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

Subscribe to "Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A picture named cityparksunrise.jpg

Happy 150th Birthday to Denver.

8:50:03 AM    


The Natural Resources Law Center (NRLC) at the University of Colorado Law School is holding a half day workshop on Friday, Dec 11, 2008 from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Evolving Regional Frameworks for Ag-to-Urban Water Transfers.

Over the past year, DARCA and the NRLC have been coordinating our efforts in providing information to the water community about alternatives to buy and dry arrangements Their conference is complementary to our upcoming convention in Pueblo in Feb 2009.

These presenters will speak to their experiences in Colorado, California, and Idaho.

* Peter Nichols -- General Counsel of the Lower Arkansas Valley "Super Ditch" Company, Trout, Raley, Montano, Witwer & Freeman, Colorado

* Ed Smith -- General Manager, Palo Verde Irrigation District , Southern California

* Jerry Rigby -- Counsel for Fremont Madison Irrigation District, Idaho, Rigby, Thatcher, Andrus, Rigby & Moeller

7:55:54 AM    

A picture named waterfromtap.jpg

Here's an update on Lend Lease's plans to develop the old Lowry Bombing Range and their dispute with PureCycle over a sustainable water supply, from Adam Goldstein writing in the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

On an isolated road in the southeast corner of Aurora, a water battle boils over land with more bushes than homes, and more questions than answers. The former Lowry Bombing Range has had only one suitor since the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners awarded a development bid to Australian-based developer Lend Lease in 2006. Nearly a decade before selecting Lend Lease, the Rangeview Metropolitan District and state land board selected Pure Cycle to develop water resources on the barren land. There's been little consensus between the parties since.

Late last month, Lend Lease announced its intentions to possibly terminate its deal at the end of the year to develop what many call the most profitable land in the Denver metro area because, according to Lend Lease Communities President Chris Waggett, Lend Lease would "not be able to obtain an adequate water supply or adequate wastewater treatment facilities at a commercially reasonable cost." The shot from Lend Lease echoed loudly throughout the desolate 21,000 acres scheduled for conservation or development...

[Lend Lease president Waggett] laid partial blame for the project's failure at the cost and the scant supply of water facilities for the project, originally designated to include 17,000 acres of perpetual park land and about 3,800 acres of residential development. The cost of development was originally estimated at around $1.2 billion. From the very beginning, the idealistic vision of a world-class, self-sustaining development was sullied by the realities of water availability in the area. The water issue marked one of Aurora officials' first and most major objections to the deal, and it helped forge pre-development conditions that were initially set in June 2007. Lend Lease said that an initial agreement with Rangeview Metropolitan District and its contractors, which would have provided water supplies and wastewater treatment facilities for two of the land's six sections, proved too expensive. Lend Lease said that as the potential price tag grew more and more dear, the 2007 stipulations gradually became more and more unrealistic...

In addition to Lend Lease's stated goals to create funding for local public schools and a large-scale site for conservation, other potential benefits to Aurora were tied into the Lowry deal. One of the possibilities attached to the project was a potential second water reservoir for the city, one that would meet rising storage demands as Aurora established its new water infrastructure and dealt with a booming population...

Shortly after Lend Lease announced its intention to pull away from the initial deal, Pure Cycle, the corporation selected by the State Land Board in 1996 to develop water for such a project, announced their disappointment with the developer's decision. "We are disappointed with Lend Lease's attempts to intervene in the State Land Board's water assets and pre-existing agreements." President and CEO Mark Harding wrote last month, referring to filing made by the City of Aurora in water court seeking rights to provisional sites for an additional reservoir site east of the Aurora Reservoir. "Nevertheless, Pure Cycle continues to work closely with its long standing partner, the State Land Board, to find co-operative solutions that meet the interest of its shareholders as well as the School Trust beneficiaries." Harding declined to speak directly to the matter, citing the current suit between the City of Aurora and the State Land Board and Pure Cycle. That suit is pending decision in the Colorado Supreme Court. Harding did say that the water supplies and treatment options offered to Lend Lease were at or below fair market value. "Our rates are contractual governed under our agreement with the State Land Board to be market based. This was to balance the fact the State Land Board receives a royalty on water sales at Lowry as well as being a customer purchasing water taps and delivered water." Harding said in an e-mail. "Our rates and charges are set based on the average of three neighboring water providers. For comparison purposes our water tap fees are $21,500. Aurora's water taps are over $22,000 and looking at I believe I read an 8 (percent) increase next year, which would put them close to $24,000." Pure Cycle was selected nearly 12 years ago by the land board and the Rangeview Metropolitan District to provide water to the Lowry Range, which they say would come from a culmination of several sources including over 25,000 acre feet of groundwater and over 8,000 feet of surface water to satisfy demand for development the Lowry Bombing Range.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:42:11 AM    

A picture named fountainpavementdrawing.jpg

From the The Telluride Watch: (Gus Jarvis): "While no formal action was taken at its Nov. 12 meeting, the Ridgway Town Council gave a collective nod to Town Manager Greg Clifton to begin the application process for USDA Rural Development funding to replace the town's lateral water lines. The project is a precursor to eventual streetscape improvements and chip sealing. Clifton told council that he and Public Works Director/Engineer Joanne Fagan met with Dave Carter of Rural Development on Nov. 5 to discuss the replacement of the town's lateral water lines. Along with the replacement of the lines, there is a need for a new pressure zone pump on the west side of town and improvements are needed to the pumping system serving the Vista Terrace water tank. In all, the scope of the project focuses on the water distribution system and could come at a cost of close to $750,000...Fagan added that Polybutylene was used in this current and failing system because of its expansion capacity, enabling it to withstand freezing. 'We are now finding that it gets brittle right at the connection to the...It seems to get brittle and [breaks] are increasing in frequency.' Carter, according to Clifton's report, said that this project would be a good fit for RD funding and it will likely involve a combination of grant funds and loan funds. The loan funds would likely necessitate a general obligation bond with the water utility."

Category: Colorado Water
7:26:38 AM    

A picture named bearcreektelluride.jpg

The debate is on over what plans should be put in place if the Telluride Ski Area expands into the Bear Creek Watershed, according to Martinique Davis writing in the Telluride Watch. From the article:

If upper Bear Creek undergoes a transformation in the coming seasons, local skiers won't be left out of the loop. Telluride Ski Area officials have met with local backcountry skiers, open space advocates and all manner of individuals concerned with the fate of Bear Creek, in an attempt to open lines of communication regarding the future of this Telluride icon. Telski CEO Dave Riley and representatives from Telluride's Ski Patrol met with a group of locals last Thursday, in a gathering designed to infuse the Bear Creek debate with a hearty element of community input. These meetings, which started over the summer between just a few avid Bear Creek travelers and Riley, have evolved into larger forums intended to garner information and advice about what, if anything, should be done with Bear Creek...

...the bigger issue - Should the ski area expand into upper Bear Creek? - remained on the fringe of all conversations at Thursday's meeting, diving to the forefront of discussion at many points throughout the gathering. What was made clear was that the Telluride community, not surprisingly, possesses strong feelings regarding the evolution of Bear Creek. Some at the meeting expressed concern over preserving the "wilderness experience" in Bear Creek; others gave the idea of expansion a hearty vote of confidence, noting that an expanded ski area could mean more business for local companies (and, of course, more skiing on avalanche controlled slopes).

Category: Colorado Water
7:21:15 AM    

A picture named watermeter.jpg

From the Steamboat Pilot & Today: "The Town Board is taking another go-round at getting meters installed for Oak Creek's water customers, a project of unknown cost poised to bring conservation and water rights issues to a head. Oak Creek gets its municipal water supply from the namesake creek that runs through town and from Sheriff's Reservoir in Rio Blanco County. Fears around the touchy issue of water rights center on what might happen if Oak Creek is not using all the water allocated to the town or if consumption goes down because meters end up encouraging conservation, Trustee Gerry Greenwood said."

More from the article:

However, meters often are required for the town to be eligible for certain state and federal grant funds, and in today's conservation-minded society, "the day is coming, whether we're ready or not," Greenwood said. In addition to encouraging conservation of water resources, which Trustee David Fisher said is a value in itself, less water use would cut the town's costs, a real consideration in Oak Creek's tight budget. "We don't have to produce fresh water if it's not being wasted," Fisher said. "Then, it's not going down the pipe to the wastewater treatment plant."

Eliminating the town's flat rate structure for water customers would create incentives for conservation -- and punish those who waste water with higher bills. It's well-known in town that residents of some of Oak Creek's older houses leave their taps running all winter to prevent their pipes from freezing, Greenwood said. Fears about water rights are unwarranted, Fisher said, as future growth in town should offset any reduction in use that metering would bring about.

Category: Colorado Water
7:09:18 AM    

A picture named wetmountainvalley.jpg

Some residents of the Wet Mountain Valley are upset over the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District's recent water lease to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, according to the Wet Mountain Tribune. From the article:

On Tuesday, without proper notification or public hearing, the board agreed to lease water from the Johnson Ranch to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. In 2000, Round Mountain purchased the 320-acre Johnson Ranch south of Westcliffe expressly for its water rights, amounting to 6.2 cubic feet per second, with some of the rights dating back to 1872. The cost of the ranch and water was $828,000, a pretty good deal at the time. Round Mountain announced then that the water rights would be able to service approximately 500 new homes in its service area, which basically consists of the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. At the time, Round Mountain was serving just over 500 customers.

This week, the Round Mountain board unanimously approved a letter-of-agreement between Round Mountain and Upper Ark. Under the agreement, the two parties "[sigma]agree to negotiate in good faith concerning the price, duration, amount of water and other specific terms[sigma]" What Upper Ark plans to do with the water is unclear, since, after years of discussion, it still has failed to release the long-anticipated water augmentation plan for Custer County. The Johnson Place water could potentially be used by Upper Ark to augment existing but improper water usage in certain subdivisions; it could leave the county entirely; or, weirdly enough, it could be leased back to Round Mountain should the need arise. The deal, in fact, could be good for the district and good for the community. But with no transparancy in the process, the public simply doesn't know.

Category: Colorado Water
6:56:51 AM    

A picture named denveraquifer.jpg

The conservation bug has bitten the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, according to Nicole Chillino writing in the Tri-Lakes Tribune. From the article:

The Monument, Palmer Lake, Woodmoor and Donala members have been working for about a year and a half to obtain a $44,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The money would help finance the implementation of a conservation plan, which would lay out methods to reduce members' water usage. However, the authority can and will implement a plan with or without the grant. Rocky Wiley, with engineering and consulting firm Tetra Tech RTW, has been working on providing grant money and presented two plans for consideration at the authority's Nov. 19 meeting...

Although the board has grant money available, it does not have the legislative authority to release the money, said water authority manager Gary Barber. Barber said draft legislation has been written and is intended to go through the Colorado Ggeneral Assembly by March, so he recommended the authority wait 120 days to see if the legislation passes and if they receive grant money to do some of the public outreach portions of the plan. The outreach would include public meetings...

Barber said if the authority is able to obtain the grant, the money could help to increase the authority's public involvement as well as help to implement the plan. Rick Fendel, the authority's attorney, said the grant process has distracted the authority for a year and a half from implementing its conservation plan, adding conservation is more of a financial issue for the group than a political one. Board members will discuss what they want to do with respect to the potential grant at the December authority meeting, to be posted on

Category: Colorado Water
6:46:16 AM    

A picture named twinlakesreservoir.jpg

Here's a report about the natural flows of aluminum into Twin Lakes, from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing in the Leadville Herald-Democrat. From the article:

High levels of aluminum are flowing into Twin Lakes from the south fork of Lake Creek. This creek is known to the U.S. Forest Service as creamcicle creek because of the orange and white color of the creek, depending on the day. This contamination is a natural occurrence and not from mining activities, said County Commissioner Ken Olsen at the Nov. 13 Lake County Open Space Initiative meeting. It is also worse in the fall than in the spring because the acidity of the water is lower during the low flow season.

It has always been known that arsenic is natural in the Twin Lakes waters. A Total Maximum Daily Load assessment was done by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and indicated that iron and aluminum were also getting into the water. The levels from this assessment exceeded the aluminum standard of 8.9 pounds per day by 2,125 pounds per day. This is almost 240 times the standard. In 1943, the last yellow-fin trout was caught in Twin Lakes, said Olsen. This was a fish that had been found only in Twin Lakes and is no longer found in the lake. These fish must have built up a natural resistance to the aluminum, which fish from fish hatcheries don't have. The lake is being stocked every year, but the population has never become self-sustaining.

Funding to correct the problem can't come from the Environmental Protection Agency, because the contamination is natural, not from mining or other man-made hazards. Four Lake County residents travelled to the Arkansas Valley roundtable meeting to present the issue to the 57 members in the hopes of getting a grant for this project. The official presentation to this group will be done on Dec. 10. Funding called 319 funding through the federal Clean Water Act may also be an option for the project. The issue still needs to be investigated further as the source of the aluminum is still an unknown. This needs to be explored before solutions can be found.

Category: Colorado Water
6:30:12 AM    

A picture named ldmtcollapse.jpg

As we reported earlier in the week the Lake County Commissioners have lifted their disaster declaration over the possibility of a blowout at the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel. Here's a report from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing in the Leadville Herald Democrat. They write:

On Monday the Lake County commissioners passed a resolution to rescind the emergency declaration from Feb. 13. The original declaration was made due to the increasing water levels in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel within the mining district east of the city of Leadville...

Since that time, the EPA and the BOR have worked together to install a relief well into the tunnel to begin pumping water to the water treatment plant near the Village at East Fork. This is mine water that was no longer reaching the treatment plant due to a block in the LMDT. This well seems to be working as water elevations were reported to be 17 feet lower in October this year than they were in October last year. At the Robert Emmet shaft, the water levels were reported as lower than in October 2006 as well.

There has also been legislative action on the issue, as the state passed house bill 55-11 to study the connection of the Canterbury Tunnel to the LMDT water levels. At the federal level, two bills were introduced, one in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives, to clarify the responsibility of federal agencies for the LMDT.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:22:14 AM    

A picture named rockyfordditch.jpg

Here's a recap of this week's meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, from Lola Shrimplin writing for the La Junta Tribune-Democrat. From the article:

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District met in regular session on Wednesday with Pat Edelmann from the United States Geological Survey giving a report on water quality issues along the Arkansas River. Concerns given to the USGS included contamination from the Leadville area, effects on marine biology, the effects of urbanization on water quality and changes in farming methods. Also of concern to the USGS was the amount of salt in the river in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Although the study is still provisional, figures given by Edelmann stated that there were 11,000 tons of salt in Granite, but the amount increased dramatically to 376,000 in Las Animas. In Coolidge, Kan., the amount of salt increased to 475,000 tons...

Edelmann also spoke on coal bed methane and said that in Huerfano and Las Animas Counties, the drilling companies might use horizontal drilling to gather the methane. "We don't think those deposits are going to produce much," he said. Director Loretta Kennedy said she had heard concerns of water being removed from the wells in Huerfano and Las Animas Counties. 36,000 acre feet of water have been removed from those counties as a result of the drilling, she said. Kennedy said she spoke to a dairy farmer who said because of the deposits left from the drilling, his newborn calf death rate rose 50 percent and his crop production was down 40 percent. "Those are not uncommon issues with coal bed methane production," Edelmann said.

Category: Colorado Water
6:13:32 AM    

A picture named millionpipelineproject.jpg

Here's a look at measures to get more water in the West, from Jonathan Thompson writing in the High Country News. From the article:

1. Tamarisk removal: Tamarisk -- which infests some 1 million acres in the West -- chokes out willows and cottonwoods, and ruins beaches. It also slurps up lots of water -- some say a single tamarisk drinks 200 gallons per day. Estimated cost to remove it? $3,000 per acre, though newer methods, such as tamarisk-eating beetles, are cheaper.

2. Logging for water: In 2002, as Colorado was racked by drought, the state proposed something drastic: Clear-cutting its forests to increase runoff. Fewer trees, the theory goes, would result in more snow on the ground -- it was proven on a small scale in Wyoming. Most people just laughed at the idea because of the high cost and environmental impacts.

3. The Big Straw Hear that sucking sound? This scheme would have had a 200-mile pipeline carrying Colorado River water from the Utah border back, uphill, to the Front Range of Colorado. The idea was born in the 1980s, discarded, then reborn during the 2002 drought. It's dead again, at least until the next devastating dry spell...

5. Pipe Dreams: In Colorado, businessman Aaron Million has proposed a privately financed $2 billion-$4 billion, 400-mile-long pipeline that would transport water from Utah's Flaming Gorge Reservoir through Wyoming to Colorado's Front Range cities...

10. Seeding the clouds: Of all the unconventional solutions to drought, "seeding" rain clouds with silver iodide to increase precipitation is the most widely implemented. Ski areas fund cloud-seeding efforts in Colorado, power companies support it in Idaho and Los Angeles County is forking out $800,000 this year to seed clouds over the San Gabriel Mountains. Problem is, it may not work: It's true that introducing particles into moisture-laden clouds can help create raindrops, but there's not enough conclusive evidence to determine if and how much extra precipitation this may create in a specific spot. And if it does work, is it just stealing rain from those downwind? A five-year study in Wyoming, costing more than $8 million, is under way in hopes of answering these questions. Regardless of its actual effectiveness, it's valuable as a sort of meteorological placebo: Ski areas tout cloud-seeding programs in their marketing propaganda, and water managers get to say they're actually doing something about the weather. Meanwhile, conservation-minded folks say that it would make more sense to spend that money on efficiency measures, such as low-flow toilets and showerheads.

Category: Colorado Water
6:01:23 AM    

A picture named coriverwatershed.jpg

Here's the long-range weather outlook for the Southwestern U.S., from Robert Krier writing in the San Diego Tribune. Thanks to last winter's record snowfalls across the upper Colorado basin Lake Powell has enough water to meet Colorado Compact commitments for the Upper Basin States. From the article:

Long-range forecasters aren't willing to lay down money in Las Vegas on the prospects, but the odds appear good Southern California will have another dry winter. On the plus side, the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River basin, the areas that supply most of the water used by Southern Californians, should get at least normal precipitation. Those are the major conclusions reached by scientists at a "winter outlook workshop" put on by the state's Department of Water Resources at the Westin Hotel in downtown San Diego yesterday...

Global patterns [La Niña] are still shaping up that could affect the picture. On average, half of the annual statewide precipitation falls in December, January and February. Water managers are closely watching the approaching winter, because California is in a drought after two consecutive exceptionally dry years. The state's reservoirs are at less than half capacity on average, and court-ordered pumping restrictions to protect endangered fish have caused cutbacks in water deliveries to Southern California.

Another dry year would strain the ecosystems of Southern California, said Dan Cayan, a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla and the U.S. Geological Survey. Many people in the San Diego County backcountry rely on groundwater supplies, which in many places have been diminished by nine dry years out of the past 10...

One of the key factors that long-range forecasters watch, sea-surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean, is not providing much of a clue this year. When those waters are abnormally warm, a condition known as El Niño, Southern California tends to get a very wet winter. When the waters are much cooler than normal, a La Niña occurs, and the region is generally dry. This fall, the water temperatures in the Pacific have been very close to normal. Under such "neutral" conditions, the forecasters look at other factors but usually have a more difficult time predicting precipitation patterns. The Climate Prediction Center in Maryland has basically punted, forecasting an equal chance of a wet, dry or normal winter in Southern California.

But Klaus Wolter, a climate researcher at the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Western Water Assessment team, paints a more bleak picture for Southern California. He believes that the atmosphere is dialing up a weak La Niña and that other forces will contribute to a drier-than-normal winter in Southern California...

The picture is brighter in the Colorado River Basin, where a normal winter is expected. Jerry Zimmerman, executive director of the Colorado River Board of California, said that although the past 10 years combined have been the driest on record in the basin, 2008 delivered above-normal runoff into Lake Powell, one of the two major reservoirs in the basin. No cutbacks in water deliveries to California are expected in 2009, he said.

Category: Colorado Water
5:40:21 AM    

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © Copyright 2008 John Orr.
Last update: 12/1/08; 7:32:39 AM.
November 2008
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Oct   Dec