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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Monday, September 24, 2007

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University of Colorado: "High levels of nutrients used in farming and ranching activities fuel parasite infections that have caused highly publicized frog deformities in ponds and lakes across North America, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder. The study showed increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus cause sharp hikes in the abundance and reproduction of a snail species that hosts microscopic parasites known as trematodes, said Assistant Professor Pieter Johnson of CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department. The nutrients stimulate algae growth, increasing snail populations and the number of infectious parasites released by snails into ponds and lakes. The parasites subsequently form cysts in the developing limbs of tadpoles causing missing limbs, extra limbs and other severe malformations, Johnson said."

Category: Colorado Water

7:19:12 PM    

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NYT: "Dozens of world leaders are to gather at the United Nations on Monday for a full agenda of talks on how to fight global warming, and President Bush is skipping all the day's events but the dinner. His focus instead is on his own gathering of leaders in Washington later this week, a meeting with the same stated goal, a reduction in the emissions blamed for climate change, but a fundamentally different idea of how to achieve it. Mr. Bush's aides say that the parallel meeting does not compete against the United Nations' process -- hijacking it, as his critics charge. They say that Mr. Bush hopes to persuade the nations that produce 90 percent of the world's emissions to come to a consensus that would allow each, including the United States, to set its own policies rather than having limits imposed by binding international treaty."

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:42:03 AM    

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Here's a background piece about Powertech's proposed uranium mining operation in Weld County from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the article:

The Centennial Project, north of Nunn and between that town and Wellington, contains 5,760 acres of land to which Powertech has purchased mineral rights. The company owns some of the surface as well and is negotiating with other landowners. State law regarding land and mineral ownership places a bizarre burden on private landowners who happen to live near buried natural resources. Under Colorado law, land owners have to make reasonable accommodations for those who own the mineral rights under their land, so the minerals can be extracted. To date, oil and gas companies have presented the biggest headache for landowners in Weld County, which is the state's most prolific producer of oil. Greeley and Weld landowners have gone before the city and county planning commissions to stop expansions of oil and gas production on their property. But the law says they don't really have much say. Much of Weld lies above an ancient geological formation whose composition yields plentiful oil and natural gas. It has been a boon for the county, which derives large amounts of tax revenue from the extraction of those resources. The land of the Fox Hill Formation also contains natural metals, such as molybdenum, selenium and others.

In 1978, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad called Rocky Mountain Energy found a large vein of another heavy element: Uranium-238. The company estimates 9.7 million pounds of uranium lie beneath a 15-mile chunk of northern Colorado, a veritable mother lode of resources, especially considering the price of uranium peaked this year at $137 per pound. Powertech bought the mineral rights from a petroleum company, Anadarko Petroleum, which succeeded the railroad subsidiary. The company has every legal right to get the minerals it owns -- it just has to clear several state and local permitting hurdles first...

Colorado is what's known as an "agreement state," which means Colorado and the NRC have a pact in which the state has sole jurisdiction over radioactive materials, including uranium. Several local government entities also have permitting authority, including Weld County's commissioners and planning and zoning commission; the Colorado departments of Public Health and Environment, and Natural Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Last week, State Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer, both Fort Collins Democrats, said they were working to ensure that Powertech meets all water safety and environmental protection standards. It will take until December 2009 for Powertech to get all its required permits. Mining would start in July 2010...

Douglas acknowledges that he doesn't know what the mining will look like -- Powertech is still figuring that out. The composition of the rock holding the radioactive resource, the average depth of the uranium and many other factors will determine the process of extraction. As of now, it will likely be mostly in-situ recovery, a complicated process using oxygenated water to pump out the uranium. But Douglas does not rule out the possibility of an open pit mine, which has been a major sticking point for Davis and the other opponents. An open-pit mine is just what it sounds: a hole in the ground where miners can easily scoop out the rock. Some of the uranium ore -- the term for the rock in which the element is embedded -- is as shallow as 80 feet below the surface, Douglas said...

The uranium at the Centennial Project site is embedded in the sandstone of the Fox Hills Formation, and is relatively low-grade -- about 0.09 percent or lower. That's nine-one-hundredths of a pound, Douglas said...

But it's not just radioactivity that opponents fear. Such low grades mean large amounts of rock must be mined to get a measurable amount of uranium. That means piles of rock will be taken out of the earth, which likely contain radon gas and other potentially harmful materials. Even forgetting open-pit mining, Powertech's regional opponents have several other concerns. They ask, 'What about the groundwater? What about other metals?'

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:21:10 AM    

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