The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), which funds many of these projects, is developing a simple, user-friendly permitting mechanism. Painted Sky and Westwater Engineering will support CWCB on this project. A public meeting to discuss this effort will be held Monday, April 12, at 7 p.m., at the Cedaredge Community Center. Kirk Russell, CWCB’s project manager, will be in attendance. Grand Mesa water providers are the key stakeholders in this project. Input is needed from these stakeholders to develop an alternative permitting mechanism. This effort will also include input from various federal and staff agencies.
Karen Rademacher, a senior water resources engineer with Northern Water, said reservoir storage within the district’s boundary is at record high and soil moisture is in excellent condition going into the growing season. But the high-mountain snowpack, in particular that area of the upper Colorado River where Northern gets its supplemental water supply for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, is dismal at best. That bad news, however, has improved somewhat in the past week, Rademacher said, with early spring storms dumping a lot of snow in the mountains…
That’s the scenario Northern’s board will face when it meets Friday to set this year’s quota for the C-BT, and while Rademacher said the staff decision has not yet been set in stone, chances are good for a 70 percent quota to start the year. That means for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder has, it will get 0.7 of an acre-foot it can use. An acre-foot is enough water to supply two families with a year’s supply of water. That water goes to both agricultural, as well as municipal and industrial users…
Because of the low snowpack, streamflow from the snowpack runoff is forecast at about 50 percent to 80 percent of average in the tributaries for both the Colorado and South Platte rivers. However, Rademacher and Jim Hall, head of the Division 1 office of the Colorado Division of Water Resources in Greeley, said reservoir storage throughout northern Colorado is at record levels. “It’s the best storage I’ve seen in the last 10 years,” Hall said of eastern Colorado reservoirs. And because of soil moisture, he said there has not yet been a call for water from the South Platte, which is unusual. “I won’t say we’re in a great situation, because streamflow at this point isn’t looking good. But soil moisture is good, and since we haven’t had a call on the river, so I would say that I’m very optimistic,” Hall said.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Kremmling Field Office snow surveyors Mark Volt and Matt Barnes took the April 1 snow survey measurements during the last days of March, when the monthly precipitation for the upper Colorado River Basin was a scant 68 percent of average. Snowpack in the mountains above Middle Park now ranges from 59 percent to 107 percent of the 30-year average, with the highest readings on the southeast side of the valley, and the lowest readings along Rabbit Ears Divide on the north side of the valley. This is slightly more snow than on April 1 in the drought years of 2002 or 2004…
Snow density is averaging 31 percent, which means that for a foot of snow there are 3.7 inches of water. This is less water than normal for this depth of snow on April 1. Muddy, Troublesome, Corral, and Willow creeks in Middle Park, and the North Platte River in North Park, have the lowest snowpack in the state. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Grand County and adjacent parts of Jackson and Routt counties are now in moderate drought, with northern Summit County and most of the rest of northwest Colorado abnormally dry.
Jim Martin, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, was the luncheon speaker for the 2010 Spring Water Users meeting of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District at the Radisson Conference Center. Martin said the [Environmental Protection Agency] has a major role in determining the approval of any of the nation’s proposed water projects, and that includes several in Colorado now in the planning and permitting process. Those include the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would provide an additional 40,000 acre-feet of water per year for 15 entities in northern Colorado, and the Windy Gap Firming Project, which provides a storage facility in a new reservoir west of Loveland. Both those projects are in the process of undergoing Environmental Impact Studies and, if approved, will be built in the next five to 10 years. The problem, Martin said, is that the EPA doesn’t get involved until after the Environmental Impact Study of a project is complete. “As a result, it doesn’t have the history of the planning that go into those projects. That’s a serious institutional problem and it’s one that I don’t have a solution,” Martin said.
More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here and here.
The subject [agriculture to urban tranfers and HB 10-1159] was revisited this week at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, an annual convention that brings together water interests up and down the river.
“The Colorado Water Congress had not taken a position on the bill. It died on a Friday and we were due to consider it the next Monday,” said Doug Kemper, director of the CWC, in remarks to open the forum. Kemper explained the CWC, a powerful lobby for state water interests, was divided about the bill, with some members making the argument that the IBCC was already working on mitigation issues.
“I think it’s something we need to look at,” said Jeris Danielson, a former state engineer who is now a water consultant. Among his clients is Aaron Million, who wants to build a pipeline from Flaming Gorge to Colorado’s Front Range. “That whole issue has to be examined.” Danielson has frequently advocated transmountain diversions as an answer to what he terms: “That giant sucking chest wound we call Denver.”
Denver will need an additional 700,000 acre-feet of water by 2050, and addressing that gap was the main reason the IBCC was formed in 2005 by the Legislature. Its work has been slow — some say glacial — with most of its time spent building trust and honing data. Members have shifted from making political statements early on to conducting tabletop exercises of which strategies — conservation, ag dry-up or imports — might work best to meet the gap. In January, at the CWC convention, Gov. Bill Ritter also pressed the IBCC to work faster and meet more often toward developing compacts within the state. “The days of Denver taking the water and saying, ‘see you,’ are over,” Danielson said. “But the Front Range will get the water. We need to make it palatable for everyone involved.”