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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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Colorado Confidential, "The Center for Independent Media announced today that two of its projects - Colorado and Minnesota - have been named finalists in the Beat Reporting (small) category of the 2007 Online Journalism Awards. Seventy finalists were selected from over 700 English-language submissions from news organizations around the world. The Online Journalism Awards are jointly presented by the Online News Association and the USC Annenberg School for Communication. 'As both Minnesota and Colorado continue to be recognized for their outstanding journalism at the local and national level, it demonstrates that citizen journalists can produce high-quality reliable news while providing an engaging voice and perspective to their readers,' said David S. Bennahum, President and CEO of the Center for Independent Media, 'That's what we provide: the cutting-edge perspective of a blog, with the credibility of mainstream news source that has a code of ethics, experienced editors, and accountable writers.'"

Congratulations to all over at CoCo. Disclaimer: Colorado Confidential runs the Coyote Gulch RSS feed in their "Breaking on the Blogs" section. We love 'em anyway.

Category: Colorado Water

9:15:49 AM    

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Here's the second part of Colorado Confidential's report on the Club 20 summer meeting.

Category: Colorado Water

9:02:53 AM    

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Here's a recap of Thursday's meeting of the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District from The Mountain Mail. The rehabilitation of North Fork Reservoir is complete. Officials will now start refilling the reservoir in stages, so that facilities can be monitored. From the article:

Directors of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District received a North Fork update from district general manager Terry Scanga Thursday during their enterprise meeting. The reservoir, west of Salida on CR 240 at an elevation of about 10,000 feet, will be refilled in stages. First stage will store as much as 245 acre feet, filling the reservoir to about 13 feet, Scanga said. Engineers and district officials will monitor upgrades before adding more water...

Upgrades cost about $600,000. Contractor for the project, ASI Constructors Inc. started work last summer. The reservoir was built in 1953 for $37,000. Improvements included widening the spillway by 100 feet, installation of new hydraulically operated gates and installation of new valves and vaults. New fill was added at the base of the dam to help move seep water away from the structure. New gates will have potential of being raised and lowered by satellite and remote control when electronic equipment is installed, Scanga said. Equipment will be able to monitor height of the reservoir and determine how much water is being released. Inspection of the reservoir by district engineers and officials was done in August.

Also from the article:

Scanga updated board members on a proposal from Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District to exchange as much as 45,000 acre feet of water per year at Otero Pump Station north of Buena Vista. The proposal, dubbed "super ditch," would allow farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley to lease irrigation water by using a rotational crop fallowing program, Scanga said. Colorado Springs Utilities could use some water for municipalities and sell the remainder to other customers. During a recent Arkansas River Roundtable meeting, Scanga, Chaffee County Commissioner chairman Tim Glenn and Reed Dils, a Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District director, voted against studying the proposed project. Pat Alderton, upper district board member, also sits on the roundtable board and voted in favor of the study.

Cost of the study would be about $150,000 and would be paid for by the roundtable. It would analyze exchange capacity, available storage, economic impact and potential injury to other river users. Upper district board members supported the "no" vote and expressed concern about how the exchange would impact the river locally. They said the exchange would be about 12 percent of the water flow passing under the F Street bridge in Salida. The exchange has the potential of drying up about 21,000 acres of irrigated land in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Although Colorado Springs is in the Arkansas River Basin, board members were concerned about sale of water to customers outside the basin.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:53:10 AM    

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Here's Part I of a series on the Greenback cutthroat trout recovery program, from The Mountain Mail. From the article:

Collegiate Peak Anglers chapter of Trout Unlimited members each backpacked 750 greenback cutthroat trout a mile and a half up Fourmile Creek into Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Sept. 7. Fish were carried, swimming, in 20 gallon bags loaded with five gallons of water and 15 gallons of air. About 3,000 fingerlings were stocked in Fourmile Creek - part of 12,900 released throughout the area that day...

Two days earlier scientists at University of Colorado-Boulder issued a news release about a genetic study that may affect the greenback cutthroat program. "Five of nine 'relic' populations of what biologists believed to be greenback cutthroat trout living in isolated pockets of the state actually are Colorado River cutthroat trout - a closely related subspecies," Jessica Metcalf, CU-Boulder researcher, reported. Information indicated the study included sequencing and analyzing mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. The study claims the majority of greenback populations were misidentified and greenback range is restricted to 11 miles of streams in remote areas of Colorado. Greg Policky, Colorado Division of Wildlife aquatic biologist, said there are pure greenback cutthroat populations on the east slope and several on the west slope. "But it's not near as gloom-and-doom as you would be led to believe. "We used to manage by geographical area and morphology (scale counts and outward appearance), but now we know through genetic studies there are greenbacks on the western slope," Policky said. Use of DNA, Policky said, is an evolving science. "We used the best information we had at the time. This is a genetic puzzle. Some populations, about 12, on the west slope could be pure greenback," Policky said.

None of the pure greenback populations are in Chaffee County, Randy Hancock, area wildlife manager in Buena Vista, said. "What we are stocking now are suspect." The nearest pure greenback population is in Fremont County, Policky said. "It's closed to fishing and it's important for people to recognize this as an important population for recovery efforts," he said...

Misidentification of the greenback was likely caused by stocking of fish in the 1800s and early 1900s when railroads delivered hundreds of thousands of trout around the state for people to stock, according to a CU press release. Outwardly, suspect greenback cutthroats look no different than pure greenback cutthroat trout, Policky said. Recovery of a species is two pronged - save the species and stock for sport fishing. Division of Wildlife personnel stock about 250,000 greenbacks per year, but fish rearing units don't produce that many pure greenback cutthroats. "We know the trout we are stocking aren't pure greenback. If they were pure we would be a lot more careful with them stocking them in streams where no other fish exist," Hancock said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:41:36 AM    

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Here's a long article about BLM's plans up in Park County, from The Fairplay Flume. From the article:

The Bureau of Land Management's Royal Gorge Field Office presented the proposed alternative in the South Park Land Tenure Adjustment Plan to Park County's Board of Commissioners on Sept. 5. Royal Gorge Field Manager Roy Masinton, Wildlife Biologist Erik Brekke and spokesman Ken Smith attended the meeting. The BLM plans to schedule a meeting in late October or early November to present the plan to the public. The adjustment plan will amend the 1996 Royal Gorge Resource Management Plan that directs the BLM to dispose or exchange most of the 63,600 acres of BLM-owned land in Park County...

In the 1996 management plan, only 7,900 acres were listed for retention by the BLM. Since 1996, cultural, historical and natural resources on the lands have been identified that led to the need to amend the plan. Masinton explained that land listed for disposal mainly consists of small isolated parcels without public access that have no significant resource values. Land listed for restricted exchange will be retained until the BLM finds a partner who would manage the land for its significant resource values in the same way that the land would be managed by the BLM...

Resource values used in amending the 1996 management plan included: Mountain plover and big game habitat; Wetlands, fens and riparian areas; Park County's Strategic Master Plan's designated view corridors; Adjacent open space, either by conservation easement or other public lands, such as state parks; Recreation values and road systems allowing access to BLM lands; conomic cost to ranchers to replace pasture leases; Cultural and historical significance. Brekke said some changes had also been made in light of the fact that South Park may soon be designated a National Heritage Area...

Masinton said that anyone who currently has a BLM grazing lease on lands listed for disposal would have the opportunity to buy that parcel. He did anticipate that some disposal lands would be subdivided in the future.

Be sure to read the whole article for detail on specific alternatives in the plan.

Category: Colorado Water

8:30:21 AM    

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Here's a report on the Colorado River District's seminar Water: Fueling the Future held yesterday in Grand Junction, from The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (free registration required). From the article:

America's thirst for oil is threatening to add to the thirst for water in the West. Meeting the nation's energy needs also is threatening water quality in the region, speakers said Friday at a seminar in Grand Junction on energy development's impacts on water. The seminar was organized by the Colorado River District, based in Glenwood Springs. It focused on possible oil shale development, which is considered to be an elephant in the room when it comes to planning for Colorado's future needs.

High oil prices and a diminishing global supply have renewed interest in the oil shale industry, which went bust in the early 1980s. If the industry took off, full production could reach 2.5 million barrels per day. Each barrel could require 1 to 3 barrels of water to produce. If full production occurred, that would require additional withdrawals of water from the Colorado and other rivers in western Colorado, said Cathy Wilson, who has studied the oil shale industry's water needs for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her study found that the White River in northwest Colorado might be able to support production of 500,000 barrels of oil per day, but only with creation of 16,000 acre feet of new water storage to provide backup during dry years. She said it remains unclear how much water might be needed to do "in-situ" oil shale production. That process, which is under research by Shell, involves heating shale underground and pumping oil to the surface, rather than mining the shale and then heating it to produce oil. Wilson's forecasts for water needs project that it would take 105 to 315 million gallons per day to produce 2.5 million barrels of oil per day from shale. However, an industry that size also would result in a regional population growth of 433,000 people, who would require another 58 million gallons per day. Colorado, Utah and Wyoming used an annual average of 3.8 million acre feet of Colorado River water from 2001-2003. That's 70 percent of the water they're entitled to under an interstate compact governing use of the river by states including those in the dry Southwest. Use by Colorado, Utah and Wyoming is projected to increase to 4.8 million acre feet, or 90 percent of that allocation, by 2020. A full-scale oil shale industry could increase that use by another 0.2 to 0.4 million acre feet...

John Sikora, a senior water resource engineer with URS Corp. in Glenwood Springs, predicted that a commercial oil shale industry would change existing water augmentation plans on the Colorado River and affect projects diverting water from the Western Slope to Front Range cities. "We've got to think long-term for water planning and how this is going to affect Colorado water rights," he said. He said energy companies wield "muscle" that results from having water rights and money, but it's important to strike a balance that meets other needs such as preserving agriculture and protecting endangered fish.

Tony Dammer, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves, said the government sees oil shale as a potential solution to the nation's energy security problem. The United States has about 1 trillion barrels of recoverable oil reserves, virtually all in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. In 2005, Congress directed the government to establish a task force to develop a program to pursue possible oil shale development. However, Dammer said such development would face major challenges of minimizing surface disturbance, dealing with water supply and disposal, and protecting air quality. A failure to be able to control carbon dioxide emissions alone could mean the oil shale development couldn't occur, he said.

Cathy Kay, with the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said oil shale is a lower-quality fuel that doesn't seem worth the price of developing. "Is it worth the massive impact that you're going to have on ecological systems, on ranching and on your limited water supply in the Colorado River?" she asked. She also worried about water quality impacts from the region's natural gas development boom, including the amount of waterway sedimentation resulting from creation of well pads.

Steve Gunderson, director of the state's Water Quality Control Division, said his division has added staffing for purposes such as enforcement of stormwater runoff regulations that apply to natural gas development. But he said staffing is still lacking, and the state also lacks adequate water quality monitoring on the Colorado River so it can better gauge what impact the energy industry may be having.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:12:31 AM    

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Aurora and Reclamation have inked their controversial deal for storage in Pueblo Reservoir, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Bureau of Reclamation and Aurora this week signed a 40-year contract for storage and exchange in Lake Pueblo. Meanwhile, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is preparing to file a lawsuit in federal court that most likely will call for a full environmental impact statement on the contract and question the bureau's authority to issue the contract. The contract allows Aurora to store up to 10,000 acre-feet in Lake Pueblo and give the city of 300,000 east of Denver the ability to make a paper trade of 10,000 acre-feet of water to upstream reservoirs each year. Initially, the bureau could collect as much as $1.2 million per year, including maintenance fees. Fees increase by 1.79 percent each year, doubling by the end of 40 years, depending on periodic adjustments for operation and maintenance. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District also will receive an estimated $24 million from Aurora over the life of the contract, pursuant to a 2003 agreement. Aurora has operated one-year contracts with similar provisions since 1986 to move water from water rights it purchased in Crowley and Otero counties. Aurora pumps water from the valley into the South Platte River through the Otero Pump Station, which connects to Twin Lakes via the Otero Pipeline.

"The goal provides surety with an ongoing agreement, rather than the year-to-year arrangement," Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer said. "Our hope is that it settles the discussion about the agreement." Tauer said the 2003 agreement with Southeastern prohibits Aurora from buying more water in the valley and caps the amount of leases - temporary deals that don't affect water rights - Aurora may make over the period. "The 40-year agreement doesn't let Aurora move any more water than it has in the past," Tauer said.

The Lower Ark district disagrees with the long-term contract for several reasons, said John Singletary, chairman of the Lower Ark board. "We're prepared," Singletary said. "We could have a lawsuit by the end of next week." The Lower Ark board meets Wednesday in Rocky Ford and will discuss the issue, Singletary added. Primarily, the district is pushing for a full environmental impact statement, rather than a finding of no significant impact issued earlier by the bureau in its environmental assessment. The bureau listed five commitments in its report that would allow it to re-examine the Aurora deal if conditions change and has a provision in the contract for termination, either for cause or any other reason. Aurora has agreed to seven conditions that limit the times it can exchange water. But, Singletary said those conditions are not enough. "We haven't had enough time to fully study the changes," Singletary said. Fundamentally, the district also will protest the contract on the grounds that the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which the bureau operates, was never intended to be used to move water out of the Arkansas Valley, Singletary said...

Singletary said he wants additional assurances that Aurora would not lease more water from the valley by leasing more than the current three years in 10 restrictions. The 2003 agreement with Southeastern allows for more frequent leases by Aurora after 25 years. More frequent leases are also part of Aurora's joint filing with the High Line Canal in a 2005 exchange case. Singletary also wanted assurances from Aurora that it would work for legislation to prohibit future transbasin water transfers. Aurora would commit to opposing transbasin transfers by other parties in water court, but Singletary said that's not enough. Aurora routinely opposes water transfers within the basin already. "(Ed Tauer) asked me, 'What if I agreed that Aurora would never buy another drop of Arkansas River water?' But it never went any further," Singletary said. "My mission is still to protect the river and keep the water in the valley."

U.S. Representative John Salazar does not like the Aurora long-term contract with Reclamation The Pueblo Chieftain reports. From the article:

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., expressed disappointment Friday over the Bureau of Reclamation's decision to issue a long-term water storage and exchange contract with Aurora. "I am sincerely disillusioned that the Bureau of Reclamation proposes to grant such rights to Aurora and question your authority to do so," Salazar said in a letter to the bureau's commissioner, Robert Johnson. Salazar said the bureau has "virtually no legal basis" to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project for entities that use water outside the basin. He cited the 1962 act that authorized the project. "Perhaps the bureau has forgotten its role in the federal government?" Salazar wrote. "Federal agencies answer to Congress and the president, not the other way around. It amazes me that an agency can overtly make policy decisions that contradict the authorizing legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president."

Salazar said the contract ties up project facilities for the future. "There is absolutely no need to complete a 40-year contract that forces the bureau and the constituents served by the Fry-Ark project into an inflexible future with Aurora regarding excess capacity in the Pueblo reservoir," Salazar wrote. Salazar questions even one-year leases with the bureau, saying the bureaucratic federal action has circumvented more meaningful negotiations within the state. Salazar also questioned why cumulative effects of the Southern Delivery System, Preferred Storage Options Plan, Arkansas Valley Conduit and other leases were not included in the Aurora environmental assessment...

Then there is the money quote from the congressman, "The new policy of developing long-term contracts in Pueblo Reservoir for Aurora flies in the face of decades of public policy, federal law and sound water management practices. The interests of the citizens in the affected basin must come before the citizens of out-of-basin cities and counties. [ed. Emphasis ours]

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:50:37 AM    

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