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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Sunday, September 23, 2007

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The Land Trust Alliance is holding their annual convention Rally 2007 in Denver this year. Here's the link for registration.

Category: Colorado Water

2:41:47 PM    

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Say hello to Colorado Open Lands. Their mission is, "to preserve the significant open lands and diminishing natural heritage of Colorado through private and public partnerships, innovative land conservation techniques and strategic leadership."

Category: Colorado Water

2:36:54 PM    

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The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel is running an opinion piece about the proposed Grand Valley Lake. They write:

Backers of the proposed Grand Valley Lake believe their project is swimming with possibilities. In reality, precisely the opposite is the case. It doesn't require a feasibility study -- funded at least in part by state mineral tax money that flows regularly to the Colorado Water Conservation Board -- to reach the conclusion that nobody is likely to be jet skiing on Grand Valley Lake on East Orchard Mesa in the foreseeable future, if ever. Among other things, there are the following not-insignificant obstacles to overcome:

✔ Cost: Estimated now at up to $500 million. But like every major water project ever conceived, the price is sure to increase. Don't expect irrigators here or in Delta County or taxpayers around the state, for that matter, to foot the bill for the project.

✔ Construction: In addition to designing a dam and reservoir in the alkali desert on East Orchard Mesa, engineers and contractors would have to build a 60-mile-long canal across public and private land to carry water to the reservoir from the Gunnison River near its confluence with the North Fork of the Gunnison.

✔ Endangered fish: Backers say it would provide additional water to assist endangered fish in the Grand Valley, but it would divert water from a stretch of the Gunnison River where federal authorities have spent millions of dollars to re-establish populations of the Colorado pikeminnow and other species. Good luck selling that idea to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

✔ Water rights: Exactly how much unclaimed water remains available in the Gunnison River is a matter of considerable dispute. Any group filing for 19,000 acre feet of Gunnison water for a new reservoir is certain to find itself engaged in a difficult legal battle.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board should keep its money for more worthy projects and allow the Grand Valley Lake to sink on its own.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

10:08:24 AM    

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Here's a look at the cuttthroat trout recovery program across the state from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

A native trout once thought to be limited to a few streams along the Front Range has turned up in western Colorado, far from what has long been considered its historic range and causing biologists and legislators to wonder how they came to be found west of the Continental Divide. Research presented earlier this month by University of Colorado graduate student Jessica Metcalf indicated that some isolated populations of greenback trout, a subspecies of cutthroat trout once thought to be extinct -- but since 1978 listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act -- are carrying genes of Colorado River cutthroat trout. The revelation has caused some legislators to demand the Division of Wildlife examine its scientific approach to all species-recovery programs. In a letter to the DOW signed by Republican Sens. Josh Penry and Greg Brophy and Reps. Jerry Sonnenberg and Cory Gardner, the politicians accuse the DOW and its recovery partners of a "significant scientific blunder" in its cutthroat trout recovery program...

The politicians' letter made no mention of the fact that up until Metcalf's research earlier this year, no one, not even the most-respected fish geneticists in the country, could differentiate between greenback and Colorado River cutthroat trout. The differences between the Colorado River and greenback cutthroat are slight. Prior to using molecular and nuclear DNA studies, identifying cutthroat subspecies was based on where the fish were found and visible physical characteristics, including scale counts, basibranchial teeth, fin rays and other features. Salmonid authority Robert J. Behnke wrote in his book "Native Trout of Western North America" that "Colorado River cutthroat trout cannot be separated from greenback trout on the basis of these (visible) characters." The method was less sophisticated than Jessica Metcalf's work, but it was the best thing scientists were able to utilize...

Metcalf's "technique was not available even two or three years ago," said Tom Nesler, greenback recovery team leader for the Division of Wildlife. "Every management action we've done since 1978 (the start of the greenback recovery program) was done based on (results from) researchers (from) either CU, BYU or (University of) Montana." The fish evolved together, "so they should be sharing a lot of their genetic makeup," said Bruce Rosenlund, greenback recovery program leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver. "All three groups (Colorado River, greenback and Rio Grande cutthroats) are pretty closely related (and share) the same morphology. What really differentiates (the) species is being in different drainages." As recent as 2002, genetic researchers were saying they could not differentiate between Colorado River and greenback cutthroat, said Doug Krieger, DOW senior aquatics biologist in Colorado Springs. "Now, here comes new information, and we're finally getting the answer to the question we've been asking for years: Can you differentiate between greenback and Colorado River cutthroat?" Krieger said. "That's great, but the bad news is some of the fish we thought were pure don't appear to be in the right place." Some of the samples Metcalf studied, in addition to her looking at preserved tissue from the Smithsonian Institute, came from Roan and Carr creeks north of Parachute and Antelope Creek near Gunnison. These trout populations, Nesler said, all were established "in the late 1800s and early 1900s, long before there was a recovery program (and) long before the greenback was even listed." A decade or so ago, DOW biologists found in Carr and Roan creeks small numbers of what were thought to be pure Colorado River cutthroat trout. Such pure populations are rare, and with growing concern that habitat degradation threatens all cutthroat trout populations, biologists removed the fish to a safe haven at the Glenwood Spring fish hatchery. The streams were cleared of other fish species, barricades were built to prevent the incursion of nonnative fish, and those same native trout were returned to the same stretch of creek where they originally were found. Similar work was done when the Antelope Creek fish were threatened by a wildfire. Now, Metcalf's research indicates that perhaps those fish weren't really pure Colorado River cutthroat but hybridized greenback trout...

But the matter is far from settled, he said. When the greenback recovery team meets next week in Denver, it will look at the CU study and determine its next move. "We'll make some decision on how we're going to handle this information and what we make of it." Krieger said. "My feeling is there is as yet nothing proven. We are still sorting out the CU information, having discussions with lots of geneticists and trying to learn if there are other possibilities." There still is the question of how to manage these new findings, but biologists say there's no reason to doubt the quality of the science behind the recovery programs for Colorado River and greenback cutthroat trout. "One thing missing from all the media reports is that Fish and Wildlife and the Division of Wildlife and the recovery team have relied on the best science possible from outside researchers for every management decision we made in respect to breeding and translocating populations," Nesler said.

Coyote Gulch retracts our statement that the mixup boosted the argument against socialism and we also apologize for impuning the applied science and those managing the recovery program. More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

10:01:38 AM    

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From The Sterling Journal-Advocate, "Irrigators here are organizing in an effort to prevent the forced shutdown of wells brought on by Republican River Compact compliance. The Colorado Agriculture Preservation Association will host a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1 in the Idalia school gym. The meeting is open to anyone."

More from the article:

CAPA was formed when approximately 40 irrigators gathered in Idalia last month. A seven-member steering committee was chosen at that time. The committee consists of Alan Welp, Dennis Wieser, Greg Terrell, Bethleen McCall, Tony Mangus and Joe Newton. The association's main focus is to prevent the shutdown of wells, at least until all other viable alternatives are exhausted. CAPA plans on meeting that goal by forming partnerships with others in the area -- individuals, business and other organizations -- in finding solutions to maintain the local communities. Organizers said they have been spurred to action in order to give local stakeholders a voice in the current issues facing the Republican River Basin, and to sustain the rural economic community. CAPA currently is filing for 501(C)5 status so it will be eligible to receive grants and tax-deductible donations. Information: For more information on CAPA, call Joe Newton at (970) 630-0198.

The state of Colorado has scheduled several meetings for discussion (and hopefully action) of the Republican River supply problems, according to The Sterling Journal-Advocate. From the article:

The Colorado Division of Water Resources has announced the schedule for a series of public meetings about the proposed compact and measurement rules for the Republican River Basin.

The meetings will be held at five locations on Oct. 3 and 4, to discuss the draft for the compact and measurement rules.

Questions and suggestions from the public will be welcomed and encouraged.

The meetings will be held as follows:

Wednesday, Oct. 3

2 p.m. - Holyoke, Peerless Theater, 212 S. Interocean

7 p.m. - Wray, City Hall (Roundhouse), 245 W. Fourth St.

Thursday, Oct. 4

9 a.m. - Yuma, Church of the Nazarene, 505 E. Beatty Ave.

2 p.m. - Idalia, Homestead Hall, 9550 County Road DD

7 p.m. - Burlington Community and Education Center, 340 S. 14th St.

A copy of the rules will be posted at the following Web Site prior to the meeting dates:, or call Kathryn Radke of the Division of Water Resources at (303) 866-3581 for other options.

Category: Colorado Water

9:36:28 AM    

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Here's an article about the Big Thompson Watershed Forum's annual meeting, from The Loveland Daily Reporter Herald. From the article:

Colorado needs to change its laws to keep cattle from fouling streams and damaging riverbanks, a conservation official said Thursday. Dirk Banks, president of the Big Thompson Soil Conservation District, said during the Big Thompson Watershed Forum's annual meeting that rivers and streams are at risk from erosion, water quality problems and growth of invasive species. "There are options out there, but the key is changing Colorado water law," Banks said. "It's a huge undertaking."

As the law stands now, ranchers and livestock owners are allowed to water their animals with rivers and streams that flow through their land. But the livestock stand in the river to drink. In doing that, they trample and break down the riverbanks, eat the vegetation and may defecate in the water -- which also provides drinking water for towns and cities downstream. One way to combat those problems would be to allow the rancher to pipe water to an area away from those riparian areas and fence off the river where animals may try to drink. Then ranchers could expand their grazing territory without affecting the waterways, Banks said. But Colorado water law does not allow that. Though ranchers can water their animals with streams and rivers on their land, the law does not allow them to pump water out of the river to a tank for those animals without a decreed water right, Banks said. And that's the problem with Colorado water law, he said...

Ranchers may be able to combat some of those problems by changing their grazing time, or by fencing off stream banks while leaving gaps for animals to get to the water. But the best way to protect river and stream banks would be to look at other state laws, such as those in Idaho, that allow ranchers to move water away from the riparian areas for their livestock...

The Big Thompson Watershed Forum helps protect the watershed through monitoring, assessment, education and restoration. During Thursday's annual meeting, Zack Shelley, the forum's monitoring program director, and Jim Loftis, a Colorado State University engineering professor, presented findings from the forum's six-year study on water quality in the Big Thompson watershed. The goal of the roughly 300-page report was to document trends in nutrients, metals, pathogens and other water quality variables in the Big Thompson River, its tributaries, Horsetooth Reservoir, Boyd Lake and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, among others watershed areas. One conclusion researchers reached was that the concentration of total organic carbon in Horsetooth increased since the study began in 2000. Water naturally picks up organic matter as it flows into the Big Thompson and its tributaries during the spring runoff, Loftis said. Increased levels of total organic carbon could cause water treatment problems because the carbon may react with chlorine and become carcinogenic, he said. Still, researchers need to collect data for more years to accurately reflect an increasing total organic carbon trend, Loftis said.

Category: Colorado Water

9:31:00 AM    

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From The Estes Park Trail Gazette, "A proposed modification of the Town of Estes Park's water rates, resulting in an increase affecting all such rates, will be considered by the Town's board of trustees at a public hearing. Any water customer of the Town may appear, either personally or through counsel, at the public hearing to provide testimony or comment regarding the proposed modifications. This hearing will be held at: 7 p.m., Oct. 9, Town Board Room, Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Ave."

Category: Colorado Water

9:18:47 AM    

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The Colorado Water Conservation Board voted to approve funding for two projects in the Rio Grande River Basin, according to The Valley Courier. From the article:

The board approved $83,700 for a Romero/Guadalupe channel rectification project on the Conejos River and $104,000 for stream bank restoration on the Alamosa River. The largest request from the basin - and statewide - was a $1.5 million request from the Rio Grande Initiative to fund conservation easements along the river. That request did not receive enough votes from the CWCB to obtain funding, according to CWCB President Travis Smith who represents the Rio Grande Basin on the board. Smith said he needed six affirmative votes to approve the Rio Grande Initiative project, and he thought he had enough votes, but when it came down to a vote the project received only five affirmative votes, one short. "I thought this was a good project," he said. "We will have to go back and retool it." Smith said he believed the Rio Grande Initiative request would come back to the CWCB in the future in a modified form. He said the Rio Grande Basin has received a large percentage of the statewide funds up to this point...

The Romero/Guadalupe project funding will come from Rio Grande Basin funds while the Alamosa River project funding will come from the statewide pool. The Rio Grande Initiative had also requested funding from the statewide fund. Smith said the CWCB members held a lengthy discussion on the Rio Grande Initiative's request from the Rio Grande Headwater Land Trust. He said the project met the Rio Grande Roundtable's goal of sustainability for this basin but some of the board members questioned whether the project statutorily met the criteria for the statewide funding. The CWCB staff had recommended approval of the Rio Grande project funding but had some issues with the application, Smith said. Those issues involved budget details and conservation easement deed restrictions. Smith said one of the concerns of the CWCB regarding the Rio Grande Initiative application was the amount of matching funds from Great Outdoors Colorado and the Division of Wildlife. One board member felt that the ratio of the match from those other sources should be 2-1, Smith said. Another board member was philosophically opposed to conservation easements in general, another board member excused himself from the vote because of his association with The Nature Conservancy and another voting member was absent. Smith said no board members had come to him with questions about the Rio Grande Initiative application before the meeting so he believed the application would have sufficient support for approval. He said the sheer magnitude of the request might have affected the vote. "I think the $1.5 million was part of it," he said. "It was a large request coming from the statewide account." He said no other project requested that much. Smith said if the request had been split between basin and statewide monies it might have been approved. He said the application could be modified to split the request in the future and stand a better chance of approval. Smith said he understood the applicant would reapply in the March round of funding...

The CWCB reviewed 19 projects totaling $4.3 million during its meeting this week. CWCB staff recommended approval of 16 of the 19 projects, and the board ultimately denied 5-6 because they lacked support from their basin representatives, had procedural issues, were too ambiguous or lacked information. Others were just "flaky projects that did not make a whole lot of sense," Smith said. Smith said the CWCB received funding applications from all of the basins except North Platte, and the projects requesting funding included reservoir rehabilitation, feasibility studies and reservoir operations. "I think they were good projects," he said. Smith said in addition to considering basin requests for funding, CWCB this week discussed the watershed ramifications of beetle kill in the national forests throughout the state particularly on the west slope where upwards of 70 percent of the trees are dead as a result of beetle infestations. The beetles have now moved on to the eastern side of the Continental Divide and are threatening the Front Range watershed, Smith said. Smith expected this issue to become a hot topic in the next legislative session. He said it is the biggest water issue in the state because forests with 80-95 percent beetle kill dramatically affect the state's watershed capabilities.

Category: Colorado Water

9:12:50 AM    

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According to The Pueblo Chieftain all but a few streams in Colorado had an average year for water and Arkansas Valley Reservoirs are looking good. From the article:

...after five years of drought, the average level of moisture, along with perfect timing, is providing welcome relief. Water supply reports at Thursday's Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District meeting painted a cool, clear picture of a textbook year for runoff and streamflow. "I would call this normal conditions, even though streamflow is 5-15 percent above average," said Pat Edelmann of the Pueblo U.S. Geological Survey office. Most of the state's streams, other than a few scattered tributaries on the Western Slope, are at or above average, Edelmann said. In the Arkansas River basin, water levels were boosted by the deep snows on the plains last winter, as well as above-average precipitation in late spring. Rainfall was below average in June and July, but picked up again in August, helping farmers finish harvest and refilling depleted municipal supplies...

While some of his charts showed a rosy picture, one depicted the long-term water supply as still deficient. The 2007 water year did little to make a dent in a 1.5 million acre-foot deficit that has been building since 2000. The USGS tracks the deficiency of water against a long-term average. The deficit is one way to measure the capacity of the basin's aquifers to hold water and has an impact on the rate at which return flows make their way back to the river. Meanwhile, water quality is benefitting from the improved flows. Salinity is below average from Pueblo Dam to below John Martin, largely because of more water in the river over longer periods, Edelmann said. Arkansas River flows at Avondale have totalled 672,620 acre-feet through September, more than the total amount that flowed past the measuring station there in each of the past five years and already slightly more than the mean average year. The natural flows in the basin were aided by 111,000 acre-feet of transmountain water, brought in mostly through the Boustead Tunnel and Twin Lakes Tunnel. That's gone a long way to fill reservoirs in the valley, which were about 58 percent full, according to Joe Flory, river operations manager for the Division of Water Resources. Last year at this time, reservoirs were only about one-third full...

Reclamation is now installing fiber-optic cable on the gates in its Fryingpan River collection system to provide remote operation and improve the yield in the basin. The river flows also got a small boost as the Pueblo Board of Water Works emptied Clear Creek Reservoir. Work on the reservoir has started and could be complete by November. Meanwhile, the Pueblo water board still is looking at decreased revenue because customers had to use sprinklers less this year. Through August, water consumption in Pueblo was down about 15 percent, compared to the average of the previous five years.

"colorado water
8:58:46 AM    

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Here's a look at the future of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Arkansas River water users could benefit more from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project by applying more tax money to upkeep and using future lease revenue to pay off parts of the project. "As it is now, once the construction debt is paid off, the money goes to the treasury and the project can't go further," Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Water Conservancy District, told the board last week. Broderick presented two ideas to the board about how future revenues of the Fry-Ark Project could be used to extend the life of the project after debts within the Arkansas basin are paid off. For the past few months, he has discussed the issues with officials from governmental agencies that might be affected at the federal, state and regional levels...

The first idea is reassessing the operation, maintenance and replacement budget with the idea of applying more of the property taxes collected by the district toward those activities. The second concept would be to use revenues from excess-capacity leases to pay off parts of the project, including the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which has not been built. The district assesses a mill levy of 0.9 mills for repayment of its contracts with Reclamation, along with 0.039 mills for operations and a 0.006 mill to recapture funds lost to abatements and refunds. The tax generates about $6 million a year in the district, which stretches over parts of nine counties. Fountain Valley Conduit users also pay a mill levy for repayment on that project. Right now, the district is on pace to pay off the costs for municipal and industrial use by 2011, and agricultural costs by about 2019. After those debts are paid off, district taxpayers would pay for only operation and maintenance costs that could increase over time. Broderick is suggesting taking a closer look at maintenance and operations before the contracts are paid off...

There have been initial discussions with Reclamation, but so far Broderick and Southeastern staff are working to gain a basic understanding of the future infrastructure needs of the project. The use of lease revenue to pay off parts of the projects is a different approach than has been used to date. Currently, the lease money totals about $1.4 million annually, with 20 users contracting for about 46,000 acre-feet of space. The number is expected to increase, along with the rate paid, in years to come, if there is space in the reservoir. Also, more entities are seeking long-term contracts. Reclamation lists the revenue as "miscellaneous" and applies it toward Southeastern project costs. Broderick wants to apply the money toward parts of the project outside Southeastern's obligation: Ruedi Reservoir on the Western Slope, the Fountain Valley Conduit and the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit. He said there could be as much as $300 million available over the next 50 years to apply toward those debts...

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project:

- Approved by Congress in 1962, the Fry-Ark Project was built as a way to provide supplemental water to farms and cities in the Arkansas Valley. The local agency which provides guidelines for management is the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The federal Bureau of Reclamation operates the project. Major structures of the Project include:

- Ruedi Reservoir, completed upstream of Aspen in 1968, provides compensatory storage for the Western Slope.

- Boustead Tunnel, completed in 1970, brings water from the Fryingpan River basin into the Arkansas River basin. A system of tunnels in the Hunter-Fryingpan watershed collects water, mainly from snowmelt.

- Turquoise Lake, enlarged in 1968, provides initial storage of transmountain water. Mount Elbert forebay and power plant, completed in 1981, are used to generate supplemental power.

- Twin Lakes, operated by the Bureau of Reclamation since 1982, serves as a switching yard for water. Colorado Springs and Aurora take water through the Otero Pump Station from the Homestake Project and water rights they own in the Arkansas Valley. Reclamation makes releases for project users downstream and participates in a flow management program on the Upper Arkansas.

- Lake Pueblo, completed in 1975, is terminal storage for the Fry-Ark Project. With an average of 131,000 acre-feet of free space each year, annual contracts for excess capacity have been issued since 1986 by Reclamation. Long-term excess capacity contracts have been issued to Pueblo (2000) and Aurora (2007). Colorado Springs, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and possibly others are seeking long-term contracts.

- Fountain Valley Conduit, completed in 1985, takes water from Pueblo Dam and serves Colorado Springs, Fountain, Widefield, Security and Stratmoor Hills. Pueblo Fish Hatchery, completed in 1990, is located below Pueblo Dam.

- Arkansas Valley Conduit, a $300 million drinking water supply line to communities east of Pueblo, has not been built. Three bills in Congress, as well as two separate supplemental appropriations, are pending. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has approved a $60.6 million state loan to pay the projected local cost.

Here's another article about funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Prospects for funding of the Arkansas Valley Conduit by next year will depend on whether Congress can agree on a spending bill or if a continuing resolution freezes federal spending at current levels. "A continuing resolution could stall funding, and the appropriation picture is looking very flabby right now," lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday. A State and Tribal Assistance Grant of $600,000 survived House and Senate committees, but will not be in the budget unless a new appropriations bill is passed. There are several scenarios where portions of the appropriations bill could pass, clearing the funding, Arbogast said. The STAG money would go toward additional planning and engineering studies for the conduit. Meanwhile, $79 million authorization for construction of the conduit is included in the Water Resources Development Act. Although President Bush has threatened to veto the bill. Authorization would not guarantee funding.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a $60.6 million loan by the Colorado Water Conservation Board toward the conduit, but funding is contingent on federal payments. Meanwhile, nothing has happened on three similar bills that would authorize federal cost-share of the conduit. The $300 million Arkansas Valley Conduit would provide clean drinking water to 42 communities east of Pueblo with a population of about 50,000. Most of the communities are looking at tighter regulations, continued poor water quality and more expensive alternatives to remove contaminants like radionuclides and salinity. The conduit would extend from Pueblo Dam to Lamar with spurs at Crowley County and to Eads. In a related matter, the board heard a financial report from finance manager Kathie Fanning projected a shortfall of funding of $377,000 for enterprise activities like the conduit and the Preferred Storage Options Plan. Overall, the district has about a $200,000 shortfall, which is adequately covered by reserves.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:21:25 AM    

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From, "The Bush administration's aggressive drive to promote oil and gas drilling on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains has sparked growing anger here among traditional Republican constituents who say that the stepped-up push for energy development is sullying some of the country's most majestic landscape."

More from the article:

The emerging backlash from ranchers and sportsmen, which is occurring despite an economic boom driven by drilling, is threatening GOP primacy in at least one corner of what has been a solidly Republican West. Long the most reliably conservative expanse of a state that has gone red in six of the past seven presidential contests, Colorado's western third shows evidence of the "purpling" that has made Colorado look increasingly like a swing state. Support from the western slope was seen as pivotal in the elections of Democrats Bill Ritter as governor last year and Sen. Ken Salazar in 2004, the same year Salazar's older brother, John Salazar, was elected to Congress from a western Colorado district that had given 66 percent of its vote to the Republican candidate four years earlier. All three Democrats found support in GOP enclaves while calling for "balance" in energy extraction. "I can only speak for myself and I'm a registered Republican, but last year I voted a straight Democratic ticket. First time in my life," said Bob Elderkin, 68, who heads the town of Rifle's chapter of the Colorado Mule Deer Association, a hunting group that has made common cause with environmentalists against drilling. "The Republicans have kind of lost touch with reality."[...]

The state has 32,000 active gas and oil wells, and plans call for at least 40,000 more in the next decade. A new Wilderness Society forecast sees 125,000 new wells across the region. "They are creating problems by the magnitude," said Joan Savage, who welcomed the 146 gas wells on her family's 6,000-acre ranch but shakes her head at federal plans to drill atop the majestic Roan Plateau, which towers over it...

...concern about the downside of drilling has helped define the terms of political debate even in deep-red Wyoming, where Sen. John Barrasso, the Republican appointed to the seat of the late Craig Thomas, this summer suggested buying back leases from gas companies to protect the range. In Colorado, the backlash has emboldened officeholders who are accustomed to walking a tightrope between the state's conservative rangeland and suburbs and the heavily Democratic ski and union enclaves. Ken Salazar placed a hold on the appointment of a new Bureau of Land Management head to pressure the Interior Department to delay drilling atop the Roan, framed by Savage's office window...

Residents in deeply Republican Mesa County say the gas is needed, especially with output from offshore reserves falling. But there is also apprehension about the approach of the rigs that transformed Garfield. The Bureau of Land Management recently authorized gas drilling -- a process that uses hydraulic pressures to fracture underground formations -- in the area that supplies Grand Junction with its drinking water. "You do not drill on your freaking watershed!" said Frank Lamm, 62, who squared off against energy companies after sulfurous odors from the nearby Black Mountain oil field fluids disposal site began drifting into his trailer home. Evenings now find him watching TV from behind a dust mask, his front door sealed with duct tape. Rainwater from his roof runs clear into plastic buckets, then turns a disquieting red. Lamm, a registered Republican who voted for President Bush, found himself the spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (CRED). Group discussions stick to plotting against the energy companies that the attending liberals and conservatives have united against. "We didn't dare talk about anything else, because we'd argue about anything else," Lamm said. The same unified front prompted the state legislature this year to reform Colorado's traditionally pro-industry oil and gas commission on new lines championed by a coalition of environmentalists, hunters and ranchers.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:06:06 AM    

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Here's an update on Fort Collins' wastewater operations from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Working with a tight budget, City Manager Darin Atteberry has suggested City Council apply a 12 percent wastewater fee increase in 2008 and another 11 percent increase in 2009 to pay for the capital improvements that will rebuild a large percentage of the Mulberry facility. If passed by City Council, the proposed fee increase would begin next year. The first of the council's two votes on the budget is Oct. 16. The final vote is Nov. 20. The upgrades will require the city to take the Mulberry plant offline for 18 months. "Wastewater is one of our essential services that we provide for the community and isn't something that we can forgo or not do, and so this is regrettable because it's an unanticipated short-term improvement but not avoidable," Atteberry said, adding that despite the facility's age the city didn't expect its infrastructure to crumble so quickly. "We pay for capital improvements through development impact fees or rate increases though, and so the (fee) increase in the proposed budget is the most appropriate (funding mechanism) to use." If passed, the fee increases would average $2 per household each month, Atteberry said, and wouldn't sunset after the proposed two-year city budget, which goes through 2009...

Some have questioned why the city doesn't close the Mulberry facility and expand the newer, larger Drake plant to handle the city's wastewater needs - a move that on its face seems cheaper than rebuilding the aging Mulberry plant. The answer, city staffers say, is found in Colorado water law, which stipulates the city return an average of 3 million gallons of treated water a day to the Poudre River from an inlet pipe at the Mulberry facility. "There are other water users downstream that have rights to that water," said Brain Janonis, interim utilities director. "If we were to move all operations to Drake, we would still have to pump that much water back into the river at this point. We have looked at what it would cost to buy water rights to replace the 3 million gallons a day we supply, and it would be anywhere from $30 (million) to $60 million."

Category: Colorado Water

7:47:24 AM    

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