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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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

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President-Elect Obama spoke today to the Global Climate Summit, via Here's an excerpt:

The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear...Denial is no longer an acceptable response.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
7:30:38 PM    

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn): "A long-running effort to clean up the Blue River below Breckenridge culminates this week with the official dedication of a water-treatment plant in French Gulch. The new facility will remove zinc and cadmium oozing out of the abandoned Wellington Oro mine, creating cleaner water for downstream trout. The $1.2 million plant was built by BioTeq, a Canadian company that has built similar facilities for other highly polluted mine sites. The acid mine drainage from the Wellington-Oro contributes significant levels of cadmium and zinc to the waters of French Gulch and, in turn, the Blue River, threatening the aquatic ecosystem downstream. The goal of the treatment is to clean the water sothe Blue can support a self-sustaining brown-trout fishery below its confluence with French Gulch."

Category: Colorado Water
6:55:00 PM    

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From the Summit Daily News (Dustin Racioppi): "Dramatically improved toxic conditions at the abandoned Eagle Mine, according to a new federal review. When cleanup crews entered the site 20 years ago, they were dealing with an environmental monster left behind by turn-of-the-century miners, with piles of zinc, cadmium, copper and other types of metal waste covering much of the mine's 235 acres...

"'For the most part, the cleanup has been highly successful,' Naugle said. 'The next step is to go to (the site's owner) CBS and say, 'You have got to do more.' And that's not done yet, but they know.' The site is deserted and hasn't been inhabited for years. If plans for residential development proposed by the Ginn Co. are to be realized, then there's some work to be done, Naugle said, which would include removing arsenic contamination from the soil."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:47:42 PM    

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Here's an opinion piece advocating cooperation over the Windy Gap Firming Project written by Jill Boyd representing the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, from the Sky-Hi Daily News. She writes:

We may be on different sides of the Continental Divide, but Grand County and the Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District certainly can agree on one thing: The Colorado River is a vital resource that we must all work together to protect as we try to supply our growing state with much-needed water.

Category: Colorado Water
6:36:34 PM    

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Here's a look at the potential litigation over Alamosa's salmonella outbreak from Matt Hildner writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

City Council has scheduled an executive session Wednesday to discuss $3.8 million in damage claims for a salmonella outbreak that started in the municipal water system. It's unclear, however, how much discussion will take place in open session regarding the 44 claims the city has received since the March outbreak...

The outbreak resulted in 435 cases, 24 hospitalizations and one death, according to the records of the Alamosa County Nursing Department. Larry Velasquez Sr., of Romeo in nearby Conejos County, died of an infection on April 15 at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo after a five-day hospitalization, according to a claim filed by his wife, Isabel. The claim seeks $1 million in damages. In April, Alamosa County health officials announced the salmonella-related death, but declined to identify the victim because of medical privacy laws. Since the outbreak, the city has received damage claims from 14 minors. Children under age 18 accounted for 261 cases, or 60 percent. Three businesses also filed claims. Pizza Hut filed for $10,387, the beauty salon Curl Up & Dye filed for $2,300 and Sonic Drive In filed a claim for an unspecified amount. All but five of the parties seeking damages are represented by Seattle Attorney Bill Marler, who specializes in salmonella and food-poisoning cases. Marler said in March that state law limits the damage payments the city would provide to $150,000 per person or $600,000 for the entire outbreak.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

6:04:42 PM    

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From the New York Times (Henry Fountain): "A hydrologic and economic analysis of the Upper Rio Grande basin in the Southwest, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that subsidies and other policies that encourage conservation methods like drip irrigation can actually increase water consumption. 'The take-home message is that you'd better take a pretty careful look at drip irrigation before you spend a bunch of money on subsidizing it,' said Frank A. Ward, a resource economist at New Mexico State University and author of the study with Manuel Pulido-Velázquez of the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain...

"Drip irrigation draws less water, but almost all of it is taken up by the plants, so very little is returned. 'Those aquifers are not going to get recharged,' Dr. Ward said. Drip irrigation also generally increases crop yields, which encourages farmers to expand acreage and request the right to take even more water, thus depleting even more of it."

Dr. Tim Gates has found similar results in the Arkansas Valley.

Category: Colorado Water
5:58:14 PM    

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From the AP via the Denver Post: "Economists and a hydrologist are exploring a water market model in which farmers could trade water rights in real-time via computer and see the impact of their actions on the waterway. Economists from The University of New Mexico and the University of Chicago and a hydrologist from Sandia National Laboratories are testing whether such a market would work in the lab and soon they will try it out for real in the upper Mimbres River basin...

"A real-time market would allow senior water rights holders on the upper Mimbres River to lease water to other farmers in the basin. The computerized transactions would be visible to anyone as they happen and any impact on the river's flows could be tracked. If the water market is put in place, participation would be voluntary, according to UNM environmental economics professor David Brookshire."

Category: Colorado Water
5:52:30 PM    

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Here's a recap of the last Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting from Chris Woodka and the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Earlier this month, the state's voters rejected Amendment 52, which would have limited funds from the mineral severance tax available to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The board, along with groups like water conservancy districts, the Interbasin Compact Committee and the roundtable, urged voters to reject the measure. That preserved $10 million to fund the Water Supply Reserve Account in next year's state budget, Reed Dils, the Arkansas River basin's CWCB representative, told the roundtable Wednesday.

The CWCB likely will add another $300,000 to each basin's account, on top of $1 million already allocated in the first two years of the program, Dils said. The board will also consider a new funding method that would require a 20 percent buy-in from the roundtables in order to access funding from the state account when it meets next week in Denver. Last week, the roundtable took stock of projects already funded from the account, as well as looking at a few new possibilities. "Those funds have had a major impact for our little water district," said Chris Haga of the Round Mountain Water District that serves Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. The district received a $120,000 grant in May 2007. "Our backs were to the wall. We'd bought the water rights we needed, but had to improve the infrastructure." Another project funded by the roundtable was $200,000 toward the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a $300 million plan to deliver drinking water to communities east of Pueblo...

Ralf Topper, of the Colorado Geological Survey, explained how funds have been used to look at groundwater recharge and storage opportunities in El Paso County. Tim Gates, a Colorado State University professor, talked about a study of agricultural water conditions that will be expanded to include the Upper and Lower Arkansas River valleys. In all, the CWCB has awarded $3.7 million for projects in the Arkansas Valley, with $2.92 million from the state account and $783,000 from the basin account. Other projects have included a tamarisk control program, zebra mussel control at Lake Pueblo and researching certain aspects of the Super Ditch program. One project funded through the Water Supply Reserve Account generated some friction at Wednesday's meeting. A $24,000 grant to the water transfers guideline committee resulted in a report that some members balked at sending back to the CWCB because it did not indicate clearly enough that the roundtable is not advocating transfers from agricultural to municipal use...

The roundtable also heard from Mike Hickman, a Lake County commissioner, who asked the roundtable to look at a project to mitigate high levels of aluminum that are loading into Lake Creek, above Twin Lakes, apparently from natural sources. The aluminum concentrations are killing stocked fish in the lake, Hickman said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:46:58 PM    

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According to the Denver Post (Anne C. Mulkern) Senator Salazar says he has not been offered the job at Interior. From the article:

No one from President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has spoken with Sen. Ken Salazar about the Interior Secretary job, the Colorado Democrat said today. "I've had no conversations with the transition team about specific positions," Salazar said. Salazar, a former water and environmental attorney and director of the Colorado Division of Natural Resources, has been mentioned as among the possible candidates for the job.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:26:29 PM    

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According to the Rocky Mountain News (Bill Scanlon) La Niña is building out in the Pacific this winter. From the article:

La Nina is making a comeback, and that could mean frigid winds and the occasional subzero Arctic cold snap hitting the Front Range this winter. University of Colorado atmospheric scientist Klaus Wolter said today that the La Nina that showed its face this summer, then petered out, is acting up again.

"It is actually trying to make a comeback," said Wolter, who also is a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder. "It's still very weak, but it has been drifting toward a more defined weak or moderate" La Nina.

Category: Colorado Water
5:14:19 PM    

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Colorado Independent is taking a look at the Bush administration's last ditch gift to the oil companies with oil shale.

The red herring that the industry is hiding behind is the cost of research and development. Essentially, "We only make about 8% on our investment."

Since everyone by now knows and can know where the oil shale is, and its quality, lets develop the technology for production at Mines, CU, CSU and the other state schools here. Coloradans will do the job with an eye on preserving out way of life. Oil shale is too precious and dangerous to allow the market to dictate its development. Markets don't always work well for the environment.

Here's the Garfield County point of view from the Glenwood Springs Independent (Philip Yates):

...leasing won't come immediately, said Tracy Boyd, a spokesman for Shell Exploration and Production, which has three experimental federal oil shale leases in the Piceance Basin. In fact, it could take up to 10 to 12 years of additional research, environmental analysis and permitting before a company could develop a federal oil shale lease, Boyd said. "There are people who say, 'There goes the BLM and the Bush administration on their drive to do a fire sale of commercial oil shale regulations before the end of the administration,'" Boyd said. "There is nothing further from the truth. The regulations do not authorize leasing. It also doesn't set anything in motion that will lead to leasing. They just define the parameters under which eventual leasing will occur."[...]

The final regulations will become effective on Jan. 17, according to the Federal Register...

But BLM Director James Caswell said oil shale is a "strategically important domestic energy source that should be developed to reduce the nation's growing dependence on oil from politically and economically unstable foreign sources."

Here's the Bureau of Land Management press release published in the Rifle Citizen Telegraph:

The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management has published final regulations to establish a commercial oil shale program that could result in the addition of up to 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from lands in the Western United States.

In keeping with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the BLM final regulations provide the critical "rules of the road" on which private investors will rely in determining whether to make future financial commitments to prospective oil shale projects.

"The U.S. needs all types of energy resources, both conventional and renewable, in order to meet our future needs," said Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management at Interior C. Stephen Allred. "Production from domestic resources makes us more secure and less vulnerable to future energy crises, and increases our security and economic well-being. The tremendous oil shale resources that we have in the U.S., containing several times the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, can be a vital component of that secure future."

Oil shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock containing organic matter from which oil may be produced. Commercial development of oil shale will not begin until it is technologically viable, which is not expected for several years. The regulations will provide a basis for decisions, as "rules of the road" for the large investment that will be necessary for industry to develop technologies to extract the resource in an environmentally sound manner. Those investments could exceed $1 billion.

Before any oil shale leases are issued, additional site-specific National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis would be completed on the proposed development. Once a lease is issued, the lessee will also have to obtain all required permits from state and local authorities, under their respective permitting processes, before any operations can begin. Another round of NEPA analysis would be conducted before any site-specific plans of development are approved.

The leasing regulations incorporate provisions of the Energy Policy Act and the Mineral Leasing Act relating to maximum oil shale lease size,maximum acreage limitations, rental and lease diligence. The rule also establishes a royalty rate based on a time-adjusted rate, beginning at 5 prcent during the first 5 years of commercial production, and then rising 1 percent every year thereafter until the rate reaches 12.5 percent. Forty-nine percent of the royalties are shared with the states where the leases are found.

The regulations address provisions of the Energy Policy Act that establish work requirements and milestones to ensure diligent development of leases. Standard components of a BLM leasing program ─ including lease administration and operations ─ are included, as well as additional NEPA documentation requirements for lease applicants.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. holds more than half of the world's oil shale resources. The largest known deposits of oil shale are located in a 16,000-square mile area in the Green River formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Federal lands comprise 72 percent of the total surface of oil shale acreage in the Green River formation.

"Oil shale is a strategically important domestic energy source that should be developed to reduce the nation's growing dependence on oil from politically and economically unstable foreign sources," said BLM Director James Caswell. "The BLM is taking extraordinary steps to improve our domestic energy security, including the establishment of regulatory regimes designed to boost geothermal, solar and wind development and protect our public land resources."

Throughout the process, the BLM will collaborate and consult with affected states, tribes and local governments to ensure that their interests and concerns surrounding the oil shale program continue to be addressed. For instance, the site-specific NEPA analyses would include the same opportunities for public involvement and comment that are part of the programmatic environmental impact statement process.

The regulations are just one of several steps designed to harness oil shale. The BLM has also issued research, development and demonstration (RD&D) leases for five oil shale projects in Colorado's Piceance Basin and one in Utah.

In addition, Assistant Secretary Allred signed the record of decision Monday, Nov. 17 on a programmatic EIS that would amend several resource management plans to open lands for application for potential oil shale leasing in the future. In the PEIS, the BLM amended land use plans in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to set aside approximately 1.9 million acres of public lands for potential commercial oil shale development. Additional site-specific NEPA analysis will have to be completed before leasing or development occurs.

The Oil Shale Regulation on the electronic desk of the Federal Register at:

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
5:05:02 PM    

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From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith): "There are at least four looming threats to the water in the Colorado River basin, which includes the Roaring Fork River: oil shale production, population growth, climate change and the Colorado River Compact. Those threats were showcased at a meeting in Montrose on Friday of four Western Slope 'basin roundtable' groups convened by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to create a statewide vision for Colorado's water supply."

More from the article:

One of the largest potential users of water is large-scale commercial oil shale production, which could use up to 400,000 acre feet of water a year by 2050 to produce 1.5 million barrels of oil a day. "It is a huge draw on water," said Greg Trainor, co-chair of a subcommittee of the Colorado Basin Roundtable that recently completed a study on energy sector water use. Trainor said that oil shale production could also require 14 new power plants the size of the plant in Craig, which is Colorado's largest coal-fired power station with a capacity of 1,274 megawatts of electricity. But Trainor, who is the utilities manager for the city of Grand Junction, also posed the question of whether large-scale oil shale production will "actually ever happen."

The viability of oil shale in Colorado is still unknown, but Harris Sherman, the director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, told the group he just returned from an oil shale production [ed. tar sands?] facility in Canada that is now producing 1.5 million barrels a day of oil and could go to 3 million barrels a day...

Next, Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said that while the chance for a demand for water from downstream states under the rules of the Colorado River Compact is "pretty damn small," it would also be the "equivalent of a natural disaster."[...]

On the other hand, Kuhn said [a call] would not likely be a sudden event as it would come during a prolonged drought and "Lake Powell would basically be empty." To help protect local water supplies, the River District is working to ensure that water rights held by individual owners that pre-date 1922 are not lost or abandoned. And it is developing a statewide plan where pre-1922 water rights holders would be compensated for agreeing to share their water in the event of a curtailment. Harris Sherman also said the state is considering leasing 200,000 acre feet of water in the Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River from the federal government, which could also be used to meet a curtailment. Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards told Sherman that if water from Blue Mesa is set aside to meet a compact call, then more water could potentially be diverted to the Front Range from headwater rivers, like the Roaring Fork...

About 80 percent of the state's population lives on the Eastern Slope, but 80 percent of the state's water is on the Western Slope. That means more trans-basin diversions could be called for, placing greater demands on Western Slope rivers like the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan. Today, 58,000 acre feet a year is diverted from the Fryingpan and 38,000 acre feet a year is diverted from the Roaring Fork...

Then there is the threat of climate change. A recent study by the Colorado Water Conservation Board concluded that temperatures in Colorado are forecast to increase by 2.5 to 4 degrees, which could mean less water. "Recent hydrology projections suggest declining runoff for most of Colorado's river basins in the 21st century," according to "Climate Change in Colorado."[...]

Eric Hecox, the section chief for Intrastate Water Management and Development at the CWCB, said 215,000 acre feet of water a year from the Colorado River basin could be required by growing cities in Colorado by 2030. And that's after taking into account aggressive water conservation measures, a 15 percent reduction in irrigated farmland, and after several Front Range water delivery projects now being planned are implemented. That remaining "gap" of 215,000 acre feet a year bothers Commissioner Richards. She told Hecox that the state's analysis assumes the Front Range will not embrace residential growth controls. She said the state agency should produce a "sustainability model" as part of its forecast that includes the possibility of less growth on Colorado's Eastern Slope.

Category: Colorado Water
6:41:37 AM    

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Here's an article about the EPA's response to the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project environmental impact statement, written by Kevin Duggan in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

An environmental study of Glade Reservoir and the Northern Integrated Supply Project offers "insufficient information" and does not adequately describe the project's impacts, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for NISP, which would include Glade Reservoir, EPA officials said they are concerned about the project's impact on water quality, stream morphology and wetlands. Opponents of Glade said the EPA's comments validate what they've been saying all along: Scientific analysis doesn't support the project...

"We're already working with EPA to address their concerns," said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. "There is no fatal flaw here."[...]

The EPA's comments are among several hundred received on the project. The agency takes issue with several areas of the draft EIS, including its analysis of impacts of Glade on the Poudre, the South Platte River and Horsetooth Reservoir. The draft document also does not support the contention that Northern Water's plan for Glade is the "least environmentally damaging practicable alternative" for NISP, according to the EPA. Studies by the city of Fort Collins and other entities have raised concerns about how the project would affect the Poudre's water quality through the city and on to its confluence with the South Platte at Greeley. Werner said Glade proponents "are very comfortable the water-quality issues can be dealt with" in the final EIS for the project.

Update More coverage from the Greeley Tribune:

Count the Environmental Protection Agency as one of the organizations opposed to the Northern Integrated Supply Project. In comments to the Army Corps of Engineers, Carol Rushin, acting regional administrator for the EPA, listed several concerns with the NISP's draft environmental statement, including how it did not adequately address many water quality concerns for the Poudre and South Platte rivers.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:30:51 AM    

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Here's an update on the plan for operable unit #6 for the California Gulch Superfund site, written by Ann E. Wibbenmeyer in the Leadville Herald. The site is the location where the EPA was warning of a catastrophic blowout at this time last year. That led to a disaster declaration from the Lake County Commissioners that is still in effect. From the article:

Carol Campbell with the Environmental Protection Agency would like to reopen a record of decision made on Operable Unit six of the California Gulch Superfund site. She told the Lake County Commissioners on Oct. 23 that she didn't think that the remedy chosen in the standing ROD was sustainable. Ann Umphres, Lake County attorney for environmental issues, said that she was thrown for a loop on this, because she thought that progress was being made on deletion of this site. The ROD is agreed upon by all involved parties in a Superfund issue. It is a legal document that is in place dictating the remedy for the site. Alternatives are considered through a public process to determine a ROD. Reopening this legal document would mean starting this process over to reconsider all the alternatives.

In the current OU 6 ROD, the remedy is to plug the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel and send the water through the pipeline put in during the state of emergency concerning the tunnel. At the end of the pipeline, all contaminated water coming out would be treated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The BOR, said Campbell, wants to get out of the water-treatment business. The tunnel will only keep failing, she said, and remediating the tunnel would be expensive. Campbell mentioned capping some piles as one alternative to be looked at seriously. County Commissioner Ken Olsen told Campbell that this community has a concern with its mining heritage, and especially with that heritage being capped in wedding cakes, as the community refers to the already-capped mining pile in the mining district.


The Lake County Commissioners have lifted the state of emergency associated with the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel according to Kay Doan writing in the Vail Daily. From the article:

Lake County, Colorado officials have lifted a state of emergency in place since last February prompted by fears that a stopped-up mine-drainage tunnel could burst and inundate residential areas. The resolution passed Monday marked the end of a tenuous time for Lake County, filled with controversy and often uncertainty. It comes after a relief well was installed at the tunnel, a new pipeline was constructed and water has been pumped to a nearby treatment plant...

In the wake of that move, local officials hosted a series of overflowing public hearings with angst-ridden residents and even conducted a mock evacuation drill to drive home the fears. While politicians from town officials to state legislators to members of the congressional delegation rallied around Leadville's cause, many state and federal officials privately suggested that the county had overreacted to a relatively low threat that has existed since the initial cave-ins at the tunnel several years ago. The three commissioners, however, have stood by their decision.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:21:58 AM    

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