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 30, 2007

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Look out Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The rest of the country is starting to realize that oil shale could yield trillions of barrels of hydrocarbons to power the economy and diminish our dependence on foreign oil. It won't matter to them if the area becomes a national sacrifice zone. Here's a post from The Moderate Voice. They write:

The only real option America has if it hopes to free itself from the shackles of Middle East petro-politics anytime soon is to find new sources of domestic petroleum. Am I suggesting that we drill ANWR? The truth is that it doesn't make much of a difference if we do or don't. ANWR is a red herring -- it only has enough petroleum to support America's domestic needs for just one year -- maybe two. However, we have another source of domestic petroleum that has the potential to make a big difference: oil shale.

Oil shale is a type of rock that has a petroleum precursor called kerogen trapped inside of it. Using a variety of mechanical and chemical processes, this kergoen can be extracted and upgraded into liquid fuels like synthetic gasoline and synthetic diesel. The United States has the largest oil shale resources in the world. Most of America's oil shale deposits are located in the undeveloped Green River Formation, which straddles Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. According to the Rand Corporation, as much as 1.1 trillion -- yes, trillion -- barrels of synthetic petroleum could be recovered from the Green River Formation. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, that is four times the size of Saudi Arabia's proved reserves of conventional oil, and approximately equal to all of the proved reserves of conventional oil on earth!

Oil shale has received little attention in recent decades, but some Americans probably remember hearing about the resource during the Arab oil embargoes. In 1980, at the height of the embargoes, the U.S. Congress created the Synthetic Fuels Corporation, which was, in part, intended to develop America's oil shale industry. When the Synthetic Fuels Corporation was created it was incredibly expensive to squeeze petroleum out of oil shale, and the plan was to invest in research and development to pioneer cheaper methods to produce shale oil. House Majority Leader, Rep. Jim Wright of Texas, thought so highly of the bill that created the Synthetic Fuels Corporation that he described it as "the most important bill we'll act on during this decade, beginning an initiative we should have started in the 1950s." However, by 1985, after the Arab embargoes ended and the price of oil plummeted, the incentive to invest in oil shale plummeted as well. Nearly every oil shale project in America was abandoned. With conventional oil selling at less than $25/Bbl, why would anyone want to invest in oil shale, which looked like it would never break the $80/Bbl profitability threshold?

Over the past few years though, a few things have changed. First, the price of oil has again skyrocketed. And, unlike in the 1980s, the price of oil does not look like it will come down again. This is because the peak in global production is fast approaching while demand is surging: limited supply and higher demand can only mean higher prices. Moreover, the Persian Gulf oil powers will likely continue to inflate oil prices as their stranglehold over the petroleum market tightens. As a 2005 Citigroup report noted, "...the days of $25 oil are long gone and unlikely to return any time soon." Governments and businesses around the world are now forecasting long-term oil prices above $40, $50, and even $60 a barrel. These could all be conservative estimates.

The second major change relevant to oil shale is that several companies operating under the radar screen have developed radically cheaper oil shale production methods over the past few years. Shell is confident that a new technology it is pioneering could produce shale oil profitably if the price of crude settles above ~$25/Bbl. According to a 2006 report in BusinessWeek, an Israeli company may now be able to produce shale oil at a cost of $17/Bbl. And, according to a 2004 DOE report, an Estonian firm believes that it can produce shale oil profitably with crude prices as low as $13/Bbl.

Assuming that these figures are remotely accurate, shale oil now appears to be significantly cheaper than conventional crude. In addition, it appears to be significantly cheaper than any biofuel or coal-to-liquids solution. For the first time in history, America's vast oil shale resources are economically viable.

Economically viable? Who says? Not Shell. The company recently scaled back their operations. Where will the water come from to produce the kerogen? Let's hope that oil shale does prove economically viable -- we still don't know.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:18:31 AM    

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Here's a look at the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) from The Windsor Beacon. From the article:

Glade Reservoir would be about five miles long and 260 feet deep. It would store up to 170,000 acre-feet of water. Nearby Horsetooth Reservoir holds about 156,000acre-feet, by way of comparison. U.S. Highway 287 in Fort Collins runs through the proposed Glade Reservoir site, meaning part of the project would be relocating about seven miles of that highway. The second reservoir, Galeton, would be located east of Ault and northeast of Greeley and hold up to 40,000 acre-feet of water. "Glade would be filled by diverting the Poudre using the existing Poudre Valley Canal during times of high flow, and Galeton water would be diverted from the South Platte and delivered to two agricultural irrigation companies in exchange for Poudre River water they currently use," Seltzer said. "At no time would the Poudre River be dried up and the flow would not be affected in the Poudre Canyon." The total cost of NISP is estimated at around $400 million for the two reservoirs, with Glade costing $200 million over 27 years...

NISP will provide about 40,000 acre-feet of water each year once the project is completed. Although the water rights are already purchased, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently checking whether the project complies with the National Environmental Policy Act. An Environmental Impact Statement is expected in late 2007, which will examine alternatives to the project and identify environmental impacts of NISP. "Glade could be completed in 2014, and Galeton in 2020," Seltzer said. "We've been working on this project for years though, and it helps to think of this kind of project as planning for your future instead of letting the future happen to you." The only real alternative to NISP that has been raised is a process called ag dry-up, where 30,000 acres of farmland in Northern Colorado would be dried out and that water used to meet municipal demands...

Windsor Director of Engineering Dennis Wagner said the size of the reservoirs was so vast because it's necessary to have about seven times as much storage as water. "There can be tremendous fluctuation in how much water we get, and we want to be able to store as much as possible," Wagner said. The other participants in NISP are the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, Left Hand Water District, Erie, Lafayette, Morgan County Quality Water District, Severance, Central Weld County Water District, Evans, Frederick, Firestone, Dacono, Fort Lupton, Fort Morgan and Eaton. "Both Greeley and Fort Collins opted to focus on individual solutions rather than regional ones," Seltzer said.

hanks to the DARCA News page for the link. More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:58:54 AM    

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There will be a public hearing tonight in Glenwood Springs to discuss the planning and execution of an effort to flush mud from the Fryingpan (and Roaring Fork) River that is left over from a flash flood earlier in the month, according to The Aspen Times (free registration required). From the article:

The Colorado Division of Wildlife will hold a public hearing Thursday, Aug. 30 in Glenwood Springs to outline its plan to flush the Fryingpan River next month. The meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center at 100 Wulfsohn Rd. The wildlife division has asked the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to boost water releases from Ruedi Reservoir to help flush thick red sediment from the lower Fryingpan River. Seven Castles Creek pumped sediment into the river during a flood Aug. 6. The red mud hasn't completely cleared from the river and it is also affecting the middle Roaring Fork River. Wildlife division officials said earlier this month that there is no emergency, but they want to try to flush the river as soon as possible so fish habitat doesn't deteriorate.

The Bureau of Reclamation said it has extra water in Ruedi to send downstream. The wildlife division wants flows gradually increased from the current 300 cubic feet per second to 800 cfs the week of Sept. 10. The flow will only be at the highest level for a day or so before it is gradually reduced, so disruptions of fishing should be brief.

Category: Colorado Water

6:38:43 AM    

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Here's an update on the Republican River stream flows and depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer from The Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

Too many straws in the pond. That is how the irrigation wells in the Republican River Basin have been described. As a result, Colorado is out of compliance with the 1942 Compact with Nebraska and Kansas that allocates the waters of the basin. And on a much larger scale, there are too many straws in the Ogallala Aquifer -- too many wells pulling water from the enormous aquifer that lies under eight of the High Plains states.

The third round of meetings for the Republican River Water Conservation District was planned for this week, to be held up and down the district from Burlington to Holyoke -- to help decide how to get more straws out of the pond. Two earlier rounds of meetings were held at the same locations in June and July. But the August meetings have been postponed. The state water engineer's office is developing regulations to bring Colorado's portion of the Republican River Basin into compliance with the 1942 Compact with Nebraska and Kansas. The regulations were to be presented for public comment at these meetings, but they weren't finished. So the meetings will probably be held in October...

The gauge on the Republican River at Benkleman, Neb., does not show the water flow that Colorado is required to send to its downstream states. And the Ogallala Aquifer continues to shrink. This huge natural underground storage reservoir lying beneath a big portion of the High Plains is sometimes called the High Plains Aquifer. The largest part of the aquifer is under Nebraska, with seven other states, including eastern Colorado and western Kansas, sharing the subterranean reservoir. Irrigation wells in the Republican Basin are pumping water from this natural reservoir, as are thousands upon thousands of wells all across the aquifer. As wells draw down the aquifer, rivers flow into the region and replenish it. But the draw down is happening faster than the recharge. This has been going on for decades, since center pivot irrigation became popular in the 1960s and '70s. "Geologically speaking, these river systems are very slow at replenishing the aquifer," said Joel Schneekloth, Colorado State University's Regional Water Resource Specialist for northeast Colorado.

In some areas, such as at the southern edge of the aquifer in southeast New Mexico, wells dried up and farming was all but abandoned years ago. Texas has been concerned about the draw down of the aquifer for many years. The thickness of the aquifer varies from place to place and state to state. Generally, edges of the aquifer are less thick than the central areas. In Colorado, the Republican Basin lies along the eastern edge of the aquifer where the water supply has less depth...

And now, Kansas sounds as if it is going to try its luck in court again. At a recent meeting in Junction City, Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison said they will take measures to bring both states (Nebraska and Colorado) into compliance. Action will be fairly quick and decisive, he said, to begin the process of enforcing the Supreme Court order (of 2002).

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:32:23 AM    

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Here's an update on the Fountain Creek Lawsuit from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A judge Wednesday threw out one lawsuit against Colorado Springs for pollution of Fountain Creek, but allowed a similar lawsuit to proceed. U.S. District Judge Walker Miller dismissed Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut's lawsuit but kept alive the Sierra Club's lawsuit that deals with many of the same issues. Thiebaut told The Pueblo Chieftain he is "hopeful" that the Sierra Club alone will be able to carry the case against Colorado Springs and obtain results similar to what he was hoping to obtain when the two lawsuits were consolidated by Miller into one case. The district attorney also said he is considering whether to appeal Miller's ruling against him. A 10-day trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 17.

The Sierra Club's attorney, Eric Huber of Boulder, said Miller's ruling in favor of the club "rejects Colorado Springs' two years of motions seeking to dismiss this case." He said the judge's 16-page order "requires Colorado Springs to show up for trial" and face "potential penalties of over $1 million." Huber said his environmental group has the potential of obtaining the same results in major substance against the city even without the district attorney in the case.

The attorney for Colorado Springs, John Walsh of Denver, said the city "is gratified" by Miller's ruling against Thiebaut's participation in the case. Walsh also said the city "is heartened by other aspects" of the judge's ruling. One of those aspects, Walsh said, is Miller's request for Colorado Springs and the club to file arguments about whether Sierra gave the city "adequate notice" of its intention to sue. The three litigants had anxiously awaited Miller's rulings since April 27 when he heard arguments from each side about why he should rule, without a trial, in its favor. The judge threw out Thiebaut's lawsuit on the basis that he "has not demonstrated legal authority under Colorado law to bring this action." That was the position Colorado Springs had taken from the early days of the lawsuit which Thiebaut filed in late 2005. The Sierra Club filed its lawsuit several weeks later...

The lawsuits were filed under a provision of the act that allows "citizens" to sue for enforcement when federal and state environmental agencies purportedly have failed to enforce the act. The act requires notice be given at least 60 days before a citizens' suit is filed. Miller, in seeking arguments by Sept. 10 on that issue, said the litigants' filings so far "are inadequate for me to determine whether adequate notice has been given for each and every alleged violation." Thiebaut said he is disappointed by Miller's ruling to dismiss him from the case. "I do not share Judge Miller's legal conclusion and need time to review his reasoning so that I can discuss with my attorneys the propriety of an appeal...

Miller denied the city's contention that Sierra's lawsuit should be thrown out. The city made that contention on three grounds: That the alleged violations are "wholly past because they are isolated, unrelated events." Miller said he agrees with the club that the city's argument "is undermined by the numerous illegal discharges of raw sewage or nonpotable water" after the club sued. That the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the agency authorized with enforcing the act, has issued a series of final compliance orders in response to all of the violations alleged by the club. Miller said "Congress clearly contemplated (in passing the act) some situations in which a violation that has been the subject of final state administration action (under the act) could nonetheless be the subject of a civil penalty action under the citizen's suit provision." That Sierra had not given the city the legally required adequate notice. Miller said he will decide that issue later.

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette. They write: "A federal judge has dismissed the Pueblo County district attorney from a lawsuit he and the Sierra Club filed against Colorado Springs Utilities over pollution of Fountain Creek. Utilities called the ruling, issued Wednesday, a 'positive step,' but only a partial resolution. 'We're not in a position to be overconfident,' said Utilities spokesman Steve Berry, noting the trial with Sierra Club begins next month."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:06:05 AM    

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Here's a look at the Uncompahgre River, its status as an asset in the communities it passes through and the citizen involvement in its current state, from The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The headwaters of the Uncompahgre are up Poughkeepsie Gulch near Lake Como, almost to Hurricane Pass, according to Well Commissioner Scott King of Colorado's Division of Water Resources. Although small as rivers go, the Uncompahgre is crucial. "It is a major tributary to the Gunnison River," he said. "From the headwaters to the Ouray County line, there are 2,540 different water decrees. From the Ouray County line north, including all tributaries to the Gunnison, there are 1,748 different water rights." The most senior right to the river, known as the Reservation Ditch, was adjudicated in 1890, with an appropriation date of July 1, 1880...

The community of Ridgway has also taken great steps to care for and preserve the Uncompahgre River as it passes by. Beginning in 2002, Ridgway embarked on the River Recreation Corridor Project, a three-phase river restoration effort that was completed in 2006. According to Town Clerk Pam Kraft, who wrote the original Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant for the river project, the idea was to enhance vegetation, wetlands and riparian habitats in a way that would prove beneficial to both human beings and wildlife. A design for the project was created by the National Park Service, and implemented by Bill Coughlin's Western Streamworks, LLC with the help of seasonal Southwest Youth Corps volunteers. Land along the river was obtained from a variety of sources. The town entered into a $200,000 lease/purchase agreement with landowners Ed and Linda Weitz for four acres of wetlands on the east side of the Uncompahgre, property owner James Rollans pledged a gift of seven acres for a park on the west side of the river, and a .401-acre parcel for public access on the east side of the river from the bridge was donated by Citizens State Bank. Last week, Ridgway celebrated the receipt of a 60-acre gift from the family of the late actor and longtime Ridgway resident Dennis Weaver, further adding to the public land preservation effort and creating a place where future generations can enjoy the riparian habitat, complete with abundant rushing water, tall trees and wildlife. Ridgway locals and visitors alike enjoy traversing the walking paths beside the river, where bald eagles can be seen resting in the trees. Kayakers can practice on two drop structures located near the pedestrian bridge, and river raft trips run through the stretch, offered by Ridgway Independent Guide Service, a local fly fishing business. Funding for the Ridgway River Recreation Corridor came from a variety of grants.

Category: Colorado Water

5:44:15 AM    

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