Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

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In-stream residents downstream from Vallecito Reservoir are whooping it up over the decision by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to accept donated wet water from Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Pine River Irrigation District, according to The Durango Herald. From the article:

Fish in the Pine River below Vallecito Reservoir would get some extra protection under an agreement approved by a state water board Thursday. The Colorado Water Conservation Board voted to accept a donation of water from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Pine River Irrigation District. The deal will put varying amounts of water into the river for a stretch ending 12 miles downstream from the reservoir, home to brown and rainbow trout. In exchange for the donation, the water board agreed not to file for an in-stream flow right - a water right that could force water to stay in the stream. Under the agreement approved Thursday, the tribe and the irrigation district get a lot more flexibility to decide how much water is available to preserve the river's environment.

It's too much flexibility, said Drew Peternell of Trout Unlimited, a critic of the agreement. "They have absolute, unfettered discretion to decide for themselves whether to make a donation," Peternell said. Under the agreement, the reservoir will release 136 cubic feet per second during the summer to supply a 12-mile stretch down to U.S. Highway 160. During the winter, the reservoir would release less - up to 50 cfs, but for a 19-mile stretch. However, those rates could drop if reservoir managers decide water is not available. Managers also could provide extra water when possible.

Category: Colorado Water

9:09:12 AM    

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The Durango Herald has some background on newly minted Colorado Oil and Gas Commissioner, and Hesperus resident, Thomas Compton. From the article:

Hesperus resident Thomas Compton was among five new members appointed to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Thursday by Gov. Bill Ritter. Compton joins Durango resident Kimberlee Gerhardt, who was reappointed to the commission, as Southwest Colorado's representatives on the commission...

Compton is the owner of Compton Cattle Co. in Hesperus, a commercial beef enterprise, and is vice president of the Colorado Rural Electric Association board of directors and served on the governor's task force on Colorado roadless areas.

Here's some background on Trési Houpt, new commissioner from Garfield County, from The Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt has a chance to give local government a voice on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission...

"I'm absolutely honored to have been selected by the governor. I think this is an incredible opportunity for the state of Colorado to really put together a reasonable and responsible and well-balanced approach to permitting applications," Houpt said. "We now have people on the commission who have environmental backgrounds, public health backgrounds and wildlife backgrounds." In addition to serving as a county commissioner, Houpt chairs Colorado Counties Inc.'s Land Use and Natural Resources Committee and is a member of the National Association of Counties Environment, Energy and Land Use Committee...

In the past, five of seven COGCC members had oil and gas development backgrounds, Houpt said. "It's a broad based commission now, so we can look at all of the various issues surrounding the placement of industry," she said. She heard Ritter's announcement while traveling and was reached via telephone from Chicago O'Hare Airport. She was on her way to a National Association of Counties conference.

Houpt, a Democrat, said she became very involved in the discussion regarding the bill reconfiguring the COGCC and was very happy when it passed. "As I continued to see energy development grow in our county, I began to realize how important it was to bring some kind of balance to the decision-making," she said. Houpt said the previous COGCC didn't have the ability to be as balanced. "I don't think the laws really gave the previous commission the tools they needed to be balanced," she said. The previous COGCC was charged with approving oil and gas permitting that was promoted in the state of Colorado, she said, and no one was charged with looking at the environmental, wildlife or public health issues. In Garfield County, Houpt believes a few of the important issues that need to be looked at are well density, proximity to homes and other structures, and the impacts on neighbors and those who have the resources beneath their property.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:55:20 AM    

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Here's an article about the importance of playa lakes to the ecological health of the Great Plains, from The Southwest Farm Press. They write:

Playa lakes are shallow, natural basins that dot the landscape of a large portion of the Central Great Plains. The early Spanish explorers documented them in the mid-1500s, describing them as 'small, plate-shaped, dry ponds' and tagging them with the Spanish word meaning 'beach.' "We don't know why they were dubbed playas, and we're not entirely sure how they were formed," Cearley said. "But we do know there are more than 30,000 of them in the playa lakes region in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. They range in size from less than an acre to several hundred acres, and they cover a total of more than 400,000 acres."

Wet or dry, playas help support more than 246 species of wildlife waterfowl and other birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. They also help recharge the underlying Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground water source for the Central Great Plains, Cearley said. "Some of the precipitation captured by playas returns to the aquifer along the perimeter where the clay basin, or bottom, meets other soils surrounding the lake," Cearley said. "They are a natural flood water containment structure in urban settings, a source of water for livestock when flooded, a source of grazing when dry, and a valuable source of wildlife habitat when managed for that purpose. "The vegetation that grows in playas is mostly annual plants, many of which we consider weeds. But those weeds/plants produce food (seeds) and cover for wildlife such as waterfowl and pheasants."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:49:51 AM    

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Colorado Springs Utilities officially opened their new wastewater treatment plant yesterday, according to From the article:

The James D. Phillips Water Reclamation Facility features state-of-the art automation and uses ultra-violet light to clean the water. The plant is also fully enclosed and features high-tech odor control systems to make it more friendly to neighboring businesses and residences...

The plant will have the capacity to treat 20 million gallons of wastewater per day with the ability to increase to 30 million gallons at full build out. Including the cost of an interceptor pipe running under Mark Dabling Boulevard, the project cost $80 million. Construction began in August of 2003.

Category: Colorado Water

8:35:07 AM    

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Palmer Lake is still looking for solutions to keep their namesake lake from drying up, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The search for a permanent solution to fill Palmer Lake's namesake has changed gears. The Palmer Lake Town Council on Thursday night passed a resolution ordering its water attorney to temporarily stop pursuing legal storage rights for the lake. This gives the town's volunteer Awake the Lake Committee more time to brainstorm lake-filling solutions with its attorney...

Jeff Hulsmann, head of Awake the Lake, said his group hired its lawyer to explore other options, including replacing the reservoir water with treated wastewater -- a method used to fill other nearby lakes in Woodmoor and Monument. Trustee Richard Allen said the town has been searching for lake solutions for years and needs a firmer timetable. "This could go on for years," Allen said. In 2005, Awake the Lake spent $19,000 in donations to pump well water into the lake, raising the lake to one-third capacity, but the water later receded. Last fall, Palmer Lake voters rejected a ballot issue to build a $450,000 pipeline from the capped town well to the lake.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:28:43 AM    

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Don't go in the water at Confluence Park. E.coli contamination levels are very high right now, according to The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

The park, where Cherry Creek meets the South Platte River, is a magnet for kayakers, toe-dippers, waders and swimmers. And just a week ago, tests showed levels of E.coli bacteria at levels at more than 30 times what the state considers a health risk. But even at those levels, Denver never closes the area to swimmers. Yellow warning signs are posted year-round, and a red sign is added when E. coli levels are elevated. It warns that bacteria have been found at levels that "may make you sick."

Why is Confluence Park handled differently? State officials say it's because it's not a designated swim area, where people pay to use it and expect some assurance the water is safe. But authorities can't prevent people from swimming in a river. "It's not a dictatorship," noted Steve Gunderson, head of the state's Water Quality Control Division. Even so, state health officials have long pressured Denver to take more steps to alert people to public health risks at Confluence, Gunderson said, including pushing to erect warning signs. But ultimately, Denver is in charge of the park. Ellen Dumm, a spokeswoman for Denver Environmental Health, acknowledged political tension between state health officials and city parks personnel, who were concerned about an alarmist approach in a popular urban park. "The best way to put it is, we're trying to strike a balance between absolutely no (water) contact whatsoever, and making it available for recreational use (as long as) people understand there is some public health risk," Dumm said. As for the those who routinely use the kayak course in the park, Dumm said, "Kayakers are kind of risk-takers anyway. They're adults making their own decisions; probably bacteria in the water isn't their top concern. "But if people are taking children down there ... it's not a good place to swim or have contact" with the water. "There's plenty of Parks and Recreation facilities they can take them to."

Category: Colorado Water

8:20:24 AM    

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