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 27, 2008

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State Senator Jim Isgar is pushing two new water bills for the 2009 legislative session, according to Joe Hanel writing in the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Isgar is known as the go-to senator on water issues, and he plans to push two difficult water bills in 2009. The first would allow "produced water" from coalbed methane wells to be put to a beneficial use. Currently, it's injected back into the ground because it has been too tricky to figure out who owns the water and whether its removal has harmed senior water rights owners. The water would have to meet purity standards before it could be used. "It should make it easier for water that's good to be put to good use," Isgar said.

His second water bill would make it legal for people in rural areas to use the rain and snow they collect on their roofs. Coloradans keep such careful watch on their water that someone, somewhere has claimed just about every drop - even the rain that falls on a house. Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, tried to let residents collect rain from their roofs for domestic use, but his idea was defeated. The rain that falls on one house might not amount to much, but in a city full of homes it does, and some water rights holders depend on urban runoff for their water plans...

A bill to let city dwellers use rainwater will be back again this year, Isgar said, but he won't sponsor it. However, he thinks it will be easier to let some rural residents use rooftop rain and snow. His bill would apply to anyone who owns an "exempt well," which is a well that is allowed to pump water without a senior water right because it is so small. Since the rooftop water would come from a house that already has an exempt well, Isgar thinks the damage to neighboring water rights holders would be tiny.

Category: Colorado Water
8:53:05 AM    

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Here's an update on Nestle's 1041 application to operate the Hagen Springs to provide a source of bottled water, from Christopher Kolomitz writing in The Mountain Mail. From the article:

Chaffee County will charge Nestle Waters North America nearly $33,000 for outside review of the company 1041 application and associated permits regarding proposed water removal for bottling elsewhere. Nestle submitted the 1041 application in November and county commissioners declared it administratively complete during their Dec. 16 meeting. Approval sets in motion review and a series of yet-to-be scheduled work sessions and public hearings.

Nestle wants to remove about 200 acre feet of water annually from natural springs near Ruby Mountain. Water would be piped via an underground line to an 1,800 square foot loading facility in Johnson Village. As many as 25 trucks a day would transport the water to the Denver bottling facility...

The 1041 application is the first submitted to the county since updated rules were adopted in 2003. It includes information about Nestle plans for ground water, surface water, wildlife, wetlands and traffic in connection with spring water to be trucked from the county. Because of technical data involved, county personnel will outsource review of the application to at least three separate entities. Nestle will also be billed for county review expenses. Outside reviewers include a water attorney, wildlife and natural resource experts, economists and hydrologists.

How Nestle will provide augmentation for water removed is yet to be determined. The company earlier approached the City of Salida regarding a lease agreement for excess water credits. New developments surrounding the agreement with the city may involve leasing augmentation water from the city-owned Tennessee Ditch, rather than excess water credits. Salida acquired about 361 acre feet of water in the ditch in 2004. Sources indicate Nestle may have approached the City of Aurora and possibly Pueblo Board of Water Works regarding a long-term augmentation lease. Salida and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District have presented an augmentation proposal to Nestle, Terry Scanga, district general manager said Tuesday. Nestle must replace all water removed from the springs at the point of impact, requiring the plan to be flexible, Scanga said...

Nestle intends to pipe spring water five miles from collection points near CR 300 to a loading facility at Gunsmoke truck stop in Johnson Village. Earlier reports indicated a loading facility might be constructed beside U.S. 285 north of Nathrop. Nestle has secured most of its pipeline easements on private land, and Union Pacific property, but needs county approval for the pipeline to extend along CR 301 and near the river crossing. Nestle officials said to avoid impact to the Arkansas River and view shed, the pipeline would cross beneath the river using directional drilling methods...

Officials said water withdrawals are less than 10 percent of the available spring water even during low flow. Two springs would be used. One produces an average of 1,460 gallons per minute, the other about 290 gpm. The larger spring feeds an existing private fish hatchery and there are existing structures. Nestle officials plan removal of all structures on the property and restoration of the site to a more natural state. The company purchased land surrounding the smaller spring and has an option to buy land around the larger spring. Water to be removed for bottling represents an average flow of less than .3 cfs, Nestle officials said. Each well house would be about 200 square feet and all buildings would require a county building permit.

Nestle launched a Web site regarding the project at In addition, county officials posted the Nestle application on the county Web site,

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:46:40 AM    

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate: "Centennial Conservation District and South Platte Conservation District will join forces to meet the natural resource conservation needs of landowners throughout Logan County and northeastern Weld County. A special election was held on Dec. 2; landowners from the two districts voted to consolidate the districts, forming the new district, which will be known as 'Centennial Conservation District.'"

More from the article:

Conservation districts are political subdivisions of state government which represent local landowners' interests for developing conservation priorities. The Colorado Department of Agriculture's State Conservation Board administers funding and offers leadership training and statutory guidance to those conservation districts. According to state statute, supervisors from the original boards will work as an "organizational board" to identify the new district's first five-member board. This decision will be made within six months. Mark Cronquist, conservation specialist on the staff with the Colorado State Conservation Board, assisted the districts in conducting the election as the Designated Election Official.

Category: Colorado Water
8:25:31 AM    

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz): "Despite widespread public backlash and threats of a recall, the Parker Water and Sanitation District unanimously approved an increase in water rates and fees. The board of directors voted 5-0 to institute increases across the board at a packed meeting Dec. 22 at the district's headquarters on East Mainstreet. Many of those in attendance vehemently opposed the 20 percent hike, which will translate to an average monthly increase of about $11 per household. The new rates and service fees go into effect Jan. 1, 2009. District manager Frank Jaeger said he trimmed an initial 28 percent proposed increase to soften the blow on customers who are struggling to pay their utility bills."

Category: Colorado Water
8:18:08 AM    

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Here's a look at the fishery in the Big Thompson River, from Mike Oatley writing in the Estes Park Trail Gazette. From the article:

Things are quiet on the Big Thompson these days, or at least as quiet as the winter weather can make one of the most popular trout streams on the Front Range. With U.S. 34 snaking along just yards away and lots of public access, from Estes Park to Loveland, the Big T is about as accessible as a trout stream can get. Rarely is the river completely empty of anglers. Flows out of Olympus Dam keep at least a little water open year round, and if it's humanly possible to fish, there will be a truck in the parking lot of Wapiti Park, and at least one angler will be working the water that glides behind the go-cart tracks, batting cages and miniature golf courses that crowd along the north bank. It's as heavily fished as a trout stream can get. Names get attached to stretches of trout streams. Downstream, there is Cottonwood, Caddis Flats, Sleepy Hollow. The water right below the dam is a run of river some call The Petting Zoo.

Category: Colorado Water
8:08:37 AM    

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New Horizon Uranium Corp.'s plans for a South Park operation has fallen victim to lower prices for uranium, according to a report written by Lynda James in the Fairplay Flume. Readers may remember the hullabaloo around in-situ uranium mining in Colorado that spawned last HB 08-1161 during the 2008 legislative session. Coloradans were worried that the process will forever damage the aquifers that are mined. From the article:

Golden-based New Horizon Uranium Corp. has relinquished its staked mining claims northeast of Hartsel, the company's president has confirmed. Doran Moore, an organizer of Save Our South Park Water 2008, announced New Horizon's move at the Dec. 6 meeting of SOSPW08 at the Hartsel Community Center. The information was published in the company's management discussion and analysis filed with Canadian securities administrators in November. Bill Wilson, president of New Horizon, told The Flume that the company had re-prioritized its properties after uranium prices fell this summer. He said the company decided not to pay the $125 federal claim fee for each of the approximately 100 claims filed. Because the fees were not paid, the claims have been abandoned.

New Horizon, which is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol NHU-V, was spearheading its South Park efforts through its subsidiary, Horizon Nevada Uranium Inc., also based in Golden.

Jeff Parsons, senior attorney for the Western Mining Action Project, told the SOSPW08 meeting attendees that they shouldn't relax. "When uranium prices rise again, others will come because there has been interest in mining in the area," Parsons said. Uranium prices have fallen from a peak of nearly $140 a pound in July 2007 to a recent price on Nov. 17 of $53 a pound...

Parsons also updated the attendees on the rule-making procedures for Colorado House Bill 1161. Parsons was instrumental in drafting the bill that passed the legislature this year. He said it was a landmark bill that will regulate Colorado in situ uranium mining. The bill requires proof that a company can and will restore groundwater quality to those conditions that were in place before in situ mining occurred. The mining process mobilizes heavy metals in rock formations and releases them into the aquifer. The water is then pumped to the surface and uranium is extracted. Parsons said the rule-making to implement the bill will begin in January by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. Once HB 1161 has been reviewed by the Colorado attorney general, stakeholder meetings will be held. Parsons encouraged Park County water entities as well as SOSPW08 to be involved during that first phase of the rule making. Parsons said once draft regulations have been written, the second phase, or formal process, would begin. Then public meetings would be held before the division adopts final in situ mining regulations. Parsons said it is important to have scientific experts as well as water entities and other organizations testify at the public hearings to provide input on establishing a base-line methodology for "before and after" water quality...

Since the mineral rights are owned by the federal government in the area, federal law requires reasonable accommodations to both the surface and mineral owners, he said. "You can't just tell them no," Parsons added. He did say that if a surface owner refused to grant a mining company permission to access property, a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process would be required. Parsons also encouraged property owners to stake their own claims on their land to keep mining companies from staking claims...

Wilson told The Flume that the Uranium Committee of the Colorado Mining Association is currently reviewing the bill and taking a look at what it would like to see in the final regulations. He said he wasn't sure how long the regulation adoption process would take, but that the Colorado Mining Association would be at the table from the stakeholder meetings to final adoption.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:01:50 AM    

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Here's an article about tamarisk removal along the San Miguel River, from Kirk Johnson writing for the New York Times. From the article:

In the 1930s, when the federal government was experimenting with an array of projects to address bad times, tree-planting came into vogue as a tool to fight soil erosion here in the West and on the Great Plains. The shelterbelt program, as it was called, took trees from many parts of the world -- including a hardy species from the Asian steppe, called tamarisk or salt cedar -- and planted them by the millions. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl finally, mercifully, ended. But the tamarisk stuck around, and spread along riverbanks from Texas to Kansas and Colorado to California, choking out native trees like willow and cottonwood that had been there for millenniums...

Now, tamarisk fighters like [Dan Bean, the director of biology pest control at the Colorado Department of Agriculture] are hoping that history may be turning again, that the same sort of tough times that help spread the tamarisk may be the catalyst for a new round of cleanup and conservation work to get rid of the trees...

The model and the basis of their hopes is the San Miguel River, a modest stream -- by Western standards, anyway -- that burbles along for about 90 miles from the 13,000-foot peaks around the resort town of Telluride, draining a nearly uninhabited area roughly the size of Rhode Island. It flows into the Dolores River, a tributary of the Colorado. In the tamarisk fight, the San Miguel is the test river, the first river drainage basin in the West to be all but completely scrubbed of tamarisk. A combination of sweat equity from volunteer groups, corporate philanthropy -- Marathon Oil sent teams of workers to help -- and the knitting together of government programs, created a model for money, logistics and labor. Work on the project was completed this month. "It was the perfect place to start," said Tim Carlson, executive director of the Tamarisk Coalition, a six-year-old nonprofit group based in Grand Junction, about two hours north of here on a two-lane road. "We know how to kill the plant. This river was about how to get everybody behind the effort, and how to engage the community and the federal and state agencies."

Tamarisk killing is a natural job, people on the San Miguel project say, for young people with energy and interest in the outdoors, but no job prospects -- a pitch Mr. Carlson's group is hoping will work with the Obama administration's economic stimulus planners. He has already worked with state Conservation Corps groups and points to recent startups like Working for Rivers, a company based in Flagstaff, Ariz., whose goal is to create river-cleanup jobs for young people...

In 1986, the federal Environmental Protection Agency declared Uravan a Superfund site, then cleared it of every structure, road and post beam as part of its own cleanup. And because most of the area is owned by the federal government, and no people were left to quibble about property rights and stream access, the tamarisk clearers could proceed apace when they got here in 2002. In some places, nature marched right back in when the tamarisk was gone. "What we see right there are some nice cottonwoods, birds in there -- a natural indigenous tree that is contributing to the health of the river," said Peter Mueller, a former high school principal from Telluride who led the tamarisk-clearing effort as a regional director for the Nature Conservancy...

A little beetle from Kazakhstan plays a role in this story, too. The beetles, which evolved alongside tamarisk in Asia and eat nothing but the tree's leaves, were studied for years in the 1990s -- primarily to make sure they would not munch down something other than tamarisk -- and then released in test batches in Colorado, Utah and elsewhere beginning in 2001. Nature being what it is, though, the beetles, while still eating only tamarisk, have moved on beyond their initial confines, specifically to Arizona, home to a bird called the Southwest willow flycatcher. The flycatcher, which as its name suggests used to live in willow trees, has adapted to nesting in the invasive tamarisk. The bad news is that the flycatcher population has plummeted and is now under federal protection as an endangered species, and the beetles, doing what they do, are now attacking. It is a tamarisk conundrum.

But the odd connections of human and wild can be a benefit, too. Certain parts of the San Miguel, even after the E.P.A.'s cleanup of radioactive tailings and waste, are still off limits to people, and thus still have some tamarisk stands that cannot be cut. So this year, Mr. Mueller from the Nature Conservancy asked if tamarisk beetles might be released there to work where humans could not. The government said yes, and the beetles are now munching away.

Meanwhile, from the Cortez Journal:

The Dolores Tamarisk Action Group was recently awarded the Partnership Award from the Colorado Weed Management Association. DTAG represents a successful partnership and signifies what can be done when people work together towards a common goal, according to a statement from DTAG.

DTAG was formed in 2005 to develop a strategy to eradicate tamarisk and Russian-olive from McPhee Reservoir and all tributaries above it. Notches on DTAG's "belt" include: Raising more than $45,000 in grants, extensive mapping of tamarisk and Russian-olive, completed inventory of tamarisk in Montezuma County, herbicide treatment of 50 miles of shoreline at McPhee Reservoir, recruitment of several volunteers to perform cut-stump treatments, and the coordination of a successful aerial treatments on more than 200 acres of the Upper McElmo Watershed, according to DTAG.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:43:24 AM    

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