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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The negotiations have been under a nondisclosure agreement. Here’s the link to Allan Best’s analysis running in TheMountainNews.net. He writes:

No single part of this agreement stands out. This is not like a new dam or tunnel. Yet collectively, these elements of compromise may well represent the most important single water news since the veto of the Two Forks Dam in 1990.

Now, the various water agencies will have to sell the deal to their constituencies. Heartburn may be evident on both sides of the Continental Divide. Denver residents may very well question why, if Denver owns the water, it must “pay” Summit and Grand counties to use it.

And for the Western Slope, this does represent further export of water.

Some potential details:

– Key Western Slope organizations remove their opposition to Denver’s plan to draw more water from the close-in headwaters areas near Winter Park and in Summit County.
– The Western Slope also withdraws potential legal opposition to Denver’s plans to sell recycled water from its diversions to thirsty suburbs that now depend upon wells.
– The deal also requires Denver to step up conservation and reuse efforts.
– [The deal] specifies several tens of millions of dollars in grants to Western Slope water organizations
– [It will create] more flexible water-management regimes intended to achieve environmental goals and benefit recreational interests…

This settlement arguably represents a new template for Front Range-Western Slope relations, one that reflects a new balance of power in Colorado and also new sensibilities. This is in sharp contrast with attitudes and laws prior to the late 1960s and early 1970s.

More coverage from Mr. Best running in the Summit Daily News. From the article:

-The deal will also place limits on future diversions by both Denver and key suburbs.
– The agreement also obligates Denver to provide some of its existing water in Summit County for use by local jurisdictions
– The deal obligates Denver to keep Dillon Reservoir nearly full except in specified drought conditions.
– The agreement also requires Denver to provide cash for water projects in Summit and Grand counties.

I wonder where the Shoshone right sits in all of this?

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: Runoff flooding is a concern for northern Colorado officials

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

According to the Western Water Assessment, snowfall was significantly above the long-term norms in the northern Colorado mountains, the Wasatch Front in Utah and northern and western Wyoming, while little precipitation fell across central Wyoming, eastern and southern Utah and the plains of Colorado. Snowpack values in the three-state Intermountain West region (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming) stayed on the same trajectory as all winter, with most basins reporting above-average water content. Southern Colorado was the exception, where snowpack has been lagging near or below average for most of the fall and winter…

In Colorado, runoff in northern river basins like the Yampa and North Platte could be as high as 140 percent of average. Higher than average runoff is also expected in the Gunnison Basin, while the South Platte and Arkansas basins are expected to run near average.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Here are the notes from Tuesday’s webinar from the Colorado Climate Center.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District quarterly meeting recap: Closed Basin Project operation questioned

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Saying continued pumping of the project “is creating an enormous hardship on north Valley ranches,” [Moffat area rancher Peggy Godfrey] asked the water board to request of the Closed Basin operating committee and/or Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to modify the project. She referred to a section governing the project that allows it to be modified, curtailed or suspended to eliminate adverse effects.

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) board indicated it would not grant her request. “We will continue to operate this project within its boundaries and within the constraints put on it,” said RGWCD Board President George Whitten who also sits on the Closed Basin Project operating committee. Whitten, who ranches in the northern part of the Valley, told Godfrey although he appreciated her comments, “I respectfully disagree with your findings.”

RGWCD District Engineer Allen Davey, who also sits on the Closed Basin Project operating committee, said, “There is no clear evidence that the Closed Basin Project is causing depletion of the aquifer in the Moffat area.” He said the project was developed to capture salvage water that was being lost. He said pumping has been reduced from project wells when evidence showed they were violating statutory criteria.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: The Colorado Springs city council is looking at speeding up the project to take advantage of favorable contractor pricing

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From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

Colorado Springs Utilities officials gave an update of SDS, along with several other utilities matters, to a Council that contains six new faces after the April 5 election: Angela Dougan, Lisa Czelatdko, Tim Leigh, Merv Bennett, Brandy Williams and Val Snider. During the presentation, the Council was told the city is getting good prices on SDS construction because of the gloomy state of the economy and intense contractor competition. That led Leigh to suggest that if it’s cheaper to build now, the city might think about pushing forward now, even if it means higher water rates for customers in the short run. In response, SDS program manager John Fredell told the Council that Utilities officials will “be ready to talk more detail in July about the project,” including, he said, “about accelerating” it.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Dolores River: Reclamation hopes for a 10 day boating season downstream of McPhee Reservoir this year, Dolores River Dialogue meeting April 28

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From The Durango Telegraph (Missy Votel):

“The spring wind and weather has been eating it up,” said Vern Harrell, Bureau of Reclamation liaison for the Dolores River Project, of the region’s snowpack. “This year we don’t even know if we’ll fill the reservoir.” The reservoir, which was a capacity of 229,000 acre-feet is expected to receive 225,000 acre-feet of runoff this spring. With the latest prediction, this would make for a 10-day spill of about 800 cfs in order to stretch the flows out as long as possible. However, when and if this happens is anybody’s educated guess. While the BuRec ideally shoots for Memorial Day Weekend, sudden temperature or precipitation spikes could influence it either way. “We’ll know more the week after the reservoir starts to fill, depending on weather and storm forecasts,” said Harrell. He said flows will most likely not be significant enough for commercial rafting companies to plan trips, but savvy local boaters at the ready could luck out with some careful monitoring of the BuRec’s web site at http://www.doloreswater.com. “That’s the best information out there,” said Harrell of the site, which is updated twice a week. In targeting Memorial Day Weekend, May 28-30, the spill will be held back until May 20, if possible. However, in 2009 McPhee filled early pushing up the release start date to May 11. Last year, cold weather caused the reservoir to fill slowly, holding back the spill until May 24…

A steering committee for the Dolores River Dialogue, a varied group of user interests which has been meeting since 2004, will be revealing two proposals to benefit the Dolores’ downstream fisheries next week. The flow from McPhee was originally conceived with the nonnative, cold-water trout sport fishery in mind, but the objective has since grown to include the warm-water fishery of native species such as suckers, chubs and pike minnows. There is also concern over the health of the river’s riparian zone as well as the geomorphology of the riverbed, including sediment build up and flow.

The steering committee’s first proposal looks at the use of “selective level outlet works,” which would basically allow water to be pulled from various elevations within the reservoir for release. “In the past, we have only pulled water from the bottom, because that’s the coldest water for the trout, but we can get better water quality for the native fish with warmer water higher up,” Harrell said.

The second proposal from the group calls for the Montezuma Irrigation Co. to lease 6,000 acre feet of water from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for downstream flows. The water would actually come from Groundhog Reservoir, north of Dolores, and flow through McPhee, which is overallocated as is. The lease would be for any three years out of a 10-year span, although the sequence of those three years remains to be seen. “We will have to develop that concept, but details still aren’t here yet,” Harrell said.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.