Twilight for Bonny Reservoir?

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The state agencies will hold the meeting at the Burlington Community and Education Center, located at 340 S. 14th Street, on March 7 at 6 p.m. Future management of Bonny will also be discussed at a joint meeting of the Colorado State Parks Board and the Colorado Wildlife Commission on March 10 in Denver at the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Hunter Education Building at 6060 Broadway in Denver.

Over the past several years, the amount of water available for storage in Bonny has decreased significantly. At the same time, Republican River compact obligations and other pressures require Colorado to reconsider recreation and reservoir management. Based on current and expected conditions, state officials anticipate that Bonny will shift from an actively managed flat water reservoir to a more passively managed State Wildlife Area with a much smaller or non-existent reservoir.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: Colorado Farm Bureau legislative update

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From The Pulse-of Colorado Farm Bureau:

HB 1068 – Rep. Fischer’s “State Engineer to approve Ag water transfers” bill was killed in the House Ag Committee by the Sponsor’s request as the controversy around how this would be handled has increased and there was an agreement for a task force to further look into and study the options for doing long term transfers via administrative approval. – CFB supportive

More 2011 Colorado legislation here.

Animas-La Plata Project: Reclamation says that Colorado is on the hook for $36.5 million

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

As a starting point for negotiations, the federal agency says the state owes $36.5 million for its share of water – 10,460 acre-feet. The bureau attributes $28 million to construction and almost $8.5 million to interest through Sept. 10. Members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will negotiate for the state. Former Gov. Bill Ritter in June 2010 signed House Bill 1250 that authorized the state to spend $36 million on A-LP.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Chaffee County League of Women Voters meeting recap

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From The Chaffee County Times (Kathy Davis):

During the meeting at the Sangre De Cristo Electric Association community meeting room, Colorado Division of Water Resources and state water engineer Kevin Rein spoke about the effects of Colorado water law on the development of geothermal energy. Bureau of Land Management geologist Melissa Smeins spoke about the process of obtaining a lease of federal or public land and the permit processes.

Rein, who is the water administrator for surface water or geothermal water, said, “Geothermal energy is energy that is extracted from the natural heat of the earth.” On a map of Colorado he pointed out what he described as a “hot spot” for geothermal energy in Chaffee County, Mount Princeton Hot Springs. “It is the best spot for geothermal potential,” he said. Interest in the development of geothermal energy includes the possibility of development of a power plant for electricity, Rein said. Thirty-five test wells have been drilled and Cyprus Amax, the former owner of the Climax mine, did most of these several years ago. “A geothermal power plant for electricity would have no mining fossil fuels and no boiler and no transportation,” Rein said. In answer to a question about whether or not the process cools the resource, Rein said it is not known exactly much it would cool the resource. “Some have been operating for a long time and the resource is not affected. We have to look at it case by case,” he said.

Geothermal energy also could be a direct use such as heating greenhouses or hot springs pools. Other potential areas for geothermal energy development are Poncha Hot Springs near Poncha Springs and Waunita Hot Springs near Doyleville.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1150 sponsor agrees to pull bill if new Department of Natural Resources agreement to fund water projects is adopted

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Marianne Goodland):

DOW announced Thursday that it would put at least $6 million into a five-year plan for water storage projects that will primarily benefit wildlife purposes. The water projects under the agreement target 17 dams statewide that need repairs and improvements, including Two Buttes, in southeastern Colorado; and Beaver Park Reservoir in Boulder County. DNR spokesman Todd Hartman said Thursday that three dams need millions of dollars in restoration work; five others require funding of at least $500,000 each, and the last nine will need about $300,000 each. The five-year plan will be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for review, according to DNR officials. Water projects can be pursued by the division “so long as they have the primary purpose of protecting wildlife,” the division said in a Thursday statement, but those projects can have other benefits, such as water supply for irrigation and other agricultural needs. “I believe any water project that saves or increases our water storage is good for all of Colorado,” Becker said Thursday. It’s not the first time DOW has put money into water projects; the division has spent about $2 million on fish and wildlife water projects in the last five years, and owns 104 dams. But under the agreement, water projects will become a higher priority for the division, according to Sonnenberg.

DNR Executive Director Mike King and Becker unveiled the agreement Thursday morning to a gathering of sports and wildlife enthusiasts who were at the capitol for “Sportsmen’s Day,” and the announcement got a positive reception from the group. Becker said he was happy to get the water projects funded through agreement rather than through legislation. It’s an agreement that will be “beneficial to everyone,” he said, one that will keep everyone at the table talking.

That’s also one of the purposes of the Citizen’s Wildlife Advisory Council, which Sonnenberg said was started to resolve the often-adversarial relationship between the sportsmen community and landowners. The 23-member group includes Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Adams County, who chairs the legislative sportsmen’s caucus at the capitol.

More HB 11-1150 coverage here. More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Native drops out of lawsuit against Reclamation over Aurora’s use of Fryingpan-Arkansas facilities to move water out of basin

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Arkansas Valley Native has dropped out of a federal lawsuit over federal authority to allow Aurora to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas River basin. Arkansas Native, a group led by Pueblo Chieftain Publisher and Editor Bob Rawlings, filed a motion to dismiss its complaint in a lawsuit brought by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District against the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Pueblo: Arkansas River levee repairs update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Repairs are needed in the channel downstream of the West Fourth Street bridge because flows were altered by construction of kayak course gates in Pueblo Whitewater Park. That caused the potential for washing out the base of the concrete levee on the north side of the Arkansas River. “The good news is that the tow of the levee has not been denigrated,” said Gus Sandstrom, president of the Pueblo Conservancy District, which is responsible for inspection, repairs and maintenance of the levee. “That will help us in getting the levees certified (by the Federal Emergency Management Agency).” The current project also will allow the district to install drains that will make future repairs less of a challenge. Voids of up to 3 feet deep have developed behind parts of the concrete facing, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still determining whether to replace or simply reinforce the facing with grout.

The concrete initially was poured in the 1920s and has become a canvas of whimsical paintings over the years.

Workers have constructed a temporary bridge across the river to reach the areas that need to be repaired. Originally, the plan had been to divert water along the river with a small levee at several gates. Now efforts will be concentrated on smaller sections in the most critical areas using coffer dams.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“The fact that it’s in the president’s budget gives us the dollars to get us where we need to be,” Executive Director Jim Broderick told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The federal budget request, which still has to find its way through Congress, should provide enough money to finish an Environmental Impact Study that will determine the best route for the conduit. The conduit will be a mostly gravity-fed water line from Pueblo Dam to Lamar that would provide clean drinking water to more than 40 communities and 50,000 people along its 130-mile route. In the past, the district has requested more money to work on different parts of the project, such as preliminary engineering and land acquisition.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Snowpack/streamflow/storage/whitewater news

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

It almost sounds sacrilegious to talk about spring runoff as Steamboat bears down on what could be its fourth 400-inch winter in six seasons. With seven weeks to go in ski season 2010-11, Steamboat already has surpassed 310 inches at mid-mountain, putting the tally ahead of the recorded-history average of 308 annual inches…

Risa Shimoda, of USA Freestyle Kayaking, has announced that for the first time, Steamboat’s Paddling Life Invitational freestyle competition will be added to the premier freestyle kayaking point series in North America. The Steamboat event on May 30 will come right after the Pro Rodeo in Buena Vista on May 27 and 28, ensuring the best in the sport will be in the Steamboat neighborhood.

If you like a dash of controversy with your water on the rocks, we’ve just learned that the Grand County Commissioners have applied for water rights on the Colorado River, both in Hot Sulphur Springs and below Gore Canyon, to ensure adequate flows for all forms of recreation. The recreational in-channel diversion rights would be attached to whitewater parks in Hot Sulphur and below the canyon near Pumphouse, Nathan Fey, of American Whitewater, reports. Fey said Grand County is seeking to protect 900 cubic feet per second of flow at Hot Sulphur and 2,500 cubic feet per second below Gore Canyon.

From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren):

…all reservoirs in the state are up with the exception of John Martin and Trinidad. The realtime streamflow in Fountain Creek is normal. Flow on the Arkansas River below Timpas and below John Martin Reservoir is lower than normal. Above Pueblo, there is 91 percent of the water present last year. The snow pack in the upper basin is at 80 to 90 percent of peak, with possible early spillage…

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts drought conditions in the lower Arkansas basin through March and April.

The Colorado Basin Roundtable and the Yampa/White Basin Roundtable release energy consumptive use assessment

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Here’s the report, Energy Development Water Needs Assessment, from the Colorado River District website. From the introduction:

The Joint Energy Development Water Needs Committee reported that total demands can be seen in Table 13 of the Final Scenarios report. Maximum water demands are about 120,000 acre-feet per year, a substantial decrease from the 400,000 acre-feet per year in the Phase I study. The reduction stems from 3 primary factors:

1. It was assumed a portion of an in-situ oil shale industry would use some form of down-hole combustion process instead of electrical heaters, which results in reduced electrical generation requirements. We know that from Phase I, water for electrical generation for oil shale actually exceeded the water directly needed for oil shale production.

2. It was assumed combined cycle natural gas fired turbines would be used for electrical generation. These require approximately a third less water. If coal-fired generation was used to meet electrical demand, we believe the generating capacity would occur out of the basin.

3. With extensive input from industry, the committee fine-tuned the unit water demands for oil shale. It believes these revisions are a more realistic estimate of how water might be used in oil shale production. For example, the unit demand estimates reflect information from industry that the in-situ conversion process results in the molecular production of water from the organic compounds in the oil shale.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here. More Yampa River basin coverage here. More White River basin coverage here.

Colorado River District: Tom Sharp named president of the board of directors

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From Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

Steamboat Springs attorney Tom Sharp has been named the new president of the Colorado River District’s board of directors. Sharp is the board’s former vice president, has served as a director of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District since 1977 and has held numerous prominent, water-related positions in Northwest Colorado…

Sharp said much of his time leading the district will be spent in continuing negotiations with Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Con servancy Dist rict, two Front Range entities that are seeking to increase their usage of water from the Colorado River system to fill potential new storage capacity on the Front Range…

“Denver Water has agreed that it will not seek to acquire any new water right on the West Slope, including the Yampa River, beyond its existing supplies except with the cooperation from the (Colorado) River District and the county commissioners of the affected counties,” Sharp said Wednesday in his Fourth Street office. “What we’re principally going to be spending time on this year is finalizing the nuts and bolts of that agreement.”[…]

Colorado River District spokesman Jim Pokrandt said Sharp is more than qualified to guide the district through the challenging times ahead. “Tom is certainly an experienced water leader,” Pokrandt said. “He’s a veteran of serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Water and Power Authority over the years. … It’s not his first time around the rodeo.”

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

CPDPHE and CWQD extend U.S. Energy’s Mt. Emmons mine water quality progress report until April 1

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From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):

U.S. Energy was sent a “Compliance Advisory Letter” at the end of December by the division. The letter advised the company of “possible violations of the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, its implementing regulations and permits, so that it may take appropriate steps to avoid or mitigate formal enforcement action.” U.S. Energy is the primary mining patent holder for the Mt. Emmons project, a proposed mine that would extract molybdenum from Mt. Emmons. Water quality sampling between 2008 and 2010 has shown that the water from the mine property exceeds water quality standards for Coal Creek, according to Dave Akers with the water Quality Control Division.

More Mt. Emmons mine coverage here.

Energy policy — geothermal: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison Forests Supervisor Charlie Richmond signs ‘consent to lease’ for certain lands

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From The Telluride Watch:

This decision does not authorize surface disturbing activities. Should the land be leased by BLM and subsequent development be proposed, additional environmental analysis would be required. [Supervisor Charlie Richmond] stated, “I carefully considered the information in the analysis and the extent of the required stipulations as I made my decision.” He went on to state that while there are some significant requirements to protect surface resources, some of the benefits of this decision include the potential to: provide an opportunity to develop renewable energy sources that can lead to clean sources of energy; reduce or off-set possible greenhouse gas emissions; and provide economic benefits to the surrounding communities.

More geothermal coverage here and here.