Fountain Creek: The USGS and the Fountain Creek Watershed and Flood Control District are moving up the schedule for a flooding study in the basin

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The district would use $300,000 from payments by Colorado Springs as part of its obligations under its 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System from Pueblo County. The money would be matched with $100,000 from the USGS. Other partnerships are needed to fill out funding over three years, according to a draft proposal presented Friday to the Fountain Creek board. “The study would answer the questions of where to build and why to slow down the floods in the last five miles of the creek,” said Gary Barber, executive director of the district…

David Mau of the Pueblo USGS office explained that the new study would build on the work of previous research, including a $3 million Army Corps of Engineers report and the $600,000 Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan that will be completed next year.

Barber said there are two reasons for moving ahead before all of the money is collected from Colorado Springs. The first is improvement of the creek. “When Fountain Creek decides to go, it goes,” Barber said, pointing to charts that show an increase of sediment that increases geometrically to the volume of flows. “We need to find out what to do when you go from moving 10,000 tons of sediment to 100,000 tons.”

The second is the district’s funding, which ends about one year from now. The $300,000 from Colorado Springs, along with $200,000 from the corridor plan (a joint venture of Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District), are the district’s primary sources of funding until the balance of Colorado Springs’ $50 million kicks in. That money is due in five annual installments of $10 million, less the money already paid, when SDS is completed — 2016 at the soonest.

In the meantime, the district is working on strategies to ask voters in El Paso and Pueblo counties for a mill levy in 2012. The district is working to complete projects such as the flood control study, a $1 million demonstration project on Fountain Creek in Pueblo County, a confluence park in Pueblo or a highway realignment on U.S. 24. Because it has little money of its own, the district has signed on as partners, managed grants or simply become a “cheerleader” for efforts to improve Fountain Creek, Barber said.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Arkansas River Basin: Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy Authority irrigation rules public meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“When you look at the rules as they were written three years ago, it’s amazing how far we’ve come,” State Engineer Dick Wolfe told a group of farmers and other interested parties Wednesday at a meeting organized by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

The rules are designed to keep improvements like sprinklers or drip irrigation and canal lining from reducing return flows to the Arkansas River in order to meet compact obligations to Kansas. Wolfe set up a committee of irrigators, water officials and lawyers to make the rules more acceptable…

One of the concerns was the cost of compliance, which led to the possibility of group plans like the one approved last week by the Lower Ark board. It allows farmers to pay a fee — not yet set — in order for Lower Ark engineers to determine water losses and find replacement water. Farmers could also provide their own engineering, or obtain a general permit in parts of the valley which do not have as direct an impact on flows to Kansas.

The rules are in Division 2 Water Court and most objectors are expected to settle before a scheduled trial in November.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Seep ditches intercept return flows and generally have water rights junior to other ditches above and below them. In Southern Colorado, the ditches have not been regulated for more than 100 years, but may be taking water from more senior water rights, Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte explained. Witte’s staff identified and met with 25 parties with 52 structures last year. Most are working the state to measure flows, install lockable headgates and curtail diversions. The state has filed six Water Court complaints, however.

That drew a strongly worded statement from U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., which was delivered at the meeting by his Pueblo staffer Loretta Kennedy. Representatives from other congressional offices also attended the meeting, but made no statements. “Agriculture is at great risk in Southeastern Colorado as well as the nation. The state of Colorado is penalizing farmers for farming and doing what they have done best for the past 100 years,” Salazar said in a statement. “The state of Colorado continues to assault the agricultural producers by implementing the irrigation efficiency rules as well as the seep ditch regulations.”

“It’s been like this for 100 years, and now you’re going to change things? That doesn’t seem fair,” said Bent County Commissioner Lynden Gill, also a member of the Lower Ark board.

More Ark Valley consumptive use rules coverage here.

Pueblo: Water use survey results

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even as more accounts have been added, overall residential per capita water use has fallen by 12.5 percent, according to a new study by the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

The study built on a 2008 study that measured changes in water use following the drought of 2002. It found rate increases during recent years were not a significant factor in cutting back water use, said Seth Clayton, finance chief. “Although our rates are not as great as others on the Front Range, we wanted to know if they were a factor. We found there was no major swing in elasticity,” Clayton told the board at its monthly meeting Tuesday.

Water use from 1996 to 2003 was compared with use from 2004 to 2009 in the study. Survey respondents were chosen from residents who have remained at the same address during that time and showed a greater conservation rate than all customers. The number of all customers has increased 5.4 percent, accounting for the difference in conservation rates…

“The initial decline in consumption due to conservation measures stemming from the drought of 2002 has remained, and it is unlikely that consumption levels will ever revert back to those experienced prior to 2002,” the report concluded. The report also suggests heavy precipitation in 2009 could have played a factor in reduced lawn watering. But despite dry weather and high temperatures this summer, water use is 2.16 percent below the five-year average, just slightly greater than last year.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Colorado Springs files motion for final judgement in lawsuit with Sierra Club

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The motion was filed earlier this month, asking U.S. District Court Judge Walker Miller to close the case pursuant to his findings and ruling in the case last year.

The Sierra Club, which filed the suit in 2005, does not plan to oppose final judgment.

The movement in the case will allow Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut to appeal his dismissal from the case in 2007, said Terry Hart, Thiebaut’s chief of staff. Thiebaut also filed a federal lawsuit in 2005, but was dismissed from the case in 2007 because a judge ruled he lacked state authority to file a federal lawsuit. “We’ve been champing at the bit for final judgment so we could file an appeal,” Hart said. “We feel the federal judge made a strained interpretation of state law, so this clears the way to appeal the dismissal of the case.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Pueblo County will not have to pay Colorado Springs for fees it spent to defend the city against District Attorney Bill Thiebaut’s lawsuit over contamination of Fountain Creek. In a decision made public Tuesday, Senior U.S. District Judge Walker Miller denied the city’s request to recover fees paid to its attorneys and its expert witnesses.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Silt: Positive test for elevated trihalomethanes

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From the The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

The compound in question is known as “total trihalomethanes,” Pace said, adding that its formation in the water system is known as a “disinfection byproduct.” It comes about, Pace said, when chlorine comes in contact with organic matter and other sediment within the water system. The longer the chlorine and the sediments sit together, he said, the greater the production of TTHM, as it is known in water treatment circles. He said that is partly why the town, at the end of every summer, flushes its two-mile water line leading to the Coal Ridge High School, in order to bring fresher water to the taps there.

“In large quantities,” Pace said, the chemicals “could be cancer causing,” and the letter from the town advises residents that they might want to switch to bottled water, or some kind of water-hauling service, until the problem is fixed. That is not likely to be until late 2011 or possibly early 2012, because the town first must study the situation to come up with possible solutions, and then get state permission to go ahead with whichever solution is identified.

More water treatment coverage here.

Carbondale: The Colorado Department of Wildlife is ponying up $950,000 to protect access to the Roaring Fork River

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

The DOW is one of several entities that have put up funding for purchase of the $2.5 million Koziel property, located between the Roaring Fork River and Highway 82 just below the Highway 133 bridge leading into Carbondale. The division agreed to spend $950,000 on the purchase in order to preserve the established boat launch, which it has leased for many years from the property owners. Funding for the property purchase also includes $1 million of a larger $5 million Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Legacy Grant, which was obtained by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails in 2006 for a variety of projects, including the Crystal River Trail. In addition, the town plans to contribute $450,000 and Garfield County agreed to $100,000.

The 7.8 acres of riverfront land includes the boat ramp and a small parking area and turnaround. The upper bench was operated as the Sopris RV Park by the Koziel family. The RV park was vacated after the town put the property under contract earlier this summer.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.

River Access Dispute Task Force meeting recap

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

“We are going to try to get neighbors to meet with neighbors without having to have legislation,” said Bob Hamel, a member of the task force. Hamel is Colorado River Outfitters Association president and owner of Arkansas River Tours in Cotopaxi…

The rafting dispute came to a head on the Taylor River last year when a developer told commercial rafters they could no longer float through his property. State Rep. Kathleen Curry, an unaffiliated state representative from Gunnison, proposed a bill in favor of the rafters. But state lawmakers declined to intervene, and instead the 16-member Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force was set up to resolve rafting disputes…

The task force also heard from Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Director Rob White, who said that the Arkansas River draws 42 percent of the state’s rafting business and called rafting a “huge economic machine” for the area. White said his agency hears disputes and issues warnings and tickets to trespassers. Greg Felt, who runs float fishing trips on the Arkansas River, said conflicts are often passive-aggressive. He said some private landowners have built rock diversions that force rafts to trespass because of low water. Others have hung big fish hooks or dead rattle snakes off of foot bridges to signal the rafters aren’t welcome.

More whitewater coverage here.