Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program update

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Here’s an update on the Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, from John Colson writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

…Dave Merritt, now serving as the Garfield County representative on the [Colorado River District’s] board of directors, [says that] there still is a need to raise half a million dollars in a “cost-sharing arrangement” to pay for a federal environmental assessment (EA) required by the National Environmental Policy Act. And it all must be finished up before the expiration of an existing agreement between the Denver Water Board and the Colorado River District, which together provide 10,825 acre feet each year to keep ample water in a stretch of the river known as the 15-mile Reach east of Grand Junction, which is the habitat of the fish. The issue, Merritt said, is the ongoing effort to prevent the extinction of four species of fish in the Colorado River — the razorback sucker, the bonytail chub, the Colorado pike minnow and the humpback chub.

The effort goes back to the 1980s, Merritt said, when the Bureau of Reclamation “reserved” 21,650 acre feet of water in the federally controlled Ruedi Reservoir, on the Fryingpan River above Basalt, to be used for the preservation of the endangered fish. The water was claimed by the federal agency after completion of the second of two rounds of water sales to private interests, Merritt said, leaving that amount of water unsold. An agreement was drawn up calling for the Western Slope and the Front Range water users to share in providing supplemental water flows, released from two reservoirs in the late summer every year, to raise the level of the 15-mile Reach and save the fish. Currently, the water is coming from the Wolford Mountain Reservoir for the Western Slope’s half, and from the Williams Fork Reservoir for the amount supplied by the Front Range, under an interim agreement reached in 1998, Merritt said. But that agreement is to expire in 2010, and a new arrangement has to be in place by 2012, according to Merritt. Currently, the new plan is for half the water, or 5,412.5 acre feet, to come from the Granby Reservoir, satisfying the Front Range obligation. The other half is to come from Ruedi Reservoir, to meet the Western Slope’s obligation.

Merritt said the river district is hoping that the water from Ruedi will be considered “nonreimbursable,” meaning the district would not have to pay the estimated $8 million value of the Ruedi water, because the water is being required to meet a federal environmental purpose. Although he is not directly involved in the ongoing negotiations for the Granby Reservoir water, Merritt said the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has estimated its value at $17 million. If the money is ruled to be “reimbursable,” Merritt said, it would be used to reimburse the Bureau of Reclamation for its costs in building the reservoir, which was completed in 1968 as the centerpiece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and has a capacity of more than 102,000 acre feet…

Merritt said the river district is hoping that the water from Ruedi will be considered “nonreimbursable,” meaning the district would not have to pay the estimated $8 million value of the Ruedi water, because the water is being required to meet a federal environmental purpose. Although he is not directly involved in the ongoing negotiations for the Granby Reservoir water, Merritt said the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has estimated its value at $17 million. If the money is ruled to be “reimbursable,” Merritt said, it would be used to reimburse the Bureau of Reclamation for its costs in building the reservoir, which was completed in 1968 as the centerpiece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and has a capacity of more than 102,000 acre feet.

More Coyote Gulch endangered species coverage here and here.

Storage news: C-BT reservoirs

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The water level at Horsetooth Reservoir is about 30 feet higher than it typically would be for this time of year, said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir. Municipalities and farmers that own the water haven’t been calling for it as they normally would, she said…

Horsetooth is about 10 feet short of being full, Lamb said. Carter Lake is about 12 feet short of capacity. A hot and dry August could dramatically change the water levels at the reservoirs, she said, but so far, “it’s been a really good water year.”