Eagle River Valley: The Eagle River Watershed Council and Colorado Trout Unlimited host tour of $4 million river restoration project

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From the Vail Daily via the Cortez Journal (Sarah Mausolf):

The Eagle River Watershed Council and Trout Unlimited invited stakeholders on a rafting trip to tour the length of river where the $4 million restoration project is taking place. About two-thirds of the river restoration project is complete, said Melissa Macdonald, executive director of the watershed council. In 2008, workers added stones along the banks that pinch the water into a narrower, deeper channel. That helps keep fish healthy when the river is low. This stretch of the river gets wide and hot during low flow times, which is bad for fish, Macdonald said…

Last year, workers also added 14,000 trees and shrubs along the banks. This coming fall, the project will focus on adding more stones, called “cobble bars,” along the rivers’ edge and possibly plant 600 willows. A third phase of the project will add portable toilets near the boat launch, trash bins in areas with litter, trails and fishing docks near the Lake Creek apartments. The Eagle River Watershed council is still trying to raise the remaining $500,000 for the restoration. The rest of the money came from a $1.5 million grant from the Natural Resource Damage Fund and donations from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and various metropolitan districts. Vail Valley contractor B&B Excavating has been doing the work.

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As runoff continues to come down from the high country, we continue to bypass the inflow through Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. At noon today, we increased our releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue by 200 cfs, putting the river at 800 cfs. Friday morning at 6 a.m. we will increase the releases again by 200 cfs, putting the Lower Blue at 1000 cfs. Saturday morning, we will increase another 200 cfs around 6:00 a.m and Saturday afternoon we will increase one last time by 200 cfs, resulting in a 1400 cfs flow in the Lower Blue by Saturday evening. We anticipate the flows will stay in place up to five days before we begin to scale back down.

These releases are part of the Coordinated Reservoirs Operations program that we, and other reservoir operators, voluntarily participate in during run-off seasons when we have surplus inflow. The surplus inflows are bypassed downstream to the Colorado River, for benefit of the four endangered fish under the Upper Colorado River Endangered Species Recovery Program. The Recovery Program will issue a news release tomorrow further detailing our releases and those of other reservoir operators in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs City Council and Springs’ Issue 300 supporters are arguing about how to draw down the $1.4 million enterprise fund escrow

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Eileen Welsome):

Rivera argues that the City Charter, not Issue 300, is the guiding document that determines where CSU’s surpluses go. And the charter states that any surplus from CSU can be appropriated to the city’s general fund. “The charter overrules Issue 300,” Rivera said in an interview Tuesday, adding that payments to the city from other enterprises, such as the airport, are being phased out as required by the new ordinance. The City Council is expected to vote on what to do with Utilities’ $1.4 million later this month.

Issue 300, sponsored by anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce, instructed the city to phase out payments in lieu of taxes to the city’s general fund from its enterprises over an eight-year period starting in 2010. As a consequence, Utilities was instructed to hold back one-eighth, or nearly $4 million, of the estimated $31.7 million in funds scheduled to flow into the general fund in 2010 and place it in an escrow account. As of the end of April, the money in the escrow account amounted to $1.4 million, said Terri Velasquez, the city’s chief financial officer.

More stormwater coverage here.

American Rivers: Upper Colorado is sixth most endangered river in U.S.

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The projects, the Windy Gap Firming Project and the Moffat Tunnel Collection System Project, would increase diversions from the upper Colorado River by at least 48,000 acre-feet a year. The threat to the river’s fishery, boating and water supply to downstream users placed the Upper Colorado River at No. 6 in the 2010 list of the nation’s most-endangered rivers by American Rivers…

“Conversely,” American Rivers said, “if the projects incorporate appropriate river protections, they could herald an era of water-supply planning that better balances water development with the needs of the river.”[…]

The Windy Gap project was supposed to go online a year ago, but it was sent back by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a revised draft environmental-impact statement, said Chris Treese of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. The project calls for the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir in Larimer County to be supplied by an annual average of 30,000 acre-feet of water diverted through the existing Windy Gap project. It would supply water to more than a dozen municipalities in northern Colorado.

The Moffat project is designed to divert an annual average of 18,000 acre-feet of water collected on the Fraser River Basin through the Moffat Tunnel to an enlarged Gross Reservoir on the Front Range.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Tamarisk control: Leaf beetle introductions in Southwestern Colorado workshop Saturday, June 19

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From The Telluride Watch:

The Colorado Native Plant Society hosts a free seminar and field trip on tamarisk beetle control introductions in Delta County Saturday, June 19, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., with “Beetle Wrangler” Mike Drake, executive director of Painted Sky, discussing the history of tamarisk beetle introductions, how they control tamarisk, the logistical and financial advantages and what has been achieved in Delta County. After a classroom session, the group will tour Confluence Park in Delta to see firsthand results.

Tamarisk or salt cedar is on Colorado Department of Agriculture’s B list of noxious weeds. B list plants need to be controlled to stop their spread. Despite recent U.S. Geological Survey study findings that tamarisk isn’t quite the water hog it was long believed it to be, it still chokes riverbanks, reduces native plants and biodiversity, especially bird species, and tends to take over the landscape. Its presence increases soil salinity, thwarting competition from other plants.

Attendees should wear walking shoes and bring a lunch. You need not be a member of Colorado Native Plant Society to attend, but seminar is limited to 15. Meet at Painted Sky office, in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 690 Industrial Blvd in Delta. Call or email Gay Austin to register or for more information: austinaceae37@roadrunner.com or 970/641-6264.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Runoff/snowpack news

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From the Longmont Times Call (Magdalena Wegrzyn):

This time of year, [St. Vrain River] streamflows are typically at about 400 cubic feet per second, [Ken Huson, the city’s water resources administrator] said. During Memorial Day weekend, they peaked at about 530 cubic feet per second. “The river streamflow this time of year responds pretty directly to the temperature,” he said. “And last week, at the end of the week — Thursday and Friday— we had some warm weather.” And with temperatures expected to be in the 90s at the end of this week, he said is it likely the streamflow will increase again this weekend and into early next week…

Button Rock Dam is holding a full Ralph Price Reservoir in the mountains above Lyons. Huson said the reservoir doesn’t normally fill until the beginning of July. This year, it filled in May, partly because of the longer snow season this year. Longmont gets about two-thirds of its annual water supply from the St. Vrain, which flows into the South Platte River Basin. The water comes from snow runoff from Rocky Mountain National Park’s Indian Peaks Wilderness and Wild Basin areas.

On average, the South Platte River Basin reaches its peak snowpack accumulation on April 23, according to data gathered by the Colorado Natural Resources Conservation Service. This year, that didn’t happen until the middle of May…

“We actually were accumulating snow for three weeks longer than we normally do,” said Chris Pacheco, assistant snow survey supervisor for the Lakewood-based NRCS state office.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The [Poudre] river crested at around 2,500 cubic feet per second and almost 7 feet in height Saturday, the day after Fort Collins broke a heat record of 91 degrees on May 28 and mountain temperatures remained well above freezing all day, according to U.S. Geological Survey river data and the Colorado Climate Center at CSU…

Varra said the Poudre River stream flow this spring has been higher than normal because the Windsor Reservoir and Canal Company did not divert water from the river via the Poudre Valley Canal because its reservoir was full last month.

Higher temperatures in recent weeks melted the snowpack at a higher rate than last year, he said.

On Wednesday, the snowpack was 73 percent of normal in the South Platte River Basin, which includes the Poudre River, down from 110 percent May 25, according to U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service data.That comes at the end of one of the snowiest seasons – September through May – on record in Larimer County. Fort Collins received 88.7 inches of snow during the snow season at Colorado State University, according to the university’s monthly weather summary issued Wednesday. Last month was the 12th snowiest May on record for Fort Collins, with the 4.1 inches of snowfall May 12 breaking the 1912 record of 1.5 inches for that date.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Kevin Keller):

The Colorado River below Glenwood Springs is running near 11,900 cubic feet per second, according to the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) website. The Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs is running higher than its average for June 2 — at about 4,400 cubic feet per second, or about 900 cubic feet per second higher than it’s average. Byron Lawrence, Hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said even though the river is a little high right now, things are about normal after a little less than average snowfall. “We’re not doing too bad,” he said. “The runoff and expected peak is just about what we usually see.”[…]

Lawrence said that the cold spring helped average out the precipitation for the Western Slope, after the snowfall was about 5 percent below average. “The cold spring helped improve conditions,” he said. “It reduced snowmelt early so that in late April and in May we had a fairly decent snowpack.” The average peak date for the Colorado River is June 8, according to the USGS’ website. The forecasted peak this year is right about average, around June 9, Lawrence said. Lawrence added that after the peak, they expect for river levels to be right around average for the rest of the summer season.

From the Aspen Daily News:

…the snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin [is at] 67 percent of average…And the snowpack is 72 percent of last year’s at this time, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s snow survey office in Lakewood.

The Colorado River basin as a whole has 57 percent of its average snowpack, but 185 percent of last year’s snowpack as of June 1, according to an NRCS press release. That’s a slip from last month when it was 71 percent of average for that time of year, and 76 percent of average on April 1. Things look better at some sites within the Roaring Fork basin. On Independence Pass, for example, the snowpack is 80 percent of last year’s and 78 percent of average. McClure Pass’ snowpack is 90 percent of last year’s, but only 55 percent of average. And on Schofield Pass above Marble, the snowpack is 70 percent of last year and 77 percent of average.

The local snowpack is faring better than in the state as a whole, where snowpack totals have decreased to only 53 percent of average by June 1, according to NRCS. Southern Colorado saw the biggest declines in snowpack percentages in May, despite what looked to be shaping up as an excellent runoff season in midwinter. But with little to no precipitation since early April, it’s a below average runoff season in the Animas, Dolores and San Miguel rivers. Cooler weather and wetter conditions characterized the northern mountains in the late spring, and accumulations continued until mid-May. Maximum snowpack accumulation was nearly three weeks later than normal in some northern basins, and improved the runoff outlook from where it was in midwinter.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

Statewide snowpack totals decreased to only 53 percent of average on June 1, yet remain well above last year’s readings for June 1. The good news: all that melting snow has pushed many of the state’s reservoirs to well above average…Water coming down the Poudre River has flooded parts of the Poudre Trail between Greeley and Windsor, but no major flooding problems have been reported.