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 [] 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 “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.”