Precipitation news

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From the Colorado Springs Gazette (Carlyn Ray Mitchell):

Colorado Springs was thoroughly drenched in July, when 5.39 inches of rain fell on the city — 3.43 inches above normal. On July 29, 1.45 inches fell in 24 hours.

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Charlotte Burrous):

A long-term weather pattern has brought 3.1 inches of precipitation this month, compared to .82 in July 2008. “Last year was below average while this year is above average,” said National Weather Service meterologist Joe Ceru. “The average is 1.82” for Fremont County. Because of the breakdown in the La Nina system, there was a much drier air mass last year, he said. “We have a different climate” this year, Ceru said.

Fort Morgan: Downtown water and storm sewer installations complete

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From The Fort Morgan Times: “As the Fort Morgan downtown infrastructure improvement project moves into its third and final month, water line and storm drain installations are complete, according to the weekly update from Municipal Engineer Brad Curtis.”

More Morgan County coverage here.

Lower Dolores Plan Working Group: Issue fact sheets

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Here’s the link to the Dolores River Dialogue’s Lower Dolores Plan Working Group set of issue fact sheets. Here’s a report from the Cortez Journal. From the article:

The goal is to gather information, identify values worthy of protection in the planning area, formulate ideas for protection of the values, and make recommendations to the Dolores Public Lands Office – the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Once the Lower Dolores Management Plan Working Group makes its recommendations, the public lands office will initiate a formal environmental assessment process, conduct public involvement, and issue a decision notice.

More Coyote Gulch Dolores River coverage here.

Blue Mesa Reservoir: Colorado Department of Wildlife to explain lake trout control policy

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From The Denver Post (Charlie Meyers):

…area biologist John Alves said…DOW is committed to a strategy of balance: a highly productive kokanee fishery, a good rainbow trout fishery and a viable trophy lake trout fishery. To explain its rationale, and perhaps sprinkle some cold water on the argument, DOW has scheduled a series of public meetings in the region. The first is Aug. 25 at the Grand Junction Doubletree Hotel. Others are Aug. 26 at the Montrose Holiday Inn Express, Aug. 27 at the Gunnison Aspinall-Wilson Center at Western State College and Sept. 2 at the DOW regional office in Colorado Springs. All begin at 7 p.m. DOW will explain how stable water levels in recent years promoted highly successful lake trout reproduction in Big Blue. At the same time, kokanee egg take has tumbled — 5.8 million in 2008 against 8.2 million in 2007. Biologists project the current kokanee population at 200,000. A decade ago, the estimation was 10 million or more.

La Plata Water Authority West takes possession of Lake Nighthorse intake structure

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Board members of the La Plata West Water Authority last week took possession of an intake structure at what will be Lake Nighthorse when a reservoir in Ridges Basin just west of Bodo Industrial Park is full. The lake is part of the Animas-La Plata Project, commonly known as A-LP, a Bureau of Reclamation project to provide drinking water for three Native American tribes and nontribal partners in Colorado and New Mexico.

While the authority is confident it has most of the $6 million cost of the intake lined up, it must start looking for $1.5 million to $2 million to buy the 700 acre-feet of water it wants from the water project. The water is owned by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, which also holds 1,900 acre-feet of A-LP water earmarked for the city of Durango…

The intake consists of a vertical shaft and two pipelines perpendicular to it on what will be the northwest shore of Lake Nighthorse. The shaft is 120 feet deep and 17 feet in diameter. At right angles to it are two pipelines, each 3 feet in diameter, one 870 feet long that will draw water from 100 feet beneath the surface and one 152 feet long that will take water from 50 feet. The intake had to be finished before the level of water in Lake Nighthorse covered the location. The lake, which has a capacity of 120,000 acre-feet of water, is being filled by pumping water from the Animas River near Santa Rita Park.

When complete – at an estimated cost of $95 million – the system will bring water to as many as 3,600 dwellings in the unincorporated communities of Breen, Kline, Marvel and Redmesa, a 250-square-mile area straddling County Road 140. Area residents currently fill containers at a spring in Marvel or truck in water. The remainder of the project consists of a water-treatment plant, pump stations, storage tanks and about 40 miles of trunk lines that would carry water to County Road 140, then south to the New Mexico line, said Gene Bradley, a La Plata West board member. The number of miles of branch lines hasn’t yet been determined, he said. Two locations are being considered for the treatment plant – two miles north of the intake along realigned County Road 211 or at Blue Hill just south of the Shenandoah subdivision, Bradley said. Either way, water would be pumped to Blue Hill from where distribution would rely on gravity. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe will contribute $3 million and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe will contribute $1.5 million toward the cost of the $6 million intake. The tribes, which received $20 million each when the irrigation component of the A-LP was removed, must spend 75 percent of their “resource funds” on nontribal projects. Other than the Ute tribes, there is no sure funding for the distribution system, which is expected to be built piecemeal over a number of years, Bradley said. The authority board is looking for local, state and federal money, including stimulus funds, to complete the project, he said.

More Coyote Gulch Animas River coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greeway District: Funding sources clearing up

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District want to extend an agreement to develop a Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan and have invited the new district to join. Colorado Springs and the Lower Ark would each provide $150,000 for the next two years, for a total of $300,000. Of that, they would make $100,000 available to the Fountain Creek district to hire a manager and pay office costs. The other $200,000 would continue to fund consultants working on the corridor master plan. “We’d like to not have the district on the sidelines and see it become a partner,” Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district, told the Fountain Creek board Friday…

Carol Baker, Fountain Creek coordinator for Colorado Springs, said the city is moving ahead on demonstration projects at Clear Springs Ranch, part of its commitment to Pueblo County commissioners for the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs has committed to paying $50 million to the district under the conditions, but the district won’t see most of that money for a long time. The first $300,000 of the payments will come in the next three years, but can’t be used for administrative costs, only for study of flood-control measures, including a dam on Fountain Creek, said Pueblo County Attorney Dan Kogovsek. The remaining payments will come in sums of $9.7 million the first year and $10 million each year for four years after SDS is completed. Last month, Colorado Springs City Council moved the completion date of SDS to 2016, rather than the 2012 date used when the conditions were being written…

By entering the agreement, the board would allow Colorado Springs to pay forward a portion of the funds it would eventually receive, but keep efforts to improve the creek moving forward, Baker said. The Fountain Creek district also would have a staff member working with Colorado Springs and the Lower Ark to create the master plan. The Fountain Creek board was generally favorable to the proposal, but Kogovsek and El Paso County Assistant Attorney Cole Emmons wanted to make minor changes in the agreement before it’s voted on. The agreement also would need approval of the Lower Ark board and Colorado Springs City Council. Pueblo County commissioners would also have to approve using funds to administration of the district as a credit against the future payments under the $50 million in the 1041 conditions.

“Our ultimate stream of money is a mill levy, but to get voters to approve it you need a demonstration project,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner. He said the only other ways to gain money now would be to apply for grants through Pueblo and El Paso counties or to “pass the hat” as the Vision Task Force did for two years.

More Coyote Gulch Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Flaming gorge pipeline: Does Million Resource Conservation Group have any customers?

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Colorado water law includes an anti-speculation doctrine. Here’s a short explanation from a Coyote Gulch reader:

The doctrine basically says water may not be held for future sale. The Colorado Constitution says no water right will be denied, if the water is put to beneficial use. The one exception to this is referred to as the Great and Growing Cities Doctrine (c. 1916) that says cities can appropriate (or purchase water rights in a change case) water for future needs.

An individual or corporation cannot claim or buy water without an immediate or historic beneficial use.

So that is the conundrum that Aaron Million is in: He hasn’t named any customers for the water that he plans to deliver from the Green River so many are pointing the speculator finger at him and his proposed project. He has frightened off some potential customers by also being secretive about the eventual cost of the water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of completing an environmental impact statement for the project but needs to know where the water will be put to beneficial use in order to evaluate the impacts. Million has said that he will provide the names of users in Wyoming and Colorado, “…but is not in a position to provide them yet,” according to this report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. More from the article:

“I think the Corps is trying to shore up its information and narrow down the focus of the project so it can develop alternatives,” Million said. “Obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to cooperate. The project’s on a positive path.” Rena Brand, regulatory specialist for the Corps, had a similar comment.

“In order to define the need, the Corps must understand who the water users are and verify their specific needs for water,” Brand said. “Water users could be cities, irrigation districts or industries.”[…]

The Colorado Water Conservation Board estimates the state has 440,000-1.4 million acre-feet of water to develop under the [Colorado River Compact and Upper Colorado River Compact], but is investigating things like the location and timing of flows. Million’s project would minimize elevation changes as it bypasses the Colorado Rockies and moves water along existing utility corridors.

There is strong opposition to the project in Wyoming. “I’m not sure they have adequate definition of the need for the project to even do the analysis,” Gov. Dave Freudenthal said last week. “I think this is just a rich guy who just wants to move water.”

Million countered that Freudenthal’s opposition was not expected, and said he is ignoring possible benefits to the state.

There is also interest by others in the state in the concept. The CWCB has included it in a study of possible water supply alternatives, and the South Metro Water Supply Authority has been looking at a similar alternative [Colorado-Wyoming Coalition] in its long-range planning.

More Coyote Gulch Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek: CSU diversion incorporates fish passage targeting Arkansas darter and flathead chub

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The project at Colorado Springs’ Clear Spring Ranch, located near Pikes Peak International Raceway, will benefit the Arkansas darter and flathead chub, which are listed as threatened or of concern under the Endangered Species Act. The fish passages are strategically placed rocks that provide the fish shelter as they make their way upstream, said Carol Baker, Fountain Creek watershed planning manager for Colorado Springs Utilities.

“The project will identify for the first time fish performance curves for the Arkansas darter and flathead chub and will establish fish passage design criteria for plains fish species,” Baker said. The fish passages will also demonstrate how similar projects should be constructed on Fountain Creek and elsewhere in the state, Baker said. “Little is known about the biology of these fishes, including their swimming and jumping performance,” said Gregory Gerlich, aquatic section manager for the state Division of Wildlife. “This information is critical to the design of a fish passage.”

Pat Edelmann of the Pueblo office of the U.S. Geological Survey agreed, saying the timing of flows and size of barriers have to be considered in evaluating fish habitat. “To reduce the level of uncertainty, individual species have to be evaluated for swimming performance and jumping ability,” Edelmann said…

The project also ties in with ongoing studies of 16 species of fish in Fountain Creek by Colorado State University-Fort Collins, said professor Christopher Myrick, who is leading the project. “In my view, the construction of a fish passage at Clear Springs Ranch diversion dam on Fountain Creek had the highest potential benefit to a state listed species of any future project we identified within the Fountain Creek watershed,” said Champe Green, senior ecologist with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The project also is part of the list of conditions Colorado Springs agreed to for a 1041 land-use permit with Pueblo County for the Southern Delivery System.

More Coyote Gulch Fountain Creek coverage here and here.