Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Central Colorado Water Conservancy District

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

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Here's an update on the costs of the salmonella outbreak in Alamosa, from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Officials from both the city and the county say they'll continue to meet with state officials to firm up figures on the response to the outbreak that sickened 417 since the first case was reported March 12. Hector Chavez, finance director for the city of Alamosa, said the city may have to pick up $600,000 in costs for its response to the outbreak. That figure was a rough estimate, however, as Chavez said his department was still running end-of-the month financial reports. He said city personnel, including the police, fire and public works departments all put in long hours during the outbreak. County Administrator Barry Shioshita said the county did not have a final number on the costs incurred by many of its departments. The road and bridge department had costs of roughly $45,000 related to labor, fuel and the use of its trucks for the crisis. Julie Geiser, director of the county nursing service, told the board of county commissioners on Wednesday that her department so far had seen $34,000 in costs, much of it for regular and overtime work. Those costs will be offset by a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation awarded last week. Another $50,000 from the foundation will go toward costs incurred by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Spokesman Mark Salley said the state health department had logged roughly $300,000 in costs through last week. That included costs of laboratory testing on stool and water samples and the travel costs for the more than 30 personnel who travelled to Alamosa during the outbreak. Those costs are not covered by the emergency declaration signed by Gov. Bill Ritter March 21 that allocated up to $300,000 toward the outbreak response. Polly White, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Emergency Management, said $215,000 in costs had been incurred against that total.

Thanks to SLV Dweller for the link. More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:17:21 AM    

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From The Estes Park Trail-Gazette: "New water tap fees for customers wanting to connect to the Estes Park municipal water system are going up - just not as fast as first proposed in mid-March. Town trustees, at their April 22 meeting, approved a phased increase over a three year period to get to their ultimate goal for the one-time fees charged by the utility department. The current connection charges for new customers is $7,240 for a single family hookup. Under the plan approved April 22, this would be increased each year beginning in June 2008, ultimately reaching $10,390. The original proposal was to make the jump all at once. This represented a 143 percent increase."

From The Pueblo Chieftain: "Opinions, questions and answers about water will be aired Monday at a special Pueblo City Council work session. The meeting will be from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Pueblo Convention Center, and will feature a panel of guests who are involved with current water issues in the Pueblo area."

Category: Colorado Water
7:54:46 AM    

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Here's an update on Colorado's efforts to contain zebra mussels in Lake Pueblo, from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The state is developing an Aquatic Nuisance Species plan to deal with mussels and other exotic invasives, but among the questions yet to be answered is who pays for the program in the interim. Unfortunately, entities such as Denver Water, which owns such popular boating destinations as Dillon, Eleven Mile, Chatfield and Antero reservoirs, are looking to the Division of Wildlife to pay the cost, Sherman said. "There's a troubling reliance on cash funds to pay for the ANS program," Sherman said. Cash funds are monies the DOW receives from license sales and make up about 80 percent of the DOW's budget. Sherman said a conference with Denver Water is set for this week to explain the state's plan and to assure the utility that the threat is being addressed. Once the state has an ANS plan, Colorado becomes eligible for federal funding, said DOW Director Tom Remington. Senate Bill 226 establishes a $7.2 million fund out of the state's severance tax monies for DOW and Parks ANS programs but that money isn't available until July 1. As Remington pointed out, the problem is now. "The problem is what do we do until July 1," he told the commission. "The zebra mussel threat is here today." The wildlife commission gave $160,000 of its discretionary funding to the DOW to help pay for early ANS projects. Remington said most attention for now will be given to "heavy containment" at Pueblo Reservoir, where some zebra mussels were spotted earlier this spring. Additionally, the state will begin a widespread education effort. "I don't think most boaters know of this threat," he said.

Colorado already has ordered some of the hot-wash units that use scalding water to kill and remove zebra mussels from boats, but where they'll be stationed hasn't yet been decided. The National Park Service already has wash units at Blue Mesa Reservoir. A recent story in The Daily Sentinel on the zebra mussel prevention program at Lake Powell was remiss in hinting the boat washes are free. Previously they were, but the high cost of the units, some up to $100,000, and the increase in demand for the service have forced park concessionaires Aramark and Antelope Point Marina to charge, said Max King of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The washes cost $60 per hour but the cost per boat normally is much less since a 25-foot boat usually takes only 15-20 minutes. "We have found that most boaters don't object to this fee because they know it will help protect the lake," King said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:46:16 AM    

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Having enough water and electricity to produce the kerogen from oil shale are big question marks for those that see it as a replacement for the cheap oil the world has squandered over the last few decades. Here's an update on the water piece from The Denver Post. From the article:

In its quest to melt oil out of western Colorado's shale, Royal Dutch Shell has been buying up land and water rights in anticipation of what is likely to be a thirsty new industry. Some officials, however, worry that the demands of the oil-shale industry could drain every drop of the region's remaining water. "On the upper end, we're looking at potentially several hundred thousand acre-feet of water -- more than people think is commonly available to develop in the Colorado River," said Dan Birch, deputy general manager for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

Shell and other energy companies have amassed tens of thousands of acres of cropland, ranches and open space -- including a state wildlife area -- to gain water that would be needed to power the oil-shale process. "We've been acquiring land and associated water rights for a long time," Shell spokesman Tracy Boyd said. "We're just situating ourselves so that when the time comes, we'll have the resources we need." In the past year, Shell has:

- Bought a property near Mack that included rights for water in the Colorado River and a 30,000 acre-foot reservoir.

- Bought a ranch from Texas oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt that holds water rights from the 1800s.

- Completed a land swap with the Colorado Division of Wildlife for water along Piceance Creek in the heart of the shale formation, in the northwestern part of the state.

Boyd declined to detail how much water and land the company has acquired, and state and local government officials say they don't maintain complete ownership records...

"The net water requirements ... were something in the neighborhood of 200,000 to 300,000 acre-feet annually," [Bart Miller, water-program director for conservation group Western Resource Advocates] said. "To put that in context, that's the consumption of about 2.5 million people." Energy companies will probably tap into previously unused water rights that will force longtime ranchers and even Front Range municipalities to cut back, said Birch of the Colorado River district...

At its experimental Mahogany project near Rifle -- one of five oil-shale research-and-development efforts taking place on federal land -- Shell is taking a novel approach by heating steel rods 2,000 feet underground to more than 700 degrees to extract oil from the rock. The company also is establishing an underground "freeze wall" around the site, using a refrigerant in buried pipes to freeze water in the ground and create a barrier of ice that keeps water from infiltrating the site or chemical contaminants from leaving. For now, Boyd said, most of the water is being leased back to the ranchers for traditional uses. Major production, he said, is at least a decade down the road.

Still, environmentalists question whether there is enough water and energy to make oil shale viable. "I'm pretty skeptical," said Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. "Oil companies have been working on trying to find this holy grail for decades and decades and decades and still haven't," she said. "Then you look at just some of the potential impacts to water and climate and the incredible energy that might be required, and the costs may be too great."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
7:34:22 AM    

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Here's an analysis of the possible effects of the Northern Integrated Supply Project on other water projects in northern Colorado, from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Among several potential projects that could affect the Poudre River and the South Platte River, both of which would lose water to NISP, are the proposed expansions of Halligan Reservoir by Fort Collins and Seaman Reservoir by Greeley. Those reservoirs would draw from the North Fork of the Poudre upstream from where Glade would draw from the river's main stem. Combined, the three reservoir projects would "cause significant reductions in flow" between the mouth of Poudre Canyon and the west side of Fort Collins, according to the draft Environmental Impact Statement for NISP. The cities have combined the Halligan and Seaman projects into a single bid to receive a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The proposal is going through the Environmental Impact Statement process as the NISP proposal is being weighed...

It's too early to say whether a permit for Glade would preclude one for Halligan-Seaman, said Chandler Peter, National Environmental Policy Act-EIS coordinator for the Corps. "This is a very complex process involving multiple layers of state and federal law and we have a long way to go," he said. "Saying yes or no at this point would be pure speculation." Glade would draw from the Poudre every year, but its largest take would come during times of peak flow. Filling the reservoir could take several years, depending on annual snowfall and the subsequent spring runoff, and its level would fluctuate based on the demand for its water...

How Glade and Halligan-Seaman would interact and what their cumulative effects on the Poudre would be are among the many issues the U.S. Corps of Engineers will weigh as each project goes through the EIS process, the Corps' Peter said. The EIS process includes noting alternatives to an applicant's proposal. It's possible the evaluation of the Halligan-Seaman project could include an alternative that would have Fort Collins and Greeley join NISP, Peter said. That wouldn't necessarily be in the best interests of the cities, Fort Collins and Greeley officials say, because NISP and Halligan-Seaman are separate projects with different purposes and goals. Halligan-Seaman is meant to provide long-term drought protection for the cities' water supplies, said Jon Monson, director of water and sewer for Greeley. NISP is intended to supply water for participating communities as they grow.

Under the proposal, Seaman would be expanded from 5,000 acre feet of water to 53,000 acre feet by 2030. An acre foot of water is enough to meet the needs of two urban households for a year. Halligan would be expanded from 6,400 acre feet to 40,000. It would hold water for Fort Collins as well as local water districts and the North Poudre Irrigation Co. If permitted, construction could begin in 2010. Kevin Gertig, acting water resources and treatment manager for Fort Collins, said the city will work with the Corps in defining the need for Halligan-Seaman even if NISP is built. "We feel the Halligan-Seaman project will be the best way to meet the needs of Fort Collins," he said.

Greeley probably wouldn't be able to join NISP because it wouldn't be able to fund a project that early, Monson said. The city has other water projects going on - including building a new pipeline from its Bellvue treatment plant to Greeley - and doesn't plan on building the Seaman expansion until 2029, he said...

Having three large reservoirs in close proximity to each other is an issue the Corps will weigh during the EIS process, Peter said. But it also has to consider the cumulative effects of a long list of projects that could impact flows in the Poudre and South Platte rivers. Projects that are included in the NISP evaluation range from proposals in metro Denver to reuse water brought over from the Western Slope to Fort Collins' plan to build a kayak park along the Poudre. Areas that are looked at include water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, vegetation, soils, endangered species and recreation. NISP and Halligan-Seaman should not be viewed as competing projects, said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:20:49 AM    

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