Hot Sulphur Springs: New ordinance seeks to protect the Colorado River upstream from the town’s water intake

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina): “A law adopted to protect Hot Sulphur Springs’ water supplies sent resident Yvonne Knox to Town Hall to point out its unforeseen consequences…

“‘We never heard about it until we got a copy of it after it was passed,’ she said. ‘It’s hypocritical — you turned around and did exactly what you accused someone else of doing.’

“Admitting that the law was a ‘knee-jerk” reaction to Grand County’s proposal to locate a trash transfer station just outside town, Hot Sulphur Mayor Hershal Deputy said the town board’s primary intent was to protect the Colorado River upstream from the town’s water intake.”

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities snags a permit from Fremont County commissioners

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The Fremont County commissioners approved Colorado Springs Utilities’ permit application for the Southern Delivery System through the county today, according to a report from Debbie Bell writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

The permit will allow CSU to build a water intake and pump station north of the Arkansas River near Colo. 115, two additional pump stations, 17 miles of 66-inch diameter pipeline and an electric substation and transmission facilities to transport up to 78 million gallons of water a day to Colorado Springs. CSU and its partners, Security and Fountain, already own the water rights and are seeking a long-term method of transportation.

More coverage from the Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

Colorado Springs Utilities received approval from Fremont County commissioners Tuesday to build a water pipeline from the Arkansas River, the backup plan for the Southern Delivery System. Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a special review use permit.

While Utilities officials still hope to build a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, they were thrilled to finally receive a county approval after more than a decade of planning on the controversial project. “It just makes sure this is the viable alternative we’ve always said it was,” said Utilities’ project manager John Fredell.

The approval was timely. Utilities officials are seeking a permit from Pueblo County, and were supposed to have been in Pueblo tonight for the fifth part of a hearing to find out what conditions that county will attach to approval for a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir. But Pueblo County on Tuesday postponed it to March 18, the second time it had been pushed back, to give its staff more time to review the project.

Update: Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain:

The approval came with lots of strings attached, as well as some unfinished, frantic bargaining with local water users. The Fremont County route, ranked as a backup plan to SDS through Pueblo County both by Colorado Springs Utilities and the Bureau of Reclamation, would cross 17 miles of mostly uninhabited land on its way to serve Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain water needs…

Fremont County commissioners struggled during a 2-hour meeting Tuesday to develop conditions that would cover unknown conditions centered on the Penrose area. Finally, they gave approval. “It still comes with the expectation that Colorado Springs will negotiate in good faith,” Commissioner Ed Norden said.

The Beaver Park Irrigation Co. and Penrose Water both would like to connect to the pipeline if it is built in Fremont County, but don’t know if they can afford to become partners or how the timing of SDS would affect other water projects already in the works.

The Natural Resources Conservancy Agency has a plan to build flood control detention ponds in Penrose, and is concerned about whether some of the same rights of way needed for the proposed pipeline would interfere.

Florence has been assured that its Arkansas River park would be better protected from floods, and its council supports SDS, but there’s nothing in writing. Colorado Springs has only just begun discussions with the major shareholders on the Lester & Attebery ditch, whose headgate it proposes to rebuild for its river intake.

Beaver Park and Penrose asked for more time to see if deals could be worked out. “One of our major concerns is the environmental impact statement,” said Lissa Pinello, president of the Penrose District. “Without a good estimate, we don’t know if the cost would be too high for us.”[…]

The dilemma for Penrose is that it already is making plans for a $9.7 million project to develop a delivery system for water rights it purchased in the western end of the county. There is an opportunity to save more than $2 million by joining SDS, but state loans and grants already are in place for the existing project. Colorado Springs would bend its own rules and allow Penrose to share rights of way for pipelines if it could not afford SDS, Fredell added. Beaver Park finds itself in similar straits. “There is an awful lot of financial burden that we cannot afford,” said Beaver Park Superintendent Tom Sanders. “We would like to be able to afford getting into this.” Norden, in particular, pushed Beaver Park and Penrose officials on determining what sort of requirement the commissioners could put into the lengthy list of conditions…

In the end, it was Colorado Springs that suggested a plan to resolve the conflict. Fredell laid out a 90-day timetable for negotiations with the two districts, promising to provide more complete cost figures. Colorado Springs also headed off the issue of flood control detention ponds by offering to provide fill for the project from the hole it would be digging for the pipeline. Fredell also assured commissioners that Colorado Springs will reach a written agreement for the park at Florence and has been talking to the Grisenti family on the Lester & Attebery Ditch.

Commission Chairman Mike Stiehl voiced a concern about maintaining both existing flow requirements and potentially more restrictive requirements in the future to maintain water quality for the Eastern Fremont County Sanitation District. Those rights are attached to court decrees, said Colorado Springs Utilities water rights specialist Keith Riley. Earlier in the meeting, the commissioners indicated their concerns would be limited to the portions of the project they permit, leaving water rights and environmental compliance issues to the agencies that are charged to enforce them.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo and Fremont counties continue hearings

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Deliberations in two counties over a pipeline that primarily would serve a third continue this week.”

[More…]

Fremont County commissioners are scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. today at the Fremont County Courthouse on the Southern Delivery System to consider a proposal by El Paso County communities Colorado Springs, Security and Fountain to build a pipeline through 17 miles of the Fremont County north of Florence. The route is Plan B for Colorado Springs, which actually wants to start the pipeline at the Pueblo Dam.

Pueblo County commissioners have scheduled a hearing for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Pueblo County Courthouse to review a staff proposal for conditions on the $1.1 billion pipeline, which would pass through seven miles of Pueblo West and seven miles of Walker Ranches.

Pueblo West would tap into the pipeline if it comes from Pueblo Dam. Neither commission board plans to accept public comment as part of the hearings this week, but the public would have an opportunity to comment on the Pueblo County plan, once it is finalized. Fremont County closed comments at the Feb. 10 hearing and are required by their own regulations to make a decision within 45 days, Chairman Mike Stiehl said. The Bureau of Reclamation still has not issued a record of decision that would allow contract negotiations to begin.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

La Niña settles in for the spring

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Colorado’s snowpack is largely due to early winter snows and the outlook for the rest of the spring is warm and dry, according to a report from Karen Crummy writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

The National Weather Service has just issued its three-month forecast for Colorado: warmer and drier conditions than normal over most of the state. And don’t let those snowcapped mountains and reports of above-normal snowpack fool you. Since December, the amount of snow in the mountains has been minimal, and the snowpack is declining.

The driving factor in our weather is La Niña, said Ed O’Lenic, chief of the operations branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center in Washington, D.C. The water in the Pacific Ocean is colder than average, and that affects the pattern of the jet stream, he explained…

January tied as the 10th driest on record in Denver, with only 4.9 inches of snow, the city said; an all-time record high temperature for the date was set Jan. 21 with 71 degrees…

Nolan Doesken, climatologist for the state of Colorado, said the eastern part of Colorado has been dealing with dry conditions for a decade, with 2002 the worst. He said the drought came creeping back in earnest in early 2008 and that by the end of July, most of eastern Colorado was in the depths of drought. “We flirt with drought (every year), and even an average year is barely enough to do what we are trying to do in terms of agricultural activities in the semi-arid high plains,” he said.

Fort Collins conservation plan

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan): “Plans to ramp up water conservation efforts in Fort Collins include a couple of tried-and-true methods – education and financial incentives. Putting those plans to work would likely mean higher rates for water customers even as average per capita demand for water decreases, officials say. Using less water has broad impacts, including prolonging the longevity of facilities that deliver water, said Patty Bigner, spokeswoman for Fort Collins Utilities.”

[More…]

The City Council today is scheduled to review a proposed water conservation plan aimed at reducing the average daily use of water by about 10 percent…

The proposed plan includes offering rebates to homeowners for installing high-efficiency toilets and updating irrigation-system technology. It also calls for more public education, such as clinics on xeriscaping. Commercial and institutional customers also would be offered incentives for installing water-efficient appliances as well as toilets and urinals. Restaurants might be offered new spray
valves that reduce the amount of water used during rinsing of dishes before they go into a washing machine from three to 10 gallons per minute to 1.6 gallons per minute…

Current water conservation programs cost about $244,500 a year. If the conservation plan is adopted and its recommendations make it through the city’s budget process, that cost could jump to $885,625 by 2012. The increased funding is likely to come through higher rates, said Dennis Bode, water resources manager for the utilities department. How rates would change depends on several factors, he said. Water consumption has dropped since the drought year of 2002 in part because of tiered water rates, which charge incrementally more for greater use, and public awareness of the importance of conservation, Bode said.

Kayak park for Basalt?

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Recreational In Channel Diversions are one way to help keep water in streams. The increased flows also mitigate against storage projects upstream from the RICD due to the need to deliver water at the point of the RICD instead of storing it. Steamboat Springs’ RICD has been cited as having this effect.

Here’s a report on efforts by Pitkin County to back a new kayak park in Basalt from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for the Aspen Daily News. From the article:

Ely has been developing the Basalt kayak park idea for months and says so far he has received positive feedback from “individuals in the kayak and rafting communities, fishermen, representatives of CDOT, officials from the town of Basalt, and members of the consulting firm that worked on the Basalt River Master Plan.” “Although the idea of a river park began as a vehicle for enhancing and improving the environmental condition of this particular reach of the Roaring Fork, it became readily apparent that such a recreational resource would be highly prized, widely accepted and utilized by a great number of kayakers and rafters in the mid-valley area,” Ely wrote in a memo to Town Council…

“The concept of a river park or kayak course began as a vehicle with which to enhance stream flows on this reach of the Roaring Fork River, to enhance the natural riparian habitat that could develop in this area and to stimulate active recreation and use of real property already owned by Pitkin County in this area,” Ely wrote. Pitkin County paid for a preliminary feasibility study by The McLaughlin Group, which found that flows in that stretch of the Fork were generally high enough to create play waves for kayaks, but that they would be much smaller than the monster kayak wave recently built in the Colorado River in West Glenwood Springs…

With funding from Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, Ely has also hired Jason Carey of River Restoration — who created the Glenwood wave — to do a preliminary conceptual design for the Basalt whitewater park. Carey’s design includes a sidewalk and parallel parking spaces between Two Rivers Road and the river, as well as accessible multi-level overlooks and stairs leading down to the river. In the river channel itself there would be two “whitewater structures” and two groupings of “habitat boulders” at either end of the whitewater park.