Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program: Water providers are close to the 10825 solution

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It looks like the four endangered fish species that are the focus of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program are going to be doing backflips soon in celebration of an imminent agreement to make sure that flows in the Colorado River through Grand Junction are adequate — the so-called 10825 solution. Here’s a report from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News:

As part of the federally initated Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, East and West Slope diverters committed to supplying 10,825 acre-feet of water in late summer. Responsibility for that amount of water is evenly split between West and East slope water providers. As a temporary solution, Denver Water has been releasing flows from Williams Fork Reservoir to comply, and The Colorado River Water Conservation District has been releasing from Wolford Mountain Reservoir for the West Slope’s share. But with a Dec 20, 2009, deadline looming to come up with a permanent 10,825 acre-feet solution, a coalition formed in 2007 to analyze how the water should be supplied annually. Out of those negotiations, a “preferred” solution has emerged, one concerning the release of about half the water from Granby Reservoir, and the other half from Ruedi Reservoir near Basalt. The plan also includes using excess storage capacity in the Green Mountain Reservoir.

A formal summary of this alternative released in January declares it the only solution on which water users reached a consensus, saying the alternative “will provide the most benefit to headwater streams in the Colorado River Basin, particularly in Grand County, while simultaneously meeting 10825 water obligations.” Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, who originally championed this idea, finds this “kitchen-sink proposal” a positive one, and credits the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District for pursuing it. “The stretch from Windy Gap down to the confluence of the Blue River is always a huge issue for us at that time of year,” she said. “It’s when the flows are lowest and the irrigators have a hard time getting their water. So this will lift up their water and it will make the flow of the river higher at one of the more critical times for stream flows in the county.”

An added benefit, recognized by stakeholders, is the proposed solution uses facilities already in place. In theory, Northern, which owns the greatest percentage of Redtop Valley Ditch (located from Grand Lake to near Granby) shares, has agreed with irrigators to forward 2,700 acre-feet of Ditch water, affecting the Northern-owned and leased Miller-Hereford Ranch. Meanwhile, owners of the C Lazy U Ranch have offered to supply the remainder of the acre-feet. Denver Water and other East Slope water users would compensate Northern and partnering irrigators for the released recovery water. “By us being able to challenge the group to look at something different,” Underbrink Curran said, “and by them seriously taking on that challenge, it will help us to a huge degree at a time of year when we have no way to help ourselves.”

Poncha Springs: Stimulus dough and the wastewater tussle with Salida

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From The Mountain Mail: “Salida City Council members Tuesday night approved having city employees negotiate with Poncha Springs officials for the next 30 days regarding how the compromise would be worked out. The town of Poncha Springs has applied for $1.4 million ranked by federal officials as a level two priority. Town officials approached Salida personnel Monday about a possible compromise. Salida and the town have been locked in a long-standing dispute regarding treatment of sewage from Poncha Springs at the Salida Waste Water Plant and associated charges. Officials from Salida filed a lawsuit five weeks ago in district court seeking to void a 2005 agreement and recover about $100,000 in back charges owed by Poncha Springs. By working toward a compromise to use the stimulus money, legal action would be suspended.”

S.B. 09-141, Fountain Creek Watershed

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S.B. 09-141 which would authorize the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District is awaiting Governor Ritter’s signature. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain:

The new district — officially named the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District — has numerous boundaries with varying authorities. Its overall purpose is to address flooding, drainage, water quality and erosion problems within the creek’s basin.

Initially, El Paso County officials complained that the district included too much of northern county and not enough of Pueblo County. Pueblo County officials, meanwhile, argued that was because most of the creek valley is up north, and most flood or drainage problems naturally begin there. That’s why the 60-page measure includes four different boundaries, each with limited authority…

The last major battle over the measure came in how to define its boundaries. The full boundaries of the district include all of El Paso and Pueblo counties, but a fee and taxing area includes an area smaller than that, but larger than the actual Fountain Creek drainage. The last, and smallest boundary is the flood plain area, a narrow strip that extends from the south end of the city of Fountain to Pueblo’s northern edge. Only there would the district have powers over land-use issues. While the district will have the ability to address wastewater issues, the bill makes it clear that it would be unable to regulate that activity because the state already does that. The House had placed language in the bill to prevent it from addressing wastewater, but it was later taken out. “The amendments in the House were problematic, but they were stripped out, so basically it was the same version that came out of the Senate,” Tapia said. “I talked to the principal players, and they were very happy with how the bill came out. We have a document that we can be pleased that Pueblo is going to be taken care of, and Colorado Springs can buy into.”[…]

The bill also limits to 5 mills how much the district may ask voters to approve to pay for improvements. That amount would raise only about $30 million a year. The district, however, hopes to see more money come to it from a $50 million Southern Delivery System mitigation fund, which it would use to receive a $150 million matching federal grant. That’s where U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., is expected to come in.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

President Obama signs public lands bill which includes Arkansas Valley Conduit authorization

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Here’s an update on authorizing legislation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

At a White House ceremony, Obama signed the bill, which has attracted national attention because it incorporates 170 separate bills and creates 2 million acres of wilderness designation on federal lands. Obama called the new law among the most important in decades “to protect, preserve and pass down our nation’s most treasured landscapes to future generations.” The bill represents one of the largest expansions of wilderness protection in a quarter-century by giving the government’s highest level of protection on land in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia…

Wilderness areas at Rocky Mountain National Park and Dominguez Canyon near Grand Junction are set up and wildlife areas in the San Luis Valley are further protected under the omnibus bill. The bill also includes funds for rehabilitation of irrigation canals in Montezuma County. For Southeastern Colorado, however, the $300 million conduit would be the lasting legacy of the legislation. The conduit was a part of 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but never was built because the communities of the Lower Arkansas Valley could not shoulder the entire cost. About 50,000 people live in the area to be served by the conduit, but many are on low or fixed incomes. The new legislation provides for a 65 percent federal cost share and a plan to repay the entire cost of the project using revenues from Bureau of Reclamation excess-capacity contracts.

“On behalf of the beneficiaries of the conduit, we’re happy that it was signed so quickly,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and a resident of Las Animas, one of the 42 communities that could be served by the conduit. “Hopefully the rest of the project will move as fast.” Long, who also is a Bent County commissioner, has worked on the Southeastern committee trying to secure funding for the conduit for nearly a decade. He thinks the political climate to obtain funding is good since the federal government is looking for shovel-ready infrastructure projects as part of the economic stimulus plan. “This is a good infrastructure project, one that’s been well vetted,” Long said. “We are ready to start the next phase.”

Here’s a summary of the public lands bill proposals for Colorado, from the Associated Press via the Denver Post:

• Rocky Mountain National Park: Designates nearly 250,000 acres of the park as wilderness but allows the National Park Service to battle a bark beetle infestation and fight fires.

• Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area: Designates approximately 210,000 acres of federal land on the Uncompahgre Plateau as a conservation area, including 65,000 as a wilderness area.

• Arkansas Valley Conduit: Obligates the federal government to pay 65 percent of the cost of building the 130-mile water-delivery system from Pueblo Dam to communities throughout the Arkansas River Valley.

• Jackson Gulch: Authorizes $8.25 million to rehabilitate the Jackson Gulch irrigation canal, which delivers water from Jackson Gulch Dam to residents, farms and businesses in Montezuma County.

• Baca Wildlife Refuge: Amends the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act to establish the purpose of the nearby Baca National Wildlife Refuge as “to restore, enhance, and maintain wetland, upland, riparian and other habitats for native wildlife, plant, and fish species in the San Luis Valley.” The law establishing the park lacked a statement of purpose for the refuge.

• Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area: Designates a heritage area in Conejos, Costilla and Alamosa counties in the San Luis Valley. Authorizes up to $10 million in matching funds to protect historic, cultural, natural and recreational resources.

• Colorado Northern Front Range Study: Directs the U.S. Forest Service to study ownership patterns in the lands in the Front Range mountain backdrop, identify areas that may be at risk of development and recommend ways to protect them.

More coverage from Fort Collins Now:

“Folks in communities around this park know they don’t have to choose between economic and environmental concerns; the tourism that drives their local economy depends on good stewardship of their local environment,” Obama said. “Year after year, these communities have worked together with members of Congress in an attempt to ensure that Rocky Mountain National Park will forever remain as breathtaking as it is today. And that is what this bill does from coast to coast.”[…]

Water projects had been a concern for the bill’s detractors, who feared the wilderness designation would impact water infrastructure that predates Rocky, especially the Grand Ditch, which helps irrigate thousands of acres of farmland in Weld County. Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson said he supported the measure after hearing from water groups that it wouldn’t harm existing water infrastructure in the park. “Rocky Mountain National Park is the No. 1 environmental gem in our state, in my opinion,” he said. “Preserving that for future generations, I think, is a very, very wise investment.”[…]

Obama quoted Theodore Roosevelt, whom he called “our greatest conservationist president”: “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”

“This legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted; but, rather, we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share,” Obama said. “That’s something all Americans can support.”

Update: From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The law designates as wilderness about 250,000 acres of the park’s backcountry — 95 percent of the park. It also adjusts the boundaries of the Indian Peaks Wilderness by adding 1,000 acres from the adjacent Arapaho National Recreation Area. The park has been managed as wilderness, even though it lacked the formal designation. The designation won’t affect developed facilities inside the park, including roads and structures used to bring water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. Past efforts to get wilderness designation for the park were hung up by liability issues surrounding the Grand Ditch, which is owned and operated by the Fort Collins-based Water Storage and Supply Co. The designation won’t hamper the park’s efforts in firefighting or fighting the mountain pine beetle. It also won’t block maintenance on 350 miles of trails in the park’s backcountry.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs public hearing April 9th

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Council has set the hearing for 7 p.m. April 9 at Colorado Springs City Hall, 107 N. Nevada. Council intends to vote on the permit at its April 14 meeting. Pueblo County approved the conditions for the permit, which is issued under 1974’s HB1041 that allows cities and counties to regulate projects of statewide scope, following a March 18 public hearing…Written comments will be accepted at the Colorado Springs City Clerk’s office until 5 p.m. April 9.”

Eagle River Water and Sanitation hosting water supply workshop Thursday

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From the Vail Daily:

Officials from Colorado’s Western Slope will gather in Eagle in Colorado’s Vail Valley on Thursday to discuss some of the state’s water supply.

The workshop will start at 9 a.m., Thursday and run until 12:30 p.m. The day will include presentations from officials that deal with problems involving water in the county and region and an overview of basic laws related to water.

Groups that will be at the workshop include the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Office of the State Engineer.

The workshop is open to the public and the full agenda for the meeting is available at http://www.eaglecounty.us. For more information about the meeting, contact County Attorney Bryan Treu at 970-328-8685 or bryan.treu@eaglecounty.us

S.B. 09-165, Drinking Water Wastewater Small Grants

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S.B. 09-165 passed the Colorado House on second reading last Thursday, according to a report from the Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

[State Senator Cory Gardner] was joined on the bill by Rep. Cathleen Curry (D-Gunnison), Sen. Isgar (D-Hesperus), and Sen. Penry (R-Fruita). The bill creates the “Small Communities Drinking Water and Wastewater Grant Fund” and directs up to $10 million a year to small communities across Colorado. The bill does not raise taxes or fees but instead utilizes existing severance tax dollars.

“The passage of SB 165 is a great victory for the people of rural Colorado,” Gardner said. “The funding of these water projects can be very difficult for a small community to bear on their own, and this grant fund will provide the assistance they need to provide clean water for their citizens.” Gardner’s bill will help offset the cost of unfunded federal and state mandates on drinking water and water treatment systems.

The House is expected to take up SB 165 on third reading this week, and if the bill passes it will be sent to the Governor’s desk to be signed.

More coverage from the Greeley Tribune:

Senate Bill 165, co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, and Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, and sponsored in the House by Reps. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and Cathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, creates the Small Communities Drinking Water and Wastewater Grant Fund and directs up to $10 million a year to small communities across Colorado. It passed on second reading in the House last week. The bill does not raise taxes or fees but instead uses existing severance tax dollars. Gardner said the funding would help offset the cost of unfunded federal and state mandates on drinking water and water treatment systems.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

President Obama signs public lands bill

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Colorado Independent (David O. Williams): “Politicians and environmentalists alike were quick to sing the praises of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which President Obama signed into law Monday afternoon at a White House ceremony.”

Colorado Trout Unlimited Annual Dinner & Gala Friday night

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Colorado Trout Unlimited:

Join Colorado’s “Angler in Chief” Governor Bill Ritter at the CTU Dinner & Gala for an evening of camaraderie, great food, live music (including Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet), lively auction bidding and a fantastic view of the mountains from the Grand Hyatt’s Pinnacle Club – 17th and Welton in Denver. Admission ($100) includes dinner and complimentary beer and wine. Click here for an auction item preview.

The auction is CTU’s most important fund raiser. You can play a key role in helping us Protect, Preserve and Restore Colorado’s Coldwater Fisheries and Their Watersheds.

Click here to purchase tickets

La Plata-Archuleta Water District: Looking for funding sources

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From the Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews): “Members of the board of the La Plata-Archuleta Water District looked to see if residents were willing to pay for rural water needs in the face of countywide growth Thursday night at a public meeting put on by the newly formed water district. The meeting was the first in a series of public meetings intended to gauge support for a project board members feel has been needed for some time. Amy Kraft, a consulting engineer with Harris Water Engineering in Durango, discussed the district’s options with attendees. She said growth in the county is contributing to an increasing shortage of domestic water. Isolated agricultural consumers not currently part of other local water grids make up a large part of the district’s constituents. Attendees at the meeting were mainly rural county residents who currently truck water from pumping locations across the county or operate private wells.”

The Water Conservation Yardstick: Measuring success

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Colorado Waterwise’s inaugural event — The Water Conservation Yardstick: Measuring Success — is on tap this week in Denver on Wednesday and Thursday.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum starts tomorrow

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Don’t forget the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum: Water to fuel our future starting tomorrow in Pueblo. It should be a hoot.

Fort Collins: Frog species survey

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Amphibian species are a great indicator of environmental health and they’re fun to watch and catalogue. Here’s an invitation from the city of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program, from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The city of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program is seeking volunteers to help with its frog species survey. The survey will take place in natural areas April through July. Training will be provided 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St. Participants will learn how to identify calls and record and report your findings. For more information or to register, visit www fcgov.com/naturalareas or you can call Susan Schafer at 416-2480 or send e-mail to sschafer@fcgov.com.

Snowpack news

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It’s snowing pretty hard this morning at Gulch Manor. There’s a couple of inches on the lawn. Muddy Waters — official Coyote Gulch chocolate lab — came in looking like a sheep from her early morning romp in the yard.

From the Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham): “In terms of moisture, Pueblo County received as much as 0.4 of an inch of precipitation, according to the Colorado Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Otero County received 1 inch of precipitation; Bent and Prowers counties received as much as 0.9 of an inch; Las Animas, Huerfano, Chaffee and Fremont counties received as much as 0.75 of an inch of precipitation. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the mountain snowpack decreased in February and January as a result of below normal snowfall. This spring storm dropped between 6 inches and a foot of snow in the mountains. ‘While (the snow) helped the fields, the snow they got n the mountains helps shore up our snowpack that will supply our irrigation water,’ [Chuck Hanagan, a Swink resident and executive director of the Farm Service Agency for Otero, Crowley, Huerfano and Las Animas counties] said.”


From the Summit Daily News:

“Snowpack today is 99 percent of average in Colorado,” said Scott Hummer, water commissioner at the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “Even though we’ve had these storms — last week and continuing this week — we haven’t quite gotten back to normal.”

According to Hummer, it’s just barely above the 30-year historic average for snow levels in the Blue River Basin. The pendulum can swing either way through the month of April, so snowpack numbers that really count are the ones that come in on May 1. The Dillon Reservoir is one-fifth of Denver’s water supply. Snowpack above the Dillon Reservoir is above 100 percent.

South Park Heritage Area included in public lands bill awaiting President Obama’s signature

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From the Fairplay Flume: “The bill would make South Park one of 49 National Heritage Areas across the country and one of three in Colorado. According to a March 26 press release from the Park County Office of Tourism and Community Development, a National Heritage Area is a ‘place where natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography.’ The designation means a great deal to the county, said Park County Tourism and Community Development Director Gary Nichols. ‘It’s something we can be known for nationally, if not internationally,” he said. “And at the same time, preserve our resources and quality of life.’ South Park will be listed with other national heritage areas, and be showcased by National Parks as a spot of interest.”

Snowpack news

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From The Aspen Times: “The Aspen area’s snowpack has been above average since early December, but warm temperatures throughout February and March were rapidly eating it up. The overall snowpack for the Roaring Fork River basin increased from 12 percent on March 20 to 14 percent on March 27 thanks to the latest storm, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The federal agency measures snowpack in seven areas around the Roaring Fork basin, including the Crystal and Fryingpan valleys. The agency’s website shows the Roaring Fork basin’s snowpack is one of the largest in the state. The snowpack is below average in many parts of Colorado, the conservation service data indicates. The snowpack east of Aspen near Grizzly Reservoir increased to 17 percent above average from 15 percent above average one week ago, the conservation service data showed. In the Fryingpan Valley, the snowpack fell to 3 percent below average at the Kiln site, at an elevation of 9,600 feet. It remained 7 percent above average at Nast Lake and 13 percent above average at Ivanhoe. In the Crystal Valley, the snowpack remained beefy. It was 22 percent above average at Schofield Pass, 18 percent at North Lost Trail and 8 percent at McClure Pass.”

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliot) via the Sterling Journal Advocate: “Snowfall totals for Thursday included 16.2 inches in Boulder, 12 inches in Greeley, 11.5 inches in northwest Denver, and 17.3 inches in the Westminster/Broomfield area…Nearly 18 inches fell in the unincorporated community of Gothic, near Crested Butte about 120 miles southwest of Denver. The west Denver suburb of Broomfield reported more than 15 inches.”

Telluride: New water main progressing

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From the Telluride Watch: “Proving that there is at least one upside to the current economic crisis, the Town of Telluride is in the process of signing a $429,095 contract with Telluride Gravel to complete the first of two construction phases that will replace the corroded and rupture-prone water main that lies below Colorado Avenue, according to Town Manager Frank Bell. The amount, proposed to the town by the company during a sealed bidding process, will pay for replacement of the line between Aspen and Willow streets and is about half of the $900,000 the phase was expected to cost when the project was originally engineered during much better economic times.”

Arkansas Valley: Sugar beets were once an economic driver

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Here’s the fourth article in Chris Woodka’s series “Taming the Land” running in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Since beets grown in the Arkansas Valley had the highest sugar content of any in the world, it was enthusiastically predicted that just as Cripple Creek had been noted the world over for its gold production, the valley would become celebrated for its unexcelled adaptability to sugar beets,” wrote Dena Markoff in a 1978 article about the National Beet Sugar Co., later the National Sugar Manufacturing Co., at Sugar City. National moved in at a time when Colorado Canal backers were trying to find homesteaders for 80-acre tracts in Crowley County. The company and the canal would be intricately linked in water matters and economics. The Sugar City mill opened in 1900, with a work force housed largely in tents for the first “campaign” – a non-stop operation of about three months that turned stacks of sugar beets into refined sugar.

A writer for the Irrigation Era, a Denver farm trade newspaper, wrote in 1901: “Big dirty beets are dumped in at one end of the factory, and quantities of beautifully white glistening sugar are poured out at the other.”

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Not that big a deal?

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Ed Quillen weighs in on Nestlé Waters North America’s plans for the Hagen Spring, in his column in today’s Denver Post. He writes:

It’s pretty hard to portray Nestle as a benevolent force — do you recall its efforts to promote its baby formula in the Third World? — so I won’t even try. Nor is it easy to defend bottled water in general. I buy Hershey’s chocolate and drink tap water from an expensive but useful CamelBak “portable personal hydration system” that doesn’t spill when I accidentally tip it while reaching for the telephone. Those are personal decisions, although if everyone made the same ones, there wouldn’t be a Nestle controversy here or anywhere else. But bottled water is a legitimate business, whether I like it or not. Nestle plans to take about 200 acre-feet a year (about 125 gallons a minute) from the Arkansas River’s flow. That’s not enough to notice for floating or fishing purposes or any other perceptible environmental effect.

In Colorado water jargon, Nestle is a “consumptive use” from a “junior right.” Nestle will have to make that up so that downstream users with senior water rights are not injured — a process called augmentation…

…it now appears that Nestle is working on a deal with the city of Aurora, which also seems to have acquired more water than it needs, now that home construction is a dormant industry. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like “what’s best for Chaffee County” for Nestle to be cutting checks to Aurora to replace water it’s taking out of Chaffee County. But then again, every tanker truck of water that leaves is that much less for a developer here. And maybe that’s what is best for Chaffee County.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Fort Collins keeping an eye on impacts

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Last year the Fort Collins City Council voted to opposed the Northern Integrated Supply Project. They haven’t taken their eyes off the project, according to a report from Kevin Duggan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

…the proposed reservoir, which would draw water from the Poudre River as part of the controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, still raises many concerns that Fort Collins officials say must be addressed through an extended federal environmental review of the project…

Fort Collins officials are “pleased” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to pursue a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement for NISP based on issues raised by the city, as well as entities such as the city of Greeley and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “I think it’s a testament to the work we did before and the work of others that the Army Corps decided to go ahead,” Stokes said…

The study responding to the city’s issues was done for Northern Water by the engineering firm Black & Veatch, or B&V. Worries cited by the city included whether bringing water from Glade to Horsetooth Reservoir would affect the quality of water in Horsetooth by raising the level of total organic carbon, or TOC, in the reservoir. With Glade drawing on the Poudre during spring runoff, the amount of debris in the water is likely to be higher than what’s typically found in Horsetooth and would force the city to ramp up its treatment practices. The B&V study claims much less water would be transferred from Glade to Horsetooth than the city had assumed in its studies of the project and TOC levels would be significantly lower. The city didn’t have detailed data when preparing its comments on NISP, Stokes said. And it’s still looking for answers to some of its questions about how water transfers would be handled…

“We’re going to do all we can to alleviate the city’s concerns,” [Brian Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District General Manager] said. “We want to get to the bottom of their issues and make them as comfortable as possible with this project.” The process will be helped by a requirement of the supplemental EIS for the project that a “common technical platform” be used in evaluating proposed water projects that would affect the Poudre River, including the city’s proposal to expand Halligan Reservoir, Werner said. Everyone studying NISP and other projects will be using the same data and assumptions when drawing their conclusions, he said…

Other issues raised by Fort Collins on NISP include the affect the project would have on a plume of chemical contamination from a former missile silo near the mouth of Poudre Canyon and whether reduced flows on the river would force the city to make expensive upgrades to its wastewater-treatment facilities. The B&V study claims the city’s concerns about both issues are overstated. But, the information provided through the study and technical documents in the draft EIS do not answer all of Fort Collins’ concerns, said Kevin Gertig, water resources and treatment operations manager for the city.

McPhee Reservoir: Operations meeting April 15th

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From email from Reclamation (Vern Harrell): “The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a McPhee reservoir Operations meeting in Cortez at 60 South Cactus on April 15, 2009 at 2:00 PM to present a 2009 proposed operating plan for releases to the Lower Dolores River. Reclamation has received comments/suggestions on downstream release options from various stakeholder groups and individuals concerning what they would like to see in downstream releases to the Dolores River this year. An agenda of topics to be discussed will be sent out via email April 8. Please…email [vharrell@uc.usbr.gov] or call Vern Harrell at 970-565-0865 with questions you may have.

America’s Infrastructure: 2009 Report Card

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Need some great weekend reading? beSpacific is pointing to the American Society of Civil Engineer’s 2009 Infrastructure Report Card. From the beSpacific post:

“America’s infrastructure picture certainly looks bleak. In urban areas, roadway congestion tops 40 percent. The number of high hazard dams—dams that, should they fail, pose a significant risk to human life—has increased by more than 3,000 just since 2007. Thirty percent of America’s children attend school in overcrowded classrooms. However, a report released today by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) shows that with ingenuity and the right amount of commitment on the part of the nation’s leaders and the American people, the infrastructure crisis we face is a solvable problem.

On January 28, 2009, ASCE released the most recent grades from its Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, assigning the nation’s roads, bridges, water systems and other critical foundations a cumulative grade of D and noting a fiveyear investment need of $2.2 trillion. Today’s comprehensive Report Card examines the basis for those failing grades, while at the same time offering an array of solutions—national, local and personal—for how the nation can repair and revitalize the infrastructure systems it depends on. The report is accompanied by an in depth Web site that offers statelevel infrastructure data on a variety of subjects, including needed drinking water investment, number of deficient bridges and number of high hazard dams that lack an emergency action plan, as well as suggested ways for individuals to take action.”

Southern Delivery System: EPA still concerned over Colorado Springs’ Fountain Creek mitigation

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The EPA is looking closely at Colorado Springs Utilities’ plans for mitigation of increased flows in Fountain Creek resulting from the proposed Southern Delivery System, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

In a Jan. 29 letter, the EPA said most of its concerns over draft documents were answered in the environmental impact statement for the proposed $1.1 billion SDS pipeline project. However, it continued to raise the question of how Colorado Springs would deal with increased flows in Fountain Creek. The EPA estimates base flows in Fountain Creek would increase 40 percent and new development allowed by SDS would increase the intensity of storm flows. “EPA remains concerned about indirect impacts from induced growth resulting from SDS. EPA believes that the indirect impacts due to the increased flows from the (proposed Williams Creek exchange) reservoir and the additional developed flows from both an increase in impervious surfaces and landscape watering will cause greater water quality impacts than are currently identified in the EIS,” wrote Larry Svoboda, regional director of the National Environmental Policy Act. Reclamation refused to acknowledge the project would cause the impacts envisioned by EPA.

“Reclamation’s view is that growth is not a direct or indirect effect of the proposed SDS project, and effects associated with growth are disclosed with the cumulative effects section of the EIS. …There will be minor increases in peak flows and floodplains for Fountain Creek,” Michael Ryan, Reclamation regional director, replied in the document released this week. Reclamation argues that the increase in Fountain Creek flows is only 2 percent, and that a stormwater enterprise created four years ago would continue regardless of which alternative is chosen.

The internal federal struggle would be mostly a moot point if the proposed route of the pipeline from Pueblo Dam is chosen by Colorado Springs City Council. However, Reclamation’s response indicates it would require less in the way of mitigation if the SDS fall-back route through Fremont County is chosen…

Pueblo County commissioners are requiring $50 million for Fountain Creek projects aimed at reducing the effects of erosion, sedimentation and flooding. They also want to make sure Colorado Springs spends $75 million on planned sewer improvements by 2024. There are also other conditions pertaining to Fountain Creek improvements. If the Fremont County route is chosen, Colorado Springs would have to meet only Reclamation’s requirements. They include an adaptive management program, which the EPA endorses and which also is a part of Pueblo County’s conditions.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.

S.B. 09-080, Precipitation Collect Limited Exemptions

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State Senator Jim Isgar’s bill that would allow limited rainwater catchments for rural properties that have an “exempt” well has passed the Colorado House, according to a report from Charles Ashby writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The measure, SB80, allows for the collection of rainwater from up to 3,000 square feet of roof, but only from a residence that is not connected to a domestic water system that serves more than three single-family homes. Additionally, the water can only be used for ordinary household purposes, fire protection, watering of livestock and irrigation up to 1 acre of gardens or lawns. “This is another historical moment in Colorado water law,” said Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan. “For over 100 years, the state engineer would tell you that it’s against the law to capture rainwater in rain barrels. This will allow us to relieve stress and pressure from our groundwater supplies and our stream systems.”

Under the bill, property owners who want to collect rainwater must get a permit from the engineer’s office, and pay a fee for it. The bill, which cleared the Senate early last month, requires a final House vote. Because of changes in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, it will have to return to the Senate to agree to those changes before it can head to Gov. Bill Ritter’s desk.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

‘Green Summit: Blending business & the environment’ set for Fort Collins April 9th

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Green Summit ticket price: $49. [Registration] Sustainability – doing business in a socially and environmentally responsible way – provides abundant opportunities for companies to make money yet remain good environmental stewards. The Green Summit offers speakers and seminars to help us all become better stewards of this mission and learn how to be more “green.”

FREE. [Registration] The 2009 Climate Wise EnvirOvation Awards will be announced at a reception following the Green Summit. Climate Wise is a voluntary, city-run program that is dedicated to helping local business and the environment. Through environmental assessments and creative solutions, the city of Fort Collins Climate Wise Team helps businesses tackle modern-day business challenges that impact bottom lines and the quality of life in Fort Collins. Free with pre-registration.

Moffat County: Reclamation had their eyes on Lodore Canyon early in the 21st century

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Here’s another installment of Shannan Koucherik’s series on the history of water development in Moffat County running in the Craig Daily Press. From the article:

Ladore Canyon, with its steep rock walls seemed like a perfect place to capture the water running down from the Rockies. Properly placed, it also would help control the spring runoff and prevent flooding. The dreamers even caught the ear of President Theodore Roosevelt.

A hundred years ago, the Routt County Courier combined news with editorial input when it reported about a government project, which, had it been successful, would have changed the entire topography and economy of Northwest Colorado.

“The Reclamation Service outfit are still drilling and probing in Ladore canon. It seems to be a part of the business of men employed by the government to keep their faces closed, not to tell what little they do know, but the word has got out somehow that a favorable report has been made lately to headquarters that bedrock has been found, or at least ground upon which a safe foundation for a dam could be built.” (Routt County Courier, Dec. 24, 1908).

Snowpack news

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Readings from the Colorado Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network showed that the storm left anywhere from 0.25 to 1 inch of precipitation as of Friday morning, providing more moisture than most places have seen in months. The network includes spotters in most counties in the Arkansas River basin and is coordinated by Colorado State University. In Otero County, up to 1 inch of precipitation was recorded, the highest reading in the area. Readings in Prowers and Bent counties, where the storm was still centered Friday morning, were 0.3-0.9 inches. In the Upper Arkansas area, there were readings of anywhere from 0.5 to 0.75 inches of precipitation in Chaffee and Fremont counties. Lake County reports were less than 0.2 of an inch, however. Pueblo County received between 0.23 and 0.4 of an inch, which is double the amount recorded for the year to date prior to the storm. Readings in Las Animas and Huerfano counties were 0.4 to 0.75 inches.

“The storm deposited about 6 inches to 1 foot of new snow in the mountains, adding less than an inch of snow water equivalent at most sites that affect the Arkansas River, either in the basin or in the Roaring Fork basin, where water is imported to the Arkansas basin. Snowpack ranges from 2 feet at lower elevations to 5-6 feet above 10,000 feet. Snow water equivalent ranges are from 5 to 18 inches at the sites monitored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.”

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide): “Preliminary snowfall statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center showed reports of 3-5 inches in parts of Alamosa County and as much as 7 inches in neighboring Rio Grande County. Colorado Ski Country USA’s 22 member resorts experienced double-digit accumulation, with many resorts reporting over one foot of new snow within a 24-hour period from Thursday to Friday. The snowstorm left 28 inches at Wolf Creek. The new snow at Wolf Creek brings that mountain up to nearly 400 inches of snow for the season. Wolf Creek hosts a fun race today, March 28. Monarch Ski Area reported 15 inches from this storm bringing its year to date total to 287.5 inches…

“The spring storm also bolstered the snowpack in the Rio Grande Basin. Previous to the snowstorm, the Upper Rio Grande Basin snowpack had dropped to 94 percent of average according to Colorado Division of Water Resources Acting Division Engineer for Division III Craig Cotten. The last few days brought the basinwide snowpack up to 99 percent of average, he added. The latest readings were between 12 and 6 a.m. on Friday, so the snowpack may have actually hit 100 percent of average. ‘It helped some,’ Cotten said. ‘Every little bit helps.'[…]

“Cotten said many of the SNOTEL sites dropped below 100 percent, but the sites farther south on the Conejos River are showing the highest readings with the highest at the Cumbres Trestle sitting at 125 percent of average. ‘So the Conejos is looking fairly good, and overall we are looking to be in decent shape,’ Cotten said.”

From TheDenverChannel.com: “Snow fell on the eastern plains, already socked with 8 to 12 inches, with the town of Yuma reporting 6 additional inches Friday. Winds pushed snow into drifts of more than 5 feet deep. By late Friday, the National Weather Service had dropped blizzard warnings for all but a portion of far southeastern Colorado, where total snowfall could reach 2 feet with wind gusts of 55 mph…

“The storm left about 20 inches of snow in the Rocky Mountains northwest of Denver and about 18 inches in the unincorporated community of Gothic, near Crested Butte, or about 120 miles southwest of Denver. Several Colorado ski resorts touted their bonanza of fresh snow.
The storm also brought Colorado’s snowpack to 98 percent of the 30-year average. The snowpack is a closely watched indicator of how much water will be available for cities, farms and ranches when spring runoff begins.”

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Aurora okays 10 year lease for augmentation water

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The city of Aurora has approved a 10 year lease with Nestlé Waters North America for the company’s Chaffee County Project, according to a report from Adam Goldstein writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Council also lent its approval to a lease agreement with Nestle Waters North America, Inc., a pact that would see Aurora lease up to 200 acre-feet of water in the Arkansas Basin to Nestle Waters North America Inc. for $800 per acre-foot. The agreement passed by a 7-4 vote; councilmembers Renie Peterson, Bob FitzGerald, Larry Beer and Ryan Frazier voted no. Before the measure passed, Councilman Steve Hogan successfully added an amendment that would steer revenue specifically toward lessening water rates and the early redemption of bonds. “I’d like to offer an amendment that indicates that the first use of the proceeds of this agreement … must be used and analyzed for mitigation of rate increases or early bond redemption as a first purpose use.” The council approved the amendment unanimously.

The agreement would be renewed annually for a period of 10 years, and would be contingent on available supply. The water leased from Aurora would go to replace water taken from the Arkansas Valley to bottle and sell. It’s a potential deal that’s spurred outcry from residents in Chaffee County, who have raised protests about the impact of the extraction on the local supply. But Aurora Water officials said the conflict would not play into Aurora’s role in the deal. “We’re aware of the fact that you need some pubic permits and approvals from Chaffee County,” said Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher. “We weren’t trying to interject ourselves into the process.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Aurora: Summer watering restrictions

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Aurora is making it easier for rate payers to water this summer, according to a report from Adam Goldstein writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Property owners will set their own three-day-a-week watering schedules in 2009, provided the city’s reservoirs don’t dip below 80 percent of their capacity. The decision to allow users to set their own watering schedules in plentiful conditions came as a last-minute amendment to a resolution approving Aurora’s 2009 Water Management Plan during the March 23 Aurora City Council meeting. Though the council had approved a set schedule in earlier sessions, Councilman Brad Pierce introduced an amendment that would make the watering restrictions voluntary in 2009. “I think our citizens have been pretty good about conserving their water … I would like to leave it up to the citizens. I think they’re perfectly capable of handling this job,” Pierce said…

The council also approved new restrictions on landscaping in the city, guidelines that would mandate that 75 percent of annuals and trees and 100 percent of shrubs, perennials, groundcovers and ornamental grasses be chosen from the city’s approved list of xeriscape plants. Also, thirsty grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass would be allowed on only 33 percent of development sites.

Pitkin County ‘Healthy Rivers’ board taking shape

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From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith): “Three of the five commissioners present at a work session Tuesday agreed that the new rivers and streams board will include a minimum of five members and a maximum of seven members. At least five members must be residents of Pitkin County and the two additional members must live within the Roaring Fork Valley watershed. The commissioners were reviewing the draft bylaws for the organization and will continue to review the bylaws through a formal approval process. The rivers and streams board will also be responsible to review proposals and opportunities for water acquisition to the commissioners and to ‘establish relationships with local, regional and state agencies and boards to more effectively make recommendations to the BOCC.'”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Pagosa Springs: CoCoRaHS training April 9th

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From the Pagosa Sun: “A Severe Storm Spotter training and Precipitation Measurement Training will be conducted in Pagosa Springs Thursday, April 9. The training session will take place from 7:30-8:30 p.m., on the second floor of the Pagosa Fire Protection District building at 191 North Pagosa Blvd. Those attending are asked to use the west entrance. Learn to accurately measure precipitation in your own backyard. No experience is necessary. Trained help is needed to assist the National Weather Service (weather.gov/gjt) and the Colorado Climate Center, via CoCoRaHS (www.cocorahs.org). CoCoRaHS training will be provided by Nolan Doesken, Colorado State Climatologist and director of CoCoRaHS, and Henry Reges, CoCoRaHS national coordinator (www.cocorahs.org). There is no need to register for this class — simply show up the night of the meeting. The training is provided as a free service to anyone who has an interest in severe weather and climate. If you have questions, or need further information, contact Jim Pringle at (970) 243-7007, Ext. 726, or james.pringle@noaa.gov by April 1. The storm spotter and CoCoRaHS training schedule is also posted on the National Weather Service Web site: weather.gov/gjt.”

Pueblo West: Wastewater pumpback project on tap

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Here’s an update on Pueblo West’s plans to pump effluent and release it into Lake Pueblo, from Mike Spence writing for the Pueblo West View. From the article:

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District board of directors March 10 approved by a 4-0 vote a resolution calling for $29,100 to pay Integra Engineering for a preliminary engineering report on the project…

The $7.8 million water enterprise project will pump fully treated wastewater effluent from the wastewater treatment plant to the golf course arroyo. From there, the water would travel into the North Marina arm of Pueblo Reservoir. By discharging the effluent into the arroyo, the district will receive approximately 95 percent credit for its non-native effluent compared to approximately 33 percent today. That equates into an extra six acre feet of water a day, said Stephen Harrison, director of Pueblo West’s Utilities. For comparison, Twin Lakes shares sell for $26,000 an acre foot. Based on that comparison, Harrison said the project should pay for itself in two years.

If approved, the project would install 35,600 feet of pipeline along an existing utility easement to transport the effluent. Harrison said he hopes to have the project’s design work done this year, and move forward the the project as soon possible. However, before that can be done, the metro district is required to submit the preliminary engineering report, along with a site application to the Colorado Department of Health. Once the CHD gives its approval, the metro district will go into the design phase of the project, as well as work to obtain a 1041 permit from Pueblo County. Harrison said there will be public hearings before a discharge permit is granted.

Currently, Pueblo West’s wastewater is released into Wildhorse Creek, where much of it is absorbed by the ground and the plants, with a net return of only three acre feet of usable water, compared to the nine acre feet that will come from the golf course arroyo.

Avondale: Work to prevent well contamination continues

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “The Avondale Water District, cited in December 2007 by the Environmental Protection Agency for channelization of the river through a sandbar to the West of the Avondale Bridge, has now obtained a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and is trying to revegetate the north bank of the river, said Bert Potestio, manager of the district. “What we are trying to do is stabilize the north bank,” Potestio said. The district has spent about $80,000 on the work so far, but needs about $250,000 to make further improvements recommended by the Corps. Problems started for the district in 1999, when flooding on Fountain Creek and Chico Creek resulted in a sandbar forming on the south side of the Arkansas River, changing its course to the north. Within a few years, Avondale became worried its wells, located to the north of the river, could become contaminated. The district serves about 3,000 people, mostly on low or fixed incomes.”

Long Draw Reservoir: USFS to stock cutthroat

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The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a plan to kill non-native fish species and replace them with cutthroats in Long Draw Reservoir, according to a report from Trevor Hughes writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Trout Unlimited in 2004 sued the U.S. Forest Service, which permits the reservoir, to force changes. Trout Unlimited argued the reservoir was harming fish and other wildlife downstream. In response, the Forest Service is proposing mitigation efforts known as Alternative 3 that include killing all fish in sections of area streams and creeks, then replacing them with the threatened greenback cutthroat trout. The Forest Service released a draft environmental impact statement about a year ago and has now issued a final statement, with a formal decision expected within the next few months. “This alternative does not change the physical damage that occurs from the ongoing operations but rather Alternative 3 changes the residents of the area stream from a non-native trout species to a listed native trout species and applies conservation biology concepts to connect habitat in a manner that makes the physical damage irrelevant.”

The proposal lacks a request made by Trout Unlimited: Release water from the reservoir during the winter to improve trout habitat downstream. Forest Service scientists are recommending against releasing water from the dam in winter, largely because it would require major changes to the dam. It’s a nearly 10-mile trip from Colorado Highway 14 to the dam, according to the Forest Service. Further, the Forest Service concluded that “unnatural” flows of water released from the reservoir during the summer make La Poudre Pass Creek below the dam a poor habitat for native fish. “High energy requirements for small trout to move, rest or feed in these flows would reduce the condition of any trout that reside in La Poudre Pass Creek,” the statement says. “Use of the habitat in La Poudre Pass Creek by fish would be incidental during high summer flows and non-existent during zero-winter flows…

Long Draw was completed in 1929. The reservoir was later enlarged, and the dam rebuilt in 1974. The reservoir stores water imported from the Colorado River Basin by the Grand Ditch. It also stores water from La Poudre Pass Creek, a tributary of the Cache la Poudre River. The Forest Service issued a special permit for Long Draw in 1978. The permit expired in 1991 but was extended to 1994.

In 1994, following an environmental impact study, the Forest Service issued a plan that allowed Water Supply and Storage to operate Long Draw without providing bypass flows to La Poudre Pass Creek below the dam. Under the 1994 plan, the Greeley-owned Barnes Meadow reservoir releases water to the Poudre in the winter. Trout Unlimited sued, claiming the Forest Service should have required a bypass flow from Long Draw as a condition of use and that not requiring one would harm fish and wildlife in the Poudre basin. A judge in April 2004 reversed the Forest Service’s decision and told the agency to rewrite the permit.

More Coyote Gulch coverage

Congress passes public lands bill

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From the Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews): “Five Colorado land and water bills, including one that designates $8.25 million for the rehabilitation of the Jackson Gulch Reservoir near Mancos, await President Barack Obama’s signature after passing the U.S. House on Wednesday…The Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Act was introduced in January by Salazar and Sen. Mark Udall in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources before being included in the omnibus bill. The bill will designate funding to improve the Jackson Gulch irrigation canals, which deliver water from the Jackson Gulch Dam north of Mancos to about 8,650 acres of farmland in Montezuma County, Mesa Verde National Park and residents in Mancos.”

More coverage from the Loveland Reporter Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The millions who visit Rocky Mountain National Park each year won’t see much difference now that nearly 250,000 acres are designated as wilderness. Land stewards have managed the park as such for the past 35 years. But the new designation, approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday and sent to President Barack Obama for his signature, makes it permanent, so future managers could not develop the land. “It provides long-term protection to the park,” said Superintendent Vaughn Baker…

The newly designated wilderness covers most of the park — the undeveloped areas where people hike, camp and watch wildlife year-round…

Operations of the Grand Ditch in the park and the Adams Tunnel that brings water from west to east underneath the park also will not change. An attachment to the bill ensures that both can continue to operate and be maintained despite the new designation, earning support for the bill from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The potential for wilderness designation at Rocky Mountain National Park has been hanging out there for 35 years, since President Richard Nixon recommended it in 1974. With that pending, but not acted upon, managers ran the national park as though the land already were designated as wilderness.

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kristen Plank):

The Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Act was part of an overall bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed Wednesday known as the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2009. U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., helped sponsor the rehabilitation act that designates $8.25 million in federal funding to help repair the canal’s infrastructure…

“We’re awful happy about the bill passing. It’s been a long track,” said Gary Kennedy, superintendent for the Mancos Water Conservancy District. “The district’s board and myself have worked pretty hard on the bill for the past six years to get it to this point.” Kennedy has been visiting Washington off and on to help promote the bill. He gives credit to Salazar and former Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., who were “very crucial to getting this bill to this point.” There is still more to be done, however. The recently-passed bill only gave authorization to fund the project, Kennedy said. No funds have been appropriated yet. “That’s another process that we’ve already started and have been working on,” he said. “The appropriations bill for 2010 is now going through Congress and probably won’t be voted on until September (2009) at the earliest.” Funding, he said, will be spread over a four year period with $2 million acquired each year, as the district cannot ask for more appropriations than can be spent in one season…

Construction for the canal system has already started. Kennedy and others have put $1.2 million into the rehabilitation project for the past three years, but the district is coming up on the “crucial part of the project where we need more funding.” The 60-year-old canal’s survival requires realigned earthen canals, protective waterproof linings, maintenance upgrades, pipes in canal structures, and concrete rehabilitation.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Fort Collins taking a deeper look

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Here’s an update on Fort Collins’ efforts to evaluated potential impacts of the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, from Rebecca Boyle writing for Fort Collins Now. From the article:

…now that the group hoping to build the Northern Integrated Supply Project is starting some deeper studies, Fort Collins city managers say they are learning new information. Some of it might indicate that things aren’t as bad as had been thought, especially related to water rates…

After the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District agreed to a federal request for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement about the proposal, Fort Collins has learned some new things that were not in public records when the city studied Glade’s possible impacts last summer…

Three reports in the past month shed more light on drinking water, wastewater and possible contamination from a former Atlas missile site near the proposed reservoir location. One study, released last month, says the impact to Fort Collins’ drinking water quality might not be as severe as originally believed. Nevertheless, city managers continue to worry about potential impacts on the city’s drinking water supply, partly because of a pipeline that might be built between Glade and Horsetooth Reservoirs.

Because Glade water will have more debris in it — the lake will be filled by spring runoff from the Poudre River, which often contains dirt and forest detritus — the water might be dirtier than Horsetooth’s. But Northern Water hired researchers who found any increase in that organic debris in Horsetooth would be “very minimal” and would not cause treatment costs to increase. Northern Water contends that Fort Collins’ own research shows the city can treat the higher concentration using existing technology already in place.

Northern Water’s research also shows the city won’t have to make expensive upgrades to its wastewater plants. City managers were concerned the system would have to be improved if there was less water in the Poudre to mix with treated municipal effluent, in order for the city to meet federal clean water standards, but Northern Water said any upgrades would not be the fault of the reservoir project. The city countered that there’s still a concern about water temperatures, which could affect wastewater treatment.

Snowpack news

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What a beautiful snow yesterday. The view from my office at Denver Wastewater was limited to a few hundred feet for much of the morning and early afternoon by swirling blowing wet snowfall. The bicycle ride home took me over twice the normal time and my bike’s derailleurs froze up (I could not shift any longer) just as I started the climb out of the South Platte River bike path up through Highlands towards Berkeley Hill. The back wheel froze after I splashed through the slush in the gutter at the end of my alley. I had to drag the bike the last few steps to the garage. I was digging it.

Meanwhile, here’s some snowpack news from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Any function related to government and local schools, including sporting events, were canceled, and a few local businesses also closed early. After the storm’s initial shock, people were looking forward to its benefits.

“It’s a good start to this storm if all you’re worried about is water, which we are now,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which oversees water shares in the region for municipalities and farmers. The South Platte River Basin, where Loveland is located, was 15 percent less than normal for snowpack going into this storm, Werner said. The district still was calculating how much water came with the snowstorm, but Werner said it looked promising. One inch of water in the conservancy district’s service area is worth about 60,000 acre feet of water, which would fill up half of Carter Lake, Werner said.

The region has a diverse snowpack, with most of the local high country looking decent for snow-water content this year. The Colorado River Basin, which Northern Water depends on for Colorado Big Thompson water shares on the Western Slope, was slightly higher than average for snowpack Thursday, unlike the Eastern Slope in Northern Colorado…

No matter the winter snow totals, a wet March usually makes or breaks the area when it comes to possible drought conditions through the summer. Storms in Colorado throughout the week, both Tuesday and Thursday, were no exception, said Ron Brinkman, general manager at the Greeley-Loveland Irrigation Co. Greeley-Loveland Irrigation manages water flowing through Lake Loveland, Boyd Lake and Horseshoe Lake, as well as a network of canals that flow through Loveland. “The big thing about this storm is that we are getting it on the plains,” Brinkman said. “This storm in general, it’s all over the Eastern Slope. It’s going to be great.” Brinkman said most local farmers from here to the Nebraska state line had their fields open and ready for planting their summer crops. All they needed was some moisture to move forward because the top 6 inches of soil was bone dry. If significant moisture didn’t materialize, they would have put early calls on local rivers for irrigation water, which impacts the entire irrigation season, as well as water levels at local lakes and reservoirs, Brinkman said. “This is going to eliminate the need for really early water,” Brinkman said.

Early calls on the Big Thompson River mean less chance that Lake Loveland, Boyd Lake and Horseshoe Lake fill or stay full, which happened last year, Brinkman said. Early calls went out on river water and the lakes weren’t filled until August, two months late from normal years. Then, in late summer, Lake Loveland emptied out again as the needs for irrigation water went up, which closed the beach early.

More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The approximately 6 inches of snow that fell on Fort Collins contained about 6/10 of an inch of water, said state Climatologist Nolan Doesken of the CSU-based Colorado Climate Center. Doesken said the storm was the biggest, moisture-wise, of the winter season. “It buys a little time, takes the edge off for a week or so,” Doesken said Thursday. “This is a better-than-it-was snow. It isn’t making up for what we haven’t gotten.”

More coverage from the Denver Post:

Spring snow is as much as 25 percent water, and parts of the foothills recorded a foot and a half of snow. But the National Weather Service recorded just 0.12 inches of precipitation by 5 p.m. at Denver International Airport, leaving the area far under normal for the year.

More coverage from the Greeley Tribune:

“If we could get one of these once a week until the first of May, we’d be in pretty good shape,” said Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist at Colorado State University…

“The nice thing about late, spring snowstorms is that they melt right into the ground,” he added. And it not only brought moisture to the eastern plains, but dumped 1-2 feet of new snow in the mountains…

Jim Cooksey of Cooksey Farms in Roggen said there was a good 6 inches of snow in southeast Weld and it continued to snow by midafternoon. “It’s pretty nice,” Cooksey said, noting winter wheat “was starting to hurt pretty good and the mites were starting to move in.” He said if it stays cool and more storms come, the wheat will respond and while that might not kill the insects “it should certainly slow them down and let the wheat out-grow them.”

Thursday’s storm, and one earlier in the week that hammered Wyoming and points north and east, broke the warm and dry weather pattern that has dominated the region this winter, Doesken said. “There may be two or three more of these storms to come in the next few days and that will change us to a cool, unsettled weather pattern instead of what we’ve been having and that’s good,” Doesken said.

More coverage from the Erie Review:

Lafayette Public Works Director Doug Short said that while Boulder County residents have experienced unseasonably warm temperatures and dry conditions during the past two months, the mountain snowpack — responsible for the bulk of the spring and summer water supply — is only slightly below normal. And, particularly given the mountain snowfall forecast throughout the week, Short doesn’t expect any water shortages this summer. “We’re just continuing to monitor the mountain snowpack. We get reports and the beginning of every month,” Short said. “The March 1 snow data looks OK. It was somewhere around 90 percent of normal. “Just because there’s not a lot of snowfall down here, it’s not a big concern. We’re looking at the mountain snowpack to see what kind of spring runoff we can expect.”[…]

Even if Colorado had received a significantly low mountain snowpack this season, most communities still have adequate water supplies held over from last year’s heavy runoff to accommodate municipal, commercial and residential needs. “We have plenty of carry-over from last year, and we have 70 percent water rights at Baseline Reservoir,” Short said. “We’ve taken Waneka Lake down. It’s a backup reservoir. It’s not normally used.”

Lake Pueblo steps up invasive mussel inspections

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Here’s an update on the fight against invasive mussels at Lake Pueblo, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Lake Pueblo remains open to boating 24 hours a day, but the boat ramps and inspection stations will be open only between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. through April 14. On April 15, additional inspectors will be available and the station hours will be extended to between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.

During March and continuing through April 14, boaters should expect the gates to the boat ramps to be locked between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. Boats will not be able to enter or leave the water during this time. “Boaters can still fish or moor their boats 24 hours a day. However, they will only be able to launch and load when the boat ramps and inspection stations are open,” Henley said. All trailered boats, including personal watercraft, must launch and load at the boat ramps. Launching and loading of hand carried vessels without electric motors, such as rafts, kayaks, canoes, belly boats, windsurfer boards and sail boards will be permitted along the shorelines and inspections will not be required.

On April 1, new regulations on aquatic bait go into effect. The owner or operator of watercraft carrying bait in water will be required to produce a receipt for the bait from a Colorado bait dealer. The receipt must show the date and place of purchase. All bait must be purchased and used within seven days.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Authorization legislation included in public lands bill

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Legislation authorizing the Arkansas Valley Conduit, along with other area water projects, cleared the U.S. House Wednesday by a 285-140 vote.”


The Arkansas Valley Conduit was originally authorized in 1962 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but was never built because the communities east of Pueblo it would benefit could not afford the cost. It is estimated that the conduit would cost more than $300 million to build and would benefit about 50,000 people. The current legislation would provide for 65 percent federal funding, with the entire cost being repaid from excess-capacity contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation in the Fry-Ark Project. “This project has been on hold for over four decades,” Salazar said. “Generations of people in Southeastern Colorado have waited long enough for clean and safe drinking water. We all know that water equals life in the West and the people of these communities deserve a clean, reliable water delivery system to ensure their health and prosperity for future generations.”[…]

Salazar said an allocation of about $1.8 million for design work is in the works for next year. Once the design work is complete, the door is open for permits. The biggest unknown would be the studies needed under the National Environmental Policy Act, which have taken years to complete on recent contracts with Reclamation. Long said the Southeastern district hopes to build on studies already done for Colorado Springs Southern Delivery System and Aurora’s 40-year storage and exchange contract to streamline that process.

Aurora’s contract with Reclamation, the subject of a federal lawsuit that could be settled, would provide additional revenue for funding the conduit, but is not needed, Long said. “The agreement between Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, provides more revenue for repayment,” Long said. “Will it work without Aurora? Yes. But it will work better with Aurora because it has the potential to lower the participants’ share.” Most of the 42 water systems that could be included in the conduit are facing even greater expenses in order to comply with federal drinking water standards. Most rely on wells, which are out of compliance with radionuclides. It would cost small districts millions of dollars each to fix the problem…

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 passed the U.S. House on a 285-140 vote Wednesday and now goes to President Barack Obama. Colorado bills supported by U.S. Rep. John Salazar include:

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Establishes 65 percent federal share for construction of the 130-mile conduit, with repayment from federal leases.

Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area: Designates 210,000 acres of federal land on the Uncompahgre Plateau as a conservation area, with 65,000 acres of wilderness.

Baca Wildlife Refuge Management: Defines the purpose of the refuge “to restore, enhance and maintain wetland, upland, riparian and other habitats for native wildlife, plant and fish species in the San Luis Valley.”

Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area: Designates an area of Costilla, Conejos and Alamosa for a National Heritage Area because of its significance as a cultural confluence of American Indians, Hispanics and whites. Up to $10 million in federal matching funds over 15 years for cultural, historic, natural and recreation projects is authorized.

Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation: Authorizes $8.25 million to rehabilitate the Jackson Gulch Irrigation Canal in Montezuma County. The canal provides water to 8,650 irrigated acres, homes and businesses in the Mancos area.

Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Colorado Department of Natural Resources: Solving Colorado’s future water supply needs

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Update: I misrepresented Melinda Kassen’s position with regard to Aaron Million’s project and the environmental impacts of his proposed pipeline. I’ve corrected the post below. I received email today (April 6) from the Western Water Project making it clear to me that they do not want to give the impression that Melinda is endorsing the project from an environmental perspective. Quite the contrary.

I caught up with Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project Director, Melinda Kassen, via telephone last week to discuss the March 16th Interbasin Compact Commitee Meeting and the presentation (pdf) detailing progress on the visioning process for Colorado’s water needs that is being spearheaded by DNR Director Harris Sherman.

During the presentation, Kassen — the only committee member representing the environmental community and recreation — became alarmed by the Department of Natural Resources’ emphasis on transmountain diversions and four pipeline projects as the solution to the Front Range water supply gap.

How did the plan presented mesh with Governor Ritter’s, Colorado Promise, she asked herself? Where is conservation and reuse in the plan? What about the idea of smaller, incremental projects to satisfy future needs?

Historical perspective

On the eastern plains of Colorado cities grew out from irrigation ditch systems. Moving water from agriculture to municipal use has a long tradition.

Coloradans also have a history of looking to the rainy side of Colorado to water its needs for agriculture and to serve an ever-growing population. One of the earliest projects is the Grand Ditch (formerly the Grand River Ditch), up in Rocky Mountain Park that brings water from the Upper Colorado River Basin over to the South Platte Basin via the Poudre River.

More recently transbasin diversions were seen as a way to protect the agricultural economy on the plains by avoiding the dryup of farms when thirsty cities came calling. The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is one where project water was primarily aimed at the cities in the Arkansas Basin.

During the 2006 gubernatorial election Governor Ritter hung 2003’s failed Referendum A around Republican Bob Beauprez’s neck — helping the Democrat to carry enough of the west slope, rural areas and water savvy voters — to cruise to an easy victory. Coincidentally Representative John Salazar and his brother, former U.S. Senator (now Secretary of the Interior) Ken Salazar also ran away from the amendment as they rode the blue wave across Colorado.

Referendum A would have set aside a few billion dollars for “unspecified” water projects. In effect the Owens’ administration was saying, “Trust us with the dough, we have Colorado’s best interests in mind.”

The referendum incurred opposition everywhere you turned in Colorado. I was buying a retirement place in Montezuma County at the time and the reaction down there was, “Water grab!”

Many in the environmental community thought that the referendum was a thinly disguised funding source for the “Big Straw,” a pipeline from a new reservoir on the Colorado/Utah border back to Eagle County where water would be shipped over the Great Divide to the Front Range.

Ritter won his election and those that wanted west slope water to stay in the streams, or in the ditches there, breathed a sigh of relief. Big bang water projects seemed relegated to Colorado’s past. It looked like the west slope water would stay there and the Front Range would look to its own water for future growth.

Here’s the pertinent passage from Governor Ritter’s Colordo Promise (pdf), the publication outling his administration’s policy:

WATER. How we use water is one of the most important issues facing Colorado today. We must end Colorado’s divisive water wars by:

– Adopting a responsible mix of conservation, reuse, efficiency, cooperation, farm-to-city water agreements and new water storage.

– Supporting the roundtable discussions now underway through the Colorado Interbasin Compact Committee process.

Readers will note that there is no mention of transbasin diversions to help end, “Colorado’s divisive water wars.”

During the 2005 legislative session the legislature passed H.B. 05-1177, the “Colorado Water for the 21st Century” act. The legislation set up the basin roundtable process to help find solutions to Colorado’s future water needs. It also set up a central committee — the Interbasin Compact Committee — to oversee solutions and govern agreements between basins.

From the start it was hoped that the process would lead to new thinking along with heightened communication between basins, water providers, irrigators, sportsmen, industry and environmentalists. There have been fits and starts. Some of the basin roundtables have been effective with respect to smaller projects incrementally increasing the supply a bit. Studies of groundwater recharge and storage have been funded and are ongoing.

The roundtables were also charged with developing a non-consumptive needs assessment by basin. Last Friday they learned that funding for the studies is being cut.

The roundtables and the IBCC have not come up with sustainable solutions to water the unbridled growth along the Front Range and in the Colorado Springs area. The projections of over 7 million Coloradans over the next couple of decades still looms large. The gap between municipal supplies and projected growth is on everyone’s mind.

A couple of years ago Aaron Million got everyone’s attention across the state with a plan to move water from the Green River in Wyoming (Flaming Gorge) to the Front Range. Shortly after that the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy funded a study that evaluated the potential to move water from the Yampa Valley to the Front Range. The Bureau of Reclamation kept reminding people of the possibility of a “Green Mountain Pumpback” that would move water from Green Mountain Reservoir back to Dillon Reservoir and then to the Front Range.

DNR presentation to the IBCC

In a move that surprised Kassen last Monday, the “Big Straw” showed up again on the planning horizon at the March IBCC meeting in Longmont. It’s now known as the “Colorado River Return Reconnaissance Study Concept” but it’s largely the same plan that was pushed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board under Rod Kuharich’s direction.

According to Kassen the DNR focus now is on building one of the four transmountain diversions mentioned above.

Moving 150,000 to 250,000 acre feet by pipeline out of basin would be, “Armageddon to agriculture in the Arkansas Valley,” she said. The “Lower Arkansas Concept” combined with the “Lower South Platte Concept” would satisfy municipal needs by drying up agriculture, she says.

That’s hardly a new approach.

According to Kassen the portion of the presentation detailing the prospective benefits of water conservation failed to connect with the committee despite the relatively low cost of a conserved acre foot ($5,000 – $10,000) as opposed to a transbasin acre foot ($60,000 – $100,000). According to DNR’s own numbers water savings from conservation could potentially solve the Front Range needs, including future growth, while keeping much of the current ag water in place, she said.

To her chagrin the focus of the DNR staff seemed to be primarily on the four transmountain pipeline projects. The conservation information didn’t seem to resonate with the committee. In fact, she said, the conservation information was dropped the next day when the presentation was given to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The presentation went from, “Stunning numbers for conservation to the Big Straw,” she said.

Citing the governor’s statement in the Colorado promise Kassen asked, “Where is conservation, reuse, efficiency and cooperation in the DNR plan? How is a plan that is totally predicated on more transmountain diversions acceptable?”


What are some of the potential impacts?

– Snowfall and runoff in the Colorado River Basin and the Southwestern U.S. are expected to decrease as global climate change accelerates in the 21st century. A dryer Nevada, Arizona and California will need their allotments from the Colorado River Compact more than ever and Colorado and the other upper basin states are contractually obligated to deliver a running 10 year average of 75 million acre feet at Lees Ferry in Arizona. Lake Powell and Lake Mead have still not recovered from the recent drought and some experts doubt that the reservoirs will ever fill again.

– Oil shale (the “Next Big Thing” in Colorado for over 100 years now) will require water to develop including massive amounts of water for new power plants. Current estimates from Shell show 3 barrels of water required for each barrel of liquid hydrocarbon fuel. Shell, Exxon and other oil companies have water rights in the neighborhood of 7.5 million acre feet, mostly conditional, but some are rights from the 19th century and are therefore senior to many of the existing transbasin diversions and the Colorado River Compact. The industry will start requiring the water in 10-15 years.

– What will happen to headwaters areas if pipelines dump water taken out of the streams after agricultural and municipal runoff are added? Aaron Million’s plan would terminate on the eastern plains of Colorado close to treatment facilities, not at a headwaters location, sparing the headwaters streams.

– Low flows could negatively impact the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

– Capturing more runoff during the spring and summer could impact the cleansing effects of high water on riparian environments.

– The carbon footprint of the pipeline options is huge compared to that of conservation and reuse.

– It would be hard to administer a system to allocate conserved water under Colorado’s system of prior appropriation. I find it hard to envision Denver selling conserved water for example. They do lease water annually. Would they be willing to enter into long-term leases?

– Other Front Range cities also lease water. For example, the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Spring Utilities annually lease water to others in times of plenty. Those leases are usually predicated on drought status so when water is needed the most the supply might not be there.

– The pipeline options would save some agricultural dry ups helping Colorado’s farm economy and the local governments and businesses that depend on ag.

– The pipeline options would bring more water to the Front Range and the Denver Metro area. It’s not too hard to see that Colorado’s economic engine is primarily based there. That’s where the population is. City and county governments along the Front Range depend on growth to fuel their revenues which provide education, public safety, etc.

There are no inexpensive and easy to implement options. The easy stuff has been done. What is alarming to Kassen is the fact that the DNR seems trapped by 20th century solutions to 21st century problems while ignoring climate science and the ethical issues around development. They also seem to be turning away from taking responsibility for the environment, fisheries and recreation.

Beautiful snow

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We’re expecting a beautiful snow here in Denver today through tomorrow. There is maybe an inch on the lawn here at Gulch Manor this morning so far. Click on the thumbnail to the right to check out the snowboarding fun from the last big March snowstorm in 2003.

Windy Gap Firming Project: Chimney Hollow update

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Here’s a update on the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir, from Pamela Dickman writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. From the article:

Officials at the Bureau of Reclamation will decide whether to allow the project and, if they do, what conditions will be imposed to minimize effects on the environment. Jeff Drager, project manager, told the Larimer County Commissioners on Monday that the water agency hopes to hear a decision this year. While the conservancy district is waiting for word from the federal agency, its leaders are not sitting still. They are working on ways to address concerns expressed last year when the project was open to public comment, Drager said.

At public meetings, most of the opposition came from residents who live on the Western Slope and worry about water quality and the effect to the Colorado River in Grand County.

The Larimer County commissioners, in their comments, worried about water levels and quality at Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake but gave support to the project…

Drager assured the commissioners that conservancy district officials are looking at ways to ensure higher water levels at Horsetooth and to lessen the effects on water quality. These could include transferring water between reservoirs and building infrastructure or buffers to prevent agricultural runoff from entering the waterway, he said…

The conservancy district plans to work with Larimer County on the recreation component of the reservoir as well. In 2004, the district and the county bought the land, 3,400 acres total, together. The reservoir will be built on 1,600 acres, and the remaining 1,800 surrounding the reservoir will be managed by the county — an arrangement much like that at Carter Lake.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here

Avon: Moving forward on project to use wastewater for street-heating

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From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning): “The Avon Town Council is one step closer to building an innovative system that would use wastewater to heat town streets and the Avon Recreation Center, but members still worry about kinks in agreements with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The council voted to approve three documents at its Tuesday meeting that would also need approval by the water district. The council also added provisions in an effort to protect the project after a lot of back-and-forth negotiating with the water district in recent months…

“The Avon Heat Recovery Project would use the heat from Avon Wastewater Treatment Plant effluent to heat town streets and the Avon Recreation Center.”

Energy policy — oil shale: Opponents of Shell’s 2008 filing on the Yampa organizing

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Here’s an update on opposition to Shell’s filing for a diversion from the Yampa River, from Brandon Gee writing for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

Routt County, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the towns of Oak Creek and Yampa will pool their resources in opposing Shell Oil’s application to take 375 cubic feet of water per second from the Yampa River west of Craig.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved the “common interest agreement” Tuesday. The others also are ex pected to approve the agreement if they haven’t already, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. The entities are among 25 groups that have logged oppositions against the application filed by Shell Frontier Oil and Gas in water court in Steamboat Springs in late December 2008.

The agreement will allow the agencies to share confidential information and attorney work product “in a way that has been recognized by the courts as protected,” Routt County Attorney John Merrill said…

Routt County, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and the towns of Oak Creek and Yampa will pool their resources in opposing Shell Oil’s application to take 375 cubic feet of water per second from the Yampa River west of Craig.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved the “common interest agreement” Tuesday. The others also are ex pected to approve the agreement if they haven’t already, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. The entities are among 25 groups that have logged oppositions against the application filed by Shell Frontier Oil and Gas in water court in Steamboat Springs in late December 2008.

The agreement will allow the agencies to share confidential information and attorney work product “in a way that has been recognized by the courts as protected,” Routt County Attorney John Merrill said…

Shell spokesman Tracy Boyd said,“I think, given the choices, we’d prefer to have it referred to someone else in a referee function rather than go to trial.” “Generally speaking, we’d rather work with interested parties rather than work with a trial scenario. … We’re more interested in contacting all the entities and getting a better understanding of what their concerns are.”[…]

Light noted that there is no designated alternate referee and said she expects O’Hara to serve in that role. She also expects O’Hara to schedule a status conference with Shell and its opponents in the next 30 to 60 days. “The entire case is before him now,” Light said. “It’s exactly the same process, except Judge O’Hara is doing everything.”

The 25 statements of opposition enumerate a number of different concerns with Shell’s request. The city of Steamboat Springs argues that its water rights in the Yampa River Basin “may be adversely impacted if the subject application is granted without adequate protective terms and conditions.”[…]

In its statement, Routt County argues that, if approved, the diversion seriously would hinder the development of water resources for the unincorporated South Routt County community of Phippsburg, whose public water system is operated by the county. The county also states the diversion would impair the development of water resources for agricultural uses and would have a serious negative impact on its ability to finance and develop future water projects.

Across the board, statements of opposition also say that Shell has yet to prove its need for the water, that the claimed rights are not speculative, and the feasibility of its project, which includes a 45,000-acre-foot reservoir…

Some of the most strongly worded statements come from Steamboat attorney Tom Sharp on behalf of the Mount Werner and Morrison Creek Metro politan water and sanitation districts. In the statements, Sharp alleges outright that the application is “based upon the speculative sale or transfer” of the rights and that the water re­quested is excessive and wasteful.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Glenwood Springs: Work to begin on new wastewater treatment plant this weekend

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Gardner): “According to city engineer Mike McDill, Western Martinez Constructors from Rifle will begin work on an access road at the new site and installation of a pipeline that will connect the existing facility on Seventh Street with the new one west of the Meadows Shopping Center. McDill said that construction will start on the west end of Wulfsohn Road and Midland Avenue near where the entrance to the new facility will be. The next step in this first phase will be placing the connecting pipeline along Midland Avenue to the existing facility and that could create congestion at the Eighth Street and Midland Ave. intersection later in the summer or early fall, according to McDill…The new plant is expected to increase the wastewater capacity from about 1.8 million gallons per day to around 2.6 million. The current plant runs about 1.2 million gallons per day.”

Spinney Mountain Reservoir opens Friday

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From the Denver Post: “Spinney Mountain Reservoir will be open to fishing and hand-carried boats on Friday. Gates will be unlocked a half hour before sunrise. The lake was less than 20 percent ice-covered on Monday afternoon, according to Kevin Tobey, manager of Elevenmile/Spinney Mountain State Park, with several large sheets of floating ice. Trailered boats will be permitted April 4, when the inspection program for aquatic nuisance species will be in place.

“It’s going to be an interesting year,” said Jeff Spohn, Colorado Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist for the upper South Platte River drainage, noting that the reservoir was stocked with the Hofer strain of rainbow trout last fall. The Hofer rainbows are resistant to whirling disease and potentially could add a component of natural reproduction. They also might grow a bit larger than the strains of trout stocked in recent years.”

Trinidad Lake open for boating

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From Best of Boating: “Trinidad Lake State Park is now open for boating, thanks to mild weather and an ice-free lake…All vessels must be inspected for aquatic invasive species (AIS) before launching.”

Long Draw Reservoir: USFS to decide future use

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Here’s an update on the Forest Service’s plans for Long Draw Reservoir, from the Longmont Reporter-Herald. From the article:

The U.S. Forest Service expects to decide in April or May whether to allow continued use of Long Draw Reservoir. The reservoir and dam were enlarged in 1974 for [Water Supply and Storage Company] to provide water for irrigated farmland in Larimer and Weld counties. The permit to operate that expired in 1991. A subsequent extension was overturned by a court challenge, so the water company has been using the ditch under a special use permit while the federal environmental assessment process proceeded. That process, which lasted more than four years and solicited public input more than five times, is nearing its end with release of the final environmental impact statement.

The options are:

• Continuing to operate the reservoir and dam as it has been since 1974.

• Changing flows in the La Poudre Pass Creek to mitigate potential environmental damage.

• Maintaining the current operation and water flows but mitigating damage by restoring greenback cutthroat trout in Rocky Mountain National Park and the in the national forest in streams connected to the creek and the reservoir.

• Maintaining current operations and using water from the upper Colorado River basin to restore wetlands within the national park.

The assessment is online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf/projects/ea-projects/clrd/longdraw/index .shtml.

The final decision, which could be any of the four options, is expected in the next two months.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs public hearing April 9th

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The Colorado Springs City Council is wasting no time acting on Pueblo County’s permit conditions for the city’s proposed Southern Delivery System. Here’s a report from the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Utilities officials and city council will hold a public hearing on the conditions Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m., at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. Residents will hear a presentation on the conditions and be able to submit comments.

Comments can also be submitted in writing to the city clerk, at 30 S. Nevada, through 5 p.m. on April 9, and at the public hearing.

City council will vote on accepting the conditions April 14.

Meanwhile Pueblo West officials are voicing concern over SDS, according to a report from Jeff Tucker writing for the Pueblo Chieftain:

With the county’s approval for the Southern Delivery System, Pueblo West could see a second water pipeline brought to the community and a loss of up to a third of its total water supply, the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors were told Tuesday. Steve Harrison, public works director for Pueblo West, gave directors a presentation about concerns over a requirement by the Pueblo County Board of Commissioners in their approval of the SDS 1041 regulations. Harrison said the community has asked the county to be exempted from requirements that would make Pueblo West contribute to a flow management program that maintains levels through the Arkansas River and the kayak park through Downtown Pueblo…

Harrison estimated that if the community was required to return flows down the Arkansas, it could cost Pueblo West at least 3,000 acre-feet a year, or a third of the water supply the district currently uses. Harrison told directors and a crowd of nearly 200 people Tuesday that their water supply, for now, wasn’t in danger. “Everyone here has enough water. Today. It’s what we have to plan for at future build-out,” Harrison said. Harrison said he doesn’t believe Pueblo West should be a part of the flow management agreement because its process never has been shown to damage the river. However, he believes participating in the flow management program will damage the community. “I’ve challenged Colorado Springs and the Pueblo Board of Water Works to prove to me that it won’t harm us, and I have yet to see (proof),” he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.

Congress passes public lands bill

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From Reuters (Thomas Ferraro): “The measure, a package of more than 160 bills, would set aside about 2 million acres — parks, rivers, streams, desert, forest and trails — in nine states as new wilderness and render them off limits to oil and gas drilling and other development.”


The House of Representatives approved the measure on a vote of 285-140 a week after it cleared the Senate, capping years of wrangling and procedural roadblocks…

The 2 million acres that would be designated as new wilderness are mostly in California, followed by Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, New Mexico and Michigan.

Separately, the legislation would permanently protect and restore a 26 million-acre (10.5 million-hectare) system composed of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s most historic and scenic lands and waters, including the Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado and Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas.

More coverage from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier:

Of the high days San Luis Valley native John Salazar has experienced during his terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Wednesday made the top-10 list. “We had a great day today here in Washington,” Salazar said as he phoned back to the San Luis Valley to share the news that the House of Representatives approved Baca Wildlife Refuge and Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area legislation in the public lands omnibus bill on Wednesday. Making the day even better was the fact Salazar presided over the floor during the debate on the bill. “I actually got to call the victory vote,” he said…

“Since Ken and I first got to Washington four years ago, in my opinion, this has been one of the proudest days of my legislative career,” Congressman Salazar said as he referred to the efforts he has undertaken during that time with his younger brother and Washington roommate Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator who now serves as the Secretary of the Interior. John Salazar said the secretary of the interior happened to come onto the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, so that made the day even more special…

Salazar explained that the Baca Wildlife Refuge Management Act, which amends the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act of 2000, enables a statement of purpose for the national wildlife refuge: “…to restore, enhance, and maintain wetland, upland, riparian, and other habitats for native wildlife, plant, and fish species in the San Luis Valley.”

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Act designates the counties of Alamosa, Costilla and Salazar’s home county of Conejos as a national heritage area and authorizes up to $10 million in federal matching funds over the next 15 years to help preserve unique historical, cultural, natural and recreational resources of the area. The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area’s mission is to promote, preserve, protect and interpret historical, religious, environmental, geographic, geological, cultural and linguistic resources that contribute to the overall national story.

More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Thirty-five years was a long time to wait, said Vaughn Baker, superintendent of the popular tourist destination outside Estes Park. The designation was put off over the years by Congress for a variety of reasons, Baker said, including a focus on how to address wilderness areas in national forests. Back-country areas of national parks are generally treated as wilderness, he said, so “there was no rush.” A push in 2005 from Grand Lake and Estes Park to get the designation made the difference, he said. Residents wanted to send a message they liked the park the way it is and wanted it to stay that way. “Getting this passed was in many ways a grass-roots effort,” he said. “It started locally, and sometimes it’s nice to see that happen.”[…]

The measure also would adjust the boundaries of the Indian Peaks Wilderness by adding 1,000 acres from the adjacent Arapaho National Recreation Area. The designation would not affect the operation of developed facilities inside the park, including roads and structures used to bring water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. Past efforts to get wilderness designation for the park were hung up by liability issues surrounding the Grand Ditch, which is owned and operated by the Fort Collins-based Water Storage and Supply Co.

More coverage from the Greeley Tribune: (Colin Lindenmayer)

[Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway] said he’s worried that without protection from the bill, future lawsuits could endanger water from the Big Thompson that is channeled to farmers and ranchers in Weld. “I hope and I pray that that day never comes,” he said. “This project is the lifeblood to northern Colorado.”

But Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Fort Collins, said the bill is essential to making sure Coloradans have access to clean water and open space through preservation. “These bills represent years of hard work by so many committed stakeholders, from local communities to the federal government,” Markey said in a release.

More coverage from the Denver Daily News:

[U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn] said he opposed the bill because it would limit oil and gas drilling, which could be a huge economic boon to the nation. “While this bill contains some good provisions for our state, on the whole it remains a bad deal for Colorado and the United States,” he said. “It’s a job-killer for energy because it prohibits American-made energy production and new jobs on more than 3 million acres of federal lands.” Lamborn also objected to the fact that there is nothing in the legislation that would allow citizens to carry concealed weapons in national parks. Two House Republicans on Tuesday attempted to push through an amendment that would have reversed an Interior Department rule preventing visitors to carry concealed weapons into parks. The amendment failed. President Bush also attempted to reverse the Interior Department’s 26-year-old firearms policy just before he left office. But a federal judge placed an injunction on the Interior rule last week. Lamborn also raised concerns over no provisions in the legislation that would have allowed for commercial fossil collecting on the protected land.

In addition to protecting 250,000 acres in Rocky Mountain National Park, the public lands legislation would also protect the water supply at the Arkansas Valley Conduit, as well as land at Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, the Baca National Wildlife Refuge and Indian Peaks Wilderness. It would also establish the Sangre De Cristo, Cache La Poudre River, and South Park National Heritage areas in Colorado.

More coverage from the Montrose Daily Press:

The legislation designates 210,000 federally owned acres on the Uncompahgre Plateau as the Dominguez-Escalante NCA, including 65,000 acres of declared wilderness area, to be called the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is charged with developing a comprehensive management plant for the long-range protection and management of the NCA and establishing an advisory council to that end. “This legislation is an important and historic step to better protect this land and water in Mesa, Montrose and Delta counties,” Rep. John Salazar, House sponsor of the NCA bill, said in a furnished statement.

More coverage from the Environmental News Service:

Some Republicans object to the measure in part because it blocks energy development on public lands. Republican Study Committee Chairman Congressman Tom Price of Georgia said earlier this month that he and other conservative Repubicans oppose “the pork-filled package” because it would “block millions of acres for energy development, expand federal land holdings, give the government even more control over American land, and trample private property rights.”

“It was a long and winding road to get this bill passed, but it was worth it to make sure that Mt. Hood and all the other special places in this bill are protected,” said Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat who authored seven of the bills in the package. “I’m glad Congress looked past politics and came together for our constituents, for the lands they love and for the jobs this bill will help create.”[…]

The bill includes over 1,100 miles of 86 new Wild and Scenic Rivers in eight states, said David Moryc of the conservation group American Rivers. These rivers will remain free-flowing and will never be blocked by a dam. Previously, only 166 rivers had been designated as Wild and Scenic in the 40 years since the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed. “A short list of those celebrating passage of this bill today includes: salmon and steelhead fisherman in Oregon, the Yavapai-Apache Nation in Arizona, outdoor business owners in Wyoming, ranchers, rafters and hunters in the desert country of Idaho, bird watchers in Massachusetts, and even the family farmers in northern Vermont,” said Moryc…

Ocean protections are also contained in the package of legislation, said Laura Burton Capps, senior vice president for government affairs and communications with Ocean Conservancy. The Ocean and Coastal Exploration and NOAA Act will authorize the National Ocean Exploration Program, National Undersea Research Program, and the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to increase scientific knowledge for the management, use and preservation of oceanic, coastal and Great Lake resources. The Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act will authorize the establishment of an integrated system of coastal and ocean observations for the nation’s coasts, oceans and Great Lakes. The Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act will authorize a coordinated federal research program on ocean acidification. The Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act will authorize funding for a program to protect important coastal and estuarine areas that have significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, aesthetic, or watershed protection values, and that are threatened by conversion to other uses. “The ocean is 71 percent of our planet and our life support system, providing us with much of the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat and regulating the climate that we need to survive,” said Capps. The leadership shown by Congress today will be reflected in the ocean we have to show our children and grandchildren.”

More coverage from the Christian Science Monitor (Eoin O’Carroll):

…here’s Dave Jenkins, director of government affairs for Republicans for Environmental Protection: “This bill is the most important conservation legislation that Congress has passed in many years. We are especially pleased that 38 Republicans from all parts of the country supported this bill. It’s a powerful demonstration of the good that can be accomplished for our country when Republicans return to their roots as the party of conservation.”

Of course, not all were thrilled about the bill. The AP notes that opponents of the measure, mostly Republicans, called the bill a “land grab.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.