Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

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So down in Arizona they retired two hydro-electric dams and Fossil Creek sprang back to life. There is an incredible beauty in our desert streams. Here's an excerpt from The Arizona Central:

Jane Marks plunged into the hip-deep water, dodging a partly submerged cottonwood tree as she crossed over to a spit of land that put her in the middle of Fossil Creek. Which is exactly where she wants to be two years into the remarkable rebirth of a desert river once left for dead below a hydroelectric dam. Marks is leading a Northern Arizona University research team that will study the effects on Fossil Creek of retiring the dam and returning water to 14 miles of riverbed.

Her work, in a state that helped start the West's rush to build dams, has gained her international recognition as momentum grows behind a movement to tear dams down and repair the damage to waterways. "We've done the reverse," she said. "We've taken water from rivers. This gives us a chance to see what happens when you put water back." Because Marks and her colleagues started their project before the Fossil Springs Diversion Dam was decommissioned in 2005, their studies, and others under way at NAU, will likely break ground in the still-developing field of river restoration...

Marks joined NAU in 1999, after spending several years working overseas for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and she wanted to find a long-term project. Dam removal was becoming more common, but little research existed about its effects. She decided Fossil Creek offered an ideal setting, and she won a National Science Foundation grant to pursue the work. For a long time, no one except environmental advocates talked much about removing dams, which were seen as necessary for water storage, flood control, power generation and recreation. When author Edward Abbey wrote The Monkey Wrench Gang in 1975, he was roundly condemned for portraying eco-terrorists plotting to blow up Glen Canyon Dam. But dams live limited lives. They grow obsolete as generators wear out or reservoirs fill with sediment. Nearly 500 dams have been decommissioned around the United States since the early 1980s, according to studies by groups such as American Rivers and Friends of the Earth. The Fossil Springs dam was the first major structure in Arizona to be retired.

More coverage from the Center for Biological Diversity. They write:

Fossil Creek was brought back to life nearly two years ago after a decade of work and negotiations. Two aging power plants that removed water from Fossil Creek were retired, and full flows are now returned to this incredible Arizona stream.

This success inspires hope for Arizona's watersheds, wildlife and native fish, but the future of Fossil Creek is not yet fully secured. To provide lasting protection for Fossil Creek, it should be designated as a Wild and Scenic River, which requires congressional approval.

Senator McCain and Representative Renzi introduced legislation in 2006 and 2007 to designate Fossil Creek as a Wild and Scenic River in S. 86 and H. R. 199, but Congress has yet to act on these bills. Cosponsors of the bills are Senator Kyl and Representatives Franks, Grijalva and Pastor.

We know that this isn't a Colorado water story. Relax, it's a Colorado Plateau water and success story.

Category: Colorado Water

8:23:34 PM    

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Here's a look at the bottled water industry from From the article:

Bottled water has become the indispensable prop in our lives and our culture. It starts the day in lunch boxes; it goes to every meeting, lecture hall, and soccer match; it's in our cubicles at work; in the cup holder of the treadmill at the gym; and it's rattling around half-finished on the floor of every minivan in America. Fiji Water shows up on the ABC show Brothers & Sisters; Poland Spring cameos routinely on NBC's The Office. Every hotel room offers bottled water for sale, alongside the increasingly ignored ice bucket and drinking glasses. At Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI), the upscale emporium of the organic and exotic, bottled water is the number-one item by units sold.

Thirty years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business in the United States. Last year, we spent more on Poland Spring, Fiji Water, Evian, Aquafina, and Dasani than we spent on iPods or movie tickets--$15 billion. It will be $16 billion this year.

Bottled water is the food phenomenon of our times. We--a generation raised on tap water and water fountains--drink a billion bottles of water a week, and we're raising a generation that views tap water with disdain and water fountains with suspicion. We've come to pay good money--two or three or four times the cost of gasoline--for a product we have always gotten, and can still get, for free, from taps in our homes.

Category: Colorado Water

6:52:51 AM    

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Here's an article from New West with some of the history behind the Yellowstone River - still the longest river left in the lower 48 without a dam. From the article:

the Yellowstone is the longest un-dammed river in the lower 48 states. But it almost wasn't so. Several times throughout the 20th century the possibility of large-scale, river-changing dams loomed over the Yellowstone River. Eager irrigators proposed a dam at the outlet of Yellowstone Lake within Yellowstone National Park in the early 1900s, and during the drought of the 30s and the hydroelectric heydays of the 50s, 60s and 70s, sustained efforts threatened to dam the Yellowstone River in five different places, four of which are in Park County. Needless to say, all efforts failed, but the story of how and why they failed reveals much about the people who lived and still live near the Yellowstone River, which in turn reveals much about the river itself.

Please be sure to read the whole article.

Category: Colorado Water

6:45:18 AM    

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Here's an opinion piece about Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force from The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The basic premise of the overall situation is that pumping of irrigation wells has reduced the flow in the river, thereby resulting in damage to senior surface right owners who have not been able to get their full share of water. But even that premise came under attack at the Greeley meeting. Three veteran water experts -- with upward of 120 years of combined experience -- basically said the pumping of the irrigation wells, which may be a contributing factor, is not the only factor. And Robert Logenbaugh, who has spent a career as a water engineer, even went so far as to call the wells "the whipping boy" of reduced flows in the South Platte.

Logenbaugh rattled off numerous reports to back up his claims that the benefits of irrigation well pumping have far exceeded any damage that pumping may have done to senior surface right holders downstream. He actually said those senior right owners have benefited by the pumping because wells produce return flows to the river, thereby providing more water than might have been available. To his claim of the wells being the whipping boy of the problem, Logenbaugh said the construction of gravel pits to store water along the South Platte, particularly from Denver to Fort Lupton, is a major problem as they act as underground dams, thereby restricting the amount of return flow to the river. But no one, he said, has laid the blame on those pits as a contributing factor to reduced flows in the river, nor on the fact that Colorado is required to provide additional water to Nebraska via the South Platte through the Endangered Species Act to provide habitat for birds and fish on the Platte River as it flows through Nebraska. It wouldn't be politically correct to suggest that had anything to do with any injury to senior water right owners, he indicated.

Fred Anderson served in the Colorado Senate from 1967-83 and was president of the Senate from 1974-82. He also was the recipient of the Wayne N. Aspinall "Water Leader of the Year" Award at the annual convention of the Colorado Water Congress in 1994. Before testifying at Friday's task force hearing, Anderson pointed out he was "no hired gun for any group." He then went on to say there remains 10 million acre-feet of water in a alluvial below the South Platte that has never been put to beneficial use, and he urged task force members to look into that possibility.

Category: Colorado Water

6:21:51 AM    

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