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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Friday, November 2, 2007

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Here's an update on the CloudSat project from Colorado State University. From the article:

As Tropical Storm Noel churns off Florida's east coast, NASA and university scientists have announced they have developed a promising new technique for estimating the intensity of tropical cyclones from space. The method could one day supplement existing techniques, assist in designing future tropical cyclone satellite observing systems, and improve disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.

The technique uses NASA satellite data, including simultaneous, accurate measurements of cloud-top temperatures from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite, and cloud-top height and cloud profiling information from NASA's CloudSat satellite. Both satellites fly in formation as part of NASA's "A-Train" of Earth-observing satellites. This new technique was developed by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

Scientists commonly use measurements of a tropical cyclone's maximum sustained winds to define their intensity and gauge their destructive potential. Maximum sustained winds are defined as the one-minute average wind speed at an altitude of 10 meters (33 feet).

The framework used by the team to estimate tropical cyclone intensity was developed by co-author Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleague Valerie Wong. It requires cloud profiling information from over or near a storm's eye. Of the more than 150 tropical cyclones that CloudSat flew over during its first six months after launch in April 2006, nine of the storm overpasses met this criterion.

Emanuel and Wong's framework measures the intensity of tropical cyclones in relation to the total energy contained in both their eyewalls and the surrounding environment outside the storms, as well as other measurements. By coupling measurements of temperatures and cloud top heights from a storm's eyewall out to its outer regions with an estimated difference in temperature between the sea surface and the storm's cloud tops, a storm's intensity can be estimated.

"Our study represents a unique and first-of-a-kind test of a hurricane intensity theory that had not been verified against real-world data, one that relies on actual satellite data," said lead study author Zhengzhao "Johnny" Luo, now with the City College of New York. "While our analysis is not yet mature enough for this technique to be used operationally, we plan to further refine it as more tropical cyclone data become available."[...]

CloudSat Principal Investigator and study co-author Graeme Stephens of Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., said the latest results show the value of being able to look inside storms to reveal their inner structure. This information is unique to CloudSat. "Current hurricane intensity estimating techniques are generally effective but have higher wind speed errors than scientists would like," he said. "This new technique may reduce those error rates."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:42:23 AM    

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It looks like there may be an agreement on Durango's application for a Recreation In-Channel Diversion (RICD) on the Animas River, according to The Durango Herald. From the article:

Fifty individuals and organizations - state and local - are on the brink of an agreement that will give the city of Durango the amount of Animas River water it wants for a kayak park while at the same time assuring upstream users of enough water for other purposes. "I can't give more details now because there are three cases that have to be settled as part of a package," Barry Spear, the attorney for the Southwestern Water Conservation District, said Wednesday after a closed session of his board. "But we're all scheduled to appear before (6th Judicial District) Judge Gregory Lyman a week from today." Jack Rogers, the director of public works in Durango and its interim city manager, agreed with Spear's assessment of Durango's request for a recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD. "We'll have an executive session Tuesday to consider the RICD settlement," Rogers said. "We plan to take action at that time." If all parties agree, three proposed decrees will be presented to Lyman for his consideration in an effort to end a dispute that goes back about three years. All three cases were filed as objections to the application by the city of Durango for as much as 1,400 cubic feet of water per second for a kayak park at Smelter Rapid on the Animas at Santa Rita Park...

Southwestern Water Conservation District board members Wednesday told him to finalize the agreement, Spear said. Members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board gave their staff the same order, Spear said. The settlement package will be presented to Durango city councilors and La Plata County commissioners next week. "The remaining opponents have been contacted to see if there are any objections," Spear said. "We are working to address any concerns."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:29:51 AM    

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Harris Sherman is learning how to manufacture controversy. Early in the year he worried the basin roundtables by saying that the roundtable process was not producing the desired results. This week he mentioned the idea of combining two state construction funds, worrying the dam builders, according to The Craig Daily Press. From the article:

The head of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources stirred up a tempest Wednesday in the Legislature's interim Water Resources Review Committee with a suggestion that two big pots of money used to pay for water projects be merged into one. Harris Sherman proposed combining the Colorado Water Conservation Board's construction fund, used largely for nonreimbursable grants, with the perpetual base account, which is used for low-interest loans. A combined account would total an estimated $536 million, a CWCB budget analyst said. Both funds are recipients of federal mineral lease revenue and severance taxes paid to the state for oil, natural gas, coal and other mineral extraction in Colorado.

"By combining the two, there would be greater flexibility to provide ongoing loans and grants to communities throughout state and allow us to address new opportunities for state and private water partnerships," Sherman said. "It would give us the ability to make grants with greater flexibility than we've ever had before." Sherman also proposed capping the amount appropriated to the construction fund from federal mineral lease revenue at $16 million for each of the next 10 years.

The construction fund currently gets the first 10 percent of FML revenue, which has been between $12 million and $13 million for each of the last two years. Without a cap, that amount could grow significantly because of increased oil and natural gas drilling on Bureau of Land Management and other federally-owned land in western Colorado. "The idea of capping the federal lease contribution is very important to us," Sherman said, adding that "moving certain funds from FML revenue and the CWCB account to other, still undefined, purposes" grew out of another interim committee that is looking into how severance tax revenue is allocated.

Sherman's proposals, however, didn't sit well with lawmakers from both sides of the Continental Divide, including the interim water committee's chairman, Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus. "I'm not convinced we ought to be capping the trust fund," Isgar said. "If we change the perpetual base account ... to meet a shortage in the construction fund, then it's no longer perpetual. I'm OK with growth in both" Republican Sens. Greg Brophy of Wray and Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs said they feared the proposal was an indication the administration of Gov. Bill Ritter is backing away from a commitment to building more water storage projects in Colorado...

Sherman rejected Taylor's assertion. "We are committed to the importance of storage, both above and under ground," he said. Sherman said he would continue working on bill for introduction in next year's General Assembly despite the tepid response from the interim water committee. "We are trying to address what we see as interest in balancing a whole lot of statewide needs," he said. "Regardless of whether there is a cap or not, there is still reason to combine the funds."

Category: Colorado Water

7:21:50 AM    

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Here's an update on oil shale development from The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

What better evidence of the daunting challenge that oil shale presents: Shell Frontier Oil & Gas, seen as the leader in the quest to free millions of barrels of oil in massive rock formations in a three-state area, doesn't expect to start commercial production any time soon...

And yet in July, Shell withdrew a state mining permit to start work on a federal research and development lease granted by the Bureau of Land Management. "There were a myriad of factors," Shell spokesman Tracy Boyd said. One was ongoing research and testing. The results could change what Shell will ask for in its permits for work on three 160-acre parcels of federal land approved by the BLM for demonstration projects.

What isn't changing, Boyd said during a recent tour of Shell's research site, is the company's belief that the oil shale formations under western Colorado, eastern Utah and southwest Wyoming could help meet the nation's growing demand for energy. "We (the industry) have this huge resource sitting here in the United States of unconventional oil in oil shale that is awaiting for someone to crack the technical nut," Boyd said. Shell may apply for permits again in a year or so, he added. The company hopes to make a decision about commercial production within the next decade...

Significant commercial production could be 10 to 20 years away, [Jeremy Boak, project manager at the Colorado Energy Research Institute based at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden] said. But if the economic, technical and environmental issues can be resolved, he said, oil shale could help bridge the gap until renewable or alternative energy becomes more common. Oil prices hovering above $90 a barrel could make the attempt all the more enticing. About half the oil shale underlying the region is in the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado. That's where it's the "deepest, thickest, richest," Boyd said: 2,000 feet down to the base of the oil shale formation.

Besides Shell, Chevron USA and Midland, Texas-based EGL Resources Inc. received 10-year federal research and development leases in the basin last year. Early this year, the Interior Department approved a 10-year lease for Alabama-based Oil Shale Exploration Co. for the only oil-shale experiment on federal land in Utah...

By year's end, the BLM is expected to release a draft environmental review of commercial oil shale development. The analysis is meant to provide a framework; more detailed reviews would be done as specific projects are proposed...

Some politicians are urging caution. A measure by Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., in the House version of the 2008 Interior Department's appropriations bill would prohibit using federal funds to prepare final regulations for a commercial oil shale leasing program or conduct commercial lease sales. Udall has said he wants to make sure oil shale is developed responsibly to avoid another economic bust...

Environmentalists worry that an oil shale boom could strain area water supplies and increase air pollution if more coal-fired power plants are built to power operations. Lestz of Chevron said he believes the technology wasn't adequate to mine oil shale in the 1970s and 1980s and doesn't know if it is yet. "There's no certainty that we will be successful," he said. Chevron is working with the University of Utah and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico on its in situ process. Lestz said Chevron has spent a lot of time in the lab on the fundamentals and plans to drill on its research parcel by the end of the year to get material for further study...

At the Shell Mahogany research site, a web of gleaming silver pipes roughly the size of a football field attests to the years the company has spent on research. A coolant circulates through the pipes to freeze groundwater to form a wall designed to prevent water from flowing into the production area. Underground heaters eventually will be inserted inside the freeze wall to slowly cook the rock to at least 650 degrees Fahrenheit to free the oil. Building the wall will take another year. Boyd said tests at a smaller site recovered 62 percent of the hydrocarbons, better than the 25 percent to 30 percent recovery rate for conventional oil and gas. He said the oil produced is high-quality transportation fuel. Shell intends to move carefully to make sure it can produce the oil in economically and environmentally sound ways, Boyd said. "We're committed to making sure that we don't hurry up and get to the point of production without fully assessing and making sure that we're in balance," he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:10:01 AM    

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Residents of Aspen are voting on two water related issues next week, stormwater treatment and a new hydroelectric project, according to The Aspen Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

"You're welcome, Carbondale, California and everyone else downstream from Aspen." That is what Aspen voters could be saying if they approve Referendum 2B, which would implement a property tax hike of .67 cents for every $1,000 of taxable property value to pay for a stormwater treatment system that would filter pollutants out of most of Aspen's runoff before it enters local rivers.

For an example of what voters would be buying, check out the Jenny Adair site off Puppy Smith Street. The manmade wetlands are at the end of a process that captures stormwater runoff, runs it through a chamber that filters out impurities and then into the ponds of the wetlands, which further filter the water before it joins the Roaring Fork River. The process cleans water of dirt and metals. In the four months since the system has gone on line, the Jenny Adair vault has captured 8.5 dumptruck loads of sludgy black goo that otherwise would have ended up in the river, according to Tom Cardamone of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. "The least we can do is remove our own pollutants and sediments from the headwaters," said Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards, adding that being good stewards of its own water will put the Roaring Fork Valley in a better position at the table of statewide water negotiations. If the stormwater tax is approved, the city will construct four more Jenny Adair-like sites throughout town. One is already planned for Rio Grande Park, just upstream from Jenny Adair, and the remaining three still need to be planned, but likely sites would be Castle Creek, Maroon Creek and the north bank of the Roaring Fork River, according to city engineer Tricia Aragon. The tax is expected to generate $12 million over the 15 years it will take to build the system, which would include 27 filtering vaults. Also included are six more full-time city employees who would be needed to maintain the fully built-out system...

Aspen was one of the first municipalities in the West to have electricity, thanks to hydropower, which kept the lights on at the Hotel Jerome and in the silver mines in the late 19th century. But in 1960, after nearly 80 years of Aspen getting all of its electricity from local streams, the decision was made to get off of hydropower and hook into the grid. Local leaders now long for the day when all of the city's power could be generated from non-carbon sources. With hydropower now being drawn from Maroon Creek, as well as the Ruedi Reservoir Dam, the city is looking to add another hydropower facility on Castle Creek, and Aspen voters are being asked to allow the city to go into debt for as much as $10 million to build it.

The new Castle Creek plant, which would be built adjacent to the city streets department on Power Plant Road underneath the Castle Creek Bridge, would draw water from both Castle and Maroon creeks via existing dams and Thomas Reservoir. The water would descend 330 vertical feet from the reservoir, gathering speed through about a mile of pipelines, to spin two turbines feeding a generator. The plant would generate about 5.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity -- enough to power 655 average homes -- per year, according to Aspen Public Works Director Phil Overeynder. The city has told neighbors -- who are concerned about the level of noise the turbines would produce -- that sound dampening measures would be included in the new building. The facility itself would have to go trough a public review process. Voters will have to pass two separate ballot measures for the project to go forward. Referendum 2C allows the city to take out bonds for $5.5 million with a total repayment value of $10.7 million. The bonds would be paid back by Aspen municipal electric utility customers through their electricity bills, although if revenues from those bills ever fall short, city taxpayers would be on the hook. Referendum 2D would allow a change in use for the land where the generating facility would be built, because the land in question was purchased with open space funds. If Referendum 2D passes, the city will be required to replace the 27,000-foot plot with an open space parcel of equal or greater value. The city's Open Space and Trails Board has identified two suitable parcels.

Category: Colorado Water

6:56:38 AM    

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Here's The Denver Post coverage of the U.S. House vote on H.R. 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007. From the article:

"The Western landscape has changed, and so should the law that governs how it's used," said Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining. The measure, which passed 244-166, still needs approval from the Senate, where it faces stronger opposition. And the White House threatened a veto, saying that putting royalties on existing mining operations would invite lawsuits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a gold miner's son and longtime supporter of the industry, said Wednesday that the House bill "won't stand over here."[...]

The Colorado House delegation voted along party lines Thursday, with Democrats all co-sponsoring and supporting the bill and Republicans opposing its passage. "While mining brought many benefits to our state, it has also left us with too many abandoned mines. Some of them are mere open pits that endanger hunters, hikers or other visitors," said Democratic Rep. Mark Udall of Eldorado Springs, who helped push the legislation through the House Natural Resources Committee. But another member of the committee, Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, said the legislation would cost high-paying jobs in Colorado and increase the nation's dependence on imported minerals, a contention backed by many in the mining industry. "This bill would discourage metal investment throughout Colorado and the Western United States, and our nation really can't afford that because we are already dependent on foreign sources for many minerals important to our national security," said Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association. Some Republicans also circulated a letter contending the bill could limit domestic availability of minerals critical to the U.S. military, such as magnesium, which is used to make airplanes and missiles. Environmentalists argued, however, that the bill's changes were long overdue and would help protect the nation's drinking-water supplies, wildlife habitat and recreational areas.

According to a recent report from the Environmental Working Group, active mining claims in Colorado more than tripled from 2003 to 2007; the 239 percent surge was the biggest jump in the Rocky Mountain West...

The House bill also would put new environmental controls on hard-rock mining, set up a cleanup fund for abandoned mines and permanently ban cheap sales of public lands for mining. Environmentalists say that there are more than 500,000 abandoned hard-rock mines in the U.S. and that cleaning them up would cost between $32 billion and $72 billion. In Colorado, there are about 23,000 abandoned mines, according to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The legislation would direct 70 percent of royalties collected under the bill to a cleanup fund, while the other 30 percent would go to a community-impact fund. Under an amendment by Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., that was agreed to Thursday, 50 percent of the money in the cleanup fund would be sent back to states where it's generated, while the other half would be distributed by the Interior Department secretary.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:42:22 AM    

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