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 22, 2007

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From The Delta County Independent, "The Grand Mesa Conservancy's District's plan to construct a reservoir, presently dubbed 'West Fork Dam," was received favorably at the Gunnison Basin Roundtable meeting earlier this month...Board member Ron Shaver summarized the feedback received on the project as 'very helpful and positive.' Some specific suggestions roundtable members provided were that the conservancy district needs to include more about the evolution of the West Fork project in its narrative; better define and update their projections for firm water yields; obtain a letter of support from the State of Colorado Water Resources Division 4; and list the financial contributions to the project from local water districts and municipalities. Since the projected site for the West Fork Dam is property owned by the conservancy district president, Bud Burgess, the roundtable members also suggested that Burgess write a letter affirming that he has an intent to sell the property to the district. They also suggested that the conservancy district write a statement affirming that Burgess did not have influence over the site selection, Shaver said."

Category: Colorado Water

9:26:40 AM    

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The Coal Creek Watershed Coalition has released their 2006 report on water quality in Coal Creek, according to The Crested Butte News. From the article:

Until now, interested citizens would have to wade through thick manuals full of coarse text and numbers to get important details about Coal Creek's water, but Watershed Coalition director Anthony Poponi says the new report is meant to be easy for the public to understand. "It's a great public outreach piece," Poponi says...

In a nutshell, the 2006 water quality report states what has been said in the past, that Coal Creek's water is safe to drink, and plant and animal life in and around the watershed is healthy. Conversely, the report indicates that the creek does contain notable quantities of several metals, and on some short-term occasions in the spring the water can be toxic. The metals of concern in Coal Creek are cadmium, copper, lead, manganese, and zinc...

One finding of the report that concerns Poponi is that metal concentrations are unusually high at certain sites in the spring. He says the EPA was hired to conduct early season water quality tests because, "we had some concerns about early spring runoff." The report indicates that at a particular site below the town's water supply intake, concentrations of cadmium and zinc appeared at four to five times their normal levels during April. Coalition member Steve Glazer says the spring runoff not only means higher flows in the creek, but also higher concentrations of toxic metals. "We have an accumulation of these metals dissolving in water in the winter, and it all releases in the spring," Glazer says. Poponi says the report has identified storm water runoff flowing from areas near the defunct Keystone Mine as a significant source of contaminants. Prior to the study, the storm water contributions were not as well understood because of the sporadic testing, Poponi says. The high concentrations of cadmium and zinc are "definitely exceeding aquatic life standards," Poponi says. As a result, the coalition and Lucky Jack Project managers, who operate a plant that treats water from the Keystone Mine, increased their efforts this summer in studying the toxic contributions of storm water.

Category: Colorado Water

9:20:21 AM    

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The Fairplay Sanitation District is still wrestling with plans for a new plant. Here's an article about a recent special meeting to consider alternatives for the plant from The Fairplay Flume. They write:

A special meeting was held on Sept. 13 to consider alternatives to the proposed new wastewater treatment plant to be presented by an engineer for the local citizens' committee. Peter Gross, owner of Fairplay bowling alley South Park Bowl, said that engineers contacted by a citizens committee of business owners had located two vendors, one from Canada and one from Minnesota, and their representatives assured him that a lagoon system would work in Fairplay's climate since it works in much colder environs in their respective regions. The cost of the proposed lagoon system would be in the neighborhood of $2 million, plus the cost of a headworks facility, according to Gross. He asked that the District provide the vendors the information needed to design a plan that fits the needs of the Fairplay facility...

Messa said that a cost estimate will be available from Burns & McDonnell within the next two or three weeks, and he thought it would be much lower than the original plan, which exceeded $6.5 million for a mechanical system. Gross added that both the vendors he talked to would give as good a process guarantee for their systems as any other vendor; Messa has indicated that one of the issues is that a 20-year process guarantee is required for any plant design proposed. However, Dennis Pontius, a state health department engineer who has been working with the district told The Flume Tuesday that there is no requirement for a "process guarantee" and that he does not use that terminology. If a new plant is built and after three years it becomes apparent that the engineer messed up, then it would be up to the district to file a lawsuit, he said. In addition, Pontius said that there is no requirement that a facility be built with a 20-year time horizon. While it is preferable that a district make plans that will cover that period, it is possible that the health department would approve a plan based on a 10-year time horizon, he said...

The wastewater treatment plant designs are expected to be discussed at the next regular meeting of the district on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. at the sanitation district office.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

In other treatment plant news Delta County is looking at a regional facility, according to The Delta County Independent. From the article:

The regional sewer study has concluded there are no environmental technical or geo-technical "fatal flaws" in the idea of a regional wastewater treatment facility in Delta County. Financially, the picture is less clear. Bernie Poppenga with project engineers Stantec Consulting, Inc., of Denver, qualifies cost figures in the report as "preliminary," but they do reveal the magnitude of the project. Independent of the number of users of the system, the estimated cost in today's dollars is $88.8 million. That figure does not include the cost of additional collection systems that would have to be constructed in currently unsewered areas. Under the best scenario advanced so far, the concept would require a $4.45 million annual loan payment and generate $2.2 million annual operation and maintenance costs. The report's summary conclusion states, "Based on the findings of this reconnaissance level investigation, it is concluded that a multi-jurisdictional (sewer system) would be technically feasible and has reasonable potential to be financially feasible. Therefore, it is concluded that the (regional sewer concept) merits further planning effort."[...]

Bottom line to sewer customers in the west part of the county who would use the system if it is ever built would be monthly service fees of between $43 and $48 per month. That is for a "backbone system" funded with at least $10 million in grant money and serving 9,800 taps in the year 2022. The bottom line does not include any expense figures for collection lines in currently unsewered areas outside of Delta and Cedaredge, nor for tap fees. In Delta, monthly residential sewer service fees are $23. In Cedaredge they are $13. Residential sewer connection charge in Delta is $5,100. In Cedaredge it is $4,000...

The system concept under study would include a regional wastewater treatment plant built on the Gunnison River west of Delta. It would receive sewer flows from Delta, and from two main interceptor lines that would be constructed to serve Peach Valley and California Mesa. The current Cedaredge collection system would be connected to the Delta treatment plant by either of two interceptor lines running the length of Orchard City, one in the Tongue Creek Valley and the other through Hart's Basin and Alfalfa Run, to the Gunnison River. There, another section of interceptor line would run to the treatment plant. The study attempts to look forward 50 years. The 156-square-mile study area would encompass half of the county population. That study area population would increase from about 17,000 today to over 42,000 by 2057, under the study's current assumptions. Complicating population projections is the likelihood that making sanitary sewer available in Orchard City, Peach Valley, and California Mesa would very rapidly increase population growth rates in those areas. Conversely, that increased population growth might make the regional sewer concept more cost effective by spreading the cost over more users. A regional sewer would itself be a strong stimulus, a growth engine, that would attract the increased population growth needed to pay for it.

If you build it they will come.

Category: Colorado Water

9:04:06 AM    

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According to The Pagosa Springs Sun the the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and San Juan Water Conservancy Districthave executed an intergovernmental agreement looking to borrow $22 million or so to build the Dry Gulch Reservoir. From the article:

At a special joint session Thursday, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) boards of directors met and executed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) necessary to borrow $22,372,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). Provided the CWCB approves a loan application submitted by PAWSD last month, the money will pay for land acquisition and pre-construction expenditures through 2019...

The proposed reservoir site is approximately two miles northeast of town, and includes a dam approximately 3,000 feet long and 160 feet high. As currently designed, the total surface area at high water line (elevation, 7,400 feet) would be roughly 621 acres.

Category: Colorado Water

8:47:49 AM    

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The Colorado Water Conservation Board is considering asking the state for some severance tax dough, according to The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board, which met this week in Grand Junction, was given a memo outlining the proposal from the staff. Board members, however, didn't discuss the proposal. It could come up in November when the agency considers the legislation it wants proposed during the 2008 legislative session. Water costs are rising, said Linda Bassi of the stream and lake section of the board's staff. "While some water-rights owners are willing to donate or lend their water rights to the CWCB, others want to be paid for the water," Bassi wrote to the board. Others want the state to pick up the costs of those transactions, which can include water-rights analyses, appraisals, title searches and other needs. Some holders also want to recoup all or some of the profits they could have realized had they leased their water for irrigation, Bassi wrote. Organizations such as the Colorado Water Trust have money for acquisition, but the amounts can vary from year to year, she wrote. One way to meet additional costs is to amend state law to allow the board to tap the severance tax trust fund for $1 million a year to pay for water for instream flow use.

Category: Colorado Water

8:37:04 AM    

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Here's a recap of Wednesday's board meeting for the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District accepted four conservation easements Wednesday, bringing the total number of easements accepted to 29 since the district was formed in 2002. The district uses conservation easements within the Arkansas River watershed to protect farm land and water rights as part of its mission. All of the easements will help preserve agricultural ground, wildlife habitat and open space. The Mauro easement also ties water to the land in perpetuity. The Fremont County easement lies outside the district, but will help keep ranchland within the watershed, a goal of the district, said Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner. Easements are donated and restrict future uses on the land. Owners typically pay a fee to the district, and in return receive federal and state tax credits. State tax credits can be sold.

The board also heard a presentation from Tom Musgrove, head of the Pueblo office of the Bureau of Reclamation, on how storage accounts are managed in Lake Pueblo. Musgrove explained 130,000 acre-feet of excess-capacity space is available in the 349,940 acre-foot reservoir, on average, although it has filled five times since it began storing water in 1975. Reclamation offers contracts to municipal and industrial users in the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District for $24.10 per acre-foot, and to agricultural users for $18.72 per acre-foot. Out-of-district users like Aurora pay $43.76 per acre-foot. Musgrove also outlined spill priorities and allocations of municipal accounts within Lake Pueblo...

The board agreed to file as an objector in the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association change of water rights case on Amity Canal. Tri-State owns slightly more than half of the canal and plans to build electric power plants near Holly. "I want to make the point this is informational, so we know what's going on, not that we're opposed to the project," said Prowers County Director Leroy Mauch...

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District accepted on Wednesday: Douglas and Sharon Carlson, 1,094 acres of rangeland in Pueblo County to be added to a 158-acre easement maintained by Keep Pueblo Beautiful; Shaun Carlson, 602 acres of rangeland in Pueblo County; Max and Linda Wills, 216 acres of mountain property that is part of a family ranch in Fremont County; David and Tisha Mauro, for irrigated farmland in Pueblo County.

Category: Colorado Water

8:22:24 AM    

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Here's an article about the recent Environment Colorado report on water quality in Colorado from The Summit Daily News. From the article:

Using data from the EPA and the Colorado Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) the report concludes that water quality in Colorado has declined in recent years. The percentage of Colorado streams deemed fishable or swimmable declined by seven percent, while the number of stream segments classified as impaired rose 53 percent between 1998 and 2006.

But at least part of that reported decline is due to better data collection and monitoring, said WQCD director Steve Gunderson. "The number one reason we see more impairments is we have more data and standards are tighter," Gunderson said. The most common pollutant statewide is selenium, affecting 25 percent of all impaired stream reaches. Second on the list is zinc, a common pollutant from abandoned mines that affects Summit County's watersheds.

With cleanups in various stages of planning and execution, and stringent controls on discharges, water quality in Summit County is holding its own, said Lane Wyatt, of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. A fairly complete historical record of data shows that water quality in Dillon Reservoir remains outstanding, Wyatt said. Similarly, monitoring from some other locations shows improved water quality, including Straight Creek (flowing down from the Eisenhower Tunnel to Dillon). Intensive work by the Colorado Department of Transportation has paid off in that drainage by measurably reducing sediment loading, according to Wyatt. Several projects recently completed under the leadership of the county's open space department are also promising improved waters, including a Horseshoe Basin mine cleanup high in the Peru Creek drainage and a Blue River restoration project at Fourmile Bridge, between Frisco and Breckenridge. A water treatment plant in French Gulch at the abandoned Wellington-Oro mine is under construction. That facility will significantly reduce zinc loading downstream in the Blue River...

Making a statewide assessment of water quality is not easy, Gunderson said. The number of streams and rivers being monitored continues to grow, and with new information coming in, the picture keeps changing. But in some parts of the state, water quality has clearly improved since passage of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, he said. Concluding that water quality has declined statewide in the past six years is an over-simplification, Gunderson said. But he acknowledged that pressures from population growth, development, oil and gas drilling, as well as climate change, represent very real threats. The issue of non-point source pollution (mainly agricultural and urban runoff) continues to vex water quality experts.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:47:55 AM    

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Here's a short article about climate change and its effect on rivers in the west from The Aspen Daily News (free registration required). They write:

Global warming could mean both more droughts and more flooding to the Roaring Fork and other Western rivers, and in just decades it could bring dramatic consequences to local farmers, anglers and fish, a University of Colorado climate researcher said. "(Climate researchers) can sometimes talk out of both sides of our mouths," said Kenneth Strzepek, a University of Colorado professor who has studied the possible impacts of warming temperatures on waters in Colorado around the world. "It's getting wetter. It's getting drier. But the thing we know is that the extremes are changing." That could mean more frequent flooding in rivers around the world, including the Roaring Fork, Strzepek said, and in Western snow-fed rivers, earlier runoffs could leave the riverbeds running dry by summer's end.

Strzepek discussed the predictions at the Given Institute on Thursday in a presentation organized by the Roaring Fork Conservancy. He dubbed the presentation a "sequel" to one he delivered in Aspen 15 years earlier. Since then, he said, scientists' models on the impact on the world's water systems have improved greatly. Arid climates are expected to become even drier, Strzepek said, and areas that flood may see worse flooding, sometimes with devastating consequences, particularly in the developing world. "The poor will suffer the most, who have the least capability of adapting and dealing with that," he said. Globally, heavy floods, the so-called "100-year" floods, are predicted to increase. Models for 100-year floods in Boston show them doubling in frequency by 2050, Strzepek said, and doubling again by 2100. In India's Ganges-Brahmaputra Basin, where a 2004 flood took over 1,200 lives, heavy "100-year floods" could come every nine years, he said...

It's not clear how warming temperatures will affect Colorado precipitation, Strzepek said. The Southwestern United States is expected to become drier, meaning more demands on the Colorado River. But northern states could see more precipitation, and Colorado is caught in the middle. But models show snowmelt coming sooner, runoff peaking earlier and river levels dropping faster. That's bad for trout, which could see dangerously low water levels and temperatures reaching fatal levels, Strzepek said. It's also bad for rafting companies that could see shorter seasons, and for ranchers who will likely need more irrigation water. By 2070, he said, runoff could peak a month early, putting water levels out of synch with growing seasons. That could leave even some senior water rights holders out of luck if their rights are timed, he said. Low water levels could also affect ski areas' ability to use water for snowmaking, he said.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

7:35:15 AM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's meeting of the Fountain Creek Task Force from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A committee set up to find consensus on Fountain Creek on Friday began considering official responses to the initial recommendations of the Army Corps of Engineers. The problem was, several of the key officials were missing. So was consensus. The consensus committee of the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force met to consider a presentation last month by Charles Wilson of the Corps' Albuquerque office on steps that need to be taken on Fountain Creek. Wilson recommended consistent land-use regulations in the watershed, an authority to coordinate projects and study of a dam, among numerous other activities. Friday, the consensus committee met for the first time on those proposals, which will ultimately lead to the Corps' final Fountain Creek Watershed Study report next year. While the 28-member committee is supposed to include key decision-makers, no elected official from Pueblo County, the City of Pueblo or El Paso was there. Colorado Springs, Fountain and the Pueblo Board of Water Works were represented. Other interests on the committee were fairly well represented...

The committee was unable to find consensus on a few things, beginning with the Corps' initial recommendations for Fountain Creek. "It wasn't clear to me what they expect the work at specific locations to accomplish," said Ross Vincent, Sierra Club consultant. Earlier in the day, the Fountain Creek Watershed technical advisory committee reviewed Wilson's recommendations, which at the moment consist of a series of slides with recommendations that are not prioritized, do not indicate who would do the work or have no information about federal funding availability. "These are general recommendations and need to be modified," said Ken Sampley, Colorado Springs stormwater supervisor, a member of the technical committee. Sampley said the Corps is looking for feedback on the recommendations before finalizing the plan, and said he is looking at which projects could trigger federal funding...

The group also stalled on a potential Environmental Protection Agency grant to help fund a sediment extraction project that would also analyze how removing sediment from flowing water could improve water quality. Part of the problem was the lack of participation by Pueblo groups. Although the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has been the most enthusiastic backer of the Streamside Systems technology, General Manager Jay Winner said he is overloaded with Fountain Creek projects and not ready to take on managing another grant. The Lower Ark is cooperating with Colorado Springs in a two-year, $600,000 Fountain Creek management project. It is also the only outside funding source so far for a Fountain Creek study by Colorado State University-Pueblo...

The committee also spun its wheels over refining a $75,000 grant application from the Colorado Water Conservation Board through the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. A few committee members agreed to meet with CWCB staffer Steve Miller to rework the application. Much of the grant money would go to the Keystone Center, which has been facilitating Fountain Creek discussions, but the CWCB wants the money more clearly tied to specific tasks.

Finally, the committee postponed a meeting of the entire task force, originally scheduled for next Thursday at Lake Pueblo...The entire task force will meet on Oct. 22 in Pueblo and Oct. 23 in the Colorado Springs area to get public input on visions for Fountain Creek. Dual meetings were chosen to increase public participation in each community.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:22:06 AM    

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