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.