Aspinall Unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Current releases from Crystal Reservoir are about 600 cfs with corresponding flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge. Periodically, 100 cfs is diverted through the Gunnison Tunnel to fill Fairview Reservoir reducing flows to 500 cfs for 36 – 48 hrs. The preliminary March runoff forecast from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center shows an April through July inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir of 570,000 ac-ft. If this forecast holds through May 1st, the Black Canyon Water Right would call for a one day peak flow of 4035 cfs. At this time Reclamation plans to continue to operate the Unit to allow the water right to be met.

As a reminder, the April Aspinall Operations meeting is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on April 22nd at Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office in Grand Junction. The public is welcome. If you have possible agenda topics or questions please contact Dan Crabtree [ or 970-248-0652].

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.

Roaring Fork Valley governments ask Reclamation to manage Ruedi releases without disrupting the summer fishing season on the Fryingpan

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From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Basalt town government and the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, which represents some Roaring Fork Valley governments on water issues, want water releases from Ruedi kept below 250 cubic feet per second or less between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Flows at that level would not disrupt the trout fishing that Basalt’s economy depends on so heavily, says a letter sent to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The local entities also want the feds to pledge to keep water above the 85,000 acre feet level in Ruedi during the same period.

The reclamation bureau office in Loveland manages Ruedi water operations. The fish and wildlife service buys water that it “calls” virtually every summer, sending it downstream to boost flows on the Colorado River to benefit habitat for four endangered native fish. The amount varies because of complex agreements. The local governments claim the water releases weren’t managed well last summer. There were 23 days between June 1 and Sept. 1 that water flows on the Fryingpan River exceeded 350 cfs. That was “unprecedented,” said Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority.

Basalt fishing guides and town officials said poor fishing conditions hurt the town’s economy, which was already smarting from the recession. They want an agreement on flows with the federal agencies. “The Bureau manages rivers elsewhere in the state, i.e. Arkansas River, under regulated flow agreements that recognize the needs of local jurisdictions and incorporates those needs into river management,” the letter says. “Given the importance of the Fryingpan to the local and regional economy and given its broader importance as a fishery and a recreational resource, is it possible to take a similar approach to managing Ruedi and the Fryingpan?” The local governments also want releases timed to more closely follow natural patterns that the Fryingpan experienced before it was dammed…

Fuller said the reclamation bureau has pledged one change to try to keep Basalt officials better informed about water management. The bureau already hosts a meeting in Basalt in May to discuss water management forecasts based on the snowpack level. Agency officials have pledged to hold midsummer meets in Basalt as well to update the water management plan. Fuller said the extra meeting will help keep local officials better informed about changing conditions. “So hopefully we’re not taken by surprise like we were last summer,” he said. Securing an agreement for summer flows on the Fryingpan River at or below 250 cfs might not be so easy. Fuller said the reclamation bureau and wildlife service have “a lot of mandates.” Placating officials in the Roaring Fork Valley isn’t necessarily one of them, he said.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.

Energy policy — coalbed methane: La Plata County senior rights holders file lawsuit claiming the state engineer’s office is not protecting them with new produced water rules

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

The state engineer adopted rules this year to exclude many gas wells from added regulation. In Southwest Colorado’s San Juan Basin, only wells close to the basin’s edge will need plans for replacing water they use. In most cases, the state engineer ruled that the gas wells are too deep to affect streams and springs that ranchers use. But opponents, led by the Vances’ and Fitzgeralds’ lawyers, fought the rules. They said the state engineer relied too heavily on a map developed by the gas industry. They sued the state engineer Monday, seeking to overturn both the statewide rule and the map specific to the San Juan Basin. “We wish they’d done it right, but they didn’t,” said Alan Curtis, a lawyer with the firm…

Jim Martin, director of the Department of Natural Resources, was not aware of the lawsuit Tuesday, but he has said the state engineer’s office is trying to be fair to everyone without bringing the gas industry to a halt…

Also Tuesday at the Legislature, a House committee unanimously passed a bill to extend deadlines for gas companies to apply for water permits. Right now, gas companies are under a March 31 deadline to apply for thousands of water permits, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Vance ruling and a bill the Legislature passed last year. [Senate Bill 10-165: Adjust Oil and Gas Regulation] (pdf) extends the deadline to Aug. 1. Anything less would overwhelm the engineer’s office, Martin said…

Curtis and other opponents say a section of the bill could mess up Colorado water law by granting gas companies the right to use the water their wells produce. A water well permit is different from a water right. Well permits allow limited pumping from aquifers under a person’s land. The state engineer grants them. Only judges can grant a water right, which can allow water to be used, bought, sold and perhaps moved around the state. The Denver Water Department and several members of the Colorado Water Congress are worried about the bill’s future effects, said Sara Duncan of Denver Water. She led a Water Congress group that tried to reach an agreement about the bill. The group agreed to extend the deadline to apply for permits, but it split on saying what gas companies can do with the water they produce. Gas and oil companies joined Martin’s Department of Natural Resources to support the bill. It allows companies to use water they produce through their gas wells for things like dust control or mixing cement. This will cut down on fresh water use and truck traffic in the gas patch, Martin said.

The Legislature has never directly tackled the question of who owns produced water or how it can be used. Several members of the House Agriculture Committee said Tuesday that the Legislature will have to make a decision in a future year. “At some point in the future, we’re going to have to recognize the value that is in produced water,” said Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh.

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