Coyote Gulch's 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, September 11, 2007

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Now this sounds like a fun time. CSU Cooperative Extension is holding the 2007 Tamarisk Symposium over in Grand Junction on October 24th and 25th. They're partnering with the Tamarisk Coalition. We're most interested in the session, Biological Control - Status and Implementation.

Thanks to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District for the heads up.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

9:42:25 PM    

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Here's an look at pollution from the Pennsylvania Mine in Peru Basin juxtaposed with the economics of recreation up in Summit County from The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

Local officials have long known that the abandoned shafts and tunnels are the perfect breeding ground for a toxic witch's brew of heavy metals. And while the risk to human health is often described as minimal, the metals - especially zinc - have a measurable impact on aquatic life.

Two of the three main drainages in Summit County, the Blue River and the Snake River, have sections where levels of metals are high enough to kill trout slowly over time...

Backed by the Clean Water Act, local officials in Summit County have aggressively tackled a number of projects in recent years aimed at improving the environment, in many cases through the county's open space program. "There's a desire to have open space on mine-scarred land," said [[Brian Lorch, an environmental planner with the county's open space department]. "We're creating public amenities instead of living among the spoils of the past," he said. Locally, the political will has been in place to pursue cleanups, with strong backing from the public and the Board of County Commissioners. County and basin master plans all include language addressing environmental remediation. Those documents provide the framework for site-specific projects. And by leveraging grants from state and federal sources, the county has tackled projects without spending huge amounts of local tax money, Lorch] said...

Reclaiming local waterways isn't just a matter of cleaning up the toxic metal pollution. Miles of local streams were turned inside-out when dredge boats churned up the gravel on the river-bottoms, leaving a rocky wasteland in place of lush willow thickets, beaver ponds and stately cottonwood groves. One successful project centered on removing those piles of dredged rock from around the Blue River between Frisco and Breckenridge, at Fourmile Bridge. The ambitious project was aimed not only at improving the aesthetics of the area, but at recreating aquatic and streamside habitat. A recent fish count by the Colorado Division of Wildlife showed that self-sustaining fishery is becoming re-established in that stretch of the river, Lorch said. The town of Breckenridge was ahead of the curve on the reclamation front when it restored the Blue River through town, and with a master plan in place for the entire Blue River corridor, Lorch said more reclamation projects are sure to come. The Swan River, also heavily scarred by dredging, is on the radar screen, Lorch said. Piles of tailings have also been identified as potential environmental threats in some areas. This summer's controversial cleanup of the Claimjumper site on Airport Road in Breckenridge showed that area residents are attuned to potential health risks from rock tainted with high levels of lead and arsenic...

The biggest environmental issue is clearly related to the acid drainage from abandoned mines. The two biggest polluters are the Wellington-Oro mine in French Gulch and the Pennsylvania mine, high in the Peru Creek drainage. Both sites have been studied at length. In both cases, passive treatment won't be enough. Instead, the water will have to be treated directly to remove some of the pollutants. Remediation at the Wellington-Oro site is well under way. Groundbreaking on a water treatment plant is still planned for this year, Lorch said. When the facility begins operating next year, it will remove much of the zinc that has degraded water quality downstream. Based on the results of a pilot treatment project, the plant should improve water quality to the point that a self-sustaining fishery can be re-established in the Blue River, downstream of its confluence with French Gulch. Similarly, the Snake River is tainted with metals from Peru Creek. For several miles downstream of Keystone, concentrations of metals, especially zinc, are so high that fish and aquatic insects are hard-pressed to survive. Like the Blue below Breckenridge, that section of the Snake has been on a list of impaired rivers and slated for a cleanup.

Thanks to Restoring Rivers for the link. More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:48:56 PM    

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More good news for Denver (and Jefferson County) residents. From today's Denver Business Journal:

Denver Water's rates could climb again to pay the increasing cost of maintaining, improving and expanding the city's water system. Denver Water, the state's largest water provider, serves about 1.1 million customers in Denver and some surrounding suburbs. The agency estimates it needs another $9.7 million a year in revenues to pay for increasing costs. If the board of commissioners approves the rate increase, Denver residential customers would see their bills rise an average of $13.32 per year. Suburban residential customers would seen an average increase of $21.44 per year.

The preliminary proposal will be heard by the commissioners on Sept. 12. A final vote is expected Sept. 26. Both meetings will be at the Denver Water board room at 1600 W. 12th Ave. The agency is balancing budget cuts, the need to recover costs and also sending customers messages about the high value of water and encourage conservation...

If the proposed adjustments are approved, they would take effect Jan. 1, 2008. Rates for Denver Water customers living inside the city would remain among the lowest in the metro area, while rates for Denver Water customers in the suburbs would still fall below the median among area water providers. Also under consideration is a change in pricing structure that would lead to lower or unchanged rates for usage below 6,000 gallons over two months, and slight increases for higher usage. The proposal also includes moving customers with dedicated outdoor irrigation taps from their current rate classification into a new "irrigation-only" rate class created last year. These customers -- primarily commercial, industrial, small multifamily dwellings, and government -- would pay a seasonal rate that is lower in the winter and higher in the summer. These rates would better approximate both the consumption characteristics and true cost of providing service to outdoor irrigation taps. Details will be on the Denver Water Web site,, after Sept. 12. Public comments will be taken at the board meetings and a Denver Water Citizen's Advisory Committee meeting Thursday, Sept. 13.

Category: Colorado Water

5:16:55 PM    

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The situation is normal up in Fairplay. They still don't have a design or funding for their new treatment plant. Now business owners in the area are trying to get a ballot issue to rescind the Fairplay Sanitation District's authority to go into debt for the plant, on the fall ballot, according to The Fairplay Flume. From the article:

A citizens committee of Fairplay-area business people announced its intent on Sept. 4 to place on the May 2008 ballot an issue to rescind the $3.5 million Fairplay Sanitation District bond issue that was narrowly approved at the May 2006 election. In a letter to the board of directors prior to the district's Sept. 4 meeting, the group was also the subject of strong criticism by the operator and project manager for the district, Dave Stanford, who is now operating under the business name of H20 Consultants Ltd. rather than AquaTest Inc. The citizens committee has retained legal counsel on the ballot matter, and its stated intent is to keep the Fairplay Sanitation District from obligating the district for up to $7.166 million in debt for a new wastewater treatment plant committee members feel will bankrupt many of the business owners...

Sears said the committee has located an engineer who can design a lagoon system that will work, and that it can be built at a much lower cost than a mechanical system proposed for the new wastewater treatment plant. She asked if the board would consider hearing out the engineer at a special meeting. The board agreed to set up the meeting for Thursday, Sept. 13, pending the engineer's agreement to appear. In a Sept. 4 letter to the board, Stanford said that the wastewater treatment lagoons being used by the district are not removing ammonia to the required discharge permit levels and because of the risk of $25,000 per day fines, he recommended the board move forward with the proposed design by Burns & McDonnel, for a mechanical system for wastewater treatment. "There are multiple wastewater design and planning requirements contained in these two regulations (regulations 22 and 96) that the citizens committee appears to be completely unaware of," said Stanford in his letter. "Because Burns & McDonnell is well aware of all of these regulations, their proposed wastewater treatment plant is going to be more expensive than the citizens committee chosen alternative that does not meet all of the requirements of these CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) regulations." He also said the citizens committee "has not received the message that their proposed alternate to the activated sludge process being designed by Burns & McDonnell was evaluated by Burns & McDonnell and was rejected because the sales representative of this proposed alternative said that the process would not work in this application."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:16:06 AM    

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Say hello to La Niña. She's our old friend that helps determine drought or not across Colorado. From The Environmental News Network:

Scientists with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center say that La Nina is on its way in today's release of the monthly El Nino/Southern Oscillation Diagnostic Discussion. "While we can't officially call it a La Nina yet, we expect that this pattern will continue to develop during the next three months, meeting the NOAA definition for a La Nina event later this year," said Mike Halpert, acting deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md...

La Nina refers to the periodic cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific that occur every three to five years. NOAA declares the onset of a La Nina event when the three-month average sea-surface temperature departure exceeds -0.5 degrees Celsius (-0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) in the east-central equatorial Pacific [between 5 degrees North and 5 degrees South and 170 degrees West - 120 degrees West]. The development of La Nina conditions is supported by increasing below-normal-sea surface temperatures across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and stronger-than-average easterly winds across the west-central equatorial Pacific. "Nearly all operational dynamical models, including the National Centers for Environmental Prediction's Climate Forecast System and many of the statistical models also favor a La Nina event," said Halpert. With La Nina developing, seasonal forecasters expect wetter-than-normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and drier-than-normal conditions in the already drought-stricken southwestern U. S. this Fall [ed. emphasis ours].

Category: Colorado Water

7:04:57 AM    

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Here's an update on the debate over Aurora's water rates, from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article, "The City Council voted down a proposal Monday night to eliminate the most expensive water-usage block if a new rate structure wasn't implemented next year. Mayor Ed Tauer cast the deciding vote after the council split. At the highest block, residents are charged $10.75 per thousand gallons of water. The proposal would have taken effect May 1.

Category: Colorado Water

6:53:08 AM    

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The Colorado Department of Wildlife's Riverwatch is short of bodies to pull samples up in Summit County, according to The Summit Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

When a rain-triggered surge of sediment and pollution from Peru Creek swept down the Snake River and killed scores of fish last month, aquatic biologists said they were sure that toxic heavy metals from abandoned mines were to blame. But no water samples were taken from the stream during the event, when the water ran chocolate-brown. Measuring water quality and acidity during a fish kill is probably the key to understanding exactly why the fish died, said Dr. Mark Coleman, a Fort Collins-based aquatic biologist who helped survey the affected section of the Snake after the recent fish kill. With only a handful of biologists to cover hundreds of miles of streams and rivers, it' s not always easy to be in the right time at the right place. A citizen-based volunteer program can help resource managers immensely, Coleman said. "One thing that locals may be able to do is learn how to collect and temporarily store fish that are killed in these streams, so that these can be turned over for analysis," Coleman said via email. "Learning from the Colorado Division of Wildlife or the U.S. Geological Survey how to collect the water samples during these types of events, and where to hand them off for analysis, can make all the difference."

"Dissolved oxygen can be measured on site with a $300 meter. Sediment load and total dissolved solids can also be measured very easily with inexpensive equipment or meters. For around $500, a local community group can have enough equipment to assess many of the possible causes of fish kills while they are occurring, whereas agencies often can't get personnel to the scene until after the cause has subsided," Coleman said. Proper training is key to such efforts, he explained. If the testing equipment is not calibrated or used properly, it could lead resource managers to inaccurate conclusions. The framework for a well-trained volunteer-based effort is already in place through the nonprofit Colorado Riverwatch Network. Coincidentally, the organization is actively soliciting Summit County schools and other groups schools to participate in monitoring efforts, said Riverwatch program manager Michaela Taylor. A training session for potential volunteers is coming up Sept. 23 to Sept. 26, she said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:39:46 AM    

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Here's an update on Rosevale's treatment facility problems from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. They write:

The 562 residents of the Redlands neighborhood of Rosevale are not yet thirsty, but because of a dilapidated water system their wallets might go a little dry. The Mesa County Commission on Monday accepted a $600,000 federal grant to help offset the anticipated $1.8 million cost for Ute Water Conservancy District to replace the neighborhood's pipes. Rosevale is south of Broadway...

"The Rosevale area water distribution project is the county's No. 1 priority," according to the county's Colorado Department of Local Affairs Community Development Block Grant application. "Currently, residents of the project area are in serious jeopardy of being without potable water. In the Rosevale area water lines have begun to break and buckle, damaging roads, sidewalks and public infrastructure." Ute Water's board of directors will meet Wednesday and could decide how to pay for rebuilding of the neighborhood's water system. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be at Ute Water's offices at 560 Road 25. Ute Water General Manager Larry Clever said the water district will help Rosevale residents make the transition from the former water provider, Brunner Water Co. But, he said, "it won't be painless." Rosevale residents would have to help pay for the project with higher water bills. More than 57 percent of residents in Rosevale are of low to moderate income, according to the federal grant application. The situation in the neighborhood is dire, Clever said. If Ute Water were to connect the Rosevale neighborhood to its existing network of water pipes, the neighborhood water lines "would blow up," he said. When the residents will switch to water from Ute Water depends on when contractors are available to do the work, he said.

Category: Colorado Water

6:29:56 AM    

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The plan to use unused water from Monument Creek to fill Palmer Lake has hit a snag, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Keeping the town of Palmer Lake's namesake full might not be as simple as just turning on the water. The Colorado Division of Water Resources has withdrawn its support of filling Palmer Lake with the town's unused water rights from Monument Creek, halting a plan to open a valve and let water gush into the lake. Filling the lake with the town water, which rushes down the creek from two reservoirs above town, then connects to the lake via a closed-off pipe, would be illegal, Division 2 Water Engineer Steve Witte said in a letter to the town. "I don't believe the intended use of those direct flow rights were for anything other than domestic uses," Witte said. Those domestic uses include water for drinking and running the town's wastewater system, he said. The town's Awake the Lake committee, a volunteer group looking for permanent solutions to filling the lake, says the town has plenty of water for the lake in unused water rights. Until last month, the state water office supported using these rights. But that opinion came from river operations coordinator Joe Flory, who ranks below Witte in the water office chain of command. Witte revisited Flory's opinion at the request of Palmer Lake water attorney Ronnie Sperling, Witte wrote in the letter.

Awake the Lake consultant and geologist Kim Makower thinks the proposals, developed with a Colorado Springs water attorney, are still feasible until a judge decides otherwise. For years, the town has searched for a way to keep the evaporating lake, which is filled by rain runoff and natural springs, at a healthy level. Thanks to a wet summer, the lake is fairly full right now...

While it waits for the legal paperwork to wend its way through the courts, the town will look at other options, including possibly buying water and exchanging it for creek water, [Mayor Max Parker] said. The complex Palmer Lake water debate has drawn attention from many downstream users, he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:17:36 AM    

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