Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Project Healing Waters

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Here's Part Two of Bill Hudson's series "Funny Smelling Water Facts" from the Pagosa Springs Daily.

Category: Colorado Water
7:02:16 PM    

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From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Wayne Heilman): "The region sees an average of 6.7 inches of snow in December, producing just 0.42 inches of precipitation for the month and unlikely to make up the moisture deficit of nearly 5 inches from the first 11 months of the year. The record snowfall for December is nearly 41 inches in 1913 and the most snowfall on any December day was 9.1 inches on Dec. 27, 1979."

Category: Colorado Water
6:59:20 PM    

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Here's an Powertech's uranium mining operation up in Weld County, from the Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

Powertech Uranium Corp. announced Dec. 2 that all baseline studies for its Centennial Project west of Nunn are scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2008. The studies for the company's proposed uranium mining operation include radiation data collection, air monitoring, groundwater sampling, surface water sampling, soil sampling, vegetation analysis and noise surveys. Approximately 80 percent of the tasks required to complete the Environment Report and the Class III UIC permit have been completed, the company said...

The company now intends to submit permit applications for an in-situ recovery operation to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Weld County in the first half of 2009.

Here's an excerpt from the Powertech press release:

Centennial Project

All baseline studies to support the mine permit application at Centennial are scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of calendar 2008. These include radiation data collection, air monitoring, groundwater sampling, surface water sampling, soil sampling, vegetation analyses, and noise surveys. Approximately 80% of the tasks required to complete the Environment Report and the Class III UIC Permit application have been completed. Cultural resource surveys have been completed and review by an independent pier is underway. A positive feasibility study has been completed by an independent contractor on the use of deep disposal injection wells for the project's well land and well field waste streams.

Further to the 2008 Notice of Intent to Drill (the "NOI") for ten additional drill holes, which was approved by Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety ("CDRMS") in August 2008, three rotary drill holes and one core hole have been completed. One additional core hole has also been completed which was approved under the 2007 drilling NOI. The three rotary holes were drilled to ensure that no uranium resources exist beneath the proposed central processing plant site. Multi-element and physical parameter analyses were performed on core from the core holes. The results of the physical parameter analyses (permeability, porosity, density, etc.) will be incorporated into hydrogeologic modeling for the project. Multi-element analyses results have been incorporated into ongoing metallurgical testing of the mineralized sands. Two additional drill holes are planned to be completed as monitor wells, but work has not yet begun on these holes.

The decision to incorporate additional technical information from a final pump test has resulted in a revision in the schedule for filing all permit applications for the Centennial Project. The Company now intends to submit the necessary permit applications for ISR operations to the EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Weld County in the first half of calendar 2009. The revision in schedule will allow the Company to bring several of the final steps in completing the permit application in-house, resulting in significant anticipated cost savings from decreased involvement of consultants and contractors on the project.

A modification to the 2008 NOI was recently submitted and approved by CDRMS for 15 new wells and one core hole, subject to placement of the required financial surety. The modification includes 13 pump test wells that will facilitate the final pump test, which is now scheduled for March 2009.

The Company is continuing to consolidate its land position at Centennial and is negotiating the acquisition or control of additional surface and mineral rights in the area.

This news release has been reviewed and approved by Mr. Clement, President and CEO of Powertech, under whose direction the company's operations are being carried out. Mr. Clement, P.G., MSc. is a Qualified Person as defined by National Instrument 43-101.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:35:30 PM    

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Here's a look at water requirements for oil shale development from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. Actual requirements are the huge unknown in the equation. We're learning more each day about the Colorado River's undeveloped water. From the article:

The Bush administration and the Bureau of Land Management are pushing relentlessly ahead with plans to fast-track Colorado's long-dormant oil shale industry, but a study released this fall exposes one factor that could put a big damper on the boom: a serious lack of water.

The report, prepared for key government and private water stakeholders in the area, says that northwest Colorado rivers can supply enough water to meet the growing demands of the natural gas, coal and uranium industries, but unproven oil shale production technology would "require tremendous amounts of water" that might not be available.

From the Deseret News (Jasen Lee):

The head of the agency that administers water in the oil-boom area near Vernal said that water supplies for industrial use could run low if development of oil shale and tar sands accelerates.

Scott Ruppe, general manager of the Uintah Water Conservancy District, said Tuesday that if oil-shale and tar-sands development increases steadily over the next decade to 20 years, then it could potentially out-strip the amount of water that would be available to users in the region. Ruppe was among the attendees at the 2008 Utah Water Summit held Tuesday at the Davis Convention Center in Layton.

He told the Deseret News that the Duchesne and Uintah water districts currently share the rights to 100,000 acre-feet of water from the Green River that can be used for industrial uses like the development of oil shale or tar sands. The districts are allowed to lease the rights to all or part of that allotment to other entities if they so choose, he said.

The agencies have already leased some of those rights to companies involved in oil-shale production. If those companies were to eventually expand their operations and bring in thousands more workers and their families, then the resulting growth would put a strain on the area's water resources, Ruppe said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

6:28:53 PM    

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Here's an update on President-Elect Obama's choice to lead Interior, from Peter Roper writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar's name appears to be falling off the list of likely nominees this week, although the first-term Democrat campaigned vigorously for Obama in this battleground state and has said he wants a Westerner to head Interior. Two weeks ago, Salazar told reporters he had not discussed the Interior appointment with anyone from Obama's staff and a spokesman Monday said nothing had changed since that press conference...

Salazar has not said he wants to join the Obama cabinet but was put on the list of possible nominees almost by default, given his high-profile battles with the Bush administration over oil shale development in the West, public lands and water. This week, national newspapers are ranking Reps. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., as prominent contenders to head Interior, with Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and popular Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer as possible nominees. Schweitzer got national press attention at the Democratic National Convention last August with an energetic and funny speech that showcased the new strength of Democrats in the West. Even so, all of those names may still be speculation, according to one Colorado Sierra Club official.

"The report we've had is the Obama transition team has been focusing on the economy until this point, and hasn't taken up Interior yet," the official said. That said, the club's national director, Carl Pope, was interviewed by the transition team last week on the well-known organization's environmental agenda. But Pope is among a host of public policy advocates that Obama's staff is meeting with as the new administration prepares to take office in January.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:29:25 AM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court proceedings about expert witness fees in Kansas v. Colorado from Mark Jaffe and The Denver Post. From the article:

The final battle in a 22-year legal war between Colorado and Kansas over the Arkansas River played out before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday as the two states argued over who should pay $9.2 million in witness fees. Colorado figures the fees -- based on a 1990 federal rule setting expert testimony rates at $40 a day -- put the tab at about $109,000. But Kansas Attorney General Steve Six argued that Colorado should be on the hook for the full costs for experts in the long-running dispute. "This situation here is no more unfair to Kansas than any other litigant in federal court," said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers...

Kansas' Six argued the $40-a-day rule did not apply because a state-versus-state case immediately goes to the Supreme Court, and the rules for lower courts are not invoked at that level...

Justice Samuel Alito pressed Six on why the court shouldn't apply the same standard used in other federal courts. The court had that power, Six conceded, but he argued that the fees set by Congress were not realistic. "Congress has a statute, and the statute is: We don't care if the witness is Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, or the local zookeeper," said Justice Stephen Breyer. "We want them to be paid $40 a day, period," Breyer said. "It's too much trouble to figure out how much work they did. That's what we want. That's the law."

Six replied that in cases that went directly to the Supreme Court -- called "original cases" -- the court should try to strike an equitable balance and that experts were key to resolving the case. "It's not a matter of unfairness to Einstein anyway," Justice Antonin Scalia said. "You know, the expert witness is going to get his money." The question, Scalia said, is whether Kansas gets some money from Colorado to pay the bill.

Suthers also was challenged by the justices over the $40 fee. Suthers said the fee was first set by Congress in 1853 at $1.50 and raised to $40 from $30 in 1990. "I think it's time to revisit it," Suthers said. "But it is, in fact, what Congress has dictated should be the compensation."

Breyer noted that while one rule set federal court expert fees, another rule offers the Supreme Court discretion to fix fees, possibly allowing it to set a higher fee. "I'm deliberately being gimmicky, but what do you think of this gimmick?" Breyer asked. "Not much," Suthers replied to a burst of laughter in the courtroom.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Kansas prevailed in the 1985 Supreme Court case on the issue that well-pumping in Colorado violated the provisions of the 1948 Arkansas River Compact. Colorado paid $34.6 million in damages in 2005, following the court ruling in favor of Kansas in 1995.

Since 1995, Special Master Arthur Littleworth has issued five reports settling other issues between the two states. In his fifth and final report issued in January, Littleworth awarded court fees to Kansas based on a federal statute that allows expert witnesses to be paid $40 per day. Kansas Attorney General Steve Six argued that the Supreme Court has discretion to pay more in expert witness fees, which Kansas used in proving to the court that its model was correct for measuring water use in Colorado. "From a fair reading of the water distribution issues, I wouldn't imagine it would be possible to do that without experts," Six told the court, according to an unofficial transcript...

Breyer added the $40 a day is "trivial," since both states were willing to pay much more to make their points. Several justices also questioned why Kansas sought payment from Colorado for its expert witnesses but not its lawyers in proving its point...

Chief Justice John Roberts indicated the fees of the court are within the judicial scope. "So what if they said in original actions no fees shall be allowed to any special master appointed by the Supreme Court?" Roberts asked. "If we allow Congress to regulate fees in our original jurisdiction in that matter, it seems to me that we've given up principle and we are just negotiating over price."

Six noted that the expert witness fees required by the special master in the case - almost $1 million - were already paid by the two states. At issue in this portion of the case are only Kansas' expenses in hiring experts.

There were no other issues remaining after Littleworth's fifth and final report, which clears the way for settling the case. In the future, the two states would have to agree to any changes in the model used for accounting and that an arbitration procedure, rather than more litigation, would be used to settle future disputes relating to issues in the 1985 case. The Supreme Court accepted the case following the hourlong oral arguments, but there is no indication of when a final decision will be made.

More coverage from Ed Sealover writing in the Rocky Mountain News:

Attorney General John Suthers insulted one justice, called another by the wrong name and got in five sentences of his opening argument before being peppered by questions during his appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. But Colorado's top legal representative said afterward that he feels confident the state will win a long-running case in which $9 million remains at stake...

The decision, expected in two months, will hinge on the question of whether the federal law infringes on the power of the high court to set its own rules. But it was a series of other questions that made the day most interesting, Suthers said...

First, Suthers - a 31-year member of the Colorado bar and attorney general since 2005 who was arguing his first case before the court - fielded a question from Justice David Souter, a man, and responded by calling him by the name of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman. "I'm greatly flattered," Souter said, laughing.

Justice Stephen Breyer then presented Suthers with a lengthy hypothetical scenario - he himself called it a "gimmick" - that supposed Kansas could be right in its arguments. When he asked Suthers what he thought of his gimmick, Suthers again sent the chamber into laughter by saying: "Well, not much." "It sounds irreverent, but I thought he was setting me up," Suthers said in a telephone interview after the arguments. "I have the distinction of telling a justice of the Supreme Court that I didn't think much of his theory." Still, Suthers noted from the justices' questioning that there seemed to be little excitement about interfering with Congress setting witness fees.

And, after finishing his arguments, he remained somewhat daunted at the lineage of attorneys he followed into the court's chambers. Suthers was the first Colorado attorney general to argue in front of the court since Gale Norton in 1998. "When the gavel goes down, your heart skips a beat and you say: 'Man, I never thought I'd be here,' " he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:21:50 AM    

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