Horsetooth Reservoir operations update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today, Horsetooth Reservoir is sitting at an elevation of 5400 feet. To put some perspective on this, looking back about 20-years, our average elevation at Horsetooth this time of year is usually around 5385.

Right now, we are sending just over 200 cfs into Horsetooth. About 354 cfs is going out. This is a relatively slow draw on the reservoir. If demands remain about the same, I anticipate we will see an elevation in the mid-upper 5390s for Labor Day weekend. That should be plenty of water for all boat ramps.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here and here.

Aspinall Unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Crystal Dam has been operating at full powerplant release for most of this spring and summer. Now that Blue Mesa storage space has been regained and because of lower than expected late summer base flows, Reclamation will reduce reservoir releases in order to conserve reservoir storage. In addition, lower releases in the early fall months will provide more optimal flows for river recreation, fish studies scheduled for late September, and for the brown trout spawn which occurs during mid October to mid November. This change will also provide the flexibility needed to provide higher releases for power production during December and January.

Starting today, August 31, releases from Crystal Reservoir will be reduced by 100 cfs each day for the next four days, resulting in Black Canyon – Gunnison Gorge flows of 700 – 800 cfs. An additional flow reduction of 100 cfs could be forthcoming next week depending on conditions, with flows averaging around 600 cfs for September through November. Please reply to this email if you have further questions.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program: Grand County’s efforts

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Starting Sept. 1 to Sept. 15, the county seeks to augment the river by 45 cfs…Grand County-paid pumping would supply another 30 cfs from Sept. 16 through Sept. 30, another 20 cfs Oct. 1-15 and additional 10 cfs Oct. 16-30. That would leave 321 acre-feet of water carried over for release in 2010, according to county officials.

More endangered species coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Aspen is first Colorado municipality to file permit request under Colorado geothermal law

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Here’s a look at Aspen’s geothermal plans, from Carolyn Sackariason writing for the Aspen Times. From the article:

Last week the council awarded a contract to John Kaufman of Rocky Mountain Water Consulting LLC to prepare a report for the state water court, which has the authority to allow the city to move forward with test drilling and be granted water rights to tap into geothermal heat underneath Aspen, said John Hines, the city’s renewable energy utilities manager. A state engineer has determined that water rights will likely be granted. But first, the city has to prove that it will not harm the Roaring Fork River in its quest to find geothermal resources underground. That is what Kaufman’s report will contain, which will then be submitted to the state water court. The court is expected to rule on Aspen’s water rights Jan. 15, Hines said…

Meanwhile, the city is applying for a federal grant with the Department of Energy to help pay for the entire geothermal project, which is estimated to cost $3.5 million. The test drilling was scheduled to be done this year but because of the high cost of doing it, city officials decided to hold off and try to get federal money. If the grant is awarded, the city could begin drilling early next year…

The goal is to find enough geothermal energy to heat 1 million square feet, the equivalent of 10 large hotels. Doing so would cut Aspen’s natural gas needs by about 15 percent, according to city officials. A geothermal heat district could potentially provide renewable heating and cooling to businesses within a 4-square mile radius of downtown Aspen. Last year Kaufman conducted a geothermal reconnaissance study, which found that warm ground water associated with hydrothermal deposits of silver, lead and zinc ore beneath Aspen may be present in sufficient quantities for direct heat exchange, or for the application of a groundwater heat pump system…

The city’s water rights application makes Aspen the first municipality to apply under the new Colorado Geothermal Act. The geothermal heat would work by taking the steam and hot water produced in the earth’s core and using it to heat a glycol-based solution that circulates through buildings to heat them. Customers would pay according to the thermal units of energy used as the heated liquid goes by their building. Electricity would be needed to move the water. City officials in the past have said they want to find a well or combination of wells that will produce 5,000 gallons per minute of 140-degree water.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District are asking for Upper Arkansas Basin salinity study

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Salinity in the basin is concentrated in the Lower Arkansas basin, but the source of loading is upstream of Pueblo Reservoir,” Pat Edelmann of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last week. The USGS is working on a project to study water quality in the Arkansas River basin for a water resources group formed in 2003. Southeastern, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District are participants. Edelmann outlined a course of action for a $1.7 million water quality study over several years that would look at the most pressing water quality issues in the basin: Salinity, Lake Pueblo impacts and heavy metal loading in the Upper Arkansas River. Funding of the complete package would be about one-third from USGS, with $1.2 million from local or state sources. “Water supply and water quality are increasingly linked,” Edelmann said. “It’s getting hard to separate the two.”[…]

The USGS found that two-thirds of the salt that is dissolved in the water enters the Arkansas River above Avondale, long before the major agricultural operations in the valley. While farms contribute, they also remove a certain amount of salt from the river that is deposited on fields, Edelmann said…

Edelmann speculated that the major source of loading along the river is evaporative loss, although there is no way to prove that without more continuous monitoring of the river in critical reaches. Continuous monitoring all along the river is needed to compare changes, and such data have been available only since 2000. That would cost roughly $570,000 on top of the $280,000 already being spent…

The loading above Pueblo has not been studied because water is well within acceptable levels for drinking. But reducing salinity even a little bit in the headwaters could might a tenfold benefit downstream for both surface supplies and groundwater in connected aquifers, Edelmann said.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here and here.

Telluride and Idarado settle lawsuit

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From the Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

The litigation revolved around a plan the town has been pursuing for years — securing an ample source of water for its residents by tapping Blue Lake, a body of very pure water that sits in the rocky alpine basin above Bridal Veil Falls. The town’s plan entails piping the water down to a treatment plant above the Pandora Mill, and then dispersing it. The town set out to complete the project years ago — doing engineering, winning voter approval for a $10 million bond, and securing a piece of land (gifted by Idarado) for the treatment plant. But as the town was obtaining an array of deeds and easements necessary for construction, access and water rights, it stumbled over language in a 1992 settlement agreement with Idarado that would give the mining company the right to recall not only water rights, but also proportionate ownership in water storage and conveyance structures. When Idarado refused to omit the language, the town sued, claiming the mining company breached the contract and cost the town money by delaying its project. And Idarado replied with a countersuit, answering that it only wanted its rights protected.

A trial took place in January in Montrose. The mixed ruling that followed the trial awarded both sides some of what they fought for. For Telluride, there was good news: The town retained enough rights to move forward with the long-awaited implementation of its new water system and treatment plant. And for the mining company, the ruling meant it was able to hold onto some of the property and water rights it sought. Also: The judge ruled that when the town went on to Idarado property to do construction on a road, its actions constituted a taking (hence, last week’s settlement). But for the town, the bottom line is that: now it can continue pursuing its plans for a water system on the east end of the valley.

More San Miguel watershed coverage here.

Halligan Reservoir: 3 water districts quit expansion project

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Here’s a report from Kevin Duggan writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

The expense of an ongoing environmental analysis of the proposed expansion has driven the Fort Collins-Loveland, East Larimer County and North Weld County water districts away from the $60 million project. In letters sent to city officials, the water districts noted a 2004 agreement authorizing the environmental analysis, which is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to receive a permit for the project, would cost no more than $4 million. So far, more than $5 million has been spent on the analysis by participating entities and “it appears little progress, if any, has been made in the planning and environmental review for permitting the project,” the districts wrote.

Backing away from the project is primarily a financial decision, said Mike Scheid, manager of the East Larimer County, or ELCO, Water District. The district serves a portion of northeast Fort Collins and areas of unincorporated Larimer County…

Another concern of the districts is an apparent lack of support for the project among some Fort Collins City Council members, said Mike DiTullio, general manager of the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District. The district covers part of south for Fort Collins. During a recent study session on the project, some council members questioned the size and need for the expansion, which would almost triple the size of the reservoir to 40,000 acre feet…

Fort Collins officials say they will continue with the Corps’ environmental impact statement process, although they are reviewing options such as reducing the size of the proposed expansion to about 20,000 acre feet. The reservoir’s current capacity is 6,500 acre feet…

With the Tri-Districts out, the city’s remaining partner is the North Poudre Irrigation Co., which owns the water stored in Halligan. The city owns the property covered by the facility and the right to expand. Of the $5.3 million spent on the project, about $2.3 million has been in payments to North Poudre for the Halligan site, city officials say. North Poudre manager Steve Smith said the irrigation company plans to stick with the project and the permitting process.

The Corps is conducting a combined environmental impact statement, or EIS, process on Halligan and Milton Seaman Reservoir, which is owned by the city of Greeley. A draft EIS on the proposals is expected to be complete by early 2011, said Chandler Peter, project manager with the Corps. Much of the technical analysis of the project is already complete, Peter said. With the Tri-Districts out of the project, the Corps will examine the viability of alternative projects that might require less water. How much more the EIS process will cost participants is not clear, Peter said. The process has been extended, in part, by the Corps’ decision to use a “common technical platform” for all water projects proposed for the Poudre River basin, including the controversial Northern Integrate Water Supply Project, or NISP, proposed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

“Whoever wants to drain, divert or dam the Poudre needs to understand it’s not going to be fast, cheap or easy,” [Gary Wockner, Colorado program manager for the environmental group Clean Water Action] said.

More Halligan-Seaman expansion coverage here and here.