Runoff news

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today:

“I’d say right now we’re looking at normal runoff. But that can change with a severe weather event,” Struble said. “If you got a thunderstorm that rolled in and stayed over a drainage for a long time or put down a lot of water over a half-hour time, you could have some flooding. But if it’s a gentle storm, there’s no danger.”

The National Weather Service forecast calls for rain beginning today and continuing through Tuesday night. Struble’s office released a preparedness guide for Routt County residents, including the proper way to build a sandbag levee and an action plan for the county in case of a flood. The guide is posted on the Web at…

“The old-timers will tell you to look at the ski mountain and look at Storm Peak, and when you start to see the dirt, that’s when the peak (runoff) is. For 15 years, I’ve basically been watching that, and it’s pretty true,” she said. Hoj said there are two brown spots that appear before the others on Storm Peak, and when the two patches of bare earth combine into one large patch, that’s the time to be aware of the dangers of the highest water…

Snowfall this year has been above normal, and 53 inches of snow remain on Rabbit Ears Pass with a water equivalent of 28.4 inches, according to Snotel monitors.

Woodland Park: Council okays rate increase for Teller County Water and Sanitation District 1

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From the Pikes Peak Courier View (Norma Engelberg):

One resolution was a rate increase for water provided to Teller County Water and Sanitation District 1, a special district located north of Woodland Park in the county. Sixty percent of the district is surrounded by city. With the district’s small tank offline for contamination prevention upgrades after contamination was found last year, Woodland Park utilities has an agreement to provide water on an emergency basis, such as when a fire causes a need for increased water flow. “Even when the tank goes back online this summer, the district still might not have enough water for certain emergencies,” said Woodland Park utilities director Jim Schultz. An earlier agreement set the water rate at the 1996 prices — $6.50 per thousand gallons. The new resolution makes the rate current — $9.75 per thousand gallons — and allows it to rise or fall as city water rates change.

Englewood/Littleton: Wastewater treatment plant upgrades complete

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From the Englewood Herald News:

An April 22 celebration marked the successful completion of the four-year construction project to modernize and expand the Englewood/Littleton Wastewater Treatment Plant. Dennis Stowe, plant manager, said the project upgraded existing equipment and processes plus added additional treatment stages to bring the plant into compliance with federal regulations. Despite the size and extent of the project, it was completed on time and came in about $1.2 million under budget.

The plant is jointly owned by the cities of Englewood and Littleton. It is a regional facility that serves the area from Interstate 25 to the foothills and from Highlands Ranch north to Evans Avenue. The plant provides treatment services to about 160,000 accounts, which serves about 270,000 people.

The four-year modernization and expansion project cost more than $113 million and expanded the size of the plant by about 39 percent. Major segments of the project included substantial changes to existing treatment processes, addition of a nitrate-removal process and expansion of plant capacity from 36.3 million gallons a day to 50 million gallons a day.

Wiggins: Town council decides to build new system

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From the Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

…[T]he Wiggins Town Council decided Wednesday to build the town’s own new water system…

It will probably take a couple of years before new water comes out of taps in Wiggins homes, Town Administrator Bill Rogers said. Bill Rogers said he would contact a water attorney today to get water court proceedings started to convert water rights the town owns from agricultural use to municipal use. He also said Wiggins could begin using the water even before the court makes its final decision, according to legal experts…

The next step is to find the funding to do the job, Bill Rogers said. He believes the town can access about $2 million worth of grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and $2 million in loans at less than 1 percent interest from the Colorado Resources Power and Water Authority. The cost of the project is estimated at $4.69 million to buy even more water, build a pipeline to a farm where water can be pumped to town, purchase rights of way, build a water treatment plant and pay for legal expenses, he said. The steps after that depend on which money comes in first, Bill Rogers said. If the grants come first, the town will begin drilling wells and building the pipeline. If the loans come first, the next step is to buy more water. Grant money cannot be spent on water, he said…

Because of debt service and possible grants, the average minimum price to residential customers would be $182.75 per month if Wiggins went with Quality Water; $178 per month if it went with Fort Morgan water; and $114 per month if the town bought and treated its own water, he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Colorado Trout Unlimited names Ed Rapp ‘Conservationist of the year’

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From the Clear Creek Courant:

Clear Creek’s revival began in the late 1980s, about the time that Ed Rapp arrived on the scene. Rapp is being honored as Colorado Trout Unlimited’s conservationist of the year, Then recently a retired colonel and director of resources for the Army Corps of Engineers, Rapps quickly assumed leadership roles in reclaiming and providing a long-term, comprehensive framework for the sustainability of the Clear Creek Watershed. Acting as a county commissioner and concerned citizen, Rapp was an influential force in the early 1990s in getting the newly established Clear Creek/Central City Superfund study area placed on the national priority list for remediation of mining-related water-quality problems. Dissatisfied with the pace of work, stakeholder involvement, and lack of comprehensive scope of federal and state response, Rapp pushed for the Clear Creek Watershed Forum, the stakeholder constituency formed in 1991 to create a “culture of cooperation.”

Rapp has led additional efforts to successfully forge other organizations key to the current renaissance of Clear Creek. From among those grew the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation. Incorporated in 1997, the foundation has been led by Rapp as its unpaid president since its inception. Since 2004, Rapp has begun to supplement the foundation’s historical emphasis on water-quality issues with a broadened, more holistic agenda, and in 2006 the foundation won an EPA Regional Priorities Grant to look at the Clear Creek basin within a broader context of ecological, economic and social perspectives. He has also become active in influencing CDOT planning for future I-70 work, and led efforts to successfully thwart early plans that would have essentially destroyed the creek. Rapp’s devotion to clean waters and the advancement of Clear Creek continues to be promoted through his dynamic vision, uniquely persuasive style and downright stubbornness. His good works with the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation brought recognition to the basin by the EPA as a “targeted watershed.” The foundation is often cited by EPA and the U.S. Forest Service as an “exemplary” program, and is frequently set forth as the template for others in the mountain West looking to establish a comparable Good Samaritan entity.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Invasive mussel prevention

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Here’s an update on invasive mussel prevention at Navajo Lake, from Dale Rodebaugh writing for the Durango Herald. From the article:

Seagle, the Colorado State Parks invasive species coordinator, spent Tuesday and Wednesday explaining to 13 full- and part-time state park employees why non-native zebra and quagga mussels – found other places in Colorado – are unwelcome and how to slam the door in their faces…

He held Tuesday’s training session at a boat storage yard at the state park. Seagle showed them how to find mussels on boats and how to remove them. The defense includes vigorous inspection and decontamination of watercraft at state park marinas and the education of boaters and anglers to the peril of allowing invasive mussels to gain a foothold. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has hired five inspectors to do the same at Vallecito and McPhee reservoirs from May through October, Jim White, a DOW fish biologist, said Wednesday…

A female mussel can produce 1 million eggs in a cycle, Seagle said. If only 10 percent survive, the propagation rate becomes astronomical. In Lake Mead, on the Nevada-Arizona border, a full-blown infestation of quagga mussels is increasing at a rate that astounds researchers, Seagle said. A boat moored in Lake Mead for nine months could collect 500 pounds of quaggas, he said…

Zebra and quagga mussels have natural predators such as ducks, crayfish, carp, eels, the European roach and bream, but nothing can eat them fast enough to clear Colorado reservoirs of their presence, Seagle said. A 12-acre lake in Virginia was cleared of mussels with a water softener soap but only because of the miniscule size of the lake, Seagle said.

More coverage from the Crested Butte News (Seth Mensing):

Starting May 8, motor boaters heading to Blue Mesa Reservoir are going to find some severely restricted access and a new set of rules that are all part of an increased effort to keep some of the smallest invasive species from taking over the state’s largest lake. In a meeting with the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, April 28, Connie Rudd, superintendent of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which surrounds the reservoir, said the measures will be strict, but they are necessary…

“The National Park Service is going to make some dramatic changes to operations at Blue Mesa Reservoir so that we can prevent the spread of [zebra and quagga mussels]. I really have it in my head that on my watch we’re going to avoid mussels,” said Rudd. “People keep saying it’s not if, but when and the horror of that possibility is coming closer.” The possibility that quagga mussels have already invaded the reservoir took a step closer to reality for Rudd and her staff in March when an analysis of water samples came back from two separate laboratories indicating that there was genetic material from a mussel in one of the samples.

“That could mean anything. It could mean that you had a dead immature young larval quagga mussel. So there is nothing to indicate that we’re infested with a breeding population in the reservoir,” said Ken Stahlnecker, chief of resource stewardship at the park. “But they did pick up enough of an indication that something was there at the time when the water was sampled.” He said the Park Service would do very intensive water testing this summer, since the sample to test positive was taken very early in the summer last year. All of the samples were taken after the suspect sample tested negative for any genetic or visual evidence of mussels…

Now the Park Service has nearly doubled the man-power dedicated to boat inspections to eight park rangers and an additional six inspectors from the state. Inspections will also be required as boats leave the water. The number of points where people can launch their boats is also being decreased to three, including Stevens Creek, Elk Creek and Lake Fork launch areas, which will all have inspection stations open between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. All other launch areas will be closed to motorized boats. Non-motorized vessels will not be subject to the launch restrictions or inspection requirements. “There is only so much we can do. Non-motorized boats, like kayaks, tend not to sit in the water, when they could collect mussels. They also don’t have the space to store standing water that could transport larvae,” said Stahlnecker. “So we’re focusing our resources on the boats that pose the greatest risk.”
For more information on the changes in rules and access points at Blue Mesa Reservoir, visit or call (970) 641-2337.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Norwood: Trihalomethanes in water supply

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From the Telluride Daily Planet:

Letters went out last week letting water users know that the municipal water was once again over the limit for TTHM (Total Trihalomethanes) during the first quarter of 2009. TTHM are the by-products created by the disinfectants in the water, by-products that some people believe cause problems with the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. “We have to do something to try and alleviate the by-products within our system,” said Patti Grafmyer, Norwood’s town administrator. “The board is moving forward with the chloramination, even if we don’t get the funding.” The water commission is trying to tap into the stimulus funds, the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) package passed by Congress this year, to fund the chloramination project. The board submitted its request last week.

Chloramination is a more drastic measure than the first steps taken by the commission and the public works department. They initially hoped to solve the water issues with improvements to the system made last April. Those upgrades were on the system’s front end, where water enters the system. The TOC (total organic compounds) that enter the system are what binds with the disinfectant to create the byproducts. Those upgrades successfully reduced the TOC intake, and they also alleviated another problem by-product, HAA5 (haloacetic acids), but the TTHM problem has been more persistent. Chloramination means adding chlorine and ammonia to the water, a process that should produce water that meets the standards even at the ends of the 85-mile distribution line, when the water has had time to react with the disinfectants. “Chloramine is a disinfectant produced by combining chlorine and ammonia at a weight ratio of five to one or slightly less, which produces monochloramine,” said Grafmyer. “Monochloramine is the dominant compound formed and is considered to a suitable ‘residual’ disinfectant, i.e., appropriate for maintaining effective disinfectant levels throughout the distribution system.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Cañon City: Cotter intends to re-open mill despite unchecked groundwater contamination

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From the Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter’s latest data indicate groundwater contamination from Cold War uranium-processing still is spreading unchecked toward Cañon City (pop. 15,850). And federal investigators still haven’t completed a required comprehensive look at whether contamination could be causing cancer and other health problems…

Local leaders who long tolerated the contamination — it’s been 25 years since the Environmental Protection Agency ordered a Superfund cleanup — now oppose any project until the cleanup is done. “That mill is just in the wrong place. I’d rather see them decommission and go away,” Fremont County Commissioner Mike Stiehl said…

The mill is one of four in the nation licensed to convert uranium ore into yellowcake — fuel for the nuclear power that proponents see as a “green” alternative to burning fossil fuels. It sits above the Arkansas River on the south side of Cañon City, about 100 miles southwest of Denver. Cleanup has lagged with repeated violations. For years, Colorado officials have allowed the mill to stay open on a “stand-down” basis that lets Cotter retain an operating license — an unusual situation…

Cotter’s data shows the concentration of uranium in groundwater flowing from the plant increased by 40 percent between 2000 and 2006 and Cotter “is evaluating” how fast this water is flowing, said Steve Tarlton, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s radiation program manager. “Cleanup is required whether the site is closed or refurbished,” Tarlton said. “Exposures aren’t taking place,” EPA remedial project manager Pat Smith said, although a resident recently was placed on an alternative water supply. Cotter intends to refurbish its mill, then hire up to 80 workers to process uranium ore hauled by train from a mine on Mount Taylor in northern New Mexico, said John Hamrick, vice president of milling for Cotter. It’s uncertain how much Cotter would invest and what sort of facilities it would build, Hamrick said…

“What I find perplexing is how Cotter here in Colorado can say they intend to do a deal with their sister company in New Mexico when all these issues are still pending,” said state Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, who represents residents around the mill.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Animas-La Plata Project: Animas River pumping station to go online today

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The Animas-La Plata hits a huge milestone today as the pumps will will be turned on to start the first fill of Lake Nighthorse behind the Ridges Basin Dam. Here’s a report from Dale Rodebaugh writing for the Durango Herald. From the article:

The project is being built by the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that has been testing equipment at the pumping station for two weeks. “We’re transitioning from testing to the real thing now,” Barry Longwell, deputy construction engineer, said Thursday as he led a tour of the pumping plant. “The reservoir will be filled gradually on an as-it-goes basis.”

The first fill will take 18 months to three years, depending on such factors as the flow in the Animas, the demand of senior water-right holders downstream, the amount of water needed for environmental commitments in the Animas and the capacity of the pumping station, Longwell said. The lake will be off limits until the reservoir is full. While recreation – including boating – is planned, nothing has been finalized.

Eight pumps – two each with a capacity of 14 and 28 cubic feet of water per second, respectively, and four with 56 cfs capacity – will be used. A cubic foot of water per second will produce nearly 2 acre-feet in 24 hours. In a nutshell, the A-LP, as it’s known, consists of the reservoir (120,000-acre-foot Lake Nighthorse), the pumping station and a pipeline connecting the two as well as facilities in New Mexico for partners there, including the Navajo Nation.

All New Mexico partners in the project will draw their shares of water from the San Juan River, of which the Animas is a tributary. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe haven’t specified uses for their shares of the water. The La Plata West Water Authority plans to use water for the dry southwest corner of La Plata County where residents are on wells or haul water to their homes…

“It was important to settle Ute water claims because it gives some security to other water-right holders,” Isgar said. “The Utes have water rights dating to 1868, but while the rights were never quantified and adjudicated (in water court), they gave up those claims for water from the A-LP.” After all, the right to 100 percent of water from streams that go dry in the summer isn’t as prudent as having some water, albeit less, from a reliable year-round source, Isgar said…

The Colorado partners in the A-LP are the Southern Utes, the Ute Mountain Utes, the state of Colorado and the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District. The New Mexico partners are the Navajo Nation, the San Juan Water Commission and the La Plata Conservancy District. The capacity of the reservoir is 120,000 acre-feet but only 57,100 acre-feet of depletion is allowed. The three tribes have a right to 62 percent of the water, nontribal entities 38 percent. Evaporation will account for 2,700 acre-feet a year.

Click through and read the whole article. They’re running video of the dedication ceremonies for the dam last October, they’re running some great photos and there is a timeline for the trials and tribulations for the project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: New customers for CSU’s water?

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Now that Colorado Springs Utilities has essentially gotten the “green light” for their proposed Southern Delivery System the utility has started mapping out their customer base. Here’s a report from R. Scott Rappold writing in the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

“What we’ve got to do – and it’s not an easy project at all – is to try to identify those other entities that are actually going to need the service and make sure they understand their present supply could be lost at any time if those aquifers dry up,” said Tony Elia, chair of the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee, a citizens group that advises City Council on Utilities issues.

There are many questions, the toughest of which may be how Utilities can offer water from SDS when its own projections say the city will need all of it some day. While the housing slowdown means all 78 million gallons a day won’t be needed by 2046, the year originally projected, officials say the day will come when all of it is needed. Said Elia, “You can’t tell them you’ve got to commit to 5 million gallons a day but we can take it back any time we want. If you give it to them, it’s permanent.”

Colorado Springs has always guarded its water jealously, extending water service primarily to annexed developments. While Utilities’ electric power grid serves several communities, 208,737 homes and businesses, it has 132,637 water customers. Just a few hundred customers outside the city get its water, at 1.5 times the normal cost. Utilities has two temporary sharing agreements, one to transport water owned by Manitou Springs to that city and the other to sell up to 500 acre-feet a year to the Cherokee Metropolitan District on the east side of Colorado Springs…

“We have to be able to distinguish between Colorado Springs’ water rights and the water rights owned by other entities outside the city. If you are providing your water rights to another entity, you’re basically giving them up, and we’re not going to do that,” said Mayor Lionel Rivera. He said the focus should be on using SDS to carry water that other users own, not agreeing to sell Colorado Springs’ water over a long period – though he is open to selling it on a short-term basis in wet years…

[The Cherokee Metropolitan District] suffers chronic water shortages, and customers this spring face watering restrictions at a time when supplies are abundant elsewhere. [Kip Petersen, general manager] said there is water available for purchase from Arkansas River Valley farmers, but no way to get it here – and the district would also be interested in buying from the city to augment its supply, if the price is right. “There is definitely interest in participating in the Southern Delivery System. Now we’ve got to figure out how it’s going to get done,” he said…

The Utilities Policy Advisory Council, a committee of residents that advises City Council, will begin discussing regional water-sharing Wednesday. The board meets at 8 a.m. in the Blue River Board Room, Fifth Floor, Plaza of the Rockies South Tower, 121 S. Tejon St. The meeting is open to the public.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Arkansas Valley: Lysimeter installations producing useful data

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Here’s an update on Colorado State University’s lysimeter installation in the Arkansas Valley, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The devices are capable of measuring small changes in water on blocks of soil that will help determine how much water crops in the Arkansas Valley are using. That could help Colorado in its ongoing dispute with Kansas over how much water each state is entitled to under a 1948 compact as well as give farmers better information about how and when to irrigate. “We’re trying the best we can to measure consumptive use and account for all the factors that go into the equation,” said Lane Simmons, a research associate.

So far, there are not concrete results, although farmers who have toured the site are already optimistic that the research will prove what they instinctively believe – that Colorado has never gotten enough credit for its water use. Mike Bartolo, director of the research center, is careful to put the brakes on jumping to any conclusions. “It’s premature to make any conclusions,” Bartolo said. “We have one year of data and we don’t fully understand the dynamics. . . . After three or four years, we’ll have a clear picture of what’s happening with alfalfa.”

There are two lysimeters at the research center, which is about one mile east of Rocky Ford. The larger one, completed in 2007, weighs changes in a 10-feet by 10-feet cube of soil 8 feet deep. On a hot summer day, when evaporation is at its peak, there might be a change of 150 pounds in the 50-ton block. Scales connected to computers record the slightest change.

The smaller one is a reference lysimeter in a nearby field that is 5-feet by 5-feet and 8 feet deep. “It’s built for precision,” Simmons said, following a line on the computer in his office. “You can see it level off at night, then it goes down during the day, levels off again and spikes when there’s an irrigation.”[…]

To see the lysimeter itself, requires going through a metal hatch down a ladder in a 12-foot hole in the ground. The lysimeter sits on the sensitive scales, but there are also barrels to catch water as it makes its way through the soil and an array of tubes that can either vacuum water out or inject water into the sample…

Water comes into the cube either by precipitation or irrigation. It leaves through evaporation, transpiration (through growing plants) or seepage. By combining the weather data and the weight of the soil block, researchers can account for every drop. The scales can measure the changes day-in and day-out all year long…

The state is funding the research partly through a legal defense fund set up during the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case filed by Kansas over the Arkansas River Compact. During the case, a special master sided with Kansas on the use of the Penman-Montieth equation in determining crop use. Rather than a simple mathematical formula, it uses actual crop data to determine consumptive use by plants. The problem is there is no hard data available for Colorado. The closest lysimeters are in Texas and Idaho, so the numbers in the equations now being used are only a good guess…

The data also can be used to calculate better numbers for crops other than alfalfa, which is used as the reference point in the model and is also the predominant crop in the Arkansas Valley. The numbers also are helpful in an ongoing study led by Colorado State University professor Tim Gates on salinity and water tables in the Arkansas Valley. “The evapotranspiration values of crops can have direct consequences to irrigation scheduling, water augmentation plans, interstate compacts and other farm management plans,” Simmons explained. “More accurate determinations of ET values can lead to gained efficiencies in water use and irrigation management.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Taming the land: Seventh in the series

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Here’s the seventh installment of Chris Woodka’s series “Taming the Land,” running in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Huge clouds of dust routinely covered the plains, largely a product of grasslands that had been tilled for crop production. April 14, 1935, was termed Black Sunday, when the worst of the storms tore across the plains. On Dec. 12, 1935, a conference on the Dust Bowl began at the Congress Hotel in Pueblo and plans were laid to fight back against dust storms that had eaten 5 million acres of land in five states, according to accounts at the time in The Chieftain. The conference set a course of action that led to the newly formed Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service) working with area soil conservation districts to reduce the worst effects of drought the land.