Runoff news: Denver Water’s reservoirs in good shape heading into summer

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From (Deb Stanley):

The latest report shows Denver Water’s reservoirs are averaging 91 percent of capacity as of May 18. Last year at that time, the reservoirs were 79 percent filled. The average level for that time of year is 81 percent of capacity. Antero Reservoir and Eleven Mile reservoirs are at 101 percent of a capacity. Wolford Mountain is at 100 percent of capacity. Cheesman, Dillon and Marston reservoirs are almost at capacity, Cheesman and Marston are at 97 percent and Dillon is at 96 percent. Last year at this time, Dillon was 84 percent full…

In mid-May 2008, Gross reservoir was at 12 percent of capacity. This year it is at 37 percent. Last year at this time, Chatfield was at 65 percent of capacity; this year it’s at 81 percent.

Interior ‘Partners is Conservation’

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Here’s a release from Colorado University:

University of Colorado at Boulder engineers and scientists were among those honored with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Partners in Conservation Award” this month for their role in the adoption of innovative, new operational guidelines for managing the Colorado River in drought years.

Accepting the awards for CU-Boulder were Edie Zagona, director of the Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems, or CADSWES, a research center in the department of civil, environmental and architectural engineering; Balaji Rajagopalan, associate professor of civil engineering; and Brad Udall, director of Western Water Assessment, a program of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The “Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lakes Powell and Mead” were adopted at the end of 2007 and hailed as the most significant change in management of the river since the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The Colorado River provides water for more than 30 million people and 2 million acres of irrigated land in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

The shortage guidelines are the result of an 18-month Environmental Impact Statement process that considered several alternative shortage policies during the height of a record drought on the river. River stakeholders, including federal, state and local agencies, water districts, Indian nations, tribes and communities, and nonprofit environmental organizations, shared in the Partners in Conservation Award.

“In the midst of the worst drought in more than a century they formed an agreement that promises a future of cooperation in the Colorado River Basin for the next two decades,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who presented the award.

CU was recognized in part for the CADSWES modeling tool, RiverWare, which formed the basis of all technical analysis and provided the projected outcomes of the proposed operational guidelines. “This is exactly the type of application that RiverWare was created for,” Zagona said.

Considering climate change was another hallmark of the shortage agreement and another major contribution to the effort by CU. Climate experts from CU’s CIRES Western Water Assessment played a key role in the development of the climate change appendix.

“We provided the Bureau of Reclamation, for the first time ever, a research road map for incorporating climate change into future planning studies,” said Udall. “This was a much needed fundamental and critical shift for Reclamation and for the users of the river.”

CADSWES affiliate Rajagopalan also contributed to that report, along with Bureau of Reclamation engineer Jim Prairie, who earned his doctoral degree at CU. Prairie and Rajagopalan developed stream flow scenarios that quantified potential impacts from the latest climate models and projections for the Colorado River Basin. These stream flow scenarios, together with the decision-making scenarios constructed using RiverWare, formed the basis of the forward-thinking climate variability report.

“Our university partners came forward with some really innovative ideas, which played a pivotal role in helping us analyze the impacts due to changing climate,” said Terry Fulp, deputy regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Regional Office. “There’s no way we could have done this without a huge group of people — and in particular the people at CU.”

More information is available at

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

The Water Center Colorado State University: May/June issue of Colorado Water

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There is no shortage of ongoing studies looking at water issues in the Arkansas Valley, and they are the focus of the May/June issue of Colorado Water, a publication by the Water Center at Colorado State University-Fort Collins.

Most of the studies have been going on for years and are yielding data that is useful to farmers, to determine impacts of water transfers on water quality and to improve Colorado’s position in dealings with Kansas on the Arkansas River Compact.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: One landowner’s fight with tamarisk

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Here’s a report on landowner Rick Enstrom’s battle against tamarisk on his land near Granada, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

So far, he has paid nearly $40,000 of his own money and received an equal match from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for tamarisk removal. Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which bought the farm’s water rights for its proposed power plant at Holly, has also provided some assistance. The state Division of Wildlife also is helping. “I don’t carpet bomb it,” Enstrom said. “The tedious part is the after-spraying.”

There are nearly immediate results in water gains. One spring – probably a groundwater seep – was clogged with cattails and tamarisk. When cleared, it produced a free-flowing stream, which was then claimed by Enstrom, beavers and the Buffalo Canal, which operates its headgate on the Arkansas River at the lower end of Enstrom’s farm. A Supreme Court case has already established that landowners who clear tamarisk are not entitled to the water savings. Still, Enstrom finds it ironic that the state has spent millions fighting Kansas for a few thousand acre-feet of water annually that both states could easily gain by getting serious about tamarisk removal.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Mesa County: Coping with wastewater problems

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Le Roy Standish):

De Beque, Powderhorn, Mack and Coll- bran all face major issues. De Beque is trying to get ahead of the curve by building a new wastewater treatment plant and upgrading a facility in anticipation of more energy workers and population, once the economy rebounds. At Powderhorn, the ground shifts every spring, and every spring the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issues a “boil water” order. In Mack, the lagoon system has leaked wastewater into the groundwater for years. And in Collbran, the whole system is simply falling apart from lack of maintenance.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

S. 787: Clean Water Restoration Act

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It should be no surprise to find conservationists supporting U.S. Senator Russ Feingold’s S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act. After all they were the most upset with President Bush’s EPA and enforcement along with court decisions on the breadth of federal control. Here’s a report from Gary Harmon writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation all list the measure, S 787 by Russ Feingold, D-Wis., as a major issue…

The bill would expand federal control to all the waters of the United States: interstate waters, intrastate lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, mud flats, sand flats, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playas and natural ponds, as well as tributaries to those waters. Proponents of the measure say it would restore protections included in the 1972 Clean Water Act, which have since been torn down by court rulings. The Trout Unlimited Web site said the act “would protect 20 million acres of wetlands and 2 million miles of rivers and streams that have lost protection in recent years because of misguided court rulings.”[…]

Previous versions have started in the House of Representatives, but this time the measure is beginning in the Senate, where majority Democrats could have a filibuster-proof margin.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Glenwood Canyon: Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships May 30-31

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Glenwood Canyon will be the site for the inaugural Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships this weekend. Here’s a report from Scott Willoughby writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

…the inaugural Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships make their way to the snowmelt-swollen Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon. Think of it as a paddle-powered downriver surfing competition. “It really is uncharted territory. That’s the cool thing,” said Charlie MacArthur of Aspen. “But the venue we have is unreal. It shows off all the skills — from turning and the ability to run the river, catching eddies and whatnot, as well as surfing. The wave is insane…

“This is the first whitewater race that’s completely stand-up paddling, and it’s a legit national championship,” said Dan Gavere, a former professional kayaker who has taken to SUP on the water surrounding his home in Hood River, Ore. “It’s going to be really fun, and I think it’s going to be a big challenge for everyone.” Accurately describing the balancing act of paddling a surfboard down a big-water river is nearly as difficult as the act of keeping your feet in the swirling currents of the Colorado. At present flows of more than 9,400 cubic feet per second (cfs), the river is a brute — cold and surging with untamed intensity that can uproot a tree and send a surfer for a swim. The three-part Whitewater SUP Championships is designed to challenge the athletes’ technical skills by combining nearly 8 miles of downriver racing in the Class II-III whitewater between Grizzly Creek and the Roaring Fork River confluence at Two Rivers Park with a shorter slalom competition and a judged wave-riding contest in Glenwood.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials

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Here’s the link to the Glenwood Whitewater Events webpage for the event this weekend.

Here’s a background piece about Dick Ryman, one of the first to race kayaks in Colorado, from John Gardner writing for the Aspen Times. From the article:

The flips, the spins, and the acrobatic twists and turns the paddlers do today are things [Dick] Ryman never thought of in his glory days. There were no man-made water parks, either, just good-old Mother Nature’s obstacles to overcome. Ryman ran the same stretch of the Colorado River in his canvas-covered kayak 50 years ago, in the 1959 U.S. National Whitewater Slalom Championship and Downriver Races. “I think it’s kind of interesting that there was boating here that long ago,” he said. “In fact, I think it’s good to know that we also have had the national championships here before.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Montrose: State of the Gunnison River

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

The Colorado River District is holding its annual Gunnison State of the Rivers meeting in Montrose Monday, June 1, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be at the Holiday Inn Express and directly follows the Gunnison Basin Roundtable meeting there. “The challenges are in the bigger river picture,” Jim Pokrandt of the river district said. “With growing population and the potential of climactic change, and maybe our looming oil industry, there’s going to be greater competition for water in the Colorado river system, and we can only use so much of it.” Pokrandt said Arizona, Nevada and California all have downstream water rights and Colorado is close to its limit. If the state hits its limit, that will trigger a curtailment for the whole river system, affecting everyone, especially those with ditch rights.

Update: Here’s a release from the Colorado River District via the Telluride Watch:

Streamflow conditions, reservoir operations and an exploration of the critical decisions facing the besieged Colorado River and its tributaries will be discussed at the annual Gunnison State of the River meeting set for 7 p.m., Monday, June 1, at the Holiday Inn Express, 1391 Townsend Ave., Montrose.

The public meeting is an annual event of the Colorado River District as an opportunity for the public to learn why water is the No. 1 issue for western Colorado.

The keynote speaker will be Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District. He will talk about the major challenges facing the Colorado River and its tributaries such as the Gunnison and Uncompahgre rivers and the limits as to how far they can be developed.

Bob Hurford, state engineer for the Gunnison Basin, will review snowpack and runoff conditions for the year. Dan Crabtree of Bureau of Reclamation will update the public on the operations of Aspinall Unit reservoirs, the Black Canyon National Park water right and the pending decision about releasing water to help endangered fish in the Gunnison.

Marc Catlin, manager of the Uncompahgre Water Users Association, will address the 100th anniversary of the Gunnison Tunnel and plans later this year for a celebration. The Gunnison Basin Roundtable will review its activities addressing future water supply challenges locally and in Colorado.

Additionally, State Climatologist Nolan Doesken will provide a history of local weather and why the weather is the way it is.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.