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.