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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Saturday, November 29, 2008

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Here's an update on the outlook for the Colorado River from Patty Henetz writing in the Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:

The drought gripping Utah, Southern California and the rest of the Southwest this century shows no sign of ending. Scientists see it as a permanent condition that, despite year-to-year weather variations, will deepen as temperatures rise, snows dwindle, soils bake and fires burn.

That's grim news for all of us in the West, perhaps most especially for the 10 million residents along the northern stretch of the Colorado River -- Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado -- whose water rights are newer, and therefore junior, to those in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona.

Making matters worse, the Colorado -- the 1,450-mile-long lifeline that sustains more than 30 million souls and 3.5 million acres of farmland in seven states, 34 tribal nations and Mexico -- is in decline, scientists warn.

Even so, demand for the Colorado's water echoes from city leaders, industry giants, oil drillers, farmers, fishers, ranchers, boaters, bikers and hikers -- along with silent pleas from wildlife and the ecosystem. Trend analyses by federal scientists, probably conservative, predict the population dependent on the river will reach at least 38 million during the coming decade.

Click through and read the whole article.

Category: Colorado Water
9:04:42 AM    

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From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen): "A $34 million expansion planned for the wastewater-treatment plant at Farmer's Korner is open for public comment through Dec. 4. The project is to be financed through Breckenridge Sanitation District's tap fees."

More from the article:

The expansion -- slated to occur next spring -- will increase plant capacity by 2 million to 4.99 million gallons per day to meet growth projections for the next five to 10 years, he said...

The two new buildings are to total about 43,000 square feet, built north of the present structure near the intersection of Highway 9 and Swan Mountain Road. Together, they may appear slightly larger than the present facility, Carlberg said. The public may comment on such aspects as color, height and other building details -- as well as environmental concerns, he said. An environmental assessment, completed in August, found no negative impacts to wildlife, vegetation, historic resources or water and air quality, according to the project's engineering report...

The $34 million price tag came in much higher than the $20 million anticipated, but Carlberg said recent declines in oil, steel and concrete prices could save the district some money. "We're not going to get a bidding climate like this for a long time," he said. The engineering report is available at the district's website at Public comment may be submitted to the district in writing or at the Dec. 4 meeting at 6 p.m. at 1605 Airport Road in Breckenridge.

Category: Colorado Water
8:53:07 AM    

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From the Aspen Times (Katie Redding): "This summer, Base Village developer Related WestPac installed a million-gallon water tank underneath Lower Bonsai Run, near the Spider Sabich ski area. The tank ensures there is enough water for fire protection on the northern side of Snowmass Village, said Related WestPac Land Development Manager Mak Keeling. Based on the size of Base Village, the International Fire Code required a 700,000-gallon tank nearby, said Snowmass-Wildcat Fire District Marshall and Deputy Chief John Mele. He expected the additional volume might eventu ally be used to mitigate additional Related WestPac development in Base Village. Related WestPac began the project on April 16, with the help of Aspen Skiing Co. snowcats that cleared the remaining snow from the ski hill. Soon, workers were digging what Keeling called 'a crater' in the ski hill."

Category: Colorado Water
8:42:40 AM    

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Here's an update on the Springs Resort quest to get rights to geothermal wastewater in Pagosa Springs from The Pagosa Sun (Jim McQuiggin).

Category: Colorado Water
8:36:41 AM    

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From the Pagosa Springs Sun (James Robinson): "With oil and gas well permitting applications poised to hit a three-year high, the Archuleta County planning commission approved revised regulations Nov. 12 they say should better safeguard area water resources, protect county roads and mitigate other drilling and resource extraction related impacts. The regulations will go before the planning commission again for minor revisions Dec. 4, and then before the board of county commissioners for a pubic hearing and vote Dec. 9."

Category: Climate Change News
8:31:13 AM    

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The Crested Butte Mountain Resort is hoping to receive a wetlands impact permit that will allow them to construct the proposed Crescent Lake Reservoir, according to Evan Dawson writing in the Crested Butte News. From the article:

CBMR is planning a 60-million gallon reservoir called Crescent Lake that would be located near the center of North Village, a 1,100-unit development that has not been officially proposed to the town of Mt. Crested Butte. Crescent Lake would have a surface area of approximately 8.7 acres, roughly larger than the resort's main parking lot. CBMR planning director John Sale says Crescent Lake is primarily needed to store water for snowmaking, both on the main mountain and on the proposed Snodgrass expansion. "Crescent Lake will be beneficial whether Snodgrass happens or not. We cannot add any more snowmaking without some sort of a buffer pond," Sale says. The resort currently has approval for 50 acres of additional snowmaking on the main mountain as part of a master improvements plan that was approved by the U.S. Forest Service last fall, but the new reservoir is needed to provide the additional water.

Sale says the U.S. Army Corps permit accounts for wetlands that would be disturbed by Crescent Lake, as well as other developments in the proposed North Village. "It's all tied into one package," Sale says. Altogether there are 3.94 acres of wetlands that may be affected. Sale says CBMR has been monitoring the wetlands for several years and has hired the Boulder firm Western Ecological Resources to develop wetlands mitigation strategies and file the permit application. The Army Corps requires developers to obtain a permit for disturbing wetlands or waterways under section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Corps is accepting public comments on the wetlands impact until December 17.

Category: Colorado Water
8:27:29 AM    

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From the Valley Journal: "The Carbondale Town Council on Tuesday approved a 3 percent water and wastewater rate increase to take effect in January. With the rate increase, a customer with an average monthly use of 6,000 gallons of water is expected to see a $1.16 sewer bill increase and an additional 72 cents for water service, according to Carbondale Finance Director Nancy Barnett. The primary cost increase driving the rate hike is an estimated $900,000 in wastewater plant improvements slated for next year. Significant plant upgrades could also be necessary within the next five years, at a cost of anywhere from $13 million to $15 million, for which the town would have to issue bonds. The annual debt service would be about $800,000 per year, Barnett explained."

Category: Colorado Water
8:18:39 AM    

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From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle): "The city of Aspen is moving toward regulations that would require new development to include features to clean stormwater runoff. The program will aim to remove 80 percent of the sediment that would normally accumulate in stormwater running across a home site. This can be accomplished with layouts that minimize hard surfaces and filtration techniques.

More from the article:

April Barker, hired by the city in the spring to manage the stormwater program, is preparing a manual to guide more stormwater-friendly design, and will be seeking input from the development community in the effort. She hopes to have an ordinance before Aspen City Council by this summer to implement the stormwater quality regulations. "The ultimate goal is to mimic nature," Barker said. Since that's basically impossible in an urban area, the next best thing is to design development sites to minimize the travel of stormwater runoff over paved surfaces, which is where runoff picks up most sedimentary pollutants. While the city will be spending millions to build stormwater cleansing systems near the river, Barker said that the closer to the source of the pollution the water is filtered, the better.

Category: Colorado Water
8:14:59 AM    

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Here's an update on the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District's recently executed letter of intent to lease water to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, from Nora Drenner writing in the Wet Mountain Tribune.

The board of directors for the Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District have signed a letter of intent with the Upper Arkansas Water of Conservancy District to lease water from the Johnson Place Ranch. The RMW district purchased the 320-acre ranch south of Westcliffe in 2000 for its 6.2 cubic feet per second of water rights. At that time Round Mountain said the water would be able to serve approximately 500 new households in its service area which encompasses the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. UAWCD proposes leasing 20-acre feet of that water each year for 25 years. The water will be used to bring a blanket water augmentation plan to Custer County. In a letter to RMW director Josh Cichocki last May, Upper Ark manager Terry Scanga said that based on previous conversations between Cichocki and Scanga, UAWCD "anticipate(s) a lease with a possibility of eventual purchase" of 20 acre feet of the Johnson Place water for a minimum period of 25 years. On Nov. 17, the Round Mountain board agreed, unanimously, to sign the letter-of-intent with Upper Ark...

During his presentation, Scanga noted the letter is not a final agreement. Scanga said UAWCD is ready to place the proposed water augmentation plan into water court and part of the process is to have viable local water resources...

The county commissioners asked the UAWCD to bring a water augmentation plan to the Valley in 2003 to address sources of water and water storage in the county, as well as the augmentation of depleted wells.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:08:15 AM    

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Here's an update on Pseudomonas fluorescens and the potential of the bacteria to control zebra and quagga mussels, from James Janega writing in the Chicago Tribune. From the article:

It would be impossible to use the bacteria to wipe out all the invasive mussels in a Great Lake because they would be quickly replenished, he said. "It's too big," Molloy said of the mussel invasion. More realistic is the hope of using the bacteria to free water intakes and power plant pipes of clogs caused by mussel infestations. Currently heavy doses of chlorine and other toxins are used to control the mussels--not ideal because of the potential impact on human health.

The bacteria act on the cells of the mussels' digestive gland, the equivalent of the human small intestine, where food is absorbed. Killing those cells causes massive hemorrhaging and system collapse. Within days, entire mussel colonies die. So far, biologists have tested the bacteria on native mussels, brown trout, fathead minnows and sunfish and found no adverse effects. Other tests are planned.

P. fluorescens apparently is deadly to the invasive mussels even when cultures of the bacteria are dead, said Fred Nibling Jr., a research biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, who, in August, observed a test of the bacteria with samples of water and zebra mussels taken from Lake Mojave near Laughlin, Nev. Researchers and a commercial company are seeking permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to test the method in Western streams. "That was a bench-top test," Nibling said of the Lake Mojave experiment. "We want to see it on a larger scale."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:49:29 AM    

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From the Windsor Beacon (Ashley Keesis-Wood): "The Law Ditch, which runs through the east part of town, is causing new headaches for Windsor and Severance. The ditch's drainage basin is one of the largest in the area, starting about four miles east of Wellington and running south through Severance to Colorado Highway 392 at Weld County Road 21. At Colorado 392 the basin runs west and then south to the Eastman Kodak plant in the Great Western Industrial Park. The basin is about 46 square miles in total. "The problem is basically the size of the floodplain in the event of a 10-year storm and where that water would go," said Windsor Director of Engineering Dennis Wagner.

More from the article:

In 2003, the town board adopted a master drainage plan and retained Anderson Consulting Engineers to study the Law Basin in detail and create a new floodplain. The new floodplain was determined to be much larger and wider. The town board at the time created a list of improvements that would handle a 10-year storm. Some of those improvements included a large drainage channel and other structures, at an overall cost of $4.6 million. "That was part of the reason we dredged Windsor Lake," Wagner said. "When we dredged it, we increased its capacity for storage in the event of a 10-year storm." New developers within Windsor's growth management area also were required to build adequate water storage, usually detention ponds, to hold water in the event of a 10-year storm.

The town's water and sewer board met with property owners in the newly designated floodplain area in 2004, and then again in 2005. The town submitted its findings to FEMA for further review and comment. FEMA came back with questions about Black Hollow Reservoir, located about six miles east of Fort Collins or about nine miles north of Windsor, just off Weld County roads 19 and 86. In the information submitted by the town and Anderson, they had planned on some of the water in the event of a storm being contained within that reservoir. Historically, the reservoir has been operated at a level low enough to allow the excess water to be stored within the reservoir below the emergency spillway. "FEMA wanted us to get that storage space guaranteed by the company that owns Black Hollow," Wagner said. The owners declined to make that guarantee, and FEMA forced the town to amend its study. The town relocated the Windsor Lake outlet structure and is now prepared to resubmit the paperwork to FEMA, as well as notification to property owners within the floodplain...

The town and property owners have agreed to not define a floodway, which is a dedicated path for floodwaters to run, because in the event of a storm, nothing could be rebuilt in that floodway. By contrast, rebuilding can occur within the floodplain area, provided property owners have flood insurance...

Vazquez was interested in avoiding most of the potential flooding problems by possibly purchasing the available storage space in the reservoir. "How much might that cost us?" he asked. Brad Anderson of Anderson Consulting Engineers said he thought it might be around $12 million. "Basically you're purchasing their water rights," he said. Another suggestion made was possible improvements to the nearby Loop Reservoir, which is north of Severance and part of the John Law Consolidated Ditch Company.

Category: Colorado Water
7:39:54 AM    

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