ordered a construction halt in Bayfield because the district had not broken ground on the expansion. The tribe did not influence the decision although its letter brought the issue to his attention, he said."

Category: Colorado Water

6:55:52 AM    

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U.S. Senator Allard and U.S. Senator Salazar are sponsoring legislation that would transfer control of some the assets from the Big Thompson project to local control, according to the Sterling Journal-Advocate. From the article, "Legislation to transfer water distribution facilities to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsored by Senators Wayne Allard (R) and Ken Salazar (D), has passed the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. The bill will go to the Senate floor soon and is expected to pass. The legislation transfers 58 miles of water conveyance facilities associated with the Colorado-Big Thompson Project to the District. These facilities include the St. Vrain Supply Canal, Boulder Creek Supply Canal, and South Platte Supply Canal. The legislation would transfer the management of dams, reservoirs, power plants, pumping plants, pipelines, tunnels and substations spread over a 250-mile area to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Currently, those facilities are owned by the Bureau of Reclamation of the Department of the Interior. This transfer of title will place both the ownership, as well as the responsibility for maintenance, of these facilities with the NCWCD...

"Companion legislation, sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) recently passed the House of Representatives."

Category: Colorado Water

6:49:15 AM    

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