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 28, 2008

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From The Pueblo Chieftain: "The Bureau of Land Management will continue its cleanup of Kerber Creek this summer with a top priority being the improvement of fish habitat in the 25-mile-long watershed. The federal agency's effort is the latest in a 15-year cleanup that will also include the efforts of the National Resource Conservation Service and 19 of the 20 private landowners in the watershed. The creek flows through a historic mining district that bears its name and includes more than 80 named mines and the town of Bonanza. Mining in the area from 1880 to 1969 led to the contamination of the creek with zinc, cadmium, copper and lead, among other pollutants. Steve Sanchez, the acting associate manager for the agency's center in Saguache, said there are still roughly a half-dozen spots along the creek that may be a source of contamination and those will be addressed through the remediation process."

Category: Colorado Water
5:55:39 PM    

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Here's a look at nonpoint source pollution from The Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

Did you know that in 2000 the National Water Quality Inventory reported that agricultural nonpoint source pollution is the leading source of water quality impacts on surveyed rivers and lakes, the second largest source of impairments to wetlands and a major contributor to contamination of surveyed estuaries and ground water? Agriculture activities that cause NPS pollution include poorly located or managed animal feeding operations, overgrazing, and improper, excessive or poorly timed application of pesticides, irrigation water and fertilizer.

Nonpoint source pollution, unlike pollution from point sources such as industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. Polluted runoff is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into watersheds through lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and even our underground sources of drinking water. Pollutants that result from farming and ranching include sediment, nutrients, pathogens, pesticides, metals and salts. Using management practices that are adapted to local conditions can minimize impacts from agricultural activities on surface water and ground water. Many practices designed to reduce pollution also increase productivity and save farmers and ranchers money in the long run. There are many programs funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by states that provide cost-share, technical assistance, and economic incentives to implement NPS pollution management practices. As a user of natural resources, it is also your responsibility to use best management practices, as well. Farmers apply nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium in the form of chemical fertilizers, manure and sludge. When these sources exceed plant needs, or are applied at the wrong time, nutrients can wash into aquatic ecosystems. There they can cause algae blooms, which can ruin swimming and boating opportunities, create foul taste and odor in drinking water, and kill fish by removing oxygen from the water. High concentrations of nitrate in drinking water can cause methemoglobinemia, a potentially fatal disease in infants, also known as blue baby syndrome. To combat nutrient losses, farmers can implement nutrient management plans that help maintain high yields and save money on fertilizers.

Category: Colorado Water
5:54:42 PM    

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From The Denver Business Journal: "The International Erosion Control Association said Tuesday it will relocate its headquarters to Denver from Steamboat Springs. The association said it will open in Denver July 7 after 20 years in Steamboat Springs. The new address will be 3401 Quebec St., Suite 3500. Russell Adsit, executive director of the association, said in a statement that economic factors were behind the move, chiefly rising rents and a lack of rental space."

Category: Colorado Water
5:49:21 PM    

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USDA Climate Change Science Program: "The effects of climate change on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity"

Category: Climate Change News
5:48:09 PM    

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Here's a report on the effects of pollution on clouds, and hence weather and climate, from NASA. From the article:

Clouds have typically posed a problem to scientists using satellites to observe the lowest part of the atmosphere, where humans live and breathe, because they block the satellite's ability to capture a clear, unobstructed view of Earth's surface. It turns out, however, that these "obstructions" are worth a closer look, as clouds and their characteristics actually serve a valuable role in Earth's climate. That closer look is now available by satellites comprising the Afternoon Constellation, or A-Train. "The A-Train is providing a new way to examine cloud types," said Mark Schoeberl, A-Train project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Using data from instruments in a constellation of NASA satellites, scientists have discovered that they can see deep inside of clouds. The satellites are taking first-of-a-kind measurements, shedding new light on the link between clouds, pollution and rainfall. Jonathan Jiang of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues used these A-Train sensors to find that South American clouds infused with airborne pollution - classified as "polluted clouds" - tend to produce less rain than their "clean" counterparts during the region's dry season. Details of the findings will be presented today at the American Geophysical Union's 2008 Joint Assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Discovery of the link between rain and pollution was possible due to near-simultaneous measurements from multiple satellites making up the string of satellites in the Afternoon Constellation, more commonly called the A-Train. "Typically, it is very hard to get a sense of how important the effect of pollution on clouds is," said Anne Douglass, deputy project scientist at Goddard for NASA's Aura satellite. "With the A-Train, we can see the clouds every day and we're getting confirmation on a global scale that we have an issue here." Jiang's team used the Microwave Limb Sounder on the A-Train's Aura satellite to measure the level of carbon monoxide in clouds. The presence of carbon monoxide implies the presence of smoke and other aerosols, which usually come from the same emission source, such a power plant or agricultural fire. With the ability to distinguish between polluted and clean clouds, the team next used Aqua's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer to study how ice particle sizes change when aerosol pollution is present in the clouds. The team also used NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite to measure the amount of precipitation falling from the polluted and clean clouds. All three measurements together show the relationship between pollution, clouds and precipitation. The team found that polluted clouds suppressed rainfall during the June-to-October dry season in South America, which is also a period of increased agricultural burning. During that period it was more difficult for the measurably smaller ice particles in aerosol polluted clouds to grow large enough to fall as rain. This trend turned up seasonal and regional differences, however, and aerosol pollution was found, on average, to be less of a factor during the wet monsoon seasons in South America and in South Asia. Other physical effects, such as large-scale dynamics and rainy conditions that clear the air of aerosol particles, might also be at play, the researchers suggest...

The five satellites - NASA's Aqua, Aura, CloudSat and CALIPSO and the French Space Agency's PARASOL - of the A-Train orbit only eight minutes apart and can be thought of as an extended satellite observatory, providing unprecedented information about clouds, aerosols and atmospheric composition.

Thanks to Science Blog for the link. More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Climate Change News
5:44:42 PM    

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Here's an update on the runoff on the Dolores River from The Cortez Journal. From the article:

Unless the winter brings enough snowfall to both fill McPhee Reservoir, meet irrigation needs, and allow for extra spills of water to the lower section of the river, the reservoir and irrigation needs take priority over releases of water to the lower section of the river. "This year we started off with a really good winter," said Mike Preston, manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District, which controls the spills from McPhee dam that release water into the lower Dolores River. "It depends on how much snowpack you're starting with, and so some years there's zero spill. In other words, all the snowpack goes into the reservoir and is stored." Preston said there have been raftable flows on the lower section of the river since April, ranging from 800 to 1,400 cubic feet per second. Current flows are at 2,000 cfs, and the river is raftable at as low as 800 cfs, he said...

Preston said he expected to keep river flows at 2,000 cfs over Memorial Day weekend, then after the weekend, probably Sunday night into the Monday holiday, begin cutting them back toward 1,200 cfs. Float season for the lower Dolores will end in early June, he said, as the snowmelt finishes coming off the mountains and the water conservancy district stops spilling water downstream and concentrates on filling the reservoir. Preston added that the releases are also good for riparian plants and fish in the river, since higher flows clean out channels that trout can use for spawning, and make more water available to riverside vegetation.

Category: Colorado Water
5:41:15 PM    

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Here's a look at private alternatives to Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Deliver System from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Two private developers of water projects think their projects could help fill future water needs of Colorado Springs, but have not been studied as alternatives to the proposed Southern Delivery System...

Mark Morley, who is developing two water projects within the environmental impact study area, and Aaron Million, who says he can bring a pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming over the Palmer Divide within five years, both say their projects could benefit Colorado Springs. "They are aware of these things," Morley said. "Why do we not have to consider them?" Morley, a Colorado Springs developer, refers to the study as a look at the same pipeline coming from seven different locations. In January, Morley asked bureau officials why his proposed projects were omitted as "not reasonably foreseeable," while Colorado Springs did not even own all the land for its proposed Jimmy Camp Creek Reservoir. Million, a Fort Collins entrepreneur, was less specific about how his proposed pipeline would fit into future water plans, but said Colorado Springs definitely could benefit from a new source of water. The bureau claims that under National Environmental Policy Act guidelines, it is required to evaluate projects and alternatives based on the sponsors' purpose and need and whether an alternative is reasonably foreseeable. "It's hard to get data on something that's not built yet," said Kara Lamb, a public affairs officer for the bureau. "If people don't agree, that's what the comment period is for."

If there is sufficient scientific evidence that either project would be a viable alternative or part of an alternative, the bureau may choose to include them, Lamb said. First, the bureau would have to determine that the proposals would meet the purpose and need of SDS, as described by Colorado Springs. The city's water utility wants SDS to meet needs through 2046, to develop its water rights and to provide redundancy of delivery systems. Second, the bureau would have to deem any new alternative as reasonably foreseeable. Parts of the project that would be built in future years are considered doable under criteria, but anything proposed by a third party may not happen, Lamb explained. For instance, in the Aurora 40-year storage contract that the bureau approved last year, Reclamation did not include SDS as a reasonably foreseeable action. In the draft EIS for SDS, Aurora's contract is taken into account, however. "For the Aurora EIS, we went ahead and modeled a no-action alternative for SDS. What else could we have modeled?" Lamb said...

Colorado Springs and its SDS partners are not bound by the EIS to select an alternative approved by the bureau, Lamb added. In this case, the bureau has chosen the proposed action of building a pipeline from Pueblo Dam 43 miles north as its preferred alternative. Colorado Springs has hinted it could choose a "no-action" alternative - one that involves no contracts with the bureau - and build the pipeline out of Fremont County almost as easily. In fact, the Fremont County alternative was added to the EIS at the suggestion of Colorado Springs and because of public comments made by Morley and others, Lamb said...

Morley said he's not asking for the world, just his two projects to be included in the SDS evaluation. One, in Fremont County, is a pump-back power project near Brush Hollow Reservoir that Morley wants to incorporate with 75,000 acre-feet of off-channel storage. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the application for the power portion. Morley does not own the water to fill that storage and doesn't need the full amount to run the project as a generator of peak electrical power. However, studies by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservation District and Colorado Water Conservation Board indicate the Arkansas Valley needs more storage, and Morley sees this as a way to provide some of it.

The second project is in Pueblo County and would connect reservoirs at Stonewall Springs, near the Pueblo Chemical Depot, with El Paso water users through a pipeline in the existing power corridor. Morley has worked on the project since 2001, and offered the site to Colorado Springs and its partners in a 2004 intergovernmental agreement as a way to recover flows lost to the Pueblo flow program. The Pueblo Board of Water Works, which was putting that deal together, backed out in 2005, after an appraisal showed the asking price was high. Right now, the Stonewall Springs project is moving ahead with necessary federal, state and county permits, and is seen as a way that the fledgling Super Ditch can connect with El Paso County customers. Could Colorado Springs also join that project? "Absolutely," Morley said. "I don't care where the pipeline comes out. To me, it's a storage issue, and the goal is to make the plumbing work better. Colorado Springs has solved its problem, but it hasn't done anything with anyone else's problem." Morely thinks the alternative would cost less. "If they came out of Stonewall Springs, it would be a straight shot and use the existing easement," Morley said. "They've put these costs to each alternative, but they haven't gone far enough in the engineering to know what it would really cost."

Million isn't suggesting his pipeline plan from Flaming Gorge as a replacement for SDS or any other water project on the books in Colorado. Instead, he pitches it as providing a new source of water for the Front Range from an underutilized Bureau of Reclamation reservoir in Wyoming. Last week, at the CWCB meeting in Glenwood Springs, Million said the new pipeline could come all the way to Pueblo, serving cities and farms in both Wyoming and Colorado all along the route - Colorado Springs included. As it is now, the gap between municipal supplies and future needs will dry up more farms if water isn't brought across the Continental Divide, he said...

Colorado Springs is not likely to consider either project, said John Fredell, SDS project director. "Both those projects have come to be since we've been in the process," Fredell said. "I think they are more speculative, and ours is more grounded." Fredell said there are two other reasons a municipality generally would not consider using a private source of water supply: water rights and cost. "On Million's project, we don't have water rights up there (in Wyoming). We need to get the water rights we own to town," Fredell said. "We would spend more for water we don't own." Something similar to Morley's project was considered in the EIS, with the alternative downstream of the Fountain confluence at the Arkansas River. Because of the increased salinity of the water, treatment costs would be higher, particularly the energy costs for running a reverse-osmosis membrane plant, Fredell said. "We want to do what's right for our customers," Fredell said. "I don't think someone who's going to make a profit can do the project more cheaply than we can do it ourselves."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:30:10 AM    

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From The Vail Daily: "Residents can share their ideas about conservation with the local water supplier at this month's Waterwise Wednesday [Today] session at the Avon Public Library from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday. The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District is now developing a water-conservation plan and wants to update residents. District represents will give examples of other water-conservation efforts in Colorado."

Category: Colorado Water
6:07:38 AM    

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Here's some runoff news for the Roaring Fork Valley from The Aspen Times. From the article:

The Roaring Fork River at Aspen is expected to peak for the week on Friday, according to an e-mail sent from the weather service's Grand Junction office to Pitkin County Emergency Management Coordinator Ellen Anderson. The river reached a peak of 2.9 feet near Aspen last week, said Jim Pringle of the weather service. The "bankfull" level at that location is 4.0 feet and flood stage is 5.0 feet. In this next episode of warmer weather, the peak will be about 3.27 feet on Friday, then drop a bit because of cooler weather, according to the weather service. The next surge will send the river to 3.72 feet on Tuesday, June 3...

The Crystal River is forecast to inch even closer to flood stage. The bankfull level near Redstone is 3.0 feet and the flood stage is 5.0 feet. "Although it is presently just below bankfull, it is expected to reach bankfull early Wednesday morning, within a few hours after midnight," Pringle said. "Based on the current model temperature forecasts, the Crystal River is expected to continue rising -- except for the brief lowering on Saturday -- and then reach a peak stage of 4.8 feet on Friday, June 6."

Category: Colorado Water
5:59:26 AM    

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette: "An eight hour hearing Tuesday wasn't long enough for Fremont County commissioners to rule on a request to drill for uranium in the northwest part of the county. After hearing comments from more than 70 people, the board delayed a vote until June 9 on the permit request by Australia-based Black Range Minerals...Black Range, the first company in recent years to seek an exploration permit here, has spent $1 million on the project, and some ranch owners hope to turn a profit by allowing drilling on their land...Black Range managing director Michael Haynes said the U.S. imports most of the uranium it uses for nuclear energy, and domestic production is the key to energy independence. 'We can't pick and choose where uranium resources are found. The western U.S. is blessed and very fortunate to host these uranium resources,' Haynes said."

Ed Quillen (via The Goat Blog) adds a bit of historical perspective to the proposed uranium mining in Tallahasse Creek. He writes:

In 1978 I was managing editor of the small daily newspaper in Salida, Colo, about 60 miles up the Arkansas River from Cañon City. President Jimmy Carter had declared the energy crisis "the moral equivalent of war," and the surrounding hills were alive with uranium prospecting. We followed two projects quite closely. One, on the west side of Marshall Pass about 30 miles from Salida, was the Pitch Project of Homestake Mining Co. It was in limited production. The other, about 35 air miles east of Salida along Tallahassee Creek in Frémont County, was the Hansen Project of Cyprus Mining Co. Cyprus had big plans for Hansen, though I don't remember many specifics. The company stood ready to build roads, schools, whatever infrastructure was required for hundreds of mine workers in a rather unpopulated area in the middle of Colorado. Then came Three Mile Island. Uranium demand hit the skids. Prices plummeted, and the project was abandoned. Nowadays, uranium prices are high. That means production can be profitable in places where it wasn't before. Thus the renewed interest in mining the Hansen deposit, and doubtless many other old prospects.

If there's a moral to this story, it might go something like this: Before you buy rural property, look through old newspapers. Ask local history buffs, especially those with an interest in mining. Keep an eye on mineral prices. You may not like what you learn, but at least you won't be surprised.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
5:53:46 AM    

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Hot Sulphur Springs is still under a boil order, according to The Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment plans to issue an enforcement order to the town this week "for them to provide us a schedule when they can safely get off of the boil order and stay off," said Andy Poirot, District Engineer with the Colorado Health Department. Hot Sulphur Springs residents have been under the order going on seven weeks, a long time in the state's view...

With a limited budget, the small town is looking to update its antiquated plant after high levels of turbidity or cloudiness had been found in drinking water. The town is now focused on improving its water distribution system, including rebuilding and re-automating the filtration plant and building a new clear well with new pumps. Work in that direction is already under way, although progress seems slow to the average resident concerned for water safety...

Engineering and soil testing are being done for the new clear well, which is a holding tank before water is distributed, and filtration equipment has been ordered, according to Mayor Hershal Deputy. The town is anticipating a $200,000 relief check in June from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in the form of a matching grant to be used toward repairs to the water infrastructure; in the meantime, "we're not sitting around waiting," Deputy said. The town, far from being known for its sizable general fund, is exploring other financial avenues, such as the sale of bonds and more available grant funds. And in the vein that everything "water and sewer" must be analyzed during and after the town's crisis, a re-evaluation of the water-rate structure may also be coming down the pipes, say town officials.

Category: Colorado Water
5:47:53 AM    

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From The Aspen Times: "The county has been toying with the idea of establishing a 0.1 percent sales tax increase to raise roughly $1 million annually for a 'water fund,' and included questions on the subject in a recently-conducted telephone survey. County commissioners told officials in the town of Basalt recently that the county needs at least $150,000 annually for technical and legal advice to verify and enforce water rights and to negotiate water rights purchases, not to mention the money needed to actually buy the rights. One reason for the county's interest is that unappropriated or underused water rights in the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers are coveted by water authorities in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, county officials maintained this week. And one local water expert noted that drastic measures might be required to ensure future water supplies for the Roaring Fork Valley, such as damming creeks and rivers and creating new reservoirs, if there is any truth to warnings about future 'water wars' in the West.

More from the article:

Concerned that the future might involve stepped up water-grabbing efforts, the county has been working with state legislators and area water officials in an effort to determine what actions will be needed in order to safeguard local water supplies. At a work session on May 27, during a chat with representatives of the Salvation Ditch Company, the commissioners learned that the 103-year old ditch has been pulling less than its alloted volume of water from the Roaring Fork River for some time. According to ditch manager Gary Beach, the ditch has been diverting between 30 cubic feet per second (cfs) and 38 cfs in recent years, though it has rights to up to 58 cfs. Part of the problem has been restrictions in some of the culverts that carry the water at certain points along its 20.4 miles from the headgate near Stillwater Road to its terminus in Woody Creek. But, Beach said, the ditch company is working on programs to bring its diversion of Roaring Fork River water back up to the 58-cfs level in order to maintain its water rights and prevent the water from being siphoned over to the Front Range counties. For instance, Beach said, it is fairly common for the ditch company, which has only 56 formal owners, to sell a one-year water-use license to a non-owner, as long as the owner does not use the water for purposes other than the agricultural uses it is originally was meant for. Beach told the commissioners that the Salvation Ditch was excavated by local ranch families, working with hand tools, from 1903 to 1905 and predates the Colorado River Compact of 1922. The Compact apportions the Colorado River's water between upper-basin states -- Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico -- and the lower-basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada.

Category: Colorado Water
5:39:15 AM    

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