Runoff news

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From The Mountain Mail (Christopher Kolomitz):

Recent temperature surges increased flow in the Arkansas River to 2,400 cubic feet per second Monday afternoon – high above the 100 year average of about 1,000 cfs…

The surge above the 100 year average at Salida started about 10 days ago when the river was running at about 800 cfs. A big jump in flow occurred May 12 and the river has been climbing steadily ever since…

A majority of the water in the river Tuesday was native flow. Outflow from Twin Lakes was about 845 cfs Monday, while inflow to the lakes from Lake Creek was 1,560 cfs. “What is spilling is the pass through – what (Twin Lakes) are not entitled to store,” Scanga said. O’Haver Lake, Boss Lake and Cottonwood Lake, storage reservoirs operated by the district, are full, he said. North Fork Reservoir isn’t storing any water and is about half full. Scanga said he’s waiting for snowmelt to clear the face of the dam and then it will begin filling. Rainbow Lake as been lowered so the big runoff can pass through and by the end of the month, Scanga expects it to begin filling. The key question river enthusiasts keep asking is, “Have we peaked?” “I don’t know,” Hopkins said. “I would guess we haven’t seen the peak, but who knows.”

Grand County: ‘State of the River’

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Here’s a recap of the recent “State of the River” meeting put on by the Colorado River District in Grand County, from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News: From the article:

On May 1, the Upper Colorado showed 90 percent to 109 percent of average, according to Bob Steger, manager of raw water supply for Denver Water. During that same time period in the South Platte Basin, where Denver obtains half of its water in an average year, the water table showed 70 percent to 89 percent of average. The more water available on the South Platte, [Mike Eytel, water resources specialist for the Colorado River District] explained, the less pressure to divert West Slope water…

Quota-setting for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District was a gamble this year with a dry spell leading up to an April 1 quota date, according to Jeff Drager, deputy manager of Northern Water. Northern settled on an 80 percent quota. A 100 percent quota means each owner of one C-BT unit gets one acre foot — the higher the quota, the more East Slope water is supplemented by C-BT water…

Lake Granby, which when full amounts to about 539,000 acre-feet, was sitting at 283,835 acre feet on May 1. “We think that later this year in November it will be at about 400,000,” Drager said. “We are in better shape this year over last year because we’ve had more water stored in our East Slope reservoirs because of some work done on Carter Lake,” he said. Where Lake Granby is roughly 35 feet down at present, it’s expected to raise 15-20 feet — about 15 feet from full level — in July.

To take part in Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake water-quality management, Northern plans to shut down C-BT-Adams Tunnel flows from July 31 to August 13 this year, during which water clarity studies are likely to take place. Drager said two weeks was as long as Northern could comply with shutting down C-BT operations due to power-generation constraints on the system.

“I am going to advocate that we agree to a more robust monitoring program for the two weeks stop-pump period and ask for a six-week period, two weeks preceding and two weeks following,” said Grand County Water Quality Specialist Katherine Morris. Grand County is part of a multi-agency group bound to investigate clarity problems in the C-BT system. “I think that’s a remarkable opportunity to learn of the effects of pumping and diverting water on water quality in Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir,” she said.

Plans at Windy Gap are to pump 23,000 acre-feet this year, Drager said. Since May 11, both pumps have been in full swing, pumping 365 cfs at Windy Gap. Last year, Windy Gap pumped 30,000 acre feet…

…several other pressing water topics were explored during the meeting, such as: The Division of Wildlife’s newly adopted boat inspections program to stop the spread of zebra and quagga mussels; the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild and Scenic eligibility that includes a section of the Colorado River starting at Windy Gap, Muddy Creek below Wolford, Troublesome Creek, Rabbit Ears Creek, Kinney Creek and Sulphur Gulch; a nearly completed Upper Colorado Watershed Assessment — a study that identifies the area’s most critical watersheds that are main sources of drinking water vulnerable to wildfire damage; and the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery federal mandate in which the West Slope may need to ante up at least $8 million for its participation by 2012.

Buena Vista: PaddleFest May 22-25

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From the Chaffee County Times (Kathy Davis):

Buena Vista PaddleFest May 22-25 is one of the few whitewater festivals in the world and is open to people of all interests who can watch or participate in demonstrations, educational classes, a pro rodeo competition and a number of social events. PaddleFest is anticipated to draw about 1,000 people over the Memorial Day weekend…

But if the interest is not whitewater boating, something new this year is the very popular SUP – Stand up Paddling, a flat-water clinic. This new sport, a combination of surfing and canoeing, will be demonstrated at Town Lake in McPhelemy Park on Saturday and Sunday.

At the PaddleFest Pro Rodeo competitions, world champion professional paddlers run the waves in the playholes in the Arkansas River near Buena Vista River Park. Kayakers are judged based on the ability to perform high-end, free-style maneuvers in the whitewater playholes in Buena Vista Whitewater Park. Preliminary competitions are Friday afternoon and finals are on Sunday afternoon. Some of the top paddlers coming for the pro rodeo are Erick and Emily Jackson, Stephen Wright and Brian Kirk. Local kayakers Dustin and Katie Urban are running the pro rodeo and Katie Urban’s brother, Jed Selby, is competing. A series of free clinics, seminars and demonstrations both on and off the water are offered. The free clinics may be something to introduce beginners to the sport and how to prepare for kayaking. Dryland river rescue courses are offered for safety around or on the water. Professionals teach all the classes, Richmond said. The women’s specific courses are taught by women for women. People wanting to participate may sign up in advance for the classes or the day of the festival.

Arkansas Valley hopes that Arkansas Valley Conduit will lower costs to comply with water standards

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Several municipalities in the Arkansas Valley are having trouble meeting state and federal water quality standards due to the high cost of installation of new treatment infrastructure to remove natural contaminants, including radium. They would look at reverse osmosis plants but then they have the problem of disposing of radioactive brine. The Arkansas Valley Conduit is their best choice for supplies going forward. Here’s a report from (Susan Davies):

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has studied the problem for several years and is working with roughly forty different systems struggling with radium and uranium levels above federal and state guidelines…

Many private, not-for-profit water associations are looking at joining with other groups to finance a solution. There is increasing support for a $300 million dollar conduit carrying Pueblo reservoir water into the Lower Arkansas Valley and connecting to Lamar. Reservoir water would be mixed with well water to bring it into compliance with federal drinking water standards. Operators say the conduit is their most economical solution for providing safe drinking water to the members they serve.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

CDOW get 3,000 acre-feet of water for John Martin Reservoir from Colorado Springs

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From the Pueblo Chieftain:

“This purchase will help ensure the long-term storage needs for fishing and recreation at John Martin,” said Dan Prenzlow, DOW Southeast Region Manager. “Adding water to the permanent storage pool is an investment that will pay long-term dividends for outdoor recreation and the health of the fishery.” The state purchased the water in the one-time sale, known as a lease, at a price of $20 per acre-foot for a total cost of $60,000 split equally between the two agencies. The water is Colorado River water that was stored in Pueblo Reservoir.

Colorado Water Conservation Board: Geoff Blakeslee named as new chairman

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Geoff Blakeslee, a Steamboat Springs ranch operator, was elected chairman, and Eric Wilkinson, executive director of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District was elected vice-chairman.

Gunnison lawyer John McClow was sworn in as a new board member by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. Blakeslee and Wilkinson both commended outgoing chairman Travis Smith, a Del Norte rancher, for his two years of leadership on the board…

Smith, representing the Rio Grande, is considered to be from the Eastern Slope, although Wilkinson quipped it should be called the “South Slope.” Carl Trick, repre- senting the North Platte watershed, and Wilkinson were reappointed to the board and sworn in Tuesday. Other voting members of the CWCB are Reed Dils, Arkansas River basin; Barbara Biggs, metro area; Bruce Whitehead, Southwestern Colorado; and John Redifer, Colorado River basin. Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources is an ex-officio voting member.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works starts work to close on Bessemer Ditch shares

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The Bessemer Ditch shareholders approved bylaw changes last week that paved the way for the Pueblo Board of Water Works to purchase shares to convert to municipal use for the long-term supply for the city. Now Pueblo has to get the change of use through water court. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works expects to close contracts for its purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares in the next few weeks, but its work on converting the agricultural ditch water to municipal use is just beginning. “With the change in the Bessemer Ditch bylaws and articles of incorporation, we made one milestone. It’s ano-ther chapter in the novel,” Executive Director Alan Hamel told the board Tuesday. “We have a ways to go, but we made ano- ther step forward.”[…]

The purchase is part of a long-range water resources plan that will reduce Pueblo’s dependence on water imported from the Western Slope. The board Tuesday postponed action on another key piece of the equation: the sale of the Columbine Ditch. The board received a bid of $30.48 million from Ginn Development, which is developing the Battle Mountain Ski Resort near Minturn. “We’re still working on a very complex contract,” Hamel said. “This is something new to us, selling one of our assets. But we’re close and we’re optimistic we’ll have an agreement soon.” The water board could call a special board meeting in the near future to approve the Columbine contract. Even then, it would not be final, because Aurora would have 60 days to match the offer, under terms of an earlier agreement with the Pueblo water board.

Aurora is undecided about what it will do. “We haven’t seen the contract, so we don’t know what’s involved,” said Gerry Knapp, Aurora’s Arkansas Valley manager. “We will consider it, but we have made no decision.”

The Bessemer shares could yield up to 7,500 acre-feet, depending on what happens in water court. That will be a big concern of the water board as it works to close the sale, Hamel said. Hamel said financial, legal and engineering decisions will be needed before the sales are finalized by the end of this year. For two years after that, there will be legal action as the shares are taken through water court. After that, the water board will have ongoing responsibility for revegetation on the ditch.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works approves lease to Colorado Water Protective and Development Association

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Water Protective and Development Association asked for the continuance of a long-standing lease agreement with the Pueblo water board this year after its prior agreement lapsed. The new lease, as this type of sale is called, will be at a higher rate that reflects changes in the long-term lease rates charged by the board, said Alan Ward, water resources administrator. The 2-year contract is for $178.27 per acre-foot for 1,000 acre-feet per year for the next two years. The rate is the same Aurora pays for buying 5,000 acre-feet a year from the Pueblo water board, and close to the amount of two leases approved in December for 2-year contracts with Mt. Massive Golf Club and Trans Colorado.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District: Tom Goodwin appointed to board

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka/Tracy Harmon):

Goodwin, a retired district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, is the son of Denzel Goodwin, a longtime Fremont County rancher who was instrumental in forming the district and was a member of the board for many years.

Three other directors were reappointed for four-year terms: Tom French of Howard, Jeff Ollinger of Buena Vista and William McGuire of Penrose. They will serve with Glenn Everett of Salida, Robert Senderhauf of Westcliffe, Timothy Canterbury of Howard, Gregory Felt of Salida, Bill Donley of Westcliffe, Frank McMurray of Nathrop, Bill Jackson of Canon City, Mannie Colon of Canon City and John Sandefur of Penrose. The district, formed in 1979, represents water interests in Fremont, Custer and Chaffee counties and board appointments follow the boundaries of school districts in the three counties. Its purpose is to protect and secure water in the Arkansas River Valley west of Pueblo…

Judges making the appointments were Kirk Samuelson, chief of the 4th district; C.M. Barton, chief of the 11th district; and O. John Kuenhold, chief of the 12th district.