Feds face another clean water lawsuit

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The federal government is being sued by conservation groups and industry over the new Waters of the U.S. rule.

Conservation groups say new rule has too many pollution loopholes

Staff Report

FRISCO — There will be yet more legal wrangling over a new federal clean water rule, as conservation groups said last week they will sue to plug some loopholes that could open the door for more pollution in wetlands and streams.

At issue is the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May. That means the feds will be getting sued twice over the rule. Industry groups announced their challenge in mid-July, claiming the new regulations “dramatically expand federal regulatory authority. Continue reading

Polluters sue to block new wetlands regulations

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Polluters are asking a federal court to roll back protection for important wetlands. @bberwyn photo.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads effort to overturn Waters of the U.S. rule

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A new federal wetlands rule that helps protect water quality and important wildlife habitat will face a federal court challenge from groups representing some of the country’s biggest polluters.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business,  and the Portland Cement Association last week filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, seeking to overturn the so-called Waters of the U.S. rule. Continue reading

Will Colorado get a new wild and scenic river?

‘Deep Creek’s lower elevation intact ecosystem would contribute to diversity of the national Wild and Scenic River system …’

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After seven years of study, the U.S. Forest Service says Deep Creek, in noerthwestern Colorado, is suitable for wild and scenic status.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service says that Colorado’s Deep Creek, flowing out of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, meets all the criteria for designation as a wild and scenic river.

The agency finalized its determination last month under a decision signed by White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, who explained that there no private lands within the Forest Service segment corridor, and that no existing water rights would not be affected by designation.

The Colorado Natural Heritage Program described Deep Creek as having one of the most pristine, intact canyon landscapes in Colorado, with several state and globally rare species.

“Deep Creek’s lower elevation intact ecosystem would contribute to diversity of the national Wild and Scenic River system,” Fitzwilliams wrote in the formal Record of Decision. Continue reading

Water level in Lake Mead drops to ‘warning mark’

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The steady drop in Lake Mead’s water level is a sign of the West’s long-term drought.

Some states may see water cuts in years ahead

Staff Report

FRISCO — Early summer runoff is surging high in the headwaters of the Colorado River, but far below, in the Nevada desert, the water is draining out of Lake Mead faster than the river can replenish it.

The giant reservoir this week hit a new all-time low level, dropping just below 1,075 feet above sea level — a warning sign that some states may have to curtail their use of Colorado River water in the years ahead. Continue reading

Summit County: Dillon Reservoir outflows boosted again

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The Blue River near flood stage near Silverthorne.

Blue River running high through Silverthorne

Staff Report

FRISCO — Flows in the Lower Blue River, below Dillon Dam, are going up again.

With snowmelt speeding up under warm and sunny skies, Denver is boosting the outflow to 1,800 cfs to avoid a scenario where Dillon Reservoir spills at a level that causes outflows to go over that level.

That’s exactly what could happen without upping controlled releases now, Denver Water spokesman Matt Wittern said via email.

“Our experts predict that, if we maintained 1,700 cfs outflow and inflows remain around 2,400, Dillon Reservoir would be full and spilling within a week,” Wittern said. That could bring excessive flows and the potential for flooding below Dillon Reservoir.

Wittern said Denver Water is estimating the remaining snowpack in the Blue River as equivalent to between five and seven inches of water near Hoosier and Fremont passes.

That snow is melting fast, with no letup in sight. Inflows from runoff into Dillon Reservoir averaged 2,467 cfs Tuesday, which was well above current and planned outflows. And those inflows aren’t expected to drop below 1,700 cfs in the next seven days, which means Dillon Reservoir will continue to fill quickly, at the rate of about six inches per day. As of Wednesday, the reservoir was 3.25 feet below capacity.

Wittern also explained that Denver Water can’t legally divert water through the Roberts Tunnel if it’s not needed.

“Right now water levels are very high on the South PIatte River, eliminating this action as an option,” he said.

Troy Wineland, state water commissioner for the Blue River, said property owners in the Lower Blue who face flooding risks can prepare by perusing Summit County’s High Water Preparedness” manual which includes instructions on sandbag preparation and placement, as well as free sand / bag supply locations.

Wineland also said water users in the Lower Blue should be aware that higher flows will push more water through diversions, possibly over-topping in irrigation ditches.

Environment: New Clean Water Rule finalized, but the fighting is not over

Runoff and rainstorms have combined to keep flows high in the Blue River.

A new EPA rule aims to define which streams and rivers are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Big loopholes for industry, farms will continue to threaten water quality

Staff Report

FRISCO — After years of wrangling, the EPA has finalized a new rule intended to define which streams are covered under the Clean Water Act. The debate goes back more than a decade to a pair of court rulings that called into question whether smaller tributaries and seasonal streams are subject to federal regulations.

Yesterday’s announcement probably won’t end the fighting — Republicans in Congress have launched a bitter attack on the rule at the behest of big polluters like industrial farms and factories, and some national conservation groups like the Waterkeeper Alliance say the new rule is too weak, and rolls back protection for some streams that were previously covered. Continue reading

Study shows link between air, water pollution

This Meadow Creek, a wild, free-flowing stream that starts in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and ends up flowing right past our house before its confluence with Dillon Reservoir, where it's wild no more.

Atmospheric emissions of hormone-disrupting chemicals found to pollute rivers and streams.

Hormone-disrupting toxins in Missouri streams traced to factory emissions

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists say atmospheric releases of hormone-disrupting chemicals may be a big source of of pollution in streams and lakes. After studying water quality near industrial sites permitted to release toxic chemicals into the air, the researchers said they found unexpectedly high levels of BPA in water around those factories.

“This finding suggests that atmospheric BPA releases may contaminate local surface water, leading to greater exposure of humans or wildlife,” said Don Tillitt, adjunct professor of biological sciences at MU, and biochemistry and physiology branch chief with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Columbia Environmental Research Center. Continue reading

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