Broomfield Reservoir update

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Broomfield is finally doing something with all the water they bought last century. They’re moving ahead with construction of Broomfield Reservoir, according to a report from Michael Davidson writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

The reservoir will have a surface area of 100 acres and be about 75-feet deep when filled. It will be bordered by Northwest Parkway and Sheridan parkways, and the Wildgrass neighborhood will be on its south shore. It will be an enormous effort. The city estimates 4 million cubic yards of dirt will be moved across Sheridan Parkway through specially built underpasses. It will take 200,000 “scraper trips” to move the dirt. Construction could last about two years, Arthur said.

The city intended to start work on the reservoir in September, but work was delayed after the initial cost estimate hit $93.5 million. The plans were turned over to independent engineers to try to find places where money could be saved, Assistant City and County Manager Kevin Standbridge said.

The changes they made and a sharp drop in the cost of construction materials has brought the projected cost down to about $75 million, Standbridge said. But it might be less than that. Three construction companies made bids for the contract, City and County Manager George Di Ciero told City Council on Tuesday. A winner hasn’t been picked, but Di Ciero said all of the contractors were willing to work for much less than the city expected.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Telluride scores water rights in lawsuit with Idarado

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Here’s a recap of District Court Judge James W. Schrum’s decision in the lawsuit between the town of Telluride and Idarado Mining Company, from Karen James writing for the Telluride Watch. From the article:

“We are extremely pleased that we were able to secure the water we need to have,” said Mayor Stu Fraser. “If there was one thing we needed to win it was the water.”[…]

But while the town prevailed on what officials here considered the most important element of the case, it did not win the damages it sought to compensate for higher construction costs resulting from delaying the project while the lawsuit ensued. Instead the Schrum awarded Idarado certain trial costs and damages that the town will be obligated to pay. Neither party was awarded the attorney fees each sought…

The damages the town owes are related to a countersuit filed by Idarado in which it alleged that after authorizing the town to enter its property to replace portions of the pipeline from Blue Lake, the town undertook some unauthorized work and damaged the property in the process. The court awarded Idarado only a portion of the damages it sought, however, and a jury will determine the amount of that award. Geiger declined to speculate on how much it might be stating a desire to not prejudice the potential jury pool.

The genesis of the lawsuit dates to the late 1980s when the town discovered that the Town Park water supply it sought to develop for municipal use had been contaminated with hexavalent chromium by Idarado’s mining operations. In 1992 the parties began discussing the provision of water rights in Bridal Veil Basin to the town by Idarado because of the contamination. Eventually they agreed upon a settlement in which the town would receive water from Blue Lake; however, Idarado retained certain “callback” water rights. The thrust of the lawsuit, heard in Montrose for two weeks beginning on Jan. 5, centered on the extent of those callback rights, and whether or not the mining company also had an interest in the structures and treatment plant that the town planned to build. Idarado maintained that it had an interest in those structures, while the town maintained that it did not. The court sided with Idarado…

Although the voters authorized the financing needed to pay for the project by means of a $10 million bond approved in 2005, the town did not break ground on the project because it worried that Idarado could take back the water rights and leave the town with a treatment plant but nothing to treat, according to Town Manager Frank Bell. Although Idarado has 45 days from the date of the decision to file an appeal, “Our immediate strategy is to move ahead and build the water plant,” said Bell

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Sierra Club to fight Shell’s application for a diversion on the Yampa River

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The Sierra Club has a record of defending northwestern Colorado (see Green River through Dinosaur National Monument). It looks like they are going to help with the opposition to Shell’s filing on the Yampa River, according to All American Patriots. From the article:

The Sierra Club is fighting to protect a key river in northwestern Colorado from a water grab by the oil industry…

In an effort to protect the Yampa River and the fish, wildlife, and communities that depend on it, the Sierra Club filed a statement of opposition in Colorado Water Court today to block Shell’s request. “Communities, ranchers, fish and wildlife all rely on the Yampa River. It doesn’t make sense to hand over our scarce water just so an oil company can squander it on a pipe dream like oil shale,” said Sierra Club Representative Eric Huber.

Meanwhile here’s an editorial call to arms for residents and government entities in the Yampa Valley to get involved with water policy for the area, from Steve Aigner writing in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He writes:

Colorado and Yampa Valley water experts voice increasing concern about previous optimistic beliefs about the reliable yield of the Colorado River system and our valley’s Fish Creek Basin, rivers and creeks. In Colorado, we believed we had an estimated 600,000 AF to develop, but during a 2007 trial between Denver Water and several Western Slope communities, experts on both sides agreed in their testimony that Colorado had only 159,000 AF left to develop, according a recent article in the High Country News.

We have endured the worst 10-year drought in the Colorado River’s recorded history of a long wet cycle. Now, we wonder about the potential impact of a drier climate. Still, contrary to the very optimistic belief that Steamboat Springs “has sufficient water rights to service a community of 100,000+ people under drought conditions for 35+ years,” the city’s first Steamboat Water Supply Master Plan in December says we need a redundant water supply. By 2027, the increase in water demand from the estimated buildout and population growth of the west Steamboat Springs area will more than double, from 3,141 AF to 7,206 AF. Because the reliable firm yield of Fish Creek Basin is only 7,000 AF, we will need to rely on the water supply cushion of 3,000 AF to 6,500 AF offered by the Yampa River Basin and conditional rights to Elk River water.

We face several uncertainties — a drier climate, a fire in the Fish Creek Basin and a call on the 1922 water compact from lower basin states. Incidentally, the water level of Lake Mead, a reservoir on the Colorado River, is only 1,112 feet above sea level. At 1,050 feet, the federal government will cut water to seven states dependent on the Colorado River, perhaps triggering the water call, according to a Bloomberg News article Friday.

A small quibble with the Mr. Aigner: A water call this year is highly unlikely. A call would be triggered if the upper basin states failed to deliver the running 10 year average of 7.5 million acre feet per year. We’re not close to that yet.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.