The City of Pueblo hopes to persuade the Federal Emergency Management Agency to revise flood plain maps

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The maps are crucial to some businesses or for future construction loans. If the maps are drawn according to FEMA’s initial figures, much of Downtown would be in a floodplain and property owners required to buy flood insurance. At issue is FEMA’s contention that a maximum flow of 21,000 cubic feet per second would come rushing down Wild Horse Dry Creek in a flood. The city’s hydrology shows the rate would be only about half of that and that levees built after the 1921 flood still protect Downtown. “We think we’re in a good position to challenge,” City Manager Jerry Pacheco said Thursday. “We’re concerned about what the maps will show.” City Stormwater Director Dennis Maroney, who led the city’s efforts to refine the hydrology, is retiring today, but will be hired as a consultant…

If FEMA rejects the city figures, the city could issue a technical challenge. The Colorado Water Conservation Board is scheduled to complete maps that analyze the hydraulics – structures within the floodplain – by June, setting up at least four months of technical and public comments.

More infrastructure coverage here.

CWCB to revise Pitkin County numbers in final report on consumption

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A report expected in June likely will present water use in Pitkin County, home of Aspen, more in line with consumption in other counties — about 270 gallons per person a day, said Jacob Bornstein, water-supply planning program manager for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, an arm of state government.
State officials have agreed not to include water from Aspen’s municipal system that is used for ski resort snow-making, Bornstein said. An updated “Colorado’s Water Supply Future” report also will factor in residents who live outside the cities of Aspen and Basalt — not included in a published draft report — as well as the water billing data received Tuesday, he said. “Unknowingly, we just used their data (in the published report). And their data . . . had this error in it that we didn’t understand,” he said…

Aspen public works director Phil Overeynder said “bad data” is to blame and that the revisions will increase accuracy, reflecting efforts over the past 15 years to conserve water.

More CWCB coverage here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Fort Morgan Water Advisory Board still on board

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

“The more we sit and discuss these things, the more NISP sounds like the best option,” said Fort Morgan City Council member James Powers, who represents the council as an ex officio member of the water advisory board.

At Wednesday’s session the water board heard a presentation from Tom Ullman of The Engineering Company, who is also in the process of performing a water and sewer rate study for the city. Ullman’s presentation Wednesday, however, was an analysis of the impact on city water rates of NISP as compared to what he called “the C-BT alternative.” That alternative would have the city purchasing an equivalent amount of Colorado-Big Thompson water — the city’s primary supply now — to equal the amount of water NISP is expected to yield to the city when it is built and operational. Based on what Ullman presented, though, the C-BT proposal hardly seemed to be an alternative at all — and several in the room said so. “Maybe we should take the C-BT option off the table, because it’s not viable,” Powers said…

In addition to costing the city millions of dollars more than NISP, according to the latest and best estimates Ullman had, the C-BT alternative assumes that the city would be able to purchase the additional C-BT water it needs. That assumption is by no means a safe one. The amount of C-BT water is finite, and shrinking all the time, water board members have said. And while prices for C-BT shares are attractive now, because of a slowdown in development due to the recession, nobody knows whether sufficient C-BT water to supply the city’s needs will be available at any price in the future…

Another variable is that the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District — which supplies the city with its C-BT water and is also spearheading NISP — has announced plans to cap the ownership level of C-BT shares for any one owner, but the city does not yet know what its cap will be. Even if enough C-BT water were available, the price fluctuates greatly with demand and it’s impossible to predict what prices may do. C-BT water has been selling in the range of about $8,000 to $9,000 a share in the past year, and Dreessen suggested that any C-BT water to be had at less than $10,000 a share was “just gravy.”[…]

The average city residential customer who uses 10,000 gallons of water a month pays a monthly bill of $56.30 now, Ullman said. Under the NISP scenario, that bill would increase by about 30 percent — or about $16.95 a month — between now and 2024. Those increases would come in 10 percent increments, in 2015, 2016 and 2023. Under the C-BT alternative — if it were even feasible — the cost for the average homeowner would go up by an additional $9.35 more than the NISP increase, or closer to 50 percent higher than today, by 2027…

The water advisory board also welcomed a new member at Wednesday’s meeting. Heath Kuntz has taken the place of former member Brent Nation, who assumed his position on the Fort Morgan City Council on Tuesday. Nation, a water engineer who owns Nation Engineering, had resigned at last month’s water board meeting because of his election to the city council. Kuntz is a city resident who has extensive experience in water issues. He has worked for water advisory board Chairman Jack Odor at General Appropriators of the South Platte as well as for Nation in the past, and now works for Leonard Rice Water Consulting Engineers on the Front Range. The board also re-elected Odor as its chairman, Jim Green as vice chairman and Bill Baker as secretary, and reviewed revisions to its bylaws. The bylaws will be forwarded to the city council for approval.

More Morgan County coverage here. More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Users are lining up if project gets built

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“I have letters from municipalities, special districts and agricultural districts in Wyoming and Colorado,” Million said. “We’re close to full subscription.” Million said some discussions are continuing, but he will make the list of potential end users for his project available next week and meet a Jan. 20 deadline imposed on an environmental evaluation by the Army Corps of Engineers. Letters of interest, not formal contracts, will be submitted to the Corps, Million said. Million’s plan calls for bringing 225,000 acre-feet of water to Colorado and 25,000 acre-feet to Wyoming in a 6- to 10-foot-diameter pipeline. It has met local opposition in the Green River, Wyo., area near Flaming Gorge and from some Colorado environmental groups.

“I don’t think they understand the impact,” Million said. “At the end of the day, this is an environmental project. What we’ve been told by the people who manage the asset (Bureau of Reclamation) is that there is enough water to meet the Green River’s environmental issues.” He said water from Flaming Gorge would address other environmental issues in Colorado, on both sides of the Continental Divide. For instance, Western Slope interests could use the pipeline to deliver water to Denver, reducing the need for diversions from Dillon Reservoir, Million said. Water from the pipeline could also reduce the need for cities to buy and dry more farmland, he added. “There are huge opportunities to help meet deficits,” Million said. “If you can assist, why not do it.”

The El Paso County Water Authority suggested Million look at using a proposed underground storage basin in the Upper Black Squirrel designated groundwater basin for terminal storage, and wants a Flaming Gorge task force to discuss how the pipeline would fit into area water plans. “None of the providers was willing to solely commit to the Flaming Gorge project,” explained Gary Barber, manager of the authority. In a letter to Million, El Paso Water Authority President Kip Peterson, who is manager of the Cherokee Water District, said additional time is needed to consider public interest in Million’s proposal…

A task force effort as proposed by El Paso County users could unnecessarily delay the project, although he is still interested in bringing the water into the Arkansas Valley, Million said. “I’m continuing to negotiate individually and collectively with El Paso County,” Million said.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.