Pitkin County hammers out makeup of ‘Healthy Rivers’ board

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The Pitkin County commissioners have decided on the makeup of the board that will implement the goals for the county’s new “Healthy Rivers” fund, established in the November election, according to a report from John Colson writing for the Aspen Times. From the article:

It is to be a seven-member, appointed board. Five of those appointed must live in Pitkin County while the other two must be from within the Roaring Fork River watershed. The members will serve four-year terms that will be staggered to begin with so that the entire board does not change over at one time, and the in-country members will be appointed to represent each of the five commissioner districts, if possible…

The board, at this point in its formation, is to meet once a month to start with, and is to make recommendations to the commissioners on how to spend roughly $1 million in annual revenues from a 1 cent sales tax approved by Pitkin County voters in November 2008. According to the wording of the ballot question, the county is to spend the money on maintaining and improving water quality and quantity within the Roaring Fork River watershed; to buy, modify, lease or otherwise manage water rights; work to assure minimum stream flows in local waterways; and other actions…

County Manager Hilary Fletcher directed the triad of staffers who will work with the new board — planning director Cindy Houben, Open Space and Trails director Dale Will and Ely — to come up with a preliminary training budget for the board members, to help them get up to speed on the complicated water laws governing Colorado and the Colorado River Basin.

Colorado Springs recruiting new member for Stormwater Advisory Committee

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From the Colorado Springs Gazette: “Colorado Springs officials are looking for a citizen to sit on the Stormwater Advisory Committee, a group that oversees the Stormwater Enterprise. The applicant should be someone who represents a public institution, school, military base or government entity that owns property within the city limits.

The committee advises the City Council about the Stormwater Enterprise fees and programs. The enterprise imposes fees on property owners and uses the money to repair and upgrade the city’s system for handling rain water that doesn’t absorb into the ground.

Applicants should send letters of interest and resumes before March 13 to mdevine@springsgov.com or mail to City Council, Attention Marti Devine Sletta, P.O. Box 1575, Colorado Springs, 80901. Applicants can also fill out an application online at http://www.springsgov.com; click on the ‘City Council & City Management’ link, and then the ‘City Boards and Commissions’ link. For questions, call 385-5453.”

Dry Gulch Reservoir update

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Here’s an update on the Pagosa Water and Sanitation District’s proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, from Chuck McGuire writing for the Pagosa Sun. From the article:

New numbers are in, the reservoir is shrinking and a related, controversial fee will likely decrease. Nevertheless, revised cost estimates of the entire Dry Gulch project have risen dramatically. A crowd gathered at the Vista Clubhouse Monday evening, as engineering, financial and legal consultants joined two local water districts in presenting an updated public overview of area growth projections, water demand and storage needs. The two-hour program centered on the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, to be located two miles northeast of Pagosa Springs…

The latest estimate considers a smaller reservoir, of just 19,000 acre feet — plus all related infrastructure — as well as a new treatment plant and transmission pipelines that will provide potable water service to meet increased demand resulting from growth. Though the comparison is hardly apples to apples, the fully-developed cost through the life of the project now appears to be $356.5 million, or more than double the previous estimate. However, the cost of the raw water component and related infrastructure alone — as was estimated before — would now run $216.5 million, or $66.5 million more than originally thought. The difference is largely attributable to a vastly more detailed analysis and calculations in 2008 dollars. Of course, the price of the treatment plant and transmission pipelines must also be included in plan projections, and is now estimated at $140 million…

A few years ago, the districts and community taxpayers decided new growth should pay for additional raw water storage and all related infrastructure. Therefore, PAWSD created a Water Resource Fee (WRF) component as part of its Capital Investment Fee (CIF), to help offset the cost of Dry Gulch. The CIF, meanwhile, generates revenue to pay for added treatment and delivery of water to new users throughout the PAWSD district. Both fees are assessed against new development. The amount of money each fee will generate through the life of the Dry Gulch project depends on the actual rate of growth the community sees. But at Monday’s presentation, PAWSD staff and consultants predicted the increase in Equivalent Units (EUs) — a widely accepted measure of water demand — would average 3.9 percent through the year 2055. If so, a WRF of $5,617 per EU, at 36,413 new EUs, would bring in nearly $205 million, while a CIF of $3,579 for the same number of EUs would draw more than $130 million. The total, then, would cover all but approximately $21 million of the entire project.

Here are Part One and Part Three (I couldn’t find a link for Part Two) of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Conjures $357 Million Project in Dry Gulch running in the Pagosa Daily Post.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Taylor Park Dam hydroelectric retrofit

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Here’s an update on the proposal to retrofit the Taylor Dam with hydroelectric generation facilities, from Evan Dawson writing for the Crested Butte News. From the article:

Last fall the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority announced they would offer $15,000 in matching grants for entities willing to study potential small-scale hydropower projects across the state.

Hearing this, the UGRWCD invited several members of a hydropower-engineering firm from the Front Range out for a tour of the Gunnison Valley to see if the local waterways had any potential. The engineers from TCB Aecomm said the Taylor Park Dam could be easily outfitted with a hydroelectric generator capable of generating one megawatt of electricity. With a little more work, the engineers estimated, the dam could generate even more electricity, but how much more was hard to say without further study.

Following [a recent] tour, the UGRWCD met with representatives from GCEA and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (which holds rights to the water in Taylor Park Reservoir) and the three entities agreed to become partners in a hydropower feasibility study of the dam and split the necessary matching grant funds, which totaled $15,000. The Water Resources and Power Development Authority ended up approving 11 grant requests across the state, including the UGRWCD’s. The district will be sending out a request for proposals soon to engineering firms interested in completing the feasibility study, which should commence sometime this spring. “We’re going to make it an open process by sending out an RFP. We hope to have a contractor selected by the end of March,” Kugel says.

If a hydropower project is determined to be feasible, the UGRWCD will step back and GCEA will oversee the construction, generation and sale of power from Taylor Dam. “Our main goal was to have a hand in the feasibility study,” Kugel says. A lease for power production would also need to be obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the dam itself. Kugel says the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association would be the most logical entity to apply for that lease. “With this feasibility study we’ll really be able to quantify the value [of a hydropower project] and hopefully move ahead,” Wells says…

Taylor Park Reservoir sits about nine miles northeast of Almont, at the end of a winding narrow canyon that is well known for its incredible fishing.
The reservoir is held back by a 200-foot-high earthen dam that stretches more than 600 feet across the narrowest section of Taylor Canyon before it opens up into the high plains of Union Park.
Two giant pipes, or penstocks, carry water from the bottom of Taylor Reservoir to a gatehouse on the other side of the dam. The penstocks lie in a tunnel carved through solid rock on the north side of the canyon…

Beyond the gatehouse, the two penstocks stretch more than 200 feet down a narrow tunnel. One of the penstocks is slightly larger than the other, and is the primary target for installing a hydroelectric generator…

Taking up most of the space in this room were a pair of large hydraulic pistons that control the intake gates. Most of the work to install a hydropower turbine would take place back in the tunnel.
There, workers would have to remove a section of the larger penstock and install a turbine. The penstock was divided into eight-foot sections that were held together by no fewer than 25 large bolts. Since the penstocks themselves are four feet in diameter, and the tunnel they are situated in is a little more than 10 feet in diameter, there would be very little room for error…

From the turbine’s installation point, electric cable would be wired to a transformer that sits just outside the gatehouse. Wells says there is an electric line in place between the transformer and the main line on County Road 742. Wells says the existing line has a carrying capacity of one and a half to two megawatts. “There would be some fairly sophisticated metering that would go on. That transformer would more than likely be the point, but it is an old service point. We might want to upgrade that line out to the road. It’s a new chunk of line going forward after that. We want to plug into the most reliable source,” Wells says. Kugel says the power that could potentially be generated by the dam could satisfy all the homes between Almont and Tincup.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Eagle makes summer watering rules mandatory

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From the Vail Daily: “In a unanimous vote, the Eagle Town Board changed its long-term voluntary summer yard watering schedule from a voluntary program to a mandatory one. There were two primary reasons for the change — to ensure adequate stream flow in Brush Creek and to address capacity issues at the town’s water treatment plant. The normal watering restrictions in the new town ordinance are identical to the existing town program. The schedule calls for house addresses that end in an even number to water on even-numbered days and house addresses that end in an odd number to water on odd-numbered days. Lawn watering is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily…

“In addition to the regular rules, the new water ordinance includes provisions for drought. A Stage II restriction will come into play on years when the snowpack is determined to be less than 80 percent of normal on April 1. At this point there will be restriction for spas, swimming pools and washing vehicles. During an extremely dry year such as 2002 or 1977, a Stage III restriction will be enacted that will cut back lawn watering to a maximum of two days per week.”

Republican River Basin: New metering rules now in effect

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From The Yuma Pioneer: “It is a new world for owners of high-capacity wells in the Colorado Republican River Basin. Measurement Rules from the Colorado Division of Water Resources went into effect January 1. The first big deadline is Sunday, March 1, when all high-capacity wells within the basin, which includes all of Yuma County, must be equipped with some kind of method measuring the amount of water used by the well. Well owners are either equipping their wells with a totalizing flow meter, or with an alternate method of measurement (such as the power conversion coefficient) that is granted a variance. The only other alternative is to have wells declared inactive. All irrigated farmers, basically, have to have a measurement device with their wells. Wells that are permitted for small-capacity type uses (50 gallons per minute or less, domestic-type uses, livestock uses) are exempt…

“State Engineer Dick Wolfe said last summer that the Measurement Rules were necessary to help the state get a handle on the total amount of ground water being diverted, to help the state comply with the Republican River Compact. There has been talk the Measurement Rules are the first step toward the state limiting appropriations. Keeler acknowledged that other parties have held meetings regarding conservation and extending the life of the Ogallala Aquifer. However, ‘the Division of Water Resources has not taken a stance on limiting the amount of water, beyond the limit imposed one each well by its final permit.'”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

HB09-1233: Recognize Acequias

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Representative Edward Vigil. Vigil, a Democrat from Costilla County, has introduced HB09-1233, Concerning the Recognition of Acequias, and, in Connection Therewith, Authorizing Acequia Ditch Corporations (pdf), according to a report from Larry Winget writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

The bill would allow an existing water conservancy district to convert to an acequias conservancy district, an acequia water conservancy district, or a subdistrict. Under 09-1233, such a district would: Hold elections pursuant to a one landowner-one vote system; Require owners of land irrigated by an acequia within the district to contribute labor to the maintenance and repair of the district’s acequias or pay an assessment in lieu of labor; Hold a right of first refusal regarding the sale, lease, or exchange of any surface water right that has historically been used by the acequias to irrigate long-lot land within the district.

Section 37-2-107 defines an acequia as a community irrigation ditch with several features. One: an acequia must have originated in Spanish Law and Land Grants prior to Colorado’s Statehood. Two: It has historically treated water as a community resource and has therefore attempted to allocate water based upon equity in addition to priority. Three: It relies essentially on gravity-fed surface water diversions. Four: It supplies irrigation water to long lots that are perpendicular to the stream or ditch to maximize the number of landowners who have access to water. Five: It has historically been organized pursuant to a one landowner-one vote system. Six: An acequia has historically relied on labor supplies by the owners of irrigated land within the acequias community.

The House bill concerns acequia conservancy and acequias water conservancy districts to be formed which are located “wholly in one or more of the Counties of Costilla, Conejos, Huerfano and Las Animas.” In the reasoning placed into the bill for its adoption, Vigil mentions that the Town of San Luis is recognized as the oldest town in Colorado. He states that citizens of San Luis brought the acequia system of community irrigation with them from colonial Mexico and that the San Luis People’s Ditch is the oldest water right in Colorado. It carries a priority date of April 10, 1852, in the amount of 21 cubic feet per second from the Culebra Creek, in Costilla County. In the bill, it is written that Colorado’s Territorial session laws from 1868, 1872, and 1874 recognized the validity of acequias within the Counties of Costilla, Conejos, Huerfano, and Las Animas. The bill states, “Upon adoption of Colorado’s Constitution, the prior appropriation system became the law governing water allocation; and The prior appropriation system is, in fundamental ways, inconsistent with the community-based principles upon which the acequias were founded.”

Snowpack news

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From the Rocky Mountain News (Bill Scanlon): “It’s been a dry 2009 in metro Denver so far. Through Thursday, Denver International Airport has recorded just 0.17 inches of precipitation, National Weather Service meteorologist Frank Benton said…Snowfall is well below average for the season, as well. Since September, there has been just 16.9 inches. Typically, about 40 inches of snow falls between September and the end of February.”

Alamosa scores $500,000 for water system rehab from federal omnibus bill

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From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide): “San Luis Valley-bred U.S. Representative John Salazar on Wednesday announced $500,000 in federal funding for Alamosa’s municipal water system rehabilitation…

“Salazar explained that the $500,000 in the omnibus bill for Alamosa is a direct grant, with no match required, that will rehabilitate Alamosa’s municipal water system including replacement of old cast iron water lines that date to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The funding comes at a time when Alamosa has experienced problems with discoloration in its water system partially due to some of those old pipes. ‘This funding will help protect the drinking water quality for Alamosa residents and will reduce the burden of construction and maintenance costs for taxpayers,’ said Congressman Salazar. ‘We must continue to invest in an infrastructure that will safeguard our water quality for future generations.'”

New irrigation consumptive rules for the Arkansas Valley?

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Here’s an update on the proposed new irrigation rules for the Arkansas Valley, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A special panel put together by State Engineer Dick Wolfe met Tuesday in Pueblo to review the latest draft of the rules, which incorporated some of [Kansas’] recommended changes, but took others off the table. “We’ll take these back to Kansas, and then meet with the committee again in April before bringing the rules to court in May,” Wolfe said. “I want the in-state users to have the last say.” Kansas attorney John Draper sent a letter to the state last week asking for about 10 changes in the rules. Some were simple matters of wording, while others attempted to get at more substantive changes. All are important to Colorado, because the main purpose of the new rules is to head off any objections from Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact about reduced return flows because of efficiency improvements.

The major concession Colorado will make is including technical information about the Irrigation System Analysis Model which the state is developing to measure how improvements affect return flows. The model could, in theory, change over time as new data develops. It would also be secondary to specific engineering reports on any irrigation system and allow flexibility in how the state engineer could apply it, committee members agreed.

Colorado will identify the rules as specific to compact compliance, not include gated pipe as an improvement because of enforcement difficulties, apply the rules only to post-1999 improvements, maintain historic compact limits on potential damage to Kansas and keep language about nonconsumptive use in the rules, McDonald said. Colorado will modify the rules regarding designated basins, conditions in the Purgatoire Conservancy District, a more structured approach to variances that makes it clear the rules apply and addition of Kansas to the notification list when irrigation changes are made…

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Pueblo County Health Department septic inspections fees to rise

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (John Norton): “Any septic system repairs that require a health department inspection will cost an additional $23 starting next week, according to the associate director of the Pueblo City-County Health Department Environmental Health Division. The local agency charges $40 for inspections of repairs but Ken Williams told the Board of Health Wednesday that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wants a $23 state fee collected, too. Since the new fee went into effect last summer, Williams said it was only collected on new systems, which also carry a $325 local inspection fee. The $23 goes to pay for a staff position at the state level so that local health departments can get help reviewing installations and engineering plans.”

SB09-141: Fountain Creek Watershed District

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Here’s an update on SB09-141, the bill that will set up the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

There could be a handful of minor changes in the bill (SB141), which was discussed Friday at a meeting of the interim board that is extending the work of the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force until the district is created. Although several members were absent, so no action could be taken, the consensus was to make changes that cleared up concerns about the new district…

The interim committee is made up representatives from El Paso and Pueblo counties, which approved an intergovernmental agreement in December. Since then, cities in El Paso County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also have signed the agreement. Pueblo City Council could agree to sign the IGA on Monday. Sewer districts in El Paso County on Friday asked the interim committee to urge lawmakers to spell out the role of regulators in the new legislation…

“I think it’s important to know that the Colorado Water Quality Commission is the final authority in the state on water quality,” said attorney Tad Foster, who represents the Tri-Lake, Upper Monument, Security and Fountain sewer districts. Wastewater plants already are highly regulated, and must meet stringent water quality standards. The new Fountain Creek district should not be in a position to regulate those discharges, Foster said. Foster wanted specific language in the bill that the district would have no authority over municipal sewer plants. The committee agreed…

Attorneys for both counties agreed the changes were appropriate, and recommended another change that would give the new district limited power to act as well as advocate on Fountain Creek issues. The bill would set up a nine-member board that would have jurisdictional authority in the flood plain of Fountain Creek from Fountain to Pueblo. It would also make input on land-use decisions throughout the 930-mile watershed. It would be able to assess taxes in El Paso and Pueblo counties only with voter approval, but could impose service charges or fees.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

New pipeline from Bailey to Conifer and back

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It looks like Conifer Water LLC’s pipeline is going to get built, according to a report from Mike Potter writing for the Fairplay Flume. From the article:

A $24 million water pipeline project between downtown Bailey and Conifer may be close to becoming a reality. John McMichael, the managing partner for Conifer Water LLC, the company that is planning to build the pipeline, said he looked at the water situation along the U.S. 285 corridor and concluded that demand would soon outgrow the supply of water, and something had to be done. “I thought this is a pipeline situation,” said McMichael, who was one of the founders of Colorado Natural Gas in 1996 but no longer works for the company. McMichael presented his pipeline plans at the Feb. 18 Conifer Area Council town meeting…

The pipeline, consisting of two pipes, would carry about 2.9 cubic feet of water per second out of the North Fork of the South Platte River in Bailey up to Conifer for consumption through one pipe. The water would then be treated and returned to Bailey through another pipe, where it would go back into the river…

McMichael has been working on the project for more than three years, he said, and the project is close to the construction phase. “It’s almost funded,” he said. “[And] all but one or two permits are in place.” McMichael said that when Jefferson County and the state of Colorado set their well policies in the 1950s, it was estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 wells would be drilled by the year 2000 in unincorporated Jefferson County. “By the year 2000, they actually had 28,000 wells drilled,” he said. “I was given a number the other day that now that we’re in 2009, we’re up to 35,000 in unincorporated Jefferson County.” Paul Gisiano, director of program development with Conifer Water, said a solution that would eliminate the dependency on groundwater was needed. That is where water from the Platte River comes in…

Gisiano said the water in the North Fork of the South Platte River will have no problem meeting the demand of Conifer, especially considering that it will be replaced. He said the 2.9 cubic feet of water per second taken from the river is a small fraction of the total amount of water flowing down the river, and everything taken will be replaced about 100 yards farther down the river…

McMichael called the project a “simple loop,” and said that it would operate on a pretty basic principal: replace what is used. Conifer Water would lay two strings of pipe in the ground following Colorado Natural Gas pipelines between Bailey and Conifer. As the pipeline approached Bailey, it would make use of Colorado Department of Transportation-owned land. McMichael said contracts are already agreed upon in principle with all of the parties involved…

One string of pipes will carry potable, or drinkable, water toward Conifer, while the other string will bring effluent water back, and then it would be returned back into the river, leading to no net decrease in water flow down river. McMichael said effluent water is cleaned wastewater that can be returned to the river…

The pipeline is set to serve only districts that have wastewater treatment facilities, he said. Those districts would treat the water themselves before sending it back to Bailey. In the future, when raw wastewater would be transported through the pipe, it would need to be cleaned at the Bailey treatment plant before being returned to the river. The Bailey Water and Sanitation District would get new wastewater treatment and water facilities built, funded by Conifer Water, McMichael said. Both plants would cost around $3 million each and take between three and six months to build, he said. The water treatment facility would belong to the Bailey Water and Sanitation District, but Conifer Water LLC would be its biggest customer.

In exchange for use of the plants, McMichael said, Conifer Water would pay a large tap fee to draw the water. Conifer Water would pay for its use of the Bailey facilities through service fees charged to its customers. He said the new water treatment plant would ensure that there would be no increase in fees for Bailey residents in the water district…

Not all districts are buying into the water pipeline, though. Rick Angelica, president of the Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District, said the pipeline has been an interesting idea, but the proposed price is too high for his subdivision to pay. Will-O-Wisp gets its water from wells and has its own water treatment facility and it plans to use water from Elk Creek for the Tanglewood development near Pine Junction. Angelica said that the cost of getting water from the pipeline would be five to 10 times more expensive than using the district’s water rights…

In addition, the pipeline water might be a good alternative for subdivisions with water that must undergo expensive treatment. Kings Valley-based Mountain Water and Sanitation District has water that contains high amounts of radioactive material, which is expensive to withdraw, according to Gisiano. Marilyn Saltzman, secretary for the district’s board of directors, said the board is exploring the possibility of getting water from the pipeline, but it hasn’t committed to anything yet. She confirmed that there are problems with high levels of radioactive material in the district’s well water that need to be addressed, and water from another source is a possible solution…

McMichael said the money to pay for the pipeline is coming from two private investors and from bonds. He declined to specify what percentage of the costs would be paid by each. He plans to use industrial revenue bonds, which are not guaranteed by the state but are state-sponsored. There is the option for Conifer Water to reorganize into a special district, which would allow it to qualify for tax-exempt bonds, he said. Reorganizing would push the start date of the project back, he said, but even after the project is complete, Conifer Water would still be able to reorganize into a special district. McMichael said he wasn’t sure what would be required for the water pipeline to turn a profit, because it would be based on the interest rate on the bonds. “We want to be competitive,” he said, “but at the same time, water is an expensive commodity in Colorado.” McMichael thinks that the water would be sold through the company for around $4 per 1,000 gallons…

McMichael estimated that it would take three months to lay the pipe between Conifer and Bailey. The pipeline would extend from the Bailey water treatment facilities on County Road 68 at the bottom of Crow Hill to the Conifer Market Place shopping center that houses Staples on the southwest side of Conifer.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Greeley pipeline: Protection of historic railroad grade impacting plans

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Here’s an update on Greeley’s plans to build a new supply pipeline along the route of the historic Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad line, from Cherry Sokoloski writing for the North Forty News. From the article:

As it stands now, Greeley plans to build the pipeline along the route of the old Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad line, a move that would likely destroy the historic resource. Some of the original tracks remain on the corridor, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mary Humstone of LaPorte, a historic preservationist and University of Wyoming professor, applied to have the railroad line designated as “most endangered.” The corridor was one of four places chosen for the 2009 list from 39 nominated sites. “I’m thrilled to get the designation,” said Humstone. “It shows that this is not just of concern to a small group of people in LaPorte and Bellvue. It broadens our case. This statewide organization is saying it’s really important to save these kinds of resources.” Humstone also noted that about 2,000 people, including county commissioners and state legislators, signed a petition urging Greeley to relocate the pipeline. “We’re going to keep pushing them to look at other routes,” Humstone said. The historic railroad line crosses property owned by her and her husband as well as other LaPorte residents.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Oak Creek town board approves grant applications for DOLA dough

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today: “After consulting with a re gional representative from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs on Thursday night, the Oak Creek Town Board opted to proceed with filing grant applications to fund a water meter study for the town and make needed repairs to Oak Creek’s water storage tank.

“After receiving advice from Greg Winkler, DOLA’s regional field manager for the north-central mountains, the town will seek an energy and mineral impact grant for a water meter feasibility study and a Community Development Block Grant for the water tank repairs.”

Moffat County: Duffy irrigation tunnel

Yampa/White/Green/North Platte river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey

Here’s a look at irrigation history up in the Yampa Valley from Shannan Koucherik writing for the Craig Daily Press. From the article:

In the early 1900s, Duffy realized that the production on some of his land was limited due to lack of water. He studied the Bear (Yampa) River and the surrounding hills and devised an ambitious plan to bring water closer to those acres that showed promise.

The Dec. 22, 1904, edition of the Routt County Courier reported the initial plans that Duffy had developed with the help of an engineer. “A plan has been under consideration … to irrigate a large portion of the Bear Valley above Juniper Mountain comprised of the Hodges, K Diamond, Duffy and Murray ranches. … The plans are to tunnel through a spur of the mountain in the large bend of the river just above the ranches. The tunnel will be a little over 2,000 ft. long and will raise the water about 18 ft. above the river at the place where the tunnel emerges from the mountain.”

The work had to be done mostly in the winter with men and horses hauling out the rock and dirt that was blasted from the heart of the mountain. It took six years of hard work and considerable expense to finish the tunnel, which originally was lined with cedar posts.

The project wasn’t without its problems. The engineer made a miscalculation when figuring the digging route — done from both ends and designed to meet perfectly in the middle – and the end of the tunnel that was supposed to be the lower, ended up two feet higher than the input end. Some adjusting and extra digging solved the problem.

Click through and read the whole article.

Upper Yampa River Water Conservancy District keeping an eye on Shell’s application

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The Upper Yampa River Water Conservancy District filed a statement in opposition to Shell’s water court application for a diversion on the Yampa River, according to a report from Melinda Dudley writing for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District filed a statement of opposition on Friday to Shell Frontier Oil and Gas’ Dec. 30 request for substantial water rights on the Yampa River. “We’re in it to look after the constituency and our district,” Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District General Manager Kevin McBride said. “It doesn’t do the Upper Yampa any good to be taking water out.” The water district is joined in its opposition by the South Routt towns of Oak Creek and Yampa. Although upstream of Shell’s proposed diversion in Moffat County, town officials worry that the company’s request could affect future water rights and development across Northwest Colorado.

The term “opposition” can be a bit misleading, McBride said. “Filing an opposition could mean anything from an entity having a real opposition to simply wanting to be notified of the proceedings,” McBride said. “If you want to be notified of the proceedings, you have to oppose.” Town officials in Yampa and Oak Creek, both of which piggybacked on the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District’s opposition, have made it clear that their opposition is more than just a way to stay informed…

Shell’s filing would allocate the Yampa River “basically to 100 percent,” affecting future water rights, Oak Creek Trustee Josh Voorhis said Thursday, when the Oak Creek Town Board agreed to join the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District’s pending opposition. The deadline for oppositions on the matter is today…

[Shell’s proposed reservoir] would be built off the main stem of the Yampa in the Cedar Springs Draw in Moffat County. The proposed reservoir’s potential 45,000 acre-foot size compares to the 33,275 acre-feet in Stagecoach Reservoir and 25,450 acre-feet in the newly expanded Elkhead Reservoir between Hayden and Craig.

Meanwhile the Moffat County Commission approved participation in a groundwater study proposed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, according to a report from the Craig Daily Press. From the article:

[Moffat County Commission]: Approved, 3-0, signing a grant contract with the Colorado Water Conservation Board to hire Colorado Geological Survey to investigate local groundwater and aquifer conditions before widespread coal-bed methane development occurs locally.

California: Governor Schwarzenegger declares drought emergency

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California water supplies are in a world of hurt after another winter of low precipitation including a low snowpack. Yesterday Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency, according to a report from the Palm Springs Desert Sun. From the article:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday after three years of below-average rain and snowfall in California, a step that urges urban water agencies to reduce water use by 20 percent. Mandatory conservation is an option if that and other measures are insufficient. “This is a crisis, just as severe as an earthquake or raging wildfire, and we must treat it with the same urgency by upgrading California’s water infrastructure to ensure a clean and reliable water supply for our growing state,” he said in a statement…

In signing the emergency proclamation, Schwarzenegger said California faces its third year of drought and must prepare for more. The drought has forced farmers to fallow their fields, put thousands of agricultural workers out of work and prompted conservation measures in cities throughout the state. “This drought is having a devastating impact on our people, our communities, our economy and our environment, making today’s action absolutely necessary,” the governor said in his statement.

Meanwhile back upstream in Colorado the eastern plains continue to be abnormally dry with the extreme southeast corner of the state in stage 1 drought. The Yampa and White River basins are also abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Windsor: Rate increase

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From the Windsor Beacon (Ashley Keesis-Wood): “The Windsor Water and Sewer advisory board is recommending to the Windsor Town Board that the current water rate be raised by 15 cents per month…The increase amounts to about $1.80 a year, and by raising the rate incrementally, [Windsor Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Drake] said the water and sewer board is trying to avoid hitting customers with a large increase. The board will take up the issue during Monday night’s work session.”