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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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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We will be re-configuring our network over the weekend. There is a chance that URL will not work at times. You'll be able to read Coyote Gulch at the URL.

8:24:08 PM    

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From "[Colorado Springs Utilities] will not propose an increase in natural gas prices, significantly lowering its overall rate increase to 11.9 percent. The company says they plan to still increase electric, water and wastewater services. If approved, the average residential, four-service utility bill will increase by $18 a month, about half the increase projected just two months ago...Springs Utilities is still proposing water and wastewater price increases to cover revenue shortfalls caused by the declining home building industry...A public hearing will be held January 13 at 1 p.m. at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada. If approved, the new rates would take effect Feb. 1, 2009. Copies of the filing are available for inspection at the City Clerk's Office, 30 S. Nevada and at"

Category: Colorado Water
5:53:04 AM    

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Here's an update on Breckenridge's proposed wastewater treatment expansion, from Robert Allen writing in the Summit Daily News. From the article:

Expansion of the wastewater-treatment plant at Farmer's Korner -- for $34 million -- is on track for groundbreaking this summer, so long as the state doesn't require an $8 million-to-$15 million nitrification system. "From our analysis, we wouldn't need it," said Breckenridge Sanitation District manager Andy Carlberg. "It would be a totally separate process we would have to add to planned expansion, if required."

The district hired an outside consultant and used the Colorado Department of Health and Environment's methods to analyze the necessity of such a system, Carlberg said, but results of a separate analysis by the state is expected today. The district's Iowa Hill Water Reclamation facility uses nitrification to further break down ammonia, which is known to affect the hatching and growth rates of fish. Carlberg said the system was required at Iowa Hill because it discharges into the Blue River. The Farmer's Korner plant discharges into Dillon Reservoir and therefore hasn't required nitrification. But as the district grows, the need for nitrification increases. The expansion will allow for the system to eventually be added, for "one day it more than likely will be required," he said. Carlberg said he expects it to be needed in 10 to 15 years. Presently, the district doesn't have a plan for financing a nitrification process along with the expansion, he said...

The two new structures are to total about 43,000 square feet, built north of the present structure near the intersection of Colorado 9 and Swan Mountain Road. Carlberg said the project's next steps include approval from Summit County regarding environmental analysis.

In other news, the district's monthly rates are to increase by $1 to $23 per single-family equivalent starting in January. Carlberg said this is the normal annual increase. He also said tap fee increases are under consideration.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:29:25 AM    

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The Pueblo Board of Water Works has approved a fee exemption for a wind turbine manufacturer that plans to build a facility in the city, according to a report from Chris Woodka and the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday approved a $316,000 water hookup exemption for the Vestas plant in the south industrial park. The special exemption was granted because the wind turbine manufacturer will receive funds from the city's half-cent sales tax. The exemption represents the cost of a plant water investment fee, meter fee, parts and labor for a 6-inch tap that would provide for Vestas' needs at its new plant, landscaping and fire protection. Vestas plans to open a plant which will manufacture towers for the wind turbines next year...

The water board already has committed a total of about $2.5 million for service to Vestas and the new south industrial park, which requires an extension of service zones. A new tank and water lines must be built to serve the area. A federal grant is expected to add about $2.5 million to complete the $5 million project. The new waiver is on top of those costs.

Category: Climate Change News
5:20:15 AM    

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Here's a recap of Tuesday's public meeting about Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Delivery System, from Scott Rappold writing in the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

While numerous approvals are needed, Pueblo County represents one of the toughest hurdles, as evidenced by the many city and county officials in attendance Tuesday. "We know and understand there are responsibilities with a project like that and we will live up to our responsibilities," Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera told Pueblo County officials. "We think it will have tremendous positive impacts for the citizens of both of our counties. I think you will find it is very compelling and great for all of southern Colorado." More than 100 people attended the first of several parts of the public hearing, which is set against the backdrop of a long history of acrimony between Colorado Springs and Pueblo over water...

Utilities officials, in a two-hour presentation, tried to assure Pueblo officials that the drop in water levels in Pueblo Reservoir and the Arkansas River would be minor, and that Fountain Creek won't be seriously impacted. Treated effluent from Colorado Springs would increase the flow of Fountain Creek by a third in Pueblo by the year 2046. Utilities hopes to offset that through the work of several groups, funded in part by Utilities, looking at solutions for the creek's problems. Utilities officials said the greater flows will improve water quality by diluting the E. coli and selenium already in the creek, and that the flow won't exacerbate periodic flooding that occurs in Pueblo during big rainstorms upstream. John Fredell, Utilities' project manager, touted the benefits to Pueblo County, including water for Pueblo West and construction jobs for the county. "The Southern Delivery System is a big construction project. It's over a billion dollars, and what that really means in all of our communities is jobs, that's the bottom line," Fredell said.

After Utilities' presentation, consultant Paul Banks of Lakewood-based Banks and Gesso LLC, hired by Pueblo County to review the application, told commissioners they should establish conditions for approval of the project. "The language needs to be tightened up so it's clear, enforceable, and there are areas of mitigation they did not address," Banks said. Among the many recommendations, the most significant and the most unknown relate to Fountain Creek. Banks said Pueblo County should require Utilities to commit to spend a fixed amount of money on improving Fountain Creek. He noted the pipeline plan from Pueblo Reservoir is at least $150 million cheaper than Utilities' alternative, which involves a pipeline from the Arkansas River in Fremont County.

More coverage from Chris Woodka and the Pueblo Chieftain. He writes:

[Paul Banks, a veteran consultant who prepared staff comments on Colorado Springs' application] told the commissioners they can exercise broad authority, using much of the same information the Bureau of Reclamation collected in preparing an environmental impact statement. "The same information can result in a different decision," Banks said. Banks recommended monetary compensation as part of the mitigation, especially for Fountain Creek, where impacts specifically related to SDS might be hard to define. He pegged the figure at $150 million to $200 million, the cost difference between the proposed SDS action and more costly alternatives...

Public comment is expected to begin at the next hearing, set at 6 p.m. Thursday at the arts center. "There are tremendous regional benefits to this project," said Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera. He said Colorado Springs needs the project to meet water needs for projected growth. "With or without SDS, our communities are going to continue to grow," said Jerry Forte, executive director of Colorado Springs Utilities, saying about half of the growth comes from the natural increase of population from people already living there. Forte promised to build SDS in an environmentally friendly way, mitigate impacts and use only its own water rights...

John Fredell, SDS project director, said benefits of the project, besides improving the supply for Pueblo West, include jobs, maintaining a flow program set up under a 2004 intergovernmental agreement and Fountain Creek improvements. Fredell said the 1041 evaluation by Pueblo County staff was thorough, and he broke down comments into four categories: construction, environmental, operational and socioeconomic. He said Colorado Springs Utilities intends to comply with those general areas of concern, including monetary compensation...

Colorado Springs would acquire most of the property through easements, although at least one and as many as five homes would have to be purchased in order to build the pipeline.

CH2MHill Engineer Mark Glidden said SDS would have impacts on Fountain Creek, both good and bad. Base flows in Fountain Creek would increase by about one-third as a result of SDS, but would remain within the existing channel. While the additional water could increase erosion and sedimentation, it is also likely to dilute contaminated water, he said. Glidden said the levee within Pueblo would protect against 100-year floods, although an Army Corps of Engineers report highly recommends dredging or other methods through Pueblo to ensure the effectiveness of the levees...

Banks recommended several ways to enforce mitigation, including a resolution with agreements, a development agreement, intergovernmental agreement or compliance reviews. The county could also require a financial warranty to ensure compliance. Pueblo County also has the option to require the pipeline be built within a certain time frame, Banks said.

From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): "The Bureau of Reclamation intends to release the environmental impact statement for the Southern Delivery System on Friday...Most of the information and findings of the draft EIS, released in February, and the Supplemental Information Report, released in October, will remain substantially unchanged, including Reclamation's preference for the proposed action of a pipeline from Pueblo Dam, [Reclamation spokesperson Kara Lamb] said...Reclamation plans to issue a record of decision early next year, and could then begin negotiations with Colorado Springs for contracts needed for storage, exchange and conveyance at Pueblo Dam."

Here's a look back at Colorado Springs' proposed Homestake II project and the repercussions to Colorado Water law and the city, from Barry Noreen writing in the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the column:

Tuesday and today, Colorado Springs officials are making their case for a permit from Pueblo County to allow construction of the Southern Delivery System, a water project needed to serve growth on the Springs' east side. Colorado Springs has been down this road before - with disastrous results. Twenty years ago Colorado Springs and Aurora sued Eagle County after its commissioners denied a construction permit for a project known as Homestake II.

Homestake would have siphoned water out of the Holy Cross Wilderness area south of Vail. Eagle County officials rejected the permit, saying the project would irreparably harm alpine wilderness wetlands. Mainly, though, Eagle County lacked senior water rights and the cash to build its own water project, and it wanted to find a way to get some of the Homestake water for itself. It ultimately succeeded in doing that. The cities sued and lost; they appealed and lost that, too. It was a turning point in Colorado, because it showed that the right to develop water is not an absolute right. The case helped usher in a new era of cooperation among the water "haves" and "have-nots."

Jim Colvin, Colorado Springs city attorney from 1981 to 1998, remembers it well. "When (House Bill) 1041 was being considered by the Legislature I went up and testified that it would give inordinate power to local governments," Colvin recalled, noting that the Homestake result proved him right. Counties can write 1041 regulations to protect themselves and create negotiating leverage. The regulations, named for House Bill 1041, can cover a broad range of issues, including environmental and economic matters...

Unlike Eagle County in 1988, Pueblo has plenty of water, so it doesn't need to extort Colorado Springs the way Eagle County did. There are real issues, such as erosion and water quality concerns in Fountain Creek, which flows from Colorado Springs to Pueblo.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:03:48 AM    

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The EPA is offering to clean up the Pennsylvania mine -- in the Peru Creek Basin -- for "free", according to a report from Bob Berwyn in the Summit Daily News. Summit County commissioners are not convinced that a superfund designation is the best route to take. From the article:

Even though the EPA is promising a "free" cleanup of the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine, local officials remain leery of a Superfund listing, citing concerns about potential human and social costs. "There's no such thing as a free cleanup," said County Commissioner Tom Long, after a pair of representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made their pitch for a Superfund listing during a work session Tuesday. The EPA officials made it clear that no Superfund designation will occur without a specific request by the county commissioners...

The mine site, high in the Peru Creek basin, is a big source of pollution that kills fish far downstream in the Snake River. Rainwater and snowmelt trickling through the mine tunnels and piles of waste rock dissolve metals like zinc and cadmium and transport it into the stream. The entire drainage has been the focus for intensive water-quality studies for decades, but local experts said they aren't much closer to cleaning up the water than they were when they started. "There's been quite a bit of work done up there. It raises as many questions as it answers. It's frustrating ... Even if you were to eliminate the whole Penn Mine adit, it won't take care of the problem," said Lane Wyatt, of the Summit Water Quality and Quantity group. In a memo to the commissioners, Wyatt said there is some evidence suggesting that it might not be realistic to clean up the watershed to a level that supports a diverse and healthy aquatic life ecosystem. But EPA officials suggest otherwise. The federal agency has a mandate under the Clean Water Act to try to restore watersheds, and the more federal agencies look at the Pennsylvania Mine and Peru Creek, the more convinced they are that a cleanup is feasible -- at a cost. A "sneak preview" of some EPA cleanup options indicates that a passive treatment system, including a series of wetlands, could cost about $2 million to construct, and about $100,000 annually to maintain...

The EPA proposal would bring dollars to the table and a definitive timetable for a cleanup, [EPA's Gwen Christiansen, an environmental scientist and engineer] said at the work session. "You can clean things up to a pretty reasonable standard to where there are benefits to the community," Christiansen said. "We don't feel the site is just an eco-risk. We think there is a potential human health component to the risk, and that puts it on a higher priority for funding."

County officials aren't so sure that a mine cleanup would do any good. "If we took out every bit of pollution from Penn Mine, what would be the result? Can we improve the water quality to a point that it will sustain a fishery? At this point, nobody in this process can answer that question," said remediation expert Brian Lorch, who also heads the county's open space department...

In the end, the commissioners decided not to make a move on a Superfund designation for now. Instead, they opted to wait for the results of yet another state study, due in about a year, that would outline various alternatives for treatments. The Superfund option will remain on the table, according to the EPA.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
4:53:04 AM    

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Here's an update on the proposed new rules for oil and gas development, from Todd Hartman writing in the Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

State oil and gas commissioners began their last look Tuesday at sweeping new rules to guide energy development in Colorado, preparing a massive slate of regulations that supporters say could be a model for other Western states. Commissioners are expected to take a final vote on the rules today or Thursday, wrapping up work that began in mid-2007, in the midst of a drilling boom unseen in the state's volatile history of fossil fuel development. "It's a very positive step for the state," said Dave Neslin, acting director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. "These rules protect our environment and wildlife and public health in a way (that also) facilitates development of our oil and gas resources."

But a major state industry group, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, warned that the regulations are coming at the wrong time - amid a recession - and will pile on an industry already sharply cutting back in the state...

COGA has complained about the rulemaking, criticizing specific proposals and fretting that state regulators were taking on too much, too fast when a more careful approach was needed. Swartout said the final version of the rules still put too much power in the hands of the Division of Wildlife, the commission director and other parties that he believes will have an easier time challenging drilling and creating a greater industry burden.

But Neslin said the final version of the rules was shaped significantly by industry input. He said other groups, including landowners, mineral rights owners and environmentalists, have also provided important suggestions. In one set of rules, involving how industry must handle its chemical inventories and provide information about trade secrets in an emergency, the state incorporated about 80 percent of what energy companies sought, Neslin said. Environmentalists, though still critical of some aspects of the rules, called them "balanced and fair" and said their overall impact marks progress.

More coverage from Dennis Webb writing in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved rules in numerous areas, including stream setback requirements to protect public water supplies, and requiring oil and gas developers to provide information to authorities as necessary regarding the chemicals they use. Commissioners are scheduled to continue their final deliberations through Thursday. Two key areas still awaiting final action involve wildlife protections and stricter drilling pit requirements. Commissioners approved numerous measures with unanimous or near-unanimous votes Tuesday. However, a few decisions were closer, including a rebuff of an attempt to impose greater interim setback requirements between wells and homes.

The commission previously had decided to put off final action on those setbacks until a stakeholder group could study it next year. But Commissioner Michael Dowling argued that in the meantime, wells shouldn't be allowed any closer than 350 feet from an occupied building unless the owner agrees to a waiver. The current minimum setback for homes in rural areas is 150 feet...

But the commission voted 5-3 to make no changes to the setback rules until the stakeholder process is completed. Commissioner Joshua Epel said establishing an interim setback distance would prejudice the work of that group...

Some rules commissioners approved Tuesday include:

- Requirements for state approval of new oil and gas operation sites disturbing more than an acre in Garfield, Mesa, Rio Blanco and Gunnison counties, and in limited circumstances elsewhere. The site approval requirement is in addition to permits already needed to drill individual wells.

- New odor- and dust-control measures, many of them applying only to Garfield, Mesa and Rio Blanco counties.

- Provisions allowing state wildlife and health agencies to seek hearings on proposed oil and gas development, along with the owner of the land proposed for that development and the energy company. In most of the state, owners of neighboring land within 500 feet of a proposed activity also would have to be notified of the plans.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
4:38:24 AM    

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