Aurora: Settlement with Lower Ark over long-term contract with Reclamation

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Here’s a recap of last week’s congressional town hall meeting in Rocky Ford, from Adam Goldstein writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Those who supported the position that Congress should enact legislation that would facilitate the export of water from the basin and those who argued that such a move would endanger the rights of water holders in the basin’s communities both expressed their positions in a civil public setting. “We had about 30 speakers … Of those 30 speakers, about two-thirds were very favorable toward this settlement that Aurora has reached with the Lower Arkansas,” Perlmutter said. “Nine out of the 30 were opposed, but not adamantly opposed. It was a more positive meeting than I expected.”

Thursday’s meeting in Rocky Ford was the second public forum held in as many days in the region, and saw input from local residents, media representatives and public officials like Perlmutter, D-Colo., Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer and Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher.

At issue was the role Aurora should play in exporting water out of the Arkansas River Basin. Supporters of legislation that would ease Aurora’s ability to export water from the basin cited potential financial benefits for the area’s farmers, which included maximizing the value of water through the recently formed Super Ditch project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Larimer County: Septic permit fees to rise

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Larimer County will raise the cost of septic permit fees as of June 1, according to the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. The new fees were approved by the Board of Health at its May meeting…

The new rates are:
> New Residential: $873.
> Vaults: $375.
> Minor Repair: $298.
> Major Repair: $548.
> Remodel: $400.
> Mortgage Loan Inspections: $265.

Unchanged rates:
> New commercial: $1,023.
> Commercial repair: $1,023.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Jackson Gulch and McPhee reservoirs update

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From the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 7,723 acre-feet with a 9,948 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 7,333 acre-feet average (1971-2000) end-of-month content. At Jackson Gulch, a daily maximum/minimum of 0 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Mancos River, and 44 acre feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 329,978 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 336,999 average (1986-2000) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 3,023 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 8,554 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 63/49 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

Precipitation

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Katie O’Hare):

The Montrose area recorded 1.38 inches of precipitation as of Friday, May 29. The rainfall is above the monthly average of 1 inch with still several days of showers in the forecast, Jeff Colton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said. The area has been averaging about 0.10 to 0.25 inches of rainfall per day, with a half inch falling on May 22, Colton said. Harold, the owner of Tuxedo Corn, said the rain is allowing for such crops as onions to get the water they need, but is slowing down other planting operations.

Dave Wegner appointed staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on water and power

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Here’s a report about Mr. Wegner’s appointment, from Shane Benjamin writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

“I tend to be more conservative in protecting the environment than not, because once a species is gone, it’s gone forever,” [Wegner] said. “So I inevitably side on the side of the species until the data is collected and we can accurately identify and articulate how we need to manage for that species.”

Wegner, 57, will apply that philosophy in Washington, D.C., where he has been appointed to serve as the staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on water and power. It will be his job to help shepherd legislation related to water, power and the environment while considering the effects on species and climate change. Wegner, who has lived in Durango for 12 years, was asked to serve last week by officials in D.C. He and his wife, Nancy Jacques, a local artist, teacher and columnist for the Herald, will move to Washington for at least a couple of years with plans to return in the future, they said…

The Natural Resources Committee has significant influence on development and water and climate legislation, Wegner said. “It is our moral responsibility to address these issues now so that they all don’t fall on future generations to grapple with,” he said. “Durango is the most perfect place to live, but we have a responsibility to the future generations to make sure we do the right things to manage what resources we have in this country.”[…]

Wegner is originally from Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Minnesota. He moved to Colorado in 1975 and obtained a master’s degree from Colorado State University in river engineering. He worked for the Interior Department for more than 20 years, 14 of those coordinating the science program in the Grand Canyon. For the last 12 years, he has run his own business, Eco Systems Management International, focusing on endangered-species issues related to dams around the world.

Glenwood Springs: U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s competition, from Sean Johnson writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

The Glenwood Whitewater Park, just a little more than a year old, is the reason the 2009 U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team Trials came to Glenwood Springs. Volunteer staff member Chris Tonozzi was excited about the weekend events and said the day was running smoothly. The organizers have been meeting since last July to get the competition off the ground and running. Tonozzi said that many hours were spent each night making phone calls and writing e-mails. He is hopeful for another competition next year and thinks the likelihood of that depends on how fired up people get about it this year. The Main challenges in organizing the event were availability of space, and how limited the parking is at the Whitewater Park. Even the judge’s booth is halfway up the hill, in order to have a better vantage point to watch the kayakers.

Daman Martinez, who kayaks frequently for a hobby, was only there to watch the competitors, saying that he is not of the right caliber to be competing in the competition. “I love being in the water,” Martinez said. “I can’t really pinpoint why I like it so much. It’s just the thrill of it.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works: Bessemer Ditch sellers sorting out leases and purchase contracts

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works has offered to lease back the water it is purchasing on the Bessemer Ditch for 20 years to all sellers. However, until the contracts are closed, probably in October, the water board has no way of knowing how many irrigators will take them up on it. “The early indications are that the overwhelming majority are going to lease back,” said Alan Ward, water resources administrator. “We won’t know until we close the contracts. It’s offered to every seller.” Sellers do not have to accept the 20-year deal, which provides water to those who sold for the cost of ditch assessments. Shareholders already are required to pay the assessments for the operation and upkeep of the ditch…

Excess water that is not leased back to shareholders would first be offered to other users on the Bessemer Ditch, then to others with a need in Pueblo County, according to an agreement the water board signed with the St. Charles Mesa Water District. The district owns about 2,000 shares and has put the same limits on itself. The water board also has committed to revegetating any land that is dried up in the sale. Recent water court cases in the Arkansas River basin, such as the Tri-State acquisition of nearly one-half of the Amity Canal, have placed responsibility for revegetation with the buyer of the water rights as well.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District: Reeves Brown applies for vacant board seat

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Beulah rancher Reeves Brown has applied for the vacant Pueblo County director’s seat on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Brown is the third applicant for the seat, vacated in April by the resignation of John Singletary, who left the board because he does not agree with its current direction…

Brown and his wife Betsy have a commitment to conservation and preservation of agriculture in the Arkansas Valley. They bought their Beulah ranch in 1981 and believe conservation easements are needed to maintain agriculture in the valley. “The waters of the Arkansas River are critical to the future of valley agriculture and no less so to of the economics of the entire valley,” Brown said in his letter of application to Chief District Judge Dennis Maes. “Walking the line between a water owner’s right to sell to an open market and the broader community’s dependency upon that same water for its economic future, I see as the greatest challenge the valley has presently. . . . My intention as a board member would be to work toward keeping Arkansas River water in the valley within the legal framework of the law.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District: Rates to rise

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune:

The base rate for water service will jump from $15 to $20 a month and the amount per thousand gallons of water used will increase from $2.20 to $2.60. Also increasing is the basic sewer rate. It will also jump from $15 a month to $20 a month, however, the amount per thousand gallons used will be the same at $2.20…

In other business the special meeting the RMW board elected to sell the land on the Johnson Place Ranch located south of town. RMW will retain the water rights to the 320-acre property, however, they would lease a portion of those water rights to the new owner…The board decided to sell the ranch property in order to pay for a number of improvements to the current system. RMW purchased the ranch in 2000 at a cost of $850,000 to obtain the water rights.

Gunnison County: Standard Mine cleanup heading into second phase

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From The Crested Butte News (Seth Mensing):

Three representatives from the EPA visited the Crested Butte Town Council and the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners last month to tell them that the second round of remediation work at the site is set to begin this summer.
Gina Andrews, the EPA’s on-scene coordinator for the removal of the mining debris, told both groups that her group’s “task was to remove the waste rock and tailings pond and relocate the pond to a consolidated land fill and cap it off. We finished our portion of that work last fall.”

The council members and commissioners were shown photos of the site before and after the remediation work, which contrasted an abandoned mine—complete with mining cart trestle, a bridge and scattered debris—with a nearly natural high mountain valley.
The 10-acre Standard Mine is located in the Gunnison National Forest and on four patented mining claims on the backside of Mt. Emmons. Mining operations for zinc, lead, silver and gold began on the property in 1931 and continued until 1966, when the mine was abandoned.

In 2005, the property was placed on the National Priorities List for Superfund status, which initiated the EPA to take a series of steps to reclaim the land and treat contaminated water running from the mine into Elk Creek and eventually into the town and county’s watershed. In addition to removing about 50,000 cubic yards of rock waste and pumping the contents of the tailings pond through a filter, Andrews said a fisheries biologist from the U.S. Forest Service helped the team in the relocation of a stream that had been moved to serve the mine…

Andrews said her group would visit the site throughout the summer months to see how the newly constructed streambed holds up to the spring runoff and to monitor the other improvements while making repairs when and where they are needed. Remedial project manager Christina Progess said the next step for the EPA is to do a remedial investigation and feasibility study to get more information about the condition of the site and its effect on human health. The EPA will also be looking at different methods to treat water coming from the mine. One water purification method being tested at the site is a bioreactor that uses microorganisms to “eat” the contaminating heavy metals in the water. The result is water with 96 percent to 99 percent of the heavy metals removed. “The bioreactor is a step in the right direction,” said Progess. “It still doesn’t get us to the state’s stream water standard [for contaminants] but it could be one of several ways we approach the treatment of water coming out of the mine.”

Ground and surface water flows into the mine, where it is contaminated with arsenic, barium, lead, zinc, cadmium, copper and chromium, according to an EPA report that showed those metals at three times their natural level in Elk Creek below the mine site.
The water then flows out of the mine at a rate ranging from ten gallons per minute to 70 gallons per minute during peak runoff. The 40 square foot bioreactor that is now at the site is capable of treating only one gallon of contaminated water per minute. “If water treatment were needed, this system would be scaled out to treat whatever amount of water is coming out of the adit [mine opening],” said Progess. Progess conceded that expanding the bioreactor to treat 70 gallons of water per minute might not be feasible and because the technology is so new there isn’t a lot of data to show the long-term costs of operating and maintaining the reactor on a large scale…

Progess said the EPA would be able to calculate water flows to prepare for all eventualities.The remediation investigation and feasibility study will be done in March 2010, according to Progess, when the EPA will select a final preferred remedy and send out a proposed plan for public review and comment. The process continues with a Record of Decision, published in the federal register; the remedial design and action taking place; and finally completion of construction at the site. Progess said the EPA should hand the project over to the state in 2012. The EPA will then revisit the site every five years to monitor the condition and performance of site improvements. Funding for the project shifts from the EPA to the state, which entered the process early with a 10 percent cost-sharing arrangement. Local governments will not ever be responsible for paying to improve the mine site, said Progess.

Invasive mussels inspection update

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From the Ouray News:

Western Slope lakes and reservoirs where mussels have been detected (mandatory inspections leaving) include Blue Mesa Reservoir in Gunnison County and McPhee Reservoir in Montezuma County.

Mandatory watercraft inspections are now in place at Ridgway Reservoir (Ouray County); Crawford Reservoir (Delta County); Elkhead Reservoir/Yampa State Park (Routt County); Harvey Gap Reservoir (Garfield County); Highline Reservoir (Mesa County); Jackson Gulch Reservoir at Mancos State Park(Montezuma County); Navajo Reservoir (La Plata County); Paonia Reservoir (Delta County); Sweitzer Lake (Delta County) and Vega Reservoir (Mesa County)

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Starting Monday, boaters hauling a motorized craft to Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap are required to have their boats inspected for zebra and quagga mussels and other exotic aquatic nuisances prior to being launched. Inspections will be done from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day at Rifle Gap and from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Harvey Gap…

An example of the possible complications is at Blue Mesa Reservoir, where all undeveloped launch sites now are closed. Boaters are asked to launch only at Elk Creek, Lake Fork and Stevens Creek marinas, where boat inspections are available daily from 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. “If they want to launch before or after those hours they just can’t,” said Sandra Snell-Dobert, spokesperson for Curecanti National Recreation Area. “It’s difficult, we know, but we’re trying to stretch the hours with the staffing level available to us. So far it seems to be working pretty well.”

Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap is making an effort to accommodate early launches by offering a pre-launch inspection the day before. Boaters will get a sealed sticker showing their boat has been inspected and this sticker is good for one launch. It’s not a season pass and you can expect to have your boat examined the next time you show up.

It’s going to be particularly tough to avoid inspections at Blue Mesa, which recently was listed as “suspect” for zebra mussels. This, said Snell-Dobert, means the Division of Wildlife detected some DNA from zebra mussels in the water without actually finding mussels. “It might have washed from someplace upstream or came off a boat,” said Snell-Dobert. “Subsequent tests showed nothing so we really don’t know for sure.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Denver Water first to issue Build America Bonds

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Update:

Here’s the release from Denver Water via Stacy Chesney.

Denver Water is on board with provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, being the first organization in the state to issue Build America Bonds. From their release (no deep link available):

While most government agencies, including Denver Water, traditionally issue tax-exempt bonds, the Build America Bonds are taxable bonds with a 35 percent federal subsidy on interest costs. Denver Water awarded $44 million of Build America Bonds to Wachovia Bank National Association at just over 6 percent interest on a taxable basis. However, because of the federal tax subsidy, Denver Water actually will pay 3.94 percent interest. That amount is less than Denver Water’s outstanding tax-exempt bonds, on which it pays an average of 4.23 percent interest.

The bond will allow Denver Water to pay for capital projects, such as infrastructure improvements, at a lower interest rate than it would if it had issued a tax-exempt bond.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Fountain Creek Flood Control and Greenway District should be in place next month

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The interim board met Friday, and decided the new board can be in place next month. The members, all of whom will serve on the new board or expect to be appointed, received a green light from legal counsel for both El Paso and Pueblo counties. The board also began the task of filling slots on a citizens advisory group and creating a technical advisory committee for the district board as it transfers tasks set up under an intergovernmental agreement to the district created by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Morgan County Quality Water District source water protection plan

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Here’s a update on the source water protection plan proposed by Brush and the Morgan County Quality Water District, from Dan Barker writing for The Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

Stakeholders for the city of Brush and the Morgan County Quality Water District set some boundaries Wednesday around local aquifers which will be protected and watched for any sign of contaminants which could get into the water table, said Colleen Williams, source water specialist for Colorado Rural Water. Those included aquifers under the Krause Well Field in Weld County near Morgan County, the Weingardt Well Field in the eastern part of Morgan County and the Smart Well Field in the western part of the county, she said. Brush and Quality Water both have wells in the Smart Well Field, and Quaity Water in the other well fields.

This was the third in a series of meetings designed to set up those boundaries and set limits on what can happen above and near aquifers, she said. This process began when the Environmental Protection Agency asked states to look at where people get their drinking water and to plan to keep it clean under the Safe Drinking Water Act, she said. Wednesday’s Quality Water meeting was focused on what concerns the area may have about possible sources of contaminants to water supplies. A big concern is how well the operators of oil and natural gas wells do in making sure that oil and brackish water from oil wells are controlled, Williams said. At one site in the Krause Well Field, she found oil on the ground near a sealed and abandoned oil well, and wondered if it was leaking, she said…

A big concern is how well the operators of oil and natural gas wells do in making sure that oil and brackish water from oil wells are controlled, Williams said…

Other sources of contamination could be agricultural chemical use, spills due to the crash or overturn of trucks carrying hazardous materials, hazardous waste facilities, residential practices and livestock production.

Most of those are not a problem in the sandy dunes which surround the aquifers in the Morgan County areas, Kokes said. Livestock does not like the area, nor do developers, and it is not good farm land, he said…

The source water project wants to set up barriers to contamination, but often the best barrier is education, Williams said. People need to know not to let contaminants like chemicals soak into the ground, and that alone will be a preventive measure, she said. Voluntary measures to promote management practices to protect and enhance drinking water are best, Williams said. The idea is to engage the community members as stewards of the water sources. Individuals need to take personal responsibility, she said. What water managers need is a tool to educate the public and their various boards, said Don Marymee, water foreman for Brush. It is important to draw boundary lines to help in management, because the areas where contaminants could affect the groundwater supply are larger than most people think, Kokes said. “This kind of dialogue helps,” he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Glade Park: Colorado National Guard will help rebuild Fruita Reservoir No. One

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The Guard’s 947th Engineering Company will repair and improve the old earthen dam that holds back snowmelt until it can be turned to use on the fields and pastures down below.

The mission, though, is to do more than revive the old reservoir. The project also will help Fruita preserve its rights to the water stored there and could one day pave the way for a park in the high country overlooking the Grand Valley, Fruita Mayor Ken Henry said…

Work is to be complete by Aug. 9, and the reservoir will be off-limits to the public until the job is done. Soldiers from Grand Junction, Durango and Fort Carson will work to complete the job that officials said would otherwise cost Fruita an estimated $1 million. The job will be done with two complements of 50 or so soldiers each. For one three-day period midway through the project, there will be as many as 110 soldiers working at the site and staying in a bivouac a few hundred yards downstream in the woods. The National Guard will spend about $350,000 on the repair. That’s the same amount it would cost for any training exercise, which the company does once a year anyway, officials said.

At completion, the narrow, sharply sloped dam will be restored and improved with the extension of the back side into a flatter, more stable support structure holding back the reservoir, which can hold back about 140 acre feet of water.

Fruita needed to act soon because it was in danger of losing its water right for failure to put it to beneficial use, Henry said. Fruita, however, had no money to rebuild the dam until the National Guard came along. “We don’t want to compete against contractors for work,” Brock said, so officials chose to work with other government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials

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Here’s a preview of today’s U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials — including much praise for Glenwood Spring’s wave feature in the Colorado River — from John Stroud writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

“This is one of the best features in the world, and it’s right in my backyard, so I guess I have a little hometown advantage,” [Michael Palmer ] said during a training break at the whitewater park earlier this week. He and [Jason Craig] have become good friends while competing on the world kayaking circuit. Palmer introduced Craig to the new Glenwood Whitewater Park last summer. “I was here for two weeks, just staying and playing in the park,” Craig said. “There’s not an artificial wave feature built anywhere that’s better than the one here,” he said. “There are some amazing opportunities with this wave, because there’s so much water and its taller and more powerful … you can really separate yourself from the water, which opens up the possibilities for tricks.”

Glenwood’s wave is unique because of its location on a major river, just downstream from the confluence with a major tributary, the Roaring Fork River, Palmer explained. Where most whitewater parks are on rivers that peak below 5,000 cubic feet per second, the Colorado River in that location can peak at 17,000 cfs or more stay above 10,000 cfs for several weeks during the spring and early summer. “There are natural features in some places that rival this, but they only come in a couple of days out of the year,” Palmer said. “This one lasts for months, and you can truly paddle it year-round.” For Glenwood to host a competition the caliber of the Team Trials in just the whitewater park’s second year is huge, he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Runoff News: Colorado-Big Thompson, Aspinall Unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

This week, due to cooler temperatures, melting snow down the Big Thompson River into Lake Estes dropped off considerably. While Lake Estes is filled primarily by C-BT water coming from the west slope and delivered through the Estes Power Plant, we have been moving that water on down through the project and into Horsetooth Reservoir. When the natural inflow from Big Thompson dropped off, that dropped the water level of Lake Estes down a full foot to around 7470–about five feet below full. We anticipate that over the weekend, we will be able to store a little more behind Olympus Dam and raise the water level of Lake Estes back up that foot to around 7471 or maybe even 7472.

Downstream of Lake Estes, the Big Thompson River through the canyon has been fluctuating, reflecting the inflows we have been seeing from the upper Big Thompson River to the reservoir. We have been passing matching inflows through Olympus Dam on down through the canyon. The changing temperatures play the largest role: when it is warmer, more snow melts during the day, causing flows in the Big Thompson to rise at night. We adjust the gate at Olympus Dam to reflect those flows and pass them on down to the canyon. But, when it cools off, the inverse happens, less snow melts, and flows in the river drop off. That is why the Big Thompson below Olympus Dam started at around 175 on Monday, bumped up to near 300 cfs on Tuesday, dropped to just under 200 cfs on Wednesday, and is now flowing around 125 cfs. Depending on what the weather does, we will adjust the release from Olympus Dam at night to match the snowmelt coming down the river.

“Down canal” from Lake Estes is Pinewood Reservoir. Pinewood stores water above Flatiron Power Plant before we drop the water down the penstocks to generate hydro-electric power at the plant. We have been doing some upgrades at Flatiron for several months–and that will continue through the summer. Because of that, we are generating with one unit instead of two. This means, we cannot run as much water through the plant. So, we are not filling Pinewood as full as it typically has been this time of year in other years. As a result, Pinewood has been holding a fairly steady water elevation of around 6567 most of the spring. On Wednesday, the change in inflow at Lake Estes also effected Pinewood and the water elevation dropped three feet to about 6564–about 16 feet down from full. As we move through the weekend, the elevation at Pinewood will climb back a little bit, but we do not anticipate it getting much higher than 6570–ten feet down from full.

Carter Lake has remained steady at an elevation of 5753–about six feet down from full. Once warmer weather hits, we anticipate water users will begin to pull their water from Carter Lake. But, the rain has staved that off a bit. We anticipate Carter will maintain this water elevation through the weekend.

Similarly, Horsetooth Reservoir has been holding at a steady elevation of about 5416, almost 5417. Like Carter, we have not seen much water go out of Horsetooth, yet, for water users. Again, the rain is probably holding that off. We have been bringing only a little water into Horsetooth Reservoir over the past week because water users downstream on the Big Thompson River are taking some of their C-BT water. If that demand drops off and the cool weather continues, Horsetooth will rise slightly. Otherwise, it is likely to maintain the same water elevation through the weekend, as well.

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Blue Mesa Reservoir has been increasing in elevation at a rate of about 1 ft per day and the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center tells us the April – July inflow volume is likely to increase to over 700,000 ac-ft. To accommodate this change in inflow, releases from the Aspinall Unit will increase by 200 cfs on May 29th. Following this change, flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge will be about 2,100 cfs.

Greeley: Water supply meets standards

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From The Tribune:

The 2008 Consumer Confidence Report for the Greeley water department released on Wednesday revealed no violations of state or federal water quality standards. The department has never violated standards described in the report, although the department has erred in administering a small number of tests in past years. The failed tests were not a cause for concern, the report said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

CWCB: Instream flow water rights

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Here’s a recap of this week’s meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board Stream and Lake Section this week in Montrose, from Mallory George writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

“We are here to balance human needs with some reasonable preservation of the natural environment,” said Jeff Baessler, the deputy section chief at CWCB. He cited the Tragedy of the Commons, in which everyone has free use of resources and eventually exhaust those resources because of lack of regulation, as the need for water appropriations…

After groups such as the Bureau of Land Management, a homeowners association and the U.S. Forest Service recommended 54 streams and rivers to be protected this year, the CWCB began conducting tests to ensure that a natural environment exists, which is typically, but not always, marked by fishery. Baessler said the CWCB also makes sure that the natural environment in question will be preserved by the water available for appropriation. Not all of the water in streams is recommended to be a part of the instream flow program, just enough to preserve the environment. The water is then unavailable for consumptive use. The final statutory requirement the board must meet before finalizing an appropriation is to ensure that the new appropriation will not conflict with an existing water right.

Hydrologists are currently conducting water availability tests, while other Stream and Lake Protection staff members are meeting with local governments and communities to address concerns. In January, the Stream and Lake Protection Section will present recommendations to the CWCB, which will then declare intent for the appropriations. Baessler discussed the Division 4 recommendations, which include those in Montrose, Gunnison, Hinsdale and Delta counties. Big Dominguez Creek, Little Dominguez Creek, an increase to the Blue Creek instream flow, South Willow Creek, Alpine Creek, Spring Creek, two sections of Cebolla Creek, Red Canyon Creek, the San Miguel River, three segments of Tabeguache Creek, North Fork Tabeguache Creek, two sections of Cochetopa Creek and East Beaver Creek were recommended to the department. The San Miguel River section — from Calamity Draw to the Dolores River — which holds several sensitive species of fish, prompted confusion when it was initially recommended in February 2008 because people were concerned there would not be enough water available for consumption…

In the Uravan area, many of the water rights belong to Umetco Minerals Co., which operates a uranium mill. The company is in the process of remediating and closing down its operations and is estimated to finish by the end of this year. In anticipation of that, and for the CWCB to receive those water rights, a study was conducted by the Stream and Lake Section, the Southwester Water Conservation District and Harris Water Engineering, Inc., that resulted in several recommendations for the area. “We tried to create a package of the best water rights for local entities and the state as well,” said Dan Merriman of Harris Water Engineering. The study recommended that two Tabeguache wells and a Uravan well be given to Montrose for its use. Three other wells and the San Miguel Power Company Canal water rights would be abandoned; that is, they would be relinquished to the stream, but not be protected instream flows. Johnson Ditch water rights would shift to local government entities such as Nucla, Naturita and Montrose Country to meet existing and future needs, Merriman said. Until Umetco is out of the area, however, these recommendations cannot be carried out.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Invasive mussels: Inspections required at Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap state parks

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From The Citizen Telegram:

Starting June 1, all trailered watercraft must be inspected for aquatic nuisance species (ANS), including zebra and quagga mussels, prior to launch at Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap State Parks…

“Boats may be inspected at Rifle Gap from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., seven days per week,” said Aaron Fero, park manager for Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap State Parks. “Inspection hours at Harvey Gap will be limited to Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.” In August, the inspection hours at both parks will decrease. However, inspections will still be available seven days per week. Visitors wishing to launch boats when the park inspection stations are closed will be required to have proof of a pre-inspection.

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Visitors launching boats prior to or after inspection hours will be required to have proof of a pre-inspection. The pre-inspection sticker will be available on days prior to boating and will be valid for one entry only. Parks rangers will be monitoring craft entering and leaving the reservoirs.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Brush: Stormwater fees go up

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From The Fort Morgan Times:

An increase in storm water fees for residents of Brush was approved during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Brush City Council. The measure raises rates by three cents, from 10 to 13 cents a month per lineal foot of frontage on any property that has a curb and gutter installed. Corner lots will be charged only for the length of frontage from which the property takes its address. The increase goes into effect July 1, and is intended to offset costs the city will incur for the Downtown/Clayton Street storm water project. Studies done in 2005 led Brush to develop a storm water master plan that addressed five areas of hazardous flooding in the city. One of those, the Williams Street Loop area, has already been resolved. Though the three-cent increase is not the final solution in obtaining funds to fix all four remaining areas, the city council decided during a previous meeting that a six-cent increase so abruptly was not in the city’s best interest, and the small increase over time was preferred.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Glenwood Canyon: Whitewater Standup Paddling Championships May 30-31

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Here’s a preview of the event, from Jeff Caspersen writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

[Charlie MacArthur], who owns and operates Aspen Kayak Academy, and his longtime friend, and fellow whitewater fiend, Paul Tefft, are bringing the Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships to the Colorado River this weekend. The event is the first of its kind, as far as MacArthur and Tefft know, and the pair hope it lends competitive legitimacy to a sport that’s still very much in its infancy.

With roots dating back to the early days of Polynesia, stand-up paddling, or SUP, is well rooted in coastal communities. It’s basically surfing, with boards longer and wider than your traditional surfboard, and with the aid of a long, single-bladed paddle. While much of the sport’s history has played out on the flat water, SUP is catching on with inlanders in the Roaring Fork Valley, who are taking to this new way of tackling the rushing rapids of local rivers.

Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors approve purchase and sale of groundwater rights for compliance pipeline

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Here’s a release from the RRWCD via The Yuma Pioneer:

On Monday, May 18, the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors voted to authorize closing on the $49.1 million purchase and sale of the groundwater rights for the Republican River Compact Compliance Pipeline.

The decision came even though the Republican River Compact Administration has not yet approved the augmentation plan and accounting procedures for the pipeline project.

After questioning Deputy State Engineer Mike Sullivan at length and taking comments from the public, the RRWCD Board of Directors voted to authorize the closing because of concern that the $60 million loan funds from the Colorado Water Conservation Board may not be available in the future due to the state’s current budget situation.

The board recognized that Colorado is exceeding its statewide Compact allocations and that the pipeline project is needed to avoid an action by Nebraska or Kansas for an injunction against Colorado to halt well pumping in the district until Colorado is in compliance with its compact allocations.

The RRWCD Board also recognized that Kansas believes that Colorado is impairing Kansas’ ability to use its South Fork sub-basin allocation within the South Fork sub-basin. The RRWCD Board has requested assurances from the State of Colorado that if the board goes forward with the pipeline project, Colorado will drain Bonny Reservoir or take other actions equivalent to draining Bonny Reservoir if Kansas is correct regarding its interpretation of the Final Settlement Stipulation between the states.

Although the State of Colorado has not provided the assurances sought by the board, the board concluded that the only feasible way to comply with Kansas’ view of the sub-basin non-impairment requirement in the South Fork sub-basin is to drain Bonny Reservoir.

The State of Colorado is continuing negotiations with Nebraska and Kansas in an effort to get the Republican River Compact Administration’s approval of the augmentation plan and accounting procedures for the pipeline project. If the negotiations are not successful, the State of Colorado will pursue the dispute resolution process established in the Final Settlement Stipulation, which includes non-binding arbitration of disputes.

For more information, contact Stan Murphy at the RRWCD office, 410 Main Street, Ste 8, in Wray, call 332-3552, or email rrwcd@centurytel.net.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Conservation groups ask for Corps of Engineers for extension for comment period

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the deadline for public comment on Colorado Springs’ application for a permit for the Southern Delivery System. The Corps is preparing an environmental review of the $1.1 billion pipeline project that would build a 53-mile pipeline, two new reservoirs and a treatment plant to provide water for Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West…

The initial time period for comments ends Thursday, just 21 days after the application was announced on May 13. The coalition is asking for a 60-day period ending July 13, said Joe Santarella, the group’s lawyer…

The coalition offered frequent criticism of SDS during Reclamation’s hearings on its EIS, particularly on the potential of the new reservoirs in the project to concentrate levels of mercury on tributaries of Fountain Creek.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works okays sale of Columbine Ditch

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The sale for $30.48 million would transfer ownership of the ditch 13 miles north of Leadville to Ginn Development for use in its Battle Mountain development near Minturn. The sale won’t be complete for more than two months, however, since Aurora has the opportunity to match terms of the contract within the next 60 days under a 1997 agreement with the Pueblo water board. “We haven’t seen the contract, so I don’t know what we’ll do,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora water.

There are still conditions that must be met, including the approval of the Pueblo City Council of the sale of a water right. The water board must also complete its contracts to buy 5,000 shares of the Bessemer Irrigating Ditch Co., or about one-quarter of the ditch that flows from Pueblo Dam through Pueblo and irrigates farms on the St. Charles Mesa. The Columbine contract also provides for continued, limited use of the Columbine Ditch during drought years during the next 25 years. The water board would be able to use up to 250 acre-feet in two of every 10 years. The ditch would otherwise yield 1,300 acre-feet per year. The Bessemer shares could yield as much as 7,500 acre-feet per year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Gary Barber: Aurora is the brother-in-law you wish your sister had never married

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Here’s a recap of this week’s town hall meeting with U.S. Representatives John Salazar and Ed Perlmutter in Rocky Ford, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Listening to everything that’s been said . . . Aurora is the brother-in-law you wish your sister had never married,” said Gary Barber of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. “But he does the dishes at Thanksgiving, so you learn to live with him.” Barber was speaking to Reps. John Salazar and Ed Perlmutter, both Colorado Democrats, at a town hall meeting on the possibility of changing federal legislation to allow Aurora to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas Valley…

The meeting brought out arguments on both sides centering on the basic question of whether Aurora is needed in the Arkansas Valley to make big projects like the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Super Ditch work. Some contended that Aurora has been a valuable partner, while others objected to removal of water from a high desert valley…

“I was not part of the negotiations, but we’ve been asked to move legislation,” Salazar said. “It’s no secret; I’ve always been a strong opponent of moving any water out of a basin.”[…]

[Pete Moore, chairman of the Lower Ark board] argued that the only way farmers in the valley will realize the full value of their water rights is to bring in outside money by leasing to Aurora. [Bob Rawlings, publisher of The Pueblo Chieftain], both as a party in the lawsuit and through newspaper editorials, has opposed using the Fry-Ark Project to move water to Aurora. Rawlings also argued with Moore over the nature of so-called leases because they are actually sales of water.

Another Lower Ark board member, Pueblo County Commissioner Anthony Nunez, also supported allowing Aurora into the Super Ditch. “If we do not support the idea of the Super Ditch, the farmers will have no choice but to sell to the highest bidder,” Nunez said…

[Gary Barber of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority], however, noted El Paso County communities that are in the Arkansas River basin would also like to lease water and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Lower Ark district nearly three years ago agreeing to lease from the Super Ditch. In fact, analysis by the district during formation of the Super Ditch showed El Paso County users were willing to pay a higher price for temporary sales of water, or leases, from the Super Ditch…

Rocky Ford Mayor Matt Holder said his family’s sale of water rights on the Rocky Ford Ditch to Aurora provided the money to save a lumber and supply company that was in danger of closing. Brian Burney said the $1.5 million Aurora paid to help Rocky Ford schools offset ill effects of the sales has been invaluable. High Line Canal Superintendent Dan Henrichs said at least 13 irrigators would have lost their farms were it not for a 2004-05 lease of water from the canal by Colorado Springs and Aurora…

Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer said the agreement would prevent Aurora from acquiring water rights beyond the 37 years left on a previous agreement with other water users. He characterized Aurora’s ability to participate in valley activities like water storage contracts and Super Ditch is a “way forward,” while continued court cases will produce winners and losers. “Let’s go down a different path and see how we can do things together,” Tauer said…

“I do not like to see water separated from the land,” said Betsy Brown, a Beulah rancher. “I would like to see future growth on the Front Range thwarted by not moving water from this basin.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Valley Conduit will be built with or without Aurora, U.S. Rep. John Salazar said Thursday. The Colorado 3rd District Democrat said his position on the House Appropriations Committee puts him in good position to shepherd funding for the conduit through Congress. Along with Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., Salazar is backing a $9 million appropriation for the 2010 fiscal year to advance work on the conduit. “That will begin the work that needs to be done,” Salazar said. “These communities after 40 years will finally get built. It’s my No. 1 priority.”[…]

Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the city of Aurora’s ability to obtain long-term leases for water storage and exchange at Lake Pueblo will help greatly in meeting the local cost of the conduit, which is 35 percent under legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama. That amounts to $105 million under current estimates, or $212 million when interest is applied over 50 years. Aurora’s contracts over that period would contribute $75 million toward that cost and other costs of the Fry-Ark Project…

Without the conduit, communities are facing higher costs to treat salinity, radium and uranium that are commonly found in the valley’s wells. May Valley, for instance, serves 500 people and would have to pay $26 million for upgrades suggested by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in a recent study, Long said. The conduit is the most affordable option for the 42 valley water systems that could benefit, even though its expense is a burden to low-income communities.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here, here, here and here.

Montrose: City Council to form stakeholders group for river corridor plan

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Katie O’Hare):

Senior City Planner Garry Baker went before council Thursday to update its members on the river corridor project and ultimately recommend that the city create a citizen group. After several open houses on the project, Baker said major stakeholders were split on the different components of the project. He believes a smaller 11-member citizen committee could narrow down the ideas, creating a consistent plan that could be established into a city ordinance.

The city’s comprehensive plan is clear that there needs to be a 100-foot buffer between pavement or buildings and the river’s edge. However, details and exemptions need to be hammered out. To apply for the committee, citizens must submit a letter of request to the city’s office, 433 S. First St., in care of City Clerk Teri Colvin. The letter should indicate their affiliation regarding the river corridor (land owner, interested citizen). Deadline is June 19. After reviewing the letters of interest, city council will appoint the committee at its July 2 council meeting. The committee would probably meet about three times in August and early September, and present present recommendations to council after, Baker said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Runoff (snowpack) news: Peak past tense

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From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Heidi Rice):

“In the Rifle area of the Colorado River, it’s already reached its high point and although the flows remain somewhat high, it’s below flood range,” said Brian Lawrence, a service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. The runoff was accelerated by mild temperatures this year in western Colorado, causing the peak runoff to take place sooner than usual…This year the river peaked on May 21 at 19,440 cfs…The runoff is expected to be high for the next two or three weeks and then slowly taper off.

From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Brandon Gee):

Jeff Colton, a meteorologist with the weather service in Grand Junction, said both rivers peaked last week, on May 21. The Elk River near Milner rose to 7.4 feet, just above its flood stage, and the Yampa River at Steamboat Springs peaked at 5.7 feet, well below its flood stage, Colton said. The designated flood stage for both rivers is 7 feet…

At about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Yampa River near Fifth Street in Steamboat Springs was flowing at 2,630 cubic feet per second, compared with a historical mean of 2,240 cfs and median of 2,120 cfs, according to U.S. Geological Survey station readings. The Elk River near Milner was flowing at 3,900 cfs, compared with a historical mean of 2,610 cfs and median of 2,420 cfs. A flood advisory remains in effect for the Elk River. Colton said that is because the river continues to flow above its “bankfull” stage of 6 feet…

There is little snowpack left to melt and feed flows in the area, and Colton said he expects local flows to drop dramatically in coming weeks. Colton also noted that June is Steamboat’s driest month and typically sees just 1.43 inches of precipitation. There was no snowpack remaining Tuesday morning at 8,400 feet at Dry Lake, at 8,700 feet on the Elk River or at 8,880 feet on Lynx Pass, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL station readings. The historical snow water equivalent for the three sites on the same date is 4 inches, 2.7 inches and 1.2 inches, respectively. At 9,400 feet on Rabbit Ears Pass, the snow water equivalent is 4.5 inches, compared with a historical average of 18.1 inches. At 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass, the snow water equivalent is 35.6 inches, compared with a historical average of 47.1 inches. Across all sites in the Yampa River and White River basins, the snowpack is just 42 percent of average. Last year, the basin-wide snowpack was 118 percent of average.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Lamar town hall meeting

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U.S. Representatives John Salazar and Betsy Markey were howling with the locals in Lamar yesterday. The primary focus was how to get the Arkansas Valley Conduit funded and built and legislation that would allow Aurora to move water out of basin using the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey, both Democrats, said they would continue to work for farmers and the Arkansas Valley Conduit, but were noncommittal on how they would proceed with proposed legislation to allow Aurora to continue to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the valley.

“Why do we need this legislation?” Salazar asked at one point, saying that the Bureau of Reclamation already acts as if it has authority to enter a 40-year contract to provide space in Lake Pueblo for Aurora to store water and to exchange it upstream. Colorado water law should protect existing water rights and should not be circumvented by federal legislation, Salazar said. “I’m here because I care and love agriculture. I’m here to keep farmers on the land,” Salazar said. “It will be a sad day in America if we ever depend on another country for our food and fiber.”

Markey said her priority is making sure the Arkansas Valley Conduit is funded. “We’re very close to getting this issue off the ground,” Markey said.

Salazar emphatically agreed. “I can assure you that before I leave office we will build the conduit. We have made it our No. 1 priority,” Salazar said.

Congress has been asked by Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to pass legislation that would authorize Reclamation to enter contracts with Aurora as part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit. The Lower Ark district sued Reclamation in 2007 over the Aurora contract…

Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water, showed Salazar and Markey a copy of the 1965 contract that linked the Homestake Project, a separate transmountain diversion, with the Fry-Ark Project. Homestake, a project Aurora and Colorado Springs jointly operate, was already in motion when Congress approved the Fry-Ark Project in 1962. “At that time, the federal government saw a need for cooperation,” Pifher said.

Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer said legislation is needed to quell arguments over Aurora’s place in the Arkansas Valley. “We do believe when a federal project is built, it can have other uses so long as you don’t injure the designated users,” Tauer said.

Rawlings said the agreement between Lower Ark and Aurora needlessly ties the conduit to federal approval of legislation to let Aurora use the Fry-Ark Project. “The conduit has already been approved by Congress and should not in any way be tied to Aurora,” Rawlings said.

After the meeting, Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said Aurora’s participation in excess-capacity leases would reduce the burden of local costs for the conduit. Earlier, when federal legislation sought an 80-20 federal cost share, Aurora’s participation was not critical, he said. But the final legislation changed the cost share to 65-35, meaning that Aurora revenues could be key to keeping local costs manageable.

Several area farmers said the potential to lease water to Aurora would be critical to obtaining maximum value for water under the newly formed Super Ditch. “We market our water to the highest beneficial use, whether through crop production, livestock production, vegetable production or leasing to municipalities,” said McClave farmer Fred Heckman. He said the valley would not be dried up through leases, and said leasing the water to cities in the north is preferable to urbanizing rural Colorado…

Prowers County Commissioner Henry Schnabel said water rights owners have the right to sell or lease water, but urged his neighbors to use caution. “The impact to other water users in the valley is very important,” Schnabel said. “There is the possibility of less and less water in the river. I would like to see the system for transfer of water out of the valley, but it has to be done in a cautious and thoughtful manner.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here, here, here and here.

New Zealand mud snails found in three Colorado streams

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The snail breeds asexually and rapidly, crowding out native species. The species was first found in Boulder Creek in 2005, according the state Web site. The discovery was unexpected because the nearest known population was the Green River in northeast Utah. Since then, there have been confirmed reports of the snails in the South Platte River below Eleven Mile Reservoir and the Little Snake River near Dinosaur National Monument, said Jerry Neal, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Although signs have been posted along streams in the Arkansas River basin, mud snails have not been found in this area…

Just as boaters have been asked to keep their equipment clean, drained and dry while moving it from lake to lake to prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels, fishermen are being reminded to do the same with their gear. “The snails can be transmitted on waders and other fishing equipment, so it’s important to let fisherman know that they need to keep their equipment clean,” Neal said. Like the mussels, the snails travel from one stream to another through human activity. The snails can stow away on boats, boots, waders, nets and other fishing gear, according to the Web site. The snails are only 0.25 inches long, and nearly impossible to contain once they’ve entered an area. They survive in a wide range of temperatures and can live several days out of water. The snails pass unscathed through the digestive tracts of fish. The snails are naturally controlled by a parasite in New Zealand, but they breed out of control in the American West. One snail can produce 20-120 live offspring every three months during warmer seasons, and densities of up to 500,000 per square meter have been found in the rivers of Yellowstone National Park.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Animas-La Plata project: Crest gate problems causing project to miss high spring runoff

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Reclamation has had to stop pumping water to Lake Nighthorse due to problems with the crest gates. Here’s a report from Katie Burford writing for the Durango Herald via the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Problems with the crest gates, which are part of an intake structure that allows water to flow into a forebay or fish screen area before it is pumped up the hill, caused the system to be shut down since early last week. “It’s a minor issue, but it keeps us from pumping any water,” said Barry Longwell, the bureau’s deputy construction engineer for the project. The gates are air operated, and one of the lines has become pinched. The result is that the gates can be moved only to the all-the-way-down or all-the-way-up positions.

Although the problem is expected to be remedied within a couple of days, the malfunction occurs as the river is flowing high from the spring snowmelt, which came unusually early this year. Tyler Artichoker, first-fill project manager, said officials had optimistically projected Lake Nighthorse could be full by July 2010, but that depended on being able to take advantage of the seasonal high flow.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Grand Canyon: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered to review biological opinion of Glen Canyon dam’s effects on humpback chub

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NAZ Today:

U.S. District Judge David Campbell said in a ruling Tuesday that the 2008 opinion is a sharp departure from the federal agency’s long-standing opinion that fluctuating flows at the Glen Canyon Dam likely would jeopardize the fish. Campbell said the 2008 opinion never explains why the agency changed its position and doesn’t address the effects of modified river flows on the chub or its habitat using best science. In court documents, the agency said that although previous opinions predicted the chub would suffer under modified river flows, the population has stabilized and increased in the past few years. It’s up from 4,000 in 2000 to 7,650 at the end of last year, but still down from historical numbers, the U.S. Geological Survey said last month. Conservation efforts have allowed the population to increase, despite modified flows, Fish and Wildlife said. Campbell said the logic was insufficient and ordered the agency to revise its 2008 opinion by Oct. 30…

Environmentalists sued in 2007, alleging that the dam is being mismanaged by the federal government, threatening the humpback chub for the benefit of power production. Nikolai Lash, water program manager for the Grand Canyon Trust, hailed the Tuesday’s ruling and said science has consistently shown that current dam operations erode sandbars and beaches that humpback chub need to survive, reduce food production and decrease water temperatures. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have tried to dance around those issues, he said. “This judge has caught them in a lie, and is requiring that Fish and Wildlife come up with a reason why current dam operations should continue when they are damaging habitat illegally,” he said. Campbell didn’t agree with all the environmentalists’ claims. He rejected arguments that the Bureau of Reclamation’s assessment of an experimental plan increasing river flows for a short period of time violated federal law and that too few alternatives were considered. Campbell also rejected claims that the experimental plan violates the Grand Canyon Protection Act.

CO2 releases outpace assumptions used in 2007 IPCC report

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CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rising faster than predictions and the burning of coal in developing nations is a major contributor, according to a report by Kari Lydersen in the Washington Post. From the article:

“We are basically looking now at a future climate that’s beyond anything we’ve considered seriously in climate model simulations,” Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Field, a member of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said emissions from burning fossil fuels since 2000 have largely outpaced the estimates used in the U.N. panel’s 2007 reports. The higher emissions are largely the result of the increased burning of coal in developing countries, he said.

Unexpectedly large amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere as the result of “feedback loops” that are speeding up natural processes. Prominent among these, evidence indicates, is a cycle in which higher temperatures are beginning to melt the arctic permafrost, which could release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, said several scientists on a panel at the meeting. The permafrost holds 1 trillion tons of carbon, and as much as 10 percent of that could be released this century, Field said. Along with carbon dioxide melting permafrost releases methane, which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. “It’s a vicious cycle of feedback where warming causes the release of carbon from permafrost, which causes more warming, which causes more release from permafrost,” Field said…

Evidence is also accumulating that terrestrial and marine ecosystems cannot remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as earlier estimates suggested, Field said. In the oceans, warmer weather is driving stronger winds that are exposing deeper layers of water, which are already saturated with carbon and not as able to absorb as much from the atmosphere. The carbon is making the oceans more acidic, which also reduces their ability to absorb carbon. On land, rising carbon dioxide levels had been expected to boost plant growth and result in greater sequestration of carbon dioxide. As plants undergo photosynthesis to draw energy from the sun, carbon is drawn out of the atmosphere and trapped in the plant matter. But especially in northern latitudes, this effect may be offset significantly by the fact that vegetation-covered land absorbs much more of the sun’s heat than snow-covered terrain, said scientists on the panel.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Supplemental EIS

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Here’s an update on the supplemental environmental impact statement for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, from Cherry Sokoloski writing for the North Forty News. From the article:

A supplemental DEIS means more opportunity for public input. Carl Brouwer of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency coordinating NISP, said the new public comment period would likely come in the spring of 2010.

The supplemental document will also add to costs for NISP participants. According to Brouwer, the additional review could cost participants between $500,000 and $1 million. The process so far has cost about $6 million, he said. However, Brouwer noted, the 15 project participants have “become more galvanized as a group” in the past few months. They are getting more involved in the direction of the project, he said.

Also in February, Northern Water announced the results of its own study regarding environmental effects of NISP. The study, conducted by engineering firm Black & Veatch, concluded that water quality and treatment issues raised by Fort Collins and the EPA are not significant and can be easily addressed.

In other NISP news, Fort Collins officials have approached Northern Water about sitting down to discuss the project. “It’s the first indication we have received since early last year that they would like to open up a dialogue,” said Brouwer. “We view it as a positive development. We might be able to talk about mitigations, especially flows through Fort Collins.”

Brouwer said that “if everything fell apart” with NISP’s preferred alternative, which includes Glade Reservoir, Northern Water would look at the alternative using Cactus Hill Reservoir. That option would not require a permit from the Army Corps. However, he said, the NISP participants are still pushing for Glade.

The big disadvantage with Cactus Hill, located in Weld County, is that Horsetooth Reservoir could not be used as a conveyance facility for NISP water. Pipelines would have to be built instead, Brouwer said.

U.S. Supreme Court holds Kansas to district court fee structure in Kansas v. Colorado

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From the Pueblo Chieftain: “With the rejection of Kansas’ exception, the court unanimously approved the final judgment and decree of the 24-year lawsuit between the two states. However, the court will retain jurisdiction on some technical issues. The court limited expert witness fees to $40 per day, as set by Congress, meaning Colorado will not have to pay additional money to Kansas for costs incurred during the case…

“The court’s opinion was summed up during the Dec. 1 arguments by Justice Stephen Breyer, who told Six at one point: “Congress has a statute, and the statute is: We don’t care if the witness is Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg or the local zookeeper. . . . We don’t care if they did a lot of work or a little work. We want them to be paid $40 a day, period. . . . That’s the law.'”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and <a href=”

Grand Valley Irrigation gets dough to line portions of Highline and Mainline canals

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Tracy Dvorak): “As part of program to reduce salinity added to the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation awarded a $3 million grant to Grand Valley Irrigation to conrete-line portions of its Mainline and Highline canal, not to be confused with the Government Highline Canal. In this first of the three-year project, almost a mile of canal in the area between F 1/2 and F roads and between 26 to 26 1/2 roads is being lined. Next year, the canal running south of Mantey Heights to 28 1/4 Road will get its upgrade.”

[More…]

The process begins with workers adding drainage pipes, shaping the ditch and compacting the sides and bottom, said GVIC Superintendent Phil Bertrand. Next, a type of fabric is laid over the dirt followed by a PVC liner, and then another layer of fabric. A crew from Mays Concrete has been hired to spray a 3 1/2 to 4-inch layer “shotcrete,” after which “blankets” are put over the shotcrete to keep it warm and protect if from freezing during the initial concrete curing process. The drainage pipes added at the onset are to drain out and divert the naturally flowing subsurface groundwater from “lifting” the lining out of the ditch, Bertrand said…

GVIC services approximately 3,200 water users from Loma to Palisade irrigating 35,000 to 40,000 acres of land. Established in 1882, the company is a nonprofit governed by its users and a nine-member board.

Colorado State University’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere: $64.4 million from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration

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From the InDenverTimes.com:

Chosen through an open, competitive process, CIRA will continue to investigate satellite applications to improve regional and global-scale weather forecasts, water resource forecasts and provide integrated weather information to meet future aviation and surface transportation needs. The new cooperative agreement begins July 1 and continues through June 30, 2014. CIRA is directed by University Distinguished Professor Graeme Stephens. Steven Miller serves as deputy director.

Thornton: Thornton Cares water bill subsidies

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From the Examiner.com:

The City of Thornton will be giving away $400,000 in free money to help with the cost of water bills. It’s all part of the newly-established “Thornton Cares” initiative.

Qualifying families will receive a one-time $225 credit to their water bill, or there is an option to spread the credit out over 12 months.

“We think thousands of people will qualify,” said Thornton mayor Erik Hansen. “It’s a way for us to say, you know, if you need a little bit of extra help, we’re going to be there for you.”

In order to qualify for assistance, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident of Colorado and a Thornton water customer. Your household income must be 185 percent of federal poverty or less, which breaks down to about $1,600 a month for a single resident or $3,200 a month for a family of four.

Hansen believes thousands of Thornton residents will qualify for the year-long project. You can apply for assistance starting June 1 by calling the Utility Billing department at 303-538-7370 to get a referral for the Water Assistance Program. ??Once you’ve received the referral, you can apply in person at Community of Faith United, located inside the First Southern Baptist Church of Northglenn at 10620 Washington Street. Applications will be accepted Monday through Thursday between from 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Call 303-452-2727 for directions and questions.

Disclosure: I write for the Examiner.com.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Scoping session in Rock Springs June 9

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled another scoping session in Rock Springs, Wyoming for the Regional Watershed Supply Project. Here’s a report from Jeff Gearino writing for the Casper Star-Tribune. From the article:

Southwest Wyoming residents will get another chance to voice their concerns — or support — for Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million’s controversial project to divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range around Denver, federal officials said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday a second meeting for Sweetwater County residents next month on Million’s proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project. Army Corps project manager Rena Brand said the agency will host the second public scoping meeting on the transbasin diversion project June 9 in Rock Springs…

A hostile crowd of around 300 people greeted Million and Army Corps officials at the first public scoping meeting April 14 in Green River. The handful of area residents who were allowed to speak at the meeting overwhelmingly opposed the unique, privately funded water diversion project. Residents said diverting much-needed water from the reservoir could hurt local industry, could curtail future growth in Green River and Rock Springs, would threaten a world-class fishery and would have no real benefits for southwest Wyoming.

But some officials attending the Laramie meeting said they would welcome the approximately 25,000 acre-feet of water that would be delivered annually to southeast Wyoming users in the Platte River Basin under Million’s pipeline proposal.

At a city workshop May 12, Green River, Rock Springs, Sweetwater County and other municipal officials agreed to form a coalition — and perhaps hire a public relations firm — to fight Million’s pipeline proposal. Officials decided the best way to oppose the project was to present some sort of “united front” that would include an aggressive, proactive campaign against the project. Officials also decided to press the Army Corps for another meeting in Sweetwater County and said they would consider litigation if necessary to try and kill the project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety to hold first stakeholders meeting on new rules for uranium mining under H.B. 08-1161

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Local representatives of Clean Water Action are expected to be on hand today as the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety holds its first stakeholders meeting on new rules for uranium mining. The rule-making process is mandated by legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2008. Also passed that year was a bill requiring companies that use a mining method known as in-situ, through which uranium ore is dissolved underground using chemically treated water and extracted, to restore the quality of groundwater in mined areas to what it was before mining started. The legislation was aimed at an in-situ mining project proposed for an area between Wellington and Nunn by the uranium company Powertech. Company officials have said they intend to apply for mining permits from the state and Weld County this year. Clean Water Action plans to deliver more than 1,500 handwritten letters its staff members collected from Fort Collins residents to Gov. Bill Ritter’s office before the rule-making meeting. The letters call for the governor to make sure the interests of local residents are protected during the rule-making process.

More coverage from the Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Stakeholders called together by the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety will meet today to discuss the rulemaking process called for by the 2008 legislature. Lawmakers were responding to worries that uranium mining would lead to environmental problems, especially at the proposed Centennial “in-situ” leach uranium mine in Weld County…

The draft rules require more public disclosure of uranium prospecting. They also tighten controls on in-situ mining, requiring companies to do baseline water-quality studies and restoring the aquifer to that level or one set by the state Department of Public Health and Environment. “Hopefully, the rules will relieve some of the concerns people have had,” Powertech’s chief executive Richard Clement Jr. told The Denver Post in July. The Mined Land Reclamation Board will formalize the new rules over the next two months and then offer them up for public comment later this year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Denver Water’s reservoirs in good shape heading into summer

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From TheDenverChannel.com (Deb Stanley):

The latest report shows Denver Water’s reservoirs are averaging 91 percent of capacity as of May 18. Last year at that time, the reservoirs were 79 percent filled. The average level for that time of year is 81 percent of capacity. Antero Reservoir and Eleven Mile reservoirs are at 101 percent of a capacity. Wolford Mountain is at 100 percent of capacity. Cheesman, Dillon and Marston reservoirs are almost at capacity, Cheesman and Marston are at 97 percent and Dillon is at 96 percent. Last year at this time, Dillon was 84 percent full…

In mid-May 2008, Gross reservoir was at 12 percent of capacity. This year it is at 37 percent. Last year at this time, Chatfield was at 65 percent of capacity; this year it’s at 81 percent.

Interior ‘Partners is Conservation’

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Here’s a release from Colorado University:

University of Colorado at Boulder engineers and scientists were among those honored with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Partners in Conservation Award” this month for their role in the adoption of innovative, new operational guidelines for managing the Colorado River in drought years.

Accepting the awards for CU-Boulder were Edie Zagona, director of the Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems, or CADSWES, a research center in the department of civil, environmental and architectural engineering; Balaji Rajagopalan, associate professor of civil engineering; and Brad Udall, director of Western Water Assessment, a program of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The “Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lakes Powell and Mead” were adopted at the end of 2007 and hailed as the most significant change in management of the river since the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The Colorado River provides water for more than 30 million people and 2 million acres of irrigated land in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

The shortage guidelines are the result of an 18-month Environmental Impact Statement process that considered several alternative shortage policies during the height of a record drought on the river. River stakeholders, including federal, state and local agencies, water districts, Indian nations, tribes and communities, and nonprofit environmental organizations, shared in the Partners in Conservation Award.

“In the midst of the worst drought in more than a century they formed an agreement that promises a future of cooperation in the Colorado River Basin for the next two decades,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who presented the award.

CU was recognized in part for the CADSWES modeling tool, RiverWare, which formed the basis of all technical analysis and provided the projected outcomes of the proposed operational guidelines. “This is exactly the type of application that RiverWare was created for,” Zagona said.

Considering climate change was another hallmark of the shortage agreement and another major contribution to the effort by CU. Climate experts from CU’s CIRES Western Water Assessment played a key role in the development of the climate change appendix.

“We provided the Bureau of Reclamation, for the first time ever, a research road map for incorporating climate change into future planning studies,” said Udall. “This was a much needed fundamental and critical shift for Reclamation and for the users of the river.”

CADSWES affiliate Rajagopalan also contributed to that report, along with Bureau of Reclamation engineer Jim Prairie, who earned his doctoral degree at CU. Prairie and Rajagopalan developed stream flow scenarios that quantified potential impacts from the latest climate models and projections for the Colorado River Basin. These stream flow scenarios, together with the decision-making scenarios constructed using RiverWare, formed the basis of the forward-thinking climate variability report.

“Our university partners came forward with some really innovative ideas, which played a pivotal role in helping us analyze the impacts due to changing climate,” said Terry Fulp, deputy regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Regional Office. “There’s no way we could have done this without a huge group of people — and in particular the people at CU.”

More information is available at http://www.colorado.edu/insidecu/editions/2009/5-26/story4.html.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

The Water Center Colorado State University: May/June issue of Colorado Water

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There is no shortage of ongoing studies looking at water issues in the Arkansas Valley, and they are the focus of the May/June issue of Colorado Water, a publication by the Water Center at Colorado State University-Fort Collins.

Most of the studies have been going on for years and are yielding data that is useful to farmers, to determine impacts of water transfers on water quality and to improve Colorado’s position in dealings with Kansas on the Arkansas River Compact.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: One landowner’s fight with tamarisk

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Here’s a report on landowner Rick Enstrom’s battle against tamarisk on his land near Granada, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

So far, he has paid nearly $40,000 of his own money and received an equal match from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for tamarisk removal. Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which bought the farm’s water rights for its proposed power plant at Holly, has also provided some assistance. The state Division of Wildlife also is helping. “I don’t carpet bomb it,” Enstrom said. “The tedious part is the after-spraying.”

There are nearly immediate results in water gains. One spring – probably a groundwater seep – was clogged with cattails and tamarisk. When cleared, it produced a free-flowing stream, which was then claimed by Enstrom, beavers and the Buffalo Canal, which operates its headgate on the Arkansas River at the lower end of Enstrom’s farm. A Supreme Court case has already established that landowners who clear tamarisk are not entitled to the water savings. Still, Enstrom finds it ironic that the state has spent millions fighting Kansas for a few thousand acre-feet of water annually that both states could easily gain by getting serious about tamarisk removal.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Mesa County: Coping with wastewater problems

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Le Roy Standish):

De Beque, Powderhorn, Mack and Coll- bran all face major issues. De Beque is trying to get ahead of the curve by building a new wastewater treatment plant and upgrading a facility in anticipation of more energy workers and population, once the economy rebounds. At Powderhorn, the ground shifts every spring, and every spring the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issues a “boil water” order. In Mack, the lagoon system has leaked wastewater into the groundwater for years. And in Collbran, the whole system is simply falling apart from lack of maintenance.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

S. 787: Clean Water Restoration Act

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It should be no surprise to find conservationists supporting U.S. Senator Russ Feingold’s S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act. After all they were the most upset with President Bush’s EPA and enforcement along with court decisions on the breadth of federal control. Here’s a report from Gary Harmon writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation all list the measure, S 787 by Russ Feingold, D-Wis., as a major issue…

The bill would expand federal control to all the waters of the United States: interstate waters, intrastate lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, mud flats, sand flats, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playas and natural ponds, as well as tributaries to those waters. Proponents of the measure say it would restore protections included in the 1972 Clean Water Act, which have since been torn down by court rulings. The Trout Unlimited Web site said the act “would protect 20 million acres of wetlands and 2 million miles of rivers and streams that have lost protection in recent years because of misguided court rulings.”[…]

Previous versions have started in the House of Representatives, but this time the measure is beginning in the Senate, where majority Democrats could have a filibuster-proof margin.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Glenwood Canyon: Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships May 30-31

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Glenwood Canyon will be the site for the inaugural Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships this weekend. Here’s a report from Scott Willoughby writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

…the inaugural Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships make their way to the snowmelt-swollen Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon. Think of it as a paddle-powered downriver surfing competition. “It really is uncharted territory. That’s the cool thing,” said Charlie MacArthur of Aspen. “But the venue we have is unreal. It shows off all the skills — from turning and the ability to run the river, catching eddies and whatnot, as well as surfing. The wave is insane…

“This is the first whitewater race that’s completely stand-up paddling, and it’s a legit national championship,” said Dan Gavere, a former professional kayaker who has taken to SUP on the water surrounding his home in Hood River, Ore. “It’s going to be really fun, and I think it’s going to be a big challenge for everyone.” Accurately describing the balancing act of paddling a surfboard down a big-water river is nearly as difficult as the act of keeping your feet in the swirling currents of the Colorado. At present flows of more than 9,400 cubic feet per second (cfs), the river is a brute — cold and surging with untamed intensity that can uproot a tree and send a surfer for a swim. The three-part Whitewater SUP Championships is designed to challenge the athletes’ technical skills by combining nearly 8 miles of downriver racing in the Class II-III whitewater between Grizzly Creek and the Roaring Fork River confluence at Two Rivers Park with a shorter slalom competition and a judged wave-riding contest in Glenwood.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials

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Here’s the link to the Glenwood Whitewater Events webpage for the event this weekend.

Here’s a background piece about Dick Ryman, one of the first to race kayaks in Colorado, from John Gardner writing for the Aspen Times. From the article:

The flips, the spins, and the acrobatic twists and turns the paddlers do today are things [Dick] Ryman never thought of in his glory days. There were no man-made water parks, either, just good-old Mother Nature’s obstacles to overcome. Ryman ran the same stretch of the Colorado River in his canvas-covered kayak 50 years ago, in the 1959 U.S. National Whitewater Slalom Championship and Downriver Races. “I think it’s kind of interesting that there was boating here that long ago,” he said. “In fact, I think it’s good to know that we also have had the national championships here before.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Montrose: State of the Gunnison River

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

The Colorado River District is holding its annual Gunnison State of the Rivers meeting in Montrose Monday, June 1, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be at the Holiday Inn Express and directly follows the Gunnison Basin Roundtable meeting there. “The challenges are in the bigger river picture,” Jim Pokrandt of the river district said. “With growing population and the potential of climactic change, and maybe our looming oil industry, there’s going to be greater competition for water in the Colorado river system, and we can only use so much of it.” Pokrandt said Arizona, Nevada and California all have downstream water rights and Colorado is close to its limit. If the state hits its limit, that will trigger a curtailment for the whole river system, affecting everyone, especially those with ditch rights.

Update: Here’s a release from the Colorado River District via the Telluride Watch:

Streamflow conditions, reservoir operations and an exploration of the critical decisions facing the besieged Colorado River and its tributaries will be discussed at the annual Gunnison State of the River meeting set for 7 p.m., Monday, June 1, at the Holiday Inn Express, 1391 Townsend Ave., Montrose.

The public meeting is an annual event of the Colorado River District as an opportunity for the public to learn why water is the No. 1 issue for western Colorado.

The keynote speaker will be Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District. He will talk about the major challenges facing the Colorado River and its tributaries such as the Gunnison and Uncompahgre rivers and the limits as to how far they can be developed.

Bob Hurford, state engineer for the Gunnison Basin, will review snowpack and runoff conditions for the year. Dan Crabtree of Bureau of Reclamation will update the public on the operations of Aspinall Unit reservoirs, the Black Canyon National Park water right and the pending decision about releasing water to help endangered fish in the Gunnison.

Marc Catlin, manager of the Uncompahgre Water Users Association, will address the 100th anniversary of the Gunnison Tunnel and plans later this year for a celebration. The Gunnison Basin Roundtable will review its activities addressing future water supply challenges locally and in Colorado.

Additionally, State Climatologist Nolan Doesken will provide a history of local weather and why the weather is the way it is.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.