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.”

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