Thousands of old mines pollute Colorado waters, with no help in sight

May 31, 2011

Today’s gridlock deeply frustrates leaders in some mountain communities where, for years, watershed groups have been ready to restore ruined streams.

“In short, perfect is the enemy of the good,” said Elizabeth Russell, manager of mine-restoration efforts for the conservation group Trout Unlimited.

Read more: Thousands of old mines pollute Colorado waters, with no help in sight – The Denver Post

Colorado’s biggest water project in decades under construction

May 23, 2011

PUEBLO — As much as 100 million gallons a day of Arkansas River water trapped in a reservoir for southern Colorado and downriver states is about to take a left turn — to Colorado’s biggest water project in decades.

Construction crews this week began work on the $2.3 billion Southern Delivery System. It is designed to pump water uphill and north from Pueblo Reservoir — through a 62-mile pipeline — to sustain Colorado Springs, which owns the rights to the river water, and other growing Front Range cities.

Environmental groups “are generally satisfied,” as long as Colorado Springs live up to its commitments to ensure appropriate water levels in the Arkansas River above and below the reservoir, Trout Unlimited water project director Drew Peternell said.

Huge amounts of energy required to pump water uphill, however, looms as “a greenhouse gas issue,” Peternell said. “We’d encourage them to consider renewable sources” of electricity, he said.

Read more: Colorado’s biggest water project in decades under construction – The Denver Post

Willoughby: Colorado water projects raise concern

May 11, 2011

Scott Willoughby
The Denver Post

Representatives from Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Colorado River Landowners and Western Resource Advocates expressed concerns over the proposals by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to annually draw thousands of acre-feet more water from Windy Gap Reservoir for Front Range storage and by Denver Water to increase diversions through the Moffat Tunnel to an enlarged Gross Reservoir near Boulder.

Colorado River: ‘It shouldn’t be about power and money’

May 9, 2011
Summit County Citizens Voice
By Bob Berwyn

One challenge is measuring the effectiveness of proposed enhancement and mitigation, said Mely Whiting, of Trout Unlimited.

“There are some minimum things that need to go into adaptive management,” she said. “Right now, there are no requirements for baseline monitoring. If you’re going to use (adaptive management) as a vehicle for mitigation, you have to have minimum elements … you need to have an enforcement mechanism that becomes part of the federal permit and you have to have public accountability. The public has to have the ability to say, “‘Hey, you’re not doing it right.’ You have to up the ante,” she said.

Trout Unlimited also says there needs to be more money in the mitigation pot to address future impacts and to ensure adequate resources for the long-term monitoring that will be needed. Read this Colorado Trout Unlimited blog post by Whiting to get a good overview of the issues from the conservation group’s perspective.

Commission discusses proposed Moffat and Windy Gap project mitigation measures today

May 6, 2011
By Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news
Today in Salida, the Colorado Wildlife Commission holds a public meeting to discuss final fish and wildlife mitigation measures for the Moffat Expansion and Windy Gap Firming Project.

Together with the current Windy Gap and Moffat operations, the projects threaten to collectively reduce the Fraser River and Upper Colorado River to less than 25 percent of their historic flows, a press release from Trout Unlimited states.

TU members seek to encourage keeping more water in the streams to mitigate increasing stream temperatures, algae blooms and declines in fish populations, and are urging the public to attend the meeting to discuss the fate of the rivers. Guides and outfitters should also be present to discuss the economic impacts of dewatered rivers.

Anglers want insurance policy for Colorado River projects

May 6, 2011
Summit County Citizens Voice
By Bob Berwyn

Agreeing to adequate mitigation plans would be a way for Denver Water to live up to its recent statements that that it has acknowledged the impacts of its operations on West Slope streams and is committed to addressing those impacts, said Mely Whiting, with TU’s Colorado Water Project.

“We think what we’re asking for is pretty reasonable,” Whiting said. “This is the only chance we’re going get to address some of these impacts. We need to have an insurance policy,” she added.

Whiting said the environmental studies for the Moffat and Windy Gap projects dealt with some of the anticipated impacts in a speculative way, and that there’s no way of knowing exactly how the increased diversions — planned during the peak flow season — will play out.

If the money currently earmarked toward enhancements is sufficient, great. But if not, there needs to be a pot of money in reserve to do the needed work, she said.

Specifically, Trout Unlimited said that significant restoration work and monitoring will be needed to ensure healthy aquatic ecosystems on the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers. The group estimates that it will cost about $14 million for the needed work, yet only a fraction of that funding is included in the mitigation plans.

The group will also push to include specific monitoring plans to gather the scientific data that’s needed to make adaptive management work. River temperatures, fish populations and river flows have to be tracked carefully and on an ongoing basis, requiring a sustained commitment to science.

Trout Unlimited also wants the Front Range utilities to make a commitment to stop diversions when the water gets too warm or flows drop too low. Removing too much water from the river during runoff or during critical hot summer months raises stream temperatures and eliminates flushing flows that are needed to keep river ecosystems alive.

If flushing flows are not occurring or if temperatures rise above state standards, fish can die. Water providers need to make a commitment to stop diversions when stream temperatures approach state standards or if flushing flows are not occurring in accordance with the community-led Grand County Stream Management Plan.  These commitments, combined with ongoing monitoring, are what is referred to by the concept of ‘Adaptive Management.’