Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

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The Cortez Journal is running an update on the problem of mercury pollution. They write, "Fish at Totten Reservoir are unsafe for young children and pregnant women to eat, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Elevated levels of mercury have been found in fish in five more Colorado reservoirs statewide, including Totten. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will issue advisories and post warnings at the lake saying pregnant and nursing women and young children shouldn't eat the fish and that other people should limit their intake. At Totten lake the species of concern is the walleye. In Colorado, the five new water bodies and the fish where elevated mercury levels were found were Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins, walleye and wiper, a hybrid; Horseshoe Reservoir, west of Walsenburg, saugeye, a walleye hybrid; Totten Reservoir near Cortez, walleye; Purdy Reservoir near Grand Junction, large mouth bass; and Trinidad Lake near Trinidad, walleye. Narraguinnep Reservoir and McPhee Reservoir already have advisories posted warning about levels of mercury in fish.

"A new report by scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon State University found mercury in every fish and every river they sampled for various environmental factors in 12 Western states. Findings from a survey of 2,707 fish randomly collected from 626 rivers between 2000 and 2004 were reported in this month's issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Another study published by the National Wildlife Federation showed high levels of mercury in eagles and otters that feed on affected fish."

Category: Colorado Water

8:46:20 AM    

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The Longmont Daily Times Call is reporting that snowpack on Longs Peak is at the highest level since 1997. From the article, "Snowpack at the Longs Peak Snow Survey site - which hasn't seen above-average snowpack since 1997 - weighed in at 133 percent of average, said Don Graffis, a soil scientist with the federal NRCS in Longmont. 'What this tells us is that we have a very good start,' Graffis said. Graffis and Sylvia Hickenlooper, also with the NRCS, weighed 10 snow samples at the Longs Peak site Friday to determine the snowpack, which shows the water content in snow...

"The 15 automated measurement sites for the South Platte River Basin, which feeds most of northern Colorado, showed the snowpack at 119 percent of average Friday."

Category: Colorado Water

8:30:53 AM    

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Organizations on the Eagle River have determined how they're going to split up dough to restore the river, according to the Vail Daily News (free registration required). From the article, "Decades of gold and silver mining have caused a world of hurt for the Eagle River. Toxic metals from the Eagle Mine spilled into the stream, killing fish, tainting drinking water and staining the river orange until cleanup efforts began. Since then, media conglomerate Viacom Inc., which owned the mine, was required to contribute to a National Resource Damage Fund that would be used to restore stretches of the Eagle River affected directly or indirectly by the polluting mine. Four nonprofit and environmental groups have been competing for a share of the now $2.4 million fund, and now these groups know how much they're going to get. Projects pitched by the Eagle River Watershed Council and Minturn tied in an advisory work group's final scoring, and they'll get the bulk of the money. The other two projects, one headed by the Vail Valley Foundation and the other by Colorado Mountain College, were given much lower priority but were still awarded money. 'Every project got enough to do something with,' said Wendy Naugle, a member of the damage fund work group. The work group will make recommendations to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment board of trustees, which has the final say on who gets the money."

Category: Colorado Water

8:23:52 AM    

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Here's an update on the Statewide Water Supply Initiative [pdf] from the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article, "A statewide study of water needs is close to identifying projects that could help meet a gap in urban water supplies over the next 25 years. Rather than one big solution to all water shortages, the second phase of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative will look at regional projects and rely on the Interbasin Compact Committee and roundtables in each basin to weigh the merits of specific projects, said Rick Brown, who has coordinated SWSI for the Colorado Water Conservation Board since 2003...

"Increasingly, conservation is seen by cities as a way to enhance flows as well to improve overall quality of life, said Greg Fisher of Denver Water planning department. Denver has entered a conservation plan to reduce water use by 20 percent. Meanwhile, Westminster is far along in its efforts to conserve water, but still looks for new opportunities, said Stu Feinglass, water conservation analyst...

"The group looking at alternatives to drying up farmland rated five options:

"Alternative cropping and irrigation: Farmers face uncertainty and up-front costs. While ag conservation meets other goals, it is not a good strategy to stop 'buy-and-dry' programs by cities.

"Water banking: Water banking works well for temporary transfers, but provides no long-term certainty. Water banks are tough to get going. The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District is one of the few groups actively looking at a water bank, but will need an extension on legislation to make it work.

"Rotational fallowing: A long-term lease of large blocks of water satisfies the cities' need for certainty and farmers' need for income, but is limited to large tracts and expensive to set up. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is studying combining the resources of several ditch companies to set up a system.

"Interruptible Service Agreements: Drawbacks to both parties were seen in such leases that would make agricultural water available to cities in dry years.

"Purchase-leaseback: The water is sold, but leased back to farmers until needed. Tri-State Electric Generation and Transmission Association is using the strategy in obtaining water for a proposed coal-burning plant in the Lamar area."

Category: Colorado Water

8:15:42 AM    

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Officials are worried that Quagga mussels may spread to Lake Powell. Here's an article with some detail from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. They write, "The latest fishing report from Lake Powell fisheries biologist Wayne Gustaveson begins as do most, with a recap of the latest fishing conditions, water level (3,600 mean sea level) and water temperature (46-49 F) at the popular reservoir in southern Utah. But Gustaveson's tone quickly changes when he entreats anglers to help stop an invasion of what biologists say is a dire threat to Lake Powell's fishing. The threat is the quagga mussel, an innocuous looking shellfish smaller than your thumbnail but one that, in sufficient numbers, could completely disrupt Lake Powell as we know it today...

"A seven-year program at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area aimed at preventing a mussel infection includes stopping all boats and trailers from east of the Continental Divide to check for mussels. Any boat with questionable credentials was offered a free hot-water wash to kill any hitchhiking mussels. The program seems to have been successful, Gustaveson reported, since mussels haven't been found in Lake Powell. Now, though, the quagga mussel suddenly is pounding on the door. Gustaveson likens the quagga to a 'zebra mussel on steroids,' and their proximity to Lake Powell makes Gustaveson fearful it's only a matter of time before an unaware boater carries the quagga to the lake...

"The quagga mussel prefers deep, cool water and can attach itself to soft and hard substrate, including boat motors, shopping carts and sandy beaches. 'The problem with both species of mussel is that they are so prolific that they cover the lake bottom and structures with layer after layer of shellfish,' Gustaveson said. 'They can even attach to slow moving animals like crayfish. Nothing is safe.' He said quagga mussels have been known to form a shell reef more than a foot thick and actually deposit enough shells to close off water pipes less than 12 inches in diameter. In some places, the mussels have been counted at more than 700,000 per square meter. 'If they get established at high water, when the water level drops, as it always does in Lake Powell, you won[base ']t have any sandy beaches but rather beaches made of razor-sharp mussel shells,' warned Gustaveson. The shellfish eat by siphoning water through the shell. Biologists say zebra mussels are so common in the Great Lakes that every 12 hours, every drop of water in the vast lakes is funneled through a mussel. Lakes that were full of phytoplankton before zebra mussel infestation are devoid of the algae afterwards. Lake productivity is soon affected as mussels siphon away nutrients and plankton before other fish can eat it...

"Gustaveson offered a list of what boaters should do before and after visiting any water where mussels might be found: Drain the water from your motor, live well and bilge on land before leaving the immediate area of the mussel-infested lake; Flush the motor and bilges with hot, soapy water or a 5-percent solution of household bleach; Completely inspect your vessel and trailer, removing any visible mussels, but also feel for any rough or gritty spots on the hull, these may be young mussels that can be hard to see; Wash the hull, equipment, bilge and any other exposed surface with hot, soapy water or use a 5-percent solution of household bleach; Clean and wash your trailer, truck or any other equipment that comes in contact with lake water. Mussels can live in small pockets anywhere water collects; Air-dry the boat and other equipment for at least five days before launching in any other waterway."

Category: Colorado Water

8:00:39 AM    

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