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, February 7, 2009

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn): "The town of Blue River on Tuesday approved gradually replacing septic systems with sewers for most of the town's estimated 680 residents. The Upper Blue Sanitation District will annex the town to supply the services following a 72-12 vote in a special election, according to district manager Andy Carlberg."

Category: Colorado Water
10:10:24 AM    

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Here's an update on micro-hydropower efforts in Colorado, from Mike McKibbin writing for the Rifle Citizen Telegram. From the article:

Using a farm or ranch's own water to produce power is a natural, according to three people with experience in hydropower projects. They talked about their experiences at the Wednesday, Jan. 28 Ag Day in New Castle...

Tom Golec, a longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident, has been involved with small hydro projects for over 20 years. He has supplied most of his home electrical needs on Ruedi Creek for the last 20 years with a small one-kilowatt generator powered by a spring used for domestic water. "It's basically this old Ford pickup truck alternator," he said as he lifted it onto a table...

Seven years ago, he partnered with a neighbor to develop a larger 25 kilowatt system that sometimes feeds the electric grid. That project's costs broke down into $30,000 for 2,000 feet of eight-inch plastic pipe, $35,000 for the powerhouse and electric grid interface, Golec said. "It'll likely be 15 or 20 years before we have to replace any parts," he stated. "If you maintain these, and they're designed right, they should run for maybe 100 years or more, like some of the ones you've heard about." The 25 kilowatt system produces about 175,000 kilowatt hours a year, and Golec and his neighbor receive $14,000 a year from Holy Cross Energy and $3,000 in federal tax credits...

Hydropower produces no emissions, but 175,000 kilowatt hours of electricity produced from fossil fuels would put 50,000 pounds of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, he said. "So you get a lot more bang for your buck with hydro," he said. "This hasn't complicated our lives at all, and it's been a good income source." Most good agricultural sites are along irrigation ditches, he said...

Joel Scott has lived in Aspen/Snowmass for 33 years with a degree in environmental conservation. He has managed the Quad III Ranch in Old Snowmass since the summer of 2003. In May 2006, the owners built a 5 kilowatt micro-hydro project powered by their 108-pounds per square inch, high-pressure irrigation system. Scott managed the project and currently maintains the system...

The project cost $27,360 to build, but so far, the ranch has received a $10,000 check from Holy Cross Energy and $5,000 from CORE, Scott said, leaving only a $12,360 net outlay.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
10:07:45 AM    

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From the Windsor Beacon: "Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction (C.A.R.D.) will hold a public meeting in Fort Collins on Feb. 11 to provide an update on the status of the proposed in-situ uranium leach mining project near Nunn. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Fort Collins Senior Center, 1200 Raintree Drive."

Category: Climate Change News
9:57:09 AM    

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Aurora is in line to buy the Columbine Ditchfrom the Pueblo Board of Water Works, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The water board opened bids Tuesday on the sale of the Columbine Ditch and long-term leases, both of which it plans to use to raise funds for the Bessemer sales. Staff will review the bids, which contain varying conditions, and present them to the water board for action at its Feb. 17 meeting. Aurora bid $30.5 million for the Columbine Ditch under a six-year payment plan that would require $18 million at closing and $2.5 million annually over the following five years. Alternately, Aurora offered a lump sum of $25 million at closing. Ginn Resorts, which is developing the Battle Mountain Resort near Minturn, offered a cash transfer of $30.48 million, the minimum bid specified, at closing for the Columbine Ditch. The company, which has resorts in several other locations, was the only other bidder for the ditch...

Aurora would capture the water at Twin Lakes, where it would then move it into the South Platte basin through the Otero Pumping Station and Homestake Pipeline, said Gerry Knapp, who manages Aurora's Arkansas Valley assets. Ginn Resorts wants to build a "private, world-class ski mountain" with golf and resort accommodations near Minturn, according to the company's Web site. Water from the Columbine Ditch would not have to be diverted in order to use the water in the development...

The Pueblo water board offered up to 5,000 acre-feet of water for a minimum bid of $350 per acre-foot. Aurora bid on 1,000 acre-feet in 2010, increasing to 3,000 acre-feet by 2015 and continuing as long as 20 years. The city offered only $250 per acre-foot, but would increase the payment by 1.79 percent each year - meaning it would reach the $350 per acre-foot required only at the end of the lease period. Aurora already leases 5,000 acre-feet per year from Pueblo under a 1999 long-term lease that ends in 2013, with an option to extend the lease another 10 years. Aurora now pays about $160 per acre-foot under the lease. Aurora also trades up to 10,000 acre-feet of water per year with Pueblo under a 1992 agreement, but usually trades only about 4,000 acre-feet. That deal expires in 2011...

Evergreen Land Co., which operates the Mount Massive Golf Course near Leadville, offered $350 per acre-foot for 200 acre-feet over a 40-year period. The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District also offered $350 per acre-foot for 200 acre-feet up over a 40-year period. That water would be used to satisfy demands under the district's blanket augmentation plan.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:53:31 AM    

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From the Delta County Independent: "In 2006, to the surprise of reservoir managers, Fruitgrowers ran dry during late season irrigation. A large fish kill also resulted from the reservoir draining. OCID managers and officials at the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the reservoir, undertook a survey of the depth at various points in 2007 to determine the reservoir's actual capacity. Mike Thomas, OCID board president, told water users at the district's annual meeting on Jan. 31, 'In the past year we lost about 900 acre-feet capacity in the reservoir.'

"[Reclamation spokesperson Dan Crabtree] explained that the difference in capacity figures is due to the much higher accuracy of the 2007 survey using far more depth data points than the 1998 survey had. 'A lot of that difference is due to the accuracy of the survey and not to actual loss of capacity over that time,' Crabtree said."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:32:41 AM    

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Here's an update on Fort Lupton's planned improvements for the water treatment system, from Rosalie Everson writing for the Fort Lupton Press. From the article:

Remedies to take potentially harmful byproducts of chlorinated water purification out of Fort Lupton's water supply will have another effect, increasing the efficiency of the city's water treatment plant...

...chlorine reacts with carbon, which is in all organic matter, such as the dead fish and leaves that are in lakes, reservoirs and streams. The resulting byproducts, compounds from that reaction that have linked to a small increase in bladder and rectal cancer.

In 2004, the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment began enforcing the first of a two-stage Environmental Protection Agency requirement for municipal water suppliers to address the byproducts issue. On June 28, 2006, the city was notified that its water didn't meet the requirements.

City Council started looking at the problem, and late last year found that one solution; a retrofit involving replacing filters with a different type, adding a specialized controlled chemical feed and control system to the new filters would also increase the water production of the plant, which has never met the expected quantities of water production.

The retrofit, designed by Siemens Water Technologies of Colorado Springs, will use chlorine resistant modules and a low-pressure backwash, the process of cleaning out the filters which contain thousands of fibers that remove viruses and water borne particles, including giarardia. Lower force backwash will reduce the stress on the fibers, so they will last longer. The chemicals used will 'capture' the compounds that were the result of chlorine reacting with the chorine/organic matter byproducts, and they will be backwashed out the filters and out of the drinking water system.

City Administrator Mike Konefal said Phase One, which should be completed by May 1, will address all five critical factors required by the state. Phase Two will replace temporary totes that hold chemicals with permanent tanks. That should satisfy the second part of the Department of Health's ruling. The third phase will be the installation of a backwash clarifier tank, which will reuse the water that was backwashed. The solution began as a $4.7 million project, with $3.2 million of the funds through grants and loans from the Department of Local Affairs in 2008 and the rest from the city. Because of the new process, the cost of Phase One has been reduced about $1 million with another about $42,000 for engineering design, permitting and construction by Clearwater Solutions engineers. Completion should require another $700,000.

Here's a primer about Fort Lupton's water supply system from the Fort Lupton Press (Mike Konefal). They plan stories covering stormwater and wastewater systems in future editions.

Category: Colorado Water
9:16:52 AM    

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From The Mountain Mail: "As of Feb. 1, the Arkansas River Basin had a snowpack of 122 percent of average. The South Platte had 103 percent of average, and the Rio Grande was 130 percent of average...

"Statewide, the total is 117 percent of average, a slight decrease from statistics a month ago. Readings are 90 percent of snowpack last year on the same date, state conservationist Allen Green said...

"About the only portion of the state remaining somewhat vulnerable to below average runoff is the Front Range where projections continue to call for slightly below average runoff in the South Platte Basin...

"Reservoir storage remains good throughout most of the state. Basinwide storage volumes range from 84 percent of average in the Rio Grande Basin, to 104 percent of average in the Yampa and Gunnison basins."

From the Durango Herald:

Snowpack totals were higher in southern Colorado basins, which reported moderate to high snowpack levels, compared with northern basins, which were only slightly above average. A record December for southern Colorado is likely responsible for the disparity, though northern basins received more snowfall in January than did southern basins...

The snowpack in the basins that encompass the San Juan, Animas and Dolores rivers is 116 percent of average, but only 75 percent of last year...

Gillespie said Colorado's reservoir storage levels are in good condition across most of the state. The service compiles the averages from Southwest Colorado's four largest river basins - the San Juan, San Miguel, Animas and Dolores rivers. The six regional reservoirs included in the survey are Groundhog, Jackson Gulch, Lemon, McPhee, Narraguinnep and Vallecito.

From the Crested Butte News (Evan Dawson):

The amount of snow resting on hillsides and mountaintops in the Upper Gunnison River Basin is above-average so far this winter, but this year's snowpack isn't quite as thick as it was during the massive snows of last winter...

The snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is holding at 113 percent of average (over 30 years), according to the National Resources Conservation Service...

Following a storm cycle that hit during the last week of January, the Gunnison Basin snowpack's water content rose to 118 percent of average, but some warm days since then have brought it back down. The snowpack is still about 25 percent lower than it was at this time last year. According to SNOTEL data, up on Schofield Pass the snow is 82 inches deep, and holds a water content of 28.5 inches, which is about four inches less than last year...

Kugel says groundwater levels in the Gunnison Basin are lower because of 2008's dry summer, and water that would normally flow downstream to Blue Mesa Reservoir could end up getting sucked into the ground this spring. "We had seven months of below-normal precipitation. We need a strong snowpack to make up for that," Kugel says. "It's a good start."

Category: Colorado Water
9:12:34 AM    

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Jeff Tucker): "Among a number of routine items, the commissioners approved a change to its agreement with consultants Banks and Gesso LLC to review the 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System. The company is currently reviewing the 1041 permit application and will provide the county a list of potential conditions for its approval. The change will allow the company to complete that process. The change added $40,000 to the contract, but the entire cost will eventually be paid for by Colorado Springs Utilities. County Attorney Dan Kogovsek said the county hopes the proposed conditions for approval will be presented to the public by Feb. 11."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:09:28 AM    

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Here's a look at the problem of ocean acidification due to the rist in CO2 in the atmosphere, from John Pickrell writing for Cosmos. From the article:

In late July, the CSIRO invited me to join a team of 14 scientists, led by oceanographer Bronte Tilbrook and climate modeller Richard Matear, as they collected data to predict the future health of the reef.

The issue on their agenda is ocean acidification, commonly referred to by those in the know as "the other CO2 problem" [^] separate, but linked to climate change. Though acidification has had a lot less press, there is mounting evidence to suggest that it will be a bigger problem for marine life than the warming of the oceans themselves.

Our waste carbon dioxide (CO2) is mostly maligned for causing climate change as it builds up in the atmosphere, trapping heat, but for the past 200 years it's also been quietly dissolving into the oceans, slowly making them more acidic.

In fact, the oceans are in equilibrium with the atmosphere and have been credited with absorbing something like 40 per cent of all the CO2 we've pumped out in the last 200 years. In this way, they have acted as a useful brake on global warming, but experts have slowly come to realise that this service has come at a terrible price.

"The oceans have this huge buffering potential for CO2, and until around a decade ago we thought there was plenty of capacity left and [CO2 dissolving] wouldn't have a big effect," says Tilbrook, a tall man with white hair, pale blue eyes and a gentle disposition. But research in the 1990s on corals and early maps of oceanic CO2 concentrations painted a very different picture...

Category: Climate Change News
8:46:32 AM    

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From (David Ortiviz): "A water conservancy group in Pueblo says an invasive tree is guzzling water from the Arkansas River at an alarming rate and it could cost an estimated $70 million dollars to control the problem. When you flush a toilet, wash your hands in a sink, or take a sip from a drinking fountain you may not think about where your water comes from. But if your care about having enough of it in the future the Southeastern Water Conservancy District says something needs to be done about evasive trees known as tamarisks. Also called salt cedars the non-native species are gulping up water from Arkansas river at an enormous rate. 'At this point it's estimate that over 78,000 acre feet a year is being used by these non-native trees,' said Jean Van Pelt, with the SWCD. That's roughly 25 billion gallons a year, enough for 78,000 families."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:32:14 AM    

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Here's an update on the Army Corps of Engineers decision to issue a supplemental draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, from Rebecca Boyle writing for Fort Collins Now. From the article:

The Northern Integrated Supply Project, known as NISP or the Glade Reservoir project, could be set back another two years after the Army Corps of Engineers said its second study won't be done until June 2010. The Army Corps said it will conduct a supplemental study of NISP, a $420 million plan to divert spring runoff from the Poudre River and store it in a new reservoir to be built north of Ted's Place. A second reservoir planned in Galeton would allow additional use of South Platte River water, in a project designed to preserve agricultural land while providing drinking water to thirsty, growing Front Range cities. "There are some areas in the original analysis that require revision and additional study," said Monique Farmer, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps...

"The whole reason we are going back and doing the supplemental is because some of the issues that came up in the comments that were received, we hadn't considered," Farmer said. "So this is more of a time for us to refine some things."

Environmental activists said it was akin to putting lipstick on a pig, however. "We believe there were major flaws wsith the EIS, but if they are just again re-analyzing the same project, we don't see this necessarily as a positive step," said Gary Wockner, spokesman for the Save the Poudre Coalition, which has been fighting Glade. "We believe that the diversion, the taking the water out of the river and building that reservoir, is the wrong thing to do." The Poudre group favors a "Healthy Rivers Alternative," which would include conservation programs to avoid taking extra water out of the river. Wockner said the group wants the Corps to study that alternative along with the four alternatives it initially studied...

"We're into our 5th year now of this environmental permitting process. The participants have spent almost $6 million, and we're not there yet," [Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District] said. "Despite the frustrations of the process, which is just part and parcel of the process, we can't speed it up; this is what we live with. But we still have a project that can and should be built. That's the bottom line." The Corps expects its supplemental study to be done in June 2010, followed by another three-month window for public input. Werner said if that's the case, it could be 2017 before water fills a new reservoir in Northern Colorado.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:27:14 AM    

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Tom Ross): "John R. Fetcher, who helped changed the course of history in Northwest Colorado by building reservoirs, overseeing local water districts and ushering Steamboat Ski Area into the modern age, died late Friday afternoon at Yampa Valley Medical Center. He was 97...

"His passion for preserving Northwest Colorado water for the betterment of the region led him to spearhead the creation of Steamboat Lake on his own ranch and Stagecoach Reservoir near Oak Creek. Both became popular state parks. Stagecoach Reservoir boasts a small hydroelectric power plant and during his 90s, Fetcher delighted in inviting guests to Friday brown-bag luncheons at the dam -- or more accurately, inside the dam, where he could give tours of the power-generating equipment. Fetcher retired from his post as secretary of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy district Dec. 31, 2008, but continued going into the office three days a week to put his files in order. He was at his desk as recently as Feb. 2, Jay Fetcher said.[...]

"Standing in a meadow on his upper ranch in June 2006, Fetcher beamed at the sight of snowmelt rushing out of Floyd Creek on its way to one of his irrigation head gates. 'Isn't that beautiful?' he exclaimed. In Fetcher's view, there was no better use for the water of Northwest Colorado than raising grass hay to feed cattle. 'In this country, the only thing we can grow is grass,' he said. 'We're lucky to have 60 days between frosts. Our job here is to convert grass into beef -- period. If they take our water, we're out of business. It's that simple.'"

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:18:42 AM    

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide): "The Alamosa city council will likely increase sewer rates this spring. The average residential customer now pays about $11.50 a month for sewage services. That involves a flat rate of $3.50 per month plus a usage fee based on $1 per 1,000 gallons of water measured in non-irrigation months. Commercial customers pay the same usage fee but their flat rate is $4, and industrial customers' flat rate is $4.10 per month. "We have to roughly double that, not necessarily in one year," Alamosa Public Works Director Don Koskelin told city officials during a work session Wednesday night. Rather than doubling the sewage fees this year, the councilors' general consensus was to increase the average residential customer's bill to about $16 a month, an increase of about $5 per month. That might involve an increase in the flat rate, the rate per thousand gallons or both. Based on that input, Koskelin will provide a draft ordinance for the council's next meeting February 18."


Koskelin also talked to the council about implementing a storm sewer fee. The city currently has no storm drainage fee. Koskelin said developing a rate structure for storm sewers is tricky, so he recommended a flat rate. He said most cities have flat rates, with some charging differently for commercial and residential customers. Koskelin suggested a flat fee of $1.50 per month for all city customers. That would generate about $60,000 a year. The councilors leaned toward charging commercial customers more than residential commercials, and Koskelin said he would develop a proposed fee structure based on that input. Koskelin said the city only has 300 commercial customers. Alamosa Mayor Farris Bervig said he would not be opposed to charging a $5 flat fee for commercial customers even though that would affect him as a businessperson. The councilors discussed various methods of developing the fee for commercial customers including square footage of the buildings, lot size and parking spaces. Koskelin said those fee structures would be complicated.

Category: Colorado Water
8:03:17 AM    

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From the Greeley Tribune (Kevin Duggan): "A section of the Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad line that carried loads of quarried stone to Fort Collins and Greeley for 100 years was named one of the state's most endangered historic places Thursday by Colorado Preser-vation Inc. The 0.8-mile section of rail bed, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was recognized because of the threat it faces from a 60-inch pipeline proposed by the city of Greeley, said Jonas Landes, endangered places coordinator for the nonprofit organization. The 14-mile pipeline would carry water from Bellvue to Greeley. Its tentative route through the LaPorte area would be within a corridor containing the abandoned railway."

More coverage from Kevin Duggan writing for the Greeley Tribune:

Greeley officials who hope to build a water pipeline through the town of LaPorte don't believe a new historic designation announced Wednesday will prevent the project from moving forward. But that doesn't stop residents Rose Brinks and Mary Humstone from saying they'll fight as long as they must to protect the railroad grade, which dates from the 1880s...

Greeley hopes to build a new water pipeline along an old Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad bed in LaPorte, which runs alongside the Cache la Poudre River. It would be the first significant upgrade to Greeley's water delivery system in more than 50 years. But Humstone and Brinks, who both own property the railroad crosses, have led a two-year-old fight to prevent that. Last year, the pair succeeded in listing the railroad bed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a state historic designation came next. On Wednesday, Colorado Preservation Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to historic preservation, named the property to its list of Endangered Places. It was chosen as one of four among 39 submitted. Brinks said she hoped the designation would help in the fight to get the pipeline built someplace else.

While it doesn't provide any additional protection, the new listing could help Greeley find grants to pay for protecting the property as the city moves forward with the pipeline project, said Jon Monson, director of water and sewer for the city of Greeley. The city has a federal permit to build the pipeline, so it must abide by rules protecting historic property, he said. Those would have kicked in when the railroad grade was initially placed on the register of historic places. He said there are still several studies to be done, but the city might decide not to disrupt the railroad bed and put the 5-foot-wide pipe someplace else, like right next to the river. "Now, that has its own problems, of course. You don't want to get too close to riparian habitat, interfere with raptor nests or things like that," he said. "So there are a lot of issues. We thought running it down a previously disturbed rail bed was a good alternative, but if not, we will figure something else out."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:48:57 AM    

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Environment Colorado and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association have settled the water court case over change of use for over half of the shares in the Amity Ditch, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Environment Colorado announced Friday that a systemwide study of energy efficiency will be part of a settlement in a Division 2 Water Court case that seeks to convert nearly half of the Amity Canal to industrial use for a power plant near Holly. The study is expected to cost between $500,000 and $1 million and be completed by 2010. It will assess technical, economic and practical potential for efficient electricity use, including an analysis of ways Tri-State can further shave demand during peak use times. A third-party contractor will be used in order to assure information is impartial...

"This study can help serve as a road map for Tri-State to increase the energy efficiency of homes, businesses, farms and ranches in rural Colorado," said Keith Hay, energy advocate. "As a result, Environment Colorado believes Tri-State can save money for their consumer-owners and reduce the need for new energy-generation facilities." This is a rare chance for Environment Colorado, which was been tackling the state's top environmental problems for 30 years, to be able to work directly with a power provider toward solutions, Hay said. "We're excited to be moving forward with the study," Hay said. "We are not typically in a position to have utilities do this sort of thing, but we both thought it would make sense. I have to give Tri-State credit for working with us."

Tri-State also sees opportunities, said Lee Boughey, Tri-State communications manager. "We believe the study will provide valuable information as we look at enhancements to our efficiency programs," Boughey said...

To date Tri-State has settled with all but one of the objectors, the Verhoeff family, who farm on the Amity and are trying to protect their interests. While there have been settlement discussions, no agreement has been reached, according to court documents. If there is a trial, it is scheduled to begin March 17. "We remain optimistic that we can reach agreement with the Verhoeffs prior to our March court date," Boughey said.

Tri-State settled last month with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District over issues of revegetation that went beyond an October settlement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Last year, Tri-State agreed to conditions that protect the state of Colorado in its dealings with Kansas on the Arkansas River Compact.

More coverage from the Denver Post (Andy Vuong):

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association will conduct an wide-ranging energy-efficiency study as part of a settlement announced Friday with Environment Colorado, a green-energy advocacy group. In return, Environment Colorado agreed to withdraw its legal challenge to Tri-State's application to change the use of 20,000 acre feet of agricultural water to industry use as part of its plans to build a power plant in southeastern Colorado. Westminster-based Tri-State hasn't decided what type of plant it will build at the site in Prowers County, though a nuclear plant is an option.

Tri-State, the state's second-largest utility serving mostly rural areas, said it will collaborate with Environment Colorado on the study, to be completed by February 2010. The study will assess the potential for efficient electricity use, including an analysis of ways Tri-State can further shave demand during peak hours. Environment Colorado will help Tri-State select a contractor to conduct the study and will be allowed to review and comment on the study. Tri-State will use results from the study to help shape its future resource plans. "The study is the next step in our energy efficiency efforts and will provide insight into the benefits of additional energy efficiency and load management programs," said Tri-State spokesman Mac McLennan in a written statement.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:40:10 AM    

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