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 24, 2008

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From the Aspen Daily News (Catherine Lutz): "Snow totals reached 100 inches at Snowmass on Dec. 23 during last year's record-breaking season; yesterday's steady downfall pushed this season's total to several inches above that. (According to Aspen Skiing Co. records, 98 inches of snow had fallen at Snowmass by early Tuesday morning, and several more fell throughout the day, while on the same day last year no snowfall was recorded.)

"Aspen Mountain recorded 86 inches by early Tuesday morning, and with continued snowfall this week it should easily reach the 100-inch mark.

"SkiCo's four mountains have seen an average of 3 feet of snow in the last week, and Aspen Highlands' base is an impressive 65 inches, which tops the 52 inches it was this time last year."

Category: Colorado Water
10:55:56 AM    

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas): "A staunch proponent of keeping water in the Lower Arkansas Valley died Thursday. John Rose, 66, who lived in Fowler, died of pancreatic cancer. Rose's wife, Jolean, said her husband felt strongly that healthy and growing economic and environmental resources are critical to the Lower Arkansas Valley and rural Colorado."

More from the obit:

She said that Rose believed that water resources are increasingly being siphoned away from rural communities by sprawling metropolises. "We were here for a short time when he saw what was happening with the water leaving the valley to Aurora and Colorado Springs and that became his cause. He spoke from everywhere from Canon City to Springfield," Mrs. Rose said...

In 1998, he was nominated to sit on the local Soil Conservation District. Based on his counsel, the Otero County Commission created the Water Works! Committee and appointed Rose to be the coordinator. That led to the creation of the Arkansas Valley Preservation Land Trust, the Arkansas Valley Water Preservation Group and the revival of the Arkansas Valley Conduit project. In gratitude for his service to rural Colorado, then-Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Colo., saluted Rose in the Congressional Record in 2002, saying "John Rose is a good neighbor, and he typifies the Western values I hold dear."

Category: Colorado Water
8:32:10 AM    

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Here's a look at the Eagle River Watershed Council and their important work, from Lauren Glendenning writing for the Vail Daily. From the article:

The watershed council is presently working on 17 programs and projects throughout Eagle County to preserve, protect, restore and improve the health of the Eagle River watershed.

These programs include monitoring the Eagle Mine Superfund site and the "cribbings" at Belden, monitoring Black Gore Creek's traction sand cleanup project, and working on the Gore Creek water quality protection plan. We are currently restoring a 1.6-mile stretch of the Eagle River in Edwards -- a $4.3 million project. Phase one is underway with grants totaling nearly $2 million.

With our volunteers we completed a tamarisk removal program, and annually conduct the Eagle River fish count, Black Gore Creek beaver pond inventory and ongoing water temperature monitoring in the Colorado and Eagle rivers.

The watershed council organizes the popular Eagle River Clean Up and Community Pride Highway Clean Up, the largest highway cleanup in Colorado. More than 1,000 volunteers participate in the Highway Clean Up and more than 400 volunteers participate in the River Clean Up, removing all sorts of trash from the river and its banks.

The watershed council provides the volunteer management, event coordination, public awareness and a lively volunteer appreciation barbeque dinner, supported by Vail Resorts and several other sponsors.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

8:16:49 AM    

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Recently a University of Utah student applied the principle of civil disobedience to a late term Bush gift to the oil and gas industry. Tim DeChristopher registered as a bidder for oil and gas leases near Canyonlands, Arches national parks and Dinosaur National Monument and promptly began bidding up the prices on every tract until he was escorted from the lease sale by federal marshalls. Here's a recap from Amy Goodman writing for TruthDig. From the article:

Tim DeChristopher is an economics student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He had just finished his last final exam before winter break. One of the exam questions was: If the oil and gas companies are the only ones who bid on public lands, are the true costs of oil and gas exploitation reflected in the prices paid?

DeChristopher was inspired. He finished the exam, threw on his red parka and went off to the controversial Bureau of Land Management land auction that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance called "the Bush administration's last great gift to the oil and gas industry." Instead of joining the protest outside, he registered as a bidder, then bought 22,000 acres of public land. That is, he successfully bid on the public properties, located near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument, and other pristine areas. The price tag: more than $1.7 million.

He told me: "Once I started buying up every parcel, they understood pretty clearly what was going on ... they stopped the auction, and some federal agents came in and took me out. I guess there was a lot of chaos, and they didn't really know how to proceed at that point."

Patrick Shea, a former BLM director, is representing DeChristopher. Shea told the Deseret News: "What Tim did was in the best tradition of civil disobedience, he did this without causing any physical or material harm. His purpose was to draw attention to the illegitimacy and immorality of the process."[...]

More than just scenic beauty will be harmed by these BLM sales. Drilling impacts air and water quality. According to High Country News, "The BLM had not analyzed impacts on ozone levels from some 2,300 wells drilled in the area since 2004 ... nor had it predicted air impacts from the estimated 6,300 new wells approved in the plan." ProPublica reports that the Colorado River "powers homes for 3 million people, nourishes 15 percent of the nation's crops and provides drinking water to one in 12 Americans. Now a rush to develop domestic oil, gas and uranium deposits along the river and its tributaries threatens its future."

The U.S. attorney is currently weighing charges against the student. DeChristopher reflects: "This has really been emotional and hopeful for me to see the kind of support over the last couple of days ... for all the problems that people can talk about in this country and for all the apathy and the eight years of oppression and the decades of eroding civil liberties, America is still very much the kind of place that when you stand up for what is right, you never stand alone." His disruption of the auction has temporarily blocked the Bush-enabled land grab by the oil and gas industries. If DeChristopher can come up with $45,000 by Dec. 29, he can make the first payment on the land, possibly avoiding any claim of fraud. If the BLM opts to re-auction the land, that can't happen until after the Obama administration takes over.

The outcome of the sales, if they happen at all, will probably be different, thanks to the direct action of an activist, raising his voice, and his bidding paddle, in opposition.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

8:10:41 AM    

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From the Telluride Daily Planet: "The town of Telluride has netted $615,000 in state grant money to help it pay for the water line replacement under Colorado Avenue. The grant comes from The Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Fund from the Colorado's Department of Local Affairs. The town asked for $2 million, the estimated cost of the entire project. But in light of a highly competitive process -- 54 agencies were vying for $20 million -- town officials were feeling rosy with what they got. 'I think we were very fortunate to receive the money,' said Town Manager Frank Bell. 'It was a difficult grant process.'"

Category: Colorado Water
7:57:38 AM    

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Five conservation easements are under the state microscope, according to a report from Margaret Jackson writing in the Denver Post. From the article:

The Colorado Division of Real Estate is investigating five conservation-easement deals with connections to attorney Rodney Atherton after suspect appraisals were submitted to the agency. The five appraisals were conducted by two appraisers, and the easements were donated to the Colorado Natural Land Trust. Three of the properties were deeded from Water Renewal Resources LLC to various limited-liability companies, which then donated the easements to the land trust. Atherton is the registered agent for Water Renewal Resources. He could not be reached for comment...

A state grand jury is investigating previous conservation-easement deals crafted by Atherton, and he is the subject of an ethics complaint filed by Erin Toll, director of the Division of Real Estate, with the Colorado Supreme Court. He was sued this month by former clients who had to give up gains from their easement deals...

Paul Geer, president of Colorado Natural Land Trust, said he is unaware of the investigation and that the organization does not select the appraisers. "The landowner hires the appraiser," said Geer, who referred further questions to land trust attorney Sheldon Smith. Smith said he was unaware of the investigation...

The easement deals the Division of Real Estate is scrutinizing are structured in a way Toll said she had not seen previously. The properties, all in Adams County near Strasburg, were divided, and limited-liability companies were created for each easement. "Whenever you see there are LLCs buying and selling these properties, it's a red flag for us because you can't see who the real owners and purchasers are," Toll said.

The investigation shows that the new law, passed this year, will stem abuses of the program, Toll said. The law requires appraisals for conservation easements to be submitted to the Division of Real Estate for review. "We're catching the appraisals before the tax credit is given," Toll said. "We're catching the abuses as they come in the door, rather than way down the road where a taxpayer has already sold their tax credit."[...]

Since the law has gone into effect, the Division of Real Estate has received 75 appraisals. Eighteen had minor problems and were sent back to the appraiser to correct. In addition to the five under investigation, two appraisals that were reviewed were determined to be unacceptable. The new law also has given potential easement donors confidence to participate in the program again, said Jill Ozarski, executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts. Easement donations had dropped after the state launched its initial investigation into conservation easements organized by Atherton.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:51:39 AM    

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Here's a short update on the proposed Glade Reservoir, part of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, from Kevin Duggan writing in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

All sides in the debate over Glade, which would be part of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, are waiting to learn what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to do with a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project. The Corps issued the draft EIS in late April. The massive document looked at four alternatives for the proposed project, which would supply water to 15 regional municipalities and water districts. The alternative preferred by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and participating entities includes Glade, which would be built north of Ted's Place...

The Corps has not indicated when it might release a final EIS for the project or whether it will write a supplemental report, said John Stokes, director of the Fort Collins Natural Resources Department. Corps officials did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment. The most vocal opponent of NISP, the Save the Poudre Coalition, has called on the Corps to completely redo the EIS. The group offered its own alternative, which includes storing water in aquifers. Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said NISP is a viable project and can be managed to mitigate its environmental impacts. "The bottom line is Northern Colorado still needs the water," he said. "We think the region looks better with NISP than without NISP."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:36:03 AM    

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