Grand County towns chasing stimulus dough

A picture named coloradorivergranby.jpg

Some of the towns in Grand County are chasing money from the recently passed stimulus package, according to a report from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. From the article:

The most likely reach of stimulus funds to rural Grand County could be needed water-system improvements. Prior to the passing of billions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Colorado governments were invited to submit to the state for consideration various projects worthy of stimulus funding. Granby Town Manager Wally Baird was feeling encouraged this week that Granby had made a list of water projects through the Water Quality Control Commission of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment — albeit, they are low on the list…

The Act ended up providing about $62 million to the Water Quality Control Division, which establishes priorities for which projects get dollars.

The money applied through the stimulus could serve to supplement projects already on deck for improved drinking water and wastewater systems, according to Horan. The mostly likely candidate to receive help through stimulus funds is the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs, which has already been high on the state’s list seeking a $2 million loan for its crippled domestic water system. Fraser, Kremmling and Grand Lake are other towns that have been waiting for state loans. Fraser’s projects — listed as category 2 with category 1 being the highest priority — have been eligible for three years. Grand Lake is seeking a $2 million state loan for a new water treatment facility and distribution lines; Kremmling is seeking more than $7 million for a major overhaul of its water system. They are eligible behind Hot Sulphur and Fraser in category 3…

Grand Lake added to the scope of its water-system project with the onset of stimulus funds coming to Colorado. Such additions are placed at the bottom of the ladder in category 6. The Fraser Sanitation District, the Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1 and Granby also jumped on board.

Included in Granby’s stimulus wish list are water and sewer upgrades to distribution and collection lines in the south service area, improved well-head protection, and a replacement of storm drainage in the north service area. Encouraged by the state, the town of Granby also submitted a request for $1.2 million on behalf of Moraine Park to replace its water system.

The state water agency’s deadline to have the federal dollars committed is Sept. 30, according to Horan. “Colorado does not want any (of Colorado’s) federal dollars to be redistributed to other states,” she said.

General Mining Act of 1872

A picture named summitvillemine.jpg

From Indian Country Today (Tanya Lee): “A new chapter in the saga of exploitation and destruction, wealth and economic opportunity that describes mining in the Americas is now being written in Congress by a representative from the State of West Virginia, a state that has seen more than its share of devastating mining impacts.

“Spanish missionaries, conquistadors and colonists enslaved Native peoples to extract valuable hardrock minerals from their own lands for the benefit of foreign governments.

“While the details have changed, the post-colonial extraction of minerals from Indian country continues to have severely negative impacts on Native American communities.”

SB09-165, Drinking Water Wastewater Small Grants

A picture named waterfromtap.jpg

SB09-165 is sailing through the state legislature so far, according to a report from K.C. Mason writing for the Sterling Journal-Advocate. From the article:

“There’s no money for the foreseeable future,” said Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, who along with Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, is the House sponsor of Senate Bill 165 (pdf).

The measure creates a new fund from severance taxes for grants from the Water Quality Control Commission to communities with a population of 5,000 or less. The grant program already exists, but hasn’t had any funding for three years. Under the bill, the state would have to collect at least $200 million in severance taxes for any money to go into the new fund. The latest estimates show severance tax revenue dropping from $238.3 million this year to $77.6 million next year and $171.4 million in fiscal year 2010-11. “The water providers in these communities are facing extreme challenges to keep up with unfunded federal and state mandates,” Gardner said. “There is a $1 billion backlog in funding for communities like Hillrose, Eckley, Julesburg and Brush.” SB 165 unanimously cleared the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee earlier this week and is scheduled for floor debate on Monday…

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

State house passes new oil and gas rules

A picture named derrick.jpg

From the Durango Herald (Joe Hanel): “House Bill 1292 passed on a 50-12 vote because it granted approval to all the rules every state agency passed over the last year, including the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.”


Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, challenged supporters of the rules to visit laid-off energy workers in his district. “Don’t stand here and say we’re not hurting their jobs until you look them in the eye,” Gardner said.

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, turned the challenge back on Gardner. “I’d offer the same invitation to visit my folks. How about the 400 people who complained last year about contamination in their water wells?” Curry said.

Curry said the COGCC told her Thursday that it will take a new look at one of the most controversial rules May 6. That rule allows the state health department and Division of Wildlife to appeal COGCC decisions to grant drilling permits. The new May 6 rulemaking will consider removing the appeal rights for those two agencies, Curry said.

The Senate will consider HB 1292 next.

More coverage from the Denver Post: “The bill passed 50-13. Rep. Wes McKinley of Walsh was the only Democrat to vote against the bill.”

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

In approving the final reading of House Bill 1292, the House renewed a spirited ebate it began Thursday, when it first approved the rules in an informal voice vote. The debate has pitted advocates of increased protections for wildlife, the environment and public health, against opponents who say concern about the new rules is contributing to sharp cutbacks in drilling in the state.

The bill also covers a wider range of state rules that go far beyond oil and gas operations. That put some lawmakers in the position of having to decide whether to approve the measure despite concerns about the oil and gas portion of it.

Ultimately, 14 Republicans voted for the bill and 12 Republicans and one Democrat, Wes McKinley of Walsh, opposed it. Area Republican lawmakers Laura Bradford of Collbran, Steve King of Grand Junction, Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Scott Tipton of Cortez voted no.

Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, supported the measure, as did Ellen Roberts, R-Durango…

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, this week criticized Curry, saying she was in a position to lead efforts to fix problems with the rules as chairwoman of the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee. “Why has she turned her gavel into a rubber stamp?” Penry asked.

Curry didn’t respond to messages for comment Thursday or Friday. However, she said during House debate that the administration of Gov. Bill Ritter has gone along with her request to have the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission revisit one issue of contention. It involves a provision that would let wildlife and health agencies ask for oil and gas commission hearings to reconsider approval of drilling-related permits.

Tamarisk control: Monitoring leaf beetles and unintended consequences

A picture named tamariskleafbeetle.jpg

Keeping a watchful eye on the use of tamarisk leaf beetles to control tamarisk across the west is the subject of this article from Mike Stark writing for the Denver Post via the Associated Press. From the article:

The beetle appears to be doing its job—diligently munching leaves as a way to eventually kill the nonnative trees—but there’s no comprehensive program to keep an eye on the bug’s spread and make sure it’s not unleashing unintended, large-scale environmental consequences, according to University of Utah researchers. The scientists say they think satellite technology can be harnessed for that job, especially for tracking progress in many of the West’s remote waterways where tamarisk, or salt cedar, has taken hold. “It’s a cheap way to do it over large areas,” said Philip Dennison, an assistant professor of geography and a lead author of a study looking at ways to track the battle between the beetles and the tamarisk…

Beetles were released in Grand County, Utah, in the state’s southeast corner in 2004 where tamarisk has taken root along the Colorado, Green and other waterways. Already, many trees have been stripped of their leaves and some appear ready to finally keel over. “I think were going to start seeing some good success,” said Tim Higgs, the county’s weed supervisor. It can take several years for the beetles to weaken trees before they die. When the beetles run out of food, they fly somewhere else or, more likely, drop dead. They don’t have a taste for anything but tamarisk…

But Dennison and others on the study say the experiment needs to be watched more closely on a large scale to make sure it doesn’t backfire. “We don’t have any idea of the long-term impacts of using the beetles,” he said. “Their release may have unexpected repercussions.” That includes the possibility of degrading wildlife habitat, having the beetle switch to an unexpected food source and opening the door for other invasive species to move in. In parts of southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, the beetle is threatening tamarisk nesting areas of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. The group said in December it plans to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

Dennison and others on the study say they’d be able to track widespread changes in tamarisk defoliation by using satellite images from red or infrared light that reflects plant pigments. They tried the technique along parts of the Colorado River. The results are scheduled to be published later this month in the scientific journal Remote Sensing of Environment.

They also found that, by analyzing data collected on the ground and with satellite images, tamarisk may have an undeserved reputation as a water hog. Rather than guzzling 200 gallons of water day, a typical tamarisk is probably drinking about 20 gallons a day, Dennison said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

San Luis Valley: Groundwater pumping advisory committee’s first meeting

A picture named slvdischargerecharge.jpg

Here’s a recap of the first meeting of the State Engineer’s newly formed Rio Grande Basin Well Administration Rules Advisory Committee, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

[State Engineer Dick Wolfe] said he hopes to submit well regulations to the water court by the end of the year. He said the involvement of the public and the advisory committee members will be key to developing a set of rules that will accomplish what the state has to achieve with the least harm to the Valley. “We want to look for the common interests,” Wolfe said.

The rules will pertain to wells in the Rio Grande Basin larger than 50 gallons per minute. Well owners who do not join a sub-district or put together their own plans of augmentation will be curtailed, Wolfe warned.

Over the next several months the advisory committee will help Wolfe’s office develop rules that protect senior water rights, encourage use of groundwater management sub-districts and work out some of the details governing those sub-districts, protect the Rio Grande Compact, set irrigation season beginning and ending time periods and maintain sustainability of the basin’s aquifers, among other duties. The sustainability portion of the rules is unique to this basin, Wolfe said.

The Thursday meeting was the first of what will likely be monthly meetings of the group. The advisory committee will meet again on Thursday, April 9, at 1 p.m. at the Inn of the Rio Grande in Alamosa…

The Thursday meeting was primarily an introductory meeting with Deputy State Engineer Michael Sullivan providing a historical perspective to the well regulations and Wolfe asking members of the advisory committee to share their perspectives on what they hoped the rules would accomplish…

Tim Buchanan, a senior water rights attorney on the committee, said although the rules will be developed in as cooperative and inclusive manner as possible, they will ultimately lead to some tough choices because there is not enough water for every use.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Pueblo County wants Colorado Springs Utilities to spend $50 million on mitigation

A picture named sdspreferredalternative.jpg

Here’s an update on Pueblo County’s 1041 permitting process for Colorado Springs’ proposed Southern Delivery System, from R. Scott Rappold writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Pueblo County gave Colorado Springs Utilities a list of conditions Wednesday under which that county would approve a $1.1 billion water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, and a Utilities official said none of them appears to be a deal-killer. Utilities would be required to give $50 million to the new Fountain Creek Watershed, a consortium of local governments and organizations working to improve the creek. The money would be used for erosion, sedimentation, flood control and water quality projects, to compensate for sending increased treated effluent down that creek. Utilities would also have to spend $75 million on wastewater improvements here by the end of 2024, something Utilities officials said they planned to do anyway. “I just see this as another big step forward for the project,” said Utilities project manager John Fredell…

The conditions are the recommendation of the [Pueblo] county staff there; Pueblo commissioners then would approve them as part of approval for a permit for the pipeline. Colorado Springs City Council would also have to endorse them. Fredell said Wednesday he was unsure whether Pueblo County will attach additional conditions. Utilities officials had been waiting for weeks to see what conditions Pueblo County would attach. In the meantime, they have received approval from Fremont County to build a pipeline from the Arkansas River, a backup plan that would cost $150 million more, in case Pueblo County denied a permit or attached unfavorable conditions. There is a long tradition of acrimony over water issues between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and Utilities challenged in court Pueblo County’s right to require a permit. After receiving the list of conditions Wednesday, Fredell said none appeared unacceptable, and even with the expenditures required, the Pueblo route would still be cheaper. “I see this as an investment in infrastructure and an investment in some great improvements in terms of recreational opportunities on Fountain Creek,” Fredell said…

Some of the other conditions would require Utilities to:

• Reduce sediment in lower Fountain Creek prior to SDS construction by dredging and sediment-collection.

• Maintain stormwater controls and other regulations intended to ensure that Fountain Creek peak flows resulting from new development served by the SDS project within the Fountain Creek basin are no greater than existing conditions.

• Continue participation in the Pueblo Flow Management Program to protect Arkansas River flows for recreation and the Arkansas River Corridor Legacy Project.

• Work with the Pueblo Board of Water Works to outline how the two cities would maintain a storage pool in Pueblo Reservoir to permit the release of water into the Arkansas River during times when the flow in the river could fall to low levels – at or below 50 cubic feet per second.

• Wait to begin construction at or near Pueblo Reservoir Dam until after the Bureau of Reclamation performs its dam-safety review and accepts the design construction plans.

• Voluntarily participate in developing a management plan for Pueblo Reservoir to protect reservoir levels and recreational opportunities, when and if the Southeastern Water Conservancy District, Reclamation and other affected parties agree to develop such a plan.

• Treat private property owners fairly, avoid creating financial burdens for property owners, and use power of eminent domain only as a last resort to acquire property and easements.

• Mitigate construction impacts and restore disturbed lands.

• Take “substantial steps” within 36 months to “construct the permitted development.”

The Donala Water and Sanitation District is looking at SDS as a possible means to move water that they’ve recently purchased from the Mount Massive Ranch, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. The pipeline project is just one possible solution for water providers dependent on the Denver Basin Aquifer System. From the article:

Without SDS, Donala could look at other options: Using its new source as augmentation water or making a deal with the Super Ditch. With one study estimating a cost of at least $1 billion to build a pipeline from the Lower Arkansas Valley north, it’s not likely that the district and its neighbors could afford such an option, Duthie said. For a relatively small player like Donala, which serves about 2,700 homes, finding a way to get the water could be costly, but the district is reaching the point where it needs to spend money for water…

The owner of the Mount Massive Ranch approached Donala with the sale, which was completed in November. Donala paid $4.7 million for what it expects will be about 300 acre-feet of water, or more than $15,000 an acre-foot. That amounts to about one-fifth of the annual demand of the Donala district. The change of use of the water still has to be decreed in water court, and then there’s the problem of moving it. The district also owns about 700 acres in Lake County and is working with county commissioners there on how the land will be developed…

Donala sits atop the Denver Basin Aquifer, a deep underground source of water that is not tributary to surface systems. Like other El Paso communities, the district faces increasing costs of extracting the water in what amounts to mining the aquifer. While more wells could be drilled, the expense is prohibitive and Donala and its neighbors, which have banded together to form the Pikes Peak Water Authority, are searching for new solutions…

Other districts in El Paso County face similar challenges and could be in the market for water. Last year, the Pikes Peak authority put out feelers for water on the Bessemer Ditch, a move that ultimately sparked the Pueblo Board of Water Works most recent attempt to buy shares on the ditch. Fountain last year purchased a ranch in Custer County. In Fremont County, Penrose made a similar purchase of ranch water rights in the western end of the county. It’s not likely to stop. “We cannot rely on Denver Basin groundwater to solve our problems,” said Jessie Shaffer, who was recently hired as the engineer for the Woodmoor District, which has 3,300 accounts.

The Cherokee Metropolitan District, which is located near Colorado Springs, lost about 40 percent of its water in a recent court case and is still trying to gain state approval for a plan to recharge part of the Upper Black Squirrel Creek basin — a well area east of Colorado Springs not connected to surface supplies — so it can reuse flows it now flushes down the Fountain. New water could also be a possibility. The district serves more than 7,000 households. “Cherokee will never be off irrigation restrictions,” said Kip Petersen, general manager, adding that the decision has been hard. “People don’t like to hear that your lawn is a secondary concern.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

HB09-1233: Recognize acequias

A picture named acequiadelcerro.jpg

Here’s a look at State Representative Ed Vigil’s HB09-1233 which would recognize acequia ditch corporations under Colorado water law, from Charles Ashby writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Long before [prior appropriation] laws were put in place, Hispanic settlers in Colorado had and still use a different way of allocating water use among themselves, using something called acequias. Now, under a bill working its way through the Legislature, ancestors of those first settlers will be able to ensure that practice can continue by forming their own ditch companies to help manage water use. An acequia (pronounced “a-see-ke-a”) is Spanish for “community ditch.”[…]

“The Hispanic culture has a communal way of doing business,” Vigil told the Senate Local Affairs Committee on Tuesday, which approved his HB1233 on a unanimous vote. “This is the way the water was managed, not by ownership, not as a commodity, but rather a shared ownership to the water. This is to preserve that land, to preserve that water, and to preserve these people’s continued way of life.”

The bill would ensure that the communal practice of allocating water and maintaining a ditch are as they’ve always been while, at the same time, allow it to operate similar to any other ditch company. Under the bill:

District members can hold elections based on each landowner getting a single vote.

Require each landowner who gets water from the acequia to contribute to the labor needed to maintain or repair the ditch or pay an assessment in lieu of doing that work.

Hold a right of first refusal on any sale, lease or exchange of surface water from an acequia that is used to irrigate long-lot land…

Most acequias in the state operate along tributaries near small towns along the New Mexico border.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Purgatoire water district accused of violating open meetings law

A picture named purgatoireriver.jpg

From The Trinidad Times Independent: “Legality and procedure were called into question at the March 5 meeting of the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District when board member Liz Aragon accused the board of violating Colorado’s open meetings laws by taking action on an item not specifically listed on the meeting’s agenda. The item in question concerned the district’s board desiring to inform its attorney that it wished to opposed to a plan contained in the City of Trinidad’s water transfer application O9-CW11. The application was described by the district’s general manager, Jeris Danielson, as, ‘An application to conduct exchanges from Trinidad Reservoir up to North Lake and to Monument (Lake).'”

Wiggins June referendum to decide strategy for sustainable water supply

A picture named waterfromtap.jpg

Here’s an update on Wiggins’ efforts at finding a affordable sustainable water supply, from Dan Barker writing for the Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

A public vote on which new water source Wiggins should buy would not necessarily decide the matter.

Some situations could be outside the town’s control, which would mean any one option might not be feasible, said Wiggins Town Clerk Craig Trautwein, quoting Town Attorney Sam Light during the Wiggins Town Council meeting Wednesday night For instance, if Wiggins could not find the financial resources to pay for an option or if the price shot up, the vote would not be binding, Mayor Mike Bates said. Advisers have told the council before that receiving financing depends on a town’s debt load and other factors. That means the planned special election is more of a way to get feedback from the community, Bates said…

The choices planned for the ballot include having Wiggins buy its own water and build its own system; buying water from Fort Morgan and building a pipeline from the city’s water treatment plant; or joining the Morgan County Quality Water District. Estimates that include costs of water acquisition and some infrastructure for 240 acre-feet of water, which would meet the town’s entire demand for residential and commercial use, are varied. A quote from the Morgan County Quality Water District would put the cost at $8.28 million, Wiggins officials have said, while buying from Fort Morgan would cost $4.8 million and Wiggins buying its own water would cost $5.16 million. However, because of the debt service factor and possible grants, the average minimum price to residential customers would be $184.75 per month if Wiggins went with Quality Water; $174 per month if it went with Fort Morgan water; and $107 per month if the town bought and treated its own water, Town Administrator Bill Rogers said last month.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Greeley: ‘Fix A Leak Week’ luncheon

A picture named fountainpavementdrawing.jpg

From the Greeley Tribune: “The event will be 12:15-12:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Greeley City Hall, 1000 10th St. in the lower level training room. Participants may bring their own lunch and watch a leak demonstration, ask questions and win water conservation door prizes. Natalie Stevens, marketing technician with the city’s conservation program, said minor leaks account for more than 1 trillion gallons of water wasted each year nationally. Reservations are requested for the luncheon and may be made at (970) 350-9204 or online at”

Central Colorado Water Conservancy District scores $376,000 from omnibus bill

A picture named typicalwaterwell.jpg

From the Greeley Tribune: “The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District has received $376,000 from the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 passed by the U.S. Senate earlier this week…Central will use the funding for surface and groundwater conservation along the South Platte, mainly on telemetry on irrigation wells so the district, and eventually farmers, can use water more efficiently, said Greg Hertzke at the district. A pilot program is currently underway that will target 200 wells, he said.

Snowpack news

A picture named snowflakesbentley.jpg

From the Delta County Independent: “Prior to the short storm that passed through the area Monday and early Tuesday, area snowpack had declined from 102 percent of average to 95 percent of average the previous week, reports Rob Fiedler, emergency preparedness coordinator. Warm temperatures and winds are blamed for the recently declining snowpack levels. ‘It looks like we won’t be needing to order sandbags for flood control this spring,’ Fielder said.”

From the Aurora Sentinel: “Aurora Water department data from the beginning of March shows levels from the Upper Colorado at 105 percent, levels from the South Platte at 94 percent and levels from the Arkansas at 96 percent of the yearly average. As of Monday, March 2, the city’s reservoirs were at 72 percent of their capacity.”

From the Pikes Peak Courier View: “Even though the average snowpack for the Arkansas River basin is 112 percent of normal, locally snowpack in the Trout Creek basin is about 4 inches lower than its 30-year average for March 1 of 18 inches. According to information provided by Colorado Springs Water Department, the Pikes Peak watershed reservoir sits at 70.6 percent of the 30-year average. The Northfield area reservoir is 76.9 percent of normal. Reservoir storage at South Suburban and Goldcamp is 75.6 percent of normal.”

From the Estes Park Trail Gazette (John Cordsen):

Precipitation and snowfall in the first two months of 2009 in Estes Park is running slightly behind last year’s totals. Through February 2008, Estes Park had seen 19.9 inches of snow, which equated to 1.14 inches of precipitation. Through February 2009, snowfall is at 18.1 inches, or 1.01 inches of precipitation.

Snowpack for the watershed feeding the Big Thompson River is better at higher elevations. Snow depth and water content measurements taken in two of the four reporting areas at the end of February by scientists from National Resources Conservation Service are above their 30-year averages. Bear Lake, at 9,500 feet in elevation, topped the list with 14.3 inches of moisture in nearly four feet of snow measured Feb. 26. This is 110 percent of the 30-year average of 13 inches of water content. The 45 inches of snow was 105 percent of the total from the February 2008 reading. Willow Park, at 10,700, was the only other area to exceed the 30-year average for moisture content of the snow, with 14 inches. This is 102 percent of the 30-year average of 13.7 inches of water content in the snow. The average snow depth of 48 inches was only 95 percent of last year’s total.

The other two areas where readings were taken were drastically down from both the 30-year average and the 2008 snow depth. Hidden Valley, at 9,480 feet in elevation, saw the biggest drop off. With just 5.8 inches of moisture in a 24-inch snowpack, the popular recreation area was at 77 percent of the 30-year average and 84 percent of last year’s average snow depth. Deer Ridge, at an even 9,000 feet, with 3.6 inches of water content, was at 82 percent of the 30-year average of 4.4 inches. The average snow depth of 14 inches was only 60 percent of last year’s measurements for the same time frame.

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

[Colorado Division of Water Resources Acting Division Engineer for Division III Craig Cotten] said the snowpack basin wide for the Rio Grande Basin is 110 percent of average. Some of the highest measurements were logged at the Cumbres Trestle which sits at 135 percent of average and Lily Pond at 111 percent. The Valley mountains were losing snowpack and dipping below average, Cotten added, but moisture in the last couple of weeks brought the snowpack back up.

Cotten said 2008 started out with a really high snowpack, and the Rio Grande was initially forecast to run 960,000 acre feet of water, but the final annual indexed flow was 710,000 acre feet, “still above average but way less than what we were expecting.” The 2008 runoff ended up about the same as 2007 which began with below-average snowpack levels. Cotten said that just shows why it is so difficult to forecast what is going to happen. “We are looking at some other ways to improve that forecasting,” he said. For example, the division may utilize in its forecasting efforts in the future an integrated computer model that uses such data as soil moisture, wind and snowpack…

Cotten said the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in its preliminary streamflow forecasts for this year is predicting average flows or a little better depending on the location in the Valley. For example, the March 1 streamflow forecast from NRCS for Costilla Creek is 115 percent of average and San Antonio River at Ortiz is 116 percent of average while the Rio Grande near Del Norte is predicted to be 101 percent of average. The NRCS forecast is for the irrigation months April through September. The March 1 NRCS forecast for the Rio Grande at Del Norte is 535,00 acre feet for April through September. The Division of Water Resources added approximately another 90,000 acre feet for winter flows to develop a preliminary calendar year annual projected flow on the Rio Grande of 630,000 acre feet. Cotten explained that of that annual index, the Rio Grande would owe about 28 percent or 174,00 acre feet to downstream states to meet the Rio Grande Compact. Taking into consideration the amount the river will have to deliver downstream during the irrigation months to meet its estimated compact obligation, Rio Grande water users will likely be curtailed by 14.5 percent, at least initially, Cotten said. He said that would be less curtailment on water users than last year but added, “We have to wait and see what the April 1 forecast brings.” He said the April 1 forecast will provide an even firmer number for the projected annual index…

On the Conejos River system that incorporates the Conejos, Los Pinos and San Antonio Rivers, the current forecast for the year is 355,000 acre feet with 43 percent or 151,100 acre feet obligated to flow downstream to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations according to Cotten. Based on those projections, he said, Conejos water users may see initial curtailments of about 33 percent to make sure the Conejos system delivers its compact obligation. Last year the initial curtailments on Conejos water users were more than 50 percent, Cotten added.

Dick Wolfe: What we try to do is really try to show people how to stay in compliance

A picture named irrigation.jpg

State Engineer Dick Wolfe was on hand this week to speak to a ditch and reservoir operators workshop hosted by the Colorado Division of Water Resources, according to a report from Bill Jackson writing for the Greeley Tribune. From the article:

Unless new water supplies are found to serve a growing population along the South Platte River, pressure will continue to be put on agriculture to provide water for new residents, a state water official said Monday. Dick Wolfe, the state engineer, also predicted that 123,000 to 230,000 acres of irrigated land along the river could be lost to meet the demands for growth in the next 40 years or less…

While the current economy will certainly slow growth, Wolfe said the state’s population could double by 2050, and 80 percent of that growth is predicted along the Front Range — the South Platte. Wolfe said best estimates currently are that 400,000 acre-feet of water per year will be needed to serve that growth by 2030. An acre-foot is enough water to supply two families for a year…

…new water, such as bringing water to the Front Range from the Green River in Wyoming or the Yampa River in northwest Colorado, won’t be feasible, he said, until it can be proven that all conservation methods have been utilized on available water…

“We’re sometimes referred to as ‘water cops,’ and while we are a regulatory agency, what we try to do is really try to show people how to stay in compliance,” Wolfe said, and that means adhering to Colorado water law.

Pagosa Springs: Whitewater park re-construction

A picture named kayaker.jpg

Bill Hudson and the Pagosa Daily Post wer on hand during the week to chronicle the removal of Pagosa Springs “Davey Wave” from their whitewater park, as ordered by the Corps of Engineers. Here’s his photo essay.

More coverage from Jim McQuiggin writing for the Pagosa Sun:

Currently, diversion dams have been set up to dry out the perimeter of the work area and facilitate digging down through the bedrock for the drop in front of the whitewater structure. Weather permitting, concrete will be poured starting early today in order to shore up the first structure.

Phase I of the project calls for the installation of a cross vane structure as well as the new whitewater feature being installed in front of the Visitor’s Center. The new structure will have a net drop in water surface of two feet, while the downstream cross vane structure, close to the former location of Davey’s Wave, will have a net drop of one foot. Work on the cross vane structure should begin early next week. The second structure will not have a radical drop in the way the first structure has (or was evident with Davey’s Wave) but will create a whitewater “run” that, although giving boaters a bumpy ride for several meters, is in place primarily to mitigate hydraulic effects from the first structure’s drop. Phase I also includes habitat structures installed near the 6th Street bend, complying with Colorado Division of Wildlife mandates for the “Fishing is Fun” project…

Phase II of the project is slated for this fall. However, the economy — and it’s effect on town revenues from local sales tax — is the ultimate arbiter as to if and when the second phase will proceed. Phase II of the project calls for the installation of one or two more whitewater structures installed in the portion of the river adjacent to Town Park. Before the structures can be built, however, additional ACoE and DOW permitting will be required. With permits normally taking three months to process, actual work on Phase II would not begin until the winter. In that phase, crews will be required to tear out several feet of bedrock in order to accommodate installation of the new structures. According to Phillips, the Wolf Creek ski area has again committed to donating equipment and paying rent on a rock breaker.