“There was a lot of hysteria and bad information,” Mike Purcell told a joint meeting of the Water Development Commission and the Legislature’s Select Committee on Water Development…
Purcell told the two boards that there likely will be people at today’s meeting who want to be heard on the issue. The Water Development Commission and the Legislature’s Select Committee on Water Development meet again at 8:30 a.m. today. “We like Colorado water flowing through our state” because it adds to things such as recreational activities and wildlife habitat, he said. But Colorado could call for the water it is entitled to under the seven-state compact.
The Army Corps of Engineers will host a public meeting Tuesday in Rock Springs about the proposal…Army Corps officials also extended the written public comment period for an environmental impact statement through July 27. The environmental study is expected to take at least three years.
Last week, Terry Scanga and others with the UAWCD met with the county commissioners and other interested persons to give an update on that proposed plan. Some 60 persons, comprised mostly of Valley residents, gathered in the community room at Cliff Lanes bowling center on Thursday, May 28, to hear what UAWCD officials had to say. Scanga, who serves as manager for UAWCD, told the group the augmentation plan would likely be filed in water court by June 30. Estimated time frame for state approval is three to five years. When asked how the timeframe for filing was established, Scanga said new regulations regarding the filing of cases in water court go into effect July 1.
A water augmentation plan is described as a way for junior appropriators to obtain a legal source of water for beneficial use. Common uses are for households, irrigation, municipal, recreation and watering livestock…
UAWCD engineer Ivan Walters gave a brief outline of the proposed plan.
—Texas Creek and Grape Creek drainages would be used to bring a water augmentation in plan to Custer County by way of water exchanges.
—The plan also provides for the building of reservoirs in Custer County to store water. In the works is the building of two reservoirs along Texas Creek and three in the Grape Creek area. Possible sites only have been established, said UAWCD officials, and they will be built only as they are needed.
—The UAWCD currently has 1,000-acre-feet of water storage in Pueblo Reservoir and 60-acre-feet of water storage in Lake
—The UAWCD has also acquired local water rights for the augmentation plan. UAWCD has purchased 70 acre-feet of water from Hermit Basin Lodge. UAWCD is also negotiating with the RMW district to lease water RMW owns on the Johnson Place Ranch south of Westcliffe. Also in the works, said Walters, is the leasing of water from the H2O Ranch. The H2O ranch is owned by the cities of Fountain and Widefield near Colorado Springs, which purchased the ranch for its water rights last year.
Passed by the legislature during the 2009 session, House Bill 1067 creates a new incentive for individuals to contribute to the long-term health of important stretches of stream in all of Colorado’s river basins. Under current law, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) can receive donations of water rights to protect stream flows and benefit the environment. The legislation authorizes the Colorado Water Conservation Board to award tax credit certificates to donors of water rights that the Board deems worthy of such consideration. The Board negotiates the tax credit values with the water right donor.
“Giving Colorado’s family farmers more options in deciding how to benefit from their property will help our agricultural communities,” said Kent Peppler, President of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “As good land stewards, family farmers will look favorably upon this program as an alternative to selling their rights to water developers who often export the water to urban and suburban parts of the state.”
Flows in the Blue River were very near 1,800 cubic feet per second the past few days. The level prompted a small stream flood advisory, specifically for the Blue River through Silverthorne and northward. Fewer showers are expected today, so flows could moderate slightly. Water commissioner Scott Hummer said the levels aren’t unusual. He said runoff from high elevations, rain and lack of diversions to the Front Range combined to send flows upward during the past week. Denver Water’s East Slope reservoirs are full, so no water is flowing out through Dillon Reservoir’s Roberts Tunnel, which can take as much as 800 cubic feet per second. In the Upper Blue, Colorado Springs has cut diversions through a tunnel under Hoosier Pass “I’m surprised at the flow that’s moving through the reservoir. I didn’t think we’d see those types of flows,” Hummer said.
In the Arkansas River basin, snowpack was 52 percent of average. Only the North Platte, 55 percent of average and the South Platte, 52 percent, were higher. Colorado River basin was 31 percent of average and the Gunnison River basin was 7 percent of average…
In most Colorado basins, snowmelt is ranging from about two to three weeks earlier than typically expected. For most of the state, summer water supplies are expected to be near average. However, there are several areas which failed to receive enough moisture during the winter and spring to assure near average runoff volume. Those include the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins of southwestern Colorado.
In the Arkansas River basin, reservoir storage was 99 percent of average and 123 percent of last year. With statewide storage volume at 116 percent of average, these are the best storage statistics since 1999.
[New Zealand’s Mike Dawson] deftly avoided the aforementioned rocks and other impediments which can bang up bare arms on his way to the men’s steep-creek crown in a combined time of 3 minutes, 41.63 seconds, out-pacing Washington’s Tao Berman (3:42.67) and North Carolina’s Pat Keller (3:44.29).
Larimer County will raise the cost of septic permit fees as of Monday, according to the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. The new fees were approved by the Board of Health at its May meeting. These increases comply with the board’s direction that user fees, rather than taxpayer dollars, should cover most of the costs of services that benefit individual households and businesses. The new rates are: new residential, $873; vaults, $375; minor repair, $298; major repair, $548; remodel, $400; mortgage loan inspections, $265. Unchanged rates: new commercial, $1,023; commercial repair, $1,023.
House Bill 1308 (pdf), introduced by Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, sets new ground rules for water produced from the development of coal bed methane gas wells. “It probably was one of the most important bills of the whole session because it really is a new section in Colorado water law,” [State Senator Jim Isgar] said. “We’ve been working on it for several months with the State Engineer’s office, the Water Congress, the oil and gas industry, and senior water rights holders.” The new law, presuming the bill is signed by Gov. Bill Ritter, creates a process for determining whether produced water has a beneficial use and whether shallow wells that are used in energy production are on tributaries that can cause injury to senior water users.
Members of the Natural Resources Conservation Service on Wednesday signed the first contract of four watershed projects aimed at erosion control or habitat preservation in Southeastern Colorado. The projects, which are part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package, total about $1 million. The money will go toward more than 50 projects in four areas that have existing watershed projects covering about 288,000 acres in Otero, Bent, Prowers and Las Animas counties. Work is sponsored in partnerships between the conservation service and landowners…
Allen Green, state conservationist, said the contract was the first signed in the nation as part of Obama’s $85 million watershed program. The Highline project, which began in 1998 and is the largest of the four in Southeastern Colorado, will eventually produce 28 land treatment contracts with producers. There will be at least 3,000 acres of conservation improvements in the area, Knapp said. The project includes water quality improvement, conservation of appropriated water supply and the enhancement of scarce wildlife habitat. Specifically, the project will improve both surface and groundwater quality and reduce irrigation-induced erosion to acceptable levels. It also will more effectively conserve and use available water supplies by improving on-farm irrigation water management which may reduce deep percolation. Padilla, whose farm is in the West Otero County Water District, will use the funding to improve his irrigation system to make more efficient use of water and to improve his farming and ranching operation in Rocky Ford…
Other projects will reduce erosion and sediment deposits into Lake Trinidad and the Arkansas River. Some have been in the planning process for a decade, but never started because of a lack of funding, Green said. Other watershed projects approved for funding included Limestone-Graveyard creeks, Holbrook Lake Ditch and the Trinidad Lake north watershed. The project at Trinidad Lake, which started in 1992, will create 10 land treatment contracts with mostly family-owned farms. Officials said the project will result in significant environmental improvements by reducing contaminant and sediment-loading to the lake which will prolong the waters and improve the water quality delivered to the lake. The Limestone-Graveyard Creek Watershed project begun in Bent and Prowers counties in 1996 will create five land treatment contracts with producers. The 2001 Holbrook Lake Ditch Watershed project will create eight land treatment contracts with farmers. The projects aim to improve water quality, conserve an over-appropriated water supply and enhance wildlife habitat.
The end result of the lingering pattern has been above-normal precipitation for Alamosa. The town saw 1.17 inches of precipitation in May compared with its normal total of 0.7 inches. In the northwestern corner of the valley near La Garita, volunteer spotters recorded rainfall 16 days in a row, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Although three of those days registered only trace amounts of precipitation, the period saw more than 2 inches of precipitation in the area…
Craig Cotten, division engineer for the valley, said the rains combined with the early runoff has allowed Platoro Reservoir to spill for the first time in a few years. Downstream, all of the decreed ditches on the Conejos River have been served.
Cotten noted that a potential downside to continued rain might be a revision of the delivery schedule for the Rio Grande Compact, which forces the state to send larger amounts of water downstream in wet years. Cotten said he still was waiting on the June forecast from the Natural Resources Conservation Service before he could make any determination on whether the delivery requirements would change.
For potato growers, who contribute nearly $200 million annually to the valley’s economy, the steady rains have been a mixed blessing. Jim Ehrlich, director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee in Monte Vista, said the rains may keep farmers from doing weed control, although he added it was too early to tell how weeds might affect crop yields. The cooler temperatures that have come with the rains also may slow the crop’s development.
May’s weather was slightly warmer and drier than average which, coupled with numerous layers of dust on the snowpack, has led to a rapid depletion of higher-elevation snowpack statewide, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The statewide snowpack dipped to only 32 percent of average on June 1, after recording 90 percent of average on May 1. The state’s maximum snowpack was reached on April 19, and was 109 percent of the average maximum snowpack…
For most of the state, this summer’s water supplies are expected to be near average. However, there are several areas of the state which failed to receive enough moisture during the winter and spring to assure near average runoff volumes, particularly in southwestern Colorado. In addition, a number of other smaller basins across southern Colorado in the Rio Grande and Arkansas basins, as well as the headwaters of the South Platte River, are expected to produce below average runoff volumes this summer.
In Dillon, where Denver Water tracks precipitation and temperatures, May brought 2.12 inches of precipitation, compared to the historic average of 1.44 inches…
In Breckenridge, weather-watcher Rick Bly maintains weather records that date back more than 100 years. For May, Bly measured 2.63 inches of precipitation — 52 percent more than the historic average 1.72 inches. But snowfall for the month was below average. Normally, Breckenridge sees 10.9 inches of the white stuff, this year, only 6.2 inches fell in May. For the weather year, beginning Oct. 1, both snowfall and precipitation are very close to the historic average. “That doesn’t happen very often,” Bly said. “We’ve had 162.26 inches of snow. The average from Oct. 1 through May 31 is 162.67.” Water-wise, that historic average equals 14.3 inches. Bly has measured 14.39 inches at his backyard weather gauge for this current water year…
For most of the state, this summer’s water supplies are expected to be near average. Reservoir storage increased significantly during May as the early snowmelt boosted inflows. Storage has improved to above-average levels nearly statewide and is ahead of last year’s totals on this date in all basins. With statewide storage volumes at 116 percent of average, these are the best storage statistics since 1999. For the Colorado River Basin, the June 1 snowpack was only at 31 percent of average for the date because of the early snowmelt. But reservoir storage was at 112 percent of average. The Front Range also experienced a wet month, bringing moisture totals to near average after a dry winter. Denver Water’s reservoirs east of the Continental Divide are currently full, so no water is currently being diverted from Dillon Reservoir to the Front Range.