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 23, 2007

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Environmental News Network: "Global warming is one of the most significant threats facing humankind, researchers warned, as they unveiled a study showing how climate changes in the past led to famine, wars and population declines. The world's growing population may be unable to adequately adapt to ecological changes brought about by the expected rise in global temperatures, scientists in China, Hong Kong, the United States and Britain wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The warmer temperatures are probably good for a while, but beyond some level plants will be stressed," said Peter Brecke, associate professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology's Sam Nunn School of International Affairs."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:16:52 PM    

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The Pueblo Board of Water Works is looking to make some dough with water leases, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A policy to guide long-term water leasing from existing and future water supplies was adopted Tuesday by the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The water board intends to lease up to 10,000 more acre-feet (3.2 billion gallons) a year of its existing water for as long as 20-year periods. It will continue to lease any additional water on a year-to-year basis based on competitive bids. Proceeds from the long-term leases are typically higher than on the spot market. Any new water obtained by the board, such as the Bessemer Ditch, would be leased back to shareholders in the ditch in a priority system that favors those who sold shares, other shareholders and non-shareholders who want to irrigate under the system. Those leases would be for the ditch assessment fees only and limited to five years. "We may need to modify the policy over time," said Alan Ward, water resources manager, in explaining the policy to the board. "When we're buying irrigation water, this will give the farmers time to adjust."

The water board currently has about 15,000 acre-feet of long-term leases that generate about $3.5 million in revenue. Xcel's Comanche Power Plant and Aurora are the largest leases. Another $450,000 is earned from a paper trade with Aurora. In 2006, a relatively normal water year, the board leased more than 20,000 acre-feet by competitive bid in addition to long-term leases, and it leased 15,000 acre-feet this year. Revenues totaled about $1 million each year. While some water board members expressed hesitation that the policy might lock up its options, the board voted unanimously to approve it in order to show a clear path of how any water purchased on the Bessemer Ditch would be leased back to shareholders. "I think this is the resolution we need, this clarification of guidelines," said board member Jim Gardner. "This answers the questions I'm asked all the time to show we're serious about how they'll be treated." Board members Kevin McCarthy and Tom Autobee raised concerns about the need for the policy and the commitment of water to long-term leases...

Any lease is subject to suspension if the city's water supplies run low, Hamel added. For example, in 2002, the water board suspended all leases except the Comanche plant because of the drought. On the new leases, the water board would give priority to irrigators who sell shares. The water board is offering a three-tiered price structure of $6,500-$8,500 for purchases up to 20 years out. Hamel said the structure of the lease policy allows farmers to continue using water at basically the same price - the ditch assessment - that they're already paying, while profiting from the sale. "Understand, though, that the lease-back would be a separate transaction,âo[caron] Hamel said. "They would be leasing from a pool of water we acquired from the ditch." The overriding concern of the board was to satisfy questions of its sincerity in making water available to farmers as the water board and Pueblo West embark on a plan to obtain a controlling interest in the Bessemer Ditch. "There has been a lot of discussion about buy-and-dry in the paper," said President Nick Gradisar. "This allows us to implement our desire to make sure there is water to farm with."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

4:53:25 PM    

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A battle over access to Blue Lake between the city of Telluride and Idarodo is delaying plans for a new water source for the town, according to The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

To the town of Telluride, Blue Lake is the centerpiece of a plan years in the making to secure a clean and ample source of water for its residents. Telluride wants to tap the lake, pipe the water down Bridal Veil basin to a plant at the terminus of the box canyon, then disperse it among the municipality down valley. But much of the land and the senior water rights involved in this plan belong to Idarado. And during negotiations between Idarado and the town, quarrels arose over water and infrastructure rights that have resulted in legal action, failed mediation sessions, and claims that the town's water plant could jeopardize Idarado's obligation to keep the San Miguel River clean.

Now, the town is proceeding with legal action against Idarado, but the mining company isn't backing down and the future of a water plant hangs in the balance. "We believe that Idarado is now violating agreements that have been in place for many years, and we are pursuing legal action against them to ensure that [the water plant] is constructed and operated as it has been planned for many years," said Town Manager Frank Bell...

The origins of this story can be found in a settlement agreement penned in 1992 between the town and Idarado. The detailed agreement mapped out Idaradoâo[dot accent]s senior water rights and gave consent for the town to build a future water supply system in Bridal Veil Basin.

Telluride currently siphons water out of Mill Creek for municipal use, serving the water to the town as well as Lawson Hill and complexes on the north edge of the Valley Floor. But with a surging population and Mill Creek running at the upper reaches of its capacity, the town needs another source of water, town staff says. "The Mill Creek plant has been running at full blast for a number of years without much relief," Bell said. "We're pretty much at the end of our road with that." In August of 2005, Idarado gifted Telluride about two acres of land above the old Pandora Mill, which the town intends for its plant (Idarado has yet to pass the title of the property of the town). Three months later, the town electorate approved a $10 million bond to construct the pipe and facility infrastructure. The town's plan is to construct a 52âo[dot accent] by 52âo[dot accent] building capable of housing a 2 million gallon per day treatment plant and small holding facility. Most recently, the town has been working on obtaining an array of deeds and easements it needs for construction, access and junior water rights. Last spring, things were coming to a close. But then the town tripped over language spelled out by Idarado that would give the mining company the right to recall not only its water rights, but also any proportionate ownership in water storage and conveyance structures. The town took issue with this, claiming that the right doesn't extend to the water plant and pipes constructed with public money. Idarado refused to omit this phrase. And so the town sued...

In its complaint, the town alleged that the Idarado breached the contract set out in the settlement agreement, endangering its plan for a municipal water system. "Idarado's assertion of a right to recall title to a proportionate interest in Bridal Veil Water structures is causing and will cause irreparable injury to the town," read its complaint. But in its reply, Idarado returned fire, saying that the town's conduct was "fraudulent and inequitable," and that Idarado's right of reconveyence was unambiguous from the get go. "The town improperly and inequitably seeks to divest Idarado of rights to which Idarado is entitled," the reply read. Idarado President Dave Baker said the water rights of the mining company are made clear in the settlement agreement, and Idarado wants to see them protected. "This litigation is not about the water treatment plant that Idarado gifted to the town, and it's not about access to that. The litigation is really around water rights," Baker said. He declined to go into greater detail on the particulars of the lawsuit because litigation is ongoing. In its complaint, Idarado also accused the town of trespassing on and damaging Idarado land while it worked on its pipe, and claimed that the town is perfectly able to meet its water needs as is...

In response, the court ordered Telluride and Idarado into mediation sessions, which took place in September and October. But instead of being ironed out, things were only exacerbated. Because now, Idarado brought a new charge: If the town operated its plant at full capacity, Idarado would not be able to meet water standards mandated by the state. Since the 1980s, Idarado, which historically mined Telluride's high country, has been under state mandate to do remediation work, keeping its tailings pile vegetated and the water in the San Miguel River clean of heavy metals. This cleanliness is measured by levels of dissolved zinc in the water. In order to stay in the clear, Idarado has to maintain levels of dissolved zinc in the river at less than or equal to .276 parts per million. Camille Price, the Idarado remediation manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the town's plan to divert water from the river could negatively impact these levels. Price pored over data from Idarado and calculated what the water quality would be if the town removed up to 3.09 cubic feet per second from the San Miguel River...

Price said 3.09 cubic feet per second is a considerable amount of water, and wonders how the town's plan for water would stand up in the winter months when the upper basins frees. But according to the town, the river has plenty of flow for everyone to stay happy. Bell said the flow capacity checks out with town engineers. "We believe there is enough water in the San Miguel River for the town and Idarado," he said. Bell said the town plans to operate the plant in the neighborhood of 2.5-2.7 cubic feet per second. He said Idarado requested that the town operate the plant at less than 1 cubic feet per second, or about 1/3 of its capacity. He likened this to buying a brand new car and only driving it in second gear. And so, the mediation sessions failed. And the town is moving ahead with its complaint...

A court date has not been set yet, but Bell expects a hearing to be sometime next summer. And so for now, a water treatment plant at Pandora is in limbo. It's highly unlikely that a plant will be build in 2008 as planned, Bell said, and the town worries that with the rising costs of construction, it will end up costing more than the $10 million it has budgeted. Ultimately, Bell said, the town wants the court to reinforce the settlement agreement by acknowledging the town has access rights and operating autonomy, and to acknowledge that there is plenty of water in the San Miguel River to accomplish everyone's goals. According to its complaint, Idarado wants its senior water rights protected, a declaration that the town has no right on Idarado property unless and until it accepts easements from Idarado, award of damages for the townâo[dot accent]s past and ongoing trespasses and attorneys fees. Baker acknowledged that the water at stake is vital to both parties. He emphasized that the town was the party that brought the litigation, and said Idarado is just defending its rights.

Category: Colorado Water

4:51:23 PM    

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Two state agencies are investigating potential conservation easement fraud around Colorado, according to The Cortez Journal. From the article:

Subpoenas issued in land schemes:

Two state agencies have launched an investigation into abuse of a popular state program that pays farmers and ranchers to conserve their land. Colorado's conservation easement program gives a tax credit to landowners who agree to keep their land away from developers. It began quietly in 2000, and just $2.3 million in tax credits were given in 2001. But last year, it had ballooned to $85.1 million in tax credits. "We have reason to believe that the practice of some of the players in the conservation easement program may put the entire program in jeopardy," said Rico Munn, director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies. Two of DORA's divisions - real estate and securities - announced an investigation Tuesday.

The Division of Real Estate is investigating inflated appraisals. Division director Erin Toll said her office had issued at least 30 subpoenas to appraisers in the last 48 hours. "The Division of Real Estate will aggressively pursue appraisers whose valuations of conservation easements are not credible," Toll said. Toll said subpoenas were sent to people around the state, but none of the state officials would reveal the targets. No landowners are targets of the subpoenas. So far, the focus is on appraisers and people involved in buying and selling the tax credits, according to Toll and Securities Commissioner Fred Joseph. Many farmers and ranchers don't make enough money to claim the tax credit, so Colorado's program allows them to sell their credits. They get a cash payment, and the buyers get to claim the credit in future years. Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, plans to introduce a bill to fix the program in early 2008. He and Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder, are leading a task force to write the bill. "If we don't fix these abuses, it's going to be hard to continue the program. I'm confident we will," Isgar said in a telephone interview.

Separately from the state probe, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is investigating a number of conservation easements, especially those in Colorado. "We're certainly No. 1 on the IRS's radar screen," Munn said.

Every year, 300 to 500 landowners take advantage of the program. About 1.2 million acres have been protected as open space under the program, about 2 percent of all the land in the state, according to the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts. The coalition does not believe any of its 55 member organizations is a target of the state investigation, said executive director Jill Ozarski. Local groups that belong to the CCLT include the Animas Conservancy, La Plata Open Space Conservancy, Montezuma Land Conservancy and Southwest Land Alliance. The targets of the investigation appear to be outside the mainstream conservation community, Ozarski said. Munn believes several people plan to close bad conservation easements by the end of the year, and he disclosed the investigation Tuesday to scare them off.

More coverage from The Denver Post. They write:

The Department of Regulatory Agencies has issued 30 subpoenas as part of a statewide investigation into Colorado's conservation-easement program. Issued over the past two days, the subpoenas will be used to gain information about appraisals that may have been overvalued and sales of unregulated securities...

DORA's Division of Real Estate is investigating the appraisals of certain properties on which easements were obtained. The Division of Securities, also part of DORA, is investigating abuses in sales of the tax credits to investors. The subpoenas were issued to anyone involved in a transaction that is being investigated, including landowners. Munn declined to name the people or organizations under investigation. "We won't know if there's collusion (between appraisers and landowners) until after the investigation," said Fred Joseph, commissioner of the Division of Securities...

"To our knowledge, none of (our) 55 member organizations is subject to the state investigation, leading us to believe that the organizations and transactions involved are not part of the mainstream land-conservation community," said Jill Ozarski, executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts. "Land trusts support efforts to crack down on tax abuses," she said. "We don't want any bad apples to spoil this worthy program."[...]

Toll already has suspended the license of one appraiser who overvalued property for a conservation easement on 35 acres in Walsenburg, according to documents filed in the state's Office of Administrative Courts. The appraiser valued the property as though it had development potential when it did not, according to the documents.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Munn said a handful of appraisers and those selling "unregistered" securities whom he declined to identify have been abusing the program so much that they may well destroy property owners' ability to preserve land rather than sell it for development. "(This is) a potential turn of events that threatens to take what's a viable, important land conservation program in our state and turn it into a playground for unscrupulous land trusts, crooked appraisers and questionable investors," Munn said. "We have reasons to believe that current practices among some players in the conservation easement program could place the entire (program) in jeopardy. It may well destroy that program, which has allowed Coloradans to preserve precious land resources and view corridors for a number of years."[...]

Erin Toll, director of the Division of Real Estate, said part of the problem is some appraisers who appear to be assessing land for more than it should be worth. "If the appraisal is overvalued, the tax credit is too high and that depletes our state resources, which could be funding legitimate programs," Toll said. "The Division of Real Estate will aggressively pursue appraisers whose valuations of conservation easements are not credible. Independent, experienced appraisers will review suspect appraisals." Appraisers engaging in such practices not only can face suspension of their licenses, but possible criminal or civil charges as well, she said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

4:45:42 PM    

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Here's a report on H.R. 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007, from The Durango Telegraph. From the article:

Bill Simon is the coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, a coalition that has labored for more than a decade to undo damage from hardrock mining to the Upper Animas watershed. The group has remediated dozens of abandoned mine sites that were leaching toxins and heavy metals into the river and its tributaries. However, Simon remains an advocate for mining and recognizes the place of metals in modern life, as long as mining becomes much more environmentally responsible. "We need mining, and we need to support mining," he said. "We just need to do it right."[...]

However, there is movement to close many of the General Mining Law's loopholes. Last week, on Nov. 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2262, a re-write of the General Mining Law sponsored by Congressman Nick Rahall, D-W.V. Among other things, the rewrite would create a royalty structure and provide Americans with a return for development of gold, silver, uranium and other hardrock minerals. It would also tighten the environmental standards that mines must meet, and allow local and tribal governments to petition to bar mining that would affect them adversely. "The bill would bring the 19th century mining law into the 21st century," said Stephen D'Esposito, president of the Washington, D.C.-based conservation group Earthworks. "With the bill passing the House, we're halfway toward achieving badly needed reforms that work for Western communities, taxpayers, the environment and responsible mining companies."

The U.S. mining industry, however, is not a big fan of the rewrite. The National Mining Association (NMA) has joined the Bush Administration and gone on record in opposing to the bill, saying it would create an undue hardship on American mining companies. Kraig R. Naasz, president and CEO of the NMA, commented, "The enormous costs that would be imposed on the hardrock mining industry by the bill and the failure to provide mining companies with greater security when operating on federal lands will only increase the nation's growing reliance on imported minerals vital to our economy and our national defense." Naasz added that the bill would levy the world's highest royalty for mineral mining; would impose "redundant environmental standards;" and does not provide investors with security from arbitrary federal regulations. In the end, the NMA and its concerns may carry the day. Following last week's passage in the House, the bill goes before the U.S. Senate. There, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a longtime supporter of the mining industry, has pledged to oppose the bill because it would require royalties of existing mines.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:33:42 AM    

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A developer in Fraser is under investigation for possibly digging in a wetlands environment, according to Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

After receiving a tip from a Grand County resident, an official from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed up in Fraser on Monday to check if Cornerstone Holdings was digging on wetlands. The property in question is located next to the Fraser Tubing Hill, where Cornerstone plans to develop another tubing hill in the near future. The developer has been doing some digging at the bottom of the hill, which sparked concern from a member of the community and prompted a phone call to the Corps of Engineers.

Nick Mezei, environmental engineer with the Frisco office for the Corps of Engineers, analyzed a portion of the property and will do some testing over the next couple of weeks to determine if jurisdictional wetlands were affected. A jurisdictional wetland, under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, requires a permit in order to place fill material into a naturally occurring wetland. If fill material, such as soil or sand, is placed into a wetland, it prevents the wetland from functioning properly. According to the Corps of Engineers Web site, a wetland is defined as an area that has growth of wetland vegetation, where the soil is saturated during a portion of the growing season or the surface is flooded during some part of most years. Some wetlands, however, are not controlled under the Clean Water Act, and therefore are not considered jurisdictional. Mezei said the fill material on the Cornerstone property is in wetland areas, but he did not know whether they are jurisdictional. He understands past irrigation of the pasture has contributed to wetlands in that area, but if there's a natural component in addition to the irrigation, then the wetlands fall under the auspices of the Clean Water Act, he said. Based on what he's seen, he said he suspects a portion of the wetlands are jurisdictional...

If Mezei determines there is a problem with the fill material, the Corps of Engineers will follow normal procedures, he said, depending on the type of violation. If the act was done knowingly, it would be pursued through the Environmental Protection Agency. If it's a minor account that was not done knowingly, the Corps of Engineers would try to resolve the issue through restoration of the area that was filled, or have the violator provide compensatory mitigation by creating or enhancing wetlands in a nearby area. Clark Lipscomb, vice president for real estate at Cornerstone Holdings, said he has worked closely with Mezei in the past on 404 permits for Grand Park and is "very familiar" with the permit process . He has several wetland consultants working for him, he added, and he believes the wetlands are not jurisdictional...

Lipscomb added that the ranch the property is located on has been irrigated since 1884. Lipscomb's consultants are working with the Corps of Engineers to determine if there are jurisdictional wetlands, he said, but everything they have done has been "by the book." Mezei said he hopes to find out whether the wetlands are jurisdictional over the next two weeks. He added that he appreciates phone calls from the public in these type of situations. "If they see something that looks suspicious as far as possible fill, wetlands ... oftentimes it turns out to be OK, or may not be jurisdictional, but we appreciate being informed so we can investigate and see if there's a problem." To avoid problems, Mezei said he encourages developers to obtain the services of a wetland consultant to review property that has wetland vegetation or water-saturated soils in the springtime. A consultant can determine whether a permitting process needs to take place. If the property does have a stream, pond or wetland, he encouraged property owners to avoid impacting the land altogether if possible. As for the tubing hill, Lipscomb plans to develop a multi-purpose area at the bottom of the hill to serve as a parking area in the winter, and ranch operations headquarters in the summer for hay production and cattle management. More digging will take place in that area, he added, as the new tubing hill gets under way. The hill, which will have a magic carpet and an operations building, will likely be up and running next winter.

Category: Colorado Water

7:20:39 AM    

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Arvada water rates are going up, according to From the article:

Water rates are going up, again. How much, though, depends on how a person asks the question. Since all of Arvada's water fees -- water, wastewater and storm-water -- are lumped into one City Council Bill 07-038, it's difficult to get dollar amounts in how much each specific fee is hitting Arvada residents' pocketbooks...

The approval of the bill means Arvada's water rates will go up. The combined increase of water, wastewater and stormwater is $45.65 for the year, that's roughly $3.77 a month for the average single family home. Although the vote approves the increase and the city is now obligated to collect the money from residents, the city disagrees with the Denver Water Board's 7.7 percent increase imposed on Arvada. The city sent an e-mail to the Denver Water Board, protesting the matter because it does not match the 5.2 percent increase Denver residents face, which Arvada says violates their contract. "That's what the language says," said Craig Kocian, Arvada city manager. "(There's) language in the 1965 water contract, which says essentially that Arvada customers will be treated no differently than the inside Denver customer." John Wright, manager of rate administration with the Denver Water Board, resplied to the e-mail, stating: "The 5.2 percent increase you reference is apparently derived from the percentage increase in rates for a single family residential customers inside Denver. "However, the single family residential rate increase is not the standard for adjustment, as the 1965 contract makes clear."[...]

The overall water fee for Arvada has increased over the past three years. In 2005, there was a 6.07 percent increase, meaning the average single home paid $2.65 more a month. In 2006, there was a 5.6 percent increase with an average cost of $2.60 more a month. In 2007, there was a 5.1 percent increase, costing families about $2.29 more a month.

Category: Colorado Water

7:08:37 AM    

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Here's a look at Fort Lupton's water use as reported by the recent Front Range Water Meter report from Western Resources Advocates as reported in The Fort Lupton Press. From the article:

Because water bills are a utility's most direct contact with customers and the single most powerful conservation tool, three components of a utility's water rate structure are allocated another 30 percent of total possible points. Unaccounted-for water -- an important efficiency measure with great variation between utilities -- was allocated 10 points. Conservation measures, including their degree of penetration and implementation, conservation goals and funding, and supply-side efficiency measures were allocated the remaining 30 points. Based on the above criteria, Aurora leads the pack, coming in first with 72 points, followed by Denver with 68, then Boulder at 66. Fort Lupton scored second to last with 15 points...

More troubling for the city, Fort Lupton came in last in accountability, showing an unaccounted for loss of 17 percent of the water supply, or 163 million gallons yearly. Coupled with Fort Lupton's slow-to-rise utility rates, the losses are a revenue drain on the city's coffers. With conservation being an environmental priority as well as the single most cost-effective measure to increase the city's water supply, city planners are taking measures to cut the losses.

Addressing the problem, Fort Lupton public works personnel are in the process of installing tamper-proof water meters outside homes in the city, aimed at furthering accountability for per[^]residence usage. In addition, plans are under way for an aggressive program of leak-detection and infrastructure repair as called for in the city's five-year utility master plan.

Category: Colorado Water

7:02:51 AM    

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Here's a report from the recent meeting of the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

While most issues in the Arkansas River Compact lawsuit between Colorado and Kansas are close to being worked out, a new wrinkle over deliveries could require the state to pay more water to its neighbor to the east, Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told the Lower Arkansas River Water Conservancy District board Wednesday. The Lower Ark board served as an intermediary for state deliveries in 2005 and 2006, when it appeared Colorado would fall short of compact deliveries after a 10-year average. As it turned out, Colorado actually received a credit for the period, partly because of the additional water. The Lower Ark purchased the water at a low price from the Pueblo Board of Water Works, which leased the equivalent amount of its Fryingpan-Arkansas Project appropriation toward meeting the deficit. The Lower Ark was later reimbursed through drought emergency funds. The new deficit is unrelated to the Supreme Court case over the compact, but arises from the amount of water lost as releases from John Martin Reservoir travel 60 miles down the Arkansas River to the state line, Witte said. Under a 1980 compact resolution, the two state engineers are to give a report on the annual transit losses, which are then made up from both state's accounts in John Martin. No reports were filed from 1996-2006, however, because the states could not reach agreement on how much water was lost, Witte said. "In 2006, we agreed to a procedure to determine deliveries," Witte said. The net loss totals 3,633 acre-feet (1.1 billion gallons), of which about 2,500 acre-feet is Colorado's share. "The transit losses were small until 2002," Witte said. "In 2002-03, we were in the throes of a drought and making deliveries was difficult." Witte said negotiations are still under way, and questioned whether the deficit should be applied retroactively or whether Kansas' requests for the timing of water contributed to the shortfall. "If Kansas insists on releasing water in poor river conditions, should the burden not be shifted to Kansas?" Witte asked. The board voted 6-0 to work with the state again in meeting the deficit...

In other action:

The board reviewed its Super Ditch concept. The steering committee of ditch company representatives for the proposed land fallowing/water leasing program has endorsed moving ahead with the idea. A meeting is planned for 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Otero Junior College in La Junta to answer questions about the ditch and state water law.

The board voted 6-0 to provide $50,000 to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to pay local communities' share in an ongoing study of the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

Two more conservation easements were accepted. The easements were for Lynn and Carol Wilkerson, 380 acres of ranchland in Teller County, and Donald and Carolyn Reeves, 418 acres of ranchland in Fremont County. The district has accepted more than 30 conservation easements, and the board learned none of them are included in a recently announced state investigation into unscrupulous practices.

No vote was taken on a proposed intergovernmental agreement to provide water to flow through Pueblo's Lake Minnequa as part of a multiuse project that would create a park, provide flood control and help wildlife. The board has not had time to review the agreement.

Category: Colorado Water

6:55:34 AM    

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Here's a look at new proposed irrigation rules for the Arkansas River valley from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Proposed state efficiency rules for irrigators in the Arkansas River basin would be a burden and could be based on a oversimplified description of how flows return to the river, board members of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District said Wednesday. Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte is speaking to conservancy districts this month to explain draft rules on irrigation improvements like sprinklers, drip systems and canal lining. Public meetings will be held early next year if a new state engineer, yet to be chosen, approves the plan. Witte is concerned increased efficiency of irrigation structures that allow more acreage to be irrigated could violate the 1949 Arkansas River Compact with Kansas. The rules would apply only to surface irrigation and do not include non-structural efficiencies like better maintenance or cropping patterns...

While more efficient irrigation can save labor costs and improve water quality, the state's concern is that it could also diminish return flows that downstream users rely on. "My job is making sure other water users downstream are not affected by these benefits," Witte said. "We need to protect water users downstream."

Lower Ark board members are skeptical about the new rules, however. "The burden is pretty much going to be on the irrigator when he wants to change his operation," said Chairman John Singletary. "The state has to make more of an effort to help farmers." One requirement in the rules would require irrigators to file engineering reports with the state within 90 days or risk having their operations shut down. Bart Mendenhall, attorney for the Lower Ark, said that is not a realistic time frame for hiring a professional engineer in the Lower Arkansas Valley. "I think it's unfair to go back to the irrigators and ask them to do this. Here's a guy who's probably already struggling," Singletary said. "The ditch companies don't have the money. The municipalities can raise rates a dollar here and a dollar there, but a farmer can't raise the price of a bale of hay." Witte explained only agricultural efficiencies are contemplated in the regulations since agriculture uses more than 85 percent of the water.

Otero County Director Wayne Whittaker questioned Witte's assumptions about how water returns to the river. "I don't think it's reasonable to assume that all the water (not consumptively used) goes back to the river," Whittaker said.

Category: Colorado Water

6:46:34 AM    

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Here's an update on the removal of traction sand in Black Gore Creek from The Vail Daily (free registration required). From the article:

Traction sand from Interstate 70 may be smothering insects and harming trout in our picture-post card streams, but all that sand may have allowed wetlands to grow in Black Gore Creek. And if those wetlands end up falling under government protection, they could interfere with plans to clean out a large sand trap in Black Gore Creek called "The Basin of Last Resort," which has for years prevented sediment from entering Gore Creek, the gold-medal trout stream running through Vail. Construction was supposed to begin this month on the basin, but work will be delayed until at least next fall so an environmental study on the wetlands can be completed, said Brian Healy, a biologist with the U.S. Forest Service...

Through the years, much of that sand has sunk to the bottom of the Basin of Last Resort, a deep and flat 3-acre stretch of Black Gore Creek around mile marker 183. Now that it's filled up, sand can more easily wash down stream and into Gore Creek. But the fact that it filled up with sand has also created a swampy, wetland-like environment, said Andrea Holland-Sears, a hydrologist with the Forest Service. The sediment is so high you can walk across the stream in places, and plants usually seen in wetlands are growing there. The Colorado Department of Transportation is funding a $1.1 million clean-up project to remove more than 61,000 tons of sand from the basin. More than likely, cleaning out the basin would mean destruction of some or all the wetlands. Now, scientists are studying the area, trying to figure out how long the wetlands have been there, if parts of the wetlands existed before the sand started piling up, or if they can even technically be called wetlands. Basically, they'll be figuring out if they're worth saving. If the environmental assessment determines the wetlands meet all the criteria to be considered official wetlands, special care will need to be taken in cleaning out the Basin of Last Resort.

Category: Colorado Water

6:34:08 AM    

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Glenwood Springs is moving forward on a new treatment plant, according to The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (free registration required). From the article:

The city recently signed a nearly $1 million contract for a new wastewater treatment plant's design and infrastructure. The local firm Schmueser, Gordon and Meyer, and a Front Range firm called Rothberg, Tamburini and Winsor will work together on the plans, according to city engineer Mike McDill. A cost estimate for the whole project came in at around $35 million, McDill said. "I'm pretty sure it's the most expensive single project that the city has undertaken," he said. By the end of the year, plans for connecting pipelines from the current plant location to the new site should be in place. Construction on pipelines and their infrastructure could begin next year, while construction on the plant itself would probably begin by 2010 and finish in 2012 if all goes well, McDill said. The site for the plant is the old Cardnell property that burned down during the Coal Seam Fire south of the Colorado River near the west end of town. The plant would be partially shielded from view by an embankment near the railroad tracks, McDill said.

Moving the treatment plant away from downtown Glenwood would open up valuable space near the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers that the city is looking at developing under its confluence plan. It would also increase treatment capacity from about 1.8 million gallons per day to about 2.6 million gallons per day in anticipation of future growth. The current plant runs at about 1.2 million gallons per day. Design work will also include plans for an additional phase to further increase capacity in the future. The new plant would also allow many people living along Midland Avenue who are on septic tanks to hook in to a centralized sewer system. Buddy Burns, superintendent of water and wastewater treatment, said the plant has outlived its usefulness. The effluent it discharges into the river is generally good, Burns said, but there have been some problems meeting requirements for ammonia discharges. The plant wasn't designed with reducing ammonia discharges in mind because it wasn't a restriction at the time, he added. "The plant does really well other than reducing ammonia," Burns said, adding that it passes other test parameters by fairly large margins.

Category: Colorado Water

6:20:04 AM    

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