Colorado Foundation for Water Education: Colorado Basin Tour June 13-15

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From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (Kristin Maharg):

Register online by Wednesday, May 4 and receive a $100 discount! Or call the CFWE office at 303.377.4433.

Join us on June 13-15 for a unique networking experience with 100 local experts, educators, elected officials and water professionals. We will visit the Colorado River headwaters and hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, tour energy facilities, a working vineyard in Palisade and water supplies on Grand Mesa.

Scholarships are available for select educators and community members. Contact kmaharg@cfwe.org for more information.

Everyone at the Colorado Foundation for Water Education is excited to have a great time learning about water in the Colorado Basin!

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

San Luis Advisory Committee Meeting May 13

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From email from the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Mike Sullivan):

Attached are the Latest Working Draft of the Rules and a draft Statement of Basis and Purpose for consideration at the meeting May 13th. As our earlier email noted the meeting will be held at Adams State College, Room 309 of the Student Union Center.

There will be a public meeting about the Irrigation Season Policy from 9AM – 10AM. The SLV Advisory Committee will meet from 10AM – 3PM. Lunch will be provided

Seeing as its late Friday these documents will also be posted on our website by Monday afternoon:

http://water.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/RulemakingAndAdvising/SLVAC/Pages/default.aspx

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: 450cfs in the Colorado River below Granby Reservoir

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

You probably noticed changes in releases from Granby Dam to the Colorado River today, April 29. Northern Water adjusted the releases from the dam so that about 450 cfs is now flowing into the Colorado River.

We are continuing to balance inflow with storage as we adjust our forecasting in anticipation of this year’s spring run-off season. With that in mind, Willow Creek Reservoir has been drained to make room for coming snow melt run-off.

We will be in Granby on Wednesday, May 4 for the River District’s annual State of the River meeting to share our spring run off forecast information.

Meanwhile, both we and Northern Water continue to keep information available and accessible on-line. Follow Northern’s blog at http://www.ncwcd.blogspot.com/. Reclamation has snow pack and reservoir storage information as well as a general update at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao/.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Online release of the National Water Quality Monitoring Council’s 3rd edition of National Water Monitoring News

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Here’s the link to the current issue. Thanks to Steve Glazer for the heads up.

More water pollution coverage here.

Summit County: The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement will be on the agenda at Tuesday’s ‘Summit State of the River’ meeting

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From the Summit Daily News:

Details of the historic proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Summit County, 26 other West Slope entities and Denver Water will be discussed with the public at Tuesday’s Summit State of the River meeting set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Summit County Community and Senior Center.

Panelists include Summit Board of County Commissioners, county manager Gary Martinez, Denver Water Chief Executive Officer Jim Lochhead and Colorado River District general manager Eric Kuhn.

The meeting is sponsored by the Colorado River District and the Blue River Watershed Group.

The proposed agreement is five years in the making and seeks to settle many long-standing water disputes between the West Slope and the Front Range, including issues surrounding reservoirs, transmountain diversions, river flows, and financial support for environmental and wastewater treatment projects.

The Summit State of the River meeting will also provide information of snowpack and runoff predictions as well as reports on how Denver Water will operate Dillon Reservoir this year. The Bureau of Reclamation will report on its Green Mountain Reservoir operations.

Another meeting is slated for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Mountain Parks Electric in Granby. Grand County officials join Denver Water and the Colorado River District in the panel discussion.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Governor Hickenlooper, Denver Water, the Colorado River District, et al. announce the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

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Bump and update:

Here’s the joint release from the Colorado River District and Denver Water (Lori Peck/Audrey Hughes):

Leaders from Grand, Summit and Eagle counties stood with representatives from Denver Water, the Colorado River District, the ski industry and other main stem Colorado River Basin water interests to announce a historic proposed agreement, the “Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.” This proposed agreement will change the way water is managed in Colorado.

Focused on cooperation, the proposed agreement brings parties who traditionally have been at odds together as partners on a path to responsible water development benefitting both the East and West Slopes. It achieves better environmental health for the Colorado River Basin, maintains high-quality recreational use and improves economics for many cities, counties and businesses impacted by the river. The proposed agreement, which was five years in the making, will now be considered by towns, counties, and water entities from the headwaters to the Utah state line.

“This cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper at today’s announcement. “It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict.”

With 34 partners stretching from Grand Junction to the Denver metro area, the proposed agreement is the largest of its kind in the history of the state. In addition to its benefits for Denver Water and the West Slope, the proposed agreement will trigger a major water-sharing and conservation arrangement between Denver Water, Aurora Water and water providers in the South Denver metro area. Taken as a whole, these landmark agreements mark the most significant change Colorado has seen in how the state’s water resources are managed.

“This all comes down to the health of the Colorado River Basin for us,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District. “I believe we can all agree that, in the end, the Colorado River and many of its tributaries will be healthier under the terms of the proposed agreement than it is today.”

The comprehensive proposed agreement focuses on significantly enhancing the environmental health of much of the Colorado River Basin and its tributaries, as well as supporting many West Slope cities, towns, counties and water providers as they work to improve the quality and quantity of water through new municipal water projects and river management initiatives.

“Denver Water is proud to be part of this new vision for water management in Colorado that seeks to ensure the good of the whole,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “We hope this first-of-its-kind agreement sets the standard for how the state thinks about building a secure water future.”

In exchange for environmental enhancements, including financial support for municipal water projects and providing additional water supply and service area restrictions, the agreement will remove opposition to Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project.

“We welcome the opportunity to discuss with our constituents this proposed agreement, which benefits Grand County and much of the Colorado River Basin,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. “The specifics of the proposal have been a long time in the making, but we believe they represent the best opportunity to improve the health of the Fraser and Colorado rivers, the economy of our county, and provide additional water for community and recreational use.”

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement also establishes a process, dubbed “Learning by Doing,” by which Denver Water, Grand County, the Colorado River District, the Middle Park Water Conservancy District and others will use the flexibility in Denver Water’s water system to manage flows for the benefit of the environment in Grand County.

“We hope our constituents will see the proposed agreement as a win for all of us by substantially moving away from the confrontational way water has been managed in the past to a more inclusive, collaborative process that seeks the best solutions for everyone,” said Thomas Davidson, Summit County commissioner. “It’s an impressive accomplishment when groups as diverse as the partners on this agreement come to the table and find common solutions.”

See more details about the proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.

Here’s the link to the executive summary.

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

“This cooperative effort represents a new way of doing business when it comes to water,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper at the announcement of the agreement Thursday at the town of Tabernash in Grand County. “It shows that water solutions must be crafted from a statewide perspective. We hope and expect that this process will ripple across Colorado to other areas of water conflict,” said Hickenlooper, who was Denver mayor through the course of negotiations…

“This all comes down to the health of the Colorado River basin for us,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District. “I believe we can all agree that, in the end, the Colorado River and many of its tributaries will be healthier under the terms of the proposed agreement than it is today.”[…]

“While recognizing that much work remains, we join in celebrating what this agreement does accomplish: putting new resources to work to improve the health of the Upper Colorado River, and offering a new model for greater cooperation between the Front Range and Western Slope,” said David [Nickum], executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

Mr. Nickum sent out this release to the Colorado Trout Unlimited email list:

By now, you likely have heard about the historic agreement between Denver Water and a number of Western Slope water and governmental entities. I wanted to share with you some perspective on what this deal means for the Upper Colorado River watershed.

For decades, large water diversions to the Front Range have depleted the Upper Colorado and Fraser rivers, damaging fish populations and critical wildlife habitat. TU has sounded the alarm that the Upper Colorado River is on the verge of ecological collapse. The new agreement is a great step forward and offers promise for the future – but it addresses only a part of the problems facing the Colorado and its tributaries, and we still have much work ahead of us if we hope to defend our state’s namesake river and its gold medal fisheries.

Today, we can celebrate good news for the Colorado River. Denver Water and a broad group of west slope local governments and water districts have entered into a major agreement that will provide resources to benefit the struggling Colorado River headwaters and set a more collaborative approach for future water management and development.

The agreement includes a number of important provisions in terms of river conservation:

– Future water projects using Denver’s facilities (notably the Moffat and Roberts tunnels) will require approval from the west slope – they will need to address concerns on both sides of the Continental Divide.
– Safeguards are included for the Shoshone water right, which helps keep year-round flows in the Upper Colorado.
– Denver agrees to provide 1,000 acre-feet per year of water to help address low flow concerns in both the Fraser and Williams Fork systems.
– Denver will provide $2 million to assist with river habitat restoration.
– Water and funds (including an additional $2 million) will be managed through a partnership effort designed to adapt to changing conditions, called “Learning by Doing.” Notably, TU is the sole conservation organization that has been included in the management committee for Learning by Doing.

These are significant new tools to help protect the Colorado River’s future and to address some of the past impacts that have put it at risk, and Denver Water and key west slope players including Grand County and the Colorado River Water Conservation District deserve great credit for crafting this agreement.

But our work is far from over.

There are also vital issues that are not addressed by the agreement. The deal does not include mitigation to offset the future impacts of Denver’s currently-proposed Moffat Firming project, which will draw another 15,000 acre-feet yearly from the Colorado headwaters. The Wildlife Commission is currently reviewing the mitigation plan for this project – and TU will continue to work for the necessary river protections in the mitigation plan.

Perhaps even more notably, the agreement addresses only Denver Water’s facilities. It does not include the single largest user of Upper Colorado River water, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which draws Colorado River water through the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects, and is proposing to take another 30,000 acre-feet per year through its new Windy Gap Firming Project.

As you can see, our work in defending the Colorado River has just begun. TU will continue to fight for mitigation from both the Moffat and Windy Gap Firming projects, and we will work to get the Northern District to step up to the plate in addressing its impacts to the Colorado. And of course, we will work constructively with Denver and the West Slope to maximize the benefits of the new “Learning by Doing” effort. Your membership and support helps make these efforts possible.

To get a feel for the challenges facing the Colorado headwaters, I encourage you to take a look at this video, “Tapped Out,” developed by Trout Unlimited and our Colorado River Headwaters Chapter.

Thank you for helping us continue the fight to defend our state’s “Home Waters” and ensuring that the mighty Colorado will be part of our outdoor heritage for generations to come.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Gov. John Hickenlooper and top leaders said Thursday that meeting projected water shortfalls likely will require increased storage. But rather than a massive new reservoir, like the ill-fated Two Forks decades ago, they’re leaning toward a strategy of enlarging existing reservoirs. “Certainly, expansion of existing reservoirs has a couple things going in its favor: Less expensive. Less controversial,” Hickenlooper said. Inundating a large area, as Two Forks would have done, “is a 25-year battle that really ends up with no winners,” he said…

Hickenlooper’s senior water adviser, John Stulp, is charged with identifying potential expansions that would allow some future growth without drying up more acres of cropland. Stulp said the Chatfield and Rueter-Hess reservoirs south of Denver can hold more water, as can Halligan and Seaman reservoirs near Fort Collins. Hickenlooper suggested aquifers depleted by south Denver suburbs also could serve as a reservoir if recharged with water…

Moving ahead to address looming water shortages could not be done without a new collaborative framework, Hickenlooper said in an interview.
“This state has to realize, people in metropolitan Denver have to realize, that their self-interest is served by treating water as a precious commodity and that its value on the Western Slope is just as relevant as its value in the metro area,” he said. “Certain parts of this water may be legally Denver’s water, or Aurora’s water. But it’s all Colorado’s water.”

More coverage from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. From the article:

“The reality is that ever since the Two Forks [dam] veto [in 1990], with federal permitting requirements and local and state land use controls, the old method of just taking water and moving it from one place to another regardless of impacts — those days are over,” Lochhead said. “We need to be responsible to Western Slope communities and recognize that we impact those communities.”[…]

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper attended the Thursday press conference and said he supports the agreement. “This is an historic agreement in every sense of the word,” he said. “It sets a model of how we can have these discussions without pitting one part of the state against another, to figure out where our water comes from while pushing for reuse and conservation. “As more people hear about this and understand the significance of this, Coloradans will applaud the compromises that were made,” Hickenlooper said…

Tom Davidson, a Summit County commissioner, thanked members of the Denver Water Board of Commissioners at the press conference. “For many generations, Coloradans on the Western Slope have watched our water flow uphill, flow toward the money, flow toward the Front Range,” Davidson said.

“It’s important to recognize that the board members of Denver Water are no going to have some of that money, and the water that’s been flowing to the Front Range, flow back to the places where the water came from. Thank you for understanding and providing significant funds to Western Slope communities to mitigate some of the impacts that we’ve been dealing with for generations. It will make Colorado a better place, and the Western Slope a more sustainable place.”

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Key parts of the agreement, including changes in operations at Green Mountain Reservoir, and water use related to operation of the Shoshone power plant, still require buy-in from entities not party to the current agreement. Though hailed as a “global” solution, the deal also would sanction an additional 15,000 acre-feet of diversions from the Colorado River headwaters to the Front Range, exacerbating an entirely different set of issues farther downstream — in the Grand Canyon, for example, where a recent report concluded that existing diversions are already damaging natural resources. It covers existing diversions and projects, but conservation advocates were careful to point out that the agreement does not encompass the effects of two large Grand County projects currently under review — the expansion of the Moffat Tunnel collection system and the Windy Gap firming project, along the upper Colorado. Click here to read the full legal version of the deal…

Kirk Klancke, president of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Headwaters chapter in Fraser, praised Grand County, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and other West Slope stakeholders who pushed for river protections. “They realized that a healthy river is the basis for healthy communities and local economies. They realized that if we don’t save our rivers, we’ll lose the heart and soul of this magnificent place,” Klancke said…

Many West Slope leaders credited Hickenlooper with nudging the negotiations forward when he served as Denver’s mayor, in part by appointing collaboratively minded people to the Denver Board of Water Commissioners…

More coverage from Dennis Webb writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Parties to the landmark proposal say it would be the largest agreement of its kind in the history of a state that previously has seen big fights over Front Range efforts to divert Western Slope water. Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, praised it as a means of moving from confrontation to a “culture of cooperation.”[…]

Kuhn said a similar effort already is ongoing between the Western Slope and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Some conservationists have voiced concern that as the largest user of Upper Colorado River water, Northern Colorado isn’t a party to the Denver proposal. Kuhn said he’s optimistic about how negotiations are proceeding with that district.

More coverage from Scott N. Miller writing for the Vail Daily News. From the article:

A deal between Denver Water and the Western Slope may have been hatched in Grand County Thursday, but the incubation started in a Beaver Creek conference room in 2004. That first meeting, pulled together by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, the Eagle Park Reservoir Company, Vail Resorts and other local water users and providers, resulted in the framework of the agreement announced Thursday between Denver water and more than 30 Western Slope water districts and agencies. Boulder water attorney Glenn Porzak, who has long represented local water agencies, has a lot of experience in the battles between Front Range and Western Slope water interests. Porzak said what came out of that meeting had never happened before — for the first time, Denver Water was going to negotiate with a unified group, and not just individual communities or agencies.

While a summary of the deal released Thursday doesn’t seem to have much for Eagle County residents, Porzak said the process that started in Beaver Creek has some important ramifications for people who live in the Eagle River basin. Thanks to a 2007 case that was settled out of court, Denver Water gave up most of its water rights in the Eagle River basin. Those water rights could have potentially affected flows in the Eagle River, Gore Creek and other up-valley streams to fill a proposed reservoir in Wolcott. Thanks to that settlement, there’s still a chance that a reservoir could be built at Wolcott, but not without the approval of local water districts and Eagle County.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap: Bud O’Hara, water resources division manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, recieves the ‘Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas River Award’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum gave Bud O’Hara, water resources division manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas River Award at its annual meeting.

“He has walked this basin literally from top to bottom and even across the Continental Divide where an important part of the water in this basin is imported from,” said Phil Reynolds, a Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District project manager, in presenting the award. The forum annually recognizes a person who has made contributions to the river with the award, which is named for one of the forum’s founders. Past winners are Allen Ringle, Carl Genova, Reed Dils, Paul Flack, Denzel Goodwin and Paul Conlin.

O’Hara was surprised by the award, having been convinced to attend the meeting at the last minute by his boss, Executive Director Alan Hamel. “I really appreciate this. Gracious, heavens,” O’Hara said. “Really, it’s been Alan who has given me the freedom to do things for the water board.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Green Mountain Reservoir Operations update: 800cfs in the Blue River by Sunday night

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The DOW will conclude their fish-shocking work in Gore Canyon tomorrow, April 29. As a result, we will start ramping Green Mountain releases back up tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. Increases will be made in 50 cfs increments, twice a day, through the weekend.

The schedule will be the same as before. Changes will be made at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Currently, releases from the dam are about 500 cfs.They will go to 600 cfs Friday, 700 cfs Saturday, and level out around 800 cfs by Sunday evening.

We will be in Frisco presenting run-off information on Tuesday, May 3. We are participating in the River District’s annual State of the River meeting for the Blue River. Learn more about this meeting at http://www.crwcd.org/page_115.

Learn more about our operations at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao/, http://www.usbr.gov/gp/lakes_reservoirs/colorado_lakes.htm; and for snow pack and reservoir levels: http://www.usbr.gov/gp/hydromet/curres_google.htm?lat=39.0959&lng=-105.5313&zoom=7.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife seeks public comment on water projects

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will continue its formal review of plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources that would be created by two significant transmountain water development projects with a full day of presentations and public comment on Friday, May 6, in Salida.

The presentations and testimony regarding mitigation plans offered by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District will occur on the second day of the Wildlife Commission’s monthly meeting at the Hampton Inn and Suites on Highway 50 in Salida. The commission’s 60-day review began on April 7 and a final recommendation is due in June.

Denver Water is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting additional water from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers. Northern is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Longmont.

“The Wildlife Commission has worked for months with the Division to understand the impacts of these projects to fish and wildlife and how the proponents intend to address these impacts,” Wildlife Commission chairman Tim Glenn said. “The information and testimony we receive in Salida will be critical our evaluation of the adequacy of these plans.”

Under state statute, the Commission’s authority is limited to a review of plans to mitigate impacts from proposed projects. Restoring the river to a past condition is beyond the scope of the project approval process and Wildlife Commission authority. However, Denver and Northern are voluntarily proposing steps to address impacts of existing water development projects to fish and wildlife resources on both sides of the Continental Divide.

On Friday morning, Division staff will present an analysis of each mitigation plan, followed by public testimony. The afternoon session will feature an analysis of enhancement plans to address river conditions caused by existing water development, also to be followed by public testimony. The commission will consider this testimony in evaluating each plan.

Once the Wildlife Commission adopts its final recommendation at its workshop in Grand Junction on June 9, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will have 60 days to affirm or modify it. If the CWCB makes revisions, the Governor will have 60 days to affirm or further modify the recommendation, which then becomes the official state position with regard to mitigation. The final state position will then be transmitted to federal permitting agencies.

Additional information regarding the Wildlife Commission’s review, including links to the mitigation and enhancement plans being offered by Denver Water and Northern, can be found on the Division’s web site at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Water/MoffatWindyGapMitigationProjects/.

During Thursday’s session, the Commission is scheduled to take final action on a regulation prohibiting the hunting or harassment of black bears in their dens and set limited license numbers for deer, elk, pronghorn, bear and moose for the 2011 big game seasons. In addition, the Commission will consider an emergency regulation to lift bag limits for all fish species at Bonny Reservoir, which is expected to be drained this fall as part of a plan to bring Colorado into compliance with the Republican River compact.

The May 5 agenda includes scheduled votes on changes to regulations governing activities on State Wildlife Areas, including a ban on tracer ammunition and armor-piercing rounds, a modification of dog-walking rules at two Loveland-area properties and other changes regarding access and hunting or angling activities on numerous Division-managed properties.

Also on the agenda are presentations on the Division’s Outdoor Discovery Center project in Gunnison, the Salida Natural Resource Center project and an update on the proposed merger between Colorado State Parks and the Division of Wildlife. The commission will be briefed on proposed mitigation for impacts to bighorn sheep from the “Over the River” landscape art project proposed by the artist Christo for the Arkansas River canyon.

In other business, Commissioners will review a proposed letter encouraging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow Colorado to establish new zones and season dates for waterfowl hunting in eastern Colorado that are currently under consideration. Draft regulations allowing restricted waterfowl hunting on two state parks along the Colorado River will also be considered. At James M. Robb Colorado River State Park hunting would be restricted to designated blinds reserved by a reservation system. At Highline Lake State Park, reservations for access to existing blinds would also be required. Discussion on a proposal to increase the daily bag limit for dark geese in the Pacific Flyway portion of the Colorado from three to four birds is also anticipated. Final action on these items is scheduled for the Commission’s July meeting.

The Wildlife Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. In June, the Commission will meet in Grand Junction. The meeting schedule for the proposed Parks and Wildlife Board through the rest of the year will be discussed in Salida.

The complete agenda for the May Wildlife Commission meeting can be found on the Wildlife Commission web page at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/Archives/2011/May52011.htm.

More information on Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System proposal and Northern’s Windy Gap Firming Project may be found here: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/Water/MoffatWindyGapMitigationProjects/

Written comments on the Denver Water Northern proposals may also be submitted to the Wildlife Commission by email at: wildlife.comm@state.co.us. Hard copies may be submitted to:

Colorado Wildlife Commission
c/o Public Involvement Unit
Colorado Division of Wildlife
6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216

Members of the public who are unable to attend Commission meetings or workshops can listen to the proceedings through a link on the DOW’s website. This opportunity is provided to keep constituents better informed about the development of regulations by the Commission and how they and DOW staff are resolving issues facing Colorado’s wildlife.

To access the live audio feed during the meeting, click on the “listen to live audio” link at the bottom of the Commission webpage at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here. More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

There are four seats open for directors of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Expiring terms are: Division 1, Fremont County School District RE-3, Timothy Canterbury; Division 2, Chaffee County School District R-32-J, chairman Glenn Everett; Division 4, Custer County, vice chairman Robert Senderhauf; and Division 6, Fremont County School District RE-2, John Sandefur.

Property owners at least 18 years old who have lived in one of those divisions at least one year may apply for appointment to the directorship for the division in which they live. Terms begin June 1 and continue four years. Applicants should have backgrounds reflecting agricultural, municipal, industrial or other interests in beneficial water use within conservancy district boundaries.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

The Las Animas County Commissioners ask for disaster declaration

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From The Trinidad-Times (Steve Block):

Drought and the potential for the deadly fires were at the center of discussion in Tuesday’s meeting of the Las Animas County Board of Commissioners. The board passed a resolution supporting the submission of a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, requesting consideration of a Drought Disaster Declaration for the county. Once the letter gets to the governor, he will send it on to John Salazar, the state agricultural commissioner. Salazar will do an evaluation of the situation at the state level, to determine the parameters and qualifications for a drought disaster declaration. The agriculture secretary will look at precipitation records and crop production records in the county. If Salazar is persuaded there is sufficient reason, he will forward the county’s request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That department will examine the request at the federal level.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: The Fowler town council votes to drop support for conduit EIS

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):</p<

The main reason for deciding against the project was not having information on its cost as it plays out, said Town Manager Wayne Snider on Tuesday. “I think the council wanted to consider other options.” Snider was out of town when the vote was taken, but said the council had expressed concerns over signing a “blank check” for the conduit. Fowler currently has adequate water resources for its population, relying on springs north of the town.

It is also looking at working with Innovative Water Technologies of Rocky Ford on a membrane treatment system to improve water quality and with BiO2 Solutions of Strasburg on an algae treatment for wastewater systems. “We were concerned about the conduit, because you can’t project the cost: not only for the study but for future construction,” Snider said.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Bureau of Reclamation: March status report for Jackson Gulch and McPhee reservoirs

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FromFrom the Cortez Journal:

Jackson Gulch reservoir live content stood at 5,496 acre-feet with a 9,977 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 5,008 acre-feet average (1971-2000) end of month content. At Jackson Gulch, no water was released into the Mancos River, and monthly total volume of 10 acre-feet were released for municipal purposes.

McPhee Reservoir live content stood at 273,370 acre-feet, with a 381,051 acre-feet maximum capacity and a 305,506 acre-feet average (1986-2000) end-of-month content. At McPhee, 1,807 acre-feet were released into the Dolores River, and 740 acre-feet were released for transbasin purposes. At McPhee, a daily maximum/minimum of 30/34 cubic-feet-per-second was released into the Dolores River.

More San Juan River basin coverage here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works water rights have best yield in five years

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A new report by the water resources department of the water board shows the yield from all sources in 2010 was 86,291 acre-feet, up slightly from yields in the previous three years. In 2006, yields were 89,137 acre-feet. It’s surprising because 2008 was the best recent year for snowpack. The water board didn’t fully take advantage of the conditions then because its reservoirs were relatively full. “I think the difference is that we didn’t take any Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water in 2008,” said Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo water board. “You always have to walk that line between having enough and, I guess you’d call it, gluttony.”[…]

Still, 2010 was a banner year for direct-flow water rights in the Arkansas River basin, because a heavy runoff at the right time allowed the water board to capture more water than it otherwise would have. About 60,310 acre-feet, or 70 percent of the total, came from within the Arkansas River basin in 2010. That was the most in a decade from native sources. “The key reason was that for several days we got to store water in Clear Creek Reservoir because all of the downstream rights were satisfied,” Ward said.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

Education: Aurora Water, the Colorado River District and Denver Water are helping with the Keystone Science School’s H2O Outdoors program

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

“It’s about getting kids up here,” [Aurora Water’s Mary Dawson] said. “No matter what they do … they’re getting out of the concrete jungle. … It’s one thing to talk about it, but to see the relationship between snowfall and streamflow is key.” Dawson observed on Friday last week’s H2O Outdoors students gathered to discuss water policy solutions. The Town Hall meeting was modeled after the Keystone Center’s process of bringing together public, private and civic sector leaders to take on environmental, energy and public health problems. The afternoon prior, students met with experts in the water field to inform them of the roles they would play at the meeting.

Beyond gaining a deeper understanding of water issues in the west, the program’s goal is for students to see collaboration at work — how personalities interact and the way difficult compromises are made. “It shows that we do work together. It’s not just about bumping heads,” said Matt Bond, Denver Water’s youth education program manager…

Mike Wilde of the Colorado River Water Conservation District added that H2O Outdoors, which was pioneered by the district, aims to change students’ awareness, attitude and action toward water issues. The experts were impressed with the students’ ability to learn so quickly, particularly amidst a learning curve Wilde said is “like drinking out of a fire hose for three days.”

More education coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Industry reps defend hydraulic fracturing at BLM public forum in Golden

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From The Greeley Tribune (Chris Casey) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

The forum, which included speakers from the Bureau of Land Management, state regulators and the oil and gas industry, drew about 300 to the Denver West Marriott in Golden. It was the third in a series of BLM-hosted hearings nationwide about fracturing, or fracking, and energy production on public lands. The BLM is contemplating new federal regulations, though the Environmental Protection Agency has found no evidence of water-quality degradation from fracking, said Dave Cesark of Mesa Energy. The EPA is conducting another study into fracking to be completed next year…

Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry on private lands, said Colorado ranks fifth in the nation for gas production and 10th in oil. He said most of Colorado’s 44,000 active wells rely on fracking to create permeability in the rock and open pathways for oil and gas to reach the surface. “This technology is absolutely vital to unlocking Colorado’s rich oil and gas reserves,” he said…

Rich Ward, a geologist with the Aspen Science Center, said there are seven layers of steel piping and cement that isolate the well from contact with subsurfaces, including water tables. “Well integrity is the absolute key in this whole process,” he said. That said, he noted it’s possible for a casing to be flawed but that if proper pressure checks are done, any such flaws can be quickly repaired…

Neslin said the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s regulations are similar to the BLM’s. He said the COGCC has investigated hundreds of complaints about contamination related to fracking “and to date we’ve not found any instances of groundwater contamination.” He said the agency is going beyond regulations with participation in a new website – http://www.fracfocus.org – where oil and gas producers voluntarily report the chemicals used in fracking. Thirty-five operators have so far registered to participate, including large operators such as Halliburton. Cesark said, in general, 99.5 percent of fracking materials are sand and water. The other 0.5 percent of materials used, he said, are chemicals commonly found in households, such as acids, antibacterial agents, corrosion inhibitors, lubricants and gels. He said there is typically a mile to two miles of separation between an aquifer and shale formations where fracking takes place. Between those layers is impermeable rock. “The risk of fracking fluid coming in contact with an aquifer is extremely remote and there really are a great many precautions that take place to prevent it,” Cesark said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Water availability is a primary main concern driving the Pueblo County commissioners in rejecting new electrical generation plant

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Citing concerns about safety and a lack of water, the Pueblo County commissioners Monday night unanimously voted down a zoning change request by a Pueblo attorney seeking to build a “clean energy park,” including a nuclear power plant, just outside the city. The vote was 3-0 to deny the zoning change…

Ultimately, the commissioners decided the potential jobs were outweighed by community concern over a lack of water to cool any future reactors and the potential safety and environmental concerns stemming from storing spent fuel on site.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The Colorado Farm Bureau counters the claim from ‘Save the Poudre’ that the Northern Integrated Supply Project will harm agriculture

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Here’s a release from the Colorado Farm Bureau:

Statement by Don Shawcroft, President, Colorado Farm Bureau, Regarding Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeepers ‘Farm Facts’ Report

Alamosa rancher and Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft had strong words for Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeepers upon reading their ‘report’ on the impact of NISP on northern Colorado agriculture.

“The so-called report is nothing but propaganda, spread by Save the Poudre in a vain attempt to derail the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). Save the Poudre does not speak for Colorado agriculture, an industry forthright and vocal in its support for NISP. Their attempts to divide the ag industry are tiresome. They speak only for themselves and their attempts to stall a project supported by large majorities of northern Colorado citizens.

The NISP project is a crucial step in reducing the pressure from development on irrigated agriculture in Northern Colorado. Opponents of NISP would have us do nothing in the face of increasing water needs along the northern Front Range. Whether the Save the Poudre crowd likes it or not, more people are moving into the region served by the NISP participants. The project is a proactive, environmentally sound step to manage the growth along the Front Range and it will insure that irrigated farmers along the South Platte Basin will have access to their water for years to come.

Colorado farmers and ranchers support the NISP project. Unlike the Poudre Waterkeepers, food producers in Colorado have been managing our states water resources for hundreds of years. If we support the development of a water project, you can bet it will help keep irrigated farmers on the land. The public knows this. Lawmakers know this. So does Gary Wockner and the rest of the Waterkeepers. They just won’t tell you that.”

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

“There’s nothing new in the filing. We can tear each one of their claims apart. Where’s the science come from?” Brian Werner said Monday. He’s the spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which filed a detailed EIS report with the Corps more than five years ago. The Corps, in 2008, asked for additional comment, and Werner said it is hoped the final EIS will be released later this year or early next.

In its filing, the Fort Collins group said if NISP is built, it would harm about 123,000 acres of agricultural land, or about one-sixth of all the irrigated land in northern Colorado. In addition, the group claims the project would accelerate the buy-up of farms for subdivision development, would accelerate salinization of productive croplands, would end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact existing water users, and would submerge and divide productive agricultural land. It also says the initial filling of the two reservoirs and ongoing diversions into the two would likely come from northern Colorado and Western Slope farm water.

“There has not been, to our knowledge, one farm organization that has come out in opposition to the project. In fact, most of them are in favor of it. This latest filing is nothing but garbage. It’s not based in reality. We can easily refute anything they have said,” Werner said.

[ed. I’ll be on radio AM 1310 in Greeley Thursday afternoon discussing surface water and Colorado’s water supply gap sometime after 3:00 p.m.]

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

The southern metro Denver suburbs are looking to surface water to lessen dependence on the Denver Basin aquifer system

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This is not news to many Coyote Gulch readers. Here’s a in-depth report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Today, nearly every glass of water drawn by residents in Castle Rock, Castle Pines and Parker originates deep underground, data from utility managers show.
Twenty-five utilities between Denver and Colorado Springs are together pumping 38,742 acre-feet of water from 449 municipal wells each year, according to data provided by the water suppliers. That works out to about 400 gallons per second being squeezed from the Denver Basin aquifer. It’s not that the water in the vast aquifer is expected to run dry anytime soon. The problem is that pumping water from as deep as 2,200 feet below the surface is getting more difficult — and expensive…

The water table and well-production data kept by some utilities show well levels falling by as much as 30 feet a year and that well flows in summer slow by as much as 20 percent…

When Two Forks was rejected, “the consensus was that groundwater was a very viable source that could be replenished,” said Jim Sherer, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator at the time, who favored the dam. “You could put water back in. What seemed to be easy answers 20 years ago is creating problems today.”

The prime alternative for some suburbs today involves diverting wastewater from Denver and Aurora and purifying it for use by others. Over the past year, 15 south metro suburbs have been been negotiating the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, or WISE, project. It would take advantage of Aurora’s new $660 million Peter D. Binney treatment plant, combined with the city’s 34-mile pipeline that diverts water from the South Platte River, downstream from Denver’s Metro Wastewater Reclamation facility…

But Denver’s participation depends on diverting more water from the west side of the Continental Divide, he said. The proposed Moffat Tunnel diversion project is under review. “The more water we bring over from the Western Slope, the more return flows (to the South Platte) we have,” Little said. “If we didn’t get the Moffat project, it could limit our ability to fully participate in the WISE project. I don’t think it would kill it.” Suburban leaders are counting on WISE. They anticipate receiving as much as 60,000 acre-feet of wastewater annually for reuse, said Pat Mulhern, who manages the Cottonwood, Inverness and Stonegate water districts. The cost has not been calculated.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Their wells at the rim of the heavily subscribed Denver Basin aquifer first ran dry in 1997. Today some still run dry. The experience honed their survival skills. The southwest metro neighbors flush infrequently, redirect rainwater off roofs into gardens and redrill old wells. Most have buried 500-gallon cisterns near their homes…

When wells first went dry, about 150 homeowners formed the South Chatfield Water District. They bought rights to 69 acre-feet of surface water and arranged for Denver Water to deliver it through an extended pipeline. Below 10,000 gallons a month, each household pays $4 per 1,000 gallons. Above that, the fee increases to $60. Some have paid $1,000 a month trying to maintain lawns.

More Denver Basin aquifer system coverage here and here.

Snowpack/precipitation news: Diane Johnson — ‘You just hope for a slow melt’

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From the Vail Daily:

Vail Mountain logged 524 inches for the season as of Sunday’s closing day, but the inches just keep piling up. There wasn’t even dirt showing on the runs leading down to the base of the mountain Sunday, which also happened to be one of Vail’s latest closing days in history…

Mike Gillespie, the snow survey supervisor with the National Resources Conservation Service in Denver, said the Colorado River Basin is at 144 percent of average. “It’s turned out to be a pretty phenomenal snow year,” Gillespie said. “In the last 30 days or so, we’ve really seen some really remarkable increases in the snowpack.”[…]

Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said that as long as there’s not constant warm weather that causes everything to melt, combined with no rain, then the local water supply should be fine. “You just hope for a slow melt,” Johnson said.

[ed. I could not download the latest snowpack chart. The server appears to be down right now.]

Hello from the California Zephyr

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Well I’m back. You have to love technology. I’m east of Sterling, Colorado, riding the California Zephyr. I have my Macbook Air hooked up via Wi-Fi with my iPhone.

San Luis Valley Advisory Committee meeting May 13

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From email from the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Kathryn Radke):

Please note, the next meeting of the SLV Advisory Committee will be held on May 13, 2011 at the Adams State College, Room 309 of the Student Union Center. There will be a public meeting about the Irrigation Season Policy from 9AM – 10AM. The SLV Advisory Committee will meet from 10AM – 3PM. Lunch will be provided…

We will send out the next draft of the Rules and a draft Statement of Basis and Purpose in the next few weeks.

These documents will also be posted on our website in the next day or so at:
http://water.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/RulemakingAndAdvising/SLVAC/Pages/default.aspx

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

Finalists named for the annual ‘Leopold Conservation Award’

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From the Ag Journal:

In celebration of Earth Day, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), the Sand County Foundation, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., and Peabody Energy will present the Leopold Conservation Award to a landowner in Colorado. Each of these organizations believes in working lands conservation as it yields measurable conservation enhancements that benefit livestock production as well as wildlife species and habitats.

The Leopold Conservation Award, named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is comprised of a $10,000 cash award and an Aldo Leopold crystal. The award is presented annually in eight states to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management…

The 2011 Leopold Conservation Finalists are: The Fox Ranch; Wineinger-Davis Ranch; Pipe Springs Ranch; and the, Wagon Wheel Ranch…

The 2011 Leopold Conservation Award recipient will be honored Tuesday, June 21st at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention in Steamboat Springs, Colo. The 2011 CCA/CCW/JCCA Annual Convention will be held at the Steamboat Sheraton in Steamboat Springs, Colo., June 20th-22nd. Individuals may register for this “must attend” event by referring to the April issue of Cattle Guard, visiting http://www.coloradocattle.org

More conservation coverage here.

Larry Small hired to lead the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Larry Small, a former board chairman, was hired Friday as executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District…Small will receive a monthly stipend of $2,500 — half of what interim director Gary Barber was paid. Barber resigned earlier this year for budgetary reasons…

In other action, the board:

– Agreed to administer a regional stormwater solutions white paper by Summit Economics. The district opted not to pay any of the $38,000 study itself, after Chostner maintained it is an El Paso County issue. Cities in El Paso County will bear the cost.

– Approved upgrades to a power line for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association because one of the towers is in the Fountain Creek flood plain. District committees determined there would be no impact to the creek.

Meanwhile, Colorado Springs is revising the city’s rules on development in the Fountain Creek floodplain, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

[Dan Bare, senior engineer with the Colorado Springs stormwater department] spoke to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District at its monthly meeting Friday. The district’s technical advisory committee, developers and other interests have been working with Bare for two years in rewriting the drainage manual for Colorado Springs. When complete, it could be applied throughout the watershed to provide uniform protection to Fountain Creek through land-use policies.

One key idea is to build smaller, more effective drainage detention ponds, rather than more costly large basins that quickly fill with sediment, Bare said. “The developers are aware of what we’re doing and are pleased with the concept,” he said. Detention ponds would be designed to be multipurpose and more natural. “What we’re doing today just isn’t working.”

The new regulations also would provide for low-impact designs on new development that do not increase runoff into Fountain Creek. “What this does is change the way we develop so we don’t have the problems we do today with Fountain Creek,” said Dennis Maroney, stormwater consultant for the City of Pueblo.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Small scale hydroelectric installations are growing in popularity in Montrose County

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From the Montrose Daily Press (Dick Kamp):

from Montrose to Ridgway, and from Ouray to Telluride, the number of hydro projects are growing. Mike Berry, general manager of Tri County Water, hopes to build a hydro-project on Ridgway Dam. And he’s not alone; the area’s hydro-proponents also include renewable energy engineer Jim Heneghan of Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA); Kurt Johnson of Telluride Energy, and Eric Jacobson of Telluride’s Hydrowest power.

Jacobson owns the century-old Ouray and Telluride hydro-generating stations as well as the defunct Montrose Bullock power plant. He worked with Kurt Johnson to recently build the Ouray City hot springs hydro plant with used equipment.

Johnson is working with Tri-County in designing and promoting the Ridgway dam project. Johnson and Jacobson often work with Ouray attorney and Friend of the River activist Ben Tisdel of Ouray on hydro issues.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has three hearings about exploration and production on public lands scheduled, Salt Lake (April 26), Rifle (May 3) and Denver (May 4)

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

The Denver hearing will be held May 4 at the Denver West Marriott, 1717 Denver West Blvd. in Golden at 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. The series of seven hearings will begin Tuesday in Salt Lake City. A hearing will be held May 3 in Rifle.

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: BLM forum on hydraulic fracturing showcases polarized opinion

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Industry leaders, state oil and gas regulators, and environmentalists aired their concerns about or enthusiasm for the process Monday in Golden during a U.S. Bureau of Land Management public forum about fracking in Colorado…

[Dave Cesark of Mesa Energy in Grand Junction] said there is little risk of groundwater contamination from fracking because the industry is heavily regulated and drilling companies are careful to prevent leaks. But, he said, the risk is not zero.

But Cathy Purves of Trout Unlimited said the industry appears to give total disregard to the public’s concern about possible contamination from fracking. If fracking is “no more harmful than household products, there’s a disconnect from the public about why the industry won’t disclose what those household products are,” she said.

David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said his agency has studied thousands of water wells across the state and has never found evidence that fracking fluid has contaminated groundwater in Colorado.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — nuclear: The Pueblo County Commissioners vote 3-0 to deny approval for the proposed electrical generation plant

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With the nuclear disaster in Japan still underway the timing for a new plant in Pueblo County couldn’t have been any worse. It looks like a nuclear wedge as part of the solution for Global Climate Change is going to be hard to get in place. The commissioners cited concerns over water needs as the driving force. Here’s a report from Peter Strescino writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

After the vote, [local lawyer Don Banner] said he would not appeal the decision but “respectfully disagreed” with it. Banner said people were “stirred up” over headlines from Japan, where that country’s nuclear energy program took a hit from a giant earthquake and resulting tsunami last month. “I think the decision (by commissioners) was made independently of that,” he said of the Japan tragedy. “People know these plants are now as safe as they humanly can be, but they get stirred up, don’t do research and just react to headlines.”[…]

Commissioner Anthony Nunez said he was all for economic development, but that new nuclear production has essentially stopped and the cost associated with the plants caused coal to be a more efficient way to produce energy. “And how much water would be needed just to run the plant, never mind if there was an emergency,” he said.

Commissioner Jeff Chostner, who is a friend of Banner’s and has been associated with him in legal practice, called Banner a fine man who has the public’s interest at heart. Chostner then gave a brief rundown of the country’s wars over oil and said too much blood and treasure has been wasted on the diminishing resource.

“But (his reason for voting no) is water,” Chostner said. “From an operational need to emergencies there are differing figures (about how much will be needed). We say we have enough water for a city of 350,000, but these energy uses (including the current power plants here) bring that down to enough for 300,000 people. That’s a chunk to take out of agriculture. And the last resort if we needed water for an emergency would be the Pueblo Reservoir. The county does not own a drop of that water.” Chostner continued, “I think we need to race to find alternative energy sources. At some place, at some time, we need to make nuclear energy appropriate.

More coverage from Abbie Burke writing for the Colorado Connection. From the article:

“It was a hard decision to make,” said Anthony Nunez, Commissioner, Chair Pro Tem, District 1. “I always kept in mind the water that it would take to cool these reactors down, that was paramount for me,” he said.

Nunez said agriculture is his number one priority and questioned what would happen to agriculture if Pueblo experienced a drought. “When I looked at those two things (water and agriculture) it’s what helped me to decide that I couldn’t go with it at this time,” Nunez said…

“They’re as safe as can humanly be made safe,” said Banner. “We send people in satellites to the moon and back and for the most part they do it safely, we can build nuclear power plants in this country safely.” Banner said Southern Colorado missed out on a great economic opportunity. “I think Southern Colorado’s economy would have been greatly bolstered as a result of this, if we would have passed it and it would have come to fruition,” he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Northern Integrated Supply Project: A Save the Poudre report submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the project will have a deleterious effect on irrigated farmland in the basin

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From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Save The Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper — a loud critic of the dam proposal — is asking the Army Corps to review the report as it considers a go-ahead permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, also known as NISP…

The report, “Farm Facts About NISP,” claims the project would cause a host of problems for about 123,000 acres of Colorado farm land. It would speed up the buy up and subdivision of irrigated farms in northern Colorado, accelerate salinization of productive crop lands, end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact many existing water users and submerge and divide productive agriculture land, the report says. Also, the report says, the initial fill of 100,000-acre feet and the ongoing diversions into Glade and Galeton Reservoir are likely to come from agriculture water from northern Colorado and the Western Slope…

NISP is backed by 14 northern Colorado water providers, who see the project as the best way to preserve water for Colorado farmland, Werner said. “Why else would the Farm Bureau and various ditch companies, support NISP?” Werner asked. “We’re pretty confident this project can stand on its own.”

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

In its filing, the Fort Collins group said that if NISP is built, it would harm about 123,000 acres of agricultural land, or about one-sixth of all the irrigated land in northern Colorado. In addition, the group claims the project would accelerate the buy-up of farms for subdivision development; would accelerate salinization of productive crop lands; would end most “free river” diversion opportunities and impact existing water users; would submerge and divide productive agricultural land; and that the initial filling of the two reservoirs and on-going diversions into the two would likely come from northern Colorado and Western Slope farm water.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Interior Releases Report Highlighting Impacts of Climate Change to Western Water Resources

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Here’s the release from the U.S. Department of Interior (Kendra Barkoff/Dan DuBray):

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released a report that assesses climate change risks and how these risks could impact water operations, hydropower, flood control, and fish and wildlife in the western United States. The report to Congress, prepared by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, represents the first consistent and coordinated assessment of risks to future water supplies across eight major Reclamation river basins, including the Colorado, Rio Grande and Missouri river basins.

“Water is the lifeblood of our communities, rural and urban economies, and our environment,” said Secretary Salazar, “and small changes in water supplies or the timing of precipitation can have a big impact on all of us. This report provides the foundation for understanding the long-term impacts of climate change on Western water supplies and will help us identify and implement appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies for sustainable water resource management.”

The report, which responds to requirements under the SECURE Water Act of 2009, shows several increased risks to western United States water resources during the 21st century. Specific projections include:

– a temperature increase of 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit;
– a precipitation increase over the northwestern and north-central portions of the western United States and a decrease over the southwestern and south-central areas;
– a decrease for almost all of the April 1st snowpack, a standard benchmark measurement used to project river basin runoff; and
– an 8 to 20 percent decrease in average annual stream flow in several river basins, including the Colorado, the Rio Grande, and the San Joaquin.

The report notes that projected changes in temperature and precipitation are likely to impact the timing and quantity of stream flows in all western basins, which could impact water available to farms and cities, hydropower generation, fish and wildlife, and other uses such as recreation.

“Impacts to water are on the leading edge of global climate change, and these changes pose a significant challenge and risk to adequate water supplies, which are critical for the health, economy, and ecology of the United States,” added Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor.
Reclamation is already working with stakeholders across the West to achieve a sustainable water strategy to meet our nation’s water needs. Through the WaterSMART Basin Studies Program, Reclamation is developing and evaluating options for meeting future water demands in river basins where water supply and demand imbalances exist or are projected.

Reclamation is also continuing to implement actions to mitigate and adapt to changing climate. For example, at Hoover Dam, new wide head range turbines are being installed that will allow more efficient power generation over a wider range of lake levels than existing turbines. In addition, through the WaterSMART program, Reclamation continues to work with water users across the West to implement conservation and recycling measures and promote the efficient use of finite water resources. The Department of the Interior has also established Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and Climate Science Centers to help assess vulnerabilities to the natural and cultural resources management by the Department, and spearhead activities to adapt to the stresses of climate change.

“The WaterSMART program provides a strong foundation for the Department’s efforts to improve water conservation and help water-resource managers make sound decisions about water use,” said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science, Anne Castle. “As climate change adds to the challenges we face in managing our water supply, meaningful engagement between the River Basin states and the Department of the Interior will continue to be essential.”

To develop the report, Reclamation used original research and a literature synthesis of existing peer-reviewed studies. Projections of future temperature and precipitation are based on multiple climate models and various projections of future greenhouse gas emissions, technological advancements, and global population estimates. Reclamation will develop future reports to Congress under the authorities of the SECURE Water Act that will build upon the level of information currently available and the rapidly developing science to address how changes in supply and demands will impact water management.

The Bureau of Reclamation is the largest wholesaler of water in the country, providing water to more than 31 million people and to one out of five Western farmers for irrigation of more than 10 million acres of farmland. Reclamation is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the western United States with 58 power plants generating nearly a billion dollars in power revenues and producing enough electricity to serve 3.5 million homes.

The SECURE Water Act Report, with fact sheets highlighting climate challenges and impacts in the eight western river basins, is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/climate.

More information about Reclamation’s WaterSMART program is available at http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/.

More coverage from John Flesher writing for the Associated Press. From the article:

A report released Monday by the Interior Department said annual flows in three prominent river basins — the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin — could decline by as much 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades. The three rivers provide water to eight states, from Wyoming to Texas and California, as well as to parts of Mexico.

The declining water supply comes as the West and Southwest, already among the fastest-growing parts of the country, continue to gain population.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called water the region’s “lifeblood” and said small changes in snowpack and rainfall levels could have a major effect on tens of millions of people.

The report will help officials understand the long-term effects of climate change on Western water supplies, Salazar said, and will be the foundation for efforts to develop strategies for sustainable water resource management.

More coverage from the Huffington Post. From the article:

Meant to assess the risks of climate change, the report noted that fluctuations in temperature and precipitation are expected to cause significant changes in the future. Among the projections are temperature increases between 5 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit, and a decrease in snowpack. [Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar] said the report is meant to provide the starting blocks for strategies geared toward sustainable water resource management.

More coverage from Amy Joi O’Donoghue writing for the Deseret News. From the article:

…warmer conditions may result in more stresses to fisheries and specific aquatic species and facilitate an acceleration in the growth of non-native or invasive species. Such warming would also pose substantial risks to farmers because reservoirs would be subject to “significant” evaporation, decreasing water supplies to farm fields and pasture lands…

Salazar said the water report will serve as a blueprint for Colorado River water users on steps that need to be taken in light of changing climates and increased demands.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The report consolidates previous studies on Western water in eight major basins, including the Colorado River, Rio Grande and Missouri River basins that affect Colorado. The Arkansas River basin was not included. The report does not provide solutions to future water woes, but lays a foundation to build on, Salazar said. “This report provides the foundation for understanding the long-term impacts of climate change on Western water supplies and will help us identify and implement appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies for sustainable water resource management,” he said…

Colorado water groups are struggling with how much more water can be developed under the Colorado River Compact, with estimates ranging from none to 900,000 acre-feet. Climate change throws in curves both on the demand side — growing seasons will be longer — and the supply side of the equation. For the South Platte, which flows into the Missouri River, projections show a 10 to 12 percent drop in river flows, despite an overall increase in moisture throughout the larger Missouri watershed. The South Platte is the most densely populated region within the watershed, particularly in the Denver metro area, although it is relatively close to the headwaters in Colorado.

The good news for the Colorado River basin is that water storage projects have been designed to deal with the historically wide variability of flows. The Colorado River has a higher proportion of storage to flows than other rivers included in the study.

More Reclamation coverage here.

Denver Water: Announcement of historic proposed agreement for cooperative water management and supply

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Here’s the announcement from Denver Water (Lori Peck/Stacy Chesney):

Governor Hickenlooper to stand with Colorado water leaders: Announcement of historic proposed agreement for cooperative water management and supply

WHO: Governor John Hickenlooper
Eric Kuhn, Colorado River District, General Manager
Jim Lochhead, Denver Water, CEO/Manager
James Newberry, Grand County, Commissioner
Thomas Davidson, Summit County, Commissioner
Glenn Porzak, Attorney, Eagle County water agencies and ski industry
Keith Lambert, Middle River, Mayor of Rifle

WHAT: Leaders from Denver Water and the West Slope will give details of a proposed, unprecedented agreement that addresses water supply challenges for Denver Water and the greater metropolitan area, as well as water supply and environmental needs on Colorado’s West Slope. The proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement is the result of five years of “global negotiations.”

WHEN: Thursday, April 28, 2011, 9 a.m.

WHERE: Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Broad Axe Barn
3530 County Road 83
Tabernash, CO 80478

 

DIRECTIONS: http://www.devilsthumbranch.com/index.cfm/pid/10471

Editor’s Note: Members of the news media are asked to bring their press credentials.

Additional Information: Media packets will be provided at the event.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

The Denver Post calls out the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority on their $153 million ‘Flow Project’ reservoir

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From The Denver Post (Karen Crummy):

Gary Atkin, the general manager of the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority, also said ACWWA has not yet put together design plans or cost estimates on how and where the water will leave the [planned new] reservoir and be delivered…

The reservoir, under construction at South Chambers Road and E-470 in Douglas County, is a component of the ACWWA Flow Project, a $153 million renewable water and infrastructure endeavor…

A review of the reservoir planning process by The Denver Post found:

• ACWWA never formally studied the need for the reservoir. Atkin said an “initial needs analysis was done through the Cherry Creek Project Water Authority,” of which ACWWA is one of four members. Susan St. Vincent of the Cherry Creek project said she could not find anything in its files that resembled a needs analysis.

Her group, she said, has reviewed building or using existing reservoirs to provide each member with a percentage of storage space. In 2007, it looked at constructing one at the Chambers site but dismissed it because it was too expensive. The cost estimate was more than what ACWWA paid, according to records.

• ACWWA doesn’t have any records showing a comparison of its reservoir to Rueter-Hess reservoir a few miles south in Parker. ACWWA is paying $10,000 an acre-foot for storage, according to its contract, while Rueter-Hess is $5,500 an acre- foot, said Frank Jaegar, district manager for Parker Water & Sanitation District.

Atkin told The Post in an e-mail that during ACWWA’s “review and comparison of Chambers to RH we discovered that the price of constructing lines to RH, the additional evaporative loss due to the larger footprint at RH, and the advantage of ownership and complete operational flexibility, made the decision for a vessel such as Chambers a good one.” When asked to provide documentation of the review, Atkin said he “could find no documents in ACWWA’s possession.”

• Robert Lembke, head of United, appears to have done well on the deal. In addition to the contract with ACWWA, Lembke’s private company, Chambers Reservoir Equities LLC, which he says is an “enterprise” of United, has contracted to receive $2 million from another company for the dirt dug up for the reservoir…

• ACWWA does not have a plan regarding how the water will leave Chambers reservoir and where it will be delivered. ACWWA has also not conducted any cost estimates for this, Atkin said when asked by The Post.

• ACWWA hasn’t determined what water is going into the reservoir. Some of it is expected to come from junior water rights on the Cherry Creek, Atkin said.

Water from the South Platte River (part of the flow project) may also be stored after being treated to drinking-water standards, he said. Water experts say it’s typical that raw water is stored in open reservoirs, and it’s unusual to spend money on treating and piping in water that will only get dirty again…

Atkin also said he expects many details about the reservoir to be dealt with in the master plan. And, he said, one reason not to use Rueter-Hess was because of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirement that the agency review renewable sources of water stored in Rueter-Hess to determine the impacts of transferring and storing it.

More Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority coverage here.

Crystal River: The Colorado River District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District both approve abandonment of some storage rights

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From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The decision takes away the long-simmering prospect, however thin, that two Ruedi-sized dams would be built on the Crystal River, including the 129,000-acre-foot Osgood Reservoir, which would have put Redstone underwater. “It was not economical, it wasn’t politically feasible, and there certainly was not institutional or local support for such a project,” Chris Treese, the external affairs director for the Colorado River District, said about the Osgood Reservoir. “There is no support for, or frankly, desire by the staff or the River District board to flood the town of Redstone.”

The decision to walk away from most of the conditional water rights tied to what’s called the West Divide Project was good news to Bill Jochems, a Redstone resident who has called for the rights to be abandoned as a member of the Crystal River Caucus, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Agency and the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board. “The Osgood Reservoir seemed so outlandish that I don’t think it was a real palpable fear, yet there was always this possibility that future conditions might change enough so that someday it might be economic and might actually happen, so there was that haunting prospect,” Jochems said.

The decision by the two districts, however, may increase the likelihood that a more feasible — and less threatening — small reservoir gets built someday on the upper Crystal River at Placita, the site of an old coal mine at the bottom of McClure Pass. The districts voted to reduce the size of a potential Placita reservoir from 62,000 acre-feet to a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir, which is about a quarter of the size of the 16,000-acre-foot Paonia Reservoir on the other side of McClure Pass…

But members of the West Divide Water Conservancy District board said the day may come when residents of the Crystal River Valley see a small reservoir at Placita as a benefit, as it could store water in the spring and release it in the fall when the lower Crystal is nearly dried up from heavy irrigation diversions above Carbondale…

And another West Divide board member, Dan Harrison, pointed out that the districts do plan on maintaining the water rights for a hydropower facility at the smaller Placita Reservoir. The plant would be powered by 150 cubic feet of water per second, which is nearly three times the amount of water proposed for a new hydropower facility in Aspen. “The uses there could include supplementing the flows in the river, depending on what the future brings, and also help with the electric power generation up there,” Harrison said. “All those things would be dependent on how the area grows and the character of the area.”[…]

The decision by the water districts would also allow for another potential small dam in the Crystal River watershed, as the districts plan to retain the right to build a 5,000-acre-foot reservoir on Yank Creek, which is off of Thompson Creek, which in turn flows into the Crystal above Carbondale. The original Yank Creek Reservoir was planned to hold 13,700 acre-feet of water.

Another significant result of the boards’ decisions is that water from the Crystal River likely will never be diverted and transported to the dry mesas south of Silt and Rifle, a scheme that was first registered with the state water engineer in 1909.

More Crystal River watershed coverage here and here.

The drought across the eastern Colorado plains is particularly acute in Baca County

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’d take hail just for the moisture,” [joked one farmer].

The last steady rain was in August 2010, and there are broad consequences for a county that has seen more than its share of droughts. Agriculture will take the biggest hit, with 500,000 acres and thousands of cattle at risk. There have been nearly a dozen major fires, with a couple of homes destroyed…

One of the consequences of drought could be to close federal grazing leases on the Comanche grasslands, which will be evaluated according to the conditions on a case-by-case basis. The county commissioners are studying whether to ask for disaster relief, which could open Conservation Reserve Program ground to grazing…

Joe Rosengrants, 76, still helps his sons with farming, but his “hobby” is Sand Arroyo Energy, which markets wind turbines and solar panels. He decided he couldn’t beat the sun and wind, so joined them. While excavating the site of a wind charger recently, he found no sub-moisture 3 to 5 feet deep, where it normally would be encountered. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it any drier. It’s not as nasty as I’ve seen, but the farming methods have improved so much,” Rosengrants said. “We used to have storms where you couldn’t even see the hood ornament on your car, back when cars had hood ornaments.”[…]

Another major improvement came with high-production irrigation wells in the 1960s. “Most the wells are in the Ogallala Aquifer, which is dropping by about 2 feet per year,” said Commissioner Peter Dawson. It’s expensive to drill deeper, so some wells have been abandoned or farmers make do with less. “A well that was pumping 800 gallons per minute 30 years ago, might be just 150 to 200 gpm today. On the other hand, irrigation practices have improved so much.” At first, furrow irrigation was widely used, but more have switched to center pivots, with heads that drop closer to the ground. Some farmers are using drip irrigation.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Runoff news: There’s a 50% chance that the peak could be 80,000 cfs in Cataract Canyon this year

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From PRLog.org:

The latest projection from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah has projected the Colorado River in Cataract Canyon to have a 50% chance of peaking at over 80,000 cfs (cubic feet per second). Since 1985 the Colorado River has only reached 80,000 cfs one time. That happened on June 19, 1995 when the Colorado River peaked at 80,700 cfs.

Arkansas Valley lysimeter installation data may have an effect on consumptive use calculations in change cases

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The lysimeter physically weighs the amount of water being used on a crop, rather than estimating use through equations. At the same time, a weather station at the site calibrates temperature, moisture, wind speed and other environmental factors to take the guesswork out of where the water comes from and where it goes. Results from 2008-10 show that with 10 to 12 inches of rainfall and 40 to 44 inches of irrigation water, nearly all of the water was used by the alfalfa crop. Very little of the water drained…

Still, the research has far-reaching implications about how consumptive use is treated in the courtroom, said Dale Straw, a Division of Water Resources researcher. The Penman-Montieth model replaced the Blanney-Criddle model as the way water use is estimated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kansas’ interpretation in the Kansas v. Colorado lawsuit over the Arkansas River Compact. That decision means that well users in Colorado repay depletions to the aquifer at the highest possible rate. Within the state, Water Court decisions have tended to underestimate the use of water because of pressure from objectors during change cases, Straw said.

The state hopes to improve the Penman-Montieth model by introducing data specific to the Arkansas Valley. Currently, the model is based on data collected in Idaho. The Penman-Montieth takes more weather factors into consideration, and the wind in the Arkansas Valley appears to be the biggest variable not taken into account, Straw said.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: 2010-2011 was the best snow year since 1996 for the Arapahoe Basin Ski & Snowboard Area

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

While the curtain is going down the ski season at most of Colorado’s ski areas, Arapahoe Basin is going strong, reporting its best snow season since 1996 and the third-best on record. As of April 23, A-Basin was reporting 370 inches for the season, about 130 percent of average.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross) via the Craig Daily Press:

Mike Gillespie, Colorado Snow Survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver, confirmed that the snow depth at the Tower measuring site stood at 180 inches, or 15 feet, setting a record for measured snow depths there that go back to the mid-1960s. The previous record was the 175-inch snow depth recorded on April 25, 1978. “It will be a welcome change when these storms let up,” Gillespie said Friday. “We certainly have enough water supply.”[…]

Although the snow depth is at record levels, the amount of moisture in the snow on Buffalo Pass, 68.2 inches, is less than what was measured on April 25, 1978, when it was 71.1 inches…

Up north on the edge of the west side of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, the Elk River measuring site stands at 160 percent of average. And in South Routt, Lynx Pass at 8,880 feet is at 148 percent of average, and Crosho Lake, outside Phippsburg at 9,100 feet on the edge of the Flat Tops, is at 163 percent of average. The west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass is at 157 percent of average with 105 inches of standing snow.

Bayfield: The town approves more comprehensive grease trap standards in March

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From the Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

The town board approved updates to the town’s grease trap ordinance in March, to require more business accountability for grease trap and interceptor maintenance. It lists penalties but states intention to seek voluntary compliance first…

Saba told the Times that the grease issue is not just restaurants. It’s residential customers too. “We have a pretty good idea of a resident dumping motor oil” into the system, he said. He urges residential customers not to put grease down the drain.

More wastewater coverage here and here.

Runoff news: Steamboat gets hit with localized flooding

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From the Associated Press via The Durango Herald:

The Steamboat Pilot and Today reported Friday that higher elevation snowmelt in the coming weeks could result in more high water flows. Stream monitors have been reporting record flows at more than double the 101-year median for the date. Officials say flooding began Monday night. The unusually heavy snowmelt has flooded warehouses and caused thousands of dollars in damages and lost property. Officials say sewers and drains are overwhelmed with the amount of water from runoff and snow. Some business owners have reported water levels up to 10 inches in buildings unable to handle the drainage.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife to recommend suspending fish limits at Bonny Reservoir

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At the request of the Department of Natural Resources I’ve taken down my Bonny Reservoir post from Friday. Here’s the corrected release. There was a “mixup” according to a department spokesperson. He said in email, “Don’t ask how it happened,” so I won’t. It’s actually kind of nice to know that they read Coyote Gulch at DNR.

Here’s the new release:

As Colorado prepares to drain Bonny Reservoir to help the state come into compliance with the Republican River Compact between Kansas and Nebraska, the Colorado Division of Wildlife will recommend lifting bag and possession limits on all sport fish caught at the southeastern Yuma County reservoir.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will be asked to approve removing bag and possession limits at its May meeting in Salida. A press release issued Friday incorrectly stated that relaxed bag limits would go into effect May 1.

This fall, the State Engineer will begin to drain the reservoir to satisfy a legal obligation to release all the water to Kansas and Nebraska. The result will most likely be the loss of the entire fishery.

“Right now it is unknown how long it will take to drain the lake, but it looks like this might be the last year for fishing at Bonny,” said DOW Area Wildlife Manager Cory Chick. “The Division wants anglers to have an opportunity to harvest as many fish as possible before the water is gone.”

At present, the water level at Bonny Reservoir is about 18 feet below normal, but the boat ramp at the State Park is still operational.

Aquatic Biologist Gary Dowler said that recent sampling indicates that the overall number of sport fish is good, particularly for walleye and catfish. Numerous flathead catfish over 10 pounds were landed in 2010 and sampling efforts revealed a strong population of walleye with many fish over 20 inches.

But Dowling said he expects fishing for larger wipers and white bass to be fair to poor because large wipers and bass were impacted by low water levels over the past few years.

In addition to relaxing bag limits, the DOW will propose moving some of the sport fish to other reservoirs with public fishing.

“We typically are able to move no more than 10 percent of the fish,” said Chick. “That is why we would like anglers to have an opportunity to try to catch as many as they can, too.”

If the Commission approves the recommendation, recreational anglers will still need to have a valid Colorado fishing license, and must fill out a two-part form indicating the number and species of fish kept when they complete their fishing.

Boating and shore access could be closed as a safety precaution in the event that unstable banks and muddy conditions create a danger to anglers.

The reservoir will reach its lowest level when the water level drops to a point even with the outtake valve, which is expected to occur sometime in the fall or winter.

“We won’t know the final depth of the reservoir until that happens, but it doesn’t look like the boat ramps will ever be usable again past 2011,” Chick said.

Bonny Reservoir was created in 1951 when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built a flood control dam on the South Fork of the Republican River.

Recreation on the reservoir, and the land on the east end of the lake, is managed by Colorado State Parks. The DOW manages the recreational use on the lands adjacent to the park and below the dam as the South Republican State Wildlife Area.

Please contact Colorado State Parks website for hours of operation, current boat launching conditions as well as camping information http://parks.state.co.us/.

For more information on the South Republican State Wildlife Area go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/StateWildlifeAreas/.

More Republican River basin coverage here and here.

Klaus Wolter’s website at the Earth System Research Laboratory Physical Science Division is back online

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From TheDenverChannel.com:

The forecasts, known as “SWcasts” have been supported by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Forecasts will be updated on a monthly or seasonal basis on Klaus Wolter’s website. The updates will include the current status and outlook for ENSO (El Niño/Southern Oscillation) and what this means for Colorado in particular.

Here’s Klaus’ executive summary from the website:

1. After reaching levels not seen in 35 years, La Niña has finally turned a corner to weaken more rapidly just in the last month. It will probably take a ‘leave of absence’ this summer, but odds are still better than 50/50 that it will return later this year.

2. In the Front Range, March ended up dry, windy, and warm, as is typical for La Niña. It stayed wetter than expected in our mountains. April started out in the same fashion, with last night’s storm a decisive return to ‘near-normal’ for the next week or two. I stated last month that April has the best odds of deviating from a general dry spring pattern in Colorado with La Niña. This will curb fire danger in the next two weeks.

3. My forecast for late spring (April-June) shows a tilt towards dryness covering the southern and eastern parts of our state, while near-normal or even wetter-than-normal conditions might linger over northwestern Colorado. The latter forecast is now supported by better skill than in previous months. The first forecast for the summer (July-September) is fraught with uncertainty this far out, but fairly benign (mostly near-normal or even wet), for what it’s worth. The expected break in La Niña conditions should help in that respect.

4. Since mid-March, our last WATF meeting, there have been a couple of dust storms in the San Juans, but not at the frequency of the last two years. Given their low snowpack, we may see an accelerated snowmelt in that part of our state next month.

5. Bottomline (unchanged since March): Count your blessings, this La Niña winter has delivered decent amounts of snow in our mountains which will lead to a good runoff season in much of our state. I am much less optimistic for local conditions over the eastern plains, nor do I expect a repeat performance for our mountains next year.

6. Coda: This is the first edition of my renewed ‘SWcasts’. For now, funding has been restored to keep them going for at least one more time (into June), with good prospects for the period beyond that. They will probably not stay in this particular format for very long, nor do I anticipate regular monthly updates. I will keep things posted on this website. THANK YOU to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for supporting this effort, and to all of you who wrote letters of support in the past year or so.

Grand County: Denver Water and several west slope organizations to announce a deal on upper Colorado transmountain diversion projects on April 28

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Negotiation of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement has been done in closed session over several years by water-district officials, utility executives and staffers, and their lawyers in Western Slope towns and around the metro area. The parties pursued it after years of litigation. Denver and Western Slope authorities are expected to reveal some details of their negotiations next week…

The rough agreement — more than 50 pages — has surfaced as Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel plan to divert more Colorado River water from west of the Continental Divide to an expanded Gross Reservoir west of Boulder is under environmental review. The Northern Water Conservancy District, which also is proposing a new diversion project for Front Range suburbs, apparently is not part of the new deal. “The proposed agreement establishes a new approach to managing water in Colorado,” Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead, a former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement. “It embraces a partnership to manage water for the benefit of the state as a whole. “It would provide Denver Water the operational flexibility necessary to manage our system and develop additional water resources in the face of drought and climate change and also would provide a number of enhancements to the environment, water supply and water quality on the West Slope.” Denver Water also would commit to sharing water it diverts with south-metro suburbs. To participate in a separate water-sharing deal with Denver, those communities would have to agree not to seek future diversions from western Colorado…

“The deal’s great, innovative, the way of the future,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “But it doesn’t deal with the impacts of Denver’s Moffat Tunnel project. We want to make sure the stream-flow impacts of that project are fully mitigated. If it is permitted, that project should not be allowed to damage fisheries.”

Here’s a report from Dennis Webb from behind The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel paywall:

A key element is designed to resolve concerns surrounding the Shoshone Power Plant water right in Glenwood Canyon. That senior right helps ensure river flows through the canyon and downstream, and it reduces the need for holders of senior water rights at Cameo downstream to exercise a water call that affects those with junior water rights. Mely Whiting, an attorney with Colorado Trout Unlimited, said she hasn’t been a party to the negotiations but has been briefed by some participants. She said the deal reportedly tries to address problems that could arise when the power plant is down for maintenance, and the threat that Xcel Energy could sell it and the plant’s call could be inactivated. Resolving the power plant concern “is a very positive thing,” she said.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1300 (Conservation Easement Tax Credit Dispute Resolution) passes the state House Finance Committee

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From the Colorado News Agency (Debbie Brazale):

House Bill 1300, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, would allow disputes over the validity of conservation-easement tax credits to go directly to court rather than forcing landowners to await a ruling by the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The measure would also allow those who buy and sell the tax credits granted to the original owners to be a party to disputes in court, and it offers deadlines for resolution of the 600 or so cases currently pending: July 2014 for the donor and 2016 for related parties.

Today’s action by the House Finance Committee represented the second time this month that the panel was asked to dissect aspects of the complex program, which has drawn scrutiny from the media and state regulators in recent years amid allegations of abuse. Earlier this month, the committee also heard House Bill 1208, by Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, and its fate has yet to be decided. McKinley’s bill seeks administrative remedies for current easements that are in dispute
Looper said her bill’s aim is to provide options for landowners and tax-credit buyers who have been snared in red tape over challenges by the Revenue Department over the validity of conservation-easement tax credits.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District ponies up $400,000 towards the Arkansas Valley Conduit environmental impact statement

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Bette McFarren):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday committed $400,000 over a three year period to a Memorandum of Understanding for the Environmental Impact Study now in progress.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.

La Niña update: Events as big as the one this year are often two-year events

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

La Niña’s fade may only be temporary, said Boulder-based climate researcher Klaus Wolter, suggesting that there’s a better than 50 percent chance that the pattern could redevelop next winter, based on historical patterns showing that strong La Niñas often last a couple of years. How the long-term pattern develops should be clear in the next three to six months, he added. “If you look at the historical performance (of La Niña) during the last 150 years, they have a tendency to disappear in the summer, then they come back,” Wolter said, adding that there’s almost a direct relationship between the size of the La Niñas and their propensity to return for a second, and sometimes a third year.

If the pattern does re-intensify, it probably won’t be as pronounced as this year. “Historically, if you look at two-year La Niñas, the second year is usually much lower than the first year,” he said.

Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 500 cfs in the lower Blue River for the next week

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb)

…April 23, we will begin scaling back releases for a fish shocking program the Division of Wildlife will be conducting Monday through Friday next week in Gore Canyon on the Colorado River. As a result, we will reduce releases from 700 cfs to 500 cfs over a period of two days. Reductions will be in 50 cfs increments, twice a day this Saturday and Sunday. A change will be made both mornings at 8 a.m. and again both evenings at 8 p.m. By Sunday evening, flows in the Lower Blue should be around 500 cfs. We will maintain the 500 cfs release through the week, likely ramping up again next Friday or Saturday.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

The Town of Victor turns dirt on $500,000 storm drainage project

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From the Pikes Peak Courier View (Norma Engelberg):

Using a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state, $25,000 from the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. and $25,000 more from the city, the work will divert runoff through large underground pipes out of the downtown toward Wilson Creek, near the Victor Gold Bowl, eventually draining into the Arkansas River. “It comes from the state but most of the funding is actually federal,” said Victor Councilmember Mike Wallace. “We’re going to catch the runoff outside the downtown and run it through pipes. Burying those pipes will give the city new curbs, gutters, sidewalks and asphalt. We’re almost as excited about that as we are about the drainage work.”[…]

City and contract crews have been working on the drainage project for several weeks but the official ground breaking was April 19. Work will start at 4th Street and Diamond Avenue, continue down Diamond to 3rd, then along 3rd to Victor Avenue, culminating at Victor and 1st Street. Besides the initial runoff collection point, there will be additional surface water inlets will be installed along the route.

More stormwater coverage here and here.

The Town of Estes Park and Reclamation are holding a ‘Preparing for spring runoff’ meeting to discuss snowpack and possible flooding, May 2

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From the Estes Park News:

the Town of Estes Park invites residents and businesses to a public meeting on May 2 at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place in the Town Board Room of Estes Park’s Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Avenue. Staff from Larimer County and the Bureau of Reclamation will join the Town of Estes Park’s Police and Public Works Departments in providing helpful information to citizens about available resources and what to expect this year.

The “Preparing for spring runoff” meeting will include discussion from the Estes Park Police Department on emergency preparedness. The Town of Estes Park’s Public Works Department will provide information on the availability of sand bag materials, should the runoff create an urgent need for property owners along low-lying areas of the Big Thompson and Fall Rivers. Larimer County will discuss its role during runoff in unincorporated portions of the County. The Bureau of Reclamation will present what it is forecasting will be released from Olympus Dam down the Big Thompson River as well as what to expect at Marys Lake and Lake Estes reservoirs.

Meanwhile, the Elbert County News is reminding folks that there is a 30 day waiting for flood insurance coverage to start. From the article:

The Colorado Division of Insurance reminds people to take stock of their belongings and check their insurance policies before the water starts to rise in their neighborhood. Spring and summer are peak times for floods, and flood insurance has a 30 day waiting period before it takes effect, so the time to review your policy is now.

According to Kevin Houck, senior Engineer with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a number of major watersheds are showing signs of very high snowpack, including upper Colorado at 128 percent, South Platte at 123 percent, North Platte at 137 percent, Yampa/White at 130 percent and Gunnison at 115 percent. “These are very high numbers for major watersheds,” Houck said, adding that some smaller sub-watersheds within these can have even higher readings. “These high snowpack numbers will increase the risk of snowmelt flooding in these areas.” Houck stressed that it’s impossible to predict if and when there will be a flood, and even with the slightly higher-than-average snowpack numbers, it’s possible Colorado could have an uneventful spring as far as floods.

Snowpack news: Vail hits the 500 inch mark for snowfall this season

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From the Vail Daily (Lauren Glendenning):

[Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot] said snowfall measured at the top of the mountain puts this year just outside of the top five best years as of Wednesday, but it’s not an apples to apples comparison to previous seasons because the timing of when the resorts starts measuring snow for the season has been different throughout the years. This season is the best snow year since the resort started measuring at Mid-Vail 10 years ago, he said.

Things are not looking good for irrigators in the San Luis Valley. Here’s a report from Matt Hildner writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

While not nearly as dry as 2002 or 2003 when drought blanketed the state, Cotten said this year’s season is shaping up to be like 2004 or 2006, which both were below average. Given that the valley’s streams and rivers are over appropriated, meaning there’s not enough water to fill all of the area’s water rights, some water users will go without this year. Cotten predicted there will be irrigation ditches on both the Conejos River and the Rio Grande that don’t get any water this year. Those two rivers, which are the valley’s largest, have their headwaters in the San Juan Mountains, where snowpack is currently 83 percent of average.

Irrigators on the eastern side of the valley likely will face an even tougher summer. Snowpack from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which feeds smaller creeks such as the Culebra, San Luis and Trinchera, is down to 31 percent of average…

There have been six dust storms that have blanketed the San Juan’s snowpack this year, Cotten said, but officials are still waiting to see how the rest of runoff proceeds.