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

Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

New West: "The House voted 244-166 to reform a 135-year-old mining law Thursday afternoon, and force the hardrock mining industry to pay royalties on minerals extracted from public lands - just like the coal, oil and gas industries. The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act (HR 2262) requires miners on federal lands to pay royalties of 8 percent of gross income on new mining operations, four percent on existing operations. Republicans like Rep. Bill Sali of Idaho, predicted that the bill will destroy the American mining industry, exporting jobs and the industry to overseas countries that have little or no environmental regulations and have child labor in the mines. The White House has threatened a veto, saying that placement of royalties on existing mining operations invites lawsuits. The House vote is not big enough to override the threatened veto."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:41:57 PM    

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Tri-State Generation briefed the Prowers County Board of Commissioners last week on the plan to use Amity Canal water for two new electrical generation facilities, according to The Lamar Ledger. From the article:

Representatives from Tri-State met with the Prowers County Board of Commissioners last Thursday, Oct. 25 to discuss a proposed coal fired electric generation plant to be located north of Holly. The plant, whose timeframe is contingent upon several factors including whether the Holcomb plant is constructed, would generate a maximum capacity of 1,400 Megawatts (MW) said Nelson...

Michael Sayler from Bishop-Brogden Associates, Inc., a water consulting firm representing Tri-State, said the generation association has purchased or contracted to purchase 17,342.88 shares of the Amity Canal. He said Tri-State has submitted a water court application to change usage for 17,231.02 shares which constitutes about half the Amity's total shares. Sayler said after competing a system wide usage study of the Amity's water dating to 1950, Tri-State's Amity shares should provide 21,257 acre-feet of water a year (af/yr). Nelson said the proposed plant would require approximately 20,000 af/yr to generate 1,400 MW of electricity.

Sayler said a 70,000 acre-feet reservoir would need to be constructed to guarantee a viable water source for the proposed plant. He said the reservoir would have a surface area of approximately 2,000 acre-feet and would be filled over time. "We wanted to remain true to the traditional deliveries and return flows for the Amity,"[caron] said Sayler. "We tried to carve out the irrigated land," said Sayler when describing the property Tri-State has purchased. He added that the idea was to allow people to stay in their homes, only purchasing the land necessary to obtain the needed water rights.

The proposed dry-up would consist of about 20,000 acres and be the first major dry-up in Prowers County. Other counties along the Arkansas River Valley have experienced large-scale dry-ups during the last few decades. "The plant is a zero discharge, fully consumptive use plant," said Nelson. "We only use what we need to use. The biggest use of water is during the steam cycle," said Nelson. "The flowing of steam through the turbine is what ultimately drives the turbine. All that water goes up into the atmosphere." Commissioner Joe Marble said one of the biggest hurdles is guaranteeing that the lands dried-up by Tri-State be appropriately re-vegetated. "We can't have people living out there with weeds over growing the fields next to their house."

Nelson said Tri-State is committed to making sure the conversion from irrigated land would go smoothly. He added Tri-State's intention is to only use the water that is necessary for the plant at the plant and use the remaining water to continue farming Tri-State's land. "As long as we stay in the county and don't export the water, which we don't intend to do, Prowers County should see a big economic boost," said Nelson when asked about the change in property tax revenues after Tri-State's land is dried up. He said an increase in property tax from the power plant should more then offset the loss in revenues from the irrigated acreage.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:20:19 AM    

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U.S. Senator Ken Salazar has added language to the Farm Bill making it's way through the U.S. Congress designed to help farmers whose wells in the alluvial aquifer have been shut down along the South Platte River, according to The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the article:

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said Wednesday that he has added language in the new Farm Bill that would help farmers who have had irrigation wells shut down along the South Platte River...

Salazar said the measures he introduced would allow farmers to take advantage of two U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs -- the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The CRP pays farmers who take land out of production, or in this case, "were forced to take land out of production by the state," Salazar said. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program was reauthorized in the 2002 Farm Bill to provide a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. Farmers bid on EQIP contracts that can last up to 10 years. The contracts provide incentive payments and cost-shares to implement conservation practices. EQIP may cost-share up to 75 percent of the costs of certain conservation practices.

More coverage from The Cherry Creek News.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:04:09 AM    

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Here's a article looking at support for the H.R. 2242 [pdf], the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007, from The Rocky Mountain Chronicle. From the article:

By mid-October, the Cache la Poudre River had dribbled to a practically dry and motionless stream twice in less than one week because of water diversions for cities and irrigators. It was the sixth month over the past year that the Poudre had flatlined to a trickle through Fort Collins. The ecological and biological damage caused by the episodes have alarmed local river advocates, who say the dry-ups will happen more frequently if Glade Reservoir is built. But the depressed flows are also a stark reminder of another threat: The Poudre is not considered a navigable river, so its surrounding wetlands are vulnerable to development and pollution because of rollbacks to the Clean Water Act. "This has pretty big consequences," says Becky Long of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, an advocacy group based in Denver. "We're talking about drinking water here." Originally passed in 1972, the Clean Water Act is the country's landmark water legislation. The law establishes the framework for regulating pollutants released into the nation's waters, and it gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the authority to set up and enforce pollution-control programs and industry wastewater standards. But Long says two U.S. Supreme Court decisions and a legal guideline, enacted by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify those rulings, gut the Clean Water Act.

The first Supreme Court decision, from 2001, has been interpreted as a way to abolish protection of isolated wetlands regardless of their ecological value. The second decision, from last year, restricts Clean Water Act protections to navigable waters, permanently flowing streams and neighboring wetlands. In June, the EPA and Army Corps adopted what's known as a "joint guidance" to follow both decisions. "Most of Colorado's streams are not considered navigable streams and therefore would fall outside of the protections," Long says. "Legislation that's been around for three decades has been turned inside out, and this does not bode well for Colorado.[per thou]

Category: Colorado Water

5:57:27 AM    

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Over in Glenwood Springs the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool is looking to protect the geothermal aquifer they depend on for their business, according to The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (free registration required). From the article:

The Hot Springs Lodge and Pool has proposed a city ordinance to protect against possible damage to the area's geothermal aquifer. The ordinance would require permitting for excavation in certain areas. It would require applicants for permits to conduct engineering and geologic work to "demonstrate conclusively" that excavation wouldn't harm the geothermal mantle protecting the aquifer in any way, according to a letter signed by Hot Springs Lodge and Pool general manager Kjell Mitchell to city officials. "We're just trying to do something that protects an asset for the community," Mitchell said

Mitchell said the ordinance would affect the area along the Colorado River, a certain distance north and south from the river banks and within the city limits. The ordinance is modeled after a similar ordinance in Manitou Springs, and it would come as a proactive measure after a long history of battles over water rights and "horror stories" relative to other shared aquifers, he added. The ordinance would be meant to head off a situation such as if someone were drilling a well or a hole, hit the aquifer's protective mantle and didn't know how to stop the flow of water, Mitchell said...

Mayor Bruce Christensen said CDOT is looking at developing its property west of Two Rivers Park and doing some construction there. The Hot Springs Lodge and Pool has always had a concern about any excavation that could negatively impact the geothermal aquifer, he added, and it has said that when a well farther downstream is operating, it reduces the flow into the hot springs pool. "We would all like to make sure there is a good faith effort to protect the resource," he said. "The hot springs are very important to Glenwood both economically and socially." On the other hand, Christensen said, the city needs to make sure it's not exposing the community to any legal liability. City officials will also have to assess what level of government intervention is appropriate for the community while considering the ordinance, he added.

Category: Colorado Water

5:47:20 AM    

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Aaron Million was in Wyoming this week trying to stir up support for his pipeline project, according to The Jacson Hole Star Tribune. From the article:

The Colorado entrepreneur who wants to pipe water from Wyoming's Green River to the booming Colorado Front Range says a portion of the flow may be available for use in the Cowboy State. Aaron Million, who spoke at the Wyoming Water Association annual meeting in Cheyenne Wednesday, said it might be possible to provide 40,000 to 45,000 acre feet of water annually to towns, agricultural operations and power plants inside Wyoming. Laramie and Cheyenne officials have already signaled interest in the flows. "If users in Wyoming have an interest in delivering Wyoming water to them, we may be able accomplish that," Million said in a telephone interview after his talk...

In the meantime, Million said representatives of Wyoming ag operations, municipalities and power plants have approached him about gaining access to some of the water. He said the pipeline could be a source of relief for communities and businesses across southeastern Wyoming, which are struggling through their seventh year of drought. "This is a Colorado project, but this project has always been about greater good and trying to do some greater good along the route and in Colorado," Million said. Michael Purcell, director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission, said Cheyenne and Laramie city officials have inquired about access to the water, and he's advised them to monitor the project. "But I think the project has a long way to go in terms of politics in Colorado, and until those issues are ironed out, I don't see the state of Wyoming wishing to participate," Purcell said. Laramie Public Works Director Terry Haugen said he plans to keep an eye on Million's progress. Laramie gets its water from the Laramie River, which nearly ran dry in 2002, and the Casper Aquifer, which seems to be shrinking. "I think any time you've got another source of water that's going to be as close in proximity as this project ism it's something that we need to keep on top of and see if it's to the benefit of the citizens to take advantage of that," Haugen said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:39:51 AM    

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Some of U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave's constituents are calling for her to vote for H.R. 2262 [pdf], the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007, according to The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Colorado conservationists hope U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave will take the same stance toward hard-rock mining as she's taken on a proposed uranium mine in Weld County. If the Fort Morgan Republican is concerned about protecting water supplies - as she has stated regarding a uranium project west of Nunn proposed by Powertech (USA) Inc. - she should vote for the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007, said Gina Janett of the Colorado Conservation Alliance. "We think she should show consistency when it comes to water-quality issues," said Janett, a longtime Fort Collins activist. "Her concerns should carry over to uranium mining on public lands."

Under existing law, the federal government receives no royalties for the value of the minerals as it does for oil and gas production. The reform legislation would mandate royalty payments and require mining companies to clean up contamination from current and abandoned mining operations. In a prepared statement, Musgrave said she still is reviewing the bill and its many provisions. Musgrave said mining companies should pay royalties. But the bill likely is to be heavily amended by the time it comes up for a vote, she said. "Congress needs to get this bill right because good paying American jobs could be lost to overseas workers," Musgrave said. "Also, there are very serious national security issues at hand because of mandates on the materials used for things such as armor for our troops." Federal law mandates that materials used to make armor for the military be mined in the United States, said Aaron Johnson, communications director for Musgrave's office. An issue surrounding the bill is whether it would lead to decreased mining and limit the availability of materials, he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:31:39 AM    

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