Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

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Here's the link to the Colorado State University Water Resources Archive. Thanks to DARCA for the link.

Category: Colorado Water

6:17:40 PM    

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The second meeting of Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force is today, according to KJCT 8 News. They write, "The second meeting of the South Platte River Basin Task Force is set for today at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling...Public comments will be heard today from ten until noon, and one to three pm. People who plan to prepare written remarks or other material for the hearing are asked to bring at least 35 copies. The task force is expected to make a final report to Ritter and others by September 30th.

Category: Colorado Water

6:55:26 AM    

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Not everyone is excited about Aaron Million's proposed pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range [Regional Watershed Supply Project]. Here's an article about the proposal from The Vail Daily News (free registration required). They write:

The reception has been polite, if in some cases skeptical. The water committee for Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy group, gave Million a friendly reception this winter. In May, The Denver Post lent an editorial pat-on-the-back. Without mentioning Million's project, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregg Hobbes agreed with the concept of additional storage as an answer to global warming-induced drought. But Million's plan has also been met by what Ed Quillen, publisher of a Salida-based magazine called Colorado Central, calls hostility. He believes that major water organizations see Million invading what they consider to be their turf. Nearly all water projects of the last century were conceived by public or quasi-public agencies. Million's is essentially a private venture...

Doug Kemper, executive director for the Colorado Water Congress, a consortium of water interests, agrees that few people in the contemporary era are familiar with private, non-government organizations benefiting from delivery of public water resources. That said, precedents abound. The state's first major transmountain water diversion project, the Grand River Ditch, located north of Grand Lake, was done by Fort Collins-based company, Water Supply & Storage. Private companies delivered water to Denver for the first 60 years of the city's existence. The Homestake water diversion project began as a private enterprise in the 1950s that then paired with two municipalities, Colorado Springs and Aurora. More recently, ski companies from Winter Park to Vail have partnered with local governments to create water storage projects.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Now this is a big deal. According to The Vail Daily News (free registration required) the Colorado River Water Conservation District's Eric Kuhn has decided to recommend that the district oppose Million's pipeline. From the article:

Directors of the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District are being advised by Eric Kuhn, the agency's general manager, to oppose the project proposed by Aaron Million, a former rancher turned entrepeneur. It's unclear whether sufficient water in the Colorado River basin remains to be developed, says Kuhn. The Legislature, he notes, has asked for a study to determine the remaining availability. Kuhn also predicts that the transmountain diversion could harm the interests of Western Slope residents, particularly farmers, should sustained drought occur, as many climate scientists warn could happen...

Directors of the agency are scheduled to consider Kuhn's advice at a meeting on July 17 and 18. The district encompasses 15 Western Slope counties, from Steamboat to Ouray. Eagle County's representative on the board is County Commissioner Arn Menconi. Meanwhile, Million has applied to the Bureau of Land Management for a right-of-way across Wyoming. He has also applied to the Bureau of Reclamation, which administers the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, for a contract for water in the reservoir.

Ever since the drought of 2002, Coloradans have been talking about "big straws." Most Coloradans -- about 88 percent -- live east of the Continental Divide, while about 75 percent of water falls on the Western Slope. Relatively little of that Western Slope water in the headwaters near ski towns remains unspoken for, and Front Range cities are laying plans to capture those final pails. What water that remains is far downstream, west of Grand Junction, or on the Yampa River, where Steamboat Springs and Craig are located. Hence the visions of big straws, or pipelines that would pump the water over the mountains to growing, thirsty cities.

One such straw has been advocated for decades by David Miller, who envisions a reservoir near Crested Butte at a site called Union Park. But courts have ruled no extra water exists there, so he would have to get his water downstream of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, nearly to the town of Delta. The idea hangs by the slimmest of threads.

A 2003 study conducted by state officials found 15 potential big straw possibilities, ranging in cost from $3.7 billion to $15 billion. The most attractive alternative is a pipeline along I-70 to the Continental Divide near the Climax Mine. The study found no fatal flaws but many problems. It has spawned no proposals. A more formal idea was announced last year, this time by the [Northern Colorado] Conservancy District Conservancy District. The district operates the Colorado-Big Thompson project on behalf of Greeley, Fort Collins, and other cities as well as farmers in the South Platte River Valley. This pipeline could draw 20 percent of the Yampa River's annual yield from a reservoir west of Craig and pump it 250 miles to the Front Range. Presumably the buyers for this water, as for Million's water, would be cities, particularly Denver's south metro area. Water prices have been escalating even more rapidly than real estate, in some cases hitting $20,000 an acre-foot. The Yampa is Colorado's most unallocated and untrammeled river. No dams block the main stem as it flows into Dinosaur National Park. In that basin, the pumpback has spawned both cheers and catcalls.

Category: Colorado Water

6:38:51 AM    

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The Colorado Division of Wildlife has asked anglers to observe a voluntary ban on fishing in the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs due to low water and stressful conditions for the in-stream residents, according to The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

The tail end of mountain runoff continues to freshen most Colorado rivers, and fishing has been excellent. But water temperatures are on the rise on the Western Slope, and drought persists. The most noticeable victim of warming waters in Colorado has been the Yampa River. As a result, the Division of Wildlife has asked anglers to observe a voluntary fishing closure on the Yampa through Steamboat Springs...

The Yampa River is one-fifth of its normal flow for mid-July, and afternoon water temperatures have exceeded 70 degrees, the point at which released fish often fail to recover. Biologists say conditions aren't as serious as they were in 2002, but it's best to play safe with the Yampa's trout. Anglers honored the voluntary fishing closure on the Yampa in July and August 2002. Hundreds of stressed trout gathered for relief at the mouths of cool-water tributaries, but no significant fish kill ensued. Water temperatures that linger higher than 75 degrees can cause significant trout mortality. Temperatures in excess of 80 degrees are lethal. Trout suffer because warm water carries less oxygen. Being caught and handled can further weaken them and bring fatal fungus diseases. Low stream flows also dissolve fewer pollutants that might be present, raising toxic levels and further distressing trout, especially in watersheds with histories of mining. Heat stress tends to be at its worst in small streams and less of a problem in tailwaters, where cool flows are released from dams.

More coverage from The Steamboat Pilot & Today. They write:

The Colorado Division of Wildlife issued a formal request Friday for anglers to obey a voluntary fishing closure on the town stretch of the Yampa River -- from the Chuck Lewis State Wildfire Area to the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge on the west side of town. On Friday afternoon, the Yampa River was flowing at 95 cubic feet per second, as measured at the U.S. Geological Survey gauge at Fifth Street. That measurement was a slight increase from the previous day, due to Thursday's afternoon precipitation, but it still puts the Yampa at one-fifth of its typical volume for this time of year. The lower volume of water means reduced habitat availability that puts the health of fish species in jeopardy, particularly when combined with high water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels. Steamboat Springs area DOW fisheries biologist Bill Atkinson said high water temperatures are the most critical stressor for trout. According to Atkinson, upper lethal limits for trout range from water temperatures of 74 to 79 degrees, and with the Yampa's temperatures now exceeding 71 degrees in the afternoon, trout and whitefish are congregating in the few pools of cool water.

Thanks to Colorado Confidential for the link.

Category: Colorado Water

6:30:46 AM    

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Here's an update about the opposition to PowerTech's proposed uranium mining operation in Weld County, from The Denver Post. They write:

Powertech Uranium Corp. is proposing a 5,760-acre development in western Weld County that eventually could produce 8 million pounds of the nuclear fuel. At the current price of $129 a pound, the operation could generate $1 billion in revenue. Yet the $20 million proposal has generated strong opposition from northern Colorado landowners who fear environmental damage and health problems from the mine. "A lot of people just don't want to see this happen," said Jay Davis, who with his wife, Robin, owns an 80-acre horse pasture near Nunn. "We're very concerned about the health issues once the mining starts." The Davises and other opponents fear that the project will contaminate groundwater and leach toxins into surrounding soil and aquifers...

Powertech will hold a community meeting Thursday from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at the community center in the Nunn Town Hall, 185 Lincoln Ave. [ed. emphasis ours] The company is proposing a mining process known as "in-situ" in which a solvent solution is injected underground to dissolve uranium and pump it to the surface. The process is safer and less invasive than traditional open-pit or underground mining, said Richard Blubaugh, vice president of environmental health and safety resources for Powertech. "The issue is widely misunderstood by opponents," he said. "There is no likelihood of contaminating drinking water. We'll certainly be able to contain the process." Blubaugh said the process of injecting sodium bicarbonate and oxygen into the deposits inherently causes some of the uranium and attached heavy metals to dissipate into surrounding soils, but not enough to contaminate aquifers. "We plan to use good engineering, proper instrumentation, good operator training, and have a series of groundwater-monitoring wells," he said...

Powertech also is pursuing a uranium mine in southwestern South Dakota and is proposing a uranium-processing facility at an undisclosed location in Wyoming. As recently as 2002, uranium was trading at $7 a pound. But prices surged to a record $138 in May because stores of processed uranium have been exhausted and demand is growing with plans for up to 100 new nuclear power plants around the world. Prices have fallen 6.5 percent in the past three weeks as higher mine production resulted in a temporary glut of uranium. Boosters say nuclear power is a partial solution to global warming because the plants emit no carbon, unlike conventional coal- and natural-gas- fired generators.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:19:13 AM    

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