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 21, 2007

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Here's an opinion piece in favor of Powertech's proposed uranium mining operation in Weld County from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the column: "[Richard] Blubaugh pointed out in his column that the area where Powertech intends to mine is already contaminated with radionuclides...Uranium 238 is a radioactive isotope that eventually decays into stable lead. Along the decay chain, there are the radioactive isotopes of thorium, protactinium, uranium 234, radium, radon, polonium and thallium. And since uranium mining is only feasible where it is found in a concentration, it is a no-brainer that the area will indeed be 'contaminated,' regardless of whether it is disturbed or not."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

9:05:21 AM    

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U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave is hoping that President Bush can help get the stalled legislation, H.R. 2334, Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness and Indian Peaks Wilderness Expansion Act, moving. The bill would provide wilderness protection for Rocky Mountain National Park, reports the The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Republican U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave has sent a letter to President Bush and U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne urging them to stop holding up a bi-partisan bill to turn most of Rocky Mountain National Park into a wilderness area. The National Park Service and the owners of the Grand River Ditch appear to be close after two years of trying to craft an agreement that could clear the way for Congress to designate much of Rocky Mountain National Park as a wilderness area. The local ranching and farming community will not support the bill unless the company gets some protection from future lawsuits...

Musgrave pointed out in the letter how considerable time has been spent finding a solution that is agreeable to both sides of the issue, including the local agriculture community and environmentalists, and both sides of the aisle, noting Colorado's Republican and Democrat Congressional members came together to craft the bill. "There is no reason to hold up passage of our bill, and I am strongly urging that Sec. Kempthorne and the Administration move this wilderness designation forward," Musgrave wrote. "This agreement culminates years of work and now is the time to act." The federal government and the Water Supply & Storage Co. agreement would spell out the company's liability should the ditch fail and damage Rocky Mountain National Park, a park service official told a House subcommittee last week.

Here's an opinion piece about the designation from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. They write:

After more than three decades of waiting, yet another bureaucratic holdup has left the wilderness designation for Rocky Mountain National Park in limbo. The U.S. Park Service and Bush administration are dragging their feet on the designation over concerns about reducing liability of the Fort Collins-based Water Supply and Storage Co., which owns the Grand River Ditch located in the park. Federal officials want to make sure that the company is legally responsible for damage to the park should a breach occur in the ditch. Meantime, local ranching and farming representatives said they will not support the bill unless the company is at least partially protected from future lawsuits. Negotiations between Park Service officials and the ditch company have been ongoing for nearly two years. A Senate committee heard testimony on the topic in July but has taken no action...

And just last week, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, a Democrat, testified in front of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands hearing on H.R. 2334, which outlines the designation. U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, a Republican, is the Senate co-sponsor with Salazar, and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat, is the House co-sponsor with Musgrave.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:34:03 AM    

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The Pueblo Board of Water Works and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District have agreed to supply water for the development of a new park around Lake Minnequa in Pueblo, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the Pueblo Board of Water Works would provide water for Lake Minnequa under an intergovernmental agreement approved Tuesday by the water board. The City of Pueblo is trying to make the lake, located on Pueblo's South Side, into a park. In the process, the lake also would provide flood basin drainage, improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat. The Board of Water Works earlier this year endorsed the city's plan to purchase the lake. Lake Minnequa is owned by Rocky Mountain Steel Mills, which no longer uses it as a water supply source. The Lower Ark board is scheduled to consider the agreement today, and council will look at it next month...

Under the agreement, the Lower Ark would provide up to 250 acre-feet per year (81 million gallons) from its Larkspur Ditch and Twin Lakes shares. The water would flow through the Minnequa Canal, which diverts water from the Arkansas River at Florence, to the St. Charles Reservoirs south of Pueblo through a ditch to Lake Minnequa. A new outlet to the Arkansas River would allow the water to pass through. "There would be no storage, it would just flow through to other users," said Alan Ward, water resources specialist. The water board would provide up to 450 acre-feet per year (146 million gallons) to replace evaporation of water from Lake Minnequa, Ward said. The water board also will adjudicate the necessary water for changing the use of some of its water and obtain a substitute water supply plan from the Colorado Division of Water Resources until the court action is complete. Lower Ark would be responsible for its own legal work. "In the world of water rights, this is a routine case, and is not likely to be heavily contested," said Alan Hamel, executive director. "Actually, it diminishes the damage to downstream users." In 2004, the city and water board were seeking to purchase water rights from Rocky Mountain Steel, but the negotiations proved too complicated, Hamel said. Earlier this year, the city settled on a plan to buy the lake without any of the company's associated water rights...

The city's Minnequa Lake and Open Space Project has received a $2.3 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant and the city has another $1.8 million lined up toward the $7.8 million project. The remaining $3.7 million is the estimated value of water rights associated with the project. The city has collected $450,000 through its stormwater fee and set aside another $300,000 toward the project. The water board will contribute $200,000 in cash for renovation of the feeder ditch. Other cash contributions include $100,000 from the Division of Wildlife, $600,000 from state energy impact assistance and $118,600 from federal economic development funds. The water board's commitment of water amounts to the equivalent of about $2.5 million, while Lower Ark's commitment is $1.25 million. GOCo will consider an extension of the grant at a Dec. 3 meeting.

Category: Colorado Water

8:19:58 AM    

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Here's an update on Palisade's proposed whitewater park from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Palisade officials didn't give up, though. They found a likely spot above Riverbend Park and set to work, getting the backers who had pledged money for the original idea to stick with them for the next edition. They got a new kayak-park design, let bids and gathered materials, including boulders gathered up and set down near the river, ready to be dropped in as the leaves browned and the Colorado River's levels fell. "If I could get my Army Corps of Engineers permit today," Sarmo said, "I'd be in the river tomorrow." The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the gathering of comments on Palisade's project on Nov. 5 and is now evaluating them, said Scott Moore of the Army Corps of Engineers regulatory office in Grand Junction. The work on the whitewater park cannot begin without approval by the corps. "I realize he's in a rush" to get the permit, and "we're trying to do it as quickly as we can," Moore said of the permit application. There is no deadline for that work, however, and "there are some natural-resource issues that are challenging" in connection with the whitewater park, Moore said.

The idea of dropping rocks into the river to create some eddies and give the river a bit more velocity in spots hardly strikes Sarmo as a major natural-resource issue, he said. "We are not building Hoover Dam," Sarmo said, just putting some rocks in the river as part of a plan to make the big bend below 38 Road a bit of a recreational haven. Palisade's plan calls for a $635,000 water park with vehicle access, parking and other stream-side improvements bringing the bill to about $1 million. "I can't think of a more innocuous, less intrusive project than this one," he said.

Others, however, said they aren't so sure. The Grand Valley Irrigation Co. wrote to the Corps of Engineers demanding a full environmental review, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife said it was concerned the park might inhibit the travels of the Colorado pikeminnow and the razorback sucker up and down the river. "A large influx of human recreation to this area may result in the modification of native fish species behavior as a consequence of human activities," wrote Ron Velarde, northwest region manager for the wildlife division. "There is little information available that would serve to moderate our concerns for native-fish migration and their propensity to negotiate an area of significant water-based recreation." Wildlife officials aren't opposed to the whitewater park, but they need more information, division spokesman Randy Hampton said. The division's concerns could be addressed by more information, he said. Palisade has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has addressed its concerns, Sarmo said. The whitewater park plan includes a triple option for the fish to get past the park, including swimming up the main channel, negotiating a small fish-passage alongside the main current and an entirely separate channel away from the whitewater park features. He can't think of anything else to do to meet concerns, Sarmo said. If anything, he said, the whitewater park would strengthen the rationale for releases down the Colorado from Green Mountain Reservoir because they would serve a municipal recreational use.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:07:40 AM    

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Here's a call to arms for water conservation and better planning from The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

A recent National Ground Water Association survey received responses from 43 states nationwide, and all reported water shortages and anticipated more of the same in the future. Dire straits in Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Houston and other locales are well documented, as is the unsettling state of affairs with the over-appropriated Colorado River. A shortage of available water may also do something nobody ever thought possible: Halt the relentless development up and down the Colorado Rockies' east slopes. Multi-year drought conditions over much of the nation's heartland and decreased mountain snowmelt in the West -- both likely exacerbated by climate change and both likely to worsen, climatologists say -- have heightened awareness. But clearly, most of the fault for the current dilemma lies with ourselves. Our voracious appetite for water and the development that requires that water are pushing nature to the brink.

The Ogallala Aquifer, which covers 175,000 square miles and underlies eight states in places, has experienced dramatic declines of well over 100 feet in some locations since large-scale irrigation began in the 1950s. The USGS notes that the aquifer has been depleted by 9 percent since the advent of groundwater irrigation. That doesn't sound like much of a problem, but consider this: A 2001 Kansas State University study warned that only 15 percent of this vast underground ocean is physically and economically feasible to pump to the surface. Aboveground, the defining waterways of the Plains and West -- the Platte, the Arkansas and the Colorado -- are shells of their former selves after a century of surface diversions and groundwater pumping. Indeed, the headwaters of the Arkansas River near Leadville often give out before they get to Dodge City, Kan., 450 miles downstream from Leadville...

We can no longer use our groundwater and surface water as we please, nor for as long as we please. If we wish to avoid a future of water tribulations, we will need to adopt a Depression-era mentality: Recycle and reuse, and most of all, conserve. We will also need to finally consider water as both a public trust and a "commons," and use it accordingly.

Category: Colorado Water

7:58:03 AM    

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