Runoff news

A picture named cachelapoudre


Greeley and Weld County crews are digging a ditch to divert water that has burst through the banks of the Poudre (POO’-der) River…Water levels were expected to drop Tuesday but a flood warning is in effect through early Wednesday morning.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

A picture named coloradobigthompsonmap

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We continued to reduce releases from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River yesterday. By yesterday evening, we were releasing about 127 cfs to the Big Thompson. We anticipate maintaining this release rate, unless weather conditions change again. We will see how the weather treats us, this week.

Meanwhile, inflows to Lake Estes are currently around 577cfs. We continue to run 550 cfs through the tunnel from Lake Estes to the hydro-electric power plants for power generation. This, combined with our release through the dam, is lowering the water elevation at Lake Estes just slightly.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update

A picture named ruedidam

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Early this morning, we curtailed releases from Ruedi by another 50 cfs, putting 520 cfs in the Fryingpan River. With the Rocky Fork now running around 34 cfs, the gage at Ruedi is currently reading around 554 cfs. Later this afternoon we will drop another 50 cfs. Our release to the river will be around 470 cfs. The Ruedi gage will read about 500 cfs.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Schwartzwalder uranium tainted water cleanup to start in July

A picture named uranium

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Operators of a defunct uranium mine accused by the state of contaminating groundwater and a nearby creek have agreed to begin a cleanup by the end of July. “We intend to comply to the best of our ability,” Cotter Corp. vice president John Hamrick said. Cotter will pump and treat tainted water from inside its Schwartzwalder mine in Jefferson County, then seek a state permit before releasing treated water back into Ralston Creek, Hamrick said…

Cotter was responding to a cease-and-desist order issued June 1 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Fines as high as $10,000 per day could be imposed. Cotter officials and state regulators have been negotiating.

Colorado Department of Natural Resources mining regulators sent Cotter a separate notice saying they have reason to believe Cotter has failed to comply with permit requirements designed to protect the environment.

State regulators have pressed to get the company to pump and treat the toxic water in the mine. “We’re in the process of establishing that system,” Hamrick said. State officials “have given us until July 31. We expect to have it by that date or before,” he said…

Residents of Denver, Arvada and the North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District depend on the reservoir for drinking water. Municipal-water providers say their filtration systems remove uranium but aren’t designed specifically for this. Denver Water and others have been urging a swift cleanup.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.

Runoff news

A picture named raftingarkriver

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Representatives from the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area — part of the Colorado State Parks Department — have lifted the high-water advisories for the highly popular Numbers and Royal Gorge sections of the Arkansas River. Representatives from the Colorado River Outfitters Association (CROA) say the move signals a moderation in the heavy spring runoff on the upper Arkansas River, recognized as one of the nation’s most popular locations for whitewater rafting and kayaking on the most commercially rafted river in the world.

Here’s a roundup of whitewater news from Scott Willoughby writing for The Denver Post.

Southern Delivery System: The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are not planning a new EIS now that Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise is kaput

A picture named sdspreferredalternative

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency told state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, that the EIS is sufficient and no further study for SDS is needed. Pace is disappointed with the response. “These federal agencies put no effort into their responses,” Pace said. Pace wrote to the federal agencies, including the Bureau of Reclamation, in April and requested additional environmental studies of how Fountain Creek will be protected without a stormwater enterprise…

Both the Corps and EPA said Colorado Springs has made commitments to protect water quality through Reclamation and Pueblo County 1041 processes. “The loss of the stormwater enterprise adds to Colorado Springs Utilities’ challenge in meeting relevant conditions of the various authorizations for SDS, but does not preclude it,” said Lt. Col. Kimberly Colloton, Corps district commander.

“EPA does not believe that the revocation of Colorado Springs’ stormwater enterprise in December 2009 affects these commitments made by the SDS participants to protect water quality,” said Larry Svoboda, NEPA compliance director for Region 8 of the EPA.

“They both sent one-page letters,” Pace said. “I was surprised how they didn’t address any of the numerous points I made. I would have expected a more thorough response from the agencies charged with protecting the waters of the nation and enforcing the National Environmental Policy Act.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Aspen Castle Creek hydroelectric project in conflict with instream flow needs

A picture named microhydroelectricplant

From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

A city-commissioned report from Miller Ecological Consultants of Fort Collins found that that a minimum of 13.3 cubic feet per second of water needs to be in Castle Creek to ensure healthy fish and plant life, although the stream often doesn’t contain much more water than that…

The city plans to divert a maximum of 25 cfs from Castle Creek to run the turbine of the proposed facility, which would be located in a new building under the Castle Creek Bridge on Power Plant Road. After running the turbine, water would be fed back into Castle Creek. The plant could generate up to 5.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. During spring runoff, Castle Creek can peak between 700 and 900 cfs, or even above like it did this year. But by August in an average year, the creek is running back below 100 cfs. Flows hang around 40 cfs for most of the fall. From about December until the runoff starts again in the spring, water levels in the creek are typically below 20 cfs.

If the Castle Creek hydro plant is built, water levels would be pushed to the minimum stream flow level for a few additional weeks at the beginning and end of the low water season before diversions were reduced or stopped altogether. “With the project in place, you’ll get a longer time period in the fall and spring when (low water) conditions occur,” city public works director Phil Overeynder said. “We’ll have conditions for months at a time when there simply isn’t enough water” and the plant will have to be shut down. The city is committed to maintaining a healthy instream flow in Castle Creek, Overeynder said. “We’re not about to back off of that,” he said…

The city has been working with the Colorado Division of Wildlife on the environmental impacts of the hydropower proposal. It is hoping to get a “conduit exemption” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which would not require a formal environmental impact statement or environmental analysis. City officials insist that this will save time and money, and that there will still be ample environmental review for the conduit exemption and at the state level.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.