Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

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The Mountain Mail: "Colorado and Upper Arkansas River water history, water law, water exchanges and augmentation plans were discussed during an all day seminar Friday in Salida. The workshop was hosted by the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. Presenters included district water attorney Julianne Woldridge and UAWCD general manager Terry Scanga. It was the first of two seminars planned. The second is set for Nov. 30."

Category: Colorado Water

6:20:25 AM    

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The Summit Daily News is running an article about the Eagle River. They write, "It's about 77 miles from the headwaters of the Eagle River high atop Tennessee Pass to the river's confluence with the Colorado River near Dotsero. That may not be far as the crow flies or the SUV trundles, but contained within those 77 miles is the Eagle River watershed - and a vibrant community that depends on the river for most of its water...

"In water-lawyer language, the Eagle River is 'over-appropriated.' Every drop is owned by someone, and over-appropriated simply means there are more owners than drops. In non-drought years, this isn't typically a big deal, but when supplies dip, those with water rights 'senior' to others can exert those claims and make things hard on those with more junior rights. One way those with more junior rights can still get their share is to replace (or 'augment') what they take out of the Eagle with water from elsewhere. The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, along with Vail Resorts and the Upper Eagle Water Authority developed the Eagle Park Reservoir near Fremont Pass for just this purpose. The Eagle Park has 2,000 acre feet available for three consecutive dry or drought years. All that works fine most of the time, until droughts come along or the topic of 'out-of-basin' augmentation comes up. Legally, an entity like the Eagle Park Reservoir can preserve some of its content by replacing water taken from the Eagle with water purchased from another place - namely, Green Mountain Reservoir over in Summit County. But that water doesn't go back into the Eagle; it goes into the Colorado, meaning a net loss of water out of the Eagle...

"The more various developers and other water users employ this out-of-basin augmentation strategy, the more water is being lost out of the Eagle River. Recognizing the potential problem, the county's planning commission earlier this year discussed making it a condition of development approval that water taken from the Eagle be replaced in the Eagle. The Eagle River Watershed Council tries to protect the river, so to executive director Caroline Bradford, the notion of taking water out and not replacing it harms the river. But, she acknowledges, even large projects the Watershed Council has undertaken, such as cleaning up tons of toxic mine waste, is child's play compared to tussling with water lawyers and their powerful clients...

"Even if questions like augmentation seem relevant only to experts, the reality is those decisions have relevance to all the living things that rely on the river - be they human, animal or plant. If the Eagle River is the water lifeline of a county whose population is predicted to roughly double in the next 30 years, the simple question is whether water experts think there will be enough water to sustain that growth. Stone said he relies on the experts who provide the water, and that they say we've got enough. One of those experts is Rick Sackbauer, a former board member of the Water and Sanitation District and manager of the Eagle Park Reservoir Company. His answer to the question is simple: 'Yes.' Sackbauer refers to a document known as the Eagle River Assembly Report, a master plan for local water use begun about a decade ago that included all local water entities as well as related players, such as the cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora. The plan, recently updated, is still viable, Sackbauer said."

Category: Colorado Water

6:14:40 AM    

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Colorado Springs is nearly ready to start charging customers for storm water facilities, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article, "Calling proposed stormwater fees fair, understandable and affordable, a majority of Colorado Springs City Council members are ready to vote today to begin imposing the fee next year. The rates - presented at an informal council meeting Monday - go easy on nonprofits such as churches and schools and set caps for homes and businesses dramatically lower than the original proposal unveiled months ago. For example, Shops at Briargate under the previous plan would have paid $2,340 a month. Under the new plan, it would pay no more than the top commercial rate of $920...

"The proposal also would raise about $4 million to $5 million less a year than the earlier version, meaning drainage projects, repairs and maintenance work will take longer. The city has a backlog of $300 million in drainage projects, of which $66.5 million are considered critical needs. Without the fee, officials said flooding would continue and further erode and contaminate Fountain Creek [~] a sore spot between Colorado Springs and Pueblo as the cities tangle over permission to pipe water from Pueblo Reservoir to northeast Colorado Springs. An earlier storm-water fee proposal based on amount of impervious surface alone would have cost some businesses, nonprofits and schools a bundle and drew sharp criticism from those sectors. Reworked to create categories of property as well as figuring percentage of a tract that's impervious, the proposal now is endorsed by representatives from those sectors who were at the meeting. For good reason. East Junior High, for example, would have paid $495 a month under the former plan, but only $127.50 under the version to be voted on today. A home on a large lot in Falcon Estates would pay $9.35 a month under the new plan, compared with $17.60 before. One church would have paid $22.73 a month under the former proposal, but would pay $6 less under the new plan. A home in the Valley Hi neighborhood that covers about half its lot would be billed $4.25 under the new plan, compared with $7.84 under the previous proposal. The storm-water program is expected to bring in $18.2 million annually - $15.6 million from fees, $2.3 million from the city general fund and $300,000 from developers' subdivision review charges."

Category: Colorado Water

5:59:01 AM    

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Is oil shale finally an economically and environmentally source of energy for the U.S.? It seems that oil companies and the feds think so, according to the Houston Chronicle. From the article, "Companies hoping to tap an estimated 100-year supply of shale oil locked in rock formations under Colorado, Utah, and southwest Wyoming have won federal approval for experimental extraction projects. Not since the 1980s have companies been as interested as they are now in extracting oil from the rock, which has historically been a laborious and expensive process. The Interior Department authorized 10-year leases for Shell Frontier Oil & Gas Co., Chevron USA and EGL Resources Inc. for 160-acre parcels for research and development projects in northwest Colorado. The companies must submit detailed development plans, monitor groundwater, and obtain all required permits to protect air and water quality, the department said Monday in its decision. The projects could begin as early as next summer."

Here's the coverage from the Denver Post. They write, "The Bush administration Monday authorized oil-shale leases for five sites on public land in western Colorado, the first leases since the shale bust of the 1980s wrenched the region's economy. The approval was for relatively small-scale 'research and development' leases, but it was the government's biggest endorsement yet of oil shale, a vast petroleum resource with a checkered past. Officials and boosters say shale development is key to reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil. Environmentalists say the impact on wildlife and water quality has not been sufficiently taken into account."

Here's the coverage from the Rocky Mountain News. They write, "The Bureau of Land Management cleared the way for three oil companies to lease public land for experimental oil shale projects in western Colorado. The federal agency said Monday the research and development projects would have minimal impact on the environment, a claim disputed by environmentalists."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:48:06 AM    

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Fort Collins officials are cautiously optimistic about the 2007 water year, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article, "Hope springs eternal each fall for water providers. This year the hope is that the region can recover from what was Fort Collins' driest year since 1939...

"Despite the notably dry 2006, the city did not enact water restrictions. Its tiered billing system that charges more as residents use more water, along with an active conservation program, have kept water use low since 2002, Bode said. Water storage is slightly higher than average at Horsetooth Reservoir, one of the city's main sources, and storage in the Colorado-Thompson Project that includes and supplies Horsetooth is near average, said Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages the Project."

Category: Colorado Water

5:43:15 AM    

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