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.