Precipitation news

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From The Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

For the first 22 days of August, for example, Ridgway has seen 3.02 inches of rainfall. That compares with the 0.14 inches for the full month last year. The average since 2007 is just over 1 inch.

According to NWS meteorologist Megan Schweitzer in Grand Junction, the 28-year average August precipitation for Ridgway is 2.12 inches. So, for the last few years, August has been quite dry.

But the 2010 numbers, at more than 150 percent of the long-term average, are still impressive.

Ouray has seen a wet August as well. From Aug. 1-22, the rain gauge has measured 2.6 inches of moisture, compared to the monthly average of 2.34 inches. July was the truly wet month for Ouray, with 3.98 inches against an average 2.13 inches.

Conversely, Ridgway didn’t see nearly as much rainfall in July, with 1.66 inches of water, compared to an average 2.04 inches. It just shows the variability of mountain weather, a few miles up or downstream, from one month to the next.

Statewide the monsoon has delivered varied results as well. According to figures from the Colorado Climate Center in Boulder, July was very wet across parts of southern Colorado and the southeastern plains. Trinidad got drenched by 6.84 inches of rainfall in July, three times the average, while Cortez doubled its monthly average. Denver was wetter than usual, too, logging 3.7 inches of precipitation, 171 percent of normal.

Conversely, parts of central and northern Colorado stayed relatively dry. Grand Junction was only 70 percent of normal for July (though it has been wetter in August). Montrose was average for the month, with just over 1 inch of water. Blue Mesa Lake received a paltry 31 percent of normal rainfall. Greeley and Fort Collins were at 87 and 67 percent respectively. Yampa, in north-central Colorado, received only half its usual 2 inches in July.

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Cortez micro-hydroelectric plant update

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From the Cortez Journal (Reid Wright):

The aim of the facility is to utilize energy from a McPhee Reservoir pipeline from which Cortez draws its drinking water to be sold to local power companies.

It is estimated that there are up to 5,000 megawatts of untapped small-scale electricity in the U.S., Nickerson said.

The Cortez facility has been operational since May 1. Workers are installing a filter to better harmonize the facility’s electricity with the public power grid, Nickerson said. In addition, dampening devices are being installed to muffle noise generated by the facility, which is located near the city water treatment plant off County Road N.

Although the project will not turn a profit for another 20 years, it is designed to last 100 years, Nickerson said. Water flows through the generator before entering the water treatment plant. The generator is lubricated monthly using food-grade vegetable oil to prevent drinking water contamination. The generator belt is checked annually, and the bearings are replaced every 10 years at a cost of $100,000.

“We designed this for very little maintenance,” [Cortez Public Works Director Jack Nickerson] said…

The facility is monitored remotely from the water treatment plant, where city workers are already on duty.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Fort Collins: The city council is soliciting public comment on new floodplain rules

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The proposed changes stem from a shift in the stormwater utilities’ mission and an emphasis on public safety and protecting lives and property, said Jon Haukass, water engineering and field services manager with Fort Collins Utilities.

Current standards allow for some building within the river’s 100-year floodplain. A 100-year flood is defined as an event that has a 1 percent chance of happening in a given year.

Regulatory options under consideration include setting stricter standards for how much new construction may affect flows in the event of a flood and prohibiting all new construction in the floodplain.

Staff members and the city’s water board support the option of not allowing new structures or extensive remodeling of buildings in the 100-year floodplain, Haukass said.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Saguache County: The EPA and Trout Unlimited reach agreement for cleanup on Kerber Creek

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

The cleanup agreement is for Kerber Creek, at the north end of the San Luis Valley, where Trout Unlimited and the EPA have struck a deal that will shield the conservation group from potential liability as it works to clean up mine tilings along a 17-mile stretch of the creek.

The agreement could serve as a model for similar projects in Summit County, especially in the Snake River Basin, where cleanup efforts have been stymied by strict Clean Water Act provisions that shift liability for any pollution releases after a cleanup to the entity that does the work. The local Blue River Watershed Group, for example, is planning several projects similar to the work being done in the San Luis Valley.

Since 2008, Trout Unlimited and its partners have spent more than $1.3 million on restoration efforts along Kerber Creek. Working with the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado’s Nonpoint Source Program, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and local landowners, the goal is to treat 60 acres of mine tailings using lime, limestone and compost, and to restore the stream for fish and wildlife habitat. “Thousands of miles of headwater streams in the West are either threatened or dead as a result of historic mining pollution, and without Clean Water Act liability protection, Good Samaritans’ hands are tied,” said Russell. “If they try to treat the draining water to remove metals and improve water quality, they become liable for that water for ever. That’s a risk no entity has yet been willing to take.”

More restoration coverage here.

Palisade: 25% wastewater fee increase approved by Town Board

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Wiggins):

Trustees voted 6-1 — Mayor Dave Walker cast the dissenting vote — to raise the single-family residential bill $5 a month from $20.37 to $25.37. Bills for multifamily and commercial customers will go up by a similar percentage. The rate increase takes effect Sept. 1. The money will pay off a $4 million loan the town received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Water and Environmental Program, which distributes money to rural areas to improve water and wastewater infrastructure. In addition to the loan, the town received a $3.8 million grant from the same program. All of the money, along with $755,000 of the town’s own money, will be used for the construction of a lift station and three-mile pipeline that will hook into Clifton Sanitation District’s new treatment plant. Palisade’s lagoons can’t remove enough ammonia from wastewater before it’s discharged back into the Colorado River to comply with new federal standards. Town officials have estimated that single-family residential sewer bills will eventually reach $50 a month in order to generate enough revenue to pay off the loan. Acting on a recommendation from a town resident, the town decided to raise rates incrementally rather than in one fell swoop.

More wastewater coverage here.

2010 Colorado Elections: John Hickenlooper makes a stop in Carbondale

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From the Huffington Post (David Frey):

“Right now,” Hickenlooper said, “there’s been great suspicion between the West Slope and the Front Range. The only way I’m going to be able to help solve that and really resolve some of these issues around water and economic development is if I can build a relationship with the West Slope. I don’t know any other way to do that than to come out here day after day, week after week, and met with people and listen as hard as I can and say, “All right, how do we get from here where we’re kind of struggling to a place where we find agreement?”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Restoration: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announces programs in nine states for reforestation and watershed improvment

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From the Telluride Watch:

“This is welcomed money and will be put to very good use,” says Ron Henderson, chairman of the Montrose County Board of County Commissioners, of the [$446,000] grant. “The goal is to keep our forests healthy by reducing the risk of large wildfires, maintaining and improving water quality, preventing the spread of invasive noxious weeds and enhancing fish and wildlife habitats…

The restoration project is expected to create close to 750 part-time or seasonal jobs, supporting the enlargement of biomass markets for renewable energy and maintaining the viability of regional timber mills, the last remaining large sawmills in Colorado, for which a local and sustainable supply of wood is critical. Work, job-skill training and educational opportunities will be available for local youth and adults…

The restoration projects will focus on 555,300 acres of Forest Service land within a one-million acre landscape. Active restoration projects on 160,000 acres will include controlled burns; timber harvests; native plant establishment; trail and road relocations (to reduce sediment); riparian restoration and improvements for Colorado River cutthroat trout. Multi-party monitoring efforts are proposed for 68,000 acres. The grant provides money for the implementation of restorative work, and for monitoring, as well.

More restoration coverage here.

Steamboat Springs: Local whitewater enthusiasts contemplate replacing manmade water feature know as ‘Charlie’s Hole’

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From Steamboat Today (Joel Reichenberger):

The C-Hole is one of a number of features that have been built into the Yampa River and has long been the biggest and the best. It was named for Charlie Beavers, a local kayaker who died at age 21 in a non-kayak-related accident in North Carolina.

It was built in 2003 and partially washed out by a high runoff in its first season. That damage was repaired, but the Yampa hit its highest mark since that summer in early June this year, and again the hole was damaged. “It’s significantly changed for the worse,” local kayaker Dan Pia no said. “As the river was coming up this year, some thing shifted. There was a big crease in the wave I’ve never felt before. Then when the water came back down, the hole was just gone.”

Some speculate that the boulders moved, likely because the sediment under neath them was eaten away by the ferocious river. The rocks then sank into the hole dug by the flow…

Kent Vertrees, with Friends of the Yampa, said he’s contacted the city and everyone is eager to start work on repairs as soon as Stagecoach Reservoir is finished siphoning excess water into the river. That could mean work in October, though bad weather could push any repairs to the spring or fall 2011. “The city said they’re fully committed. We want to get this done,” Vertrees said. “This is a great amenity that needs to be taken care of.”[…]

The fix envisioned could help avoid similar troubles at the hole in the future. Planners hope to get approval to pour grout between the rocks actually in the river, though that’s not a sure thing and extra boulders might be needed to help lock the feature in place. A new hole won’t necessarily look like the big wave that left even the world’s best kayakers grinning. Organizers said they hope to consult and consider everyone from kayakers to tubers to fly fishers and surfers when deciding what work to do. “Part of the discussion is whether or not the formation should have more of a wave effect. The last feature was built with a little more retentiveness, a little ledgier with a drop-off, to create more of a hydraulic,” Van de Carr said.

More whitewater coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities and Reclamation reach accord on Lake Pueblo storage

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Update: From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Eileen Welsome):

After a 12-hour session Tuesday, the two sides returned to the bargaining table Wednesday morning and agreed on a price of $36 dollar per acre foot to store, convey and exchange water through the federally owned Pueblo Reservoir. That means that SDS and its partners, which include Pueblo West, Fountain and Security, will pay about $70 million over a 38-year period, or approximately one-fifth of the bureau’s opening offer of roughly $350 million. “The contracts are another significant milestone for the project,” said John Fredell, SDS project director and chief negotiator. “This ensures a reliable supply of water for our community well into the century.”[…]

Once the terms of the contracts have been finalized, the public will have 60 days to comment, [Mike Collins, the bureau’s area manager and chief negotiator] said.

The price of the water contracts negotiated by Utilities was within its projected budget and won’t affect already projected water rates, said Janet Rummel, a Utilities spokewoman. If Reclamation had held out for the higher number, it “definitely” would have affected rates, Rummel said. To help pay for the SDS pipeline, the Utilities plans to increase rates by 12 percent a year through 2016.

In a major concession, the bureau offered to give Utilities a $5 million credit for construction of an outlet in the dam for the pipeline. That’s nearly 20 times more than an earlier offer of $287,500. The North Outlet Works, as it’s called, will cost Utilities $31 million to construct and will be available to other water users…

The SDS partners have been seeking contracts to store, convey and transport roughly 42,000 acre feet of water through Pueblo Reservoir…Three types of contracts are involved. One will allow the SDS partners to store nonproject water in the reservoir if and when space is available. A second will enable pipeline participants to convey water through the reservoir. A third will allow Utilities to move water, through paper transfers, to other reservoirs in the Fry-Ark system.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Let’s split the difference,” SDS Program Manager John Fredell said Wednesday, after recapping a marathon session the previous day that left the two sides $2 apart. Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West will pay $36 per acre-foot annually for excess-capacity storage under the SDS contract beginning next year. The rate will increase 1.79 percent annually, and Colorado Springs will get an additional credit of $5 million over five years for sizing the North Outlet Works to allow more capacity than SDS requires. Colorado Springs also will pay the same rate for paper trades of water from Pueblo to Twin Lakes up to 10,000 acre-feet each year…

Throughout the rest of the day in Pueblo West, the two sides ironed out the contract line by line and concluded negotiations…

Currently, there are 24 contracts for nearly 62,000 acre-feet of excess-capacity space in Lake Pueblo, said Roy Vaughan, Fryingpan-Arkansas Project manager. Excess-capacity space is available only when there is not enough Fry-Ark water to fill Lake Pueblo. If the lake’s conservation pool fills, the excess-capacity accounts spill. About 25 percent of the space in Lake Pueblo is set aside for flood control. Only two of the contracts are long-term, Pueblo‘s for 6,000 acre-feet and Aurora’s for 10,000 acre-feet. Aurora’s water would be the first to spill if Fry-Ark water and other accounts begin filling Lake Pueblo. Pueblo’s water is relatively protected from spilling.

Next year, the SDS partners are planning to begin using accounts under the new contract totaling nearly 28,000 acre-feet, meaning revenues of more than $1 million that could be applied to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. In 2011, Colorado Springs plans to store 18,000 acre-feet; Pueblo West, 9,000 acre-feet; Fountain 400 acre-feet; and Security, 250 acre-feet, according to water managers from each community. By 2050, Colorado Springs would ramp up to 28,000 acre-feet; Pueblo West, 10,000 acre-feet; Fountain, 2,500 acre-feet; and Security, 1,500 acre-feet. They would ramp up, over a period of several years, to 42,000 acre feet. A master contract by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District for 28,200 acre-feet is also being considered, and Pueblo’s contract will ramp up to 15,000 acre-feet by 2025. Many of the smaller entities now using one-year excess-capacity contracts would be part of the Southeastern master contract.

Meanwhile, State Representative Sal Pace is concerned that the contract will be used to move water out of the Arkansas Basin, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Democrat also repeated his contention that the demise of the Colorado
Springs stormwater enterprise renders the SDS Environmental Impact Statement invalid, and he wants a new EIS “from scratch.” “It is imperative that Reclamation halt all negotiations immediately and restart the National Environmental and Policy Act process,” Pace wrote in a letter Tuesday to the Bureau of Reclamation and to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Pace said there have been substantial alterations to SDS from both the end of the stormwater enterprise and the potential sale of water to other communities in El Paso County that are not in the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, which straddles the Palmer Divide between the Arkansas and South Platte river basins in northern El Paso County, is among communities interested in working with Colorado Springs to obtain water or carriage of water in the future.
Colorado Springs has made no deals, and is not in active negotiations with any communities other than its SDS partners at this time.

Also, Bob Norris, who owns the T-Cross Ranch, which has been identified as the site for storage reservoirs for both SDS and Aaron Million’s Flaming Gorge Pipeline, was at Tuesday’s negotiations looking for information, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“It’s a little strange that they haven’t nailed down where they’re going to put the water,” said Bob Norris, owner of the T-Cross Ranches in El Paso and Pueblo counties. “They’ve bought and paid for rights of way, but not the reservoir site.”[…]

While Million has offered a letter of intent for the site, Colorado Springs Utilities has not fully shared its plan, Norris said…

The first phase of SDS is scheduled to be completed in 2016, but the terminal storage reservoir is more than a decade away. The first phase of the project will cost $880 million, with $2.3 billion in financing.

Colorado Springs Utilities has not finalized a cost for the second phase, which includes two 30,000 acre-foot reservoirs on Williams Creek. The upper reservoir would be built first and used for terminal storage, while the lower one would regulate flows on Fountain Creek. The upper reservoir is at the site identified in both Million’s plan and SDS. Originally, a site further north on Jimmy Camp Creek was identified for terminal storage, but the Williams Creek option was deemed the least environmentally damaging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, resulting in the supplemental report.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Governor Ritter Announces Acceleration Of Small Hydro Projects in Colorado

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Update From the Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The idea is to identify micro-hydro projects that pose little environmental impacts and can be built swiftly. The state will then shepherd those projects through the annals of approvals, pushing them through faster than they would have been. Surveys have found that Colorado has several hundred sites with a potential output of 5 megawatts or less with a combined generating capacity of more than 1,400 megawatts. One megawatt of small hydro could supply the power equivalent to the electricity needs of 500 to 750 homes, though the lengthy permitting process has prevented many projects from flicking on a light. In the past 30 years, only 24 small hydropower projects in Colorado have received an exemption permit from FERC, according to the state. The small hydro projects usually take advantage of existing dams, ditches, canals and pipelines to make the projects more practical.

Here’s the release from Governor Ritter’s office (Todd Hartman/Myung Oak Kim):

Gov. Bill Ritter today announced that Colorado has signed a significant agreement with the federal government that will make it far easier to develop small hydropower projects.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Colorado will considerably streamline the permitting process, reducing the time and money required to develop a project and opening the door to derive more clean energy from small hydropower sites while maintaining high levels of environmental protections.

“This agreement moves our New Energy Economy another important step forward,” Gov. Ritter said. “Colorado has enormous potential to produce more clean energy from small-scale hydroelectric power. These projects can create local jobs, diversify our energy supplies, reduce emissions and further bolster our energy security.”

Surveys have found that Colorado has several hundred sites with a potential of 5 megawatts or less, with a combined generating capacity of more than 1,400 megawatts. One megawatt of small hydro could supply the power equivalent to the electricity needs of 500 to 750 homes. The lengthy permitting process, however, has prevented many projects from moving forward. In the past 30 years, only 24 small hydropower projects in Colorado have received an exemption permit from FERC.

To alleviate this barrier, the Governor’s Energy Office has worked closely with FERC to find ways to not only shorten, but to simplify the process to obtain a permit so that it’s cost-effective for smaller projects to advance.

“I am proud that Colorado continues to be a leader in the clean energy economy. This agreement will not only create more jobs, but will generate a new source of renewable energy to power our state that will ultimately limit our reliance on foreign oil,” U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said. “The cooperation between our state and federal government demonstrates what a powerful team we can be when we join forces.”

Small hydro projects typically take advantage of existing dams, ditches, canals and pipelines to make the projects more practical. Such projects also avoid additional diversions from Colorado streams, as they use water flows already designated for crops or municipal supplies.

As part of this initiative, GEO has contracted with a group of renewable energy experts, known as the Renewable Energy Development Team (REDT), to assist the best projects in the state in navigating the FERC permitting process. Small hydro developers interested in participating in this program will be able to apply directly at the GEO’s website,, in the fall.

More coverage from International Water Power & Dam Construction. From the article:

Under the MOU, Colorado will develop a pilot program to test options for simplifying and streamlining procedures for authorizing conduit exemptions and small 5MW or less exemption projects while ensuring environmental safeguards. A single point of contact will also be identified for implementation of the pilot program, with both FERC and Colorado to hold quarterly teleconferences to discuss the development and implementation of the pilot program. Both parties will also share and make publicly available all relevant economic, environmental, and technical data.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.