South Platte River under siege by trash

April 27, 2010

By Scott Willoughby
The Denver Post

“It’s the most degraded river in the state for sure,” Kahn said. “What this could be — should be — is a recreational paradise. It’s right in the middle of town, and people should be out here able to use it without worrying about their kids getting sick and without seeing all kinds of nasty debris on the side of the river.”

With that in mind, Confluence Kayaks has teamed up with Denver Parks and Recreation partners at The Greenway Foundation and river stakeholders such as Colorado Whitewater and Denver Trout Unlimited (TU) to form an entity known as Protect our Urban River Environment, or PURE. PURE has initiated efforts to work with municipal leaders along the South Platte in Arapahoe, Denver and Adams counties to increase the focus on preventing trash and debris from getting into the river and its tributaries, as well as the actual removal.

The first step, organizers say, is to retrofit sewage and storm-water outfall pipes with pollutant traps designed to collect the garbage before it flows into the river, rather than pulling it out piece by piece. The group has approached the state’s Water Quality Control Commission about listing the river as “impaired” because of the amount of trash. The river is undergoing an EPA-enforced effort to reduce levels of E. coli and other pathogens, and PURE would like to see a similar Total Maximum Daily Load established for trash.

“We were encouraged by the momentum that these guys had established and encouraged them to work to develop an appropriate benchmark to list something for trash,” said Andrew Todd, a Water Control Commissioner and TU member who took part in Sunday’s cleanup.

Fracing disclosure notice good news

April 23, 2010

Durango Herald

The news (Herald, April 19) that petroleum giant ExxonMobil supports the disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process associated with gas and oil drilling here in La Plata County and across the West is a significant step in the right direction. The company deserves a pat on the back for taking this stance.

In the past, the industry has been loath to disclose the chemical cocktails that are injected into the ground to help break up rock and release the flow of natural gas. This makes Exxon- Mobil’s recent announcement even more significant – if this industry giant, which is poised to take over XTO Energy here in Southwest Colorado, can unveil the contents of its fracturing fluid, others will hopefully follow suit.

As the company noted in a recent Herald article, this disclosure will certainly encourage other companies to use greener chemicals to access natural gas. Not only can exposure to these chemicals at the drill site prove harmful to people, but throughout the West, these unnatural chemicals have turned up in groundwater. Drinking wells have become polluted and unsafe in areas of Wyoming and here in Colorado. It’s worth it for industry to unveil the contents of its proprietary fracturing fluids if for no other reason than to give health officials a head start in treating illnesses caused by the accidental ingestion of this material.

On a larger scale, this move is good for our most precious resource – our water. Not only is this resource vital to human health, but it’s absolutely needed to maintain healthy fisheries and wildlife populations. The need for cold, clean water is particularly important to native trout, and there have been instances in Colorado where drilling and fracturing pose serious threats to indigenous cutthroat trout populations.

As a sportsman, and a representative of Trout Unlimited, I congratulate ExxonMobil for making this gesture, and I encourage all of the operators in our corner of Colorado to do the same.

Chuck Wanner, president, 5 Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Durango

Cutthroat enemy: Dreaded lake trout

April 19, 2010

By Karl Licis
Special to The Denver Post

The decline in Yellowstone cutthroats is a serious concern, and efforts to restore the natives by several governmental agencies and the private sector are underway.

“They’re the only indigenous trout in the region; they’ve been there for thousands of years,” said Dave Sweet, chairman of the Wyoming Council of Trout Unlimited, who recently made a presentation to the Cutthroat Chapter of TU in Denver to raise awareness of the decline.

“They’re such an integral part of the national park that losing them would be a tragedy,” Sweet said.

While the origin of the lake trout is unknown, the consequences have been unmistakable. The lake-trout population has exploded while the cutthroats have been devastated.

Colorado & Western Water Project Notes

April 15, 2010

April 2010

WWP staff testified about the SECURE Water Act in mid-March in D.C. While in DC, staff met w/ Asst Secretary of the Interior for Water & Science, about TU’s approach to hydro. Staff also presented on SECURE at the University of Denver Water Law Review annual conference.

We had a month stocked full of meetings with both our NGO partners, consultants and the Bureau on how we’re going to get the Basin Study — and other decision making in the Basin — to incorporate some level of protection for environmental flows, and how the rest of the study is moving along. Colorado released its final water availability study for the CO R Basin in CO.

CTU had its big annual auction in Denver and national staff bought a table. Later this week, various members of the Water Project staff will be attending and making presentations at the CTU Rendezvous.

We’ve been working on responses to the Million pipeline project, which threatens Flaming Gorge fishery and other sensitive habitat:

CWP staff submitted comments to the Army Corps of Engineers on the proposed expansion of Denver Water’s trans-basin Moffat Collection System Project. If the expansion moves forward, cumulative depletions to the headwaters of the Fraser River and Colorado River mainstem could reach 70% to 80% of native flows. CWP staff recommended that the project not move forward unless an adaptive management plan can be agreed to by east and west slope interests.

The CWP staff also continues to provide environmental perspective on several large cooperative endeavors including the Colorado River Wild and Scenic Management Plan Alternative, Halligan Seaman Shared Vision Plan and the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation process.

The CWP staff is cooperating with the United States Forest Service, Colorado Division of Wildlife and Bureau of Land Management staffs to reconnect several headwater streams containing conservation populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout. In general, these projects involve either barrier removal (i.e., culvert removal and replacement) and/or installation of fencing to exclude cattle from the riparian areas. These projects will start back up early this spring once funding and access become available.

We are working with the Forest Service and a private contractor on preparation of an RFP seeking bids for a watershed restoration plan focusing on Colorado River cutthroat trout for the Elkhead Creek Basin.

The CWP staff and local Colorado Trout Unlimited Chapter members worked with Colorado Division of Wildlife staff to sample fish in the Eagle River. The sampling has been conducted for several years to evaluate improvements to the trout fishery attributable to past mine reclamation activities and stream habitat improvements in the Eagle River. Based on the results of this sampling effort, the trout fishery in the Eagle appears to be doing quite well with some 200 meter sample reaches holding up to 490 fish including lots of trout within the 14” to 16” range.

Plan has economic, environmental pitfalls

April 6, 2010


Opinion piece on the Flaming Gorge Pipeline from Drew Peternell, Director of TU’s Colorado Water Project:

Developer Aaron Million is selling his proposed 500-mile water pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Utah-Wyoming border to the Front Range as a win for everyone, from thirsty Front Range communities to farmers to fish.

If you buy that, I’ve got riverfront property in the Mojave Desert to sell you.

The recent panel discussion on the proposal at the University of Wyoming highlighted some of the very real economic and environmental pitfalls of this multi-billion-dollar pipe dream (“Debate centers on water project,” April 1 Coloradoan). As hydrologist Dan Leucke pointed out at that event, the proposal is rife with problems.

Debate Centers on Water Project

April 2, 2010

Will there be enough water in a future faced with climate change for a pipeline to supply Front Range communities with water from Wyoming? Will that pipeline harm endangered fish? Will it cost too much and cause too much environmental damage?

Boulder hydrologist and environmentalist Dan Luecke and the pipeline’s inventor, Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million, faced off in attempt to answer those questions Wednesday night at the University of Wyoming.  Click here to read more…