Pueblo Conservancy District fee structure revamp

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Conservancy District is raising funds to maintain Pueblo’s levees through fees, but still needs to figure out its fee structure.
The district petitioned for reinstating fees in district court two years ago as a plan to generate $300,000 a year. “The problem we ran into was that the land use has changed over the years,” said Gus Sandstrom, president of the district.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Grand County ‘State of the River’ meeting recap

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Colorado River Basin snowpack levels are at 77 percent of average, in line with statewide averages this year, according to information shared at the annual State of the River Meeting. “It’s been a poor year until recently,” said Senior Water Resources Engineer Don Meyer of the Colorado River District to a roomful of water stakeholders Tuesday at the Mountain Parks Electric meeting room in Granby…

Forecasted elevation of Lake Granby is expected to be at 8,268 feet, according to Andrew Gilmore, hydraulic engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that operates the Colorado-Big Thompson project. That level equates to about 12 feet from full. But Don Carlson of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency that delivers water to Northeastern municipalities, water districts, industries and farms, had a slightly less conservative prediction for Granby Reservoir. Because of moisture on the East Slope, Northern may be able to use some of its low priority rights for water, he said, which will take some pressure off of West Slope supplies this year. Granby Reservoir may be closer to 4 to 5 feet below full, he said…

Snowpack has “been behind all year, although did make a nice recovery recently,” said Bob Steger, Denver Water’s manager of raw water supply. “The good news is, we think we’re going to fill all of our reservoirs anyway, despite the low snowpack.”[…]

State of the River

The Colorado River District, which operates Wolford Mountain Reservoir is extending its offering of bounty for anglers who catch northern pike, a predator to native species. Anglers will be awarded $20 for each Pike caught.

• Northern and the Bureau of Reclamation are planning to replace the dam structure between Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake this year. The dam/bridge at the eastern end of the canal is old, doesn’t perform well and poses safety concerns to boaters, said Northern’s Don Carlson. To avoid Grand Lake’s heavy summer traffic season during which many boaters use the canal, work on the dam project is planned for 30 days during the month of October.

• Pumping started at Windy Gap near Granby on April 29 to send 15,000 acre feet for storage to partners in northeastern Colorado, with another 40,000 acre feet from Lake Granby for their use.

• During the 25-year anniversary of the Windy Gap Reservoir, water will be taken down in mid-July through the end of September to address sediment build-up. Although sediment has been building up through the years, the reservoir was further impacted by a pond breach last year at the Orvis Shorefox property, which added silt to the reservoir.

• Denver Water customers are conserving more water due to a tiered rate structure that increases with increased water use per gallon. Graphs show that since Denver Water implemented its new rate structure, water use has plateaued even though the utility’s customer base has increased.

• Denver Water is redoing the outlet works at Williams Fork Reservoir and constructing a new auxiliary power plant at a cost of $17 million. The new outlet works should increase the capacity from 275 cfs to 750 cfs when completed. In the meantime, this summer the dam will operate with temporary outlet works with limited release capabilities, at 125 cfs. “We’ll get through this year as best we can with the limited release capabilities,” said Denver Water’s Steger.

• At the Vasquez Canal, Denver Water is replacing 1,500 feet of covered canal with pipe.

• There were several temperature exceedances in the Fraser River last year, according to the Grand County Water Information Network. They were upstream from Windy Gap and at the conjunction of Ranch Creek, she said. As many as 32 temperature monitoring sites will be in place again this year. Through partnerships, algae toxin monitoring and gathering of water clarity data will also continue at reservoirs and lakes this summer.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Vail kayak park open for the season

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From the Vail Daily:

ade in Vail Village is ready for action. Although water levels have not yet reached the preferred 400 cubic feet per second, the town has activated the park to take advantage of rising water levels. Free demos at the park will begin Tuesday and continue Tuesday evenings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. through June 22. The demos are run by Alpine Quest Sports and instructors will be on hand to demonstrate their skills and to show kayakers how to freestyle. The park has an adjustable whitewater wave that allows kayakers to experience maximum conditions during peak flows. The system will operate into late-June or as runoff allows…

The park’s computer controlled system is being programmed to read the water level each morning, and then automatic adjustments will be triggered to produce the best wave possible throughout the day. Kayakers are asked to leave feedback for the town about any additional adjustments that can be made to the park throughout the season. Feedback forms are available on site or by e-mail at whitewater@vailgov.com.

More whitewater coverage here.

Colorado Springs: Utilities board okays water supply regional partnerships

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Eileen Welsome):

Mayor Lionel Rivera and Utilities CEO Jerry Forte hailed the decision as a historic vote, saying it would benefit not only the utility’s ratepayers, but other water consumers throughout the county. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Forte said…

Under the new policy, which still has many details to be worked out, the regional partners would be charged a premium for water service that would be higher than what the utility’s current customers pay. A portion of that would go to the city’s general fund and another portion to Utilities.

The Utilities board, which consists of members of the City Council, voted 6-2 to move ahead with the regional partnerships. Councilmen Randy Purvis and Tom Gallagher cast dissenting votes. “I’m opposed to using our water,” Gallagher said, questioning whether Utilities would have an adequate water supply to meet demand during times of drought. Gallagher said he was also concerned about whether the utility would be able to accurately assess the hidden costs associated with delivering the water — such as electricity used to drive pumps — to the regional partners.

But Rivera insisted that the regional partnerships will be a good deal for the city and the utility. “If we have excess capacity that we’re not using, then we’re not being good stewards of our resources,” he said. “It will be a huge benefit to be able to sell water that we don’t need.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Snowpack/runoff news: Recent storms help the outlook

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Jenn Fields):

In the South Platte River basin — which is basically the Front Range — the snowpack is at 113 percent of average as of Tuesday, said Matthew Kelsch, a hydrometeorologist with University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. “The storms we had last week definitely helped catch us up to average,” Kelsch said. It was a welcome boost at higher elevations, said Dan Gottas, a Boulder meteorologist who writes the mountain forecast for climbinglife.com. “Before the storminess set back in during late April, the snowpack water content over the higher elevations along the northern Front Range was around 75 percent of normal for that time of the year,” Gottas said. Now, he said, snow-water content measurements at some sub-alpine locations along the Front Range are at anywhere from 100 percent to 130 percent of average for this time of the year. The snowpack typically declines rapidly after peaking in late April, he said, but the combination of cooler temperatures preventing the spring run-off and more snow are now keeping the snowpack at or above average.

From the Longmont Ledger:

“River flows can increase dramatically, without warning. Flooding is the number one weather-related killer in the United States,” said a press release from the city. “Citizens are advised to not play in or near the Saint Vrain Creek, and especially do not allow any pets or small children near the water.” Due to the recent drought, it has been a number of years since there has been a significant streamflow through Longmont, the release said. Rivers and creeks therefore may be more dangerous than normal as logs and other material that have accumulated over the past few years break loose and become part of the flow. Nearly all area reservoirs are currently full. Therefore, with the exception of area ditches diverting water for irrigation purposes, all snowmelt and future rainfall events will flow through Longmont via the Saint Vrain and Left Hand Creeks.

From email from Reclamation (Vern Harrell):

The mid month forecast decreased by 20,000 acre-feet from the May 1 forecast. With the current forecast, it doesn’t look like McPhee Reservoir will fill this year.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas River basin has the highest number of acres infested with tamarisk in Colorado, and much of it is in the upland areas, Edelmann said. “The [recent U.S. Geological Survey scientific assessment] doesn’t mean there weren’t water savings from tamarisk removal, just that they couldn’t be detected,” Edelmann said. “That’s not to say there could be some savings in the upland areas of the Arkansas River basin.”

Tamarisk consumptive use was reported as high as 9 feet per year in studies from the 1940s-70s, but the scientific methods did not take into account weather factors. Newer studies show the probable consumptive use is closer to 3-4 feet per year…

There could be a savings to the river by increasing the amount of water available to the Arkansas River, but any measurement would have to look at all components of the water budget — the water table, canal leakage and weather factors. “The river is a drain, so you should be able to see a net difference,” Edelmann said. “A lot of variables come into play.” So far, there have not been comprehensive studies showing the water-saving benefits of tamarisk removal in the Arkansas River basin. There is some anecdotal evidence,” Edelmann said. “The wetlands returned at Bent’s Fort when the tamarisk was cleared.” There are other benefits, such as improved flood protection in the river channel and improved wildlife habitat, Edelmann said.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Arvada and Denver officials are pressuring state mining regulators to force Cotter to cleanup the Schwartzwalder mine

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The latest water-quality tests showed that Ralston Creek below Schwartzwalder mine carried as much as 390 parts per billion of uranium, which is 13 times higher than the 30 ppb health standard. Contamination of groundwater at the source — inside the mine — exceeded the standard by 1,000 times. Drinking water remains safe, Denver Water and Arvada authorities said, because uranium is removed from Ralston Reservoir water by municipal water treatment plants. Still, even after treatment, uranium levels appear to be rising in some systems. In Arvada, reservoir water tested at 7.2 ppb before treatment. Uranium in drinking water sent to the city’s household customers increased to 1.2 ppb in April from 0.9 ppb in January.

“We’re urging the state to take immediate action,” said James McCarthy, Arvada’s chief of regulatory and environmental compliance. “We’re not retooling for uranium removal. That’s not just something you can turn a switch and do. That’s why Cotter has to do something about this. Why didn’t they make it known sooner?”

Jefferson County officials said they’ve been in regular contact with state regulators. The reservoir’s owner, Denver Water, “would like to see immediate and aggressive steps to ensure that reclamation of the mine is completed in a timely manner,” spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.

Colorado’s top water-quality overseer sent a memo May 10 to the mining regulators recommending swift action. “If a permanent solution cannot be implemented in a very short time frame, then an interim solution, such as pumping and treating as much contaminated water as possible, should be launched immediately,” wrote Steve Gunderson, director of water quality control for the state health department. Cotter’s mine “is causing a violation of stream standards. That’s the thing we’re waiting to get addressed. They cannot have a discharge that is violating stream standards,” Gunderson said Wednesday.

More Schwartzwalder coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.