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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Friday, January 30, 2009

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon): "Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he hopes to use the Great Outdoors Colorado model on the federal level to protect scenic landscapes across the country.

"Landscape protections are one of the 'moonshots' that Salazar, a former Colorado senator, said he hoped to accomplish as he begins his tenure as the nation's 50th Interior Department secretary.

"Salazar, who was instrumental in 1992 in establishing the Great Outdoors Colorado program funded by proceeds from the Colorado Lottery, said he is looking for ways a similar federal program can be funded."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
3:59:44 PM    

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Starting up a new treatment plant can be tricky. Up in Craig they're having problems with the raw water pumps at their new plant and people are pointing fingers. Here's a report from Collin Smith writing for the Craig Daily Press. From the article:

[Craig City Engineer Bill Earley] found that the engineering firm based its design on water levels that are lower than what exists, which could explain why the plant's raw water pumps aren't working right. Raw water pumps move water taken directly from the Yampa River into the plant's treatment cycle. River water is stored in an area underneath the pumps, which then move it upward into a nearby treatment station. If the water level is high, then the pumps don't have to move it as far and don't need to expend as much energy.

The problem is, the pumps installed at the water plant are designed to move water from a lower elevation. Because the water is too high, the pumps are working too hard and shaking themselves apart. Two of the three pumps already have been sent to Denver to be rebuilt -- at a cost of $10,000 each -- after functioning a short time. In those cases, the general contractor hired for the project, Cortez-based Southwest Contracting, paid for the repairs. The third pump started making noise recently, and Earley said it likely will need to be rebuilt, too, though it's unclear who will be responsible for the repair cost. The water plant's operators have developed a temporary fix to the problem by using a plug valve to partially close the pipe into the first treatment chamber. This puts more back pressure against the pumps and keeps them operating stably...

If the plant needs one or more new pumps, they could be about the same cost as the three already installed, which ran $50,000 each, not including shipping or installation, Earley said. A computer-operated system to control pump pressure -- the kind Tetra Tech believes will work -- could be cheaper or just as expensive, Earley added. It is not yet known who would pay for those repairs, either.

The water plant has cost about $9.4 million so far, which includes about $1 million paid to Tetra Tech for engineering and inspections. Out of that cost, the city spent $331,140 to cover additional, unforeseen expenses. That exceeds the original contingency of $200,000, or about 2.5 percent of the total plant cost.

Category: Colorado Water
3:52:07 PM    

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner): "The Tribune has learned former RMW manager Josh Cichocki is considering suing the RMW district for breach of contract. RMW president pro-tem Chris Haga confirmed earlier this week that he has received a letter from Cichocki's attorney stating a lawsuit is pending. The letter, said Haga, has been turned over to RMW's attorney, Greg Watkins, for his review and response. Haga said Watkins had been engaged in Cichocki's job performance review six month's prior to his firing. Cichocki was hired as the RMW manager and operator in responsible charge in December 2007. He was fired due to poor job performance a year later."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
3:33:30 PM    

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Greeley is siding with Weld County against the legislation for Rocky Mountain National Park that was part of the recently passed Omnibus Public Management Act, according to a reportfrom Andrew Villegas writing for the Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The Greeley City Council sent a letter this week to several members of Colorado's Congressional delegation expressing its concern that a bill designating much of the Rocky Mountain National Park a wilderness area could hurt its water interests in the Colorado-Big Thompson project. "Specifically, we are concerned that the consensus language, crafted over the last several years to protect the historic water rights of the Colorado-Big Thompson project, has been amended to put these rights at risk," the letter says...

Greeley joins the Board of Weld County Commissioners and state Republican lawmakers from northern Colorado in expressing concern about the bill, which they say could hurt projects such as the Colorado-Big Thompson project because of liability concerns for ditch companies such as the Grand Ditch Co.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
3:22:36 PM    

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Here's some snowpack news for Northern Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park, from the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

Measurements from the Natural Resources Conservation Service taken Thursday show three out of four sites had higher-than-average snowpack readings. Crews measure the water content in the snow at the selected sites.

Sites included:

- Bear Lake, with 110 percent of the 30-year average.

- Willow Park, 108 percent of average.

- Deer Ridge, 106 percent of average.

One site, Hidden Valley, was far below average, however. It had a measurement that was 68 percent of the 30-year average.

Category: Colorado Water
3:04:46 PM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's Legislative Breakfast session at the Colorado Water Congress' 51st Annual Meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado lawmakers outlined their concerns and expectations for water legislation in the current session at the Colorado Water Congress annual convention. "We're looking at making surgical cuts to each program and not making blanket, across-the-board cuts," said freshman Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo.

Cuts in water programs have occupied the attention of the water community this week, as the Colorado Water Conservation Board discussed numerous programs on the chopping block. "I do not want to see the state balance the budget on the back of water commissioners," Water Congress executive director Doug Kemper said, referring to potential cuts in the Division of Water Resources.

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, chairman of the House agriculture committee, said numbers change on a day-to-day basis as the state tries to find more than $500 million in cuts this year. All indications are that the situation will be even worse in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. "I don't think we should hang our hat on federal dollars (for water projects)," Curry said. "We need to make the tough decisions in the state." She said $30 million cuts in the CWCB budget for water projects is tough, but may be necessary and preferable to dipping into state reserves. "We have to make a choice. If we drain our reserves, where do we go?" Curry said. Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, chairman of the Senate ag committee, said fixing the state budget won't be easy. He quipped the Legislature's slogan should be: "If it ain't broke, fix it until it is."[...]

For the Arkansas Valley, there are several key funding requests from the CWCB in the water projects bill. Included are $1.5 million for water transfer and sustainability studies, $1 million for Colorado River water availability studies and $250,000 to help implement rules for surface irrigators. There is also a $2.2 million request to restore the balance of the state litigation fund, which has been depleted by research programs in the Arkansas Valley as part of the Arkansas River Compact lawsuit with Kansas...

Pace touted a Fountain Creek watershed bill introduced this week that he is co-sponsoring with Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, in the House. Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, is pushing the bill in the Senate...

Curry said she plans to introduce a bill dealing with how to deal with water produced from natural gas drilling. The bill is awaiting a Supreme Court decision on a case in Southwestern Colorado. "That's a water policy question we need to tackle," Curry said.

Category: Colorado Water
7:29:11 AM    

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We're not surprised that San Luis Valley irrigators are watching the two bills dealing with rainwater harvesting. One bill HB09-080 (pdf) would create a consumptive use water right for rural properties that have an "exempt well" that is, a well where water consumption is deemed too small to harm senior rights holders. They would be allowed to collect precipitation from rooftops up to 3,000 square feet to water livestock, small gardens not over 1 acre, fire protection and general domestic household uses.

The second bill HB09-1129 (pdf) would set up a 10 year pilot program to study the effects of rainwater harvesting. The bill would only apply to new development and developers would have to make sure that they have a sustainable supply in addition to any water collected.

Here's a report on reaction in the San Luis Valley, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

"It's another water right. We'd better watch it," said Rio Grande Water Conservation District Board (RGWCD) Member Lewis Entz, a long-time state legislator, when he made the motion for the water board to oppose two proposed water bills, House Bill 09-1129 (still in committee) and Senate Bill 09-080 (senate second reading on January 27, laid over daily.) The RGWCD board unanimously voted to oppose both pieces of legislation during its January meeting...

Water educator Judy Lopez said this could be a big issue on the Wild Horse Mesa in Costilla County where residents often do not have other water sources such as wells. "It is here. It's huge for those folks," she said. "They want to know if they can do it and put in cisterns and tanks." She said those residents are interested in using gray water to flush toilets, for example...

[RGWCD Attorney David Robbins] said the theory behind the [HB09-1129] is that native vegetation on the property previously used up the rain or snow and since the property has now been developed the development should be able to capture the water the property would have used for natural purposes before the development. "I believe that it is a problematic proposal for most water right users," Robbins said. He said policing a water supply that does not have very accurate measurements is one of the problems with this proposal...

He said he did not see any difference between what is proposed in this bill and trying to claim a water credit for cutting down trees or eliminating other native vegetation that formerly used up that water. Robbins said an odd feature of this proposed legislation is that it is being promoted as environmentally friendly yet it runs directly counter to the statewide efforts of the last 40 years to prevent those who want a new water supply from taking it from the environment. One problem with this idea is if a new development is built on this premise, but it does not rain or snow enough to provide a dependable water supply, the homeowners are either out of luck or tempted to begin using their domestic water supply for outside irrigation. A homeowner might take a hose to place water from the house into the cistern to supply the necessary water for outside irrigation, Robbins said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:18:04 AM    

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