Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

Subscribe to "Colorado Water" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A picture named derrick.jpg

The state engineer is planning an appeal of the recent District 7 Water Court decision on coalbed methane and groundwater, according to The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

The state has asked that a water court ruling with potentially far-reaching effects on the oil and gas industry be put on hold while it prepares an appeal. The state engineer's office is also seeking clarification of the July 2 ruling by a Durango-based water court judge that water produced during natural gas drilling is subject to state water law. Denver attorney Sarah Klahn, who represents the two ranch families whose lawsuit led to the ruling, said Thursday that she is preparing a response to the state's motions...

In a motion filed Tuesday, the state engineer's office argued the families haven't proved imminent harm to their water rights or other interests. By contrast, the state engineer's office said it would be overwhelmed dealing with water permits for about 2,000 coalbed methane wells in southwest Colorado. Coalbed methane operations in the San Juan Basin, one of the country's largest coalbed methane producers, might have to be suspended while the office processes water permits and gas companies file water rights and water augmentation plans, according to the state engineer's motion. "The Court's Order reverses a long-standing Colorado policy in a manner that has the potential to adversely affect water users, oil and gas producers, communities and consumers across the state," according to the motion.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:40:44 AM    

A picture named californiagulchleadville.jpg

State and federal officials have reached a tentative agreement with the mining companies on the hook for cleaning up the California Gulch Superfund site near Leadville, according to The Denver Post. From the article:

The proposed settlement is far below the $200 million that the government had sought, but a state environmental official said it is enough to get the job done. "This provides us with the mechanism to finish the cleanup," said Jeff Deckler, remedial program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "We probably have another three years up there." Asarco LLC of Tucson, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, assigned Colorado a $5.5 million claim for costs of cleanup and restoration, under the preliminary agreement filed in bankruptcy court in Texas on Wednesday. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency received a $13.8 million claim. The claims are unsecured, which means they're unlikely to be paid in full. Deckler said the state and EPA may be able to sell their claims for up to 70 cents on the dollar. Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. agreed to pay $5.5 million and to take over operation of a water-treatment plant. Newmont estimated the future cost of running the plant at $15 million, Deckler said. The California Gulch Superfund site has been on the list of the country's worst environmental-cleanup projects since the early 1980s. It is the site of numerous mines dating as far back as the late 1800s that have poured thousands of pounds of metals into the headwaters of the Arkansas River. Leadville itself is within the Superfund site, a stigma that town officials say has hurt the economy. Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen reserved comment until he could review the proposed settlement. But he said one concern he has is that Asarco's shuttered Black Cloud Mine is not destroyed as a result of any settlement...

Much of the cleanup has already been done in the California Gulch, Deckler said. Asarco's bankruptcy in 2005 was a setback to the process of completing the cleanup and ultimately removing Leadville from the Superfund list. The tentative agreement covers Asarco's portion of the site, which it owned jointly with Newmont, as well as nearby Black Cloud. Asarco agreed to pay Newmont $10 million as part of the deal. The proposed settlement still must be approved by a bankruptcy judge. The EPA, the state, Asarco and Newmont recently sat down for mediated talks ordered by the bankruptcy judge, Deckler said. The talks occurred as a hearing approached in which the judge would assign a value to creditors' claims. Newmont's involvement was critical to reaching the settlement, he said. Part of the disparity between the government's $200 million claim and the value of the settlement was related to the cost of operating a wastewater-treatment facility at the Yak Tunnel, the origin of much of the contaminated water in the California Gulch. The government estimated the cost at $95 million, Deckler said, while Newmont said it would cost $15 million.

More coverage from The Rocky Mountain News. They write:

The settlement agreements, involving a number of parties, call for Arizona-based Asarco to pay $10 million to Resurrection Mining Co., its joint-venture partner in the mine, and Resurrection parent Newmont Mining Corp. Resurrection would pay $12.5 million to the U.S. and Colorado state governments for additional cleanup and to restore the habitat, such as river fisheries, in the area. Resurrection agreed to continue to operate a water treatment plant in the area and do some reclamation work. U.S. and Colorado governments also would get unsecured claims totaling $19.3 million against Asarco, but it's unclear how much those would be worth. Resurrection would get a $6 million unsecured claim against Asarco.

Category: Colorado Water

7:32:41 AM    

A picture named summitvillemine.jpg

On Wednesday state lawmakers were briefed on the resource requirements for the continued cleanup of the Summitville Mine, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Since the Environmental Protection Agency started cleanup of the 1,400-acre site in 1992, cleanup costs have risen to more than $190 million. Runoff from the open-pit gold mine operated by the Summitville Consolidated Mining Company was blamed for killing all aquatic life in the Alamosa River...

Making sure that the polluted water, which comes from surface snowmelt, mining tunnels and seeps, is funneled across the 1,400-acre site and through the treatment plant is the primary task. "What we do out here is manage water and where it goes," site project Manager Austin Buckingham said. The federal government has picked up more than 90 percent of the costs, but there are a number of improvements to the site that still await funding. The most expensive item on the CDPHE's wish list for Summitville is a $17 million water-treatment plant. The current water-treatment operation was designed and run by the EPA until the state took over its operation in recent years. Although cleanup crews have managed to double the capacity of the plant to 1,400 gallons per minute, the runoff during heavy snow years can still overwhelm the plant.

Category: Colorado Water

7:16:13 AM    

A picture named southplattealluvialaquifer.jpg

Here's an update on the water court case over the shutdown of irrigation wells in the South Platte alluvial aquifer along with Governor Ritter's South Platte River Basin Task Force, from The Ag Journal. From the article:

While certainly water challenges are not only being experienced within the South Platte River Basin, in Colorado's northeastern region, Ritter feels the mandatory curtailment of agricultural wells in May of 2006 and the on-going litigation between water users there, is an issue that needed immediate and in-depth attention...

The irrigation wells affected are within the Well Augmentation Subdistrict of the Greeley based Central Colorado Water Conservancy District. Currently parties on both sides of the issue are awaiting a final ruling on the matter from Judge Roger A. Klein of Colorado's Division One Water Court in Greeley. The idle wells will remain shut down if Klein decides to up-hold a preliminary ruling in the case. Objectors in the case want the wells to be held accountable for what they claim is a 15,000 acre-foot debt of augmentation water they say the district owes to the South Platte River. Additionally, the objectors want the wells to operate under a permanently approved augmentation plan which guarantees protection for their more senior water rights in the region...

At the most recent meeting of the task force, a technical presentation was provided by Dick Wolfe, an engineer who serves as a non-voting ex-officio member of the task force. Wolfe's presentation provided attendees with an over-all geographical summary of the South Platte River Basin and also examined the various challenges task force members will be facing in the months to come. The South Platte River, like other water sources in Colorado, has been hard hit in recent years by severe drought conditions, which some feel may finally be waning. But whether the drought is in fact subsiding or not, the South Platte continues to be stressed each year by compact various obligations to provide water to neighboring states such as Kansas and Nebraska, as well as to meet the substantial growth of Colorado's Front Range. Additionally, the basin must continue to provide adequate water to the many agricultural interests which historically first established many of those water rights...

Attorney Jim Lochhead serves as task force council, along with Anne Castle. Lochhead gave a historical over-view of well regulations within the basin and stated that his role is to provide legal guidance to the task force. Lochhead says that the regulation of irrigation wells within the South Platte River Basin is far more advanced in comparison to other western states now beginning to deal with similar conflicts. Lochhead feels Colorado is more fortunate than those states who have yet to complete their adjudications, by having the constitutional language of the 1969 Act in place to use as a base for forming cooperative usage of well and surface water...

All meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for July 27th at 9 a.m. in room 0112 of the Colorado State Capitol Building in downtown Denver.

Here's another article focusing on the plight of farmers whose wells have been shut down, from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). They write:

The debate is a legal and political tug-of-war over regulations. A battle in which Division I Water Court Judge Roger Klein must decide whether a substituted supply plan mitigates any harm, using evidence from lawyers and scientists on both sides argued during 30 days of trial this spring. Yet, the drawn-out process already has impacted local farmers and agriculture for this season and next. Their farms hang in the balance as they scramble to make ends meet and try to plan an uncertain future after being drawn into a legal debate they never expected to face. "It makes me angry. It feels like they're overstepping their boundaries into our lives," [Erik Frank] said. "For how many years ... we just raised our crops and did our own thing."[...]

Farmers in Weld and Morgan counties are suffering, as is the agricultural economy around them. "The smaller towns as you go up the river are worse," said Don Jones, of McFeeders Realty Appraisal and Management in Fort Morgan, who travels Northeastern Colorado managing farm properties. "It's starting to have a visible impact and it's going to get worse and worse." Some farmers are also eschewing pest control, taking the dangerous chance that crops won't attract insects this year. Alan is making due this year with old equipment and even neglecting weeds on the borders of his crops. "You can't burn $3 diesel to keep weeds down, when you're not getting anything out of it," he said. The companies that supply farmers fertilizer for now fallow fields or chemicals for weed control are feeling the pinch as well, Jones said. "You're just seeing these business drying up because there isn't an economy to support them." Even property values are down. Morgan County assessor Bob Woodridge told the Rocky Mountain News earlier this month that property values dropped 12.5 percent. The only fortune smiling on these farmers has come from the gods. This year has been a good one for surface water. Heavy winter snowfall and spring rains have kept the South Platte flowing strong and about two-thirds of the conservancy district's farmers have ditch water rights, external affairs manager Greg Hertzke said.

Category: Colorado Water

7:08:35 AM    

A picture named nukeplantcattenomfrance.jpg

Here's a recap of yesterday's open house with Powertech officials regarding uranium mining in Weld County, from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Large fans set up around a former high school gymnasium that's now part of this small town's community center were not enough to keep the heat off officials from Powertech (USA) Inc. on Thursday. Area residents and anti-nuclear activists from across Northern Colorado grilled company officials during an open house intended to answer questions about the company's plan to mine uranium from beneath the prairie between Nunn and Wellington. About 300 people cycled through the open house, with many saying they felt frustrated by the format and the information company officials offered. "This feels like a dog-and-pony show to me," said Larry Williams, who lives near Nunn. "You ask a question and they tell you to talk to someone else. Then you get an answer but you don't get a lot of specifics."[...]

Powertech has begun test drilling to establish baseline environmental conditions and learn more about conditions underground, said Richard Blubaugh, the company's vice president of environmental health and safety resources. The company is more than a year from applying for permits from state and county regulatory agencies, he said. The company doesn't know the answers to questions some residents are asking because it doesn't have enough information, he said. "You've got to have the data collection before you can do the analysis, and you've got to have the analysis before you can make the decisions," he said. John Nelson, who lives off Weld County Road 17, said he's not concerned about the proposed project. Monitoring wells will alert the company to contamination if it occurs, he said. Nelson, who said he works in the nuclear industry but not for Powertech, said the in-situ process is safe.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:59:20 AM    

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © Copyright 2007 John Orr.
Last update: 8/1/07; 8:15:30 AM.
July 2007
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31        
Jun   Aug

e-mail John: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.