Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Monday, October 1, 2007

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U.S. Senator Wayne Allard (via email):

I continued my effort on Thursday to pass bipartisan legislation before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks that would extend the authorization for the Cache la Poudre Heritage Area and provide increased management authority to local citizens. This area has a unique and rich history that, like much in Colorado, is tied to water. The Cache la Poudre River played an important role in the development of the water law in the west, including the idea of prior appropriation. Understanding the significance and history of prior appropriation is vital, as much of the water law in the Western United States is based on it. The Cache la Poudre River Corridor is a collaborative project of the Cache la Poudre Heritage Alliance and the U.S. National Park Service. The effort has strong, broad-based local support. This program is a good example of how the Federal Government and local community groups can work together to achieve extraordinary things. It simply makes sense to extend the program. U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave (R-Ft. Morgan) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:42:38 PM    

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beSpacific: "Press release: The Nation's Mayors Release Results of a 330-City Survey on Water and Wastewater Asset Management, September 27, 2007"

Category: Colorado Water

7:02:28 AM    

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Here's an update about tamarisk control along the Arkansas River from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

More than 500 acres of tamarisk in Fremont, Pueblo, Huerfano, Otero and Bent counties have been treated under a federal program. The Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program provided funding for the projects, said John Knapp, area conservationist. The EQIP Colorado Invasive Plant Program is a voluntary program for landowners who want to improve the productivity of range or wetlands for agriculture and wildlife by reducing the impact of noxious weeds...

The chemical used for the projects takes three years to kill all parts of the tamarisk plant so that no new growth occurs. After this time period, the tamarisk can be removed. Tamarisk, also called salt cedar, contributes to the development of saline soil conditions which thins out native plants. Tamarisk stands are dense and impede the movements of both wildlife and livestock. The plant also impairs the function of shallow water wetlands by lowering water tables. Tamarisk also inhibits maintenance of irrigation ditches and canals.

Other partners include Fremont County, Fremont County Weed Board, Fremont Conservation District, Turkey Creek Conservation District, Pueblo County, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Upper Arkansas Weed Management Association, Huerfano County, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Upper Huerfano Conservation District, West Otero Timpas Conservation District, Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Otero County, Bent County Conservation District, Arkansas River Conservancy District, U.S. Forest Service, private landowners and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:42:40 AM    

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Here's an article about Friday afternoon's legislative panel at the Colorado Groundwater Management Policy Forum from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Breaking logjams that could be barriers to developing state groundwater resources was debated last week at a groundwater forum at the Colorado Springs Doubletree Hotel. About 250 people attended the two-day workshop, which looked at the law, politics and engineering of developing groundwater storage and recharge in the state. Not everyone agreed there is a need to serve growth by combining groundwater and surface supplies, and perhaps the toughest question was what the state's role should be in developing groundwater recharge opportunities. Much of the conference was focused on whether groundwater storage really exists, since water flowing through aquifers, particularly those connected to streams, travels. Recharging the Denver Basin Aquifers, trapped pools of water deep in the ground, could be considered storage, while putting water into alluvial aquifers along the South Platte and Arkansas rivers really amounts to changing the course and timing of flows. In the Arkansas River basin, there are two recharge operations, by Widefield Aquifer users in El Paso County and the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association on the Excelsior Ditch in Pueblo County. A storage project on the Upper Black Squirrel Creek, a designated groundwater basin in El Paso County, also is being studied.

During a panel discussion Friday, state lawmakers disagreed over whether the state should be making decisions about growth and water supplies. "I don't think the state should be making growth decisions," said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma. Others agreed: "We are a strong local control state," said Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton. "I don't think the state should be involved. No, the state doesn't have a role in deciding a local issue." "Growth is a local control issue," said Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. "Our job is to ensure people have options." On the other hand, the state already has adopted policies to grow, said Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison. "It's too late. We have a circular pattern in place, where the state has to have growth to pay for past growth because of the tax structure we've set up," Curry said. "I don't agree that one community's growth should impact their neighbor's. Local control goes out the window when how water is used starts affecting my neighbors." The state should have a role in providing expert information to communities to see if providing water is possible technically and on a sustainable basis, said Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan. "We do have a finite resource," Looper said. "I believe we need to help people and cities but very carefully." Conversely, Curry was the only lawmaker of the five who said the state does not need a statewide policy or consensus on how to use groundwater resources. Current groundwater policies by the Division of Water Resources actually differ in every basin...

...most of the group agreed that consensus could eventually be reached more easily through lawmakers than through contentious court battles. However, they said the impetus for cooperation must come from water users who bring their concerns to the state. Curry broke from the herd. "I don't agree there should be a statewide view," Curry said. "There needs to be respect between basins. This isn't a one-size-fits-all state." All the lawmakers agreed that Colorado's water law, based on prior appropriation of water to a beneficial use, must not be violated in any case. Curry also disagreed with the others that the state has an "obligation" to develop unappropriated waters, even if compacts entitle Colorado to use of the water. As the only lawmaker from the Western Slope on the panel, she chided other lawmakers for looking toward an unpredictable state solution for problems in their respective basins.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:24:32 AM    

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U.S. Senator Wayne Allard and U.S. Senator Ken Salazar are hoping to get the legislation right for the Poudre River Corridor National Heritage Area, according to The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the article:

The senators are co-sponsoring a measure that would fix a glitch in an 11-year-old law that protects the Poudre. Eleven years ago, when Allard was in the U.S. House, he wrote a bill to create the Poudre River Corridor National Heritage Area, the first such heritage area west of the Mississippi. The intent is to provide for "interpretation, (and) for the educational and inspirational benefit of present and future generations, of the unique and significant contributions to our national heritage of cultural and historical lands, waterways, and structures within the Corridor," according to the law. It is intended to do that in the context of water development in the West, especially the unique "prior appropriation" laws that determine who gets to use water. "The Cache la Poudre River played an important role in the development of the water law in the West, including the idea of prior appropriation. Understanding the significance and history of prior appropriation is vital, as much of the water law in the Western United States is based on it," Allard said.

The 45-mile river corridor encompasses the 100-year floodplain of the river. It begins in Larimer County, where the river flows out of the Roosevelt National Forest, and ends east of Greeley, about a fourth of a mile west of the river's confluence with the South Platte River. Allard's and Salazar's bill fixes a problem in the original law. Because of a glitch, the Secretary of the Interior wasn't able to appoint a commission to manage the heritage area. The commission was intended to work with the National Park Service, which is a partner in the corridor project. The bill designates a local non-profit organization, the Poudre Heritage Alliance, as the management entity for the heritage area. The alliance was formed to support the heritage area until an official commission could be named. The measure just makes their efforts official, Allard's office said. The bill also extends the heritage area's authorization for 10 more years, to allow for a total of $1 million in federal assistance for historic, cultural and natural resource preservation, according to Salazar's office...

U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan, introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:10:59 AM    

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Cleanup efforts are paying off for the upper Animas River, according to The Durango Herald. From the article:

Speeches, reminiscences and technical talks occupied the first day of the conference, Wednesday, at the Kendall Mountain Community Center. Participants spent Thursday visiting former mining sites where the discharge of contaminated water has been controlled and waste encapsulated. Interest in mopping up the toxic waste from 100 years of gold and silver mining in the San Juan Mountains kicked off formally in 1994 with the creation of the federal Interdepartmental Watershed Cleanup Initiative. Officials approached the task from the perspective of an entire watershed and counted on partnerships with interested state agencies and private stakeholders. Three years later, Congress authorized two mine-waste remediation projects - the Upper Animas River and the Boulder Creek project in western Montana. The goal was to improve water quality and fisheries in mining-impacted watersheds. Since then, $35 million has been poured into the Upper Animas project, with 90 percent of the cost paid by two sources - the federal government ($16.8 million or 48 percent) and the mining industry ($14.8 million or 42.4 percent). The state of Colorado, local governments and public-interest groups have contributed the remainder. Federal/state/private partnerships worked so well on the Upper Animas that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not created a Superfund site there...

Residue from mining pollutes water in two ways - rain and snow leach toxins from heaps of non-valuable excavation detritus and mill tailings (powdery material left from the milling process); and water leaking from adits (mine openings) carries toxins into streams. The toxins include lead, cadmium, iron, aluminum, chromium and zinc. The first step in restoring stream integrity was to determine the extent of the problem, O'Dell said. "We sampled and analyzed waste for acidity and concentration of heavy metals," O'Dell said. "We found 34 draining adits and 36 mine-waste dumps. We prioritized and started working from the top down." Solid waste is encapsulated in liners made of fabric and bentonite clay and then buried or stored behind retaining walls. Adits are plugged to stop seepage, and water is treated if possible, O'Dell said. The only evidence today of the Brooklyn Mine, which operated sporadically for about 80 years, is a heap of rusting ore-screening machinery, the aging boarding house for mine employees and the sealed adit. The adit couldn't be plugged because the underlying rock isn't stable enough to support a bulwark, O'Dell said. "Perhaps we can treat the water some day," O'Dell said. The Brooklyn Mine, which sits at 11,400 feet, was near the top of the priority list because of the toxicity of the waste. The cleanup in 2004 lasted from July to November. The waste was encapsulated, buried uphill from the mine in a 30-foot deep sump and covered with 2`BD feet of sand and earth. The area was then reseeded with a mix of native grasses.

Overall, 50 remediation projects have been carried out on the Upper Animas. The mining industry - particularly Sunnyside Gold Co. - has carried out half of them. The Forest Service/BLM and the private Animas River Stakeholders Group each has accounted for one-quarter of the projects. In an earlier interview, Peter Butler with the Animas River Stakeholders Group recalled the early days of his organization, which was founded in 1994.

Category: Colorado Water

5:58:55 AM    

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