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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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

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From the Greeley Tribune: "They're still out there, looking for water. 'They' are groups from the Denver metropolitan area and the water they are looking for is in northern Colorado, warns Bill Wangnild, a Loveland Realtor who said 'I haven't sold a piece of dirt in 20 years,' but instead specializes in water transactions. Most of the time, he said, that means getting people out of trouble with water issues they get involved in and working to keep northern Colorado water in northern Colorado."

More from the article:

Wangnild admits he doesn't know exactly who is sniffing out possible water buys currently, but said there are at least four or five groups looking for water. Many of them, he feels, are investment groups looking to turn a quick buck or two. Northern Colorado, he said, "is the only real place left for them to get water. You sure can't go to the Western Slope anymore without going through a 50-year process that may or may not work," and Colorado Springs and others have snatched up the majority of available water on the Arkansas River in southern Colorado...

[Several Northern Colorado] towns, Wangnild said, don't have a base water supply but instead depend on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, a project built following the Depression of the 1930s to provide a supplemental supply of water for irrigation in northern Colorado. Built between 1938 and 1957, the C-BT provides water to 30 cities and towns in the eight-county region of northern Colorado. The water is used to help irrigate about 693,000 acres of northeastern Colorado farmland. The project annually delivers about 213,000 acre feet of water to northeastern Colorado for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses, but is entitled to more. However, there isn't the space on this side of the mountains to store that water.

A new reservoir planned west of Carter Lake [Chimney Hollow] will provide additional storage, but Wangnild worries that somebody in the federal government -- or even in Colorado -- could get a burr under his or her saddle and decide that since that water was originally intended for agriculture and is now used more for municipal and industrial uses some changes would be forthcoming.

Category: Colorado Water
7:23:47 PM    

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From New West (Joan McCarter): "For the duration of the 110th Congress, one Senator has held up each of the individual 160 public lands bill that comprise this omnibus legislation, lending the bill its nickname, the 'Tomnibus.' Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) used the Senate's byzantine procedural rules to prevent any of these bills from coming to the floor. Despite the fact that many of the individual bills were hammered out by the bipartisan delegations and had significant Republican as well as Democratic support, they couldn't overcome the 60 vote margin required to break a filibuster. Until now."

Ms. Carter includes the a link to the Campain for American Wilderness' Wilderness Bills in the Omnibus Public Land Package (pdf).

Two locations in Colorado are in the bill. It would set up wilderness protection for Rocky Mountain National Park and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area south of Grand Junction.

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

One of the final pieces of legislation Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said he hopes to see become law before he leaves the Senate this month cleared a crucial hurdle Sunday in a rare weekend vote. The legislation, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, includes provisions to create a 209,610-acre Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area from land in Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties. The legislation also creates a 66,280-acre Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area. Matt Lee-Ashley, a spokesman for Salazar, said his boss is "very pleased" the public lands legislation passed this major test in the Senate...

Sunday's 66-12 vote to end debate on the bill ends the possibility of a Republican-led filibuster. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., managed to effectively kill the bill last year primarily by decrying its price tag, $4 billion over five years, and the earmarks inserted in the bill.

Category: Colorado Water
6:13:06 PM    

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Here's an update on the Colorado Municipal Leagues's push for water project funding from the state legislature, from K.C. Mason writing for the Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

The Colorado Municipal League is working the lobby of the State Legislature to find a new source of funds for the myriad small communities desperately needing financial help to comply with federal and state water quality standards. The targeted source? Severance tax revenue. A draft of a bill that is expected to be introduced with bipartisan sponsorship by the end of the month calls for creating a new "small communities and wastewater grant fund" with about $10 million per year from severance tax revenue...

The fund would be administered similarly to the federally funded revolving funds that are used for low- or no-interest loans to municipalities for drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. "A grant program already exists but there is no money for it," said CML's legislative and policy director, Kevin Bommer. "There is simply no money to help these disadvantaged communities with projects that are required to meet the federal mandates on water quality."

A CML brochure states there are almost 450 communities throughout Colorado of fewer than 5,000 people needing a total of $750 million for water treatment projects. Among the northeast Colorado communities on the list are Akron, Burlington, Eckley, Haxtun, Holyoke, Idalia, Julesburg, Merino, Sedgwick, Stratton, Wray and Yuma for wastewater treatment facilities; and Akron, Hillrose, Julesburg, Log Lane Village and Wiggins for drinking water facility improvements. Adams County also has several special districts on the list, including Berkeley Water and Sanitation district, Eastern Adams County Metro District and North Washington Water Users Association.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:08:39 PM    

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From the Las Vegas Review Journal: "Pesky quagga mussels that can clog water pipes and marine equipment at lakes Mead and Mohave are multiplying at an eye-popping rate.

"They've produced dense colonies in a two-year span that rival those in the Great Lakes region where they've been a nuisance for more than a decade, scientists said today at a Las Vegas conference.

"In one part of Lake Mead upstream of Temple Bar, as many as 55,000 per square meter were found last year where none had been after they were first discovered in the lake in January 2007, said National Park Service biologist Bryan Moore.

"In a presentation during the afternoon session of the Lake Mead Science Symposium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Moore said that after the intial discovery in Boulder Basin quagga mussels numbered more than 500 per square meter, about what they were in the Great Lakes region of the Midwest where they reproduce twice a year."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:59:41 PM    

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The legislative fight over new Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules is heating up. State Senator Jim Isgar and State Representative Kathleen Curry hope to codify the relationship between surface owners and mineral rights holders, according to report from the Associated Press via the Aspen Times. From the article:

A law that overhauls the way the state regulates energy development requires that a surface owner consent to any wildlife protections on the property recommended by state officials. That requirement was incorporated into new drilling regulations that the legislature must approve before they can take effect this spring.

Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, thinks it's possible that some surface owners could use their power to reject wildlife restrictions as a backdoor way to shut down drilling on their property. He said that would unfairly deprive the property rights of people who own the rights to the minerals beneath the surface.

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, also thinks that permits could be blocked by surface owners under the new rules. But she said she wants to give surface owners a say in what happens on their land while also protecting wildlife. Curry sees both surface owners and mineral rights owners as equals, while Isgar takes the more traditional view that mineral rights trump surface rights.

"We've got an entanglement that we need to work out," Curry said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:30:53 AM    

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From Rocky Mountain Water Issues: "The New Year has started with a not insignificant victory for environmental groups and anyone concerned about public health. On January 7th, an appeals court in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruled that the Bush administration could no longer exempt pesticides from the federal permit requirements for pollutants. This should mean that pesticides can no longer be indiscriminately dumped in the nation's water supplies to the detriment of the ecosystem, and also fish, wildlife and human health.

"The fact that pesticides have, until now, been exempt from the usual rules applying to water pollutants has been a subject of controversy. Some environmental groups would also argue that it is yet another example of how the EPA's loyalty under the current government has been to the chemical or energy industry rather than the environment. However, with the entrance of the new government the mood has become more positive and hopes run high...

"The Clean Water Act is the act that protects the water supply and regulates the discharge of pollutants into the water supply. But, in Nov. 27, 2007 a rule by the Bush administration excluded pesticides from the Clean Water Act's permitting requirements. This meant that farmers could indiscriminately spray pesticides without concern as to pesticide run-off into the water supply.

"The 2007 ruling brought strong opposition from environmentalists who have challenged since it since came into effect. Groups, which have opposed the rule, include the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy, Oregon Wild, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Waterkeeper Alliance, Environment Maine, and Toxics Action Center. These groups upheld that the exemption was harmful for fish, aquatic life and humans and applauded the judges' decision."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:14:12 AM    

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From the Salida Citizen: "The City of Salida has completed a draft water conservation plan which defines strategies and programs for efficient and sustainable water use. Some of the existing conservation efforts implemented by the City of Salida include meter testing and replacement, water restrictions and a waste water ordinance.

"Before finalizing the water conservation plan, the City of Salida welcomes input from its customers. A 60-day public review period is open through March 16, 2009. A complete draft copy is available for your review on the City of Salida website. Additionally, a copy will be kept at City Hall at 124 E Street, Salida.

"All written comments are due March 16, 2009 and can be emailed, mailed to City Hall at P.O. Box 417, Salida, CO 81201 or dropped off at City Hall at 124 E Street."

Category: Colorado Water
6:10:25 AM    

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From the Rocky Mountain News (Todd Harman): "Some 40 Western environmental groups are asking the incoming Obama administration for a fundamental shift in the way the federal government manages energy production in Colorado and the West. In a detailed, 17-page letter, the groups cite a litany of Bush administration actions they say have put energy development too far ahead of other land uses, including wilderness and wildlife protection. Much of the letter identifies locations at risk in Colorado. 'We urge the Obama administration to restore balance to the management of our public lands and resources and to ensure that oil and gas development does not compromise the West's water, air, wildlife and rural communities,' the letter said."

More on the letter, from Emily Underwood writing for the GOAT:

Over 100 U.S. water activists put their heads together in Fall 2008 and published a hefty, ambitious report called "A Blueprint for Clean Water." The Waterkeeper Alliance report is directed at the incoming Obama administration, and proposes a whopping 58 reforms ranging from desalination to global warming.

Curling up with a cup of coffee and reading about the management of ballast water might not sound like your idea of a cozy Sunday afternoon, but the Blueprint is remarkably engaging. Each section is written by a different activist who cares passionately about his or her subject of expertise. Some of the proposals tackle large issues, such as free trade and environmental justice. The section on dams calls for a paradigm shift in hydro...

Click through and read the whole article. Here's the link for the Waterkeeper Alliance website.

Meanwhile the college student that gamed the BLM's recent oil and gas lease sale in Utah has raised $45,000 in hopes of staving off an indictment, according to a report from Paul Foy writing for the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

Tim DeChristopher of Salt Lake City infiltrated the auction last month to run up prices for others and to try to protect wild areas in Utah. He ended up the winner of 22,500 acres between Arches and Canyonlands national parks but acknowledged he didn't have the money to pay for the parcels. DeChristopher, his supporters and lawyers announced Friday that they had raised $45,000 to make a down payment on the 13 parcels. DeChristopher said he appreciated the support from donors but wasn't certain if his money would be accepted. If it isn't, he said he'd use the money to buy the same parcels if they go up for bid again. It wasn't immediately clear if the fundraising effort will keep the University of Utah economics student out of trouble. "It's too late for him t o pay for anything," said Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Mary Wilson in Salt Lake City. "You have to pay that day, in addition to meaning to pay. You have to put up the cash."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Climate Change News
5:52:40 AM    

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Here's an article about the Colorado Supreme Court's decision that largely set aside Summit County's cyanide heap-leaching ban, from Mark Jaffe writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

The court -- while saying that counties have extensive land-use powers -- ruled that the county could not ban a mining technique the state permits. The ruling will also affect cyanide mining bans in four other counties -- Gunnison, Gilpin, Conejos and Costilla. "Had the ban not been set aside, it would have discouraged mineral development in the state," said Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association. The mining association brought the case against Summit County...

The 3-1 ruling is the most recent in a string of cases reaching the state Supreme Court or appellate courts over the role of counties in regulating mining and oil and gas drilling. "There is an ongoing tension over what is in the state sphere and what is in the county's, and how they coexist," said John Taylor, legislative affairs director for the nonprofit Colorado Counties Inc...

"A patchwork of county-level bans on certain mining extraction methods would inhibit what the General Assembly has recognized as a necessary activity," Justice Gregory Hobbs wrote for the majority. Such county bans would "impede the orderly development of Colorado's mineral resources," Hobbs wrote...

In a dissent, Justice Alex Martinez contended that Summit County could use its land-use authority to determine that in all zones in the county, cyanide mining was "not an appropriate use of land."

More coverage from the Rocky Mountain News (Gargi Chakrabarty):

The CMA, which represents more than 500 mining interests in the state, alleged that the ban was a ban on mining itself, since minerals such as gold cannot be profitably extracted from ore without using that particular technique.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:45:28 AM    

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