Energy policy — geothermal: Mt. Princeton Geothermal, LLC, update

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From Yahoo! (Joe Stone):

Interest in the location is motivated in part by Colorado’s mandated goal of generating 30 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2020. Another motivating factor is new technology that has lowered the
temperature threshold at which geothermal power generation becomes feasible. The new technology — already in use at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska and Thermo, Utah — works like an air conditioner in reverse. Instead of using a refrigerant to cool air, it uses hot water to vaporize the refrigerant, which then turns turbines attached to electrical generators. Once the heat is transferred from the water to the refrigerant, the water is returned to the underground reservoir, maintaining existing water levels…

Henderson said the feasibility of the project is unknown without drilling deep wells to obtain data on the underlying geothermal reservoir. Henderson hopes to find temperatures of 250 degrees in the deep exploratory wells, but the project will also need to prove “no damage to water quality, quantity or temperature.” Otherwise, the Colorado Division of Water Resources will not issue a permit for production, said Henderson. He believes that tapping the geothermal resource at depths greater than 2,000 feet will prevent any damage to the shallow aquifer that feeds local wells and hot springs.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Steamboat Springs: Yampa River Water Festival recap

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From Steamboat Today (Joel Reichenberger):

Steamboaters Luke Farny and Karsten Thompson tied for first place in the juniors rodeo, while 16-year-old Denver boater JP Griffith cut through the morning’s slalom course to win that competition…

Action was intense at Charlie’s Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs on the Yampa River for the second consecutive day. Saturday was about area veterans plying their trade on the water, but Sunday was about the children. They shined. Nearly a dozen kayakers took part, top performers ranging in age from 8 to 16. Farny stood out with his ride in the finals. He landed a kick flip as an entry move, then hung in front of the wave, spinning and twisting in the surf for nearly his entire allotted 90-second ride time. When he finally washed out, a second before a whistle signaled his time was over, he was able to paddle to shore with a wide smile.

More whitewater coverage here.

Rocky Flats: The Department of Energy hopes to breach dams located on the propoerty

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From the Broomfield Enterprise:

The DOE wants to demolish several dams on the site that hold surface water in retention ponds. Breaching the dams will allow water to flow and restore the wetlands and riparian habitat.

Local communities, including Broomfield, oppose the plan…

Comments will be accepted through June 1. They can be e-mailed to or mailed to Rocky Flats EA Comments, 11025 Dover St., Suite 1000, Westminster, CO 80021. For more information, call 720-377-9672.

Here’s the link (pdf) to the draft version of the DOE`s environmental assessment.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

La Plata County: 640 households sign up for water supply service

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The 640 commitments gathered in a month – each backed by a deposit of $500 – are encouraging, Mae Morley and Gene Bradley said last week in separate interviews. But nothing concrete will be known until engineers finish a feasibility study, they said. “I’m fifth generation out here,” said Morley, a resident of unincorporated Breen. “The commitments show true need and desire because very few people have abundant well water that is drinkable. There are wells with bad water and there are dry holes. We want drinkable water.” There are an estimated 1,300 property owners and 930 residences in the targeted area, most of them clustered along the La Plata River and Colorado Highway 140 from Breen to Redmesa. Except for a lucky few residents like Morley who has well water good enough to drink (her brother who lives a mile away fills water jugs at her place), well water is used only for bathing and washing dishes and clothes. Potable water is purchased in town or at the Marvel spring.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.

Tamarisk control: Tamarisk consumptive use is on a par with native cottonwoods and willows

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

…decades and millions of dollars of eradication projects later, a report released April 28 says that conventional wisdom had it all wrong. Tamarisk was getting a bad rap – it doesn’t use any more water than the native species it crowds out – cottonwood and willows. The report, done jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation, contains no new research. Rather, it’s a review and compilation of research dating back half a century. “The report is a review of the science starting in the 1960s,” said David Merritt, a riparian plant ecologist with the Forest Service in Fort Collins. The review found the premise that tamarisk was a water hog just didn’t wash, Merritt said.

Eradication efforts worked from the assumption that if tamarisk were removed there would be more water for other users, including plant species, wildlife, livestock and humans. “They weren’t able to quantify any real water savings by removing tamarisk,” Merritt said. “In certain cases, apparent (water) increases disappeared when vegetation came back…

There is relatively little tamarisk around Durango but it flourishes along the banks of the Animas, La Plata and San Juan rivers at the New Mexico line, La Plata County Weed Manager Rod Cook said. In Montezuma County where tamarisk is more abundant, a leaf beetle is munching tamarisk to death. The beetle is believed to have migrated to Montezuma County from Utah or from a beetle release four years ago on the Dolores River. Merritt said tamarisk peters out at around 7,000 feet elevation. Durango is at 6,512 feet elevation.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Sierra club official pans environmental protections in proposed SDS contract with Reclamation

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“They appear to me to be very weak,” said Ross Vincent, president of the local Sierra Club chapter. “My impression is that they fall far short of the protection that is needed. The language is fuzzy and does not require much of anything.” The Sierra Club and the Rocky Mountain Environmental Labor Coalition have continued to question the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement’s adequacy and to raise questions about the impact SDS will have on Fountain Creek…

The problem, as Vincent sees it, is that water-quality conditions spelled out in Reclamation’s proposed contract require a determination by the Colorado Department of Public HealthandEnvironment that SDS is causing “significant adverse effects” before any action is taken. The requirements talk about “elevated concentrations” of selenium, E. coli and sulfates attributed to SDS. “What triggers it?” Vincent said. “We all know there are elevated concentrations now, so any increase at all would be a violation. My guess is the CDPHE would not reach a formal determination, so in effect there is no procedure.”

Vincent disagrees with Reclamation’s adaptive management plan as the way to handle unexpected changes in water quality or quantity due to SDS. “The Bureau of Reclamation is passing the buck to other agencies for its responsibility to protect water quality,” Vincent said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Rivers are running high and fast all over Colorado

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I drove down Clear Creek Canyon from Idaho Springs yesterday and the creek was boiling. It’s runoff time in earnest now. The Golden gage is showing 878 cfs this morning.

Here’s a report from Joey Bunch writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Rivers were running at more than twice their historic mean, and the Eagle River below Gypsum and the Arkansas River near Parkdale were nearing records…

Flows on the Poudre were nearly three times faster than normal for the date. “I’m afraid we may not have reached the high-flow period yet,” said Heidi Koontz, spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey in Colorado “Typically, the high-flow period comes in the middle of June.”[…]

In southern Colorado, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning Sunday afternoon for low-lying areas in the Cañon City area, as the Arkansas River and tributaries became gorged with runoff. The city of Boulder issued a bulletin Sunday morning urging caution, with Barker Reservoir by Nederland expected to spill heavily into Boulder Creek during the next few days. Boulder Creek was flowing at 120 cubic feet per second Sunday, but as the spill begins, flows could spike as high as 420. “A flow of 300 to 400 cfs is considered dangerous for swimming and wading,” the city warned in its bulletin…

Brenda Worley, owner of Colorado River Guides in Yampa, said the Colorado and Eagle rivers were a study in contrasts. She operates tours on both. The Colorado River is regulated by dams, meaning it rarely gets too mild or too wild, and the season can last until August. The Eagle is fed by snowmelt, which means frigid temperatures and gushing flows in June, Worley said. “We may be lucky to still have water by the Fourth of July,” she said, “but it may be pretty fast between then and now.”

Flags for Memorial Day

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Mrs. Gulch’s flower gardens are in their glory for the holiday. Check out her white iris, Miner’s rose, Austrian Copper rose along with some blue iris.

USGS: Contaminants in Groundwater Used for Public Supply

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Here’s the release from the United States Geological Service:

More than 20 percent of untreated water samples from 932 public wells across the nation contained at least one contaminant at levels of potential health concern, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey

About 105 million people — or more than one-third of the nation’s population — receive their drinking water from one of the 140,000 public water systems across the United States that rely on groundwater pumped from public wells

The USGS study focused primarily on source (untreated) water collected from public wells before treatment or blending rather than the finished (treated) drinking water that water utilities deliver to their customers.

“By focusing primarily on source-water quality, and by testing for many contaminants that are not regulated in drinking water, this USGS study complements the extensive monitoring of public water systems that is routinely conducted for regulatory and compliance purposes by federal, state and local drinking-water programs,” said Matthew C. Larsen, USGS Associate Director for Water. “Findings assist water utility managers and regulators in making decisions about future monitoring needs and drinking-water issues.”

Findings showed that naturally occurring contaminants, such as radon and arsenic, accounted for about three-quarters of contaminant concentrations greater than human-health benchmarks in untreated source water. Naturally occurring contaminants are mostly derived from the natural geologic materials that make up the aquifers from which well water is withdrawn.

Man-made contaminants were also found in untreated water sampled from the public wells, including herbicides, insecticides, solvents, disinfection by-products, nitrate, and gasoline chemicals. Man-made contaminants accounted for about one-quarter of contaminant concentrations greater than human-health benchmarks, but were detected in 64 percent of the samples, predominantly in samples from unconfined aquifers.

“Detections of contaminants do not necessarily indicate a concern for human health because USGS analytical methods can detect many contaminants at concentrations that are 100-fold to 1,000-fold lower than human-health benchmarks,” said lead scientist Patricia Toccalino. “Assessing contaminants in these small amounts helps to track emerging issues in our water resources and to identify contaminants that may warrant inclusion in future monitoring.”

Scientists tested water samples for 337 properties and chemical contaminants, including nutrients, radionuclides, trace elements, pesticides, solvents, gasoline hydrocarbons, disinfection by-products and manufacturing additives. This study did not assess pharmaceuticals or hormones.

Most (279) of the contaminants analyzed in this study are not federally regulated in finished drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The USGS also sampled paired source and finished (treated) water from a smaller subset of 94 public wells. Findings showed that many man-made organic contaminants detected in source water generally were detected in finished water at similar concentrations. Organic contaminants detected in both treated and source water typically were detected at concentrations well below human-health benchmarks, however.

Additionally, the study shows that contaminants found in public wells usually co-occurred with other contaminants as mixtures. Mixtures can be a concern because the total combined toxicity of contaminants in water may be greater than that of any single contaminant. Mixtures of contaminants with concentrations approaching benchmarks were found in 84 percent of wells, but mixtures of contaminants above health benchmarks were found less frequently, in 4 percent of wells.

This USGS study identifies which contaminant mixtures may be of most concern in groundwater used for public-water supply and can help human-health researchers to target and prioritize toxicity assessments of contaminant mixtures. The USGS report identifies the need for continued research because relatively little is known about the potential health effects of most mixtures of contaminants.

Wells included in this study are located in 41 states and withdraw water from parts of 30 regionally extensive aquifers, which constitute about one-half of the principal aquifers used for water supply in the United States.

Human-health benchmarks used in this study include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Levels for regulated contaminants and USGS Health-Based Screening Levels for unregulated contaminants, which are non-enforceable guidelines developed by the USGS in collaboration with the EPA and other water partners.

Treated drinking water from public wells is regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Water utilities, however, are not required to treat water for unregulated contaminants. The EPA uses USGS information on the occurrence of unregulated contaminants to identify contaminants that may require drinking-water regulation in the future.

This study and additional information about public wells can be found on the Quality of Water from Public-Supply Wells in the United States website.

People served by public water systems can obtain information about their drinking-water quality from their water supplier. Selected water suppliers provide an annual water-quality report; some reports are available on EPA’s Consumer Confidence Reports (CRR) website.

Companion USGS studies on the transport of contaminants to public supply wells are online. In addition, a comparable study on the quality of water in domestic wells is online.

More water pollution coverage here.

Colorado Springs Utilities board approves entering into water supply contracts with other area providers

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

After discussing the policy change for about a year-and-a-half, the utilities board approved an agreement that permits the utilities provider to, with approval, enter into contracts with other water purveyors to lease, store, treat and transport water through its system to entities, according to the May 19 agenda. The price for tapping into Colorado Springs’ system would be paid by the entity connecting to it and there would be a premium paid on top of the cost of providing the water. “The concept is any additional cost would be born by the entity that is causing that,” said Gary Bostrom, the utility provider’s water resource manager.

Donala Water and Sanitation District General Manager Dana Duthie attended the meeting at which the regional cooperation was approved as a representative of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. He said the authority endorses the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee’s recommendations for the item. “We think it establishes a basis for collaboration that will definitely benefit everybody,” he said.

More Denver Basin Aquifer System coverage here and here.

San Luis Valley: With the plan for Subdistrict No. 1 approved the next step is submitting the rules to water court

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The rules would help govern how the Engineer’s Office regulates the subdistrict, which is made up of groundwater users in the north-central part of the valley who will tax themselves to buy replacement water for pumping that injures senior surface water rights and to fallow ground in an effort to restore aquifer levels. The rules would also apply to groundwater irrigators who are not part of a subdistrict…

The effective date of the rules also will be pushed back to 2012.

The other pending hurdle for the draft rules will come when the advisory committee gets a look at the response functions of the Rio Grande Decision Support System, a computer program designed to model the flow of the valley’s groundwater. That system may be used to help the Engineer’s Office determine where injuries from pumping will occur and from which wells, but the draft rules allow the office to use other means when it’s determined that reliance on the computer model would be inappropriate.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Runoff news

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Trevor Hughes):

The [Poudre] river, as measured at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, was below the 128-year average for the past few days but jumped above it Friday. The flow rose as high as 1,874 cubic feet per second, or cfs, on Friday; the average discharge for May 28 is about 1,500 cfs.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon and the Gunnison Gorge have dropped to around 650 cubic feet per second and will stay there for the time being, reported the Bureau last week. That’s a bit off from the 800 cfs estimated earlier for summer flows but those estimates were made before western Colorado’s version of the African Sirocco blew hot and hotter over the past week. Last week’s wind storms did more than muss your hairstyle. Snowpacks retreated faster than your 401(k) and the searing wind made a lot of that snow simply disappear. Sublimate, in the scientific terms, which means it doesn’t make the runoff but simply enters the atmosphere.

From the Associated Press via the Vail Daily:

In northern Colorado, the Cache la Poudre River was running at 1,874 cubic feet per second Friday, well above the 128-year average discharge for that date of about 1,500 cfs.

Frisco: Ten Mile One Mile June 12-13

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From the Summit Daily News (Bryce Evans):

What: Frisco kayak competition
When: June 12-13
Details: Night trick competition on June 12, followed by kayak rodeo (2-4 p.m., June 13) and kayak race (4:30 p.m., June 13).
More info: Contact Matti Wade of Ten Mile Creek Kayaks at (970) 668-9294

More whitewater coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: 2010 Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championship May 31

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Kevin Keller):

Stand-up paddlers from the Roaring Fork Valley will compete with athletes from as far away as Hawaii. MacArthur said they are expecting about 35 competitors this year. Event promoter Paul Tefft said the event is truly one-of-a-kind. “It’s new, different, and unique,” he said. “The sport is evolving as we speak. My favorite event is the surfing, it’s the most action packed. There are a bunch of new moves, and it’s evolving at a rapid pace.” This year’s champion will be crowned after paddlers compete in three separate events on the Colorado River: A down river race, a new event called Supercross, and the surfing contest on the wave at the whitewater park, the competition’s website said. There are four divisions in the championship: men, women, youth male and youth female…

The race begins at 9:30 a.m. at Two Rivers Park. The paddlers will begin with a mass start at the park and race about six miles downriver to the finish at South Canyon. Supercross starts at 11:30 a.m., adjacent to Two Rivers Park. The event is a race similar to the Winter Olympic snowboard event boardercross. Competitors line up at the launch site, paddle upriver around the first flag, then go into the main current, with one more upriver flag to cross, according to the competition’s website…

The final event is a surfing contest with two or three one-minute rides per competitor, depending on number of competitors. The surfing begins at 2:30 p.m. at the whitewater park and is judged on a point system, with points being awarded for different types of moves. Wilmott said that surfing here is quite different from surfing on the ocean. “Surfing a wave that never ends is harder than it looks,” Wilmott said. “I think the best way to describe it is that the ocean is three-dimensional and the river is five-dimensional.” The competitors will then head back to Two Rivers Park for the awards ceremony, trophy presentation to the overall champions, and some celebration. Registration forms and information are available online at Registration payment can be made in person at Two Rivers Park on May 30 from 5 to 7 p.m.

More whitewater coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: State Representative Sal Pace says that the effects on the project from the demise of Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise are still up in the air

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The Bureau of Reclamation must not award any contract without first demanding that the stormwater enterprise be re-instituted,” state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, said. “We in Pueblo must have that assurance before SDS is given a contract in Lake Pueblo.” In April, Pace called for a new environmental analysis of SDS in light of Colorado Springs City Council’s decision to abolish the stormwater enterprise last year. Pace was unable to attend the first negotiating session for SDS this week because of a family emergency, but said his stance has not changed. “If the stormwater enterprise was deemed so important in these environmental studies by Reclamation and Colorado Springs officials when promoting SDS, then there must be serious consequences upon its demise,” Pace wrote in the letter.

Colorado Springs attempted to head off controversy over the issue in the opening round of negotiations for federal SDS contracts, even though the issue wasn’t raised by the Bureau of Reclamation. “Colorado Springs’ stormwater-control measures for new development are totally independent from the stormwater enterprise and will remain unchanged,” SDS Project Director John Fredell said. Reclamation’s environmental impact statement concluded that SDS return flows would have a small impact on storm flows, Fredell said…

Pueblo County, in its comments on the environmental impact statement by attorney Ray Petros, told Reclamation additional environmental studies would be needed if Colorado Springs eliminated its stormwater enterprise. Reclamation answered Pueblo county’s concerns with the environmental impact statement by saying the stormwater enterprise appeared to be a reasonably foreseeable action, so was included as part of the cumulative effects analysis. “Implementation of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise has purposes that are independent of the SDS Project and is not considered a mitigation measure,” Reclamation stated in the reply.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Energy policy — geothermal: The BLM is planning leases in southeastern Gunnison County

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From the Associated Press via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The BLM says a renewable energy company has nominated two areas covering about 14 square miles. Some of the land overlaps habitat for Gunnison sage grouse and Canada lynx. The company’s name wasn’t released. The BLM will analyze possible environmental impacts before deciding if leases should go forward. No public lands in Colorado have been leased for geothermal energy development yet.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Runoff news: The Dolores Water Conservancy District says that McPhee Reservoir started spilling Monday — get your raft out

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

The spill, which began at low levels Monday, was expected to reach raftable flows near 800 cubic feet per second by noon Wednesday. “The reservoir is near full,” said Mike Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy. “We are on for rafting flows of 800 cfs through Friday. We’re anticipating that we are going to be able to extend rafting into the weekend, although we may have to start ramping down flow Sunday night or some point during the weekend.”[…]

“For a while the irrigation demand had overtaken the inflow of the river, but now that we are near full and warming up we are going to have some water to spill. We just don’t know how much.”[…]

“We started with a reservoir elevation that was lower by over 30,000 feet as compared to last year,” Preston said. “We were filling a bigger hole, and we didn’t have the early warm weather. Fierce winds during the past few weeks also impacted river flows. High winds speed the evaporation of high altitude snow and dry the soil, forcing water into the ground rather than rivers. “Every year is different,” Preston said. “That is what I’m learning. In the good year, like 2008, we’re going to be spilling over a long period of time. A year like this, we don’t know what is up there and how fast it is going to come down.” The Upper Dolores is flowing above 1,500 cfs into McPhee. Upper flows should continue into early June. Up-to-date release information is available at

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

Meanwhile, the Avon whitewater park is open according to a report from the Snowmass Sun. From the article:

Avon’s whitewater park is open and the rapids are flowing perfectly for surfing and play time. The Eagle River is currently flowing at approximately 1,080 cfs.

More whitewater coverage here.

From Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

The city of Steamboat Springs’ Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department has closed some sections of the Yampa River Core Trail because of seasonal high water. As runoff-fueled flows surge and abate in local waterways, additional closures and trail detours could occur.

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has scheduled a rulemaking hearing in Denver on June 7

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From The Crested Butte News (Mike Horn):

The majority of the revisions to Regulation No. 31 are being proposed by the Water Quality Control Division, with the Colorado Mining Association and the Colorado Wastewater Utility Council submitting additional proposals. The proposed revisions include changes to criteria for, among others, dissolved oxygen, E. coli, and molybdenum. Temporary modifications of standards and anti-degradation to protect high-quality waters are also on the docket, as is adoption of new provisions authorizing variances to water quality standards in limited circumstances.

More Colorado Water Quality Control Commission coverage here.

Pagosa Springs: The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners talk shop

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Here’s Part I of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Makes an Apology, Of Sorts. From the article:

Last night, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board and staff made a lengthy presentation for the benefit of the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners. The meeting had been requested by the BoCC, and was destined, I think, to set Archuleta County on a new path. Either the BoCC and PAWSD would enter into a dialog about the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir and begin to work collaboratively in deciding the future of the county — or the BoCC would begin to exercise its statutory oversight powers, and start intervening in the water district’s financial decisions.

Here’s Part II, Part III and Part IV. More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.

San Luis Valley: Water court approves rules for groundwater Subdistrict No. 1

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It’s been a long time coming but the rules designed to protect senior rights holders in the San Luis Valley from groundwater pumping (along with idling 40,000 acres of irrigated farmland) received Judge O. John Kuenhold’s blessing in a ruling released yesterday. The plan is an alternative to state imposed regulations. Here’s a report from Matt Hildner writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Should it make it through an anticipated appeal to the state Supreme Court, the plan for Subdistrict No. 1 would take in roughly 174,000 acres of irrigated farmland and 3,000 irrigation wells. The plan would institute a tax on its members to pay for replacement water to compensate senior surface water users harmed by depletions exceeding 50 acre-feet per year. It also would use those proceeds to retire at least 40,000 acres over a 10-year period to restore the unconfined aquifer, a move the ruling called, “an important and courageous milestone in water development in this state.” The unconfined aquifer is the shallower of the valley’s two main bodies of groundwater and the court has found that both are connected in some degree to the area’s surface streams.

David Robbins, the lead attorney for Subdistrict No. 1, was heartened by the ruling. He pointed specifically to the judge’s decision that replacements wouldn’t go into effect until 2012. The extra year will give the subdistrict time to collect sufficient funds to meet its water replacement obligations…

The objectors gained some consolation when the judge ruled that the subdistrict must replace past depletions from well pumping, which can have an effect on surface streams for up to 20 years after the pumping has taken place. Evidence at the trial pegged the amount of injury from past depletions to amount to 48,993 acre feet through 2028. The court rejected proposals from supporters that compensation for past depletions go back only to 2005, noting that senior surface water users have gone four decades without having their rights fully and fairly protected. “This is not the time for a half-step that would be viewed by many as simply another delay tactic,” the ruling stated…

The plan would rely on the Rio Grande Decision Support System, a computer modeling system, to determine both future and past impacts from pumping. Should water users object to any components of the plan from year to year or of the Engineer Office’s handling of the plan, the court would retain jurisdiction to hear their complaints.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area proposed instream flow right

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From email from Peter Roessmann (Western Resource Advocates):

FYI, the New York Times reprinted an article published in Land Letter about the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area’s proposed instream flow right. As you know, the CWCB voted last Thursday to initiate work on a state ISF for the wilderness to preclude the need for federal intervention. A group of organizations working on this resolution issued a statement last Thursday afternoon about the CWCB’s vote (pdf).

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times (Phil Taylor):

In a decision hailed by environmental groups and supported by BLM, the Colorado Water Conservation Board last week advanced an unconventional plan that would be one of the first variable water rights ever granted in the state. The plan — modeled after a proposal BLM pitched to the board earlier this year — would protect the seasonally changing flows in the canyon while balancing the needs of upstream landowners who depend on the same source of water to graze cattle. While typical in-stream water rights in Colorado assign fixed flow rates for specific periods of time, the Dominguez proposal would allocate a fixed amount of water for upstream users and send all remaining water — regardless of volume — to Big Dominguez and Little Dominguez creeks. “The board’s decision is great for Colorado,” said Bart Miller, water program director at Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates. “Declaring an intent to appropriate water is the first, most important step in protecting streams in the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness that sustain the area’s beauty, wildlife and recreational value. These streams are the lifeblood of this very special place.” Barring any significant opposition, the Water Conservation Board could finalize the proposal at its July 20 hearing, triggering a formal water rights filing before a state water court.

The proposal would be the first in the state to ensure flows for a federal wilderness area, said Steve Smith, assistant regional director for the Wilderness Society in Colorado. “I’m delighted that we were able to team up with water developers and local governments to craft the federal legislation [creating Dominguez] in the first place,” he said. “It directed the BLM to negotiate with the state over a water right for the wilderness.” If finalized, the water right would be owned by the state and would eliminate the need for the Interior Department to declare its own water right — a politically contentious move in water-strapped Western states.

More instream flow coverage here.

Cedaredge: Water rates to go up

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From the Delta County Independent (Bob Borchardt)

With Resolution 13-2010, the monthly base rate for domestic water users was increased from $16.50 to $21 for up to 10,000 gallons usage per month. It also established a new monthly charge — a capital replacement fee — of $4, and maintained the current monthly $4 capital improvement fee and $8 debt reduction fee. Out-of-town users also will pay a $10 monthly surcharge. The total base monthly charge for in-town users will be $37 per month, effective July 1. Out-of-town users will pay $47 per month. According to Cedaredge town administrator Kathleen Sickles, those charges, when added together, will reflect an $8.50 per month increase on water users monthly statements, starting with the August billing.

More infrastructure coverage here.

EPA to Initiate Rulemaking to Reduce Harmful Effects of Sanitary Sewer Overflows

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Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Charles Glass):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is initiating a rulemaking to better protect the environment and public health from the harmful effects of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and basement backups. In many cities, SSOs and basement backups occur because of blockages, broken pipes and excessive water flowing into the pipes. SSOs present environmental and health problems because they discharge untreated wastewater that contains bacteria, viruses, suspended solids, toxics, trash and other pollutants into waterways. These overflows may also contribute to beach closures, shellfish bed closures, contamination of drinking water supplies and other environmental and health concerns.

Infrastructure issues were discussed at the Coming Together for Clean Water Conference held by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson on April 15, 2010. The agency plans to address these issues as part of its efforts to protect public health and revitalize local waterways.

EPA is considering two possible modifications to existing regulations: (1) establishing standard National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit conditions for publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) permits that specifically address sanitary sewer collection systems and SSOs; and (2) clarifying the regulatory framework for applying NPDES permit conditions to municipal satellite collection systems. Municipal satellite collection systems are sanitary sewers owned or operated by a municipality that conveys wastewater to a POTW operated by a different municipality. As a part of this effort, the agency is also considering whether to address long-standing questions about peak wet weather flows at municipal wastewater treatment plants to allow for a holistic, integrated approach to reducing SSOs while at the same time addressing peak flows at POTWs.

To help the agency make decisions on this proposed rulemaking, EPA will hold public listening sessions and the public can submit written comments. EPA will accept written comments on the potential rule until 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

More information on sanitary sewer overflows, the potential rule and a schedule of the upcoming listening sessions:

More wastewater coverage here.

Runoff news: Dillon Reservoir is spilling

Denver Water employees Rick Geise and Nate Hurlbut assisted in setting the plug, which helps prevent chunks of ice and snow from falling into the spillway. Photo credit: Denver Water

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Julie Sutor):

Water from Dillon Reservoir began flowing through the morning glory spillway into the Lower Blue River at 5 a.m. Tuesday. Water spills through the “glory hole” when the reservoir’s water level reaches its full elevation of 9,017 feet. Water also flows through the waterworks and into the Blue River from the bottom of the dam. The spillway ensures water never flows over the top of the dam. Outflows into the Lower Blue reached 235 cubic feet per second (cfs) Tuesday, with 220 of that coming from the bottom of the dam. As the snowpack continues to melt, the percentage of water coming from the top of the reservoir, via the spillway, will increase. Outflows into the Lower Blue are forecast to peak at 1,100 cfs on June 9. Inflows are forecast to peak at 1,300 cfs on June 9.

Cañon City: New Arkansas River whitewater parks open for business — Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival June 25-26

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Andrew Wineke):

The park, which was officially opened earlier this month, was humorously dubbed “WKRP in Cañon City” (if you’re too young to get the joke, google it) — the acronym stands for Whitewater Kayak and Recreation Park.

“I’ve always thought that we needed a whitewater park,” said Will Colon, co-owner of Raft Masters in Cañon City. “We’ve always let the river run through the city and never really used it.” About three years ago, Colon decided to do something about it. He raised money and brought in experts, pitched the idea to city leaders and pretty soon, WKRP was under way. With a $200,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and $200,000 more in local cash and in-kind contributions, an excavator began laying rock in the riverbed in January between Depot and Centennial parks, around the Fourth Street viaduct.

The core of the park is a pair of man-made waves, dubbed Flytrap and Nessman, where giant concrete blocks were placed in the river and form frothing piles of foam as the Arkansas crashes over them. Kayakers and rafters, and potentially the occasional surfer or boogie boarder, can play in the waves, surfing and cartwheeling and spinning. For rafters and kayakers finishing a Royal Gorge trip, the waves will be a final hit before taking out…

June 25 and 26, the park will host the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival — a week after the Fibark festival in Salida, the state’s largest. Colon hopes to add more waves to the park and extend the bank improvements upstream. He also hopes the park won’t be just a summertime attraction. “Ideally, we want a wave that will work in the wintertime,” Colon said. “We’re in the banana belt, we have good weather in the winter.”

More whitewater coverage here.

Snowpack news: Cold weather and recent storms combine to keep the South Platte Basin numbers up

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The South Platte River basin, which includes the Poudre River, has a snowpack 110 percent of normal. It’s even more robust north of Rocky Mountain National Park, where the snowpack around Joe Wright Reservoir is 150 percent of normal, according to U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service data. The snow in the Laramie and North Platte river basins is at 111 percent of normal. West of the Continental Divide, the snowpack in the Upper Colorado River basin is lagging at 85 percent of normal.

Southern Delivery System: Details of Colorado Springs Utilities’ plans for the Pueblo Dam north outlet works include others in the service area

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities water attorney David Robbins took pains to explain that excess capacity in the North Outlet Works, pumping station and pipeline would be different than the concept currently used by Reclamation. “We need to be clear that there are plans on the part of several SDS participants to serve others through the project,” Robbins said.

In fact, contracts being sought by Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West would use excess capacity of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in Lake Pueblo. Colorado Springs wants to apply the same concept to the North Outlet Works, which it would build at its own expense and deed to the Bureau of Reclamation. While a maximum of 96 million gallons a day could be diverted through the new structure Colorado Springs intends to build at the base of Pueblo Dam, not all of it would be needed immediately, and over time the full amount would not be needed every day. Of the capacity, up to 78 million gallons daily would go to El Paso County, and up to 18 million gallons daily to Pueblo West. Colorado Springs City Council has discussed the possibility of allowing El Paso County water users other than Security and Fountain to use the pipeline, but would stay within the 78 million gallon per day limit, Fredell said.

Colorado Springs also wants to build a pipeline from the dam to its connection with Pueblo West’s intake larger than it needs to be to serve the needs of SDS. During negotiations, Colorado Springs revealed it intends to recoup costs for building the North Outlet Works by selling the excess capacity for hydroelectric projects or future connections to the line. The first portion of the pipeline would be 90 inches in diameter, narrowing to 66 inches in diameter as it heads north through Pueblo West. Only about 25 percent of the maximum capacity would be used, said Keith Riley, SDS project manager. The cost for that part of SDS would be about $30 million. “It would be a multiuse pipeline with the potential for others to tie on,” Riley said. “The SDS participants wouldrecapture revenue from it.”[…]

Colorado Springs also asked for changes in the contract that would allow it to use water from any source, rather than just native Arkansas River flows as the contract originally stated. Fredell said water from any source could be used in the pipeline, and those uses might be for augmentation as well as municipal needs. Reclamation officials asked Colorado Springs to review all of the water rights that would be used in SDS at the next negotiating session to verify what was studied in the EIS.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

CWCB: Instream flow appropriation for Little Dominguez Creek and Big Dominguez Creek

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

At its May 18-19, 2010 regular meeting, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) declared its intent to appropriate instream flow water rights for Big Dominguez Creek and Little Dominguez Creek. The attached list contains a description of the Instream Flow (ISF) Recommendations including stream name, water division, watershed, county, upper terminus, lower terminus, length, USGS quad sheet names and recommended flow amounts. Copies of the Instream Flow Recommendation Summary Reports and Appendices submitted into the Official CWCB Record are available for review during regular business hours (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) at the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Office, located at 1313 Sherman Street, Room 721, Denver, Colorado, 80203. Copies of the Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Recommendation Summary Reports are also available on the CWCB website.

More CWCB coverage here.

H.R. 5320 (pdf), the Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010: U.S. Representative DeGette withdraws her amendment citing progress in disclosure talks

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, today withdrew a bill amendment seeking disclosure of substances used in hydraulic fracturing during oil and gas development. DeGette spokeswoman Juliet Johnson said the congresswoman took the action because it appears she’s close to reaching a disclosure agreement with industry and others.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams). From the article:

The committee passed the “Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010 (pdf),” which amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to increase funding to states, water systems and “disadvantaged communities,” step up EPA enforcement and encourage better environmental and financial management of water systems, among other things. But the committee did not accept DeGette’s hydraulic fracturing amendment.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Reclamation’s spring operation allowing the Black Canyon Water Right 24 Hour Peak Flow Target to be met is complete. Starting on May 10th releases ramped up at about 500 cfs per day until reaching a peak release of 5,100 cfs. The Peak Flow Target under the hydrologic conditions identified in the May 1st April through July runoff (560,000 af) forecast into Blue Mesa Reservoir was 3,883 cfs. The Gunnison River measuring gage located below the Gunnison Tunnel (diverting 1,000 cfs) measured a daily peak flow of 4,190 cfs range on May 18th.

Following the 24 hour peak, releases from Crystal were reduced by about 400 cfs per day through two changes per day. As of today, the down-ramping is complete and flows in the Canyon and Gorge are about 650 cfs which is less than the 700 – 800 cfs range previously mentioned in our plans. Due to the hot winds and dryer weather Reclamation plans to maintain these lower flows for the present time. Please contact Dan Crabtree at 970-248-0652 or reply to this email with questions or comments.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: Sewer rates set to jump 30%

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Gardner):

Glenwood Springs wastewater customers can expect a 30 percent increase in their sewer bill beginning in June.

The increase of the city’s water and wastewater rates for 2010 was unanimously approved by Glenwood Springs City Council at its May 20 meeting.

The sizable increase in wastewater rates will also be accompanied by a 5 percent rate increase of the treated water for 2010.

The increases are the fifth in as many years and were designed to generate revenue to pay for capital improvement projects, most notably the relocation of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which cost $33 million. The total cost includes $22.3 million for construction of the wastewater facility. Approximately $4.6 million has paid for construction of the force main that will connect the lift station at the current site on Seventh Street to the new facility in West Glenwood Springs to the south of the Colorado River, and for construction of the access road.

The remaining $6 million covers engineering and associated costs, and a portion will also cover demolition of the existing facility on Seventh Street, according to City Manager Jeff Hecksel.

More wastewater coverage here.

NIDIS – Upper Colorado Basin Pilot Project’s “Summary of Weekly precip and water supply”

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Henry Reges the CoCoRaHS National Coordinator has graciously given me permission to post his notes from yesterday’s webinar:

More precipitation fell last week in the north central mountains of Colorado and throughout western Wyoming and northern Utah, while dry conditions continued to prevail over southwestern Colorado. Very little changes were seen in the water-year-to-date precipitation percent of average from last week, with western Wyoming seeing the biggest improvements and northeast Utah and southwest Colorado showing the largest decreases. With the warmer than average temperatures this past week in Colorado, and very low peak snowpacks in Utah and Wyoming, the majority of the lower elevation snotels in the tri-state area have nearly melted out for the season. Cooler temperatures over the past month and late season storms have kept the higher elevation stations near their current average snowpacks, with little mid-May melting, though few of those stations actually reached their normal peak snowpack values. The warmer temperatures in Colorado also meant an increase in streamflows this past week, with runoff now following along with the seasonal trend in many locations, though many sites in Wyoming and Utah still show low flows due to cooler temperatures coupled with below average snowpack. Despite recent precipitation many of southwestern Wyoming’s stations in the Green River basin continue to show below average snowpack, precipitation, and streamflows consistent with moderate to locally severe drought categories. Just over 50% of all the gages in the UCRB are reporting below normal 7-day average streamflows (less than 25th percentile).

Not much precipitation is expected in the coming week. Northwestern Wyoming and eastern Colorado have the best chance of precipitation over the next 5 days. West of the divide, no large scale features are likely to bring moisture to the area, though there is the chance for convective precipitation. Today’s GFS 12Z run shows precipitation for much of the state over the weekend, but this is a major change from the 0Z run, so confidence in this forecast is low. Warmer than average temperatures will prevail over the area throughout the rest of this week. After this, there is a transition to a more zonal flow with reduced chances for precipitation and near normal temperatures next week.

Draft 1 of the U.S. Drought Monitor removed the small D1 from the headwaters region of the Colorado River and a trimming of the D0 in Jackson county. The general consensus was that this was a good call. There were also suggestions to further trim the D0 out of Jackson and northern Routt county in Colorado as this area has also been receiving a lot of moisture recently. Changes in Wyoming and Utah were coordinated with their state experts. Other suggestions were to add D0 to a small area on the south facing slopes of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. Even though the region is entering its climatological dry period, the area has been drying out for nearly two months and the majority of the snowpack there has already melted.

Greeley: City council is considering big rate increases and agressive purchases of water rights

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From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey):

…the council favors aggressively buying water — as much as $90 million worth during the next six years — an approach officials say will cost residents in the near term but offer long-range savings and security. If the city goes that route, said water and sewer director Jon Monson, water rates would rise about 84 percent in the next 10 years, equating to $30 per single-family home per month. That’s compared to rates rising, if no additional water is bought, 47 percent in the next decade, or $17 per home. Monson presented the water outlook at Tuesday’s council work session.

Greeley’s current average water bill is $45.83 per month, he said. If the city added the $13 per month to water bills for the $90 million water acquisition, rates would be in the upper third of Colorado Front Range cities if other cities do not change their rates…

Greeley’s existing water supplies will keep up with the city’s growth — a 2.25 average rate in recent years — for 20 to 25 years, Monson said. “But we firmly believe now if we do this revolving fund … that water may be gone by the time we need it,” he said. Under the revolving plan, Monson said, Greeley would have to wait 10 to 15 years to start to cash-fund additional water supplies. But, if water is available at all, it would be extremely expensive, adversely affecting future growth, density and irrigation. Compounding the problem, he said, is the fact that other Front Range cities are ramping up water purchases and projects in the wake of the 2002 drought. For example, Monson said, Aurora is spending $800 million on a water project. Monson pointed out that Greeley would also need to add staff — at least several positions — in order to increase the city’s supplies. Although Greeley is a statewide leader in conservation, the city, without additional acquisition, would still exceed its supplies by 2038 or 2040, Monson said…

Under the water acquisition option, the city would, as it has historically done, rent annual excess supplies back to agriculture at cost. Plants such as Leprino Foods require substantial water resources, and council members pointed to the importance of agricultural partnerships to the city’s economic future. Norton said such partnerships with agriculture are “what northern Colorado is all about.”

More Greeley coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities experiences sticker shock with Reclamation contract offer

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We are shocked by the starting point you have provided,” said John Fredell, SDS project director. “We believe that we should be treated fairly, equitably and similarly to the existing contract for the Pueblo Board of Water Works.”

After spending most of the day politely listening to Fredell pick apart Reclamation’s proposed contract to tailor it to the needs of Colorado Springs and its SDS partners, Area Manager Michael Collins proposed a menu of prices that led to an abrupt silence. Collins proposed $50 per acre-foot for storage, $50 per acre-foot for conveyance at the North Outlet Works and $50 per acre-foot for an exchange. There was also a 3.08 percent annual increase built into the fee structure.

hat provoked incredulity from Colorado Springs water attorney David Robbins. “Fifty dollars an acre-foot for a facility we build and turn over to you?” Robbins asked…

Fredell then presented Colorado Springs’ proposal: $17.35 per acre-foot for storage and exchange, with no charge other than maintenance and operation fees for the North Outlet Works. The annual increase would be 1.79 percent. “We’ve heard the numbers,” Collins replied. “We’ll wait to respond until the next negotiating session.”

Later, Fredell returned, asking Reclamation to reconsider the Colorado Springs proposal. “Our residents pay 70 percent of the ad valorem of the Southeastern district,” Fredell said. “We have nothing more to give you until you consider our proposal.”[…]

Colorado Springs is seeking a long-term contract to store 20,000 acre-feet of water — about what it stores now — in an excess-capacity account in Lake Pueblo for 2011, with 800 acre-feet added annually until a total of 28,000 acre-feet is reached. Reclamation is considering a request by Colorado Springs for a 40-year contract, even though the environmental impact statement was conducted through 2046. Its partners want long-term contracts as well: Pueblo West, 10,000 acre-feet; Security, 2,500 acre-feet; Fountain, 1,500 acre-feet. All have used similar one-year excess capacity contracts in the past. Under Colorado Springs’ banner, one conveyance contract for the North Outlet Works is being sought, with the SDS agreement among all four partners used to assure payments are made. Fredell requested the annual charge for the new facility be waived since Colorado Springs is building the new structure and plans to deed it to Reclamation. Colorado Springs is the only SDS partner seeking a 10,000 acre-foot exchange — a paper trade — to Twin Lakes from Lake Pueblo, which would allow it to move water through the Homestake Pipeline as well and would benefit Reclamation by removing the transit loss of 10 percent that occurs as the water flows down the Arkansas River…

Colorado Springs wants to pay what the Pueblo Board of Water Works is paying for its 25-year storage contract, $17.35 per acre-foot. The rate of inflation of 1.79 percent was the same as Reclamation negotiated for a 40-year project with Aurora in 2007, Fredell said. Reclamation now leases excess-capacity space in Lake Pueblo for $24 per acre-foot to members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which includes all of the SDS participants. The Aurora contract is now at about $50 per acre-foot, for both storage and exchange. However, Aurora is not in the Southeastern district and is charged more. The city east of Denver uses Reclamation’s Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas Valley.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Lawson welcomes their shiny new whitewater park

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From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

The park celebrated its grand opening May 22. It includes boulders that create specialty chutes and waves for kayakers and other boaters along the 450-foot stretch of Clear Creek just upstream from Mile Hi Rafting. The park also has improved parking and a changing station with environmentally friendly toilets. Eighty percent of the funding for the $400,000 whitewater park comes from a Federal Highway Administration grant through the Colorado Department of Transportation. The rest is split between the county Open Space Commission and Clear Creek County…

The project was overseen by Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, which did designs at similar whitewater parks in Golden, Steamboat Springs and Buena Vista. Groundbreaking for the park was held last August, and work was finished in the creek by mid-autumn to protect the fisheries. Helseth said the creek was moved to one side behind a cofferdam to allow work to be done on the park. “They put those boulders exactly where they wanted them to make the perfect waves for kayaks, and then they actually grouted them into place,” Helseth said. “So now they won’t shift and move anymore, and they’ve really been laid out according to what they have identified as the optimal spacing for kayakers.”

More Whitewater coverage here.

H.R. 5320 (pdf), the Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010: Congresswoman DeGette hopes to add frac’ing amendment to Waxman’s bill

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

DeGette, who last summer introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, has been trying to remove a Safe Drinking Water Act exemption for hydraulic fracturing – a processed used by oil and gas companies – that was granted in 2005 during the Bush administration.

Dubbed the “Halliburton Loophole” for the oil and gas drilling services company that perfected hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the 2005 exemption allows companies to keep secret the chemicals injected deep into natural gas wells, along with water and sand, to fracture tight geological formations and free up more gas.

Industry officials claim the process has been used for decades with no known cases of groundwater contamination and that the chemical formulas are proprietary. Environmentalists, some residents of energy producing area and an increasing number of politicians say the process is tainting drinking water and needs to be more closely regulated.

Here’s the Govtrack link for HR 5320 (pdf), the Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010.

Desalination and Advanced Water Treatment Research Grant Funding Announcement Available

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation has announced the availability of funding for research and laboratory studies, pilot scale projects, and demonstration scale projects in desalination and water purification. Reclamation anticipates awarding a total of up to $1 million under this funding opportunity announcement.

The funding is being made available by the Desalination and Water Purification Research and Development Program. Through this program, Reclamation is partnering with private industry, universities, water utilities, and others to address a broad range of desalting and water purification needs.

The program has three major goals. The first goal is to augment the supply of usable water in the United States. Second, it is to understand the environmental impacts of desalination and develop approaches to minimize these impacts relative to other water supply alternatives. The third goal is to develop approaches to lower the financial costs of desalination so that it is an attractive option relative to other alternatives in locations where traditional sources of water are inadequate.

Eligible applicants that may submit proposals include individuals, institutions of higher education, commercial or industrial organizations, private entities, state and local governments, and Indian tribal governments. Foreign entities, other than the United States-Mexico binational research foundations and inter-university research programs established by the two countries, are not eligible for funding.

Reclamation will make up to $150,000 available for each research and laboratory study for a duration of 13 month, $200,000 a year for each pilot scale project for a duration of up to 25 months, and $500,000 a year for each demonstration scale project for a duration of up to 37 months.

The Desalination and Water Purification Research and Development Grant Funding Opportunity, posted on May 21 at, can be found by searching Funding Opportunity Number R10SF80251. The deadline for applications is Tuesday, July 7, 2010 at 3:00 p.m. MDT.

It is anticipated that awards will be made in September 2010, with an anticipated project start date on or around October 1, 2010.

Many eyes are on the 1250 cfs Shoshone water right

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Shoshone generates 14 megawatts of electricity from water that is diverted from the Colorado River to spin its turbines. It then is returned to the main channel. Its 1902 water right ensures that the Colorado flows to — and through — Glenwood Canyon, so its value to Western Slope water users hardly can be overstated. Shoshone “is the primary controlling senior right on the Colorado River,” Colorado River Water Conservation District spokesman Chris Treese said.

Primary control over the water right, however, resides with Shoshone’s owner, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy. Xcel operates in Denver under a franchise agreement with Denver, whose mayor appoints Denver Water’s board of commissioners. Denver Water depends on the Colorado River to supply its customers, sometimes in conflict with Western Slope water interests. Denver Water and the River District have been engaged in what are termed “global settlement talks” for years about the management of the Colorado River from its headwaters to the Utah state line. The operations of Shoshone “have inevitably arisen” in the global settlement discussions, Treese said.

Western Slope interests are hoping to include Shoshone in the global settlement talks, theorizing that Denver would be willing to influence Xcel to cede some control over Shoshone. Denver in return would get greater certainty about its share of Colorado River water…

Shoshone isn’t for sale, Xcel spokesman Tom Henley said, and if it were, “We wouldn’t be negotiating in the newspapers.” Plus, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would have to be involved, Henley said…

Denver, Treese said, “wants long-term certainty of the water it will get from the Western Slope and how much effort it will have to put into getting it.” One way for Denver to gain the assurances it wants could be to aid the River District with its interest in influence on the operations of Shoshone.

Shoshone was shut down from June 2007 to May 2008 when one of the pipes, or penstocks, ruptured. The $12 million repair job included installation of a system that allows for remote operation of the plant. It also gave Western Slope water users a peek into a future without Shoshone, and they didn’t like it. Farmers, ranchers and fruit growers depend on the Colorado River water that passes through Shoshone for their products, and domestic-water providers such as the Clifton Water District depend on it for quantity and quality, he said. “If Shoshone is shut down and the water taken elsewhere, we would greatly miss it,” Proctor said…

The idea of a global settlement includes meeting environmental, recreation and water-quality goals, in addition to accommodating future growth on both sides of the Continental Divide, Lochhead said. Both sides hope to reach a conclusion to the talks soon, within the next couple months, [Jim Lochhead Denver Water Manager] said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Dolores River update

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

During what served as the peak of whitewater season elsewhere in southwestern Colorado, the scenario is indicative of the conundrum that the Rio Dolores — The River of Sorrows — has become. Once one of the longest undammed rivers in the lower 48 states and a perennial candidate for federal Wild and Scenic River designation, the 250-mile Dolores now loses about 40 percent of its water, an average of 100,000 acre-feet each year, to irrigation withdrawals and trans-basin diversions centered on the McPhee Dam and Reservoir built in the mid-1980s. The result is a boon to agriculture and municipal and industrial water users around the city of Cortez, but at significant cost to the recreational and ecological interests the river once supported. Management is a complex issue that involves several federal, state and local agencies, but many believe there’s ample water to share among these often-conflicting interests.

The first step — already begun by the Cortez-based Dolores River Coalition — is raising awareness of the river. “It really is the forgotten river,” said Bureau of Land Management ranger Ryan Mathis from the Montrose field office, one of three BLM offices…

With just more than 50 cfs trickling out of McPhee Reservoir, there’s little reason to make the once popular trip upstream of the San Miguel confluence anymore. The former gold medal trout fishery below the dam long ago had that designation revoked, and water managers from the Bureau of Reclamation and Dolores Water Conservancy District rarely release enough water for boaters to navigate the 185 miles of river below the dam, despite a study by Trout Unlimited showing an annual shortage of 3,300 acre-feet in the river (leaving nearly 25,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir unused). Although hope remains for a Memorial Day weekend release, McPhee has yet to spill this year. From 2000-05, it didn’t spill at all…

The Dolores River Coalition is stressing protection of those undeveloped landscapes and increased river flows in order to balance resource management for the full spectrum of human uses and preservation of the ecosystem.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

Runoff/snowpack news

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Flows through the Boustead Tunnel, which brings water from the Fryingpan River through the Continental Divide into Turquoise Lake, began to increase Saturday and were running at a peak of more than 660 cubic feet per second. Flows in the Arkansas River increased dramatically by Monday as well, with temperatures in the Leadville area climbing into the 60s and staying above freezing overnight. Those flows remain below average, however, as cooler weather stuck around later into the year for the first time in a decade. As of Monday, flows at Parkdale, west of Canon City, on the Arkansas River were 1,260 cfs and climbing. That’s close to average and twice what was in the river a week ago…

He said the Fry-Ark Project should bring over an average amount of water, roughly 56,000 acre-feet, despite a variable snowpack that started off heavy in the southern mountains, melted off somewhat in April and returned at more typical rates into May. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District made allocations last week based on those projections, but held back 20 percent of the water to account for uncertainty. Snowpack in the state is now at 79 percent of average, but has rebounded in the northern mountains to average levels. The Colorado River basin is at 86 percent, and the Arkansas River basin is at 91 percent of average.

Platte River tour July 12-15

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From the North Platte Bulletin:

A four-day water and natural resources tour in July will examine the challenges of sharing water supplies in the North and South Platte River basins in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming. The tour covers all three states and includes a visit to the North Platte River irrigation project. It will be held July 12-15, beginning and ending in Kearney. Stops will be along the North and South branches of the Platte River.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking a hard look at managing the Missouri mainstem — hearings start June 1 in Jefferson City, MO

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Here’s the link to the website for the study. Here’s the pitch:

The Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS) is a broad-based, Congressionally authorized study to review the project purposes established by the Flood Control Act of 1944. The Study will analyze the eight authorized purposes in view of the current Basin values and priorities to determine if changes to the existing purposes and existing Federal water resource infrastructure may be warranted.

Thanks to for the heads up. From their article:

John Grothaus with the Kansas City District of the Corps says the first phase of the project is “public scoping” to get input from stakeholders and agencies, as well as members of the general public. “The first phase of the study, which is in some respects going to shape how we conduct our assessment of the existing conditions in the basin and how we shape the formulation of alternative plans. You know, what are people’s views what are their priorities?” Grothaus said.

The study will examine whether a 1944 federal law needs to be changed or revised from the eight set ‘purposes’ for the river, its dams and reservoirs.

“The fact that we’ve been granted this authority through Congress indicates that Congress feels like there’s some wisdom in looking at the purposes and seeing if any changes are needed or warranted,” Grothaus said.

Those eight purposes, outlined 65 years ago, are flood control, irrigation, hydropower, navigation, water supply, recreation, water quality, and fish and wildlife.

More Missouri River Basin coverage here.

Rocky Mountain National Park officials embarking on restoration project near the Grand Ditch

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

Three years after the May 30, 2003, breach, the National Park Service filed suit against the owners of the Grand Ditch. And in 2008, Water Storage and Supply Co. settled out of court, paying $9 million to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Officials at the park are now starting the lengthy environmental-impact-statement process of determining the best way to restore the damaged area. They will listen to experts and residents for ideas on how to best do that without causing further damage. Options, according to Rocky Mountain National Park, include:

• Doing nothing and allowing natural restoration in some locations.
• Stabilizing steep slope.
• Removing sediment and dead timber and possibly using it in other areas of the restoration project.
• Planting native species.
• Regrading and re-contouring areas to restore the natural water flow.

The possibilities, which could be combined into the final plan, may require using chainsaws, helicopters and even fences…

Comments will be accepted at two upcoming public meetings:

• June 1, 7-9 p.m., Grand Arts Center, 913 Park Ave., Grand Lake.
• June 3, 7-9 p.m., Harmony Library, 4616 S. Shields St., Fort Collins.

Written comments: Send to Grand Ditch Breach Restoration Plan, Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 U.S. 36, Estes Park, CO 80517 or submit online at

More Grand Ditch coverage here and here.

USGS: Colorado snowmelt and runoff occuring and average of 3 weeks earlier now as compared with the 1970s

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Here’s the release from the United States Geological Survey:

Snow in the Colorado mountains is melting significantly earlier in the year, and the changes appear to be related to recent climate trends.

Colorado snowmelt and streamflow are occurring an average of two to three weeks earlier than in the late 1970s, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study published today in the Journal of Climate. These shifts in timing are correlated with warming springtime air temperatures and decreasing snowfall over the study period and may have an effect on Colorado water supply.

The study examined recent trends in snowmelt and streamflow timing in Colorado for the years 1978-2007 and evaluated potential linkages with trends in air temperature and precipitation in the state. The analysis was based on snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Snow Telemetry, network and air temperature data from research sites operated by the USGS in Rocky Mountain National Park and the National Science Foundation, Long-Term Ecological Research program at Niwot Ridge, Colo.

“Results from this study indicate that even the mountains of Colorado, with their high elevations and cold snowpacks, are experiencing substantial shifts in the timing of snowmelt and snowmelt runoff, which are occurring earlier in the year,” said David Clow, USGS scientist and author of the study. “If the shifts in snowmelt timing observed in this research persist, they could have important implications for reservoir operation, water rights, wildfire severity, and forest health in Colorado.”

Snowmelt and streamflow timing trends were analyzed using a relatively new, powerful statistical test called the Regional Kendall’s Tau test, which provides increased power of detection by combining data from multiple sites within a region.

The USGS article is now available in the May 2010 edition of the Journal of Climate (PDF)

Southern Delivery System: Contract negotiations between Colorado Springs Utilities and the Bureau of Reclamation for use of Fryingpan-Arkansas Project facilities start tomorrow

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Bureau of Reclamation will negotiate with Colorado Springs and its SDS partners beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the third floor boardroom of the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center, 210 N. Santa Fe Ave. A second session is planned at Colorado College in Colorado Springs on June 15. The negotiations are open to the public, and there will be an opportunity for public comments at the meeting.

Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West have applied for Bureau of Reclamation contracts to store, exchange and move water from Pueblo Dam. The pipeline could carry up to 78 million gallons per day to El Paso County, with capacity of 18 million gallons per day to Pueblo West…

According to the draft contract, Colorado Springs is requesting contracts for conveyance, long-term storage of 28,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo, and exchange of 10,000 acre-feet of water to Turquoise or Twin Lakes. No rates for any of the activities have been set, and should be the primary area of discussion during negotiations. The contract also specifies that SDS will be constructed by the participants at their sole expense.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Glenwood Springs: Improvements to whitewater park are nearly complete

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From The Aspen Times (John Gardner):

Just in time for the spring rush, riverbank improvements at the Glenwood Springs whitewater park are nearly complete. The upgrades will make the park more enjoyable for paddlers and spectators alike, according to Glenwood Parks and Recreation Director Tom Barnes. “The wave is already getting some use, which is really cool to see,” Barnes said. Work began on the park in fall 2009. Gould Construction completed the project, which cost a reported $430,000, to transform the rocky and rugged riverbanks into more of a park-like setting to accommodate spectators. While the project included development of a park and several amenities designed to make the viewing experience more comfortable, the improvements were also designed to make the wave in the river more easily accessible for paddlers. Improvements on the north and south side of the Colorado River include observation bleachers and decks for spectators. Additions also include takeouts on both the north and south sides of the river, to the west of the Midland Avenue Bridge, to provide easier exits for paddlers…

A ribbon-cutting event for the whitewater park is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 10, with ribbon cuttings at Two Rivers Park and Oasis Creek Park scheduled for 6 p.m.

More whitewater coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Water issues to be part of the Governor’s race?

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It looks like water will be on the minds of John Hickenlooper and Scott McInnis over the next few months. Here’s a report from Dean Humphrey writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

“When I came into office as mayor, there was a we-versus-them mentality where towns and municipalities competed against each other for water,” the mayor said. “It was a clear case of fundamental nonsense of government. If Aurora or Douglas County ran out of water, it would be national news.” Colorado residents should realize that different parts of the state rely on other parts, and one area depriving another of something isn’t in the best interest of either, he said. “It is in the interest of the Front Range to make sure water is plentiful in the Grand Valley and the Arkansas Valley,” he said. “What is Colorado without Palisade peaches, powerful rivers or a ranching heritage?”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Monument: No contract for Fountain Mutual Ditch Company shares

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

The board of trustees had, at its May 7 meeting, decided to go under contract with the company. In a conference call with the town’s water attorney, Bob Krassa, water engineer Bruce Lytle, town attorney Gary Shupp, trustee Gail Drumm, public works director Rich Landreth and town manager Cathy Green, the town was advised by Lytle and Krassa not to close on the purchase of the water shares, Green said. The deal would have involved the purchase of 526 shares of water in exchange for $6 million. “For us it’s all of our water money, it’s a huge risk, and if we make an investment this big we won’t have a dime for many years to come to put into anything that comes along that might be better,” Green said. She added while the town might be giving up good water rights, the staff recommended not pursuing them because it is trying to minimize the risk to the town. The contract had a lot of third-party agreements, Green said, and there was uncertainty about what that might mean for the town. There were also questions about whether the water could be exchanged upstream, whether the water could go outside the service area of the potential water provider, Comanche Resources, and how and where to store the water.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Brush: Stormwater fees to rise?

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From the Brush News-Tribune via The Fort Morgan Times (Jesse Chaney):

The Brush City Council will consider a resolution Monday that would raise storm-water fees by an additional three cents per month for each linear foot of property that touches a public street equipped with a curb and gutter. If approved, the storm-water rate would increase from 13 to 16 cents per linear foot. The new rate would take effect July 1.

More stormwater coverage here.

Cedaredge: Water rates to rise?

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From the Delta County Independent (Bob borchardt):

The current monthly base rate for domestic water users is $28.50 ($16.50 for 10,000 gallons, plus $4 capital improvement fee and $8 debt reduction fee. Each additional 1,000 gallons is plus $1.50). Out-of-town users pay an addition $10 per month for a base rate of $38.50. It was noted the $4 per month Capital Improvement Assessment, used to pay for improvements to 4.2 miles of waterline, is to be reduced to $3 per month in 2011, 2012, 2013 and the first four months of 2014. Cedaredge town administrator Kathleen Sickles explained that the monthly base rate does not pay for water and does not guarantee that users will get 10,000 gallons. “The base rate does not mean you have a right to receive that amount of water,” said Sickles.

Proposal 1 increases the monthly base rate to $33.50 in-town and $43.50 out-of-town ($17.50 for 10,000 gallons, plus $4 capital improvement fee and $8 debt reduction fee, plus an added $4 per month capital replacement fee — scheduled to go to $7 by April 2014 — to be “collected for existing capital purchases and to be retained for major capital replacement needs.” Each addition 1,000 gallons is $2.15).

Proposal 2 increases the monthly base rate to $34 in-town and $44 out-of-town. The rate structure would be $18 per month for 12,000 gallons, plus $3 per thousand gallons over the 12,000 gallons, again with a $4 per month capital replacement fee, $4 capital improvement fee and $8 debt reduction fee.

Proposal 3 would increase the monthly base rate to $36 in-town and $46 out-of-town. The rate structure would be $20 per month for 10,000 gallons, with $2 per additional 1,000 gallons, plus the $4 per month capital replacement fee, $4 capital improvement fee and $8 debt reduction fee.

Proposal 4 would increase the monthly base rate to $35 in-town and $45 out-of-town. The rate structure would be $19 per month for 10,000 gallons, with $2 per additional 1,000 gallons, plus the $4.00 per month Capital plus the $4 per month capital replacement fee, $4 capital improvement fee and $8 debt reduction fee.

However, the trustees appeared to favor a fifth proposal — to raise the monthly base rate to $37 in-town and $47 out-of-town with a rate structure of $21 for up to 10,000 gallons usage plus the $4 per month capital replacement fee, $4 capital improvement fee and $8 debt reduction fee.

More infrastructure coverage here.