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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Sunday, November 30, 2008

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Here's a report about the Windy Gap Firming Project from Cherry Sokoloski writing in the North Forty News. From the article:

The Windy Gap Firming Project is in the most active state at present in terms of public involvement. Its comment period was originally set to close in late October but was recently extended to Dec. 29...

The Windy Gap Firming Project proposes construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir just west of Carter Lake. Larimer County and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District each purchased portions of the Chimney Hollow property in 2004...

The draft EIS for the Windy Gap Firming Project was released in late August. The project would provide more storage for Colorado River water from the Western Slope. Windy Gap Reservoir near Granby was completed in 1985, but storage has not been sufficient for all the water that can legally be captured. In the water business, "firming" means making a water supply more reliable. The Chimney Hollow Reservoir would provide more "firm" yield to Windy Gap project participants. Because of insufficient storage capacity now, these water users see some of the water they own go down the river without being used. As proposed, Chimney Hollow Reservoir would have a capacity of 90,000 acre-feet, compared with Carter Lake's 112,000 acre-feet. Communities that would benefit from the new water storage include Loveland, the Little Thompson Water District, Greeley, Longmont and 10 other participants along the Front Range. Public recreation, including non-motorized boating, would be allowed on the reservoir...

"About 99 percent of the people at the Granby hearing were totally opposed to the project," [Chandler Peter of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] said. Western Slope concerns are similar to those voiced at NISP hearings; only the name of the river has changed. With NISP, citizens are concerned about impacts on the Poudre River. With the Windy Gap Firming Project, it's the Colorado River that would be affected - along with three Western Slope reservoirs. As planned, the Windy Gap water would flow through Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake before being transported through the Adams Tunnel to Chimney Hollow Reservoir. Western Slope communities are worried about lower water levels in the Colorado River, as well as poorer water quality in the river and the reservoirs. Since several communities rely on the economic value of recreation at the three reservoirs, the firming project "could have socio-economic impacts" on the area, Peter noted.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:31:37 AM    

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Here's an update on Aaron Million's proposed pipeline from the Green River to Colorado's Front Range, from JoAn Bjarko writing in the North Forty News. From the article:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed that it has retained a third-party contractor to work on the environmental impact statement for the Regional Watershed Supply Project proposed by Aaron Million, a north Fort Collins resident. Million also told the North Forty News that he recently signed an agreement with a publicly traded leading manufacturer of pipelines to provide financial capital and professional expertise for the proposed project. Million said the agreement was worth "several million dollars" but declined to disclose the name of the company.

Jim Winters, special assistant in the operations division for the Corps' Omaha District, said the EIS is still in the "early stages." He noted that the Million Conservation Resource Group will have to pay for the studies needed for the EIS. Million is optimistic that review of the water supply project will go smoothly, which means a time frame of up to three years. He anticipated that the draft EIS will be out for public comment in early 2010 and that the Corps could issue a decision by fall 2011...

If the water reaches eastern Colorado, Million said, it could benefit agriculture and municipalities as far south as Pueblo. "Rather than dewatering river systems on the Front Range, this water supply could actually enhance those flows directly and through exchanges," he said, listing the Poudre, South Platte and Arkansas rivers. For example, Million said, the pipeline could deliver water to Glade Reservoir if it were built, thereby avoiding the need to take water out of the Poudre River. Million added that he would not weigh in on whether the proposed Glade Reservoir north of LaPorte is a good project. The Green River, with headwaters on the western side of the Continental Divide in the Wind River Mountain Range, is the chief tributary of the Colorado River. Million's water supply concept comes at a time when residents of the Western Slope are becoming increasingly anxious about the number of proposals to divert even more water from the Colorado River to the growing cities to the east. Among the upper basin states, Wyoming also has not yet fully developed its share of the basin, which is 14 percent. Harry LaBonde, deputy state engineer for Wyoming, noted that a number of studies say there is unappropriated water in the Green River basin. "In most years, there appears to be water available to Colorado in the Green River," he said, adding that Wyoming also wants to make sure that it can fully develop its apportionment.

Million has filed for two permits with the [Wyoming] State Engineer's Office, LaBonde said, one to divert water out of the Green River and one to use the same pipeline for water use in Wyoming. Both are under review, he said. Wyoming's permitting process does not require an EIS, he said, but the state will be very interested in the outcome of the EIS launched by the Army Corps. While Million is leaning toward a diversion directly from the Green River before it flows into Flaming Gorge Reservoir, he has also requested a water supply contract from the Bureau of Reclamation to take water out of the reservoir. From either diversion point, the pipeline would follow the Interstate 80 corridor across Wyoming, possibly fill drought-impacted Lake Hattie west of Laramie, and continue toward Cheyenne. The pipeline would likely travel south between Fort Collins and Greeley, or even east of Greeley to the E-470 corridor and on to Parker, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, according to Jim Eddy, who is working with Million on strategy...

The underground pipeline could be 75 to 115 inches in diameter. Where needed, natural gas-fired turbines would provide power for pumping, and there are some locations along the route that could produce hydroelectric power, Eddy said...

If the pipeline gets all required permits, Million envisions a cooperative effort for financing, which might include using the blended bonding authorities of water districts, municipalities and others who want to buy water. Water delivery contracts could also push conservation methods, he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:22:08 AM    

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Here's an update on the new Yuma County Water Authority and their actions and acquisitions aimed at preventing the shutting down of wells in the Republican River Basin, from Tony Rayl writing in the Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

Everything is falling into place in regards to the citizens of Yuma County taking ownership of senior surface water rights on the North Fork of the Republican River. It began November 4 with the county's voters overwhelmingly approving the formation of the Yuma County Water Authority Public Improvement District, and a $15.35 million bond issue to raise funds toward a $20 million purchase of the water rights. That bond issue now is going to be considerably less, thanks to actions taken last week by the Colorado Water Authority Board (CWCB). The board approved a $9.5 million loan to the YCWA Public Improvement District to be used toward the surface rights purchase. The loan is for 20 years with a 2.25-percent interest rate. The end result is the bond issue needs to be for only $5.85 million. The rate on the bonds will not be set until the day of the sale, which is December 8, but Yuma County Commissioner Robin Wiley said it appears it will be somewhere between 4.25 to 4.75 percent. (The ballot question set a maximum percentage rate of 6.75 percent.)[...]

The CWCB also unanimously approved last week a $4.545 million loan request from the Republican River Water Conservation District, also carrying a 20-year payback at 2.25 percent. The funds will go toward the RRWCD's 20-year lease of the senior surface water rights from the YWCA Public Improvement District for $5 million. The lease money from the RRWCD rounds out the $20 million purchase of the senior surface water rights...

Bonds will be sold December 8 (see advertisement inside this edition), closing on the CWCB loans to the YCWA and RRWCD will be December 22, and the closing of the $20 million purchase of the senior surface water rights is set for December 30. The RRWCD's 20-year lease of those rights will kick in simultaneously...

All of this came about after the Colorado board of the Pioneer Irrigation Company, and certain owners on the Laird Ditch, filed a petition in the summer of 2005 with the Colorado Ground Water Commission. It sought the dedesignation of wells found to be impacting stream flow. Following a couple of years of hearings before the Colorado Ground Water Commission, and going through Yuma County District Court, the litigation was headed back toward a hearing before the ground water commission last June in Wray. However, a last-minute deal was struck for the buyout of the litigants' senior rights. Pioneer and Laird agreed to postpone the hearing until January to see if voters would approve the ballot questions that would make the buyout possible, with the understanding they would drop their petition if it passed.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:00:17 AM    

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From the Fort Morgan Times: "U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development announced last week that qualifying nonprofit organizations may now submit funding applications for the Household Water Well System Grant Program. This program provides financial assistance through nonprofit organizations to rural residents who need to drill water wells, said Rural Development Secretary Thomas Dorr...

"Grants may be made available to qualified nonprofit organizations to establish lending programs for household water wells. USDA does not provide funds directly to property owners under this program. Nonprofit organizations must use the grants to make loans to individual homeowners to construct or upgrade household water well systems. The nonprofit groups must contribute at least 10 percent of the grant request to capitalize the loan fund.

"USDA Rural Development is issuing this notice prior to passage of a final appropriations bill, which may or may not provide funding for this program, to allow applicants sufficient time to leverage financing and submit applications. In recent years the amount available for this program on a nationwide basis has been less than $1 million per year. The deadline for completed applications is May 31, 2009. The published notice and application guide may be obtained electronically at Call 202-720-9583 to request paper copies of application guides and materials."

Category: Colorado Water
8:35:27 AM    

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Here's an update on the EPA's reaction to the environmental impact statement for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project which includes plans for Glade Reservoir and Galeton Reservoir, from Rebecca Boyle writing for the Greeley Tribune. From the article:

An EPA letter sent last month and publicized last week by the Save the Poudre Coalition says the EPA believes NISP would harm wildlife, plants and the water quality in the Poudre River as well as other rivers downstream. The EPA's Denver office said the $420 million project, which includes two reservoirs and 15 communities and water districts, does not meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act. Noncompliance with that monolith of a federal law could conceivably doom NISP; the EPA has veto power over the permits that would be issued to allow its construction. Water project planners said they are working to address the EPA's concerns. A letter signed by Carol Rushin, acting regional administrator for the EPA's western region, states the agency believes more information is necessary before Glade or Galeton reservoirs could be built. "Based on the current information available, the proposed action will have substantial and unacceptable impacts on aquatic resources of national importance," Rushin wrote...

But the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which hopes to build NISP, said the situation is not so bad. "We're trying to get more particular in terms of their concerns and issues and how we address them," said Brian Werner, a spokesman for Northern Water. "I'm not downplaying the concerns and comments, because we do take that stuff seriously, but at the same time, it is part of the process. ... We're working through it." He added that EPA officials recently took a tour of the Poudre, and water district officials believe they can address the agency's concerns. He said Northern Water is set to release a flurry of information about water-quality issues, which also had been raised by the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley.

More coverage from the Brighton Standard Blade (Gene Sears):

Comments released from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the Northern Integrated Supply Project are stirring controversy over the project at a time when the future of the water storage plan is potentially in jeopardy...

According to a press release dated Nov. 20, 2008, The Save The Poudre Coalition and Western Resource Advocates propose an alternative to NISP/Glade that they say directly follows the EPA's conclusion. Called the "Healthy Rivers Alternative," the coalition wants the Army Corps of Engineers to insert the Healthy Rivers Alternative into its future analysis of this project. "The Healthy Rivers Alternative would meet growing municipal water demands while also protecting the incredible values of the Poudre," said Bart Miller, water program director of Western Resource Advocates. "We have to keep both things in mind. To not do so would waste more years and millions of dollars on this fatally flawed project," Wockner added.

On the other side of the debate, supporters of the NISP project see the comments as part of the normal process in developing the final environmental impact study for the 15-entity water supply project. Sources within the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District say that they are working to address the issues cited in the EPA document and that there is no deal-breaker looming ahead...

Glade Reservoir, is slated to occupy a five-mile long swath along Highway 287 above Fort Collins, necessitating a relocation of seven miles of the road surface. The district intends to fill the 170,000 acre-foot basin with Poudre River water using the existing Poudre canal system, a measure intended to negate the need for new control structures along the river.

The second site, Galeton Reservoir, would be roughly 10 miles due east of Ault. The 40,000 acre-foot reservoir seeks to divert water from the South Platte River at a point downstream from Greeley. The water stored in Galeton would then be utilized by agriculture irrigation companies in exchange for the Poudre River water. According to the district, this "agricultural exchange" results in approximately 60 percent of the water drawn from the Poudre, water that has historically served agricultural needs...

The EPA asked the Corps of Engineers to delay a permit until supporters of the project "adequately demonstrate" compliance.

More coverage from the North Forty News (Cherry Sokoloski):

An additional consultant has been hired to specifically look at water quality issues that have arisen with NISP, Werner said. The firm Black & Veatch, a global engineering, consulting and construction company, will be working on those issues.

According to Chandler Peter of the Army Corps, the agency is assessing how much additional work needs to be done on the environmental impact statement, based on feedback received during the comment period. The Corps will decide whether to proceed to the final EIS or to require a supplemental EIS. Fort Collins, which has been strongly critical of NISP as proposed in the draft EIS, requested a supplemental EIS. That process would include additional public hearings and would delay the final document, Peter said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:23:27 AM    

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From AFP: "Earth's climate appears to be changing more quickly and deeply than a benchmark UN report for policymakers predicted, top scientists said ahead of international climate talks starting Monday in Poland.

More from the article:

But the new studies, they say, indicate that human activity may be triggering powerful natural forces that would be nearly impossible to reverse and that could push temperatures up even further. At the top of the list for virtually all of the scientists canvassed was the rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap...

"In the last couple of years, Arctic Sea ice is at an all-time low in summer, which has got a lot of people very, very concerned," commented Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor for Britain's department for environmental affairs and chairman of the IPCC's previous assessment in 2001. "This has implication's for Earth's climate because it can clearly lead to a positive feedback effect," he said in an interview. When the reflective ice surface retreats, the Sun's radiation -- heat -- is absorbed by open water rather than bounced back into the atmosphere, creating a vicious circle of heating.

"We had always known that the Arctic was going to respond first," said Mark Serreze of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. "What has us puzzled is that the changes are even faster than we would have thought possible," he said by phone...

New data on the rate at which oceans might rise has also caused consternation. "The most recent IPCC report was prior to ... the measurements of increasing mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica, which are disintegrating much faster than IPCC estimates," said climatologist James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Unlike the Arctic ice cap, which floats on water, the world's two major ice sheets -- up to three kilometers (two miles) thick -- sit on land. Runaway sea level rises, Hansen said, would put huge coastal cities and agricultural deltas in Bangladesh, Egypt and southern China under water, and create hundreds of millions of refugees...

The accelerating concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and signs of the planet's dwindling ability to absorb them, are also causing some scientists to lose sleep. During the 1970s, there were on average 1.3 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas -- in the air. In the 1980s the figure was 1.6 ppm, and in the 1990s 1.5 ppm. In the period 2000-2007, however, the concentration jumped to an average 2.0 ppm, with a high of 2.2 last year, according to the Global Carbon Project, based in Australia. "The present concentration is the highest during the last 650,000 years and probably during the last 20 million years," said the Global Carbon Project's Pep Canadell, a researcher at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

And in 2008, he said, there has been an "exponential growth" in the atmospheric concentration of methane, another greenhouse gas that is an even more potent driver of global warming than CO2. One potential source of both gases is frozen tundra in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, where temperatures have risen faster than anywhere else on Earth. "The amount of carbon that is locked up in permafrost that could be released into the atmosphere is just about on a par with the atmospheric load the world has right now," said Serreze. These higher concentrations of greenhouse gases come at a time when Earth's two major "carbon sinks" -- forests and especially oceans -- are showing signs of saturation.

The December 1-12 forum of 192-member UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes midway through a two-year process launched in Bali for braking the juggernaut of global warming. Scheduled to run until December 12, the talks are a stepping stone towards a new pact -- due to be sealed in Copenhagen in December 2009 -- for reducing emissions and boosting adaptation funds beyond 2012, when the current provisions of the UN's Kyoto Protocol expire.

Meanwhile global levels of CO2 set records this year, according to the Environmental News Service. They write:

Climate-heating greenhouse gases continue to increase in the atmosphere, and last year, global concentrations of carbon dioxide again reached the highest levels ever recorded, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the World Meteorological Organization...

The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch coordinates the measurement of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through a network of observatories located in more than 65 countries. The measurements are published annually in the WMO's "Greenhouse Gas Bulletin." "Population growth and urban development worldwide continue to increase the use of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and natural gas, which emit carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere. At the same time, the clearing of land for agriculture, including deforestation, is releasing carbon dioxide into the air and reducing carbon uptake by the biosphere," the WMO states in its report...

An ecologist who studies the carbon cycle, [Jay Gulledge, senior scientist with the Pew Center for Global Climate Change in Arlington, Virginia] says greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015 to have "a good shot at stabililzing the climate at a safe level." After water vapor, the four most prevalent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, ozone-damaging chemicals once widely used as refrigerants. CFC levels are now slowly dropping due to emissions reductions set under the United Nations Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer that entered into force in 1989. Carbon dioxide reached 383.1 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 0.5 percent from 2006, according to the latest numbers in the World Meteorological Organization report. Concentrations of nitrous oxide also reached record highs in 2007, up 0.25 percent from the year before. Methane levels increased 0.34 percent, exceeding the highest value so far, which was recorded in 2003. Using the annual greenhouse gas index issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, the total warming effect of all long-lived greenhouse gases was calculated to have increased by 24.2 percent since 1990 and by 1.06 percent from the previous year. Since the mid-18th century, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have risen 37 percent, the WMO report shows. Gulledge points out that greenhouse gas concentrations will continue to rise for some decades even after emissions continue to drop. "We wouldn't expect concentrations to level off until the middle of the century even with effective policy," he said...

There is a glimmer of good news concerning the greenhouse gas methane in the WMO report. While the atmospheric concentrations of other gases are increasing steadily, the growth rate of methane concentrations has slowed over the past decade, with some variations from one year to the next. The rise of six parts per billion from 2006 to 2007 is the highest annual methane increase observed since 1998. It is still too early to state with certainty, however, that this latest increase is the start of a new upward trend in methane levels...

Meanwhile, a consortium including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday that Africa could be absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than the continent is releasing. CarboAfrica found that Africa contributes less than four percent of the global emissions from fossil fuels, but accounts for 17 percent and 40 percent respectively of gas emissions emanating from deforestation and fires, according to the research conducted by scientists from 15 institutions. The most important element is the balance between carbon captured through photosynthesis by Africa's forests and savannas and gas released into the atmosphere, said Riccardo Valenti, coordinator of CarboAfrica.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
8:08:01 AM    

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From the Loveland Reporter Herald (Shelley Widhalm): "Fort Collins and Loveland got their first -- and a late -- snowfall this season, covering Black Friday in a little bit of white...The normal amount of snowfall for November is 6 inches, one inch in October and a trace amount in September, [Jim Wirshborn, meteorologist with DayWeather's Fort Collins office] said. As of Friday, precipitation for November is less than one-tenth of an inch of water, compared with an average of seven-tenths of an inch for the month, according to DayWeather. The year-to-date precipitation is 11.8 inches, compared with normal year-to-date precipitation of 14.9 inches, DayWeather reported."

Category: Colorado Water
7:52:53 AM    

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