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

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

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The Colorado River District is hosting a seminar, Water: Fueling the Future, about water and oil and gas development on September 14th. Sounds like a hoot. Here's the link to the registration form [pdf]. From their website, "Energy development in the Rockies, water needs for production, water rights, water supply, produced waters, and more."

Category: Colorado Water

9:26:55 PM    

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More on the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation's EPA grant, from Colorado Confidential.

Category: Colorado Water

6:25:17 PM    

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Here's an look at the proposed pipeline on the Yampa River from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Colorado's Yampa River could deliver millions of gallons of fresh, clear water to the Front Range and other water- strapped areas via a $4 billion, 227-mile pipeline. The ambitious undertaking would create one of the largest, most expensive water projects the state has ever witnessed. It could also help provide enough water for Coloradans through much of the next century, according to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

"Ten to 15 years ago you would have never looked at something like this because of the cost," Wilkinson said. But thanks to drought and growth, water prices across the state have skyrocketed, making long-distance transport of water more economically appealing than it once was. Under this proposal, a pipeline would draw water from the Yampa River at Maybell, a tiny community roughly 75 miles west of Steamboat Springs. The water would be stored in a large reservoir and then pumped back across the state, offering opportunities for mountain tourist towns and Front Range suburbs to tap in. Northern estimates that roughly 300,000 acre-feet of water could be taken from the Yampa annually while protecting endangered fish and maintaining healthy stream flows. But no one knows yet whether that much water could be taken without harming other water users on the Yampa and the Colorado River...

Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, in Routt County, said he is interested in the idea because it could help water-short mountain counties such as Grand and Summit. "We have a lot of water here," he said. "We're pretty sensitive about it. Northern complains about drying up agriculture on the Front Range. "But is it OK to dry up ag land over here? I would say not just no, but hell no." Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, said he's "trying to keep an open mind. But I wonder what would happen if we spent that much money on conservation. I think we may be missing opportunities to (take) the low-hanging fruit first."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:45:22 AM    

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Here's a look at the planning going on to try to flush sediment in the Fryingpan River left over from a flood earlier this month, from The Aspen Times (free registration required). From the article:

Federal agencies coordinated efforts last week to increase flows from Ruedi as part of a program to help endangered fish on the Colorado River near Grand Junction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needed extra water from one of five participating mountain reservoirs. The decision was made to rely on Ruedi water in hopes that it would flush the debris to the Colorado River, where it would dissipate. The river's flow increased to 300 cfs, but the mud proved stubborn. "It's not moving much of the stuff," Hebein said. The soil has a lot of calcium sulfate, which tends to harden like cement as it sits.

There are two schools of thought on how to proceed. One option is to wait for a flushing flow until spring, when flows would be higher in natural conditions. Although there are artificial conditions on the dammed Fryingpan, the Bureau of Reclamation typically increases flows in spring to increase the reservoir's capacity - assuming the snowpack is at or around average. The second option is talking advantage of the man-made conditions and flush the river now. "There is water available for a large flow," said Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Kara Lamb. The agency is aware of the situation and is willing to help once it receives a formal request from the state wildlife division, she said.

While there is no emergency, Hebein said the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers face "a chronic case of the dwindles." The bug population will dwindle, fish habitat will dwindle and "at some point" trout populations will dwindle if there isn't improvement in the water quality, he said. Here's the problem, as described by Hebein: The fine sediment from the mud works its way into the spaces between peddles and rocks and smothers insects and their eggs. Bug populations are low at this time of year but mayfly and caddis fly hatches are occurring now and various hatches happen throughout the year. If no action is taken, the sediment will continue to clog spaces throughout the winter. Bugs will eventually re-colonize the affected stretches, but that could take time without a good flush. Hebein said some trout were likely killed in the initial flood of mud, especially browns, which hide on the bottom in adverse conditions. He doubted significant numbers of fish were killed. He's more concerned about the effects on their habitat. That's why he prefers a flushing. Even a flow of 800 cfs might not be enough to do the job.

Category: Colorado Water

6:36:54 AM    

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Here's a recap Wednesday's sessions at the Colorado Water Congress' annual summer meeting in Steamboat Springs, from The Denver Post. From the article:

The three-day conference - which has attracted water suppliers, government officials, scientists and consultants - focuses on water management amid the uncertainties of climate change. "One question is: Do you plan for the average, or do you plan for the unacceptable?" said Randy Udall, director of the Aspen-based Community Office for Resource Efficiency. "The consensus was you plan for the unacceptable." Many water providers, including those in Denver and Colorado Springs, have begun planning for reduced stream flows and reservoir levels, trying to balance the risks and costs in an unpredictable world. Overall, the region is likely to see wetter winters and drier summers, [Joel Smith, one of the authors of the most recent report of the respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] said, although scientists concede that computer modeling is inexact and there could be great variations from the trends. But in general, the annual snowpack in the mountains is expected to decrease, and, coupled with an earlier spring runoff, it will affect both the amount of water and when it is available. "As you're trying to capture that earlier snowmelt, you may be confronted with flood-control issues," said Bob Rauscher, Smith's partner at Boulder- based Stratus Consulting. "You may be having more dam releases early in the season, when you'd rather be capturing it to prepare for that longer, hotter summer." Water quality also likely will be affected: Warmer temperatures tend to induce algae blooms in reservoirs and contribute to the size and severity of forest fires - a major source of sedimentation - and salinity is expected to rise with increased evaporation.

From The Aspen Times (free registration required), "[U.S. Representative Mark Udall] will be in Steamboat Springs at noon on Friday, appearing as the keynote speaker at the Colorado Water Congress summer Convention."

More coverage from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. They write:

More frequent sewer overflows, tanking stream water quality, reservoir water storage problems and a higher risk of catastrophic wildfire -- all are expected to be consequences of human-caused global warming, which may leave Colorado's water supplies vulnerable in the coming decades, two climate experts told water managers during a Colorado Water Congress meeting Wednesday. "This is why it sounds like a doom and gloom presentation; there are so many ways climate change can ripple through water resource planning and utility operations," Boulder water consultant Bob Raucher said. And make no mistake, global warming is "unequivocally" real, and it is likely caused by humans and our greenhouse gas emissions, said climate researcher Joel B. Smith of Boulder-based Stratus Consulting, a lead author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most recent global warming report...

Here's how it works, Smith said: Temperatures in many places across the globe are rising as human-emitted greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere. When the temperature increases, water evaporation increases, augmenting the hydrologic cycle and causing more precipitation...

Floods, he said, may reduce water quality in reservoirs and make it difficult to capture snowmelt. And, he said, Coloradans should expect two more drawbacks: higher potential for wildfire as temperatures rise; and more intense rainfall causing streams to contain more sediment, harming fish species. Some of those fish may be forced to migrate or be moved northward where they won't be affected as much by warming streams, he said. "Because rainfall events will be more severe, you'll have more sewer overflows," he said...

In the final two days of the Colorado Water Congress' three-day summer meeting, lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and state Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, and a host of water experts from across the country will talk about how Colorado can plan for the future of its water supplies in a time of climate change.

Category: Colorado Water

6:26:54 AM    

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Garfield County is wrestling with new regulations for oil and gas development. They're getting help from other groups in the county, according to The Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

Garfield County's Planning & Zoning Commission tonight will consider whether to pursue ground-breaking regulations applying to oil and gas development. This may be the first time both the industry and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance have agreed they want oil and gas regulations in the county's land use code, GVCA organizer Patrick Barker said Wednesday. But the two entities are at odds over just what those regulations should be. The industry submitted its proposal after the state Supreme Court in June declined to review a challenge of oil and gas regulations imposed by Gunnison County. Barker said that ruling helped clarify whether counties can regulate the industry as long as the rules don't conflict with state regulations.

The GVCA fears that Garfield County now may adopt the industry proposal rather than undertaking a process to obtain input from a broad range of people and create rules that better consider the interests of county residents. "Garfield County has a golden opportunity to address residents' concerns on oil and gas drilling and offer them an extra layer of protection over state law," GVCA president Liz Chandler said in a news release Wednesday. The group believes some of the conflicts between residents and gas developers could be eased if wells and open waste pits had to be located farther from homes. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission allows wells as close as 150 feet from a home. The GVCA also would like to see buffer zones required between oil and gas operations and bodies of water, and wants regulations addressing site security and emergency preparedness and response and limiting noise and visual impacts. Barker worries that some planning commission members may not have read the full industry proposal, yet could be inclined to approve it as the panel seeks to complete work on a comprehensive rewrite of its land use code.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:16:08 AM    

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Bump and Update: Congratulations to the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation in winning a Targeted Watershed Grant from EPA.

From WebWire, "U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA Region 8 Administrator Robert E. Roberts and Jim Martin, Director of the Department of Public Health and Environment gathered at Vanover Park in Golden today to announce EPA's selection of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation as a finalist for a $544,090 Targeted Watershed Grant...The winning Clear Creek proposal focuses on Upper Clear Creek from the Continental Divide to the City of Golden and features a large-scale mine site remediation project to restore water quality in impaired stream segments. The proposal includes installation of traps for contaminated sediment, removal of mine waste piles, and development of an innovative orphan mine trading program to fund maintenance of sediment traps."

The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation's application for a Targeted Watershed Implementation Grant is one of sixteen finalists. From the EPA website:

The Targeted Watersheds Grant (TWG) program encourages the protection and restoration of the country's water resources through cooperative conservation. The program supports collaborative watershed partnerships that are ready to implement on-the-ground restoration and protection activities designed to achieve quick, measurable environmental results. In 2007, EPA will award $13.3 million in implementation grants for 2006/2007...

The Clear Creek Watershed is located immediately west of Denver. The surrounding area is mountainous and rural and has a history of mining which had negative impacts on the water quality. The crash of the silver markets left many of the mine sites abandoned, leaving approximately 2,000 "orphan" sites. Clear Creek is the primary drinking water supply for 9,000 upper basin citizens and 300,000 lower basin citizens. The proposed project will improve water quality by installing sediment traps, removing waste piles and establishing a maintenance program to clean out the sediment traps, funded through the use of an innovative market based metals/pollutant trading program.

Thanks to restoringrivers for the heads up.

Category: Colorado Water

6:05:38 AM    

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