Yampa River Flow Survey closes April 6

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Here’s the post from American Whitewater. From the article:

To take the survey, CLICK HERE.

We have developed this survey so individuals can help American Whitewater represent recreational interests in deciding what the future of the Yampa and White Rivers will look like. Our goal is to utilize information from the survey to help us quantify flow preferences for whitewater boating, which will identify the range of flows necessary to provide whitewater recreation experiences, from technical low water to challenging high water trips. The information will provide us with the data necessary to describe flow-dependant recreation experiences and to protect and manage flows for river-based recreational opportunities.

American Whitewater is working to identify the range of flows that support the full range of boating opportunities for the main stem and tributaries of the Yampa and White Rivers. As part of our Yampa River Project, we are working with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Yampa-White roundtable to identify and define flows needed for whitewater boating throughout the basin. Results of our assessment will inform future negotiations over water supply planning, and resouce management actions.

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

Metro Roundtable Summit: John Stulp — ‘It doesn’t mean we all agree. It just means we’ve gotten to the point where we can sit in the same room and talk’

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From the Associated Press (Catherine Tsai) via Westport News:

“We’re in year six now and we haven’t gotten there,” said Metro Roundtable Chairman Rod Kuharich, also executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “The state needs to step out in this process and begin supporting water projects in an environmentally and economically sound way.”

Kuharich was among water officials at a public reception Thursday on whether there’s enough water for Colorado in the future. The event was hosted by the Metro Roundtable and Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s special water policy adviser, John Stulp, said before Kuharich spoke that it’s important for the roundtables to continue their work and that the roundtables are making some progress. “It doesn’t mean we all agree. It just means we’ve gotten to the point where we can sit in the same room and talk,” he said…

Water planners developing reservoir and pipeline projects face funding challenges but also have to balance water needs of populated cities, the environment, wildlife and Colorado’s robust recreation industry, all of which draw tourism dollars. “These projects take years and years to develop and get going,” Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Jennifer Gimbel said. “We need to be planning now.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Lake Pueblo excess capacity contracts require Corps of Engineers waiver in order to avoid spilling non-project water

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

for the second consecutive year the problem has been avoided by a waiver by the Army Corps of Engineers to leave water in the reservoir a little longer, rather than vacating the flood pool by April 15. “This isn’t a blanket to do this every year, and the mode we’re running in is spilling,” Jim Broderick, executive director, told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last month. “The way we’re managing reservoirs has shifted. In my opinion, we’ve been fortunate to get the two waivers.”

After dealing with the question of scarcity for years, the Southeastern district is bumping up against the limits of storage contemplated in its 1990s studies that led to the controversial Preferred Storage Options Plan.

“The 2002 drought provided a wake-up call for all of us in the valley, and in particular the Pueblo Board of Water Works,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the board. “It pointed out that relying on historical records was not sufficient, and we had to triple the amount of water we had in storage to work between the wet and the dry years.”

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: Governor Hickenlooper pow wows with west slope water leaders — ‘Shoshone is a small drop in their [Xcel’s] bucket’

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Heather McGregor):

Western Slope water leaders who are negotiating a “global” water agreement for Colorado met Thursday with Gov. John Hickenlooper, who agreed with their view that water is a statewide resource. “There’s a legitimate argument to say it’s in the best interests of Denver to use as little water as possible, and to keep every drop we can in the river,” Hickenlooper told members of the Colorado River District board…

Hickenlooper, the former mayor of Denver, said he has received calls from Denver residents with large lawns who complain that conservation efforts by Denver Water have forced their water bills up by thousands of dollars a year. “They’re irate, and they tell me Denver has the senior water rights, and ask why they have to cut their use,” Hickenlooper said. “My response is that legally it is Denver’s water, but it’s Colorado’s water, too. You know, what makes Denver special and unique is because it’s in Colorado. And part of what makes Denver ‘Denver’ is the Western Slope economy — its ski resorts, the ranches and fruit orchards — and the Eastern Plains,” the governor said. So he tells Denver constituents that key values of the city are enhanced by preserving the natural beauty of the whole state, including healthy rivers — which means limiting new transmountain water diversions…

The River District, Denver Water, Summit County, Grand County and water interests in Eagle County are negotiating what is being called a “global agreement” on those transmountain diversions and related water management. “We appreciate your appointments to Denver Water, and we are looking forward to the rollout of the agreement,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. He said the agreement should be ready for release in late April.

Meanwhile, the River District is also involved with negotiations on the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant, which holds a critical senior water right for the Colorado River that protects river flows above and below Glenwood Canyon. The plant and the water right are owned by Xcel Energy. River District Board President Tom Sharp, of Steamboat Springs, asked Hickenlooper for help in getting Xcel involved in the discussions aimed at protecting the Shoshone water right. “Shoshone is a small drop in their bucket,” Hickenlooper said. “They’ve got no reason not to do it.”

“Or, they’ve got no reason to do it,” Sharp replied.

“Oh, but if they do, they will get to the top of my ‘Most Cherished Persons’ list,” Hickenlooper said.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Salida: Colorado water law workshop recap

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Sponsored by Colorado Water Trust, water lawyers Marcus Lock and Kendall Burgemeister presented an overview of Colorado water law. Lock discussed the doctrine of prior appropriation, which provides the basis for Colorado water law, and provided an overview of state and federal laws that affect water rights…

Burgemeister provided an overview of methods for enhancing water supplies and optimizing water use, including changes of water right, which must be adjudicated in water court…

Terry Scanga, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District manager, offered an overview of events that have influenced water use in the Arkansas River basin. He spoke about the 1948 Colorado-Kansas Compact, the 1969 Administration and Adjudication Act, the 1985 Kansas v. Colorado lawsuit, the voluntary flow management program and trans-mountain diversions. Scanga said 126,748 acre feet, about 20 percent, of water in the Arkansas basin comes from trans-mountain diversions.

Kaylea White, senior water resources specialist with Colorado Water Conservation Board, discussed the Colorado In-Stream Flow Program. Amy Beatie and Zach Smith, Colorado Water Trust executive director and staff attorney, respectively, discussed “hot topics,” including the Breem Ditch in-stream flow project near Gunnison and abandonment of water rights.

More water law coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: BLM To Hold Regional Forums on Hydraulic Fracturing in Natural Gas Production

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Here’s the release from the Bureau of Land Management (Matt Spangler):

Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey today announced that the BLM will hold a series of regional public forums in late April to further discuss the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques to stimulate natural gas production on Federal lands. The sessions will be held in Bismarck, North Dakota; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Denver, Colorado. These locations will help to highlight increased regional interest in natural gas development on Federal lands and other areas where the BLM has responsibility for mineral leasing.

“These forums will help inform BLM as we work closely with industry, the states, other Federal agencies and the public to develop a way forward on natural gas so that the United States can safely and fully realize the benefits of this important energy resource,” Director Abbey said. “The Interior Department has a responsibility to study the potential impacts and to identify commonsense, best management practices that should be used in fracturing operations on public lands to ensure that this development is carried out in the right way and in the right places.”

The regional forums will build upon a forum the Department of the Interior hosted in November 2010 in Washington, D.C. on best practices for hydraulic fracturing and will provide a more in-depth, technical review of natural gas development practices on public lands. The meetings are part of the Department’s proactive efforts to ensure that oil and gas development is taking place on public lands in a responsible and environmentally sustainable manner.

Topics to be discussed will include best management practices, disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, well construction and integrity, production wastewater management and other techniques for protecting drinking water resources. Panelists will include experts from Federal and state governments, industry, and environmental organizations that have been engaged in natural gas development issues.

Safely harnessing the nation’s abundant natural gas resources is a vital component of America’s energy portfolio and has the potential to power the U.S. economy for decades to come and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Natural gas development on Federal lands has more than doubled over the last 20 years, from 1.2 trillion cubic feet in Fiscal Year 1991 to nearly 3.0 trillion cubic feet in Fiscal Year 2010. In Fiscal Year 2010, about 14 percent of domestically produced natural gas came from onshore public lands.

The BLM issues leases for natural gas development on lands managed by the BLM as well as lands managed by other Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service. The BLM also manages the subsurface mineral estate in a number of areas where the surface is privately owned. The use of hydraulic fracturing in these areas has similarly increased in recent years.

Meanwhile, Governor Hicklooper backs hydraulic fracturing according to TheDenverChannel.com. From the article:

Gov. John Hickenlooper is backing hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas drilling. But he said companies should disclose what chemicals they use in their fracturing fluids. Hickenlooper made the comments Thursday during a visit to Glenwood Springs.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — hydroelectric: Interest in pumped hydro project near Penrose gets a boost from HB 11-1083

Pumped storage hydro electric.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

Jim and Mark Morley of the Morley Cos. have been working for years on a proposed plant on land they own near Brush Hollow Reservoir. The developers have piqued the interest of energy giant TransCanada, as well as state lawmakers, who passed a bill — signed Tuesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper — to encourage this and other such projects.

Instead of a traditional hydroelectric plant powered by flowing water, the Morleys want to build the third pumped hydroelectric storage plant in Colorado. It would work by pumping water uphill to a reservoir when demand is low and letting it run down to power turbines when electric use is high or other parts of a system, such as solar or wind, are not generating much power. The water is used over and over. This form of production doesn’t impact aquatic life by warming water or acting as a barrier to fish like many traditional hydro plants. “Pumped storage is somewhat of a unique energy asset, because it provides not only energy storage but significant benefits to the transmission system,” said Kyle Nenninger with Chicago-based Energy Advisory Partners, who is assisting the Morleys on the project.

The proposed plant would have the capacity to generate 432 megawatts — a megawatt powers 750 to 1,000 homes at any given time — and employ 300 workers during construction and provide 25 to 30 permanent jobs, Nenninger said. He said the reservoirs above and below the plant probably would not be open to public recreation. There are many uncertainties, including who would provide a one-time sale of 13,000 acre-feet, or 4.2 billion gallons, of water — to be piped from the Arkansas River — to run the plant…

The other pumped storage hydroelectric plants in Colorado are also in rural areas: Xcel Energy’s 300-megawatt Cabin Creek plant near Georgetown and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s 200-megawatt Mt. Elbert Powerplant at Twin Lakes.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1289 (Water Supply Structure Historic Register)

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, this week has quickly marshaled through a bill that would require consent of users of historic water structures when the state historical society wants to place the structure on an historic register. House Bill 11-1289 passed the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, received approval from the House on second reading on Wednesday and got a 51-12 vote from the full House on Thursday. It now heads to the Senate…

There are more than 22,000 ditches and reservoirs in the state, Shimmin said, and the document [History Colorado put out a 70-page document, prepared several years ago by an architecture professor at the University of Colorado Denver] suggests that all of them might qualify for historical designation on the National Register of Historic Places. “It raised the level of concern in the water user community” because it seemed to designate every ditch and reservoir as an historic structure, he explained. The potential for listing includes regulatory implications, Shimmin said. Any project with federal action, money or property and that requires a federal permit has to go through historical preservation review.

If a third party requests the listing and the owner objects, it can`t be listed, he said, but it can be designated as eligible for listing at the national level, and that triggers the same federal regulations, including control over maintenance or repair. That would include anything in the structure along the system — from headgates right down to the cottonwood trees along the ditch — and implies that every feature is somehow historically significant. “It scared the holy heck out of the owners of the ditch and reservoir systems” that a new wave of federal or state regulations was coming that would impact any act of maintenance, repair or other operating changes, he said.

Under HB 1289 the society must get consent from anyone who has a property interest, including water rights, in a water supply structure, prior to the structure`s nomination on the state or national register. In addition, the state engineer would also have to give his consent. Water users were excluded from the public process, and no public hearings were held by the history society, Shimmin said.

Democrats, however, objected to the bill, stating that requiring permission from the users would permanently end any efforts to put a structure on the National Register.

The four structures already designated as historical are two segments of the [Grand Diversion] structure in the Palisade Canyon along I-70, the San Luis Peoples Ditch and Smith’s Irrigation Ditch in Denver (now known as Denver Ditch).

Steve Turner from History Colorado said that 800 water structures have been reviewed in the past five years and that 200 are considered historic and could be considered for inclusion on the state or federal registers. Sonnenberg said currently there are no plans to put any historic water structures on the state or federal register. “This bill is proactive,” he said, and added that HB 1289 has the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife commissioners will open a 60 day comment period for the Moffat Collection System Project and Windy Gap Firming Project Thursday

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife (Theo Stein):

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will initiate a formal review of plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources that would be created by two major transmountain water development projects at its April 7 workshop at the Fairfield Center in Meeker.

The 60-day review of mitigation plans to be presented by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is required by statute.

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 and Williams Fork 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.

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. Both the mitigation and enhancement plans will be presented to the Commission at the meeting.

In other business, the Commission will consider draft regulations to amend the existing prohibition on dogs at Lon Hagler and Lone Tree Reservoir state wildlife areas near Loveland.

Under the proposed change, dogs must be on a leash less than six feet long, unless they are on a boat in which case a leash is not required. Additionally, dogs would be prohibited from portions of both properties during certain times of the year except as an aid to hunting. The current dog ban would be maintained around the Lon Hagler annex pond and adjacent land to protect wildlife habitat.

The Wildlife Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. During the rest of 2011, the Commission is scheduled meet in Salida in May, Grand Junction in June and in locations to be determined from July through December.

The complete agenda for the April Wildlife Commission workshop, as well as a discussion of proposed regulation changes for Lon Hagler and Lone Tree state wildlife areas, can be found on the Wildlife Commission web page at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeCommission/Archives/2011/April72011.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/.

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/

The Colorado Wildlife Commission is an 11-member board appointed by the governor. The Wildlife Commission sets Division of Wildlife regulations and policies for hunting, fishing, watchable wildlife, nongame, threatened and endangered species. The Commission also oversees Division of Wildlife land purchases and property regulations.

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will initiate a formal review of plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources that would be created by two major trans-mountain water-development projects at its Thursday workshop at the Fairfield Center in Meeker.

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

The 60-day review of mitigation plans to be presented by Denver Water and Northern is required by statute. A voluntary enhancement plan designed to address impacts of existing water-development projects also will be presented.

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

Snowpack/Lake Mead/Lake Powell news: No shortage declaration foreseen for lower Colorado River basin this season

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From the Deseret News (John Hollenhorst):

“It is highly, highly unlikely that we’ll see a shortage declared for the lower basin,” [Malcolm Wilson, water resources chief of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation] said. “It is a good year. It’s one of the better ones we’ve seen certainly in the last decade, and we’re looking to a really good inflow.”[…]

Many expect hard bargaining in the future over the river’s water supply. McCool thinks there are pluses and minuses for Utah: Extended drought might wipe out proposals for Lake Powell pipelines, but Utah farmers might get rich by selling water to Las Vegas.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Jackie Hutchins):

…the March 29 snow survey at four sites in Rocky Mountain National Park shows that snowpack levels have increased there since February. And what’s even more encouraging for those worried about a drought, the snow has above-average water content. “It could be a record-setter,” said John Fusaro of the Natural Resource Conservation Service…

At all four snow courses the agency measured in the national park this week, water content of the snow was ahead of the 30-year average. “That’s really good,” Fusaro noted, “just the opposite of what we’ve had down here with all the dryness.”[…]

At Deer Ridge, at 9,000 feet in elevation, the average snow depth was 30 inches, up by 4 inches since the end of February. The water content of the snow was 173 percent of the amount a year earlier and 205 percent of the 30-year average. Similar increases were recorded at 9,480 feet at Hidden Valley, 9,500 feet at Bear Lake and 10,700 feet at Willow Park. Bear Lake has 68 inches of snow, up by 14 inches from a month ago, with water content at 185 percent of last year’s figures. The average snowpack at Hidden Valley increased from 37 to 45 inches, with water content at 181 percent of last year’s figures. At Willow Park, the snowpack increased from 62 to 77 inches, with water content at 158 percent of last year’s figures.