Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery scores $1.5 million for new raceways

A picture named hotchkissnationalfishhatchery.jpg

Around Coyote Gulch we love a good fish story. From the Delta County Independent:

The funding is provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Boise, Idaho-based McMillen, LLC received the stimulus funds for several projects to include building new fish raceways and converting old ponds into effluent ponds. Adam Mendoza, hatchery project leader, said the project was planned and in the system, but had never been funded because of its high dollar price tag. “When the money was available, they were looking for projects sitting in the system for some time and those were the ones they grabbed first. Since we had most of the paperwork and the red tape of the project accomplished, this was one of the projects picked,” Mendoza said.

Hotchkiss has 32 raceways and six earthen ponds used for raising fish. New raceways will replace the ponds. The six shallow ponds lack permanent lining, which results in water-loss and exposes fish to predators and potential disease. Creating deeper, lined raceways to replace the ponds will mitigate those issues.

Workers will convert the ponds into effluent treatment. These effluent ponds will filter nitrates and phosphates — created by fish waste — to keep them from inundating the river where the hatchery releases water. The facility presently meets Environmental Protection Agency regulation compliance, but may not meet future standards without such a system. Lining these ponds lowers the risk of diseases as they have the potential of entering the facility through the soil and moving through the facility’s system.

Weatherproof structures over the raceways will add additional protection from predators and from the elements. New asphalt roadways on the hatchery will accommodate service vehicle traffic.

Conservation groups are laying the foundation for legislation that will protect streamflow

A picture named saguachecreek.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

“People really understand the importance of conservation,” said Summit County native Becky Long, who works for Colorado Environmental Coalition, a statewide advocacy group. “Every drop of water you take out of a river is one you’ll never see again. Water is one of our most precious resources, and it needs to be part of the road map as we’re planning for the state’s future growth.”

Among a package of state water conservation bills is a measure to continue Colorado’s existing water-efficiency grant program, which was set to expire in 2012. The program provides financial assistance to communities, water providers and other agencies for water conservation activities and projects.

More conservation coverage here.

Colorado Water Congress 52nd Annual Convention: Governor Ritter lays out 3 pillars to solve Colorado’s ‘Gap’

A picture named coloradocapitolfront.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We face really serious challenges,” Ritter told the group at its 52nd annual convention. “Colorado has gone from an era of overabundance to where most of our streams are over- appropriated.” Cooperation, preservation of agriculture and stretching water supplies are the pillars on which future water policy must be built, Ritter said.

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

“One obvious question really shouts from the rooftops: How do we provide all the people in the state with clean water?” Ritter said at Thursday’s annual convention of the Colorado Water Congress. In the absence of a statewide plan, Front Range cities have been buying up water rights from Eastern Plains farmers. The “buy and dry” practice is the state’s default water plan, Ritter said. Conservative estimates predict Colorado will lose half a million acres of agricultural land by 2030. “I don’t believe that’s an acceptable future for the state of Colorado,” Ritter said…

Eric Wilkinson, an Interbasin Compact Committee member from the South Platte River Basin, said Ritter’s schedule [ed. 6 additional meetings this year] will mean a lot of work, but it will be worth it. The alternative is to keep drying up farms.

Flaming Gorge pipeline update

A picture named flaminggorgepipelinemillion.jpg

Chris Woodka (The Pueblo Chieftain) caught up with Aaron Million yesterday at the Colorado Water Congress’ 52nd Annual Convention. From the article:

“Ag water brought into the ag sector will be priced at what they can afford, and it may be one-tenth or one-twentieth of what the municipalities pay,” Million said Thursday. “I personally know the price structure of agricultural water from running cattle on a 6,000-acre ranch. There are a myriad of ways to help agriculture with this project.”[…]

Many on the list of 15 users seeking up to 300,000 acre-feet were irrigation districts, prompting comments by some who read stories in The Pueblo Chieftain to question how they could afford $15,000 an acre-foot for water.

Environmental groups doubted claims that the project would help the environment. “Front Range communities should first consider simpler, less costly measures to meet our region’s water needs, such as conservation, aquifer recharge and leasing. What’s needed most is comprehensive regional water planning, not pie-in-the-sky schemes,” Drew Peternell of Trout Unlimited wrote in a published letter to The Chieftain.

Others questioned the amount of water in some of the requests. “What’s Robert Norris going to do with 20,000 acre-feet of water?” one reader wrote. “Just say we’ll run more mother cows and it will help cool us off in the branding pen,” joked Million, who is close friends with the Norris family and would like to build a reservoir on their El Paso County ranch as part of the project.

On a more serious note, Million said he realizes there is a need for water in El Paso County — one of the listed end users was Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District. However, the El Paso County Water Authority wants more time to study how Million’s project would integrate with other plans. “Frankly, I’m hoping to get more water over the hump into the Arkansas basin,” Million said.

There is some interest in large municipal requests, notably Douglas County’s letter indicating the need for 40,000 acre-feet. The majority of larger requests, however, were from water districts in the South Platte River basin…

Million has always promoted the project as having explicit environmental and agricultural benefits, which he said would be ensured by legal mechanisms like conservation easements. “We can write the contracts so we have command and control,” Million said. “If there’s entities out there whining that we have a benevolent streak, they need to back off. The water would stay in agriculture in perpetuity.”[…]

No pricing structure has been finalized, but Million has agreed to a cost-plus arrangement some municipalities asked for.

Million has applied for appropriation of the water in Wyoming, but could also take water through a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation if the project is approved. The contract would have an added benefit of $27 million to the Upper Colorado River fish recovery program. A model of Green River operations by the Bureau of Reclamation showed that at least 165,000 acre-feet could be taken out at Flaming Gorge without harming habitat downstream, Million said. ”There is existing infrastructure through a huge artificial reservoir that has collapsed the environmental issues,” Million said. “I think if you can utilize that structure to benefit water users in both Wyoming and Colorado, then you should.”

More Flaming Gorge coverage here and here.

Colorado Water Congress 52nd Annual Convention

A picture named crystalcreekreservoir.jpg

Here’s a recap of yesterday’s legislative breakfast, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Water Congress board voted Wednesday to oppose Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101, which already have collected enough signatures to be on November’s ballot, said Chris Treece, vice president. Amendment 60, formerly Initiative 12, would allow people to vote where they own property, allow for citizen petitions to lower taxes and remove the ability for special districts to levy fees or taxes. It would phase out future property tax increases in 10 years. Amendment 61, formerly Initiative 21, forbids state agencies from incurring debt and requires voter approval of all debt for local districts, enterprises and authorities. Proposition 101, formerly Initiative 11, rolls back specific ownership taxes, vehicle fees and income taxes…

Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison, said lawmakers are seeking a long-term fiscal solution, not just quick fixes. The choices now are coming down to water funds vs. school or college funds vs. prison jobs, however. Some proposed revenue fixes, like a state sales tax on electricity for now-exempt industry or agricultural users, could increase costs for irrigated agriculture, she added. At least 15 water bills, including a water projects bill, have been introduced this year. Lawmakers at Thursday’s meeting didn’t spend too much time pounding their chests for support, however.

Pace backed into talking about his water transfer impacts mitigation bill with a touch of humor: “Emotions on the bill go from deeply hating it to just hating it,” Pace quipped. “I talked with many people last summer who said it wasn’t too bad, but then we got into group-think.” Pace defended the bill as a way to allow conservancy districts to work out the problems of water transfers outside a courtroom. It would not block water sales or leases, he said…

Treece also took liberties introducing Curry, whose switch to an independent from a Democrat cost her the chair of the agriculture committee. “She’s missing the caucus of the independent party to be with us this morning,” Treece joked…

“The state budget is a disaster,” Curry said. “We need a sustainable revenue stream for the Division of Water Resources for water commissioners and their other core functions.”