Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Say hello to PikeTalk a, "blog looking at what we see as we hike, bike, four wheel, dirt bike, and ATV through the Pike National Forest on Colorado's front range. This blog is in no way related to or associated with the US Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture, Colorado Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Parks, Colorado Springs Utilities, or any other state or local authorities. We are simply local folks who think the world needs to see the stupidity that takes place on our public lands." Good idea.

Thanks to Non-Prophet for the link.

7:05:14 AM    

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Powertech Uranium Corporation has received approval to drill more monitoring wells in conjunction with their operation up in Weld County, according to Marketwire. From the article:

The [Colorado Department of Natural Resources' Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety] has approved Powertech's Notice of Intent to drill 23 additional monitoring and aquifer test wells. These new wells, along with 26 existing monitoring wells that are currently being rehabilitated, will be used for groundwater data collection as part of the baseline study in advance of preparing permit applications for mining operations. The wells will sample water from multiple aquifers at multiple depths, and computerized data will define the hydrological characteristics of the uranium ore zone, ground water flow and testing of water quality in the surrounding strata. The wells also will also be regularly sampled for ongoing analysis. Preliminary environmental data collected from the wells along with other data collection will continue through mid-2008 and will become the basis for multiple reports required to apply for operational permits that are required for federal, state and local agencies. After the Centennial Project gains the required approvals, data collection will continue through the life of the project.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:28:18 AM    

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Congratulations to the San Isabel Ranch in the Wet Mountain Valley for winning the Aldo Leopold Memorial Award for their conservation efforts. From The Wet Mountain Tribune:

For 135 years, the Kettle family has been raising hay and cattle in the Wet Mountain Valley. That long history was in the spotlight when the 1,000-acre San Isabel Ranch was presented the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award. The award, which came with a $10,000 check, was presented to Bet Kettle and her daughter, Sara Shields, during last week's Colorado Cattlemen's Association annual convention in Steamboat Springs. The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. In addition to the cash prize, recipients receive a crystal depiction of Aldo Leopold seated on a horse.

Category: Colorado Water

6:21:42 AM    

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The Bayfield City Council has approved the dough for the new treatment plant, according to The Pine River Times. From the article:

Members of the Bayfield Sanitation District Board voted Wednesday to start designing a new $5.86 million sequencing batch reactor (SBR) sewage treatment plant. The vote is an important step in a year-long struggle the sanitation district has had to keep one step ahead of a state-mandated shutdown of building permits in Bayfield town limits...

Board members decided to opt for the SBR plant because it fit within their budget. A state-of-the-art membrane bio-reactor (MBR) plant would clean sewage to standards higher than the state mandates, but would cost about $1 million more. The other advantages of the SBR plant are that it can be constructed more quickly and uses less electricity than the MBR plant. It does require more manpower to operate, however...

Clifton said some commercial customers, however, are facing soaring costs to pre-treat sewage before it enters the system. The Bayfield School District has said a preliminary report said they would need to spend $300,000 to pretreat sewage. Kris Oyler, owner of Steamworks Brewing Co., said his company could be looking at as much as $200,000. This has led local business groups and real estate agents to complain to Clifton that requiring pre-treament could be a drain on the Bayfield economy and halt growth.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:15:09 AM    

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A land owner is hoping to convince Pitkin County that it's a good idea for him to excavate and dredge part of the Roaring Fork River to improve trout habitat, according to The Aspen Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

A Texas billionaire and an Aspen lawyer are asking Pitkin County if they can use a track hoe to excavate and dredge a pristine stretch of the Roaring Fork River along their land three miles east of Aspen to create better trout habitat. They also want to help stabilize eroding riverbanks just downstream on land owned by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Aspen Valley Land Trust. The project includes using a track hoe for 10 to 14 days in a flat, wide and slow section of the river to dig 5-foot deep pools, use the dug-up rock and soil to form bars in the river to create riffles, and to place boulders in the pools...

The stretch of river to be worked on, which is in the section of the Roaring Fork commonly known as "Stillwater," is 2,660 feet long running downstream from the site of a cabin now under construction near McFarlane Gulch Road. A portion of the stretch is visible from Highway 82 and is marked by a small, low gray pedestrian bridge, which is now out of use. The project is being proposed by Edward P. Bass of Forth Worth, Texas, and Tom Todd of the law firm of Holland & Hart in Aspen, who are splitting the cost of the project, which Todd said was over "five figures" or $10,000. Both ACES and AVLT are in support of the project and have applied jointly for approval with Bass's Mountain Valley Cabin LLC and Todd's Fall Line Properties LLC. In addition, the project has a 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and approval from the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The lead consultant on the project is Mike Claffey, a former Army Corps employee who now runs Fruita-based Claffey Ecological Consulting Inc. One goal of the project is to improve the diversity of the river habitat by creating pools and riffles on the river similar to what is found on mountain trout streams, but which is not historically found on what is the calmest section of the Roaring Fork River in its run from Independence Pass to the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Another goal is to remove a sandbar in the lower section of the project area that Claffey feels is contributing to the bank erosion on a corner of the river owned by ACES and AVLT, and then to stabilize the eroding banks. And overall, the project proponents believe that the combination of the pool and riffles and the removal of the sand bar will allow the river to move better in lower water and will help reduce erosion on the ACES and AVLT land at higher water. It will also improve the trout fishing. And that has some skeptical about the project...

There is no clear answer as to whether the stretch of the Roaring Fork in question is in a natural state and whether the proposed work is restoring the river to a previous state. The largest factor in determining what is natural about the Roaring Fork and what is not is that about half of the natural water in the Roaring Fork River has been diverted under the Continental Divide by agricultural interests in Pueblo for the last 40 years. So the river does not enjoy its natural spring flood regime. If the river was still natural in that regard, the river through Stillwater might look much different. And the large sandbar that the consultants want to remove on the ACES corner might have been flushed away. Elizabeth Boyles, who has lived along the river east of Aspen for 30 years, would like to see a semblance of the river's natural flow re-established. "I think what the neighbors agreed on was that they could try doing a regulated release from the dam and that might have the same affect," she said, referring to a group of neighbors who recently went on a site visit of the stretch of river proposed for excavation. However, the Twin Lakes Reservoir & Canal Company that controls the amount of water diverted off the top of the Roaring Fork, is not viewed as easy to engage when it comes to changes to their water diversion program. There is also some debate as to whether the river was straightened in that section by earlier ranchers, but there is no proof either way. One thing is for sure, it is a pristine stretch of river, even though the river bottom is flat and the water is shallow. And the sight of a track hoe working its way down the river digging holes is one that might well offend some people, no matter how well intentioned the effort.

Category: Colorado Water

6:02:01 AM    

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Here's an update on Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Delivery System from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Bureau of Reclamation does not consider a dam on Fountain Creek as part of any alternative for the Southern Delivery System and won't delay its environmental impact statement on the project. Reclamation intends to issue a draft environmental impact statement in early 2008, Jaci Gould, Reclamation resources manager told the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force water quantity working group Thursday. A dam on Fountain Creek was among hundreds of components considered in SDS, but was not included in any of seven alternatives mainly because it did not meet the purpose and need of the study, she said...

Pueblo County consultant Ray Petros, who first suggested integrating a flood control dam with water supply on Fountain Creek in 2005, was enthusiastic about the possibility of a federal study for a Fountain Creek dam. "Let's consider how it could be used in lieu of Pueblo Reservoir enlargement," Petros said. "Suppose we had a reservoir of like size on Fountain Creek. You could book overstored water and it would function as the equivalent of enlargement of Pueblo Reservoir."[...]

Petros said he suggested a dam, or series of dams, on Fountain Creek to fix several problems: flooding, regulating flows and reusing water before importing more water and further increasing the flows. "The issues on the Fountain are how much can we afford to do and where is the money coming from?" Petros said. "You see all that money being spent on the pipeline and have to ask, 'how can that money be better spent? ... Is there a way to harness the water coming down the Fountain?'"

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:46:00 AM    

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Here's a quick look at Governor Ritter's South Platte River Task Force from The Ag Journal. From the article:

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has officially announced his appointments to a special blue-ribbon task-force charged with analyzing water conflicts within the South Platte River Basin, in the state's northeastern region. "The task force is charged with clearly articulating the problems faced by water users in the South Platte River Basin and recommending potential solutions," states the Governor. "Specifically, the task force is to consider whether there are any changes to current water law or policy that will provide relief to junior water users, without injuring senior water rights holders." Governor Ritter devised the task force following increasing litigation within the basin between water users, mainly amongst agricultural producers within the region...

The [Well Augmentation Subdistrict (WAS) of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District (CCWCD) of Greeley] trial is vitally important to all irrigation well owners in Colorado, as it serves as an example of the state executing the extremely complex laws governing the state's water resources. Judge Klein's ruling in the case will not only set precedence regarding future struggles between well and surface irrigators, but will also have an enormous impact on the agricultural future of the state's northeastern section. Additionally, the case has made national headlines and continues to be followed closely by many states, such as Nebraska, who are now experiencing similar situations with increasing demands on stressed water supplies. In fact, this year Nebraska imposed a moratorium on well drilling in most of its western regions. At a recent water conference held in Estes Park, Colo., attended by well irrigation district administrators, Jim Goecke of the University of Nebraska, stated during his address that his state has only recently begun to analyze the affects of well operations on aquifers and local water basins. Goecke said Nebraska is now trying to quickly learn from Colorado's example, especially the WAS trial.

While it is admitted that any efforts by Ritter's special task-force will come to late to help WAS farmers this year, task-force members are hopeful of finding some form of resolve for the future. "We tried to bring a late bill, at the end of the session, to bring some resolution to the conflict. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do it," says State Representative Cory Gardner (R-Yuma,) a member of Colorado's House Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources. Gardner has been appointed by Governor Ritter to serve on the task-force...

State Representative Mary Hodge (D-Brighton,) is also a member of the House Ag Committee and of the task-force. Hodge agrees that finding a resolution to the conflict is possible, but very complicated. Hodge tells the Ag-Journal she is hearing both sides of the argument loud and clear. "The well operators, after they didn't get their moratorium, would certainly like some kind of time-out or some kind of change in the laws that will allow them to continue to operate," she says. "The seniors are, of course, yelling: don't you dare step on my water rights!" Hodge says she hopes to bring the voice and feelings of her constituents to the task-force. "I certainly don't think there's a compromise position at this point. I think everybody's hardened in their position," states Hodge. "We're pleased to see that the Governor is looking into ways to protect senior water rights, while at the same time allowing the maximum use of groundwater in the South Platte Basin," says Tom Cech, executive director of the CCWCD...

Twenty four people will serve on the task-force, including the recently retired state engineer Hal Simpson, as well as Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Division of Natural Resources (CO-DNR,) Colorado's commissioner of agriculture, John Stulp and Jim Yahn, manager of the North Sterling Irrigation District and the Prewitt Reservoir.

More coverage from The Denver Post. They write:

Loss of water from wells along the South Platte River by northern Colorado farmers has fallowed 30,000 acres and led to economic losses of up to $28 million, according to a Colorado State University study. The study by CSU's department of agriculture and resource economics is slated for release in July and comes as Gov. Bill Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force holds its first meeting today in Greeley. The task force is charged with finding solutions for farmers hurt by water losses...

A trial on a motion seeking to remove 219 wells from the state's order shutting the wells ended in May and is awaiting a judge's ruling. About 1,000 wells are operating with a 30 percent pumping quota this year, according to a briefing document being provided to the task force. "We need to create some new ideas, new projects, new studies," the Central Colorado Water Conservancy's Hertzke said. "The task force has people from both sides of the issue. It's important to get people talking and understanding the issues and talking about potential solutions."

Don't miss today's first meeting of the task force up in Greeley at the Union Colony Civic Center. More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:30:35 AM    

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