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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Saturday, November 3, 2007

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According to The Durango Herald "The state Department of Natural Resources announced plans Thursday to raise $3 million for a boat ramp and state park at Lake Nighthorse."

Category: Colorado Water

7:54:42 AM    

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From The Delta County Independent, "A public workshop on 'Keeping Public Drinking Water Supplies Clean: Opportunities and Challenges for Protecting Water Supply Watersheds', will be held Thursday, Nov. 8 in Grand Junction. The workshop is sponsored by Western Colorado Congress and The Mesa County Water Association. It will be held at the Grand Junction City Hall Auditorium at 250 North Fifth Street. Registration of $20 is due by Thursday, Nov 1. Cost is $30 at the door. Western Colorado Congress member tickets are $10 by Nov. 1 and $20 at the door. The workshop begins at 12:45 p.m. with concluding remarks at 4:30. The reception follows at 4:45. For information, or to register, contact: Hannah Holm, Western Colorado Congress, 256-7650 (office) or 623-3841 (cell) or e-mail"

Category: Colorado Water

7:49:47 AM    

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Two augmentation ponds on former President Eisenhower's favorite fishing hole, the Fraser River, are nearing completion, according to The Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

The two augmentation ponds on the east side of U.S. Highway 40 in Fraser are nearing completion. Bruce Hutchins, manager of Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1, expects the ponds to be constructed by the end of the year, and possibly filled with water by that time. That depends, however, on the state engineer's office, which needs to conduct a leak test before the ponds are converted. If the test is not conducted this year, the ponds will most likely be filled by July next year, Hutchins said. The leak test is to ensure that groundwater does not seep into the ponds. The two ponds will hold 150 acre-feet of water, and will be used as substitution water for the district. The entire project cost $60,000, and is funded through the district's taxpayers and a $60,000 grant from the Colorado River Water Conservation District...

"The reason we're building them is to supplement flows in the Fraser River so we can continue to divert at our wastewater treatment plants during times of low flow and drought conditions," Hutchins explained. "It helps the river out, keeps flows in the river below the ponds. "The ponds in no way pave the way for more development," he added.

The project has been five years in the making; the two ponds were once three lagoons used as a wastewater treatment plant for the district. They were decommissioned by the state and excavated, and will eventually be converted into two water storage ponds. Construction should be completed this year, depending on weather, Hutchins added. The ponds are located in the town of Fraser, but the district owns the property. Jeff Durbin, town manager of Fraser, said the town is interested in turning the ponds into something like the Lions Ponds, which are augmentation ponds for the Winter Park West Water and Sanitation District. The town is currently looking into a lease for the recreational rights for the site, so it can cover liability issues.

Category: Colorado Water

7:42:35 AM    

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From The Wet Mountain Tribune, "In order to obtain a better perspective of local water matters, the county commissioners are hosting an assembly with local, regional and state water experts. The information-gathering meeting will be held Friday, Nov. 9, beginning at 6 p.m. in the courtroom at the county courthouse. Representatives from Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District, Wet Mountain Valley Water Users Association, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, Pueblo office of State Water Engineers and United Sates Geological Survey will be in attendance, along with the commissioners. All in the community are invited."

Category: Colorado Water

7:34:33 AM    

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Potential costs for the purchase of controlling interest in the Bessemer Ditch are in the range upwards of $75 million, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is prepared to spend between $75 million and $100 million to secure an additional 5 billion gallons of water annually through Bessemer Ditch water rights. "We will work on letting growth pay for a large share and use leases to offset the impacts on customers," said Alan Hamel, water board executive director. "We'll use a mix of debt and revenue, but the goal is to minimize rate increases."[...]

Solicitations for options on the Bessemer Ditch were mailed this week. Once the offer is submitted to shareholders at a meeting, the water board would like to purchase 10,200 shares - just more than half - within 45 days. Pueblo West may partner in the buy, but its board has not approved the move. The water board also could extend the time period...

The water board is offering a three-tiered price system for the water rights: $6,500 per share for an "outright" purchase; $8,000 per share for purchase in five years, with 20 percent paid at closing and 3.9 percent tax-free annual interest on four annual installments; $8,500 per share for purchase in 20 years, with 10 percent paid at closing and 4.5 percent tax-free annual interest on 19 annual installments.

The water board also anticipates paying $700 to $1,000 per share for legal, engineering and revegetation costs, including work to comply with a 1041 land-use permit from Pueblo County, Hamel said.

Each share is expected to generate an estimated 1.5 acre-feet of consumptive use - that which historically has been used in irrigation - or about 15,300 acre-feet annually if the water board achieves its goal. That translates into roughly 5 billion gallons a year. The water board would not purchase any land in the deal, but would agree to revegetate any land not put into dryland farms with sustainable native plants. It also will make water available for lease back to farmers according to individual terms. The three-tier pricing structure was chosen because of the relative risk for the water board, Hamel said. In the short term, the outcome of a water court change of use case and county land-use permitting would be unknown, so the water board would assume more risk. After five years, the board anticipates less risk in purchasing the water. The 20-year rate would allow farmers to continue using the water while getting paid, Hamel explained. "We structured it that way so that if people want to continue with farming, they can," Hamel said. "One of our goals is to sustain the agricultural economy."

The water board has asked the Bessemer Ditch board to set up a special meeting with its shareholders, which number about 900. The ditch board could act on that next week at its monthly meeting. The annual shareholders meeting is not scheduled until Jan. 26. The water board will develop a more complete financing plan once it knows whether the shares are available and at what level they would be purchased, Hamel said. Right now, the water board has an estimated $12 million in its water development fund, but it will begin looking at ways to expand the fund at a budget meeting next week. The fund so far has been funded through part of the water board's long-term lease to Aurora, an up-front payment of a long-term lease of Xcel's Comanche Plant expansion and a 2 percent water rate increase last year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:21:08 AM    

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Water conservation is one way to help assure a sustainable water supply. Here's an article about conservation education efforts up in Fort Collins from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. They write:

Financial incentives for residents to conserve water and an educational outreach campaign are some of the recommendations included in the city's water conservation draft plan coming before the public. In addition to the financial incentives that include a $50 rebate for residential low-flow toilet purchases and $150 rebates for homes and businesses that install smart irrigation systems, the plan also suggests a citywide reduction of water consumption to 140 gallons per capita per day from today's average of 156...

The new water conservation plan forecasts a reduction in use of approximately 4,000 acre feet per year by 2026...In 2006, the city used a total of 9.2 billion gallons of water - a rate that steadily decreased after the major drought in 2002. Because the city currently loses about 6 percent of its total water through leaks in the system and other maintenance operations, the city's draft plan also calls for a 1 percent reduction in water loss, D'Audney said...

Public comment or recommendations on the plan will be considered by the city before the final draft plan is presented to the Water Board in January. A date for the conservation plan to come before City Council has yet to be set. Mayor Doug Hutchinson said although it's important for the city to continue examining ways to conserve water in Fort Collins, he also believes a balanced approach to water, including increased storage and supply, is wise. "The city policy so far, I think, is an excellent policy because we're looking at the supply and storage side as well as looking at how we can conserve use," Hutchinson said. "I think the balanced approach is excellent and that focusing on only one side would be irresponsible."

In other conservation news two ditch companies in the Grand Valley are proposing new requirements for landscapes, according to The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Ute Water and the Clifton Water District are slowly applying more pressure on the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County to revise their respective landscaping ordinances to conserve water, especially when it comes to commercial developments. "We encourage the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County to look at those landscaping requirements because they do conflict with our conservation plans," Clifton Water District Manager Dale Tooker said. "When we are faced with having to produce water that is not only potable water for drinking, but also for irrigation purposes, it poses some future considerations that we need to look at."[...]

"We don't want them to make commercial development put in a lot of grass and trees," Ute Water General Manager Larry Clever said. "What we are saying is put in something that makes sense." The possibility of revising the county's landscape requirements was brought to the County Commission this week. County staff presented the commissioners with a comparison of the city's and the county's landscape guidelines and got some initial feedback on possible changes, which could come to fruition by spring...

An upswing in the number of people in the Grand Valley is the reason local governments are considering revising landscaping requirements. [Kristin Winn, spokeswoman for the city] said the city is anticipating an additional 52,000 people by 2035. "We don't have an increasing supply of water, but we have an increasing number of users," she said. Curtis Swift of the Colorado State University Extension has recommendations on how to conserve water. "Landscape specifications are severely outdated," Swift said. He said the county's landscape regulations, from how to plant trees to soil preparation, are mostly wrong.

Category: Colorado Water

7:01:18 AM    

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Here's an update on the Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority's efforts to implement their stormwater facilities, from The Centennial Citizen. From the article:

The Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority - a government body created last year to improve rainwater disposal in Centennial and unincorporated Arapahoe County - has initiated a study to help establish fees that developers will soon pay when they build projects within the authority's coverage area. "The idea being that the developer needs to pay its own way," said Steve Gardner, SEMSWA's operations director. "We have to figure out what all the needs are in different areas and figure out a way to divide the cost among all the undeveloped land."

Developers in the authority's coverage area currently pay a hodge-podge of different fees previously collected by the city of Centennial, Arapahoe County and other agencies. SEMSWA's board voted last month to adopt those fees temporarily and collect them until a new fee schedule has been created. "The fee in some areas is adequate," Gardner said. "In others areas, it is inadequate, in that the fee has been around for a number of years and hasn't been updated to reflect the cost of construction, inflation and things like that. So this is an attempt to look at our entire authority area and establish a new fee." In any case, the fee will be based largely on the amount of impervious area that is planned for a given development. In other words, the more a property contributes to runoff through surfaces such as roofs and driveways, the more its developer will pay. Under the system, developers pay between $4,600 and $22,000 per impervious acre, depending on the stormwater needs in the particular area. Geographic differentials for fees are expected to be part of the new formula too, according to Gardner...

SEMSWA was formed in 2006 by the city of Centennial in partnership with the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority, the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District and the Inverness Water and Sanitation District. The authority has earmarked $72 million for long-term stormwater infrastructure improvements in coming years. Three members of the Centennial City Council and two members of the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners constitute the authority board's voting members. The East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District provides a nonvoting member.

From The Longmont Reporter-Herald:

The Larimer County commissioners will consider an ordinance that would help officials enforce rules regarding storm-water pollution. "It's one of the first steps we can take to protect the overall water quality," said Scott Cornell of the Larimer County Engineering Department. To provide the public with information about the ordinance, Larimer County officials will host three open houses in November with information about the county's storm-water quality program, storm-water quality issues and how the ordinance would affect residents. The open houses also will provide residents with information about enforcing the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Storm-water quality ordinance open house schedule:

>Estes Park -- 4-7 p.m. Nov. 13 at the county office building, 1601 Brodie Ave., Estes Park

>Berthoud -- 4-7 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 200 Water Ave., Berthoud

> Fort Collins -- 4-7 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Carter Lake Room on the first floor of the Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St., Fort Collins.

Category: Colorado Water

6:52:03 AM    

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A proposal to study water quality in the Arkansas River Basin was presented at Wednesday's meeting of the Legislature's Water Resources Review Committee, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is considering asking the Colorado Legislature to let it spend $100,000 to help conduct a water quality baseline study of the Arkansas River Basin. The study, which would be started sometime next year, is designed to develop and maintain a credible water quality data network for the river basin. Although the CWCB isn't expected to formally approve funding the study until it meets later this month, it was included in its projects bill that the board introduces into the Legislature each year. CWCB officials presented the proposed measure Wednesday to the Legislature's Water Resources Review Committee, which looks at proposed legislation on water issues. The study also is designed to track how water quality is affected by basinwide changes in water use, reservoir operations, land use and agricultural practices in the basin. It is to be done in conjunction with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and the U.S. Geological Survey...

Also included in the measure:

$300,000 to implement some of the recommendations from a 2002 Colorado drought mitigation and response plan.

$175,000 to continue its program to help water conservancy districts and other water suppliers statewide with the development of cloud seeding programs aimed at enhancing the state's snowpack.

$167,000 to help the town of Florence conduct an Oak Creek channelization feasibility study, which would be done by the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

$150,000 for engineering support services to help CWCB staff provide technical aid to resolve or defend existing in-stream flow water rights.

$50,000 to conduct a channel capacity and improvement study of the Purgatoire River downstream of the Trinidad Dam, including through the town.

Category: Colorado Water

6:42:28 AM    

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Our old friend, La Niña, often the harbinger of dry conditions in Colorado has set up in the Pacific, and is expected to last through spring, according to The Environmental News Network. From the article:

A "La Nina" cooling of sea temperatures is under way in the Pacific Ocean and the phenomenon is likely to persist into next year, the United Nations weather agency said on Wednesday...In its latest update, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the sea surface was about 1.5 degrees Celsius colder than normal across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. "We expect that these conditions will continue until the first quarter of 2008," WMO scientific officer Leslie Malone told a news conference in Geneva.

Category: Colorado Water

6:33:46 AM    

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Here's a look at H.R. 3224, the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act of 2007 and it's potential effects on the Arkansas River Valley from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Federal authorization of nearly $5 million for dam safety projects in Colorado could help rehabilitate some aging dams, but the state is in good shape overall. "Quite frankly, the state's dams are in excellent shape," said Jack Byers, deputy state engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The dams are regularly inspected by highly trained personnel, Byers said. But the potential funding would allow some critical projects to advance, Byers added. U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., sponsored the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act, which passed the House this week. The bill authorizes $200 million over five years to repair aging infrastructure. State or local sponsors must match 35 percent of the funding. Only publicly owned, deficient dams are eligible. Colorado's share of funding would be $4.94 million, Salazar said...

In the Arkansas River basin, two dams are under restriction: Two Buttes Dam, a Division of Wildlife structure south of Lamar; and the Cucharas Dam, an irrigation reservoir northeast of Walsenburg. "There are very few deficient dams that fall in the high hazard category," Byers said. Two Buttes became a concern last spring as snow from winter blizzards melted. Irrigators have tried to advance a plan to rehabilitate Cucharas.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:23:15 AM    

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Here's a look at strategies for fighting tamarisk from and a update on Southeastern's current plan The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A group targeting tamarisk in the Arkansas Valley is looking at stressing the future costs of invasive plants, rather than the high cost of removing them. Mapping tamarisk, also known as salt cedar, is ahead of schedule and the Arkansas Valley Watershed Invasive Plant Plan is moving toward development of a Web site to provide information on tamarisk and control efforts. The plan, launched last year by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District in cooperation with counties and the state, is seen as a necessary first step toward identifying the extent of invasive plants. Later, the information could be useful in securing federal funding that was authorized by Congress last year, but has not received appropriations. "We need to emphasize what's going to happen if we don't address the problem," said Virgil Cochran, Prowers County water specialist. "What we need to do is compare the cost now versus the cost if we wait to do anything." Other members of the group agreed, but still are formulating the plan and deciding what information will eventually be posted on a Web site...

The mapping will include the Arkansas River, its tributaries, washes and canals below 6,500 feet elevation, or the area east of Texas Creek on the mainstem of the river. It will include areas that have been treated along with the raw inventory of tamarisk, [Nate Ament, mapping coordinator] said. "Our goal is to account for 85-90 percent of the tamarisk in the basin," Ament said. The initial survey of tamarisk was done in 2005-06, and found that more than 43,000 acres below Pueblo Dam were infested with tamarisk. The tamarisk covered an average of 54 percent of the affected areas, but would be expected to eventually cover the entire area, since tamarisk have the ability to choke out all other forms of vegetation...

Today, the tamarisk are consuming about 58,600 acre-feet of water - 19 billion gallons - annually, but the number will grow to nearly 130,000 acre-feet annually - one-fifth of the water in the river in an average year - when the plants completely take over and grow larger. The cost to remove the tamarisk is estimated to be $44 million to $67 million, or about $600-$1,000 per acre-foot of recovered water. The estimates, by the Tamarisk Coalition, take into account the amount of water that would be consumed by other species in revegetation. Part of the problem with tamarisk is that it populates upland areas, while other water-guzzling species such as cottonwood grow only near the stream itself. Mapping, when completed, will give a more accurate picture of the extent of infestation. The initial projections relied heavily on aerial mapping. Investigations on the ground will provide a better idea whether tamarisks have reached their mature heights of 20-30 feet or are mostly young, brushy plants...

The mapping will also look at other invasive species like Russian olive and Siberian elm. Besides sapping the valley of water, tamarisks also are generating safety concerns in the valley. One study shows that tamarisks and sedimentation in the river channel at Las Animas have reduced flood control capacity to about half of the 1968 design capacity. Now rated at 80,000 cubic feet per second, the channel's capacity could increase to 135,000 cfs simply by removing the tamarisk, and 154,000 cfs with dredging. Tamarisks and sedimentation also have affected the flood control capacity of Fountain Creek through Pueblo.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:57:30 AM    

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Our article about the recent groundwater conference, hosted by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, is up at The North Denver News.

Category: Colorado Water

5:44:01 AM    

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Reclamation's final environmental impact study for the Colorado River drought management plan was released Friday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:

The Law of the River has gotten another adjustment with a federal plan to manage the Colorado River during dry years. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Friday released a final environmental impact study that could be a way to avoid renegotiating an 85-year-old agreement based on inflated notions of how much water really is in the river.

Or, according to river advocates, the plan that will govern use and allocation through 2026 could be a way to ensure none of the seven Western states that share the river ever has enough water. The study's conclusions drew from a consensus decision by the seven Western states that depend on the Colorado River on what to do during low-water years, officials said. "This is an arrangement for operating the river where everyone shares the pain when you're going through a drought time," said Tom Ryan, a Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist in Salt Lake City...

While the Bureau of Reclamation implicitly acknowledges that the 1922 Colorado River Compact is based on estimates from unusually wet years and its report assumes ongoing shortages, it doesn't suggest any changes to the agreement. "Nobody wants to renegotiate the compact. The feeling is the compact provides an adequate framework for managing the river," Ryan said.

But to John Weisheit, conservation director for the non-profit organization Living Rivers, the bureau's solution entrenches wastefulness and refuses to acknowledge ways to store water more effectively. We're extremely disappointed," he said. "Now we're playing this balancing act between two reservoirs that climate change is going to keep empty." Living Rivers has long campaigned to decommission the Glen Canyon dam and rely on Lake Mead for surface water storage. The organization also believes using aquifers in Arizona and California to store water underground would be a better solution. But the main problem with the bureau's solution is there's not enough water, which speeds destruction of the river ecosystem, Weisheit said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:34:28 AM    

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As is usual with water projects and cleanups, costs are escalating for the cleanup of uranium tailings over in Moab, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:

The cost to clean up uranium waste on the Colorado River's edge has shot up. The U.S. Energy Department said its new estimate for removing the tailings is $635 million to $835 million. "This is a more realistic estimate," said DOE's Don Metzler, who oversees the cleanup, on Friday.

The county, the state and Utah members of Congress are urging the Energy Department to step up the cleanup, bringing it back in line with a previous schedule that would have the job done by 2019 rather than the current projection of 2028. A bill in Congress seeks the quicker cleanup, but the House and Senate have yet to finalize the change. Metzler said he didn't expect there to be any short-term delays in the cleanup even if Congress fails to pass the spending bill. Working off of last year's funding schedule, plus $16 million carried over from last year, will be plenty to keep going, he told the board. Meanwhile, progress continues to be made. Metzler reported that 73 acres already has been cleaned up and 60 revegetated. Also, the Energy Department said it has pumped 100 million gallons of contaminated water from the pile. The Energy Department says this volume is comparable to 151 six-foot deep, Olympic-sized swimming pools. They have captured 449,250 pounds of ammonia and 19,000 pounds of uranium through special extraction/injection wells placed between the pile and the Colorado River.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:20:29 AM    

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President Bush vetoed H.R. 2242, the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007, yesterday, according to The Gavel. The Gavel is Speaker Pelosi's weblog. From the weblog post:

By vetoing the Water Resources Development Act, President Bush is attempting to prohibit much-needed investments in our water infrastructure, at a time when many regions in our country face serious threats from natural disasters caused by flooding, storm surge, and hurricanes.

The WRDA bill will help protect Americans from these disasters - repairing a levee or dam can prevent enormous loss of human lives and property by preventing a catastrophic flood. The WRDA bill contains more than 200 projects to protect communities from the devastating effects of flooding by building and repairing floodwalls and levees, as well as restoring wetlands that absorb floodwaters. In New Orleans, where the damage is already done, WRDA is essential to rebuilding that great city.

Because it makes these urgent investments in our infrastructure, WRDA has overwhelming bipartisan support. I urge Congress to vote next week to override the President's veto and ensure that this bill becomes law.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Continuing his budget fight with the Democratic majority in Congress, President Bush vetoed the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act on Friday - even though the water-project legislation was approved in both the House and Senate by overwhelming margins. The legislation authorizes water projects in every state, including $79 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit project as well as directing the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Fountain Creek watershed study. The far-reaching water legislation was approved by the House on a 394-25 vote in April and in the Senate by a 91-4 vote in May.

Stung by criticism from conservative voters last autumn that the White House and the former Republican majority in Congress were overspending, Bush has been aggressive this year in vetoing appropriation bills that exceed his own budget requests. For example, he called for $15 billion in water projects in his budget request, but House and Senate lawmakers added another $8 billion to the water resources bill...

Thus far, however, Democrats have not had a large enough majority to override White House vetoes. But that will change with the water resources act, which contains important water projects for both Democratic and Republican lawmakers across the nation. Reps. John Salazar, D-Colo., and Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., worked together to obtain the $79 million authorization for the Arkansas Valley Conduit project. "Congress will override this irresponsible veto," Salazar said in a statement Friday. "This bill passed Congress with almost unanimous support from both Democrats and Republicans and stands as an example of what Congress can do when both sides of the aisle work together."[...]

Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said the water legislation not only included money for the conduit and directed the Army to finish the Fountain Creek study, but authorized a $5 million statewide study of selenium in the state's rivers and streams, $13 million for mitigation projects on the South Platte River and $10 million for a pipeline in Boulder County. "This bill will have a substantial impact on very important water projects for Southern Colorado," Salazar said in a statement following the veto. "I look forward to casting my vote to override the president's veto in the near future so we can move forward on these projects that will have a long-lasting impact in Colorado." Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., was one of the few senators to vote against the water resources bill in the Senate, saying it was only adding to a $58 billion list of authorized but unfunded federal water projects.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:11:15 AM    

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Here's an update on flood control and other infrastructure on Fountain Creek and the Corps of Engineers' current focus, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Army Corps of Engineers is relying heavily on local guidance in prioritizing projects on Fountain Creek, giving more weight to projects that tackle flood control, protect infrastructure or minimize risk to developed areas. Short of more forceful political direction, however, further study of a dam out of its current study appears unlikely. "There is no way a dam meets our criteria under the (benefit-cost) ratio," Charles Wilson of the Corps told the Fountain Creek Watershed Plan technical advisory committee Friday. "The dam would not meet criteria to do a new study. Considering the cost of the project, no other authority anywhere could afford to pay the cost ... If Senator (Ken) Salazar asked us, we would do as directed and look at it." In a draft assessment, the Corps weighed the construction of a dam that would provide water supply, regulate flows and provide recreation, but ranked it low among priorities among other flood control projects...

The Corps is planning to evaluate only the top 10 projects from a list of 46, but will at least mention the other projects in its final report, Wilson said. While the committee did not debate the merits of a dam Friday, it was clear not everyone was ready to immediately dismiss study of a dam, while others had no problem with the suggestion. "It seems you're killing it at two levels," Steve Miller of the Colorado Water Conservation Board said, pointing out the Corps claims it doesn't meet criteria even before doing a benefit-cost analysis. Pueblo Stormwater Director Dennis Maroney made three suggestions that could give a dam more weight under the Corps ranking system - giving more weight to flood control solutions, looking at the size of area served and waiting until the final evaluation to consider costs. Jay Frost, an El Paso County landowner on Fountain Creek interested in preserving land, said smaller dams on tributaries might work, but a big dam would be out of the question...

Under the Corps draft, projects are given equal weight for flood control, ecosystem restoration and channel stability benefits. Among nine projects scored highest for flood risk reduction, the dam placed fifth. The only Pueblo County project to place ahead of it was the dredging and removal of invasive trees in the channel along the Pueblo levees...

El Paso County projects rated ahead of a dam would raise part of U.S. 24 from the floodplain, protect the developed areas in south Colorado Springs and to protect development that has encroached on Cheyenne Creek, a Fountain tributary. Eight projects aimed primarily at restoring the ecosystem were given a higher score than the dam in a draft report, including two in Pueblo County. Five channel stability projects, all in El Paso County, were ranked ahead of a dam. The final ranking of projects is a long way off, Wilson said. No funding sources have been identified. Some projects could be combined for more benefit. The Corps also needs to refine criteria to rate the projects. Once the final 10 projects are identified, the Corps will send teams to look at the sites and make more detailed recommendations of the types of projects that could be accomplished in the affected reaches. No funding for actual projects on Fountain Creek has been authorized.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Meanwhile, in other Fountain Creek news, the Sierra Club's lawsuit against Colorado Springs over water quality issues has hit a financial snag, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A new disclosure by the Sierra Club in its Fountain Creek pollution lawsuit against Colorado Springs has caused a controversy and led to sniping in the case. The environmental group disclosed in a court filing that it did not have "the financial ability" to hire expert witnesses who are necessary for pursuing the case. Sierra said it, instead, was dependent on Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut "to provide the funding" to hire the experts...

Colorado Springs, in a court filing this week, characterized Sierra's new disclosure as a statement "that it would not have chosen to spend its resources on this case without (Thiebaut's) use of public law enforcement dollars." That disclosure "speak(s) volumes about this case," the city told U.S. District Judge Walker Miller in the filing. It did not elaborate about how the disclosure "speaks volumes," but the attorney representing the city explained, in an interview, what he meant. "Doesn't that say something about the Sierra Club's evaluation of the case," Denver attorney John Walsh said about the club's comment on not spending its money. "It is interesting they are taking a position they wouldn't have pursued the case without funding from outside sources," he said...

Sierra Club's attorney on the case, when told about Walsh's comment to The Pueblo Chieftain, responded indignantly. "Mr. Walsh's snide comments are simply wrong," Eric Huber responded. "Mr. Walsh's speculation as to our motivation and finances is, as usual, just wrong."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

4:59:42 AM    

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There are opponents to the proposed new Glenwood Springs ordinance to protect the geothermal aquifer, according to The Glenwood Springs Independent (free registration required). From the article:

An ordinance proposed by the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool restricting excavation in Glenwood Springs to protect the area's geothermal aquifer met mainly questions and criticism Thursday night. "The pool continues its effort to monopolize geothermal resources in Glenwood Springs and to thwart every effort of Pitkin Iron to develop its geothermal resources and real property located in Glenwood Springs," a letter from the Burns Figa and Will, P.C. law firm states, representing the Pitkin Iron Corporation. "The former Mid-Continent property, including the geothermal resources associated with it, in fact is under contract. This latest stunt by the pool is an intentional effort to interfere with that contract and to prevent any development of the former Mid-Continent property." Pitkin Iron owns the former Mid-Continent property. It's under contract for sale to an undisclosed buyer. The letter ends by threatening legal action should the pool's efforts harm the pending sale...

The ordinance would require permitting and study before any excavation in areas that could potentially damage the aquifer. It would also require the developer to prove conclusively that excavation wouldn't damage it. Scott Balcomb, an attorney representing the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, said the pool was "astonished" by the Pitkin Iron letter and that the purpose was not to target anyone, but rather to ensure any developers know what they're doing before accidentally damaging the aquifer. It would be for the benefit of the entire city and its residents, he said. "This does not enable us to monopolize the aquifer," he said. "We're not trying to keep them from doing anything. We're just trying to keep the aquifer intact."

Councilman Dave Merritt questioned whether the city would have the legal authority to create such an ordinance. City attorney Jan Shute said that if the city created an ordinance like the one proposed, it would be the first of its kind in the state. She said that's neither good nor bad, but added, "Council needs to understand that we would be putting the target on ourselves." CDOT representatives including Joe Elsen encouraged the city to examine USGS work and CDOT's ongoing engineering work and studies before passing the proposed ordinance. In a later interview, he said CDOT is examining the possibilities of constructing a four-story, 40,000 square-foot building near its current facility. That would be used to consolidate a number of state agencies into one office. Hot water was flowing from a spot near the CDOT offices, Elsen said, but he said he was unsure whether or not CDOT "nicked" the aquifer in the 1970s and if that would actually make the pool's winter time operations "infeasable," as the pool has stated.

Diane Delaney, representing Pitkin Iron, suggested it would be more appropriate for the city to create a geothermal aquifer management district if it wants to protect the aquifer. Outside the council chambers, she said she couldn't disclose who the Mid-Continent property is under contract with. The pool has had a history of "bullying, stultifying and interfering" that has effectively shut down any development of geothermal resources other than for its own private interests, she added. A representative from the city's energy board had earlier said he's concerned that the ordinance might threaten development of the geothermal aquifer as a renewable resource for heating or energy. "The pool seems to be trying to insert the city of Glenwood Springs into an area I think is the realm and province of the courts and the state engineer," Delaney said. The question was also raised that if further study indicates the pool's flows from the aquifer aren't as sensitive as the pool claims, maybe the proposed whitewater park should be located near downtown, where it was originally planned, instead of further downstream.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

4:47:10 AM    

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