Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners hear more testimony

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Here’s a recap of today’s proceedings with the Chaffee County Commissioners, from Lee Hart writing for the Salida Citizen. From the post:

For the first time in four months of public hearings, Nestle was obviously on the warpath as first Nestle project manager Bruce Lauerman, then Nestle lawyer Holly Strablizky took aim at Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga…

Lauerman called Scanga’s testimony “fuzzy math.”

Buena Vista resident John Cogswell also cross-examined Scanga challenging the veteran water manager’s assertion that the Aurora-Nestle lease would have a significant adverse net affect. “(UAWCD’s) water argument doesn’t hold water,” Cogswell told the Salida Citizen.

Cogswell tried to get Scanga to agree that Nestle’s lease with Aurora would be no more impactful to water in the basin than irrigating 100 acres of agricultural land. Scanga agreed that while the depletion is the same, the beneficial use of the water is not. A local rancher’s use of the water creates beneficial use within the county while Nestle’s bottled water project creates beneficial use outside the county, Scanga said.

During questioning from Commissioner Tim Glenn, Scanga said the Nestle-Aurora lease compounds the impact to the Upper basin in ways that would not occur if Nestle secured its leased water from another in-basin entity such as Pueblo Board of Water Works or the joint Salida-UAWCD proposal.

On that last point, longtime resident and local Realtor Karin Adams brought more math to light. The Aurora lease will cost Nestle approximately $200,000 for 200 acre feet of water for each of ten years, with an option to renew for another 10-year term. Aurora’s lease to Nestle could be interrupted in the event of a severe drought. Nestle rejected a joint offer from Salida and the UAWCD that would have cost $500,000 but would have provided an in-basin, uninterruptable supply of water that would have protected Nestle and other water rights users in the event of a drought. Scanga said if Nestle had agreed to the Salida-UAWCD proposal, the UAWCD would have re-invested the money to enhance the county’s water portfolio.

On another point, despite Scanga’s assertion to the contrary, Lauerman told the commissioners unequivocably that UAWCD has expressed interest in participating with Aurora in Aurora’s lease to Nestle.

Even if the Chaffee County commissioners approve Nestle’s Special Land Use Permit, Nestle still has to get water court approval for its augmentation plan. The stage has been set for a battle of the titans in water court. Based on Scanga’s predications, there will likely be at least two if not more objectors to the Nestle-Aurroa lease when it goes before the water court in a process that typically takes at least two years.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Whitewater sports starting up

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From (Matt Renoux):

In a matter of days, the rafting season will officially be under way in Colorado and rafting companies have already started preparing for customers…Rafters are optimistic this summer. They say even in a recession business should be good thanks to a strong and slowly melting snowpack in the high country. “The snowpack is great this season we’re looking at right above 100 percent of average on the Arkansas River,” [Campy Campton the owner of Kodi Rafting] said.

From the Vail Daily:

Avon, Colorado’s whitewater park is open and water is running at a good level for surfing…The Whitewater Park was constructed in 2006 and modifications and restoration continued through 2007. With the great snow season this year, the park promises to offer lots of fun throughout the spring and summer for boaters.

Boulder Creek: Restoration of fish habitat

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From the Boulder Daily Camera:

The $234,000 restoration project is the result of three years of hard work by Boulder Flycasters, the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, to create a fish-friendly section of stream with stable banks, better recreational access and environmental education opportunities…

Over the decades, the area of Boulder Creek called Rogers Park has been damaged by a nearby sawmill, the construction of Colo. 119, flooding and pollution from the highway. And the dam four miles upstream, which creates Barker Reservoir, has altered the natural stream flow, leaving Rogers Park with wide banks, shallow waters and a relatively uniform stream bottom. In the winter, the stream froze nearly to the bottom, and during droughts the water slowed to a trickle — both scenarios eliminating places where trout can survive. By next week, the stream will have had a total makeover, with deep, calm pools pouring into sections of shallow ripples and quickly moving channels…

The Rogers Park project is funded by Boulder Flycasters, the Fishing is Fun Program, Colorado Trout Unlimited, the Colorado Watershed Restoration Program and Boulder County.

Runoff (Snowpack) news

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From the Durango Telegraph:

“…the Dolores Basin’s snowpack level is currently at 93 percent of average, and water managers are carefully considering options for this spring’s spill.”

From the Vail Daily:

The flow of the Eagle River near Minturn rose from 83 cubic feet per second on April 20 to 307 cubic feet per second Monday, according to measurements from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The historic average since 1990 for this time of year is about 139 cubic feet per second…There was 26.4 inches of “snow water equivalent” on the mountain. The historic average for this time of year is about 23.7 inches.

Animas River: Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 2009 Volunteer of the Year

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From the Durango Telegraph:

One of Durango’s leading river stewards received national recognition last week. Ty Churchwell, of the Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, was recognized as Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 2009 Volunteer of the Year last weekend at the group’s Spring Rendezvous. Churchwell commented that he volunteers out of a sense of obligation both to the Durango community and the Animas watershed. “Those trout keep me sane and our rivers are my ‘church,’” he said. “Healthy rivers are the lifeblood of our communities, and I’m thankful Durango recognizes the value of the Animas to our community.”

The award also spotlighted the Animas River Restoration Project, which Churchwell is helping to spearhead. The City of Durango was awarded an $86,000 grant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife for habitat improvements and bank stabilization for the stretch of river between 9th Street and the Highway 160 bridge. The project, which is planned for August, is meant to improve fish habitat while restoring riparian areas along the western river bank. With the high flows and increased use of the area in recent years, a number of native cottonwoods and shrubs along the banks have disappeared, leading to further erosion and habitat damage.

Bessemer Ditch: A look at one farmer who plans to sell his water

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The sale of agricultural water is fraught with emotion. Here’s a look at one farmer that has signed a purchase contract with the Pueblo Board of Water Works for his shares in the Bessemer Ditch, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Roaring Fork River: CDOT flood control project

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From the Aspen Daily News:

Colorado Department of Transportation crews are expected to begin work late this week or early next week on the edge of the Roaring Fork River upstream from the Basalt bypass bridge at mile marker 23.5 on State Highway 82. The crews will be removing rock and sand from a natural corner of the river just upstream from the low-ceilinged bridge in order to make room for the river to pass under the bridge at high water. The project did not require a 404 permit — which regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into water — from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because of a bridge maintenance exemption and because the rock and sand will be trucked off site so there will be filling of wetlands, according to CDOT officials…

CDOT crews will not be working in the river itself, but instead will be working from the side of the river to remove a sand and rock bar that has formed on river, right upstream of the highway bridge. They plan to leave a portion of the sandbar — the edge closest to the middle of the river — as a berm that continues to guide the river around the corner and under the bridge. But at high water the remaining berm is expected to be breached, which will allow some of the river to flow under the river-right side of the bridge. “There will be no work done in the water,” Gaymon said, adding that the work is not expected to interfere with the river or irrigation ditches in the area. “All we are trying to do is get back to where the river at high water is able to flow at full capacity under the bridge.”