Two Rivers Water acquires majority interest in the Huerfano-Cucharas Irrigation Co.

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From the Denver Business Journal:

Two Rivers said it has completed the purchase of 55 percent of the outstanding shares of Huerfano-Cucharas Irrigation (HCIC) through Two Rivers’ 50 percent-owned joint venture, HCIC Holdings LLC. It also said it has separate agreements to purchase an additional interest in HCIC to bring its total ownership to 90 percent by April…

The acquisition “gives Two Rivers the opportunity to now move forward in the repair of the Cucharas Dam and Reservoir, one of Colorado’s largest on-stream reservoirs,” John McKowen, Two Rivers chairman and CEO, said in a company statement. The reservoir is located in Huerfano County in southeast Colorado. “The Cucharas Reservoir, when restored, has 55,000 acre feet of storage capacity, which can be rebuilt for less than $375 an acre foot, compared to a current cost of construction of over $3,000 an acre foot for other large capacity reservoirs,” he said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

CWCB: Supporting docs for the Colorado River Water Availability Study

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All of you numbers junkies will love the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s supporting documentation for the Colorado River Water Availability Study.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: Upper Colorado River Basin at 65%

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Matt Barnes):

Snowpack in the high-elevation mountains above Middle Park now ranges from 43 percent to 92 percent of the 30-year average, with the highest readings on the east side of the valley, and the lowest readings on the north side. This is very similar to, and on average slightly less than, 2002 — the driest Feb.1 since 1981 (when snowpack was a scant 40 percent of average). Snowpack for the total Colorado River Basin within the state of Colorado is slightly above 2002 levels. Snow density is averaging 22 percent, which means that for a foot of snow there are 2.6 inches of water.

From The Aspen Times:

…the Roaring Fork watershed’s snowpack slipped from 85 percent to 83 percent during the month, according to a report released Wednesday…

Colorado’s weather is considerably drier this winter than last winter, the report said. The statewide snowpack is just 73 percent of last year’s snowpack at the same point in the season. The Jan. 1 and Feb. 1 snowpack levels were the lowest since 2003, the report said…

In the Roaring Fork basin, the snowpack in the Fryingpan Valley is particularly low, the conservation service data showed. The level at Nast Lake, at an elevation of 8,700 feet, was only 55 percent of the long-term average. At the Kiln site farther up the valley, the snowpack was only 59 percent of average. At Ivanhoe, a lake at 10,400 feet in elevation, the snowpack was 82 percent of average. The Crystal River Valley also lost the healthy snowpack it had stockpiled earlier in the season. The North Lost Trail area near Marble had a snowpack 78 percent of average. At McClure Pass it was 83 percent of average and at Schofield Pass it was 98 percent of average. The conservation service said its computerized Snotel site half-way between Aspen and the summit of Independence Pass was at 92 percent of average. The Aspen-area snowpack compared favorably to many parts of the state as of Wednesday. Copper Mountain was at 66 percent of average while Vail Mountain was at 68 percent of average, the conservation service’s data showed. Hoosier Pass near Breckenridge was at 84 percent of average while Rabbit Ears near Steamboat Springs was at only 53 percent of average. Snotel sites near southwest ski areas showed heathier snowpacks. Wolf Creek summit was at 115 percent of average while Lizard Head Pass outside of Telluride was at 111 percent.

Monte Vista residents get to cough up more dough for water, sewer and stormwater capital improvements

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From The Monte Vista Journal (Dianne James):

Water rates: Due to the costs for thawing and repair of water lines, the city of Monte Vista is amending the current water rate structure.

Sewer rates: The City reported that wastewater revenues have decreased by approximately 8.8 percent compared with 2008, and the city anticipates a decline in water usage and wastewater fee revenue. The city said in the resolution,“Increases in costs have also resulted from capital requirements, maintenance of equipment and rising business costs. Projections indicate that sewer operations will operate in a deficit without an amended rate structure.”

Storm drain maintenance: The current storm drain base fee is $.50 charged to each account within the city limits, a fee adopted back in 2001 and which was supposed to increase each year by the same percentage as the cost of living increase applied to city personnel, however, according to city records, the increase was never implemented.

More infrastructure coverage here.

$3 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit shows up in President Obama’s budget

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat:

The Conduit was originally authorized in 1962 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas project. It got its initial $5 million from the federal government last year and that money will be spent during the next two and a half years on the Environmental Impact Statement.

“This project has been on the back burner for over four decades,” said [U.S. Representative John Salazar]. “I have been working hard to push it to the front burner and I’m glad that President Obama has recognized that generations of Southeastern Coloradoans have waited too long for a reliable water delivery system. With this funding, we will put hard-working Americans to work repairing our aging infrastructure and we will provide clean and safe drinking water for generations to come.”

“Water sustains our farms, our families and our communities in Southeast Colorado,” said U.S. Representative Betsy Markey]. “This project has been a long time coming, and I’m happy to see this funding in the budget. Construction of the conduit will not only help ensure clean, reliable water in the future, but it will put Coloradans to work today.”

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Energy policy — coalbed methane: La Plata County Informational meeting on the State Engineer’s new coalbed methane produced water rules tonight

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s informational meeting, from Katie Burford writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

State water officials were at Bayfield High School on Tuesday evening to provide information about a water case decided last year by the state Supreme Court and related to recently passed legislation. After nearly three hours of presenting and answering questions, more questions were still rolling in from the approximately 125 people in attendance. “I know people have a lot of concern,” said John Cyran, head of the water-resources unit at the state Attorney General’s office.

The most contentious issue at Tuesday’s meeting was a map released last month by the state Engineer’s Office showing where water is considered tributary – meaning it feeds into streams – and where it is not. Generally speaking, tributary wells were closer to the Fruitland Outcrop – where the lip of the San Juan Basin curves to the surface in an arch across La Plata County. Meanwhile, deeper wells farther out in the basin toward New Mexico were mostly nontributary…

State law gives nontributary water to both landowners and gas operators, so long as operators are using it specifically for mining. But only water court can grant either of them an adjudicated right to the water. The fact that gas companies are speaking up for the nontributary water by filing applications in water court had residents at the meeting asking if they should do the same. State officials said to have standing in the case, residents, too, must file for a right in court. Once they have a pending application before the court, they can file an objection, which is due by the end of the month. “You’ve got to show you’ve got a dog in this fight,” Cyran said.

Here’s the link to the proposed rules from the Colorado Division of Water Resources website.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

HB 10-1188: Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right

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Here’s the background story that led to Representative Curry’s bill, from Jessica Fender writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

A band of lawmakers has waded into the long-standing debate on whether rafters have the right to float through private property in an attempt to change ambiguous laws to favor rafters. Without legislative action, any one of the state’s 160 rafting companies could be the next sued out of business as stretches of river they once traveled are blocked off, said Mark Schumacher, who has run the Three Rivers Resort rafting operation on the Taylor since 1983. “Our fear is if they filed a civil trespass charge against us and win, it will set the precedent and any landowner on any river who doesn’t want people to float through (will follow),” Schumacher said. “The well- to-do, elite landowners are like Goliath. We’re like David.”[…]

[HB 10-1188] It’s scheduled for its first hearing Feb. 15, according to its sponsor, unaffiliated Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison…

Lawyer John Hill represents Jackson-Shaw and said if the state legislates in favor of the rafters, they’ll have to pay landowners’ compensation for lost land value and business. “The public has no right to float through private property without the consent of the landowner,” Hill said. “That’s the law. You can’t change that without paying just compensation.”

The courts and the legislature decades ago decided and re-decided the right-to-float issue on the criminal side, and it’s not a crime to pass through private property on a river. But in the past three decades, there has been no such definitive answer for whether floaters can be sued for civil trespass if they float through private land…

Steve Roberts’ voice quivers with frustration as he talks about the land his family has operated — Harmel’s Ranch Resort — for more than a half century. It’s home to a fishing resort where he’s dropped more than $100,000 on river improvements to build up his stock on the three-quarters of a mile of the Taylor next to the Jackson-Shaw development. Roberts worked out a compromise with Schumacher, but the other nearby rafting crew floats big groups through his land twice a day, sometimes disrupting fish and upsetting Roberts’ clients, he said. “They’re splashing the water, going ‘whee!’ over the dams I created when I improved the fishing. They’ve hit the bridge with paddles,” Roberts said “So here I am, getting overrun with trespassers because trespassing is popular.”

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The moisture content for the snowpack statewide was 85 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service Snotel network. That’s an improvement — just barely — from 75 percent two weeks ago. “It’s not encouraging so far, so hopefully we’ll get caught up,” said Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “We’re kind of running out of time.”

In the Arkansas River basin, snowpack was 88 percent, and the Colorado River basin, which provides imported water, was 75 percent of average on Tuesday, according to the NRCS…

The Pueblo water board has kept track of snow depths on its ditches for the past four years — too short a time for historical comparison. The readings however, indicate the snowpack is off to a slow start, Sexton said. For instance, on the Wurtz Ditch on Tennessee Pass, [Rick Sexton, caretaker for the Pueblo water board’s Clear Creek Reservoir] measured 37 inches of snow, compared with a 46.7 inches average the last few years. Water content of the snow was 8.1 inches this year, compared with 12.4 inches average…

Streamflows in the Arkansas River are average nearly everywhere for this time of year. The flow through Pueblo is staying at 100 cubic feet per second through flow agreements, while some winter water continues to be stored in Lake Pueblo. Reservoir storage levels throughout the basin are good, with some space being cleared over the winter months in Turquoise and Twin Lakes by running water into Lake Pueblo.