Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

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Say hello to Colorado Confidential's Science Sunday, it's a, "...weekly wrap-up of science news of special interest to Coloradans. Emphasis given to work performed by Colorado researchers, or whose results are of importance (or sometimes just entertaining) to the state.

Category: Colorado Water

9:14:05 AM    

Well who would have thought that the demand for corn would limit prospects for ethanol? A lot of people actually. Here's a report from Pew Research with the facts about non-food crops being used for ethanol:

Corn is king of renewable auto fuels, for now. But federal and state governments already are racing to find alternatives to corn as they look for ways to use ethanol to help break the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

Georgia Gov. Sony Perdue (R) announced in February that a Colorado company would build the nation's first commercial-scale ethanol plant using -- not corn -- but wood chips to produce 40 million gallons of fuel a year in the Peach State. A plant under construction in Louisiana is slated to produce 1.4 million gallons of ethanol annually from sugar-cane waste. Tennessee has sunk $18 million into research to convert prairie grasses into auto fuel, and New York has awarded $25 million to two companies to produce more than 600,000 gallons of ethanol a year from wood chips and paper waste.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday (June 26) that it would spend $375 million in Tennessee, Wisconsin and California to develop more efficient ways to convert non-food crops into auto fuel. That money is in addition to $385 million the Energy Department is investing in ethanol plants that use something besides corn in California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa and Kansas. The six projects, announced in February, are expected to be finished within four years and be able to produce 130 million gallons of ethanol a year.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:35:36 AM    

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Residents of the tri-small towns of Cortez, Mancos and Dolores can rest easy regarding the quality of their municipal water supplies, according to The Cortez Journal. From the article:

State- and federal-required consumer-confidence reports on local drinking water show Cortez, Dolores and Mancos with safe supplies. The city of Cortez detected low levels of barium and chromium, from drilling-waste and mill discharges and erosion of natural deposits, in its drinking water. Copper and lead levels were also low. Corrosion of household plumbing systems causes the occurrence of lead and copper in water, said Bruce Smart, the city's water-plant manager...

Other contaminants found include trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, byproducts of chlorination and disinfection. Carbon and sodium also appeared far below the maximum-allowed levels. Turbidity, or cloudiness levels from soil runoff, also fell beneath limits in 2006...

The 2007 Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report for the year 2006 is an annual report required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Category: Colorado Water

8:10:07 AM    

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Berthoud has increased maintenance of their sanitary sewer system to help prevent backups, according to The Longmont Daily Times-Call. From the article:

"In the past we may not have been as diligent in maintaining (the collection system) because the demand on it wasn't as great as it is now," said Public Works director Tony Huerta. As a result, Huerta said, the town is "still playing catch-up." Sewer backups have been a result of problems both in the service lines -- which are the responsibility of residents to maintain -- and the main lines, which fall under the responsibility of the town, Huerta said...

The town is creating an educational program to inform residents and property owners about cleanup procedures following a sewer backup, he said. If the problem is in the service line, often the homeowner calls the town first, which delays the cleanup process because it is the resident's responsibility...

Wilf Ingersoll, technicians manager at All-Phase Restoration, a Northern Colorado company specializing in water and fire damage restoration, said when a sewer line backs up and overflows inside a home or business, the bacteria in the water can cause health problems. He said anything porous enough to absorb the water during a backup needs to be replaced. Cleanup and repairs can cost thousands of dollars, he said. Some of the most common causes of backups are roots in the pipes and old clay pipes that over time deteriorate and collapse, Ingersoll said. To prevent backups, he recommends regular pipe maintenance.

Category: Colorado Water

7:46:50 AM    

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Here's an update on the Animas-LaPlata Project from The Summit Daily News. They write:

Proving that the government's dam-building days in the West are not over, the Animas-La Plata project is nearing completion. "We're proceeding at a good pace. The dam should be done this fall and the pumping station and inlet conduit a year later," said Barry Longwell, deputy construction engineer for the project. Environmentalists stalled the project both in congress and in the courts, saying it was too costly and unneeded. Bruce Babbitt, interior secretary under former President Clinton, believed the proliferation of dams that made the arid West bloom had caused untold damage and he presided over the destruction of several. Supporters of Animas-La Plata said it had to be built to meet treaty obligations with the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes. Longwell told the Durango Herald that construction will be completed next summer or fall.

The reservoir behind the Ridges Basin Dam, called Lake Nighthorse after former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who helped push the project through Congress, will begin in 2009. It will likely take two years to fill. The dam is 80 percent complete and the pumping station 70 percent. The 2.5-mile pipeline that will connect them is 20 percent done. "The A-LP is a vital component of our water infrastructure in Southwest Colorado. With the cost of fuel, cement and steel rising each year at rapid rates, we can save the taxpayers money by completing the project in a timely manner," U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., said in a statement. The two Ute tribes each have 40 percent of the 120,000 acre-feet of water to be stored at Ridges Basin. Non-tribal partners, including the city of Durango, will get some of the water.

More coverage from The Durango Herald. They write:

When construction is complete, water will be pumped into the basin. Filling the reservoir is expected to begin in 2009 and take two years. All aspects of the project are expected to be finished by 2012 and the final cost to be $500 million, plus inflation...

[Barry Longwell, the deputy construction engineer on the project] said Congress is being asked to provide $58 million for A-LP work in fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1. About 75 percent of the $63.4 million authorized for the current fiscal year has been spent, he said. The project was awarded $55.4 million in fiscal 2006...

While the House version of the funding reflects the administration's request of $58 million, [Christine Arbogast with Kogovsek & Associates] said, the Senate version is asking $63 million for the project. At the time the proposals are reconciled, she will urge House members to move toward the Senate amount, Arbogast said. Longwell said work planned for 2009 includes less-complicated projects such as relocating County Road 211, which provides access to Ridges Basin, and removing large vegetation from the bottom of the reservoir. Also in 2009, construction of a pipeline to take water to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico will begin, Longwell said. Navajo water will be taken from the San Juan River in Farmington, treated and sent via the pipeline to Shiprock, a distance of 22 miles. The Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe each have 40 percent of the 120,000 acre-feet of water to be stored at Ridges Basin. Non-tribal partners, including the city of Durango, will get some of the water.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:38:02 AM    

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The Fountain Creek "Water Sentinels" were out yesterday cleaning up trash in the creek bed, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Members of the Fountain Creek Water Sentinels, a community-based activist group, joined forces Saturday to clean up the local site. "We're the only nongovernmental group doing it. People are excited to help," coordinator Jenny Kedward said. "They know how dirty the creek can get." The Sentinels, which have been active in Pueblo and Colorado Springs for nearly a year, is a nationally based program of the Sierra Club. Besides cleaning up litter, they have taken on the job of taking water samples from the creek. "Our main concerns are not only quality, but also quantity," Kedward said. "The creek was not meant to hold so much water."

Fourteen sites along Fountain Creek are sampled every week by alternating volunteer teams. The water is taken to the biology department at CSU-Pueblo where it is analyzed in a laboratory. Samples are tested for E. coli bacteria and raw data is collected. The results are made public to the community.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:29:51 AM    

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According to The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided against listing the Colorado River Cutthroat Trout as endangered. It appears that efforts by Wyoming, Utah and Colorado have sufficiently built up populations of the Cutthroat sufficiently to obviate the need for more protection. From the article:

Under an agreement originally signed in 1999 (each state had conservation plans several years before this), the states worked to restore and protect native trout populations across their range where environmental conditions allowed. Colorado's conservation plan dates from at least a decade earlier. There are records of formal plans from 1993, and biologists were discussing similar moves years before that. Rocky Mountain National Park began cutthroat trout restorations programs in 1979. Early threats to Colorado River cutthroat trout included over-fishing, habitat degradation and the introduction of non-natives, including rainbow and brook trout and non-native species of cutthroat trout. In more recent years, whirling disease took its toll on cutthroats and other trout, but the Colorado Division of Wildlife has been able to manage around whirling disease in its development of Colorado River cutthroat populations. The Fish and Wildlife Service recently reported that at least 285 cutthroat trout conservation populations occupy about 1,796 miles of stream habitat in 42 watersheds in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. You may never see many of those fish, since today you'll find conservation populations tucked away in tiny streams across the Western Slope, often thriving on private property where, through the cooperation of kindly landowners, the fish are protected...

Several researchers, including eminent fisheries professor Robert Behnke of Fort Collins, have called the cutthroat the "canary in the gold mine" because of its sensitivity to habitat degradation. The Fish and Wildlife service's rangewide status report found the greatest number of conservation populations occur in the upper Green and upper Colorado rivers, which also happens to be where most of the energy development is occurring.

Category: Colorado Water

7:20:35 AM    

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Senior rights holders dried up the Cache la Poudre River in parts of Fort Collins this week, according to The Fort Collins Coloradoan. This comes at a time that opponents of the proposed Glade Reservoir are warning that the reservoir will hurt flows below the dam, harming the fishery and effecting other uses of the river. From the article:

Fluctuating flows and a mistake by the state official who manages water rights on the Poudre River helped create a nearly dry Poudre in Old Town last week. River Commissioner George Varra said he erred in pulling too much water from a diversion on the Poudre for an irrigation company but added that a dry river isn't unheard of this time of year...

The miscalculation diverted too much water from a point west of North College Avenue and nearly drained the river. Witnesses said the drawdown killed fish in the river. But fluctuating stream flows also played a part. The end of June typically marks the end of the runoff season and a reduction in the amount of water melting out of the mountains and into the state's rivers and streams. River rights on the Poudre River date back to the 1880s and for more than 100 years, agriculture and irrigation companies have pulled water from the river between the city and the mouth of the Poudre Canyon. At best, only 25 percent of the water leaving the canyon ever makes its way into town, said Dennis Bode, the city's water resources manager. Because the city of Fort Collins wants to use the river to attract economic and cultural development, it's important that the Poudre have a consistent flow as it meanders through town, said City Manager Darin Atteberry...

Resident Gary Wockner, a vocal river advocate who bikes on the Poudre trail weekly, also was unnerved by the low river. "I believe it's immoral that the laws in our state will allow a river to be drained completely dry so that it will not even sustain any aquatic life," Wockner said. "I have been aggressively working through various (means) to raise awareness about the river and also to stop projects (that will) decrease stream flows even more." One of those projects is the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District's Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would include a reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and another on the plains near Greeley. Glade Reservoir, the proposed reservoir northwest of Fort Collins, would fill using junior rights from the Poudre. Fort Collins is not participating in the project. Wockner and other opponents say the reservoir will further drain the Poudre through Fort Collins. Proponents say the reservoir would have little impact on Poudre flows.

Category: Colorado Water

7:07:31 AM    

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