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 26, 2007

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Mesa County is going to upgrade the Gateway sewer plant, according to The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article: "To keep up with all the anticipated growth, the Gateway sewer plant, built by Gateway Canyons owner John Hendricks, will nearly double in size, from handling a maximum of 13,750 gallons a day to 25,000 gallons a day. The $35,000 cost will be covered by previously paid tap fees."

Category: Colorado Water

7:37:47 PM    

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Here's an update on the proposed La Plata Archuleta Water District from The Pine River Times. From the article:

People for and against a rural domestic water district in southeast La Plata County will have more time to make their feelings known. On Tuesday, the county commissioners announced they will continue taking comments on Oct. 15 at SunUte Community Center at 7 p.m.; and they will continue taking landowner exclusion requests until Oct. 5. The commissioners stated their intent to approve all exclusion requests, including mineral interests, submitted by that date. Residents filled the commissioners' meeting room and spilled out into the hall Tuesday. They commented for and against the district service plan, the second effort by a citizens' group that wants the district. Opposition has centered on the main proposed water source (Vallecito) and the prospect that people in low density areas could be paying the district property tax for many years without getting water service - even though their irrigation water is supplying the system...

County planning Director Nancy Lauro noted that commissioner approval of the service plan is based on whether the plan satisfies four mandatory state criteria [^] that there is a need for the service, the service is not already being provided, service can be provided in an economically viable manner, and the district will have the means to repay debt...

Total service area assessed valuation is $1.37 billion. Exclusion requests tallied at that point totalled $439.6 million, or 32 percent. Gas company exclusions are $424.7 million. Surface owner requests are $14.9 million assessed valuation. County Finance Director Karla Distel said the district's financial plan needs valuation of $984 million to work. The proponents' consultant, Wayne Monson, said the system will be built on a pay-as-you-go basis, so the district can respond to changes in property tax revenue as gas industry valuation goes up and down. The plan is a "relatively small" bond issue ($18 million) up front to build the treatment plant and get started on distribution lines, Monson said. Once the full system is built and paid for, the plan is for the property tax to end and the district will run from tap fees and operating revenues...

County Road 509 rancher Tom Givon said a domestic system is needed. He has drilled four water wells - three dry and one with water that's good for mixing concrete but not for drinking. Jan Neleigh, a large landowner west of Bayfield and long-time rural water system supporter, said she used to have a water well that produced 20 gallons per minute, and she has drilled three others. The last one was next to Dry Creek but only produced 1 gpm and had explosive levels of methane, she said. "I'm offended that certain gas companies aren't participating in this (rural water district)," Neleigh said. "They've had a real impact on my part of the county." County attorney Jeff Robbins said companies that have asked for exclusion are Burlington Resources, Chevron Midcontinent, Chevron Texaco, Conoco, Conoco Phillips, Elm Ridge, Energen, Maralex, Northwest Pipeline, Red Cedar Gathering, Red Willow Production, Samson Resources, Williams Field Services, Williams Gas Procession, and Williams Production. Proponent group chairman Dick Lunceford noted that BP has not asked for exclusion. They will pay most of the district's taxes...

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:10:01 PM    

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Miliken is shutting down outside sprinkling next week, according to The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

Milliken residents will have to shut off the sprinklers as of Oct. 1 because of heavier-than-normal water usage this year in the town. Residents can not water their lawns or use hoses to wash their cars after this month because of the increased demand for water. The town gets its water from three sources -- roughly a third from its own reverse-osmosis treatment plant, about a third from the city of Greeley and the last portion from the Central Weld County Water District. Town Administrator Sheryl Trent said the town's water treatment plant was down earlier this year because of construction, decreasing the town's own water supply. However, the town is only allotted a certain amount from Greeley, meaning it has to pay extra if it exceeds that allotment. That's why residents will have to shut off the hoses as of Oct. 1, to keep water costs down. The ban will last until March 1, though it doesn't affect residents with private water wells or parts of town that use a nonpotable water system.

Category: Colorado Water

6:55:27 PM    

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Here's a report on the impending lawsuit spawned by Aurora long-term storage conract with Reclamation from The La Junta Tribune Democrat. They write:

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District decided to move forward with a lawsuit against the City of Aurora and the Bureau of Reclamation Wednesday during their monthly meeting of the Board. The decision to file suit is the result of a 40-year contract that the City of Aurora entered into last week with the Bureau of Reclamation. The contract allows the City of Aurora to store up to 10,000 acre feet of water in Lake Pueblo as well as grant rights to trade 10,000 acre-feet of water to upstream reservoirs each year. This is in addition to yearly contracts that Aurora already utilizes.

When [Attorney, Peter Nichols] was asked whether injunctive relief was an option to mitigating potential damages, Nichols thoughtfully responded, "Yes, we could." When he was further asked if he intended to file for an injunction, he responded, "That would be a Board decision and they should vote on such matters."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:27:58 PM    

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The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is cooking up ways to pay for the Arkansas Valley Conduit with operating. Under consideration is channeling more property tax to the operation, maintenance and replacement budget. We wonder if that would require a vote under TABOR? From the article:

[Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Water Conservancy District] 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. Broderick was careful to point out that his ideas are just concepts at this point, that actual dollar amounts are largely unknown and that it could be years before specific proposals are drawn up. 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.

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. "We could use that funding to pay for a large portion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit," Broderick said. Realistically, the district is projecting the federal share of the $300 million conduit project could be 65 to 70 percent, although bills now in Congress allocate as much as 80 percent. Revenues from leases could make a dent in the local burden without using tax money, Broderick said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:14:30 PM    

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How is Colorado doing for rainfall? Here's a report from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. They write:

Several storms dumped 1.09 inches of rain on the city Sunday, National Weather Service meteorologist Ellen Heffernan said Monday. The rain broke a 1931 record of 0.79 inches for Sept. 23, sending torrents of churning muddy water rushing down area streams and ditches. The second-wettest place in the state on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, was Springfield on the eastern plains, where 0.6 inches of moisture fell. With 1.99 inches this month, Grand Junction is still far off its record rainfall for September, set in 1896 with 3.78 inches...

Don't be fooled by all the wetness -- the region's drought is still on. The University of Nebraska's drought monitor lists the Grand Valley as in the midst of a moderate drought, while much of the southern Western Slope and northern Colorado are abnormally dry.

Meanwhile down in Montezuma County The Cortez Journal reports:

Heavy rains this weekend pushed Cortez well above normal for September precipitation. From Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, 1.2 inches of rain fell, bringing the total September rainfall to 2.14 inches, said weather observer Jim Andrus. Normal precipitation for the month is 1.31 inches, so September is at 163 percent of normal, said Andrus. Total rainfall for this year has reached 10.13 inches, making this a good year for rain, said Andrus. The average yearly precipitation through September is only 9.58 inches.

5:58:13 PM    

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Motorists in Glenwood Canyon were treated to a display of stand-up paddling recently, according to The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (free registration required). From the article:

Sean O'Leary was somewhat surprised when the group from Hawaii and California came through the door of Glenwood Canyon Kayak asking for lifejackets for their stand-up paddle surfing excursion. "I've heard about it before," O'Leary said. "But you never think a bunch of guys from Hawaii are going to be in Glenwood."

O'Leary has seen people surfing on the South Canyon wave with a surfboard, but hasn't seen or heard of anyone actually traveling down the river on a surfboard. He was invited to try it out firsthand having never surfed before. He fell a number of times but had a blast. "It was a lot of fun," he said. "It was just a different experience, a different way to see the water. I definitely want to do it again." He liked the challenge of balancing while standing and paddling and the increased view from standing instead of sitting in a kayak or raft. "It's just a totally different way to be on the water," O'Leary said. "But it's pretty wickedly cool." Glenwood Canyon Kayak will probably try to start selling the boards and paddles in the future, he added. O'Leary thought they could sell well around here, especially if a whitewater park gets put in near Glenwood.

Brian Keaulana, Dave Parmenter and Mike Fox tested their boards on the Colorado River Friday morning. Parmenter is a respected surfboard shaper and former professional surfer. Keaulana is described by National Geographic Magazine as an innovator in water safety risk management who is routinely tapped to teach the best big-wave riders in the world how to react to wipeouts in 40-plus-foot waves. The magazine's Web site says he competes in surfing competitions while working as one of the most sought-after surfing stuntmen in the industry. Phillip Rainey, a 1979 Glenwood Springs High School graduate working for California's Boardworks shaping company, shot photos of the group.

Category: Colorado Water

7:11:55 AM    

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Stream flow in the Gunnison River below the Aspinall Unit remain high due to summer rainfall, according to The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Unexpected rain in the Colorado high country has officials juggling water as they deal with extra water, needed dam work and the German brown trout. The Gunnison River is running higher these days than usual, said officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, but it will rise and drop again through the year. "We are releasing probably more than you are used to seeing in the last 10 years," said Coll Stanton, a hydrology engineer at the bureau's Grand Junction office. "It's not unusual if you look at the last 20 years of history." What's forcing the water downstream is a wet and rainy August in which inflows to Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison were 116 percent of normal, Stanton said. That means 15,000 more acre-feet of water than usual tumbled down the mountainsides and into the tributaries that lead into Blue Mesa, he said...

Blue Mesa can't retain all that water because levels have to be lowered in anticipation of capturing next spring's runoff. Blue Mesa and Morrow Point reservoirs are now 84 percent and 95 percent full, respectively, according to the bureau. Lake Powell, meanwhile, is 49 percent full. Much of that water will remain in the reservoirs through this week to accommodate work needed on the power plant at Blue Mesa and to allow the Colorado Division of Wildlife to conduct fish sampling in the river, Stanton said. Water is running through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison at about 1,200 cubic feet per second, an amount that will have to be dropped to between 600 and 800 cfs to accommodate the work, he said. Once that happens, water levels will rise again until about mid-October to mid-November, when they'll be dropped to accommodate the German brown trout spawning season, he said. The trout need lower flows that won't wash their eggs out of the spawning grounds. Once clear of spawning season, the bureau will have to increase flows again in order to bring the level of Blue Mesa to an elevation of 7,490 feet by Dec. 31. That clears room for ice to form and for runoff in the spring.

Category: Colorado Water

7:00:07 AM    

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Authorization for the Arkansas Valley Conduit is in the U.S. Senate water package passed this week, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Water Resources Development Act, passed by the House earlier this year, was approved 81-12 by the Senate. It now goes to President Bush, who threatened a veto after $9 billion in projects were added in negotiations between the House and Senate. Included in the act is a $79 million authorization toward the $300 million Arkansas Valley Conduit. "We're excited any time we get authorization," said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is sponsoring the conduit. "But the conduit is only $79 million of that $23 billion. The total amount of unfunded projects is enormous."

Long said there are three points that improve the chances of the conduit getting an actual appropriation: A $60.6 million state loan through the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been secured, providing a way to fund local share of payments; Many of the 42 communities serving 50,000 people east of Pueblo face daunting water quality issues, largely from salinity and radionuclides, that could require even more expensive alternatives; The district is looking at a plan, suggested by Executive Director Jim Broderick, to use revenues from excess-capacity water leases to repay part of the costs...

The bill also includes instructions to the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the Fountain Creek Watershed Study. U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said he supports the conduit, but voted against the bill because it adds more projects to an existing backlog. The Army Corps already has a backlog of $58 billion in projects, and with passage of the bill, that will grow to more than $80 billion, Allard said...

Other major Colorado projects in the water projects bill include: $10 million for the Boulder County Pipeline; $5 million authorization for a statewide selenium study; $13 million authorization for use in partnership with state and local entities to complete flood mitigation, habitat restoration, and improved recreation along the South Platte River in Denver; $25 million for the Rio Grande Environmental Management Program in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas; $1 million for water and wastewater infrastructure for the Ute Mountain Project in Montezuma and La Plata Counties...

The Congressional Budget Office in an analysis released Monday said the bill includes projects that if fully funded would cost $11.2 billion over the next four years and $12 billion in the decade after that. It said various projects related to hurricane mitigation in Mississippi and Louisiana, including ensuring 100-year levee protection in New Orleans, would total $7 billion over the entire period. The Corps now has a budget of about $2 billion annually.

More coverage from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). They write, "The funding includes more than $13 million for use in partnership with state and local entities to complete flood mitigation, habitat restoration, and improve recreation along the South Platte River in Denver. It will be matched by more than $7 million in non-federal funds."

More coverage from The Cherry Creek News. They write:

Today, with passage of the conference report for the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA), United States Senator Ken Salazar announced over $120 million for critical water-related projects in Colorado. The report authorizes federal spending on water development, infrastructure, flood control and other projects conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Contained in this year's WRDA is funding authorization for several projects in Colorado, including an authorization for construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, all included at the request of United States Senator Ken Salazar. The conference report will now go to the President for his signature.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:52:15 AM    

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The new South Metro Water Authority needs around $1 billion to mitigate the risk of dependence on the Denver Basin Aquifer System, according to The Rocky Mountain News From the article:

Denver's southern suburbs must spend $1 billion by 2020 to wean themselves off an ailing groundwater system, officials at a water summit said Tuesday. Communities such as Highlands Ranch, Parker and Castle Rock will use money, possibly generated by increased tap fees, higher water rates or new taxes, to build new water-recycling plants and lay pipelines to transfer water from farming communities, according to a master plan unveiled Tuesday by the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Recycling plants being built in the southern suburbs will produce non-potable water, like recycling plants in the metro area. But it's likely our drinking water will soon come from recycled sources as well, officials say.

The plan's $1 billion price tag is a bargain compared to doing nothing as groundwater dwindles, several conference participants said. "We can't afford not to afford it," said Jack McCormick, a Douglas County resident who represents rural homeowners. The area, which includes Douglas and parts of Arapahoe counties, has known for more than 10 years the cheap groundwater that fueled most of its growth in the 1980s and 1990s couldn't last. Groundwater wells are no longer producing as much water as they once did. But the wealthy southern region has been unable to craft solutions to its water woes, thanks to years of bitter political battles among water districts and a lack of access to the renewable river water that most older communities rely on...

To ensure a continued water supply, the authority said it will slash groundwater use from more than 25,900 acre feet, to just 14,900 acre feet by 2030...In addition, it will more than double its use of recycled water during that period, from 11,900 acre feet to 24,000 acre feet. But the region, home to more than 600,000 people, must also find new water - 40,000 acre feet more - to meet demand. The search for and purchase of new water is likely to take years and billions of dollars more to complete, [Rod Kuharich, executive director of the South Metro Water Authority] said. Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, urged suburban water providers to push forward with aggressive water conservation programs and to consider ways to partner with farm communities and the Western Slope.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:41:10 AM    

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Opponents of Powertech's proposed uranium mining operation in Weld County have collected over 2000 signatures for a petition against the mine, according to The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the article:

Coloradans Against Resource Destruction continues to bring attention to and petition against the proposed uranium-mining project. After having several meetings in rural northern Colorado near the site, CARD has started efforts in Fort Collins, attracting more than 200 residents. When Davis started in March, few residents were aware of the project, she said, and few were aware of the issues that surround uranium mining; critics of the different processes of uranium mining cite environmental, health and economic impacts, especially groundwater contamination. CARD has collected about 2,000 signatures on its petition, which encourages state and county officials to "avoid providing any permits that would allow uranium mining until all questions ... are answered by those who propose to mine" and to make regulations against in situ leaching, which has been found to contaminate groundwater. Larimer County Commissioners Randy Eubanks and Kathay Rennels were in attendance Tuesday night.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:30:36 AM    

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