Poncha Springs Trustees announced during their meeting Monday that chances of funding expansion of the Salida sewage treatment plant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have dwindled to almost nil. “It does not look good for the ARRA money,” town attorney William Alderton, said. During meeting in Denver that included Alderton, town attorney Brad Redmiles, Salida Administrator Jack Lewis and state representative Tom Massey, the Water Quality Control Commission upheld its decision refusing ARRA funding for the treatment plant expansion. Poncha Springs earlier received a category two ranking. In March, the two municipalities hoped to end a dispute by applying the Poncha Springs money to the Salida expansion project. State attorney general’s office personnel refused the request.
The two largest cities in Sweetwater County are organizing to fight two proposed projects that would divert water from the Green River Basin to the Colorado Front Range. They’ve agreed to form a coalition and possibly hire a public relations firm to challenge the proposals, which include construction of a 560-mile pipeline [Regional Watershed Supply Project] from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Denver. The projects are a “big elephant facing us,” Green River Mayor Hank Castillon said in giving his support to the new coalition Wednesday. “This is a complex and unique struggle we’re in,” he said.
Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo lent his support. “I don’t think we can wait any longer,” Kaumo said. “We need to stick together and see just how successful we can be.”[…]
Also in the works is a less-publicized proposal to divert water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Parker Water and Sanitation District near Denver. [ed. actually the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition pipeline includes many South Metro water providers not just Parker Water and Sanitation.]
Bill Sniffin, head of the public relations and marketing firm Wyoming Inc., made a pitch to lead a marketing effort against the pipeline projects. The Lander-based company provides marketing, research and public relations services. Sniffin estimated it would cost between $75,000 and $150,000 for his firm to carry the coalition’s fight against the pipeline projects for the first year.
On Monday, City Engineer Bill Earley notified Cortez-based Southwest Contracting that the company could start work at the plant to fix the problems with its raw water and backwash pumps whenever it’s ready. The go-ahead came two months after the City Council decided to follow recommendations given by Denver-based Tetra Tech, the engineering firm hired for an $8 million upgrade at the plant. The city plans to pay $70,380, which includes installing new computer control systems for each group of pumps, as well as $20,000 to rebuild two raw water pumps that have been damaged.
An ordinance regulating the Town of Windsor’s storm water maintenance facilities met with controversy on Monday, but still passed on first reading. “This ordinance is an effort to become proactive and partner with the homeowner’s associations (HOAs) to prevent problems,” said Mayor John Vazquez. The ordinance will make the town responsible for the proper conveyance of storm water through the town limits and will provide an enforcement tool for the town to use with other entities that may not maintain their detention ponds in the form of property liens. “The intent is not to use the liens for the first couple of years at all, as we educate people who are probably not even aware they have detention ponds to maintain,” said Director of Public Works Terry Walker.
It didn’t take long for endangered Colorado pikeminnows to move upstream past the Price-Stubbs diversion on the Colorado River. Last week one was netted near DeBeque. The tagged fish had been netted in the past near Flaming Gorge dam in the Green River. That’s a pretty remarkable journey, down the Green and back up the Colorado. Administrators of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program have to feel good about what they’re seeing. Here’s a report from Gary Harmon writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:
The dam, built in 1911, has prevented the migration of the Colorado pikeminnow, known to early residents of the Grand Valley as “white salmon” for their travels, from visiting the highest part of their range. The range was reopened in April 2008 with the completion of a $10 million, 900-foot-long, fish passage just upstream from the mouth of De Beque Canyon. The capture of a 26-inch, two-pound adult male on April 22 showed the species, also once called the Colorado squawfish, had negotiated the fish passage and was moving upstream. The capture is significant “because it demonstrates fish have regained access to historic habitat that was blocked for almost a century,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Bob Burdick said. “This Colorado pikeminnow is the first of its kind that we’ve detected in that river reach” since biologists began sampling at the Grand Valley Project Diversion Dam for pikeminnow and the endangered razorback sucker.
The pikeminnow captured in April is “a fairly old fish” that is relatively well known to biologists after it was captured in the Green River near Ouray, Utah, on May 10, 1995. It has swum at least 447 miles during the ensuing years and was recaptured five more times in various sections of the Colorado River. The fish was 7 to 10 years old when it was first tagged, and biologists believe individuals live to about 40 years of age. Biologists also are celebrating the return of the razorback sucker to a section of the Yampa River, where the species hasn’t been seen for 30 years. Researchers captured a 17-inch, 1.7-pound, 7-year-old adult razorback sucker in the Yampa near Lily Park, about seven miles upstream of Dinosaur National Monument. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists stocked the hatchery-raised fish as a 2-year-old juvenile in the Green River near Green River, Utah, in 2004. During the next five years, it traveled 280 miles upstream and grew six inches.
More coverage from the Associated Press via the Grand Junction Free Press.
Update: More coverage from the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
In fact, the [Colorado pikeminnow] – along with razorback suckers, humpback chubs and bonytail chubs – were such good eating that they hardly exist today. They were fished nearly to extinction. Why is this important to the Arkansas River basin? Because if they don’t thrive, nobody gets to bring over water from the Colorado River basin. On average, about 130,000 acre-feet is moved from the Colorado River to the Arkansas River each year through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Twin Lakes, Homestake and smaller diversions. That doesn’t happen unless water is made available for the four endangered species on the other side of the Continental Divide. “It’s water that’s beneficial for the fish,” Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, told the district board last week. “Anyone who diverts gets to play the game.” That includes water users on the Western Slope as well as the Front Range, in both the Arkansas and South Platte river basins. The load is shared equally by the diverters and annually puts back 30,000-90,000 acre feet of water – or the amount used by a city the size of Pueblo on the low end or Colorado Springs on the high end – into the Colorado River for the fish.
From 2000-08, 500,000 acre-feet of water was delivered to the critical 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River east of Grand Junction, according to Tom Pitts, who coordinates the fish recovery program. The deliveries were made through cooperative efforts of the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado River Conservation District and Denver Water, with assistance from the Grand Valley Project. Right now, the Western Slope and Front Range are in agreement on a program that will provide a portion of that water, 10,825 acre-feet to be exact, to supplement flows from July to October. The stress to the fish in that reach of river is most commonly felt during late summer as diversions increase and rains taper off. Under an agreement reached 20 years ago, the water has been provided from various sources with costs shared by all diverters. On the Front Range, that includes the Northern and Southeastern conservancy districts, Denver Water, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Twin Lakes and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Ruedi Reservoir, a compensatory storage vessel of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, has been the sole source of the 10,825 acre-feet of water since 2003, using water that has, so far, found no buyers on the Western Slope. Under a new agreement that water users hope will be in place by the end of the year, only half of the water will come from Ruedi in the Roaring Fork watershed, while the other half will come from Lake Granby, a reservoir located in the Eagle River watershed. The option was chosen from among several in the latest study.
The Water Festival on Wednesday helped to educate students about water use as about 1,100 children from across Weld and Adams counties converged on the University Center at the University of Northern Colorado to learn more about proper water conservation. The event, which was sponsored by the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District and the city of Greeley, operated under the theme of “Wild About Water” to educate children about how water use and the environment are connected while also instructing them how to save water in their own house.
After visiting several booths, Sydney Schultz, 10, of Eaton Elementary School, lamented that such conservation efforts are often viewed as a tough thing to do. “It’s kind of hard because America today is kind of lazy about what they are doing, and we’re careless,” Sydney said.
Update: More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:
Third-graders studied river and lake ecology, water-related hypothermia and using water to put out fires at the 18th annual Children’s Water Festival held at CSU’s Lory Student Center. “We want them to learn about water,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, one of the sponsors of the event. “That can be anything from where your water comes from to conservation methods.” At one station, students put their hands in ice-cold water and learned how quickly hypothermia can set in. “It’s cold, and you’ve got to wear your life jacket in the lake,” said Zach Hupfer, 9, a third-grade student at Johnson Elementary School.
Wednesday morning, the flow was about 7,500 cubic feet a second, or about 2 million gallons a minute. The stronger flow is intended to mimic natural spring runoff, removing sediment and algae and helping to break down riffles and whisk away vegetation encroaching on the riverbank, Dale said. “One year’s high flow won’t do it all, but now we can hope for a spring flow most years,” Dale said…
“This has been one of the longest, most complex water-right battles in Colorado,” said Drew Peternell, an attorney for the sportsmen’s group Trout Unlimited. To win that right, the concerns of hydropower agencies, ranchers and farmers — and downstream towns fearful of flooding — had to be addressed. “We were able to reach a consensus that everyone could support,” said Clayton Palmer, an environment specialist with the Western Area Power Authority, which markets electricity from the Aspinall Unit.
More coverage from the Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):
The largest waterfall in Colorado was here Wednesday, a gushing torrent that plunged 227 feet, surpassing Niagara Falls, swelling the Gunnison River to levels unprecedented in the age of dams and diversions. The misty, rainbowed spectacle, with spray felt two football fields away, was seen by few in the gated recesses of Crystal Dam in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison…
Frank Kugel, manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, who was in the canyon Wednesday, said he was thrilled to see the water flowing over the dam. “It’s a good thing WAPA (the Western Area Power Administration) isn’t here. They’d be in tears over this,” Kugel said…
After the flow ceases this weekend, [Michael Dale, natural resources manager for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park] plans to scout the river, gauge the effectiveness of the water purge, see how much debris and vegetation washed away. The agreement calls for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the dam and hydro plant, to release water each spring, in proportion to the availability from snowpack. It will be a long time before the river recovers, and it may never look like it did when Gunnison tried to cross it, but for a few days, at least, it looks more like the mighty river that thwarted Gunnison. “The impacts of the dams were just that, 40 years, and it will be 40 of these flows before it can reverse itself,” Dale said.
This week’s release of 16 billion gallons of water through the Black Canyon — designed to mimic the scouring rush of spring runoff — will begin the process of flushing sediment, algae, debris and vegetation. Sediment, riffle pools and reedy box elders have built up in the park since the 1970s, when three dams known as the Aspinall Unit blocked the natural flow of the Gunnison River. “Ultimately, the goal is to restore the Gunnison to a wild, free-flowing river through the canyon,” said Ken Stahlnecker, chief of resource stewardship for the Black Canyon. “It will take time — years.”[…]
In December a decree was filed in Colorado water court outlining how much water would be released to the park each spring, based on snowpack levels. It also protected other users’ water rights. Ranchers who rely on the Gunnison to flood their hay fields in spring kept their water. “The United States recognized our right to ranch,” said Ken Spann, owner of the Y-Bar Ranch near Gunnison. “That was big. If they hadn’t, we’d be going to court.”[…]
The Park Service’s water-rights campaign was launched after a 1982 Colorado Supreme Court ruling that denied Dinosaur National Monument a water right on the Yampa River. The court ruled that because the monument’s mission was to preserve and display fossils, it didn’t need a right that would sustain kayaking. “The court ruled we’d only get enough water for dinosaurs — which isn’t much,” said Chuck Pettee, chief of the service’s water-rights branch. “That was a wake-up call for the Park Service.” While the Park Service already had sought rights for the Black Canyon and Devil’s Hole in Death Valley National Park, it then created a branch to pursue water rights. From Yellowstone in Wyoming to Crater Lake in Oregon, the Park Service has won or is in discussions for water rights. “In the West, and certainly for the nine parks along the Colorado River and its tributaries, water defines and shapes our national parks,” said David Nimkin, regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group. “Without water, we will slowly lose those parks,” Nimkin said.
The Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District board, which stepped up almost two months ago to fill a vacuum surrounding recreation at Lake Nighthorse, has put its other foot forward. Board members Tuesday voted to look for about $200,000 to hire someone to develop a recreation blueprint. Other entities that could do the job, including Colorado State Parks, have said they have no money for such an undertaking.
From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):
This year’s runoff is affected by the layers of dust on the snowpack, something you’ll still see in the West Elks, South San Juans and other mountain ranges. Chris Landry of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton said the conditions this winter and spring correlated closely with 2006, when at least eight dust layers were buried in the snowpack. A warm spring quickly uncovered those dust layers and hurried snow melt. “That spring, we calculated snow melt advanced a full four to five weeks in our study area” in the San Juan Mountains, Landry said. “This year so far, we have counted at least 12 dust events and three very major dust events, which are now coming into play in a really intense way.” For water managers, that means the runoff, which normally (if normal ever exists in natural sciences) comes heavy in the spring and continues at lower rates for much of the summer, may be gone by early summer. Dan Crabtree, lead hydrologist for the Bureau of Reclamation in Grand Junction, noted Thursday that the expected volume of water in the Gunnison Basin this year was about the same as historic average, but the timing and intensity of runoff is much different. “We went about two weeks ahead of what that the (National Weather Service) Forecast Center told us the first of April,” Crabtree said…
The Bureau Web site (www.usbr.gov/ uc/) Thursday showed Blue Mesa reservoir as 77 percent full, a level usually not seen until later in the runoff period and a level that’s 150 percent of average on this date. Not surprisingly, Crystal Reservoir was listed at 108 percent full, which is why there’s water pouring over the dam. That glut of water came as a bit of a surprise, one reason for the sudden jump in flows on the Gunnison. Seasonal high flows are part of the water right for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, but it’s supposed to be a gradual rise and gradual drop. “Yeah, Wednesday it happened quicker than we wanted,” said Crabtree, sounding a bit rueful. “We have these guidelines (from the Division of Wildlife) and we try to follow them, but it’s more complicated than turning on your faucet at home.” The Crystal Dam was forecast to stop spilling Saturday morning. You can watch the change in river flows statewide at http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/Default.aspx.
In March, the Bureau of Reclamation forecast a high lake level [Lake Powell] for this year at 3,642 feet, which is about nine feet higher than last year (which was celebrated by Lake Powell lovers since it was the highest the lake’s been since 2002, but still 60 feet below its 1998 level). But given the snowpack levels above Lake Powell for this year, and their precipitous drop in recent weeks, such projections may be dashed. After all, there was a lot more snow at this time last year. Indeed, some don’t expect Powell to get above 3,630 feet, and the NOAA’s most recent water supply outlook calls for slightly above average flows going into the reservoir this month, but below average flows after that.
Regional river rafters and canoe paddlers wanting to experience the rapids of the Lower Dolores River should ready their water crafts within the next week or so for the best riding opportunities. Ken Curtis, an engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District, said lower river flows until the weekend should range between 1,800 and 2,200 cubic-feet per second with a downward trend expected for Saturday and Sunday. One cfs is equivalent to a water flow of 449 gallons per minute. “Basically, we filled the reservoir up and started spilling (Tuesday),” Curtis said. “We could have a spill go as long as 20 days on the high end of things. But the week ahead looks like plenty of spill.” Wednesday’s outflow from McPhee into the Lower Dolores River was at about 2,200 cfs, according to Vern Harrell, operations manager for the local U.S. Bureau of Reclamation office. He said the river should provide “raftable” flows for some time, possibly through the end of May. “We’re going to try to provide higher releases of 1,000 to 1,200 cfs for as long as we can,” said Harrell, who noted that a flow of approximately 800 cfs is considered good enough for rafting. “After the next 10 days, it looks like the inflow (to McPhee) will be dropping.” Spill releases are managed by the bureau, which calculates downstream flows according to the reservoir level, river inflow, and user demand for irrigation and municipal contracts via the Dolores Project. McPhee’s water capacity was listed at 378,311 acre-feet on Wednesday, according to the conservancy’s Web site, http://www.doloreswater.com. When full, the reservoir sits at just over 381,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot is equal to 325,829 gallons of water, or enough to fill an entire football field at the depth of 1 foot. Curtis noted the Dolores River Basin’s snowpack level reached only 93 percent of average this year, causing a smaller river inflow and outflow.
Several seasonal closures of the Yampa River Core Trail are in effect because of the high-running waters of the Yampa River. The closed sections of the Core Trail are the 13th Street underpass, the railroad underpass upstream of Fetcher Pond and the U.S. Highway 40 under pass at Wal ton Creek. Addi tion al closures are likely as stream flows continue to fluctuate.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park, just south of Crestone, also saw heavy snow, but not anywhere as much as the 26.8” Crestone received. In Moffat, 15” was reported; the middle of the San Luis Valley saw about 6” fall on average, yet to the west in Saguache and north to Villa Grove, only a couple of inches were recorded. Over on the eastern side of the Sangres, Westcliff reported between 5” to 7” of snow. There was little wind with this storm, but the snow fell heavy for several hours, averaging 2” per hour over a twelve-hour period.
Later in the week, as most snow from this storm melted away in the April sun, a new and massive snowstorm rolled across Colorado on Friday, April 17. This pesky storm, when at its peak in the late morning, deposited 7” of snow in just a two hour period. When it finally moved out the next day, 18.9” had fallen in Crestone, with some locations around town reporting over 22”. Unlike the first storm, most of Colorado felt this storm’s punch. With these two storms, Crestone broke several records, including most snow in April, with 47.3” (as of April 18) and the all time record for most snow in a season, with 99.0”. The old record for a snow season was 93.7”, set back in 1997-98.
He was one of 12 people to be nominated by fellow cattle feeders to receive the honor, according to a news release issued Friday. Farr was a pioneer rancher, visionary, water expert, banker and was considered by many to be a true statesman, having served in several capacities under three presidents on the international level. Farr, who died in August 2007, also was president of the Greeley Water Board for 39 of its first 40 years and his water vision was legendary. He, along with Charles Hansen, publisher of the Greeley Tribune, and a handful of others, worked tirelessly to get the Colorado-Big Thompson built. That project brings a supplemental water supply to eight northeast Colorado counties from the Western Slope, a project Farr often called a second Poudre River for northern Colorado.
Colorado Springs Utilities has filed their application — with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to build in federal watersheds. The Corps is accepting comments until June 4. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The permit is required under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of any project that affects waters of the United States. The permit is needed anytime there is work within the the flood plains of major rivers or their tributaries. In this case, Colorado Springs and its SDS partners – Security, Fountain and Pueblo West – are proposing to alter the river outlet at Pueblo Dam and to build new structures in Fountain Creek – two reservoirs on Williams Creek and a return pipeline from the lower reservoir. Less than an acre of land would be permanently disturbed and 14 acres would be temporarily affected, according to the initial review of SDS. “Our preliminary review indicates this project will not impact any threatened or endangered species or critical habitat,” said Lt. Col. Kimberly Colloton, commander of the Albuquerque district of the Corps. The Corps also has found no disturbance of historic or cultural resources and said the SDS partners are in compliance with state water quality regulations.
The Corps review can look at a wide range of impacts including stream conditions, safety, flood hazards, fish, wildlife, land use, property ownership and “in general, the needs and welfare of the people,” Colloton said.