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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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

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Dirk Kempthorne and the Bush administration surprised us today by placing the polar bear on the threatened species list. Will this actually drive some climate change research and response? We'll see. From ZDNet: "The U.S. Department of Interior has just listed the polar bear as a 'threatened' species, that is legally and technically different than being listed as 'endangered.' The Feds based their announcement on studies by government scientists. Global warming is reducing Arctic sea ice off the Alaskan and Canadan coasts. This is expected to result in two-thirds of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century. Polar bears depend on polar ice floes to aid their hunting of seals and other under-ice prey. Without the arctic ice sheets the polar bears are not going to be able to find food, according to the predictions. Not every polar bear can live at the city landfill in Churchill on Hudson's Bay."

Harry Fuller: "I spoke briefly with Andrew Wetzler, he's Director of the Endangered Species Project with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He said today's polar bear decision is a watershed event. It means the federal government has now openly acknowledged the effects of global in the Arctic. How big a deal is this? Real big, as in big business. Bloomberg News caters to the moneyed and professional investor. Their headline says it all, "Polar Bear Is First Species Protected Because of Climate Change." And this has happened while Dick Cheney is still in office. Can you foresee what could happen in 2009?

Here's the Interior press release.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
5:50:27 PM    

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Here's an update on uranium mining in southwestern Colorado from The Cortez Journal. From the article:

More than 6,500 new uranium claims were filed on Dolores Public Lands last year, as prospectors and corporations reacted to a sharp increase in uranium prices by laying claim to the mineral resource. The claims are located on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property administered by the Dolores Public Lands office, primarily in northwest Dolores and southwest San Miguel counties. In Dolores County, uranium claims are up from 396 in 2006 to 5,399 in 2007, the latest year for which data is available. In San Miguel County, claims were at 1,119 in 2006 and 2,633 in 2007. Information for the number of claims filed in Montezuma County was not available Monday, but Dolores Public Lands Manager Steve Beverlin said he did not believe there were many.

Most of the claims filed in 2007 are not active, Beverlin said. He only knew of a couple of claims that were being actively mined, likely those owned by Denison Mines Corp. Denison, the uranium mining company that owns the White Mesa Uranium Mill in Blanding, Utah, opened three mines in San Miguel County in 2007, said Ron Hochstein, president and chief operating officer of the company. "It's new activity," he said. In late April of this year, Denison began shipping material from the new mines, which are underground operations, to the White Mesa mill. This is the first time since 1999 the mill has processed conventional ore, Hochstein said. The mill processes 2,000 tons of ore a day, and Hochstein expects it to produce between 1.4 and 1.7 million pounds of uranium in the form of yellowcake, or U3O8, this year. Last year, the mill produced about 100,000 pounds of uranium from sources known as alternate feedstocks, which are substances like mill tailings from other decommissioned mills and mining sites. The total amount of uranium produced in the United States last year was just over 4 million pounds, Hochstein said. That uranium was mostly produced by in situ uranium mines, which remove uranium directly from the ground, eliminating the ore processing step that mills traditionally perform...

Denison's mines are located in Big Gypsum Valley, and most of the mining claims are on Bureau of Land Management property in that valley and in the Lower Dolores River corridor around Slickrock, Beverlin said...

Global supply of uranium has dropped as old stocks are used up, while demand has steadily increased, Hochstein said. Denison, which runs the only operating uranium mill in the United States, sells its uranium to utility companies in Asia and Europe.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
5:37:47 PM    

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David Roberts (via grist): "It comes as no surprise that the focus is on a cap-and-trade program, something McCain has supported for five years. In fact, there is virtually no mention of any emission reduction policies outside of cap-and-trade -- no efficiency or fuel economy mandates, no electrical utility decoupling, no mention of public transit. McCain obviously retains his conservative allergy to regulation and public spending. There is some discussion of funding research and incentivizing market deployment of new technology, but the details are tantalizingly vague."

Be sure to click through. There is a lot of discussion about McCain's plan, its utility and potential effectiveness. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link.

Daily Kos: "The plan that McCain offers turns out to be an extremely weak one, one that's even less effective than the completely inadequate Lieberman-Warner Bill...So what is in McCain's proposal that differentiates him from Bush? Not much. In fact, the same article notes that McCain's positions puts him 'slightly right of center' on the climate change issue, which apparently means that McCain is willing to admit that climate change is a problem, but not willing to make any substantive suggestion on how to address the issue. What the Times article doesn't mention is that back in 2000, candidate Bush also said the climate change was an issue and pledged to regulate CO2. It wasn't until after his election that that cuddly, caring, compassionate conservative Bush's positions gave way to the standard GOP line."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
5:34:45 PM    

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Broomfield scored a bunch of Colorado-Big Thompson water shares in a recent real estate deal in Greeley, according to The Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

Broomfield, one of the metro Denver area's most aggressive seekers of Northern Colorado water, has closed a $7.65 million deal for 766 shares of water from the Great Western Sugar Cooperative in Greeley. The May 12 purchase is the largest sale of Colorado-Big Thompson Project water in 2008. The board of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which owns and manages the water project that draws Western Slope water to north Front Range communities, approved the sale during its monthly meeting on Friday. The purchase price is equal to just under $10,000 per share. "That's a fairly substantial purchase," water district spokesman Brian Werner said. "It's obviously the largest one for this calendar year." The water was part of a real estate package that includes the former Great Western sugar plant just east of downtown Greeley. Mark Bradley and Bernie Blach, partners in Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services of Greeley, brokered the sale for Great Western. Water broker Craig Harrison, president of Harrison Resources Inc. in Loveland, represented Broomfield in the transaction. The 766 C-BT shares are roughly equal to about 500 acre feet of water annually, sufficient to supply the needs of about 1,000 households. The water will be delivered from Carter Lake southwest of Loveland via a 32-mile pipeline to Matthew Glasser Reservoir, where Broomfield's water treatment plant is located.

Category: Colorado Water
6:33:54 AM    

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From "Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said Tuesday that he will introduce a bill to slow down moves toward commercial oil shale development in the region. His announcement came the same day that an amendment intended to speed up oil shale development died in the Senate. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., co-sponsored the amendment. Salazar's proposal would provide another year to analyze a plan to open nearly 2 million acres of federal land to development in western Colorado, eastern Utah and southwest Wyoming. It would allow a year for development of a commercial leasing program after the analysis is finished."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
6:28:19 AM    

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From The Aspen Times: "The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will manipulate water releases as best it can to avoid contributing to potential flooding in the Roaring Fork Valley this spring, but its abilities are limited, agency officials said Monday night. The reclamation bureau has some flexibility in the amount of water it releases from the Ruedi Reservoir dam, said Carlos Lora, a water resources engineer. The agency will work with emergency management officials in the valley to try to coordinate flows...Kara Lamb, public involvement coordinator for the reclamation bureau's district that includes Ruedi, noted that the dam shouldn't be counted on to influence runoff in the valley. "The project's not authorized for flood control," she said."

More from the article:

Bureau officials held their annual meeting Monday night at Basalt Town Hall to discuss annual operations of Ruedi Reservoir. About 20 interested members of the public attended. "Ruedi is expected to fill by the middle of July," said Lora. "Of course, we're expecting to fill the reservoir without any problem." In fact, operators began releasing more water from the reservoir earlier than usual to make way for the anticipated deluge during runoff season. Releases into the Fryingpan River have topped 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) for about one month. The reservoir is down to about 55,000 acre-feet. By comparison, its lowest level last spring was 69,000 acre-feet. By drawing it down so low, the reservoir will fill later than usual. It likely will reach capacity in the middle of July, according to the bureau's projections. "We're two or three weeks behind," Lora said...

In addition, the upper Fryingpan Valley will supply about 100,000 acre-feet to the Eastern Slope via the Bousted water diversion tunnel. That amount is unusual but not unheard of, officials said. It's about 110 percent above average. Water is diverted as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The upper Fryingpan water goes to the Pueblo and Colorado Springs area for municipal and agricultural purposes. Anglers got some good news at the meeting. Ruedi Reservoir water probably won't be needed this spring for a program to improve endangered fish on the Colorado River. Nature will take care of the habitat with high flows this year. Releases on the Fryingpan River will probably peak at 550 cfs to 600 cfs for as many as 12 days in June and possibly into early July, Lora said.

Category: Colorado Water
6:20:39 AM    

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Here's a recap of a recent Basalt Town Council meeting where using taxing authority to purchase water rights was discussed, from The Aspen Times. From the article:

The Pitkin County commissioners floated ideas for two new taxes past the Basalt Town Council on Tuesday and, perhaps not surprisingly, received a warm reception. The commissioners are leaning toward asking voters in November to approve a property tax increase for road improvements and a sales tax increase to secure existing water rights and possibly acquire new ones to ensure minimum flows in streams and rivers...

The county commissioners also are contemplating a 0.1 percent sales tax increase to raise $1 million annually for a "water fund." County officials said they need at least $150,000 annually for technical and legal advice to verify and enforce water rights and to negotiate water rights purchases. Commissioner Dorothea Farris said she believes that the tax hike will appeal to voters because it helps maintain minimum water levels in streams and rivers. Unappropriated water in the Roaring Fork River is gazed upon with envious eyes by water authorities in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, county officials claimed. The message to voters, Farris said, will be something like: "This is important. If you want to see water in our streams, you need to approve this."

Category: Colorado Water
6:14:24 AM    

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