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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Friday, May 16, 2008

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Here's a recap of Wednesday's meeting of the Arkansas River Roundtable from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Fowler has a small water system that needs a little bit of help to improve service and quality for users. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable responded to that need Wednesday by approving applications to the Colorado Water Conservation Board totaling $281,000. The money would be part of a $1 million project that would bring higher quality water into the water system and upgrade service to some customers, said Ken Young, of Pueblo, engineer for the project. Fowler plans to pay at least $250,000 toward two projects, and is applying for other state and federal grants for the remainder of the money. Fowler has a dual water system, Young explained. Drinking water is treated with chlorine, while raw water is used for outside watering. The water comes from wells, which are high in selenium and in danger of falling out of compliance with state and federal drinking water guidelines. Fowler would use $678,000 to bring new water into the system through pipelines from springs north of Fowler. "Fowler plans to blend the water from the new well with existing wells to reduce the selenium levels in the water," Young said. The second part of the project, estimated at $328,000, would provide a "back-feed" line to improve service to 39 customers who now tap off a main line. That would prevent service from being disrupted if the main were shut down, Young said.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

A group called Protect Our Wells asked the roundtable Wednesday to approve its application to the state for $220,000 in funds to study the sustainability of the Denver Basin aquifers, four huge non-tributary well formations that underlie the fast growing areas of the state. The roundtable overwhelmingly rejected the request. While there are numerous cities and groundwater districts that pump from the Denver Basin, Protect Our Wells represents private well owners who are concerned about the future ability of water, said Sandy Martin, president of the group...

Most of the roundtable members saw nothing but problems with the application, voting overwhelmingly not to send it to the Colorado Water Conservation Board or even to reconsider it at a future meeting. "Where are Elbert and El Paso counties?" asked Florence City Manager Tom Piltingsrud. "There's no cash match mentioned. If Elbert and El Paso counties have the growth, they should step up to the plate." Some members asked how many of the 26,000 private well owners were members of the association, and Martin said only 300, "but we advocate for all of them. Everyone benefits." That led others to conclude that those who benefit should pay. "The Upper Arkansas (Water Conservancy District) and the U.S. Geological Survey did a groundwater study, and the district funded it on its own," said Tom Young, an Upper Ark board member. "It's up to you to find a way to do this." Some roundtable members said the information could be useful for the whole state, saying that even with more laws requiring disclosure about water availability, communities that need water would still come hunting for it in communities that have water. "We're going to be the ones who suffer," said SeEtta Moss, of Canon City, environmental representative. "They're not going to rip those homes out once they're built. Let's find out what's going on, or they'll be after our water." Virgil Cochran, representing Prowers County water interests, said the study is needed if there is to be a way to rein in uncontrolled growth. "The study needs to get done, but the question is where the money comes from," Cochran said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:30:24 AM    

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It's already starting out to be a banner year for irrigation on the Arkansas River. Here's a report from The Pueblo Chieftain:

Farmers will have more water this year through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project because municipal users are not using their full allocation. In particular, the Pueblo Board of Water Works did not request any water through the project this year, because it expects healthy flows from runoff and is meeting its storage goals. "We felt we had sufficient water for the short- and mid-term," said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works...

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages the Fry-Ark project, approved water allocations totaling more than 83,000 acre-feet at its meeting Thursday. The board also allocated more than 17,000 acre-feet in agricultural return flows. Ag water users lease the water for $8.25 per acre-foot, municipal users pay $9 per acre-foot. Roy Vaughan, head of the Pueblo office of the Bureau of Reclamation, said more than 100,000 acre-feet is expected to be brought in through the Boustead Tunnel this year, once snowpack begins melting in the Fryingpan River watershed. "There is a lot of water at the lower elevations, but the snowpack is just starting to warm up," Vaughan said. "There is a lot of snow up there." The amount would be the most water brought in through the Fry-Ark Project since 1984, when about 110,000 acre-feet were brought in. Not all of the water can be allocated, however. The district has obligations to provide 3,500 acre-feet to satisfy a Twin Lakes exchange and for the fish hatchery, and another 15 percent is lost in transit or to evaporation. Since transmountain water is not native to the basin, it can theoretically be used to extinction, however. In practice, the district leases only the first return flows from agricultural water, based on consumptive use formulas...

Municipal return flows are used and accounted for by cities, which might not use project water in the same year it is purchased. Ag users are required to use 80 percent of water they lease by Nov. 1 and the rest by May 1 of the next year. Allocation principles require that at least 51 percent of the water go to municipal uses, and another 3.59 percent that formerly went to agriculture was re-allocated to cities last year. However, only the Fountain Valley Pipeline - Colorado Springs, Widefield, Security, Fountain and Stratmoor Hills - requested its full share of the water, 25 percent. Colorado Springs also will receive 1,200 acre-feet as repayment for water it released in 1998 under the safety of dams program. All told, the area will receive 22,333 acre-feet. Cities east of Pueblo are entitled to 12.73 percent of allocations, while cities west of Pueblo may request up to 4 percent of total allocations. However, those areas fell almost 3,000 acre-feet short of requests. La Junta and Lamar each will receive 2,000 acre-feet, while Fowler and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District each requested 1,000 acre-feet. In total, the Lower Ark communities will get about 9,000 acre-feet, while those west of Pueblo will get 2,100 acre-feet. Pueblo was entitled to 10 percent, or 8,300 acre-feet, but requested nothing. The city has been filling its Fry-Ark account in Lake Pueblo, but elected not to use the water this year because early forecasts indicated storage space would be tight. Pueblo also has agreed to lease about 3,000 acre-feet this year, at Fry-Ark costs, to meet obligations to Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact. Hamel said those flows will be made up under 2009 allocations. The agricultural share of allocations will therefore be about 60 percent, or nearly 49,000 acre-feet. The largest users are the Fort Lyon Canal, 18,582 acre-feet; High Line Canal, 6,579 acre-feet; Bessemer Ditch, 5,953 acre-feet; Holbrook Mutual Irrigation, 5,089 acre-feet; and Catlin Canal, 5,000 acre-feet. Overall, ag users got half of what they requested, but depending on projected needs, the canal companies got as little as a fourth to as much as all of what they asked for...

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project will bring more than 100,600 acre-feet of water into the Arkansas River basin from the Fryingpan River watershed this year. That will mean 83,021 acre-feet available for allocations, with another 17,354 acre-feet in return flows.

- A Twin Lakes exchange reduces the amount of water by 3,000 acre-feet in order to meet West Slope flow requirements.

- Another 500 acre-feet are made available for fish hatchery augmentation.

- Transit loss, as water flows from upper reservoirs to Lake Pueblo, is 10 percent; another 5 percent is lost to evaporation.

- Municipal users were entitled to 45,340 acre-feet, under allocation principles that provide 51 percent of the water to cities and another 3.59 percent to municipal uses from farmlands that have been dried up. However, requests from cities totaled only 34,097 acre-feet, freeing up 11,000 acre-feet for agriculture.

- Agricultural requests totaled 99,315 acre-feet, but only 48,924 acre-feet are available for allocation. Allocations on ag water are made based on eligible acreage.

- Colorado Springs will be repaid 1,200 acre-feet for water it released during the 1998 safety of dams program. If there is more water available above the projected 83,000 acre-feet, it will be used to repay the approximately 6,000 acre-feet remaining on the debt.

- The Southeastern district will lease another 17,354 acre-feet of agricultural return flows, mostly to well users for augmentation.

6:26:56 AM    

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From The Sky-Hi Daily News: "Denver Water, working with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW), has placed a temporary no motorized-boating order for Williams Fork Reservoir and Lake Dillon to prevent the spread of aquatic hitchhikers, such as the zebra and quaaga mussels found to be invading lakes in surrounding states."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:16:52 AM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's 12th Annual Children's Water Festival from The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

More than 1,000 third- through fifth-graders were greeted by a giant inflatable hand-painted globe Thursday at the 12th Children's Water Festival. The theme of the free one-day event at Aims Community College, 5401 W. 20th St., was "Water in the West," and more than 1,200 excitable kids showed up to learn from water professionals around the state...

Students from Adams and Weld counties, excited to crawl into the earth balloon, learned that 97 percent of the earth's water is salt water, while 3 percent is fresh water and only 1 percent of that is suitable for drinking. Lehman pointed out how scarce water is from a global scale down to the local level. Kids' questions ranged in topic from how much water flows in the Colorado River to the cost of the earth balloon...

Throughout the day, kids rotated to different learning stations, where they could watch presentations and participate in activities about water, conservation, agriculture and aquatic life. Greeley Mayor Ed Clark even took part in the event, hosting a Water Wizards competition, a water trivia contest between schools. Heidi Musil, Children's Water Festival coordinator, said the event, put on by the Colorado Water Conservatory District and the city of Greeley, is a great opportunity to educate children about the importance of water. The event even drew organizers from the Ute Water Conservancy District in Grand Junction. Joe Burtard, public relations representative with the Ute water conservancy, said they came down to get ideas for an upcoming water festival of their own at Mesa State College.

Category: Colorado Water
5:59:07 AM    

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Here's a letter to The Greeley Tribune from former U.S. Senator Hank Brown that lays out some of the history behind proposed storage off the main stem of the Poudre River. He writes:

In considering the request to permit off-stream storage on the Cache La Poudre, I thought you might be interested in some of the background that brought about the designation. By 1982, negotiations on the designation of the Poudre had been at a standstill for about a decade. Both the environmental groups and the water users had the ability to stop a bill, but to achieve a designation required them to work together. Our negotiations require four years to complete, but agreement was finally reached, allowing the designation to go through.

The negotiations involved Larimer and Weld counties as well as Fort Collins and Greeley. In addition, all of the agricultural water users and environmental groups were part of the negotiations. The compromise had the support of all the environmental groups and most of the agricultural groups, as well as the cities and counties. The designation of parts of the river forced the water users to surrender several of their most economical sites for water storage in the main channel of the river. They finally agreed to this because they were assured that off-channel sites and other less economical on-channel sites would be preserved for water storage. Everyone involved clearly knew that future water storage was needed and was part of the compromise.

To deny the permits for a reasonable off-channel storage site in an area that was not designated would clearly violate the compromise. It is possible that some of those voicing concern about an off-channel site were not aware of the commitments of the cities and environmental groups made in the negotiations.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:54:01 AM    

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From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent: "The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing about oil shale development in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming comes after both Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., have supported different legislative bills for possibly tapping the resource. 'Today, with oil above $120 a barrel and gas over $4 a gallon, some people - including some of my colleagues - are once again looking to oil shale as the cure-all for our energy woes,' said Salazar, who chaired the committee hearing Thursday. 'However, it is not clear why commercial leasing of federal lands is even necessary, since industry is not developing 200,000 acres of oil shale rich lands that they already own.'"

More from the article:

Testifying before the committee, Gov. Bill Ritter warned against establishing a commercial oil shale leasing program and finalizing regulations for it before research into the extraction of the resource is complete. He also cited concerns about the possible development of oil shale could have on the state's water resources and its environment. "Establishing a leasing program prior to understanding what technologies are viable and the implications of these technologies would be a dangerous course, with enormous risk of unintended consequences," Ritter said. "Such a course of action would not be in the best interest of the nation and certainly not in the interest of Colorado." But Allard, citing the vast concentration of oil shale in Colorado, said during the hearing that it may take years for companies to establish viable technologies to extract the resource, but that commercial regulations for possible oil shale leasing was needed so companies can make "sound business decisions...(Businesses) cannot operate in an uncertain regulatory environment," Allard said.

More coverage from The Denver Post. From the article:

The Bush administration should not take steps toward mining oil shale until effects on water, animals and the climate are known, Gov. Bill Ritter told a Senate panel Thursday. "We must be thoughtful and responsible about our approach," the Democratic governor told the Senate Energy Committee. "I have serious concerns about the pace of federal efforts." Oil shale could be key to expanding the nation's domestic energy supplies, Republicans argue. Two oil company executives at the hearing also urged Congress to take new steps toward oil-shale extraction. About 80 percent of shale supplies are believed to be in Colorado, mainly on the Western Slope. Additional deposits are in Utah and Wyoming. The fight over how to handle oil-shale development pits Republicans and oil companies against Democrats, conservationists, and some sporting and hunting groups.

As Ritter testified, Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., worked to revoke limitations on shale leasing enacted last year. The amendment passed in December bans the administration from issuing oil-shale regulations or leases through the end of this fiscal year. Allard's amendment to revoke the current moratorium failed 15-14 after Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., persuaded Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to vote against it. Ritter and Salazar said they do not oppose shale extraction, but they argue that even as the administration pushes to issue oil-shale regulations, it cannot say how much energy or water will be used to mine it. At the hearing, Allard and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that companies will not invest in oil-shale development unless they know the government's terms for extracting it. Salazar, during questioning of witnesses, asked an administration representative what was the earliest that oil shale could be removed. "2015 and beyond," said C. Stephen Allred, Interior Department assistant secretary for land and minerals management.

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News. They write:

A U.S. Senate panel upheld a more cautious approach toward oil shale development in Colorado on Thursday when it narrowly rejected Sen. Wayne Allard's attempt to lift a moratorium on enacting new rules for commercial leases. A heated battle over Colorado energy and environmental issues took center stage on Capitol Hill all afternoon. And now the fight could be destined for the floor of the U.S. Senate. At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing chaired by Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter testified about the need for a cautious approach toward oil shale. He cited unresolved questions about how much water, energy and habitat destruction it could take to extract the estimated 500 billion barrels of oil that are believed to be underground in Colorado.

"Certainly, Colorado is ready and able to help this country meet its future energy needs," Ritter said. "At the same time, we need to be thoughtful and responsible about our approach, especially in light of the magnitude of such development and the potential for significant impacts." Ritter expressed concerns about the pace of energy development in the state and spoke in support of a moratorium Congress approved last year to prevent the Department of Interior from enacting new rules for commercial oil shale leases until at least Oct. 1...

While the energy committee hearing continued in a third-floor Senate committee room, Allard took his case two floors downstairs, and he asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to consider an amendment lifting the moratorium as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations bill being considered. The amendment failed on a 14-15 vote, but not before an emotion-packed debate that included Republican accusations that environmentalist concerns were preventing the country from reaching energy independence.

Tapping oil shale reserves has proven to be a tough proposition, both technologically and politically, for several decades now. Although Colorado's reserves are estimated to be roughly twice the size of Saudi Arabia's, it could take much of the next decade before significant supplies could be extracted out of the rock. Still, "If we're really serious about reducing pain at the pump, this is a vote that would make a difference in people's lives," Allard told the committee. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said he was outraged that a House of Representatives panel imposed the moratorium on new oil shale rules late last year, scuttling a process established by other, hard-fought legislation. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, who was one of the leading backers of the moratorium, issued a statement Thursday saying he believes it "was and remains well-founded." Thursday's vote was split on party lines, with Democrats citing calls from Ritter and Salazar to keep the moratorium in place. One of the key swing votes, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she also opposes the moratorium on the new oil shale rules. However, she voted against Allard's amendment lifting the moratorium on urging from her friend, Sen. Salazar. Even so, she signaled that's not the end of the issue and that she would push to reverse the moratorium when the appropriations bill reaches the Senate floor.

Here's a report from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Some excerpts:

On Tuesday, [U.S. Senator Ken] Salazar said he will introduce a bill that would push back the timeline for the Interior Department to issue final leasing regulations and begin commercial leasing for oil shale development. He and [Governor] Ritter say those actions should wait until research into potential technologies can be finished. Otherwise, they say, it's impossible to analyze the possible effects. Salazar asked Ritter on Thursday what kinds of demands oil shale development would create on the Colorado River watershed. "This is one of the real concerns, Senator, is that we don't know," Ritter said.

However, Interior Department Assistant Secretary Stephen Allred and Terry O'Connor, with Shell Exploration and Production, said energy companies need commercial rules to provide some certainty as they decide whether to commit money to oil shale development. "We right now don't have any really definitive guidelines," O'Connor said...

Salazar's bill would provide a year for completion of an environmental impact statement on oil shale development, and an additional 90-day comment period for governors of affected states. It would provide another year for development of a commercial leasing program after completion of the environmental study. One concern for Ritter is how much electricity oil shale projects would require and where it would come from. He also worries about how much oil shale development could add to the state's greenhouse gas emissions at a time when it is trying to reduce them. "This is right now a technology that could take us in the opposite direction," Ritter said. Pointing to the amount of oil and gas development occurring in Colorado, Ritter said the state already is doing its part to produce energy on behalf of the nation. "We're doing a host of other very aggressive things around renewable resources as well," he said.

Asked by Salazar if he would be OK with the government issuing more limited research and development rules rather than commercial leasing ones, O'Connor said that would help. He said the lack of regulations would hamper Shell's ability to exercise its right to proceed with its research and development leases. "We're heading toward a legal train wreck," he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
5:46:56 AM    

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