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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Saturday, May 31, 2008

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The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is going all out to get the Arkansas Valley Conduit off paper and into production, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District this week threw its full support behind Arkansas Valley Conduit legislation introduced this month by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo. "There's no question this supports our mission statement," Linden Gill, Lower Ark director from Bent County, said at Wednesday's monthly meeting. He recommended using every avenue - phone calls, letters and e-mail - to promote the legislation. The legislation would provide a 65 percent federal match for the conduit and other parts of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It would repay the federal share through revenue generated by excess-capacity contracts in future years, under an innovative approach developed by Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Executive Director Jim Broderick. The conduit, sponsored by the Southeastern District, would cost more than $300 million and would serve 50,000 people in 42 communities from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar and Eads. Part of the Fry-Ark Project authorization by Congress in 1962, the conduit was never built because of the expense to area water suppliers. "I want to thank the Southeastern district," Gill said. "The concept could be the catalyst for completing the last element of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project."

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has set aside $60.6 million, and Southeastern and the communities have spent more than $850,000 since 2001 to study and promote the conduit. The conduit is planning to use a $600,000 federal grant to advance the project over the next two years, with the goal of completing the conduit around 2020.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:56:05 AM    

From The Durango Herald: "House Bill 1141 requires developers of more than 50 units to show cities where they plan to get their water. But they can meet the requirement automatically if they are served by a major water utility. "It's time the state of Colorado acknowledges the limits of our water supply and plans accordingly,' said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison. The bill broke a taboo in the Capitol by discussing population growth and the water supply at the same time. Curry wants to see how it works before she thinks about follow-up legislation. But in the long run, the state will have to deal with water sustainability as it continues growing, she said."

More from the article:

Ritter also signed House Bill 1346, the annual water-projects bill, which is one of the most expensive bills the Legislature deals with every year. This year's version makes an $11.2 million loan to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District to buy land for Dry Gulch Reservoir, which the district wants to build to serve the growing area. The bill also allocates money for the first time for the state to buy water rights to leave water in streams for fish. The sponsor, Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, said the $1 million set aside for fish reflects the value the state places on healthy streams.

Isgar also sponsored Senate Bill 226, which spends $7.2 million to fight an invasive species called the zebra mussel.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:43:09 AM    

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Here's a recap of the May 7th board meeting of Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District from The Fairplay Flume. From the article:

The Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District is constructing a reservoir in northern South Park, and at its board meeting on May 7 it heard information on obtaining a low-interest-rate loan from representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board's Water Project Loan Program. The district had requested the meeting to learn more about the possibility of obtaining a loan to construct the James Tingle Reservoir, which will be constructed this summer.

The reservoir is a joint project between the district and Centennial Water and Sanitation District, which serves Highlands Ranch. The Center of Colorado will be responsible for one-seventh of the $2.635 million construction cost for the 400-acre-feet reservoir. The reservoir and all necessary easements cover approximately 20 acres. The reservoir is needed to store the Randall Ditch water that the Center previously bought from the Bargas Ranch. Under an agreement with Centennial, the Center will use the first 200 acre feet of the Randall Ditch water and lease up to an additional 500 acre feet of water to Centennial for 50 years, with one possible lease renewal.

Center President Dan Drucker explained at the meeting that the Center could pay for its share of the reservoir without a 10-year loan, but that would use all the Center's reserve money. The Center would then not be able to buy water that might become available for purchase or have a reserve fund for a water court case if uranium mining in South Park became a reality and needed water rights to operate. Drucker also said that the Center voted to ask the district property owners on November's ballot to allow the district to approve a long-term debt. He said that the district would not ask to increase taxes. The current mill levy is sufficient to pay back the loan if the voters approve the measure...

Several members of Save Our South Park Water 2008, a grassroots organization opposing uranium mining in South Park, attended the meeting. Ramon Castro spoke for the group. Castro asked if the Center was willing to set aside money now to help oppose uranium in-situ mining in South Park. Center board director Chris Fuller said that since now the only activity was claim staking, the district couldn't do much. If uranium companies started applying for permits, then the district would have standing to get involved in any permitting process. Fuller said the district has a legal fund that could be used at that time. Drucker said the district wanted to ensure any uranium company would need to obtain a water 1041 permit from Park County before any exploratory drilling began, due to the high chance of water quality contamination during exploration.

McVicker pointed out that the Colorado Supreme Court would soon hear a case on whether coal methane mining companies would need to obtain water rights in order to mine. McVicker said if the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision that water rights were needed for in-situ mining, then the district would have standing in water court to protect its water rights. "It's on everyone's radar," she commented. She said every water entity was aware and watching the situation. Said Drucker: "If there is a water court case, there will be major objectors from the Front Range."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:25:39 AM    

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From The Telluride Watch: "The San Miguel County Commissioners and approximately 40 members of the public had their first eye-opening glimpse of the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in the Paradox Valley in the West End of Montrose County. The mine could come online as soon as 2010. 'This area needs a uranium mill,' George Glasier, president and CEO of Energy Fuels Inc., said in his presentation to the county commissioners at their meeting in Norwood on Wednesday. 'This made economic sense and that is what our company is all about.' The proposed site for the mill, which was purchased last summer by Energy Fuels, covers approximately 880 acres in Paradox Valley, 12 miles east of Bedrock and right below the Cotter open mine pit. The mill is being sized to process 1,000 tons of uranium ore a day, pulling the radioactive mineral from the Uravan Mineral Belt. The yellow cake product the mill produces will most likely be transported to an enrichment plant in Kentucky via semi for further processing into fuel for nuclear energy plants."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election
9:08:31 AM    

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Here's an update on the Pioneer/Laird lawsuit, from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

The biggest scare for Yuma County farmers is the possibility of losing the lifeblood of their economy in what amounts to their latest water crisis. Hundreds of farmers, including those from adjoining Kit Carson, Phillips and Washington counties, this year organized what they called the "Eastern Colorado Lockout" to protest the Colorado Division of Wildlife's decision to join a lawsuit brought by the Pioneer and Laird Ditch Co.

In essence, Pioneer and Laird is suing the state, contending that farm-irrigation wells are infringing on the company's senior water right by diminishing water in its ditch. The lawsuit seeks to prevent farmers from using irrigation wells within a certain distance of the North Fork Republican River and its tributary near Wray.

The Division of Wildlife is worried that low stream flows are harming one of its fish hatcheries near Stalker Lake near Wray, said Grady McNeill, water resources engineer for the Division of Wildlife. In response, the farmers participating in the lockout, pledging 511,000 acres to the protest, refused to allow the division to count pheasants and other birds or participate in the agency's Hunter Walk-In program. Farmers are paid in exchange for opening up their properties to hunters. On Friday morning, the division pulled out of the lawsuit. "I am not sure whether the landowner lockout did it or the DOW decided it was futile," [Don] Brown said. "It sure took them a long time to decide to get out."

The Pioneer and Laird lawsuit comes on the heels of litigation last year in which the state of Kansas similarly argued that the Colorado farm-irrigation wells were infringing on their rights to water flows in the Republican River. As a result, the Republican River Water Conservation District paid millions of dollars to buy 10,000 acres and voluntarily shut off wells. The district plans to construct a pipeline by the summer of 2009 to take groundwater to the Republican River at the state border. Should Pioneer and Laird prevail, Yuma farmers say that 190,000 acres that now are irrigated - with an estimated value of $400 million - could be turned into dry land.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:55:24 AM    

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Water watchers are looking for the peak flow on the Yampa River and Elk River this weekend, according to The Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

The Elk and Yampa rivers are expected to peak this weekend before high-water season floats away, Routt County Emergency Management Di rector Chuck Vale said. A National Weather Service flood warning is in effect for the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs, with the river expected to approach flood stage tonight and continue to remain high through early next week. Flood stage begins at 7 feet in the Steamboat Springs area. The Yampa River measured at 5.38 feet at 1:15 p.m. Friday in Steamboat Springs and was churning at 2,780 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

High water has closed portions of the Yampa River Core Trail for more than a week, with more closures possible as the river continues to rise. The trail remains closed at the 13th Street underpass, the stretch from Trafalgar Drive to Fetcher Pond, the railroad underpass upstream of Fetcher Pond and the U.S. Highway 40 underpass at Walton Creek. "If it comes up really big, we might have the Howelsen Hill tunnel go underwater like we did a few years ago," said Craig Robinson, open space supervisor for the city of Steamboat Springs.

In addition to carefully watching the river, Vale's eyes also are on Walton Creek, which tends to back up as it approaches the swollen Yampa, he said. Another flood warning is in effect for the Elk River near its confluence with the Yampa east of Milner, where residents already have been dealing with high water intermittently during the past several weeks. The Elk River measured at 6.58 feet at 11:15 a.m. Friday, just below its 7-foot flood stage, and was flowing at 4,360 cfs.

More runoff news from The Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

On Friday, the Gunnison River was running 3,190 cubic feet per second near the town of Gunnison -- nearly 1,000 cfs more than average. The Colorado River was running 10,400 cfs near the town of Dotsero -- 4,000 more than average. On this side of the Continental Divide, Boulder Creek was measuring above average Friday at Orodell, while Clear Creek was just below average in Golden. The St. Vrain Creek in Lyons, where this weekend's Lyons Outdoor Games are being held, was below average Friday.

[Eric Bader, president of the Boulder Outdoor Center] is expecting soon to be riding bigger water locally, though, when more snowpack begins to melt. And average runoff flows aren't necessarily a bad thing in his opinion. "It's great, but it's not flood-stage stuff," Bader said. "We like high water, but it's definitely not to the scary level yet."

Here's the link to the USGS Water Watch website. As of this morning the Williams Fork below the dam was the only stream in Colorado running at close to flood stage (98%).

Category: Colorado Water
8:38:53 AM    

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