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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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

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Here's a look at conservation efforts along Fountain Creek from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The GOCo board will continue its tour today of sites that Colorado Open Lands hopes will become part of a Peak to Prairie Conservation Initiative. Open Lands, along with its partners the Nature Conservancy and Palmer Land Trust, are seeking a $7.4 million grant from GOCo to protect 70,000 acres over the next three years. The project is part of a 10-year effort to protect as much as 250,000 acres along the Fountain Creek corridor, stretching from Fort Carson to the west to ranchlands in Lincoln and Crowley counties on the east. "Fountain Creek is the spine of the project," said Dan Pike, president of Colorado Open Lands. Pike explained the project is really the convergence of four separate land preservation efforts: the Fort Carson buffer being created through the Walker ranches in northern Pueblo County, the State Land Board's extensive holdings including the Bohart and Chico Basin ranches in eastern El Paso County, a short-grass prairie initiative by numerous landowners and state agencies in four counties and the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force's goal of creating a green belt along Fountain Creek between Pueblo and Colorado Springs...

Colorado Open Lands, a non-profit foundation with projects all over Colorado, began working on Fountain Creek in 1998 with Frost's brother, the late Kirk Hanna, to create conservation easements that would preserve family farms along the creek. Part of the Frost family ranch was put into a conservation trust earlier this year using assistance from GOCo...

In all, eight ranches near the Pueblo-El Paso county line are being considered, along with five ranches on the plains in eastern El Paso and Lincoln counties, which will be the subjects of today's GOCo tour. The tour does not automatically guarantee funding for the Peak to Prairie Project, said Len Gregory, a GOCo board member from Pueblo. Funding for Legacy grants is competitive, and funding through lottery proceeds is limited. The board will look at a total of 16 projects seeking $50 million from around the state before making a decision in December.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:00:52 AM    

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Water Information Program: "Animas Watershed Partnership Meeting (Durango, CO): 10/11/2007 - 3:00pm - 5:00pm, For more information call (970) 422-4220."

Water Information Program: "Annual Colorado Water Congress Water Law Seminar (Denver, CO): 10/01-02/2007 - 8:00am - 5:00pm. For more information and/or to register visit the Colorado Water Congress website."

Category: Colorado Water

6:45:02 AM    

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Here's a look at what northern Colorado state legislators are doing with regard to Powertech's proposed uranium operation in Weld County from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

As Fort Collins legislators, we have received a huge volume of correspondence from residents requesting our assistance to address their concerns over possible uranium mining in northern Weld and Larimer counties, less than 15 miles from Fort Collins. We first learned of the proposed Centennial Uranium Project from Nunn and Wellington landowners last April. Since that time, we have worked diligently to answer the many significant questions expressed by folks from Northern Colorado. We want to reassure the community that we are taking action on behalf of the people so that the public health, environmental and economic risks posed by Powertech Uranium Corp.'s proposed uranium project are being fully scrutinized. We are engaging state and federal regulatory agencies, Gov. Ritter's policy people and our colleagues in the state Legislature. As we see this issue, it comes down to protecting the rights of landowners and our precious water resources...

The issues the landowners raised were profound. Their concerns were heartfelt and deep, and they wanted someone to listen and take action. That is why we are actively involved in representing the public interest by taking the following actions: Dialoguing with officials at the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; touring the affected landowners' properties and attending community meetings; meeting with Powertech Uranium Corp. officials; conducting a thorough review of Colorado mining laws and regulations; holding a series of informational sessions with representatives from Gov. Ritter's office; contacting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is important to note that Powertech has yet to submit an application for mining in the Nunn/Wellington area. In addition, the state of Colorado is a so-called "agreement state." This means that the U.S. NRC and the state have entered into an agreement that gives Colorado the sole jurisdiction over radioactive materials, including uranium mining. Therefore, there is no public comment being taken at this time by either Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board or the NRC on this or any other uranium mining projects in Colorado, contrary to a recent article by Congresswoman Musgrave. Please know that, as your state representatives, we are working hard to address issues raised by the prospect of uranium mining in Northern Colorado communities. As your lawmakers, we are currently engaged in administrative and potential legislative measures that will protect property rights, groundwater quality, and public health from risks posed by proposed uranium projects. We invite your comments as we move forward on this important issue.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

5:56:57 AM    

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The Cherokee Metropolitan District can't keep anyone happy. A couple of years ago they angered the Black Squirrel Creek Groundwater Basin by pumping from wells that were supposed to be used only in an emergency (they were shut down by Judge Maes). At the end of last year and through the spring their customers were curtailed. Now some property owners, outside the district's boundaries, near Ellicott have found out that the district plans deep wells into the Denver Basin Aquifer system under their land, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

After years of searching, Cherokee Metropolitan District thinks it has found a water source: underneath 85 properties outside its boundaries in northeast El Paso County. The fast-growing district is using leases it signed in the mid-1950s with Ellicott-area property owners when the area was a sparse collection of farms. The problem, say residents of the now more densely populated community, is that they've never heard of these leases, never seen a dime from them and never been told someone else owned the water beneath their properties. Nine landowners have filed protests with the Colorado Ground Water Commission, and more are expected by Monday's deadline. The case is expected to go before the commission this year. Late last year, it ruled over the objections of state Division of Water Resources officials that the state should proceed with processing the claims as legitimate. The ruling has left rural residents angry and nervous.

Though critics call this a new scheme, Cherokee general manager Kip Petersen said for the past 53 years the district has kept open the expensive option of drilling into the Denver Basin aquifer and using a nonrenewable source of water. Only recently has it decided it had no other choice, he said. A growing area of about 7,000 homes and 400 businesses east of Powers Boulevard and north of Platte Avenue, Cherokee attempted for years to drill into the Upper Black Squirrel Basin, but has been barred from continuing by the Colorado Supreme Court because the water would be leaving the basin. With the district short on future supplies -- it banned lawn watering and car washing for a short time this summer -- but having promised water to developing communities, it turned last year to its backup plan. That plan stems from leases Edwin W. Hayes signed with a number of Ellicott-area property owners in 1954 in which he exchanged a promise of $200 annual payments, adjusted for inflation, for the right to drill wells and pump groundwater out of the Upper Black Squirrel. Hayes, who was part of the Cimarron Corp. that developed Cimarron Hills, sold his assets to the Cimarron Hills Metropolitan District, which later became the Cherokee district, Petersen said. The district developed eight alluvial wells on the land but never drilled into the aquifers. Over the years, it kept paying the original landowners, and Petersen estimated it has now shelled out $1.4 million to them, their heirs and receiverships they designated.

The problem was that nobody told the current residents and businesspeople until the Division of Water Resources informed all 85 affected property owners in Aug. 7 letters that Cherokee was claiming control of the water under their land. Property owners responded by firing off angry letters to the division. Christopher Nadeau wrote that when his parents bought their Baggett Road property 15 years ago, it came with 100-year water rights. Michael Whedon, president of the Colorado Springs East Airport, said he was told of the leases by original property owner Inzebelle Williams, but she said they were forfeited because of nonpayment. Marilan Luttrell and her family members run a small farm outside Calhan within the 2,720 acres on which Cherokee claims the right to drill. She said landowners fear the pumping could affect their wells and that property values will fall if they don't own the water...

Petersen said the agreements that Hayes reached were with the original property owners, and payments were not required to be transferred to successive generations of residents. Those original owners also were responsible for notifying buyers about the leases, he said. Sandy Hook, recording managing for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office, said the leases are so old they are listed in books, not modern computer or microfilm records, meaning a less-than-complete title search may not uncover them...

That doesn't mean Cherokee has an open-and-shut case. Kevin Rein, manager of the state's basins water supply team, argued originally that even though the leases mention water supplies on the properties, they do not specifically say the landowners grant the right to the Denver Basin aquifer below them. Because Colorado did not pass a law until 1973 that allocated aquifer basin water, nothing in 1954 could have been construed as guaranteeing that particular supply for Cherokee or its predecessors, he said. Upper Black Squirrel Creek Ground Water Management District Chairwoman Kathy Hare said that pumping water out of the deeper aquifers could affect the water supply in the shallower, rechargeable Black Squirrel aquifer and hurt residents and businesses that use it. She characterized Cherokee's plan as an "act of desperation" by a corporation that has irresponsibly committed to supplying water it doesn't have...

A community meeting on the implications of the Cherokee Water District's leases will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at New Hope Church, 2150 N. Ellicott Highway. Residents opposed to Cherokee Metropolitan District plans to drill for Denver Basin aquifer water in northeast El Paso County can submit an official letter of protest with the nature of their objections, along with a $10 fee, by Monday. Send it to: Commission Staff Colorado Ground Water Commission 818 Centennial Building 1313 Sherman St. Denver, CO 80203 People with questions can call the commission at (303) 866-3581.

More coverage from More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:43:01 AM    

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