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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Monday, January 12, 2009

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Here's an editorial about the accord for minimum flows in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Still, 300 cubic feet per second isn't much water for the Gunnison. If that was all the water that ever flowed through the canyon, the river corridor would soon become a nearly lifeless, boulder-strewn channel.

More important than the 300 cfs minimum stream flow is the fact that the agreement includes provisions to mimic natural stream flows from the days before three major dams were built just upstream from the Black Canyon. It authorizes annual peak flows -- based on the amount of snowpack in the mountains each year -- that are designed to imitate natural spring runoff and flooding. Also, so-called "shoulder" flows later in the summer aim to mimic natural flows.

Equally critical, the agreement deals with the water requirements of irrigators on the Upper Gunnison and water needed for hydroelectric generation. It recognizes flood concerns in the city of Delta, recreation needs and the intricacies of Colorado water law.

We're pleased to see Judge Stephen Patrick has signed the decree and turned the agreement reached last June into law.

More on the agreement from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

The park's water right goes back to the 1933 establishment of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument. But that water right was never quantified, and in 2003 the state Department of Natural Resources signed a controversial agreement with the U.S. Department of Interior that would have abrogated the park's water, in effect making it available for other appropriation, including Front Range development. That agreement was challenged by a coalition of conservation groups, and in 2006 a federal court upheld the challenge and set aside the 2003 agreement.

Last June, the conservation groups along with state and federal agencies, ranchers and water officials hammered out an agreement that provides for guaranteed minimal flows through the park.

"It took lots of effort, but the negotiation resulted in a win-win -- a water right that protects the park and accommodates other water uses," said Bart Miller, attorney for Western Resource Advocates, representing five of the conservation groups.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:56:06 PM    

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn): "The Colorado Supreme Court Monday essentially overturned Summit County's ban on cyanide heap-leach mining, ruling that the state has a 'dominant interest' in ensuring orderly regulation of mining."


The county commissioners and county attorney Jeff Huntley said all along their goal was to prevent a similar disaster in Summit County. Huntley said the Supreme Court ruling did leave the door open for some adjustments to county regulations that could still protect local waters from threats, while stopping short of an outright ban. County planners may soon begin working on tweaking local land-use codes to establish a permitting process that would closely regulate cyanide heap-leach mining...

Mining association president Stuart Sanderson said the likelihood of another Summitville is minimal, considering advances in mining technology. Since then, Colorado's statewide mining regulations have been revamped to protect against similar accidents. Sanderson said Monday's Supreme Court decision was consistent with the industry's position that an outright ban is not consistent with the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act. The association expressed concern that the Summit County regulations could set a precedent for a "patchwork" of rules that would make it tough for the mining industry to do business across the state.

Attorney Jeff Parsons, who represented environmental groups arguing alongside the county, said he was disappointed by the decision. "The court said the ban across all mining districts (in the county) went too far," Parsons said. But a careful reading of the opinions suggests that the court did acknowledge that local governments have "considerable authority" to protect themselves from the environmental risks associated with cyanide-based mining, he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:56:19 PM    

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb): "Come this summer, the public may be able to tap a wealth of Piceance Basin water-quality information that's being combined from dozens of sources by the U.S. Geological Survey. The agency is putting together a common data repository regarding water quality for the energy-rich basin, where extensive natural gas development has focused attention on water. The data is being collected for an area bounded roughly by Rangely, Delta, Glenwood Springs and the Utah state line. Hydrologist Jude Thomas of the USGS Colorado Water Science Center in Grand Junction is managing the $1.3 million project, which has involved collaboration between several area communities and counties, energy companies, and agencies including the West Divide Water Conservancy District and Colorado River Water Conservation District."

Category: Climate Change News
6:39:02 AM    

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From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean): "If the federal government wants a surefire way to create jobs and stimulate the economy, Pat Mulroy has a suggestion to make: Why not study and build the largest water diversion project in American history?

"The general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority said now may be the time to take a serious look at a decades-old idea of capturing floodwater from the Mississippi River and using it to recharge the massive groundwater aquifer beneath the Central Plains.

"In terms of jobs and investment, the project would dwarf the Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams, and some believe it could secure the future water supply for a vast swath of the Midwest and West, including Nevada and six other states that share the Colorado River.

"Mulroy plans to float her suggestion in Washington, D.C., today, during a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution on shoring up the nation's infrastructure."

The idea is big and bold and could only be done by the U.S. government. We love it in theory but believe the massive smart grid announced in President-elect Obama's stimulus package would do more for the nation.

Category: Colorado Water
6:34:46 AM    

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