Snowpack news

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

Snowpack is above average in the mountains, including the basins that supply Loveland’s water, but the cities on the Front Range are dry, with barely any snow or rain since August. Loveland is sitting at 43 percent of average moisture for September through Thursday, while Fort Collins is 49 percent of average. This September through November ranks as the 24th driest in Fort Collins’ 122 years of records, according to weather records kept at Colorado State University. The last year it was this dry in Loveland and Fort Collins was 2003…

“The reservoirs are as full as they’ve been in a decade,” [Nolan Doesken, state climatologist] said. “The mountain snow measurements are also looking very good.” The Upper Colorado basin measures 124 percent of average snowpack this time of year, and the South Platte sits at 113 percent. Both of these supply water to the Colorado-Big Thompson pipeline.

More coverage from the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Currently the snowpack in the mountains on the west side of the Valley sits at 61 percent of average, and the snowpack to the east is even lower. The Sangre de Cristo range on the Valley’s east side currently sits at 23 percent of normal snowpack, while the San Juans on the west are at 61 percent, making the basin wide snowpack at about 50 percent of average…

[Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division IIII Craig Cotten] said the current weather pattern is La Niña, and generally when that is the case, the southern part of the state seems to experience different weather than the northern part, with the dividing line around Highway 50. Areas north of Salida are currently experiencing as much as 150 percent above average snowpack while areas south, including the Valley, are experiencing considerably less. “The long term forecast for us is for below average precipitation through most of the wintertime,” Cotten added.

He said it is not good for Colorado to have below-average precipitation, but the problem is compounded when New Mexico is below average because it means the level of Rio Grande Compact reservoir Elephant Butte will decrease even more than it has, which hurts Colorado. Cotten said the reservoir is already fairly low, and a lot of the water in the reservoir belongs to somebody else, such as the state of New Mexico. Colorado actually has less than 1,000 acre feet of water stored at Elephant Butte, but that is a good thing, Cotten said, because of the evaporation at Elephant Butte. Colorado had previously stored Rio Grande Compact water at the Rio Grande Reservoir, a high mountain reservoir in the Valley where evaporation is not as much of an issue. However, the state released stored water (about 1,000 acre feet total) from Rio Grande Reservoir into the system to meet compact obligations. “I think we are going to be real close to our goal on both rivers, Rio Grande and Conejos,” Cotten said regarding the state’s obligation to downstream states through the Rio Grande Compact. The goal is to hit zero owed and zero credit on the Rio Grande, and the state will be close to that.

On the Conejos River system, the state will likely end the year with a credit, or more water delivered than the compact required.

Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Interim Executive Director Gary Barber will stay on until a new director is chosen, but told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday that the district needs someone who can work full time on the district’s programs. “This is not a part-time job. It is a full-time job. You’ve got to have a full-time director,” Barber said. “You need a full-time person to focus on the land-use issues and to be an activist for Fountain Creek.”[…]

The board voted unanimously to begin a search immediately, but will not be able to have a new director in place until February at the soonest. Barber will remain with the district until the new person is hired.

Barber also presented the board with a plan to stretch district funding until 2016, when the Southern Delivery System is scheduled to be completed. The bulk of $50 million that Colorado Springs pledged to the district as a condition of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit won’t be paid until then. The district also has been considering asking voters for a mill levy in the 2012 election, but the current economic climate could make that prospect dim, Barber said…

Beginning in 2012, the member entities would be asked to contribute more than $5,000 each to the district. Pueblo County, Pueblo, the Lower Ark district, El Paso County, Colorado Springs, Fountain and four El Paso County cities would contribute…

The district is coordinating Fountain Creek projects in conjunction with other agencies, including a $1 million wetlands and sediment removal project in Pueblo, a project to complete trails from Fountain to Clear Springs Ranch and a $570,000 flood-control study co-funded by the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado Springs. Barber offered to stay on as needed to help get the projects under way.

The board also approved a $344,000 budget Friday; $270,000 of that is restricted to the projects.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Lake Pueblo: Colorado Division of Wildlife special meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“In the newspaper this morning was an article about how Woodmoor is planning a marathon (to acquire water rights),” Ted Sillox, a member of the Trout Unlimited Greenback Chapter, told state wildlife officials this week. “What’s the best route we can take to help stream flows?” Sillox and several other members said the $7 million Legacy Project on the Arkansas River is threatened as more cities buy water rights and move the water out of the Arkansas Valley. Trout Unlimited also has convinced the Wildlife Commission to approve limited catch and release on one reach of the river through Pueblo in order to improve the fish population. Fish more than 16 inches caught in a two-mile reach near the Nature Center must be released with no live bait allowed, beginning Jan. 1…

Wildlife Commission Chairman Tim Glenn and Commissioner John Singletary of Pueblo heard the concerns of fishermen, hunters and landowners at a special meeting at Lake Pueblo Wednesday. They were also sympathetic to the viewpoints expressed by Trout Unlimited…

A flow management program for Pueblo was established by a 2004 agreement, but it has gaps. There were only six parties to the agreement that set it up, but many other water users who store in Lake Pueblo. They choose to run water when they need it, and that has led to problems for fish. The program mainly curtails exchanges, but does not require replacement of water in the stream during extreme low flows.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here and here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities refuses to pay Pueblo County’s legal bills in winter flow program lawsuit

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We are unwilling to accept an implied obligation to pay for costs incurred by the county when our understandings were that, upon dismissal of the Pueblo West litigation, all parties would bear their own attorneys fees and costs,” John Fredell, Southern Delivery System project manager, wrote in an answer to Pueblo County commissioners this week.

Commissioners are seeking nearly $150,000 for litigation costs in reaching a settlement with Pueblo West that will lead to dismissal of the lawsuit. They maintain it was Colorado Springs’ job to gain compliance of all of its SDS partners with all of the conditions of a 1041 land-use permit. A 2008 agreement signed by Pueblo West authorized Colorado Springs to negotiate all permits…

In his response to commissioners, Fredell outlined the events that led up to the dispute. Colorado Springs was notified of the condition for all participants in SDS to comply with the flow program created in the 2004 intergovernmental agreement in January 2009, Fredell said. “Obviously, Colorado Springs was in no position to reject that proposed condition either for itself or for any of its participants,” Fredell said. After the full set conditions was presented in February 2009, Pueblo West expressed concern about the condition requiring compliance with the flow program in the permit. On April 16, 2009, Pueblo County issued the 1041 permit, and Pueblo West filed its lawsuit one month later…

Colorado Springs said nothing has happened that would trigger a dispute resolution clause of the 1041 permit, Fredell said. “We don’t believe that there has been a dispute between Colorado Springs and Pueblo County over the provisions of the 1041 permit that would have triggered the dispute resolution process,” Fredell said. He also said the settlement agreement itself has a provision that all parties would pay their own legal expenses.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Moffat Collection System Project: Colorado Department of Wildlife public meeting recap

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Here’s the release from the DOW:

A Denver Water proposal to increase the amount of water being diverted to the Front Range would impact five rivers on both sides of the Continental Divide, according to a report presented to the Colorado Wildlife Commission Thursday.

Denver Water’s Moffat Firming project would increase the amount of water imported to the Front Range from the Fraser and Williams Fork drainages by 18,000-acre feet, providing a more reliable supply for the utility’s 1.3 million customers. Under state law, the Wildlife Commission will be asked to review and comment on a plan that Denver Water will develop to mitigate impacts of the project, which will then be forwarded to the Federal permitting agency.

“A healthy Colorado River is critically important to the future of this state,” said Tim Glenn, chairman of the Wildlife Commission. “Water projects like this have to be done right if we’re going to have a healthy river in the future.”

The commission also received a presentation on the Division of Wildlife’s marketing, recruitment and retention efforts, an update on the status of a potential wolverine reintroduction project and reviewed draft Habitat Partnership Program management plans for South Park and the North Fork of the Gunnison that are designed to reduce conflicts between wildlife and agricultural operations. The meeting was held in the Crowne Plaza at 2886 S. Circle Drive in Colorado Springs.

Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist for the Platte River Basin, told commissioners that Denver Water’s Moffat Firming project would result in reduced stream flows and increased temperatures in the Williams Fork, Fraser and Upper Colorado River systems. The lower flows would increase sedimentation in the affected reaches of these rivers, reducing their ability to support aquatic insects and fish life, Kehmeier said.

On the East Slope, the additional diversions would send more water through the Moffat Tunnel, down South Boulder Creek and into an enlarged Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, Kehmeier said. The project would create a larger reservoir for recreation, but longer periods of high flows in South Boulder Creek above Gross Reservoir would reduce its ability to support trout and other aquatic wildlife, he said.

First Assistant Attorney General Tim Monahan explained that state statutes allow the Wildlife Commission to address impacts of Denver Water’s new diversions so long as the mitigation is economically reasonable and maintains balance between development and reducing impacts to fish and wildlife resources. The commission can also address the cumulative impacts of this project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s nearby Windy Gap Firming Project on the Upper Colorado River.

Kehmeier noted that Denver Water could opt to divert an additional 16,000 acre feet, mainly through Roberts Tunnel and South Platte basin through the southern part of its system without getting a new federal permit. That would likely cause significant impacts to Dillon Reservoir and the high-value trout fishery along the South Platte River, Kehmeier said, and it would not give the Wildlife Commission an opportunity to negotiate mitigation for the increased diversions.

Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington told commissioners that the impending stakeholder meetings offered an opportunity to determine what it is going to take to fix the Colorado river from a technical standpoint, and focusing on how much of that work should be considered mitigation vs. enhancement were premature at this point. Attorney Barbara Greene, representing Grand County, said the county greatly appreciated the Wildlife Commission’s focus on the issue and reported that the county was close to an agreement in principle with Denver water regarding impacts from current diversions.

More coverage from the Summit County Citizens Voice:

Colorado Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington told commissioners that the impending stakeholder meetings offered an opportunity to determine what it is going to take to fix the Colorado river from a technical standpoint, and focusing on how much of that work should be considered mitigation vs. enhancement were premature at this point.

Attorney Barbara Greene, representing Grand County, said the county greatly appreciated the Wildlife Commission’s focus on the issue and reported that the county was close to an agreement in principle with Denver water regarding impacts from current diversions.

First Assistant Attorney General Tim Monahan explained that state statutes allow the Wildlife Commission to address impacts of Denver Water’s new diversions so long as the mitigation is economically reasonable and maintains balance between development and reducing impacts to fish and wildlife resources. The commission can also address the cumulative impacts of this project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s nearby Windy Gap Firming Project on the Upper Colorado River…

On the East Slope, the diversions would send more water through the Moffat Tunnel, down South Boulder Creek and into an enlarged Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, [Ken Kehmaier, senior aquatic biologist for the Platte River Basin] said. The project would create a larger reservoir for recreation. But longer periods of high flows in South Boulder Creek above Gross Reservoir would reduce the stream’s ability to support trout and other aquatic wildlife, he said. Kehmeier explained that Denver Water could opt to divert an additional 16,000 acre feet, mainly through the Roberts Tunnel and via the South Platte basin through the southern part of its system without getting a new federal permit. That would likely cause significant impacts to Dillon Reservoir and the high-value trout fishery along the South Platte River, Kehmeier said, and it would not give the Wildlife Commission an opportunity to negotiate mitigation for the increased diversions.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

USGS: Digital map of the High Plains (Ogallala) aquifer

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Every now and then I run across a well-crafted graphic. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right to see a map of the boundary of the Ogallala Aquifer from the United States Geological Service.

More Ogallala aquifer coverage here and here.

Creede: Willow Creek Reclamation Committee board meeting recap

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From The Mineral County Miner (Toni Steffens-Steward):

The Willow Creek Reclamation Committee (WCRC) discussed finalizing three 319 mini-grants along with other upcoming activities at their monthly meeting.

The Five Mines Project grant for $200,000 will help to clean up or improve water quality at five local mine sites, Park Regent, the Phoenix Mill site, the Gormax, the Outlet and the Midwest. Water quality improvement projects would involve stopping metal loading into the creek.

Another $200,000 grant would be used for dewatering the Amethyst and Last Chance. The money would allow WCRC to conduct a dewatering test on the Nelson Tunnel to find out how much water is being pumped in and see if the dewatering plan was effective. The grant would also be used to put in control structures above and at the Amethyst portal and install rip-rap for stabilization along the creek.

The third grant would be used to create a watershed management plan. The money would be used for these projects and to cover the cost of administration related to them.

More restoration coverage here.