Englewood and Aurora agree to long-term water deal

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From the Englewood Herald (Tom Munde):

“This is a very good good agreement for both cities,” Stu Fonda, utility director, said as he presented the proposal to the Englewood City Council during the Sept. 7 study session. “The proposal changes the old agreement under which we received an average of 238 acre feet of water a year. The new agreement calls for Englewood to receive 509 acre feet of water single use water. Aurora benefits because it provides that city with water that can be reused over and over. There is no specific amount designated but I would guess the amount of reuse water they realize will exceed what they are providing us.” Fonda said the proposed intergovernmental agreement with Aurora calls for that city to annually deliver the water to Englewood by routing it to Chatfield Reservoir between July 1 and Aug. 15. Englewood then will send water down to city ditch, where it will either be stored in McLellan Reservoir or sold to Highlands Ranch…

Fonda said the additional 271 acre feet of water from Aurora is a valuable asset since water is valued at between $10,000 to $20,000 an acre foot. Using those figures, the additional water is worth between about $2.7 million and $5.4 million.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Long Draw Reservoir operations update

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

Fort Collins-based Water Supply & Storage Co. plans to appeal a U.S. Forest Service decision released Sept. 3 that would make it fully responsible for implementing a 15-year plan to restore the greenback cutthroat trout in the reservoir and surrounding streams. The mitigation program’s cost could be considerably higher than the approximately $800,000 projected by the Forest Service in an environmental impact statement, said Dennis Harmon, general manager of the irrigation company. But even that figure would be more than the company should have to pay in order to keep its permit to operate the reservoir, which was built in 1929 and expanded in 1974. “We just think this is way out of line for something that is already permitted,” he said. “We haven’t changed how this facility operates since the ’70s. “We think this mitigation is more appropriate for a new reservoir in the wilderness than on 53 acres of existing reservoir.”[…]

An effort to renew a Forest Service permit for the expanded portion of the reservoir turned into a decade-long fight when Colorado Trout Unlimited sued in 1994 over a plan that would keep La Poudre Pass Creek dry during the winter. In 2004, a U.S. District Court threw out the permit, forcing the Forest Service to start the permitting process over and to come up with a plan that would protect trout habitat. The revised environmental study came up with a plan for restoring the greenback cutthroat trout to more than 40 miles of streams in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. The plan called for eliminating invasive fish species and building barriers to keep them from getting re-established in the Poudre headwaters. Trout Unlimited worked with Water Supply & Storage and other entities, including the Colorado Division of Wildlife, to come up with a way to fund the mitigation program, which would be the largest native trout restoration project in state history.

But the decision by Glenn Casamassa, supervisor of the Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests, puts the responsibility for funding the restoration program on Water Supply & Storage because it holds the permit for the reservoir…

The National Park Service is expected to release its record of decision on the project within the coming weeks, said Larry Gamble, chief of planning and compliance for Rocky Mountain National Park. The decision will mirror the directions laid out by the Forest Service, he said.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: A fresh look at hydroelectric generation?

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Here’s a special report from National Geographic Magazine (Stephanie Simon). From the article:

…engineers and entrepreneurs are pressing an alternative view of hydropower that doesn’t involve new dams. They argue that plenty of efficient, economical energy can be wrung from other water resources, including ocean waves, free-flowing rivers, irrigation ditches—even the effluent discharged from wastewater treatment facilities. There’s a surge of interest, too, in adding small power plants to dams built years ago for flood control or navigation—as well as in turning reservoirs into battery packs of sorts, releasing energy when the grid needs it most.

Globally, hydropower provides 16% of electricity, slightly more than nuclear power and closing in on natural gas, according to the London-based International Hydropower Association. In the U.S., by contrast, hydropower now provides about 7% of electricity generation. All other renewable sources combined account for about 3%. Even without building large dams, expanding efforts to draw power from water could add 40,000 megawatts to the grid by 2025, says the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit research firm in Palo Alto, Calif. That’s the equivalent of putting at least two dozen new nuclear power plants online…

In the U.S., one strategy gaining popularity is to add power plants to some of the 80,000 existing dams that don’t have hydroelectric capacity. Technological advances like turbines that are gentler on fish and oxygen-injection systems that help balance aquatic ecosystems have won favor even among some environmental groups…

Several companies are experimenting with “low-head” turbines that can pull energy from relatively small volumes of water dropping as little as five feet over natural or man-made falls. One such project, launched by Natel Energy Inc. of Alameda, Calif., uses low-head technology to extract energy from an Arizona irrigation canal…

A less-experimental technology, dating back more than a century, is also gaining currency as a means to store energy and back up the grid: pumped storage, the system used by the Mount Elbert hydro plant outside Denver. The plant, sitting on the jewel-like Twin Lakes and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, plays a key role in keeping lights on and air conditioners humming across the West. At night, when demand on the power grid is low, the Mount Elbert plant sucks water from the lakes, sometimes using wind power to pump that water up into a reservoir above the plant. The reservoir acts as a liquid battery—a huge pool of potential energy. As the day warms up and the grid shows signs of strain, workers begin to release the water down a 470-foot drop, through devices that turn the pent-up energy into usable electricity. The water eventually pours back into the lakes, where it can be recycled into power again the next evening.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

CWCB: New transmountain pipeline concepts update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is looking at three new transmountain possibilities and two pumpback plans in the Arkansas and South Platte river basins in an analysis of supply options that could provide between 100,000 and 250,000 acre-feet per year of new water to the Front Range.

Only one of the projects, a 540-mile pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range, is actively being pursued. Entrepreneur Aaron Million and the South Metro Water Supply Authority both looking are at it. The “Big Straw” plan, or Colorado River Reconnaissance Project, was not evaluated in the latest study because of its high initial cost to build. It would bring water from the Colorado River near Grand Junction to the Front Range. Other projects studied were from Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Yampa River. The Green Mountain pumpback plan also was included in the study, although it would provide about 68,000 acre-feet annually — less than the other 100,000 or 250,000 acre-feet plans.

The Arkansas Valley plans would move water from either La Junta or Avondale to Rueter-Hess Reservoir near Parker. From either place, the cost would be nearly $100,000 per acre-foot over the 50-year life of the project and supply 100,000 or 250,000 acre-feet, according to a report by CDM engineering. All of the other options come in around $80,000 per acre-foot or less over 50 years. One of the South Platte options would cost around $70,000, while the Green Mountain option is about $40,000 over the life of the project. The reason for the discrepancy would be the need for reverse-osmosis, coupled with unproven methods of zero liquid discharge, to bring Arkansas Valley water up to drinking quality…

The new report, now in draft form, will be part of a Colorado Water Conservation Board’s water needs assessment expected to be complete in January.

More CWCB coverage here.