South Platte Basin Roundtable meeting recap

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Judy Debus):

One of the projects funded by the roundtable is the shared vision planning (SVP) which is a collaborative approach to formulate, study and debate water management solutions by combining: traditional water resources planning, structured public participation, and collaborative computer modeling.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Montezuma Land Conservancy awarded accredited status from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

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Here’s the release from the Montezuma Land Conservancy:

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, announced today that Montezuma Land Conservancy has been awarded accredited status.

“Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever,” said Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn. “The accreditation seal lets the public know that the accredited land trust has undergone an extensive, external review of the governance and management of its organization and the systems and policies it uses to protect land.”

“Montezuma Land Conservancy’s accredited status demonstrates our commitment to permanent land conservation,” said David Nichols, Executive Director “The rigorous accreditation process has both certified the quality of our past work and aided us in continuing to improve the quality of our current conservation work. It has also helped us to ensure, to an even greater extent than before, the permanence of all the conservation easements we hold.”

Montezuma Land Conservancy is a local non-profit organization founded in 1998. It exists to permanently protect important open lands – in partnership with landowners – in order to conserve agricultural, natural, and scenic open space resources in Montezuma and Dolores Counties. Since its inception, the conservancy has partnered in the creation of 58 conservation easements protecting over 17,000 acres in the two counties.

Montezuma Land Conservancy was one of 11 land trusts awarded accreditation this March. These land trusts join 82 other land trusts from across the country that have been awarded accreditation since the fall of 2008. Accredited land trusts are able to display a seal indicating to the public that they meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust and ensure that conservation efforts are permanent. The seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., awards the accreditation seal to community institutions that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance established in 2006, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country. The Alliance, of which Montezuma Land Conservancy is a member, is a national conservation group based in Washington, D.C. that works to save the places people love by strengthening conservation throughout America.

Nichols concluded, “Achieving the right to use the accreditation seal provides tangible assurance to our members, easement donors, and financial contributors that the trust and financial support they have invested in the Montezuma Land Conservancy has not been misplaced.”

Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements that landowners use to protect important agricultural land, wildlife habitat, and scenic open space by limiting subdivision and residential development. Lands remain in private ownership and management, and public access is not granted. Financial benefits can include reduction in state, federal, and estate taxes and continued agricultural property tax status. In certain cases, landowners may receive cash for protecting their land. For more information, contact the Montezuma Land Conservancy at 565-1664 or info@montezumalandconservancy.org

Thanks to the Cortez Journal for the heads up.

More conservation easements coverage here and here.

Mesa County: Commissioners approve contract for first phase of wastewater project for Whitewater

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Wiggins):

County commissioners Craig Meis and Janet Rowland on Monday approved a $2.1 million contract with Mendez Inc. of Grand Junction to complete the first phase of a three-phase sewer line project from Whitewater to the Clifton Sanitation District, 3217 D Road. Commissioner Steve Acquafresca was absent from the meeting…

The first phase of the project, which should be completed early next year, covers three miles of sewer line to be built from the entrance to the Western Colorado Dragway, just north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and 32 Road, to the intersection of 32 and C 1/2 roads. County Senior Engineer Julie Constan said the county received nine bids for the first phase, including six from Front Range firms. The bid from Mendez, which was the lowest, came in nearly $900,000 below the county’s estimated project cost, an indication of how hungry the recession has made contractors for work.

More wastewater coverage here.

SB 10-181 (Municipal Authority To Lease Land) passes Senate Local Government and Energy Committee

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

[SB 10-181] (pdf) would allow Walsenburg and about 150 other statutory cities and towns in Colorado to lease the land that they own with water rights. Under current law, only home-rule municipalities have that authority. In Walsenburg’s case, the benefits of SB181 are on its doorstep. A proposed 100-tower wind farm has offered to lease 2,300 acres of land in Huerfano County owned by the city of Walsenburg. The wind farm proposed by Denver-based Viento Claro Energy would be built by Torch Renewable Energy. Viento Claro is eyeing a $23 million investment on the land owned by Walsenburg and adjacent property owners. If Walsenburg were allowed to lease the land to Viento Claro, the city would realize about $11 million in royalties over a 25-year span, according to Viento Claro…

Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, and Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, are sponsoring the bill…

And it’s not just Walsenburg that would benefit, according to the city attorney, Dan Hyatt, who also represents the city of Rocky Ford. Hyatt said Rocky Ford — another statutory city — also has land with water rights that could generate long-term revenue if it were allowed to lease it. “The potential benefit of this bill is immense,” said Geoff Wilson of the Colorado Municipal League. Next, the bill will be placed on the consent calendar in the Senate for preliminary approval.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado State Parks boating and invasive mussel inspection information

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From The Denver Post:

Current boat inspection hours for other eastern Colorado reservoirs administered by Colorado State Parks are:

Cherry Creek Reservoir: Through April, the east ramp will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both ramps will be open Friday through Sunday. Full operation resumes May 1.
Barr Lake: Through April, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Saturday. Drop boxes for pre-inspection seals are available at the ramp and may be used at other times. Boat motors cannot exceed 10 horsepower.
Boyd Lake: Through April, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, main ramp only. Pre-inspection seal drop boxes available at the ramp at other times.
Jackson Lake: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Pre-inspection seals may be used at other times.
North Sterling Reservoir: Opens to boating April 15.
Lake Pueblo: Through April 14, 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. No loading or unloading of boats permitted after hours.
Trinidad Lake: Beginning April 1, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
John Martin Reservoir: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Lathrop State Park: Both lakes closed to trailered boats until the water level in Martin Reservoir returns to its normal level.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Based on what we’ve seen in other parts of the country, it can take anywhere from three to five years after initial introduction, before adult populations boom and mussels start colonizing on infrastructure or before shells are found along shorelines,” said Jerry Neal, spokesman for the DOW.

First found in Lake Pueblo in late 2007, signs of invasive mussels popped up at six other reservoirs in the state in 2008. It appeared the zebra and the closely related quagga mussels would follow the pattern of rapid spread seen in other states. In response, the state launched an aggressive boat inspection and decontamination program, along with boater education and risk assessment programs that were meant to slow down that spread. In 2009, the only state-wide evidence of invasive mussels was found at Lake Pueblo, despite more than 400,000 boat inspections, 3,300 decontamination procedures and research at 100 lakes or reservoirs. Even at Pueblo, only the larvae, called veligers, were found last year. No live mussels have yet been found within the state, although 19 boats with attached mussels were intercepted coming into the state last year…

Weather could have played a part in the failure to detect mussels at higher elevation lakes after positive results in 2008, Neal said. “In reservoirs above 7,000 feet, cooler water temperatures may cause a considerable fluctuation in the number of veligers produced from year to year,” Neal said. “We had an unusually cool, wet spring and summer in 2009 which may have resulted in a much shorter breeding season for the mussels and fewer veligers.”[…]

OTHER PESTS

Zebra and quagga mussels can clog pipelines, ruin beaches and deplete nutrients in lakes, but are not the only aquatic pests that concern Colorado Division of Wildlife officials. Among the others:

RUSTY CRAYFISH

Native to the Ohio River basin, the crayfish are more aggressive than native species, colonize and can diminish the native fish population. They were found for the first time last year on the Yampa River near Steamboat Springs.

NEW ZEALAND MUD SNAILS

The tiny snails can reach concentrations of 500,000 per square yard and out-compete native food sources for fish. They have been found at one site on the Green River and two sites in the South Platte basin and monitored since 2004.

EURASIAN MILFOIL

An aquatic weed, it takes over lakes under certain conditions, choking out most other forms of life. So far, the state has confirmed 15 exotic milfoil sites, five native (northern milfoil) and two hybrid sites. A management program began in 2005.

PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE

A weed that grows in marshy areas or wetlands, it crowds out native or beneficial plants. It is controlled to protect waterfowl habitat and maintain flows. In Colorado, 29 cities and counties participate in a management program started in the South Platte basin in 1993.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

CWCB: Board approves Animas-La Plata Project water purchase

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The board voted 7-0 to support the concept, but it would have to vote again later this year to complete the sale.

Colorado could use the water to help hold off an interstate water war. If the four states in the Upper Colorado River Basin have to send water downstream to fulfill the Colorado River Compact, this state could use its share of Animas-La Plata water to keep downstream states satisfied, according to a water board memo. If the state buys into Animas-La Plata, it would get a vote on the seven-member board that will operate the project.

The Southern Ute tribe supports more state involvement in Animas-La Plata, said Scott McElroy, a lawyer for the tribe, during Monday’s water board meeting.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Snowpack news

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From the Aspen Daily News (Catherine Lutz):

With what looks like two relatively dry days left in the month, March snowfall on local ski areas is looking to be well below average, and significantly less than in three of the last four years. March has historically been the snowiest month of the winter, but hasn’t been in the last several years.

Snowmass has seen 50 inches fall on the top of the mountain so far this month, compared to an average of 60 inches. Last winter, 67 inches fell in March and in the record 2007/2008 season, Snowmass amassed 88 inches in the last full month of the ski season. Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands received 43 and 42 inches, respectively — on average they get about a foot more than that. And while last March was just below average for Aspen Mountain, the 62 inches Highlands had was respectably above its 55-inch average. Buttermilk has had 38 inches in March, well below its 50-inch average…

Last winter, storms blew in red dust from the desert on multiple occasions, which hastened the melting of the snowpack and in one instance turned into frozen brown ice when a cold windstorm with minimal precipitation blew through.

Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District Annual Seminar ‘Common Causes’ April 2

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From the Pagosa Sun:

This year’s theme is “Common Causes,” and there will be a lineup of notable speakers who will address how water districts and various organizations work together to address common concerns.

In addition to [photographer John Fielder], one of the ranchers interviewed in Fielder’s recent book, “Colorado Ranges,” T. Wright Dickinson, will speak. Other speakers include Dave Grey; David Brown and Josh Linard from the United States Geological Survey; Doug Kemper, executive director of Colorado Water Congress, and Kent Singer, executive director of Colorado Rural Electric Association; and a panel that will talk about water quality work being done.

The registration is $30 for advance registration and $32 at the door, per person. This fee includes morning and afternoon snacks and a buffet lunch. Registration on April 2 begins at 8 a.m., the seminar begins at 8:30 a.m., and the seminar will wrap up at approximately 4 p.m.

It is recommended that advance reservations be made by contacting Jane Maxson at 247-1302.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.

State Engineer to sign San Luis Valley groundwater irrigation rules setting the timing to coincide with surface irrigation

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

When the state shuts off the water to ditch and stream irrigators this fall, groundwater irrigators will have to stop pumping as well. Colorado Division of Water Resources State Engineer Dick Wolfe said he plans to sign an irrigation season policy in a week or two. “All water use for irrigation in the basin will be subject to that irrigation season policy – surface and wells,” he said, “which is something that has not occurred in the past.”

The presumptive irrigation season for the Rio Grande Basin (the San Luis Valley) will be April 1 to November 1, Wolfe explained. He added that the irrigation season policy would outline specific criteria that could be considered to vary from that presumptive season. For example, last fall the water division permitted water diversions past the normal irrigation season for recharge purposes. Wolfe said the irrigation season policy he will sign in the next week or two will solely apply to Division III, the Valley. “We don’t have a specific policy like it anywhere else in the state,” he said. This could become a model for other areas, he added.

He said the policy is required under legislation specific to this basin and will be incorporated into the groundwater rules he is developing with the assistance of a 55-member advisory committee. A sub-committee of the larger group worked specifically on the irrigation season policy. The well rules advisory committee meets again April 28, and Wolfe anticipates one more meeting in May before submitting a final draft of the rules to the water court. “The process has been good,” Wolfe said. “I have been amazed we have sustained 50-plus members at every one of these meetings. That’s remarkable. That just shows the dedication of the people of this Valley.”[…]

Wolfe explained that the goals of the groundwater rules include: develop plans of water management to address sustainability of the aquifers; set an irrigation season; address the impacts to senior surface water users within the basin; and protect the state’s ability to meet its Rio Grande Compact obligation to downstream states.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here.

Animas-La Plata Project: La Plata-Archuleta Water District interested in 500-1000 acre-feet if Colorado exercises the state’s option on A-LP water

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Dick Lunceford, president of the water district’s board, said A-LP water is part of the district’s master plan. “We plan to have two treatment plants – one at the base of Lake Nighthorse and the other as part of a joint project with the town of Bayfield,” Lunceford said.

The water district estimates it needs 2,750 acre-feet of water from A-LP and the Pine River to serve residents in a 400-square-mile area – first in southeastern La Plata County and, eventually, southwest Archuleta County…

The district’s consulting water engineer Steve Harris said the time to act is now. “Getting A-LP water is a one-shot opportunity,” Harris said. “There won’t be another time.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Cost estimates increase to $490 million

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From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

NISP officials blamed much of the cost hike on the addition of capacity for pump plants and pipelines by participants, and for increasing the storage capacity of Galeton Reservoir. The changes, say project officials, will increase efficiency and its sustainability. Cost increases were also brought on by a desire to answer questions about water quality, hydrology and riparian corridor issues. “We wanted to make sure, as does the Army Corps, that all questions are being answered,” said Kathy Peterson, chairwoman of the participant group. “It costs additional dollars and is taking additional time, but we believe it’s necessary.” In all, the cost estimate changes were not surprising, because estimates for projects of this size change over time, the district said.

But to [Save the Poudre’s Gary Wockner], it appears the project’s cost is spiraling out of control. “This project started out in 2003 for $350 million and it’s now $490 million,” he said. “There just seems to be no end in sight for the cost escalation.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Southeastern Colorado lawmakers hope to protect CWCB funds including the conduit

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Debi Brazzale):

Early indications are that the funding will be left largely intact in the coming budget year after having been diverted last year to help cover the state’s budget deficit. Neverthess, Rep. Wes Mckinley, a Democrat from Walsh, and Republican Sen. Ken Kester, of Las Animas, say they are on guard and that the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s funds need to be protected to keep water projects going in their districts.

Of special concern is the Arkansas Conduit Project, which took a temporary hit last year when more than $100 million was diverted from the water conservation board to help the state through its fiscal straits and balance the state budget. Some $35 million of that total came out of the conduit project’s funding, putting federal matching dollars at risk as well. The project provides treated water to southeastern Colorado. That money since has been recouped through higher-than-anticipated revenue from the state’s severance tax, according to Colorado Water Conservation Board Direction Jennifer Gimbel. Gimbel also said that, so far, next’s year’s pending budget takes $11 million from the board’s funds but that the diversion won’t affect the conduit or any other current projects.

McKinley acknowledged the budget process is far from over. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they did take some more,” said McKinley. “It seems like if there’s money out there, there’s several hands grabbing for it.”

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Colorado Watershed Assembly presents Water on the Land: Water Rights and Land Conservation workshop April 23

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From email from the Colorado Watershed Assembly:

The Colorado Water Trust is pleased to invite you to its first ever water workshop in Basalt, Colorado on Friday, April 23 at the fantastic Basalt Library in a room overlooking the Frying Pan River.

The workshop is generously funded by Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The agenda includes a description of how the Roaring Fork Basin works, and sessions on basic principles of Colorado water law, the state’s the instream flow program, green water transactions, and water and land conservation. It concludes with a discussion of local hot topics.

This is the first in a series of twelve workshops they will be doing around the state over the course of this year. Up next: Silverthorne and Fort Collins.

For more information, visit Workshop flyer–Basalt.pdf.

More conservation easement coverage here. More instream flow coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum April 6-7

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The annual Arkansas River Basin Water Forum provides a dialogue for discussion about water issues and will culminate with the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas Award. It is sponsored by various water agencies. This year’s theme is “Our Multifaceted Gem.” Panelists during the event will talk about the Southern Delivery System, Super Ditch, the High Line Canal water leasing project and the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Climate change, water quality, wildlife issues and recreational concerns also will be addressed. Keynote speaker will be Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Colorado Public Radio to feature Fountain Creek

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A documentary television series looking at how Fountain Creek has changed over 300 years, told through the viewpoint of a 10-year-old child, is being planned and could begin airing as soon as next month on Rocky Mountain PBS. The outline of the series was shared at the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District meeting Friday by Glenn Ballantyne, who is working with the Fountain Creek Foundation to produce the show…

Called “Fourteen to Four” — a reflection of the change in elevation in thousands of feet in the Fountain Creek Watershed from the top of Pikes Peak to the confluence with the Arkansas River in Pueblo — the series will be 10 segments of 30 minutes apiece. Each segment will cover 30 years of history.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Ruedi Reservoir: Operations update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

I wanted to kick off Spring with two announcements about our information outreach for Ruedi Reservoir this year:

1. In order to keep folks better informed about our operations through the spring, summer and fall, this year we will host two public meetings. The first will be at the usual time in May, before spring run-off and any possible Coordinated Reservoir releases under the Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The second will be in late July to provide a “heads up” of operations through August and into early fall. Our goal with the July meeting is to help eliminate surprises for the Basalt community regarding Lower Fryingpan River flows and demands for water from the Endangered Fish Recovery Program and other water users.

With that in mind, our first meeting this year will be on Wednesday, May 12, from 7-9 p.m. in the Basalt Town Hall.

Our second meeting will be on Thursday, July 22, also from 7-9 p.m. and in the Basalt Town Hall.

2. I am also pleased to announce the debut of the Ruedi Reservoir Webpage. Please visit it at www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao/ruedi.html. On this page you will have “one stop shopping” for information or hyperlinks related to the Reservoir, including flows for the Lower Fryingpan River, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project history, Ruedi Dam, the Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, and reservoir elevations (once the gauge is properly adjusted. It is currently off-line).

As for flows in the Fryingpan [Friday March 26], releases from the reservoir combined with Rocky Fork Creek are resulting in a flow of approximately 69 cfs. We anticipate that will continue through the end of March and into early April.

Please visit the Webpage and let me know what you think. And hopefully, I will see you in May.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas project coverage here.

Rio Grande Basin: Annual Rio Grande Compact Commission meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Although last year’s spring runoff came earlier than usual, Colorado sent 299,300 acre-feet of water across the New Mexico state line. The state also accrued a 1,500-foot credit…

The compact, signed in 1938, uses a sliding scale that allows Colorado to keep much of its water in dry years while hiking delivery requirements in wet years. In a year with an above-average snowpack, flows in excess of 560,000 acre-feet on the Rio Grande must be sent downstream. On the Conejos River, which is managed by a similar sliding scale, flows in excess of 224,000 acre-feet must be delivered to New Mexico in an above-average year…

Colorado State Engineer Dick Wolfe, who serves as the state’s commissioner, said they would keep a close eye on the efforts of the other two states to deal with endangered species like the silvery minnow and the southwest willow flycatcher, which impact how the other two states manage the Rio Grande. Although Colorado is working on a habitat conservation plan for the flycatcher, a small bird, the management decisions the other two states have to make on the river for the species have not effected Colorado.

San Luis Valley water leaders Doug Shriver and Ray Wright died in a freak snow-slide accident a while back. The Compact Commissioners passed a resolution acknowledging their efforts. Here’s a report from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier.

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: The Casper Star-Tribune editorial board sounds off

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From the Casper Star-Tribune:

Seeking to blunt the fierce opposition from southwest Wyoming communities to the plan to carry water across Wyoming from the Green River Basin to Colorado’s Front Range, supporters of the pipeline have courted eastern Wyoming communities for support. It appears they’ve had some success: Cheyenne, Torrington and Laramie County have joined a coalition of public entities, most in Colorado, that has launched a two-year study of building a water pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir across southern Wyoming to the Front Range. A competing private pipeline project, pushed by Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million, also has drawn some support from eastern Wyoming entities. But the pipeline backers’ political savvy doesn’t mask the fact that there are serious environmental and economic questions about the proposed transbasin pipeline. As we’ve said before, the potential damage to southwest Wyoming likely can’t be outweighed by benefits to other cities, and it’s difficult to see much benefit accruing to the state from any aspect of the project…

Even if it’s determined there would be little harm to Wyoming, the very idea of a transbasin water diversion raises a red flag. Natural watercourses have been dammed and diverted for many years across the West to benefit people, but hindsight has shown that environmental harm from some of those projects outweighs the benefits. Do we really want to risk further environmental degradation by shipping water across the Continental Divide?
If there’s not enough water to support the current rate of population growth along Colorado’s Front Range without importing it from elsewhere, perhaps development should be slowed. At the very least, it would be nice if Colorado kept its internal water worries to itself.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Supply Project coverage here.

HB 10-1051 (Water Efficiency Plans Annual Reports) and HB 10-1358 (Water-smart Homes)

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From The Denver Post (Yesenia Robles):

[HB 10-1051] (pdf), sponsored by Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, and Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, requires water providers to annually report water usage instead of doing so every seven years. “We’re just getting a little more specific, and of course making it more frequent. A lot of things happen over seven years,” Whitehead said. Whitehead said the purpose of having more recent and specific information funneled to the Water Conservation Board is to keep track of the conservation efforts of many water providers and to find gaps in the efforts. Some water providers expressed concerns about the costs of reporting the information. Whitehead said the information is already gathered, so financial impacts should be minimal.

The other bill, [HB 10-1358] (pdf), will require all home builders to offer water-efficient appliances and fixtures, including washing machines and shower heads, as options for home buyers. Johnston and Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, who sponsor the bill, said now is not the time to make it a requirement to use those appliances. They said they expect that in the long run most people will make that choice — if they have it — when they realize the savings on their water bills.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

But that brings up the idea that so much of the water that could come in a potentially wet year like this — Pueblo precipitation is about 25 percent above average — just flows down the river. “We can waste enough water between now and the end of June to raise a crop,” Mauch said…

Snowfall in the last month has gone up from 89 percent to 109 percent in the Arkansas River Basin, mostly in the Southern mountains. The accumulation above Pueblo remains slightly below average, but has increased abundantly in the past week with two storms moving through. Another is headed through the state today. “If this continues, we’ll have a big river this summer,” Mauch said. The Colorado River Basin, which provides water imported into the Arkansas River Basin, was only at 78 percent of average as of Friday…

Lake Pueblo had more than 265,500 acre-feet of water on Friday, almost 10,000 acre-feet more than would be allowed after April 15 to maintain flood control capacity under federal rules…

The water most likely to spill belongs to Aurora, Round Mountain Water District in Custer County and Victor in Teller County. Those communities have excess-capacity contracts with Reclamation and are outside the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Canal companies are under the gun to get water out of the reservoir stored under the 2008-09 winter water program or the 2009 Fry-Ark allocation by May 1. The waiver is subject to flows in the watershed above Pueblo Dam remaining below average, which for the time being they are.

Tri-Lakes area: Water Returns xeriscape educational workshops April 3 and April 17

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

Water Returns is coming to Monument April 3 with a xeriscaping essentials class and to Palmer Lake April 17 with a class that delves deeper into the process of saving water, and money, on landscaping elements. All classes are taught by industry professionals…

The April 3 program is $45 for the entire workshop, including lunch, or $15 per session. The April 17 workshop is $65 for design and irrigation or $40 for one or the other…

For more information or to sign up for a workshop, e-mail info@waterreturns.org or call 719-534-9960.

More conservation coverage here.

Poncha Springs and Salida are close to agreement on a regional wastewater system

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From The Mountain Mail (Sue Price):

Poncha Springs administrator Jerry L’Estrange said two agreements are being drafted – one to transfer sewer maintenance and operation to Salida and separate agreement for provision of services. Regional sewage rates will be part of the agreements.

The municipalities have disagreed about terms of a 2004 agreement and an unpaid $100,000 sewage treatment charge Salida officials claim is owed by Poncha Springs. Despite two marathon mediation sessions between Salida and Poncha Springs in August, an agreement wasn’t reached and Salida officials sued the town. L’Estrange said if the intergovernmental agreements are approved, “provisions of the lawsuit could go away.” City administrator Jack Lewis said the agreements would result in “a settlement of the lawsuit.”

More wastewater coverage here.

Longmont: City is turning dirt on Lykins Gulch stormwater project

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From the Longmont Times-Call (Rachel Carter):

If a 100-year flood were to hit the city, water would rush down Lykins Gulch, slam into the small ditch under Airport Road, run over the street and flood most of the land between Airport Road and Hover Street…construction finally began last month to reroute Lykins Gulch north to Golden Ponds. Crews also will build a new section of trail from Airport Road to the St. Vrain Greenway at Golden Ponds, and realign Rogers Road so it meets up with the west side of Airport Road, where the Air Care Colorado testing center is located.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: Costs increase to $490 million

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From Windsor Now!:

Water providers that are paying for and would receive water from the Northern Integrated Supply Project have updated the project’s cost estimate from the 2006 figure, noting that the price has gone up 15 percent to $490 million. The 11 cities and four water districts involved in NISP — in Weld and Larimer counties — continue to see it as the best and most affordable option for their future water supplies…

Much of the cost estimate change is based on participants’ decision to add capacity for pump plants and pipelines and increased storage at Galeton Reservoir, according to Northern officials. The changes would increase project efficiency and, with that, its sustainability. The updated Glade Reservoir cost estimate remains within the current construction cost index and inflation. Costs have also increased because of participants’ strong commitment to answering questions raised during the public comment period about water quality, hydrology and riparian corridor issues, said Kathy Peterson, who chairs the participant group.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Trout Creek: Medicine Bow-Routt foresters are asking for input for a proposed trout barrier

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

■ Comments can be e-mailed to comments-rocky-mountain-medicine-bow-routt-yampa@fs.fed.us. When submitting comments on the Web, the subject line must be “Trout Creek Fish Barrier” to ensure proper routing.

■ Written comments should be submitted to Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Attn: District Ranger, P.O. Box 7, Yampa, CO 80483. Telephone: 970-638-4516. Fax: 970-638-4635. When submitting comments, include full name and address.

■ Future documents and information on the Trout Creek Fish Barrier will be posted at www.fs.fed.us/r2/mbr/projects/wildlife. Members of the public may use the site to participate in the analysis.

More restoration coverage here.

CWCB: Should Colorado buy Animas-La Plata Project water?

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will hold a special meeting by telephone Monday morning to discuss the option. The state holds the right of first refusal to buy 10,460 acre-feet of water. If the state doesn’t buy it, the water would go to the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribes, which already own 33,050 acre-feet each behind the dam south of Durango…

The Water Conservation Board is scheduled to decide Monday whether to support an amendment to the annual water projects bill. This year, the bill has only paltry sums to spend because the Legislature raided most of the state’s water bank accounts to help balance the budget. But the bleak budget situation changed last week, when a new economic forecast showed a slight improvement. Crucially, the forecast showed an uptick in gas and oil tax revenue, which by law is sent to the water accounts. The proposed plan would tell the state to contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for up to 10,460 acre-feet of water per year, paid for in three installments of $12 million starting in summer 2011. The cost works out to around $3,500 per acre-foot, or about a penny per gallon. That’s a bargain, Whitehead said. When he served on the CWCB, the board funded projects that cost up to $30,000 per acre-foot.

Water in the Animas-La Plata project is set aside for municipal use, not agriculture. But Whitehead said the state has many options for using the water. It could sell it to nearby entities that need water, like the Town of Bayfield or the La Plata West Water Authority. It also could use the water to comply with the Colorado River Compact, which requires California, Arizona and Nevada to get a share of the water in the Colorado River Basin.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District cuts connections

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In a letter to the Pikes Peak Authority, [Jessie Shaffer, manager of the Woodmoor District] said Woodmoor would voluntarily withdraw from participating in any Super Ditch lease because of the reaction of the Super Ditch board to Woodmoor’s Water Court filing for Arkansas River exchange rights. Late last year, Woodmoor filed for exchange of water rights it wants to purchase on the High Line and Holbrook ditch systems. Woodmoor serves about 8,400 people in northern El Paso County. A few customers in the district are actually in the South Platte River basin, but return flows from water use are routed into Monument Creek, which is a tributary to the Arkansas River, Shaffer said. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which was instrumental in forming the Super Ditch, in January voted to oppose the water court application. In February, the Super Ditch announced it would exclude Woodmoor in negotiations over a long-term leasing contract with the Pikes Peak group.

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The Super Ditch only works if they can score 11,000 acre-feet of storage in Lake Pueblo. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We can stair-step the exchanges up the river, rather than all at once into Lake Pueblo, although we could exchange into Lake Pueblo if the conditions are right,” said Peter Nichols, the attorney for Super Ditch…

“We’re making progress faster than most people would have thought possible,” Nichols said, adding that the first change of use case could be filed later this year. While a blanket change of use case for all seven ditches that could be part of the enterprise was first envisioned, the Super Ditch will file a change case for each lease agreement to quantify the type of water being used and to avoid anti-speculation violations, Nichols said.

Super Ditch is working on an agreement with the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority that would begin delivering water next year to users in El Paso County. Bub Miller, Southeastern director from Otero County, asked how the Super Ditch would determine whose water to use. Nichols said the leases would be with individual farmers, but arranged by the Super Ditch board…

Engineering shows that with 85 percent of farmers on six of the ditches participating, up to 58,000 acre-feet of water could be exchanged in a very wet year. A lower figure of 25 percent was used for the Bessemer Ditch, because many of the water rights have been purchased by the Pueblo Board of Water Works or St. Charles Mesa Water District. Other ditches involved in Super Ditch are the Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford. In a dry year, with only 65 percent of farmers participating, the amount available would drop to just 3,600 acre-feet. The storage is seen as a way to balance the wet and dry years in order to fill contracts.

The City of Aurora is a potential customer of the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Aurora is a potential customer of the Super Ditch, which was established through studies by the Lower Ark district. Aurora is providing technical help for the Super Ditch as part of an agreement with the district. Beyond the physical limitations of moving water, permission is needed from the ditch companies involved, which could be complicated with Super Ditch, which could have involved shareholders on seven different ditches.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Ridgway: Spotted knapweed or herbicides on Uncompahgre River riparian areas through town?

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From The Telluride Watch (Gus Jarvis):

Majority opinion in Ridgway has forbidden the use of herbicides within town limits in the battle to eradicate weeds to the point where Town Council has passed a resolution that states that no chemical herbicides may be used. The problem, according to Mabry, is that the spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), a non-native species, is spreading like wildfire along the banks of the river and something needs to be done about it. Spotted knapweed is designated as a “List B” species on the Colorado Noxious Weed Act and it is required to be either eradicated, contained, ore suppressed depending on the infestation. “My biggest concern is the spotted knapweed down along the river,” Mabry declared at council’s March 17 work session, showing pictures from last summer proving the weed has a stranglehold on the riverbanks. “As you can see, it is forming a monoculture by forcing out all the native species down there. I see this as a critical problem.”

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Yuma: Sewer rates increase

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The council voted 5-1 in favor of the 33-percent sewer rate increase, raising the base charge from $12.50 per month to $16.60. Councilman Dan Baucke, who said he preferred a lower increase, cast the dissenting vote. Mayor Gene Seward, and councilmen Fred Raish, Ralph Ebert, Roc Rutledge and Shad Nau voted in favor. Councilman Sergio Sanchez, who initially introduced the increase, was absent due to having to work. The new rate is expected to generate $88,560 in new revenue. Possible uses include giving the Sewer Enterprise Fund’s reserves a needed boost, going toward the dewatering of the old sewer lagoons, and/or purchasing a new SCADA system, which controls the city’s water and sewer systems.

More wastewater coverage here.

Vail: Pink snow and the albedo effect

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From the Vail Daily (Sarah Mausolf):

There were at least 10 times last year when dust mixed with the snow, including two noticeable incidents when the snow took on a light pink tint, Macdonald said. In one case, the pink hue could be spotted on the mountain even after normal white snow fell later on. “When you skied a run, you turned and your tracks were pink,” Macdonald said. That pink color is what experts call “dust on snow” — a mysterious and in some ways irksome phenomenon that speeds up the snow’s melting process in the spring.

The dust originates in the Colorado Plateau, which sprawls across southwestern Colorado and parts of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, said Chris Landry, executive director of the Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies in Silverton. Those wind storms carry the dust into the Colorado mountains, where it mixes with snow…

The dust absorbs sunlight, causing snow to melt sooner than it normally would, Macdonald said. Dust can cause the snow to melt up to 50 days earlier, one study of southern Colorado’s Red Mountain Pass showed last year, Landry said.

HB 10-1188 (‘Row vs. Wade’) debate spawns 24 ballot initiatives for the November election

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A record 24 ballot initiatives about rafting were filed March 26. State Representative Curry — the legislator responsible for introducing the original bill that sparked this debate — warned the private property people that this might happen. It’s not unusual in a state with Colorado’s history of citizen initiatives to see some action but I think everyone is surprised by the number.

There is strong public sentiment in favor of a right to float as there are strong private property feelings.

I wonder if the state legislature will pass something for a vote in November?

Here’s a report from The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels). From the article:

“We knew this was coming, but not 20 measures,” said Rep. Kathleen Curry, U-Gunnison, who sponsored the rafting bill. House Bill 1188, dubbed “Row vs. Wade” by House Republicans, would allow rafters to float through private property with incidental contact and not be accused of civil or criminal trespass…

Curry and others speculated that the river-rafting proposals might be pulled if some sort of compromise is reached. Outdoor enthusiasts said they filed their ballot proposals to ensure Colorado rivers stay open to the public. “We’re glad we did,” said Duke Bradford, spokesman for the Colorado River Outfitters…

But Eric Anderson, spokesman for the Creekside Coalition, said the group was formed in 1994 and represents farmers, ranchers, anglers and private landowners. “Until we’re assured that the commercial rafters’ one-sided proposals are not moving forward this year, we need to keep our options open to ensure that property rights in Colorado are protected,” he said…

Both sides say they will stand down and withdraw their initiatives if a solution can be reached in the legislature; however, both sides want what the other appears unwilling to give. Curry nonetheless has indicated she will press on to conference committee to try and strip a Senate amendment from her bill that required the issued to be studied for the next six months.

Now the process of collecting enough signatures from registered voters begins.

More coverage from Curtis Wackerle writing for the Aspen Daily News. From the article:

On Friday, the deadline for filing text that could potentially make it onto the November ballot, rafting proponents filed two separate initiatives. Both would secure the right to float and make incidental contact with private property on the river bank without fear of trespass. One specifically mentions float fishermen. The proposals, however, do not limit the right to historically run rivers just to commercial rafting companies, as Curry’s bill did.

Bob Hamel with the Colorado River Outfitters Association said that the legislative bill attempted compromise, but if they go to the ballot box, right-to-float advocates will be asking for everything they want. “We need the support” of all manner of boaters: commercial, private, whitewater and float fishermen, Hamel said.

Property rights groups filed 20 prospective ballot initiatives of their own on Friday, all with some variation of the theme that boaters cannot float through private property without the consent of the landowner. “The public has no right to use the waters overlaying private property for recreational purposes without the consent of the owner of the private property,” reads one version of the ballot question. Other initiatives filed by property rights groups explicitly state that river outfitters, not private landowners, are liable for any injury, death or damage that occurs while floating the river. A statement from a group called the Creekside Coalition paints the ballot initiatives as a counterplay to what it calls “a fundamental and far-reaching political assault on private property rights and the state’s agricultural heritage” by the rafting industry.

More Colorado November 2010 elections coverage here.

Energy policy — coalbed methane: Governor Ritter signs SB 10-165 giving operators more time to score the necessary paperwork

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From the Associated Press via the Grand Junction Free Press:

Gov. Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 165 extending the deadline. State Engineer Dick Wolfe has said he needs the bill to keep his office from being overwhelmed with paperwork.

SB 165 also gives companies limited permission to use produced water from their gas wells.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here. More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Mesa County: Highline Lake is open

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

After a weather delay, Highline Lake State Park is now open to all boaters, jet skiers, water skiers, and wake boarders. As part of the statewide fight to curb the spread of aquatic nuisance species, including zebra and quagga mussels, all vessels entering and leaving Highline Lake will be inspected for nuisance species. If any are detected on any watercraft, decontamination is required…

Also, catchable rainbow trout have been delivered to Mack Mesa Lake.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Colorado-Wyoming Coalition makes it official becoming the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project

Proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline

It’s official now. Aaron Million and the Million Resources Conservation Group now have another obstacle to overcome in their quest to move water from the Green River Basin to the South Platte Basin and Arkansas Basin. Frank Jaeger (Parker Water and Sanitation) and several Front Range and Wyoming water providers have announced a study aimed at determining the feasibility of building the same pipeline with public dough and public partners. When Million first heard about Jaeger’s plans some time around the Colorado Water Congress’ convention in 2009 he told The Pueblo Chieftain’s Chris Woodka, “Let’s be clear: They’re trying to steal the project. I don’t understand the deal. They’re supposed to be men of honor. They should act as such.” Here’s a report about yesterday’s announcement from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Each utility in the coalition will contribute $20,000 to a feasibility study for a massive municipal water pipeline project called the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project, which would pipe water for 532,000 people from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range. The coalition of utilities includes the town of Castle Rock, the Donala Water-Sanitation District in Colorado Springs, Parker Water and Sanitation District, the South Metro Water Supply Authority and Douglas County in Colorado and Laramie County, Wyo., and the Wyoming cities of Cheyenne, Torrington and Rawlins.

The project may mirror Million’s proposed 500-mile long pipeline, which would take about 250,000 acre feet of water from the Green River above Flaming Gorge Reservoir, pipe it over the Continental Divide along Interstate 80 and deliver it to thirsty Front Range water providers, mostly agricultural. The difference is that Million’s project is private and concerns only Colorado water organizations, while the Colorado-Wyoming project has the cooperation of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and would serve only municipal water utilities in two states.

Parker Water District Manager Frank Jaeger said in a statement that Million’s proposed pipeline does not meet a federal requirement calling for Million to specify the recipients of the project’s water. Jaeger said letters of interest from various utilities throughout the Front Range lack commitment. “Given (Million’s) project cost, it is our belief that a massive subsidy from municipal users would be necessary to pay for the water,” Jaeger wrote. He said it’s bad public policy for Colorado to support Million’s project because it allocates limited Colorado River Basin water for agriculture without meeting the water needs of cities…

The utilities have “no preconceived notion” about the feasibility of a Flaming Gorge pipeline going into the two-year study, which will show how much water the interested cities and counties need in the future, how water would be piped from Flaming Gorge and how much the project might cost, said Bruce Lytle, one of the consultants working on the study…

At a news conference Thursday at the Capitol, the announcement was met with enthusiastic support from several state lawmakers, including Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton; Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Douglas County; Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker; and Rep. Su Riden, D-Aurora.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“This would develop the compact rights of two states. Those Colorado River rights have not been developed much for municipal and industrial uses,” said Frank Jaeger, Parker Water and Sanitation District manager at a press conference at the state Capitol Thursday. “This is the first move of the group to see how we develop the water for two states.”[…]

The Colorado users are almost entirely dependent on water from the Denver Basin aquifers which have been depleted as Front Range communities have grown. They are looking at new sources of water, including buying agricultural water rights in the Arkansas River Basin. For example, Donala last year purchased a Lake County ranch for the water rights, and the South Metro district included a possible pipeline from the Arkansas basin in its long-range water supply plan. “We are looking at the project and other alternatives,” said Rod Kuharich, manager of the South Metro District, which encompasses 14 water providers serving 300,000 people. Of the coalition, he said: “This is an unprecedented level of cooperation.”

Wyoming has looked at developing water from the Green River Basin since the 1970s. Bringing water to the eastern part of the state would address water quality and supply issues. It also would alleviate pressure on the state from Nebraska under a North Platte River compact with Nebraska, said Torrington Mayor Leroy Schafer…

The pipeline concept is similar to Aaron Million’s plan, announced in 2006, and now being evaluated as the Regional Water Supply Project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Million proposes a 560-mile pipeline that he says could be developed for about $3 billion. Last year, he accused Jaeger of trying to “steal” the project. Although Million and Jaeger tell the story differently, it nearly came to blows outside a meeting last year — Million says he was threatened, while Jaeger claims he was provoked. Jaeger brushed aside a question from the media Thursday about whether the coalition’s project is in competition with Million’s plan. “I don’t like to hear ‘competition,’ ’’ Jaeger said. “We are end users with a need for the water. . . . How’s he going to build it without end users?”[…]

The coalition’s plan could differ in details from Million’s, said Bruce Lytle, president of Lytle Water Solutions, the lead consultant. “This is the first phase. We don’t know the size, type of structures or feasibility,” Lytle said. “We’re talking to member agencies to understand what their needs are.” The project will be developed with the Bureau of Reclamation to address needs for the environment and power at Flaming Gorge. It would look at exporting variable amounts of water, more in wet years, less in dry, Lytle said. The project could use three existing reservoirs on the North Platte River, new off-channel storage in the South Platte and existing structures like Parker’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 75,000 acre-foot vessel just beginning to fill and designed to accommodate new water brought into the South Platte Basin. “The ultimate purpose of the feasibility study is to provide enough information to providers so they know how much it costs,” Lytle said, noting that work will begin immediately and will take 18-24 months to complete…

While Million has spent the last four years pitching his project around the state, major water suppliers have been cautious about supporting it. Earlier this month, the Arkansas and Metro basin roundtables agreed to ask the Colorado Water Conservation Board for funding to study setting up a task force proposed by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to look at both projects. At its meeting last week, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District agreed with that approach, rather than endorsing either project.

More coverage from the Associated Press (Ben Neary) via the Laramie Boomerang. From the article:

The project, if it goes forward, would require permission from Congress, but participants don’t believe they would have to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact, which allocates the river among Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Although it would be drawn from Wyoming, the water would come from Colorado’s allocated share of water in the Colorado River system. “The state of Colorado’s own State Water Supply Initiative clearly says that even with all the water projects currently in the pipeline, the Front Range and Platte River Basin will face significant water shortages in just a few decades,” said Frank Jaeger, general manager of Parker Water and Sanitation District, who organized the coalition.

Leroy J. Schafer, mayor of Torrington, Wyo., and a member of the coalition, said the project faces opposition from other Wyoming communities like Rock Springs and Green River that depend on the Colorado River Compact to ensure they get the water they need, but he believes they will support the project if it can be shown that it will allow them to use more water in drought years…

Jaeger said last year his district was meeting with entities in Colorado and Wyoming trying to start a similar, competing project to Million’s proposal. Jaeger said he believed that such a large project should be built by the public and he was concerned about the possibility of water speculation…

Participants and their projected water needs include the Parker Water and Sanitation District, 125,000 people; Castle Rock, 85,000; the South Metro Water Supply Authority, 190,000; Douglas County, 45,000; the Donala Water and Sanitation District, 7,000; Cheyenne, Wyo., 55,000; Torrington, 5,000; and Laramie County, 20,000.

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The idea could affect the whole Western Slope because it would use water from Colorado’s share of the Colorado River Compact…

Western Colorado water officials have been skeptical about the Flaming Gorge plan, because it would use water from Colorado’s share of the seven-state Colorado River Compact. Jaeger said there’s nothing wrong with studying the option. “The Colorado River Compact was set up to develop water for the entire state of Colorado and the entire state of Wyoming, so I don’t think we’re out of bounds in investigating it,” Jaeger said…

No one can agree how much water is left to Colorado under the compact. In the worst-case estimates of long-term droughts or a warmer climate, Colorado already is using all of the water it legally owns. The state government is working on a model to get a better answer to the question. Leaders at the Western Slope’s largest water district have no problem with Front Range utilities doing a study, but they hope it takes into account climate change and drought, said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “It doesn’t matter who’s looking at the project, the same issues stand. We need to get further into the Colorado River Water Availability Study to see how much water is left to develop,” Pokrandt said.

More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here. More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Craig: City council approves water supply line project

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From the Craig Daily Press (Brian Smith):

At its Tuesday meeting, the Craig City Council approved, 6-0, to allocate $25,000 more in installation costs to replace 1055 feet of water line on Steele Street. The contract is an extension to a previous contract with Mike Anson, of Anson Excavating, that the city approved by the City Council in August 2009.

The previous project spent more than $400,000 in energy impact grant and city water funds to replace old iron pipes with new PVC piping to carry drinking water to residents.

More infrastructure coverage here.

CWCB: Joint Meeting of the Water Availability & Flood Task Forces recap

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Here are my notes from today’s meeting:

Water Supply

Nolan Doesken (State Climatologist) summed up the water outlook for this season pretty well, “It’s not too late to get better, but It’s too late to get a lot better, unless something wild happens.”

He detailed precipitation from around the state. In Northeast Colorado Burlington had its wettest year on record at over 30 inches and with the good winter moisture so far this water year they’ve had 40 inches of precipitation in 18 months. Akron is near normal. This is the fifth snowiest year in Fort Collins history. The weather station at the mouth of Waterton Canyon (Kassler) is near a record high. Boulder is also on the wet side. He didn’t talk about the Clear Creek or South Platte headwaters areas.

Mike Gillespie (NRCS) said that the snowpack in South Platte Basin is ahead of the years 2002-2004 at 86% as of today. He said that the SP basin would need 206% of average over the next few weeks to get to the normal peak while storage in the basin is at 104%. He added that last summer’s season was better for storage than the previous 8-9 years.

His streamflow projections were from the March 1 Basin Outlook Report (K:\Water Resources\Daily Downloads\borco310.pdf). A new report will probably hit 2 weeks from tomorrow. The current streamflow forecast compared to normal: Clear Creek , 69%; South Platte, 68%; and the Poudre, 70%.

An interesting note was that Lake Powell is at 60% of capacity with Lake Mead coming in at 45%. Things are very dry in the Upper Colorado Basin, Green River Basin and Yampa/White basins so there is not much chance for the two big reservoirs to come up this year. A teleconference participant from the Upper Colorado River Basin said, “It’s looking like 2002 in the upper basin.”

Flood Risk

Doesken said there is nothing right now that would add concern for volume flooding from snowmelt. However with the high moisture in the soil there is potential that spring and early summer rain could lead to flash flooding.

Another speaker (Chris ???) also addressed the flood risk saying that overall Colorado has a below normal flood risk for volume flooding from runoff. He added that the South Platte through the Denver area has a low chance of spring flooding as does the river at Kersey. He would not predict flash flood risk this early in the season.

A FEMA official echoed the minimal flood risk for Colorado this spring.

The CWCB maintains a Daily Flood Threat Website at: http://www.hdrwebprojects.com/COSWP/. It’s not active yet for this season.

Durango: City council explores regulating Animas through town

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From The Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews):

Provisions in a proposed river ordinance would have prohibited alcohol in closed containers, imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and required life jackets for recreational users. A curfew might still pass in some form, but the alcohol and flotation-device provisions likely will be scrapped because of enforcement and financial considerations. “I believe it’s excessive and would limit access to an affordable and cherished summertime activity,” said Councilor Doug Lyon of the life-jacket provision Tuesday at the study session…

Public consumption of alcohol is illegal on the Animas, but, as Durango Police Chief David Felice said, that’s not an easy law to enforce. “We were down there all last summer watching people with kegs over one shoulder getting into rafts, and there’s nothing we can do. We saw it all day long; we can only cite once it’s open,” he said. What DPD officers would occasionally do is watch for consumption from the shore, follow subjects to the take-outs and issue citations. Felice said strict enforcement can even provide an incentive for drinkers to ditch their cans and bottles, and make collecting evidence more difficult for Felice’s officers.

More Animas River coverage here and here.

HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): State senate morphs bill into a study

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Here’s a long recap of the issues around HB 10-1188, from Forrest Whitman writing for the Weekly Register-Call/ Gilpin County News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Last summer Greg Felt said he’d rather die than give up his right to float. Felt is one passionate boater! He laments that despite the fact the state licenses river guides and the federal government issues permits on individual rivers, boaters still paddle under the legal cloud of civil trespass. Last summer he asked, “Do boaters have to become lawyers?” Greg tells some hair-raising tales, including being “sighted in” by a rifleman (who didn’t shoot). For now he’s going to keep floating, he says, no matter what. Said he, it’s “float or die”…

Law gets worked out anew in each generation and river law is no exception. The Curry bill now being debated in the CO State Senate is just one more part of that working out. [Colorado’s first Territorial Governor, Willaim Gilpin] had great faith in the wisdom of “the Great Coloradoan people” to figure out these questions. If we ever do guarantee a right to float, old William Gilpin will be smiling down from the golden dome in Denver. He, at least, knew those boaters on Clear Creek have a right to be there.

More coverage from the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

In six years at the state Legislature, Rep. Kathleen Curry said she has never been involved in a more controversial bill than her “right to float” bill, which the state Senate last week punted to a study committee…

The bill [is] back [in] the House now, and Curry must decide what her next step is. She could go to a conference committee and attempt to convince some of her fellow legislators to move away from the study provision. She was not optimistic that she would end up with the support she needs to pass the bill without the study provision, however…

The amendment “turned the bill into a study, which is a waste of time,” Curry said, noting that studies of the issue have occurred before…

Rachel Nance, a legislative coordinator with the Colorado Association of Realtors, said her group was also concerned about infringing on private property rights. They felt that the proposal went too far, and that the status quo, which allows boaters to float down the middle of a river, but requires them to obtain permission to step on the banks on private land, is good enough, she said.

…the issue is not confined to the Taylor River, [Bob Hamel, head of the Colorado River Outfitters Association] said, noting a similar threat going into this summer on the Yampa River made by a landowner to a commercial float fishing company, and a long line of similar incidents for the past 30 years. “The problem is it keeps resurfacing,” Hamel said. Curry agrees. The state’s rafting industry “is wondering who is going to be next,” she said.

With Curry and the rafting industry opposed to the study provision, forces are gathering for a November ballot question on a right to float law. Should that happen, the ballot language would likely be less friendly to landowners than the compromise bill Curry had carried. For example, a ballot question would likely include private boaters, which Curry’s bill excluded, and would likely include the portage provision. The deadline to file language initiating a ballot question is Friday. “If you think it’s big fanfare now … just wait until we go on TV,” Hamel said.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Monte Vista: City council approves chlorine dosing for water system

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From The Monte Vista Journal:

Last Thursday, City Manager Don Van Wormer told the Monte Vista City Council that the city is “in between a rock and a hard place” regarding the state’s requirement to chlorinate the City water system, and the last item to be voted on, chlorination, received unanimous approval. He told the council, after departmental reports, that it would possibly exceed $10,000 to fight the state mandate to chlorinate, inclusive of attorney fees, expert witness testimony, and other related costs.

More water treatment coverage here.

Brush: City council approves first application for wastewater services for outside the town limits

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Jesse Chaney):

The Brush City Council on Monday approved the first application it received for wastewater utility service outside the city limits. Robert Pennington applied for service to his rural Brush property, 16038 County Road 28. “I do appreciate it, that’s the main thing,” Pennington told the council. “I’m somewhat frustrated by the length of time it took to get the job done.” Brush Attorney Robert Chapin said Pennington and others who receive the rural utility service must pay double the normal fees and agree to have their land annexed into the city when possible.

More wastewater coverage here.

Cortez: Dolores River Dialogue meeting recap

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

Representatives from every major stakeholder group in the Dolores River watershed flooded the Dolores Water Conservancy District offices Tuesday for the first full meeting of the Dolores River Dialogue since October 2008. Among the items on the agenda were a presentation on the progress of the Lower Dolores Plan Working Group and a discussion of DRD restructuring. Presentations were also given on native fish populations in the Dolores, recent findings regarding salinity, the work done by the Dolores River Restoration Partnership and information on the 319 Watershed Study…

Created to examine alternatives to a Wild and Scenic River designation for the Dolores River, the group has spent the last year identifying and brainstorming around the plethora of issues involved in river protection. In early December, the group moved into the recommendation phase of the project, mindful of a June 2010 deadline to present recommendations to the Dolores Public Lands Office. “They have come up with 15 consensus recommendations,” [Facilitator Marsha Porter-Norton] said. “The recommendations are pretty solid, but this isn’t the report of the group. I would call them the bulk, but there could be some more recommendations arising.”[…]

The initial recommendations put forward by the group include a desire to continue monitoring and documenting priority archaeology and cultural resources; wildfire management by the Dolores Public Lands Office; the denial of Bradfield Bridge as a launch site at the present time; allowing a viable put-in/take-out to remain in place in the Slickrock area, although a partnership is needed to meet various needs; management of the Big Gyp recreation site rather than decommissioning the site; a continuation of the “first come/first served” policy around usage of campsites; continued partnerships for the management of tamarisk and other invasive plants; and maintaining current management practices of the four-wheel-drive road along the river from the pump station to Slickrock. Through the recommendation process, the group concluded that primary river protection must be secured to ensure the efficacy of the other action steps. “The key thing they have decided is the need for special legislation that would set up some type of area in the Lower Dolores,” Porter-Norton said. “This was arrived at by consensus at the March meeting – something that would be alternative to the Wild and Scenic designation…

In seeking an alternative to Wild and Scenic designation, the group finds itself balancing the need for environmental protection against the desires of recreational use and private land ownership. “There are really two things,” Porter-Norton said. “One is to protect the area, and yet it would also respect the economic development and private property rights. I think the group understands that the area needs to be protected and also that there are a lot of private interests involved.”[…]

The next meeting of the Dolores River Dialogue will take place in the fall. The Lower Dolores Plan Working Group will meet next at 5:30 p.m. April 19, at the Dolores Water Conservancy District. For more information, contact Porter-Norton at 247-8306. On the web: Dolores River Dialogue, http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/drd/.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs Utilities agrees to provide water to customers of the Cherokee Metropolitan District

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Eileen Welsome):

The Colorado Springs City Council has tentatively OK’d a deal that will enable its city-owned utility to provide water to a troubled district located in an unincorporated area of El Paso County. That agreement means homeowners living within the Cherokee Metropolitan District will have a reliable source of water for the next two years, but they’ll be paying 22 percent more than what Colorado Springs residents pay. “It’s expensive,” Kip Petersen, Cherokee’s general manager, said Wednesday…

In recent years, the district’s been plagued by problems after losing a total of 60 percent of its water rights in two rulings in Water Court. As a result, homeowners have seen their water bills skyrocket…

In order for Colorado Springs Utilities to provide water to the Cherokee district, city councilors agreed in a 6-2 vote to temporarily suspend a portion of the City Code that forbids the utility from providing water to customers outside the city limits unless certain conditions are met. That provision was enacted to discourage development that would siphon off the city’s share of sales tax collections. But with the construction of the $1.1 billion Southern Delivery System about to begin, Utilities is looking at developing regional partnerships. Councilman Tom Gallagher, who cast one of the dissenting votes, suggested that any changes in the City Code need to be approved by the public. “My job is to abide by the City Code, not change it at the convenience of Utilities,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve now established a precedent.”[…]

According to a fact sheet on the Cherokee Metropolitan District’s Web site, it will cost the district $1.8 million to obtain 500 acre feet of water from Utilities…

Utilities officials said the revenue from the Cherokee agreement will not be considered surplus, but will be used to offset the cost of current operations. “It’s a good deal for both of us,” said CSU spokesperson Patrice Quintero.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: This week’s storms boosts mountain snowpack

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From the Associated Press (Catherine Tsai) via the The Aspen Times:

The National Weather Service said 23 inches of snow fell by Wednesday morning in Jefferson County west of Denver and about 9 inches in Denver. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche warning for Front Range mountains. Eldora ski area near Boulder picked up 18 inches of new snow, but the Western Slope saw lesser amounts. Aspen-area ski slopes picked up 5 to 7 inches of fresh snow. Still, the storm boosted the mountain snowpack, which accounts for much of Colorado’s water when it melts during the warm months. As of Wednesday, the snow totals were below average in the northern half of the state and roughly average in the south…

Aspen Mountain was reporting 6 inches of new snow — on top of 21 inches of new snow that piled up last weekend. Snowmass reported 7 inches over the past 24 hours; it has seen 25 inches of new snow since the weekend storm that moved in Friday. Aspen Highlands picked up 5 inches (24 since last weekend) and Buttermilk reported 5 inches (23 since last weekend)…

At ski resorts elsewhere around the state, Powderhorn reported 10 inches of new snow over the past 24 hours, while Breckenridge picked up 8 inches. Most resorts reported totals in the 5- to 6-inch range, though Steamboat had 2 inches, Telluride reported 3, and Wolf Creek and Crested Butte both picked up just an inch.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Vanessa Miller):

So far this season, 122.9 inches of snow have been measured in Boulder, including the 11.6 inches that fell Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, snarling traffic and breaking tree limbs. That already ranks it as Boulder’s eighth-snowiest season, but Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch said an average April brings a foot of snow, and last April brought 20.4 inches. “It’s definitely not over yet,” he said.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Maria St. Louis-Sanchez):

By the time the storm started dying down early Wednesday, northern El Paso County had up to 11 inches and Chipita Park in Ute Pass had a foot on the ground.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The latest storm to roll through Colorado delivered snow from Steamboat all the way down to Wolf Creek, with the brunt of the action along the Front Range, where Eldora and Echo Mountain both picked up more than a foot of snow…

In the Summit-Eagle resort corridor, ski areas reported 5 to 8 inches, with the highest total at Breckenridge. Loveland and Copper reported 6 inches. Similar amounts were reported by the Aspen ski areas.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

The storm that moved into the area late Tuesday afternoon and snowed most of the night dumped anywhere from 2 to 10 inches of snow across Weld, with the heavier amounts in the western part of the county. The University of Northern Colorado, the official weather site for Greeley, got 6.1 inches.

Dryland farmers who grow winter wheat and other small grains depend on Mother Nature for moisture, so the early spring storms are important. That’s especially true for the winter wheat, which is planted in the fall, goes dormant, then starts to grow in early spring. Harvest of that crop usually starts in early July. “It was just ideal,” said Jerry Cooksey of Cooksey Farms southeast of Roggen in southeast Weld. He estimated that area got 6 inches of snow with 1 inch of moisture…

Darrell Hanavan, director of Colorado Wheat Growers, said the latest storm “came exactly in the area where we needed it most,” which was in the area west of Limon. East of Limon, he said, has received good moisture since the first of the year.

From the Longmont times-Call (Pierrette J. Shields):

As of 6 a.m., Times-Call weather consultant Dave Larison said Longmont had received 8 inches of snow from the latest storm, bringing the seasonal total to 67.6 inches — the eighth highest total on record. Longmont’s snowfall data goes back exactly 100 years to the 1909-1910 season. The seasonal average is 45 inches.

Ruedi Reservoir: The Ruedi Water and Power Authority announce boating season inspections

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From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart):

Ruedi Reservoir boaters will face mandatory inspections for invasive mussels every weekend this summer under a beefed-up effort spearheaded by the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. Last summer, the Colorado Division of Wildlife arranged for a roving inspection unit to set up occasionally at the Ruedi boat ramp. This year, the DOW is focusing its efforts on heavily used Front Range reservoirs, leaving Ruedi out of the loop, according to Mark Fuller, RWAPA director. “Nobody else seems to want to deal with it, frankly,” he said…

The inspection station will operate Friday through Sunday, from the Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends. The authority will contract with a private concessionaire, California-based Rocky Mountain Recreation, to run the operation. The outfit conducted boat inspections at Twin Lakes Reservoir last year and comes highly recommended by the DOW, according to Fuller…

The hope is to expand the program in future years, but this summer, boaters will be on the honor system to make sure they’re complying with state regulations aimed at halting the spread of mussels when the inspection station isn’t running, Fuller said. “It’s kind of a cross-your-fingers deal,” he said.

Ruedi is currently considered mussel-free, according to Fuller. In a survey of Colorado reservoirs by the DOW and Bureau of Reclamation, it ranked low on the list of vulnerable bodies of water, he said. “Ruedi was close to the bottom of those rankings, partly because it’s a high-altitude, cold-water reservoir, and partly because it’s remote,” Fuller said…

Go to the DOW website — http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/MandatoryBoatInspections.htm — for details on boat regulations regarding mussel inspections and decontamination.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Roaring Fork Conservancy warns that Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project will include transmountain water

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Nestlé Waters North America announced last year that they had struck a deal for augmentation water from Aurora via Twin Lakes for the bottled water giant’s Chaffee County Project. Nestlé Waters’ plan is to truck 200 acre-feet or so out of basin to Denver for bottling. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is spreading the word in the valley, according to a report from Scott Condon writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

A plan by a subsidiary of Nestlé to bottle water near Buena Vista could have implications for the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers, the Roaring Fork Conservancy warned this week. It also signals that the beverage industry is on the prowl for high mountain spring sites in Colorado’s mountains — another potential threat to limited water supply of the Roaring Fork watershed, said Tim O’Keefe, education director for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit focused on water quality and quantity issues. “We’re trying to use what’s happening in [Buena Vista] to sound the alarm,” O’Keefe said…

Aurora diverts water from Grizzly Reservoir, about 10 miles east of Aspen. That water is piped via the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion Project to the east side of the Continental Divide, dumped into Lake Creek and stored in Twin Lakes Reservoir. Aurora also diverts water from the upper Fryingpan basin through the Busk-Ivanhoe Project to Turquoise Reservoir, which also feeds Twin Lakes. Numerous documents tied to the Nestlé plan indicate that Twin Lakes is among the sources Aurora can use to sell water to Nestlé to augment the Arkansas River, according to G. Moss Driscoll, an attorney who recently interned with the Roaring Fork Conservancy and helped with the position paper on bottled water. “There’s no doubt it will involve transbasin water,” Driscoll said.

[Aurora] intends to use water purchased from Lake County ranches and the Columbine Ditch to feed the Arkansas River directly and fulfill its augmentation contract. Water from Twin Lakes is listed as a possible source for augmentation, but is unlikely to be used, Baker said. Even if it is, very little comes from the upper Fryingpan and Roaring Fork drainages. The vast majority of Aurora’s water diverted from the mountains comes from Homestake Reservoir, another source that leads to Twin Lakes. In a strict accounting sense, some Roaring Fork water could be used to augment the Arkansas River, Baker said, but it would be a rare occasion and a small amount.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy counters that Nestlé’s bottling scheme is just another way, however small, that the Roaring Fork watershed is being tapped. “The two springs Nestlé is proposing to draw water from are fed directly by the Arkansas River, the flows of which are bolstered by transmountain diversions from the Roaring Fork Watershed,” the conservancy’s paper said. “On average each year, 37 percent of the runoff in the Upper Roaring Fork Subwatershed and 41 percent of the runoff in the Upper Fryingpan Subwatershed is diverted to the Arkansas River Basin.”

The conservancy is sponsoring the screening of a film called “Tapped” to educate people about the broader issues surrounding bottled water. The documentary is a “behind-the-scenes look into the unregulated and unseen world” of an industry that is trying to turn water into a commodity. It’s from the producers of “Who Killed the Electric Car” and “I.O.U.S.A.” The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. on March 31 at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and at 7 p.m. on April 6 at the Church at Carbondale. Tickets are $9.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.

Greeley: City council approves easement acquisitions for new pipeline

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From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

The pipeline will deliver water from Greeley Canal No. 3 to the Poudre Ponds located off north 35th Avenue, said Jon Monson, water and sewer director. The Lower Cache la Poudre River Stewardship Project will help meet the city’s water storage needs in lined gravel pit reservoirs.

More Greeley coverage here.

Boulder Reservoir Master Plan public meeting April 7

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From the Boulder Daily Camera:

The city of Boulder is looking for public input on Phase II of the master plan, which involves analysis of various alternatives for the plan. For more information on Phase II, visit www.BoulderRez.org. The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 7 at Calvary Bible Church, 3245 Kalmia Ave.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Snowpack news: Lake Pueblo may spill

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The South Platte River Basin is up to 86% of average this morning. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right to see the picture for the whole state. Don’t give up keep doing your rain dances or whatever you’ve been doing. It’s working.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

“We’ve had a fairly wet year (in southeast Colorado), so the agricultural users of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project that get their water from Pueblo haven’t taken all of it yet. So that’s sitting in the reservoir still,” said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the reservoir and the Fry-Ark project that diverts water to the reservoir from the Western Slope. “Some of that water has to be out by May 1 or they lose it.” The water level is 14 feet higher than normal for late March, and 17 feet below the overflowing point in the reservoir, Lamb said. To accommodate the swell in river levels with the spring melt-off, the Bureau will begin releasing the water May 1.

The water is owned by farmers and a few municipalities, Aurora being the largest, under contracts that let them store it there until April 15 – though they were given a one-time waiver this year to store it until May 1. Colorado Springs, as a city in the basin and a Fry-Ark project partner, does not stand to lose any water, said Utilities water resources manager Wayne Vanderschuere…

[Aurora] could lose 5,000 acre-feet – 1.6 billion gallons. While Aurora Water Department spokesman Greg Baker said officials hope to find someone to use it, southeast Colorado farmers don’t need it, so the water may have to be simply released downstream. He said Aurora’s other water supplies are in good shape…

Mike Gillespie, snow-survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, doubts snow levels will recover in central and northern Colorado, even with a big spring storm expected to hit this week. “With a less than average water availability, we definitely see the more junior water rights go un-met. I don’t know if it’s going to be that severe yet this year, but it has the potential for that,” Gillespie said…

Vanderschuere said that occurs most summers, though this year it could be earlier. But with snowpack in the Arkansas River Basin at 107 percent and in the Hoosier Pass area – near the city’s Blue River pipeline – at 94 percent, and good snowpack on Pikes Peak, he is not worried…

Colorado Springs Utilities water storage (as of March 14): System-wide: 77.3 percent of capacity

From the Boulder Daily Camera:

A winter storm warning remains in effect for the Front Range foothills, Boulder and Denver through 6 p.m. Wednesday. The National Weather Service forecast calls for another 1 to 4 inches on Wednesday, with snow tapering off by afternoon. Total snow accumulation is expected to be between 12 and 18 inches.

Lower South Platte River artificial wetlands update

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The loss of duck habitat in the South Platte River basin, which is at least partly the result of man-made alteration of the river to make it flow like a channel, is likely a major reason for a decline in duck populations by as much as 50 percent in some parts of eastern Colorado.

The newly created duck habitat is designed to mimic natural conditions. Colorado has gained 16,000 acres of artificial wetlands at about 100 areas along the South Platte, with plans for another 11,000 acres by 2014, funded in part by $1.5 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Hundreds of duck hunters held banquets and auctions statewide, and ponied up $150,000 for the effort.

Water is pumped and piped from the South Platte to ponds carved out of adjacent prairie. This water then is routed through sloughs and filtered back into the river’s main stem. Diversion of water into wetlands is done during low-demand periods and builds water credits for participating landowners, giving some the ability to draw water for farming…

The long-term future for waterfowl looks bleak, said Dave Sharp, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. “Our needs for water are only going to grow,” Sharp said. Dams and diversions for cities and farming “take away those natural pulses, like in the spring. The flooding that used to occur no longer occurs,” he said. Woody vegetation also is taking over sand bars essential for ducks.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.