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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Friday, November 28, 2008

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Joanne Canda): "The Custer District of the Natural Resource Conservation Service has named local resident and rancher Wilbur Miller as Conservationist of the Year. The presentation was made during the annual district banquet held earlier this month. Miller, who says he grew up in the same bedroom of the same house his father grew up in, has been awarded for the many conservation initiatives he has undertaken on his property over the years."

More from the article:

According to local conservation officer Jim Sperry, Miller was chosen for completing projects as diverse as putting in a hydroelectric system on the house on his "upper ranch" which derives power from a mountain stream, to designing corrals which cause less stress to cattle. "How many ranchers could design and build a hydroelectric plant?" asked Sperry.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked Miller's cooperation for restoration of Grape Creek as it runs through his property. Miller agreed, and many people cooperated to make the project a success. According to Miller, the Seiferts brought in large rocks which were strategically placed according to USFW specifications to provide habitat for fish. A class from the school came out and planted willows to prevent erosion. Miller says it has been good for fish and the watershed, a true "win-win."

Another large project Miller undertook was using PVC pipe of various dimensions to save irrigation water. Pipe from six inches in diameter to a foot has been installed so that water isn't lost as it moves across his land. Several miles of pipe have been installed with T joints at strategic places so that the water goes where it is needed without being wasted. "I used to lose most of my water over open field, now every bit goes where it is supposed to go," he exclaimed. This project has been ongoing since 1980.

Category: Colorado Water
7:18:43 AM    

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From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Perry Swanson): "Colorado Springs property owners who haven't paid their Stormwater Enterprise bills won't have a lien slapped on their property, at least not this year, a city official said Wednesday...Residential stormwater bills can be a maximum of $13.65 per month. The bills can total $172.50 a month for nonprofits and public education institutions and up to $920 monthly for commercial, industrial and government property. As of Oct. 26, the Stormwater Enterprise had received 88 percent of the amount it's billed this year, said city spokeswoman Mary Scott. Putting a lien on a property for an unpaid bill lets the Stormwater Enterprise collect what's owed as part of the property taxes an owner must pay. But during the summer, City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft told her staff to hold off on certifying property liens."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:11:14 AM    

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Colorado Attorney General John Suthers will be in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday defending the state's approach to satisfying Kansas claims of damage over flows in the Arkansas River, according to Ed Sealover writing in the Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Suthers, attorney general since 2005, will represent the state in the final phase of Kansas' 23-year-old lawsuit against Colorado regarding use of Arkansas River water. Colorado already has paid $34 million to its eastern neighbor for permitting wells that pumped too much water out of the river, but Kansas claims it is owed more to cover the amount it spent bringing the legal action. Essentially, Kansas wants $10 million for its cost of expert witnesses, even though the court awarded it only about $1 million. Federal law caps expert witness fees at $40 per day, but Kansas is arguing that the law does not apply to interstate disputes that went directly to the Supreme Court. A decision against Colorado would require the legislature to come up with $9 million from a budget already stretched thin by the economic downturn.

More coverage from (Tony Mauro):

In December 1985, Kansas filed a complaint against Colorado before the Supreme Court over what it viewed as unfair diversion of water from the Arkansas River. Colorado denied the charges and made some allegations of its own against Kansas, continuing a feud between the two states over the river that dates back to 1902. [December 1st] -- 23 years after the latest case was filed -- the attorneys general of both states will argue before the Supreme Court in what is likely the final chapter of the dispute. It is the first time in recent memory that two state attorneys general will argue against each other before the Supreme Court. But missing in the courtroom will be Arthur Littleworth, who has been the Court's special master in the case since 1987. A leading water law expert in the California firm Best Best & Krieger Littleworth had a stroke earlier this year and can't attend. "My recovery is slow but steady," the 85-year-old Littleworth tells Legal Times in an e-mail...

In disputes like Kansas v. Colorado, which come under its so-called original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court is the tribunal of first, not last resort, which means it arrives without a lower court record. As a result, the Court appoints a special master to conduct the fact-finding and recommend a resolution. There were evidently a lot of facts to find in this case. From 1990 to 2003, Littleworth held 270 days of trial at the 9th Circuit courthouse in Pasadena, amassing 2,900 records. Much of the evidence was hydrologic data aimed at determining to what extent Colorado had failed to limit irrigation wells along the Arkansas River in Colorado. As the Court described it earlier in the case, computer models were devised to "account for almost every Arkansas-River-connected drop of water that arrives in, stays in, or leaves Colorado." As a result of that assessment in 2003, Colorado paid Kansas $34 million in damages, which Littleworth says in his report was "the first time that money damages have been tried and awarded in a case of this kind."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:01:59 AM    

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas): "U.S. Rep. John Salazar has asked Gov. Bill Ritter to become personally involved in what he calls unsafe methods being used to extract coal-bed methane gas in Huerfano County. In a letter to Ritter earlier this month, Salazar called the situation appalling and dire. Last month, Salazar toured some of the sites residents say have been negatively affected by methane gas drilling operations near Walsenburg. Residents told Salazar, D-Colo., about their water wells running dry or becoming contaminated and homes being evacuated because of methane gas drilling. In Salazar's letter to Ritter he said that after his visit he was in dismay...The congressman, who also is a farmer, said that the extraction of gas by pumping out groundwater aquifers has caused the gas to dissipate into the water lines of three subdivisions."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
6:53:45 AM    

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Here's an update on possible geothermal development near Ouray from Samantha Tisdel Wright writing in The Hub. From the article:

The natural hot springs that bubble to the surface along the Uncompahgre River and Canyon Creek near Ouray are good for more than skinny-dipping. Ouray Mayor Bob Risch and others involved in a geothermal inventory currently underway envision a day when that free energy can be put to use as a small-scale energy source for the municipality. A $25,000 grant, awarded to the city by the Governor's Energy Office (GEO) on Oct. 2, is funding the effort to chronicle the many springs that surface within city limits...

Nobody knows Ouray's hot springs better than hydrologist and geothermal consultant Wayne Goin, who for years has worked for Linda Wright-Minter monitoring the hot springs which feed her Wiesbaden enterprise, and is now consulting with the city in its geothermal surveying efforts. His methodology is pretty simple - put on a pair of sneakers and wade up the river until you feel it getting warmer. That's how he found "The Minions," a group of hot springs that surfaces along Canyon Creek, for which he filed rights on behalf of Wright-Minter years ago. The Minions now belong to the city, which got them in a settlement with Wright-Minter following an ugly legal battle stemming from an extensive effort some 20 years ago to drill for and exploit additional sources of hot water in Ouray in the 1980s. The city is still paying off debt servicing for the $550,000 settlement. The lawsuit also had statewide ramifications in the form of Geothermal Rules adopted by the state in the 1980s, followed by strict new requirements for well drilling by the state's Division of Water Resources in 2004.

This time around, a more cautious approach is being taken, by all who are involved. First and foremost, drilling is out of the equation. "Our approach to the inventorying process is non-invasive," Goin stressed. "We're simply trying to get a snapshot in time of what's going on with the geothermal resources.... It's kind of the hobo approach."[...]

Which basically means, wade up into the canyon, GPS the known springs and take their temperature, measure their outflow, and maybe find some new ones in the process. From the Minions to the fish pond, a lot of geothermal energy is currently going to waste. Winter is an ideal time to conduct this kind of work, Goin explained, because both the level of groundwater and the river are at their lowest levels of the year. In spring and summer, many of the hot springs which surface along Canyon Creek are obscured by spring run-off. A report from the city to the GEO regarding the endeavor is due by mid-May, and may be followed by a county-wide hot-springs inventory. The immediate goal is to have monitoring of all known hot springs in place by the end of the year, Risch said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:45:19 AM    

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The Rocky Mountain Environmental and Labor Coalition and the Sierra Club are up in arms over the pace and content of the approvals for Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Delivery System, according to Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Environmental groups are asking the Bureau of Reclamation to go back the drawing board on its evaluation of the Southern Delivery System. After reviewing a supplemental information report on the draft environmental impact statement, two major environmental groups say both reports remain flawed because they do not address key issues surrounding the water supply project. In a 27-page comment made available by the groups to The Pueblo Chieftain, the Rocky Mountain Environmental and Labor Coalition and the Sierra Club blast the supplemental report for ignoring key environmental concerns they brought up relating to the draft EIS.

The groups want Reclamation to do a new study with alternatives "that do not ignore water reuse, water conservation and land use planning strategies, or view rapid population growth and the tapping of the Arkansas River basin waters as the only alternative," attorney Joe Santarella wrote in the comments. SDS is a $1.1 billion proposal by Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West to build a pipeline carrying up to 78 million gallons per day to the northern communities and 18 million gallons a day to Pueblo West, store the water in a new terminal storage reservoir and return treated effluent to Fountain Creek. Pueblo West would tap into the pipeline only if it comes from Pueblo Dam. Colorado Springs pays for and receives 95 percent of the benefit. The coalition seeks balance between growth, labor interests and the environment...

Reclamation plans to address all comments on the draft EIS and the supplemental report by February 2009, possibly as soon as next month, and will post the newest round of comments online in the next two or three weeks, said Kara Lamb, public information officer. Once Reclamation issues a record of decision following the final EIS, it could begin contract negotiations for use of excess capacity at Lake Pueblo. The primary objections raised by the environmental groups are that SDS has changed since Reclamation released the draft EIS last February and that the cumulative impacts of other projects - possible enlargement of Lake Pueblo and the Arkansas Valley Conduit - are not considered.

Colorado Springs and its partners have proposed new elements to the project - most notably an apparent tie-in to the joint-use manifold with a connection to the north outlet works - as part of the Pueblo County 1041 land-use permit process. Those changes have not been evaluated in Reclamation's studies, Santarella said. The cost analysis of water reuse should be re-examined in light of those changes, he added. In the supplemental report, Reclamation added new components to the preferred alternative - among them relocating the terminal storage reservoir, adding a pump station in a new location, rerouting an access road and returning flows to Fountain Creek through a pipeline from an effluent exchange reservoir - "without meaningful analysis," Santarella said. Reclamation indicated that the proposed action of bringing the pipeline from Pueblo Dam is still its preferred alternative, despite significant changes in that alternative, Santarella said...

The Corps and EPA requested that Reclamation identify the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative. The Division of Wildlife raised concerns about water levels in Lake Pueblo and other Lower Arkansas Valley lakes and the potential impact on shoreline habitat that are still not addressed in Reclamation's reports, Santarella said. The environmental groups also raise questions of whether mercury levels would be concentrated by the proposed exchange reservoir on Williams Creek, and if selenium impairment in lower Fountain Creek would increase as a result of SDS. Pueblo County commissioners will begin evaluating SDS with public hearings on the proposal beginning Dec. 9.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:35:02 AM    

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Jeff Tucker): "The Pueblo West Metropolitan Board of Directors on Tuesday night voted to raise water rates and tap fees to help fund improvements to the district's water system. The board took the vote over objections from area homebuilders, who said now was the worst time to hike connection fees on homes by thousands of dollars. The board will increase the total water connection fee on new homes with three-quarter-inch water lines to $9,570, an increase of more than $2,600, or more than 38 percent. Wastewater connection fees on the same homes will more than double, going up to $4,553 from $2,186. Connection fees are the combined tap fees and plant improvement fees assessed on every building that connects to the metro district's water system. Utilities Director Steve Harrison said the connection fees are designed to help pay for nearly $100 million in necessary improvements to the district's water treatment plant."

Category: Colorado Water
6:22:29 AM    

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