Reclamation’s fiscal year 2012 budget request — $1.0 billion

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):

President Barack Obama’s FY 2012 budget request released today includes a total of $1,018.4 billion for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The President’s request reflects his continuing commitment to be prudent with taxpayer dollars while setting priorities for spending. The 2012 budget reflects many difficult budget choices, cutting worthy programs in order to fund the highest priority requirements, and advancing efforts to shrink Federal spending while being mindful of ongoing opportunities.

“The President’s budget proposal promotes fiscal responsibility while maximizing the community, economic, and environmental benefits of Reclamation’s projects and programs by promoting certainty, sustainability, and resiliency with respect to the use of water resources,” Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor said today. “The President’s proposal continues to ensure the reliable and efficient delivery of water and production of renewable, clean hydropower, but also reflects the tough choices we must make in order to address the critical budget deficit.”

The budget emphasizes Reclamation’s core mission to address the water needs of a growing population in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner; and assisting States, Tribes and local entities in solving water resource issues. It also emphasizes the operation and maintenance of Reclamation facilities in a safe, efficient, economic and reliable manner; ensuring systems and safety measures are in place to protect the public and Reclamation facilities. Reclamation’s funding request addresses Administration, Departmental, and Reclamation priorities. These priorities include Ecosystem Restoration, Renewable Energy, Cooperative Landscape Conservation, Water Conservation and the WaterSMART Program, Strengthening Tribal Nations and Youth Recruitment activities.

The President’s budget proposal for Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account of $805.2 million includes $398.5 million for water and energy, land, and fish and wildlife resource management and development activities. This funding provides for planning, construction, water conservation activities, management of Reclamation lands including recreation and actions to address the impacts of Reclamation projects on fish and wildlife. The request also emphasizes reliable water delivery and power generation by requesting $406.7 million to fund operation, maintenance and rehabilitation activities at Reclamation facilities, including dam safety. Reclamation is committed to working with water and power users, States, Tribes, and other stakeholders to find ways to address and meet the mix of water resource needs in 2012 and beyond. Specifics of the budget request include:

Ecosystem Restoration – In carrying out its mission Reclamation has a responsibility to focus on the protection and restoration of the aquatic and riparian environments affected by its operations. Some highlights of Reclamation’s Ecosystem Restoration activities, many of which support the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, and are also needed to fulfill Endangered Species Act recovery programs, include:

– Of the $154.6 million for the Central Valley Project (CVP), a significant portion is for ecosystem restoration including $34.8 million for the Red Bluff Pumping Plant and Fish Screen and $10.5 million for the Trinity River Restoration Program.

– $18.3 million for the Multi-Species Conservation Program within the lower Colorado River basin to provide long-term Endangered Species Act compliance for river operations.

– $20.0 million for Endangered Species Act Recovery implementation programs including $11.0 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $6.2 million for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Programs.

– $18.6 million for the Klamath Project, of which a significant portion is for environmental protection and restoration; to continue funding for studies and initiatives related to improving water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural, tribal, wildlife refuge; and to address environmental needs in the Klamath River basin including endangered species recovery and other restoration activities.

– $39.7 million for the California Bay-Delta Program for categories aligned with the Interim Federal Action Plan are as follows: $26.2 million to address degraded Bay-Delta ecosystem activities; $11.5 million for smarter water supply and use; and $2.0 million for a renewed Federal-State partnership.

– $53.1 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations in the Central Valley Project service area of California.
$23.6 million for the Middle Rio Grande Project, of which a significant portion is to support environmental activities developed through the ESA Collaborative Program.

– $17.8 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the Biological Opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.

Renewable Energy and Cooperative Landscape Conservation – Reclamation is supporting the Department’s integrated strategy for responding to climate change impacts:

– Reclamation is working with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Department of Energy and its Power Marketing Administrations to determine the climate change effects to hydropower generation.

– $7.0 million will support both the continued implementation of Reclamation’s West-wide Climate Risk Assessments and co-coordination of two Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, under Reclamation’s Basin Study Program; and Reclamation’s Science and Technology Program supporting research improving our capability to manage, conserve, and expand water supplies in response to multiple stresses in the West, including drought and climate change.

The WaterSMART Program – The FY 2012 budget for Reclamation proposes $58.9 million for the WaterSMART Program – Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow – to assist local communities in stretching water supplies and improving water management. The WaterSMART Program will help to improve water management by encouraging voluntary water banks, reducing demand, implementing water conservation and Title XVI water reuse projects, and taking action to improve energy efficiency, promote renewable energy and reduce environmental conflicts. Reclamation will also partner with States, Tribes and local entities under the WaterSMART Program to develop the WaterSMART Clearinghouse website as a resource to provide leadership and assistance in coordinating and integrating water conservation and sustainable water strategies.

Strengthening Tribal Nations – The FY 2012 budget continues support of tribal nations through Reclamation’s request of $12.8 million for the Animas La Plata Project (Colorado, New Mexico) to continue construction and implementation of the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments of 2000; and $7.0 million for the Native American Affairs Program to continue support of Reclamation activities with Indian tribes. These activities include providing technical support for Indian water-rights settlements; assisting tribal governments to protect, manage and develop water and related resources; and supporting Indian self-governance and self-determination programs.

Additionally, the Columbia/Snake River Salmon Recovery, Klamath, Central Valley Project Trinity River Division, Yakima and Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement projects mentioned above under Ecosystem Restoration and five of the eight authorized rural water projects (discussed below) benefit Tribal nations in recognition of their long-standing treaty rights.

Further, in FY 2012 Reclamation will enhance support of tribal nations, most notably through the establishment of a new Indian Water Rights Settlements account in response to the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, which authorizes and establishes requirements for four water rights settlements benefiting the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona, the Crow Tribe in Montana, the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, and the Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque Pueblos in New Mexico. Reclamation is requesting $51.5 million for the account with $26.7 million to begin implementation of the four new settlements. The new account would also include $24.8 million for the implementation of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, for which mandatory funding is provided under Title VII of the Act and appropriations are authorized by P.L. 111-11, of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is a key element of the Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement on the San Juan River in New Mexico.

Other Project Highlights include

– $35.5 million for ongoing construction on seven rural water projects in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota and as well as operation and maintenance on completed tribal features for two of the projects. Five of the projects directly benefit tribal nations.

– $83.7 million for the Dam Safety Program to continue dam safety risk management and risk reduction activities throughout Reclamation’s inventory of high- and significant-hazard dams. Corrective actions are planned to continue or start at a number of facilities. A major focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam (California).

– $25.9 million for Site Security to continue Reclamation’s on-going site-security program that includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.

The Bureau of Reclamation throughout the 17 western states is committed to helping meet the many water challenges of the West. A driving force behind Bureau initiatives is resolution of water issues that will benefit future generations.

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

The funds [request for the Arkansas Valley Conduit] total $2.958 million and are included in the Department of Interior’s budget request for the Bureau of Reclamation. “We have to finish up the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) study before we can proceed with the construction,” said Kara Lamb, public information officer for the Bureau of Reclamation at Loveland. “We’re still in the very beginning stages.”

The Environmental Impact Statement for the conduit is on track to be completed by late 2012 or early 2013. It will determine the corridor the conduit will follow along its 130-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, as well as other details of the project…

“The Arkansas Valley Conduit is more than a priority,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. “It is necessary to provide and protect water supplies for more than 40 communities along the Arkansas Valley.”

More Reclamation coverage here. More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1068 withdrawn

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According to Joe Stone writing in The Mountain Mail the bill has been withdrawn. Here is Mr. Stone’s recap of a recent Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District meeting. From the article:

District engineer Ivan Walter reported the Temporary Water Transfer legislation, House Bill 1068, was recently withdrawn from consideration after numerous objections.

One reason for objections, Walter said, is that most entities in the state water community consider the [Hydrolocical Institutional Model] inappropriate for determining consumptive use under widely varying conditions. It was developed by Kansas to quantify water depleted from the Arkansas River by wells in Colorado. Terry Scanga, UAWCD general manager, said the model contains presumptive numbers that could cause injury to water right holders. Because lower valley right holders rely on return flow from upstream use, inaccurate numbers could affect amount and timing of return flow, Scanga said. With a change of water right under a temporary transfer, faulty numbers could cause more water to be transferred than was historically used. Scanga explained that could lead to premature calls by holders of senior rights in the lower valley. Premature calls, he said, would cause injury by reducing the amount of water available for junior right holders in the upper valley.

He said a more robust model would have statewide benefits and other entities have expressed interest in supporting the project, including Pueblo Board of Water Works, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “If we don’t do this,” Scanga said, “it will cost us several hundred thousand dollars in opposition costs.”[…]

Hydrologist Jord Gertson reported ice caused gauges to stop functioning properly at Cottonwood Lake and Poncha and Texas creeks. He said the fill rate at Boss Lake dropped from 20 acre feet per month in December to 15 acre feet in January. He said O’Haver Reservoir lost about 4 acre feet of water in January. Gertson said backup equipment was purchased for weather stations and stream gauges and will enable the district to replace any component that might go down, thereby minimizing data loss. Gertson updated directors about offering provisional stream, reservoir and weather data via the district website at http://uawcd.com/water_resources.php.

In other business, directors:

• Learned the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation approved $285,000 for high-elevation data collection platforms and wants to highlight success of platforms already installed within the district.

• Approved financial reports indicating a district general fund balance of $11,985.12 and an Enterprise Committee general fund balance of $59,764.09.

• Heard an augmentation report indicating the state approved applications for 251.81 acre feet of augmentation water.

• Learned about House Bill 11-1066, which would grant some priority to seep ditch rights in continuous use at least 25 years.

• Learned of efforts by Colorado Historical Society to list irrigation ditches on the historic register which would complicate maintenance and operation of irrigation equipment on those ditches.

• Approved $1,000 annual district membership in Family Farm Alliance because the organization provides contacts and information about federal legislation.

• Agreed to oppose a Catlin Canal Co. application for change of use for as much as 40 percent of the company ditch shares.

• Learned about progress on the Arkansas Basin Decision Support System, including need to study evaporation from undecreed reservoirs estimated as much as 30,000 acre feet per year.

• Voted to enter Water Court case No. 10CW98 involving exchanges on Beaver Creek by the City of Victor, Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Co.

• Learned the district reached an agreement in principle with owners of Willow Creek Ranch near Leadville including protections for district water.

• Received feedback from directors about the recent Colorado Water Congress annual convention.

• Heard a legal report from attorney Julianne Woldridge regarding district applications and court decrees.

Here’s an essay from Dave Miller about the legislation. Mr. Miller writes, “Colorado’s HB1068 is the product of Balkanized single-basin water planning.” More from the article:

U.S. Department of Interior reports indicate Colorado has beneficially used only about 2.2 million acre-feet of its annual 3.87 million acre-feet of Colorado River Compact entitlements since the 1970s. This means Colorado still has major interstate rights that should be developed as soon as possible for urban growth. As a primary headwater state and water source for 11 down-river states, Colorado has several innovative high-altitude renewable water and energy storage sites and solutions for state and regional needs. This breakthrough high storage concept is described in Central Colorado Project’s (CCP) White Paper, dated April 4, 2007, and its applicable U.S. Patent No. US 7,866,919 B2, dated Jan. 11, 2011.

To date, Colorado’s statewide water planning entities — Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Interbasin Compact Committee — have not shown interest in Colorado’s integrated high-altitude storage options for statewide and regional water and energy needs. This skepticism would, in all likelihood, change to enthusiasm if preliminary modeling were used to confirm the extraordinary economic and environmental advantages of high-altitude reservoirs for Colorado and the southwestern region.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

State Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, withdrew HB1068 to give a task force time to develop a better approach to long-term leasing and fallowing of land. Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, was the bill’s Senate sponsor. The bill would have established a pilot program that allowed agricultural water-rights holders downstream from Pueblo Dam in the Lower Arkansas basin to lease up to one-third of their holdings to municipalities for up to two 40-year terms, meanwhile, fallowing the land it would have watered. It also would have granted authority to the state engineer to approve water transfers presently under the purview of state Water Courts. Fischer said the bill’s intent was to establish a long-term leasing mechanism so agricultural holders of water rights could continue to reap financial benefits for their rights without forfeiting them. “I was trying to solve a very complex issue about how we in the future as a state are planning to be able to meet our water needs as the population of our urban areas increases without having the default be permanent ag dryup, or buy-and-dry, as they call it,” Fischer said.

Fischer said he proposed to give the state engineer authority over water transfers to make the process more accessible. He said going through the existing channels in Water Court to establish leasing arrangements is cost-prohibitive to most holders of water rights. Last week, John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s appointee to head the Interbasin Compact Committee, visited the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and the formation of a task force to review leasing of water rights developed. So instead of moving forward with his proposal, Fischer said allowing the task force to fully study how best to approach leases would be prudent…

[Arkansas Basin Roundtable member Bud O’Hara] said the proposed pilot project that could have stretched into 80 years of leasing represented too long a time frame. He said granting authority over water transfers to the state engineer might not be seamless, considering turnover in that post that typically follows election of a new governor. “There is an existing process for getting concerns reviewed through Water Court, and an opportunity to comment,” O’Hara said. “We just want them to use that process rather than circumvent it by going directly to the state engineer.”

More Dave Miller coverage here and here. More Upper Ark coverage here.

Snowpack News

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Bump and update From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Despite dry conditions during January, snowpack totals throughout the Arkansas River watershed remained near average at 103 percent by Feb. 1…

Since December, snowpack in the southern mountains of the Arkansas River basin have remained at about 60 percent of average, while the Upper Arkansas snowpack declined by 21 percent. The Brumley snowpack telemetry or SNOTEL operated by the conservation service recorded the best snowpack percentage in the basin at 155 percent of average and 161 percent of the February 2010 reading. The Fremont Pass SNOTEL reported the deepest snowpack in the area at 54 inches with a water content of 13.4 inches. The Trout Creek Pass station recorded the least amount of snow with 8 inches – equivalent to 1.3 inches of water. Statewide, Colorado snowpack reduced during January from 136 percent of average to 117 percent. The east side of the Sangre de Cristo Range recorded the lowest Feb. 1 snowpack since 2006. Cucharas and Huerfano sub-basins are at 60 percent of average, and the Purgatoire basin is at 64 percent.

Stream flow forecasts based on snowpack predict good flow in the Upper Arkansas Valley with Chalk Creek forecast at 130 percent of average at Nathrop and the Arkansas River at Salida predicted to carry 111 percent of average volume. Water storage at 13 major Arkansas Valley reservoirs is 91 percent of average, matching the Feb. 1, 2010 percentage. Lowest snowpack percentage is 80 percent of average in the Rio Grande basin. Combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins are reported at 106 percent of average. Lowest stream flow forecasts in Colorado are for streams originating in the Sangre de Cristos where volume is expected to be 40-80 percent of average. Flow on the Rio Grande and San Juan rivers is predicted below average for 2011.

Gunnison basin snowpack is 126 percent of average, and the Colorado River and North Platte basin snowpack totals exceed 130 percent of average.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Snowpack in the high-elevation mountains above Middle Park now ranges from 111 percent to 170 percent of the 30-year average (1971-2001). Last-year snowpack at this time was only about 65 percent of average. “We’re just lucky this year,” said Mark Volt of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Kremmling Field Office…

Snow density is averaging 25 percent, which means that for a foot of snow, there are 3 inches of water. “This is pretty dense snow for this time of year,” Volt said.

From the Leadville Herald-Democrat:

According to the latest snow surveys, conducted by the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado’s statewide snowpack decreased from 136 percent of average on Jan. 1 to 117 percent of average on Feb. 1. Decreases in snowpack percentages were measured in all of the major river basins of the state, according to Allen Green, state conservationist with the NRCS. While this year’s snowpack is considerably better than last year at this time, the current statewide percentage ties that measured on this date back in 2009. Those basins across southwestern Colorado experienced the driest conditions during January, recording only about one quarter of their normal precipitation for the month. Snowpack percentages decreased by 38 percentage points in the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins, declining from 144 percent of average on Jan. 1, to 106 percent of average on Feb. 1. Similar decreases were also measured in the Gunnison Basin, decreasing from 158 percent of average a month ago, to only 125 percent of average…

Even after experiencing a dry January, the current snowpack remains well ahead of that measured a year ago at this time. With the exception of southwestern Colorado, the 2011 readings are consistently well-above those of last year. Statewide totals are currently tracking at 137 percent of those from a year ago.

Boulder: City council is considering changes in city’s drought response plan

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Heath Urie):

While the plan provides a number of ways for the city to regulate water during a drought — including restricting lawn irrigation, filling swimming pools and washing vehicles — a proposed change would give the city manager the ability to reduce water budgets during a drought.

Water budgets are set by the city based on the type of property and its expected water needs each month. Most single-family homes have a budget of 7,000 gallons a month, plus an allotment for outdoor water use. Commercial customers may have water budgets set based on average monthly use, three-month averages or custom evaluations.

Water budgets are connected to a tiered pricing structure, which the city began using in 2007 as a way to encourage water conservation. The rates include five tiers — ranging from $2.18 per 1,000 gallons to $14.50 per 1,000 gallons — depending on how much users exceed their monthly water budget.

The city’s drought strategy calls for reducing the overall amount of water that Boulder uses — including residential, commercial and government uses — by up to 40 percent during the most extreme water shortages. A “moderate” drought, the lowest level of an official drought declaration, calls for citywide water reductions of 8 percent.

Allowing the city manager to reduce water budgets during a drought is designed to be an easy way of reducing overall water consumption citywide. Additional regulations that are still in the draft stages would impose additional fines on customers who repeatedly go over their water budget during a drought.

More conservation coverage here.

Is the Colorado Water Conservation Board serious about conservation as a wedge in Colorado’s water supply gap curve?

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Here’s an essay about Colorado’s water supply gap from Heather Hansen writing for the High Country News weblog The Range. She echos the points made at the recent Interbasin Compact Committee meeting by Melinda Kassen and Taylor Hawes. Colorado utilities and other water users should get serious now about conservation since it’s the easiest and cheapest of the four strategies outlined in the IBCC strategy document. Here’s an excerpt:

Water and growth in Colorado have been the subjects of a few interesting studies released recently: “Colorado’s Water Supply Future/State Water Supply Initiative 2010,” produced by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), and the “Cost of New Water on the Front Range” which came out of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Natural Resources Law Center…

Where the studies drastically diverge is how to address our growing thirst. In an abundance of bar graphs and pie charts, the CWCB suggests a number of somewhat nebulous solutions involving inter-basin and trans-basin transfers (when water is moved from one river basin to another) and agricultural transfers (a popular stopgap technique used today in which farmers sell their water rights to urban areas). The huge future demand is also “forcing authorities to consider building new water storage and pipeline projects,” says the study…

In contrast, while the CU study makes no hard and fast recommendations, it concludes that utility-sponsored water conservation programs are the least expensive new water supply strategy for Colorado’s Front Range. Conservation efforts result in an additional one acre-foot of water (326,000 gallons) for an average of $5,200, compared to $16,200 per acre-foot for new supply projects and $14,000 per acre-foot for major water transfers…

Even if we could afford it, cost is only one consideration in meeting future water demands. Why else might we pursue conservation as an important adaptation strategy? Because we need our farmers. Colorado has 36,500 farms. We grow millet, potatoes, cabbage, onions, pinto beans, peaches, apples, cantaloupe, and produce more than one billion eggs per year. There are 2.6 million head of cattle here, and 36,000 bee colonies producing 2.7 million pounds of honey every year. Agriculture contributes over $7 billion to the Colorado state economy annually. More than 105,000 jobs in Colorado are related to agribusiness.

Despite this bounty, since Colorado law allows water rights to be bought, sold and transferred, it’s a common practice for cities to buy farmers’ water. According to Kenney, the Colorado-Big Thompson project along the northern Front Range saw agricultural ownership of water shares dropped from 85 to 47 percent from 1957 to 1998 as growing Front Range cities bought agricultural water. If farmers make more by selling water allocations than by farming, then we’re not going to have many farmers in the future.

Conservation doesn’t have to be a scary. We don’t need to start issuing summons for lengthy showers. We could start with the simple fact that roughly half of municipal water deliveries in the summer are for landscape irrigation, specifically the very-thirsty Kentucky blue grass. We could plant native and drought-resistant plants instead. Inside our homes, there are plenty of opportunities to improve efficiency; a leaky toilet, for example, can waste 36,500 gallons of water per year.

Of course enforcing a statewide conservation standard would be hugely difficult to implement since planning is a local government responsibility today.

More conservation coverage here.