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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Thursday, December 25, 2008

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Merry Christmas to Coyote Gulch readers everywhere. We hope you're able to be where you want to be, hanging with those that mean the most to you.

9:33:07 AM    

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From the Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker): "The Central Colorado Well Augmentation District has a mill levy of 9.0, the Central Colorado Ground Water Management District 1.306, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District 1.0, the Morgan County Quality Water District 1.0, the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District 0.54, the Lower South Platte Water Conservation District 0.5 and the North Kiowa Bijou Ground Water Management District 0.029., she said. The Snyder Sanitation District has a mill levy of 8.73, [Karol Kopetzky of the county information systems department] said."

Category: Colorado Water
9:13:07 AM    

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Here's a recap of the Colorado Watershed Assembly's December 4th meeting on the state of the Uncompahgre River watershed, from Christopher Pike writing in The Hub. From the article:

The Uncompahgre River is experiencing the cementation of creek cobbles in some of its most contaminated areas, preventing micro invertebrates or insects to thrive. Camille Price, a scientist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety told a well-attended forum in Ridgway earlier this month that the majority of metals are coming out of Red Mountain Creek, which runs through historical mining areas in the high country south of Ouray.

According to a 2002 USGS report. Sarah Sauter, speaking for the Uncompahgre River Stakeholders Initiative, reported that uncontained mining waste has inflicted irreversible damage to the Uncompahgre River, and that fish and macro invertebrates have been "eliminated" from Red Mountain Creek below the mines. That is because there is a very limited community of metals-tolerant macrinvertebrates, as they are sourced to high concentrations of metals from historic gold and silver mining. "We cannot ever achieve it (complete restoration or reclamation); the only standard is aquatic and recreation. We can't meet the standards for the other."

A comprehensive plan to restore and protect the entire watershed of the Uncompahgre Valley is being undertaken by the Uncompahgre River Stakeholders Initiative, a nonprofit group of citizens and organizations that is operating with the help of an EPA 319 planning grant to develop a watershed plan for the region. CWA is now offering services for grant writing, watershed planning, source water protection, project management, and facilitation needs. "We as a coalition can develop some funding sources to arrive at a plan for the entire watershed in the valley, looking at it as one watershed and ecological system," added Crane.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:06:42 AM    

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Here's a year-end wrapup from the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Lowry Range development in question

On an isolated road in the southeast corner of Aurora, a water battle boils over land with more bushes than homes, and more questions than answers. The former Lowry Bombing Range has had only one suitor since the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners awarded a development bid to Australian-based developer Lend Lease in 2006. Nearly a decade before selecting Lend Lease, the Rangeview Metropolitan District and state land board selected Pure Cycle to develop water resources on the barren land. There's been little consensus between the parties since. In late October, Lend Lease announced its intentions to possibly terminate its deal at the end of the year to develop what many call the most profitable land in the Denver metro area because, according to Lend Lease Communities President Chris Waggett, Lend Lease would "not be able to obtain an adequate water supply or adequate wastewater treatment facilities at a commercially reasonable cost." The shot from Lend Lease echoed loudly throughout the desolate 21,000 acres scheduled for conservation or development. Lend Lease's October announcement that they had filed a notice of "intent to terminate" their project by Dec. 31 on the former Lowry bombing range, avoided any finality. Instead, Lend Lease president Waggett outlined the major challenges facing the project, while hinting at its grand possibilities. "Our plans for the Lowry Range community were slated to bring great benefit to the State of Colorado at large and the Denver Metro region," Wagget wrote in a release dated Oct. 24. The release paints the picture a development that would bring in an anticipated $334 million for the Colorado School Trust and K-12 public schools during the next 20 years, establish a large-scale zero-net energy mixed-use and set aside thousands of acres for conservation and open space. It was a grandiose vision, one that required a dependable and long-term source of water for a vast area.

Indeed, Wagget laid partial blame for the project's failure at the cost and the scant supply of water facilities for the project, originally designated to include 17,000 acres of perpetual park land and about 3,800 acres of residential development. The cost of development was originally estimated at around $1.2 billion. From the very beginning, the idealistic vision of a world-class, self-sustaining development was sullied by the realities of water availability in the area. The water issue marked one of Aurora officials' first and most major objections to the deal, and it helped forge pre-development conditions that were initially set in June 2007. Lend Lease said that an initial agreement with Rangeview Metropolitan District and its contractors, which would have provided water supplies and wastewater treatment facilities for two of the land's six sections, proved too expensive. Lend Lease said that as the potential price tag grew more and more dear, the 2007 stipulations gradually became more and more unrealistic.

"Various, essential pre-development conditions set forth in the Development Management Services agreement dated June 22, 2007, are seemingly unlikely to be met by the end of this year," Wagget wrote. "As such, Lowry Range LLC has fulfilled a procedural obligation under the agreement with the Colorado State Land Board by formalizing in writing the intent to terminate." Since the Oct. 24 statement, Lend Lease officials have been hesitant to comment, citing the sensitivity and precariousness of their current negotiations with Pure Cycle and the state Land Board. The silence, coupled with the logistics of the site, have caused some to assume the worst. Shortly after Lend Lease announced its intention to pull away from the initial deal, Pure Cycle, the corporation selected by the State Land Board in 1996 to develop water for such a project, announced their disappointment with the developer's decision.

"We are disappointed with Lend Lease's attempts to intervene in the State Land Board's water assets and pre-existing agreements." President and CEO Mark Harding wrote last month, referring to filing made by the City of Aurora in water court seeking rights to provisional sites for an additional reservoir site east of the Aurora Reservoir. Harding declined to speak directly to the matter, citing the current suit between the City of Aurora and the State Land Board and Pure Cycle. That suit is pending decision in the Colorado Supreme Court. Harding did say that the water supplies and treatment options offered to Lend Lease were at or below fair market value.

Despite unwillingness on all sides to talk directly about the negotiations and upcoming judgement by the state Supreme Court, both sides have said they will continue operations as normal until Dec. 31, when Lend Lease has indicated they would terminate. "Through December 31, 2008, it is our intention to maintain the same level of commitment to the Lowry Range project that we have exercised since it was awarded." Waggett wrote. "As partners in the project, we will keep you apprised of any changes and updates."[...]

More Pure Cycle coverage from the Pueblo Chieftain:

A glitch in the development of the Lowry Range in Arapahoe County has little to do with a water provider's plans for the Arkansas Valley. Pure Cycle Corp. of Thornton, which has a long-term agreement with the State Land Board to provide water to the Lowry Range, has sufficient water rights in the South Platte River basin to provide water to the first stage of development in the area east of Aurora. The withdrawal of Lend Lease, an Australian company that had a contract for the development, will not affect Pure Cycle's commitment to provide water for the area, said Mark Harding, Pure Cycle president...

Pure Cycle also bought out High Plains A&M holdings on the Fort Lyon Canal in 2006, announcing plans for a pipeline at the time. Since then, however, Pure Cycle has modified its immediate plans in an effort to work with agricultural, municipal and industrial interests in the Arkansas Valley as well. "I'm a strong advocate of rotational fallowing and finding a better way to do agricultural-to-municipal transfers," Harding said. "I'm eager to keep looking for the best balance. If a rotational fallowing program is good for the valley, it doesn't matter if the customer is in or out of the valley." That being said, the customers for Pure Cycle's Fort Lyon water - if there are any - are confined to within the Arkansas River basin for now.

Pure Cycle estimates the yield from the 18,000 acres it owns along the Fort Lyon Canal to be 60,000 acre-feet per year. The holdings make Pure Cycle the largest private water owner and in a way the largest farming operation in the Arkansas Valley. So, it's significant that Harding also signed up as a charter member of the Super Ditch when it incorporated in May. "To me, if the Super Ditch diversifies agriculture, it's a winner," Harding said...

Meanwhile, Pure Cycle continues to lease its holdings to farmers in an arrangement that is favorable to tenants, Harding said. "Are we looking to get every dollar? No. We are building relationships with those farms," Harding said. In the long-term, Harding would like to keep the farms in operation while maximizing profits from rotational fallowing. To that end, Pure Cycle is conducting its own studies of the varieties of crops, timing of crops and the condition of land that is fallowed to improve agriculture's chances, Harding said. The work is similar to state-funded efforts through the Colorado Water Conservation Board or Colorado State University. However, Harding hasn't asked for a dime and promises to share his information. "We have tons of data sets. We're getting hard data on crops," Harding said. "We're putting our own money into the studies." The data will be shared "with anyone who will listen to us," Harding said.

There are no plans for leases of water off the land in 2009. The Super Ditch has not announced any contracts and continues to develop under legal and academic guidance coordinated by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Most importantly, there is no practical way for water to be moved out of the valley...

When asked why valley interests should trust a private water developer with well-developed interests in another basin, Harding was candid, saying his actions would find a balance between making a profit and not damaging other operations on the Arkansas River.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:54:47 AM    

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On Wednesday Colorado Springs Utilities released a report covering the objections to the preferred alternative for their proposed Southern Delivery System, according to an article from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado Springs Utilities Wednesday released a detailed response to Pueblo County staff and public comments on the proposed Southern Delivery System. The rebuttal was submitted to Pueblo County Tuesday, and will be the center of discussion with commissioners and staff when the county's public hearing on SDS continues at 6 p.m. Monday at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center...

The rebuttal shows a willingness by Colorado Springs to put its commitments into writing in order to secure a Pueblo County permit for the project. At the same time, it rejects the idea promoted by District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and the Sierra Club that Pueblo County would have any authority to enforce conditions imposed by Reclamation, the Army Corps of Engineers or any state agency. "The reasons are both legal and practical," the rebuttal states. "Efforts to pursue duplicative legal enforcement of state and federal permits and laws by Pueblo County are illegal under pre-emptive doctrines. If the United States writes a complex permit under the Clean Water Act, for example, the county lacks authority to differ from any interpretation by the United States of its own permit."

On the other hand, Colorado Springs appears to be willing to concede some authority to the county to deal with water quality issues on both the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek, while implying that SDS would be directly responsible for only some of the water quality impacts. "Project participants understand these concerns and are committed to working with Pueblo County and others to minimize environmental impacts and improve environmental conditions in these waters," the rebuttal states.

Colorado Springs also claims it is not relying on the eventual enlargement of Lake Pueblo to meet future storage needs and acknowledges that a new environmental impact study would be needed before enlargement could occur. The rebuttal also points out that the storage in Lake Pueblo being sought through excess-capacity contracts with Reclamation would not affect the pool of water vital to recreation at the lake...

An assertion by the Rocky Mountain Environmental and Labor Coalition that two reservoirs on Williams Creek would increase methyl mercury levels in Fountain Creek is denied by Colorado Springs, which cites no incidence of elevated levels at similar reservoirs in Eastern Colorado.

Colorado Springs has addressed issues of the safety of sewer lines that cross streams as required by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2005, after two line breaks sent untreated sewage into Fountain Creek. The city of Colorado Springs has spent more than $100 million on improvements to its wastewater collection and treatment system since 2000, the rebuttal states. In answer to Thiebaut's concerns about future spills, Colorado Springs Utilities replied that it completed a wastewater integrated master plan that is posted on the Internet.

Colorado Springs said that it would limit high releases from its proposed Williams Creek exchange reservoir a few weeks each year, solely to maintain downstream water rights. Other development along the creek in both El Paso and Pueblo counties would add to the flows, not just growth in Colorado Springs, the rebuttal states.

The staff report raised the concern that there is no guarantee Colorado Springs would follow through on runoff controls and detention. "Project participants disagree," the rebuttal states. "The Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise is a legal institution."

The Arkansas River Pueblo flow program, which requires curtailment of exchanges during low-flow periods, would be maintained if SDS comes through Pueblo County, the rebuttal states. Colorado Springs could choose not to participate in the flow program if the pipeline goes through Fremont County instead. The rebuttal also addresses questions of non-native vegetation, wetlands, invasive mussels in Lake Pueblo, conservation and efficiency of water use. The participants claim work would stop in seasons that are critical to certain species of wildlife. They would also cooperate in more complete surveys of wildlife and critical habitat on Walker Ranches before construction begins, according to the rebuttal. The rebuttal also addresses impacts that would occur during construction of the pipeline, saying it would need to acquire one house, one garage and possibly four other houses along the proposed route as well as numerous easements, including a seven-mile swath across Walker Ranches.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:44:21 AM    

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