Archive for September, 2008

Sep 30 2008

UT: Ute Mountain Ute payment set

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced on September 30 that the Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $14.8 million contract to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s Weeminuche Construction Authority of Towaoc, Colo., for re-alignment of County Road (CR) 211 around Lake Nighthorse.

Because the current CR 211 alignment would be inundated when filling of Lake Nighthorse commences, project workers are reconstructing the road in an area just north of the future reservoir. It will begin at the intersection of CR 212 and then follow the northerly ridge to tie into CR 141. The new 3.75 mile road is being built to existing La Plata County standards. The location of the new road largely avoids impacting migratory birds and culturally sensitive sites and was selected following a public review process that occurred several years ago. The work area will be closed to the public during construction. Reclamation anticipates work on the road to be completed in late 2009 or early in 2010. When completed, Lake Nighthorse will store approximately 120,000 acre-feet of water and include an inactive pool of about 30,000 acre-feet for recreational, fishery, and water quality purposes. Based on the current construction schedule, the Animas-La Plata Project is planned for completion in 2012. The reservoir is scheduled to start filling in 2009. Upon completion of the project, water stored in Lake Nighthorse will be released from the dam as necessary and be returned back to the Animas River for use by municipal and industrial users within Colorado and New Mexico.

The Animas-La Plata Project fulfills the requirements of the 1988 Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act and the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendment of 2000. When completed, the project will provide the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the people of the four corners area with a reliable water supply for their future needs, without taking scarce water resources away from existing water users in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico.
Weeminuche Construction Authority is a minority commercial construction company owned and operated by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The Authority has extensive experience in all phases of construction and related engineering disciplines, including: oil and gas field construction, residential and commercial buildings, heavy construction, road building, canals and water systems, sand and gravel, and municipal improvements.

Additional details concerning the Animas-La Plata Project are available at Reclamation’s web site.

Upper Colorado Region Salt Lake City, Utah Contact: Doug Hendrix (801) 524-3837 Released On: September 30

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Sep 30 2008

WY: Rights for trout?

Published by under Wyoming

Wyoming state officials will consider – amidst concerns from some lawmakers – the idea of water rights set aside specifically to protect trout runs. The idea would allow for buying, selling, trading or otherwise shifting water rights for protection of the fish runs.

The idea was under discussion at the legislature’s Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee in late September. Some legislators said they were concerned about the possible effect on some existing water right holders.

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Sep 25 2008

WA: New water for Columbia

Published by under Uncategorized

The Washington Department of Ecology’s water management program for the Columbia River Basin has been reorganized under a new director.

Ecology Director Jay Manning announced today that Derek Sandison will lead the department’s new “Office of Columbia River” to be headquartered in Wenatchee. Sandison will report directly to Manning under the new organizational structure, while maintaining a side-by-side relationship with the agency’s water resources program.

Sandison, 55, has been director of Ecology’s Central Region Office in Yakima since 2003 and has more than 30 years of experience in water management in local and state government as well as the private sector.

Funding to find new water supplies to benefit the economy, communities and the natural environment in the Columbia River Basin was authorized by the Legislature in 2006. The Office of Columbia River created after Gerry O’Keefe left state employment as Ecology’s Columbia River water policy lead. O’Keefe is the new natural resources director for the Grant County Public Utility District.

“This is a big job and Derek is absolutely the right person to head up the Office of Columbia River. He is smart, knows the basin incredibly well and respected by all. He has an unbelievable ability to move things along and will be working hard with our partners in the basin to ensure the completion of water conservation projects and the delivery of new water supplies in Eastern Washington,” Manning said.

Manning announced Sandison’s appointment at a Moses Lake meeting of the Columbia River Policy Advisory Group. Manning also released a list of 18 water conservation and storage projects receiving a total of $46.4 million in Ecology grants.

Project funding is part of the Legislature’s promise of new water supplies for the Columbia River Basin. Among his new duties, Sandison will oversee Ecology’s role in the delivery of millions of gallons of stored water to Eastern Washington from Lake Roosevelt behind the Columbia River’s Grand Coulee Dam. The new water will be released starting in 2009 for irrigators and cities and to support stream flows for endangered fish.

“There are many challenges ahead for water management in the Columbia River Basin, but fortunately I am supported by a highly qualified and dedicated Ecology team,” Sandison said.

As director of the new office, Sandison will be working with more than 15 staff members in several Ecology programs who have been assigned duties in the Columbia River program. Although the Columbia River office will be located at Ecology’s Wenatchee office, program staff will continue to work in Ecology’s Yakima and Spokane offices and at the Lacey headquarters building.

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Sep 22 2008

Great Lakes transfers maybe killed

Advocates of the Great Lakes Compact – an agreement long sought around that region for purposes of water protection and management – have come close to a congressional approval that would seal the deal.

The agreement would set in place water conservation requirements, strict agreements between the states (and Canadian provinces) on managing the water, and a federal agreement that the massive supply of fresh water in the region would not be exported. The state of Michigan, the last signatory, approved its role in the deal earlier this year.

Debate on the compact started in the U.S. House on Monday and was expected to go on, intermittently, for a week or more. Senate approval was reached this summer, and the Bush Administration is not expected to oppose the bill.

The New York Times reported that “Though passage in the House is foreseen, support there is not unanimous. Some members say the pact is not strong enough to protect the lakes, which together account for 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. Among the dissenters is Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan, who complained Monday about an exception that would allow bottled water to be shipped outside the basin, among other management issues.”

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Sep 21 2008

CO: State ponders rights partnership

Published by under Colorado

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is pondering a “water partnership” rights structuring which would allow the state to claim and hold water rights – competing with private holders – in case of special need for storage or for downstream flows if a drought occurs and senior users called for their water.

As in other prior appropriation states, water rights generally can be claimed only be parties who put the water to a specific beneficial use. Only in unusual instances has the state of Colorado (some state governments have more liberal provisions) directly owned water rights.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel described the new proposal, “The policy, if enacted, would allow the board to acquire water rights in several ways. The hypothetical instance cited by [board members] Redifer and Gimbel was a small dam that needs repair. Its owners, however, can’t afford to do the work, so the board would step in and complete repairs in exchange for some or all of the water rights. Those rights would then be applied to what are termed nonconsumptive uses, such as recreational or environmental uses in which the water remains in the stream.”

Board action – not necessarily final disposition – is expected at its meeting in October.

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Sep 21 2008

TX: Picken’s rights under review

Some years ago Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens bought rights to ground water – a lot of it, about 200,000 acre-feet – around the often-parched Panhandle area through his Mesa Water Company, with the idea of selling it. It’s never been sold. Now, as drought conditions hit in some areas around the Panhandle, some Texas officials are looking at that water as a potential resource.

Kent Satterwhite, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority general manager, told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal that “With the current situation at Lake Meredith, I think CRMWA should be open to all options for water supply sources. We haven’t heard from Mesa and haven’t approached them about their water rights for several years. If Mesa has an interest in selling their water in place, we would listen to them or any other water rights holder.”

The city of Lubbock is among 11 cities in the Canadian’s system.

Pickens had considered shipping the water to such thirsty cities as Dallas and San Antonio, but efforts to deliver to those areas have bogged down and may have collapsed.

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Sep 19 2008

UT: Longer-range planning proposed

Published by under Utah

Legislation proposed by Utah state Representative Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, would give the state engineer a substantial new chunk of authority by allowing for more flexibility in scheduling: In the case of large and complex projects (the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, for one example) the engineer could extend the review and consideration period over a much longer stretch than he can now.

The added time also would give water project developers more time to gather information and meet conditions.  Existing law has mainly been structured around timelines for obtaining and granting individual water rights.

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Sep 18 2008

ID: Sho-Bans join on fish agreement

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes intend to join four Columbia River tribes, two states and three federal agencies in an unprecedented set of agreements designed to improve habitat and strengthen fish stocks in the Columbia River Basin over the next 10 years. The proposal is available for public comment.

The Tribes were the first to petition the National Marine Fisheries Service (regionally known as NOAA Fisheries) to list Snake River sockeye salmon as endangered. Snake River sockeye salmon were officially listed as endangered in November 1991 under the Endangered Species Act (56 FR 58619). Since then, the Tribes have worked actively to develop and implement actions to protect and enhance Snake River sockeye salmon, Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon and Snake River steelhead as well as provide Tribal subsistence harvest opportunities.

Tribal Chairman, Alonzo A. Coby, stated, “This proposed agreement will assist the Tribes with providing co-management opportunities for fish and wildlife populations and their habitat. We will utilize nutrient supplementation, artificial propagation and habitat restoration following the best available science to contribute to the recovery of ESA listed and non-listed fish and wildlife. The Tribes rely on Agai, ‘salmon,’ to provide sustenance and to preserve our unique traditional cultural practices. These actions are a step in the right direction and we look forward to this new partnership.”

The proposed agreement would make available approximately $61 million over 10 years for actions for Snake River spring/summer chinook, Snake River steelhead in the Salmon River Basin and Snake River sockeye and native yellow cutthroat in the Upper Snake River. The Tribes will restore habitat, manage land for wildlife and native fish, supplement nutrients in streams and develop and operate scientifically-managed hatchery additions to contribute to the recovery of Endangered Species Act-listed and non-listed fish, and to provide for wildlife.
Last May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration and the Bureau of Reclamation signed a 10-year agreement with the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Separate agreements were signed with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, the State of Idaho and the State of Montana. These agreements, collectively referred to as the Columbia Basin Fish Accords, include a slate of actions in habitat, hatchery and research, monitoring and evaluation that will improve the prospects for recovery of listed salmon and steelhead. They also are intended to protect non-listed fish from becoming endangered. The culmination of a two-year collaboration, the Fish Accords reflect a new era of partnership with tribes.

“This proposal is another step toward ‘gravel-to-gravel’ rather than ‘gavel-to-gavel’ management of fisheries in our region. This newest proposed agreement builds on the historic Columbia Basin Fish Accords announced earlier this year that bring the tribes, federal agencies and states together to be even more effective at fish recovery in the region,” said Steve Wright, BPA Administrator. “These agreements show the collaboration approach initiated by Judge James Redden is paying real dividends.”

The Fish Accords build on “biological opinions” for listed fisheries and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s fish and wildlife program. They provide common goals and priorities for hydro system mitigation; additional hydro, habitat and hatchery actions; greater clarity about biological benefits and secure funding for 10 years. Wright said that these projects will enhance the region’s overall fish restoration efforts, making mitigation for the hydro system significantly more effective through a common approach.

As with the first Fish Accords, the proposal with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes promotes an ongoing collaborative relationship among the parties. The parties agree that the federal government’s requirements under the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and Northwest Power Act are satisfied for the next 10 years and that they will work together to support these agreements in all appropriate venues.

The $61 million proposed agreement with the Tribes would break down to approximately $2.9 million (expense) for ESA listed species and $2.4 million (expense and capital) for fish and wildlife habitat protection and enhancement annually. The agreement also includes a one-time capital expense of $7.75 million for hatchery facilities. The Tribes will restore component resources to conditions which closely represent the ecological features associated with a natural river ecosystem to ensure the protection, preservation and enhancement of rights reserved by the Tribes under the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are located along the Snake River at Fort Hall Indian Reservation near the southeastern Idaho city of Pocatello. The Tribes trace their ancestry to nomadic bands whose aboriginal territory includes the salmon-bearing headwaters of the Salmon River and other Snake and Columbia river tributaries to the dry plains of the Central Basin and Great Basin.

The federal Columbia River power system includes 31 dams owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. Electricity produced at these dams is marketed and distributed throughout the Northwest by the Bonneville Power Administration.

For specific details of the memorandum of agreements and the types of projects involved, please visit:
Joint News Release: Shoshone-Bannock Tribes – Bonneville Power Administration; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Bureau of Reclamation SEPTEMBER 18 CONTACT: Chad Colter, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, (208) 239-4550/4551; Katie Pruder, BPA, (503) 230-3111/Scott Simms, BPA (503) 230-3520; Nola Leyde, Corps, 503-808-3722; Diana Cross, Reclamation, 208-378-5020

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Sep 14 2008

TX: Rio Grande levees at risk

Published by under Rio Grande,Texas

The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission advises that Rio Grande flood control levees in Presidio County, Texas could fail or be overtopped as flooding worsens in the region. Based on this information, Presidio County officials on September 14 ordered the evacuation of U.S. residents who could be affected. The U.S. levee system is designed to provide protection against a 25-year frequency flood and expected flood flows could exceed this capacity.

The USIBWC operates and maintains 15 miles of Rio Grande flood control levees in the Presidio area, providing protection to 5403 acres of land on the United States side of the Presidio-Ojinaga Valley. Companion levees provide protection to the Mexican side. The U.S. levees range in height from 6 to 14 feet and protect the river reach between Haciendita and Alamito Creek.

Since late August, flood conditions have existed on the Conchos River, a Mexican tributary that flows into the Rio Grande at Presidio, Texas-Ojinaga, Chihuahua. Mexican dams on the Conchos River are full and spilling floodwaters. These flows have created flood conditions in the Rio Grande. USIBWC crews have been in active flood fight operations since September 5, conducting regular levee patrols, using heavy equipment and sandbags to repair levee seepage as needed. An additional crew of 14 was deployed from other USIBWC offices to assist. The USIBWC has also been coordinating closely with Mexican officials regarding flows and dam releases on the Conchos River.

Based on information received from Mexico on September 14 regarding increased discharge from Luis Leon Dam on the Conchos River, the dam closest to the Rio Grande, the USIBWC determined that the resulting flows could cause a failure of the U.S. levee. Luis Leon Dam is experiencing heavy inflow and storage is rapidly approaching the top of flood control capacity. The USIBWC will continue to monitor the levees and conduct any flood fighting operations that can be accomplished without jeopardizing safety.

Residents concerned about Rio Grande conditions should continue to monitor National Weather Service forecasts and any announcements from local emergency managers.

September 15 Contact: Sally Spener 915-832-4175; James Leiman 915-832-4178 915-276-9519

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Sep 12 2008

NV: Will Lyons seek mine rights?

Published by under mine water,Nevada

Lyons County (Nevada) officials have been formally asked by the state engineer to declare, by mid-December, whether they plan to pursue water rights which trace back to a long-gone Anaconda mine in the area, and for which the county once filed an application.

The county’s old application amounted to a rights request of 45 cubic feet per second. Apparently, however, no specific beneficial use for the water was noted at the time. Whether it would be noted now, either, remains unclear.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported comments that “former Lyon County Manager Steve Snyder and former County Commissioner and Yerington City Manager Roland Adams had applied for the water a number of years ago, and that usually, applications like these have project plans about how the water would be used. Commissioner Don Tibbals, who owns property in the Weed Heights area near the mine, said they filed for the water when Arimetco bought the property (filed in 1992, several years after Arimetco arrived), and he recalled the plan was to send the water to the Highway 50 corridor in west and central Lyon County.”

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