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 15, 2007

Here's a recap of the Rio Grande Basin roundtable meeting this week from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable resumed work on its nonconsumptive needs assessment Tuesday, looking at the processes the group could use for the effort...

The Nature Conservancy's John Sanderson, who conducted his Ph.D. research on wetlands in the San Luis Valley, reviewed the goals of the assessment and emphasized that the state expects the basin roundtables to drive the process. He emphasized that the process would take advantage of local knowledge. "A lot of the places are already known," he said in reference to the three national wildlife refuges in the valley. He acknowledged, however, that quantification of the environmental and recreational demands could be contentious. Ray Wright, who represents the basin on the statewide roundtable, questioned how recreational and environmental demands for water could be strictly classified as nonconsumptive. Mike Gibson, chairman of the basin roundtable, assured him that by the end of the process, environmental and recreational needs could also be tallied under consumptive uses if warranted...

Steve Vandiver, manager for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and former division engineer, said there were a number of existing laws which allowed for temporary changes of water use. Those could be utilized then evaluated for their effectiveness in meeting nonconsumptive needs. He also noted that the Colorado Division of Wildlife has some transbasin diversion water that might be eligible for some of the nonconsumptive needs the roundtable would have to look at...

The roundtable also has a subcommittee filled with agency and organization representatives who served on the San Luis Valley Wetlands Focus Area Committee. That group has already conducted meetings and will work with the roundtable's technical consultant to gather more information. Quantification of nonconsumptive needs will get a closer look next month in Glenwood Springs, when technical experts working with the roundtables will give a presentation on site-specific quantification techniques. They will also present on a flow evaluation tool for broader scale assessments developed by The Nature Conservancy.

Category: Colorado Water

8:08:50 PM    

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Here's a look at downstream reaction to the Pueblo Board of Water Works' plan to gain controlling interest in the Bessemer Ditch, from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

The president of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District says Pueblo County agriculture will die a "slow death" if the Pueblo Board of Water Works is successful in its attempt to purchase a controlling interest in the Bessemer Ditch. "This is a buy-and-dry, no question about it. That's what the board of water works is doing," Singletary said Monday in a meeting with The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board. "The members of the (water) board are all doing the best they can for Pueblo, but at the end of the day, it's still a buy-and-dry." Singletary, speaking as an individual and not for the Lower Ark board, called the Bessemer Ditch diversion the best in the world, since it feeds farmland east of Pueblo through a direct tap into the Pueblo Dam and a ditch lined for leakage during the 1980s to prevent flooding as it runs through Pueblo...

Studies by the Lower Ark district, which were done on a proposed Super Ditch - a land-fallowing, water-leasing program that would be run by water rights shareholders, show that taking water from Lake Pueblo has a huge advantage for municipal suppliers, costing about half as much to treat to drinking water standards as water from the river below the dam. The high quality of the water makes it conducive to more efficient drip or sprinkler irrigation, and the Bessemer Ditch is close to major transportation arteries to get food to market...

"I look at the Booth-Orchard Ditch, and I don't think we really recognized what would happen," Singletary said. The Booth-Orchard system irrigated land in the river bottom east of Pueblo and was purchased by the water board in 1970. Today, parts of it still are covered with weeds and development in the area has not replaced the value of the farmland that was lost, Singletary said. Finally, Singletary said farmers have better options than an outright sale. A one-time tax-credit for conservation easements, which tie water rights to the land forever, are running $5,000 to $5,500 per share on the Bessemer Ditch, which is nearly as much as the $6,500 outright purchase price offered by the water board, Singletary said...

While Bessemer Ditch shares for agricultural purposes have sold for $3,000 to $4,000 apiece in recent years, there were rumors in 2005 of potential offers of up to $10,000. A South Metro Water Supply Authority study in June estimated the booming communities south of Denver could spend up to $40,000 per acre-foot to obtain and develop water from the Arkansas Basin. Only part of that would go for water rights purchases, since a pipeline and storage would be needed. A study prepared for the Lower Ark district by economist George Oamek showed that the water board would save money by leasing water from the Super Ditch in times of severe need rather than purchasing the Bessemer. The water board, however, reacted coolly to Oamek's report in July and indicated it would rather own water rights than rely on a third party in a drought...

While the Booth-Orchard purchase was an example of the type of "buy-and-dry" that should be avoided, subsequent purchases of Twin Lakes and Busk-Ivanhoe water by the water board have had more benefits to the agricultural users who remain in farming, Hamel said. "We still lease Twin Lakes water back to farmers and that sale happened in the 1970s," he said. Meanwhile, no meeting between the water board and shareholders on the Bessemer has been set, Hamel said. The water board is proposing entering an agreement with Pueblo West to obtain a controlling interest in the Bessemer Ditch to meet future water needs for the next 100 years. Bessemer Ditch board members rejected the Super Ditch in a letter earlier this year, and have not commented publicly on the water board's offer.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:59:28 PM    

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From, "U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, is confident Congress can pass a bill to protect much of Rocky Mountain National Park from development. But one obstacle remains to designating the land as wilderness. The National Park Service and owners of an irrigation ditch on the park's western edge haven't agreed how to handle future breaches of the ditch."

More coverage from The Denver Post. They write:

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.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:38:50 AM    

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The Colorado Mining Association is challenging a Summit County ban on cyanide heap-leaching, according to The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

A local ban on cyanide heap-leach mining will be tested in the Colorado Supreme Court. The court announced this week that it will consider the Colorado Mining Association's (CMA) appeal of local mining regulations that effectively ban the practice of drizzling a diluted cyanide solution over piles of low-grade ore to extract gold...

The Board of County Commissioners enacted the rules in 2004. At issue are potential impacts to the environment, mainly the threat to local streams from a cyanide spill. "The process (cyanide mining) is extremely dangerous," County Commissioner Bob French said several months ago after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in support of the county's regulations. "It not something that should be going on in a community that is reaching for environmental values," French said. According to mining industry officials, state regulations, combined with modern best management practices, adequately guard against potential accidents. The cyanide heap-leach process is the most profitable way to extract the precious metal from low-grade ore. The see-saw legal battle over the county regulations began in Summit County District Court, where the CMA won its challenge to the cyanide ban and related performance standards. The CMA asserted that state mining laws take precedent over local regulations. The Colorado Court of Appeals subsequently reinstated the ban, ruling that Summit County does have the authority to regulate mining practices. County commissioners lauded the decision by the three-judge appeals court panel...

The appeals court ruling pointed out that a 1993 amendment to the Mined Land Reclamation Act specifically requires mining operators to "comply with city, town, county, or city and county land use regulations." The Mining Association argued that counties can't ban activities in which the state has a compelling interest, but the appeals court said Summit County's regulations fall "far short" of a complete ban. The Colorado Supreme Court will examine the same arguments, ultimately deciding where local land use authority over mining begins and ends. Several other counties have adopted similar regulations, so the Summit County case will be closely watched for what could be a precedent-setting decision. "County commissioners must be able to prohibit specific types of mining that place our water resources at undue risk," said local Sierra Club group chair Karn Stiegelmeier. While the mining industry touts modern safeguards against mining accidents, environmental activists insist that cyanide heap leach mining remains very risky. As recently as July 2007, a big rainstorm in Costa Rica led to concerns about potential water pollution at a cyanide heap-leach operation run by a Canadian mining company. Mudslides resulted in damage to the heap-leach pads used to contain the ore on the site. Cyanide is toxic to humans and dangerous to wildlife, especially aquatic species.

Category: Colorado Water

7:34:14 AM    

Don't forget tonight's first-ever presidential debate in Nevada. They plan to focus on issues near and dear to the western U.S. Here's a preview from The Denver Post.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:24:02 AM    

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Glenwood Springs is finally ready to take the plunge and start on construction for their whitewater park, according to The Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

Construction could begin next month on a whitewater park in Glenwood Springs, amid confusion over the terms under which state lottery funds could have been sought to help pay for it. City Council tonight plans to consider whether to authorize an $888,000 contract to begin work on the park, absent any assistance from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). Mayor Bruce Christensen said council earlier had decided against applying for $200,000 in GOCO funds because the city was told its chances of receiving the grant would be much higher if it promised not to apply for recreational water rights for the park. "We decided we'll try to do our best to build a park without GOCO funds," Joe Mollica, chairman of the committee that is trying to get the park built, told Garfield County commissioners Tuesday.

Trési Houpt, a commissioner for the county, which has committed $100,000 to the project, called the GOCO condition "outrageous." But in an interview Wednesday, GOCO executive director John Swartout said no such condition exists. "We're on the public record saying that we don't require that," he said. Garfield Commissioner Larry McCown noted that the issue of claiming water rights for recreational, in-stream uses has resulted in a "tremendous level of dissension" in Colorado at a time when agricultural lands are being dried up. "I think that is what GOCO was trying to avoid, was being a party to those kind of diversions," he said. But Swartout said GOCO specifically refused a request by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that it not fund projects that could involve filings for recreational water rights. Where the issue could become a factor would be if there was disagreement between local governments about whether such rights should be sought in connection with a park, Swartout said. He said the level of local governmental support is taken into consideration by GOCO in evaluating grant proposals, and there have been cases where local governments have agreed not to pursue recreational water rights...

Glenwood's park is planned for West Glenwood on the Colorado River, which has far more reliable, season-long flows than many Colorado rivers. However, Mollica said that with population growth potentially placing increasing demands on the river's water, Glenwood doesn't want to rule out seeking a recreational water right in the future for the park...

Council is being asked tonight whether to contribute another $275,000 in funding to allow construction to begin in December. The city wants to build the park in the winter when the river level is lowest. Christensen said the city can save money by doing it this winter when there will be even less water because the upstream Shoshone hydroelectric plant is still being repaired and isn't exercising its right to river water. After building wave features in the river, the city will pursue construction of public amenities along the riverbank. Christensen said that while it's too late to revisit the question of seeking GOCO funds for the first phase of the park, the city will ask for the agency's funding for the bank work, which wouldn't involve any water rights. Mollica also is asking the county to contribute another $100,000 to the project next year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:21:47 AM    

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Pueblo West is ready to gobble up shares in the Bessemer Ditch along with Pueblo, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo West Metro District board voted unanimously Tuesday to enter an agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works in a plan to purchase controlling interest in the Bessemer Ditch. "This helps us improve our long-term supply, and anything we can do in that area is better for our residents," said Butch Batchelder, chairman of the Pueblo West board...

Pueblo West will be a 12 percent partner in the venture, which isn't expected to affect water rates in the growing community. The district has been accruing money for obtaining water rights at about $1.5 million a year through sewer plant fees, and now has about $14 million in the fund, said Don Saling, metro district manager. Of that, approximately $6.4 million will be needed if the state approves a plan by the district to recover wastewater return flows through Lake Pueblo. Saling said the purchase of Bessemer shares would improve the reliability of Pueblo West's water supply. "You're looking at senior rights on the river," Saling said. "The only drawback is that it doesn't come with storage."

Pueblo West's water supply primarily comes through shares of Twin Lakes, which brings water from the Colorado River basin through a tunnel. The district also has some Colorado Canal and Lake Meredith rights, and is completing a case to change the use of water from the 2001 purchase of the Hill Ranch in Chaffee County. The metro district also has 18 wells, with generally poorer water quality, and water rights from a local ranch now under Lake Pueblo that are used on the golf course...

The Pueblo West board clarified some points of the intergovernmental agreement approved last month by the Pueblo water board, but made no substantial changes. Pueblo West's board wanted to make sure it would not be responsible for costs of the project prior to Tuesday and the conditions for canceling the agreement, should it become necessary...

Some Bessemer Ditch shareholders have questioned whether the price is too low, but recent sales on the Bessemer Ditch have been in the range of $3,000 to $4,000 per share. The water board and Pueblo West still would have to apply in water court to change the use of the shares they buy and would foot the bill for legal and engineering costs and to revegetate dried-up farms Ñ an estimated $700 to $1,000 per share. Until the mix of sellers is known, neither Pueblo West nor the water board knows how much the deal will cost.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:11:51 AM    

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Larimer County is getting serious about illicit discharges into storm systems, according to the The Loveland Reporter-Herald. From the article:

There could be a new ordinance in place by the beginning of next year that would give Larimer County more power to deal with emergency situations resulting from illicit discharge in storm-water systems. County staff used an open house Wednesday night at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud to educate the public about the county's storm-water management plan and the proposed illicit-discharge ordinance...

The proposed ordinance is part of the second phase of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. To comply with the federal regulations, Larimer County must do several things, such as conduct public education and outreach efforts and work to detect and eliminate illicit discharges...

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for 3 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St., in Fort Collins. There will be another open house today from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Courthouse Offices Building in Fort Collins. For a draft copy of the ordinance, visit Stormwater_Ordinance_2007.pdf.

Category: Colorado Water

7:02:52 AM    

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