Trappers Lake: Cull the brookies — supply a Meeker food bank

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Jeff Milton):

To avoid the extirpation of Colorado River cutthroat from Trappers Lake, CDOW biologists decided to manage the trout by selectively trapping fish and removing brookies. The Fyke nets used resemble a gigantic minnow trap with a net curtain extending 50 feet from the mouth of the trap to shore. When a fish encounters the curtain it turns toward deeper water to get around the obstruction. Swimming along the wall of netting, the fish passes through a series of funnels culminating in a confined space with netting on all sides. Biologists empty the trap nets and remove brookies while returning cutthroat to the lake. Culled adult brook trout are cleaned, packed in ice, and taken to the food bank in Meeker.

By setting traps and leaving them overnight for a half dozen nights each fall, biologists have cut the percentage of brook trout in the population in half. The cutthroat are safe as long as the management program continues. Regrettably, there is no realistic prospect of eradicating the brookies.

More White River Basin coverage here here.

Fountain Creek: Colorado Springs’ stormwater efforts are under the magnifying glass

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In addition to paying the district $50 million and spending $75 million to fortify wastewater structures if SDS is built – conditions imposed by Pueblo County in its 1041 permit – Colorado Springs would be required to use an adaptive management program to monitor and evaluate changes on Fountain Creek over time. The program would be part of its federal contract with the Bureau of Reclamation. Colorado Springs has requested contract negotiations on behalf of its partners in Security, Fountain and Pueblo West, but no timetable has been set. No one can be certain of exactly what the program would require until SDS is built, however. “The (program) will allow changes to be tracked over time, judging whether these changes are likely caused by operation of the SDS project and addressing actual effects in a systematic manner,” the application states. “The combination of these two projectwide commitments ensures that there are data available to make informed decisions on the impacts of the SDS project, and that there is money available to address impacts to Fountain Creek different than those anticipated.”

In an interview this week, the district’s interim Director Gary Barber called the federal requirement a more powerful motivator to improve Fountain Creek than the defunct stormwater district…

The city has committed to dredging the channel of Fountain Creek through Pueblo to restore levees to 100-year flood capacity. It will also restore 4 miles of creek and wetlands at its Clear Springs Ranch south of Fountain and 3 miles near the Sand Creek confluence.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

State Representative Sal Pace plans to introduce legislation requiring mitigation for transbasin diversions

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

A measure is to be introduced that would require water transfers from one river basin to another, such as the Western Slope to the Front Range, to include mitigation agreements, an issue that always creates turbulence between water users on both sides of the Continental Divide. Like a similar measure that nearly cleared the Colorado House in 2004, this bill would require anyone trying to divert river water to provide some sort of mitigation, which could come in the form of cash for a specific purpose or the promise to build a storage project in the basin where the water is taken.

Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, said he plans to introduce the controversial idea because he’s concerned rural areas of Colorado ultimately will be dried up as growing metropolitan areas on the northern Front Range continue to take water from the state’s farms and ranches. “It’s estimated that about 700,000 additional acre-feet of water will be diverted from farmland to feed population growth in Denver by 2050,” Pace said. “If that’s anywhere close to being accurate, it will turn many rural communities into ghost towns because they won’t have any water left.”[…]

Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress, said his group is working with Pace, even though it vehemently opposed similar proposals in the past. While a handful of his group’s members, which consist of nearly 400 water buffaloes from around the state, have supported similar ideas, historically they’ve never come close to getting the required two-thirds majority of the Legislature to agree. “I remember the last time it was a very tight vote (in the House), but will some of the same people vote the same way? I don’t know,” Kemper said. “I would expect if it got to a (House) floor discussion that it would be similar, somewhere plus or minus six or seven votes. “The first thing we’re trying to do is better understand what the problem is that’s trying to be solved, and better define that problem. Representative Pace talks about the bill being on transmountain diversions, but I would read it to apply to all applications. That needs to be defined better.”

Pace and Kemper do agree on one thing: A new law approved by the Legislature during the 2007 session has opened the door for a full-fledged mitigation bill. For the first time in the history of the state’s complex water laws, that bill allowed water court judges to consider environmental impacts of withdrawing large amounts of water from a river. “That was groundbreaking, which helps me,” Pace said. “That was the first time that the judge could consider issues beyond just senior water users. That really opened the door.”[…]

[State Representative Kathleen] Curry said the mitigation issue needs to be placed before the Legislature, if nothing else, to have a discussion about the expected Front Range water shortage and what the state should do about it, particularly with the spectre of a multistate lawsuit. “This is a statewide problem whether we want it to be or not,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt to point out the pitfalls associated with transfers. (Pace’s) bill is an incremental approach that I think is defensible, though it doesn’t go as far as some people would like.”

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Moffat Collection System Project: Breckenridge Corps of Engineers hearing recap

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From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

The Army Corps of Engineers held a hearing Thursday night on Denver Water’s proposal to divert more Colorado River Basin water through the Moffat Tunnel in Grand County and then store it in an expanded Gross Reservoir, just southwest of Boulder…

Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said the Army Corps analysis of the project and its various alternatives contains “serious flaws.” “A number of reasonable and obvious alternatives that do not have impacts on the Blue River and the West Slope were not considered,” Stiegelmeier said. “Conservation, re-use and other storage can meet the need for 18,000 acre-feet.”[…]

The additional water in the Moffat Project would be come from the Fraser River and Williams Fork River basins in Grand County, as well as water from the South Boulder Creek basin. Streamflow in the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers and the South Boulder Creek would be decreased by the Moffat Project only during wet and average years during the runoff months, primarily May, June and July…

The project would impact water bodies in Summit County, including Dillon Reservoir and the Blue River. Summit County Board of County Commissioners expressed concern over a decreased number of days that flows would be optimal for boating and impacts to fish and wildlife. “There is no discussion of tourism, or businesses that rely on tourism and no socioeconomic impact implications,” Frisco town manager Michael Penny said about the Army Corps analyses. Penny also faulted the agency for not considering the project’s impacts as they relate to the pine beetle epidemic, climate change, waste-water treatment plants and air quality. “With reservoir levels being drawn down during summer months, the (analyses) should have better evaluated air quality implications,” Penny said. “As we saw in 2002, a newly exposed shoreline produces a considerable amount of dust. This dust not only has air-quality implications, but also threatens water-quality in Dillon Reservoir.”

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

Fryingpan River: Ditch project to deliver water from Ruedi?

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Folks over in the Fryingpan Valley are debating the merits of building a ditch (or pipeline) from Ruedi Reservoir to the confluence of the Fryingpan River with the Roaring Fork River. The ditch would allow for the management of the fishery in the 12 mile reach below the dam. High flows from releases for the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program, hydroelectric generation and delivery of contract sales impacted the valley’s fishing industry last summer. Contract sales are likely to rise in the future. Here’s a report from Scott Condon writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

A ditch covering the 12 miles from the Ruedi dam to the Fryingpan’s confluence with the Roaring Fork River could deliver most of the water demanded by purchasers. In theory, the presence of a ditch would allow flows on the Fryingpan to be maintained at a level favorable to the fishery and for fishing. Most anglers won’t wade the river when flows top 350 cubic feet per second. That threshold was topped 23 times between June 1 and Sept. 1 last summer. Another long-term concern is maintaining a high enough water level throughout the summer at Ruedi Reservoir for boating. The Basalt and midvalley economy depends in large part on fishing, boating and other water-related activities in the Fryingpan Valley during summers. Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane said the issue of Ruedi releases and Fryingpan flows is vital to the town. “Not to be combative, but this is an issue that’s not going to go away,” he said at the Jan. 5 gathering.

More Fryingpan River watershed coverage here.

Aurora: City files for change of use for Busk-Ivanhoe rights, teams with Climax Molybdenum to change Columbine Ditch rights

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora bought half of the Busk-Ivanhoe water system from the High Line Canal Co. in 1987, following the purchase of the other half from the ditch company by the Pueblo Board of Water Works in 1971. Aurora filed for a change of use decree in Division 2 Water Court in December. Identical applications have been filed in Division 1 (South Platte) and Division 5 (Colorado River) water courts. The project brings water from Ivanhoe Lake, located at 11,500 feet elevation on a tributary of the Fryingpan River west of Hagerman Pass, through a former railroad and highway tunnel to Busk Creek, which empties into Turquoise Lake near Leadville…

{Aurora] has imported more than 3,000 acre-feet per year from Busk-Ivanhoe for the past few years. The Pueblo water board manages the system, which includes two live-in caretakers at Ivanhoe Lake, but Pueblo and Aurora share the water equally. In its application, Aurora states it intends to use the water for all purposes in two basins, rather than its existing decree for agriculture in the Arkansas River basin. Aurora would continue some of those uses, but would also apply water to its delivery and reuse systems in the South Platte basin. Aurora takes the water through the Homestake Project, which it shares with Colorado Springs. In the application, Aurora lists its Box Creek Reservoir, located between Turquoise and Twin Lakes, as a potential storage place, even though it has not been built. It also lists several recharge pits or reservoirs in the South Platte River basin that have not been built.

Meanwhile here’s the lowdown on the Columbine Ditch, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Fremont Pass Ditch Co., owned by Aurora and Climax, filed an application for change of water rights in Division 2 Water Court in Pueblo last month. Identical applications were filed in Division 5 (Colorado River) and Division 1 (South Platte) water courts. The Pueblo water board sold the Columbine Ditch to the Fremont Pass Co. last year for $30.48 million, as part of its financing for the purchase of about 27 percent of the water rights on the Bessemer Ditch in Pueblo County.

The Columbine Ditch, located at 11,500-foot-elevation Fremont Pass 13 miles north of Leadville, is about two miles long and was built to serve irrigators in 1931. It diverts water from three small streams in the Eagle River watershed over the pass near Climax mining operations. The water board purchased the ditch in 1953 to meet long-term needs and changed the decree to municipal and other uses appropriate to its needs in 1993. The average yield of the ditch was about 1,700 acre-feet annually, but because of long-term limits that was expected to drop to 1,300 acre-feet per year. Aurora and Climax are seeking further uses, including snowmaking, wetlands creation and direct reuse among others. They also are asking the court to approve new places of use, including at the Climax Mine, a gravel pit reservoir near Leadville and in the Arkansas or South Platte basins as part of Aurora’s extensive water system.

More transmountain/transbasin diversion coverage here.

State Representative Kathleen Curry plans to introduce bill to allow boaters access to streams running through private property

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

State Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison wants to remove the ambiguity this coming legislative session with a bill that would allow licensed outfitters to not only raft, kayak or fish on rivers and streams crossing private property, but also make contact with the riverbank without trespassing. “The bill defines incidental contact and portaging and limits [thos activities] to just when necessary for safety reasons,” Curry said. “[The definition] doesn’t include stops to eat or go to the bathroom or anything like that– that would still be trespassing– but what would not be trespassing is if there’s a low bridge and it’s too dangerous to go under it and you have to portage [carry a raft on shore] around it.”

Curry said there’s also something in the bill for landowners. It would for the first time clarify that landowners are not liable if a boater or angler is injured portaging or during incidental contact on their property.

What prompted the bill, which is backed by the Colorado River Outfitters Association (CROA), was a case last summer in Curry’s district in which an out-of-state landowner bought a parcel for development and informed two permitted rafting companies they could no longer navigate that section of the Taylor River.

More whitewater coverage here.

San Luis Valley: Pre-hazard mitigation plan hatched

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From The Mineral County Miner (Toni Steffens):

The counties of Alamosa, Conejos, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache have been working together to develop a multi-hazard mitigation plan, as a way for the region to plan for natural hazards and reduce the risk to life and property. They will be having a strategy workshop to decide what the teams should do next. The tentative agenda for the meeting, according to Tareq Wafaie of URS, includes introductions, county mitigation actions, a regional mitigation action exercise and a breakout for subcommittees/ regional efforts. The public is welcome to attend to listen and will be able to participate during the regional mitigation strategy exercise and the breakout sessions…

The counties have already conducted risk assessments to identify hazards and see how they are being dealt with. Natural hazards identified for the San Luis Valley are flood, winter storm, drought, earthquake, hail, lightening, wind storms, tornado, landslide, dam and levee failure, avalanche and bark beetle infestation.

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

Cripple Creek: Residential tap fees on the chopping block?

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From the Pikes Peak Courier (Norma Engelberg):

Councilmember Gary Ledford said the city has only a finite water capacity and that millions have been spent upgrading its water and sewer plants. “We’re going to run out of capacity and we won’t have any money,” he said, suggesting that council continue to allow waivers for “meritorious concepts” such as affordable housing and other projects that fit the city’s goals. City attorney Lee Phillips said he could easily draft that into an ordinance. Mayor Dan Baader suggested instead that the ordinance be repealed and Phillips answered that would be even easier to draft.

Cripple Creek charges $3,000 each for water and sewer taps. In comparison, Woodland Park charges $10,871 and $5,412 for residential water and sewer taps respectively.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Timeline for H.B. 08-1161 rulemaking process coming soon

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board decided Wednesday to move ahead with a formal rulemaking process that will implement a 2008 law, House Bill 1161, which regulates in situ, or “in place,” leach uranium mines in the state…

Sometime in the “next several days,” the state Mined Land Reclamation Office will post a timeline for the rulemaking process and the final proposed rule, office director David Berry said Thursday. The formal rulemaking process, he said, is expected to begin in April and last for “several months.”

The rulemaking is separate from any federal permitting process Powertech must go through to begin mining. The company needs a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would regulate how the Centennial Project can impact underlying groundwater.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Wiggins: Boring project under Bijou Irrigation District canal on fast track

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

Work on this part of the project needed to be pursued quickly, because Bijou needs it done before water may possibly be moving in the ditch, and the irrigation district gave a deadline of Jan. 31, said Wiggins Town Administrator Bill Rogers. This was brought up at the last regular meeting of the council, and was an obstacle because the town was not certain if the USDA would pay for doing this so soon, since the agency had not yet approved the project for loans or grants. However, town officials met with USDA officials and a letter from the agriculture department has given the go-ahead for this portion of the project, Rogers said. In fact, the town already had a bidders’ meeting with six contractors and expects to open bids on Jan. 12, he said…

The $10,000 fee for a right of way is high, considering these usually come for about $1,000, Rogers said. But it would probably cost that much to condemn the land for a right of way. Given the time constraints, this is the best deal the town can make, said Wiggins Mayor Mike Bates. In fact, it will cost a little more than $10,000, because part of the agreement adds Bijou engineering and legal costs, too, said Town Clerk Craig Trautwein.

Rogers also told the council that Wiggins was offered a chance to buy nine more shares of Weldon Valley Ditch Co. water for the project. The project already has 10 shares and could use 10 or so more…

The Weldon Valley Ditch Co. still has not made a decision about converting the shares Wiggins owns from agricultural water to municipal water, Trautwein said.

More Wiggins coverage here and here.

Mesa County Water Association to offer ‘The Water Course’ January 19, 27 and February 2

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

What: “The Water Course” covering water law, water quality and balancing competing demands, sponsored by the Mesa County Water Association
When: Jan. 19 and 27, Feb. 2, 6-9 p.m. Registration due Monday, Jan. 11.
Where: GG City Hall Auditorium, 250 N. Fifth St.
Cost for entire series: $35 MCWA members; $45 nonmembers; Single session: $15 MCWA members; $20 nonmembers. Some scholarships..
Info:, or 683-1133, or

More from the article:

Studies estimate a 600,000 million-acre-feet shortage [ed. in the Grand Valley] by 2050, said Grand Junction Utility and Street System Director Greg Trainor, and a board member of the Mesa County Water Association.

The MCWA was first formed 25 years ago by the late Ruth Hutchins, a Fruita farmer concerned about a proposal that would pump water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. Citizens, irrigators and government leaders held “Water 101” courses on controversial water topics for many years. After several years of inactivity, the MCWA was resurrected a year ago by Trainor and Hannah Holm to resume educating people on water issues affecting the Western Slope. The association is governed by a seven-member board of directors. “Current water laws serve the valley well, but it really behooves people to appreciate the resource and protect it as the water situation gets tighter,” said Holm, MCWA coordinator. “We can’t stay in our bubble forever.”[…]

A three-part water course series starts Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Grand Junction City Hall Auditorium. The first course will address water law; how the valley’s water rights relate to the water rights of California and Denver; and who is responsible for irrigation water once it leaves a canal…

The Jan. 27 course will cover laws and programs that seek to protect and clean up Colorado waterways, the condition of Grand Valley rivers and streams, and how drinking water is protected and treated. The February course will explore threats to irrigated agriculture as cities grow; environment and recreation water needs; and how the Grand Valley could change with drought and increasing competition for water.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

San Juan Water Conservancy District unveils 2010 budget

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

…the district has said it will continue working with the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) to obtain additional land for a future reservoir, the exact size of which will be determined sometime in the future. It will also participate in the final phase of the Lower Blanco River Restoration Project in 2010, as it has throughout the first three phases. Once complete, the project will afford improved water quality, fishing and public access to several miles of mountain stream.

The bulk of the district’s anticipated 2010 income is based on property tax revenues subject to statutory limitation of $102,648. Calculated by a certified mill levy of 0.316 mills, it is based on a countywide assessed property valuation of $324,836,502, excluding bond and interest payments, and election-approved contractual obligations. On the budget’s revenue side, the district expects $50,000 in grants (Environmental Protection Agency and Southwest Water Conservation District); the $102,648 in mill levy money; $7,500 in specific ownership tax; $2,700 in delinquent tax and interest; and another $6,000 in interest earned. The total should equal $169,348, or some $63,000 more than last year. As for expenses, the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir project will account for the lion’s share, with $162,050 going to land acquisition and water rights. The Blanco River restoration project will receive $5,000 in district support; while other ditches and streams, cloud seeding and various contributions will total another $3,500. Assorted administrative and legal expenses will add up to $49,400, as public relations, education, and treasurer’s fees will cost $5,600. Total expenses should be $225,550. In 2010, the district expects expenses to exceed those of 2009 by approximately $33,400. As the new year begins, its budgetary fund balance will amount to $220,279, while its year-end budgetary fund balance should equal $164,077. The 2010 beginning balance will be roughly $86,000 less than last year’s, while the ending balance will fall short of last year’s by about $56,000.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.