Summit County: Boat inspections for invasive mussels

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From the Vail Daily (Caitlin Row):

With the Dillon Reservoir likely to open for boating by Memorial Day, Dillon is championing education about boat inspections to keep aquatic nuisance species — mainly zebra/quagga mussels — out of the water. “This is a serious matter that is not being taken lightly,” said Dillon Chief of Police Joe Wray. A new Dillon law requires inspection of all boats before and after they enter Dillon Reservoir…

Wray also wants to reinforce the two access point to the reservoir — the Dillon and Frisco marinas. Dillon has barricaded boat access points that people could use in previous years. “We’re trying to reinforce them so people can’t enter or exit outside of business hours,” Wray said. “Whether we are paying for it or Denver Water is, I don’t know.” Wray has been working with Frisco in taking safety precautions against non-native species, like zebra mussels, that could threaten Dillon Reservoir’s ecosystem and the water infrastructure of the state. Dillon and Frisco police will assist marina boat inspectors, Wray said, in enforcing its boat-inspection ordinance. For more information, contact the Dillon Marina (970) 468-5100 or Frisco Bay Marina (970) 668-4334.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Denver Water, Northern and Grand County agree to cooperate on instream flows

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Denver Water (Moffat Collection System), the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Colorado-Big Thompson Project and Windy Gap Project) and Grand County have struck a deal to cooperate on instream flows in the Upper Colorado River. Here’s a report from Mark Jaffee writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

The agreement among Grand County, Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District aims to balance Front Range demands with more flow for the Upper Colorado River basin. The deal also is expected to smooth the progress of plans for two new water projects to bring 16 billion gallons of water from Grand County to the Front Range…

Diversions of water are a sore point with Grand County officials. Pipelines and tunnels already move about 60 percent of the county’s waters across the Continental Divide to serve towns and cities from Fort Collins to Littleton. As a result, flows are often low in the Fraser and Colorado rivers in summer, which threatens the county’s $18 million-a-year recreation economy…

In all, Denver Water and Northern are committed to keep 5,800 acre-feet of water on the Western Slope…

The plan will be bolstered by coordinated releases of another 5,400 acre-feet to the Colorado River from Lake Granby. This is water supplied by Front Range diverters — including Aurora Water and Colorado Springs — to meet a requirement to protect endangered fish species at Grand Junction.

“It’s all a more comprehensive approach to managing the river,” said Mely Whiting, an attorney with Trout Unlimited. “Just getting Denver Water and Northern to coordinate is a big step.”

After negotiating with Grand County and environmental groups for a year, Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District have made promises to protect stream flows and water supplies on the Western Slope. They include:

• Denver Water will allow 1,000 acre-feet of water to head down the Fraser River annually, instead of diverting it to Denver.

• Denver Water will release 1,000 acre-feet every year from Williams Fork Reservoir, near Parshall, into the Fraser River.

• Northern will guarantee 2,300 acre-feet to the Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Kremmling, every year. The district now sometimes receives only 800 acre-feet.

• Northern and Denver Water will provide $8 million to improve wastewater treatment plants and stream habitats in the county.

• Northern will slow its draw of water during the annual Gore Canyon Race week in Kremmling to improve rafting and boating conditions.

• Denver Water will release some water into the river system from irrigation ditches it owns.

More coverage from the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

“This is a history-setting occurrence,” stated Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, referring to a meeting last Thursday during which Northern and Denver representatives rolled out a list of compromises that when added up, equates to at least 11,200 acre-feet of water that could be left in Grand County rivers, to be released as needed on an annual basis…

Northern and Denver Water are under the watchful eye of West Slope water users as they work to achieve permitting on two separate projects that would firm up water rights to allow more water to be taken from both the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Already, Northern has gone through its Draft Environmental Impact Statement public comment period for the Windy Gap Firming Project, and Denver is about to release its draft statement for the Moffat firming project. In comments on Northern’s DEIS in December, the Environmental Protection Agency came out against the project’s assessment, saying the environmental impact statement failed to weigh “secondary and cumulative effects of this and other reasonably foreseeable water projects within the Upper Colorado River Basin.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should “hold the (Northern) permit in abeyance,” the EPA letter read…

…the offerings still needs to be weighed against the county’s stream management plan — now in it’s third phase — to see how what is being offered satisfies Grand County’s stream and river needs identified in the plan, according to Underbrink Curran…

Among offers, Denver Water’s willingness to give up 1,000 acre feet of annual firm yield that would normally be delivered to the East Slope is considered rare. “We’ve been very careful in all the things that we’ve done to preserve our yield because it’s very important to us,” Little said. “Yield replacement on the East Slope goes anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 dollars an acre foot,” he said. “But In this instance, we thought of Grand County’s environmental issues.”[…]

Water and sanitation district representatives, town board members, ditch shareholders, members of the ag community and others are taking the time to digest Northern and Denver’s offer — at the same time commending them for producing it. “I think that this is a paradigm shift in the relations between the East Slope water diverters and the West Slope,” said Kirk Klancke, manager of the Winter Park West Water and Sanitation District. Even so, there’s more work to be done, he said. “I would like to see the flushing flows well defined where they are not mentioned specifically in this proposal.”[…]

What Northern and Denver are offering:

• 1,000 acre-feet of firm annual yield from Fraser River Collection System
• 1,000 acre-feet annual release from Williams Fork Reservoir resulting from Fraser System bypass
• Denver Water would only take bypass water after restricting all lawn watering in Denver
• Curtail or reduce diversions in August to minimize temperature impacts to river life
• 3,000 acre-feet annually to the Middle Park Water Conservancy District
• Grand County may store 1,500 acre-feet of late-season free water in Granby Reservoir using the Windy Gap pumping facility. Denver to pay half of pumping costs shared with Grand County
• Cooperate with Grand County on the timing of releases of 5,412 acre-feet stored in Lake Granby for endangered fish recovery near Grand Junction, as part of the federal “Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program”
• Provide $6 million in improvements to the three largest wastewater facilities in Grand County to reduce discharge of nutrients to Grand County streams and lakes
• Provide $2 million for river restorations to improve aquatic habitats
• Contribute an estimated $200,000 to develop a viable cutthroat trout fishery in Grand County
• Northern offers to modify operations to lessen the impact on Granby Reservoir levels
• Provide lands for wildlife habitats, open space and/or public fishing accesses
• Curtail diversions during the Gore Canyon Race weekend each year
• Operate Big Lake Ditch, the Vail Ditch, Rich Ditch and Hammond No. 1 Ditch water in a way that enhances the Colorado and Fraser rivers.

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

Pat Mulroy: The only reason why the two reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, aren’t empty is because the Upper Basin is not fully using its allocation

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I ran across this interesting Q&A with Patricia Mulroy — General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority — from Stephanie Tavares in today’s Las Vegas Sun. Mulroy describes the outlook for this summer and Nevada’s challenges:

There has been a lot of talk about how small Nevada’s allotment from the Colorado River is. Can we go to the federal government and ask for more water?

Um, no. In 1922 the seven states of the Colorado (River Basin) entered into a compact that divided the water in the Colorado River between two basins. The Upper Basin is comprised of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming. The Lower Basin is California, Nevada and Arizona. Each of the basins received 7.5 million acre-feet. In the Lower Basin that water was then further divided among the three states, among Arizona, California and Nevada. California, because it had the largest agricultural production, got 4.4 million, Arizona got 2.8 million and we received the remainder, 300,000, because there was no agriculture in Southern Nevada and that was the driver on where the water was going to go. The United States then entered into a treaty in 1944 with Mexico in which it guaranteed 1.5 million acre-feet to Mexico — that’s an obligation on the river. What happened was that in 1922 when (the states) went through those negotiations, they used the 50 highest flow years ever recorded on the Colorado River to determine what the average flow was. That was a mistake. We have learned since that really is not the average flow and that what they thought was around 17 million or 18 million acre-feet is probably closer to 13 million or 14 million acre-feet. So in truth, the Colorado River is already overappropriated. There has been more water given away than the river itself has. The only reason why the two reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, aren’t empty is because the Upper Basin is not fully using its allocation. So a compact is not something the federal government can unilaterally overturn. It would require the agreement and concurrence of the Legislatures in every one of the basin states. And the United States has entered into compacts with its states all over the country. So it would set a hideous precedence if it tried to unilaterally override it. The result of that is that there is not a Legislature in the West that would ever give up its allocation. It would feel that it was being severed from what it perceived to be its birthright.

I think, however, over the course of the past 20 years, we have been able to put agreements into place that have afforded Southern Nevada the opportunity to take advantage of a lot more Colorado River water than it had 20 years ago. We have entered into a banking arrangement with Arizona. We’re paying it $350 million and it is banking 1.2 million acre-feet of its unused entitlement in its ground water basins for our future use. We have a banking arrangement in California whereby water we don’t use in Nevada we can store in California and take when we need it. We’ve entered into an agreement with California and Arizona to pay for a reservoir structure on the All-American Canal and for payment of that we will receive a one-time block of water that we can take down as long as there are no shortages. So we have the opportunity. I mean, quite frankly, if we didn’t have the drought and climate change staring us in the face, we would not be pursuing the in-state water project.

We’ve also gotten the ability to take water from the Muddy and the Virgin (rivers) … at Saddle Island (in Lake Mead) and we’ve got significant waters on the Virgin and Muddy rivers.

So if we had a Colorado River that was as healthy today as it was in the ’90s, none of the controversy that we’re having to go through right now with the in-state project would even be an issue. We wouldn’t be pursuing it at all. But the reality is that if what the scientists now believe to be the case that this is not just an isolated drought, that this is symptomatic of continuing lesser flows in the Colorado River, then there is a point of crisis that we’re going to hit.

We have two intakes in Lake Mead right now. Lake Mead is full at sea-level elevation 1,204. Our upper intake that was built in 1971 sits at 1,050. The second that we put in the mid-1990s is at 1,000 and we’re currently in the process of putting in the third intake, which will go underneath Lake Mead and come back up at elevation 890. It’s a very difficult project and a very dangerous project to build.

We are currently sitting at sea-level elevation of about 1,107 at Lake Mead. The latest report from the Bureau (of Reclamation) says Lake Mead is going to go down again this year. The snow has been evaporating in the Upper Basin, it’s called sublimation. And so what we thought might possibly be at least a close to normal year has turned pretty dastardly. So we could be as close as elevation 1,090 before the year is out. That puts us 15 feet away from the first shortage declaration.

The agreement we signed with the (Interior) secretary in 2007 along with the other Lower Basin states, at elevation 1,075 the secretary declares the first shortage and Nevada gets cut back. At elevation 1,050 he declares the second shortage, and we get cut back more. At elevation 1,025 he declares the third shortage, and we get cut back even further. Well, at 1,025 in Lake Mead you have less water than what the annual demand is. If we get to an elevation less than 1,000 we have less than 500,000 acre-feet left in Lake Mead.

The possibility of that happening puts this community in a horrible position of risk. You cannot conserve 90 percent of your water supply, it is physically impossible. You won’t have enough fire pressure in the hydrants to put out a fire. For that reason, to protect the community, we started developing the in-state project, because you have to bring water in from a place that is geologically separate from the Colorado River. You can’t depend on the river anymore.

All the exchanges, whether it’s ocean desalting that we’re working on with Arizona and California, whether it’s the banks — if you physically can’t take it, if the lake is in that dire stress, none of those work anymore. So we have to be able to bring water in from outside the basin and the only place that Nevada has is to look at its unused, unappropriated ground water, which is what we’ve filed on.