Purgatoire River cleanup April 30

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From The Trinidad Times (Steve Block):

The designer of the river enhancement project is FIN-UP Habitat Consultants, of Manitou Springs, and the project is titled “Trinidad/Purgatoire River Reach 4 Demonstration Project.” The design process is unique in that it doesn’t use much water. The design utilizes existing water during low-flow periods and accentuates the water available during the irrigation season. Lackey said bringing off a project of this size is difficult during tough economic times but said the partnership that has been put together has managed to fund the project with no public funding. The river reclamation project is estimated to cost between $120,000 to $150,000.

“That’s a very big deal for us. The partnership has been with the Purgatoire River Conservancy District, which actually owns the water. The dam up there was built in the 1970s to irrigate the farmland east of town. They have committed $90,000, and that’s a lot of money. Then Pioneer Natural Resources got on board. They are a big contributor to the county and to its economy, and they are also very interested in this river project because it reflects on their stewardship of the watersheds west of town and east. Pioneer has come to the table with $40,000. So at this point we have acquired enough funding and in-kind services to complete the project from I-25 all the way to North Commercial Street and a little bit east. That’s an exciting start. Comcast has been on board with us since the second year with the river cleanup and they have been a big part of that. Trout Unlimited, without their contacts and the people who were visited, this probably would not have happened. The Trinidad Community Foundation has also been very important.” Other partners include Purgatoire Valley Construction, MFS Forestry, Colorado State Forest Services, the Soil and Conservation Services, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and, most importantly, the citizens of Trinidad.

April 30 marks the fifth annual river cleanup. Last year 232 volunteers helped with the cleanup, and this year Lackey said he hopes for 250 or more volunteers. “It’s a fun thing to do for everybody involved. Bring the kids. They can learn about some of the river ecology, pick up a lot of trash, and learn a little bit about what it’s going to take care of a jewel that Trinidad has never really abused, it has just never used. It’s going to be a great addition to the downtown area. So, we’ll see everybody on April 30 with their irrigation boots on and a trash bag, and we’ll ‘git ’er done’”

More Purgatoire River watershed coverage here and here.

Water Availability Task Force Meeting recap

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Here are the notes from the meeting last Wednesday (via Ben Wade at the CWCB). Here’s an excerpt:

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 58% of the state is now experiencing D0, D1 or D2 status, which represents abnormally dry, drought moderate and drought severe conditions respectively. The drought conditions that have covered the eastern plains of the state throughout the fall have continued to deteriorate with D0, D1 and D2 covering much of Colorado east of the divide. A small portion of Huerfano County has recently experienced moisture that has brought some relief from the D2 conditions. However this region is still experiencing D1 conditions.

Don’t forget to donate to the ‘Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund’

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From the Colorado Watershed Assembly:

Formerly the Colorado Watershed Protection Fund, the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund is financed by the Colorado checkoff program which provides tax payers the opportunity to contribute a portion of their tax return or to make a donation to assist locally-based conservation groups in their efforts to protect our land and water resources.

– Since the establishment of the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund in 2003, over 95,000 citizens donated more than $720,000 from their tax returns to fund 50 local water enhancement projects in Colorado.

– The Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund has granted funding to 50 projects statewide.

– Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund grant projects contribute to cleaner water, healthier wildlife habitat, and improved recreation throughout the State.

– The Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund has contributed to the restoration of stream channels in the South Platte, Arkansas, Colorado, Gunnison, Rio Grande, and San Juan River Basins.

– Projects funded by the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund are matched with an average of $7 for every $1 donated.

– The money donated to the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund is spent on projects that improve water quality and habitat for fish and other aquatic species.

More CWCB coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: State Representative Becker asks the House agriculture committee to bury HB 11-1150

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From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels):

The Fort Morgan Republican [Jon Becker] asked the House agriculture committee to kill his proposal involving water storage and Colorado Division of Wildlife fees, saying it wasn’t needed because the parties involved had reached a compromise…

Becker said he has no regrets running the bill because it got sportsmen, wildlife officials, farmers, water groups and others to the table. He credited Mike King, director of the Department of Natural Resources, for helping pull together a compromise. Becker would kill his bill and the Division of Wildlife would spend $6 million over five years for water projects. “This agreement will help DOW to pay for water projects that not only help wildlife but have a secondary benefit for agriculture, cities and municipalities,” Becker told the committee Monday. “I feel that this agreement is going to be much more beneficial than pursuing legislation that may have pitted groups against each other.”

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: Two Rivers Water Co. hires Gary Barber

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two Rivers Water Co. has hired Gary Barber, a figure in many key Arkansas River basin water issues, as its president and chief operating officer. Barber, a real estate and water broker from Colorado Springs, has been working for Two Rivers as its water rights consultant since July, said John McKowen, chairman and CEO of the company. “I’m excited,” Barber said. “The thing that makes it work for me is that we have a chance to restore some of the historic agriculture in the valley, it’s a good place to start.”

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

The stated goal of the Two Rivers Water Co. is to bring about 20,000 acres back into production by acquiring and consolidating water rights along the Huerfano and Cucharas rivers. The project also envisions developing solar energy on part of the land it owns in Pueblo County. Two Rivers has purchased two reservoirs and thousands of acres of farm land for the project…

In November, the Colorado Water Conservation Board approved Two Rivers’ application for a $9.9 million loan toward rehabilitation of Cucharas Dam. The dam, 10 miles northeast of Walsenburg, eventually will be rebuilt just downstream on the Cucharas River. This spring, the existing earthen dam will be repaired to meet state dam safety standards in a $240,000 project. The construction of the concrete dam downstream of the earthen dam will be a $30 million project, and will begin this fall, [John McKowen, Two River chairman and CEO] said. The dam will store water from other sources in Huerfano County, including other rights that are purchased and potentially produced water from natural gas production.

Two Rivers also has purchased more than 90 percent of the Huerfano-Cucharas Irrigation Co., which once irrigated 40,000 acres in southern Pueblo County. Tests last year showed irrigated corn production still is viable on the land and McKowen is looking at higher value vegetable crops if markets can be found. “We tried several irrigation methods, but the dryland wheat did not work. Any farming will be irrigated,” McKowen said. “We plan to expand to 20,000 acres over time, and we’ve been able to obtain financing to do that. As we acquire the water resources, we plan to apply it and to consolidate the water assets.”

Recently, Two Rivers completed the $3.1 million purchase of a second reservoir in Huerfano County, Orlando Reservoir, 10 miles north of Walsenburg. The reservoir once was used to irrigate 1,000 acres of land in Huerfano County, but like Cucharas is in bad shape.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.