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 ( and the Colorado Climate Center, via CoCoRaHS ( CoCoRaHS training will be provided by Nolan Doesken, Colorado State Climatologist and director of CoCoRaHS, and Henry Reges, CoCoRaHS national coordinator ( 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 by April 1. The storm spotter and CoCoRaHS training schedule is also posted on the National Weather Service Web site:”

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.”