@Northern_Water: NISP Final EIS released

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

Here’s the release from Northern Water:

Officials from the Army Corps of Engineers have released a Final Environmental Impact Statement that explores the alternatives for supplying a reliable water supply to 15 municipalities and water providers in northeastern Colorado.

The document outlines the impacts of Northern Water’s preferred alternative, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, as well as three other potential reservoir projects. It also looks at the effects to the environment if no action alternative is approved.

Northern Water officials began the formal permitting process to build NISP on behalf of the 15 participants in 2004, which resulted in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2008. A Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released in 2015.

“This is another step in the process and a very thorough one at that,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind. “We’re encouraged that it shows that no new significant issues have popped up and that the impacts can and will be mitigated.”

The Northern Integrated Supply Project includes the construction of Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and Galeton Reservoir northeast of Greeley. Five pump stations and 85 miles of pipeline would convey water to communities participating in the project as well as some farmers in the Cache la Poudre River basin.

The operation of the project would include minimum guaranteed stream flows through downtown Fort Collins, bypass of peak flows in most years, improvements to stream channel and riparian areas along the Poudre River and establishment of a recreation complex at Glade Reservoir.

“The NISP participants have really come a long way and stepped up to put together one of the most-robust mitigation and enhancement plans ever,” said NISP Participants Committee Chairman Chris Smith. Smith, the general manager of the Left Hand Water District added, “We are committed to the $60 million plan to protect and enhance the environment.”

In the 14 years since the permitting began, Northern Colorado has continued to grow at a record pace with seven of the top-growing cities within the NISP Participants Committee. Smith said, “we are the bullseye for growth in Colorado with the fastest-growing cities in the state all being NISP participants.”

In addition to NISP, which is the preferred alternative, federal officials looked at alternatives that included a different combination of reservoirs and conveyance methods. Out of 215 elements studied such as reservoir expansion, new reservoirs and groundwater storage, the Corps identified four that would meet the project purpose and need. The Corps also considered the impact of removing irrigation water from nearly 100 square miles of land in Northern Colorado, which, the FEIS illustrates, would occur if NISP is not approved.

NISP participants include the communities of Erie, Windsor, Fort Morgan, Evans, Fort Lupton, Eaton, Severance, Lafayette, Firestone, Frederick and Dacono. Also, the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, Left Hand Water District, Central Weld County Water District and Morgan County Quality Water District are participants.

The public has 45 days to provide comments to the Corps on the FEIS. A Record of Decision based on the document and public input will be issued by the Corps and is expected in 2019.

To view the document, go to: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory- Program/Colorado/EIS-NISP/
Hard copies may be found at locations listed at http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/1580028/final-environmental-impact-statement-for-the-northern-integrated-supply-project/

Comments about the FEIS may be sent via email to the Corps, NISP.EIS@usace.army.mil. For more information, visit http://www.gladereservoir.org.

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

The Army Corps of Engineers’ report, about 1,400 pages in all, explores all facets of the project, which leverages water rights purchased by Northern Water in the 1980s along with proposed reservoirs to store and release those rights as necessary.

Getting to this point has taken 14 years, and puts in site potential approval of the project in 2019.

“There’s a lot of smiles around here today,” said Brian Werner, Northern Water spokesman. “This has been a long process.”

Werner said the participants can now see light at the end of the tunnel. He could have said water, as the NISP plan would provide 40,000 acre feet of water per year to the partners. That’s roughly enough water for 80,000 families.

The proposal calls for two reservoirs: one called Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins, and the other, Galeton Reservoir, north of Eaton.

The Glade Reservoir would be fed by the Poudre River, and the Galeton Reservoir would be fed via a pipeline from the South Platte River.

The Corps also looked at three potential alternatives, and analyzed impacts ranging from fish and wildlife to vegetation and water quality.

Most of the impacts analyzed in the report were considered minor or subtle, but there were areas of concern highlighted:

» Water quality in the proposed Galeton Reservoir, north of Eaton.

» Destruction of wildlife habitat with the Glade and Galeton reservoirs.

» Reduced flows along the Poudre River, particularly during peak flow months.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now opened a public comment period, which will stay open until Sept. 4.

Werner said he saw no surprises in the report, and he said Northern Water is prepared to mitigate any impacts.

Werner said there will be a guaranteed minimum flow through Fort Collins throughout the year, something he said hasn’t been done.

“It’s taken 15 years, and those participants’ need hasn’t lessened. They still need the water, and that need has increased,” Werner said.

Windsor stands to get about 3,300 acre-feet of water, which would amount to double what the town’s currently uses, 3,400 acre-feet per year. When reached for comment Friday, Town Manager Shane Hale said officials there are pleased to have reached this step.

“Windsor’s one of the fastest growing communities in the state,” Hale said. “This is the cost of growth.”

Evans will get 1,600 acre-feet of water from the project, and City Manager Jim Becklenberg called the environmental impact statement an important milestone.

“Evans looks forward to continued community discussion of the project’s value to the community and how it fits into our long-term water and development planning,” Becklenberg said in a prepared statement.

The Central Weld County Water District, which supplies much of the rural residential tap water in Weld County, would gain 3,100 acre-feet from the project, adding to it’s 5,800 acre-foot annual allotment today.

“This would carry us for many years,” said Jim Park, president of the district’s board.

Greeley is not part of the project, and officials here have expressed concerns throughout the process. The official line, City Manager Roy Otto said, is that the city recognizes the need for all reservoirs in northern Colorado.

“Our only concerns are impacts to our water supplies, and how to mitigate (those impacts),” Otto said.

First and foremost, Otto said, he wanted to congratulate Northern Water.

“I think it’s very safe to say our water board is on the record supporting every single water storage project,” Otto said.

The plan goes beyond storage, or at least it’s storage-plus. The proposed Glade Reservoir would offer recreation opportunities, including boating and fishing, and would feature a visitor’s center.

There’s no such luck for Weld County residents, as the Galeton Reservoir would be off limits to those kind of recreation opportunities, apart from, perhaps, wildlife viewing, Werner said.

Even then, the Galeton Reservoir is expected to remove 215 acres of prairie dog colonies, 1,753 acres of swift fox habitat, 777 acres of grasslands and 964 acres of native shrublands, according to the report.

Werner, for his part, stands by Northern Water’s work to mitigate the negative impacts of the NISP.

“They’re always saying it’s not enough mitigation,” Werner said. “I would argue this is the most robust mitigation plan of any Colorado water project — it’s 136 pages. There will be impacts whether you’re building a highway, a school or a reservoir. We certainly believe we’ll mitigate those impacts.”

@CSUtilities and the Lower Ark work out long-term water sharing agreement

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association (LAWMA) Board has announced it will participate in a permanent water sharing agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities.

LAWMA and Colorado Spring Utilities have discussed ways to continue their long-term arrangement of water sharing. The agreement would allow Colorado Springs Utilities to acquire 2,500 LAWMA water shares from an existing LAWMA member and take deliveries in 5 out of 10 years. The boards of both entities have voted to approve the agreement.

“This is a very positive arrangement for LAWMA shareholders,” said Don Higbee, LAWMA general manager. “We will gain a more reliable water supply that will increase crop yields for the average shareholder in both wet and dry years.”

Colorado Springs Utilities purchased the water shares for $3,500 per share. Utilities will take delivery of that water in only 5 out of 10 years. In non-delivery years, other LAWMA members will receive the water, effectively increasing the per-share yield of each LAWMA share…

The next step in the process is to obtain a water court decree formally changing the shares to be used for municipal and augmentation use.

Colorado Springs Utilities has been working with agricultural water entities in the Lower Arkansas Valley through short term, informal agreements for decades.

Over the past two decades, it leased 23,000 acre-feet of water to LAWMA and 33,150 acre-feet of water to Fort Lyon Canal Company. In addition, Colorado Springs Utilities also has provided 20,000 acre feet of water to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for use in John Martin Reservoir in Bent County.

“We are interested in water sharing agreements with the agricultural community and have been involved in leasing agreements since the 2002 drought,” said Pat Wells, General Manager, Water Resources, Colorado Springs Utilities. “Utilities has had successful, informal water sharing agreements with LAWMA for many years. This is an extension of that proven relationship.”

“This arrangement continues LAWMA’s positive long-term relationship with Colorado Springs Utilities. They have a proven track record leasing water to us at very reasonable rates,” said Higbee.

As part of the agreement, Colorado Springs Utilities will also reimburse LAWMA $1.75 million for 500 acre-feet of water storage. This storage will give LAWMA added flexibility to manage its water rights both in times of drought and excess. In the years LAWMA receives the water, it can be stored for future use. In the years Utilities receives the water, LAWMA members will be able to rely on the stored water to maintain steady irrigation.

“If we are collaborating with municipalities, we are not competing with them for water. The alternative is we risk buy and dry, which permanently removes water from the valley,” Higbee explained. “This project helps us avoid that.”

@COWaterTrust scores water for the Yampa River

Stagecoach Reservoir. Photo credit Upper Yampa River Water Conservancy District.

From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

The Colorado Water Trust will release a total of 600 acre-feet of water from Stagecoach Reservoir, initially at a rate of 15 cubic feet per second. The releases began on Saturday, said Zach Smith, an attorney for the organization.

“We’ve worked with them to deliver water to and through Steamboat Springs to improve both the fishery and the recreational opportunities that folks there have,” Smith said.

For the most part, the river has hovered between 80 and 90 cfs since July 7. Since the releases, about 90 to 100 cfs of water have been flowing under the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat.

Even with the boost, the river is flowing well below its average for the date. It was flowing at 90 cfs at 11 a.m. Tuesday, about 32 percent of its long-term average flow of 273 cfs for July 17…

Though the river is up, it’s unlikely the city would lift voluntary recreational closures on the river through Steamboat.

“At this point, it is not likely that the increased flows from the release are enough to lift the river closure with the current weather patterns that we are seeing,” Craig Robinson, interim director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, wrote in an email.

The river is still heating up with water temperatures above 75 degrees, he added. That high temperatures stress trout and other aquatic species that are adapted to live in the Yampa’s cold-water ecosystem. The high water temperatures also decreases the amount of oxygen available to organisms in the river.

“The flows are very helpful for river health as conditions would likely be worse without this additional flow,” Robinson wrote. “If the monsoon season started, and we had a pattern of daily moisture and cooler temps, these combined factors with the additional cfs from the release could reduce the stressors, and the closure could be lifted.”

A mandatory fishing closure is still in place in the tailwaters of Stagecoach Reservoir. The river is closed between the dam and the lowermost park boundary. Anglers who violate the Colorado Parks and Wildlife closure order could receive citations.

The agency also has instituted a voluntary closure of the river from Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area to the western edge of Steamboat. Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf said wildlife managers and biologists continue to discuss river conditions and evaluate the agency’s closures.

Once snowpack melts, increases in the Yampa’s flow come from the area’s sparse rainfall, reservoir releases and groundwater that returns to the river after it’s used to irrigate agriculture.

Since 2012, reservoir releases have boosted flows in the Yampa in every year except 2014, Smith said. Last year, the Yampa saw the last release allowed under an approval issued by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which allowed for three years of releases to benefit in-stream flows over the course of 10 years.

Current releases operate outside of the Water Conservation Board program and are designated to benefit municipal users.

“The fish don’t care by which legal mechanism that water is in there, as long as the flow is up,” Smith said.

The Water Trust purchased the water using funding from the Nature Conservancy, Tri-State Generation and Oskar Blues Brewery’s CAN’d Aid Foundation.

Should flows in the river remain low once the Colorado Water Trust’s initial 600 acre-feet of water is sent downstream, the trust could use other funding sources to purchase more water, Smith said. In the past, the city has cooperated to release city-owned water from the reservoir after the Colorado Water Trust has released its allocation of water, he added.

“We know that the community up there loves this river, and they love it enough to know when to get out of it when it’s stressed,” Smith said. “If we can improve it with additional flow for the community up there, that’s what the Water Trust is around for.”

From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is lifting the mandatory fishing closure on the sixth-tenth mile section of the Yampa River below the dam at Stagecoach State Park, effective immediately…

Voluntary closures remain in effect on the river through Steamboat Springs between the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area and the west end of town.

Parks and Wildlife officials caution some form of angling restrictions could be re-enacted should environmental conditions worsen…

“Fish early when it’s cooler, and take care when handling fish,” he said. “Land them quickly, handle them gently with wet hands, or use a net, then return them to the water as soon as possible.”

The mandatory closure was implemented June 14 to protect the fishery after minimal snowpack resulted in low stream flows during the hottest time of the year. Since then, Parks and Wildlife has been continuously monitoring conditions on this stretch of river.

Anglers are encouraged to call their local Parks and Wildlife office for the latest information about fishing closures, fishing conditions and alternative places to fish.

For more information, contact Stagecoach State Park at 970-736-2436, or Parks and Wildlife’s Steamboat Springs office at 970-870-2197.

@CWCB_DNR OKs leases for Ruedi Reservoir water to help endangered fish — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver

A map of the Fry-Ark system. Aspen, and Hunter Creek, are shown in the lower left. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities.

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board on Wednesday approved two leases of water from Ruedi Reservoir designed to help different types of fish populations in the Colorado and Fryingpan rivers.

For the fourth year in a row the state agency will lease water from the Ute Water Conservancy District to bolster flows in what’s known as the “15-mile reach” of the Colorado River between the Palisade area and the confluence of the Gunnison River in Grand Junction. That stretch of the river is critical habitat for native endangered fish species, including the humpback chub.

This year’s renewed lease agreement will allow the CWCB, which was meeting this week in Glenwood Springs, to release from Ruedi Reservoir 6,000 acre-feet of water held for the Ute Water Conservancy District by the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir.

At $7.20 per acre-foot, it will cost $43,200 and come out of the CWCB’s species conservation trust fund. The water releases will take place during September and October, according to Linda Bassi, chief of the CWCB’s stream and lake protection department.

“It’s really important for us to be providing water to the 15-mile reach,” Bassi told the directors of the CWCB. “Every drop counts.”

The directors of the CWCB met Wednesday and Thursday as part of their practice of meeting in different parts of the state. On Tuesday, the agency’s board of directors took a tour of Ruedi Reservoir and attended an informational event at the Aspen Yacht Club on the reservoir hosted by the Southeastern Water Conservancy District.

On Wednesday, Bassi described for the directors some of the drastic impacts that low flows can have on fish, including making fish more vulnerable to avian predators, leaving them stranded in small pools or even causing them to get sunburned.

Large diversions on the Colorado River above Palisade that send irrigation water to the Grand Valley, along with other diversions upstream on the river system, can cause the 15-mile reach flows to plummet to detrimental levels.

To help offset the diversions, officials with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program have set a low-flow target of 810 cubic feet per second this year. The leased water aims to help meet that target.

Since the beginning of July, the flows in the 15-mile reach have fluctuated between about 400 to 500 cfs, well below the target of 810 cfs.

A condition of the lease between Ute Water and the CWCB is that releases from Ruedi will not exceed 300 cfs and will not cause flows in the lower Fryingpan River below the reservoir to exceed 350 cfs, as flows at that level can make it difficult for anglers to wade in the popular fly-fishing river.

The lower Fryingpan on Wednesday flowed at 150 cfs.

WINTER FLOWS IN FRYINGPAN

The CWCB board also approved a lease from the Colorado River Water Conservancy District to increase winter flows on the lower Fryingpan. The proposal was first introduced in May.

The lease will boost the minimum instream flow below Ruedi Reservoir between Jan. 1 and March 31 from 39 cfs to 70 cfs in an effort to prevent the formation of anchor ice.

Low streamflows, combined with frigid temperatures, can lead to ice forming on the bottom of the river. This has a negative effect on aquatic insects, which are food for the brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout that call the lower Fryingpan home.

Under the agreement, the CWCB will pay $65.25 per acre-foot to lease up to 3,500 acre-feet from the River District, for a total cost of $228,775.

The district owns a total of 11,413.5 acre-feet of water in Ruedi, with 7,500 acre-feet of that available for leasing. Of the total the district owns, 5,412.5 acre-feet is to support flows for the endangered fish recovery program.

The proposal to maintain a healthy food source for the “gold medal” fishery’s population of trout was a collaboration between the River District and the Roaring Fork Conservancy, which is based in Basalt.

“We are excited to see [the lease] approved and to partner with the CWCB and the River District,” said Heather Tattersall Lewin, watershed action director for the Conservancy. “It’s really the first lease of its kind.”

DIFFERING COSTS

Although the CWCB board unanimously approved the Ruedi water leases, two board members raised questions about the differing cost per acre-foot for the two projects.

At more than $65 per acre-foot, the River District water costs roughly nine times more than the water leased from Ute Water.

Over the previous three years, the CWCB has spent a total of $194,400 on the Ute Water lease for a total 27,000 acre-feet.

Board member Patricia Wells, who represents the city and county of Denver, said she was trying to reconcile the dramatic difference in price.

Jim Yahn, the current CWCB chair, who represents the South Platte River basin, asked whether CWCB staff had negotiated the cost of the lease with the River District. They did not, Bassi said.

“It struck me, the price difference,” Yahn said.

River District Chief Engineer John Currier explained that earlier this year, in response to the leasing proposal, his organization created a third use-category in addition to its existing categories of agriculture and municipal/industrial: in-channel use.

The River District then decided to market the water at the same price as they do for agriculture use.

“The River District runs a water marketing enterprise,” Currier said. “It’s my job to make sure that enterprise runs in the black.”

Ute Water External Affairs Manager Joe Burtard said the water provider does not try to generate revenue with its leases; instead it simply wants to cover its costs associated with operation and maintenance of the reservoir.

The cost of the River District water didn’t seem to bother board member Russ George, who represents the Colorado River basin on the CWCB board. He said the instream flow leases demonstrate the importance of Ruedi as a storage unit.

“I’m delighted the River District bought the water and we have it for use today,” he said.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post Independent on the coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Organizers of Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan effort tab Steering Committee members

Arizona Water News

The co-sponsors of the statewide effort to complete a Drought Contingency Plan for  Arizona that helps protect Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels have named their Steering Committee.

The 37-member panel, co-chaired by Tom Buschatzke of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Ted Cooke of the Central Arizona Project, will gather for the first time on July 26 at the CAP board meeting room in north Phoenix.

The meeting is a first, major step toward bringing DCP to closure in Arizona by addressing a broad range of issues that respect the concerns of all Colorado River stakeholders across the state. The two co-sponsoring organizations previously hosted two public briefings illustrating the need for a Colorado River system-wide DCP and the perils facing the system without one.

The Steering Committee gatherings also will be open to the public.

The Steering Committee’s goal is to prepare the way…

View original post 19 more words

#NewMexico: 2018 Draft State Water Plan Released

A forested lava dome in the midst of the Valle Grande, the largest meadow in the Valles Caldera National Preserve

Here’s the release from the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer / Interstate Stream Commission:

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC), in collaboration with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (OSE), has released the 2018 Draft New Mexico State Water Plan. The State Water Plan provides important information about the state’s water resources and strategies to plan for the state’s water future. For the first time, a public review and comment period has been incorporated for the Draft State Water Plan.

The ISC began working on the State Water Plan in April 2017, following the completion of the last Regional Water Plan. This draft plan has been developed on schedule and under budget.

“Getting the public’s input is a valuable aspect to ensuring all New Mexicans have a say in planning for New Mexico’s water future,” said Interstate Stream Commission Director John Longworth. “This plan will help New Mexicans make informed decisions that will allow the state to grow and change as needed and yet still preserve what people love about the state.”

The plan has three parts:

Policies: provides descriptions of proposed water resource management policies.

Technical Report: The 16 Regional Water Plans and attendant recommendations developed through a collaborative process at the December 2017 New Mexico State Water Plan Town Hall have informed and influenced the state water policies.

Legal Landmarks: provides summary information about historic decisions in New Mexico water law establishing the legal structure for water resource administration.

The 16 Regional Water Plans and attendant recommendations developed through a collaborative process at the December 2017 New Mexico State Water Plan Town Hall have informed and influenced the state water policies. Additionally, many state agencies have participated in the review of the draft plan and provided valuable input. The ISC has also been active in conducting tribal consultation to ensure tribal concerns have been incorporated in the State Water Plan.

There will be a 30 day public comment period. Comments on the plan can be submitted online via the above website or can be mailed to Lucia F. Sanchez, Interstate Stream Commission Water Planning Program Manager, 407 Galisteo Street, Santa Fe, NM 87504. The Draft New Mexico State Water Plan can be accessed at http://nmose.isc.commentinput.com.