Energy policy — geothermal: Governor’s Energy Office San Luis Valley geothermal workshop recap

A picture named riograndebasin.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

…a group of state officials, business owners and the just plain curious sat down Saturday to talk about a resource beneath their feet at a geothermal workshop hosted by the Governor’s Energy Office…

Nearly 150 million acre-feet of water, much of it hot, sits beneath the valley in the confined aquifer, the deeper of the valley’s two major groundwater formations. Paul Morgan, senior geothermal geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey, said the state was gifted with a high heat flow. That characterization included the Rio Grande Rift, the geological formation that runs beneath much of its namesake river, but Morgan said there is not a lot of specific data about the resource in the area. “We don’t know a lot about most of the San Luis Basin,” he said.

What is known suggests that hot water at a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit can be found in most parts of the valley at about 5,000 feet below the surface. The depth and temperature qualify it as a low grade and likely not of the quality that would be needed to produce electricity. Morgan suggested that the depth to the resource could be as shallow as 2,000 feet in areas where the aquifer had up-flow zones. But he added that the valley’s resource would be suitable for ground-source heat pumps. “They’re very good at heating, but they can’t compete with swamp coolers in terms of the economics of cooling,” Morgan said…

The water use that comes with geothermal development would be regulated by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Users who don’t reinject the water they’ve used to harvest the heat will face a requirement to replace or augment their depletions, said Pat McDermott, staff engineer for the department in the valley. And eventually, should enough users tap the resource, McDermott said his office would have to ensure that new users don’t impact the temperatures of existing wells. “As it gets more and more evolved over time, well-to-well impact on temperature is going to become a big deal,” he said.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Hot Springs in the Upper Arkansas Valley topic of lecture March 8

A picture named geothermalenergy.jpg

From the Salida Citizen:

The geothermal phenomenon in the Upper Arkansas Valley is the topic of a lecture at 7 p.m., March 8 at the Buena Vista Community Center, Pinon Room. This lecture is offered to the public as part of [Greater Arkansas River Nature Association] GARNA’s ongoing “Our Sense of Place”, a year long program teaching about our place in respect to the Arkansas River bioregion. Each topic explores a different topic of the natural world of the Upper Arkansas River Valley to acquaint and promote a ‘rootedness’ in the place we call home.

Dr. F. B. Henderson III, will delve into the geological explanation and history of the multiple Arkansas Valley hot springs. He will talk about what ‘geothermal’ means, where the sources are located, and how they have been used. Fred will also talk about the potential uses of geothermal energy in the future as well as Federal and State regulations and land owner rights protection…

Program cost is free for GARNA members and $5 for non-members. Please call 539-5106 for additional information.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Sterling: Council sets water rate structure

A picture named fountainpavementdrawing.jpg

From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Judy Debus):

A schedule of revised rates will be determined and presented at the next meeting as exhibits A and B of the previously tabled resolution. The rates will include a minimum charge based on meter size and a volume surcharge of 5 cents per 1,000 gallons beyond the minimum usage. The rate increases will be phased in over the next three years. For example, the proposed minimum charges for a 1-inch meter are $34 in 2010, $54.36 in 2011 and $67.97 in 2012. The minimum volume for a meter of that size is 2,000 gallons.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir ready to store water

A picture named rueter-hessplans.jpg

From The Denver Post:

Parker Water & Sanitation District officials announced that construction of the Rueter-Hess Reservoir — which is 180 feet deep and spans 1,400 acres — has reached a stage where water can be received. State officials have approved a request to allow water in nearby Newlin Gulch to be stored in the reservoir.

More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway Board approves project

A picture named sdspreferredalternative.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board voted unanimously to approve the $1.4 billion water delivery project, and to recommend approval to the El Paso County Commissioners, one of the final agencies that must approve the project before contract negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation begin…

SDS requires contracts with Reclamation to use Fryingpan-Arkansas Project facilities. Reclamation approved the project in a record of decision last year, but has not set a date to begin contract talks. “We can begin contract negotiations without those approvals, but we can’t sign a contract until everything else is done,” said Kara Lamb, Reclamation public information officer.

The Fountain Creek board approval came with a couple of new conditions, approved by the board in January. Its approval signifies that the project is in compliance with the district’s visions and goals and serves the best interests of health safety and welfare in the district, according to the resolution passed by the board. The district includes all of Pueblo and El Paso counties.

On the advice of its technical advisory committee and citizens advisory group, the board requested detailed site development plans for the parts of the project that are in the Fountain Creek floodplain between Fountain and Pueblo. The district was given land-use authority in the corridor when the state Legislature created it last year. The district also requested that it be included in the integrated adaptive management plan, which is a requirement of Reclamation approval. The process reviews water quality and quantity issues periodically to determine if further mitigation is needed. The district also included Pueblo County’s permit condition that requires stormwater controls to ensure that SDS does not increase flooding potential beyond current conditions.

Meanwhile, Chris Woodka (The Pueblo Chieftain) sat down recently with Gary Barber, the interim director of the district, to look at what’s happened so far and what the board looks to do in the future. From the article:

The board has had eight months of intense on-the-job training, cooperating with Fountain to permit a new subdivision and recommending against locating a gravel mine near Pikes Peak International Raceway between Interstate 25 and Fountain Creek. The El Paso County Commissioners later approved the gravel pit, contrary to the recommendations of the district and its own planning commission. While all of the members of the district board are experienced public officials, they were in new territory, acting on the advice of attorneys from both counties.

Now, they have an administrator to work on some sticky issues. Barber has plunged into his role, and stresses the “interim” nature of it. Without more funding, the district itself could be interim, he told the board Friday at its monthly meeting. The district only has $100,000 funding this year and a like amount in 2011, thanks to an agreement with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs. It is also cooperating in a two-year, $400,000 effort with Lower Ark and Colorado Springs to complete a corridor master plan. Additionally, Colorado Springs is paying the district $300,000 over three years to study flood-control options on Fountain Creek.

The board also adopted a fee schedule for evaluating land-use proposals and agreed to administer Pueblo grants on Fountain Creek Friday…

The big payday for the district would come in 2016, when the Southern Delivery System is scheduled to be completed. Under Pueblo County’s 1041 agreement, the district would get $49.4 million more over five years from Colorado Springs…

Showing a map with three stars identifying two ongoing projects in Pueblo — a side retention at the North Side Walmart and the Fountain Creek confluence park — and Colorado Springs’ Clear Springs Ranch, Barber said more should be added. “I call it ‘the string of pearls offense.’ I would like to see a dozen projects up and down the creek,” Barber said. He told the board the next year should be spent planning the projects, and the district should launch them in 2011. Without other sources of funding in sight, 2012 could be the year to ask voters to chip in with a tax, he said.

Finally, the district is in line to manage $1 million in grants that Pueblo County garnered for Fountain Creek, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The city is not saying we can’t do these grants,” Scott Hobson, assistant city manager for community development, told the board. “We applied for these grants prior to the formation of the district. We would have partnered with the district.” The grants are for demonstration of a streamside sediment removal system, work toward creating a greenway park on Fountain Creek from Eighth Street to the Arkansas River confluence and for a side retention pond near the North Side Walmart. The district is in a better position to organize the projects, because the city is involved with other projects as well. The city would have to use contractors to coordinate the projects anyway, Hobson said. “It’s difficult for us to move forward aggressively,” he said.

Gary Barber, the interim executive director of the Fountain Creek district, said it is a natural fit for him to get involved with the active management of the Pueblo projects. “I’m going to do the job anyway, spend my time doing this,” Barber said, saying he has already attended about a half dozen planning meetings.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Southern part of state looking average, northern part not so much

A picture named coloradosnowpack02252010

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas River basin was at 98 percent of average following a storm that left a foot or more of new snow in the mountains. Statewide, snowfalls are about 90 percent, with 80 percent for basins in the northern half of the state.

After the storms, 3-4 feet of snow with snow water equivalent of 8-10 inches were recorded at most upper elevation Central Colorado measurement points by the Natural Resources Conservation Service…

While the Colorado River Basin was at 82 percent of average, the Roaring Fork basin was at 93 percent…

In the southern mountains, snowfall totals are more impressive, according to the NRCS. Totals measure 60-100 inches, and 15-30 inches in snow water equivalent, in the upper measurement sites on the western slopes of the San Juan Mountains in the Southwest corner of the state. The Rio Grande Basin was at 110 percent of average, with the heaviest snowpack on the west side of the basin in the San Juans.

For the Pueblo area, snowfall has totalled almost 20 inches so far this year, slightly below normal. Precipitation, however, is above normal at nearly 1 inch, compared with 0.56 inches on average. Lake Pueblo continues to fill and is reaching its limits for the flood conservation pool…

Streamflows throughout the region continued to be at about average levels overall, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. Other than the Northwest corner, the state is safe from drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Katie Westervelt):

Nolan Doesken, state climatologist, said such numbers [low snow water equivalent] aren’t uncommon. He also said larger storms typically occur in March and early April and that snow levels can improve.

Noah Newman, a research associate at the Colorado Climate Center, says it is all about wait and see. “We like to track things on a longer-term basis,” said Newman. “Reservoir storage is close to its average. No one is dependent on just one water source.”[…]

Dana Strongin, spokes-woman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the two large river basins, Upper Colorado and South Platte, are at 82 percent and 83 percent of the average, respectively. With the snowiest months approaching, she said it is too early to hit the panic button.

Oak Creek: Looking for answers about treatment plant performance

A picture named watertreatment.jpg

From the Steamboat Pilot (Zach Fridell):

During an Oak Creek Town Board meeting Thursday night, Public Works Director Bob Red ding said the treatment facility is strained as it produces 400,000 gallons per day in the summer. When the plant was built in 2004, however, the town was told the plant should be able to produce 1 million gallons. Engineering consultants from the Civil Design firm in Steam boat Springs visited the plant Thursday morning, Redding said, and found that at least a portion of the pipe feeding into the plant is 8 inches in diameter, though it should be 12 inches. The line feeding the plant is about 2 miles long, Redding said, and Board Member Chuck Wisecup said most of that was 10- or 12-inch pipe, but it apparently drops to 8-inch pipe either at the plant or just before. Mayor J Elliott said the worst-case scenario is that the town would have to replace a portion of that pipe, though it’s not clear whether that would solve the problem or if the plant would have to be expanded to meet the expected output. Engineers are working to find a copy of the original blueprints from the state because the state originally funded a portion the plant’s construction, Redding said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Senate Joint Resolution 10-004 passes state house

A picture named coloradocapitolfront.jpg

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The federal government puts up the money in low-interest loans as long as the state pays for a fifth of the costs and the state Legislature OKs the projects on the list. The list includes dozens of projects around the state, including sanitation systems in Cortez, Durango, Bayfield and Pagosa Springs, plus water delivery systems in Cortez, Mancos, Durango, western La Plata County and Pagosa.

This year’s resolution [Senate Joint Resolution 10-004: Water Projects Eligibility Lists] (pdf), though, turned into a partisan fight over wages. The Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency insisted that high wages, on par with union paychecks, be paid on the federally funded projects, even those already in progress. “We’re in pretty tough times here, and to add 5 to 20 percent cost increases to projects that are already under way, it’s unbearable,” said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma.

The sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 4 called the EPA’s conditions “regrettable,” but he has heard from many cities that they can handle the extra cost with little trouble. Cortez, for example, faces a $43,000 cost increase, said Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins…

In the end, SJR 4 passed the House 62-3. It was a different story earlier this month in the Senate, where the sponsor was Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus. The resolution passed the Senate, but only on a 20-14 party-line vote – rare for a resolution that usually gets near-unanimous support.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Monte Vista: City council approves water rights option purchase

A picture named riogranderiver.jpg

From The Monte Vista Journal (Dianne James):

The Monte Vista City Council on Thursday, Feb. 18, approved the purchase of an option to buy water rights from Sun Peaks corporation…

This equates as the 384.5 historic “consumption use” allocated to use (net water available to use). The Anderson Ditch up to 189 acre-feet of acquisiion/yield. Van Wormer told the council how the ditches’ volumes vary at different times of the year, going “up and down seasonally.” The current depletions are the amount of water pumped out of the aquifer for use by the city. “Because there is no ditch water running during January, February and March, the current depletions of 6.1 acre feet we use for municipal use, and we don’t have this ditch water to act as a replacement” the city is in deficit of 6.1 acre-feet, which equals about 10 months of deficit…

“We’re actually buying about 300 acre-feet from Sun Peaks.” He couldn’t guarantee that the price of water would not go up. Price per acre-foot, he said, was less than appraised value, speculating the ‘floor’ on costs in the Valley might be lower. No contract, by the other party, was signed. However, Van Wormer said that the water rights holder, rather than sell them to another party, wants to sell it to Monte Vista. The option to buy takes the water rights out of the market, locking them up until Monte Vista can get the finances in place to purchase them.

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.

Brighton adds UV disinfection to Greensand Drinking Water Facility

A picture named uvdisinfection.jpg

From the Brighton Standard Blade (Gene Sears):

According to Brighton spokeswoman Jodie Carroll, the city received about $1.4 million to install the UV disinfection system that will provide 34,000 Brighton residents with long-term, improved protection from bacteria, pathogens and other drinking water contaminants. Ultraviolet disinfection uses light to destroy pathogens, and their ability to reproduce, without treatment chemicals or large, expensive infrastructure. In an arid state such as Colorado, it is essential that water systems fully utilize sources with variable water quality to provide safe and affordable drinking water to the public. “We look forward to the Greensand plant beginning operations this spring with the improved water treatment system in place,” said Brighton Mayor Dick McLean. “Looking back about 20 years ago, we were compelled to recommend other drinking sources for pregnant women and children under the age of one because of our water quality. Today, we have excellent and safe water in our distribution system. The funding and jobs stimulus provided by the Recovery Act are leveraging upgrades which will even further reduce the risk of harmful microorganisms and other contaminants to our residents.”

More water treatment coverage here.

Snowpack news: Will Dillon Reservoir fill this year?

A picture named dilloncolorado.jpg

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Last weekend’s storm boosted the Colorado River Basin snowpack from 75 percent up to 81 percent, but Denver Water managers said they’re still not sure if Dillon Reservoir will fill to capacity this spring…

For now, reservoir storage is in far better shape than it was in 2002, a landmark year that brought unprecedented modern-era drought to Colorado. Since then, Denver Water and other Front Range providers have rethought their operating plans to maintain more reserve storage for the worst-case scenarios.

Reclamation praises Orchard City Irrigation’s management of Fruit Growers Reservoir

A picture named fruitgrowersreservoir.jpg

From the Delta County Indpendent (Hank Lohmeyer):

Dan Crabtree, a BuRec official in Grand Junction, said that in addition to the agency being satisfied with OCID’s management, the reservoir “is in good shape.” His comments came during the OCID annual meeting that was held on Jan. 30 at Orchard City Town Hall.

The District also has moved forward with maintenance initiatives on its system in the last year. A badly corroded valve body and water bypass assembly that is part of the dam was completely rebuilt at a cost of $10,500. Mike Thomas, board president, reported that irrigators’ water shrink (the amount of water lost to the ditch system “leakage”) had been cut by half in parts of the OCID irrigation system. Last year, 42 water carrying weirs and flumes were either adjusted or replaced cutting the amount of water lost, Thomas said. Of those 42, four were on the Fogg Ditch and 38 were on the Butte Ditch. Thomas reported that the OCID’s new online system for water monitoring, water use reporting, and other information “is working really well.” The system is designed to track District water information and user data on a daily basis. “It is running with about 95 percent accuracy,” Thomas said…

In other business at the OCID’s annual meeting, the water commissioner’s office reported that Fruitgrowers Reservoir was filling at 26 to 27 acre feet per day, and was at that time on track to fill by the end of February.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here.

Water, water, everywhere this week at the legislature

A picture named coloradocapitolfront.jpg

Here’s another good roundup of the shenanigans going on at the state legislature, from Marianne Goodland writing for the Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

The morning began with a presentation to the joint Senate and House committees on agriculture and natural resources on “Water and the Colorado Economy,” commissioned by the Front Range Water Council. (The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is a member of that group.) The study’s purpose was to illustrate the economic value of water, the economic interdependence of Colorado regions and the economic contribution of those regions to the state economy…

The committees also heard a presentation on the Colorado River Water Availability Study, a report that has been in the works since 2007. Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said that study is intended to evaluate water availability in the future. The study is broken into two phases. The presentation Wednesday was on the first phase, which looked at current water availability, historic water availability and future water availability based on climate models. The second phase, which will be completed later this year, is looking at projected demands and “what if” scenarios. The Phase I report will be available on the CWCB Web site,, in the next two weeks…

Many of the legislators in attendance are not members of the agriculture committees, and for some it was their first exposure to water issues. After the luncheon, Rep. Kathleen Curry, U-Gunnison, said there is a need for more education on water issues for legislators. (Curry was one of the state’s first woman managers of a water conservancy district, in Gunnison from 1998 to 2003.)

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news

A picture named coloradosnowpack02252010

Click on the thumbnail graphic to see today’s Colorado snowpack chart from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From The Denver Post:

Heading into March, Colorado’s snowiest month, snowpack has improved by nearly 10 percent across most of southern Colorado the past two weeks, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which conducts the snow measurements. Southern Colorado is near or above the 30-year average for snowpack, but the state is at 90 percent, as the rest of the stag lags in snow this season.

The South Platte River basin, which includes Denver, is at just 83 percent of average, but that’s the best in northern Colorado. The North Platte River basin is at 77 percent and the shared basin of Yampa and White rivers is at 76 percent as of Thursday.

Energy policy — nuclear: Piñon Ridge Mill permit a long way off

A picture named pinonridgesite.jpg

From the Montrose Daily Press (Dick Kamp):

Four more public hearings will be conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said spokesman Warren Smith. They’re not required by law, “but these are our opportunity to gather local input on the mill.” Montrose County commissioners are to comment by April 21 on an Energy Fuels environmental report submitted to the Health Department, and the department’s public hearings likely would come afterward.

A decision on the state license could be made by Feb. 14, 2011, said Marilyn Null, spokeswoman for the department’s Hazardous Material Waste Management Division.The department will be accepting written comment from the public throughout the licensing procedure.

Here’s a report from a recent meeting, from Karen James writing for The Telluride Watch. From the article:

Colorado is among 37 “agreement states” to which the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission transfers authority to regulate and license uranium. As a result the [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] is in the process of conducting a 12-14 month comprehensive technical review of the 15-volume license application, submitted in November 2009 by Energy Fuels Resources Corp…

Frank Filas, environmental manager for Energy Fuels, gave a presentation about the proposed facility. Afterwards about 70 speakers provided their input with 40 percent opposed to and 60 percent in favor of the mill.

As during the January meeting mill, advocates spoke largely about economic development and the need for jobs in the West End of Montrose County. Energy Fuels has said that the mill would create up to 85 new jobs averaging $40,000 to $75,000 a year plus benefits, and 80 percent of which would come from the local population, in addition to supporting 200 ancillary mining and trucking jobs at nearby mines and generating tax revenues for public services and infrastructure if built.

“This is more than just 85 jobs in the west end,” said Mathew Burtis, business manager for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 145 in Grand Junction, who said he spoke on behalf of local membership and the national organization. “The big picture for us is this is going to help steer the full industry for our 320,000 members…” he said, later adding, “We have a lot of people who have been out of work for a long, long time.”

The need for America to produce its own nuclear energy for reasons of national security, and to address climate change, ran a close second to job creation for mill advocates, who seemed delighted that, just one day before, President Obama had announced that the federal government would guarantee $8.3 billion in loans for the construction and operation of two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Georgia – signaling a resurgence of the nation’s long dormant nuclear industry…

But mill opponents continued to voice concerns about the potential negative impacts of the mill, in particular the long-term health effects of radiation exposure they fear could leak from the facility no matter how well designed or regulated. Janet Johnson of Grand Junction, who said she has lived in proximity to a uranium mill for all but four years of her life when she went away to college, gave poignant testimony about her brother and cousin’s early deaths at the ages of 53 and 43, respectively. She noted that both had worked in uranium mills, to which she seemed to attribute their demise. “I have cancer, as do many of my classmates and many of the people I grew up with,” she added. Speaking of the radiation that is inherent to uranium, she said: “I know that you can’t keep it all out of the water, out of the air or out of the things we eat,” going on implore the CDPHE panel to consider that future jobs in the area could also be lost as a result of the mill…

With an operating life of 40 years the proposed Piñon Ridge mill would initially use 144 gallons of water per minute to process 500 tons of ore per day, seven days a week, 350 days per year. At that rate it would produce 770,000 pounds of uranium oxide annually – enough to produce 1,500 megawatts of electricity each year, according to the company, which hopes to expand its operations to eventually process 1,000 tons of ore per day. At 500 tons per day it would also produce 2.7 million pounds of vanadium oxide annually for use in steel production.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The Mesa Land Trust signed up ranches for conservation easements left and right in 2009

A picture named unaweepcanyon.jpg

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Wyatt Haupt):

The largest piece of the conservation pie was Lobe Creek Ranch, which accounted for more than 3,300 acres. Lobe Creek Ranch is owned and maintained by the Aubert family, who also agreed to conserve its Leslie Place Ranch. The combined land deals totaled about 3,700 acres in Glade Park, based on land trust data. Mary Hughes, development officer of land trust, said the family placed conservation easements, which “ensures the property will never be developed or subdivided.” She added, “They own the property. They maintain the property (and) they continue to ranch the property.”

More conservation easement coverage here and here.

CWCB: State Senate snips the construction fund after all

A picture named wastewatertreatmentwtext.jpg

From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, said he felt good about the bipartisan effort, but he wasn’t too happy with the result. The new plan takes $2 million from a water account that had been empty until recently, when some loans were repaid.

More CWCB coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs weighing the synergies of allowing northern El Paso County water providers to use project for raw water transport

A picture named sdspreferredalternative.jpg

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

All concerned say that cooperation would help water districts that rely on dwindling groundwater supplies, while stemming sharp rate hikes for Utilities’ customers in coming years. From now until 2016, when water is first delivered, rates will increase 12 percent a year. And that’s just for half the project; the other half, which includes a reservoir, will be built later. If other communities pay to piggy-back onto the pipeline, say some city officials, everybody wins. “That’s the whole goal, is to use that pipeline to its maximum capacity to reduce the impact of SDS on ratepayers,” Vice Mayor Larry Small says…

…recent analysis shows the SDS pipeline won’t be fully used year round, says Gary Bostrom, with Utilities’ water services division. Between November and April, when water demand is low, consumers will use 10 million to 20 million gallons a day from Pueblo Reservoir. That leaves plenty of room for more water to be pumped into storage, whether for pipeline customers or others, to be used during summer months, Bostrom says. “There is ample space in Southern Delivery for regional purposes,” he says…

Bostrom insists the city doesn’t intend to sell its water rights, only to deliver water for others. But even that might bring a squall of costs and red tape. First, city codes restrict water service to within the city limits or to subdivisions agreeing to be annexed. To accommodate outlying partnerships requires changes to the code, and perhaps the City Charter. Second, Pueblo Reservoir storage contracts are available only for those entities located within the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, a multi-county area that’s been taxed for years to build and maintain the reservoir. Some subdivisions interested in SDS don’t lie within the district, Utilities officials say. Then there’s return flows. Fountain Creek is subject to government protection against pollution and erosion. Lastly, the Bureau of Reclamation, which runs Pueblo Reservoir and permits water projects, might need a say-so about new partners’ plans, such as Petersen’s idea to enlarge Upper Williams Creek reservoir. That would take time and money. Colorado Springs’ arduous application process, which included a National Environmental Policy Act study, took nearly six years and cost $19 million. Bostrom says the city will try to recoup a portion of that from any future partners, and Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel says SDS construction costs also could become part of any partnership deal…

A fly in the ointment is a recent analysis showing that if [Colorado Springs’] 200 square miles are built out in 30 to 40 years, the city will need 17 million gallons more water than SDS can deliver. The city’s federal application predicted SDS would satisfy needs through 2046. That leads Wayne Vanderschuere with Utilities’ water services division to warn, “I would be concerned about making promises that we may not be able to keep.”

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Greeley leases 4,000 acre-feet of Colorado-Big Thompson water to the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District for augmentation

A picture named coloradobigthompsonmap.jpg

From The Greeley Tribune:

GMS and WAS plan to use the water as augmentation supply for the 2010-11 operating season.

Greeley partners with agricultural users on various projects including the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, Greeley Irrigation Company, Water Supply and Storage Company, and Greeley-Loveland Irrigation Company. In addition, the city has leased an average of 8,000 acre-feet of water to agriculture over the last four years. The lease of Greeley’s 4,000 acre-feet is estimated to supply the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District with a net supply of 1,600 acre-feet.

More Greeley coverage here.

Snowpack news: Roaring Fork Basin totals moving towards average

A picture named coloradosnowpack02242010

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The [Roaring Fork Basin] snowpack was 92 percent of the average established between 1971 and 2000, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Tuesday…

The snowpack was 97 percent of average Tuesday at a site between Aspen and the Independence Pass summit, according to the conservation service. That site is at 10,600 feet in elevation. The snowpack in the Crystal Valley has been higher all winter than the Fryingpan’s tally. Schofield Pass was at 100 percent Tuesday while McClure Pass was at 99 percent. North Lost Trail, near Marble, was at 92 percent. In the Fryingpan Valley, snowpack fared well at higher elevations but was substantially below average at lower elevations. At Ivanhoe Lake, the snowpack was 93 percent of average Tuesday. That site is at 10,600 feet in elevation. At the Kiln site, at an elevation of 9,600 feet, the snowpack was just 72 percent of average. At Nast Lake, even lower in elevation, the snowpack was just 68 percent of average Tuesday, the conservation service data showed.

Snowpack remains above average in the southern part of the state and below average to the north. Vail Mountain’s snowpack was 77 percent of average Tuesday while Copper Mountain was at 75 percent. Rabbit Ears Pass, in the Steamboat Springs area, had a snowpack only 53 percent of average. Down south, the Wolf Creek summit had a snowpack 120 percent of average on Tuesday. Lizard Head Pass, near Telluride, was at 113 percent of average. Three major river basins in the southern part of Colorado were at or above average, including the Gunnison basin, 100 percent; Dolores basin, 109 percent; and San Juan, 112 percent.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Tuesday’s snow depth measurement at the top of Buffalo Pass showed 101 inches of accumulated snowpack. It sounds like a lot of snow, but overall, the water stored in the snow in the Yampa and White river basins is just 77 percent of average, according to the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. On the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass, the snowpack is even lower, just 53 percent of average. In North Routt, at the Elk River site, it’s a healthier 89 percent.

Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: County Planning Commission embraces changes to permit to allow trenching instead of boring to cross the Arkansas River

A picture named aquabarriercofferdam.jpg

From The Mountain Mail (Sue Price):

The recommendation by Chaffee County Planning Commissioners to amend the special land use permit application includes installation of two pipelines in the trench – one for the company and one in partnership with the Town of Buena Vista…

Nestlé earlier received approval to drill a directional bore under the river, but elected to revise plans for an open cut to accommodate a request made in January by Buena Vista officials who want to install an additional pipeline for future use by the town. The Nestlé company agreed to install a 16-inch pipeline for Buena Vista, at no cost to the town, while they install their 6-inch pipeline within a 16-inch casing. The construction site is south of the U.S. 24 bridge across the river at Johnson Village between CRs 301 and 312. Don Reimer, Chaffee County planner, said his staff personnel considered 15 criteria including noise and geologic and wildfire hazards, before announcing they were agreeable to amending the special use permit. Holly Strablizky, land use counsel for Nestlé, said, “To minimize impact, we thought it was a good thing to team with Buena Vista as long as we can complete the work by March 15 as stipulated by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “If county commissioners don’t approve the amendment or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue the permit in time, we will go back to our original plan.”[…]

Bobbi McClead, natural resource officer with Nestlé, explained new technology would employ an aqua barrier cofferdam – inflatable plastic structures – in the river to dewater a portion of the stream at a time to allow trenching. Pipelines will be placed 8 feet beneath the river bed. “The plan uses the best available technology in construction to prevent erosion, sedimentation in the river and is protective of wildlife and wildlife habitat during construction,” McClead said. When construction is completed, Nestlé will revegetate the disturbed area with native plants and seed-mixes to leave the area “in original or better” condition, she said.

More Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project coverage here and here.

Moffat Collection System Project: U.S. Representative Jared Polis, while not taking a stand yet, is expressing ‘increasing concern’

A picture named grossdam.jpg

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

“(Polis) is not taking a position on the Gross Reservoir expansion yet,” said Andy Schultheiss, district director for the Democratic congressman’s Boulder office. “But we’ve been studying the issue for quite some time now, and we’re increasingly concerned. … We’re going to pursue this in the next couple of weeks.” Schultheiss gave his comments at a public meeting in Nederland on Tuesday night that was organized by state Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, to discuss the reservoir project. Half a dozen staffers from Denver Water were on hand for two hours to answer questions from the more than 40 residents who attended the meeting…

Schultheiss is concerned about the quality of the draft environmental impact statement prepared for the project, which he called “a piece of junk.” He also said alternatives to meeting Denver’s water demands need to be more fully explored…

“It seems to me that what needs to happen here is that we need to slow down and take another look at the big picture of water supply on the Front Range,” he said…

Levy also has concerns about the project, including whether stricter conservation measures can be put into place before more water is diverted from the already depleted Fraser River — a tributary of the Colorado River — across the continental divide in Grand County. “I don’t feel that they’ve adequately justified the need for the project,” she said.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Shell withdraws Yampa River water rights application

A picture named shelloilshaleprocess3

Update: From the Associated Press via Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

The water would have been taken out of the river at one or two pumping stations about 75 miles west of Steamboat. It would have been stored in a reservoir capable of holding 45,000 acre-feet of water in Cedar Springs Draw, off the main stem of the Yampa. That potential reservoir’s size could have exceeded the more than 33,000 acre-feet of storage in Stagecoach Reservoir near Oak Creek and the 25,450 acre-feet in Elkhead Reservoir near Craig. Within three months after Shell’s application, 25 local groups and municipalities — including Routt County, Oak Creek, Yampa and the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District — filed opposition to the application.

The city of Steamboat Springs argued that its water rights in the Yampa River Basin “may be adversely impacted if the subject application is granted without adequate protective terms and conditions.” Shell representatives met with local officials in Steamboat last year to discuss the application and its potential impacts. Litigation was possible.

From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):

Shell said in a statement it has decided not to pursue the Yampa water right at this time “in light of the overall global economic downturn that has affected our project’s pace.”

The controversial proposal — seeking about 8 percent of the Yampa’s average spring flow — drew opposition letters from 27 businesses, environmental groups and federal, state and local agencies. “The Yampa is the last river in Colorado with natural peak and low flows,” said Kent Ventrees, who teaches river recreation at Colorado Mountain College. “This is outstanding news for the Yampa.” The natural river sustains endangered fish species and flows through Dinosaur National Monument, where National Park Service officials worried that Shell’s plan would hurt the park.

Shell was seeking a water right to pump water into a new reservoir covering 1,000 acres and 15 billion gallons. The water — taken from a point west of Craig — would have been shipped to the White River basin for use in Shell’s oil-shale program…

Shell’s water-right application was vulnerable to challenges because the water could not be directly put to use, said Drew Peternell, Colorado water- project manager for Trout Unlimited. “They don’t even know how much water they need,” Peternell said. “It was very close to speculation, which is not allowed in Colorado water law.”

More coverage from Dennis Webb writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Shell spokeswoman Carolyn Tucker said that doesn’t mean the pace of the project has slowed. Rather, it is just maintaining its research focus while adjusting to economic realities. “The global downturn has effects on Shell just like it does on any other company. Some of the resources and some of the plans we’ve made early on don’t ring as true. We have to be more flexible as a company, and some of the research dollars have to be doled out more sparingly,” she said. Tucker added, “We’re not pulling out, we’re not shutting down. We’re just being as flexible as we can with the economic times.”[…]

Shell said it plans to submit permit applications for its first research and development pilot project late this year or early in 2011. “We hold a variety of water rights in northwest Colorado and we have for many years, so we do have water,” Tucker said. Shell had set out to diversify its water rights by seeking 375 cubic feet per second from the Yampa to fill a 45,000-acre-foot reservoir in Moffat County…

David Abelson, oil shale policy advisor for the Western Resource Advocates environmental group, said the WRA opposed the water right application on behalf of four environmental groups. Altogether, he said, 28 statements of opposition were filed against the application, from water districts, local governments, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, several federal agencies and other interests. The Yampa is the state’s only major river with water left to appropriate, Abelson said. “We’re extremely pleased about the decision to save the Yampa for another day,” he said. He said he believes Shell’s decision also supports his organization’s long-held view that oil shale development is not ready for prime time. “The technology is not developed, oil shale has never been economically competitive, and there’s nothing to suggest that either of those hurdles are about to be overcome,” he said…

Theo Stein, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said of the Shell announcement, “I think that this is an illustration of how complex the interweaving of oil shale issues and water issues is, and the need for a careful and thoughtful (oil shale leasing) process that the Interior Department is managing.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

A picture named coloradosnowpack02242010

Click on the thumbnail graphic to see the snowpack update map for today, from the National Resources Conservation Service.

Meanwhile the University of Utah has developed new techniques for forecasting snow to liquid ratio (SLR), according to a release published Monday:

University of Utah scientists developed an easier way for meteorologists to predict snowfall amounts and density – fluffy powder or wet cement. The method has been adopted by the National Weather Service for use throughout Utah – and could be adjusted for use anywhere.

Based on a study of 457 winter storms during eight years at 9,644 feet in the Wasatch Range at Utah’s Alta Ski Area, the researchers determined that forecasters could predict snowfall density – known as snow-to-liquid ratio (SLR) – most accurately using only two variables: temperatures and wind speeds at mountain crest level.

The American Meteorological Society is publishing the study in the February issue of its journal Weather and Forecasting.

“We’ve developed a formula that predicts the water content of snow as a function of temperature and wind speed,” says the study’s senior author, Jim Steenburgh, professor and chair of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah.

“This is about improving snowfall amount forecasts – how much snow is going to fall,” says Steenburgh. “As a nice side benefit for the ski community, this will tell you whether you’re going to get powder or concrete when it snows. We are working on incorporating this into the website” run by the university.

The new method “is also helpful to avalanche forecasters,” says the study’s first author, Trevor Alcott, a doctoral student in atmospheric sciences. “We’re forecasting snow density, which is related to the stability of freshly fallen snow.”

A Better Handle on Snowfall, Skiing and Avalanche Conditions

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Salt Lake City has used the method since November, says Randy Graham, the science operations officer.

“Forecasters really like it because it gives us a more realistic depiction of how snow density will vary across the Wasatch Range and with elevation,” he says. “Instead of anticipating a singular density of snow or fluffiness of the snow over the Wasatch, Trevor’s and Jim’s tool has allowed us to have different snowfall densities in our forecasts for different areas based on forecasts of [crest-level] temperature and wind.”

“We’ve always had some insight into the difference between a real powder day versus a really wet snowfall event,” Graham adds. “What this tool has enabled us to do is to better differentiate how dense the snow is going to be over an area with really complex terrain – the state in general, but in particular the Wasatch Range.”

Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center, isn’t familiar with the new method, but says predicting “new snow density is a very important factor in avalanche forecasting. If low-density snow falls first – light powdery snow – then heavy, wetter snow falls on top, it instantly creates a slab of ‘upside-down snow’ as we sometimes call it. These slabs can easily be triggered by people.”

Resorts “really care about the water equivalent of the snow,” Graham says. “It’s really important to them. Powder is better. And it’s important for them to know what kind of avalanche [prevention] work they’re going to have to do.”

Alcott, an NWS intern, extended the technique so it can be used throughout Utah, and says the agency’s Elko, Nev., office may use the method to improve forecasts. It could be extended to other regions by making local snow measurements in different locations and using them to devise predictive formulas for snow density.

Graham says the method “is a really good example of taking a complex problem, boiling it down to the most important variables to describe the problem, and then coming up with a technique that can be applied in operational forecasting.”

The study was funded by the National Weather Service, its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

Flakey Forecasting

Steenburgh says that to accurately predict snowfall amounts, “getting the snow density right is critical. To forecast snowfall amount, you need to know how much water is going to fall and how dense the snow is going to be.”

Meteorologists predict how much water a storm will produce and translate that to snowfall based on predicted snowfall density, which is the snow-to-liquid ratio (SLR) – the ratio of the depth of new snowfall to the depth of water from melting that snow. SLR reflects how powdery or wet and heavy the snow will be.

“The best way to think of it is how much does an inch of water translate to in terms of inches of snowfall? So a snow-to-liquid ratio of 5-to-1 means 5 inches of snow for every inch of water, or a water content of 20 percent,” says Steenburgh.

Higher SLRs mean the snow is more powdery. Typical Utah SLRs are:

Heavy, wet Utah snow has an SLR around 7 (an SLR such as 7-to-1 is commonly referred to only by the numerator), with a water content of 14 percent.

Average Utah snow has an SLR of 14, or 7 percent water content. Steenburgh says “that is still pretty dry, especially when you compare it with coastal ski areas” with SLRs around 9 or 10.

Very dry, light snow has an SLR of 25. That’s the same as 4 percent water content. Anything above SLR 25 is extremely dry, fluffy snow known as “wild snow.”

Steenburgh says the driest snows ever recorded had SLRs of 100 in Japan and Colorado. Alcott says the record high 24-hour SLR at Alta – known for its powder – is 50.

Learning to Predict Powder

To devise their method, Alcott and Steenburgh studied the relationship between measured snow density or SLR and various recorded atmospheric measurements at a single site at Alta, named the Collins Snow Study Plot.

Steenburgh says he and Alcott chose to study that site “because Alta gets a ton of snow [almost 43 feet annually]. You get as many samples in Alta in one year as you get in Salt Lake City in 10 years.” In other words, Alta provided numerous snowstorms that could be analyzed and used to develop a formula for predicting snow density.

Alta snow safety crews measure snow depth at the Collins site twice daily. Precipitation measurements are made automatically each hour.

Alcott and Steenburgh analyzed temperatures, wind speeds and other factors such as relative humidity for 457 “snow events” or storms at Alta during November through April of 1999 through 2007.

The depth of new snow was divided by the depth of water measured by a rain gauge to determine actual snow density and see what variables best correlated with it.

The study showed that only two variables – crest-level wind speeds and temperatures – were most critical in predicting snow densities. In fact, for all the storms studied during 1999-2007, those two variables alone explained 57 percent of the variance in snow density. And for large, wet storms, crest-level wind speed and temperature explained 73 percent of the variance in the snow density or SLR.

That means that much of the storm-to-storm difference in whether new snow is powdery or wet can be predicted by the new technique.

“It’s the KISS method – keep it simple, stupid,” Steenburgh says. “How much can we strip down the number of variables analyzed and get a good result?”

He says the new technique “does a good job of predicting how the snow density changes from storm to storm, and it does especially well for the larger storms.”

Alcott says the Weather Service’s previous method was less accurate because it tried to predict snow density based on surface temperature at the forecast location – a method developed in the Great Plains – rather than what the study showed was more accurate: temperatures and wind speeds above mountaintops where snow is forming.

Secrets of the Snows

In analyzing Alta snow conditions as they developed their formula for predicting snow density, the researchers discovered some interesting aspects of Alta snow:

– The fluffiest snow tends to occur when a storm contains less than 0.8 inches of water in 24 hours, when crest-level wind speeds are 18 to 26 mph and when temperatures are 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, with snow heavier at either colder or warmer temperatures due to the type of ice crystal formed at different temperatures.

– Snowfall density can vary radically from day to day. For example, during Jan. 3-12, 2005, it ranged from heavy, wet snow with a snow-to-liquid ratio of 5.2, to “wild” powder with and SLR of 35.1.

– Snow densities at Alta have the widest range in February, from a wet SLR of 3.6 to fluffy powder at 35.1.

– The most extreme powder – “wild snow” with snow-to-liquid ratios of 25 or more – peaks in mid-winter. Of 26 wild snow events during the eight-season study period, 24 occurred in December, January and February, with none in April.

– Extremely wet snow, with SLRs less than 7, occurred in 28 of the 457 storms during the 1999-2007 study period, or 6.1 percent of the storms.

Secretary of Interior Salazar announces “WaterSMART” initiative

A picture named coloradoriverhooverdam.jpg

From the Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

“The federal government’s existing water policies and programs simply aren’t built for 21st century pressures on water supplies,” he said. “Population growth. Climate change. Rising energy demands. Environmental needs. Aging infrastructure. Risks to drinking water supplies. Those are just some of the challenges,” he said in a press release. To fund the initiative, the 2011 budget proposed by President Barack Obama includes an additional $36.4 million for water programs. Salazar, as part of his order, wants his department to increase the available water supply in the West for agricultural, municipal, industrial and environmental uses by 350,000 acre feet by 2012.

Energy policy — oil and gas: State officials close to finalizing a plan to deal with Ned Prather’s benzene tainted spring

A picture named derrick.jpg

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Neslin told the state commission Monday that agency staff “are hopefully close to finalizing a schedule for bringing these matters to closure.” The schedule would set forth deadlines for any further testing or reporting by companies under investigation. It also would include completion of a settlement agreement or withdrawal of notices of alleged violation against the companies “by a date certain,” or a hearing before the commission early this summer to consider an order of violation and imposition of penalties, Neslin said. Contamination of the first spring was detected after Ned Prather became ill by drinking benzene-tainted water May 30, 2008. Benzene, a carcinogen associated with oil and gas production, later was found in a second spring.

Richard Djokic, attorney for the Prather family, said it’s his understanding that the latest sampling continues to show benzene is present in both springs. The state is investigating nearby operations by Williams Production RMT as the possible source of the first spring’s contamination and suspects OXY USA in the case of the second spring.

Oil and gas commissioner Tresi Houpt, who also is a Garfield commissioner, told Neslin Monday, “I would hate for us to bump into a situation where the snow starts falling again before we’ve done anything to help remediate this.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: Shell withdraws Yampa River water rights application

A picture named yamparivereofmaybell.jpg

From the Associated Press via the Los Angeles Times:

Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are thought to hold 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in shale. But critics of a federal management plan for developing oil shale on public lands say the process would use too much of the region’s scarce water.

Shell was hoping to obtain water rights from the Yampa River. The company, which is the U.S. unit of Royal Dutch Shell, left open the possibility of pursuing the project in the future. “The exact scale and timing for development will depend on a number of factors, including progress on our technology development, the outcome of regulatory processes, market conditions, project economics and consultations with key stakeholders,” the company said in a statement. Shell said the ultimate goal is to create an operation that is economically viable, environmentally responsible and socially sustainable.

The state was notified of Shell’s decision on Tuesday, Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Theo Stein said.

More coverage from Kirk Siegler writing for KUNC. From the article:

A spokesman could not be reached for further comment Tuesday night. But the news is being cheered by a host of environmental groups and local officials. “In northwest Colorado, we were very concerned about the impacts with the current construction technique that they were proposing,” says Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger. The county is one of 25 entities that filed formal protests against Shell’s proposal. Monger says the county also had concerns with the amount of resources that were going to be required to extract the water.

More coverage from Dennis Webb writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

“We reviewed our application in the context of our ongoing research and development activities and, in light of the overall global economic downturn that has affected our project’s pace, have decided not to pursue the Yampa water right at this time,” the company said in a prepared statement.

Grant Junction attorney Mark A. Hermundstad also announced the decision in an e-mail to other attorneys involved in the case, saying Shell was dismissing its claims for conditional water rights. “However, the withdrawal of the Yampa water rights application should not be construed as an indication that Shell is pulling out of oil shale development,” Hermundstad wrote. “Shell intends to continue its oil shale research and development activities with the ultimate goal of creating a commercial oil shale recovery operation that is economically viable, environmentally responsible and socially sustainable.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Moffat Collection System Project: Boulder and Lafayette city councils approve IGA over water in expanded Gross Reservoir

A picture named grossdam.jpg

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Larry Qulling):

At the last Boulder City Council, meeting the Boulder and Lafayette city councils unanimously approved motions to implement Inter-governmental Agreements (IGA) between their cities and the Denver Water Board for a 5,000 acre foot environmental pool as part of the Moffat Expansion Project. What should not be lost from the council meeting is a keystone event which can provide in-stream flows for South Boulder Creek that have been missing for over 50 years. These two council votes culminate the planning and collaboration of nearly 10 years of effort. Two IGAs were approved which allow for the creation and operation of an environmental pool for South Boulder Creek as part of the Gross Reservoir expansion. Per the agreement, Lafayette will contribute the most water to the pool as part of their existing South Boulder Creek water rights portfolio. Boulder will also contribute to the pool through exchange of CBT leased rights into the pool. The agreement specifically states Denver Water cannot participate in nor have access to the environmental pool. Both Boulder and Lafayette will manage the pool to achieve targeted minimum flow October through April of as high as 7cfs to South Boulder Road. Lower minimum flow targets as planned below South Boulder Road all the way through the confluence to Middle Boulder Creek. The complete IGA package can be viewed at the City of Boulder Web site.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

Snowpack news: San Juan Basin gets more snow

A picture named coloradosnowpack02192010

From The Durango Herald (Katie Burford):

Monitors were showing 17 inches of snow from the storm at Molas Pass, 14 inches around Cascade and 21 inches at Wolf Creek’s summit, he said. At lower elevations, where snow has fallen off and on since Friday, accumulations were not as great as daily temperatures hovered above the freezing mark. Sunday’s snowfall in Durango was 5½ inches as of 7 p.m., said local weather forecaster Briggen Wrinkle. Since Friday, Durango had received 10 inches of snow.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (James Amos):

The National Weather Service recorded 3.8 inches of snow Sunday, which yielded 0.2 inches of precipitation. Monday’s collection of 0.4 inches of snow and 0.01 inches of precipitation was far more modest. But the snow put the Pueblo area above average for snowfall this month, even while the winter lags behind the yearly average. Pueblo has received about 9.2 inches of snow this month. About 19.1 inches of snow has fallen in the Pueblo area this winter, a few inches behind the yearly average of 22.3 inches, according to Randy Gray, a meteorological technician at the weather service…

Residents in Trinidad and Walsenburg woke up to about 4 inches of snow and a couple more inches fell Monday. Cuchara residents reported a foot of snow falling Sunday night into Monday morning with an additional 6 inches falling by 3 p.m…

Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 17 inches of snow in the 24 hours prior to 9 a.m. and 45 inches since the storm hit earlier in the weekend…

In the Upper Arkansas Valley, between 2.5 and 4.5 inches of snowfall was reported overnight Sunday, giving Fremont County students a chance to sleep in Monday when school officials in Canon City, Florence and Penrose announced two-hour delayed starts. Elsewhere in the area, Chaffee County’s high country got plenty of snow. Weather spotters reported 17 inches of snow one mile southwest of Buena Vista and 17.5 inches of snowfall during the weekend at Monarch Mountain, 11 inches of which fell overnight Sunday to give the ski area a 77-inch base…

In Custer County, between 3 inches and a foot of snow were reported across the county. Custer County Road and Bridge Foreman Dave Trujillo said 8-12 inches of snow fell in the upper elevations and 6-7 inches accumulated in the town of Westcliffe, while 3-4 inches fell in the Rosita area.

Craig: Presentation on the history of transmountain diversions tonight

A picture named coloradotransmountaindiversions.jpg

From the Craig Daily Press:

The Friends of Northwest Colorado, Colorado Trout Unlimi ted, The Wilderness Society and Colorado Environmental Coalition are scheduled to host a presentation from 6:30 to 8 p.m. today at the Center of Craig, 601 Yampa Ave. Ken Neubecker, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited and environmental representative for the Colorado River Basin Round Table, will speak about the history and ramifications of trans-mountain water diversions, including examples from actual and proposed water projects affecting the region. “Part history lesson, part Colorado water law, part science, this presentation leads to a better understanding of past, present and future Western Slope water issues,” the CEC wrote in a news release.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Sasha at, or call 824-5241 and leave a message.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here and here.

Arkansas River: Exchanges

A picture named arkansasriverbasin.jpg

Here’s a look at exchanges on the Arkansas River, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article. Here are a few excertps:

So far this year, two Water Court filings involving yet more exchanges on the Arkansas River have been filed. Woodmoor Hills has filed for an exchange as a way to move water it intends to buy on the High Line and Holbrook Canals to Northern El Paso County. The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, a group of shareholders from seven canal companies, has filed for an exchange that would allow them to sell water through leases with upstream users, such as Aurora, Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority — the only user which has already signed an agreement with the Super Ditch.

Water trades, sometimes in the form of what are called contract exchanges, are not monitored by the state as part of river administration, Witte added. “Contract exchanges are not addressed in law, and not something we regulate,” Witte said. “It’s a contractual arrangement to help them move water where they need it.” The trade of 5,000 acre-feet between Aurora and the Pueblo water board is an example of that type of arrangement, Witte said.

Plans for augmentation, primarily used now to make up depletions from well pumping, are not exchanges, but require adjudication in Water Court, Witte said. Like an exchange, augmentation plans allow for out-of-priority diversions to make up for depletions. “The party making the transaction is only replacing their depletions,” Witte said. “The big difference is that if it were an exchange, they would need to tell the world and convince them (the engineering) is true.”

Other similar ways to move water may be alternate points of diversion or changed points of diversion. These occur by moving the diversion of a water right upstream. Water can then be left in storage for use at a later date. Winter water storage is an example of how an alternate point of diversion is used.

Substitute supply plans, such as one being used by Manitou Springs that allows it to store water by replacing it from a new source, is probably not an exchange, Witte said. “It’s not really an exchange, but a water management practice that causes no injury,” Witte said.

More on Arkansas River exchanges from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

By far, the top driver on this peculiar road is Colorado Springs, which operates an exchange by storing water out of priority in Lake Pueblo against its sewer return flows down Fountain Creek. It’s a complex accounting system that incorporates a lot of moving parts, including the transit loss along Fountain Creek, agreements with other water users and determining the nature of water being used. Each year, Colorado Springs submits an accounting to the state explaining how all the variables were factored in.

Fully consumable water can be used to extinction under state law, whether it’s imported or simply the consumptive use of water rights formerly used for agriculture that have been moved for use in a municipal supply. About 85 percent of Colorado Springs’ water supply falls into those categories, and much of it is now being reused through the Fountain Creek exchange. In recent years, the range has fallen between 20,000 and 25,000 acre-feet annually, but the amount of exchanges could double when the Southern Delivery System is fully operational. Last year was no exception, as Colorado Springs moved a little more than 20,500 acre-feet of water via its Fountain Creek exchange, according to Division of Water Resources figures made available to The Pueblo Chieftain…

In all, about 83,000 acre-feet of water that once would have flowed down the river was stored in Lake Pueblo last year, most of it through alternate points of diversion, rather than exchanges. That amounts to nearly 12 percent of the river’s annual flow at Avondale. More than half of that — 46,361 acre-feet — was stored during the winter water program, a court decree that allows flows to be captured rather than used for irrigation. Water also was stored at downstream reservoirs like John Martin and Meredith as part of the program. Aurora stored about 11,500 acre-feet, mostly using alternate points of diversion decreed by courts in its two cases involving purchases of water rights on the Rocky Ford Ditch. Aurora also could move water from the rights it purchased on the Colorado Canal in Crowley County through exchange…

Pueblo, which has the highest exchange priority on the Arkansas River under a 1987 court settlement among water users in nine court cases, exchanged very little water last year. “We didn’t use much of our transmountain water, so there weren’t return flows to recapture,” explained Alan Ward, water resources administrator.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Monte Vista: City council approves option for 300 acre-feet of augmentation water

A picture named blancawetlands.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

City council approved an option to buy 300 acre-feet of water from nearby Anderson Ditch Thursday to offset pumping from the town’s seven groundwater wells. The purchase would still depend on the city securing financing for $665,000 and the approval of the court for Water Division 3.

The move could also conflict with the bureau’s proposal, which called for a land-for-water swap that would bring 189 acre-feet from the ditch. Mike Blakeman, a public affairs officer for the BLM’s San Luis Valley office, said the agency would continue to pursue its project, given that Monte Vista’s deal had yet to be finalized. In exchange for the water, the agency intends to trade 2,693 acres to the Sun Peaks Land Co., which controls the water rights that were up for sale. The bureau’s proposal, first unveiled at the end of 2007, would have used the water to offset groundwater pumping that feeds the Blanca Wetlands, a series of ponds and marshes on 9,775 acres in eastern Alamosa County. The agency pumps water in the area to maintain habitat for migratory birds and replace wetlands lost with the construction of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Closed Basin Project…

Both the city and the BLM are trying to comply with state law requiring groundwater users to find replacement water for pumping that injures senior surface water users…

Should the city make it through financing and gain water court approval, it hopes to store the water in the Rio Grande Reservoir where it would be available for replacement purposes on the Rio Grande…

The city expects the purchase would increase water rates for the roughly 2,000 taps in town by a $1.42 per month.

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here and here.

Report: Five Case Studies on the Effects of the SWANCC and Rapanos Supreme Court Rulings on Colorado Wetlands and Streams

A picture named fens.jpg

Here’s an analysis of the fen mentioned in the report released earlier this month, along with the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have muddied protections under the Clean Water Act, from Russell Deffner writing for The Fairplay Flume. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

A 12-acre unnamed “fen” located about six miles northwest of Fairplay is one of five case studies cited in a recently published report that looks at Colorado waters that have lost or may lose the protection of the Clean Water Act of 1972 because of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings…

The report states that the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers decided that it did not have the authority to protect the unnamed fen under the Clean Water Act of 1972 in the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions. All five of the case studies in the report describe wetlands and streams in Colorado that would have previously been protected under the Clean Water Act but have lost or may lose that protection because of the two Supreme Court rulings…

Buechler¹s report explains the importance of fens: “Many of the fens of Colorado are over 10,000 years old with organic soil accumulation rates ranging from 4.3 to 16.2 inches per thousand years. Therefore, onsite or in-kind replacement of peat wetlands is not thought to be possible. Furthermore, at present there are no known reliable methods to create a new fully functional fen or to restore a severely degraded fen. Although fens only occupy a minor portion of the landscape, they perform important hydrological, and water quality functions.”[…]

“The [United States Army Corps”of Engineers] decided it [the unnamed fen near Fairplay] was a non-jurisdictional isolated wetland because it is about 18,000 feet upgradient from the Middle South Platte River Thus, the Corps determined that this unnamed drainage and wetland do not have a significant nexus to a “Traditional Navigable Waterway” and is non-jurisdictional,” says Buechler¹s report.

More S.787 Clean Water Restoration Act coverage here.

Delta: Selenium summit recap

A picture named selenium.jpg

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

The day-long seminar brought an estimated 100 people to hear a lineup of geologists, biologists and water and soil specialists discuss the difficulty of managing selenium, a naturally occurring mineral found in high concentrations in Mancos Shale. It’s estimated the selenium-rich Mancos Shale in the Gunnison River Basin and the Uncompahgre Valley accounts for 61 percent of the selenium deposited in Lake Powell each year, said Sonya Chavez de Baca, task force coordinator.

Denis Reich of the Colorado State University Extension Service in Grand Junction showed a Google Earth map showing selenium concentrations in the Uncompahgre Valley. Although most of Uncompahgre Valley is an area of concern, “Loutzenheizer Arroyo (near Delta) is considered the largest concentration of selenium in the Uncompahgre area,” said Reich. “If we could find a way that allows us (to cut down selenium contributions from the Uncompahgre Valley), that would go a long ways to solving the selenium problem in the Colorado River,” Reich said.

Land use change, particularly when previously unirrigated lands have water put on them, is a big contributor of selenium to the waterways, said David Dearstyne of the Natural Resource Conservation Service. An example is the development of unfarmed lands around Montrose and Delta, where lawns, ponds and septic systems now are putting water on selenium-rich soils…

…managing selenium is important, Osmundson explained, because it accumulates and causes defects and reproductive problems in fish and wildlife, including endangered native fish in the Colorado River.

One way to manage selenium transportation in irrigated fields is lining ditches to prevent seepage into deeper soils where selenium is found. Ditches were lined in the Grand Valley starting in 1988 through the Colorado River Salinity Control Program. There currently is no federal program to deal with selenium but lining ditches to control salt transport and leaching also controls selenium. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association is lining ditches in the area it serves, said association manager Marc Catlin, but it’s very expensive.

More water pollution coverage here.

Juniata Reservoir fish consumption advisory due to mercury

A picture named grandmesa.gif

From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Emily Anderson):

The statement adds that the city “is extremely concerned about public misinterpretations of the potential listing of its pristine terminal drinking water source reservoir as being impaired by mercury,” because the reservoir is at risk for addition to a state list of bodies of water that don’t meet water quality standards. The reservoir was adopted as a “high priority” on the list when it received preliminary approval from the state Water Quality Control Commission on Feb. 8. Although most bodies of water on the list are included because of water contamination, Juniata Reservoir and a few other bodies were included solely for having a fish-consumption advisory, according to Steve Gunderson, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s water quality division. “The levels of mercury in the water, you wouldn’t be able to detect them,” Gunderson said. “You’re talking extremely low mercury, but it accumulates in the fish. Gunderson said state health officials are meeting with city officials about taking Juniata off the list if they can get rid of all contaminated fish or isolate the reservoir. The final list will not be adopted until March 9.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Manassa and Monte Vista ordered to chlorinate

A picture named chlorination.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Monte Vista and Manassa, like nine other valley communities, had operated their domestic water systems for decades with a disinfection waiver from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. But the state health department has withdrawn the waivers for Monte Vista and Manassa after the two towns submitted a series of positive tests for coliform stretching back to the first half of the decade. Coliform is a broad class of bacteria, whose presence may be a preliminary indicator of disease-causing agents in the water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the case of Manassa, testing also revealed a positive for E. coli in Oct. 2008, said Ron Falco, safe drinking water program manager for the state health department. Monte Vista has been chlorinating its water with a temporary treatment system since May, although the town, which serves 2,200 taps, has been weighing whether to appeal the state’s chlorination order. The town is waiting for a report from its engineers before making a decision and hopes to respond to the state by the end of next month, City Manager Don Van Wormer said.

More water treatment coverage here.

Copper Mountain Metropolitan District and Upper Blue Sanitation District board member elections coming up

A picture named watertreatment.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen):

The [Copper Mountain Metropolitan District] provides water, sewer, fire and television services to the Copper area. The board sets policy carried out by about 22 full-time employees. Regular board meetings occur at 8:30 a.m. on the last Friday of each month at Copper Mountain Chapel, 630 Copper Road. Four-year seats held by incumbents Ben Broughton and Karl Anutaare up for election. Eligible candidates — who must be qualified electors — may pick up self-nomination forms at 0477 Copper Road on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. All forms must be received by 5 p.m. on Friday.

Meanwhile the Upper Blue Sanitation District also needs to fill two seats this spring. Here’s a report from Robert Allen writing for the Summit Daily News. From the article:

The Upper Blue Sanitation District board will oversee completion of a $34 million treatment plant expansion as well as extension of sewer lines into Blue River in the coming years…it’s not too late for others to sign up and run for either of the four-year terms. Self-nomination forms must be filed by Feb. 26. Call (970) 453-27 The board meets at 5:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at 1605 Airport Road in Breckenridge.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Douglas County Commissioners are on board for the project no matter who builds it

A picture named flaminggorgepipelinemillion.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A conflict between entrepreneur Aaron Million and the South Metro Water Supply Authority has spilled over into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ evaluation of a 560-mile pipeline proposed from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado’s Front Range. After Douglas County commissioners wrote a letter expressing interest in the project, South Metro President Charlie Krogh and Executive Director Rod Kuharich sent a letter to the Corps saying the district has “no interest” in the Million Project. “The South Metro Water Supply Authority future water supply plans do not include, nor do we wish to be considered part of this project,” the letter stated…

Last year, Million accused Parker Water Director Frank Jaeger and the South Metro district of attempting to “high-jack” the project.

Douglas County commissioners in a Dec. 29 letter to the Corps said the project would be interested in 40,000 acre-feet from the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline. It was one of a series of letters identifying the need for more than 375,000 acre-feet of municipal or agricultural water in Colorado and Wyoming…

[Commissioner Steve Boand] confirmed that Douglas County remains interested in any water supply that brings in more water. “We view the Flaming Gorge Project(s) as a single enterprise regardless of whether it is called the ‘Million’ or ‘Jaeger’ project,” Boand said.

Meanwhile the project’s visionary, Aaron Million, is touting the potential for preventing ag dry-ups as a reason that the Arkansas Valley should get on board, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The project has tremendous benefits to preventing ag dry-ups,” said Aaron Million, who heads a group of investors hoping to build the 560-mile pipeline. “The water coming into the Arkansas River basin would have conservation restrictions that would benefit agriculture.”[…]

“This is a tremendous opportunity to alleviate pressure on the water supply around Denver and up north,” Million said, adding this would also reduce the chances of more diversions from the Arkansas basin. “The Corps of Engineers has agreed to move the project forward. This is without question the largest base of water users in Colorado that has come together for a project.”[…]

Million wants to develop the project privately, but tailor its use for public benefit, in the same way toll roads like E-470 have been developed. Private efficiencies can reduce costs and clear hurdles that have stifled public water development, Million said. “Other projects have been postponed because they rely on public funding,” he said.

Tim Walsh, a partner in the project, said the comments raised during the Corps scoping period already have changed the project. The route of the pipeline will come from the west side near the northern end of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, hooking up with a river intake just above the reservoir, but below Green River. That eliminates other points above Green River and a southerly route that would take water from the southern part of Flaming Gorge Reservoir near the dam. “The route we’re looking at addresses about 85 percent of the negative comments,” Walsh said.

Because the water is coming in from another basin, there would be increased reliability of supply. Also, once the water is used in Colorado, the return flows could benefit downstream users because imported water can be used to extinction. There also are possibilities for hydroelectric power generation because of the drop in elevation of 3,500 feet at one point along the pipeline route as it moves from Lake Hattie in Wyoming to the South Platte River, and again as the pipeline drops after crossing the Palmer Divide into the Arkansas River basin.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Lower Ark and Southeastern working to get Aurora federal legislative approval to use the project

A picture named puebloreservoir.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District sued the Bureau of Reclamation in federal court over a 2007 contract that allows Aurora to store and exchange water at Lake Pueblo. As part of a settlement last year, the Lower Ark and Aurora agreed to try to persuade Congress to adopt legislation that officially lets Aurora into the Fry-Ark project. The federal court case was put on hold for two years. Thursday, the South- eastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board was given a progress report on how that legislation is developing. “It all will depend on whether Rep. (John) Salazar is ready to move or not,” Executive Director Jim Broderick said. Reps. Salazar, Betsy Markey and Ed Perlmutter — all Colorado Democrats — hosted meetings about the possibility of legislation and other water issues in Rocky Ford and Lamar last year. By the end of the year, no legislation had been introduced. The Southeastern district has supported the Aurora legislation since 2003, as part of its own agreement with the suburban Denver city of 300,000…

Meanwhile, the two districts took slightly different tacks this week in dealing with two water court filings by Aurora. Aurora is seeking a change of use for water in the Busk-Ivanhoe Ditch, which it shares with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The ditch was once agricultural and owned by the High Line Canal. Pueblo already has a decree for uses other than agriculture. Aurora and Climax Molybdenum have formed the Fremont Pass Ditch Co. after buying the Columbine Ditch from the Pueblo Board of Water Works last year. They are seeking a change of use related to their own operations. Both are transmountain diversions, and identical water court cases have been filed in Water Divisions 1, 2 and 5.

The Lower Ark board Wednesday voted to enter the cases in order to monitor them and to protect the interests of their own transmountain diversion, the Larkspur Ditch. Lower Ark is buying Larkspur, which imports water from the Gunnison River basin, from the Catlin Canal. The Southeastern board voted to file a statement of opposition in the Busk-Ivanhoe case because the diversion for that tunnel is above the Fry-Ark collection system on the Western Slope.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Upper Ark data collection project moving along swimmingly

A picture named upperarkansasvalley.jpg

From The Mountain Mail (Audrey Gilpin):

The $815,000 project began in September 2008. Seven of 15 collection platforms have been installed as of Feb. 11, district general manager Terry Scanga said. Using Campbell Scientific Equipment of Utah, platforms measure surface water and will be used for reservoir regulation in connection with filling and releasing. Data platforms on reservoirs will also have weather stations. A transmitter on the platform sends data via Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, administered by the National Environmental Satellite Data Information Service. Scanga said measurements are collected every 15 seconds and are used with a computer program providing scenarios for water exchanges. The information, Scanga said, will help with reservoir operation and assist in exercising exchanges to storage without injury to water rights.

Data collection platforms are completed and on-line at North Fork Reservoir on the North Fork of the South Arkansas River, Lester-Attebery augmentation station in Fremont County, Cottonwood Reservoir on the South Fork of Cottonwood Creek; Rainbow Lake Reservoir, North Fork of the South Arkansas River gauge, Cottonwood Creek stream gauge near the hot springs and on the South Arkansas River below Tenassee Ditch. Scanga said the platform on the Tenassee Ditch cost $90,000. It will be administered by the state and was paid for jointly by Salida, Poncha Springs, Lower and Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy districts and Mount Massive Lakes…

Additional platforms set for installation by September are the Texas Creek stream gauge in Fremont County, Trout Creek Ditch, Poncha Creek stream gauge, Gray’s Creek-O’Haver Reservoir, Boss Lake, South Arkansas River near Hydro No. I below Garfield, Deweese Reservoir in Custer County and the Grape Creek gauge in Custer County.

More Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.

2010 Colorado legislation update

A picture named coloradocapitolfront.jpg

Lawmakers were busy trying to balance the budget this week. Here’s a report on the week’s happenings at the state capitol in Denver, from Marianne Goodland writing for the Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

The General Assembly this week is working on HB 1327, which initially planned to transfer the CWCB construction funds, $19.6 million that it gets from federal mineral lease revenues, into the general fund to help shore up the state’s 2009-10 budget. HB 1327 was amended by the House on second reading Wednesday to restore the funds for the construction fund. The vote to restore the funds drew strong support from legislators of every party: 24 of the House’s 27 Republicans voted in favor of restoring the dollars, as did 14 of the chamber’s 37 Democrats and Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison…

SB 27, which would impose a $500-per-day fine for illegal diversions of surface water, sailed through the Senate in the past week. The bill got unanimous support from the Senate on Monday and is now awaiting action from the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. It is sponsored in the House by Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango. SB 27 would impose the same fine for illegal diversions of surface water that is in place for illegal diversions of ground water. Supporters say that not having a fine for surface water diversions means those who divert water illegally are slow to stop when they are notified of the violations; the potential of a fine means resolving the problem in weeks versus months.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The state’s water construction funds have been a model of self-reliance, allowing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to operate without taking a dollar from the state’s general fund. But after $107 million of the funds were taken to balance the state budget last year, the agency’s ability to continue making loans was hamstrung, CWCB Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news

A picture named coloradosnowpack02192010

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

“Runoff volume from snowmelt later this spring and early this summer is expected to range from 70 to 90 percent of normal over much of the upper Colorado River and its tributaries in central and northern Colorado, Bryon Lawrence [a hydrologist with the National Weather Service] wrote this week…

The runoff forecast for the Roaring Fork River from April through July is that the river will flow at 83 percent of its thirty-year average at its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Last year at this time, the National Weather Service expected the Roaring Fork to run at 116 percent of average. The Fryingpan River is expected to flow into Ruedi Reservoir at 74 percent of the 30-year average. The Colorado River is expected to run at 76 percent of average through Glenwood Springs and 79 percent of average at Cisco, which is near the Westwater Canyon boat ramp. And the Colorado River flowing through Cataract Canyon and into Lake Powell is expected to be running at 73 percent of average this spring and summer. The Yampa River is expected to be 72 percent of average at Maybell, Colo., as is the Eagle River at Gypsum. And the Gunnison River is expected to be at 83 percent of average at its confluence with the Colorado River in Grand Junction.

Meanwhile storage is in such good shape in the Arkansas Valley that 5,500 acre-feet of Aurora’s excess capacity contract storage water may spill. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Aurora, as an out-of-basin user of the project, has the lowest priority in accounts that would be evacuated by April 15 to ensure the dam has adequate capacity to contain a flood. The spill could be avoided if other water users call for water before that time, Vaughan added. Levels in Lake Pueblo are higher than last year, and that has caused some juggling by water planners. Earlier this week, the Pueblo Board of Water Works discussed contingencies if a wet spring put some of its water stored in Lake Pueblo in danger of a spill — a remote possibility, according to Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the water board…

Snowpack is at 90 percent in the Arkansas River basin, 73 percent in the Colorado River basin and 82 percent in the Roaring Fork sub-basin, where Fry-Ark Project water is exported.

Grand County Commissioners present Grand County Stream Management Plan to Denver Water Board

A picture named fraservalleycollection.jpg

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Commissioners, the county manager and their water experts attended a Denver Water Board meeting on Wednesday to officially present the Stream Management Plan to the utility’s board members. Their team of water consultants has been checking the methodology behind the Grand County-initiated plan since the start, but some board members have only a vague knowledge about Grand County’s direction, according to Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. “I thought it went well,” said Newberry on Thursday. “The Stream Management Plan was well-received.”[…]

From the use of widely-accepted practices studying 80 miles of river system including seven tributaries in Grand County, the draft report of the Stream Management Plan paints a sobering picture of the area’s rivers. It shows that adult trout habitat is in short supply. Late-summer flows on the rivers are too low, causing late-summer water temperatures to frequently exceed state standards. Rapid flow changes near dams are problematic. And, the rivers suffer from too much sediment (most severe on the upper Fraser). Flushing flows — high-magnitude flows that flush sediment, bring needed oxygen to spawning beds and carry away waste— are too low and infrequent on some reaches, and control structures in the system create barriers for fish to pass. “There is a high PH on the Fraser upstream of Ranch Creek, we don’t know why but we’re monitoring it,” Wesche said of some key findings in the study, adding that a stretch of the Fraser River was flagged for pollutants from leaked discharge at the Moffat Tunnel’s west portal.

Target flows, or flows needed for stream health during winter and summer, as well as flushing flows, are specifically identified in the draft stream plan to mark what is needed to improve river health. There is also a working list of restoration projects, such as channel bar improvements, improved spawning habitat at Ranch Creek, culvert enlargements and implementation of sediment ponds on the upper Fraser.

The “million-dollar question,” however, centers on phase three of the plan, according to county officials who at Wednesday’s meeting with Denver aimed to get a nod of agreement that the city water providers were willing to work with Grand County in recognition that the plan is a valid testament of river health. Denver Water is “comfortable working within that science,” as long as the plan is used as a “guidance” document and not used in “some sort of regulatory fashion,” said Denver Water’s Director of Planning Dave Little on Thursday. “Science is subjective,” he said. “Some think that putting the word ‘science’ on it means it’s absolute, but there is a lot of personal judgment and personal opinion involved in interpreting data.”

Denver Water has not objected to the county’s approach in using the stream management plan as a basis for negotiating ways to manage impacts to the river system. “We’ve agreed not to argue the science but to concentrate on providing solutions for the impacts,” Little said, adding that the Denver Water Board is behind using the plan on “how to best apply limited resources to get the best value from a stream-health point.”[…]

While phase one of the plan included inventory and review of stream data and phase two presents scientifically-based recommendations of stream flow, phase three will take the involvement of Denver Water and the Northern Water Conservancy District, the Division of Wildlife and others to ensure coordination of diversions, reservoir releases and restoration of river reaches actually happen. Grand County officials call it “sharing the risk.” For part of phase three of the plan, they are also sharing the cost. Denver Water and Northern each put in $100,000 to help pay for the study.

As part of Denver and county negotiations in regard to the Moffat Firming project, a list of enhancements to river health has been offered by Denver Water, and how those items fit into the findings of the stream management plan are still being talked about among stakeholders.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Dillon: Water and sewer rate hike

A picture named fountainpavementdrawing.jpg

From the Summit Daily News (Caitlin Row):

Because Dillon’s water and sewer costs aren’t covered by its revenues, treasurer Carrie McDonald said the town must increase its rates. “The No. 1 reason to increase rates is to maintain the water and sewer fund into the future — including operation, maintenance and capital projects,” McDonald said…Rate increase information won’t be available to the public until Feb. 26. McDonald however noted that rather than have one rate across the board, the town will use different rate structures based on three types of customers — single-family, multi-family (like condominium complexes) and non-residential. New rates will be posted on Dillon’s website and made available at the town hall.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Civil Engineers

A picture named eisenhowerfishing.jpg

It’s been a long time since I’ve published one of Justice Greg Hobbs’ poems. Here you go:

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers and fishermen
practice line drawing and line arcing
over rivers and into pools.

Where place the struts
to bear the weight
of a crossing?

Where place the lure
to attract wild forces

Where stresses meet
pushing and pulling
to the counter-balancing.

Reprinted, with permission, from Colorado Mother of Rivers Water Poems by Justice Greg Hobbs. Click here to order the book from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

Energy policy — nuclear: Montrose and Telluride largely on different sides with respect to the proposed Piñon Ridge mill

A picture named pinonridgesite.jpg

From the Telluride Daily Planet (Reilly Capps):

One town tends toward cowboy boots, Stetsons and pickups. The other toward hiking books, knit caps and Subarus. There are a lot of differences between the Montrose and Telluride areas, though they’re located near each other. One more difference was on display in two public meetings Wednesday and Thursday about a uranium mill planned near Paradox. The mill, called Piñon Ridge, would take in 500 tons of uranium ore every day and churn out a small number of metal drums full of yellowcake, a radioactive substance used as nuclear fuel. The historic mining town of Telluride seems, by and large, opposed. The historic ranching community of Montrose seems, by and large, supportive.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Otero County water providers huddle up over possible regional water authority

A picture named arkansasriverbasin.jpg

From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Dave Vickers):

Nearly all of the 27 entities that provide water to Otero County residents heard [at a meeting at Otero Junior College Tuesday night] Bill Hancock from Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Gary Barber from Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority explain the potential benefits of forming a rural water authority.

Barber said he and Hancock have been working for the past six months to identify problems rural water providers currently face and are expect to encounter in coming years. They have also begun to identify solutions to those various problems, of which compliance with federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards will be paramount in the future and could pose tremendous financial burdens on the water providers, especially the smaller companies that have as few as 20 customers. “Please join us in making this happen,” Barber said, noting that if water providers in Southeastern Colorado move quickly to address the proposal with their separate boards of directors, formation of the quasi-governmental authority could begin as soon as next fall. Barber said the greatest benefit a rural water authority could bring to the region would be the ability to gain access to grants and loans that would help solve the myriad problems water providers face today. Nearly all water providers aren’t eligible to apply for such funding currently because of their status as private, for-profit companies.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

Moffat Collection System Project: Denver Water extends public comment period to March 17

A picture named grossdam.jpg

From the Vail Daily (Julie Sutor):

The proposed Moffat Project would expand Gross Reservoir near Boulder by as much as 72,000 acre-feet…

The additional water in Gross Reservoir would be diverted from the Fraser River and Williams Fork River basins in Grand County, as well as South Boulder Creek. The project would also impact water bodies in Summit County, including Dillon Reservoir and the Blue River. “In the lead alternative, they’ll remove 4,800 acre feet of water from the Blue,” said Steve Swanson, executive director of the nonprofit Blue River Watershed Group. “Some people say that’s not a lot of water. But for the Blue River, especially during a dry season, it’s a lot of water, and it can translate to a lot of different impacts.” Even during wet months, water diversions can have negative impacts on river basins. High flows create a flushing effect that removes sediment that builds up in the river bed, and such flushing is critical for fish populations. Furthermore, rafting along the Blue River depends on early-season high flows…

Denver Water says it will experience a shortfall in its supply of 34,000 acre-feet per year by 2030. The agency says it will address 16,000 acre-feet of the shortfall through water conservation measures, leaving an annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet…

The Blue River Watershed Group will hold a public forum on the proposal in advance of the comment deadline. Water experts and representatives from local agencies and nonprofit organizations will discuss the project and its impacts for members of the public interested in learning more and weighing in on the proposal. The forum will take place at 6 p.m., March 4 at the Summit County Community and Senior Center near the County Commons.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

Paonia: Town council reviewing possible rate hike

A picture named fountainpavementdrawing.jpg

From the Delta County Independent:

The Paonia Town Council is reviewing the water ordinance and the possibility of raising monthly water bills. Kristin Chesnik, Paonia’s finance officer, has told Mayor Neal Schwieterman that a $3 to $3.50 a month increase may be needed to cover expenses. That equals a 20 percent increase. Trustee David Weber said at the Feb. 9 water work session, “Paonia is not the place for heavy use of water.” According to Weber, just 10 taps use 14 percent of the water. Some of the heavy water users are the car wash, schools, Paonia Care and Rehabilitative Center and the laundromat.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Update on Colorado’s potential and current resources

A picture named geothermalenergy.jpg

Here’s a long article on current and proposed geothermal projects, from Penny Stine writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Geothermal resources fall into three categories: electrical power generation, direct use and geothermal heat exchange systems, also known as geoexchange or ground source heat exchange…

The town of Rico near Telluride is also trying to capitalize on the naturally occurring hot water that lies beneath the town. Unlike some towns with hot springs, Rico doesn’t have surface water, but the same study that identified the Mount Princeton area as the best location in the state for geothermal activity identified Rico as the second best location. “My sense is that people in Rico are gung ho for capitalizing on geothermal in some way that benefits the town,” says Matt Downer with the Rico town council. “People are seeing it as a real benefit.”

Rico will have to drill down to reach the hot water and is still in the idea stage of development. Cost estimates to build a power plant, the amount of electricity that a possible plant could generate and the upgrades that would have to be made to the transmission lines are merely wild guesstimates at this point. Should the citizens of Rico decide a geothermal power plant is out of reach, they’d still like to explore direct use of the resource. Possibilities for direct use include heated sidewalks (not a bad idea in a town that gets abundant snow and sits at an elevation of 8,800 feet), heating commercial or municipal buildings or even creating a hot springs resort.

More geothermal coverage here and here.