Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Monday, August 13, 2007

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SLV Dweller: "The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable will meet from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Adams State College Student Center. Division Engineer Mike Sullivan will give an update on Rio Grande flows and the Rio Grande Compact. The meeting will include reports from three of the roundtable's subcommittees and an update on the basinwide reservoir study."

Here's the information for tomorrow's meeting of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, the Colorado Basin Roundtable [August 27th] and the North Platte Basin Roundtable [August 28th].

Category: Colorado Water

7:15:48 AM    

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Here's a look at whirling disease and the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery from The Glenwood Springs Independent (free registration required). From the article:

Around 2001, the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery eradicated whirling disease from the facility, according to Assistant Hatchery Manager Mark Jimerson. One reason was a switch to using spring water rather than Rifle Creek water. "We isolated the spring water from Rifle Creek so that none of the contaminated creek water gets into the facility," he said. The change cut the water flow by nearly two-thirds - from 40 cubic feet per second (CFS) to 15 CFS, according to Capwell - but ensured a clean water source to raise healthy fish crops...

The Rifle hatchery started an "isolation facility" mostly used for raising native cutthroat trout. The facility is separate from the rest of the hatchery and uses its own water supply from another natural spring producing approximately 1 CFS. The fish are raised and sent out for disease testing through a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), according to Capwell. PCR testing is a technique for sampling fish DNA to detect and diagnose infectious disease. The facility is separated into four different sections to provide separation of one species of fish from another. Separation ensures no diseases will be transmitted. The hatchery had to quit using original storage ponds built when the facility first opened because the soil was - and still is - contaminated with whirling disease, Capwell said.

More on the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery from The Glenwood Springs Independent. From the article:

The state's largest trout-producing hatchery is located about 15 miles north of Rifle at the end of Highway 325 in the heart of Rifle Falls State Park. It produces roughly 1 million catchable trout, and an additional 2.5 million sub-catchable trout each year. It's all hatchery manager Dave Capwell can do to keep up with the anglers pulling fish out of nearby lakes and streams nearly as fast as he and his crew of eight full-time Division of Wildlife employees can stock them. "We raise and stock fish so people can get their limit and get on their way," Capwell said...

Capwell said that the cutthroat trout was the only native fish to Colorado before settlers inhabited the state. During the early 1900s, settlers had managed to stress fish populations so severely, fish had to be shipped from the Eastern United States, and as far away as England. The streams, ponds and lakes were stocked with other more abundant species such as browns and brook trout. However, this practice offset the natural balance and population of the native cutthroat, Capwell said. "A lot of what we do is species restoration," he said. "Trying to repair the damage that has been done over the years." In some instances, Capwell said, they've reintroduced cutthroat to drainages that were empty of fish for several years...

The hatchery was built during 1953 and started stocking fish in 1954. Water was directly irrigated from Rifle Creek through the facility at a rate of 40 cubic feet per second (CFS) when all 24 nursing ponds and 25 raceways were being used. Today, the facility uses just 12 of the 24 nursing ponds at a time, using only 15 CFS from a natural spring to lessen the chance of spreading diseases from fish populations in Rifle Creek waters, Capwell said. Using the natural spring water cut the supply by nearly two-thirds but ensured the water was disease-free and made the hatchery more efficient in the process. "We are still producing about the same amount of fish on one-third of the water by double cropping everything," Capwell said. "That's all that's changed, just the amount of water we use." The spring water is a constant 59 degrees Fahrenheit, an optimal temperature for raising trout, according to Capwell. "If it were in the low 60s it would be even better," he said. "But this is a good temperature that allows us to raise fish year-round." Fingerlings are sometimes stocked in the high altitude lakes because, as Capwell said, "Mother Nature can grow them faster than we can."

Category: Colorado Water

6:41:22 AM    

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Trout Unlimited is looking ahead to winter and the possible effects of the shutdown of the Shoshone generating plant on flows, according to The Aspen Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

With the plant down, it cannot call for 1,250 cubic feet of water it owns. That water has been a key component of flows in the Colorado River for years. Earlier this week, a group of major water interests reached an agreement to ensure there would be at least 810 cfs in the river near Grand Junction for endangered fish species, such as the humpback chub. But Trout Unlimited is concerned that a 22-mile stretch of river above Kremmling will drop too low this winter for the local trout population. "The fish were fine under the Shoshone call," said Mely Whiting, an attorney with Trout Unlimited. "Will they be fine without it? We don't know." Whiting is calling for another meeting with the major water interests, such as Denver Water, to further consider the winter flows.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:28:57 AM    

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Here's Part II of The Denver Post's series on water produced from coal-bed methane wells. From the article:

Water from oil and gas wells has been a nuisance for the energy industry as long as it has been drilling in the West. It has become an even bigger headache now that companies are drilling in water-drenched coal seams for methane gas. To get the gas, an operator must first pump out the groundwater to reduce the pressure holding the methane in place. That water - sometimes loaded with salts and trace metals - is capable of withering crops and damaging soil...

Richard Seaworth reckons his property in northern Larimer County is a good place to build a neighborhood - there's less smog than in Fort Collins and less wind than in Cheyenne. But to build a development on his 160 acres, Seaworth needed water. He didn't have to look far. Just down the road from his ranch sat the Wellington oil field, a 6-mile-long stretch of muddy earth that's been producing oil - and water - since 1923. While drillers have dumped water into creeks and ranchers and farmers have been taking it, to be able to use coal-bed methane water for urban development will require new regulations and legal rulings on who controls the water."Water rights are property rights, and we have to protect those rights," Seaworth said. Seaworth said he probably wouldn't have thought about using water from an old oil field 20 years ago, but now water is harder to come by. The idea of using water produced from energy development recently surfaced in Congress, where Western lawmakers - including Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, and New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee - introduced a bill in April to fund the development of treatment technologies...

Water produced from mature oil fields is often laden with high levels of salts, metals and other pollutants, and the Wellington field was no different. So in order to sell the water to Seaworth, Pomeroy had to first treat it. Pomeroy hired Fort Collins-based Stewart Environmental Consultants to devise a treatment technology that would filter and clean the oily residue clinging to the water. It took the firm about four years to get the $1.5 million facility up and running. Today, it treats 65 gallons per minute. Dave Stewart, the firm's president, said there were some operational hiccups but that the technology is effectively cleaning the water. "The water quality is better than the water in the irrigation ditch," said Stewart, who hopes to receive a patent for the technology...

Colorado's regulatory system, Pomeroy said, was structured so that it made permitting the Wellington project a nightmare. Pomeroy said he was told they must get a water-discharge permit from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the agency that oversees energy development in the state. No one had ever wanted to use the water before, so it took almost a year for the commission to grant the permit - a first of its kind for the agency. "The problem is, the energy guys don't speak water and the water guys don't speak energy," Stewart said. The Wellington project showed that utilizing the water - at least on a commercial basis - will require unraveling decades of dense and unyielding Western water law. In Colorado, the coal-bed methane water is legally considered "byproduct waste," and no one to date has been able to get a legal water right to take it at the well, rather than capturing it from a stream. Pomeroy and Seaworth are waiting for a water-court judge to declare them legal owners of the water being produced out of the Wellington field. If that right is granted, it will be the first time in Colorado a decree has been given for water produced from energy development.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:07:50 AM    

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