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

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

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From The Greeley Tribune (free registration required), "State Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, will host a community forum to discuss the issues concerning the use, availability, storage, and demands of water in Northern Colorado from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, at the Jack Meakins Community Resource Center, 3700 Golden St. in Evans. The public is invited and light refreshments will be served. Local water experts including Tom Cech of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, Brad Wind of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and several others will present the latest available information on what is happening with Colorado water and what the future holds for municipalities, agriculture, industry, and our economy. They will present basic, easy to understand information that all citizens need to know."

Category: Colorado Water

7:17:22 AM    

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Here's an update on negotiations between Mexico and the U.S. over the Colorado River, from The San Diego Union-Tribune. From the article:

The United States and Mexico have agreed to discuss a range of issues surrounding the Colorado River, a key water source for both nations, the U.S. Interior Department said Monday. U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne released a joint U.S.-Mexico statement saying the discussions would include the effects of climate change and drought; urban, agricultural and environmental water needs in both nations; wildlife habitat in the Colorado River Delta; and such programs as sea water desalination to augment supplies. The statement said existing treaties should be used to "expedite discussions in coming weeks." No date for the talks has been set, Interior spokeswoman Joan Moody said. The statement did not say what the scope of the proposed discussions on climate change and drought would be.

Category: Colorado Water

7:11:55 AM    

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In-stream residents dependent on water in the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork and the Colorado are benefitting from BuRec's releases from Ruedi Reservoir, according to The Aspen Times. From the article:

The release of from Ruedi Reservoir to benefit endangered fish on the Colorado River near Grand Junction starting Friday also was designed to help trout on the lower Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation boosted releases from Ruedi by 40 cubic feet per second to a total of 300 cfs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested the additional water for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. That program improves habitat for endangered fish by increasing the flow of the Colorado River in a 15-mile section of the river in the Grand Valley. Ruedi, above Basalt, is one of four mountain reservoirs used to boost flows for the endangered fish. Water managers picked Ruedi as the source for additional water for the program because sediment continues to clog the lower Fryingpan River after an Aug. 6 flood, according to Kara Lamb, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The goal is to flush the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers, as well as increase the flow of the Colorado River. "It was a two birds with one stone kind of thing," Lamb said...

The flow of 300 cfs is a level that makes fishing difficult, but muddy water degrades the bug habitat to the point where the fishing is no good anyway. Water managers hope that a short period of high flows flush the rivers and allow bugs to re-establish themselves before winter, according to a press release from the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado River District are working with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to determine if the higher flow would provide a long-term benefit for the trout.

Category: Colorado Water

7:00:21 AM    

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From email from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan Crabtree): "Reclamation will be holding the next coordination meeting for operation of the Aspinall Unit on Thursday, August 30th, 2007, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the National Park Service Elk Creek Visitor Center at Blue Mesa Reservoir. The operation meeting will review past and future 2007 operations, upcoming maintenance activities, and provide an update on other activities within the basin. Please contact Steve McCall or Dan Crabtree at 970-248-0600 with any questions or suggested agenda items."

Category: Colorado Water

6:53:08 AM    

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

...the Raton [Basin] is home to ranchers who, for almost a decade, have been receiving coal-bed methane water for their livestock and to replenish streams used by the deer and elk valued by hunters. The region, still staggering from drought and now the aftermath of last winter's blizzards, is in dire need of more water, Las Animas County officials say. But some landowners, such as Valentine, are increasingly wary about coal-bed methane water - which can damage soil if the salt levels in the water are high enough. Unlike Montana and Wyoming, Colorado has no water-quality rules placing pollution limits on coal-bed methane water, which must be pumped out of the ground in order for operators to extract the valuable gas. There are 800 outfall pipes discharging coal-bed methane water into southern Colorado streams and rivers, according to state records. "It's our job to protect water quality, and there is definitely impacts to water quality from CBM discharges," said Steve Gunderson, director of the state health department's water-quality division.

During the drought, Las Animas County officials filed with a district water court for a water right on the coal-bed methane water produced in the basin. Seeing the water just welling up, county officials said they figured it was only a matter of time before Front Range cities came after it. "But, boy, we opened a can of worms. Everyone said, 'We can't do it,' and I still don't understand why not," said County Commissioner Ken Torres. The state's legal view is that coal-bed methane water is "byproduct waste" - and cannot be claimed under a water right for irrigation or municipal supplies. That legal definition also places regulatory responsibility for the water under the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The agencies that regulate water - the state engineer and the state Department of Public Health and Environment - have a much smaller stake. How Colorado manages coal-bed methane water may soon change as a state health department task force eyes new water-quality rules and the state engineer's office faces complying with a recent water-court ruling...

Armed with water-quality data taken from Frio Springs, Valentine urged regulators to adopt new rules aimed at protecting the waterways from salty coal- bed methane water. It appears they will. After Valentine's testimony, the state health department formed a task force to recommend whether Colorado should adopt salinity rules - rules that could limit some coal-bed methane water discharges. In July, the task force released a draft policy paper outlining how the state could revise its permits. It doesn't, however, propose a limit on sodium. "It's going to make industry howl, but we know it's a step in the right direction," Gunderson said. Officials with Petroglyph Energy Inc. say that they fear new rules will impede their ability to discharge water and that, as a result, they are considering treating the water. "If we're going to stay in business, it's something we've got to do," said Tom Melland, Petroglyph's operational manager. Environmental regulators have granted 13 discharge permits in the Raton Basin in the past two years, covering more than 800 outfalls in dozens of the area's streams. Gunderson said the division also will likely change its current permitting process to make sure landowners are aware where the outfalls are being placed...

While companies sometimes directly discharge coal-bed methane water into local streams, the water is often routed through an evaporation pit. There, the water is held until it's released into a nearby stream, or pumped into a water truck and carried to either an injection well or waterway for disposal. Like the deep-injection wells, those pits are regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Agency officials estimate there are more than 13,000 permitted pits in the state. In Colorado, the key to more widely using coal-bed methane water is getting a court-approved right on it. That's why Ken Torres and his fellow Las Animas County commissioners decided to stake their claim to the thousands of gallons of coal-bed methane water flowing out of the ground. They knew the water wouldn't be a long-term supply but wanted the water for livestock, dust control and fire suppression.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:38:35 AM    

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From The Denver Business Journal, "Colorado cattle industry pioneer, statesman and water development expert W.D. Farr died Monday at his home. He was 97...He was a director of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and helped guide the construction of the Windy Gap water project...'He was a giant of Colorado water and he spent countless hours teaching me the lessons of Colorado's water history,' Salazar said in a news release. 'W.D. has left an indelible mark on Colorado and the West, and his spirit will continue to grace us forever.'"

More on Farr from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). They write:

Greeley's gentleman statesman is gone. W.D. Farr, a third-generation Coloradan, was a pioneer rancher, visionary, statesman, water expert, banker and a true gentleman. He died peacefully with family by his side at about noon on Monday. Farr, 97, sank deep roots in Greeley, in Colorado, in the United States and in the world. He was honored for his work in the livestock industry, water development and banking, but his real motivation in life was kindled by a deep desire to improve things and make them better for those who followed after him...

The family survived the Great Depression, and it was W.D. Farr who saw the tremendous contribution that water made to the development of land both in productivity and in crop quality. And thus, he became committed to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, a revolutionary idea of bringing water from the mountains on the Western Slope of the Continental Divide to the fields along the Front Range and east. That system has been delivering supplemental water to both agriculture and Front Range cities in an eight-county area for more than 50 years. Farr often referred to that project as building a second Poudre River for northern Colorado. Farr served 40 years on the board of directors of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which manages the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. In 1994, the Granby Pumping Plant, an integral part of the C-BT distribution system, was named the Farr Pumping Plant to recognize his contributions to Colorado water development.

Here's another obituary about Mr. Farr from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). They write:

Mr. Farr served tirelessly as a board member of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District beginning in 1955 until his retirement 40 years later. The District Court then immediately appointed Mr. Farr as director emeritus, a position that he held for the rest of his life. Mr. Farr's contributions and guidance in formulating the operational criteria for the C-BT Project were instrumental in making the project an example of operational efficiency that is recognized worldwide today. With the exception of the quota setting in April 2007, Mr. Farr attended every quota setting meeting since the first one in 1957. In 1970, with the creation of the Municipal Subdistrict to pursue the development of the Windy Gap Project, Mr. Farr was elected president of the Subdistrict Board and served in that position until 1995. He was instrumental in negotiating the settlement of a decadelong controversy with Western Slope interests. Through his concerted efforts, and based on the deserved trust people placed in him, Mr. Farr was able to bridge the often-times acrimonious positions on both slopes.

Reaction from people that knew Mr. Farr from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required).

Category: Colorado Water

6:20:57 AM    

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