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 15, 2007

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Here's a report on yesterday's rally about uranium mining in Weld County at the state capitol building from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article: "Several northern Colorado lawmakers Sunday vowed to introduce a bill in January that would impose more stringent requirements on uranium mining, in response to one company's plans for a project in Weld County. The four lawmakers outlined their plans during a rain-soaked rally on the steps of the state Capitol that drew about 45 people, two horses, several 4-H youngsters and one sheet cake covered with yellow icing and a 'radioactive' symbol."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Unbossed: "You've probably noticed the big push for nuclear power generation in recent months. You hear that it is clean and green. If you raise concerns about storage of radioactive waste materials for many years, you are assured that the industry has matured and learned its lessons. One of those singing this song is Bechtel...So when you hear this, I suggest you consider the Department of Energy Oct. 4 letter imposing a $165,000 fine against Bechtel National Inc. for nuclear safety violations."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:44:18 AM    

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Here's a look at recreation at Blue Mesa, Grand Lake, Lake Dillon and Twin Lakes from The Vail Daily (free registration required).

Category: Colorado Water

6:36:22 AM    

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The recent Denver University Water Futures Panel and Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force both recommended streamlining water court. Here's a dissenting opinion from Judge Dennis Maes via The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Pueblo's water judge sees no crunch of cases and little need to tinker with a system of solving water disputes that he sees as working well. "I'm not of the opinion that there's a lot to be fixed," Chief District Judge Dennis Maes said in an interview last week. Maes was asked to respond to suggestions made last month by former Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis to the Legislature's Water Resources Review Committee...

Colorado's current system of water courts was created by law in 1969, when the state's 80 administrative water districts were grouped into seven water districts. Unlike other states in the West, Colorado's system is based on a strict interpretation of prior appropriation that stretches back nearly 150 years. In order to do anything with water - from buying a neighbor's rights or augmenting a new well, to moving water from farms to cities through $1 billion projects - requires a trip through water court. In Division 2, the Arkansas River basin, there were 96 cases filed through the end of September, a fairly typical year. In addition, there are continuing cases, either amendments to earlier filings or due diligence on conditional water rights. Some are major fights, where more than 30 objectors may file - often if only a hint of injury exists. Most are routine filings for augmentation. The vast majority of the cases never reach trial, relying on settlements - or stipulations - between parties. In fact, the number of cases filed per year has steadily dropped in Division 2 since 1999.

Maes acknowledges that Division 1, the South Platte, may be inundated with cases relating to the problems which caused a shutdown of agricultural wells last year, but said recommendations for statewide changes in the water court system are not warranted. Those recommendations included appointment of senior judges as alternate water judges, appointing special masters, allowing referees to serve as special masters, requiring referees to be engineers, imposing time limits for decisions and training judges and referees in water law, engineering and other technical aspects of water. A water court referee now makes rulings on the veracity of facts in most water court applications before they go to the judge and the referee's rulings can be protested. "A good, competent referee does not have to be an engineer, and the state provides us with engineers through the state engineer's office," Maes said. "I do not believe it's necessary." In fact, requiring a referee to be an engineer could be counterproductive, because competing theories of engineering are often presented in court. "They might be precluded from offering expert testimony," Maes said.

Maes also doesn't see the need for continued management by the court in water cases. "What's a river master going to do? Is the decision going to be final? If I'm going to act as an appellate court, just give me the case in the first place. All you're going to do is (to) add a different level of administration and cost," Maes said. "In the future, there could be a need. Do we need it now? No."[...]

He approves of a system where most differences are settled in advance, but noted the situation is not much different than other civil courts. In water court, the only court of appeals is the Colorado Supreme Court, and this makes trials doubly expensive. "You can almost bet that if I have a trial, it's going to be appealed by one of the parties," Maes said. "As a general rule, they don't have the time and money to appeal it to the Supreme Court."[...]

Finally, water judges already spend time learning about the technical or scientific aspects of water, attending detailed workshops. Maes said it would be a mistake to appoint only lawyers who specialize in water law to the bench.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:31:02 AM    

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Here's an article about a new product for erosion control called Wood Straw, from ScienceDaily. From the article:

Soil erosion from rain and wind produces water quality issues in streams, rivers and lakes, degrades soil quality, and affects human health. Forest Concepts LLC, a small business in Auburn, WA, developed an environmentally-friendly solution called WoodStraw, an innovative erosion control material made from sliced strands of wood that is tailor-made for use on forests, highway projects, watersheds and other natural areas. Previous erosion control methods, specifically the use of straw, were hampered by lack of stability under windy conditions, possible introduction of noxious weeds, chemical residue from pesticides and short-lived performance. WoodStraw is heavier than straw, making it less likely to be blown away when exposed to high winds.

The patented WoodStraw brand wood-based erosion control material is highly effective. An American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers study in California and Washington indicated application of the WoodStraw product reduced erosion by 98 percent compared to bare soil. In addition, a field experiment by the USDA Forest Service in Colorado noted WoodStraw outperformed all other mulch treatments. WoodStraw is naturally weed-free and long-lasting. Since its introduction, WoodStraw has achieved regulatory approval by the Washington State Department of Transportation for use on transportation projects across the state and is recognized by the Washington Department of Ecology as an effective erosion control material. Research and scientific progress continue to shed light on new benefits of WoodStraw. The product is currently being evaluated to see how it would perform for wind erosion and dust control on construction sites and for controlling blowing ash on burned areas such as rangelands.

Category: Colorado Water

6:12:42 AM    

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From The Pueblo Chieftain, "The Lower Arkansas River Watershed planning group will meet from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 29 at Best Western Bent's Fort Inn in Las Animas...The meeting will follow up on last month's kickoff for the plan and will be critical for future grants on water quality enhancement in the Lower Arkansas River area. The Colorado Department of Health and Environment and Environmental Protection Agency are funding the watershed plan. The U.S. Geological Survey, which measures water quality in numerous efforts along the Arkansas River, is cooperating as well."

More from the article:

Some of the projects under way include studies on salinity, water tables and drainage in the valley; tamarisk control proposals; and conversion of irrigation to more efficient sprinklers or drip systems, [Tim Macklin of the Lamar Resource Conservation and Development office] said. Some new issues which might be looked at are the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District's Super Ditch land fallowing, water lease management program; brine disposal from reverse-osmosis water treatment systems; community-organized disposal efforts for potentially dangerous chemicals; and the impact of new standards for trace amounts of cosmetics, detergents or drugs, he added. "One of the things we want to do is make sure we're not duplicating any work that's already being done," Macklin said. The Oct. 29 meeting will be led by a facilitator, and stakeholders will review the preliminary draft of the Lower Arkansas Watershed Plan. A working lunch will be provided and drop-ins are welcome, but if possible, please RSVP with Julia or Colleen at 719-384-5408 by Oct. 24.

Category: Colorado Water

6:02:37 AM    

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Triview Metropolitan District is hoping to be able to issue bonds for improvements for more growth, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Triview Metropolitan District, which serves about 1,000 homes in south Monument, wants the ability to issue $41 million in bonds to pay for water and wastewater improvements, roads and parks. Depending on the growth of the district, officials may not need to issue some of the bonds, said Triview spokesman and former board president Steve Stephenson. The new debt would be paid for with projected revenue increases, he said, mainly stemming from the influx of commercial growth in the district, including big-box stores and chains such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot. "No tax increase or increase in fees will be necessary to fund the annual debt service," Stephenson said in an e-mail to The Gazette...

If the district incurs its maximum level of debt, that's about $67,700 per parcel of property within the district, Meyer said. Water and wastewater rates have already jumped almost 25 percent during the past two years, Meyer said. Triview provides water, sewer, street maintenance and other services for customers between Baptist and Higby roads, mostly in the Jackson Creek subdivision. Over the years, Triview's debt has skyrocketed, from $4.8 million in 1987 to $47 million today. The district has also grown, from one house in 1998 to about 1,000 today. Triview's debt has increased to pay for this growth in fast-growing south Monument, Stephenson said. While development remained stagnant in the late 1980s and early 1990s, rising inflation costs devoured 75 percent of the $47 million debt, he said. According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, in 2004 the district's debt ranked 23rd out of 287 special districts in the state. That's the latest year the DOLA collected this data from special districts.

Category: Colorado Water

5:55:13 AM    

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