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.