Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority plans to show off their shiny new water treatment plant on June 18

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From email from the ACWWA:

You are cordially invited to the Joint Water Purification Plant Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, the ceremony will be on June 18th, at 10:00 am. For more information please visit our website, under Meetings & Events.

More water treatment coverage here.

Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District sets 80% quota for Colorado-Big Thompson Project shares

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From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Porter):

The water district felt confident enough in early April to increase a 50 percent initial quota set in October to 80 percent for Colorado-Big Thompson water share owners. A quota of 80 percent means each unit of C-BT water will yield eight-tenths of an acre-foot…

The 80 percent quota will make available a total of 248,000 acre-feet of C-BT water this year to its owners, which include 33 cities and towns, about 120 ditch and reservoir companies and around 1,800 individual allottees, according to Brian Werner, water district spokesman. Werner and [Karen] Rademacher said additional Western Slope snowfall after the 80 percent quota vote by the water district’s board of directors on April 9 has painted a much rosier picture than was foreseen mid-winter. “The numbers are definitely trending up,” Werner said. “We’re going into the (summer) with the highest storage in 10 years, and the soil moisture is way up.”

One example of this year’s heavy late season snow can be seen near Gould just across the Continental Divide in Jackson County. On May 24 the Colorado State Parks department reported that the Ranger Lakes, Bockman and North Michigan Reservoir campgrounds would remain closed through the Memorial Day weekend because of snowy conditions and the Crags Campground will be closed until July 1 because of still-deep snow…

About two-thirds of C-BT water is consumed by agriculture and the remaining third goes to municipal and industrial users. When it comes to ownership, Werner said those ratios are flipped, with cities owning two-thirds of the total 310,000 C-BT units and ag users owning about one-third.

Rademacher said another reason for the region’s water users to celebrate is the fact that most of April and the first part of May were cooler than normal. “It was cold,” she said. “The weather turned cold through much of April and stayed cold through mid-May, so that slowed the runoff.”

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

American Rivers: Upper Colorado is sixth most endangered river

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

[Grand County’s continued negotiations with Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Conservancy District Grand County Commissioner James Newberry] said, is sizing up better than putting the kibosh on diversion proposals altogether. “Enhancements,” or ways to improve the river, are being worked out with East Slope water providers outside of official National Environmental Policy Act processes. If Denver and Northern were forced not to do the projects at all, “then the enhancements are also gone and then we’re left with the third most endangered river being the Fraser and the sixth most endangered river being the Upper Colorado, with no way to fix them.”

Denver Water disagrees its proposal could amount to “sapping the life from the Upper Colorado,” as stated in an American Rivers June 2 press release about the river rating. “We’re working on enhancing stream flows, providing water for wildlife habitats, and working with diverse stakeholders to arrive at a solution related to the Wild and Scenic Act,” said Stacy Chesney, spokesperson for Denver Water. “From what I’ve read on the American Rivers website, they are about water efficiency and against short-sighted projects. The Moffat Collection System Project is a well thought-out part of Denver Water’s approach to ensuring a reliable water supply for the future. We’re doing it alongside conservation and recycled water, and are working to enhance the environment as well.”

And what is Northern’s take on the American Rivers posting? “We’re not taking exception to it. We certainly understand there are concerns that are being expressed,” said Northern spokesperson Brian Werner. But in trying to obtain permits for firming projects, “We think we’ve put a lot on the table over there,” he added, calling possible soon-to-be East and West Slope water agreements “precedent-setting.” Asked about the attention the American Rivers rating may draw to Northern’s increase-in-diversions request, “We’re trying to educate the public on what the projects are about, so we don’t shy away from that,” Werner said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Upper Colorado River reservoirs releases for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program are providing a big bump to runoff

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From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Michelle Garrison):

Coordinated releases from a series of Upper Colorado River Basin reservoirs [began Thursday June 3] and are anticipated to carry on through next week as part of the Coordinated Reservoirs Operations Program.

Managers of the reservoirs completed a conference call today, agreeing to voluntarily run the program this year. The program benefits the endangered fish of the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Green Mountain Reservoir, operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, will increase releases by 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) today and tomorrow. Releases will go up another 400 cfs on Saturday before reaching 1400 cfs in late afternoon. Releases from Green Mountain include inflows bypassed by Dillon Reservoir, operated by Denver Water.

Denver Water also operates Williams Fork Reservoir, which will continue to pass its inflows downstream. Outflows from Williams Fork are currently about 600 cfs but may increase over the weekend with increasing inflows.

Wolford Mountain Reservoir, operated by the Colorado River Water Conservation District, is currently passing inflows of approximately 500 cfs. Outflows will be increased to approximately 200 cfs above inflow by Saturday evening. Inflows may increase over the weekend, further increasing the outflows from Wolford Mountain Reservoir.

Increased outflows from the participating reservoirs may continue through Wednesday, June 9th. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) has incorporated these planned reservoir operations into their streamflow forecasts…

More detailed information about forecasted streamflows in the Colorado River basin are available from the CBRFC website at http://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov. A map-based interface allows viewing of hydrographs detailing recent, current and anticipated flows.

“The releases boosting this year’s Colorado River peak are a tonic that will make the river healthier, and that benefits everyone from water users, to recreation, and all the fish that call the river home,” said Bart Miller, Water Program Director for Western Resource Advocates. “All the parties that have come together to make this happen are to be commended.”

The Coordinated Reservoir Operations program was established in 1995 as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. Its purpose is to enhance spring peak flows in a section of the Colorado River upstream of Grand Junction, Colo., determined critical to the survival of four endangered fish species: the humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail chub and the Colorado pikeminnow. In years with sufficient snowpack, surplus inflows to the reservoirs can be passed on downstream to benefit these fish.

For more information, contact Kara Lamb, Bureau of Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office, at (970) 962-4326, klamb@gp.usbr.gov; Jana Mohrman, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, at (303) 236-4486, jana_mohrman@usfws.gov or Michelle Garrison, Colorado Water Conservation Board, at (303) 866-3441, ext. 3213, michelle.garrison@state.co.us.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is a cooperative partnership of local, state and federal agencies, water developers, power customers and environmental groups established in 1988 to recover the endangered fishes while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts.

From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

There’s a reason for the cafe au lait color of the roiling Animas River that was moving at 4,600 cubic feet a second at the beginning of the week. Mountain snow is melting like crazy, leaving the snowpack in the Animas, San Juan and Dolores watershed at a paltry 19 percent of the 30-year average. Statewide, as of Tuesday, the snowpack stood at 53 percent of average. The North Platte basin registered the highest percentage, 98, while the Arkansas basin was next to the bottom at 32 percent of average.

This year’s snow reserve in the Animas, San Juan and Dolores watershed is pathetic compared to June 1, 2009, when it was 123 percent of average. “Southern Colorado experienced the greatest decline in snowpack percentage in May, leaving only the higher elevations with any significant snow,” Allen Green with the Natural Resources Conservation Service said in a statement. “A general lack of precipitation since early April has decreased the outlook for runoff in the southwestern corner of the state.”[…]

Runoff filled reservoirs to 110 percent of the June 1 average statewide, compared to 95 percent last year, Green said. In the Animas, Dolores and San Juan watershed reservoir levels were 115 percent of average, compared with 96 percent last year. Hal Pierce, the superintendent at Vallecito Reservoir, said Thursday the scant snowpack won’t affect Vallecito. “I’m within two and one-half feet of filling,” Pierce said. “The water is coming up 6 to 8 inches a day, so we’ll fill or be darn close to it in five or six days.” Reservoir levels in the Gunnison and Colorado basins stood at 114 percent of the June 1 average. Rio Grande basin reservoirs had the lowest levels, 90 percent of average.

From the Montrose Daily Press (Joel Blocker):

The Lake Fork of the Gunnison River rushes toward Blue Mesa Reservoir just south of the Red Bridge campground 17 miles north of Lake City. The Lake Fork is running at 1,060 cubic feet per second, according to the USGS Real-Time Water Data for Colorado. This section is open to boaters from the Red Bridge Campground to the Gateview Campground. It’s the most challenging, thrilling stretch, with technical Class III waters that sometimes approach Class IV during high runoff.

From the Summit Daily News (Bryce Evans):

[Veteran river guide Duke Bradford] said the Blue is currently running well. And, as the river may hit its peak in the coming weeks — possibly even days — now’s the time to go down it. “It’s anyone’s guess how long it’ll last, but we should have at least a couple weeks,” he added about the Blue.

The Arkansas, however, is looking to have a long season, possibly past the end of August, due to high amounts of winter precipitation on Hoosier Pass. Bradford said the “Ark” is commonly consistent for boaters, as it has controlled releases from the reservoir.

Clear Creek, in the stretches near Idaho Springs, is already running well and should continue to do so until early August. “That’s the closest, most consistent whitewater we have,” Bradford said.

And in each of the rivers, Bradford said a boater of every ability can find the stretch that’s right for them.

For instance, the Colorado River has arguably the best stretch of class IV and V rapids anywhere in the country in Gore Canyon near Kremmling. There’s a waterfall, long runs, and Bradford said the stretch is strictly for the “active and aggressive” boaters with a whole lot of experience. (Swimming tests — including recovery from under the raft — are required to paddle down the area.) On the other hand, the Colorado also offers some pretty leisurely paced float trips.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Mesa County officials are warning the public to expect a two-foot surge in water levels on the Colorado River this weekend. Warm temperatures will contribute to the increase, as will a coordinated release of water from reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin to benefit endangered fish. Strong currents, cold water and debris dislodged by heavy flows will increase the danger of river travel, and the county is urging people to use caution on or near the river. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department recommended that non-experienced boaters stay off the river, and said canoes, inner tubes and inflatable boats with single-chamber flotation should not be used under current conditions. It also said people always should use life vests on the water and refrain from drug and alcohol use on or near rivers…

Peak flows are expected early next week and should be right around average, said Bryon Lawrence, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. But average peak runoffs still demand plenty of respect from river visitors in western Colorado. “We always tell people several things this time of year, and one is never underestimate the force of fast-moving water,” Lawrence said. “And the waters are very cold. I think sometimes people underestimate that, too,” he said. The snowmelt-swollen Colorado River has a water temperature of about 50 degrees right now.

The Colorado River usually peaks between May 29 and June 18, so this year’s peak should arrive around the normal time, Lawrence said. Officials are predicting the river at Cameo will peak Monday night or Tuesday morning between 17,100 and 18,900 cubic feet per second. Its depth there could reach 10.5 feet. In years where conditions allow, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other reservoir operators have agreed to joint releases during peak river flows to help flood river shallows upstream of Grand Junction. Those shallows are considered critical spawning habitat for the humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail chub and Colorado pikeminnow. Despite below-average snowpack this year, reservoir storage levels remain good, Lawrence said. Also, a cool spring helped preserve what snowpack there was, and spring storms in the central and northern mountains enhanced it, he said.

Flooding isn’t in the forecast, though. The only area of concern is the Elk River near Steamboat Springs, and even there it’s unlikely to flood, although it may fill the riverbank in places, he said.

From NBC11News.com (James Hopkins):

The coordinated reservoir operations program was established in 1985 to enhance spring peak flows in a section of the upper Colorado river that has been deemed critical for the survival of 4 endangered fish species, the Humpback Chub, Razorback Sucker, Bonytail Chub and the Colorado Pikeminnow. “We’re releasing 1400 CFM so we can reach this high peak flow,” says Hock. Reservoirs are able to bypass the flows because of the past few years of “good” snowpack. The higher river flows help get rid of the silt that builds up on the bottom of the river. “The eggs fall into the spaces between the cobble that were once filled with the silt,” says Osmundson. This gives the eggs a better chance of reaching maturity and hatching. It also increases the amount of food for the fish to eat.

It’s not only these endangered fish that benefit from the higher flows. “That also benefits the people who are fishing and rafting on the river as well,” says Hock. The reservoir release is planned to run through Tuesday next week with peak water levels expected to rise about two feet through town. A short inconvenience for some that will hopefully lead to a brighter future for our endangered species. “It’s been shown that years following higher in stream flows we have more years of reproduction of our endangered fish,” says Osmundson.

From The Fairplay Flume (Danny Ramey):

South Platte River between Eleven Mile and Spinney Mountain reservoirs – Flows for the “Dream Stream” have been around 63.6 cubic feet per second lately…

South Platte River near Deckers – The flows on this portion of the river continue to be low, running between 60-70 cfs.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have the Ruedi Weather Station available on-line! Please visit the Weather Station at www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao/ruediweatherstation.html. It displays current air temperature, wind speeds, humidity and more. Additionally, because it uses the same transmission system as our water gages, the Weather Station Website also displays water level elevation and reservoir content.

Releases from the dam to the Fryingpan are about 90 cfs. We have not made any changes. However, the Rocky Fork is picking up snow melt and flowing pretty well. I believe the gage below the dam is reading about 125 cfs.