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, October 31, 2007

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According to The Valley Courier U.S. Representative John Salazar's H.R. 3224 [pdf], the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act of 2007, has passed the House. From the article:

The bill provides $200 million over five years to begin repair on aging dams across the United State and requires states to match 35 percent of the funds necessary to rehabilitate a dam. "In Colorado, we have over 1800 dams and 741 of them are in my district," Salazar said yesterday. "There are 340 Colorado dams classified as high hazard dams - which means they are near people and can potentially endanger life. We cannot wait for our nation to suffer a catastrophic dam failure that takes life to address this serious issue." According to a list from the Colorado Division of Water Resources, ten structures in the San Luis Valley are considered high hazard dams. Those include Terrace Reservoir in Conejos County; main dam and east dike at Sanchez Reservoir and Mountain Home in Costilla County; the main dam and spillway dam of Humphreys dam, Santa Maria Reservoir and the north dike and main dam at Big Meadows in Mineral County; and Beaver Park in Rio Grande County.

The legislation provides $4,942,292 to the State of Colorado - desperately needed funding to begin the repair and rehabilitation of unsafe high hazard publicly owned dams. Salazar's bill would disperse the funds in the form of grants to states over a five-year period. High hazard dams owned or operated by state, local, or municipal governments or agencies that provide a significant benefit to the public will be able to compete for rehabilitation funds granted to states.

Category: Colorado Water

7:03:24 AM    

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Here's an update on the cleanup of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Rocky Mountain Arsenal is expected to remain contaminated beyond 2010 when a cleanup was scheduled to be completed, according to an assessment released Monday by the Colorado attorney general. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment Plan found that hazardous substances will continue to move into groundwater from contaminated soils below the surface and "thus groundwater at the Arsenal will not be clean for the foreseeable future." The assessment was prepared on behalf of Attorney General John Suthers, the Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Department of Natural Resources...

Officials from the attorney general's office, the public health department and the natural resources departments have been negotiating with Shell and the federal government for several months to reach a settlement on remediation and compensation. "Although we applaud the clean-up work that Shell and the Army have completed on the Arsenal so far, that effort merely reduces additional harm to our environment, however, harm remains," Jim Martin, Colorado's public health and environment executive director, said in a statement. The release of the assessment plan is part of the process for the arsenal's cleanup, and the public will be allowed give its input after it is formally published.

Category: Colorado Water

6:49:37 AM    

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Here's an update on Powertech's proposed uranium operation in Weld County from The Earth Times. From the article, [Powertech] is pleased to announce that activities associated with its mine permit application for the Centennial Project, in Weld County, Colorado are advancing on schedule. Several major milestones have been completed to date."

Click through for the details. They're moving full speed ahead.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:32:23 AM    

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According to The Summit Daily News preliminary discussions are underway for rules for water use in case there is a call on the Colorado River by the Lower Compact States. From the article:

Looming discussions on what to do if the Colorado River runs low could threaten West Slope water rights used for irrigation and recreation. Colorado is in the early stages of considering a set of rules for allocating water in the event of a Colorado River shortage. Under a 1922 compact, upstream states -- including Colorado -- are obligated to send a set amount of water downstream to thirsty California and Arizona.

Under drought conditions, there may not be enough water to satisfy those downstream rights. That could mean curtailing existing uses in the state, said Eric Kuhn, director of the Colorado River Water Conservation District (CRWCD). Essentially, if the lower basin states call for their allocated water, there won't be enough to go around for Colorado, said County Commissioner Tom Long, who also serves on the river district board. "It won't be pretty," Long said. "If you've got Denver sitting down there, and there's curtailment because of a call, the East slope diverters will all be up in arms looking for water," he added, careful not to single out just Denver Water.Based on those concerns, the CRWCD board recently passed a motion that cautions the state about proceeding with any new rules without first studying how much water can be safely developed. "It is premature and distracting for the State Engineer's Office to promulgate rules and regulations to administer water rights in the event curtailment is necessary under the 1922 and 1948 Colorado River compacts ... The state's policy priorities should be to avoid a compact curtailment and to work with water users to develop a plan to mitigate the adverse impacts of a curtailment," the motion reads in part. "With each new use, we're adding a burden to existing uses," said Kuhn. "When do we stop?" The question takes on even more significance as proposals for new transmountain diversions, energy development, population growth, climate change, and other demands strain existing water supplies, Kuhn said. There was no specific trigger for the CRWCD's action. Just knowing that the issue of curtailment is out there spurred the board to be proactive in voicing its concerns, Kuhn said...

[Acting State Engineer Ken Knox] said his office is actively working with other stakeholders to ensure that there is statewide buy-in for a plan to administer water in the event of a lower basin call. One study by the Colorado Water Conservation Board aims to determine exactly what would happen to supplies during a call by identifying the hierarchy of water rights and determining just how much water is available. "As and engineer and administrator, I like that. A logical, fact-based approach is always better than a decision based on arm waving and rhetoric," Knox said. Following completion of needed studies, the statewide Interbasin Compact Commission would provide the framework for followup steps, Knox said, asking residents around Colorado to stay attuned to the process. "It's our future," he said...

Long said one fear among some West Slope stakeholders is that Front Range water users with political and financial clout could trump traditional West Slope water uses like agriculture. At the same time, he said that, if it comes to a downstream compact call, all of Colorado will be in the same boat, scrambling for water. That's what makes the idea of coming up with a unified state plan so important, Long added. "We don't want there to be a run on West Slope agricultural water supplies," Kuhn said. Adopting rules before knowing how much water is really available could spur municipalities on both sides of the Continental Divide to buy up water rights at the expense of traditional uses, he explained. Compact administration and litigation elsewhere in the state, notably in the Rio Grande, Republican, and Arkansas River Basins, have caused substantial hardship and already resulted in the dry-up of agricultural lands. Kuhn said the CRWCD is not opposed to the idea of developing curtailment rules, but that it should be done in the proper context, with the best available information, and after addressing some fundamental policy issues. "It should be done in a more sequenced way," Kuhn said, advocating for completion of a statewide water supply study as a critical first step toward coming with a logical curtailment plan.

Category: Colorado Water

6:24:37 AM    

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From an opinion piece in The Fort Collins Coloradoan, "On Nov. 3, Friends of the Poudre will hold the first annual Poudre River Ball. It'll be an eclectic event for the public - black tie, blue jeans or masquerade costume - but it has more significance than a jovial gathering of people who love the river."

Category: Colorado Water

6:06:16 AM    

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State Representative Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison) is looking at introducing legislation that will require developers to have a sustainable water supply before starting construction, according to The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (free registration required). From the article:

Curry, D-Gunnison, discussed the idea briefly last week during Healthy Mountain Communities' State of the Valley symposium in Glenwood Springs. Curry said additional developments approved on the Front Range can end up adding to the pressure to try to divert water from Western Slope rivers if those developments don't have a reliable, long-term water supply. "I'm tired of it. I want to see better management over on that side" of the Continental Divide, Curry said. "So we may move forward on that."

Curry has discussed the idea with Chris Treese, manager of external affairs for the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River District. He said the approval of developments without sufficient water concerns the Western Slope. "But it's also just that decisions aren't made well in crisis. Our first approach in public policy ought to be not to create the crisis," he said. The hope of the legislation is to prevent water shortages to begin with, rather than having to figure out ways to address them after they have occurred...

Chip Taylor, legislative director of Colorado Counties Inc., said he thinks such a bill addresses a legitimate concern that deserves attention. But he added, "I guess the first question is what is a sustainable water supply." If a 50- to 100-year supply is required, "that becomes a high hurdle to reach," he said. He said he has seen past bills that have sought to require buyers to be notified of a property's water source, and how long it is expected to last.

Category: Colorado Water

5:48:39 AM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's meeting about Judge Klein's decree for the Central Colorado Conservancy District's augmentation district, from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Farmers who own wells along the South Platte River won't know until March or April how much water they might be able to pump, if any, an attorney told farmers and ranchers Tuesday...

"The plan remains viable, and I believe the wells can pump next year," said Andy Jones, an attorney who represented the Well Augmentation Subdistrict of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in a four-week trial last spring. About 250 people attended a meeting at the events center in Island Grove Regional Park to examine Klein's ruling. Jones said that the subdistrict won "must-win issues" but lost in the area of winter water storage of the South Platte and in how much water drawn by the wells must be replaced in the river...

Jones said Klein might conduct a hearing in December or January to resolve remaining issues. He said he hopes that Klein rules in time to allow farmers to develop planting plans for the spring, otherwise some cropland could go idle. Jones said it is likely that Klein's final ruling will be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

More coverage from The Greeley Tribune (free registration required). They write:

At issue is a 101-page ruling by Division 1 Water Court Judge Roger Klein concerning a decree for the operation of 215 irrigation wells along the South Platte River from Brighton north to Greeley and east to Wiggins which irrigate about 30,000 acres of prime cropland. The wells are in Adams, Weld and Morgan counties with the majority in Weld...

[Andy Jones, an attorney who represented the subdistrict in a four-week trial last spring] told the group Tuesday the subdistrict won what he called the "must-win issues," but it lost in the area of winter administration -- winter water storage -- of the South Platte, and in the area of depletions from the wells that must be replaced back to the river. Bottom line, well owners won't know if they will be able to pump or how much they might be able to pump until March or April of next year, Jones said, as the subdistrict and objectors to the water replacement plan go back to Klein with responses to his rulings. If Klein rules by that time, farmers will have enough time to develop their planting plans for the spring. Otherwise, it may idle some cropland. "What we've done is created a structure to allow the wells to pump," Jones said, stressing that it will take time to build that structure. And once Klein makes his final decision, Jones said it is likely the subdistrict and objectors to the plan will appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court. It is likely Klein will conduct a hearing in December or January to resolve remaining issues. Jones said the high court would not make a decision much before May 2009, which means the well owners could continue to pump under Klein's decree while the issue is under appeal...

In summarizing some of the rulings, Jones said the court found the subdistrict has a sufficient water supply for its replacement plan, it can use wells to supplement that replacement plan as long as those augmentation well owners agree to their use, that the subdistrict used proper projection tools in determining future depletions and that it had a proper accounting procedure when determining replacements. The subdistrict's biggest loss was that the judge ruled some well owners must replace 100 percent of the water they depleted from the river dating back to 2003, 2004 and 2005. The well owners must find those replacements from some other source, which could include a variety of water sources, such as leased water, new water purchases and recharge systems such as gravel pits. In some well owners' cases, they will have to replace water from the time the wells were first put into operation. "That's not fatal, but it does have an impact," Jones said, indicating that would be one area that will be appealed. The plan remains viable, he said, adding "I believe the wells can pump," but at what quota is yet to be determined. Klein ruled that some parts of the plan, in particular winter administration of the river, were out of his jurisdiction to rule on, leaving that to the state legislature. State Rep. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, said she is studying two pieces of legislation that came out of Gov. Bill Ritter's South Platte River Task Force that met throughout the summer, while state Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, warned that of the 100 members of the state legislature, "maybe 10 or 15 percent know or understand water issues." Riesberg said getting legislation proposed is one thing, "but getting it passed is something very different."

More coverage from The Denver Post. From the article:

"The court system is so slow," said Tom Cech, president of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District. "It's frustrating."...After the shutdown, the district pieced together a water replacement plan to show that farmers were not taxing the South Platte. For the most part, Klein agreed the farmers' plan was workable, said the district's attorney, Andy Jones. Klein ruled that the district was entitled to a decree, meaning farmers can use their irrigation wells. "There were a lot of key things we were able to win," said Gary Herman, president of the district board. However, those opposed to the district are likely to be back in court to argue different points of the decree, Jones said. A final decree is likely by April 2008 but there is also a likelihood the case could be decided by the Colorado Supreme Court.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

5:39:32 AM    

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From The Fort Collins Coloradoan, "The public is invited to three open houses concerning Larimer County's Stormwater Quality Ordinance to deal with illicit discharge for prevention of water pollution.

"The open houses will be: 4 p.m. Nov. 13, county office building, 1601 Brodie Ave., Estes Park; 4 p.m. Nov. 14, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 200 Water Ave., Berthoud; 4 p.m., Nov. 15, Carter Lake Room of Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 West Oak St., Fort Collins

"For details on the time and date of first reading of the potential ordinance, contact the Larimer County Commissioners' Office at 498-7010. For online information, visit"

Category: Colorado Water

5:33:42 AM    

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