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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Saturday, December 13, 2008

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Here's a background piece on Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) who is on President-elect's short list for Secretary of Interior, from John Dougherty writing in the Washington Independent. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a few excerpts:

The possibility that President-elect Barack Obama will select Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) as his secretary of interior has environmentalists, Interior Dept. employees, Native Americans and Latino groups giddy. If appointed and confirmed by the Senate, the three-term Democrat, who represents the state's 7th Congressional District, is expected to launch widespread reforms at Interior, which has been riddled with scandal, plummeting employee morale and deteriorating conditions in the nation's national parks...

The 61-year-old son of a migrant Mexican farm worker has been sharply critical of the Bush administration's management of the 500 million acres controlled by Interior. If appointed, Grijalva would become the third Arizonan to lead the department. Stewart Udall served as its secretary under President John F. Kennedy, and former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt held the post under President Bill Clinton.

Grijalva, who was elected co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus last month, has a reputation for being politically combative. He has been extremely outspoken in his opposition to what he sees as the anti-labor and anti-immigration policies of congressional Republicans. He has taken shots at his own party, branding Democratic leaders "spineless" for failing to take on comprehensive immigration reform. And he's called leaders of anti-amnesty groups "cockroaches."

"The word extremist could get tossed around to describe Grijalva," the Tucson Citizen noted in Nov. 28 commentary. "He compromises when he must but prefers conquest to consensus."

Grijalva's strident nature may cost him the Interior appointment. A Washington Post columnist wrote Tuesday that a source close to the Obama transition team said that Grijalva had fallen off the short list.

Here's the column referred to above from Al Kamen writing in the Washington Post. From the article: over [last] weekend centered on Interior, with sources saying Obama may be weighing some dark-horse alternatives to the longtime front-runners, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). Grijalva faced some hiccups in recent days and fell off the shortlist, said a source close to the transition.

Thompson, meanwhile, has been hit by a barrage of environmentalist attacks in recent days for his ties to industry groups and his love of hunting.

Sources said some new names are popping up. One is Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Gover, 53, is a former law professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and was assistant secretary for Indian affairs at Interior during the Clinton administration. He took over at the Smithsonian museum last year in the wake of a scandal involving the museum's founding director, W. Richard West Jr.

A member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Gover could become the first Native American nominated to be a Cabinet secretary, and the potential to make history could prove irresistible for Obama. But Gover's spokeswoman, Eileen Maxwell, said he has not "heard anything from the transition, nor does Kevin expect to."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:03:34 AM    

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We have to re-configure our network this weekend. The URL may work intermittently over the weekend. You'll be able to read Coyote Gulch at

8:47:15 AM    

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Climate Change deniers are always asking for more indications of the coming problems if we don't do something about greenhouse gas emissions. Here's an article about the loss of coral reefs as a harbinger of the sixth mass extinction period in Earth's history, from the Environmental News Network. From the article:

The world is on the brink of a massive extinction event, according to the United Nations. Rapid releases of greenhouse gas emissions are changing habitats at a rate faster than many of the world's species can tolerate. "Indeed the world is currently facing a sixth wave of extinctions, mainly as a result of human impacts," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme in a statement.

A study earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science said the current extinction period, known as the Holocene extinction event, may be the greatest event in the Earth's history and the first due to human actions. Unlike previous events, however, extinctions are happening over the course of decades rather than centuries. Recent studies suggest that a quarter of the world's species may go extinct by 2050...

The latest global coral reef assessment estimates that 19 percent of the world's coral reefs are dead. Their major threats include warming sea-surface temperatures and expanding seawater acidification. Zooxanthellae, the tiny organisms that give coral reefs their vibrant colors, are emigrating from their hosts in massive numbers as oceans heat up, killing themselves and the coral they leave behind - a process known as coral bleaching. The report, released by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network Wednesday at the international climate change negotiations in Poznań, Poland, predicts that many of the remaining reefs may disappear within the next 40 years if current emission trends continue.

Category: Climate Change News
8:27:09 AM    

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Here's an update on habitat improvement on Tarryall River and the positive effect on Park County tourism and recreation, from Debra Orecchio writing in the Fairplay Flume. From the article:

To help prevent streambed erosion and to create better trout habitats, several hundred trees burned in the Hayman fire in 2002 have been cut down and placed in the Tarryall River. Called the Tarryall River Restoration Project, it is part of Park County's economic development strategy, said Gary Nichols, director of Park County tourism and community development. The project is also a successful part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service's conservation planning, said district conservationist Leon Kot in an e-mail. Conservation planning is the "backbone" of the NRCS, Kot said...

The South Park Fly Fishers program is an example of how improvements to fish habitats bring more tourists into the county. In that program, fly fishers can reserve one of seven historic ranches on which to fly fish. Those ranches include the Tarryall Creek Ranch, Tarryall L&C Ranch, Santa Maria Ranch, Ute Creek Ranch, Lower Allen Creek Ranch, Upper Allen Creek Ranch, and the Lower Fourmile Creek Ranch. Those ranch owners have leased their property to the county so the public can then access that private property to fly fish. The program charges between $35 and $60 for a day of fly fishing on one of those properties. Most of the fees paid go back to the ranchers in exchange for letting people use their property. However, Nichols said, many of the ranchers are donating their revenue back into the program to help make the stream habitat better. The program has been in place for five years, Nichols said. The first year, the fly fishers were from the Front Range area. This year, people came from all over the country to fish. Nichols said that 25 to 30 percent of the fishermen were from out of state. Also, Nichols noted, the number of fishermen staying multiple days is increasing every year.

The streambed restoration program is designed to reduce the amount of erosion into the stream, which decreases the amount of soil and sediment into the water. It also increases the holding capacity for trout, in some cases doubling the number of trout in some areas, said Nichols. In some areas, both the number and size of the fish has increased...

NRCS, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides landowners with consultation services free of charge, and, if the landowners qualify, the USDA provides them with financial assistance to implement those practices, Kot said in his e-mail. Kot added that a conservation plan must be in place before that federal assistance can be offered. Landowners can get paid a portion of the cost of their conservation efforts through such programs as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, and others. For more information about the Fly Fishers Program, visit the program's Web site at For more information about NRCS, visit its Web site at

Category: Colorado Water
7:46:48 AM    

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Yesterday Reclamation released the final EIS for Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Delivery System. Here's the press release from email from Kara Lamb:

Final EIS on SDS pipeline available to public

The Bureau of Reclamation is releasing the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Southern Delivery System, a proposed water delivery pipeline that would run from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, to the public this afternoon at 3 p.m. To access the Final EIS and the Final EIS Summary, please visit

Reclamation, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, analyzed the environmental effects of seven alternatives, including No Action. Reclamation has identified the Participants' Proposed Action, a pipeline from Pueblo Dam, as the preferred alternative in the Final EIS. The Final EIS was prepared by Reclamation, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

A compact disc or printed copy of the FEIS Summary or full FEIS may be requested at the address below:

Bureau of Reclamation
Attention: Ms. Kara Lamb
Eastern Colorado Area Office
11056 W. County Road 18E
Loveland, CO 80537-9711

For more information on the Final EIS, please visit the website or contact Kara Lamb at (970) 962-4326.

More coverage from the R. Scott Rappold writing in the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Friday released its final report on Colorado Springs Utilities' proposed water pipeline, the Southern Delivery System, suggesting no substantial changes to the project. In the Bureau's final environmental impact statement, piping water from Pueblo Reservoir, which the Bureau manages, to a reservoir on Williams Creek east of Colorado Springs remains the "preferred alternative." "We're really excited to be at this point in the process. This has been a five-year endeavor," said Keith Riley, Utilities planning and permitting manager. "It's very thorough. It covers a lot of different topics and potential impacts to the environment."[...]

The $1.1 billion pipeline, as laid out in the report, differs little from a draft issued by the Bureau in October. In that draft, the federal agency altered the preferred alternative, from a plan for the proposed Jimmy Camp Creek Reservoir east of Colorado Springs to a less-controversial man-made lake six miles south, the Upper Wiliams Creek Reservoir...

The final report, which in 30 days will be made part of the Bureau's record of decision on the project, also includes the 41 comments submitted since October, along with the nearly 375 submitted earlier, and measures Utilities will take to mitigate environmental impacts of the pipeline. Those measures include surveying for rare plants and animals along the pipeline route, replacing 13 acres of wetlands along Fountain Creek that will be destroyed and stream bank stability work, among others. More water would be discharged down the creek, which would exacerbate erosion and sedimentation on the waterway.

More coverage via the Associated Press via the Examiner/Denver:

Colorado Springs Utilities could get the go-ahead from Pueblo County for a $1.1 billion water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir as early as February...Utility officials will make their case on Dec. 29. They're expected to respond to criticisms expressed at a community meeting Thursday about the potential impacts of the pipeline on the environment, water quality and the economy. Pueblo County Commissioner John Cordova says commissioners hope to present their conditions for approving the pipeline by mid-January.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain:

The EIS is only the first of several reports that will be needed before Colorado Springs can begin contract negotiations with Reclamation for storage, exchange and conveyance at Lake Pueblo using excess capacity in the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Reclamation must issue a record of decision, which is expected next month. The agency is required to wait at least 30 days to release that document.

The Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Division of Wildlife, cooperating agencies with Reclamation, must also evaluate the project and plan to have public hearings, Fredell said. Reclamation has not determined when contract negotiations will begin. Those negotiations would be open to the public and there would be a public comment period...

Pueblo County consultant Paul Banks noted in a staff report that Pueblo County could make a different determination using the same information in the EIS. He also said the county needs concrete, enforceable mitigation. Reclamation relies on its ability to suspend contracts as a way to enforce mitigation. Fredell said Colorado Springs and its partners intend to cooperate with any mitigation through any of the regulatory processes.

Fredell said the project is on course to be started in 2009, when construction could begin on a treatment plant in Colorado Springs. Fredell was less sure of when Pueblo County pipeline construction would begin, saying Colorado Springs intends to work with all affected landowners, but right now is concentrating on mitigation...

In the final EIS, nearly 1,300 pages long with appendices, Reclamation responds to comments made by about 400 people on the draft environmental impact statement issued in February and a supplemental information report in October. Seven alternatives were evaluated. However, Reclamation reaches the same conclusion as the earlier reports, stating: "All alternatives would have adverse environmental effects. The participants' proposed action (Pueblo Dam route) would result in similar or fewer environmental effects when compared to the other alternatives."

More coverage of Thursday's public meetings on Pueblo County's 1041 permitting process, from R. Scott Rappold writing in the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

In the push for approval from Pueblo County for the Southern Delivery System pipeline, Colorado Springs officials have touted a new spirit of cooperation with their neighbor to the south. Some in Pueblo don't buy it.

On the second night of hearings Thursday for the proposed $1.1 billion water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, Pueblo County commissioners got an earful from opponents and some property owners along the proposed route and Fountain Creek who doubt Colorado Springs Utilities' assurances they will mitigate environmental impacts of the project...

About 100 people attended, and 16 spoke against the pipeline. A union representative blasted Utilities for its labor practices. Another speaker questioned the project's impact on the safety of the dam at Pueblo Reservoir, if the reservoir were ever enlarged. One woman sang a song about trees.

Many opponents pinned their hopes on the county imposing conditions, rather than outright denial of the permit. "You, the Pueblo County commissioners, are the last line of defense to mitigate and to eliminate, to the extent possible, the environmental, water quality and socio-economic impacts of SDS" said Jane Rawlings, daughter of Pueblo Chieftain publisher Bob Rawlings, one of the most vocal critics of the pipeline...

There is concern for the lower water levels in the reservoir and the Arkansas River below the intake, and for the effect greater discharges down Fountain Creek will have on erosion, sedimentation and water quality. "We know you take these concerns very seriously, and I want to assure you that we do as well," said Utilities project manager John Fredell. Utilities officials have touted the benefits to Pueblo County, including water for project partner Pueblo West and construction jobs, benefits that won't be realized if Utilities goes with its backup plan and builds a pipeline from Fremont County...

The hearing will resume Dec. 29 at 6 p.m., with Utilities presenting rebuttal to criticisms.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:12:25 AM    

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Here's an article with some San Luis Valley and statewide environmental groups views about the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's new rules for exploration and development, from Ruth Heide writing in the Valley Courier. From the article:

Local and statewide environmental groups are pleased with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's approval this week of updates to state rules but do not feel that the fight to implement these rules is over. "The next step is for the state legislature to pass a bill approving these rules," said SLV Ecosystem Council Director Christine Canaly in emails to colleagues and media this week. "The oil and gas industry and some state republicans are going to use this opportunity weaken them, so the struggle isn't over."

Todd Malmsbury, Rocky Mountain Energy Campaign, said, "Wednesday's action by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is remarkable, precedent setting and one of the major accomplishments of our coalition. RMEC groups and key partners spent thousands of hours to win approval for rules that set a national precedent. And the predictable reaction from the Pleistocene wing of the Republican Party underscores the work ahead in the legislature and with the new administration." Malsmbury added that the COGCC's rules meant a great deal to him personally since he had worked on wildlife and natural resource issues for a third of century in Colorado.

The environmental groups plan on letter-writing campaigns to legislators including newly elected House District 62 State Representative Ed Vigil of Costilla County. Some of the key points to be addressed to legislators and newspapers through letters to the editor include: the rules were passed unanimously by COGCC which includes three members from the industry as well as members with diverse backgrounds; the rules were created after 18 months of effort, input and public hearings; and the legislature does not have to rewrite the rules, just determine that COGCC did the job it was asked to do...

The new and modified rules will:

- Establish protection zones around streams that serve public drinking water supplies.

- Require companies to keep track of and disclose to state and emergency responders chemicals they use in drilling operations.

- Manage erosion and reduce water pollution around oil and gas operators during storms and snow run-off seasons.

Proponents of the rules said they were balanced, responsible and fair. They said the energy industry in Colorado should be viewed in the context of the state's entire economy that in large part depends on protecting natural resources...

Hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing inject $3 billion into Colorado's economy every year and support 33,000 jobs.

A July 2008 poll conducted by RBI Strategies and Research showed that a majority of Coloradans believe that oil and gas drilling must be done but only in a safe and responsible manner that would not cut corners and endanger public health. Seventy percent of those polled favored responsible drilling over rapid oil and gas development.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
6:48:38 AM    

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A researcher at Boise State is experimenting with using radar to measure snowpack. Potentially this method will be able to cover a much wider area than humans lugging measuring sticks and snotel equipment can. Here's a report from Cynthia Sewell writing for the Idaho Statesmen:

Rather than sending a scientist to trudge up a mountain with a measuring stick and scales to determine snowpack depth and water content and the composition of different snow layers, Hans-Peter Marshall and an international group of scientists are working on "snow radar." It would provide the same information from a helicopter and - possibly soon - from a satellite...

Today, Marshall's system can be used at ground level by passing the radar over snow-laden surfaces while skiing. The technology is being tested and modified for helicopter use. But soon, scientists may be able to obtain snowpack data from high-flying aircraft and space-based satellites. "Interpreting the signal from satellites and aircraft radar systems is much more complicated," Marshall said. "The math is quite complicated, and there are a number of people at different universities and institutions working on retrieval algorithms for doing this."

This winter Marshall will continue fine-tuning his snow radar by comparing high-tech snowpack measurements with old-fashioned hand-gathered data, which means donning skis and heading into Idaho's mountains.

Category: Colorado Water
6:38:09 AM    

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