Aspinall Unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

For those of you keeping a close eye on the flow in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge, there have been some minor fluctuations the last few days as the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users increased diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel to its maximum capacity. Flows should remain stable until conditions warrant further change.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Crawford: Water tank maintenance complete

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From the Delta County Independent (Kathy Browning):

The two water storage tanks for the Town of Crawford have been inspected, cleaned, maintained and repaired. The tanks were never drained. The work was done June 5-7. Bruce Bair, public works director, told the town council on June 2 that the work for the repairs would take just three days instead of the estimated three and a half days. That realized a $1,000 savings for the town. Inland Potable Services of Centennial, Colorado, did all the work. The original estimate for maintenance and repairs was $10,325. The final bill was just $9,350.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Denver Water: Dredging project for Strontia Springs Reservoir will close Waterton Canyon for a year

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Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

Denver Water’s Strontia Springs Reservoir contains more than one million cubic yards of sediment — a result of forest fires and subsequent intense rains over the years. Increased sediment creates reservoir operational challenges and causes water quality issues that impact the functions of the Foothills and Marston water treatment plants. As a result, a Denver Water contractor will dredge the reservoir to remove at least 625,000 cubic yards of sediment — enough to fill the football field at Invesco to a height of more than 200 feet.

This large-scale project will require heavy machinery and equipment. To ensure the safety of those who recreate in the area, Waterton Canyon will be closed to the public for a number of months in 2010 and 2011 while the majority of the work takes place.

Waterton Canyon will be closed as follows:

* Monday, Aug. 2, 2010 until Sunday, Dec. 3, 2010
* Monday, Feb. 28, 2011 until Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011

Neither the parking lot at the canyon’s entrance nor the canyon will be accessible during the closure. Some contractor activity will precede this date but there will be flaggers to caution the public during July.

Access to The Colorado Trail (CT) from Waterton Canyon also will be closed during these times. The next closest access to CT Segment 1 is via the Indian Creek Trailhead on CO Hwy 67, 10.5 miles west of Sedalia (see http://www.ColoradoTrail.org).

“We understand that Waterton Canyon is a very popular recreation site for people of all ages, and we know some will be inconvenienced by this closure,” said Neil Sperandeo, manager of recreation for Denver Water. “When the full scope of the project was completed, it was determined it would be unsafe to leave the canyon open during construction. We hope to make the canyon even better for recreation when it reopens in 2012.”

For questions related to recreation, e-mail recreation@denverwater.org.

More Denver Water coverage here.

Orchard City: Environmental assessment is delaying waterline replacement project

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

During a presentation at the town board’s June 9 regular meeting, the mayor and town administrator detailed their trials with being told to pay over $2,000 for protection of endangered fish in the Gunnison and Colorado rivers, and of being told that a local irrigation ditch is a protected historical artifact. The requirements are among dozens of stipulations that must be fulfilled as part of the Environmental Assessment (EA) process required on the project. Many of the stipulations have no bearing on the town’s water project but must be addressed anyway. The EA is a federal mandate. It is intended to be a simpler and quicker way of looking at possible impacts on government funded projects than a full Environmental Impact Statement would require. The regulations kick in because some wetlands may be disturbed during replacement of the town’s leaky water transmission line. That requires a federal Army Corps of Engineers permit which immediately triggers the EA process…

The Colorado State Historical Society came back with the comment that the project, which will replace an existing 40-year-old water line, threatens to disrupt a pair of “known” protected historical artifacts — the Green Valley Mine and the Childs Ditch. After the Historical Society’s letter arrived at town hall and all the guffawing it produced had subsided, town officials got busy dealing with the ridiculous regulatory regimen they were about to be saddled with…

For the mayor’s part, he got on the telephone to the State Historical Society. Explaining to the Society that neither the old mine works nor the irrigation ditch need historical surveys costing $5,500 to $7,500, he said he was able to get an agreement. With a promise from the Society for approval and “a quick turnaround,” the town was sending a letter last week asking for release from having to pay the thousands of dollars for a historical survey on the mine and the ditch.

Another regulatory snafu was handled by the trustees themselves. It was described by the mayor using serious language and dark terminology to say the town was being forced to pay under duress.

That problem involves yet more federal regulations that link Orchard City’s water line replacement project to endangered fish in the Gunnison and Colorado rivers – the razorback sucker, the Colorado pikeminnow (formerly known as the Colorado squawfish), the bonytail chub, and the humpback chub. The answer to solving the regulatory problem with the town’s pipeline project, to ensuring the town’s future domestic water supplies, and to protecting the fish, it turns out, can all be accomplished at once with a single check in the amount of $2,278 made out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The mayor balked, describing the offer as a thinly-veiled, pay me now-or pay me later proposition. But, the town trustees relented, and voted 6-0 to pay the feds now instead of later.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Brush: New stormwater fees go into effect in July

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From the Brush News-Tribune (Jesse Chaney):

Effective July 1, the Brush storm-water fee will increase by an additional three cents per month for each linear foot of property that touches a public street equipped with a curb and gutter.
The Brush City Council unanimously approved a motion on Monday to increase the rate from 13 to 16 cents per linear foot. The city will use the extra fees to help repair parts of the city’s storm-water system, said Brush Administrator Monty Torres. The system is failing in several parts of town, he said, and the downtown area is currently the city’s top priority. Torres said the downtown storm-water system replacement project is expected to cost about $1.5 million.

More stormwater coverage here.

The Upper Colorado River named 6th most endangered river by American Rivers

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From The Aspen Daily News (Catherine Lutz):

For the third time in 25 years, the upper Colorado, from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to its confluence with the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs, has made American Rivers’ top 10 list of most endangered rivers, which was released earlier this month. The nonprofit cited water diversions as the main threat to the upper Colorado, the central artery of a major ecosystem and a recreational gold mine for fishing, rafting and kayaking. After more than 100 years of diversions that have collectively degraded the river’s health, two major proposed diversion projects that would take water from the Western Slope to Front Range reservoirs could make it even worse, American Rivers’ report said.

Federal authorities are currently considering the expansion of the two diversion systems. The water authority governing the Windy Gap Firming Project, which transports water from a pipeline near Granby to the Front Range, wants to build a new reservoir that would take about 28,000 additional acre-feet of water per year across the Continental Divide. And the Boulder-area reservoir that’s on the receiving end of the Moffat Tunnel Collection System, which takes water from the Winter Park area, is proposed to be enlarged and would use an extra 18,000 acre-feet…

Another reason everyone should care about the upper Colorado’s issues is that it’s an example of what could happen in other watersheds, said [Ken Neubecker of Carbondale]. The Roaring Fork River, for example, already has the third and fifth largest transmountain diversions in the state: the Fry-Ark Project, which takes water from the upper Fryingpan River, and the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion Project, which collects water for Twin Lakes from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River…

…water quality is another issue people need to be concerned about if the increased diversions are approved. The water taken from the Winter Park and Granby areas is closer to the headwaters of the Colorado, and thus clean and pure. Further downstream, the river has picked up sediment, salts and other pollutants. And the more salts in the water the harder it is, said Neubecker…

Both diversion projects are currently making their way through a federal environmental analysis process, and various interested parties throughout the state are in negotiations over what the final projects will look like. Some environmental groups lately have been invited to the negotiating table, and the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District (CRWCB) is involved in the talks. Movement toward a final decision could happen sometime this year…

Neubecker, who is not involved in the process, said he doesn’t believe either water authority behind the two projects is looking at the cumulative impacts of their proposals. He added that Front Range diverters need to first “recognize that there is a problem,” and then accept an adaptive management strategy that would allow the river to get the flows it needs at certain times of the year to maintain its riparian health. He also said he wants to be able to revisit whatever agreement is reached in the next decade or so, in case some of the assumptions are wrong and it’s not working…

But CRWCB spokesman Jim Pokrandt said he sees hope in that Western Slope entities are more involved in talks than they had been before.“The good news is there are negotiations with the two projects that could provide improvements for the river, and can be a win-win for everybody,” he said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Runoff news

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Nick Bonham):

Restrictions were lifted Wednesday for boaters and tubers on the Arkansas River downstream from the Pueblo Dam. The rush of winter runoff from the mountains last week caused local officials to put recreation restrictions on the river’s high and dangerous water levels. “The water flows have dropped off significantly and the river is now open for all types of boating,” Monique Mullis, operations manager at Lake Pueblo State Park, said in a press release.

2010 Colorado elections

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There has been a bit of controversy around Scott McInnis’ fellowship with the Hassan Family Foundation and the series of articles on land use and water that he contracted with the foundation to write. He made reference to the series on a recent radio program but no one had copies of the articles to distribute to the media. Ed Quillen mentioned the writing gig in his column in The Denver Post on June 3 asking, “Who is the best-paid writer in Colorado?” The answer:

Scott McInnis, a Republican candidate for governor. He received approximately $150,000 from the Hassan Family Foundation, for which, as he explained on a radio program, “I wrote a series of in-depth articles on water” that “could be used in a series for education on water in Colorado.”

I follow water stuff fairly closely, and I never saw the work. Jason Salzman, former media critic for the Rocky Mountain News, talked to everybody who might have reasonably encountered this hydrologic epic, and came up empty; McInnis’ office did not respond to his questions.

So $150,000 divided by zero disseminated words works out to something like infinity. Thus, Scooter must be the best-paid writer in our state. And if he doesn’t get elected governor, I want to engage him as my literary agent, since he knows how to cut some sweet deals.

Over the weekend the foundation posted (http://www.hasanfamilyfoundation.com/PDF/mcinnis.pdf) the articles. I read through them yesterday evening and all in all they are a good read. Of course readers understand that I’m a bit obsessed with Colorado water issues so I like a lot of arcane stuff. There are no sources cited for the most part so its hard to know the accuracy of his facts. He’s consistent in his message, bashing government and the Bureau of Reclamation specifically. He embraces the development of water and other resources and laments all the possible mineral mother lodes locked up by wilderness designation. He demonstrates a good understanding of water issues and the history behind Colorado’s present situation.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.