Aspinall operations meeting August 27

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The August Aspinall Operations Meeting will be held starting at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday August 27th. The meeting location is the Elk Creek Visitors Center at Blue Mesa Reservoir. Reclamation will be discussing past and upcoming operations, planned maintenance activities, status of the draft EIS and more. The Division of Wildlife will be describing trout issues at Blue Mesa Reservoir and in the Gunnison River, and the Park Service and BLM will be giving brief updates regarding the effect of this year’s operation on Gunnison River related resources . This is an opportunity for any interested party to comment on operations and provide input. Please reply to this email or call Dan Crabtree at 970-248-0652 with questions or other agenda items.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.

University of Colorado ‘Waterblitz’ project to sample Rocky Mountain National Park water quality

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From The Associated Press via The Aspen Times:

The project, called “WaterBlitz,” will assess the water quality of streams and explore whether the pine beetle epidemic that’s killing trees is affecting the water. Researchers think the beetle-killed trees are changing nutrient levels in the waterways.

Here’s an in-depth look at the pine beetle devastation and how to mange what will be left over, from Greg Zausen, forester with the Colorado State Forest Service-Fort Collins District. He writes:

On a large scale, there is nothing environmentally, economically, or socially acceptable we can do to stop the bark beetle epidemic at this point. We can start planning for the future and managing our forests to create a future forest that is less susceptible to such widespread tree mortality. Management should include promoting species diversity, frequent and periodic thinning to maintain healthy trees that are less susceptible to insects and disease, and patch cuts in lodgepole pine stands to promote structural and age diversity across the landscape.

Aspen: Water quality projects take funding hit

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From The Aspen Times (Carolyn Sackariason) via the Vail Daily:

April Barker, the city’s stormwater manager, told the council that the fee was originally estimated to generate $900,000 annually. This year, it will bring in $430,000. Projections over the next decade have been adjusted to reflect a 4 percent increase each year. As a result, several projects have been put on hold, most of which have to do with flood control. However, three projects related to water quality have been given high priority and will be funded with money available.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here and here.

Fountain Creek water quality study update

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Here’s an update on Colorado State University’s efforts to develop water quality data and find some answers to Fountain Creeks problems, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Joe Garcia, CSU-Pueblo president touted the contributions of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in helping set up the study and aiding in the purchase of the equipment – a high-tech inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer – for the project. Since the program started in 2005, it has received support from the city of Pueblo and Pueblo County as well. With more support from all involved, the studies can be expanded from Fountain Creek to the Arkansas River, Garcia said.

Three parts of the study were reviewed Wednesday: Human bacteria in Fountain Creek, the presence of midges and the accumulation of metals in fish tissues. So far, there is no correlation in finding human bacteria looking at flows, time of year or location at the 27 Fountain Creek sites that have been sampled, said biology professor Brian Vanden Heuvel. “We just don’t know where it’s coming from,” Vanden Heuvel said. “The source of the E. coli remains a mystery.” Preliminary findings by the U.S. Geological Survey on Upper Fountain Creek are pointing to birds as the most likely source, he added.

Studies have found a wide variety of midge species – technically chironomids – on Fountain Creek, said biology professor Scott Herrmann. “They are the grocery source for fish,” Herrmann said. The presence or absence of species is a good indicator of the health of the creek, and can be used in the future to determine how the habitat is changing, he said.

Studies are also looking at the accumulation of metals like mercury, selenium and cadmium in fish tissues, said Kat McGarvy, a student working on the project.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County project: Chaffee County Commissioners approve 1041 permit

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Nestle will be able to pump a maximum of 200 acre-feet of water annually from one spring source at the 16-acre Ruby Mountain Spring site of Nathrop between Salida and Buena Vista…

The commission on Wednesday finalized a list of nearly 50 conditions that deal with environmental, economic-development and water issues. Nestle will be required to establish a $500,000 endowment to fund science, environmental or Chaffee County school projects, plus establish and perpetually replenish a $200,000 mitigation fund to cover the county’s administrative costs for overseeing the permit condition reviews and other unforeseen expenses. In addition, Nestle will be required to hire local contractors, buy supplies locally and employ at least 50 percent of its truck drivers from Chaffee County. Nestle also has pledged to obtain a conservation easement for the property so it will remain open space and can never be developed.

“One area I really struggle with is the project benefits. Do they outweigh future development of that property or those resources?” Commissioner Tim Glenn said. “The alternatives of what might happen, I can see, will be 2-acre subdivisions with wells and septic tanks. “Is that going to be a benefit to the area? In some regards, yes; in some regards, no,” Glenn said…

“My issue was water and long-term water loss. With augmentation, there is no doubt the water is being replenished in time, place and amount. I believe all the conditions satisfy my concerns; we’ve worked hard for the citizens,” Commissioner Dennis Giese said…

“I am pleased with a unanimous vote for approval with the conditions. We will bring a very good project to Chaffee County that will improve the economy, provide open space preservation and restore the (old private) fish hatchery,” said Bruce Lauerman of Nestle.

More coverage from The Mountain Mail (Jennifer Denevan):

County staff members were directed to write separate resolutions – one for the 1041 permit and another for the special land use permit. The resolutions will be considered during a future regular business meeting. Some changes were made to the conditions considered by commissioners during the special meeting Wednesday and must be rewritten, but will be included in both resolutions…

Commissioners discussed conditions with which they had issues and determined how they needed to be rewritten. They wanted to ensure wording fits needs and intent. Commissioners requested clarification of the cost reimbursement fund and the fishing access stipulation. The cost reimbursement fund is money Nestlé would put aside for three types of project-related costs including anticipated and unanticipated – such as lawsuits. Commissioners also discussed the fishing access condition. Holman and Tim Glenn disagreed about access being allowed in the Bighorn Springs area. After rewording the condition, commissioners agreed if Colorado Division of Wildlife personnel don’t find it suitable, Nestlé won’t be required to create a river access point.

More coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday heard a report on the concept for the compliance plan from Gregg Ten Eyck of Leonard Rice Engineers. “There are really two plans,” Ten Eyck said, separating the valley into regions where flows are returned either above or below John Martin Reservoir. “There are different requirements in timing, the types of water and how they respond to the rest of the river system.”

The plan is being developed in response to State Engineer Dick Wolfe’s plan to file the rules in Division 2 Water Court on Sept. 30. There will be one more meeting, on Sept. 21, of an advisory committee before the rules are filed. The rules primarily are aimed at large irrigation sprinkler systems fed by ponds put in since 1999 and are meant to avoid further violations of the Arkansas River Compact. The compliance plans would cost farmers $100 per farm headgate, plus fees of up to $25 an acre-foot for replacement water under the plan presented by Ten Eyck. A 10-year average, calculated for each farm in the plan, would be used to determine how much water the Lower Ark would be expected to provide. Once a farmer signed on, the Lower Ark district would absorb the ups and downs of the hydrologic cycle.

More Arkansas Basin consumptive use rules coverage here and here.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday agreed to extend its agreement to help improve Fountain Creek for another two years. The new agreement will include the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District as well as Colorado Springs Utilities. The Fountain Creek District board will consider on Aug. 28 an offer by the Lower Ark and Colorado Springs as a way to fund a director and administrative costs until a $50 million commitment by Colorado Springs kicks in.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Congress summer conference

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Here’s a recap of day one of the Colorado Water Congress’ summer session, from Zach Fridell writing for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

The annual water conference, held once every two years in Steamboat Springs, is hosting more than 200 attendees and a few Colorado legislators for an event titled “A Change in the Financial Climate.”[…]

Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress, said legislators help the organization form a two-way street, with legislators learning about water policy as they help craft laws, and the Water Congress discussing their views and conservation efforts with legislators. “You can just about hold a session of the legislature” with all the attendees, Kemper said. Kemper said that by talking about water issues with the legislators, the group also can tackle the budgetary concerns. “The budget issue drove us all last session, and it’s going to be with us for quite a bit ahead,” he said. The very first issue on the agenda Wednesday was a state budget forum, hosted by the Water Congress’ budget committee.