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, February 5, 2009

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From the Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson): "The latest snowpack surveys, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates that all of the major river basins in the state are now above average, with the South Platte being the lowest at 103 percent of the 30-year average. The Rio Grande is the highest at 130 percent.

"But Nolan Doesken, state climatologist at Colorado State University, said the eastern plains of the state haven't seen any significant moisture for more than a month and winds continue to suck moisture out of the topsoil. And in some cases, he said, it's been since last summer when the plains as a whole got good precipitation."

Category: Colorado Water
7:10:03 PM    

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From the Rifle Telegram (Mike McKibbin): "Tamarisk, a non-native tree species, have quickly spread over much of the Rocky Mountain West and other areas, sending out water-hogging roots along all sizes of rivers, ditches and creeks, including the Colorado River, Alkali, Divide, Dry Hollow and Mamm Creeks. County Vegetation Manager Steve Anthony outlined a three-year eradication project at the Jan. 28 Ag Day in New Castle, sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and several area conservation districts. 'We think we need to get a handle on this on anywhere from 300 to 500 acres,' he said. 'Our suspicion is there's a lot more Tamarisk in areas between the creeks.'"


The successful removal of the trees takes three years, Anthony said. The trees are cut down, slash removed and the stumps treated with chemicals to kill them in the first year. The second year treats invasive weeds that sprout up. The area is restored and replanted with native trees that need much less water in the third year, Anthony said. Mamm Creek is the most heavily infested with Tamarisk, Anthony said, so hand treatment with a SWIFT crew is too labor intensive. Helicopters will be used to drop chemicals instead, Anthony said. "We probably need 100 percent buy-in from the landowners on Mamm Creek," Anthony said, due to the need to spray from the air. "It's pretty solid for probably about five miles all the way from (Interstate 70) up the creek."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:03:50 PM    

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Here's a report about a recent open house up in Silverton at the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, from Mark Esper writing for the Silverton Standard & the Miner. From the article:

The center collects huge volumes of data on climate, dust, snowpack, streamflows. The data are of great use to researchers in a wide variety of fields, as well as for forecasters for the National Weather Service and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The center has four field stations -- Senator Peck Basin, Swamp Angel, Putney and a stream gauge at the headwaters of Red Mountain Creek. Landry said the mountains of data can be used for near-term research, or long-term. "Our monitoring program is intended to be sustained for the long haul," Landry said, "to generate data that will reveal any effects of climate change -- or lack of climate change."[...]

Hans-Peter Marshall, professor at Boise State University, said he is working on a project to measure snowpack and its characteristics by radar. He is hoping to be able to determine the water content and to distinguish various layers of snow in such detail that it will no longer be necessary to dig out core samples...

Christine Pielmeier, of the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Davos, Switzerland, said CSAS offers "excellent" facilities and field stations.

Category: Colorado Water
6:52:09 PM    

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner): "During a special meeting held on Friday, Jan. 30, the RMW board of directors unanimously decided to fire five of the district's six employees...

"The 'interim operator in responsible charge' of day-to-day district operations is Wayne Jones who was hired by the board last month. He was not affected by Friday's mass firing. The terminated employees were invited to re-apply for opening positions."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:04:04 PM    

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn): "'The department and the division are disappointed with the stakeholder response to the division's proposed fee increase,' Martin wrote in late January. 'Unfortunately ... the department must reprioritize activities and services in both the clean-water program and the drinking-water program.'

"That will include the elimination of a $600,000 grant for the safe drinking-water program and an $100,000 cut to a federal Clean Water Act program aimed at reducing water pollution from activities like agriculture, construction and erosion."

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Saccone):

Jennifer Gimbel, the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, told state lawmakers the board is expecting to receive only $14 million in severance tax revenue for the 2009[^]2010 fiscal year. Severance tax is collected from oil and gas producers drilling on state land.

"We're looking at a drastic reduction in funds we'll have available for the next year," Gimbel told a joint hearing of the state House and Senate natural resources committees.

Harris Sherman, director of the Department of Natural Resources, said a lack of pipeline capacity along with falling commodity prices have lowered tax revenue Colorado will collect from natural gas producers next year.

Category: Colorado Water
5:54:46 PM    

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Here's a report about the Corps of Engineer's announcement that they would be issuing a supplemental draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply project, from the Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

"We will revise key portions of the original draft and conduct additional study in categories such as hydrology modeling, water quality, vegetation and aquatic resources," said Col. David Press, commander of the Omaha District of the Corps of Engineers. "This next stage will also give us the opportunity to broaden and encourage public participation, which is an extremely important part of this process."

As part of that supplemental EIS, the Corps will require common baseline models for NISP and the Halligan and Seaman reservoir expansions. Halligan-Seaman is a separate water supply study being prepared for the cities of Fort Collins and Greeley, which are not taking part in the NISP project.

"We want to ensure a fair process where we are using the same sets of data and comparing apples to apples on all three of these projects before we make a final decision," Press said.

Halligan Reservoir is owned by the city of Fort Collins and Milton Seaman Reservoir is owned by the city of Greeley. Both reservoirs are located on the North Fork of the Poudre River and would impact water flow out of Poudre Canyon, where the proposed Glade Reservoir would be located.

Eric Wilkinson, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District general manager, said the supplemental EIS was not unexpected and expressed his support.

"This supplemental environmental impact statement will be very useful as we cooperatively develop the best project possible for the citizens of Northern Colorado," Wilkinson said. "The 15 participating communities and water districts are deeply committed to seeing NISP completed in a fair, scientific and defensible fashion, and we are equally committed to assuring that NISP is carefully designed and environmentally sensitive. As such, we support the Corps as it collects the additional information it needs to further evaluate this project."

Gary Wockner, spokesman for the Save the Poudre Coalition that opposes NISP, said the need for a supplemental study proves the project is "fatally flawed."

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for the Greeley Tribune:

The corps, in a press release, said it will require that studies for NISP and expansion of the Halligan and Seaman reservoirs proposed by Greeley and Fort Collins, use "common baseline models and data collection to ensure that study results are consistent among all three projects."

Halligan-Seaman is a separate water supply study being prepared for Greeley and Fort Collins. Those projects are similar to NISP in that they seek to provide addtional water supply to the two cities. NISP has 15 partners in northern Colorado which will share in the estimated 40,000 acre-feet of water that will be supplied from a new Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and the Galeton Reservoir east of Ault.

More coverage from Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald:

A decision on whether to build Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins has been delayed at least a year for further environmental study. After receiving volumes of public comment, including concerns from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided this week to prepare a supplemental draft environmental impact study. That document, which will take a closer look at concerns about wildlife, habitat and water quality, is expected to be completed in June 2010. The delay will not derail the efforts to build Glade Reservoir and the smaller Galeton Reservoir near Eaton, said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:49:08 PM    

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From "Sustained economic growth, human security and political stability over the next two decades depend on how water is managed, warns the World Economic Forum in a report urging governments and businesses to address consistent under-charging, waste and overuse of water.

"Discussed last week at the forum's annual meeting in Davos, the report on managing future water needs (pdf) argues that 'we are now on the verge of water bankruptcy in many places, with no way of paying the debt back'. Many of the 'regional water bubbles' are already bursting in parts of China, the Middle East, the southwestern US and India, and 'more will follow', with serious consequences for regional economic and political stability, the report continues.

"Many of the 'regional water bubbles' are already bursting in parts of China, the Middle East, the southwestern US and India, and 'more will follow', with serious consequences for regional economic and political stability, the report continues.

"Climate change further adds to the urgent need to manage water efficiently, the report notes. In many parts of the world, glaciers act as "water banks". For example, melting glaciers in the Himalayas and Tibet alone will cause serious water supply problems for more than two billion people, it predicts."

Category: Climate Change News
6:30:22 AM    

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Here's a report on Black and Veatch's study of the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project from Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency that has applied to build Glade Reservoir for 15 towns and water districts, released findings Wednesday of a commissioned study that directly contradict claims of the city of Fort Collins and the Environmental Protection Agency. The experts behind each analysis are saying different things; ultimately, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will decide if Northern Water can build Glade Reservoir and pull water from the Cache la Poudre River...

The [Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District] chose that engineering firm because of its past experience with water quality and its familiarity with Fort Collins...

The study addresses three topics:

- Would the water project increase organic carbon levels in Horsetooth Reservoir?

The city says yes: The project would degrade the water so much it would affect quality for residents and businesses. To counteract this, Fort Collins says in its report, the city would have to spend $90 million on improvements plus $3 million in operating costs each year.

Black and Veatch says no: Any increase in organic carbon levels would be so small it could be treated by current facilities.

- Would the project cause lower water flows in the Poudre River, thereby forcing the city to spend millions to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant?

Again, the city says yes: The plan to reduce the flow of the river by 25 percent to 71 percent at times would -- in addition to affecting fishing, boating and wildlife -- reduce the amount of water to dilute wastewater. That means city taxpayers would have to upgrade treatment facilities to the tune of $75 million to $125 million.

Black and Veatch disagrees: The city's requirements for being able to treat wastewater are based on set low flows within the river. Northern Water has agreed to always maintain water levels that are above that threshold.

- Would an abandoned missile site near the proposed reservoir contaminate the water?

Black and Veatch says no: The company reports that any trichloroethene, the chemical of concern, would be so diluted by the amount of water held in the forebay that it would be virtually "undetectable." In fact, it would be one-one-hundredth of the level considered to be a contaminant. But, if deemed necessary, a drain system to treat the water could be built.

The city of Fort Collins claims: The "cancer-causing solvent" could get into and contaminate the water and spread into the river. "It could result in significant human and wildlife exposure to this hazardous chemical for which the EPA has set a preferred exposure level of zero."

More coverage from Kevin Duggan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The study released Wednesday by project sponsor Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District found water-quality concerns raised by the city's research could be handled with relative ease. The city also would not be saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to upgrade its facilities for treating drinking water and wastewater, according to the study by the engineering firm Black & Veatch Corp.

Northern Water commissioned the study after the city's analysis of NISP predicted the project would adversely affect the city several ways because of reduced flows in the Poudre River, said spokesman Brian Werner. The district disputed the findings at the time, adding NISP participants would pay for whatever costs the city incurs. "We wanted to back up what we were saying with solid science," Werner said. "We think this study does that."

Kevin Gertig, who works in water resources and treatment for Fort Collins Utilities, said the city stands behind its work and the months of research that went into its analysis of NISP. City staff members were not contacted during the study, he said. "We're looking forward to reading the study and learning what data they used and how they reached their conclusions," Gertig said. The study cost about $50,000. It was paid for by the 15 regional municipalities and water districts that are participating in NISP.

More coverage of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to issues a supplemental draft environmental impact statement for NISP, from Kevin Duggan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Corps officials an-nounced Wednesday they will prepare a supplemental draft Environ-mental Impact Statement on NISP, which would draw from the Poudre River to meet the future water needs of growing Northern Colorado communities. The decision is likely to delay the water project...

The project as proposed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District requires additional analysis in areas such as hydrology modeling, water quality, vegetation and aquatic resources, said Col. David Press, commander of the Corps' Omaha District. "This next stage will also give us the opportunity to broaden and encourage public participation, which is an extremely important part of this process," Press said in a prepared statement. The supplemental is expected to be released around June 2010, said Chandler Peter, who is heading up the EIS process for the Corps. Peter said he couldn't say when a final decision on permitting the project would be made.

The Corps also announced Wednesday it will require that the same baseline information be used in the NISP study and a separate analysis being conducted for the expansions of Halligan and Seaman reservoirs as proposed by Fort Collins and Greeley. Using the same data will ensure consistency in making decisions about the projects, Corps officials said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:23:20 AM    

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