Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

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Here's the text of a press release about H.R. 2337, passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee today, from the Western Colorado Congress:

House Committee Passes Bill to Ensure That Oil Shale Goes Slow Bill Takes Oil Shale Leasing Off of Fast Track, Western Slope officials and communities are elated.

Contact: Bob Randall, Western Resource Advocates (303)444-1188 ext 249; Cathy Kay, Western Colorado Congress (970)256-7650; Kathleen Sullivan Kelley, western slope rancher (970)942-8004.

The U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee today passed H.R 2337, the "Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007," which contained important provisions that would give the Interior Department more time to analyze development of oil shale and tar sands resources.

Section 104 of H.R. 2337 would remove several of the ambitious timelines for analysis of oil shale development that were imposed by the Energy Policy Act. Because the technologies are not yet known and activities on research and development leases will not yet have begun, these artificial timelines would preclude careful consideration of the potential impacts as well as the concerns of Colorado Communities. H.R. 2337 would remove these deadlines and assure that the BLM can take the time it needs to do the analysis necessary to protect air and water quality and western Colorado communities.

"Rather than imposing artificial timelines and requiring the BLM to rush preparation of important analyses of economic and environmental risks, the wiser course is to allow the agency the time to do a thorough job," said Cathy Kay of Western Colorado Congress. "We were glad to see the House Natural Resources Committee adopt such a reasonable approach."

Specifically, the oil shale provisions in H.R. 2337 would: Eliminate the requirement that the BLM rush through preparation of its Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement analyzing commercial oil shale leasing; Establish a 180 day public comment period for proposed commercial leasing regulations - This measure is especially important in light of the BLM's recent denial of the State of Colorado's request for sufficient time to review the federal environmental analysis of oil shale leasing;[apple] Direct the adoption of an oil shale and tar sands leasing strategy before any commercial leasing might take place.

Impacted communities were also concerned by the rushed timelines for commercial oil shale leasing set forth in the Energy Policy Act, and elected officials on the Western Slope came out in force to support the provisions of H.R. 2337 on Tuesday. Twenty-five locally elected officials sent a letter to Colorado's congressional delegation on Tuesday urging them to support the oil shale measures in H.R. 2337. Their letter stated that the oil shale provisions in H.R. 2337 "simply assures that in its consideration of the development of a commercial oil shale program, the Bureau of Land Management will take into account the results of its ongoing oil shale research and development program before committing federal oil shale resources to development through a commercial leasing initiative."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:09:12 PM    

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Here's an article about today's Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting from the Mountain Mail. From the article:

Representatives of recreational and environmental water users will present information to the monthly Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds in Poncha Springs from 12:30-3 p.m. Wednesday. The roundtable is normally the second Wednesday of the month in Pueblo, but moved to Poncha Springs this month to better represent water users in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. The roundtable is comprised of more than 50 volunteers from throughout the Arkansas River Basin from Lake County to the Kansas border. Purpose of the roundtable is to help solve basin water issues and distribute money for water projects. Doug Krieger, Colorado Division of Wildlife senior aquatic biologist for the southwest, region will represent flatwater recreation. He will present information about fishing in Colorado, economics and counties along the Arkansas River...

Roundtable member and advocacy chairman Reed Dils will represent Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Dils will offer a short presentation about the environmental perspective of non-consumptive uses. He will present studies Trout Unlimited will conduct during the next 18 months - low flow and water quality issues on streams...

Rob White, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area park manager, will be a presenter. He will talk about operations in general and discuss economic impact boating and angling have on the area. White will deliver a report about the Voluntary Flow Management Program.

A presentation by Rick Brown of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will deal with the process of developing a statewide nonconsumptive water needs assessment. Each presenter will have 20 minutes to speak followed by a 10 minute question and answer session. Planners said the public is encouraged to attend and participate. A tour of Salida river park will follow the meeting.

Category: Colorado Water

6:20:37 AM    

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Water supplies for Longmont are looking OK, according to the Longmont Daily Times-Call. From the article:

In mid-May, city officials managed Ralph Price Reservoir to keep it below full levels to be able to handle rain and and runoff water. Rainwater combined with snowmelt can cause flooding. Huson said officials completely filled the reservoir last week. "A good portion of the snowmelt has occurred," he said. "We still have plenty of snow up there in the peaks, but it's not where we were at a couple weeks ago." He said runoff amounts are a little low but still healthy. The St. Vrain through Longmont doesn't reflect the situation because irrigation ditches running off the river are at full capacity. The Highland Ditch, which pulls water out of the St. Vrain at Lyons and sends it to farms in northern Boulder County and around Mead, is running at 100 cfs right now, Huson said. The smaller Longmont Supply Ditch and the Oligarchy Ditch, both of which pull from the river around McCall Lake and run through Longmont, also are at full capacity...

An April 24 rainstorm and snowstorm in the mountains and plains along the Front Range pushed the South Platte River to its highest level in at least five years. Since then, the high flows on the South Platte have justified a "free river" situation, which allows junior water-rights holders to capture water from the river. Most of the St. Vrain also became a free river after the storm. Hall said free rivers may end soon, but they are the first signs of a strong water season, with healthy reservoir storage for the hot months.

Category: Colorado Water

6:13:45 AM    

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Here's a look at the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company from the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Here's a quick quiz on Montezuma County: What is the oldest incorporated company in the county? It's a good bet that not many people will come up with Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., organized in 1920. It might surprise people to know, too, that MVIC has an annual budget of $1 million a year and assets of $1.5 billion, based on how much water they own and the going rate for a share of water. In fact, the irrigation canals that snake through the county have been around so long, residents may not pay much attention to them. "MVIC influences 90,000 acres of land in Montezuma County, not just the area irrigated, but also runoff. It's pretty huge," said Jim Siscoe, general manager...

Without irrigation water, the county would have lots of sagebrush and greasewood and not much else, he added. The Goliath of water rights, MVIC owns 795 cubic feet per second of Dolores River water, which is 153,400 acre feet of adjudicated rights, by far the biggest water right in the county, and number 12 in time, dating back to the 1880s, which gives it priority over nearly every other user. The company, a private nonprofit, once owned twice as much water rights as it does now, but it gave away half of its right to build McPhee Reservoir. "In return, what we got was huge -- a full supply of water all year," Siscoe said. Before McPhee, the canals would begin to dry up in July, because there wasn't sufficient storage to supply users all summer long. Since McPhee began storing water and supplying it to MVIC in 1986, there have been no shortages during the irrigation season from May 1 to Nov. 1...

The 1,334 shareholders own shares of water, and the majority of shareholders own 50 shares or less, with only a few really big shareholders. Shares of MVIC water can be bought and sold like property rights, with the price of shares determined between buyer and seller. Shares have been advertised recently for about $5,000 per share. A rule of thumb is that one share will irrigate one acre, but it depends on what owners want to produce, Siscoe says. The company allows an owner to have as little as one share, but realistically, that one share would need to be delivered in pressurized pipe so it won't be lost to seepage and evaporation in an open ditch. A share is the amount of water that can siphon through a 1-inch garden hose, about 5.62 gallons a minute, said Brad Reed, MVIC water master. The company owns Narraguinnep Reservoir north of Colorado Highway 184, along with Groundhog Reservoir in the San Juan National Forest 32 miles north of Dolores, for storage of spring runoff water.

The massive irrigation system actually begins in the San Juan Mountains, where two 6-mile canals divert Little Fish and Beaver Creeks to fill Groundhog Reservoir. Groundhog flows into the West Fork of the Dolores River, then down the Dolores into McPhee Reservoir. From McPhee, MVIC takes about half of its water through a penstock tunnel under Colorado Highway 184 about a mile west of the town of Dolores, and about half comes out of Great Cut Dike, which feeds Narraguinnep Reservoir and the Lone Pine and U Lateral canals. "Most of MVIC is the same system that was there 100 years ago," Siscoe said. The MVIC distribution system has two main diversion canals and 17 distribution laterals, which total 124 miles of constructed ditches. The ditches water 37,500 acres of private land in the county south of McPhee.

A seven-member board elected by shareholders governs MVIC. Revenues are generated by a per-share cost and maintenance fee paid by shareholders. Ten full-time employees work to keep the water flowing during summer and to keep canals and equipment maintained during winter. The longest canal is the 20-mile Lone Pine Canal, which starts at the Great Cut Dike on McPhee, goes north of Narraguinnep and curves west, ending northwest of Cortez. Some canals have been put into pipelines either to control salinity or to reduce leakage and evaporation. The Towaoc-Highline Canal owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Rocky Ford and Cortez Lateral are all in pipe...

The early settlers recognized the problem in the 1880s. The Montezuma Valley had good soil, but it was too dry to grow most crops. The Dolores River had lots of water, especially in spring runoff, but it curved away to the north and flowed downstream north out of the area. If Dolores River water could be brought over, around or under Summit Ridge, it could water the Montezuma Valley. A tunnel from the Dolores River was first proposed in 1875. The Dolores, Lost Canon & Montezuma Ditch Co. was formed in 1878, and 100 men with teams of horses and equipment began work on a mile-long tunnel under the Dolores Divide and into the head of Hartman Draw. The company ran out of money, and the Montezuma Valley Water Supply Co. took up the project in 1880, spearheaded by homesteader James W. Hanna. The Main No. 1 Canal began delivering water from near the town of Big Bend (now under the waters of McPhee Reservoir) in May 1888, and the tunnel was finished in November 1889. As early as 1905, a record book talks about the need for a reservoir to store spring runoff from the Dolores River to provide a more stable water supply.

Category: Colorado Water

6:02:38 AM    

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Here's a short article about Monday's decision by the Colorado Supreme Court affirming county regulation of oil and gas development, from the Glenwood Springs Independent (free registration required). They write:

Industry officials have said their activity is already sufficiently regulated and new county regulations could create added layers that might discourage exploration and development. "We can (already regulate) water quality, roads and storm-water management. I don't know of any other particular areas that would need regulation that aren't already regulated," said Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown. "It would just make it more restrictive to drill a well and doesn't achieve anything." The appellate court ruling identified eight areas where local government could create regulations without stepping on the toes of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: water quality, soil erosion, wildlife and vegetation, livestock, geologic hazards, cultural and historic resources, wildfire protection, recreation and permit duration.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:39:30 AM    

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