Colorado River adaptive management program update

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From the New York Times (April Reese):

After 13 years of experimentation, a collaborative program aimed at reversing some of the ecological damage wrought by Glen Canyon Dam in the Grand Canyon’s stretch of the Colorado River has failed to live up to its congressional mandate, critics within the program say. And even as the science on the river’s health points in the direction of flow changes that would mimic natural conditions, members of the 25-member Adaptive Management Work Group remain entrenched along old battle lines that pit power producers and Colorado River Basin states against environmental groups and wildlife agencies concerned about the river’s ecological decline. The result is a policy stalemate that has effectively kept Glen Canyon Dam operating under the same conditions as in 1992, when Congress passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act, calling on the Interior Department and stakeholders to figure out ways to “protect, mitigate adverse impacts to, and improve” conditions within Grand Canyon National Park’s river corridor.

Southern Delivery System: Upper Williams Creek recreation potential

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Colorado Springs Utilities proposed Southern Delivery System includes plans for a terminal reservoir at a site northeast of Colorado Springs known as the Upper Williams Creek Reservoir. Here’s a look at potential recreational opportunities associated with the reservoir, from R. Scott Rappold writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Upper Williams Creek Reservoir will be the largest, in surface area, owned by Colorado Springs. Boaters, anglers, swimmers, hikers and picnickers may all be able to use it, in a region that has always been challenged for aquatic recreation. But don’t go buy a speed boat and water skis yet. It will be at least a decade before the reservoir is full, and Colorado Springs Utilities officials have not determined how recreation will be managed, since there are concerns about the impacts motor boating could have on a lake whose primary function is to store drinking water. “We do want to offer some form of boating, but we’ve got to have some internal discussion and agreement on what kind of boating that is,” said Keith Riley, SDS project planning and permitting manager…

Upper Williams Creek Reservoir will be one-seventh the size of Pueblo Reservoir, one-fourth the size of Elevenmile Reservoir, 120 acres smaller than Cherry Creek Reservoir outside of Denver and more than 10 times the size of Prospect Lake in Memorial Park…

…some research has linked gas-powered boats to water-quality problems, including petroleum in the water. Recreational boats also provide the main transportation for invasive zebra mussels, which were found at Pueblo Reservoir last year – and last month hitch-hiking on three boats before they were put in the reservoir. The mussels, which had before not been detected in Colorado, can clog water pipes and drive out native species in a lake. Utilities officials also haven’t decided if they will allow swimming, which can lead to problems of dirt and human waste in water. “We do want to maximize the recreational opportunities at the reservoir site, but we’ve got to balance that with safety and protection of the water supply,” Riley said.

Fishing will be allowed. As a shallow lake, about 120 feet at its deepest, it will be a warm-water fishery, to be stocked by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Riley said, probably with bass, walleye, perch and blue gill. There are also plans for picnic facilities, hiking trails and a playground.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Newlin Gulch and the Clean Water Restoration Act

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The Bush administration weakened protections for streams and wetlands with rules issued by the EPA. Several attempts at restoring jurisdiction failed during the last few years. Here’s a report about Newlin Gulch which empties into Rueter-Hess Reservoir from Make Jaffe writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

More than 76,000 miles of Colorado streams — 73 percent of the state’s waterways — are, like the Newlin Gulch creek, at risk of losing federal wetlands and pollution protections. The reason: U.S. Supreme Court decisions and Bush administration interpretations of those rulings that limit the scope of the Clean Water Act…

Also at risk are water pollution safeguards because a quarter of the sewage treatment and industrial outfall pipes are on Colorado waterways that don’t meet the “waters of the United States” definition, a Trout Unlimited study found. Nationwide, 20 million acres of wetlands and 2 million miles of waterways could be affected, according to federal estimates…

Which waterways get Clean Water Act protection was redefined by the U.S. Supreme Court in two rulings. The first, in 2001, found that some isolated intrastate ponds weren’t protected by the act because the law refers to “navigable waters” and the ponds were not. The justices equated “water of the United States” with navigability. The second, in 2006, limited wetlands protections to only “relatively permanent waters” connected to navigable waterways. The Bush administration followed up both cases with guidance to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency that used the decisions to remove many wetlands and streams from the regulation. The guidance also said decisions on what water is protected would be made on a case-by-case basis…

Which waterways get Clean Water Act protection was redefined by the U.S. Supreme Court in two rulings. The first, in 2001, found that some isolated intrastate ponds weren’t protected by the act because the law refers to “navigable waters” and the ponds were not. The justices equated “water of the United States” with navigability. The second, in 2006, limited wetlands protections to only “relatively permanent waters” connected to navigable waterways. The Bush administration followed up both cases with guidance to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency that used the decisions to remove many wetlands and streams from the regulation. The guidance also said decisions on what water is protected would be made on a case-by-case basis.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Yampa River Festival May 23 and 24

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Joel Reichenberger):

[Pete Van De Carr] said a strong test for damage the economy might bring will come with the Yampa River Festival, set for May 23 and 24. The festival will be largely unchanged from its format a year ago, he said. The only main addition is a riverboarding segment. The event again will be capped by the Paddling Life Pro Invitational, set for Memorial Day, May 25. “It’s going good,” Van De Carr said about the event’s organization. “It will definitely be fun again this year. This time we’re kind of going back to our bluegrass roots. We always used to have bluegrass bands play, but got away from it. Now we’re going back, and it should be a lot of fun.”

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Financing elusive

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Here’s an update on the process to raise capital to fund the Arkansas Valley Conduit, from David Vickers writing for the La Junta Tribune Democrat. From the article:

Bent County Commissioner Bill Long from Las Animas, who chairs the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and both the SECWCD’s Arkansas Valley Conduit Committee and the area’s conduit advisory committee, said Thursday that $25 million remains in the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s loan program for the conduit. When the General Assembly faced a budget shortfall of more than $700 million to balance its budget for the coming year, it tapped the CWCB’s loan program for extra funds, including $35 million intended to help finance the conduit project…

A meeting scheduled on April 21 in La Junta was abruptly cancelled when Long and Jim Broderick, the conservancy district’s general manager, were called to Washington, D.C., to speak to congressional representatives about potential federal funding through the Obama Administration’s stimulus package. “That was the real reason we cancelled the meeting,” Long said. “We had to be in Washington that day.” It coincided, however, with the announcement that state legislators would be tapping into the CWCB’s loan program to help balance the budget. Long said the meeting cancellation and the news from the statehouse left some people with the impression that state funding for the project had dried up. “The $25 million is still there and there’s a commitment to replace the balance ($35 million),” Long said…

In the coming week, Long said he expects to meet with members of the SECWCD board of directors who also serve on the district’s conduit committee. His goals for the meeting will be two-fold: to discuss myriad possibilities for federal funding and to re-start the processes needed to access the remaining $25 million in the CWCB loan program. “One thing we have to do before we gain access to the $25 million from the CWCB is put together a memorandum of understanding or an intergovernmental agreement that binds us together in the project and makes sure we know how we will repay the loan,” Long said. Long said the conservation district has been reluctant to ask any of the water users to sign documents until the district can quantify the amount of water each entity will receive from the conduit and the costs per capita they will be charged to pay for its construction. “The Arkansas Valley Conduit Committee itself has spent a year determining how the water east of Pueblo will be divided,” Long said. “The committee has submitted a request to the Southeastern District, which is in the early stages of reviewing it, but that request would pretty much set up the project.” Many of the entities expecting to receive water from the conduit have already begun collecting fees on a per capita basis.

Gaining access to a $25 million loan would give the conduit committee a big jump toward financing the costs for engineering the pipeline and conducting environmental studies that federal agencies will demand before permits will be issued to construct it…

The Southeastern District and Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District have continued to help pay for costs associated with the project, including detailed feasibility reports and cost analyses. The Lower Arkansas District committed $50,000 this year and similar amounts in previous years. The SECWCD also secured a State and Tribal Assistance Grant for $600,000, which when matched with about $500,000 from the conservancy districts will give the conduit committee enough to continue work like finalizing the route for the conduit.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Corps of Engineers announce more scoping sessions

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From the Associated Press via Fort Collins Now:

The Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled two more public meetings in Colorado on a businessman’s plan to pipe water from southwest Wyoming to Colorado’s populous Front Range. The meetings June 10 in Craig and June 11 in Grand Junction will take public comments on what an environmental study of the proposal should address. Six similar meetings were held last month in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. The period to comment on the scope of the environmental study of the project has been extended to July 27.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Grand County: Measures to combat invasive mussels

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

For the “Great Lakes” region of Grand County, the Hilltop boat ramp near the canal that connects Shadow Mountain Reservoir to Grand Lake will be closed to all trailered watercraft for the entire 2009 season. And at Willow Creek reservoir, where low-wake boating used to be accepted, motorized boats and any boats that are trailered will not be allowed. Only hand-launched non-motorized crafts will be allowed on Willow Creek.

Lake Granby, Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Willow Creek Reservoir are all lakes where mussel larvae have been detected; thus mandatory boat inspections will be required upon leaving these lakes. Boats being launched that do not bear evidence of a certified boat inspection elsewhere will also be inspected. At public boat ramps — Sunset Point, Stillwater and Arapaho Bay on Lake Granby; Grand Lake public boat ramp near Grand Lake’s east inlet; and the Green Ridge boat ramp on Shadow Mountain Reservoir — DOW personnel will be conducting boat inspections of boats from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, starting May 15. Ramps will be open to nighttime use. However, boaters are required to follow the “Clean, Drain and Dry protocol” when inspectors are not present and must have vessels inspected at a state-certified site before launching in any other Colorado lake…

Free inspections and decontamination with hot-water/hot-pressure units will be offered at the lake inspection areas as well as at the DOW office at 346 Grand County Road 362 in Hot Sulphur Springs, he said. Boaters who have successfully passed a state-certified inspection will receive a green seal and receipt. Boaters must have both the seal and receipt in their possession before they may launch at a new location. Hand-launched crafts, including kayaks, rafts, canoes and belly boats, are not considered high risk for spreading aquatic nuisance species and may launch without an inspection, according to the DOW…

For Grand County motorboating lakes where mussels have not been detected, at the Williams Fork Reservoir, the west boat ramp will be closed the entire 2009 season, and all ramps will be closed at night. Overnight beaching of watercraft is prohibited. Wolford Mountain Reservoir, which opened to boat launches on May 1, also has mandatory boat and trailer inspections for mussel contamination from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Lake officials at Wolford will only accept green seals from Dillon Reservoir. A boat decontamination area is located in the back of the Day Use parking area at the reservoir…

Those with private boat launches in Grand County, all permitted by the U.S. Forest Service, will be required to provide inspections if they plan to continue public boat-launching services. Private watercraft inspections will be free at the Grand Elk Marina boat launch on Lake Granby, according to manager Mike Dixon. The marina will be working with the DOW or independent contractors to provide decontamination services primarily at the end of the season when most people are removing their boats. Launching fees are expected to remain the same, he said. At Beacon Landing, staff members are getting certified to perform inspections, but whether inspections will affect launching fees is yet to be determined. Owners of the Highland Marina could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Cortez: Stimulus dough for treatment plant upgrades

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From the Cortez Journal:

The Cortez City Council is scheduled to meet for its regular gathering at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, at City Hall, 210 E. Main St., Cortez. Councilors have slated a public hearing regarding a loan application to the Colorado Revolving Fund and the American Recover and Reinvestment Act to be used for a city water treatment plant rehabilitation project.

Runoff news

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

Peak flows of up to 6,000 cubic feet per second can be expected on the Gunnison River within the next 10 days. The water release, made by the Bureau of Reclamation Thursday, is the first since a new flow regime established after litigation over river water in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park…

According to [BuRec Water Management Group Chief Dan Crabtree], the forecast for runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir is 690,000 acre feet; the Black Canyon water right calls for a 24-hour peak flow of 5,864 cfs. Starting Thursday, side inflows from Crystal Reservoir began increasing each day and are to reach about 6,900 cfs by May 13. Releases will then drop off starting May 15 and level off at 1,900 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge by May 21. The Crystal release should level off at about 2,800 cfs by that time, and the Gunnison Tunnel is taking 900 cfs. Though the tunnel’s capacity is 1,100 cfs, high flows from the Uncompahgre River mean the there’s no need to take full capacity through the tunnel, Crabtree said. Crystal Reservoir’s expected side inflows should maintain at a level that minimizes bypasses from Morrow Point, and the Morrow Point Reservoir will be adjusted as necessary. The Gunnison’s North Fork reached a peak Friday, of 4,500 cfs near Hotchkiss, which was earlier than was expected, Crabtree said.