Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Project Healing Waters

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Monday, November 17, 2008

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Here's a recap -- and a great picture of the construction equipment in the river -- of a recent habitat improvement project in Cañon City, from a report written by Tracy Harmon in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Thanks to three local Trout Unlimited Chapters, the Canon City Recreation and Park District and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the $20,000 trout habitat improvement project should be done by Wednesday. The project incorporates the use of a track hoe to place boulders in the river channel to provide protected pockets where fish can feed. When the fish aren't fighting the current they are better able to maintain weight gain, said Greg Policky, DOW fishery biologist. The work is being conducted on a one-mile stretch along the Arkansas Riverwalk between Ninth Street and Raynolds Avenue, said Ted Sillox of the Southern Colorado Greenback chapter of Trout Unlimited, based in Pueblo.

"The Trout Unlimited Chapters - Greenback, Cheyenne Mountain and Collegiate Peaks Anglers - have shown a type of group cooperation to achieve a common goal. We've been doing a lot of fundraising and gotten some help from some corporate sponsors to make this project a reality," Sillox said. About 400 tons of boulders will be used during the project. Front Range Aggregate is providing the rocks at half price and the Rock 'N Rail railroad is transporting the rocks to just west of the site.

Pete Gallagher of Fin-Up Habitat Consultants of Manitou Springs and Policky decide where the boulders should be placed. DOW heavy equipment operator Matt Price deftly navigates the river bottom with the track hoe and places the boulders.

Thanks to Colorado Trout Unlimited for the link.

Category: Colorado Water
6:34:45 PM    

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The GOAT: (Rob Inglis): "The administration hopes to change a number of administrative rules before it rides into the sunset, and none of these changes is going to make environmentalists happy. One of the first is today's issuing of final oil shale leasing regulations, which theoretically make it possible for oil shale leasing to take place on at least 2 million acres of land in the West. Obama will probably re-write these regulations after taking office. But rewriting federal rules takes time -- often several years -- so it's conceivable that the Interior Department could sell oil shale leases before Obama manages to put in place any new rules limiting or banning oil shale development."

More coverage from AP (Dan Elliott) via the Denver Post:

Colorado's governor and one of its senators pounced on the Bush administration Monday for what they called "reckless" and "flawed" new rules for commercial oil shale development. "I'm very disappointed that in the waning months of the Bush administration they felt the need to write the rules on commercial leasing," Ritter said in a conference call from Tokyo, where he's on an economic development trip. "It's not just premature, it's hasty and I would even argue reckless," said Ritter, a Democrat.

More coverage from the Natural Resources Defense Council:

The Bush administration announced another parting gift for Big Oil today in the form of new oil shale regulations. The Department of Interior released new draft regulations for a commercial oil shale industry on 2 million acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The leasing of land for oil shale has been heavily criticized by environmental groups due to concerns over significantly increased water usage, global warming emissions, and toxic waste.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
6:05:21 PM    

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From the Loveland Reporter Herald (Kathryn Dailey): "The proposed project would eventually pave portions of County Road 70 (Owl Canyon Road) and County Road 72 and extend County Road 19 north to County Road 72 to create a paved roadway to connect U.S. 287 and Interstate 25. No funding has been identified for the project, which county staffers say could take years to complete and would be done in phases as money became available...

"If the proposed Glade Reservoir is built in the area, it could cause a relocation of a portion of U.S. 287. Wilkinson said the reservoir's only impact on the Owl Canyon project would be where County Road 72 ties in to U.S. 287. The rest of the project would remain the same."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:57:37 PM    

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Adam Goldstein): "City council members are expected to give their final approval Monday, Nov. 17, to proposed increases in the city's water rates. The proposed rate hikes, which would raise water fees by 8 percent and 7.5 percent in 2010, is slated for a final vote during the Nov. 17 regular council meeting. The increases would translate to an added monthly fee of $5.53 for 2009 and another $5.44 for 2010 for medium lot users in Aurora. They come as a continuation of last year's rate restructuring, which followed widespread protests from residents regarding unreasonable increases."

Category: Colorado Water
7:32:27 AM    

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): "While the state is moving toward coming up with a set of surface irrigation rules to show Kansas by this year's meeting on the Arkansas River Compact, farmers are nowhere near comfortable with a draft after hours of discussion.

"Meanwhile, officials are scrambling to come up with a way to provide relief for farmers who put in sprinkler systems fed by ponds or other improvements after 1999, the last reckoning of Colorado water use by the two states. 'When these rules go into effect, you will never see another canal lined or any improvements made. Anything that's saved will have to be returned to the river, so what's the point?' Dale Mauch, a Lamar farmer, said after a committee looking at the new rules met Thursday. 'They want to take us back to 1948,' Mauch fumed. 'In 1948, there was no Pueblo Reservoir. They never heard of PAM (Polyacrylamide, used to line canals). They used mud.'

"'The state wants to be proactive in drafting rules that both protect its compact interests while encouraging agricultural efficiency, but needs to move. 'There's an internal clock ticking today,' said Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte. 'We can't put these off indefinitely.'

"Farmers have told the state at past meetings that the accounting systems used to calculate the loss of return flows to the river should be offset by the leakage to canals and erosion to stream banks caused by 'clear' water from Pueblo Dam. Rather than trying to gain water by putting pipes in ditches, lining them with concrete or applying PAM, farmers say they are simply trying to avoid washing out the predominantly earthen ditches throughout the valley. Sprinklers, the major on-farm improvement targeted by the rules, have been added in many cases as a more efficient way to apply water because they save on farm labor, farmers on the committee say."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:29:38 AM    

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The pollution of groundwater sources from activities around oil and gas development is a growing concern across the West as the drilling boom gets more feverish with each passing month. Here's a report written by Abrahm Lustgarten in the Denver Post. From the article:

In July, a hydrologist dropped a plastic sampling pipe 300 feet down a water well in rural Sublette County, Wyo., and pulled up a load of brown, oily water with a foul smell. Tests showed it contained benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia, in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for people. The results sent shock waves through the energy industry and state and federal regulatory agencies.

Sublette County is the home of one of the nation's largest natural-gas fields, and many of its 6,000 wells have undergone a process pioneered by Halliburton called hydraulic fracturing, which shoots vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals several miles underground to break apart rock and release the gas. The process has been considered safe since a 2004 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that it posed no risk to drinking water. After that study, Congress even exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Today, fracturing is used in nine of every 10 natural-gas wells in the United States. Over the last few years, however, a series of contamination incidents has raised questions about that EPA study and ignited a debate over whether the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing may threaten the nation's increasingly precious drinking-water supply. An investigation by ProPublica found that water contamination in drilling areas around the country is far more prevalent than the EPA asserts.

This investigation also found that the 2004 EPA study was not as conclusive as it claimed to be. A close review shows that the body of the study contains damaging information that wasn't mentioned in the conclusion. In fact, the study foreshadowed many of the problems now being reported across the country...

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of each contamination or measure its spread accurately because the precise nature and concentrations of the chemicals used by industry are considered trade secrets. Not even the EPA knows exactly what's in the drilling fluids. And that, EPA scientists say, makes it impossible to vouch for the safety of the drilling process or precisely track its effects. "I am looking more and more at water-quality issues ... because of a growing concern," said Joyel Dhieux, a drilling-field inspector who handles environmental review at the EPA's Denver regional offices. "But if you don't know what's in it, I don't think it's possible." Of the 300-odd compounds that private researchers and the BLM suspect are being used, 65 are listed as hazardous by the federal government. Many of the rest are unstudied and unregulated. Industry representatives maintain that the drilling fluids are mostly made up of nontoxic, even edible, substances and that when chemicals are used, they are a tiny fraction of the overall mix. They say some information is already available and that releasing specific details would only frighten and confuse the public and would come at great expense to the industry's competitive business...

In September, the BLM approved plans for 4,400 new wells in Sublette County, despite the unresolved water issues. Tests there showed contamination in 88 of the 220 wells examined, and the plume stretched over 28 miles. When researchers returned to take more samples, they couldn't even open the water wells; monitors showed they contained so much flammable gas that they were likely to explode. Other signs of contamination were also worrying residents. Independent tests in several private drinking wells adjacent to the anticline drilling showed fluoride -- which is listed in Halliburton's hydraulic-fracturing pat ent applications and can cause bone damage at high levels -- at almost three times the EPA's maximum limit. On federal land, which is where most of the Sublette County wells are located, the BLM governs leasing and permitting for gas development, with secondary oversight from the state and only advisory input from the EPA. When the contaminated-water results were first reported, the BLM and the state downplayed their significance.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:21:31 AM    

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Protection of stream flows and riparian habitat often gets the short end of funding and enthusiasm when weighed against unbridled growth and agriculture. Here's a look at the use of fly fishing as therapy for returning vets -- Project Healing Waters -- from a report written by Sarah Bultema in the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

Hutton, an Army soldier from Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, had never been fly-fishing before. Yet through Project Healing Waters, a program set up specifically for soldiers who are recovering physically and emotionally after their military service, it was just what Hutton needed to relax. "It's inspiring," he said, standing by the bubbling river Saturday afternoon in the Big Thompson Canyon. "There's no uniforms -- it's pleasant."

Project Healing Waters, a nationwide nonprofit, was created by fly fishers as a way to help wounded soldiers get back outdoors and introduce them to the sport. Saturday, Hutton and seven other soldiers from Fort Carson's Wounded Warrior Battalion got to participate in the program first-hand through a local event hosted in part by Karen Shaw-Lafferty on her family's property by the river.

Category: Colorado Water
7:08:49 AM    

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