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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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette, "Stream-and creek-side development in Colorado Springs would get tougher under a zoning ordinance that won preliminary approval Tuesday from the City Council. The measure is an overhaul of the 2002 streamside overlay zone ordinance designed to guide construction along streams and surrounding wildlife habitat to be environmentally friendly. Advocates said the ordinance strengthens flood-control criteria, requires 25 percent more landscaping in buffer zones and makes buffer areas more conducive to recreational use, such as for trails. The new rules are also easier to understand, backers said. The current ordinance was so confusing that half of the 75 streamside projects done since 2002 were granted exemptions from some requirements. Water quality will improve, some said, because the ordinance restricts how much impervious surface can be built within certain distances of a stream. Also, a companion grading ordinance requires developers to get permits to dump dirt along streams. Now, permits aren't required, and such activity is tough to track, city engineer Cam McNair said."

Category: Colorado Water

6:35:21 AM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's combined meeting of the Arkansas, South Platte and Metro roundtables from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The work of Colorado roundtables on water transfers established two years ago could be the key to preventing the dry-up of farms in the state, the state's top water official said Tuesday. "Taking water from agriculture and moving it to the Front Range is disastrous," said Harris Sherman, director of the Department of Natural Resources. "We have to find a better way. To simply dry up agriculture to move the water to another community is not in Colorado's best interest. I don't think anyone wants to see Eastern Colorado became a dust bowl."[...]

The goal of the Interbasin Compact Committee/roundtable process is to bring different basins together to discuss strategies for meeting proposed water shortfalls in the next 25 years. Four Western Slope roundtables met in a similar meeting earlier this year, and the South Platte and Yampa roundtables met to discuss a specific proposal as well...

Because agriculture uses 85 percent of the state's water, it has been the most likely source of finding new water sources, Sherman said. "We are seeing a decline of agriculture and it's unusual, because the Eastern Plains really has a shot at competing in biofuels," Sherman said. "Agriculture is very important to the state's economy, with $16 billion a year attributed to it." On the other hand, the metro area, Denver and its suburbs, provides the backbone of the state's economy and its needs must be met. Those communities are conserving more water since the 2002 drought - use is falling into the range of 120-180 per person gallons per day along the Front Range. "In the area of reuse and recycling, we're doing extraordinary things," Sherman said. He pointed to Aurora's $750 million Prairie Waters Project as a shining example. "It's a two-edged sword, because recycling has an impact on the return flows," Sherman said. Even with conservation, there will not be enough water to support the needs of growth in Colorado, Sherman said...

"The era of forced transbasin exchanges in Colorado is over," Sherman said. "It's going to take cooperation between basins."[...]

One question to Sherman dealt with the idea of sustainable growth, and Sherman agreed the question needs to be studied. "It's difficult to talk about growth. We all want to see it in some sustained, reasonable way," he said. "Do we have adequate resources to sustain growth over a long period of time?"

Finally, Sherman said water is needed for recreation needs, both for tourism and the quality of life that brought most people to the state.

Category: Colorado Water

6:21:51 AM    

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Here's an update on the proposed wilderness designation for Rocky Mountain National Park from The Denver Post. From the article:

A protracted disagreement between the Bush Administration and a Fort Collins company is stalling legislation that would protect much of Rocky Mountain National Park from future development, a House panel learned Tuesday. A bill designating 250,000 park acres as wilderness also would insulate the manager of the Grand River Ditch from many lawsuits, a BLM official said. "This would set a dangerous precedent for all national parks and other public lands," testified Elena Daly, director of the Natural Landscape Conservation System at the Bureau of Land Management.

The testimony came during a House subcommittee hearing examining wilderness legislation from Reps. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs and Marilyn Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan. Their bill matches one from Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and Ken Salazar, D-Colo. Udall, Musgrave, Allard and Salazar reached agreement early this year on the legislation, after a nasty partisan split last year over what the wilderness bill should include. Udall and Salazar this year agreed to include language on liability for the Grand River Ditch operator in the joint legislation. It had not been in the Democrats' bill the year before. The ditch, a 17-mile water diversion project built before the park was created, supplies water to 40,000 acres of irrigated farmland in Weld and Larimer counties. Water Supply & Storage Co. of Fort Collins operates the diversion...

In 2006, the federal government sued Water Supply & Storage for a 2003 breach in the ditch that damaged park property. That case has not been resolved. And Tuesday the disagreement between the two over language in the bill did not appear close to resolution either. Currently, Water Supply & Storage Co. has an "absolute" liability for damage, which means the company must pay even for damages caused by a third party or an "act of God." The legislation would change the liability standard to one where the Park Service would have to prove negligence occurred in order to force the company to pay. Testifying at the hearing, Allard said the legislation needs to ensure that the water will be available. "If we do not recognize and protect the water provided by the Grand Ditch, the legislation cannot move forward," Allard said.

Potts said the government is willing to compromise with a liability standard used for all other national parks, which would eliminate the water company's liability for damages due to a third party or "act of God." But Dennis Harman, General Manager of Water Supply & Storage Co., testified that the compromise offer "from a practical standpoint is not a compromise," because act of God is "so narrowly defined" that it's never used. Potts said while negotiations are ongoing, it's likely to take time to resolve.

More coverage from The Boulder Daily Camera. They write:

The bipartisan bill -- sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs -- would designate 249,339 acres, or 94 percent, of the park as wilderness. As a national park, Rocky Mountain already has significant protections; the designation would have the primary effect of enshrining its protected status into law, not just Park Service policy. The bill excludes 200 feet on either side of the Grand Ditch and the waterway itself, removing a liability clause that could have been costly for Water Supply and Storage Co., which owns the ditch. The Department of the Interior supports an amendment that would give more responsibility to the company for rock slides, floods and other damage. The National Park Service and the owners of Grand Ditch are in court over a small flood in 2003...

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Denver, said the liability provision is "sensible" and complies with Colorado law. He and Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, of Loveland, have drafted a nearly identical bill in the Senate. "I am proud this bill is a win-win for economic development and conservation, and accommodates the needs of a broad range of interests," Salazar said. The House subcommittee plans one more hearing before voting on the bill.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:10:43 AM    

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U.S. Senator Ken Salazar is urging caution over Powertech's proposed uranium operation in Weld County, according to The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). He wants a comprehensive study of the potential effects on the entire Denver Basin Aquifer system, not just the Laramie-Foxhills aquifer in the vicinity. From the article:

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said Tuesday he was asking the Environmental Protection Agency to keep northern Colorado's water in mind when the agency reviews the project for a permit. Salazar wrote to Robert Roberts, regional administrator for the EPA, urging him to address several concerns about possible environmental impacts, such as groundwater contamination as a result of the extraction process employed at uranium mines. Salazar asked that those concerns be addressed and analyzed as thoroughly as possible when the project's application for an Underground Injection Control Program Class III permit is reviewed by the EPA. Salazar said he was concerned that the EPA's review process will only take into account the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer, which is in the immediate vicinity of the proposed mine. He wants the EPA to also consider any potential impact on the larger Denver Basin aquifer system.

Salazar also requested a summary of the known history of environmental impacts of in-situ mining under EPA's Underground Injection Control Program, in the local area and throughout the United States. He also wants the EPA to provide a summary of its experience with the contamination remediation at in-situ leaching mines. Salazar said water was the lifeblood of Colorado. "It is critical that the citizens of northern Colorado receive the most complete and thorough examination of the potential impacts and risks this project may pose to their communities and their groundwater," he said in a statement.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:03:34 AM    

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Conservation easements are a great way to limit development in the riparian habitat and keep water in the waterways. They're good for river health. Here's a report about the city of Boulder buying easements along Boulder Creek in Weld County for conservation, from The Longmont Daily Times-Call. From the article:

Commissioners have OK'd a restructured plan for Boulder County's $1.5 million purchases of conservation easements to prevent future development on about 259 acres of land along Boulder Creek in Weld County. The Williams family, the owner of the property, originally planned to develop 36 homes there and had the town of Frederick's approval to do that. But the family later approached Boulder County about possible ways to limit development and preserve most of the land, which lies on the west side of Boulder Creek, east of the Boulder-Weld county line.

Mel Stonebraker, a real estate specialist on the Boulder County Parks and Open Space staff, told Boulder County commissioners Tuesday that the latest proposal calls for investing $1.5 million over the next three years on conservation easements over the Williams property. In return, Boulder County will get easements over about 259.25 acres, 100 percent ownership of six shares of the Plumb and Dailey Ditch Co. and a 100 percent interest in Nelson Reservoir No. 1. The water rights alone are worth about $1.1 million, Stonebraker said. Also, Boulder County will get an option to buy conservation easements over an additional 16 potential building lots owned by the Williamses that aren't part of the core 259.25 acres. The idea, Stonebraker said, is that the Williamses intend to donate those development rights over several years, getting the tax benefits from such donations. If the Williamses proceed with those donations, Boulder County won't have to exercise its option to buy those additional conservation easements. If the family isn't able to make the donations, Boulder County will pay $30,000 per development right...

Stonebraker said the conservation easements will cover eight ponds, Boulder Creek, and surrounding stream banks and riparian habitat that are ecologically important for such migratory waterfowl as the blue heron, black-crowned night heron, snowy egret, double-breasted cormorant, white pelican, Canada goose, mallard, canvasback, widgeon, blue-winged teal, bufflehead, green-winged teal, redhead, golden eye, long-billed curlew, American avocet, killdeer, Wilson's phalathrope, gull, belted kingfisher and Western grebe. Stonebraker said the property is an important nesting, roosting and feeding area for the American bald eagle, osprey, redtail hawk, Swainson's hawk and great horned owl, and that it supports other resident and migratory birds such as the ring-necked pheasant, Eastern kingbird, magpie, barn swallow, robin and Western meadowlark. The property and its wetlands, ponds, ditch and pasture "also provide good habitat for small mammalian species including shrews, voles, mice and rabbits and their predators such as skunks, foxes, weasels and coyotes," Stonebraker said.

In other Boulder Creek news, Boulder County is moving ahead with planning using their shiny new map of the 100 year floodplain, according to The Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

Boulder County will start using a newly updated map of South Boulder Creek's 100-year flood plain immediately to regulate development instead of waiting until the map is approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency sometime next year. The new map, completed by the city of Boulder and submitted to FEMA in August, will replace a 1986 map now used by the city and county to determine how property near South Boulder Creek can be developed and how much flood insurance property owners must purchase. "We cannot, in good conscience, allow development to go forward when we have more accurate information about where flood waters will go," Commissioner Ben Pearlman said Tuesday at a public hearing. "We take health and safety issues pretty seriously."

Category: Colorado Water

5:43:02 AM    

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