CWCB: Combined Water Availability and Flood Task Force Meeting

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Below are my notes from yesterday’s meeting:

Water Supply

Nolan Doesken (Colorado State Climatologist) reported that, “Warm weather has kicked in.” There was an early heat wave in March which resulted in some minor flooding in the Wet Mountain Valley. Runoff has started and the, “green up is well underway,” he said. A heavy wet snow in early March really helped the Yampa Valley in Routt and Moffat counties.

The eastern slope and Sangre de Cristo Mountains have been wetter than average. He added that, “Grand Lake is the poster child for dry conditions in Colorado…No matter what happens across the state it seems to miss Grand Lake.”

Reports by weather station: Burlington still tracking at near record moisture; Akron is close to average; Fort Collins has had good moisture; and Kassler was tracking at near record moisture but is now at the average; Boulder is down to near average moisture for the water year.

Mike Gillespie (NRCS) reported that snowpack in the South Platte Basin is well below average at 75% of average on April 20. The peak was 89% of average on April 9. Storage in the basin is at 102% of average.

Clear Creek and the Poudre River are expected to have below average runoff this season.

Klaus Wolter (University of Colorado) reported that, “El Nino is starting to founder…It probably peaked in January.” He said that Colorado can expect 1-2 inches of moisture over the next two weeks from two storms. The cool temperatures over the next two weeks, “will slow snowmelt.”

Thomas Ley (Colorado Division of Water Resources) reported that streamflow in the Poudre is dropping as is the South Platte at Kersey. He felt that the reason was probably an increase in diversions with the start of irrigation season.

Flood Risk

As at the March meeting the National Weather Service representative rates the risk of flooding from snowmelt as very low. Conditions, “are not indicating any flooding due to snowpack.”

A representative from the Colorado Water Conservation Board asked all municipalities to send comments on the proposed new floodplain rules. Here’s the link: http://cwcb.state.co.us/NR/rdonlyres/98D13420-A1B5-4910-8EA2-345D2C53853A/0/FINALDRAFT2010Rules.pdf

Doesken took the opportunity to remind people that flooding does not always depend on high runoff in the streams. He said that Colorado’s largest flood occurred in 1999 (Pueblo County?) on April 30 in what had been a very dry year.

The CWCB flood threat webpage (http://www.hdrwebprojects.com/COSWP/) is still not active but CWCB staff indicated it would be up and running by May 1.

More CWCB coverage here.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announces President Barack Obama’s selection of James B. Martin to be the Agency’s Regional Administrator for EPA’s Region 8

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Here’s the release from EPA Region 8:

Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced President Barack Obama’s selection of James B. Martin to be the Agency’s Regional Administrator for EPA’s Region 8. This region encompasses Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and 27 Tribal Nations.

“I look forward to working closely with James Martin on the range of urgent environmental issues we face, in Region 8 and across the nation,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “At this moment of great challenge and even greater opportunity, I’m thrilled that James will be part of our leadership team at EPA. He will certainly play an instrumental role in our Agency’s mission to protect our health and the environment.”

Regional Administrators are responsible for managing the Agency’s regional activities under the direction of the EPA Administrator. They promote state and local environmental protection efforts and serve as a liaison to state and local government officials. Regional Administrators are tasked with ensuring EPA’s efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and programs, adherence to the rule of law, and transparency.

James B. Martin has worked in the environmental field for more than 20 years, most of them spent in Colorado. He most recently was the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, managing and administering a department of more than 2,000 employees that oversee the state’s environmental protection policies. He was also the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There he managed an organization of 1,225 employees with a budget of $470 million, with responsibility over both state environmental and public health programs. From 2005 to 2007, he managed a non-profit organization that focuses on energy, public lands, and water issues. In 2004, he headed the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado School of Law where he managed an interdisciplinary public policy think tank with a staff of lawyers, economists and scientists. He also taught advanced seminars on energy law and policy and land use planning. Martin spent a decade as the senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund in Boulder, Colorado and Oakland, California. Earlier in his career, he was State Director for then U.S. Senator Tim Wirth. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Knox College and his J.D. from Northwestern Law School, Lewis and Clark College.

Reclamation: Stimulus funds to pay for Flatiron Powerplant penstocks maintenance

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Department of the Interior announced today that the Bureau of Reclamation has awarded $12.2 million to contractor Abhe & Svoboda for the recoating of the Flatiron penstocks above Flatiron Powerplant in Loveland, Colo.

The work is being conducted under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as part of the package awarded to the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation received $1 billion of ARRA funding to restore aging infrastructure, repair aging dams, provide drought relief, and improve conservation of water across its five-region service area of the 17 Western United States.

“This contract will improve power plant efficiencies at the Colorado-Big Thompson Project,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “Recovery Act dollars are making a difference, not only updating aging infrastructures, but also putting Americans to work.”

The Flatiron Penstocks are an integral part of Reclamation’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project, in the Great Plains Region. The C-BT provides supplemental water to approximately 720,000 people in northeastern Colorado and generates hydroelectric power though a series of six power plants.

The protective coating on the penstocks is over 50 years old and in need of replacement. Recoating the penstocks includes removing the old paint from the exterior and interior of the pipes. In addition, new ultrasonic flow meters will be installed that will improve power plant efficiency.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in 2009 gave $3 billion to the Department of the Interior.

The ARRA funds represent an important component of the President’s plan to jumpstart the economy and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so the country can thrive in the 21st century. Under the ARRA, Interior is making an investment in conserving America’s timeless treasures – our stunning natural landscapes, our monuments to liberty, the icons of our culture and heritage – while helping American families and their communities prosper again. Interior is also focusing on renewable energy projects, the needs of American Indians, employing youth and promoting community service.
“With its investments of Recovery Act funds, the Department of the Interior and its bureaus are putting people to work today to make improvements that will benefit the environment and the region for many years to come,” Secretary Salazar said.

Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department’s economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on http://www.recovery.gov and on http://www.interior.gov/recovery. Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force to work closely with Interior’s Inspector General and ensure the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency set by President Obama.

More coverage from the Loveland Reporter-Herald. From the article:

The penstocks are large pipes that carry water from Pinewood Reservoir to the power plant behind Carter Lake, as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson water project, which provides water and power in northeastern Colorado. Lamb said the protective coating on the penstocks is more than 50 years old and in need of replacement. The contractor will remove the old paint from the exterior and interior of the penstock pipes, repaint them and install new ultrasonic flow meters to measure water flow and improve power plant efficiency.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Centennial Water & Sanitation District names Tim Gotheer as Director of Operations

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Here’s the release from the district:

Centennial Water & Sanitation District has named Tim Grotheer as Director of Operations. Grotheer will oversee operations of the water and wastewater plants that serve Highlands Ranch.

Grotheer brings 21 years of responsibility for all aspects of operations, maintenance, and administration of the Plum Creek Wastewater Authority (PCWA) in Douglas County. Duringhis tenure, PCWA received the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region VIII award for Excellence in Operations and Maintenance in 1994, and the National Award for Excellence in Operations and Maintenance from the EPA in 2000.

“Tim brings a long history of plant operations through his prior role as manager of the PCWA. He has been active in several regional organizations focused on water quality. His most recent role was managing a major construction contract for the Aurora Reservoir Water Purification Facility as an employee of Carollo Engineers,” said Centennial Water General Manager John Hendrick.

Grotheer gained familiarity with Centennial Water through his leadership in the Pankake Ranch land application project. He will be responsible for both water and wastewater plant operations in addition to other department leadership and administrative functions.

Grotheer is a graduate of Southern Illinois University with a BS in Industrial Technology. He earned an MS in Management from Regis University, and holds certifications in water and wastewater treatment, and water distribution and collection systems. Grotheer has been a member of the board and is also a past chair of the Chatfield Watershed Authority, and for four years chaired the Colorado Wastewater Utility Council. He served 10 years on the Colorado Water and Wastewater Plant Operator’s Certification Board and is involved in a number of water and wastewater organizations.

Over the past 30 years, Centennial Water has built a reliable and highly-respected water portfolio, based on a conjunctive use system, to serve its customers. Its major water source is surface water from the South Platte River, supplemented with groundwater from deep aquifer wells throughout Highlands Ranch.

For more information about Centennial Water & Sanitation District, which serves Highlands Ranch, please visit http://www.highlandsranch.org, or call 303-791-0430.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Marty Richardson named executive director of Friends of the Lower Blue River

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From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

Richardson took over as the local conservation organization’s executive director on March 30. In her new role, she will represent the nonprofit’s 150 dues-paying members in their efforts to protect the rural character and environmental values of the Lower Blue Valley, which stretches from Dillon Reservoir to the Colorado River near Kremmling…

Now among FLBR’s top issues is a proposal for improvements to Green Mountain Reservoir’s campground and boating facilities by the U.S. Forest Service. “We are really wanting to watch that whatever improvements are made at the reservoir are consistent with the Lower Blue Planning Commission and Friends of the Lower Blue objectives to preserve the rural character of the valley,” Richardson said.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.

State Representative Sal Pace may introduce another basin mitigation bill

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Last month, Pace queried the IBCC about what efforts it has undertaken to assure districts of origin aren’t harmed in water transfers. Last week, Eric Hecox, section chief for water supply planning of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, answered.

Hecox’s letter cited two examples of how the IBCC is addressing the transfer issue. One was a discussion of issues surrounding movement of water between basins and between uses. The other was a transfer committee of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which produced a report on the concerns associated with transfers of water from agricultural to urban uses, particularly in municipalities outside the basin. “The work of the Interbasin Compact Committee and Basin Roundtables is creating trust between parties and identifying solutions to our state’s water supply challenges,” Hecox’s letter stated.

“I was disappointed in their response,” [state Rep. Sal Pace] said. “They’re nowhere close, by their own admission, to brokering substantial mitigation for water transfers…

Pace said the roundtables’ work on transfer mitigation was the key to his bill’s defeat, because lawmakers had the impression that the matter was in hand. If it’s not, he said, another run at legislation may be in order next session. “I would consider bringing the bill back because so many legislators thought work was being done, that we now know clearly isn’t,” Pace said.

More IBCC — Basin roundtable coverage here. More HB 1-=1159 coverage here.